Higher Education News

Rhode Island governor proposes two free years of public higher education

Inside HigherEd - 13 hours 43 min ago

Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo plans today to propose that the state offer two tuition-free years for full-time students in public higher education.

Students at the Community College of Rhode Island would pay no tuition while earning an associate degree. For state residents who start at Rhode Island College or the University of Rhode Island, their junior and senior years would be tuition-free. There is no income limit, although the public system in Rhode Island serves many more low-income students than wealthy students.

Those who participate at the Community College of Rhode Island will not also be able to do so at the four-year institutions. Room and board are not covered by the proposal. To qualify for the tuition waiver at the four-year institutions, students must have completed 60 credits of course work by the end of their sophomore year, declared a major and maintained a grade point average of at least 2.0.

The proposal is another sign that the idea of tuition-free public higher education -- presumed by many to be dead after Hillary Clinton pushed the concept and lost the presidential election -- may have more legs in the states than at the federal level. Raimondo's proposal comes two weeks after Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York proposed tuition-free public higher education for those from families with incomes up to $125,000.

Both governors are Democrats. But while Cuomo must deal with powerful Republican legislators in the New York State Senate, Raimondo has a General Assembly with two houses that are overwhelmingly Democratic.

David M. Dooley, president of the University of Rhode Island, said in an interview Sunday that he was "very enthusiastic about the plan" and thought it had good prospects for being enacted into law.

He said that the plan recognizes the importance not just of enrolling in college, but of completing. He said that the requirements for students reflect a reality that "college completion is a partnership between students, faculty members and the institutions." He predicted that the plan would have students thinking: "Wow. If I do these things right, I will get assistance when I need it the most."

Dooley said it was legitimate that some in other states worry whether free tuition will be accompanied by sufficient levels of state appropriations. But he said in Rhode Island, "we have a very strong partnership with executive administration and state Legislature. I'm confident that they will take their responsibilities seriously."

Frank D. Sánchez, the president of Rhode Island College, is among those who were briefed on the plan in advance of its official release, and he called the plan "a great approach."

Many critics of free tuition plans have said that too much of the money ends up going to those who might not need it -- and this was much discussed with regard to the Clinton plan and the Bernie Sanders plan that influenced it. But Sanchez said that his institution -- where well over 40 percent of students are eligible for Pell Grants -- doesn't serve many wealthy students.

Rather, he said, it serves a high percentage of low-income students, many of whom fear borrowing and hold jobs (sometimes at long hours) while enrolled. He said that he viewed the tuition-free junior and senior years of the plan as a powerful incentive to students to stay enrolled. And he said that if students don't have to pay tuition as juniors or seniors, many of them could reduce the hours they work in various jobs.

Sánchez also said that the governor has been pushing hard for increased state support for public higher education, so he does not fear -- as some do in other states -- a free tuition plan in which public higher education lacks enough money.

"This is going to help tremendously," he said. "It is going to strengthen the state."

At Rhode Island College, this year's tuition rate is $8,200 for state residents. At the university, the total is just under $13,000.

Generally, private colleges have opposed plans to make public higher education free. In New York State, many private college leaders are quite critical of Cuomo's plan.

The dynamics could be different in Rhode Island, a state with a small population (one million compared to New York's 8.4 million), such that private colleges aren't as dependent on state residents, as are their counterparts in New York. According to the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island, only 928 of the 6,231 undergraduates who enrolled for the first time in higher education in the state last year matriculated at private colleges.

Daniel P. Egan, president of the association, said in an interview Sunday that his members were concerned about the governor's plan but were also waiting for more details. He said Raimondo has supported scholarship programs that are available to Rhode Island students who attend private colleges, and that he hoped such programs would grow so that the state's residents can consider public or private institutions. "My initial concern is about choice" for those students, he said.

Egan said that he supported the governor's interest "in tackling affordability," but that it should be done in ways that help Rhode Island students at all types of institutions.

Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, has raised questions about the way some states have considered free tuition.

Kelchen said via email that the Rhode Island proposal was "a really interesting plan" and that he was especially "intrigued in that the proposal would cover either the first two years at a community college or the last two years at a public university, but not both. This means students considering a bachelor's degree have to choose between getting some money to help out with community college tuition right away or the chance of getting more money at a public university two years later -- but only if they have already earned 60 credits and declared a major." Kelchen said that there is some evidence that incentives can encourage students to push toward graduation, but that this is easier said than done.

"My guess is that it would induce some more students to reach 60 credits in two years, but maybe not as much as some may expect," he said.

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Feds' data error inflated loan repayment rates on the College Scorecard

Inside HigherEd - 13 hours 43 min ago

The U.S. Department of Education has fixed a mistake in the data for its College Scorecard that substantially inflated loan repayment rates for most colleges.

On the last Friday afternoon of the Obama administration, the department issued a statement describing the "coding error" that led to the undercounting of borrowers who failed to pay down any of their undergraduate student loan balance.

The erroneous repayment rates appeared in the College Scorecard -- a consumer tool the feds released in 2015 in lieu of a failed effort to create a college ratings system -- and in a data attachment to the Financial Aid Shopping sheet.

"After discovering the coding error, the department worked to get accurate, refreshed data out as soon as possible, not waiting until the next annual Scorecard update to do so," wrote Lynn Mahaffie, a veteran department official. "To ensure we’d gotten it right, we added a number of quality assurance activities and reran some of the tests we’d done before, testing the applied software logic and revised rates, and benchmarking the rates against other available data."

Observers gave the department credit for fixing the mistake before the Trump administration takes over, but some said the embarrassing flub shows the difficulty of what the White House has tried to do with accountability through data. The department defended its Scorecard, saying the web tool provides more and better data for students and families than was previously available.

The coding error does not affect any other department-calculated loan repayment rates and should not have an impact on other calculations on the Scorecard.

Higher education advocacy groups and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for the feds to rely more heavily on loan repayment rates than on default rates as a higher education accountability metric. They argue that colleges should be judged on whether students they educate are able to make progress paying down their debt, rather than just tracking percentages of borrowers who default.

The Scorecard's repayment rates, however, offered a distorted picture before the newly made fix. Several experts who crunched the numbers found a roughly 20 percentage point decline in the overall national rate.

"It turns out that the changes in loan repayment rates are very large," Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, wrote on his blog. "Three-year repayment rates fell from 61 percent to 41 percent; five-year repayment rates fell from 61 percent to 47 percent; and seven-year repayment rates fell from 66 percent to 57 percent. These changes were quite similar across sectors."

Also crunching the numbers and finding similarly large corrections were Kim Dancy, a policy analyst with the education policy program at New America, and Ben Barrett, a program associate there.

"The new data reveal that the average institution saw less than half of their former students managing to pay even a dollar toward their principal loan balance three years after leaving school," they wrote in a blog post. "Even more borrowers are not making progress on their loans than previously thought."

The department's error had less of an impact on repayment rates across longer time horizons, Dancy and Barrett said, meaning the corrected rate dropped less for borrowers who entered repayment seven years ago than for those who entered three years ago.

Besides older cohorts of borrowers having more years in the work force to make payments, they wrote that perhaps increasingly popular income-driven repayment plans are allowing newer cohorts to make lower payments on their student debt that don't drive down the principal of loans.

The department said the coding mistake did not substantially affect how colleges stack up against one another on repayment rates.

More than 90 percent of institutions on the Scorecard did not move away from their previous repayment-rate standing as being either above or below average, or roughly at the average mark, according to the department.

As Kelchen noted in his blog entry, the department also last week announced that it was expanding publicly available student aid data in an effort to increase transparency. The new access should help researchers spot discrepancies in federal data sets, the department said.

In the meantime, Kelchen said the coding fix makes a big difference in the picture the Scorecard paints about the number of borrowers who are making at least some progress repaying their federal loans.

"This change is likely to get a lot of discussion in coming days," he said, "particularly as the new Congress and the incoming Trump administration get ready to consider potential changes to the federal student loan system."

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Gates Foundation open-access policy goes into effect, joining others

Inside HigherEd - 13 hours 43 min ago

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation now requires all its grant recipients to make their published, peer-reviewed work immediately available to the public, the latest development in a larger push to make research more accessible.

The foundation rolled out the new policy in 2015, but allowed for a two-year transition period during which grant recipients could embargo their work for 12 months. That option went away on Jan. 1 -- from now on, anyone who receives some funding from the foundation must make their research and underlying data available, for example by publishing it in an open-access journal or depositing it in a public repository.

The full impact of the policy has yet to be felt, but Richard Wilder, associate general counsel in the foundation’s global health program, said in an interview that the open-access requirement is changing how the foundation interacts with grant recipients, publishers and others.

“It’s had an impact in the sense that … we’ve had a lot of really good conversations with our grantees and with publishers about access to the results of scientific research,” Wilder said. “The second thing that we’ve learned with respect to the implementation of the policy is that it has had a real effect in terms of opening up opportunities for [open-access] publishing with a number of publishers that historically have not been fully engaged in that sector.”

Grant-making organizations -- both private and government entities -- have over the last decade and a half moved more toward embracing open access. The National Institutes of Health began enforcing its public-access policy in April 2008, requiring grant recipients to submit their research to the digital repository PubMed Central no later than 12 months after publication. In 2013, the Obama administration directed other federal agencies that fund research to make taxpayer-funded studies publicly available as well.

Private foundations -- including those that fund projects other than scholarly research -- have for the most part trended in the same direction. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in 2014 expanded its open licensing policy -- which previously only covered open educational resources grants -- first to also cover grant recipients in its education program, then to all of its programs. The Ford Foundation adopted a similar policy in 2015.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation doesn’t have an explicit open-access or licensing requirement, but it has since 1999 encouraged “proposals and practices that promise to yield products for broad public use.”

Together, those and other initiatives mean the results of billions of dollars of privately and publicly funded projects and research will be made available to anyone. The Gates Foundation alone has funded more than 3,000 projects since the policy went into effect in 2015, according to its grants database.

While some of the organizations allow for exceptions to the rules -- for example, to promote private-sector investments or if there are privacy concerns -- the policy changes are helping change perceptions about research to the point where openness is seen as the default, not an option, Wilder said.

TJ Bliss, a program officer in education for the Hewlett Foundation, said in an interview that transparency is one of the reasons why organizations with vastly different missions are requiring grant recipients to share their work. He pointed to the foundation’s explanation for why it expanded its licensing policy, which argued that transparency simply benefits a greater number of people.

“As a foundation you’re trying to do something good,” Bliss said. “Open licensing can help extend that goodness.”

Wilder said technological advances are also behind the development.

“The technology that’s available today really does facilitate rapid access to information and to data,” Wilder said. “There’s an increasing desire to take more account of that and to use those technologies in order to move the results of scientific research out more broadly and more rapidly.”

The Gates Foundation doesn’t yet have any data on how much it has paid in article processing charges to help its grant recipients publish their work in open-access journals, but Wilder said the foundation intends to track that and other impact metrics -- using the publishing service Chronos, which it launched in June -- and make them public. Chronos aggregates information about scholarly journals to help researchers find journals that are compliant with the policy and submit their work to them.

Some of the other foundations with new policies said they are in a similar position. “We are still in the learning phase as this has [just] been implemented,” a spokesperson for the Ford Foundation said in an email about its open licensing requirement.

Because of its public-access policy, NIH is now able to track the impact of the research it funds. For example, the agency knows that the more than 4.1 million articles in PubMed Central attract 1.4 million users a day, and that those users access an average of 2.8 million papers every weekday. In December, 15.5 million unique IP addresses accessed the NIH papers alone, said Neil Thakur, special assistant to the deputy director for extramural research.

