All posts by Andrew Mytelka


Education Dept. to Drop 5 Collection Agencies Over ‘Deceptive Practices’

[Updated (3/2/2015, 12:35 p.m.) with response from a trade association representing the five agencies.]

The U.S. Education Department is cutting ties with five private collection agencies that it says provided inaccurate information to student-loan borrowers. In an announcement late Friday, the department also said it would step up its monitoring and guidance of such collection agencies, which work under government contracts, to ensure that they give borrowers accurate data on their loans.

The …


U. of California President Calls Off Proposed Increase in Tuition

Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, has postponed a planned tuition increase as a gesture of good faith while negotiations continue with Gov. Jerry Brown over state support for higher education, the Associated Press reported. The university’s Board of Regents voted in November to raise tuition by as much as 5 percent in each of the next five years, to make up for lower-than-expected state funds.

Speaking at the University of Southern California on Wednesday, Napolitano said she was also hopeful the university system will be able to forestall any tuition increase for the next academic year.

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U. of Texas Chancellor Convenes Panel to Review Admissions Practices

William H. McRaven, chancellor of the University of Texas System, said on Monday he had formed a committee to look into admissions practices on the flagship Austin campus. The announcement came in the wake of a report, issued last week, that said the campus’s president, William C. Powers Jr., had intervened to help well-connected applicants gain admission, sometimes despite the admissions office’s wishes.

Mr. McRaven charged the committee with studying the report’s recommendations and best practices in the admissions field, and reporting back to him within 60 days. The committee’s members are a Who’s Who of former University of Texas leaders, including three former presidents of the Austin campus and three former system chancellors.

“My goal is to ensure full and open transparency to the public with respect to how admissions decisions are made at UT Austin.” McRaven said. “I realize that admissions practices are complicated and nuanced processes, but we must clearly define a policy that determines the degree of appropriate discretion at the institution level, while ensuring a fair and transparent process for applicants.”

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Princeton Receives $300-Million Bequest of Rare Books

Princeton University has received a bequest of some 2,500 rare books and manuscripts from a longtime benefactor who died last fall, the university announced on Monday. The donation, valued at $300-million, is the largest in Princeton’s history.

The donor, William H. Scheide, continued a tradition of collecting started in the 19th century by his grandfather and father. But the private collection has been housed in the university’s Firestone Library, where it is available to researchers and students, since 1959. (Mr. Scheide and his father were both alumni of Princeton.)

Highlights of the collection include a Gutenberg Bible, a first printing of the Declaration of Independence, a run of Shakespeare folio editions, and important autograph manuscripts by Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart.

According to a New York Times obituary of Mr. Scheide published after he died, in November, at age 100, he was known not only as a philanthropist, musicologist, and musician. He was also active in civil rights and was the most generous individual donor in the history of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Correction (2/15/2015, 3:48 p.m.): This post originally reported incorrectly that Mr. Scheide’s grandfather was a Princeton alumnus. Only Mr. Scheide and his father were alumni of the college. The post has been updated to reflect this correction.

“Through Bill Scheide’s generosity, one of the greatest collections of rare books and manuscripts in the world today will have a permanent home here,” said Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber.

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New President of Texas A&M at College Station Is U. of Washington’s Chief

The Texas A&M University system announced on Tuesday that its Board of Regents had chosen as the sole finalist to be the new president of its flagship campus Michael K. Young, currently president of the University of Washington. Mr. Young, a former law professor at Columbia University, State Department official during the first Bush administration, and former president of the University of Utah, will succeed R. Bowen Loftin, who left the College Station campus to become chancellor of the Univers…


New Chinese Crackdown on Internet Access Draws Academic Critics

University professors in China and Chinese students hoping to study in the United States are among the sharpest critics of recent efforts by Beijing to hamper the widespread use of virtual private networks to bypass the country’s tight Internet restrictions, The New York Times reports.

The students have used the networks, known as VPNs, to submit online applications to American colleges. The professors say the government’s new crackdown, which has disrupted VPNs to an unparalleled degree, has made it impossible for them to use Google Scholar, a search tool providing links to a vast archive of scholarly papers.

The Times quoted a naval historian as saying, “It’s like we’re living in the Middle Ages.” A biologist said the results of the crackdown “suggest little respect for the people actually engaged in science.”

