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Higher Education News
Purdue University’s acquisition of Kaplan University is an unexpected tectonic shift in American higher education, revealing both the changing roles of public universities and the dwindling fortunes of for-profit colleges.
The deal announced Thursday has the Indiana-based public research university acquiring nearly all of the credential-issuing side of Kaplan’s higher education business -- seven schools and colleges that make up Kaplan University, but not its School of Professional and Continuing Education.
Roughly 32,000 Kaplan students, 15 campus locations and 3,000 employees are slated to join Purdue under a newly created nonprofit university that will carry some version of Purdue’s name. About 85 percent of Kaplan’s current students are enrolled in fully online programs, with the rest in hybrid ones.
The public university will be responsible for virtually no up-front costs in the deal, which is described in a Kaplan corporate filing. It will pay $1 to Graham Holdings, the for-profit chain’s parent company, for more than 100 academic programs, ranging from certificates to doctoral degrees.
The acquisition drew praise from some experts, who called it bold and exciting. Others, however, were worried about Purdue taking on the baggage of a for-profit chain that has in the past been criticized for student recruiting and the value of its credentials.
“From Purdue’s perspective, it positions the university to promote greater access, particularly for that adult student population which is not a key part of who Purdue serves now,” said Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, an Indianapolis-based group that works to expand education beyond high school.
“There’s a bunch of questions that I don’t know the answers to right now,” Merisotis said. “I think the accreditors are going to be challenged to figure out how to manage this.”
Purdue said it plans for the new university to be financially self-sufficient, and that it will not receive state funds. The university’s governing board will include five members of Purdue’s Board of Trustees and one from the current Kaplan University board.
Kaplan's higher education division earned more $600 million of the $1.6 billion in revenue brought in last year by Kaplan Inc., with almost all the rest coming from large test preparation and international operations, which will stay with the parent company. Kaplan currently does a large volume of business with traditional nonprofit colleges, providing services that often are technology related.
Like most large for-profits, Kaplan University has lost students and revenue in recent years. The sector faces rising competition from nonprofits and a stigma due to high-profile investigations and lawsuits over some companies’ misleading of students.
However, Andrew Rosen, Kaplan Inc.’s chairman and CEO, said his diversified company overall is in good financial shape.
“It’s a natural fit,” Rosen said of the acquisition by Purdue, citing the public university’s focus on student access and economic development. “As we looked at the next 30 years or so, we felt this was the best home for Kaplan University.”
For its side of the deal, the remaining Kaplan businesses will operate the bulk of the nonacademic side of the new university, including student admissions support, marketing and advertising, financial aid administration, facilities management, tech support, and other administrative functions. As a result, Kaplan will serve as a form of online program management provider (OPM) to its former university, in some ways resembling the booming “enabler” business.
The 30-year contract limits Purdue’s financial downside while also serving as a revenue-sharing agreement if the former Kaplan University generates a profit. Purdue also has a buyout option after six years.
Rosen described Kaplan's role with the Purdue-acquired university as being mostly about providing transitional support services as the public institution takes over. "We're handing over control," he said.
‘An Aggressive Move’
The acquisition’s supporters predict it will allow Purdue to reach a population of adult students it had not been previously serving in large numbers. The basic purpose of a public university is to provide students with access to education and degrees, said Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
“We need to continue to work to ensure that we provide those for nontraditional students whose schedules and life responsibilities really aren’t suited for a traditional full-time student,” he said. “I think what Mitch Daniels and Purdue have done is a very creative effort to respond to those needs. I don’t know if there’s any single answer to how to do this. But this is clearly a major effort to, in a public university model, try to respond.”
Daniels, a Republican former governor of Indiana, has drawn praise and some controversy during his four years as Purdue’s president. His pugnacious takes on higher education’s shortcomings have at times rankled academics. But Daniels also has earned fans with his push to experiment with income-sharing agreements and competency-based education.
Daniels's experimentation in higher education dates back to his time as Indiana governor. In 2010 he brought in Western Governors University, subcontracting the job of boosting online education and creating what he at the time called the state’s “eighth state university.”
Yet this move is Daniels’s boldest one yet in higher education, said a broad range of observers, mostly because it could make Purdue an immediate online force, pending the deal's approval by the U.S. Department of Education and Purdue’s regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission.
“Purdue has made an aggressive move to say we’re here and a major player in online higher education,” said Phil Hill, an education technology consultant.
Hill and other experts said the deal is somewhat unique, given the distinctiveness of both Purdue and Kaplan. But they called it further proof of the growing influence of online degree programs.
“This certainly reinforces how strategically important online higher education is across all sectors,” said Hill.
Purdue has several branch and affiliate campuses, including Purdue University Northwest, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Some of the branch campuses have relatively open admissions. But the university is best known for its selective flagship campus, located in West Lafayette, which has a long-held reputation for strength in engineering and sciences.
The acquisition will bring more working adult students to the Purdue system. The flagship has an average student age of 20, and Purdue’s branch campuses have average ages ranging from 22 to 24. But the online university being acquired from Kaplan has an average age of 34.
In addition, just 1 percent of Purdue’s 30,000 undergraduates are enrolled in online-only programs, according to federal data, with another 14 percent taking some distance education courses. Even assuming that the former Kaplan University’s enrollment will continue to decline in the short term, the deal means Purdue’s total enrollment could grow to more than 70,000, with 30,000 enrolling online.
To explain why the university was acquiring an online for-profit chain, Daniels cited the 36 million working adults in America who are over the age of 25 with some college credits but no degree, 750,000 of whom are in Indiana. Another 56 million Americans over 25 have no college under their belt.
“Our modern, complex economy is stacked against these men and women,” he said in a written statement. “If they are to advance professionally, they must largely balance the demands of school with the obligations of careers, family and other burdens of adult life. Increasingly, these Americans are finding hope in high-quality, online programs tailored to their unique needs.”
Another driver for the deal, Daniels said in an interview with reporters, is that Purdue could not have made a large move online without acquiring an established provider. Purdue would have to spend millions of dollars chasing more nimble players if it wanted to build a formidable slate of online offerings, because it is “too slow, too process-oriented and too far behind,” he said.
“We have decided, frankly, that we did not have the wherewithal to do so, at least on our own,” he told Purdue’s board.
Some national and state higher education experts applauded the deal, while others were hostile to the idea of a land-grant university buying a for-profit chain.
Faculty leaders at Purdue voiced reservations, saying they should have been informed earlier and worrying that the poor reputation of for-profit education could dilute the perceived value of a Purdue education.
Professors at Purdue learned about the acquisition in a meeting with Daniels Thursday, about an hour before it was made public, said David Sanders, an associate professor in the university’s department of biological sciences who is the chair of the University Senate. Many are concerned about how the new university will fit into Purdue’s existing faculty and academic structures, he said.
Faculty members also are concerned that bringing a for-profit institution under the Purdue umbrella could hurt the university’s brand and public image. Sanders stressed that he is reserving judgment on Kaplan University, as he is not familiar with it. But he is worried about its past.
“The people who can evaluate those things best are the faculty,” he said. “The faculty understand that, yet the faculty were not brought into this evaluation process.”
Faculty members could also see the upside of the deal, however.
“I think there are lot of kinks that, you can imagine, need to be worked out,” said Levon Esters, an associate professor of youth development and agricultural education who chairs the University Senate Faculty Affairs Committee. “Over time those things will be addressed, but right now, I think my first reaction is it’s a good thing. It’s probably going to allow students and other individuals an opportunity to get a Purdue degree.”
Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, was direct in his criticism of the for-profit sector and how the model will translate at Purdue.
“This is nothing but a re-skinning of the garbage that Kaplan was doling out under its own brand under new management,” Nassirian said. “I have no reason to believe that you could somehow take those components and make something stunningly different with them than Kaplan was making.”
Bob Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, was an Education Department official during the Obama administration. He played a leading role in the department’s crackdown on for-profits, particularly through its gainful-employment rule -- which five discontinued or inactive Kaplan University academic programs fail.
“There are some dangerous aspects of this agreement because of the continued involvement of a company that had recruiting issues,” he said.
For example, he said Purdue will reimburse Kaplan’s costs for running its part of the operation, but the public university won’t be in control of those costs. Without appropriate oversight by Purdue, he said the arrangement could create the “same old incentives to expand enrollment as much as possible.”
Shireman has been fiercely critical of some for-profits’ attempts to convert to nonprofits, arguing that they merely shift tax status and escape some regulation while continuing to enrich executives and offer questionable credentials. That critique does not apply to Purdue’s acquisition, he said, given that the public university will wholly own the subsidiary and that most of Kaplan’s brass won’t be coming over to Purdue.
“It looks like this deal does not have that problem,” he said, but adding that "they need to be willing to shut it down if it's not serving students."
Several observers said the acquisition makes good business sense.
Purdue has reasons to be interested in new sources of students and the tuition revenue they bring. The university has frozen tuition in recent years and will hold at 2012 levels through the 2018-19 academic year. As the freeze wore on, the university enrolled more out-of-state students at its West Lafayette flagship, with a majority of total headcount at the campus now from out of the state and country and paying higher tuition. State appropriations also have fluctuated in recent years.
The goal of generating revenue comes after the more important goals of reaching students and preparing for the online future, Daniels said in an interview. But the acquired university could turn into a revenue stream in the future.
“There’s a very good chance it could happen,” Daniels said. “It would be a great by-product.”
The university said the deal is expected to close in six to seven months, assuming the feds, state regulators and the Higher Learning Commission sign off on it.
On the state side, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers has already offered early thoughts on Purdue’s move.
“The Indiana Commission for Higher Education looks forward to working with Purdue University to develop the procedures required for authorization of this new state education-affiliated institution,” she said in a statement. “As higher education evolves to serve more students in innovative ways, we will seek to ensure that new models enhance access, affordability and academic quality for students.”
Graham Holdings chairman Donald E. Graham, whose family owned The Washington Post for decades and who was a high-profile lobbyist for Kaplan, acknowledged criticism of for-profits Thursday but said it is not germane to the discussion about Kaplan.
“There’s been a lot of criticism of the sector, and we’ve tried to respond by proving what we’ve always believed, which is we’ve been doing a good job for our particular students,” Graham said in a call with reporters. “This is a transaction between us at Kaplan and Purdue. It doesn’t have anything to do with the sector as a whole.”
While Kaplan has drawn criticism over the years, a voluminous 2012 report from the staff of then U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who led the Senate's education committee, said the company had made the most positive changes among all those studied. Yet its enrollment has been tumbling for a while. And the company two years ago sold all 38 of its Kaplan College campuses to Education Corporation of America, a privately held chain. Those campuses enrolled 12,500 students at the time.
The Purdue acquisition comes after several difficult years for large, publicly traded for-profits, including the collapse of the controversial ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges, the sale of the University of Phoenix to private investors, and the so-far unsuccessful attempt by Grand Canyon University to go nonprofit.
Likewise, Education Management Corporation, a major for-profit chain, last month sold to the Dream Center Foundation, a religious missionary group that plans to run the former EDMC as a secular, nonprofit institution. And the ECMC Group, a student loan guarantee agency, about three years ago bought a large chunk of Corinthian’s operation. It created the Zenith Education Group as a new nonprofit career college chain, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on Zenith while its enrollment continues to decline.
“A big part of the enrollment decline at these for-profit universities is that, over the last decade, real, traditional academic brands have grown” in online education, said Ryan Craig, managing director of University Ventures, an investment firm focused on higher education.
Purdue joins several other nonprofit institutions with large online programs, which are growing the sector's overall share of the online market, including Arizona State University, Liberty University, Southern New Hampshire University and the University of Maryland's University College.
The Purdue brand could give a big boost to the former Kaplan Universities, said Craig, who added some caveats.
“Are the degrees going to be Purdue degrees?” said Craig. “Enrollment will fall. The question is how far it falls.”
Several observers said the new institution’s success could hinge on how well Purdue can tap what Kaplan brings to the table in marketing, back-office support and online prowess, while also maintaining high standards of quality control.
“To what extent can they keep Kaplan’s machinery operating?” said Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University, which has one of the nation’s largest online programs.
He said the question is one of integration, which could pay off big-time if Purdue handles the acquisition right.
“Will the university be able to leverage the Purdue brand? If they can, it will be incredibly legitimizing,” said LeBlanc.Online and Blended LearningEditorial Tags: Adult educationOnline learningImage Source: Purdue UniversityImage Caption: Mitch Daniels, Purdue University's president, announcing deal with Kaplan ThursdayIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Attracting students with tuition discounting has its limits -- and one study suggests a surprisingly large number of small colleges and universities are flirting with those limits.
The study, which is being presented Friday at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting, looks at the practice and effects of tuition discounting over 10 years at a group of 448 small liberal arts colleges across the country. Tuition discount rates have risen substantially as institutions offer larger and larger scholarships and grants to students in order to entice them to enroll.