Thakur said that transparency is “fundamental” for research organizations, and added that the public-access policy helps the NIH get the full value of its investments.

“If you’re going to invest in research, you need to make sure that people can read that research,” Thakur said. “We want people to see the papers, use them and apply them. That’s the bottom line.”

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Anthropology groups organize Foucault read-in for Inauguration Day

Inside HigherEd - 13 hours 43 min ago

Many groups of scholars and writers are planning teach-ins or readings for Friday, the day Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated as president of the United States. Others are organizing teach-ins to focus on Trump's policies.

Some anthropologists are taking a different approach. They are planning events that day in which people -- together at locations across the country or virtually connected -- will read and discuss a lecture presented by Michel Foucault, the late philosopher, as part of a series he gave at the Collège de France. The lectures have been published as a book, Society Must Be Defended. The read-in idea is being backed not only by the scholars who have organized the events but by the popular anthropology blog Savage Minds and the journals American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, Cultural Anthropology and Environment and Society.

"This lecture strikes us as very good to think with at this present point: it demands we simultaneously consider the interplay of sovereign power, discipline, biopolitics and concepts of security, and race. In light of the current sociopolitical situation where the reaction to activism against persistent racism has been to more overtly perpetuate racism as political discourse, we need to remember and rethink the role of racism as central to, rather than incidental to, the political and economic activities of the state," wrote the two scholars who organized the effort in a blog post at Savage Minds. The scholars are Paige West, the Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College and Columbia University, and JC Salyer, term professor of practice at Barnard.

In their blog post, they note that many scholars have, since the election, suggested that it's time for intellectuals to change the way they act and engage with the public. The idea, which West and Salyer reject, "is that scholars need to somehow change what they are doing, and how they are doing it, in order to face this seemingly new political reality in the Unites States.

"While the latter part of this argument has been addressed by numerous scholars and activists who write and think about race, class, sexuality and inequality more generally -- with clear and compelling arguments about how this is not a 'new' political reality for many but rather a kind of contemporary culmination and re-entrenchment of the structures of power and oppression that underpin the entirety of the national political project -- the former part of the argument has been allowed to stand with little critique. Do we need to change what we do and not just how we do it? Not necessarily."

They elaborate: "We worry that by focusing on needing to change what we are doing and how we are doing it we lose sight of what we already do really well. We work to understand the world through research, teaching, writing and reading. Along with this, we produce knowledge that allows others to understand the world and to work to change it." Scholars engage in reading (and talking about what they read) all the time, and so that is a good way to respond to the Trump inaugural, they said.

They proposed -- and many other anthropologists are joining in -- readings of the 11th lecture in the Foucault book. PDFs of the chapter are available here.

Via email, West and Salyer said that in the days since they made their proposal, read-ins have been planned at four universities, while many others are planning to read the chapter individually and to discuss it online.

Asked about this particular lecture, they said, "We picked this reading because it has a real breadth of ideas that can be used to analyze inequality and violence in the modern nation-state. While it is certainly not the only, or even [the] best, reading that could be used to do this, it presents a lot of ideas that still seem very original, and even provocative, over 40 years later. If we had to pick one quote that challenges us to think about how we conceptualize the relationship of the modern state to people and populations it might be where Foucault is working out the paradoxical nature of the regime of biopower, which kills, or lets die, to improve life and concludes that it is through the dividing practice of racism that the state attempts to square the circle: 'I am certainly not saying that racism was invented at this time. It had already been in existence for a very long time. But I think it functioned elsewhere. It is indeed the emergence of this biopower that inscribes it in the mechanisms of the state. It is at this moment that racism is inscribed as the basic mechanism of power, as it is exercised in modern states.'"

Asked if they had any fears that supporters of Trump would mock their activity, they said, "No, of course not."

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Education Department announces thousands of new loan discharges

Inside HigherEd - 13 hours 43 min ago

The U.S. Department of Education on Friday announced thousands of new loan discharges for students who attended several closed for-profit colleges.

The discharges are part of a major push to provide loan relief to students that began with the closure of Corinthian Colleges two years ago. Friday's announcement affects students who attended Corinthian, as well as ITT Technical Institute and American Career Institute (ACI).

Out of about 4,500 students who attended ACI, 650 will receive closed-school discharges. The rest will receive a borrower-defense discharge, which requires a finding of fraud or misrepresentation. Friday's announcement marks the first time the department has granted automatic loan relief to all students of a college without requiring individual applications.

The for-profit closed in January 2013 and later that year was the target of a complaint by the Massachusetts attorney general's office for a range of deceptive practices. The defunct college in June admitted to defrauding students.

Efforts to process the claims of Corinthian and ITT students had been well underway for months. The department announced Friday that it has approved more than 28,000 borrower-defense claims from former students of Corinthian Colleges -- almost double the most recent number released in an October report from the Federal Student Aid enforcement office.

About 6,300 closed-school discharge claims from former students of ITT have also received approval from the department. The for-profit chain announced in September that its campuses would close their doors, leading to a flood of new discharge applications. The department began an outreach campaign last fall to inform ITT students about their options to receive relief in the wake of the closures. Most students pursued the closed-school discharge, which is easier to obtain because it does not require a finding of fraud. About 14,200 students have pursued that option to wipe out federal loans they used to attend ITT campuses. Another 2,500 submitted borrower-defense claims to the department.

Activists and borrowers have stepped up pressure on the administration in recent weeks to provide loan relief to student borrowers affected by fraud and misrepresentation in the for-profit sector, warning it may not be a priority under the incoming Trump administration. The Education Department in October released the final version of ambitious new borrower-defense regulations it wrote to make clear the process to have loan debt discharged for students who are victims of fraud or misrepresentation. But congressional Republicans have said the rule will be among a number of Obama-era regulations targeted for rollback or repeal.

In a statement released as part of the announcement, Ted Mitchell, the U.S. under secretary of Education, said the Massachusetts attorney general's office played a crucial role in uncovering misleading and deceptive practices at ACI, which operated eight campuses in Massachusetts and Maryland.

"We've taken important steps to provide borrowers the relief they deserve. This is real progress. And more work remains to ensure that relief continues for borrowers who are deceived by institutions that engage in fraud," Mitchell said.

The loan discharges provided to former ACI students total about $30 million, while the Corinthian claims add up to $558 million. The total value of closed-school discharges granted to former ITT students so far is $97 million.

Lawmakers have called on the department to provide relief to other failed for-profit schools as well, including Globe University, the Minnesota School of Business and the Westwood College chain. The department said in its announcement Friday that it is continuing to contact student loan borrowers who may be eligible for discharge through various platforms, including social media, phone calls, email and partnerships with state attorney generals' offices.

Pauline Abernathy, vice president of the Institute for College Access and Success, praised the work of Maura Healey, Massachusetts' attorney general, in revealing illegal practices at ACI.

"Today's announcement will change the lives of thousands of people, including veterans, who sought the training they needed in today's economy, only to be swindled by unscrupulous schools at their and taxpayers' expense," she said in a written statement.

But Luke Herrine, legal director at the Debt Collective, said the announcement raised questions about why the department has not granted automatic discharge to students of Corinthian and ITT.

After Senator Elizabeth Warren in September took the Department of Education to task in a letter for slow progress in providing relief to Corinthian students, Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said there had been findings of fraud at some Corinthian campuses and not others. The department's position is that students must attest to being defrauded by an institution in order to receive relief, he said at the time.

The announcement Friday noted that the department has approved two new types of borrower claims for students who were misled about transferability of credits and for those who received false guarantees from Corinthian about employment for graduates. Herrine said students who received notification of loan discharge were "ecstatic." But for others, the announcement provides little additional clarification of the circumstances under which they would have loans forgiven.

"There’s just no coherent logic whatsoever," he said. "The only thing I can think of is it would be deeply embarrassing for them to stop collecting on so much debt."

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Legislation in two states seeks to eliminate tenure in public higher education

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 01/13/2017 - 08:00

Lawmakers in two states this week introduced legislation that would eliminate tenure for public college and university professors. A bill in Missouri would end tenure for all new faculty hires starting in 2018 and require more student access to information about the job market for majors. Legislation in Iowa would end tenure even for those who already have it.

The bills, along with the recent gutting of tenure in Wisconsin and other events, have some worrying about a trend.

“These are serious attempts to undermine universities and the role of universities in society,” said Hans-Joerg Tiede, senior program officer for academic freedom, tenure and shared governance at the American Association of University Professors. “If they’re not directly coordinated, there’s a strong current going through all of them.”

Two anti-tenure bills the same day prolly not a coincidence. Academic freedom in public institutions under assault this legislative session

— Don Moynihan (@donmoyn) January 12, 2017

"Following in the footsteps of Scott Walker’s Wisconsin," Midwestern legislators "take aim" at #tenure: https://t.co/DufKzsd9Ox

— Kris Olds (@GlobalHigherEd) January 12, 2017

Bill introduced in Iowa legislature to abolish tenure. The purges are about to begin. https://t.co/oZ6cberDlk

— Paul Gowder (@PaulGowder) January 11, 2017

No New Tenure in Missouri

“If you’re doing the right thing as a professor and teaching students to the best of your ability, why do you need tenure?” asked Representative Rick Brattin, a Missouri Republican who wrote HB 266. The bill says that “no public institution of higher education in this state shall award tenure” to anyone hired after 2017. It also would require colleges and universities to post on their websites or in course catalogs information about degree programs including “the current job market for people who have earned the degree” and employment data for the most recent graduating class.

“What other job in the U.S. has protections like that?” Brattin said of tenure. “If you looked around, you’d come up short.”

Asked about academic freedom and protection for researchers engaged in a variety of controversial fields, Brattin said that universities would be “ludicrous to get rid of” someone working at the “cutting edge” of a discipline. Yet too often, he said, tenure is used to protect those professors who have “lost their edge.” He said he wasn’t sure what, if anything, should replace tenure, such as rolling or long-term contracts.

Brattin cited the case of Melissa Click, a former assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Missouri at Columbia who asked for "muscle" to remove a student journalist from a campus protest in 2015, as an example of how difficult it is to fire professors accused of acting unprofessionally. Reminded that Click did not have tenure and was eventually terminated, he said, “Anyone else in any other sort of setting would have not been at work the next day. But in the academic world, you can get away with literally anything and taxpayers are paying their salaries -- not to mention students being burdened with millions and millions and millions of dollars of debt.”

A spokesperson for the University of Missouri System declined comment on the bill, citing a custom of not discussing pending legislation. But professors across fields were quick to criticize Brattin’s tenure proposal.

Ben Trachtenberg, an associate professor of law at Mizzou and chair of the campus Faculty Council, said he understood that the Legislature has an interest in higher education, and that he and other faculty members would be happy to talk about how its various workings, including tenure, might be improved. “But this particular bill would not be a good idea for a couple reasons,” he added. “Tenure is important in its own right, in that it helps protect academic freedom, helps encourage cutting-edge research and helps faculty engage in shared governance, which is important to the long-term success of the institution.”

If that isn’t convincing, Trachtenberg said, ending tenure for new hires would put the university at a grave competitive disadvantage in recruiting top faculty candidates. “I think an economist would suggest that if there are two jobs that pay the same, and one has much more job security, that’s the one that’s going to be more exciting to prospective employees." He noted that even anti-tenure economist Steve Levitt, William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, has said he’d give up his own tenure -- in exchange for $15,000 extra in salary.