Chinese authorities have long had the ability to interfere with V.P.N.s, but their interest in disrupting such programs has mounted alongside the government’s drive for so-called cyber-sovereignty, especially since President Xi Jinping came to power two years ago. Lu Wei, the propaganda official Mr. Xi appointed as Internet czar, has been unapologetic in promoting the notion that China has the right to block a wide array of online content.

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CUNY Campus Drops ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’ to Foster Respect for Students’ Diversity

The City University of New York’s Graduate Center is advising its faculty and staff members to avoid using such courtesy titles as “Mr.,” “Ms.,” and “Mrs.” in written correspondence with students and instead to address them by their full names, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The goal of the new policy, which was laid out this month in a memorandum from the provost’s office and goes into effect this spring, is to “ensure a respectful, welcoming, and gender-inclusive learning environment … and to accommodate properly the diverse population of current and prospective students,” the memo says.

A university spokeswoman told the Journal that the policy stemmed from efforts to comply with Title IX, a federal gender-equity law. But Saundra Schuster, a lawyer and Title IX expert quoted by the newspaper, called the decision to base the new policy on the federal law “ridiculous.” “I love the concept,” she said, “but they are not mandated to do this.”

Gendered salutations represent “an outdated and unnecessary formality [that] serves no purpose other than to label and risk misrepresentation,” said Allison Steinberg, a spokeswoman for the Empire State Pride Agenda, an advocacy group for gay and transgender people. “We’re hopeful this gesture will inspire others…to follow in CUNY’s innovative footsteps.”

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Russian Spy Ring Sought to Recruit Young Women at University in N.Y.

In intercepted phone calls, participants in a Russian spy ring, who were charged on Monday, “discussed their attempts to recruit U.S. residents, including several individuals employed by major companies, and several young women with ties to a major university located in New York City,” according to a federal complaint quoted by the Associated Press. The complaint did not specify which university, but Newsweek noted that both Columbia and New York Universities have major Russian-research centers.

Three people were charged Monday in connection with a Cold War-style Russian spy ring that tried to recruit New York City residents as intelligence sources, authorities said. The defendants were directed by Russian intelligence official “to gather intelligence on, among other subjects, potential United States sanctions against Russian banks and the United States’ efforts to develop alternative energy resources,” according to a complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan.

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Western Illinois U. Punishes Student for Selling Video of Campus Fight

Western Illinois University has suspended a student as editor in chief of The Western Courier, the student newspaper, for selling video he recorded of a campus brawl in December, according to KHQA, a television station in Quincy, Ill.

The student, Nicholas Stewart, was told he was being punished for violating the university’s code of student conduct. In a letter, the university’s vice president for student services, Gary Biller, said Mr. Stewart’s actions represented “a threat to the normal operations of the university.” Mr. Biller also stated that neither the newspaper nor the university had received the proceeds of the video sales.

Jim Romenesko, who writes a blog on the news media, interviewed Mr. Biller on Friday about the case. According to the interview, Mr. Biller declined to say in what way Mr. Stewart had threatened the university’s operations. He also said he didn’t know how much money the video had sold for, but even $10 would have warranted the penalty he imposed. And he denied that the university was punishing the student because his video had brought bad publicity to the campus.

For his part, Mr. Stewart told Mr. Romenesko that he was seeking legal representation for a meeting, scheduled for Monday, with the university’s internal-auditing department.

“I think if the news footage Stewart shot would’ve shown sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, the University would not have investigated, much less suspended the student journalist.”–email from Bill Knight, a retired journalism professor at the university

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Amherst College Settles Lawsuit Over Alleged Rape and Withheld Diploma

Amherst College and an unnamed student have settled a lawsuit over the college’s decision last year to withhold his diploma over his alleged rape of another student in 2009, according to The Republican, a newspaper in Springfield, Mass. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, so it was unclear if the college had paid the student, identified in court documents as “John Doe,” any of the $2-million he had demanded.

The student’s accuser, identified as Student A, said he had spoken to college officials about the alleged 2009 encounter but never filed a formal complaint about it. The college withheld the diploma after Student A restated the complaint a week before the 2014 commencement.

During a pretrial hearing last year, Doe’s lawyer, David P. Hoose, told a judge that Amherst College was letting negative publicity around its handling of a number of on-campus rape allegations unfairly drive their treatment of Doe.

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