University News

This Week in Higher Ed: Oct. 21, 2015

By
University News Editor
Wednesday, October 21, 2015

California passes ban on concealed-carry firearms on campuses

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into effect a law banning concealed-carry firearms at state schools and higher education institutions into effect Oct. 10. Senate Bill 707, the bill’s official title, passed through the legislature at the beginning of September. The vote occurred almost entirely along party lines, with Democrats for and Republicans against, the Sacremento Bee reported.

The bill waited on Brown’s desk for over a month, during which time the nation saw three more mass shootings occur on college campuses. The deadliest of these took the lives of 10 people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon Oct. 1.

California is the first state to pass “a modern ban on people being able to carry a gun on college campuses,” John Lott, the head of the Crime Prevention Research Center, told the New York Times. Conversely, 10 states have passed laws explicitly permitting concealed carry on campuses. Five of those states passed their laws since 2007, a year notable for the mass shooting at Virginia Tech.

California Assemblywoman Shannon Grove voted against the measure in her state. “If you put up signs saying, ‘No guns allowed on campus,’ that’s not going to stop people who are going to do you harm,” she told the Times, adding that such a sign could inhibit qualified permit-holders from defending themselves.

“The sentiment behind the law is our strong belief that law enforcement truly are the ones who need to be in control of arms on the campus,” California State Senator Lois Wolk, who sponsored the bill, told the Times. “And they are the only ones on campus that should be armed.”

Brown’s actions come amidst campus protests in Texas against a law passed in June supporting concealed carry. But with the majority of state legislatures out of session for the year, any indication that either side of the debate is gaining momentum will likely wait until 2016.

Famed UC astronomer resigns among sexual harassment scandal

University of California at Berkeley astronomer Geoffrey Marcy — “considered the best planet finder in the world” — resigned Oct. 14 following an Oct. 9 Buzzfeed article detailing the results of a Title IX investigation levied against him for years of sexual harassment, the Los Angeles Times reported. Allegations come from four women, all former students of his, in “‘one of the biggest open secrets’ among astronomy professionals: The man regarded as one of astronomy’s brightest lights was a serial harasser,” the LA Times reported.

The University of California’s Office for Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination concluded its investigation in June, finding Marcy guilty of “inappropriate behavior,” but it did not take any substantial action against Marcy, the LA Times reported. As the investigation ended, the UC administration told Marcy to cease any behavior that could be construed as harassment or to expect consequences “that could include suspension or dismissal,” the LA Times reported.

The Buzzfeed article detailed the charges against Marcy, including one from a woman who cited Marcy’s behavior as her reason for leaving the field of astronomy. Marcy released a public apology two days prior to the publication of the Buzzfeed article. “While I do not agree with each complaint that was made,” he wrote, “it is clear that my behavior was unwelcomed by some women,” the LA Times reported. The letter did not stop 25 of Marcy’s colleagues from signing a petition demanding his resignation or release, the Washington Post reported.

UC Berkeley confirmed Marcy’s resignation through email but stated that university regulations “would have made it difficult to terminate Marcy” due to a three-year statute of limitations, the Washington Post reported.

Dept. of Ed restricts funding to for-profit college

The U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday that it will limit federal financial aid toward ITT Educational Services, a for-profit college group with more than 45,000 enrolled students, Business Insider reported. The announcement follows an Oct. 12 New York Times article, which found that the U.S. Department of Education paid millions of dollars per month to for-profit colleges accused of predatory behavior.

ITT has withheld information about its distribution of federal grants since 2009, the Department of Education wrote in a letter to ITT, adding that the for-profit chain will no longer be able to provide federal grants to students until it submits extensive documentation verifying students’ statuses at the school.

ITT does not foresee financial losses due to the new policy but simply “an increased administrative burden,” the company said in a statement.

This does not mark ITT’s first run-in with the federal government, as the group was previously investigated by both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.