Higher Education News

At two colleges, what happens when protesters obstruct free speech

Inside HigherEd - 9 hours 18 min ago

Sitting on the stage at DePaul University Tuesday, Milo Yiannopoulos spoke without incident for around 15 minutes, offering his trademark inflammatory criticisms of feminism, the transgender rights movement and campus politics. And then the conversation turned to microaggressions.

“They’re called microaggressions because you can’t even see them,” Yiannopoulos, a pundit at the conservative website Breitbart.com, told the crowd. “And the reason you can’t see them is because they’re not there. Nothing happens.”

Which is when something happened: blowing a whistle, a student walked down the center aisle of the auditorium until he reached the stage. He sat on the table between Yiannopoulos and a student from the College Republicans, who was moderating the event, and began speaking to the crowd.

“Please, sir,” tried the student moderator. “Sir, please.”

“We’d like to ask you to please -- ” began another.

But a second student had joined the first on stage, and at once, the event became a protest.

It wasn’t the first time college students protested Yiannopoulos. He is a divisive figure. He is, as a writer for Fusion put it, “the sort of frustrating troll who, for instance, might declare his birthday World Patriarchy Day, suggest Donald Trump is ‘blacker’ than Barack Obama or, although he is gay himself, assert that gay rights have ‘made us dumber.’”

Those protesting at DePaul -- in a rally outside and during the disruption -- said Yiannopoulos was engaged in hate speech that made minority and other students feel unsafe and unwelcome at their own institution. They argued that Yiannopoulos shouldn't have been invited.

The DePaul protesters grew in ranks, and the College Republicans who organized the talk were unable to regain control of the event. The event was cut short.

For free speech advocates on both sides of the political spectrum, the event was fraught with tension: What happens when a protest prevents an event from taking place and blocks ideas from being heard?

DePaul’s president, the Reverend Dennis Holtschneider, was out of town during the event, but was briefed on it.

“Generally, I do not respond to speakers of Mr. Yiannopoulos’s ilk, as I believe they are more entertainers and self-serving provocateurs than the public intellectuals they purport to be,” he said in a statement.

And yet: “Those who interrupted the speech were wrong to do so,” he continued. “Universities welcome speakers, give their ideas a respectful hearing and then respond with additional speech countering the ideas.”

Speech and Safety

Six days before Yiannopoulos’s speech, a group of Jewish students at the University of California at Irvine gathered for a film screening. Called Beneath the Helmet, the film documents the lives of five Israeli soldiers.

In the middle of screening, a group of student protesters appeared outside the classroom door.

“This was not a peaceful demonstration,” said Lisa Armony, executive director of Hillel Orange County. “This was an angry, screaming, large group of people trying to get into a room of students sitting and watching a movie.”

Armony called the police.

So did one of the students who had been watching the film and who had gone into the hall to make a phone call before the protesters showed up. “She got scared and tried to get back into the room to be with us,” Armony said, “and they wouldn't let her in.” According to Armony, the student hid in a nearby classroom until she felt it was safe.

After police arrived, the group finished the film. According to Hillel Orange County, one police officer remained in the room until the film was over, at which point police officers escorted the students to their cars.

Law enforcement officials and student affairs officials are conducting two parallel investigations. If the administration concludes that the protesters did disrupt the screening, they will be disciplined.

“We are not in the business of allowing folks to disrupt events,” said Thomas Parham, UC Irvine’s vice chancellor for student affairs. “We do not approve of free speech that seeks to shut down anyone else’s right to free speech.”

The Irvine chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine posted a note on its Facebook page that expressed pride in the protest but did not address the criticisms. "Today we successfully demonstrated against the presence of IDF soldiers on campus. We condemn the Israeli 'Defense' Forces, better defined as Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), because they enforce Zionist settler colonialism and military occupation of Palestinian land by the Israeli nation-state," the statement said. "Not only does the IOF commit murders and several violences against the Palestinian people, including its use of Gaza as a laboratory for weapons testing, but it enforces militarization and policing all over the world. The United States send [sic] delegations of police forces to train in Israel by the IOF, such as the LAPD and NYPD for example. The presence of IDF and police threatened our coalition of Arab, black, undocumented, trans and the greater activist community. Thank you to all that came out and bravely spoke out against injustice."