Colleges and universities use tuition discounting as they try to meet enrollment goals and increase net tuition revenue. Under the strategy, institutions offer grant aid to some students in order to lower those students’ cost of attendance. The idea is that the grant aid entices students to enroll who would not have attended if an institution was charging more.
By targeting grant aid to certain students, an institution can theoretically meet its goals -- whether those goals are to enroll more students with top test scores, enroll more students from low-income families, enroll more minority students or simply increase revenue by enrolling more students.
But a large amount of the money institutions spend on grant aid is unfunded or unrestricted, meaning it comes from general funds -- which in turn largely come from tuition revenue. So colleges and universities have to strike a balance between their quoted tuition and the amount they discount to ensure they can bring in enough revenue.
Steep discounting can throw off that balance. And the study suggests many universities have waded into levels of steep discounting.
At a certain point, net tuition revenue per full-time equivalent student decreases as unrestricted tuition discount rates increase, according to the study. That point averaged 28.7 percent over the study’s 10-year period.
And 60 percent of colleges and universities in the study averaged unrestricted tuition discount rates of more than 28.7 percent, the study found. In other words, six out of 10 institutions had tuition discount rates that put them at risk for losing net revenue per full-time equivalent for every new student they enroll.
It's worth noting that the study focuses on unrestricted discounting instead of restricted discounting, which is funded by accounts or gifts specifically marked for student financial aid. Rates of restricted discounting changed little during the time period examined. The study's focus and a different sample of institutions examined likely contributed to a difference from higher average institutional discount rates quoted in the National Association of College and University Business Officers' annual Tuition Discounting Study.
The new data suggest a point at which increasing tuition discounting can impede enrollment goals and place institutions’ financial stability in jeopardy, the study's authors said. But in a world where colleges and universities are competing for students, most can’t walk away from discounting as an enrollment strategy.
“There does not seem to be a clear way for institutions to continue to do this going forward on reputation without significant consequences lying ahead,” said Luke Behaunek, the study’s lead author. “But there also doesn’t seem to be a great way to move back from it, and I think that’s how we’ve gotten to this point.”
Across the 448 institutions studied, average net tuition revenue increased 2.3 percent per year. But enrollment grew faster. So did unrestricted grant aid, which grew by more than 6.1 percent annually. Funded grant aid, which comes from sources like endowments and does not affect general funds, held largely steady over the study's time frame, dipping slightly from 8.1 percent in 2003 to 5.8 percent in 2012.
Consequently, growth in net tuition revenue per full-time equivalent only grew 1.26 percent per year.
The study grew out of dissertation work Behaunek did when he was completing his graduate degree in higher education administration. He is now the dean of students at Simpson College, in Iowa.
He cautioned that some institutions can post higher discount rates than others and still be financially successful. Each individual college or university is unique in its market position, published tuition rate it can charge and strategy for divvying up student aid.
“Our data and our model have no way of controlling for the different strategies, marketing campaigns or timing that institutions use to leverage this grant aid,” Behaunek said. “A focus solely on that number is not what’s most important. It’s a reflection of the demands facing that institution.”
Behaunek analyzed institutions by group based on how much they discount tuition. The 10 percent of institutions that posted the highest tuition discount rates had essentially the same net tuition revenue per student as the 10 percent of institutions with the lowest discount rates -- about $13,500.
But the institutions with the lowest discount rates enrolled more minority students and students receiving Pell Grants, which is considered a proxy for students from low-income families. Those with the lowest discount rates had student bodies that were nearly 60 percent minority and almost 70 percent receiving Pell Grants, while those with the highest discount rates had student bodies that were 26.2 percent minority and 38 percent receiving Pell grants.
Researchers wondered whether poor and minority student populations would have increased at high-discount, high-tuition institutions if more colleges and universities had found a way to keep their sticker prices lower. Many students are dissuaded from even applying to a college when they see a high sticker price, said Ann M. Gansemer-Topf, an assistant professor in higher education at Iowa State University and a co-author of the paper. Gansemer-Topf, who chaired Behaunek’s dissertation committee, is presenting the paper at the AERA annual meeting.
“We forget that students, particularly first-generation, underrepresented students, are really impacted by sticker prices,” Gansemer-Topf said.
There are indications that an increasing number of colleges and universities have maxed out their ability to increase their discount rates. In 2003, only 56 colleges and universities in the study gave institutional grant aid to 99 percent or 100 percent of their incoming first-year students. That was just 12.5 percent of the number of institutions studied. In 2012, 170 institutions awarded grant aid to 99 percent or 100 percent of incoming first-year freshmen -- 38 percent of the institutions studied.
Researchers observed several other changes to key metrics over the study’s 10-year time frame. The average number of applicants increased by more than 57 percent, to 2,574 per institution. But the average yield rate fell 10 percent to only 31 percent, indicating a lower percentage of admitted students enrolled. Average SAT scores also dropped.
The average enrollment for each fall cohort of first-time freshmen crept up from 338 to 352. The portion of minority students increased from 24.8 percent to 32.8 percent. The portion of Pell Grant recipients rose from 38 percent to 42 percent.
Tuition at institutions in the study averaged $22,529 in 2003. It averaged $27,052 in 2012. But average net tuition revenue per full time equivalent only grew from $14,468 to $16,203.
So some institutions were able to increase their net tuition revenue per student, even as unrestricted discounting increased.
If done well, targeted discounting will increase total net tuition even if net tuition per student falls, said Robert Massa, senior vice president for enrollment and institutional planning at Drew University, who has increased discounting to improve enrollment at different stops in his career, including his current position. That’s because it can bring in more students.
“The real problem occurs -- and this is more and more common today -- when an institution increases discounts, whether targeted or not, and enrollment does not increase,” Massa said in an email. “In this scenario, net revenue per student declines and so does total net revenue.”AdmissionsEditorial Tags: Business issuesFinancial aidImage Source: iStockIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Study: Professors widely oppose campus carry as inimical to academic freedom but fewer would alter teaching habits
One of the major arguments against campus carry laws like the one imposed on Texas public universities last year is that having guns in the classroom chills academic freedom. Professors might avoid hot-button issues in class discussions, for example, or fear meeting one-on-one with students. But how many faculty members actually feel that way?
Preliminary research being presented today at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association gives new insight into what share of professors feel intellectually limited by the specter of guns in their classrooms or would adjust their teaching styles if they had to teach under campus carry.
Some three-quarters (70 percent) of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “I support the right of license holders to carry concealed weapons on campus.” A similar number (71 percent) agreed or strongly agreed that campus carry laws “will have a negative impact on the free and robust exchange of ideas at the my university.”
While there was overwhelming antipathy for campus carry and concern about how it might affect academic freedom institution-wide, responses to questions about how individual professors might alter their own teaching practices were more varied.
Over half of the sample (53 percent) said their approaches to teaching controversial or emotionally charged topics would most likely or definitely stay the same, for example. Thirty-one percent said their practices would most likely or definitely not stay the same, while 15 percent of professors were unsure.
In response to the statement “I expect to omit some topic(s) from my course content,” 58 percent of respondents said they would most likely or definitely not do so. Eighteen percent were unsure, and 23 percent said they probably would omit some topics.
Asked whether they planned to “tone down” their usual approaches to teaching controversial or sensitive topics, 46 percent said they probably would not, while 40 percent said they probably would. The rest were unsure.
Over all, 50 percent said their “ability to effectively teach controversial or emotionally charged topics will be negatively impacted,” while 30 percent said it most likely or definitely would not.
Women tended to be more opposed to campus carry than male respondents were, but not to a statistically significant degree.
Asian participants were more likely than those of other ethnic groups to say campus carry would have a negative impact on their ability to teach controversial issues and that they would change their approach to controversial topics or omit course material under campus carry.
Business professors were more supportive of campus carry than were their peers in other disciplines. Science and engineering and architecture and public affairs participants were significantly less likely than other groups to agree that their approach to teaching controversial issues would remain the same.
For her study, Joslyn Krismer, a Ph.D. candidate in educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Texas at Arlington, sent a survey to 1,333 faculty members at a large Southern research university last spring. The university is unnamed but is presumably in Texas, since questions relate to a forthcoming campus carry policy; campus carry was adopted by universities in August 2016 and will be adopted by community colleges this summer. (Many public institutions objected to the law but must follow it. Many private institutions, which had the option of ignoring it, did.) The response rate was about 24 percent.
Krismer said her findings support existing research suggesting that faculty members are largely opposed to policies that allow licensed firearm users to carry their weapons on college campuses, including in classrooms. They also begin to add some “shading” to such broader findings. For example, she said, campus carry’s effect on faculty members’ ability to teach controversial topics is nuanced, and some groups of professors may be more negatively influenced than others.
Asked about the slight discrepancy between opposition to campus carry and the extent to which professors said they would change their own classroom practices, Krismer said many of the professors she’s engaged on the topic “feel the policy runs counter to the mission and culture of the university.”
Krismer’s data were gathered before the new law took effect in Texas last fall, but professors on several campuses said they still ring true months into campus carry.
Maria Gonzalez, an associate professor of English at the University of Houston, said she found the new data “fascinating” but unsurprising.
“The fact that over 75 percent surveyed basically said guns have no business on a campus represents the attitude of most faculty,” she said. Changes in teaching behavior are understandably more nuanced than a survey can capture, though, she said, noting that she’s added language about concealed carry to her own syllabi this year. While she hasn’t changed what she teaches or how she teaches, she reviews the policies governing campus carry “carefully on the first day of class just to make sure everyone understands.”
Here’s the language Gonzalez has included in her queer theory syllabus, for example.
Jonathan Snow, a professor of isotope geochemistry at Houston, famously advised colleagues not to "go there" with an angry student under campus carry, based on preliminary discussions last year within the Faculty Senate, of which he was president. He said the new study was likely based on a survey instrument too "blunt" to capture the complexities of campus carry, but nonetheless called it "a start toward a quantitative and statistically robust investigation of attitudes toward the issue."
One could, for example, "be scared stiff of students carrying, and yet on principle refuse to change ones practice in interacting with students," he said. "From my point of view, the advent of campus carry has changed my perceptions of interactions with students, particularly one-on-one in charged situations," such as negative discussions about grades. Snow said his office hours are now by appointment only, for example.
Mia Carter, University Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin and co-plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking the right for professors to ban weapons in their individual classrooms, said Krismer’s results “seem to reflect the general impressions that I get from most of my peers.” That’s “trying to proceed as normal, being a bit more careful and more self-conscious, gauging tensions in the classroom a bit more anxiously,” she said. “And for me, the ‘not sure’ answers are also telling.”
Michael Newburn, an Ohio-based spokesman for Students for Concealed Carry, dismissed Krismer’s data as uncompelling, however, and “exactly the kind of thing you’d expect from a bunch of university professors in a state where campus carry is new. … They’re asking a bunch of people to predict how they would act once campus carry is in place, and I don’t personally understand the relevance of that.”
A study conducted in Colorado, Utah or one of the six other states (besides Texas) where campus carry has been practiced “unfettered” for some would likely lead to different answers, he added. And even in Texas, for example, he said, the Houston Chronicle recently ran a news article originally titled “Campus Carry Unrest Fades.” (The article also mentions that some university instructors are seeking out alternative public spaces for office hours for safety reasons, such as bars. Its first line is, “Mark Sheridan [a graduate teaching assistant in English at the Austin campus] says he can't shake the scenario in his head: a student, anxious or angry, suddenly waving a gun in his office.”)
A spokesperson for Austin, where opposition to the law arguably has been the loudest, said via email that this year the campus has seen "two minor incidents" related to campus carry, in which no shots were fired and no injuries were reported. The Houston Chronicle also reported in February that there had been three gun discharges on Texas public campuses during the previous six months, with one incident having a definitive relationship to the new law (that was a negligent discharge at Tarleton State University, which resulted in damage to a dorm room but no injuries).
Both Krismer and Carter said professors still concerned about campus carry in Texas had until recently a new worry: pending state legislation in support of permitless, so-called constitutional carry that would allow anyone 18 and older to carry a concealed weapon. A modified version House Bill 1911 passed by a committee earlier this month, however, bumped the age limit up to 21 and ensured it did not conflict with the campus concealed carry law, according to The Texas Tribune.Students and ViolenceEditorial Tags: Academic freedomFacultyImage Source: Students for Concealed CarryIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
When a few Tallahassee Community College students attempted to take the Registered Health Information Technician certification exam last year, they learned they couldn’t sit for the test.
Despite about two years of studying and working toward their health information technology degrees, the students learned they were ineligible for the exam, which is administered by the American Health Information Management Association, because TCC didn’t have program accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education, or CAHIIM.