J. Chris Pires, a professor of biological sciences at the Columbia campus who opposes the bill, also said that even research institutions with five-year rolling contracts instead of tenure offer appointees higher pay. “If [Mizzou or any university] wanted to get rid of tenure but remain competitive to recruit faculty, then they would have to substantially increase salaries,” he said, doubting that was a “realistic plan” for most states.

In a letter to Missouri legislators, Mannie Liscum, another professor of biology, cautioned them against acting as their counterparts in Wisconsin had. “Doing away with tenure and cutting state support is a job killer in higher education,” he said. “Killing higher education is shortsighted for a state, because our innovation declines, our ability to compete declines and our respect declines.”

Ending Tenure in Iowa

Opposition to Senate File 41 in Iowa, proposed by State Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican, has been louder still -- even coming from the state’s Board of Regents.

“We recognize the concern about merit-based evaluations addressed in the bill, however, the [board] understands the role of tenure,” Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter said in a public statement. “We oppose this bill, and I look forward to meeting with Senator Zaun to hear his thoughts.”

Zaun did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but his bill is even more far-reaching in terms of tenure than Brattin’s in Missouri. It would prohibit at all public institutions of higher learning the “establishment or continuation” of a tenure system -- so even those that already have it would lose it. Acceptable grounds for termination for faculty members include but wouldn’t be limited to just cause, program discontinuance and financial exigency. All institutions would adopt written statements “enumerating” employee agreements and annual performance evaluations, along with minimum standards of good practice and review and disciplinary procedures.

Under the bill, the dean of a college would have the authority to “employ faculty as necessary to carry out the academic duties and responsibilities of the college.”

Joe Gorton, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Northern Iowa, said he thought arguments in favor of either bill betrayed a serious ignorance about how academe works.

“This is a terribly dangerous idea,” he said of eliminating tenure. “Tenure doesn’t prevent termination for just cause, but it prevents the discipline or termination of a faculty member who teaches or conducts research in areas that are controversial or politically unpopular.”

Regarding comparisons to other kinds of employees, Gorton said that academics already endure an unusual amount of scrutiny in the lead-up to tenure, and regularly thereafter. But the reality is that their work is different from that of other public employees, and they deserve unusual protections. “We’re not delivering the mail here.”

Gorton added, “What people fail to understand is that tenure is one of the important fortifications of American democracy, in that in the areas of arts and sciences and literature, universities are a bastion for intellectual freedom. … When tenure ends, the politically powerful or economic elite can control what goes on in universities.”

It's unclear what kind of support exists for Zaun's proposal. He's introduced it before, to see it go nowhere. But his party now controls the Iowa Senate.

Broader Concerns

Tiede said he wasn't surprised that the new bills came from states in which the AAUP has recently investigated public institutions for violations of academic freedom or the norms of shared governance. (AAUP's investigation of Mizzou related to the Click case also found that legislators pressured the university to move against her.) Beyond tenure, he said he was concerned by developments in other states, such as legislators’ recent threats to link funding for the University of Wisconsin at Madison to the discontinuation of a course on whiteness. A proposed bill in Arizona also seeks to prohibit courses at state colleges or universities that “promote division, resentment or social justice toward a race, gender, religion or political affiliation, social class or other class of people,” among other criteria.

Tiede said he didn’t expect that the picture would brighten under the incoming administration.

“This looks like the perfect storm of government and legislative attacks on higher education.”

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Thurgood Marshall College Fund defends accepting Koch money

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 01/13/2017 - 08:00

Is billionaire libertarian investor Charles Koch using money with strings attached to co-opt the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a supporter of historically black colleges and universities? Or are the two parties strange bedfellows united by a surprisingly common purpose?

Those questions were debated Thursday after the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a national group supporting public and private HBCUs, announced a $25.6 million gift from the Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries. The fund is using the money, which will be disbursed over five years, to launch a new Center for Advancing Opportunity that will focus on education, criminal justice, entrepreneurship and other issues affecting what it calls fragile communities. The center will create think tanks on HBCU campuses, establish scholarships, set up graduate fellowships and make grants to faculty members.

The debate over the donation will likely continue, considering Koch, his business and his family have been vilified by the left as far-right forces seeking to influence American democracy through questionable means, including controlled philanthropy. But the two sides involved argue the donation does not arrive with onerous restrictions, stems from a common purpose and has the potential to fund groundbreaking research while having a drastic impact on HBCUs.

“Listen, I’m a healthy skeptic,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. “I couldn’t believe it -- let me be honest -- when the Koch Foundation said to us, ‘Listen, this is yours.’”

The donation’s roots run back two years, according to Taylor. He was in the shower when he heard a television interview in which Charles Koch was discussing criminal justice practices and opportunity. Taylor wrote to Koch, and discussions progressed from there.

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund was already looking into criminal justice, education and opportunity, Taylor said. Meanwhile, Koch has been involved in many of the same issues. The Charles Koch Foundation funded a newly released Vera Institute of Justice report on the cost of policing and the judicial system in New Orleans.

“Believe it or not, we designed this concept before we actually went directly to Koch -- we’ve actually pitched some version of this concept to a number of funders,” Taylor said. “The Koch Foundation wasn’t on the top of my list of funders.”

What the foundation has done vaults it toward the top of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s list of supporters, however. The fund made headlines in 2015 when Apple announced it was dedicating more than $40 million to it for student and faculty initiatives. But the Apple money comes in over 10 years, Taylor said. The Koch donation is $25.6 million over five years, resulting in the fund’s largest gift, measuring on an annual basis.

The concept for the efforts the Koch gift will fund is in place, but many of the details have yet to be established. Broadly, the $25.6 million will go toward original research, creating three campus research centers and funding research efforts. It will also go toward scholarships and fellowships for students in education, sociology, economics and criminal justice. It will also support on-campus programming, funding speakers like educators and entrepreneurs. And it will pay for research and polling, helping Gallup create an opportunity index and survey fragile communities, which are defined as those where residents face barriers to economic advancement and which exhibit high crime rates, low-quality education options and limited mobility.

Fragile communities are not defined by race, Taylor said. But placing the initiative in the hands of HBCUs puts research that is often conducted by Ivy League institutions into new territory.

“It wasn’t intended to be a race-based intervention,” Taylor said. “It was using HBCUs, the very diverse community of HBCUs, to tackle vexing social problems.”

The Center for Advancing Opportunity is being established in Washington, D.C., to act as a coordinating body and grant administrator. Three HBCUs will be selected in the future to host research centers. The number of on-campus research centers could grow if they’re successful. But mechanisms have not been developed for deciding which institutions receive research centers, which professors receive funding or which students receive scholarship money.

Right now, the effort is operating under “broad guidelines,” Taylor said. It will appoint an executive director in the next week or so, convene the presidents of Thurgood Marshall College Fund member institutions and then work to create a more specific structure. Gallup has begun work on a more closely tailored definition of fragile communities that will likely be set in early June so data gathering can begin.

After that, a State of Opportunities Summit will be held in August. A group of scholars -- undergraduate researchers and graduate fellows -- will be chosen for the fall.

The fact that the mechanism for awarding money has not been determined could cause concern. Koch gifts have previously been controversial at non-HBCUs, where some faculty members believe that Koch organizations push for too much control over curricular decisions. Koch also generated controversy in 2014 for a $25 million gift to the United Negro College Fund, in part because an agreement between the two parties specified that Koch representatives would hold two seats on an advisory board for scholarships. Some questioned whether that gave Koch the potential to direct the funds. The donation prompted the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to end an internship and grant program with the UNCF.

Recently, the UNCF/Koch Scholars program reported receiving more than 3,000 applications since its inception. The program makes awards of up to $20,000 over four years to African-American students interested in entrepreneurship and economics. It has supported 176 students with just over $1 million in scholarships.

The new donor agreement between the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and Koch will not be available because the fund keeps all donor agreements private, Taylor said Thursday. But he said no explicit evaluation metrics are built into the donor agreement.

That didn’t satisfy concerns from one of the critics of the Koch’s donation to the United Negro College Fund. Marybeth Gasman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, wrote in 2014 that the United Negro College Fund should give the money back.

She outlined a similar argument in an email Thursday, saying that she appreciates the Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s thoughtfulness around the issues involved and that it is better that the donor have no official involvement in day-to-day decision making. She also called the idea for the Center for Advancing Opportunity “fresh and needed.”

But Gasman continued to find issue with the source of funding.

“I continue to question the ethics of taking money from the Koch brothers/philanthropies given their systematic and long-term disenfranchisement of minorities, including African-Americans,” she said. “It’s important to look at their history of pollution in minority communities, their busting of unions that support minorities, their disenfranchisement of minority voters and their support of ultraconservative candidates and organizations that support the defunding of programs and policies that support African-Americans.”

Gasman wondered whether the donation could come with unspoken expectations.

“It is important in terms of money -- HBCUs need donations -- but what are the long-term ramifications of the gift?” she said. “Do the Koch brothers inadvertently shape the research? Do HBCUs feel pressured to conform to the whims of the Koch brothers in terms of the research products? Regardless of having an official role, funders always have influence, and the Koch brothers are deeply powerful.”

Some users on social media voiced their concerns as well. Others took a more nuanced view or voiced support for the donation.

Thurgood Marshall would be rolling over in his grave if he knew college fund named after him teamed up w/ The Kochs https://t.co/FpWIXCaAZP

— Mike Elk (@MikeElk) January 12, 2017

@washingtonpost Be very wary of this. They funded the Tea Party and voter suppression.

— Rosamond Bovey (@Francophile_66) January 12, 2017

Can't think of a good reason why underfunded/resourced black colleges shouldn't accept $50 million in donations from the Koch brothers.

— Keith White (@keethers) January 12, 2017

John Hardin, the director of university relations for the Charles Koch Foundation, tried to alleviate concerns. He asked critics to look at the foundation’s record, which he characterized as supporting opportunities for students and citizens. The foundation does not presume to have the answers to the issues the new effort will address, he said.

“How do they organize it?” Hardin said. “All of that, that’s TMCF’s responsibility. We’re just excited to provide the money so that it can happen.”

The foundation could be interested in providing funding beyond five years, Hardin added.

“These are really difficult, entrenched problems that these university centers, that these scholars and students are going to be tackling,” Hardin said. “This is going to take a lot longer than five years, and we know that, and we hope that this is a very long partnership.”

Taylor, meanwhile, said civil unrest breaking out in recent years in U.S. cities from Ferguson, Mo., to Baltimore adds urgency to the Center for Advancing Opportunity’s work. Maybe bridging traditional gaps can shatter the existing paradigm, advance research and find a new set of solutions for communities that have been left out or left behind.

“While I understand the conventional wisdom is, ‘These people don’t talk to these people,’ this is not working,” he said. “The definition of lunacy is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.”

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Study of online ratings of professors suggest scores vary with instructor's gender and perceived rigor

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 01/13/2017 - 08:00

Many professors laugh off their reviews at RateMyProfessors -- after all, “hotness,” one of the site’s metrics (connoted by a chili pepper), doesn’t really translate to tenure or promotion. Yet some research suggests that, like it or not, the site’s ratings correlate with ratings professors earn on their institutions’ student evaluations of teaching.

Other research suggests those more formal student evaluations of teaching are unreliable, as well. Yet colleges and universities still use them, often to inform high-stakes personnel decisions.

So a new study of 7.9 million ratings on RateMyProfessors claiming to provide “further insight into student perceptions of academic instruction and possible variables in student evaluations” is at least interesting.

