WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

EDUCATION

HIGHER EDUCATION

Tracing the elite law cycle; Roughly 25 percent of Yale Law’s class of 2013 received undergraduate degrees from either Harvard College or Yale College; nearly 50 percent of the class went to schools in the Ivy League or Stanford.” By Nikita Lalwani. Yale Daily News. April 18, 2011. It didn’t take long for Olivia Luna LAW ’13 to notice that something was a bit odd about the other first-years she met at Yale Law School this fall. Luna — who studied history and anthropology at University of California, Berkeley in her undergraduate years — said she and her friends often joked that around half of their peers seemed to come from Harvard or Yale. Curiosity got the better of Luna, who said she set out to find whether the inside joke had some truth to it earlier this year. Using her copy of the Yale Law School Facebook, Luna took a tally and found that Yale and Harvard graduates made up roughly 25 percent of her class. When graduates from Stanford and the other six Ivy League schools were factored in, the percentage reached 50 — but Luna said she was amazed the number was that low. “My friends and I were mostly just curious to see the actual numbers,” she said of her motivation for counting her classmates. “I was surprised that Harvard and Yale made up only 25 percent, because I felt like they dominated the class.” Luna’s count, though far from official, seems consistent with an overall trend at YLS: Of the juris doctor candidates who are set to graduate next month, roughly 30 percent attended Harvard or Yale before matriculating at Yale Law. For those students who didn’t attend Harvard or Yale — and especially for those who didn’t attend any Ivy League school — it can be difficult to adjust to Yale Law, said Kevin Love Hubbard LAW ’12, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University. Making friends was trying at first, Hubbard said, as students from Yale and Harvard already seemed to know each other at the beginning of his first term. While Hubbard said undergraduate alma maters come to matter less as students spend more time at Yale Law, he still finds that his undergraduate pedigree has had an impact on him. Whatever these students may feel they have missed out on, Yale Law school tends to equalize opportunity for its alumni regardless of their undergraduate educations. Most Yale Law students enter another exclusive world upon graduation, where they are heavily recruited by the nation’s top law firms and law schools and often go on to shape the nation’s politics and legal framework.

Drew University gains strength after near-collapse; Broad-based professional support, a new board and financial aid may end a decade of upheaval at the Willowbrook school. The school may soon name a new president.” By Rong-Gong Lin II. Los Angeles Times. April 18, 2011. Cash-strapped Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science was in critical financial condition last year, at risk of seizure by its lenders. In the last few months, however, officials at the campus in the Willowbrook neighborhood, just south of Watts, say there’s cause for optimism. The university has pulled back from the brink of insolvency and is close to selecting a new president. The final candidate is Dr. David M. Carlisle, 56, director of the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. In that post, he has overseen the analysis of healthcare data and the monitoring of seismic safety at hospitals since 2000. Carlisle has strong roots in L.A.: He spent part of his childhood in Baldwin Hills, where his mother still lives; he did his medical residency at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center; he received a doctorate in public health at UCLA; and he was a professor of medicine at UCLA between 1992 and 2000. The choice caps a decade of tumult at Drew, which was established a year after the 1965 Watts riots to train minority physicians. The school began to fall into crisis in 2002 and was criticized for failing to have a “culture of accountability.” Drew never fully recovered after it was forced in 2006 to shut its residency program to train physicians. The loss of that program cut enrollment significantly, siphoning off a major revenue stream. Further complicating matters was the decision to construct a new nursing school, which opened last fall, without having a plan to pay for it. In September, a coalition of universities, hospital chains and the California Endowment teamed together to rescue the school. The existing board of trustees agreed to quit en masse, and a new board was appointed. That body included top leaders at UCLA, USC, Cedars-Sinai Health System, Kaiser Permanente and the California Endowment.

Shortage Threat Drives Texas Schools Hoarding Bullion at HSBC.” By David Mildenberg and Pham-Duy Nguyen. Bloomberg News. April 18, 2011. Dallas hedge-fund manager J. Kyle Bass helped advise the University of Texas Investment Management Co. on taking delivery of 6,643 gold bars, worth $987 million on April 15, now stored in a bank warehouse in New York. Bass, who made $500 million with 2006 bets on a U.S. subprime-mortgage market collapse, said managers of the endowment, known as UTIMCO, sought board approval to convert its gold investments into bullion this year. A board member, Bass, 41, said he was asked to help with that process. While Bass, a managing partner at Hayman Capital Management LP, said in an April 16 e-mail that “the decision to purchase and take delivery of the physical gold” was made by endowment staff members, “I helped where I could.” Gold futures touched a record $1,489.10 an ounce April 15 in New York before closing at $1,486. The Texas fund’s $19.9 billion in assets ranked it behind only Harvard University’s endowment as of August, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Last year, UTIMCO added about $500 million in gold investments to an existing stake, said Bruce Zimmerman, the endowment’s chief executive officer. The fund’s managers sought to take delivery of bullion to protect against demand for the metal overwhelming supply, according to Bass. Bass, a Texas Christian University graduate who was named to the endowment’s board in August, is a former salesman with Bear Stearns Cos. and Legg Mason Inc. He said about 5 percent of his hedge fund is invested in gold. The endowment, which oversees funds held by the University of Texas System and Texas A&M University, has 664,300 ounces of bullion in a Comex-registered vault in New York owned by HSBC Holdings Plc, the London-based bank, according to a report distributed at a meeting in Austin.

