University News

This week in higher ed: Oct. 31, 2013

By
University News Editor
Thursday, October 31, 2013

Gender-neutral housing may receive vote from Harvard undergrads

Activists garnered the number of signatures required for their petition to put up universal gender-neutral housing for undergraduate vote, the Harvard Crimson reported Tuesday.

Harvard, like Brown, does not allow gender-neutral housing for first-years. Some upperclassman residential houses at Harvard require mixed-gender suites to have locks on bedroom doors, the Crimson reported.

Now that it has the required number of signatures, the petition to remove these restrictions and universalize gender-neutral housing will be considered by the Undergraduate Council Rules Committee.

If the committee approves the signatures’ legitimacy, the initiative will be added to the UC fall ballot, which will be open Nov. 18-21, the Crimson reported.

The committee adopts all referendum questions passed by a majority of student voters as an official stance of the council, the Crimson reported.

UNC branch considers terminating history, physics, political science degrees

Elizabeth City State University administrators may eliminate undergraduate programs in history, political science and physics after the University of North Carolina system identified these degrees as “low productive,” Inside Higher Ed reported Tuesday.

The UNC branch — a historically black college in Elizabeth City, N.C. — has faced budget shortfalls in recent years and may cut these majors along with other smaller degree programs as “cost effectiveness measures,” Provost Ali Khan told Inside Higher Ed. UNC officials completed an April curricular review in light of fiscal constraints, labeling about 11 percent of total academic programs as “low productive,” Inside Higher Ed reported.

Defenders of liberal arts curricula criticized the potential cutbacks.

Eliminating the teaching of history at a historically black college is “ironically tragic,” given the school’s original mission of educating blacks in the post-Civil War era, James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, told Inside Higher Ed.

Khan stressed that discussions over the proposed cuts are ongoing, according to the article.

Sandusky child abuse victims reach $59.7 million settlement with Penn State

Pennsylvania State University announced it will pay $59.7 million to 26 child abuse victims of the school’s former football coach Jerry Sandusky, multiple news outlets reported Monday.

Settlement discussions with the 26 victims began in August, and the payment announcement is the latest fallout for Penn State following Sandusky’s child sexual abuse conviction last year, the Guardian reported Monday. The scandal has so far cost Penn State over $50 million in legal costs and other expenses, the Guardian reported.

“We cannot undo what has been done, but we can and must do everything possible to learn from this and ensure it never happens again at Penn State,” Rodney Erickson, the university’s president, said in a statement released Monday. The payments to victims are a “step forward” in healing for those hurt by Sandusky’s crimes and for the school, Erickson said in the statement.

Yale kicks off new sustainability push

Yale President Peter Salovey announced the university’s commitment to a new three-year environmental sustainability drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water usage, among other goals, the Yale Daily News reported Tuesday.

As part of the plan, administrators seek to cut Yale’s greenhouse gas emissions and drinking water use each by 5 percent below their current levels, the YDN reported. Yale completed most goals outlined in its three-year plan that ended this year, and Salovey sought to build on the school’s progress by releasing a new set of goals to be met by June 2016, the YDN reported.

The new plan addresses a wide range of ways to reduce Yale’s environmental footprint, endorsing a 15 percent increase in the quantity of plant-based foods served in dining halls and efforts to expand the university’s reliance on “local, eco-sensitive, humane or fair trade” food, the YDN reported.