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Michigan State University has agreed to pay $500 million to settle the legal claims brought by 332 survivors of the sexual abuse committed by Larry Nassar, a longtime doctor there, the university announced Wednesday.
According to a statement announcing the settlement, Michigan State will pay $425 million to the current and former students who are already party to the various lawsuits brought against the university, and set aside $75 million for any future claimants.
The institution said no confidentiality agreements or no-disclosure agreements would be attached to the settlement, which it described as agreed to "in principle."
A lawyer for Michigan State, Robert Young, said, "Michigan State is pleased that we have been able to agree in principle on a settlement that is fair to the survivors of Nassar's crimes. We appreciate the hard work both sides put into the mediation, and the efforts of the mediator, which achieved a result that is responsible and equitable.”
A lawyer for the survivors, John Manly, said, “This historic settlement came about through the bravery of more than 300 women and girls who had the courage to stand up and refuse to be silenced. We appreciate the diligent efforts of Mick Grewal and the survivors’ attorneys throughout the nation who worked to obtain this measure of justice and healing. We also thank the mediator and all who participated in crafting this settlement. It is the sincere hope of all of the survivors that the legacy of this settlement will be far-reaching institutional reform that will end the threat of sexual assault in sports, schools and throughout our society.”
Many questions remain about the nature of the settlement, including where the money will come from. And assuming it becomes final, the settlement will not resolve many other aspects of this situation for Michigan State, which is under investigation by the Education Department and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Nassar pleaded guilty to sexually abusing scores of gymnasts he examined in his capacity as a doctor for the U.S. gymnastics team and Michigan State athletes. He is now in prison.
Inside Higher Ed will have more coverage of this settlement in the coming hours.Editorial Tags: Breaking NewsSexual assaultIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Michigan State University
La Complutense readmite a Cifuentes en su puesto de funcionaria, pero pendiente de su situación judicial
Growing criticism about a controversial commencement address at Sweet Briar College has prompted a debate about how college or university presidents should respond when speakers at campus events offend members of the student body and others in the audience.
Widespread criticism of the comments made last Saturday by the speaker, Nella Gray Barkley, raised pointed questions about how Sweet Briar president Meredith Woo reacted to the speech. More broadly, it provoked a discussion of whether college presidents have an obligation to promptly and unequivocally challenge, correct or disagree with a speaker who makes comments that run counter to the stated values of the institution.
A similar situation occurred last month at the University of Portland, when a sexist speech by a male student led some female athletes and university officials, but not the president, to walk out of an awards banquet honoring university athletes. The president, the Reverend Mark L. Poorman, soon found himself under fire and quickly apologized for not having done more in the moment.
For some Sweet Briar graduates, a commencement speech they viewed as dismissive of feminism and of sexual assault and harassment was made worse by an email Woo sent out the next day that many viewed as passive and ambiguous. The email noted the controversy but did not challenge the remarks that were made. The critics said that the speech and the college's weak reaction to it sent the wrong message, particularly at a women's college.
Among other things, Barkley, a 1955 graduate of Sweet Briar and founder of a career-counseling company, said she was in "partial sympathy" with the Me Too movement but did not have sympathy for women who report being summoned to a boss's hotel room.
"I have little patience with the woman who arrives breathlessly at her boss's hotel room for a so-called conference," she said. "What did she think was going to happen?"
She also told graduates that "it is you who makes the ground rules" in future careers and that it was "only natural for men from Mars to follow the shortest skirt in the room."
“I believe the president is a moral leader of the university and partially her own moral compass as a leader of the campus and what the campus should stand for. I know it’s difficult, but I’d like them to be more bold about standing up for the values the campus espouses.” -- Mark G. Yudof
Woo’s critics said she should have at least offered an alternative narrative to Barkley’s comments and expounded on the culture and philosophical outlook of the women’s college.
