University News

This Week in Higher Ed: April 9, 2014

University News Editor
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Organization attacks affirmative action

The Project on Fair Representation, a nonprofit organization working to challenge the use of race in undergraduate admission, launched three websites Monday encouraging rejected applicants from Harvard, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin at Madison to sue these institutions over racial discrimination, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported Monday.

The websites criticize the universities for relying on affirmative action and encourage rejected applicants to contact PFR about mounting lawsuits, the Chronicle reported.

PFR blames Harvard in particular for allegedly “discriminating against Asian-American students by using a ‘quota’ or ‘ceiling’ to limit their admission to the university,” according to a PFR press release.

“Were you denied admission to Harvard? It may be because you’re the wrong race,” reads the homepage of the website targeting Harvard.

The organization’s efforts come after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin last June, which called for colleges and universities to “ensure that each applicant is evaluated as an individual and not in a way that makes an applicant’s race or ethnicity the defining feature of his or her application,” the Chronicle reported.

Edward Blum, director of PFR, provided legal counsel to plaintiff Abigail Fisher, who alleged that UT denied her admission because she was white, the Chronicle reported. Following the court’s decision, several colleges and universities have reevaluated their race-conscious admission policies to avoid similar legal battles, the Chronicle reported.


Schools amp up spending on sports

Most colleges and universities have increased spending on athletics over the last decade, while maintaining or decreasing spending on teaching, research and public service, according to a report released Monday by the American Association of University Professors, the New York Times reported.

At public four-year schools, while athletic expenditures jumped by almost 25 percent, expenditures on teaching remained level and spending on public service and research dropped, according to the report.

Division III schools without football programs increased athletic spending the most, doubling the average amount they allocated to each student athlete from 2004 to 2012, the Times reported.

Institutions that rely heavily on tuition may view student athletes as a significant source of tuition revenue, Saranna Thornton, co-author of the report and professor of economics at Hampden-Sydney College, told the Times.

“The American culture is so in love with athletics that even though many people know the right thing to do, they can’t do it,” William Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, told the Times.


Florida State faces sexual assault investigation

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is investigating Florida State University’s response to an allegation of rape against the school’s star quarterback, the New York Times reported Thursday.

The investigation will examine how the school dealt with a female undergraduate’s complaint last spring against Jameis Winston, who became the youngest Heisman Trophy winner in history in December and led his team to a national championship in January, the Times reported.

William Meggs, state attorney for Leon County, found insufficient evidence to mount criminal charges against Winston last spring, the Times reported.

But Florida State administrators may have violated Title IX laws by not responding immediately to the complaint and by scheduling a meeting with Winston but not the female undergrad, USA Today reported Friday.

The school’s handling of the case may have created a “hostile educational environment” for the female undergrad and student victims of sexual assault, according to an April 3 DOE press release, the Times reported.


Dartmouth rethinks sorority pre-recruitment

Female undergraduates rushing sororities at Dartmouth next year will participate in a “sorority-blind” pre-recruitment process, according to changes the college’s Panhellenic Council announced on Monday, the Dartmouth reported.

Under the “sorority-blind” system, the names of the sororities hosting pre-recruitment events will be kept hidden until the end of the events, the Dartmouth reported. Several measures will be taken to enforce the anonymity of the sororities, such as holding the events outside of Greek buildings and prohibiting members in attendance from wearing their letters or revealing their affiliations, the Dartmouth reported.

The new system aims to reduce students’ reliance on “preconceived notions” about certain sororities when deciding which one is right for them, Rachel Funk, a junior and Panhellenic Council president, told the Dartmouth.

The changes also aim to “level the playing field” among sororities vying to attract new members, Jessica Ke, a junior and vice president of public relations of the Panhellenic Council, told the Dartmouth.

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