On Tuesday, TCC trustees fired the professor and former chair of the program who was in charge of leading the accreditation efforts, Donna Francis-Clark. The termination came one day after a hearing examiner, a former appellate court judge appointed by the college's trustees, recommended that the trustees fire Francis-Clark. The college initially told Francis-Clark in August it intended to fire her after CAHIIM informed TCC that its candidacy for accreditation -- the step required in the process toward full accreditation -- lapsed in 2015.
According to testimony during the hearing, Francis-Clark informed the college’s new provost that she had become “overwhelmed during the accreditation process, had experienced personal challenges and had stopped working on the accreditation process.” She also taught online courses at DeVry University and the University of Phoenix during the time she was pursuing CAHIIM accreditation for the college.
Francis-Clark did not respond to calls, and her attorney wasn't available to comment.
The circumstances around Francis-Clark’s termination, however, have caused the college to review and re-evaluate its own policies around program accreditation and faculty members teaching at other colleges.
TCC students began enrolling in the program in 2013, when the college first gained candidacy for accreditation. Students were told that by the time they graduated in 2015, the health information management program would be accredited and they would be eligible to sit for the exam.
“Going through something like this opens your eyes to where you may have gaps,” said Feleccia Moore-Davis, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the college. Moore-Davis was the new provost last year whom students contacted when they were denied access to the certification exam. “One of the things we’re doing is basically looking at these policies and practices to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Moore-Davis said seven students were affected by the lack of accreditation.
“I withheld graduation for those students until we can re-establish accreditation,” she said. “This loss of accreditation adversely impacted their lives and projections for becoming employed and subsequently moving forward.”
There are a number of other options the college made available to students, as well. The college is working with Florida A&M University, which has a bachelor’s degree program in health information management, for students interested in pursuing transfer. Those students who wanted to pursue an alternate path or program at TCC could do so at no cost, she said.
Ben Miller, a senior director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said the situation strikes him as a failure of management, since the college should have been aware of what was happening.
“There’s this weird gap in federal policy where you need institutional accreditation to get federal financial aid, but you don’t need programmatic accreditation even if it’s required,” he said. “But you don’t want programmatic accreditation to become a thing that pops up unnecessarily.”
Miller said the problem becomes more complicated for online programs, but over all it can be confusing to students when the U.S. Department of Education says they can use their student aid benefits, but they may not be able to enter the career because of program accreditations and certification exams.
Although the hearing examiner blamed the failed accreditation process completely on Francis-Clark, TCC also recognizes that there was an oversight failure when it came to the accreditation process.
“I came to TCC in 2015, and since then we established a tracking mechanism so the dean is generally aware when accreditation should occur and when site visits should occur,” Moore-Davis said. “For the [former] dean for these two women, she simply took their word for it when she asked about accreditation, and they simply told her it was moving forward.” A second professor in the program also received a letter of pending termination for her involvement.
Today, there are 30 students in the program who have been reassured that the health information management program will be accredited, Moore-Davis said, adding that the process shouldn’t take more than a year.
“We had to start the process over again, and at that point, I tried to expedite it as quickly as possible,” she said, adding that the accrediting body has waived some initial fees and TCC’s program has regained its candidacy for accreditation.
Francis-Clark also worked outside TCC teaching online courses at for-profit institutions.
It’s not an “uncommon practice” at the college, Moore-Davis said.
TCC has a formal process and policy when it comes to faculty and staff pursuing outside employment. About 40 faculty and staff members at the college have gone through the formal process and have employment outside of the campus, she said. The college employs more than 1,400 staff, full- and part-time faculty. About 200 employees are full-time faculty members.
And although there is a formal process when it comes to moonlighting faculty, in order to avoid conflicts of interest, Moore-Davis said administration can only be aware of those professors and staff who inform them of their outside employment.
Moore-Davis said there isn’t any evidence that Francis-Clark followed the policy and requested the right to moonlight.
“A lot of full-timers will teach overloads, and it’s a practice that is discouraged,” said Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, a national adjunct advocacy organization. “The assumption is if you’re already teaching a full-time load, you shouldn’t be teaching additional classes because that’s spreading yourself too thin. But the degree to which full-timers engage in it depends on how well they’re paid at the institution.”
Francis-Clark’s base pay was $47,599, according to the college. She also received $13,704 in 2015 and $8,328 in 2016 for overload pay and a supplement for being the program chair.
The college has hired a new program chair who is working toward the accreditation.
“Now that one case has settled, we’re moving to hire a second faculty member,” Moore-Davis said. “We will work with students, because is their welfare at the top of our list right now, and we’ll do what is necessary to help those students move through this difficult time. This was a direct conflict of what we do for our students and why we’re here.”Community CollegesEditorial Tags: AccreditationFloridaIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
The thesaurus has long been a go-to tool for students looking to doll up their writing or even hide plagiarism. A recent study found that free online tools are helping students do so with entire paragraphs, and that the tools can fool plagiarism-detection software.
Co-authors Ann M. Rogerson and Grace McCarthy, two faculty members at the University of Wollongong in Australia, were made aware of the paraphrasing tools when a student asked whether they violated academic integrity policies. The student had worked on a group project, and after receiving summaries of scholarly articles that “did not make sense” from a fellow student, learned that the group member had used a paraphrasing tool.
Rogerson then revisited that student’s former assignments. She quickly realized that previous examples of clunky writing (“representative execution surveys” in the place of “employee performance reviews,” for example) weren’t the efforts of an inexperienced writer, but the work of a machine.
“Having had our attention drawn to the existence and use of paraphrasing tools, it was decided to investigate the phenomenon,” Rogerson and McCarthy write. “What became apparent was that the ease of access to and use of such tools was greater than first thought. Consequently it is important to bring the use and operation of paraphrasing tools to a wider audience to encourage discussion about developing individual writing skills and improve the detection of these emerging practices, thereby raising awareness for students, teachers and institutions.”
The study appeared in the International Journal for Educational Integrity, an open-access journal published by Springer. It was first covered by the blog Retraction Watch.
To test how effective paraphrasing tools are at evading plagiarism detection software, the authors ran a 153-word paragraph of an article they published in 2009 through two tools discovered through a Google search. They then ran all three samples through plagiarism-detection software developed by Turnitin.
The original text opens with, “The ease of access to information sources does not guarantee that students allocate time to review governance requirements.” Running it through first paraphrasing tool produced some “mainly intelligible” writing: “The straightforward entry to data sources does not ensure that understudies apportion time to audit administration necessities.” The second tool, however, churned out a garbled mess, adding contractions and random capitalizations: “Those simplicity about right with data wellsprings doesn’t surety that people dispense the long run should Audit governance necessities.”
Comparing the two paraphrased samples to the original text, sample No. 1 contained 50 percent of the same words; sample No. 2, 30 percent (click on the thumbnail to compare the original and sample No. 1).
Turnitin, which recognized that the original text had been lifted from a journal article, did not flag the paraphrased samples.
“We’re aware of this and are working on a solution,” Chris Harrick, vice president of marketing at Turnitin, said in an email. “The quality of these tools is pretty poor right now, so it’s not a big instructor concern at the moment because it is easily identifiable when students use these tools.”
(To illustrate his point, Harrick ran his response through one of the paraphrasing tools, which produced this result: “We’re mindful of this and are chipping away at an answer. The nature of these devices is entirely poor right now so it’s not a major teacher worry right now since it is effectively identifiable when understudies utilize these apparatuses.”)
But online language tools are also getting smarter. Just as Google Translate has gotten better at producing translations that sound more natural, a paraphrasing tool that uses machine learning could over time cut down on the awkwardly phrased language in the examples seen above.
In an interview, Rogerson said she was surprised that Turnitin did not flag the paraphrased text, but, she added, “You’re never going to be able to detect anything.”
Even if the tools continue to outsmart plagiarism detection software, Rogerson and McCarthy suggest there are ways to curb their use.
First of all, they write, instructors need to be open with students about the long-term implications of using paraphrasing tools. Relying on a machine to paraphrase someone else’s writing could not only hurt them academically, but also professionally in jobs where they are expected to collect information from sources and present it in their own words.
Instructors can also design assignments to encourage students to understand their arguments inside and out, the authors write, for example by requiring students to give a presentation to the class and answer questions.
Still, Rogerson said, leaving an opportunity for students to cheat at an assignment presents them with an ethical decision. “If we design everything out -- which is next to impossible anyway -- they’re missing out on that area of learning as well,” she said.Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: PlagiarismIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Every Halloween and plenty of weekends during the year, undergraduates at many campuses anger black students and faculty members by dressing up or posing as black people (the stereotypical variety), either wearing blackface or pretending to be gang members. Campus leaders criticize the actions -- frequently discovered when the students themselves post photos on social media -- as insensitive, racist and more.
This week's example of white people behaving badly through dressing up as black people -- gang members, this time -- comes from Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary, and from its faculty, not students.
David L. Allen, a professor of preaching, posted to Twitter a photograph of himself and four other professors (the image is above) with the line "Why you should come study at the School of Preaching @swbts! Rap the word. Reach the world." Scrawled above is "Notorious S.O.P.," a play on a rapper's name with "S.O.P." for "School of Preaching."
As the image spread on social media, it was criticized by many black people and also by many Christian people, stunned that seminary professors would be unaware of the offense caused by such images. Adding to the concern is that the Southern Baptist Convention, with which the seminary is affiliated, was created in part to support slavery, and has acknowledged being quite slow, after the end of slavery, to embrace the equality of black people.
While the photo was reportedly taken in part to honor a faculty member who raps, Allen removed the image and apologized on Twitter.
I apologize for a recent image I posted which was offensive. Context is immaterial. @swbts stance on race is clear as is mine.— David L. Allen (@DrDavidLAllen) April 25, 2017
Some have posted to social media that they accept his apology.
But many others have questioned whether he would have removed the photo or apologized if people hadn't seen and been outraged by the image.
The seminary posted to Twitter as well, calling the original tweet "offensive" and noting that it had asked for its removal.
An offensive tweet was posted to one of our faculty members'
The president of the seminary posted an apology on the institution's website Wednesday. The president, Paige Patterson, put this headline on the apology: "Racism is a Tragic Sin."
"A gracious young Native American preacher on our staff does rap as a hobby. He preached a sermon recently in chapel in which he included a section of rap. I thought that it was great, and the students seemed responsive to it. He has since accepted a pastorate, and, as part of his departure, his fellow professors wanted to awaken memories and in so doing to tease him. That is par for the course around here. The president encourages our people to laugh at each other rather than to risk taking ourselves too seriously," Patterson wrote.
He added, "But, as all members of the preaching faculty have acknowledged, this was a mistake, and one for which we deeply apologize. Sometimes, Anglo Americans do not recognize the degree that racism has crept into our lives. Such incidents are tragic but helpful to me in refocusing on the attempt to flush from my own system any remaining nuances of the racist past of our own country. Just as important, my own sensitivity to the corporate and individual hurts of a people group abused by generations of oppressors needs to be constantly challenged."DiversityEditorial Tags: RaceIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
“Dress codes and good style aren’t mutually exclusive,” according to an online Gap ad that was panned by academics on social media this week. The display, featuring a “tenure-track professor,” struck many as random, tone-deaf to the realities of the academic job market or unrealistic if not a tad sexist (possibly all of the above).
“The Workwear Spectrum” ad features four young female models in clothing that Gap for some reason thought might be appropriate for the following professions: “start-up partner” (short-sleeve denim shirt and white chinos); small-business owner (striped shirt, white jeans and, according to Gap, a “never-ending supply of coffee”); financial adviser (boho orange blouse and khakis); and, of course, the tenure-track professor (loose navy blazer, blue top, light gray pants and suede pumps).
“Get respect for your ideas and blazer choices,” reads the accompanying text, which shows a set of groovy plastic eyeglass frames the “professor” herself has elected not to wear.
Karen Kelsky, an academic career coach who runs the blog The Professor Is In and a frequent critic of the flagging tenure-track job market, was among those who posted the ad to Twitter. With a simple “seriously?” Kelsky let her followers provide the commentary.April 26, 2017
@ProfessorIsIn Sure. Heels are fine when you're on your feet all day. And light colored pants? Not a problem for lab. What matters is we look pretty. *ugh*— Amanda Lyn Gunn (@AmandaLynGunn) April 26, 2017
@ProfessorIsIn ..so there's still tenure track positions left...? ;)— A. L-C (@AnalogAmanda) April 26, 2017
Here are some additional reactions from Twitter.
ivy league degrees: $350k
While the Gap is selling "tenure track professor" blazers, the adjunct blazer is for sale at Goodwill. The lining is made of crushed dreams. pic.twitter.com/EGkgXAI0dR— Kaya Oakes (@kayaoakes) April 26, 2017
Everyone's sharing GAP's "Tenure-Track Professor" photo, because, ego ideal. But no one shares the facing page. pic.twitter.com/QTcxe4Yk6a— Ted Underwood (@Ted_Underwood) April 26, 2017
For those who follow mainstream culture’s attempts at monetizing academic fashion, the Gap ad vaguely recalls Amazon’s Halloween 2014 “Delicious Women's Phd [sic] Darling Sexy Costume.” A play on “racy” profession costumes (firefighter, flight attendant, etc.), it featured a barely there gown, cap and stole. Academics had the last laugh, though, trolling the comments section.
