University News

This Week in Higher Ed: April 23, 2014

University News Editor
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Supreme Court upholds Michigan’s affirmative action ban

The Supreme Court issued a decision Tuesday allowing Michigan’s ban on the use of race in public university admission to continue, multiple news outlets reported.

The Supreme Court voted 6 to 2 in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported. The court’s ruling reversed a federal appeals court’s 2012 decision that the ban was unconstitutional because it violated the Constitution’s equal-protection clause.

The majority of justices rejected the argument that the ban denied equal protection under the law to Michigan’s residents of color, the Chronicle reported. But Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissent alleging that the measure discriminated against minorities by denying them “the right to participate meaningfully and equally in self-government,” Inside Higher Ed reported. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from voting on the case because it had been making its way through federal court when she was U.S. solicitor general in the Obama administration.

Michigan voters passed the ban in 2006 through a ballot measure called Proposal 2, the Chronicle reported.

Similar bans are in effect in California and Washington, where they have also been met with legal challenges, Inside Higher Ed reported.


College of Charleston clashes with lawmakers over book, theater performance

Socially conservative South Carolina state legislators are threatening to cut funds for the College of Charleston after the institution sponsored a production of a play featuring several gay characters, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The university hosted an off-campus performance Monday of “Fun Home,” a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama that features a lesbian woman dealing with her closeted gay father’s suicide.

In response to the production, socially conservative state lawmakers threatened to impose funding cuts to the university, with Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, alleging that the play challenges the “traditional family values” that he claimed are central to South Carolina’s culture, the Post reported.

The state’s House of Representatives already recently cut $52,000 from the university in response to the inclusion of the book that inspired the play in a first-year reading program.

At a gay rights rally on campus Monday, George Benson, the university’s outgoing president, urged students and faculty members to protest the budget cuts, the Post reported. “University faculty must be able to generate, discuss and transfer ideas to students and society without fear of censorship,” Benson said.

The University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg, S.C., is also facing a $17,000 funding cut after it assigned undergraduates a different book about gay identity in the South, multiple news outlets reported.


Bryant seniors say goodbye to selfies

Administrators at Bryant University in Smithfield have instructed graduating seniors not to take selfies during commencement, the New York Times reported last week.

The university’s commencement committee worries that snapping selfies could slow down the procession, the Times reported. Concern has also surfaced that selfies would be unnecessary in the presence of a professional photographer.

“We have about 850 graduates, and we have a professional photographer snapping their picture when they shake my hand and get their diploma,” Ronald Machtley, president of Bryant, told the Times. “I don’t think their mom and dad and grandma want to get a picture of them holding up their cellphone.”

Despite dissuading selfies, administrators are encouraging graduating seniors to post on social media using a Bryant graduation hashtag on the day of the ceremony.

Machtley enjoys a strong social media following on campus, with approximately 67 percent of the student body following him on Twitter, the Times reported.

The selfie ban will only be in effect during the ceremony, which will allow students to snap shots with Machtley beforehand. “I’ll stand there with anyone who wants one,” Machtley told the Times.


U. of Minnesota poised to publicize course evaluations

The University Senate at the University of Minnesota is considering a proposal to publicize feedback from student course evaluations for the first time, Inside Higher Ed reported Monday.

Under the proposal, students’ responses to questions about course content and quality would be made available in a university database starting this fall, Inside Higher Ed reported. But responses to questions about faculty members’ teaching abilities would remain private in accordance with state laws protecting employee privacy.

If the proposal passes, students would have access to data helping them make more informed decisions about which classes to take, Robert McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education at the University of Minnesota, told Inside Higher Ed.

To stay up-to-date, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

  1. Thank God for common sense. When you discriminate in favour of minorities you deprive the majority of their rights and you lower the level of competance generally in society. Merit regardless of background.

Comments are closed. If you have corrections to submit, you can email The Herald at