How have budget cuts hurt us? (and could we have cut differently?).” By Alison Griswold. Yale Daily News. April 19, 2011. Though the global recession has ended, Yale has not recovered from losing more than $6.5 billion during 2008–’09. Since the financial crisis hit, administrators have pledged to protect what they view as Yale’s most central tenets: financial aid and the academic core. Yet as the University scrambles to trim its spending for the third consecutive year — trying to close a $68 million budget gap — it becomes steadily tougher to leave those components untouched. Cuts to staff, delays in academic hiring and salary freezes for top administrators were not enough to overcome the deficits Yale has faced each year since the crisis, so administrators have twice turned to the University’s reserves — extra income set aside for a rainy day — to make up the difference. Though those excess funds closed the gap in the first and second years after the recession hit, University Provost Peter Salovey says they are now essentially depleted. With those funds no longer available, the cuts have continued, and administrators’ determination to protect the central elements of the University — particularly the commitment to financial aid — has come at the expense of other aspects of the undergraduate experience. How well, then, have administrators coped with the recession and upheld the pledges they made three years ago? And at an institution that prides itself on dedication to the undergraduate experience, in what ways have the aftershocks of the budget shortfall affected students?

Administrators try out ideas at Yale-NUS; In designing Yale-NUS’s curriculum, administrators hope to combine elements of both Eastern and Western intellectual traditions.” By Alison Griswold and Drew Henderson. Yale Daily News. April 21, 2011. Administrators hope the new Yale-NUS College will provide them with a clean slate on which to redesign the liberal arts education. As administrators draft plans for the academic curriculum of the college that Yale is building with the National University of Singapore, they are thinking about ways to reshape the University’s traditional pedagogy. The environment of the new school will be more conducive to innovation than that of an established institution like Yale, administrators said, adding that it will be easier to justify similar changes at Yale if they succeed in Singapore first. “It’s an opportunity to think about all of this without the baggage and prejudices that hamper curricular reform and liberal education in the United States,” Sterling Professor of Law Anthony Kronman GRD ’72 LAW ’75, who has served as an advisor for the project, said in a March 31 interview. “We can draw on a relatively blank sheet the outlines of a program that would be Western, Asian, completely free and fresh.” The redesigned curriculum will span all of the school’s disciplines. Administrators are still deciding how broad individual departments at the small college will be, Yale College Dean Mary Miller said, adding that Yale-NUS may begin with “physical sciences” instead of separate departments of physics and chemistry. Designers of the project have long said they hope to merge “Eastern” and “Western” intellectual traditions at the new college, for example, by creating a “Directed Studies for Asia” to balance Yale’s longstanding expertise in Western civilization. But the sciences could see as significant developments as the humanities, with non-science majors required to take something like a year-long course on science fundamentals.

Is Yale University Sexist? Allegations about a ‘hostile environment’ for women could cost the university a half-billion in federal funding.” By Peter Berkowitz. Opinion. Wall Street Journal. April 16, 2011. Last month, 16 Yale students and recent graduates filed a confidential complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleging that in violation of Title IX—which bans sex discrimination in schools—Yale maintains a hostile environment for women that denies them equal access to educational opportunities. The Office for Civil Rights has already begun to investigate. If it finds Yale in violation, the university could lose approximately $500 million in federal funding. Is the complaint really plausible? In the classroom, on the athletic fields and elsewhere throughout campus life, women at Yale are prospering. In 2010, female undergraduates outnumbered male undergraduates 2,663 (50.5%) to 2,616 (49.5%). Yale aggressively recruits, promotes and retains female faculty. Four of the university’s top eight administration officers are women. The dean of Yale College is a woman. So is the dean for special projects. More broadly, women’s gains in higher education over the past 50 years testify to the friendliness of the environment. In 1960, women earned 10% of doctorates nationwide; by 2009, they earned 52%. In 1960, women earned 35% of bachelor’s degrees and 32% of master’s degrees; today they earn 57% and 60%, respectively. In 1960, total fall enrollment in degree-granting U.S. institutions was 36% female; today it is roughly 57%. So what are the aggrieved Yale students saying? In a statement to Bloomberg News on April 1, complainant Hannah Zeavin, class of 2012, mentioned instances of alleged sexual harassment, including a march through the freshman quad on Oct. 13, 2010, in which Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity members and pledges chanted “No means yes. Yes means anal.” Ms. Zeavin also referred to an incident two years before in which fraternity pledges stood in front of the Women’s Center holding posters stating, “We love Yale sluts.” Such behavior is loutish, but it does not nearly meet the legal definition of sexual harassment. In Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education (1999), the Supreme Court held that to qualify as sexual harassment that creates a hostile environment, conduct must be “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive the victims of access to the educational opportunities or benefits.” Isolated incidents of speech—however mocking, nasty or ugly—that do not involve direct threats of physical injury or extortion do not constitute sexual harassment.
Related story:
Shutter Fraternities for Young Women’s Good.” Wall Street Journal. April 23, 2011.