The study, published recently in Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, analyzed correlations between RateMyProfessors ratings for quality of instruction, easiness, physical attractiveness, discipline and gender. The millions of evaluations concerned some 190,000 U.S. professors with at least 20 evaluations each.

Similar to other studies of student evaluations of teaching, gender played a role, putting women at a disadvantage. Discipline also correlated strongly with perceived ease or difficulty.

Male instructors had overall teaching scores higher than women across most fields. Women instructors did not have higher scores in any discipline, though a few fields, including chemistry, showed no statistical difference. (For gender, the study only considered professors whose names were strongly associated with a particular gender and whom students did not consider "hot." Read on to see why.)

Source: Andrew S. Rosen

Students also tended to rate professors significantly better teachers if they perceived the courses to be easy. Professors in the sciences, technology, engineering and math fields had lower scores as a whole than those in the humanities and arts.

And, sigh, professors rated as attractive also had higher overall teaching scores. That's why the study excluded "hot" professors from its gender analysis.

The study’s author, Andrew S. Rosen, a Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering at Northwestern University with an interest in computation, said that “even if critics shrug at data from [RateMyProfessors], the biases present on the site are of particular importance,” as they imply that potentially invalid metrics exist in institutional evaluations, too.

Calling student evaluations of teaching something of a “touchy subject,” Rosen said that even if some consider them to be unreliable, “they still have significant importance in both the course selection process for students and the academic promotion process.”

He added, “I don't anticipate this will change any time soon, so studies like this can highlight ways institutional [student evaluations of teaching] can be more critically and accurately evaluated.”


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Colleges struggle to provide ongoing treatment as demands for mental health services increases

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 01/13/2017 - 08:00

National and campus awareness campaigns about mental health have led to increasing numbers of students who seek help at college counseling centers, according to a new report released by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health. That increase in demand, however, may be leading counseling centers to redirect their limited funding away from ongoing treatment in order to more rapidly address the needs of a growing number of at-risk students.

Over the last six years, counseling centers have provided 28 percent more “rapid-access” service hours per student, the center found, and devoted 7.6 percent fewer hours to routine services like ongoing counseling.

“One possible interpretation of this is that counseling centers are shifting resources from routine, traditional forms of treatment toward rapid-access, emergency room-like services,” Ben Locke, senior director of counseling services at Pennsylvania State University and a lead researcher behind the report, said. “Because most counseling centers have relatively flat funding, this comes at a cost, and the cost appears to be the amount of resources committed to ongoing treatment. Of course the concern there is that treatment helps students recover, and if treatment is not provided, then the student’s problems might get worse.”

The center’s sixth annual report includes data from nearly 140 institutions and 150,483 students. The data is not based on a survey, but on information collected during more than a million clinical appointments on college campuses in the 2015-16 academic year. This year’s report included a supplemental survey with counseling centers, which identified the shift in rapid-access service hours. The center is housed within Pennsylvania State University’s student affairs office.

As in previous years, the latest version of the report identified increasing demand for counseling services on college campuses. Since 2010, the average level of counseling center use grew by 30 percent, while average institutional enrollment only increased by 5 percent. During that same time frame, the percentage of students attending counseling who sought help for mental health concerns has increased by five percentage points, to 50 percent. For the sixth year in a row, the report found, prevalence rates of “threat-to-self” characteristics increased.

The mental and emotional health of students has been of increasing concern to colleges in recent years, even as many institutions struggle to find the resources to better address those concerns. Access to services remains a serious worry of many counseling center directors, according to a survey released last year by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors. Many directors in the survey noted that a shortage of counselors means they must use triage systems and put some students on waiting lists before they can receive treatment.

At colleges with enrollments of 1,501 to 2,500 students, directors reported an average of eight weeks per year in which waiting lists were used. At colleges with enrollments of 25,001 to 30,000, waiting lists were used an average of 23 weeks a year. At colleges with enrollments greater than 15,000, the average number of students on waiting lists exceeded 50, and the average was as high as 70 for institutions with enrollments of 30,001 to 35,000.

At the same time, more than half of college students say they have experienced “overwhelming anxiety” in the last year, according to the American College Health Association, and 32 percent say they have felt so depressed “that it was difficult to function.” Nearly 10 percent of incoming freshmen who responded to the 2015 American Freshman Survey reported that they “frequently felt depressed.” It was the highest percentage of students reporting feeling that level of depression since 1988, and 3.4 percentage points higher than in 2009, when the survey found the rate of frequently depressed freshmen to be at its lowest.

Despite the new CCMH report finding similarly increasing demands, lifetime prevalence rates for prior mental health treatment remained stable across the previous six years. One in two students who sought treatment had sought prior counseling; one in three had taken prior medications; and one in 10 had been hospitalized. There has been little variation among those categories since 2011. This indicates, according to the report’s authors, that students referred for counseling do not have increasing rates of pre-existing mental health concerns.

“This means students aren’t necessarily getting sicker, but more are seeking help,” Locke said. “It’s likely that the many national prevention and awareness efforts over the past decade have led to more students seeking mental health services.”

The Jed Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to prevent suicide among college students, has created several such awareness campaigns in recent years. The foundation’s medical director, Victor Schwartz, said he found the new report to be largely heartening.

“Groups like ours have been working to raise awareness and lower barriers for students seeking help, and it looks like our efforts are having some impact,” Schwartz said. “In our work with schools, we are also trying to push to shorter wait times. My feeling has long been that if a 19-year-old kid is asking for help, you want to respond as quickly as possible. Schools are doing more walk-in hours, phone triage and other things to streamline the intake and get kids in need seen fast. Of course, whenever you add resources somewhere, there’s a chance you will have to economize in other areas.”

It’s possible, Schwartz said, that “as schools shift to getting kids in more quickly, they are doing a better job deciding who needs to be referred for longer-term care.”

In the past year, several colleges have tried widening access to mental health services for students in distress. Those efforts have largely focused on expanding the hours and locations at which counselors can be sought out, especially for students facing an immediate metal health crisis, such as feeling suicidal.

Last spring, the University of Iowa announced that it would hire eight new counselors to meet rising demand for more mental health services among its students. Rather than setting up new offices in the university’s counseling center, however, some of the new counselors are being embedded in various buildings around campus. And in April, Penn State’s senior class raised money to create an endowment that would embed a counselor in a residence hall.

After complaints from students last year, Skidmore College in New York hired an additional counselor and contracted with an outside firm to offer a 24-hour telephone hotline. Earlier in the year, following the suicide of a New Jersey woman who attended the University of Pennsylvania, the New Jersey State Senate passed a new law requiring that mental health professionals be available around the clock to assist the state’s college students. Last January, Willamette University in Oregon partnered with ProtoCall, a 24-hour mental health hotline, to provide around-the-clock support to students. Amherst College launched a similar hotline about a year ago.

“The intended outcome of suicide prevention efforts is to identify those in need and get them into counseling quickly,” Locke said. “But, as institutions of higher education, we need to make sure that we are not overprioritizing instant response in comparison to adequate treatment. We need to balance both.”

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 01/13/2017 - 08:00
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City College of San Francisco may be turning corner on financial management

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 01/12/2017 - 08:00

It’s been a rocky few years for City College of San Francisco.

But while uncertainty surrounding the two-year institution’s accreditation status casts a long shadow, there’s some optimism from officials across the state that despite financial issues and decreasing enrollment, things are beginning to look up.

“We have been working hard in the last two years, not just on the accreditation issues, but the college at large,” Susan Lamb, the college’s interim chancellor, said in an interview. “We are a different college from where we were two or four years ago … part of the reason we feel confident about having a successful accreditation is we’re a different college right now.”

Most recently CCSF has faced a series of academic and program cuts proposed by the administration and a loss in state funding. But City College has been working both to improve its internal operations and to strengthen partnerships in the community, Lamb said.

Unlike in past years, City College has focused on creating STEM-related internships with the business community, working with the city government and local high schools, and seeking to become more efficient and accountable in an effort to drive up enrollments and rebuild its budget for the future.

Those changes come at an important time, because City College is facing a $35 million drop in funding from the state and more recently agreed to repay California's government about $40 million over 10 years for failing to meet state reporting requirements about students who had received supplemental online education. An internal audit found that in face-to-face classes that offered a supplemental distance education lab, City College failed to keep the right records for about 16,000 students who were taught between 2011 and 2014.

“It was a very small subset of classes, and we did self-report them and immediately stopped those supplemental labs in that way,” Lamb said.

Student records are among a number of internal operations the large two-year college has been working to improve, which has some state officials and other observers saying they are optimistic that CCSF is heading in the right direction.

“It seems in that context the school is already making changes,” said Phil Hill, an education technology consultant and higher education analyst who is based in California. “The fact that they self-reported the problem and agreed to repay the state during budget cuts, I see as signs that they are already trying to make hard changes, but it doesn’t mean everything is fixed.”

Still looming over the college is the accreditation crisis, which began in 2012 when the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges sanctioned City College for a number of financial and administrative problems. Later this month the commission is scheduled to decide whether the college will retain its accreditation.

Hill said he’s seen recent improvements with City College’s administration. Since the accreditation crisis began, the college has experienced leadership turnover, including two interim chancellors, a permanent chancellor and a special trustee appointed by the state. The college is in the process of starting a search for a full-time chancellor.

“They have challenges with the faculty union and particularly the local group,” he said. “Are [the faculty union] willing to make enough difficult choices to make changes?”

The faculty union has been against a series of recent cuts to academic programming even as enrollment has fallen by more than 33 percent during the last seven years.

The union’s leadership places blame for the enrollment decline squarely on the accreditation crisis. They also are optimistic that once the crisis is over, enrollment can rebound and City College can move forward.

“There’s nothing wrong at City College that the accreditation crisis has not made worse,” said Tim Killikelli, president of the faculty union. “There was this idea that the college wouldn’t exist … what that has done has driven people away from the college, and you can see that in the low enrollment numbers, which in itself creates uncertainty in the college. If the college’s uncertainty would end, a lot of these issues around enrollment, which has to do with budgets, will improve.”

He said whatever financial challenges existed prior to the accreditation crisis didn’t have the same impact on enrollment or budgets as the accreditor’s sanctions.

The faculty union has fought hard to avoid classes being cut in part to drive up enrollment, Killikelli said, so that once the accreditation crisis is over City College will have plenty to offer potential students.

The opportunity to grow City College through a free tuition program offered in a partnership with the city of San Francisco is another reason some officials are optimistic about the institution’s prospects. The city is preparing to pay $9 million for the first year of the plan.

“We’ll get full accreditation, and with the free City College program, we think those will be critical in helping to grow the college,” said Killikelli.

In addition, the administration plans to generate more revenue with a land lease of college property to developers that is expected to bring in more money -- about $400,000 per year -- over a 75-year period to help with deferred maintenance issues. City College is also rebuilding or expanding partnerships with the city to offer police, fire and emergency medical technician training as well as a construction training and employment program, Lamb said. In addition, the college has formalized some rules around its governance structure so people understand their responsibilities better.

Some of the problems City College has worked to fix were ones the accrediting commission identified, said Lamb. Other fixes, however, including some of the improvements to the college’s internal operations and external partnerships, were independent of the ongoing feud with its accreditor.

But the college also must continue to prove to the larger California Community College System that it can fix itself.

“When the news broke about City College, we knew we had to do more to help colleges that are struggling with operations,” said Mario Rodriguez, the system’s vice chancellor for fiscal policy. “So the state gave us more money to develop an institutional effectiveness division for our colleges.”

