University of Maryland and ACC End Bitter Departure Lawsuits

University of Maryland and ACC Reach Legal Agreement.

Quick Reference: While this legal matter has been going on for what seems like ages, the ACC and Maryland have come to an agreement that will allow the monetary issue to be settled and the lawsuits to officially be dropped. This decision was a longtime coming and means that Maryland can refocus on its first official year in the Big Ten, while the ACC refocuses on their updated conference with the additional of Louisville and still fresh additions of Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh.

Check out the link above to get all of the details.

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Self-Sufficient, With a Hand From the Government

While I consider myself a liberal, true political discourse is beneficial when you can hear multiple sides of the same debate and make meaning out of the differences in opinions and perspectives. With that said, Gov. Chris Christie shared some interesting words about education access that call to question the debate between Republicans and Democrats regarding government support for education. While this is a state-by-state issue in some respects, there is a national interest in the success of our education system and federal government programs have been successful at providing access and funding for Americans to experience higher education.

The following article was written by Scott Carlson with the Chronicle of Higher Education on August 29, 2012. Take a look for yourselves…

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The pull-oneself-up-by-the-bootstraps narrative is popular in politics of all kinds, but it’s a natural choice for the Republican Party, given its emphasis on personal responsibility and success against the odds.

That narrative was on display in theopening speeches on Tuesday of the Republican National Convention—especially concerning the fathers of the politicos. Ted Cruz, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat from Texas, lauded his father, an ex-revolutionary who fled Cuba with $100 sewn into his underwear. Rick Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and presidential candidate this year, played up his status as a first-generation American, given that his father’s family came over on a boat called Providence when he was 7.

But Gov. Chris Christie’s family story stood out for mentioning higher education as a key to the American dream. “Dad grew up in poverty,” the New Jersey governor said. “After returning from Army service, he worked at the Breyers ice-cream plant in the 1950s. With that job and the GI Bill, he put himself through Rutgers University at night to become the first in his family to earn a college degree. Our first family picture was on his graduation day, with Mom beaming next to him, six months pregnant with me.”

It’s an inspiring picture of achievement, no doubt. But there was a striking dissonance between what Governor Christie was saying and what the Republican platform says about public investment and higher education generally. In a speech criticizing the Obama administration as an advocate of “big government,” the governor—one of the rising stars of the Republican Party—talked about the opportunity afforded to his family by a prestigious state university and by one of the biggest federal programs in recent history.

The irony wasn’t lost on liberals. Paul Begala, the Democratic strategist and consultant, jumped all over the remarks on his Twitter feed on Tuesday night: “Christie: Dad went to Rutgers on the GI Bill. Dems built that.” (Incidentally, the Christie patriarch is not the only GOP beneficiary. Aldo Santorum, the former senator’s immigrant father, is said to have called the GI Bill “the greatest gift he received” in an obituary on this conservative Web site. It allowed him to get a doctorate in clinical psychology, which led to a career working for Veterans Affairs.)

What’s more interesting to ponder is whether Governor Christie’s father would have been able to get that degree today, given the recent history of receding state support and inflating costs. A New York Times article from 1957 says that Lewis Webster Jones, then president of Rutgers, announced a hefty 23-percent tuition increase. Still, the rate was enviably low: $200 a semester, or around $3,200 a year in today’s dollars. (Out-of-state students paid $250 a semester, or $4,000 a year today.) Compare that to $10,356, plus $2,717 in fees, for a commuter student in 2012. (It’s roughly double that if you need room and board, and it’s a heck of a lot more if you have the misfortune of being from another state.)

Over the years, those increases have been needed to cover expenses the colleges brought upon themselves—like growing administrations, growing campuses, and deferred maintenance—but, like colleges in other states, Rutgers has had to cover declining state support. According to the State Higher Education Executive Officers, public support for higher education per full-time enrollment went down 12.5 percent nationwide from 2006 to 2011, but it went down 20 percent in New Jersey. According to the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities, students now bear 60 percent of the cost of their higher education, compared with 30 percent in 1990. The percentage of a New Jersey family’s disposable income needed to pay tuition has gone from 12.6 percent to 17 percent since 2002.

Cuts in education have come at the hands of both Democrats and Republicans, in New Jersey and elsewhere. Mr. Christie, at least, said before he took office that he would increase state funds for higher education, calling New Jersey’s level of support “disgraceful.” So far, however, his support has been flat, say policy observers.

But few others on the national political scene talk openly about giving public colleges more state money. In fact, the GOP platform, which was approved on Tuesday, seems to be directing working-class and needy students toward private loans and toward community colleges and for-profit colleges. In the latter institutions, students have had trouble with completion and defaulting on loans.