The 2015 Twitter topic #looklikeaprofessor also tried to dispel perceptions about what a professor looks like, with a number of women pointing out that faculty members aren’t just white men in tweed. In fairness to Gap, that’s what it was trying to do, too -- evidently poorly.
Gap did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.FacultyEditorial Tags: Career AdviceFacultyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 5Advice Newsletter publication date: Thursday, April 27, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Recent personnel choices at the Department of Education have received scrutiny for connections to private industry and personal ideologies at odds with the mission of their office. But the appointment of James Manning, a career public official, has drawn a different sort of reaction.
Manning was named acting under secretary of education last week, one of nine hires officially announced by the department. The details of his role are not entirely clear, but former officials who have worked under Republican and Democratic administrations described Manning as an administrator with a broad skill set and a deep understanding of the workings of the student financial aid system. Even critics of recent steps taken by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on student loan servicing said it was important to have an expert on the complex federal loan program in place at the department.
David Bergeron, a former acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the department in the Obama administration, worked for Manning at the Education Department under then Secretary Margaret Spellings. Manning's career moves after leaving government don't appear to be those of someone interested in advancing the interests of the private sector, Bergeron said. Before joining the Trump transition team, Manning last served in the department under Obama as the acting chief operating officer of federal student aid. Rather than join the private sector or lobby his former agency after retiring, Manning joined a nonprofit in Boston that provided mentoring to disadvantaged youth.
"He was perhaps the kindest and most supportive boss I ever had in my tenure in government," he said of Manning.
Bergeron said Manning has both a deep knowledge of the department's bureaucracy and a student-focused outlook. Jeff Andrade, a Republican consultant who has worked in the Department of Education and on Capitol Hill, said Manning has been involved in previous transitions and understands what it takes to get the department up to speed.
"He's got a lot of hands-on knowledge about how the student aid office works," Andrade said. "In terms of who they had on the bench, he's probably the best-qualified person they had for that role."
Vickie Schray, executive vice president for regulatory affairs and public policy at Bridgepoint Education, said Manning's appointment sends a message that the department understands the importance of the Office of Federal Student Aid. Schray, who previously served as acting deputy assistant secretary for the federal Office of Postsecondary Education, said Manning's familiarity with many of the career employees means he knows whom he can rely on.
"Someone like Jim Manning, who knows the people, knows the organization, knows the work, really is a terrific person to help bridge the gap during a transition," she said.
Observers of the department say it is critical to have leaders in place to manage the agency's operations -- especially those involving financial aid -- regardless of the ideological disposition of the department's leadership. The competent management of those programs affects about 42 million Americans with student loans.
David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges, said with few political appointees in place who are familiar with student aid programs, Manning's role is encouraging.
"Administering student aid is a very unglamorous job in a lot of ways, but it's a very important job given the impact it has on students," he said.
"You can have any particular policy orientation about the wisdom of existing programs. To the extent that they're on the books, they need to be administered competently," said Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. "People expect to be billed correctly, they need payments processed in a timely fashion, they need phone calls answered."
The failure of Corinthian Colleges occurred when there were "few experienced hands on deck" to police the for-profit chain, said Rohit Chopra, a former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau student loans ombudsman and Department of Education special adviser who has been critical of the Obama administration's oversight of higher ed.
"Bringing aboard talent who can really police the schools and the loan servicers is good for the whole system," Chopra said. "It's not just about issue expertise. It's also about relative priorities."
The department declined a request to interview Manning for this article, and DeVos has offered few comments on officially announced hires. Even as they praised Manning's temperament and his knowledge of student aid programs, consumer protection advocates say the steps taken by the department so far suggest the concerns of private industry are playing a large hand in crafting its agenda.
And some who know Manning said recent steps taken by the department on student loan policy appear inconsistent with what they know of his values. That was especially true with respect to the department's recent decision to withdraw protections for borrowers that were issued in the final months of the Obama administration, Bergeron said. While those protections -- part of servicing contract guidelines drafted by former Secretary John B. King Jr. and Under Secretary Ted Mitchell -- had yet to go into effect, the decision was swiftly criticized by Democrats, consumer groups and financial aid organizations. The department rescinded the guidelines after a push by industry groups to have Congress reconsider the ambitious set of new requirements for servicers.
"Maybe there's a next step we just haven't seen yet," Bergeron said. "Right now it just feels like that action isn't consistent with his student-focused values."
He said he hoped to see Manning's influence reflected in alternative guidelines yet to be issued by the department.
Clare McCann, another former Obama administration official and now a senior policy analyst with New America's Education Policy program, said those new guidelines would be a "devil in the details" moment.
"I suspect you'll probably see more influence from Manning and other top politicals in whatever new guidance they decide to give to FSA on servicing," she said.
When Manning was acting assistant secretary for civil rights from 2004-05 during the Bush administration, that office issued a clarification of federal antidiscrimination law that advocates for gender equity said weakened equitable opportunities in college athletics. That clarification was later withdrawn by the Obama administration in 2010.
With the exception of Pell Grant restoration for students who attended closed schools (a process started under former Secretary King), the actions on student loan policy taken by DeVos so far have been nearly uniformly criticized by student aid advocates, congressional Democrats and state attorneys general.
Last month, the Department of Education pushed back deadlines for colleges to submit appeals or make public disclosures under gainful-employment regulations implemented last year. Later, it withdrew guidelines prohibiting debt collectors from charging high fees to borrowers if they agreed to quickly rehabilitate past-due student loans. The withdrawal this month of the guidelines for awarding of new servicing contracts confirmed a pattern for many skeptics of the department.
"On the surface it seems like a big giveaway to the student loan industry," Chopra said.
Republicans say that it's not surprising the department under DeVos would chart its own course on making improvements to student loan servicing rather than stick with complex guidance issued by the previous administration on its way out the door.
McCann, the former Obama official, said many of the problems with loan servicing that the guidance from King sought to address were nonpartisan. Alternative guidance from the department would reflect how the department may tackle those problems and, possibly, the influence of administrators like Manning.
"That will really be the devil in the details moment in terms of whether this is really terrible news for borrowers or we see them use the re-compete as an opportunity to improve servicing," she said.Image Source: Department of EducationImage Caption: James ManningAd Keyword: Student aidIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
In 2016, German universities enjoyed another big rise in the international student population, according to the latest data. Germany recorded close to a 7 percent increase in international students coming to the country. This follows a jump of nearly 8 percent the previous year. Numbers have risen about 30 percent since 2012.
But in Germany, students -- on the whole -- famously pay no tuition fees, regardless of where they come from. Seen from the U.S. or Britain, this policy may appear either supremely principled or incredibly naïve. With international students making up nearly one in 10 students (and even more if you count noncitizens who attended German schools), why does the country choose to pass up tuition-fee income and educate other countries’ young people for free?
One reason is that Germany has a much bigger demographic hole to fill than the U.S. or Britain. It is second only to Japan in terms of the proportion of its population over 60, according to the United Nations, and so needs young, skilled workers to keep its economy going. Germany still offers an 18-month poststudy work visa for graduates from outside the European Union; Britain scrapped a similar policy in 2012.
International students certainly seem to want to stick around: about half plan to remain in Germany after graduation, according to a survey conducted by the German Academic Exchange Service, with three in 10 planning to stay permanently.
Although this is far from their only role, “universities are motors of economic welfare, they attract people to Germany,” explained Marijke Wahlers, head of the international department of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK).
“International graduates are very welcome to stay in Germany -- either for a certain period of time or for life.” But, she stressed, “we are, at the same time, very much aware of the impact of brain drain around the globe, so we like to think about this issue in terms of a global circulation of brains.”
The soft-power argument plays a role, too: overseas graduates are seen as generating goodwill for Germany globally. “The idea of Germany being part of an international community is valued very highly,” said Wahlers. “Of course, we invest a certain amount of money [in their education], but what we get back is worth so much more. The international students, when they graduate, will be partners for Germany in the world; this kind of international network building is of immense importance to us.”
But there is a third reason why Germany is happy to educate overseas students that has less to do with global soft power and more to do with local politics. After 2006, seven German Bundesländer (federal states), which set fee levels, rather than the federal government, introduced (modest) fees, only to hastily scrap them under pressure from the public and left-of-center parties, explained Ulrich Müller, head of policy studies at the Center for Higher Education, a German think tank.
Introducing fees for international students could be interpreted as a prelude to charging all students, he explained. “For that reason, most politicians maintain a distance from this topic,” he said.
This anti-fee consensus is showing signs of cracking, however: starting in fall 2017, the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg will start charging non-E.U. students 1,500 euros ($1,634) per semester. “Other Bundesländer are watching very carefully what will happen in Baden-Württemberg when it introduces fees for international students,” said Wahlers. The HRK’s view is that all students should pay “moderate and socially acceptable fees,” she explained.
Free university for overseas students -- and indeed German students as well -- may come under increasing pressure after 2020, when Bundesländer will be forced to run balanced budgets, explained Müller.
“The issue of tuition fees in Germany will soon be raised again,” he said.
Countries Sending Students to Germany, 2016Country Number Percentage of Total in Germany China 32,268 12.8% India 13,537 5.4% Russia 11,413 4.5% Austria 10,129 4.0% Italy 8,047 3.2% GlobalEditorial Tags: GermanyTimes Higher EdIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
After days of insisting otherwise, Ann Coulter will not speak at the University of California, Berkeley, campus Thursday, the latest development in a now national controversy over the balance between free speech and security on college campuses.
Coulter’s talk at Berkeley was canceled amid threats of violence and no guarantee from local police they could keep her and attendees safe. Conservative advocacy group Young America's Foundation, which helped fund the event, dropped its support and said in a statement it would not “jeopardize the safety of its staff or students.”
Despite Coulter's announcement she will not appear, the university anticipates and has prepared for similar riots that have roiled the campus in recent months.
This outcome has disappointed free speech advocates, many of whom have raged against allowing even the potential of protests, some of which have recently turned violent at universities, to block divisive speakers. Many have accused Berkeley of stifling conservative views, a growing complaint of many institutions.
"It is ironic that UC Berkeley, known to many Americans as the birthplace of the free speech movement, is now leading the vanguard to silence conservative speech on campus," Harmeet K. Dhillon, an attorney for Young America's Foundation, wrote to the university. "Surely a public institution of higher learning should be a crucible of challenging ideas and thought, not a kindergarten where wards of the state are fed a steady diet of pasteurized pablum."
But Berkeley officials, in calling off Coulter’s speech, had reason for their caution. In February, the institution erupted over a planned speech by ex-Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, with protesters lighting fires and destroying campus property, only one in a series of clashes at the campus and in the surrounding area over the past several months.
Administrators said they received word of threats that would pose “grave danger” to Coulter and attendees on the originally scheduled date, Thursday. They offered to host Coulter May 2, when they could find a location at which security could be assured.
This did little to satisfy the firebrand conservative author, who blasted the university for scheduling her when classes weren’t being held. (May 2 is during the period when students are studying for finals.)
Groups on both sides of the political spectrum were galvanized after Coulter withdrew, and announced online their intentions to still come to campus Thursday.
Gavin McInnes, former Vice editor and co-founder, now leader of a right-wing group called Proud Boys, wrote on Twitter that he would speak on campus, along with conservative provocateurs Lauren Southern, Faith Goldy and Brittany Pettibone.
"We're very concerned," university spokesman Dan Mogulof said in a phone interview. "This is a university, not a battleground."
Captain Alex Yao, of the University of California Police, said at a Wednesday press conference that judging by social media postings and information provided to law enforcement, some who will visit campus Thursday intend to commit violence. The campus will see a "highly visible" police presence, Yao said.
"We're going to have a low tolerance for any sort of violence on campus," Yao said.
The university has not canceled classes Thursday.
Nicholas Dirks, chancellor of Berkeley, sent a lengthy letter to the community Wednesday, writing that university needed to weigh free speech rights with campus safety.
"The strategies necessary to address these evolving threats are also evolving, but the simplistic view of some -- that our police department can simply step in and stop violent confrontations whenever they occur -- ignores reality," Dirks wrote. "Protecting public safety in these circumstances requires a multifaceted approach. This approach must take into account the use of 'time, place and manner' guidelines, devised according to the specific threats presented. Because threats or strategic concerns may differ, so must our approach. In all cases, however, we only seek to ensure the successful staging of free speech rights; we make no effort to control or restrict the content of expression, regardless of differing political views."
Lawyers for Young America’s Foundation and the Berkeley College Republicans -- which invited Coulter -- sued the university in federal court, claiming the organizations’ First Amendment rights were violated.