The institutional effectiveness division provides an early-indicator system that alerts state leaders to problems with the accreditation, fiscal health or student outcomes at any one of its 113 colleges. Now, if those challenges arise, the system can send in teams of other college presidents or chief financial officers from across the state to help the institution, Rodriguez said.

And as far as the state system is concerned, despite the financial issues and the continuing enrollment problems, City College is on the right path.

A report the state’s Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team released last year on City College’s financial issues revealed just that.

“At minimum, it shows us -- our office and the state -- that they’re doing the right thing with their dollars and have the policies to adjust,” Rodriguez said.

For people who work at City College, however, there’s still plenty of wariness.

“Some people are very concerned, even to the point of conspiracy theory, about the class cuts and their effects on enrollment,” said Hal Huntsman, a math professor. “Others feel that we have to innovate and improve our offerings to prevent further cuts.”

In addition to the accreditation issue, because City College hasn’t had a permanent chancellor and administration for quite some time, the politics of that search could change everything, Huntsman said, adding that there’s also a new Board of Trustees and contention between the administration and faculty union.

“If [a new president] leads to a big shake-up, then the college is looking at instability for at least another few years,” he said. “On the ground, people have begun to be numb. There’s only so much worry and anxiety people can take before they begin to focus on the work in front of them and not think about the bigger issues … while there is some optimism, there’s also a lot of heads shaking and hands in the air.”

The college has a pretty good chance of keeping its accreditation, and eventually, arriving at a better place, Huntsman said.

“The focus has been all about accreditation, and that is a primary driver. But when the focus is on that, there’s not always the attention on the larger institution,” Lamb said. “The fact is this college is still serving the community in a variety of ways, and we excel nationally in a lot of ways.”

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Higher ed leaders muted in response to Texas bathroom bill

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 01/12/2017 - 08:00

Texas higher education officials have been mostly silent on a controversial piece of state legislation that would restrict bathroom use by transgender individuals on public campuses, even as the law could override existing policies and conflict with federal guidance.

The Texas legislation, introduced last week as Senate Bill 6, is similar to North Carolina’s widely protested “bathroom bill,” which, after it passed, prompted numerous organizations to pull events -- including academic gatherings and intercollegiate athletic competitions -- from that state. The Texas bill would require state agencies, including higher education agencies, to put policies in place restricting transgender people’s use of multiple-occupancy bathrooms and changing facilities except as consistent with their biological gender assigned at birth.

Use of such bathrooms and locker rooms would be restricted only to those whose sex listed on their birth certificate matched the sign on the bathroom door. Opponents argue that the law is unenforceable, that it feeds stigmatization of transgender individuals and that it could cause problems for those whose physical features and gender identities do not match the words on their birth certificate. The bill’s backers say it is a strike for “common decency” and public safety.

The Texas legislation is one of several such bathroom bills introduced in state legislatures. Legislation creating restrictions to restroom access based on biological sex or sex assigned at birth has been introduced in eight states in 2017, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Yet the Texas bill is drawing more attention than others because it is considered most likely to pass -- Republicans control both houses of the state’s Legislature, and the state’s GOP lieutenant governor has made the bill’s passage a priority, arguing it is not about discrimination.

“The people of Texas elected us to stand up for common decency, common sense and public safety,” Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said in a statement when the bill was filed Jan. 5. “This legislation codifies what has been common practice in Texas and everywhere else forever -- that men and women should use separate, designated bathrooms. It is supported by an overwhelming majority of Texans including both Democrats and Republicans, Hispanics, African-Americans and Anglos, men and women.”

The position of lieutenant governor is more powerful in Texas than in many other states. Texas lieutenant governors are elected separately from governors. They also preside over the Senate, scheduling bills for consideration and appointing committee members and chairs.

The bill also has the potential to affect a notably large number of students in Texas, because the state has one of the biggest public higher education complexes in the country.

Groups are using a two-pronged approach to argue against the legislation and other bills they consider discriminatory: fighting on the basis of morality and of economics. On the economic side, many point to a study commissioned by the Texas Association of Business that found the state could lose as much as $8.5 billion in gross domestic product and as many as 185,000 jobs if the state passes pieces of legislation deemed discriminatory. On the morality side, they argue the bill is simply wrong.

“I would hope that most people would oppose this proposed legislation because it’s morally wrong,” said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, a group that lobbies the state’s Legislature on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. “For anyone [for whom] that’s not enough, we would suggest they need only look to the economic fallout and damage, as well as the brand damage, that can be caused and has been caused in multiple states that attempted to go down this road.”

Smith thinks the law could cause faculty members and students to leave public institutions in Texas. He added that the state has other legislation that could impact discrimination on campus, such as a proposal that he said would allow student organizations to use personal religious beliefs as a basis for not recognizing nondiscrimination policies on college campuses. The bills won’t be passed without a fight, though -- Smith anticipates opposition to the bathroom bill building and including students and faculty members who would be affected by the law.

“I think most students are still on their winter break or still would be returning,” he said. “I would expect that there will be advocacy and activism at the higher ed level in opposition to this bill.”

Backers say the bill would allow private businesses to set their own bathroom policies and that it contains important exceptions for private entities leasing or renting publicly owned buildings. They also say it contains exceptions for parents and caregivers who need to offer assistance in bathrooms. There are no special protections for higher ed, though -- in fact, it’s specifically called out as an affected state agency.

Texas residents have already started protesting the bill, including through online petitions and student groups. Yet the state’s public higher ed leaders haven’t said much.

Many system representatives declined comment, citing a state prohibition preventing them from lobbying for or against bills. One notable exception came at the campus level. University of Texas at Austin President Gregory L. Fenves is willing to discuss the bathroom bill’s possible affects, he said in a statement. That statement also addressed the argument that the bathroom bill would help prevent sexual assault.

“Preventing sexual assault is something we take very seriously,” Fenves said in the statement. “While we track reports of alleged assaults, to our knowledge we have never received a report corresponding to this being a problem in our bathrooms.

“The University of Texas at Austin is an inclusive campus that promotes equity and supports community members from all backgrounds,” Fenves continued. “Much like the Texas businesses community, UT hosts conferences, classes, sporting events, concerts and public programs throughout the year. We also actively recruit faculty, staff and students from around the state and nation. We are available to speak with lawmakers about the impact new laws could have on those efforts.”

The Texas bill has also captured the attention of organizations outside the state. The American College Personnel Association, which is planning its 2018 convention in Houston, has thrown its weight against the bill. ACPA hasn’t changed those plans yet but is monitoring the situation.

“I am really deeply concerned about transgender folks not feeling safe attending our convention and being in the state of Texas,” said Stephen John Quaye, ACPA’s vice president and an associate professor at the College of Education, Health and Society at Miami University in Ohio. “I worry a lot about the people who live there on a daily basis.”

ACPA moved its Assessment Institute from North Carolina over that state’s bathroom bill. Many others pulled operations out of the state as well, with higher ed-related changes ranging from the National Collegiate Athletic Association moving championship events out of the state to the Business History Conference changing the location of its 2018 meeting from Charlotte.

Higher ed leaders must step up to fight bathroom bills and discriminatory legislation, said Dian Squire, the director of equity and inclusion for ACPA and a visiting assistant professor in the student affairs program at Iowa State University.

“I would just call on higher education organizations and others who are concerned about fairness and justice to make a statement, to contact their local representatives, to contact representatives in Texas, to check on their colleagues and friends and family who live in that area and get a sense of what’s happening there and how it will affect the community,” Squire said.

Still, chancellors at the University of Texas, Texas A&M, the University of North Texas, Texas Tech, Texas State University and the University of Houston system declined interviews or did not provide statements.

Several system spokespeople said they do not comment on pending legislation and cannot lobby for or against bills. They did not have available cost estimates for implementing the bathroom bill or data on how many transgender students could be affected. A spokeswoman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board said the same, adding that the board will comply with bills that become law.

A few systems were willing to identify concerns or share current policies that could be affected, however. University of Texas System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said in an email that the system’s lawyers have identified some concerns with the bill.

“UT System’s Office of General Counsel and Office of Government Relations continue to analyze Senate Bill 6 to determine the impact the bill would have on UT institutions should it become law,” she said. “A chief concern that has been raised is that the bill may conflict with Title VII and Title IX, federal nondiscrimination laws. We will be monitoring closely and sharing information with legislators as appropriate.”

The question of Title IX conflict is particularly cloudy at this point in time. The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education said sex-segregated restrooms and other facilities need to be accessible by transgender students in last year’s Dear Colleague letter outlining Title IX guidance. That set up a still-developing showdown over North Carolina’s bathroom law.

University of North Carolina President Margaret Spellings told campuses to enforce North Carolina’s bathroom law in April. Soon after, the Dear Colleague letter came out, and Spellings made a different pledge. She told a court she would not try to enforce the law as long as a lawsuit over it is pending.

Challenges are still making their way through the courts. Currently, speculation is high that the incoming Trump administration will drop the Title IX transgender guidance. That would mean universities would no longer be able to argue they were caught between federal and state bathroom rules. But President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence have given seemingly conflicting statements over bathroom bills at different times in the past, leaving the future uncertain.

The proposed Texas bill would also conflict with some on-campus policies in the state. University of Texas System campuses have nondiscrimination policies in place that often extend protection to gender identity and expression, LaCoste-Caputo said. Texas Tech University System campuses have a similar policy, Vice Chancellor for Communications and Marketing Brett Ashworth said in an email.

“Texas Tech University System policy is that while sexual orientation and gender identity are not explicitly protected categories under state law, it is the system’s policy not to discriminate in employment, admission or use of programs, activities, facilities or services on these bases,” Ashworth said.

Institutions in states passing bathroom bills are likely to be at the center of battles no matter what the incoming Trump administration does, said Peter Lake, director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University in Gulfport, Fla. Even if the administration were to drop its Title IX guidance and walk away from the North Carolina lawsuit, interest groups would likely step in, he said.

“Most of the positions in Title IX have an oppositional group that will jump in and challenge it,” Lake said. “Taking it to the legal authorities is a way to have combat over the cultural issues that are around Title IX.”

Lake termed the issues raised by Title IX and the bathroom bill multidimensional -- in addition to federal law and guidelines, there can also be issues with state laws. The battle is being fought in the court of public opinion as well, as evidenced by some businesses’ efforts to abandon North Carolina and threats to leave Texas over the bathroom bill.

Texas higher ed leaders are no strangers to the culture wars on campus. An intense fight over a state campus concealed carry law resulted in the state’s attorney general arguing professors who bar guns from classrooms should face discipline.

With legal and political debates raging, Lake wasn’t surprised higher ed leaders are reluctant to comment.

“They’re caught between major political forces combating,” he said. “You don’t want to draw ire or too much attention. We can’t arbitrate the culture wars ourselves. Sometimes by chiming in, it makes it more difficult.”

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Georgia Tech launches second low-cost online master's degree program

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 01/12/2017 - 08:00

The Georgia Institute of Technology will this fall offer an online master’s degree program in analytics for less than $10,000, a new investment in the institute’s model for low-cost, online graduate education.

The interdisciplinary program, called OMS Analytics, follows the blueprint the institute created with its online master’s degree program in computer science, known as OMSCS, which launched in 2014 and has grown to about 4,000 students. Last year, Georgia Tech announced plans to expand the model into new fields.

Since offering the program online greatly increases the number of students Georgia Tech can enroll, the institute will charge students a fraction of the cost of the residential program to study the same curriculum online. The 36-credit-hour program, split into 10 courses and a semester-long analytics capstone project, will cost in- and out-of-state students “less than $10,000,” the institute said. Georgia residents and out-of-state students pay about $36,000 and $49,000, respectively, for the yearlong residential program.