Various college presidents said they sympathized with Woo and understood that she was in a tenuous position. Although they agreed that being president requires walking a diplomatic tightrope and balancing being courteous to an invited guest and respecting differences of opinion, their views widely varied on whether or not Woo should have done more.
“I think it shouldn’t be necessary for the president to do anything if you’ve established a culture of free speech that is valued and promotes a diversity of ideas,” said Kent John Chabotar, former president of Guilford College and a professor of political science.
He said he would not have done anything in response to the speech at Sweet Briar because “while a speech may offend me and others in the room, there may also be sympathizers in the room.”
He added that “it would take a lot to interrupt the speaker or say something afterward.”
Chabotar said the speech at Portland met that bar and was “way over-the-top.”
He said he would have taken swift action in that case by interrupting the speaker and informing him that he “was crossing the line” and “either change your tone or I advise you to get off the stage.”
If the speaker did not comply, he said, “Then I’d probably shut it down.”
A former college president who did not want to be named said that while the commencement speaker put Woo in a tough spot, she could have found ways around it.
“It’s obviously very delicate for a college president to be in the position of criticizing an alumna, much less a potential donor, but at the same time if the speaker says something contrary to the basic values of the institution, the president should say something,” the former president said. “Presidents find themselves having to make such judgment calls all the time and in turn they are judged by the quality of those judgments. But I think that the governing principle is that they need to speak for the values of their institution.”
The former college president said Woo could have defended Sweet Briar’s core principles by gently and respectfully admonishing Barkley during the commencement ceremony, without saying outright that “our speaker is wrong.”
“She might have said something like ‘I appreciate hearing the perspective of our speaker and the mores of decades ago when she was a student. Today we’re proud to say it’s not incompatible to be a feminist and to be in a happy marriage,’” the former college president said. “She could have also said, ‘I’m happy to say that today Sweet Briar graduates understand that wearing a certain kind of dress or going to a professional meeting, even in a hotel room, does not make them compliant in their victimhood.’”
By doing so, Woo would “graciously reject the victim-blaming and anti-feminist statements of the speaker.” Instead, Woo issued a statement “that really skirted and danced around the issue” and gave the controversy more traction.
Another college president who also did not want to be named agreed.
That president said Woo could have responded to Barkley this way: “Thank you for sharing your perspective. I see how this issue has developed and changed over the years … I’m glad that our graduates are going out into a world where their rights are going to be respected.”
The former president said this response works on two levels: “By saying this you’re not taking her on, but you’re making it clear that you disagree.”
Mark G. Yudof, former president of the University of California and the University of Minnesota, said taking such stands is not always easy but is sometimes necessary.
“I believe the president is a moral leader of the university and partially her own moral compass as a leader of the campus and what the campus should stand for,” he said. “I know it’s difficult, but I’d like them to be more bold about standing up for the values the campus espouses.”
Still, he noted that sometimes college presidents should hold their tongues.
“When I was president there was lots of stuff with which I disagreed, but I didn’t speak out every time,” he said. “I think it’s appropriate for the president to set the moral tone, but you can’t speak out every day, otherwise the moral force of the office is gone.”
Yudof, also a former law professor at UC Berkeley who prides himself “on not wanting to shut down speech” with which he disagrees, recalled speaking out when Louis Farrakhan Sr., the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam religious group, spoke at Berkeley.
“I said I disagreed with his views and his homophobia and anti-Semitism,” Yudof said.
Another college president who also did not want to be named said it’s much harder to take a forceful stand when you know everyone is not on the same page.
“There are sometimes situations where you really have think about when to take on these issues because you’re quite likely going to be criticized whichever way you go,” the president said. “You always, always want to model open-mindedness, respectfulness and civility.
“But it’s a tricky moment when you are caught off guard. You want to show respect for the speaker and you want to respect the fact that people in the audience have different views. You don’t want to get involved in every petty issue, but there are times you have to stand up for the values of the college.”Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
College leaders discuss their participation on a federal task force that criticized higher education
As part of its pitch for expanding apprenticeship opportunities, a White House-convened task force last week released a report that took several shots at colleges and universities.