Young America’s Foundation won’t drop the lawsuit, according to its Tuesday statement. The group criticized the university for creating a “hostile atmosphere” and for not meeting its demands to provide a space and security for the initially planned date.
Across the nation, institutions are reaping "the terrible fruit" of their tolerance of bad behavior, Michael Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, said.
He urged colleges and universities to spend more money on security to send a strong message that free expression won't be squashed, and to harshly punish those who would interfere with those principles. Though universities have made clear many of the protesters in violent cases are not affiliated with their campuses, Poliakoff doesn't feel that complicates matters. Just a month prior to his speech at Berkeley, Yiannopoulos's speech at the University of California, Davis, was shut down by protests, something that Berkeley officials had to recognize, Poliakoff said.
"I don’t think I’m being unfair to Berkeley for saying these wounds are self-inflicted," he said. "There's significant work … I think we’ve got to start peeling away the excuses."
In a statement, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education called for Berkeley to be prepared to "host and protect speakers of all stripes." FIRE in its statement said it was patient with the university after it was caught off guard by the violence that pre-empted Yiannopoulos's February speech, however, Berkeley has not followed through with a promised investigation.
"No university may be considered ‘safe’ if speakers voicing unpopular ideas on its campus incur a substantial risk of being physically attacked. A university where people or viewpoints are likely to be opposed with fists rather than argumentation is unworthy of the name. Granting those willing to use violence the power to determine who may speak on campus is an abdication of UC Berkeley’s moral and legal responsibilities under the First Amendment," the FIRE statement reads.
As recently as Tuesday, Coulter was still vowing to give her talk in Sproul Plaza, an outdoor site at Berkeley famous for protests and free speech, but also one much more difficult to protect compared to a location indoors.
Coulter posted to Twitter Wednesday, calling Berkeley a “thuggish institution” that had snuffed out the “cherished American right of free speech.” She wrote that Berkeley had canceled her talk, and Young America's Foundation agreed to it.
Mogulof called Coulter's claim "nonsense." He added that the Berkeley College Republicans had not followed the usual procedure in booking Coulter and secured a contract with her prior to contacting university officials to arranging a venue.
"We respect and support her First Amendment rights, but you can’t exercise your First Amendment rights in a venue that police can’t protect," Mogulof said.
A similar scenario to the Coulter drama played out in Alabama recently, at Auburn University, where the institution's leadership attempted to stop a talk by white nationalist Richard Spencer, a leader in the “alt-right” movement, known for its radical and racist views.
The university said in working with law enforcement, it learned of threats to campus during the time Spencer planned to come. He was able to speak, however, with a federal court's backing, after the man who invited him sued Auburn and a judge ruled in his favor.
Spencer, who had also pledged to appear on Auburn’s campus regardless of administrators’ stance, wrote on Twitter Wednesday that Coulter should have done the same.
“I’m less angry at @AnnCoulter, who is after all, a woman. But cuckservatives are so contemptible, I don’t know where to begin,” Spencer wrote, using a common alt-right insult, a portmanteau of “cuckold” and “conservative.”
With these new, sometimes dangerous demonstrations, defending large campuses, in particular, has proven difficult, Sue Riseling, executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, recently told Inside Higher Ed. Her organization has been training college and university safety heads how to handle these protests.Editorial Tags: Academic freedomSafetyImage Caption: Ann CoulterIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Duke University was trying to do something different with a proposed new undergraduate curriculum, emphasizing less what students should study than how. But the plan was perhaps a little too different, and it’s been tabled until the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences faculty can reach a greater degree of consensus.
In many ways, said Suzanne Shanahan, an associate professor of philosophy, co-director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke and chair of its curriculum review committee, “the nature of opposition was largely as expected. But it also makes clear it is not in fact the right time for Duke to launch a new curriculum. A curriculum without strong consensus makes no sense.”
Shanahan said her committee began work some five years ago on the new curriculum with a basic question: Is it time? Because Duke’s current curriculum serves students well, it’s something the committee came back to again and again, she added. Would something “aspirational” that might better leverage Duke’s current strengths make more sense?
The university's formal charge to Shanahan's committee in 2014 was to clarify and simplify the logic of the curriculum, create more opportunities for exploration and creativity, and "rethink our vision for disciplinarity as embodied by the curriculum."
Duke’s current curriculum, Curriculum 2000, has been in place for nearly two decades, and while there’s little antipathy for it, there’s also little enthusiasm, as many of the faculty members who helped create it have since left. Others have criticized it as thorough but essentially a series of boxes to be checked. Students must successfully complete two courses in each of five areas of knowledge: arts, literatures and performance; civilizations; natural sciences; quantitative studies (including one course in math, statistics or computer science); and the social sciences. They must also take two courses in each of six modes of inquiry: cross-cultural; ethical; science, technology and society; foreign language; writing; and research. Additional requirements included two small-group learning experiences after their first year, such as independent studies, and a first-year writing course (Writing 101).
The proposed curriculum, called Blue Print, also emphasized areas of knowledge, methods of learning and classroom innovation but sought to streamline requirements, promote student decision making and create something distinctively Duke. It decreased the graduation requirement to 32 courses from the current average of 35 to discourage precollege credits, such as from Advance Placement courses, but otherwise put students in the driver’s seat. A credit/no-credit option -- similar to a pass/fail, to be decided up to 96 hours after a grade is posted -- for up to one course per semester, up to four courses, was introduced to encourage intellectual risk taking, for example.
A first-year “Frameworks” requirement involved a taking a group of thematically linked courses in the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences that would promote shared learning experiences (including common course materials and activities) and intellectual inquiry. These clusters also would involve coordination with residential life, capstone projects for an end-of-year showcase, and explicit opportunities for students to reflect on their intellectual lives and goals. Students would have the option of participating in Duke's existing Focus seminar program instead, but the idea under Blue Print was that both freshman programs would have evolved together over time. Sophomores would have to complete a “Foundation” sequence of one course corresponding to Writing 101, one course in a second language and one course in quantitative inquiry (computer science, math or statistics) prior to declaring a major.
Blue Print also would require a secondary field of study. More than 80 percent of Duke's undergraduates already pursue a secondary specialty, but the "Focused Inquiries" requirement would have pushed that figure to 100 percent. Pathways to such study include six courses designed around a theme, or a summer or semester-long program and three additional courses on campus. Existing majors, minors and certificates were also an option.
Last, and key to making Blue Print something unique to Duke, students would be required to have a mentored scholarly experience, such as an independent study, work in a lab, co-authored publication or performance. "A central objective of Blue Print is for students to experience the wonders of, and actively participate in, the creation of scholarship all over campus," the plan says. Shanahan has taken undergraduates to Jordan to interview Syrian and Iraqi refugees as part of the university’s existing Duke Immerse program, for example, and imagined that as one kind of mentored experience.
"Twenty-first century global socio-economic, technological and environmental changes are prompting a fundamental paradigm shift in higher education," reads the final Blue Print plan. "How knowledge is constituted, created and shared is rapidly evolving, because the demands of work and citizenship are changing. The diverse, global knowledge economy into which our students will graduate will demand unprecedented flexibility, creativity, collaboration and empathy. Duke students are no longer just preparing for jobs, they are inventing new ones."
With information on "anything and everything available as never before," it continues, "the ability to evaluate, assess, contextualize, understand and communicate plural perspectives will be more important than ever. Duke’s international reputation and proud tradition of pedagogical innovation has uniquely positioned the University to lead in this evolving environment. Indeed, the challenge of this moment represents an extraordinary opportunity for Duke to reimagine what the liberal arts and sciences will become, both locally and nationally, and to use this moment it rethink its own curriculum."
Over the course of this academic year, though, faculty members have voiced concerns about elements of Blue Print. Some foreign language professors opposed Blue Print's single-course requirement. Currently, students must take one advanced course, or up to three if they have no existing proficiency.
“To require one semester of foreign language instruction is ludicrous,” Beth Holmgren, a professor of Slavic languages and literatures, said at a meeting last month. “They need more encouragement. Language instruction is important, particularly now. We need to go against the mainstream in America, which apparently is to make it all English, all the time.”
Indeed, while U.S. higher education has moved away from foreign language requirements in recent decades, some more selective institutions are now increasing their requirements.
Other faculty critics of Blue Print said it was at times difficult to understand, or worried that students involved in a separate first-year seminar program might miss out on some of the breadth requirements. Some said students could use their newfound freedom to build a preprofessional course of study that ignored the liberal arts, or that it paid insufficient attention to building writing skills.
“From the beginning I have supported this proposal because I believe that at Duke the curriculum should be the most important magnet in attracting students,” Alex Rosenberg, a professor of philosophy, said at the March meeting. “The current curriculum doesn’t. However, my faculty has asked me to vote no, and I believe it’s because they don’t understand it.”
A vote on Blue Print was planned for this month’s meeting of the Trinity faculty. But Valerie Ashby, dean of the college, said prior to the planned vote that a meeting with deans revealed lingering differences over whether the curriculum needed to be tweaked or overhauled, and that conversations among faculty members had grown argumentative -- to the point that committee members endured “verbal attacks,” according to information from Duke.
“We need to take a moment to regroup more productively, more collegially,” Ashby said.
Sherryl Broverman, associate professor of the practice in biology and global health and interim chair of the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences Council, said there’s no fixed timeline for curricular review but that “We need to pause this process for a while to bring us toward a stronger consensus.”
Shanahan said the committee hopes Duke will pursue elements of Blue Print going forward, namely a curriculum “that creates opportunities for all students to develop vibrant scholarly community in their first year -- to be introduced to the wonders of what Duke has to offer straight away.”
Student autonomy or “self-authorship” is also key, she said. “Ideally, students charting their intellectual path by combining curricular and co-curricular experiences would become a signature of their academic experience.” Mentored research, broadly defined, also should be a feature of every student’s experience, she said.
One additional foundation of Blue Print worth preserving? What some have called inclusive excellence. “The structure was meant to give all students, irrespective of background, interests or goals, a shared experience, common footing and equal chance of success as they define it,” Shanahan said, noting Duke is ever more diverse.Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: FacultyImage Caption: Undergraduate course at Duke UniversityIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
More than 100 American colleges and universities house Confucius Institutes, centers of Chinese language and cultural teaching funded and staffed in part with instructors screened by a Chinese government-affiliated entity known as Hanban. The Confucius Institutes may seem to many to be benign outposts offering cultural events programming and noncredit courses in introductory Chinese, calligraphy or Tai Chi, but for nearly as long as the Confucius Institutes have been around -- more than 10 years now -- they’ve been controversial.
Advocates for the institutes say they’ve brought welcome new resources for Chinese language study and study abroad at a time when financial support for the humanities has been shrinking, while critics question whether American universities sacrifice some degree of academic freedom and autonomy in hosting the Chinese government-backed institutes, which in some cases are involved in delivering for-credit classes. Many Confucius Institutes are also involved in teaching or teacher training for local K-12 schools.
One U.S.-based Confucius Institute, at the University of Chicago, closed in 2014 after more than 100 faculty signed a petition that cited, among other things, concerns that Hanban's role in the hiring and training of teachers “subjects the university’s academic program to the political constraints on free speech and belief that are specific to the People’s Republic of China.” Ontario's McMaster University closed its Confucius Institute a year earlier after a former instructor filed a complaint alleging that the university was “giving legitimization to discrimination” because her contract with Hanban prohibited her participation in the spiritual practice Falun Gong. Over the years, Confucius Institutes have been dogged by allegations that they self-censor when it comes to sensitive subjects in China such as Taiwan, Tiananmen Square, Tibet and Falun Gong; the institute's supporters frequently reply that these topics are largely outside the confines of the Confucius Institutes' narrow cultural and language education mandates. In 2014, organizers of a Chinese studies conference in Europe accused Hanban, a sponsor of the conference, of outright censorship of conference materials related to Taiwan.
The latest take on this contentious topic, a 183-page report on Confucius Institutes from the National Association of Scholars, by the author’s account finds “few smoking guns, and no evidence of outright policies banning certain topics from discussion” -- but reasons for concern nonetheless. The report, which examines hiring policies, course offerings and textbooks, funding structures, academic freedom protections, and what the author describes as “formal and informal speech codes” at 12 Confucius Institutes in New Jersey and New York, concludes that “to a large extent, universities have made improper concessions that jeopardize academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Sometimes these concessions are official and in writing; more often they operate as implicit policies.”
The report from NAS recommends that universities close their Confucius Institutes. “Confucius Institutes permit an agency of a foreign government to have access to university courses, and on principle that is a university function,” Rachelle Peterson, the author of the report, said in an interview. “Institutions should have full control over who they hire, over what they teach, and Confucius Institutes basically act like class-in-a-box kits that come ready-made for universities to use.”
