All posts by Andrew Mytelka


Laid-Off Professor Is Reinstated at Northwest Nazarene U., but With Limits

Thomas Jay Oord, a theology professor who was laid off this spring in a controversial move by Northwest Nazarene University’s president, will be reinstated, but only to a part-time position that lasts for no more than three years, according to a statement issued on Friday by the Christian institution’s Board of Trustees.

The Idaho Press-Tribune reported that the board endorsed the actions taken by the university’s president at the time, David Alexander, to repair its finances. His announcement of layoffs and budgetary retrenchment in March drew fire because, critics said, Mr. Oord, a well-liked professor, had been singled out over theological differences with the university.

Mr. Alexander denied that was so, apologized to Mr. Oord for how the announcement had been handled, and put the planned layoffs on hold amid a faculty outcry. But Mr. Alexander was subjected to a no-confidence vote and subsequently resigned.

In Friday’s statement and an accompanying announcement, the board said it had reached an agreement with Mr. Oord under which he would teach part time in the university’s online theology program, for a maximum of three years, and would be paid in full for the 2015-16 academic year because the settlement occurred after the end of the 2014-15 year.

In a statement and video posted on his own website, Mr. Oord said he expected the board to conclude that he had been “wrongly selected for a layoff,” and was “shocked” at not winning full reinstatement. Still, he said, he accepted the agreement and hoped eventually to land a teaching ministry at another university. “My colleagues at NNU and the leadership must work now to shore up the university’s commitment to academic freedom,” he wrote.

“In these difficult months (and even years), my family and I have been sustained by the encouragement and words of affirmation,” he wrote. “I am especially grateful to literally hundreds of former students and colleagues who sent notes explaining how my life has made a positive difference. Some have even talked about how my teachings and influence have helped them regain belief in God, return to the church or overcome debilitating dilemmas.”

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Washington U. in St. Louis Hails Turnaround in Student Diversity

Washington University in St. Louis, which has drawn sharp criticism for years for its lack of student diversity, announced on Friday a jump in diversity in the freshman class enrolling this fall, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The university said the proportion of the class who are black will rise to 9 percent from 5 percent; Hispanic to 8 percent from 6 percent; and low income to 11 percent from 8 percent.

Critics said the university had climbed in the college rankings by using merit scholarships to enroll well-prepared students who were well-off and not from underrepresented groups. After The New York Times highlighted the pattern, in January, the university vowed to increase its socioeconomic diversity.

Holden Thorp, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, told the Post-Dispatch that the university had not been forced to lower its standard to raise its diversity.

“What we found is that there doesn’t have to be a trade-off,” Thorp said. “We looked at the students who didn’t get in last year, and we realized that we could broaden our criteria a little bit.” This very slight relaxing of admissions standards, Thorp said, had a negligible effect on the quality of students enrolled.

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Kansas State’s President Will Donate His Raise to Support-Staff Program

Kansas State University’s president said on Friday that he was grateful for the 2-percent raise the Kansas Board of Regents awarded him this week, but instead of accepting it he planned to donate it to the University Support Staff Awards program, for use elsewhere on the campus, The Hutchinson News reports.

In a message to the campus, President Kirk H. Schulz said that “since we were not able to provide a campuswide salary pool this year for faculty and staff, I do not feel it is appropriate that I should receive a raise.” The News reported that Mr. Schulz’s base salary is $466,951, so his raise amounted to about $9,339.

Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz said Friday he appreciated the 2-percent salary raise approved Thursday by the Kansas Board of Regents, but he won’t pocket it.

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Legislation on Campus Sex Assault Nears Approval in New York

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and legislative leaders agreed on Tuesday on a bill that would set rules for all colleges, private and public, to handle sexual assault on their campuses, the Syracuse Media Group reported.

The legislation, which has the support of the State Senate’s and State Assembly’s leadership but still faces votes in both chambers, would extend a modified version of Mr. Cuomo’s “Yes Means Yes” policy, imposed last fall on State University of New York campuses, to private colleges.

The measure would further its goals by allocating $10 million to state, local, and campus law enforcement, to rape-crisis centers, and to colleges. Capital New York, a news website, quoted the head of New York’s private-college association as describing the bill as “balanced, appropriate, and helpful for students and campuses.”