Law School Challenged Under Title IX.” By Caroline M. McKay. Harvard Crimson. April 22, 2011. Harvard Law School is currently under investigation by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for alleged violations of Title IX—specifically, violations of part of Title IX that stipulate how a school should handle cases of sexual assault. New England School of Law Professor Wendy Murphy, who filed the complaint, says that Harvard Law School is one of many institutions across the nation that violates Title IX’s mandates regarding sexual assault. Murphy has also filed complaints against Yale University and Princeton University. The Law School acknowledged the investigation in a statement. “We are aware that the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education has been contacted. We defer to OCR for whatever comment they deem appropriate,” Law School spokesperson Robb London said in a statement. The OCR did not return calls requesting comment. Murphy said that the complaint was based on three main problems with the Law School’s policy on responding to sexual assault. According to Murphy, these three discrepancies in policy have yet to conform with new guidelines released by Vice President Joe Biden in conjunction with OCR. These guidelines make clear to institutions that sexual assault on campuses is under the jurisdiction of Title IX and clarify exactly how to handle cases in a “prompt and efficient” manner. Murphy cited the most important flaw in the Law School’s policy as its currently drawn-out system for holding hearings for alleged assailants. Murphy said that holding hearings quickly is crucial considering a potential victim is only covered by the rules of Title IX while she or he is still at the institution—at the Law School, for three years—and would potentially be forced to learn alongside his or her assailant while awaiting the hearing. Murphy said that another discrepancy was the Law School’s requirement for students who alleged they were victims of sexual assault to prove their allegation by “clear and convincing evidence,” which she said is contrary to the Title IX mandate and the standard in the justice system. Title IX states that the burden of proof must instead be a preponderance of the evidence, a lower evidentiary standard. She also said that the Law School has failed to provide a written timeline to outline how long a hearing would take, which is required by the Title IX guidelines.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS

In Private School Admissions, a Firm Creates Fans and Skeptics.” By Jenny Anderson. New York Times. April 18, 2011. For one Manhattan mother, finding the right private kindergarten for her daughter was a breeze. Getting in, she believed, would be a different story. Neither she nor her husband was from Manhattan. They knew no trustees at the school and had no connections. She did not even have a friend at the school to call. So she phoned one of the school’s board members, who gave her information about the admissions director’s personality, the school’s culture and the kind of tone the school looks for in the application letter. The trustee also looked over her essay. Then the woman handed over $1,250 for the advice. “If you don’t have the connections or experience to get information, it’s a fair way,” the mother said. She did not want her name or the name of the school, which admitted her daughter, published because she did not want to put her daughter in an awkward position. The mother found the board member through Aristotle Circle, a company that, depending on who is opining, is either leveling the playing field for unconnected families or profiting from the escalating arms race surrounding the private school and college application process. Whichever it is, it is about to get bigger: the company, founded in 2008 by two M.I.T. alumnae, now has eight full-time employees and just secured $2 million in venture capital financing. It first drew attention and criticism by creating and selling preparation materials for the exams used for private school admission and for public schools’ gifted programs. Widespread test preparation, aided by Aristotle Circle and its competitors, has been cited as the reason for a rapid improvement in student scores on certain intelligence tests.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS

In Public School Efforts, a Common Background: Private Education.” By Michael Winerip. New York Times. April 17, 2011. Ten years ago, the No Child Left Behind bill was passed by the House of Representatives, 384 to 45, marking the first step toward a major transformation of public education in America. The law has ushered in what its supporters like to call the “reform movement.” Each year since then, researchers have found new things to assess. The New York City Department of Education, a pioneer in the science of value-added assessment, can now calculate a teacher’s worth to the third decimal point by using a few very long formulas. (No word yet on whether department researchers have developed a very long formula to assess chancellors and mayors.) For a while it appeared that the Republicans were way ahead on the reform front, but in 2007, Whitney Tilson, a hedge fund manager and Democratic fund-raiser, founded Democrats for Educational Reform to help his party catch up. By all accounts, it has worked. Today, the consensus is that there is little difference between President Obama and former President George W. Bush when it comes to education policy. Nor is it easy to distinguish differences between the secretary of education under Mr. Bush, Margaret Spellings, and the current secretary, Arne Duncan. Those who call themselves reformers are a diverse group, men and women of every political stripe and of every race and ethnicity. But there is one thing that characterizes a surprisingly large number of the people who are transforming public schools: they attended private schools. Which raises the question: Does a private school background give them a much-needed distance and fresh perspective to better critique and remake traditional public schools? Does it make them distrust public schools — or even worse — poison their perception of them? Or does it make any difference?

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