Short of closing the institutes -- NAS’s primary recommendation -- the report makes a series of recommendations for changes that faculty and administrators should push for. Those recommendations include: increased transparency and public disclosure of contractual and funding agreements, and the renegotiation of contracts “to remove constraints against ‘tarnishing the reputation’ of the Hanban” and “to clarify that legal disputes should be settled only in the jurisdiction of the host institution (in our cases, American courts).”
Other recommendations in the report call on universities to “cease outsourcing for-credit courses to the Hanban,” to “formally ask the Hanban if its hiring process complies with American nondiscrimination policies,” and to “require that all Confucius Institutes offer at least one public lecture or class each year on topics that are important to Chinese history but are currently neglected, such as the Tiananmen Square protests or the Dalai Lama’s views on Tibet.”
NAS, which promotes liberal arts-style education and intellectual freedom, is perceived in higher education as something of a contrarian scholarly organization with a politically conservative bent, though the organization maintains it has no partisan affiliation (its website quotes the organization’s president, Peter Wood, saying, “Both the left and the right produce their share of intellectual obtuseness. The NAS is not a partner with either”). Much of the prior criticism of the institutes has come from scholars associated with the left.
While NAS may be an organization that prides itself on “challenging campus orthodoxies,” on Confucius Institutes its recommendations are to a large extent in step with that of the American Association of University Professors. In 2014, the AAUP came out with a statement “recommending that universities cease their involvement in Confucius Institutes unless the agreement between the university and Hanban is renegotiated so that (1) the university has unilateral control, consistent with principles articulated in the AAUP’s Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, over all academic matters, including recruitment of teachers, determination of curriculum and choice of texts; (2) the university affords Confucius Institute teachers the same academic freedom rights, as defined in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, that it affords all other faculty in the university; and (3) the university-Hanban agreement is made available to all members of the university community.”
One theme of the NAS report is the lack of transparency on the part of the universities in the sample. Although NAS’s researcher obtained contracts through Freedom of Information Act requests for eight public universities in her sample -- as well as an unsigned draft contract shared by one private university -- Peterson found what she called “significant resistance” on the part of many university officials to answer questions about their Confucius Institutes. She reported that only two of the 12 Confucius Institute directors in her sample consented to interviews.
The most secretive institution, Peterson reported, was Alfred University, a private institution located about 80 miles south of Rochester, N.Y. She writes that Alfred's provost personally ejected her partway through a Confucius Institute class she'd received advance permission from the instructor to observe.
Reached by phone, the instructor of the class, Lanfang “Haley” Gao, referred questions to the university. Alfred's provost, Rick Stephens, said he asked Peterson to leave the class and escorted her to her car after receiving worried messages from students about a strange person in the class. He disputed that Peterson received permission to visit the class -- he said she was told that her proposed dates were not suitable -- and said in her outreach to Confucius Institute staff she initially misrepresented herself as an interested Chinese student rather than a journalist or researcher.
Peterson, in turn, disputed this. She said Gao gave her permission over the phone to observe her class and that she identified herself clearly. "I asked Professor Gao two questions: 1) if classes were open to members of the public to visit and 2) if I could visit her class as a researcher from the National Association of Scholars doing some research on Confucius Institutes. She answered yes to both questions. I did not represent myself as a prospective student of Chinese. Professor Gao did not say anything about the dates not being a good time to sit in on her class," Peterson said. "I arrived at the class early, having located it with the help of another person for whom I did not get a name (this person spoke limited English, and told me as much). When Professor Gao arrived I introduced myself as Rachelle Peterson from the National Association of Scholars, and mentioned again that we had spoken by phone about the possibility of my visiting her class. She did not object to my presence at the beginning of class or ask me to leave, or in any other way indicate that I misunderstood our phone call regarding my proposed visit."
"There's too much being read into this," Stephens, the provost, said, "but I will tell you that when you are approached in secret and you discover that, you are not inclined to be transparent in every which way" -- especially, he said, speaking of NAS, when that person "comes from an organization that also has a clear agenda."
"We don’t have anything to hide," Stephens said, "but they certainly didn’t approach Alfred University in a professional way."
The NAS report includes detailed looks at the governance, leadership and funding agreements for the institutes, which are managed by the host American universities in conjunction with Chinese partner universities. The financial terms vary somewhat, but various contracts obtained by Peterson -- and shared with Inside Higher Ed -- show that Hanban typically commits to provide around $150,000 in start-up funding for the institutes, followed by annual sustaining operating grants (generally, Peterson found, in the $100,000 range), plus 3,000 volumes of textbooks and teaching materials. Hanban also commits to pay for the salaries and airfares of the Chinese language teachers it sends. The American host university is expected to match Hanban's support, a requirement that Peterson reports is typically met through in-kind contributions such as office and classroom space and faculty/staff time.
The NAS report includes an extended discussion of the content and quality of Hanban-supplied textbooks. It also raises concerns about Hanban’s role in prescreening Chinese language teachers -- Peterson writes that universities select instructors from a pool of candidates proposed by the Chinese partner university or Hanban -- and the relationship of those instructors to the American host university at which they teach.
“Almost no teachers within Confucius Institutes are hired as employees of the host university with standard protections for academic freedom,” Peterson writes. “Most are hired by, paid by and report to the Hanban, which reserves the right to remove teachers who violate Chinese law -- including speech codes. There is some evidence that the Hanban may provide teachers with stock answers to questions it wishes to avoid. When we asked Chinese teachers and directors what they would say to a student who asked about Tiananmen Square, several replied that they would talk about the square’s historic architecture.”
The report continues, “We also found that some professors within the university felt pressured to self-censor. Those affiliated with the Confucius Institute sensed the need to maintain a friendly relationship with the Hanban. Those outside the Confucius Institute felt pressure from the university -- most immediately from their department -- to protect the Confucius Institute’s reputation.”
"Throughout this report there are, I think, unsupported insinuations and allegations without concrete evidence," said Stephen C. Dunnett, the vice provost for international education at the State University of New York at Buffalo and the chair of the advisory board for the Confucius Institute there. Dunnett, a key source cited in the NAS report, said the case study about Buffalo was largely accurate. But he was troubled by the preface, authored by NAS President Peter Wood, in which Wood cites off-the-record stories in granting himself "license to go beyond what we can fully verify" (Wood contrasts this to the remainder of the report, authored by Peterson, where, Wood writes, NAS limits itself "to what we know for sure." Inside Higher Ed is not repeating the unverified statements from the preface.)
More broadly, Dunnett said, "I have not witnessed nor have we experienced any of these practices that they sometimes hint at and sometimes come right out and accuse us of."
"The teachers that come here are young, they’re well-meaning, they’re teaching basic Chinese. They're pretty free to do what they like. We pick the textbooks. Hanban doesn’t force anything on us, and they never have. They’ve never interfered. We select the teachers, but of course they’re selected from a list that they present, just like, for example, Fulbright scholars are selected from a list. They're vetted here, and the list is sent to home countries and they pick. There’s nothing sinister in that, and they make it sound that way, and I think it’s kind of regrettable." (Buffalo may be somewhat of a model in how it treats the visiting instructors: the NAS report singles out Buffalo as having negotiated "more authority in hiring CI staff and teachers than any other Confucius Institute among our case studies.")
Dunnett added that he thinks it's unfortunate that the Chinese government doesn't get more credit for the resources it's providing. "In Western New York, this is a depressed area, and our schools are struggling to cover the things that they need to cover. They just don’t have the money that they need to hire Chinese language teachers, and also there are no local teachers certified to teach Chinese. So along come the Chinese and they offer us these teachers. That was one of the reasons we did this. We thought this could be community service for Buffalo. We could help the local schools," he said.
Qing Gao, the director of the Confucius Institute U.S. Center, which is listed on Hanban's website as an overseas representative, likened Confucius Institute funding to any external grant funding universities receive. "To me, the best way to explain the Confucius Institute, it’s simply a grant program," said Gao, who's also an assistant professor of arts management at George Mason University and director of the Confucius Institute there. "We apply for a grant from China, from the headquarters, and that grant also provides us a partnership with a Chinese university."
Qing Gao said that while the Confucius Institute U.S. Center receives funding from Hanban, it is an independent nonprofit and he cannot speak for the headquarters organization. He said, however, that the long-standing concerns about intellectual and academic freedom at Confucius Institutes are in his view unfounded.
"In terms of the intellectual freedom or academic freedom, I think that’s something that we have to always pay attention to, to make sure that these programs do not interfere with academic freedom," Qing Gao said. "When we receive individuals from China, the very first day we will have orientation. The very first message we deliver is to make sure everybody understands the value of academic freedom and freedom of speech. What we’ve found here is there's no such evidence whatsoever from the very first Confucius Institute opening in the United States until today that any individual case can prove that Confucius Institutes interfered with academic freedom. This has no factual basis."GlobalInternational Higher EducationEditorial Tags: International higher educationIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
College completion rates vary widely along racial and ethnic lines, with black and Hispanic students earning credentials at a much lower rate than white and Asian students do, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
The center evaluated data from students nationwide who entered a college or university in fall 2010. The data represents students at two- and four-year colleges, students who studied part- and full-time, as well as those who graduated after transferring institutions.
Altogether, 54.8 percent of those students completed a degree or certificate within six years of entering a postsecondary institution, but broken down by race and ethnicity, those rates fluctuate by up to 25 percent.
White and Asian students completed their programs at similar rates -- 62 percent and 63.2 percent, respectively -- while Hispanic and black students graduated at rates of 45.8 percent and 38 percent, respectively.
These numbers likely won’t surprise most people who track higher education closely, as they fall in line with what other studies have found over the years, but “it will certainly reinforce the point that there’s more work to be done,” said Doug Shapiro, one of the lead authors of the report.
This report is valuable, he said, because it uses the most recent available data and accounts for part-time students and students who transfer to another institution during their studies. Other studies had not previously done this -- though that is because most have focused on federal databases, which have historically tracked only full-time, first-time students. The clearinghouse has become an alternative source of information on student outcomes and mobility because of its distinctive set of data.
“To the extent that the findings were surprising, it was simply that what we found did not change what we knew,” said Shapiro, who is executive research director at the National Student Clearinghouse. “For example, black and Hispanic students were no more likely to transfer and graduate somewhere else, and in fact, in most cases, they were less likely.”
The report also found that, nationally, students who entered a four-year public university earned a degree or certificate at a rate of 62.4 percent. Students who started at a two-year public institution had an overall completion rate of a credential of 39.2 percent. At four-year institutions, black men completed their degrees at the lowest rate (40 percent) and Asian women at the highest (75.7 percent).
Students who started at community college and then continued their educations at a four-year public institution experienced very different outcomes, depending on race and ethnicity. After six years, about a quarter of Asian students and a fifth of white students had finished their degrees, compared to about a tenth of Hispanic students and one in 12 black students.
“Community colleges have long been held out as engines of access to higher education,” Shapiro said, making these “disappointing results -- the rate at which students from underrepresented groups managed to complete that transfer from community college to a bachelor degree.”
For years, colleges and universities had been asking for racial and ethnic breakdowns of completion rates. After releasing those results for the first time this year, the National Student Clearinghouse plans to release updated data annually, Shapiro said. Each institution will also be able to see its own data and compare to national trends.
“We think that will be really powerful,” Shapiro said. “It will help [institutions] understand where they need to focus their improvements.”DiversityEditorial Tags: Race and ethnicityGraduation ratesImage Source: Getty ImagesImage Caption: College completion rates fluctuate widely by race and ethnicity, a new report finds. Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
WASHINGTON -- The presidents of three of the country’s top research universities gathered for a public discussion Tuesday, dedicating some of their most in-depth comments to concerns about federal policy.
The presidents of Harvard, Stanford and Ohio State Universities took part in a wide-ranging discussion on the future of higher education hosted by the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. While they covered a lot of ground, they delivered their most timely remarks while addressing worries about cuts to federal research funding and possible changes in immigration policy that could affect the students at their institutions.
Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust said she has increased her outreach regarding federal issues this year, spending more time in this capital city meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers. She expressed hope legislators are receptive to her case for funding university research when they learn about the work being done.
“I’ve been trying to make the case to congresspeople, and also invited a number of them to come see our scientists working in their laboratories,” Faust said. “A lot of people in Congress are very eager to do that, because they want stories to tell. It’s the stories of the discoveries, not some abstract statistic, that really has the impact.”
Faust continues to champion the cause after President Trump proposed deep cuts in his first budget outline released in March. Trump’s skinny budget calls for cutting National Institutes of Health funding by $5.8 billion, or about 20 percent. It would also sharply cut other federal programs involved in university research.
Trump administration officials have said the government can save money but not harm research by cutting back on support for administrative costs. Higher education groups have maintained such cuts would be damaging, however. Science groups have warned the cuts would hurt research and the education of a new generation of scientists.