“Analytics is now a subject that touches practically every field and every problem that we face,” said Rafael L. Bras, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Georgia Tech. “We live in an era of data, and the ability to extract data … is where the action is these days.”

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia on Wednesday afternoon approved the discounted price, clearing the way for the program to launch in August.

The announcement is perhaps the clearest indication yet that Georgia Tech views OMSCS as a successful model for delivering graduate education. The program hasn’t lived up to best-case projections -- early on, the institute said it could grow to as many as 10,000 students in its third year -- but it has generated a positive cash flow, positive evaluations and plenty of buzz in higher education circles.

After launching and running OMSCS for three years, the institute is hoping the analytics program will do just as well -- if not better.

“When we went into OMSCS, we didn’t quite get it completely right in terms of the expected population,” Bras said. “Our original targets were wrong. The mix of international and national populations were wrong. … All that has been lessons learned that are really and truly invaluable.”

Applicants to OMSCS were more likely to be men and U.S. citizens than the institute had anticipated. Georgia Tech plans to tweak its communication strategy to target different prospective student populations for the analytics program, Bras said.

The program launched on campus in 2014, and faculty members have been eager to offer the program online due to a crush of applicants looking for an education in a relatively new field, said Joel Sokol, the Fouts Family Associate Professor who serves as the analytics program’s director.

This year, Sokol said, Georgia Tech expects to receive more than 1,000 applications for the residential program, which can only fit about 70 students. That means the institute must turn away about 800 qualified applicants, he said.

“We just can’t take them all,” Sokol said. “The demand is out there. The need is out there.”

Faculty members were “nearly unanimous” in their vote to move ahead with the online program, Sokol said.

The program spans three of Georgia Tech’s six colleges: business, engineering and computing, the latter of which houses OMSCS. Some of the faculty members developing OMS Analytics will therefore bring years of experience gained from building and teaching courses in the online computer science program.

While Georgia Tech worked with the online learning company Udacity for OMSCS, it has chosen to partner with massive open online education provider edX for the analytics program. As a result, it will for $1,500 offer three of the courses in the program as a MicroMasters, an edX credential targeting learners who may be interested in some professional development but not a full degree.

Nelson Baker, dean of professional education, said continuing education is becoming increasingly important for Georgia Tech. Last year, about 20,000 working professionals in nearly 100 countries enrolled in the institute’s courses and programs.

That’s the same demographic Georgia Tech is pursuing for OMS Analytics. Target students are in their 30s or 40s with full-time jobs that prevent them from enrolling in a residential program, Baker said. The institute will also market the program to people who have shown an interest in OMSCS, he added.

Bras said the decision to partner with edX over Udacity was a “complicated” one, but that the institute prefers to “diversify our relationships.” He pointed out that Georgia Tech also works with Coursera, another online learning platform. The institute last year said it would work with edX to offer for-credit courses for undergraduates.

“We do something with each of them now,” Bras said.

Unlike with OMSCS, Georgia Tech does not have one major corporate sponsor lined up to support the program. AT&T subsidized OMSCS with a total of $3.9 million, and Bras said Georgia Tech is looking to raise a sum that is of the “same order of magnitude” from a combination of corporate and individual donors.

Asked about plans for future degree programs following the OMS model, Bras said he believes Georgia Tech should only create online programs in fields where studying on campus will remain an attractive option to certain students, and where the institute can enroll enough students to price the program affordably.

“Not every master’s degree [program] generates that kind of volume,” Bras said. “There has to be a different population out there that hasn’t been tapped.”

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Teaching jobs for historians are down, but data suggest opportunities outside professoriate are on the rise

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 01/12/2017 - 08:00

Available jobs for history Ph.D.s are down, but so is the number of new Ph.D. recipients, suggesting a slight market correction, according to information released Wednesday by the American Historical Association. The growth in job opportunities outside academe suggests that the association's continuing efforts to prepare historians for a diverse range of careers is seeing some success.

“The professorial job market remains flat, but there are new possibilities,” said Jim Grossman, executive director of the AHA. “We’re seeing that things aren’t going to get better in terms of tenure-track faculty jobs, but we’re also seeing that maybe we will be successful at increasing the presence of history Ph.D.s in more diverse sectors of the economy, and within academia itself, as well -- entry-level, administrative-type jobs and other professional jobs in higher ed, but not teaching.”

Since the recession, the number of jobs advertised with the AHA at careers.historians.org has “typically dropped while the applicant pool has grown,” reads AHA’s new report. “But the newest data on the academic job market in history signal a slightly different picture. In 2015-16, the number of ads once more edged down slightly, but the average number of applications for some jobs appeared to shrink as well.”

Last academic year, AHA received 571 job ads for full-time positions, including on and off the tenure track, fellowships, and nonacademic jobs. That amounts to a 2.6 percent drop in available jobs from the previous year, and marks the fourth straight year of decline.

But that dip was matched by a slight, 3.1 percent decrease in the number of new history degrees awarded in 2014-15, according to a new federal tabulation.

Still, the number of new history doctorates was the second largest in 40 years, at 1,145.

The largest number of history Ph.D.s (413) went to North America specialists, as usual, but they continued to make up a smaller share of degrees awarded (from 40 percent several years ago to 36 percent in 2014-15). European history degrees conferred also declined over the same period, from 224 in 2010-11 to 198.

By contrast, Ph.D.s earned by Africa, Asia, Latin America and Middle East specialists also have increased in the last five years. Asian history degrees conferred grew from 68 to 89.

The largest number of job openings was in U.S. history, with 150 of 572 total ads, up from 128 the year prior. European history jobs, meanwhile, fell substantially, from 87 openings in 2014-15 to 66 last year. The number of Asian and Latin American history jobs fell, too, but by a much smaller number.

The number of academic jobs with a primary focus on topical specialty or skills also fell year over year, especially for those in histories of religion and diplomacy -- by 71 percent and 67 percent, respectively. Perhaps surprisingly, ads listing digital history as the primary job requirement also fell 47 percent, from 15 to eight. At the same time, more ads -- 12 percent over all -- mentioned those skills as desirable.

Looking outside the professoriate, job ads in public history and nonteaching positions in academe were up significantly, year over year -- from 14 to 66. That figure rivals the number of academic listings in some subfields, according to the report.

AHA notes that it’s impossible to know how many Ph.D.s who earned their degrees prior to 2015 may have applied to last year’s open jobs from the numbers alone. So to measure competition for positions, it sent a follow-up survey to all 572 of last year’s advertisers, asking for basic information about applicants. Results from 231 respondents suggest “heavy competition,” to the tune of about 82 applicants per position, and 96 applications per tenure-track opening, in particular.

African history tenure-track positions received the smallest number of average applications, at about 60 per opening. That’s compared to 136 for openings in Latin American history or 133 for European history.

“A handful of respondents for the European history positions offered particularly grim assessments of the academic job market, with one noting, ‘Nothing broke my heart more than the initial vetting of application files,’” reads the report. “We received nearly 300 files, and the vast majority were from well-­qualified people. I cannot imagine how disheartening it must be for young scholars vying for a tenure-track position in the present market.”

Curiously, the report says, entry-level job openings focused on U.S. and North American history received a relatively small average number of applications, at 80 per full-time tenure-track opening. That’s a substantial drop from the previous survey, concerning 2010-11 job ads, when there were about 100 applications for every entry-level U.S. history job.

At the same time, the average number of applications for U.S. history specialists in nonteaching positions advertised with AHA had larger pools of candidates, at about 113 candidates each.

Nine percent of the new faculty hires had not yet earned a Ph.D. About 11 percent had earned their degrees more than five years earlier. “This share has been trending upward in the 20 years of advertiser surveys,” reads the report. “Two decades ago, just 5 percent of the new hires at this level were more than five years from their doctorates.”

Taken as a whole, it continues, “the data point to continuing challenges for recent Ph.D.s seeking academic appointments, with dozens of applicants competing for every entry-­level job and unpredictable fluctuations in field-specific openings from year to year. Whether the 2015-16 AHA data herald the beginning of a new trend will only become clear in years to come.”

Grossman remained hopeful that nonteaching job ads would continue to increase, and the AHA is taking pains to both raise awareness among employers of all stripes about the advantages of hiring history Ph.D.s and prepare historians for a variety of jobs. It recently won $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to expand its Career Diversity for Historians initiative beyond four pilot campuses, for example. AHA is also expanding its data-gathering efforts to create a single-online database of career outcomes for all historians awarded Ph.D.s from 2003 to 2014.

“The problem is that right now people have to be extraordinary to blaze these paths for themselves,” he said, noting that similar preparation is needed for jobs both inside and outside academe. “We want to make it a normal set of possibilities.”

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Study analyzes qualities associated with being a top researcher

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 01/12/2017 - 08:00

Want to be a leading scientist? You’ll need perseverance, perfectionism, curiosity and openness to new experiences, according to research.

You will also need to be able to regulate your emotions, have a strong sense of social responsibility and dedicate at least 10 hours a day to your work.

Along with colleagues, Liliana Araújo, a research associate at the Center for Performance Science at the Royal College of Music in London, came to these conclusions by looking at the personal characteristics and psychological skills of some of the most prominent Portuguese scientists.

The researchers asked six top Portuguese scientists about their education, past achievements, current performance, personality characteristics and social networks, among other things. The interviewees highlighted the personality traits of perseverance, adaptive perfectionism, curiosity and openness to experiences as ingredients for achieving excellence, say the investigators in the journal High Ability Studies.

These common personality characteristics “seem to play a role in stimulating the development of a scientific mind and extraordinary cognitive skill,” they write.

The researchers also found that the group had a strong sense of social responsibility and felt a sense of duty to “contribute to a more sensible and knowledgeable society.”

“Many of them mentioned the importance of feeling fulfilled in different areas of their lives and the need to be exposed to a wide range of experiences related, as well as those not related, to scientific research,” they add.

All the interviewees said that it was important to set clear, realistic but ambitious goals day to day. Their desire for perfection prompted the interviewees to set new challenges, which then pushed them and expanded their limits, Araújo and her colleagues say.

The most important motivational force for the scientists was their passion for their work, and the investigators found that this was a key factor in achieving excellence. But successful research and getting recognition from others also helped to drive them.

The top scientists described the stress and anxiety of doing research and talked about the sacrifices they might have to make for their work, but said that these factors were an inherent part of the job. Most of those interviewed reported an emotional intensity in their devotion to work.

“Due to the intensity of emotional experiences, effective emotion regulation and coping strategies were essential,” say the authors. The participants said that having control over how, when and which emotions are felt and expressed enabled them to manage any hurdles and challenges day to day.

The investigators added that the scientists also helped to regulate the emotional state of co-workers, for example when others had a paper or grant application rejected.

Araújo and her colleagues found that the top scientists they interviewed dedicated at least 10 hours a day to their work and described “an intense commitment” to their job. “All participants often worked at home in the evenings and weekends, dedicating many extra hours of their daily schedule,” they add.

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Study explores how universities deploy faculty and link to professors' pay

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 08:00

A common criticism of the faculty reward system is that it tends to value research over teaching. A just-released working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research offers new evidence in support of that contention, suggesting that the number of students a professor teaches has relatively little to do with their compensation.

Disciplines with bigger class sizes do tend to offer better pay. But the highest-paid faculty members within departments tend to teach fewer undergraduates and fewer undergraduate courses than their lower-paid colleagues. The paper also suggests that changes in faculty pay over time have more to do with discipline than number of students taught, and that universities adjust to various cost pressures by increasing class size and other means.