“The American higher education system is churning out a pool of in-debt job seekers who are not equipped to meet the skills needs of many employers in the modern American economy,” the report said.
The strongly worded criticism was notable in part because the 20-member task force included two higher education representatives: Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, and Mark B. Rosenberg, president of Florida International University and a board member for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
In a written statement, Bumphus said he was given little time to review the report and that he focused on its recommendations. Rosenberg said in an interview that he pushed back on the task force's higher ed bashing, but that he wanted to make sure that universities were represented on the panel.
“I’m uncomfortable with the report’s characterizations of student debt … I stated that. I’m on the record,” said Rosenberg. But he added that “I didn’t think we should be shut out of the game.”
For the most part, the federal panel echoed the Trump administration’s oft-cited argument that vocational education is underemphasized relative to college degree programs. That’s not surprising, given that the group was led by several members of Trump's cabinet -- it was chaired by the U.S. secretaries of education, labor and commerce and included Ivanka Trump.
But the task force’s language about higher education went farther than Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, did in a letter that accompanied the report. DeVos wrote that a “traditional college education and a modern-day apprenticeship are no longer mutually exclusive education options.”
The report, however, said higher education “is a narrow path that is not working for enough young people, in part because it is becoming increasingly unaffordable and no longer guarantees a middle-class income.”
Apprenticeships are important, said Karen Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream, a nonprofit group focused on student completion at community colleges. Stout said she supports the task force’s work, but she questioned why the report criticized other forms of postsecondary job training.
“The work that we’re doing with traditional credentials is also important,” said Stout, a former community college president. “I don’t think the rhetoric should look past the fact that traditional higher education is still highly valued by employers.”
Debt and the Skills Gap
The task force called out four-year degree programs in particular, saying they “have become increasingly unaffordable for the average American, culminating in the current student loan crisis.”
The report cited data on the total amount of U.S. student loan debt (more than $1.3 trillion) and the average amount held by college graduates in 2016, which it listed as $37,000. While that number may or may not be right -- several recent news accounts attribute that figure to preliminary data from Mark Kantrowitz, a well-regarded expert on financial aid -- only about seven in 10 college students take out any loans at all, so listing the figure as the average amount held by all graduates is incorrect.
The report also included an apparently inaccurate dig about the number of graduates in technology fields that American colleges produce each year.
The traditional four-year education model “often is disconnected from business needs and not suited for providing workers the combination of skills and practical work experience that employers value,” the report said. “Today, there are over 500,000 technology jobs open, but U.S. colleges and universities produce only 50,000 graduates each year, creating a shortfall in skilled candidates across economic sectors.”
More than one-third of bachelor’s degrees awarded annually are in science and engineering -- with 589,330 earned in 2012, according to the National Science Foundation. (Another 161,371 students earned master’s degrees in science and engineering that year, with 35,360 earning doctoral degrees.)
Rosenberg, who was listed on the report in his capacity as a board member for the land-grant university association, said APLU focuses on student access, graduation and employment. And he said there’s plenty of work to do in those areas.
“There’s a recognition in this country that debt levels are high, and perhaps out of control,” he said, adding that higher education also needs to do a better job of teaching undergraduates critical thinking and preparing them for the work force.
Rosenberg cautioned against college leaders being too sensitive about the report’s findings, noting that it also pushes for more involvement by employers.
“It’s only the first step,” he said of the task force report. “Everybody at that table is grappling with how to get a better hold on work-force training.”
While community college colleges caught less heat than four-year colleges in the report, they were not spared.
For example, the task force cited a review of Washington State’s work-force training outcomes, which “found apprenticeships boosted participants’ future taxable incomes and thus yielded a $23 return to taxpayers for every public dollar spent, compared with a $3 return for community college.”