Cuomo is confident that the legislation will pass, and tweeted his thanks to Lady Gaga and others this afternoon for their support of the legislation. The law, billed Enough is Enough, is built around a different catch-phrase: Yes Means Yes. Students should get consent, a verbal “yes,” at every stage of a hook-up.

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College of St. Elizabeth, Last Women’s College in N.J., Will Go Fully Coed

The College of Saint Elizabeth, which the website described as New Jersey’s last degree-granting institution for women, will admit men to its day classes for the first time in the fall of 2016. Male students already attend the college’s evening and weekend courses. The college would seem to be the victim of some of the same financial troubles afflicting small colleges and women’s colleges across the country — woes that, for example, led the trustees of Sweet Briar College to vote to close the Virginia institution this year. But the College of Saint Elizabeth’s president, Helen Streubert, said the main reason for the policy shift was the decline in the number of New Jersey high-school graduates, a demographic trend affecting colleges in many states of the Northeast.

The school has cut more than 30 faculty positions since 2013 and enrollment declined from about 2,100 to 1,411 over the past five years. Last year, the school reported that independent grants had dropped from about $627,000 in 2008 to just $30,000.

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Athletes in Big-Time Programs Often Escape Prosecution, Report Says

Football and men’s basketball players at Florida State University and the University of Florida escaped criminal charges or criminal prosecution two-thirds of the time, on average, when they were named as suspects by the police, a proportion much higher than that for college-age men who are not athletes, according to an investigation published on Sunday by ESPN’s Outside the Lines unit.

The investigation, which drew on police reports and other documents in 10 cities that are home to big-time col…


John Hennessy, Stanford’s President, to Step Down in 2016

John L. Hennessy, Stanford University’s president since 2000, announced on Thursday that he planned to step down in the summer of 2016. Mr. Hennessy, a computer scientist who played key roles in the founding of several high-tech companies, including Google, said he was interested in continuing to teach and conduct research but was not specific about his plans.

The university said that Stanford’s provost, John Etchemendy, would serve for up to a year to help the transition to Mr. Hennessy’s succe…


U. of Hawaii Board Votes to Disinvest in Fossil-Fuel Companies

The University of Hawaii’s Board of Regents voted on Thursday to divest the system’s financial holdings in any companies involved in the production of fossil fuels, Pacific Business News reports.

The university, which plans to carry out the divestment by 2018, joins other higher-education institutions in choosing to rid itself of some or all of their investments in the fossil-fuel industry. They include the New School, Pitzer College, Stanford University, Syracuse University, the University of D…


2 Wesleyan U. Students Are Charged With Drug Deals That Led to Overdoses

[Updated (5/22/2015, 5:41 p.m.) with news of the students' court pleas and clarification that Wesleyan expelled five students, not two.]

A federal grand jury on Friday indicted two Wesleyan University students for what it said were their roles in selling illicit drugs on the Connecticut campus in recent years that led to a series of drug overdoses by students, The Hartford Courant reports.

The two students — Zachary Kramer, 21, of Bethesda, Md., and Eric Lonergan, 22, of Rio de Janeiro — wer…


President Resigns at Northwest Nazarene U. After No-Confidence Vote

The president of Northwest Nazarene University, David Alexander, announced his resignation this week, the Idaho Statesman reported on Tuesday.

The resignation, effective May 31, follows a faculty vote last month of no confidence in Mr. Alexander that stemmed from a controversial plan to lay off six employees. One of those to be laid off was a popular professor of theology, and critics of the plan said his removal derived not from budgetary reasons but from theological differences at the Christian institution, a view the university denied. Still, the plan was shelved, and Mr. Alexander apologized to the professor.

In a statement and news release on Tuesday, the chairman of the university’s board hailed Mr. Alexander’s leadership over the last seven years. Northwest Nazarene’s vice president for advancement, Joel Pearsall, was named interim president.

Pearsall said, “At the request of the Board of Trustees, I have decided to serve in the position of president of Northwest Nazarene University. I am committed to the task ahead of helping NNU navigate through this transition and move forward into the future that I believe God has prepared for us.”

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