Administration

What You Need to Know About the Past 7 Days

October 16, 2016

Rights of the Accused

Lance Rogers
For almost as long as campus sexual assaults have been a high-profile issue for colleges, those accused of assault have complained that their due-process rights are overlooked as institutions rush to judgments against them. Last week, in a case involving a Wesley College student who was expelled a week after he was accused of violating sexual-­misconduct rules, the Education Department agreed, for the first time focusing on a college’s treatment of a student so accused.

In a 29-page letter setting out the findings of its investigation, the department’s Office for Civil Rights said Wesley had "denied the accused student procedural protections to which he was entitled under Title IX, and under the college’s own written procedures." Among other flaws, the department said the college had "failed to implement several provisions of its Title IX policies and procedures" after the student was accused, and had failed to maintain the recording of the hearing. The letter also said Wesley had mishandled several earlier cases.

The student was among four accused of planning the live-streaming of a sex act involving two other students in late March of 2015. He was expelled on April 7 after a hearing by the college’s judicial board. The department’s letter delves into the minutiae of the college’s policies for investigating sexual-assault allegations and into a number of ways in which administrators failed to follow them in this case. "In processing the complaint against the accused student, the college did not satisfy Title IX, the college did not comply with its own procedures, and, in fact, the college acted in direct contradiction of its procedures and as a result the resolution of the complaint was not equitable," the letter said.

The letter noted that Wesley agreed last month to revisit its investigation of the incident that prompted the complaint, as well as to improve its handling of future cases.

Meanwhile, the student government at the University of Maryland at College Park has approved adding a mandatory $34 fee to students’ bills and forwarding the money to the university’s Title IX office, which BuzzFeed reports can’t keep up with the number of investigations it’s expected to handle — despite having a budget of over $1 million. The fee, proposed by a student, still needs to be approved by the university’s president and Board of Regents to take effect.

Free Speech on the Field

ESPN reported last week that the National Labor Relations Board sent Northwestern University a sharply worded memorandum in September criticizing the university’s restrictions on what football players could say to others, including the news media. The university quickly changed the rules, which the NLRB described as "unlawful," though the agency noted that the university "did not adequately repudiate" the rules that required changes.

Among the football-handbook provisions that the agency took issue with was one saying players were never to "discuss any aspects of the team, the physical condition of any players, planned strategies, etc. with anyone." Another prohibited athletes from agreeing to be interviewed unless the interview had been arranged by the athletics department, as well as requiring players to "be positive when talking about your teammates, coaches, and team." Yet another said players’ social-media posts would be monitored and that "embarrassing" posts could lead to sanctions.

Why was the NLRB looking at a university’s handbook for student players? The memo says the agency assumed "for the purposes of this memorandum, that Northwestern’s scholarship football players are statutory employees."

Presidents in the News
Ozier Muhammad, The New York Times, REDUX

  • The University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents raised hackles last week by naming the state’s attorney general, Sam Olens, as the next president of Kennesaw State University without bothering to conduct a national search. Mr. Olens, who had been a county commissioner before winning election as attorney general, has never held a job in higher education.
  • The system’s chancellor, Henry M. (Hank) Huckaby, called Mr. Olens "a proven consensus builder." But his appointment prompted protests from some students and faculty members critical of him for supporting the state’s ban on gay marriage, among other issues. The American Association of University Professors released a letter it had sent to the regents saying that the "decision to forgo a national search for the Kennesaw State presidency is at odds with widely observed principles of academic governance." The previous president, Daniel S. Papp, resigned in June in the midst of an audit that found he had violated executive-­compensation rules.

  • The president of the City University of New York’s City College, Lisa S. Coico (above), resigned a day after The New York Times submitted questions to the university about "whether Ms. Coico’s expenses were accurately recorded, or whether some had been postdated." Ms. Coico and the college’s 21st Century Foundation have been under investigation by federal prosecutors since the newspaper reported that the foundation had paid some of the president’s personal expenses and had been reimbursed by a foundation that manages research money for the university. Ms. Coico has said she did not use any money inappropriately.
  • At Quincy University, in Illinois, faculty members concerned by budget cuts and restructurings have voted to tell the Board of Trustees that they have lost confidence in the president, Robert Gervasi.
  • Mr. Gervasi has said the cuts were necessary because the prolonged budget stalemate in the Illinois legislature had prevented the university from getting grant money. Last month he said the university had enrolled its largest freshman class in two decades.

Repudiating Mr. Trump

Last week brought another entry in the thick catalog of this election season’s surprises: Within just a few hours, some 200 Liberty University students signed a statement calling Donald J. Trump "one of the worst presidential candidates in American history" and saying they regret that Mr. Trump has been endorsed by the conservative university’s high-profile president, Jerry Falwell Jr.

The statement says that since Mr. Falwell endorsed Mr. Trump, he "has been inexorably linked with Liberty University," even though the candidate "does not represent our values, and we want nothing to do with him." Mr. Trump "has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins," it says, and "is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose."

The InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, which has chapters on hundreds of college campuses, has asked employees who disagree with the organization’s beliefs about sex — including its opposition to homosexual activity — to identify themselves and quit. Greg Jao, vice president and director of campus engagement, said: "We have always expected employees to reflect the ministry’s theological beliefs, as would be true for any church, synagogue, mosque, or religious organization. We recognize employees who disagree, or whose beliefs have changed over time, will leave employment because we have reiterated our beliefs." The fellowship has a staff of about 1,300.

And This ...

Using software that undergraduates helped write, a University of Michigan astrophysicist has found a previously unknown dwarf planet circling the sun far beyond the orbit of Pluto. The planet, designated 2014 UZ224, was discovered two years ago by David Gerdes and described last week in a "Minor Planet Electronic Circular" released by the International Astronomical Union. It’s about 8.5 billion miles from the center of the solar system, and is only about 330 miles in diameter. … Lawton Nalley, an associate professor of agricultural economics and agribusiness at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, was arrested after he allegedly screamed obscenities at the Arkansas football coach, Bret Bielema, when the team lost to Alabama. Mr. Nalley subsequently apologized.

Lawrence Biemiller writes about a variety of usual and unusual higher-education topics. Reach him at lawrence.biemiller@chronicle.com.