Bumphus said the report’s criticisms of higher education “do not capture the tone and tenor of the meetings” or of the task force itself. “In fact, community colleges in particular were often touted by various members of the task force as a critical pathway toward closing the skills gap in America.”
As a participant, Bumphus said, he was able to showcase the nation’s 1,103 community colleges while continuing valuable partnerships with industry and government to expand programs to serve more students and create stronger employment pipelines.
“Further, it allowed AACC to speak directly to the administration and to President Trump about the value of the community college and clarify its multiple roles in both traditional and vocational postsecondary education,” he said.
For his part, Rosenberg said, the task force was right to push for higher education and employers to be “more progressive about learning and earning opportunities.”
And while the broader context of the report and its findings are open to interpretation, Rosenberg said he met his objectives for public universities by participating in the task force. “I wanted to make sure we weren’t excluded.”Editorial Tags: Adult educationFederal policyCommunity collegesResearch universitiesImage Source: Houston Community CollegeImage Caption: Students in an advanced manufacturing program at Houston Community CollegeIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
The accusations against Columbia International University President Mark Smith were shocking enough -- a former university general counsel alleging that Smith covered up rampant sexual harassment and bigotry by his son when they were both employed by another religious college.
With the allegations against Smith and his son, Doug Smith, still reverberating at the university, alumni have gone public with other stories about a longstanding climate of sexual harassment and assault. How the former Columbia International president Bill Jones would stroke the hair of students and tickle them without permission. How professors there would do everything from kiss students’ foreheads to pass on rumors they had dated “too many men.”
One faculty member sexually assaulted a student, a graduate alleges.
While the university maintains administrators were ignorant of these allegations, and indeed the graduates said they did not report them at the time, they reinforce an image of religious institutions that many have tried to shake: that sexual misconduct at best goes ignored, and worst, is knowingly dismissed.
Outcry began with the revelation that Mark Smith had been sued by the former general counsel of Ohio Christian University, where he was president for more than a decade.
Jeremy Davitz, the university’s former lawyer, alleged in a federal lawsuit that he was charged with investigating Doug Smith’s widespread misconduct, which included sticking his fingers in the mouth of a student with whom he worked. It was what Doug Smith called a “slut test,” Davitz alleged in court documents -- had the woman closed her mouth, she would be considered a slut.
Doug Smith allegedly also made homophobic, racist and anti-Semitic comments and covertly photographed women’s backsides and posted the images on social media. When Davitz informed Mark Smith of his son’s behavior and told him Doug would need to be fired, Davitz alleged that the president screamed at him and threatened to sue both him and Ohio Christian.
Shortly after, Mark Smith stripped Davitz of his responsibilities, disparaged him to the Ohio Christian Board of Trustees and eventually fired him in retaliation, he alleges.
Around that time, Mark Smith resigned from the institution and was named president of Columbia International, despite his contract with the first institution allowing him to remain there until 2025.
Ohio Christian has declined to comment on Davitz’s lawsuit. And Columbia International has said it vetted the president and his son before they were hired.
Local press has reported in depth on the lawsuit, including that Doug Smith now works at Columbia International, though in what capacity is unclear.
After those news accounts were published, eight Columbia International alumni were interviewed by The State, a South Carolina paper, saying they were either subject to or witnessed multiple instances of sexual harassment in their years at the university.
One alumna, who said she was kicked out of the institution for being a lesbian, told The State that a female faculty member sexually assaulted her. She had shared the trauma of her childhood sexual abuse with the professor, who said re-enacting the abuse would help her.
In another case, an alumna wrote a blog post after her husband’s death on how much she missed him and how he would kiss her forehead. A male professor, having read her account, would walk up to her and kiss her forehead without her consent -- this happened multiple times, she said.
