The Silent Sam controversy at University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (UNC) reached a new climax this week when UNC chancellor Carol Folt announced in a letter to the campus community that she will be stepping down in May and also ordered the removal of plaques commemorating Silent Sam. The UNC system’s Board of Governors, which has remained steadfast in its commitment to uphold the statue, quickly accepted Chancellor Folt’s resignation, albeit with one caveat: that she leave at the end of January. At a time when America is all too polarized, leadership on both ends of the debate at UNC seems to be escalating tensions, rather than building a plan to work together. ACTA urges the campus to resolve these issues and work toward a compromise.
Michigan State University has been in turmoil since fall 2016 when sexual assault allegations, and later convictions, mounted against its sports doctor, Larry Nassar. As the University struggles to move forward, interim president John Engler sparked outrage when he suggested that sexual abuse victims were “enjoying” the “spotlight.” Following these comments, Michigan State University’s Board of Trustees voted to fire Mr. Engler. Board chairwoman Dianne Y. Byrum said that Mr. Engler’s comments undermined the University’s efforts to move forward and heal: “None of our work will matter if our leaders say hurtful things and do not listen to survivors.” Michigan State University desperately needs a leader that will promote unity, and ACTA wishes the University luck in moving forward.
Many colleges have been experimenting with the concept of nudging—sending gentle reminders to steer students toward making responsible academic decisions, without diminishing individual agency. This can take the form of text messages or alerts reminding students to go to class, complete an assignment, do their reading, and so forth. Data suggest that these nudges may improve student performance and retention. While much of college is about learning independence and responsibility, these nudges seem to be working and should at least be considered by leaders in higher education.
Check here every Friday for the most important higher education news. Using over 23 years of expertise, ACTA will provide commentary on the pressing issues facing our nation's colleges and universities.
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