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This Week in Higher Ed: October 18, 2016

Princeton to pay $18 million following suit over property-tax exemptions

Princeton announced Oct. 17 that it made a settlement with local homeowners in Princeton, New Jersey to pay $18 million over the next six years after its property-tax exemption was challenged in a lawsuit, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported. Princeton already voluntarily pays about $3 million a year to the town of Princeton under an agreement made in 2014 that is set to expire in 2020.

The lawsuit was filed by 27 plaintiffs, all of whom are low-income, disabled or retired individuals in the Princeton area, The Wall Street Journal reported. More than half of the payment will be given to an estimated 870 recipients who receive property-tax relief through New Jersey’s homestead benefit program. Each of these individuals will receive about $2,000 over the course of six years, the Journal reported.

The plaintiffs agreed to withdraw the litigation, even though Tax Court Judge Vito Bianco, who was set to hear the case Oct. 17, ruled against a hospital in a “nonprofit tax exemption case that appeared similar to the one filed against” Princeton, the Daily Princetonian reported.

Though Princeton was confident the court would have upheld its property-tax exemption, the university found that the settlement will be a “better expenditure of funds than continuing to incur the considerable costs of litigation,” said Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber in a press release

Eleven arrested in protest amid Harvard Dining Services strike

Eleven individuals were arrested in Cambridge, Massachusetts Oct. 14 during a protest supporting the Harvard University Dining Services employees’ historic strike. The individuals — labor organizers and HUDS workers — were arrested for blocking traffic while sitting in a circle in Harvard Square as 100 supporters chanted around them. The arrested individuals will be indicted with disorderly conduct and be put up for bail, according to the Cambridge Police Department.

Around 500 HUDS workers began picketing Oct. 5 outside of dining halls on campus after choosing not to negotiate with Harvard officials, the Harvard Crimson reported. The strike was planned in advance, allowing the university to close some of its dining halls, extend hours at others and stockpile food.

Brian Lang, president of the Boston-based labor union that represents HUDS workers, told the Crimson that the strike marks the first time HUDS employees have walked out during an academic year. Along with a minimum $35,000 salary for each employee, the HUDS workers are also asking for year-round work and a freeze on health costs.

Rakesh Khurana, the dean of Harvard College, encouraged students to participate in respectful dialogue while the HUDS workers strike and emphasized Harvard’s priority of the “health and well-being” of its students in an email to Harvard undergraduates, the Crimson reported.

Group leaks two videos of vandalism on Santa Clara University’s campus

Santa Clara University is investigating two instances of vandalism that occurred within the past month — both of which were caught on tapes leaked by a group identifying itself as “SCUWatch.”

The first incident involved the vandalism of an art installation dedicated to the second anniversary of the Ayotzinapa mass kidnapping where 43 students went missing in Iguala, Mexico in 2014. Two students kicked down figures that represented the 43 missing students Sept. 23, the Santa Clara reported. Video evidence of the incident was leaked by SCUWatch Oct. 12. Santa Clara is investigating the vandalism, though it is unclear if any students have been named responsible.

The second act of vandalism occurred Oct. 8 and involved two students who drew a swastika in blood on a poster advocating LGBTQ rights in an elevator. The University has identified the students who are responsible for the vandalism and will investigate the situation, NBC Bay Area reported.


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