Even Harvard, with its prestige, deep pockets and wealthy donors, would struggle to compensate for deep cuts to federal research funding, Faust said in an interview after the Economic Club’s discussion ended. The university receives about $800 million to support research annually. Roughly $600 million of that comes from the federal government.
“The magnitude of the federal commitment is not something that is going to be easily replaced,” Faust said.
The proposed cuts to research dollars were one topic cited by many participants in Saturday’s March for Science in Washington. Faust spoke at a local March for Science in Cambridge, Mass., that day.
She was not the only university president to take part in such an event -- New York University President Andrew Hamilton wrote that he planned to participate in the march in Washington because he worried about looming budget cuts, immigration restrictions and dwindling respect for science and its evidence-based methods. Still, university presidents participating in rallies raised eyebrows.
Faust maintained in Tuesday’s interview that she felt completely comfortable speaking at the march.
“I’ve been a pretty vocal advocate for science ever since I became president of Harvard,” she said. “It seemed entirely appropriate to me to speak in that way on behalf of something that is at the core of the university.”
Research is a bipartisan issue that can head off threats and future expenses, Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said during the Economic Club discussion. For example, the country needs cures and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease as the population ages, he said.
“We desperately need cures,” he said. “That will only come through research. The vitality of our research enterprise is essential.”
Tessier-Lavigne also spoke up for international students and education. About 10 percent of Stanford’s undergraduates are international students, he said. The president himself, who was born in Canada, did postdoctoral work in the United States on a J-1 visa, which is the nonimmigrant visa category for work- and study-based exchange programs.
International students expose American students to different societies and ideas, Tessier-Lavigne said. They are also important talent, he argued.
“We’ve been very fortunate in this country to be able to be a magnet for extraordinary talent from abroad,” he said. “People have brought their ideas, their capabilities.”
Michael V. Drake, Ohio State’s president, told a story from a freshman seminar he teaches. During a discussion, a student referenced “the American Civil War.”
The student was from a country in the Middle East where a civil war was underway at the time, Drake said.
“It really caught me that she said the American Civil War,” he said. “It caused me to take a step back and rethink about what I was saying and kind of broaden my perspective. There’s small things like that that happen in conversations, in classrooms or in dorms or in hallways where people coming together from different points of view can make such a difference. I think it’s really important for the quality of my education.”
David M. Rubenstein, the president of the Economic Club, also grilled the presidents on a diverse set of topics including endowment spending policies, sexual violence on campus, student drug and alcohol use, and whether student athletes should be paid. Faust pointed out that spending down an endowment means cutting the amount of money it can generate for operations in the future, undermining the funding mechanism's long-term viability.
Tessier-Lavigne called it shocking that colleges did not address the issue of sexual assault more before the late 2000s before saying that prevention is the most important step to combating it. He also supported the current student-athlete model for athletics. Drake referenced a spike in deaths in Ohio from opioids, saying he sometimes has to tell parents that their child has died for one reason or another. He called it one of the hardest things he has to do.Editorial Tags: Federal policyResearchImage Source: The Economic Club of Washington, D.C.Image Caption: The Economic Club of Washington, D.C., President David M. Rubenstein led a discussion Tuesday with Ohio State University President Michael Drake, Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust and Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Colleges are eager to put drones to use both inside and outside the classroom, but federal agencies and university risk managers are taking a cautious approach before opening the airspace above college campuses.
Drones (also known by the more technical terms unmanned aerial vehicles or systems) are becoming increasingly common sights, both in campus skies and in headlines. There was, for example, the 2014 case of the student at the University of Texas at Austin who was detained after flying a drone over a football game, or the experiments launched last year involving burrito delivery by drone at Virginia Tech. Lake Superior State University even included “selfie drone” on its latest “List of Words Banished From the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.”
On the academic side, colleges are using drones to do everything from surveying crops to teaching aerospace engineering. On the administrative side, delivery is emerging as a popular idea. Arizona State University, for example, is imagining a future in which drones zip across the greater Phoenix metropolitan area to bring students library materials from a storage facility.
But where some administrators, faculty members and students see opportunity, others see risk.
“What happens when one of these UAVs fails, and it’s got a 30-pound payload of library books while flying down the quad?” said Clinton T. Speegle, an U.S. Army aviation officer turned lawyer.
Speegle is one of the people helping universities write drone policies. Once tasked with “deconflicting” the airspace above Iraq and neighboring countries, Speegle now focuses on aviation law and NCAA compliance at his Birmingham, Ala., practice, Lightfoot, Franklin & White.
Most university drone policies, Speegle said, deal with “the student who has a quadcopter [a helicopter with four rotors] and wants to fly it on the quad or take pictures of the campus.” But universities should also consider how their policies can address privacy and safety issues, and how they can enable research and development activities involving drones.
“There’s no way we can foresee everything that’s going to come from this area,” Speegle said. “The key, in my mind, is to make it a broad policy … and then be able to dial it back if you realize later that there is usage that is useful, needed and can be properly mitigated.”
Indiana University has had a drone policy on the books since 2015 -- a precautionary measure to protect the university from the potential legal issues raised by emerging technology.
“We saw that drones were going to become a thing of the future,” said Larry Stephens, director of the university’s Office of Insurance, Loss Control and Claims. “They presented a huge liability exposure for us.”
The policy hasn’t changed much since 2015. It still contains the same bans on flying a drone in areas “where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in accordance with accepted social norms” -- spaces such as dorms, locker rooms and treatment rooms -- and directs would-be drone pilots to Stephens’s office for approval.
However, Stephens said he has seen a slight change in the popularity of drones: they are simply becoming more common.
Today, there are more requests to fly drones indoors, for example. Using drones to take pictures of campus continues to grow in popularity. And recently, a construction company contacted Stephens’s office to use a drone to inspect a building under construction (Stephens also admitted, “I’ve been trying to find a good excuse for us to buy [a drone] for this department”).
The Federal Aviation Administration’s own rules add further restrictions on drone use at colleges. Flying a drone for work, as opposed to for fun, in most cases imposes additional rules related to certification and aircraft requirements. So does flying a drone within five miles of an airport.
The FAA also generally prohibits flying a drone directly above people, which means drones won’t be following campus footpaths to deliver their payloads -- at least not for the moment. The FAA is working on new regulations, though that work was delayed as part of the Trump administration’s regulatory freeze.
“Everybody wants to fly over people, but the real concern is nobody knows how dangerous it is,” said Mark Blanks, director of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership.
The MAAP, which is led by Virginia Tech, conducts drone flights on a near-daily basis with faculty members and students. In addition to testing burrito deliveries, it is also conducting experiments on drone injuries in partnership with Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science. The MAAP doesn’t have conclusive results for all types of drones, but Blanks said the results so far show that the FAA has been “overly cautious” and that there is an opportunity to expand drone use.
The university is building a 300-by-120-by-80-foot “drone cage” -- which Blanks described as “like something you’d see at a golf range, except it has a roof on it” -- to create a controlled space for drone test flights.
The cage will help accommodate what Blanks called an “uptick in interest and desire to do more” with drones that what current regulations allow for.
“Before, everybody just wanted to fly,” Blanks said. “Now, everybody’s able to fly, and they want to do more than they can currently do.”TechnologyEditorial Tags: TechnologyImage Source: Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership/Virginia TechIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
New presidents or provosts: Atlantic Cape Chico Frostburg Jackson Mount Mary Mt. Wachusett SIT Stanislaus Tennessee
Whittier Law School shutdown raises prospect of future closures and access for underrepresented students
Whittier Law School’s enrollment trends over the last five years reflect the pressures squeezing legal education across the country.
Total enrollment at the law school in Orange County, Calif., fell by more than 40 percent since 2011, from 700 students to fewer than 400 this year. Enrollment dropped as students’ interest in studying law plunged across the country -- and as heightened scrutiny forced many law schools to pay more attention to their students’ job-placement and bar-passage rates.
Administrators at Whittier were trying to cut the size of the law school in order to find a new balancing point, said Sharon Herzberger, the president of the law school’s owner, Whittier College. They wanted to admit enough students to keep the law school financially sustainable, but also to increase selectivity so they were admitting students with a greater chance of succeeding. And they were working to do so even as the number of applications to law schools shrank.
“The enrollment has declined sometimes because of what’s going on in the world and the choices of people to come to the school,” Herzberger said. “And sometimes because of our desire to keep the enrollment down and make sure we’re bringing in students that we feel have the capability of doing well.”
That attempted balancing act ended last week, when Whittier College’s Board of Trustees announced that the law school will not enroll any new students. Current law students will be able to complete their degrees, although the exact details of that process are not yet set. Whittier Law School will close.
The decision vaulted Whittier into the national spotlight. The law school will be the first with full American Bar Association accreditation to close in recent memory. Its accreditation dates to 1985, and it was founded in 1966, so it does not fit the profile of a new, unestablished institution that might be expected to shutter under normal circumstances.
Consequently, some experts believe other schools are likely to follow Whittier Law in closing. Critics of legal education argue that the country still has too many law schools that do not prepare their students for legal careers and instead leave them with high levels of debt they will be unable to repay. Others retort that the number of law schools truly in danger of closing is relatively small, with estimates ranging from 10 to 25 across the country.
Others worried that the closure of Whittier Law School takes away an important option from groups of minority and women students who are already underrepresented in the legal field. Those students often go on to practice law locally, so closing Whittier law school deprives nearby communities of important services, they said.
Whittier College tried to find ways to keep the law school open, according to Herzberger. Administrators offered faculty members voluntary separation agreements last year, the college president said. They discussed merging the law school with other institutions and talked with others that showed interest in operating it.
“Over the last couple of years, the board really looked at lots of different things,” Herzberger said. “Nothing really came to fruition, and the board felt that we should not continue to invite students to enter the law school, that it really wasn’t the fair thing to do.”
Decisions were complicated by the fact that the law school’s main campus has been separate from the college’s main campus in Whittier since 1997. The two locations lie about 30 miles apart, making it harder to share services between them or govern them as a single institution.
Whittier College ultimately struck a deal to sell the 14 acres of land on which the law school sits for $35 million. The land is the largest parcel in the Costa Mesa area that was relatively undeveloped, Herzberger said. It was purchased by a Chinese investment group, she added, declining to share additional details because of nondisclosure agreements.
Law school faculty members sought to block the announcement of the closure, filing in court for a temporary restraining order, which a judge denied. They claimed in court filings that the college sold the law school land at a profit of $13 million and sought to “cut and run” with the money. They also argued in the filings that Whittier College leaders did not follow proper procedures for closing the law school because they had not taken faculty opinion at the law school and college into account.
Those characterizations are not accurate, Herzberger said. Whittier’s administration asked faculty members whether the law program could be discontinued. Faculty members returned with reports that did not agree with the idea of closure, Herzberger said. But the Board of Trustees still was not convinced the law school should continue in the future.
The law school has not operated at a deficit in recent years, except for when it was buying out faculty contracts, the president said. However, projections showed it would run deficits after this year.
Leaders considered relocating the law school but decided against it. The law school draws many students from near its campus, Herzberger said. Whittier’s main campus does not have any room, she added.
The college’s decision-making process might have played out differently if the law school hadn’t been on a separate campus, Herzberger said.
“It did not help,” Herzberger said. “We could not take advantage of each other.”
The faculty members who attempted to stop the closure from being announced are not backing down. They are considering further litigation, according to the lawyer representing them, Hanna Chandoo, an associate at the law firm Stris & Maher LLP and a 2015 Whittier Law School graduate.
“Now that the announcement happened and we were able to see the way it happened, it was irresponsible,” she said. “It was sudden. There was no plan. It’s been devastating for many stakeholders: admitted students, current students, alums, faculty, staff.”
The National Landscape
Observers of legal education said the situation at Whittier Law School fits with the trends that have been sweeping the field. At a basic level, there is sharply less interest today in the education law schools are offering than there was a decade ago, said Christopher Chapman, president and chief executive officer of AccessLex Institute, a former student loan provider that is now a nonprofit organization conducting research on legal education issues.
Law schools also face new accreditation pressure. The American Bar Association has taken action against four law schools in the last year over issues including loose admissions policies and low bar-examination passage rates.
The pressures could push less prestigious law schools into a death spiral. Their applicant pools are declining, and their top students often transfer to better-known institutions. As a result, they can lose the students they admit who are most likely to pass the bar. That can make it harder for them to increase their bar-passage rates over time, which in turn cuts down on their applicant pools and drives their best students to transfer -- continuing the spiral.
Shocks like additional accreditation pressure could lead to more changes in the law school sector, Chapman said. But he stopped short of predicting a wave of closures.
“I think closing is fairly drastic,” he said. “It’s at one end of the spectrum. We’ve seen some mergers, some combinations. I think maybe you’ll see more collaborations where schools don’t close, but there might be sharing of facilities or faculty or something like that.”