Yet the paper asserts that universities behave “rationally” in making such decisions, and suggests that prizing research output over teaching doesn’t necessarily affect educational quality. Over all, the paper seems to dispute assertions that higher education spending -- at least on instruction -- is wasteful or inefficient.

The paper, by Paul N. Courant, Harold T. Shapiro Collegiate Professor of Public Policy and professor of economics and information at the University of Michigan, and Sarah Turner, university professor of economics, education and public policy at the University of Virginia, is part of a coordinated series of studies (most of which have not yet been formally released) that the economic research bureau is sponsoring focused on the topic of productivity in higher education.

The papers, collectively, aim to bring the emerging techniques of empirical economics to gauging how "productive" colleges and universities are, which the project defines as the benefits the institutions deliver to individuals and society as measured against their total costs. The studies focus, not surprisingly, on economic benefits, which tend to be easier to quantify, even though the researchers acknowledge that many of the full range of benefits higher education produces are harder to measure.

Courant and Turner's primary purpose was to examine the extent to which research universities “deploy” faculty members efficiently for research and instruction.

The authors acknowledge that achieving efficiency in higher education is more complicated than it may be in other kinds of organizations because a chemistry professor can’t simply be moved to, say, a philosophy department if it makes economic sense. And although the production of some degrees surely costs more than others, they say, tuition is not usually dependent on one’s major.

But universities can and do move other resources between departments and schools, and between teaching and research within departments. The authors predict that because “scholarly reputation and output” at research-intensive institutions are shaped by largely by research, highly paid faculty members within a department “do relatively little teaching, on average.” And whatever teaching they do “has relatively high consumption value, either directly or as an input into research.”

That’s indeed what they find in an empirical study of compensation for tenure-track and tenured arts and sciences (not professional) faculty members in 11 disciplines at Michigan and Virginia, which are arguably representative of many other research universities. The Michigan data span from 2002-15, while the Virginia faculty salary data are from the last three years.

The authors’ first set of questions focused on department-level variation in salary and teaching loads over time between academic units. The second part of their analysis examined variations in compensation and teaching within departments.

At both Virginia and Michigan, English had the lowest student course enrollment-to-faculty ratios, at 35.2 and 30.5, respectively. Chemistry and economics, meanwhile, had some of the highest, with student course enrollments four to five times higher than in English. The central finding of the interdepartmental analysis is that overall salary levels are negatively correlated with the cost of providing a course seat across disciplines, meaning that departments that tend to pay professors more have lower per-student costs.

Regarding educational quality, the paper says that compensating for higher salaries “via larger class sizes will vary as a function of the way in which disciplines produce and share knowledge.”

So in the humanities, it’s “often the case that being able to express knowledge is inextricably bound up with the knowledge itself, in which case good pedagogy requires substantial writing (or filming, or podcast creating) with careful evaluating and editing on the part of the instructor.” In contrast, the paper says, more quantitative fields can be taught and assessed “without close interaction among the material, the student and the instructor.”

It notes that it’s possible that increasing class size may come at a cost to quality, but that “the terms of the trade-off may differ greatly by field.”

For their intradepartmental comparisons, the authors performed a regression analysis on only full professors across disciplines, in an attempt to control for various factors, including productivity. They found that an increase of salary in $10,000 per year leads to a reduction in the number of undergraduate courses taught of about 5 percent of a course per year, and a reduction in the number of undergraduate students by about 3.5 per year. In psychology, economics and chemistry, it’s about six fewer students per year. In English and sociology, it’s about 1.5.

“The results suggest that superstars whose salary is $100,000 or more than the mean teach half an undergrad course less and about 35 fewer undergraduate students” per year, reads the paper. Additionally, “coefficients for graduate students and graduate courses are positive and significant, consistent with the idea that graduate teaching has amenity value for faculty, or is part of the production of research, or, most likely, both in some combination.”

Source: NBER

Put another way, the number of undergraduates taught falls as full professor salaries increase, but the number of graduate students taught rises.

“Departments in research universities (the more so the more elite) must pay high salaries in order to employ research-productive faculty,” the authors conclude. “These faculty, in turn, contribute most to the universities’ goals (which include teaching as well as research) by following their comparative advantage and teaching less, and also teaching in ways that are complementary with research -- notably graduate courses.” So the university “pays these faculty well because they are especially good at research. It makes perfect sense that they would also have relatively low teaching loads,” along with relatively high research expectations, which the study doesn’t consider directly.

John Barnshaw, director of research and public policy for the American Association of University Professors, said he agreed with the study’s general implication that academic units know how to allocate their resources. Yet he said he questioned some of the paper’s underlying assumptions -- including that teaching undergraduates doesn’t contribute to a professor’s research agenda. Undergraduates tend to look at information with “fresh eyes,” he said, and often ask questions that graduate students already steeped in a discipline might not. Moreover, he said, while top research universities can maintain their reputations by offering graduate students access to esteemed professors, institutions or departments that are trying to build prestige often do so by offering undergraduates more access to such professors.

“One of the things they seem to assume is that if a faculty member is doing research in a department, that’s a good thing, and if they’re conducting instruction, it’s -- they don’t necessarily use the term ‘bad,’ but there’s a kind of balance here that I want to push back on,” Barnshaw said.

Turner said in an interview that the paper considered averages, and that it’s entirely possible superstar researchers who enjoy teaching undergraduates can and will do so. More than make value judgments, she said, the paper attempted to explain how universities allocate scarce resources to fulfill their dual missions of teaching and research.

“There’s not very much opportunity to redeploy faculty across fields, and with those constraints, what we see is universities adjusting class sizes in response to difference in salaries between fields,” she said. “And those disciplines that tend to have higher salaries tend to have higher class sizes -- which means that net differences in cost per student at the course level are much smaller, and in some cases reversed, relative to differences in average salaries across fields.”

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Diversity groups urge no vote on Sessions, citing record on protection of minority rights

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 08:00

Civil rights and diversity groups are stepping up their opposition to Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions's nomination for U.S. attorney general, citing among other concerns his record opposing affirmative action and minority protections. At the same time, statements from Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary, are raising concerns among some about her commitment to understanding issues of race.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held its first confirmation hearing for Sessions Tuesday. It was the first chance Congress has had to directly question any of Trump's cabinet nominees about their record and views.

The American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity, a group that includes many higher education diversity officers, wrote to Senate leaders this week that the voting record compiled by Sessions in the Senate showed "evidence of a bias against efforts to promote equal opportunity for women, minorities, persons with disabilities and the LGBT community."

In addition to a history of votes against legal protections for women and minorities, the organization said Sessions has consistently opposed female and minority nominees from the Obama administration, especially those who have supported affirmative action.

"I think it makes people unhappy if they lost a contract or a right to go to a school or a privilege to attend a university simply because of their race," Sessions said in a 1997 statement quoted by the group in the letter.

Supporters of affirmative action say it is important to creating and maintaining diversity in higher education as one of a number of criteria for admitting students -- and that implying that affirmative action guarantees admission to anyone undercuts diversity efforts.

Shirley Wilcher, executive director of the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity, said that record is relevant to college and university campuses because of the role the Department of Justice plays in enforcing and providing leadership on protections.

"He sets the tone and he is the primary enforcer, especially when it comes to public colleges and universities," she said. "If he turns a blind eye, we can only assume that other federal agencies will do the same."

The issue of affirmative action in particular is likely to surface in continued scrutiny of Betsy DeVos, Trump's nominee for education secretary. In arguing against a Michigan law allowing affirmative action in 2003, DeVos wrote in a Detroit News op-ed that "race is irrelevant and should be irrelevant."

Many college educators say race remains relevant in the United States and that such seemingly pro-equity statements suggest a lack of awareness or sensitivity.

The AAAED argued that Sessions's views on affirmative action are particularly concerning because they suggest as attorney general he would not offer a strong defense of those policies in federal court. Last June the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the consideration of race and ethnicity in college admissions in the case of Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin.

The AAAED was joined in opposition to the appointment of Sessions Tuesday by NAFSA: Association of International Educators. Esther D. Brimmer, executive director and CEO of NAFSA, in written Senate testimony cited the senator's anti-immigrant stance, record on voting rights and fight to overturn a court ruling that found Alabama's public schools provided separate and unequal education to the state's children.

Archie Ervin, president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, said the group's leadership would meet this week and he expected discussions of cabinet nominees, including Sessions and DeVos, to be front and center. Ervin, who is also the vice president for institute diversity at Georgia Institute of Technology, said the group believes affirmative action as defined by the courts is critical to maintaining educational access for all Americans.


Sessions was asked directly by Senate colleagues Tuesday about his position on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program established by President Obama that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to receive temporary authorization to live and work in the U.S. Sessions suggested it would be possible to reverse DACA but also that it was unlikely that the first targets of tougher immigration enforcement would be students who have benefited from the executive action.

"It would certainly be constitutional, I believe, to end that order and I would -- the Department of Justice, I think, would have no objection to have a decision to ban that order because it is very questionable, in my opinion, constitutionally," he said.

At the same time, Sessions told Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat, "we are not able financially or any other way to seek out and remove everybody that's in the country illegally. President[-elect] Trump has indicated criminal aliens, like President Obama indicated, certainly are the top group of people [for deportation]."

Michael Olivas, a University of Houston Law Center faculty member currently serving as interim president of University of Houston Downtown, said DACA would not fall within Sessions's jurisdiction as attorney general.

"I would hope that the confirmation process will vet the [Department of Homeland Security] secretary designate on this particular issue, which he would administer -- not DOJ," Olivas said.

Olivas, who said he was not speaking on behalf of the law school or the university, said protections for those undocumented immigrants -- many of them college students or recent graduates -- would not be easily unraveled and would remain in place until a formal action to rescind them.

Joking About Law Professors' Opposition

Sessions also shared a laugh with Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, over a joke that may rankle some in academe. They both suggested that Sessions has nothing to fear from a letter signed by hundreds of law professors opposing his confirmation.

“We’re about to get an answer to the age-old question ‘Can you be confirmed attorney general of the United States over the objection of 1,400 law professors?’” Graham said. “I don't know what the betting line in Vegas is, but I like your chances.”

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Amid enrollment declines, speakers consider the shape of the English major

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 08:00

PHILADELPHIA -- What does -- or should -- the English major look like?

Members of an ad hoc committee on the major presented Friday at the Modern Language Association’s annual convention. They reviewed findings from their inquiry into what changes English departments have made or are considering making to their requirements for undergraduate majors. The full report from the committee, which was formed by the Association of Departments of English, is forthcoming and its inquiry ongoing, but some of the preliminary observations that came up during Friday’s presentations include a movement away from common required survey courses, the widespread availability of writing-related tracks within English majors and an increased attention to career planning. A minority of programs seem to require courses in Shakespeare.

Kent Cartwright, the chair of the committee and a professor of English at the University of Maryland at College Park, said his own preliminary analysis of about 45 English departments at Ph.D.-granting universities found that just five have Shakespeare requirements. (Here it’s worth noting that groups that advocate for a traditional curriculum have raised alarm bells about the relative lack of Shakespeare requirements, but others say the single-minded emphasis is misguided and point out that English majors may get exposed to Shakespeare in all kinds of courses, not just those specifically on the Bard.) A third of the programs Cartwright examined -- 15 -- mandate survey courses, though he noted in the paper he presented “variations in those requirements that cast further doubt on the goal of providing foundational knowledge.”

