What You Need to Know About the Past 7 Days

September 11, 2016

ITT Throws in the Towel

The company that owns ITT Technical Institutes said last week that it was closing all of its technical institutes, leaving tens of thousands of students without courses and putting some 8,000 employees out of work. The company blamed the Education Department, which announced in August that no new ITT students would be eligible for federal financial aid and that it was placing ITT on superstrict "Heightened Cash Monitoring Level 2." The company said the actions were unwarranted and were taken without due process.

Advocates for students, though, said ITT had only itself to blame. Stephen Burd, a senior policy analyst at the New America Foundation, compiled a list of allegations against the company from lawsuits filed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Massachusetts and New Mexico attorneys general, and a former dean of academic affairs at an ITT campus in Florida. Among the charges are that the company lured students into taking out expensive private loans through ITT "even though it projected that more than 60 percent of them would end up in default"; that it secretly made minimum payments on some students’ loans to mislead its own investors; that it "routinely enrolled students who couldn’t benefit from its programs"; and that it "routinely encouraged students to lie on their federal student-aid application forms about their income and the number of dependents in their household so that they could receive larger financial aid awards."

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, a much smaller for-profit chain also said last week that it would close. DuBois Business College, which has four campuses, will go out of business rather than seek a new accreditor to replace the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, which may lose its accrediting authority because of problems that the Education Department calls "extensive and pervasive."

Nuclear Option

At Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus, the semester got off to a rough start last week. After negotiations broke down between the administration and the union representing faculty members, 236 full-time professors and about 450 adjunct faculty members were barred from coming to the campus, using LIU email accounts, and being paid, while administrators and temporary hires took over teaching and students organized sit-ins in solidarity with their professors. Officials of the union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, called the lockout highly unusual.

Contract negotiations had dragged on for months with no resolution. Gale Haynes, the campus’s chief operating officer and general counsel, said the university chose the pre-emptive-lockout strategy because five of the past six contract standoffs led faculty members to strike, giving them the upper hand while LIU was, as she put it, "held captive against their demands."

In Your Face

Yana Mazurkevich
Ithaca College’s student newspaper, The Ithacan, found a striking way to mark the release of Brock Turner, the former Stanford University swimmer whose six-month prison sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman was criticized as too lenient — especially when he ended up serving just three months. The newspaper published posed photos depicting sexual assaults, and in each the victim looks directly at the viewer. The photos carry labels like "It happens suddenly" and "It happens to anyone." The series is called "It Happens."

It’s the second series on the subject of assault by Yana Mazurkevich, an Ithaca junior. The first, "Dear Brock Turner," attracted a lot of attention when it was released in June and featured women holding signs such as "My skirt was too short" and "It’s my fault. I was drunk." The new series broadens the focus to include female-on-male, female-on-female, and male-on-male assault. Both series are part of a sexual-assault-awareness project called Current Solutions.

Plus This ...

Four employees of the National Institutes of Health have created what they say is a better metric for judging the impact of journal articles. It weighs an article’s actual citations against "an expected citation rate that is derived from performance of articles in the same field." … Penn State has stirred criticism with a plan to honor Joe Paterno, its long-revered football coach, during a September 17 game against Temple. Paterno’s reputation was called into question in the last months of his life by charges that he had been told years earlier that one of his assistant coaches was molesting boys. The coach, Jerry Sandusky, was later convicted and is in prison.

The Past, Still So Present

U. of Kentucky
History, it’s turning out, can be awkward to live with — yours, mine, ours, a nation’s, a college’s. There’s such a lot of it, for one thing. And it’s never all as uplifting as we’d like to think.

For generations, American colleges kept history safely tucked away in books. Early buildings at institutions like Bowdoin and Harvard, were plain architectural exercises, and campuses were more likely to have grazing livestock than statues. Even Jefferson, designing the University of Virginia, recalled in his columns and cornices nothing more controversial than the public buildings of the Romans, whose crimes as empire-builders were mostly long forgotten.

After the Civil War, though, Americans — and American colleges — developed a penchant for monuments, and later murals and stained-glass windows and paintings, that depicted recent events and subjects. And now some of these works have colleges tied up in knots over whether and how to recall and represent inglorious parts of the country’s past.

The University of Kentucky is the latest to settle on a compromise. Eli Capilouto, the president, said the university would uncover a 1934 mural that includes depictions of slaves picking cotton and of a Native American with a tomahawk spying on a white woman in a garden. The mural has been under wraps since late last year. Mr. Capilouto said a campus committee recommended that it go back on view along with "other works of art from a variety of perspectives that provide a larger narrative of our history, our aspirations, our shortcomings, and the progress we still must make."

He also said the university would "focus on issues of race and identity" in the building housing the mural, and would continue a broader discussion about art in public spaces. This month the university will unveil a statue of its first four black football players.

Meanwhile, Georgetown University continues to struggle with an ugly chapter in its history: In 1838, the Jesuits who had founded the university sold 272 slaves to pay its debts. Just a week after the university said it would take several steps — including offering admissions preferences to the slaves’ descendants — a group of the descendants said the university’s plans were "incomplete without descendant involvement, collaboration, and support."

The group, called the GU272 Foundation, said that it had attracted support from more than 500 of the descendants, and that it had "a plan to begin a reconciliation framework that is comprehensive, inclusive, and intended to serve as an example for the nation." Among other things, the foundation called on the university and the Jesuits to "raise $1 billion to support the educational aspirations of descendants, promote racial healing and reconciliation, and support research into the history of slavery." Karran Harper Royal, one of the GU272 cofounders, said the university "must offer scholarships, not just a leg up in admissions."

Lawrence Biemiller writes about a variety of usual and unusual higher-education topics. Reach him at