The former president, Jones, in multiple cases would stroke the hair of both male and female students, the alumni said in interviews. One alumna said Jones told her that she reminded him of his daughter. Though they were unsure if they behavior was sexual, all of them characterized it as “creepy” or “uncomfortable.”
The alumni said they never reported the incidents because they either brushed them off or wanted to focus on graduating.
A spokesman for the college, Bob Holmes, declined to make Jones and others available for interviews. Holmes provided a lengthy statement from Andre Rogers, a professor of church ministry and special assistant to the president, who backed both Jones and Mark Smith. He said in the years he knew Jones, he had never seen any inappropriate behavior. He lauded Smith's leadership, saying it had resulted in higher enrollment and a higher profile for the university.
"We have been blessed over the last year to enjoy his pastoral-like leadership of the faculty and staff. He is a caring and wise leader with a big heart for the community. He leads with integrity and skill," Rogers said of Smith.
A law firm representing Columbia International released a statement saying administrators, including the Title IX coordinator, were unaware of the allegations The State reported on.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is the federal law protecting against gender discrimination.
“CIU continues to encourage all students, current or former, to report any allegations of harassment or sexual misconduct of any kind to CIU’s Title IX Coordinator or any member of the university’s executive management so that CIU promptly and thoroughly can investigate the allegations to protect the rights and safety of its students,” the statement reads.
Sexual assault survivor advocates for years have pressed for reforms at religious institutions, arguing that they often try to leave these issues unaddressed and protect their reputations. After the Obama administration in 2011 revamped the guidelines around Title IX, some religious colleges and universities struggled to meet the new obligations, such as employing a dedicated Title IX coordinator.
Religious institutions can also seek Title IX exemptions, but this was largely meant to cater to religions in which women can’t take leadership roles, said Laura Dunn, a law adjunct at the University of Maryland at College Park and founder of SurvJustice, a survivor advocacy group.
What struck her about the accounts from alumni was how pervasive the behavior appeared to be, which could create a hostile environment, even if not all the students were reporting rape.
Dunn, who was raised in a religious household as a pastor’s daughter, said the silence on sexual assault is unsurprising. She criticized Columbia International for its statement, sarcastically congratulating the institution for meeting the minimum federal standard.
“You cannot just assume if you send your child to a religious institution, everything is properly handled,” she said.
Carly N. Mee, the interim executive director of SurvJustice, said a greater power dynamic often exists at religious colleges -- a loyalty to both the institution and its leaders.
She said their policies, such as at the University of Notre Dame, where a student can be punished for being in the room of someone of the opposite sex after hours, creates problems. If a student was assaulted, then their only choices would be to either remain in the room with the attacker or face consequences for leaving.
The Trump administration’s interim guidance on Title IX, which it released after rolling back Obama’s edicts, also loosen the duties for religious colleges to protect survivors, specifically, allowing “alternative mediation” to be used in resolving sexual assaults, Mee said.
“It’s all about their public image, obviously,” Mee said. “It doesn’t look good for them to have sexual violence occurring there, so there is a tendency to sweep it under the rug.”
An online petition has since circulated, signed nearly 500 times as of Tuesday afternoon, calling for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, or GRACE, to investigate Columbia International. The group teaches Christian institutions how to recognize and prevent abuse.
“We are no longer confident of the safety and respect of women and minority students at an institution that is willing to accept the word of powerful men over the words of the vulnerable,” the petition reads. GRACE declined to comment for this story.Editorial Tags: Sexual assaultTitle IXImage Caption: Mark Smith, Columbia International University president Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
Hiram College redesign would nix majors in math, philosophy, economics; add interdisciplinary arts and criminal justice programs
Leaders at Ohio’s Hiram College are proposing a sweeping redesign of the liberal arts college, with plans to discontinue several bedrock majors including mathematics, philosophy, economics, art history, music and religious studies.
In a set of recommendations released Tuesday on Hiram’s website, the college proposes creating new majors in several fields. Those include an interdisciplinary major called fine, performing and digital arts, another in crime and justice and one in sports management, among others.