“Of those 15 departments, only five seem to require students to take the same survey courses with largely the same content,” Cartwright wrote. “In the other 10 cases, either content varies considerably from section to section of the same course or students are given some choice among the survey courses. Sometimes the content of the survey is slanted in a thematic or topical direction. That means that, in a number of instances, survey courses have taken some of the characteristics of distribution ones. The survey course, then, even when it is required, cannot be assumed to convey generally common foundational knowledge. Furthermore, one of the trends in departments that have recently changed their majors is the reduction even of historical distribution requirements themselves, especially in early British literature -- the kind of change favored by students in my own department.”

“The curriculum of the English major, like the faculty, has traditionally been organized according to a principle of literary history, and the profession in all sorts of ways continues to embrace the values of that model,” he continued. “On the other hand, at the large Ph.D.-granting institutions that educate the majority of undergraduates, the curricular structure that enshrines literary history is being progressively abandoned. We need to face this dilemma.”

Cartwright presented on the three iterations of the major offered by his own department over the last three decades, “each,” he wrote, “differently conceived but showing over all a drift away from survey courses and even away from meaningful historical requirements.” The current major, which he described as “essentially formless,” has a single required course, on critical methods in the study of literature. It requires one course each in literary and cultural history; one in literary, linguistic or rhetorical analysis; and one in literatures of people of color, women and/or lesbians, gays and bisexuals. It also requires two courses in writing before 1800, one in U.S. ethnic writing and one in modern or postcolonial literature. Each of these requirements, Cartwright said, can be met by multiple courses and in some cases courses fit multiple categories.

“Basically, as my colleagues recognize, this major is a taxonomical illusion, arrived at as a political accommodation after our previous failed experiments,” Cartwright wrote. “While our student numbers were going up, we felt little incentive to wade back into these troubled waters. But no longer.”

Cartwright said his department is currently reviewing its English major, in part in response to a decline in majors from a high of 850 in the spring of 2011 to about 500 today. The decline in English majors nationally was part of the backdrop for Friday’s presentations. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics show that the number of bachelor’s degrees conferred in English has dropped from about 54,379 in 2004-5 to 45,847 in 2014-15 (the peak was 55,465 in 2008-9). In a presentation on enrollment trends, David Laurence, the director of the MLA’s office of research, noted that the discipline of history has shown parallel declines in bachelor’s degree completions. “So more mutedly did the other humanities disciplines, languages other than English and philosophy,” he said.

Tarshia L. Stanley, an associate professor and chair of the English department at Spelman College, presented on her analysis of the websites of 25 English programs at B.A.-granting institutions. Stanley is following up with a survey, but in her preliminary investigation of program websites she found a number of trends. The majority of programs had distribution requirements organized around historical periods -- “they had loosened some of the stipulations in that students were able to choose; perhaps it was one or two courses before 1800 or before 1700” -- and the majority do not require a class in Shakespeare, though Shakespeare courses can count toward these distribution requirements.

She also found that the majority of programs allow students to count some form of writing courses, creative or otherwise, toward a literature major. Most required a thesis for an honors concentration but not necessarily for regular graduation as an English major. Many programs had some other form of capstone requirement, such as a portfolio or public presentation.

Further, Stanley found that many of the programs include language on their websites that speaks to career planning or that is otherwise responsive to what she described as “the political and cultural climates that see the study of literature as dated, elitist or unnecessary.”

From there, Stanley went on to discuss curricular changes she and her colleagues have made at Spelman. She said one thing they did was survey their students. From that, Stanley said, they learned that the majority of their students are seeking careers in writing in some form, and “see the reading aspect as less important than they see the writing aspect of the major.”

The finding, Stanley said in an interview, prompts professors to think, “How we can leverage that and also think about how we get them to also think of themselves as readers and thinkers who can produce knowledge?”

The revised major at Spelman now offers areas of “deep study” -- a track of four to five courses -- that students can choose between: either textual studies (literature, film and visual culture, cultural studies) or writing studies (creative, professional, technical). Before, Stanley said, students could minor in creative writing, but they couldn’t count it toward their literature major.

In addition to their deep area of study, Spelman English majors have to take five foundational 300-level literature courses, including a required course on Shakespeare and one on African-American writers. But before they get to those, they have to take three required entry-level courses -- Introduction to Literary Studies, Introduction to Critical Studies in English and a sophomore workshop. The latter course, a two-semester, one-credit-per-semester course, developed by Stanley, is designed, she said in an interview, to “get them thinking about the English major, and I realized that they couldn’t think about the major just in terms of sophomore, junior and senior year. They also had to think about it as graduates and what they were going to do when they left.” The course therefore includes a variety of reflective and career planning-oriented assignments. Among them, students upload a résumé and statement of intent into a portfolio and write an essay on their community service (required collegewide) and revise it and turn it into a speech they deliver on tape to a panel of faculty serving as judges. They are required to attend events like a career fair and undergraduate research fair (the definition of careers, Stanley stressed, is wide, and includes preparation for graduate school).

In a separate panel on writing within the English major at the MLA convention on Saturday, Leeann Hunter, a clinical assistant professor and assistant director of undergraduate studies in the English department at Washington State University, presented on the Passport Program, a new set of related courses she developed to get students to think beyond the classroom and university. She began her presentation by observing that “one of the greatest barriers to recruiting for the English major has been the perceived lack of professional opportunities.”

The one-credit, pass-fail seminar designed by Hunter -- of which there are a couple iterations -- is structured as a series of workshops. One key assignment is a “finding your why” activity in which students identify six “foundational memories,” choose three to use as develop into pieces of creative writing and, with the help of a partner and Hunter, the professor, identify patterns, such as common beliefs or values, across the various pieces. A version of the course tailored for seniors focuses on things like résumés, cover letters, social media profiles and digital portfolios, and includes performance-art activities aimed at helping students develop confidence and presence. Hunter brings other faculty from the English department to help with various class sessions. She said 20 faculty members participated in the course last fall.

In the paper she presented, Hunter described developing the Passport Program as a way “to tackle the question of how to get students meaningfully engaged in high-impact practices that will lead to long-term adaptability and high engagement in their careers.”

“When I first taught our Introduction to English Studies course, which is an introduction to the major, I realized how anxious our students are about jobs, but how reluctant they are to actually go and do the things that they need to do,” Hunter said in an interview after her presentation. “I held a professional development seminar just for them outside of class. Zero students showed up. They asked for it, but then nobody came. I offered to teach them [Adobe] Illustrator,” a graphic design software. “It was held during class, but they didn’t have to come. It was an optional class. Zero students came. That’s when I realized if we were going to get them engaged, we needed to have some sort of way of requiring it.”

Among the course requirements, Hunter said, “they have to go to three events hosted by the faculty, so a talk, a lecture, other kinds of things. That’s how you connect with faculty, by actually going and showing up to things. We’ll also be doing some service learning and a few other things as well.”

The idea, she said, is for students to say, “Hey, I’m going to sign up for this one credit and we’re going to do this all on purpose, intentionally.”

“We tell students, ‘Do all these things, it’ll make you really great,’” she said. “But they don’t do them if it’s optional -- at least not my student population.”

Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: Career servicesCurriculumEnglishLiteratureIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

Some colleges planning alternative events for Inauguration Day

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 08:00

After a particularly divisive presidential campaign and the unlikely victory of President-elect Donald Trump, some colleges and universities have planned alternative events for those who may not be in the mood to celebrate on Inauguration Day.

The University of Connecticut is hosting The People’s Inauguration, where students and faculty members are invited to come together and share poems, songs, personal stories and passages of literature or meaningful writings, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or Langston Hughes’s “Let America Be America.”

The idea is to promote social justice, human rights and inclusion, said Mark Overmeyer-Velazquez, director of UConn’s El Instituto and an associate professor of history. “This is not meant to be an anti-Trump protest, but rather a positive, proactive way to focus our community as one of solidarity and progressive values,” he said.

This isn’t a standard Inauguration Day event at UConn. Kathryn Libal, director of the Human Rights Institute there, said she had not seen any program of this kind in her 14 years at the university.

After Trump won the election in November, many faculty members felt the need to connect with students and show their support, Libal said. This is especially important, she said, for immigrant or Muslim students, who fear what the new administration could do.

Jan. 20 will be a “day of celebration for some, and a day of difficulty for others,” Libal said. For that reason, Libal, Overmeyer-Velazquez and others wanted to create the People’s Inauguration for students to open up, share their stories and listen to one another.

“We’re not sure what we’re getting ourselves into [with this administration] or the best way to respond, but we figured creating opportunities and learning from them is a good way to go,” Overmeyer-Velazquez said.

With similar intentions, the University of Richmond is hosting a Jan. 19 panel discussion called “Anticipating the Trump Presidency” to parse what’s in store for the years to come. “What we’re hoping is that some facts and perspective on what new presidents can and cannot do -- and the realities of the executive branch -- will help people understand that changes in their lives will not be so radical as media seem to suggest,” said Stephen Long, associate professor of political science and international studies at Richmond.

Long, who will speak on the panel about U.S. policy, said immigrants or children of immigrants at the university have come to him with questions about how their lives could change in the next four years. Martha Merritt, dean of international education at the University of Richmond, has heard similar questions from international students and other minority groups.

“The population that comes to the U.S. to study by choice doesn’t deal particularly well with uncertainty,” Merritt said. “They, like all of us, have many unanswered questions about what to expect.”

The panel discussion on the eve of the Inauguration is meant to provide some clarity and calm, Long said.

That same day, the University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture and Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality will host Re:action -- a Day of Resistance and Rebuilding to spark political and social action on campus.

This cool welcome to the Trump administration follows an outpouring of criticism at some of the colleges whose marching bands will perform during the inaugural parade.

One tradition that won’t be disrupted is George Washington University’s inaugural ball. The university, located just six blocks from the White House, has hosted a ball every four years since 1993; next weekend it will host the seventh. Peter Konwerski, the vice provost and dean of student affairs, anticipates about 4,000 students, faculty and alumni will attend the ball this year.

In the days immediately following the election, some students who opposed Trump tried selling their tickets, Konwerski said. They felt like going to the ball -- which is intended to be a celebration -- would be a show of support for Trump. But since the initial shock of the election results has passed, many students have come back around, Konwerski said.

An organization focused on protecting the student press is hosting a different kind of inaugural ball. The Student Press Law Center will host the Ball of Rights as an “unabridged celebration of the First Amendment” on the night before Trump’s inauguration.

Editorial Tags: Student lifeImage Caption: Logo for University of Connecticut eventIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 

New presidents or provosts: Chichester Cornell Elizabethtown K-State Ozarks Susquehanna West Oahu

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 08:00
  • Maenette K. P. Ah Nee-Benham, dean of the Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, has been named chancellor of the university's West Oahu campus.
  • Jonathan D. Green, provost and dean of the faculty at Illinois Wesleyan University, has been appointed president of Susquehanna University, in Pennsylvania.
  • Jane Longmore, deputy vice chancellor (academic) at Southampton Solent University, in Britain, has been selected as vice chancellor of the University of Chichester, also in Britain.
  • Tracy McGrady, dean of academic and student affairs at Ozarks Technical Community College’s Richwood Valley Campus, in Missouri, has been named provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the college.
  • Gen. Richard B. Myers, a retired Air Force general, has been appointed president of Kansas State University.
  • Juston Pate, provost at Maysville Community and Technical College, in Kentucky, has been chosen as president of Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, also in Kentucky.
  • Martha E. Pollack, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan, has been selected as president of Cornell University, in New York.
Editorial Tags: College administrationNew presidentsIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: 
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