Other moves in the legal education sector of late include William Mitchell College of Law and Hamline University School of Law, in St. Paul, Minn., deciding to merge in 2015. Indiana Tech Law School in Fort Wayne this fall announced plans to close in June 2017. Administrators at that law school, which opened its doors in 2013 and had provisional ABA accreditation, said it had incurred an operating loss of nearly $20 million in its brief existence and they could see no way to attract enough students to be viable in the future.
Speculation also surrounds the future of the for-profit Charlotte School of Law in North Carolina after it lost access to federal financial aid over U.S. Department of Education concerns about accreditation problems and misrepresentations made to students.
Financial issues have played a role in strife at public law schools as well. The University of Cincinnati placed the dean of its College of Law on administrative leave last month after she said her efforts to close a deficit had upset faculty members. The dean, Jennifer Bard, sued the university Friday, with her lawyers alleging a breach of contract and violations of her constitutional rights.
It should be pointed out that a college or university could consider closing its law school for reasons beyond finances or accreditation.
Operating a successful law school can add to a college or university’s standing, giving it access to a new set of wealthy donors and helping it build a powerful alumni base. But struggling law schools can hurt a college or university’s prestige.
“It’s a reputation thing,” said William Henderson, a professor of law at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law. “Bad employment outcomes, high debt and low bar-passage rates -- that affects the university and how it’s perceived in a marketplace.”
Yet the national trends are one thing. How they play out locally is another.
Whittier students, faculty members and alumni have resisted the closure of the school. The law school has posted notes from unhappy alumni on its website. Students protested the pending shutdown Friday. They were devastated to hear Whittier College’s president and board announce the closure of the law school with finals fast approaching, said Radha Pathak, an associate professor of law and the associate dean of student and alumni engagement at Whittier Law School.
Pathak does not believe the decision to close the law school is being driven by large trends sweeping legal education, she said in an interview. She thinks it is a way for the college to redirect its financial resources.
“We are a school that has almost always generated a surplus,” she said. “Next year, however, we were going to be incurring a deficit. And so instead of giving a new administration time to improve outcomes, they decided to discontinue us, and I think it’s very difficult to avoid the conclusion that it was done to be able to use those resources for different purposes.”
Pathak recognizes the national skepticism about the value of law schools. But she contends that Whittier Law School is serving students who would otherwise not have access to a legal education.
Minority students make up almost 60 percent of Whittier Law School’s enrollment. Its student body is also 60 percent women.
“We are providing a high-quality legal education to our students, and some of our students wouldn’t have the opportunity to attend another ABA-accredited law school,” Pathak said. “And those students are doing amazing things when they move on.”
Still, it should be noted that Whittier’s bar-passage rate has significantly lagged that of other California law schools. Just 22 percent of its students taking the California bar examination for the first time in July 2016 passed. That was almost 40 percentage points below the passage rate across all of the state’s ABA-accredited institutions.
Pathak acknowledged that many of Whittier Law School's students need multiple chances to pass the bar. But she said that does not detract from their accomplishments or legal education.
Critics argue such a low passage rate means the law school is not, in fact, helping most of its students. Kyle McEntee is the executive director of the nonprofit group Law School Transparency. He acknowledged that a school like Whittier can offer access to students.
“But does the school serve them?” McEntee said. “There’s good they do, and there’s bad they do, and you hope the good outweighs the bad. But I don’t see the argument holding weight with Whittier, and it seems the Board of Trustees agrees.”
McEntee predicts more law schools will close. But he said it’s difficult to say for sure because local factors can have a major effect on college and university leaders’ decisions.
Another Southern California institution stands as a contrast to the decision to close Whittier Law School. The University of La Verne College of Law is not producing a surplus. It’s been losing money for about five years. But university leaders say they are on their way to changing that after they overhauled tuition practices in 2014.
The La Verne College of Law broke with the norm of offering deep tuition discounts to attract top students. Instead, it decided to charge students a flat price and lock in their tuition for three years.
Leaders put that model in place because of swirling questions about the cost-benefit analysis students make when deciding to attend law school. Many thought a lack of transparency in law school prices and outcomes was leading to rising and unpredictable student debt levels. The new idea at La Verne is that a student can count on a set price over three years and project their debt upon graduation.
The law school is moving toward becoming revenue positive, said La Verne’s president, Devorah Lieberman. She acknowledged that the closure of the Whittier Law School could affect La Verne.
“I just think it means that the rest of us who have law schools in the region need to continue to focus on serving those students,” she said.
It’s hard to say exactly how, though. Law school closures have been so rare that the effects of this one will be unpredictable, according to the La Verne College of Law’s dean, Gilbert Holmes.
“That might enable us to be a little more selective in our admissions,” he said. “But the primary thing we need to think about is the communities that may find themselves not served as well, because they have potentially fewer lawyers to serve them.”
Across the country, the law schools that are mostly likely in danger of closing tend to produce graduates who go on to work as solo practitioners or in small firms, said Michael Olivas, the chair of law at the University of Houston Law Center, who served as president of the Association of American Law Schools in 2011. That means low- and middle-income residents in the area will have fewer lawyers available than they otherwise would.
What is up for debate is whether or not that’s a good thing. As with many of the issues swirling around law schools, the answers to the debate depend on how you weigh different factors. Closing a law school hurts some students, faculty members and area residents. It could theoretically help some students who would not have been served well by the institution. Closing a law school can help a college or university if that law school had been a drag on its operations.
“If it means schools that have no chance of meeting their obligations are dying or being put to death, then I would say the system is working,” Olivas said. “Notwithstanding the pain and struggle the faculty and staff and students at the institution are encountering.”
Even many optimistic law school admissions officers appear receptive to the idea of closings. A fall 2016 survey from Kaplan Test Prep of officers at 111 of the 205 ABA-accredited law schools in the country found that 92 percent said they were feeling more optimistic about the state of legal education than they had been a year ago.
Even so, 65 percent agreed with the statement that “it would be a good idea if at least a few law schools closed.”Editorial Tags: Business issuesDiversity MattersLaw schoolsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 4Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, April 25, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Controversy over Alice Goffman leads Pomona students to say her alleged racial insensitivities disqualify her from visiting professorship
Alice Goffman’s star fell almost as fast as it rose a few years back, as sociologists divided over her controversial book, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, and allegations that it eschewed crucial disciplinary norms. Some of Goffman’s supporters maintained that her six-year embed with inner-city Philadelphia youths pushed ethnography forward in important ways. But others questioned her unusual methods -- including the destruction of records she said could one day compromise her subjects, to whom she was unusually close.
Worse, others questioned the veracity of her accounts, including that police officers made arrests in some cases by identifying visitors to a hospital.
The University of Wisconsin at Madison, where Goffman is an assistant professor, in 2015 affirmed its support for her, saying that it had “carefully considered the misconduct claims and found them to be without merit.” That didn’t end the controversy, however. Indeed, it’s followed Goffman to the next stop in her academic career: Pomona College.
Goffman continues to work toward tenure at Madison but has accepted a visiting professorship at Pomona as she finishes a new book. As it stands, she’s slated to be there for two years starting in July, teaching qualitative research methods and an elective. (Note: This sentence has been updated from a previous version to show that Goffman will teach qualitative methods.) But more than 100 self-described “students, alumni and allies” say she’s not welcome at Pomona, citing familiar concerns about academic integrity and less commonly cited ones related to "positionality."
Positionality in sociology refers to where one is situated within the social structure being studied, often with regard to gender, class or race. So to sum up the latter set of concerns at Pomona, in telling the story of a poor, predominantly black community, and focusing on its criminal elements in On the Run, Goffman paid insufficient attention to the fact that she herself is white and well educated, from a family of prominent academics.
Those concerns are not new. Victor Rios, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, for example, has described Goffman as guilty of employing the “Jungle Book trope,” in which an outsider enters the jungle and lives to tell the tale. Christina Sharpe, an associate professor of English at Tufts University, wrote in The New Inquiry in 2014, “In the neoliberal ‘engaged’ university, On the Run is sure to be a primer for how to do immersive ‘urban’ ethnography. And so continues, into the next generation, within and outside of the university, what Sylvia Wynter has called our black narratively condemned status.” (In fairness, such critiques tend to reserve as much disapproval for Goffman’s enamored, largely white audiences as they do for Goffman herself.)
Students Seek Revocation of Goffman's Offer
A letter from Goffman’s critics at Pomona to their administration attempts to explain what it means when a body of such criticism exists and a professor is hired anyway. As background, it notes that Pomona recently committed to making attention to student diversity and inclusion tenure requirements, and that the college has no female sociology professors of color.
“Goffman’s hire proves the college's failure to wholeheartedly address underrepresentation of faculty of color and Pomona’s institutional inadequacy to recognize and advocate for the best interests of students of color,” the letter reads. The “national controversy around Goffman's academic integrity, dubious reputation, her hypercriminalization of black men, and hypersexualization of black women does not embrace and align with our shared community values.”
Demanding the revocation of Goffman’s offer, the letter goes on to say that hiring white faculty members “who engage in voyeuristic, unethical research and who are not mindful of their positionality as outsiders to the communities they study reinforces harmful narratives about people of color.” If “no action is taken, the sociology department will knowingly provide Goffman with a platform to promote harmful research methods” in her courses.
Goffman’s appointment to the McConnell Visiting Professor Chair, in particular, which was established to “improve the tolerance and sympathy of individuals for each other and their understanding of their respective motivations,” the letter continues, does “not enhance a culture of inquiry and understanding on campus as we navigate a tumultuous time in our nation’s history.” Rather, it “boasts the framework that white women can theorize about and profit from black lives while giving no room for black academics to claim scholarship regarding their own lived experiences.”
In addition to killing Goffman’s offer, the group in its letter demands a meeting with the faculty hiring committee, the dean of faculty and President David W. Oxtoby by Wednesday to discuss “greater transparency in the process of hiring sociology faculty as well as the future direction of the sociology department as a whole.” It also seeks a formal letter from the faculty hiring committee by May 1 explaining why it originally hired Goffman, the alleged lack of “representative student involvement” in the decision, and future plans for transparency in hiring.
The letter concludes by saying that Pomona supports diversity in theory but not in practice, and that students need “authentic mentors.” It asserts that the two other candidates for the visiting position were women of color who study structural inequality, and that Goffman’s hire over them will chill people of color’s involvement in the sociology department “for years to come.”
Threatening unspecified “direct action” if no response is received by Tuesday evening, the 128 signatories say their names have been redacted for “individual safety in recognition of the violence inflicted on communities of color by various publications,” including a conservative student newspaper that covers Pomona and other Claremont colleges.
Pomona’s chair of sociology did not respond to request for comment Monday. But Audrey Bilger, vice president for academic affairs and dean, said in an emailed statement that Pomona follows “a rigorous process when hiring faculty,” including “a range of activities, from a public presentation to faculty and students to meeting with our faculty diversity officer.” Saying that Goffman also met with students over lunch, Bilger said the college is “pleased that this process resulted in an offer and an acceptance, and we look forward to her joining our very active, vibrant academic community in the fall as a visiting professor.”
Mixed Reactions From Outside Pomona
Goffman did not respond to a request for comment. Her Wisconsin colleague Eric Grodsky, associate professor of sociology and educational policy studies, said he thinks “highly” of her.
Asked about second chances for promising scholars accused of mistakes early in their careers, Grodsky said that as a general principle, “it really depends on the nature of the mistake.” And in Goffman’s case, he said, “it’s not at all clear to me that any mistakes she made should rise to the level of requiring a career-salvaging second chance.”
Philip Cohen, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland at College Park who’s previously criticized aspects of On the Run, noted this week that he saw research value in the project, too.
As to Pomona, Cohen said, “If I were evaluating her for a position, I would consider the whole story, as well as her current work, and make a judgment. I couldn't say how that might turn out, but I don't see the case for a lifetime ban from academia.”
While it’s of course reasonable for members of a campus to oppose a hiring decision, he added, a group of anonymous critics derailing a hire based on “this superficial description of her work and its impact would be unfortunate.”
Saida Grundy, an assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at Boston University who once weathered her own controversy over tweets about race, said via email that she’d seen the Pomona letter and thought the students have a point, “particularly about the systemic practices of race and hiring/promotion within our disciplines.”
Beyond hiring, Grundy said sociologists have poignantly critiqued the roles of race and “reflexivity” in sociological methods, and that latter is especially important in ethnography, Goffman’s field.
“Our tradition of trying to hold white sociologists accountable for more than interpreting black life through a white gaze goes back to [W. E. B.] Du Bois calling out his colleagues for ‘car window’ sociology -- the idea of passing through these communities and never getting out of the (train) car to see beyond the two-dimensional observations of black life,” she said.DiversityFacultyEditorial Tags: BooksSociologyDiversity MattersImage Caption: Alice GoffmanIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 1Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, April 25, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
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