TGIF time-saver: Leaders are still grappling with Israel-Gaza disruptions

Welcome to the inaugural edition of our "TGIF time-saver" series, where we at University Business round up some of the biggest headlines in higher education over the past week. We aim to release an edition every Friday—saving you time and energy ahead of weekend plans.

As the summer season grows hotter and muggier, higher education leaders are clamping down on campus community members’ outspoken—and private—comments regarding the war in Gaza and heightened antisemitism, administering more aggressive measures and pushing policy in the process.

Seven students suspended, one deported and three administrators put on leave

Following the arrest of six of its students during campus protests in April, the University of Florida has suspended them for three to four years, Tampa Bay Times reports. In a closed-door hearing, leaders at the flagship university overruled recommendations made by a disciplinary panel for lighter sentencing. One master’s student who expected to earn her degree in May has had her diploma withheld.

On New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus, a student was deported for shouting “free Palestine” during a commencement speech, ABC reports. New York University administrators claimed they had “no authority over any nation’s immigration or law enforcement actions.”

University staff have not been spared either. Three Columbia University deans have been “permanently removed” and put on leave after the Ivy League discovered a series of text messages they exchanged during a university-sponsored event about Jewish life at school, CBS News reports. President Minouche Shafik wrote that the comments were “not only unprofessional, but also disturbingly touched on ancient antisemitic tropes.”

U.S. lawmakers are pushing legislation that could hold colleges and universities more accountable for failing to protect their Jewish students. Two bills advancing to the House floor aim to penalize institutions that receive a civil rights violation complaint and encourage “elite” universities to constrict international recruitment, Inside Higher Ed reports. Moreover, House Republicans have introduced a bill that would require campuses to make their protest policies publicly available, The Washington Times reports.

How poor is student civic literacy really?

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni are deeply disappointed in the role higher education has played in the lack of students’ understanding of basic American history. The conservative-leaning nonprofit administered a 35-question civic literacy assessment to over 3,000 undergraduate students and found less than a third:

  • recognized James Madison was the “father” of the Constitution (31%)
  • identified the 13th Amendment as the government action that freed the slaves (28%)
  • knew the trial of impeachment takes place before the Senate—despite two occurring in the past five years (32%)

“It should not be possible to get a bachelor’s degree without learning the basics of American history and government, but this is the norm on our college campuses,” Bradley Jackson, vice president of policy, said in a press release. “American colleges and universities must step up and take responsibility for this sorry state of affairs.”

State buy-in on free community colleges scores promising results

Community college enrollment across 15 campuses in Massachusetts is seeing a resounding uptick in enrollment following the first year of MassReconnect’s implementation. The college affordability initiative passed by state lawmakers granted free college tuition for students aged 25 and older in an effort to attract more adult learners.

As a result, the state’s community college welcomed a 45% increase in adult learners, This Week in Worcester reports. Of the over 8,400 who enrolled, roughly 20% were Black and 23% were Latino.

“Not only has MassReconnect made a difference in the lives of thousands of students, it has also been a big step toward increasing equity in higher education in Massachusetts,” Luis Pedraja, president of Quinsigamond Community College and chair of the Community College Council of Presidents, told This Week. 

Moreover, Gov. Maura Healey announced this past fall that state public colleges experienced the first year-over-year increase in enrollment in nearly a decade, CT Insider reports.

Americans don’t trust higher education

Gallup’s annual poll assessing Americans’ perceptions of higher education shows that 32% have very little to no confidence in the sector, a 9% uptick from last year. However, community colleges hold more promise. Read more on University Business’ latest coverage here.

More states block Title IX

And in case you missed it last week, four more states are free to ignore Biden’s Title IX implementation following a federal judge’s decision to temporarily block it, Ed Week reports. Conservative groups across Kansas, Alaska, Utah and Wyoming are describing the delay of LGBTQ+ protections as a win.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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