The college also wants to examine the feasibility of new majors, including engineering, data analytics, information technology and gaming and interactive media.
It said several of the new majors would be interdisciplinary, with the crime and justice program comprising study in sociology, philosophy, political science, public health and psychology, for instance, and the data analytics program bringing together math, computer science, physics and business.
Under the proposed plan, Hiram would keep minors in economics, philosophy, math, Spanish and French. Hiram said students now majoring in the targeted disciplines will be able to graduate in these subjects.
If implemented, the long-anticipated redesign would put two tenured faculty members and two tenure-track faculty out of their jobs. It would also eliminate one contract instructor and a visiting faculty member, the college said.
“Nothing is more difficult for any college than eliminating faculty positions,” Judy Muyskens, interim vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college, said in a statement. “Final decisions in this area will be deeply painful for all members of this small community, especially those whose positions are eliminated. This process has been and will continue to be challenging. Still, we are confident that it will lay the groundwork for strengthening our academic offerings, attracting and retaining students, and forging new bridges among faculty and staff as Hiram College strives to meet the urgent challenges of our time.”
While President Lori Varlotta has said Hiram's faculty has been closely involved with the proposed changes, a few have said they fear the effect on tenured faculty members. Hiram's faculty last December reorganized the college's chapter of the American Association of University Professors -- it now has 28 members -- and sent an open letter to Varlotta, expressing worry about the cuts. Thirty current and nine retired professors signed it.
Varlotta last week said the college has offered "a generous retirement package" for anyone 55 or older with 15 years of service -- it includes a year of salary and benefits.
John T. McNay, president of AAUP’s Ohio conference, said tenure "exists as a bulwark to academic freedom. Elimination of tenured positions does damage to that value at any college or university." He said AAUP expects that Hiram "will be generous and helpful to the tenured faculty who lose their positions. They have devoted their careers to the college in exchange for modest compensation."
Last fall, Hiram’s full-time faculty stood at about 80, with five instructors saying they’ll retire this spring. The college on Tuesday said other reductions have come through retirements, nonrenewed contracts and strategic reassignments. “Equally important is the compassionate and humane way we are striving to carry out this difficult work,” the college said.
Looking Toward the Future
Like many other small liberal arts colleges, the 168-year-old college in northeastern Ohio is working to keep its liberal arts heritage while attracting a new generation of students -- even as Varlotta seeks to close a $1.2 million gap in an operating budget that totals $30 million.
Varlotta has long championed what she calls the “new liberal arts,” a more integrated, interdisciplinary and experiential version of the traditional curriculum that combines typical liberal arts with “high-impact experiences” and a dose of “mindful technology.”
She has said the liberal arts will infuse the college's new majors, even those that aren't traditional for liberal arts colleges.
AAUP's McNay on Tuesday said, "We hope this curriculum redesign works. We remain concerned that you can't cut your way to success. Students come to a great college like Hiram because of the skilled faculty, not fancy new bells and whistles."
Faculty members will get a chance to weigh in on the recommendations, which will then go to the college’s Board of Trustees for approval, including the recommendations to eliminate tenured faculty positions.
The board is expected to decide on the proposal by early June.Editorial Tags: Business issuesFacultyLiberal artsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
- California State University, Los Angeles: Stewart Kwoh, founding president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
- Grinnell College: Celina Karp Biniaz, a Holocaust survivor who was the youngest person on Oskar Schindler’s list.
- LIM College: Shawn R. Outler, executive vice president of Macy’s.
- New York University Tandon School of Engineering: C. D. Mote Jr., president of the National Academy of Engineering.
- St. Mary's College of Maryland: Wanda Queen Draper, executive director of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History and Culture.
- Trinity Washington University: Donald Graham, the former chairman and publisher of The Washington Post and the founder of TheDream.U.S. Scholarship Fund.