Who knows? When talking about higher education, the convention speakers 20 years from now might have a different “bootstraps” story.

Greater Than the Death Penalty: The NCAA’s Reactions to the Sandusky Scandal

Released today were the sanctions imposed by the NCAA on Penn State in reaction to the child abuse scandal and cover-up by university officials, including Joe Paterno, the university presidents and the athletics director. This is actually not the end of story, as there will be additional court battles down the line for civil lawsuits by each of the families affected, but this could symbolically be the biggest penalty enacted on the football program and athletic department. Included within the sanctions are the following:

  • $60 million of fines, which will be used to set up an endowment for the protection of victims and families discovered in the future.
  • Revenues of approximately $13 million from Big Ten bowl proceeds over the next 4 years will be allocated to child protection agencies in the Big Ten community.
  • A 4-year postseason ban for the football program.
  • A reduction of 10 scholarships initially and then 20 scholarships per year for the next 4 years.
  • The opportunity for players to transfer out of the program without any waiting period at the potential new schools.
  • A wins will be vacated from the records between 1998 and 2011, including postseason play.
  • A 5-year probation of the program.
  • A partnership with a representative for academic integrity, as chosen by the NCAA board.

To say that these sanctions will make up for the wrongful acts is completely false. There is nothing that could be done to fully repair the damage to the lives of the victims and families. The scar that this leaves on the university and the Penn State community is one they will have to wear for the rest of their existence.

This combination of sanctions are actually unheard of, as no other schools has been penalized in such a crippling way. A “death penalty” ruling would have stopped the program for whatever time period of the committee’s choosing, but this will drop the program into a pit much deeper and difficult to get out of than “Hell on Earth” from The Dark Knight Rises. Players have the opportunity to leave the program, Penn State will be unable to recruit the same kind of talent they were used to and the decreased revenue will more than level their ability to compete at the D-Ia level for years.

It is about a culture change and punitive damages that can be used to support purposeful causes. Still, some of the elements seem to be out of place in the grand scheme of the situation. The financial penalties seem 100% justified, and everyone can be sure that there will be more forthcoming. The probation and the scholarship reduction both seem to support a reduction of support for the program during a time that they need to be taken off of their pedestal. The academic integrity partnership is one that should hopefully provide guidance toward a new direction for the program. Allowing the current and future players to leave and compete elsewhere provides a protection for those who no longer want to be associated with a tarnished program, while also taking another knock of the program off of the pedestal.

Where the potential challenges arise are with the penalties that do more to punish those not involved in the scandal than those who are. The process of vacating wins is something that is seemingly just for the record books, but the scandal had little to do with the team’s on-the-field success. One could argue that the cover-up protected Paterno and his crew from the possible limitations of recruiting and management if the scandal were unleashed sooner. All of this could have been avoided if they had simply reported Sandusky the instant they discovered his wrongdoing. Still, this penalty tarnishes the records of more than just Paterno and the program (which is justified). All of the players at Penn State will be associated with the scandal and their wins during this time period will be called into question, even from the symbolic standpoint. Also, if you are not going to impose the “death penalty” for such heinous acts, why take it out on the current players if they are able to perform at a championship level? The ability to transfer helps players take matters into their own hands, but the process could be more difficult that initially identified for these players to transfer.

It is important to keep everything in perspective, as even I had mixed reactions to the final announcement of the sanctions. The main purposes for the sanctions were to acknowledge the wrongdoing at the university, break the program from its pedestal and begin to rebuild anew. The struggles for the victims and their families have not ended with these sanctions or even the incarceration of Jerry Sandusky. At the same time, people in power at the university are ultimately the ones responsible for the wrongdoing, and it is challenging to think that their egregious actions (or inaction) are going to tarnish the history of the players, alum and community who knew not of the crimes, as well as the current players who saw Penn State as an opportunity for their future. Sandusky has left the ultimate mark of shame on Penn State and college sports, and Paterno and the Penn State elite did nothing to help their university community.

For ESPN’s reporting on the sanctions, please take a look at the link below:

A Higher Education Mystery: Honor Students Landing in Jail

Immigration is an extremely charged issue on a national level, but there is a more specific challenge for colleges and universities. A significant population of young people exist who either grew up unaware of their status as undocumented Americans or at least never made the conscious decision to take the risk of exposure. With policies that are structured to work against these young people, can it be truly identified that they are at fault for their predicament? Can you prosecute someone who may have been 5 years old when they came to the United States and were able to enroll in public school?

The video below brings a little light to the challenges of some young, Mexican-American students. Fears of being jailed or deported are not problems with which the average teenager needs to contend, particularly honors students who have high aspirations of success. Considering this is a group that is silenced due to fear of prosecution and/or deportation, this video is at least a start to raise awareness for their struggles.