Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 10, 2022

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has affirmed a lower court's ruling that Jen Banford was not fired from her position as head softball coach and director of operations for the women's hockey team at the University of Minnesota at Duluth for being a lesbian.

She sued Duluth in 2015.

Said the Eighth Circuit: "Banford also has not carried her ultimate burden of persuading us that she was the victim of intentional discrimination. Out of four part-time hockey staff members, three were openly gay. Two of those openly gay women's contracts were renewed. … The differentiating factor between those whose contracts were renewed and Banford was not their sexual orientation. Banford has not met her burden of showing that she was fired because of her sexual orientation, rather than to allow the incoming head coach to appoint her own director of operations. Accordingly, we affirm the grant of UMD's motion for summary judgment."


August 10, 2022

Alumni of Rhodes College are petitioning the college to stop honoring one of its alumni, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, in the Rhodes Hall of Fame, The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported.

The alumni say Barrett is dishonest, in violation of the Rhodes Honor Code.

The petition said: "During her Supreme Court confirmation hearings the then-nominee was asked several questions, based on her prior scholarly writings and her close relationship with late Justice Antonin Scalia, regarding whether she would follow prior Supreme Court precedent if appointed to the nation's highest court. As she explained, 'precedent is the principle that cases that have been decided by the court before [this one] lands on the docket are presumptively controlling' and that precedent comes from a concept legal scholars call stare decisis. Stare decisis means that a justice is not going to overrule precedent without clear 'justification for doing so.'"

The petition also said: "In response to an inquiry as to whether she would uphold Supreme Court precedent, Justice Barrett committed to 'obey all the rules of stare decisis if a question comes up before me.'"

She nonetheless voted recently throw out the Roe vs. Wade decision.

A spokesperson for Rhodes said: "We are aware that some alumni are soliciting signatures for a letter regarding Justice Amy Coney Barrett. The letter has not yet been delivered to Rhodes, so we have no comment at this time."


August 10, 2022

The University of Delaware found Danielle Dixson, associate professor of marine science and policy, responsible for falsifying and fabricating work on fish behavior in coral reefs, according to Science. The university is reportedly seeking the retraction of three of Dixson's papers and has notified federal funding agencies. Science previously published a note of concern about one of those papers, from 2014, and formally retracted it on Tuesday. The university committee that reviewed Dixson's work on how rising carbon dioxide levels affect fish behavior and ecology reportedly wrote in its report that it was "struck by a serial pattern of sloppiness, poor recordkeeping, copying and pasting within spreadsheets, errors within many papers under investigation, and deviation from established animal ethics protocols." Dixson did not respond to requests for comment. Her lawyer, Kristina Larsen, told Science that Dixson "adamantly denies any and all allegations of wrongdoing, and will vigorously appeal any finding of research misconduct."

August 10, 2022

St. Peter's University wants to stop a marijuana dispensary and lounge from opening up near a new residence hall.

The Jersey Journal reported that the university is arguing in a lawsuit that Jersey City Planning Board's approval of the dispensary's application violates a city code requiring a cannabis shop to be at least 200 feet away from a school. Saint Peter's is arguing colleges and universities shouldn't be excluded from that requirement.

The new dormitory is 65 feet from the front door of Medusa NJ, LLC dispensary, according to Jersey Digs, a real estate news site that also reported on the lawsuit.

The university is suing both the planning board and Medusa.

Individuals 21 years and older can legally buy marijuana in New Jersey without a prescription.

The university argues in the lawsuit that the planning board failed to consider the "negative impact" of the project. Representatives from St. Peter's opposed the approval of the dispensary's application earlier this year during a planning board hearing.

"SPU's counsel explained the substantial negative impacts Medusa's Cannabis Establishment and Consumption Lounge would have on SPU, both to SPU's underage student population and the community as a whole," university counsel wrote in the lawsuit.

University President Eugene Cornacchia has also voiced concerns about potential crowd control and security problems at the dispensary at a June hearing of the city's Cannabis Control Board, according to the Hudson Reporter.

August 10, 2022

Cale Gundy, the assistant head football coach of the University of Oklahoma, has resigned because he used a slur in reading from a player's iPad.

Gundy said that during a session with players, he noticed that a player wasn't paying attention. Gundy then went to see what that player had on his screen. "The word displayed had nothing to do with football. One particular word that I should never -- under any circumstance -- have uttered was on display on his screen," Gundy wrote on Twitter. "In the moment, I did not even realize what I was reading, and as soon as I did, I was horrified. … What I said was not malicious; it wasn't even intentional." (He did not specify the slur.)

He added that the team does "not deserve to be distracted by off-the-field matters. … Effectively immediately, I am stepping down."

Oklahoma's head coach, Brent Venables wrote on Twitter that Gundy made the correct decision to resign. "He chose to read aloud to his players, not once but multiple times, a racially charged word that it objectionable to everyone," he said.


August 10, 2022

Today on the Academic Minute: William E. Pelham, distinguished professor of psychology at Florida International University, explains why medication may not always be the answer for certain disorders. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 9, 2022

Graduate student workers at Indiana University at Bloomington remain angry about many of the terms of new contracts that raised minimum stipends from $18,000 to $22,000.

The raises were announced last week by the administration. The raises came after a graduate student strike that ended without any agreement on union recognition or terms of a contract.

But The Indianapolis Star reported that a new strike may be called in September over a range of issues. Among them: the speed (one week) with which students had to sign new contracts, graduate student duties in the contract and changes in faculty responsibilities that relate to supervising graduate students.


August 9, 2022

Susan Whealler Johnston, president and CEO of the National Association of College and University Business Officers since 2018, is retiring after four years at the helm.

NACUBO made the announcement on Monday, citing a string of successes during Johnston's time in the role. Under her leadership, NACUBO increased membership, established a consulting group, won a $3.8 million grant last year to help support underserved students and created the Emerging Leaders Program, which focuses on professional development and training.

Johnston's retirement will be effective later this month and her successor will be selected by NACUBO's Board of Directors. Johnston is retiring early to focus on her health, according to a NACUBO news release.

August 9, 2022

A bipartisan bill was introduced today that would establish a new fellowship in the Fulbright program in honor of the late John Lewis, the former Georgia Congressman and civil rights activist who passed away in 2020.

The fellowship would provide funding for internships or research studying nonviolent civil rights movements internationally. This opportunity would be available to early-to-mid career professionals for at least 10 months of study.

Representative Nikema Williams, a Democrat from Georgia, is leading the effort to introduce the bill in the House. Williams, who represents the district that Lewis once served, said in a statement on the bill. "Congressman Lewis was my friend, mentor, and predecessor. He was also a hero across the globe with his message of nonviolent social change inspiring people to get into good trouble in countless countries," said Williams in a statement. "By creating the John Lewis Civil Rights Fellowship Act, we are helping future generations spread Congressman Lewis' moral clarity well beyond our borders."

The bill has bipartisan support. Representative Nancy Mace, a Republican from South Carolina is co-leading the introduction of the bill in the House and Senators John Hickenlooper, a Democrat from Colorado, Jon Ossoff, A Democrat from Georgia, Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, and Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina will introduce a companion bill in the Senate.


August 9, 2022

Today on the Academic Minute: John Tures, professor of political science at LaGrange College, examines if red flag laws help lower gun deaths when in place. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


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