The group has since posted a longer statement in which it says that actions that make minority or pro-Palestinian students feel unsafe are ignored, unlike the speedy reaction to the complaints last week. "In talking about providing a safe environment for all students on campus, administration’s double standards must be acknowledged," the statement said.

Jewish groups on campus had been holding a series of events that week. Administrators had anticipated some dissent, and they created a space near the events for protesting students to use. But according to Parham, the film screening was moved on campus at the last minute. If the administration had known about the event, it would have put proper security measures in place.

Predicting Protest

Shutting down a protest is tricky. When college authorities act too quickly, they infringe on the rights of peaceful demonstrators who are doing exactly what they’re taught to do, in these cases voicing peaceful opposition to a conservative writer or Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. Even the sponsors of the events say that protests outside -- however strong the language used -- would have been a different matter.

“We've seen protests against events that were completely nondisruptive shut down inappropriately,” said Ari Cohn, a free speech lawyer at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. “But if those protests are disruptive to the extent where the students they are protesting against are not able to carry out their event, that's when the university has to step in.”

Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education, said colleges should try to anticipate in advance whether an event or speaker might provoke a strong reaction. But still, that kind of anticipation is easier said than done.

“You can't always predict what's going to happen,” he said. “It could start out as peaceful and become violent.”

But when student groups need more security, who pays for it? At UC Irvine, the Jewish groups did not have to pay for the extra security. But at DePaul, the College Republicans and Breitbart were required to contribute.

Now, Breitbart is demanding its money back. After paying the required fee, the organization is angry that security officials didn’t do more.

Cohn disagrees with any requirement that campus groups pay for security. While they aren’t required to provide the security themselves, he said, “colleges should not charge student groups for protecting themselves because somebody might protest at their event.”

Others say if nobody has an obligation to pay for security, students will be left in vulnerable situations.

“If we know that a certain speaker or event might increase the likelihood of some kind of violence, I think it’s reasonable to ask the sponsors to underwrite some of the security at that event,” Kruger said. “That’s been happening for decades.”

At DePaul, the College Republicans haven’t yet decided whether to reschedule the event, according to club member Benjamin Cohen. But going forward, they hope the university improves its policies. At UC Irvine, pro-Israel groups are trying to bring the film back to campus.

“The best thing we can see from the school as a response to this is a policy and commitment on the school's end, from now going forward, that the school will take an active role in ensuring that events are allowed to proceed,” Cohen said.

Editorial Tags: Academic freedom

Indiana University sues over abortion law and fetal tissue restrictions

Inside HigherEd - 9 hours 18 min ago

Indiana University on Wednesday challenged a new state abortion law in federal court, arguing it restricts academic freedom by criminalizing the acquisition or transfer of fetal tissue used for research.

The move stands out because the university is challenging the actions of the state that supports it. The dispute also comes at a time when many state and federal legislators are proposing laws to curtail abortion. And it arrives as lawmakers scrutinize fetal tissue research in the wake of a series of controversial videos released in 2015 showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the use of fetal tissue.

The Indiana law in question was approved as House Bill 1337 in March, and it goes into effect at the beginning of July. Its provisions include requiring miscarried and aborted fetuses to be buried or cremated. Other parts of the law prohibit individuals from acquiring, receiving, selling or transferring fetal tissue. It makes the transfer or collection of fetal tissue a felony punishable by up to six years in prison.

Supporters of the law have argued it is a moral move affirming the value of human life. But IU leaders claim it leaves the university in an untenable position. The university legally obtained fetal tissue for important research, they said. Yet the law would leave it trapped with that tissue and unable to transfer it, putting its researchers at legal risk.

The law would also prohibit any researchers from obtaining additional fetal tissue for future needs.

Indiana is arguing the law is unconstitutionally vague and burdensome. The university’s complaint also said the law violates the First Amendment academic freedom rights of Debomoy Lahiri, a professor of psychiatry and a primary investigator for its Stark Neurosciences Research Institute in Indianapolis. IU and Lahiri conduct Alzheimer’s disease research using mixed cell cultures and components like RNA and DNA derived from fetal tissue.

Their projects include research funded by the National Institutes of Health, which requires researchers to retain samples they use, IU said in its complaint. The NIH requires researchers to share those samples upon request so that their work can be verified. But that would mean transferring fetal material, making it impossible for IU to comply with both the new law and NIH regulations, the university said.

IU received $187 million last year in NIH research grants but does not know the exact value of grants that involve fetal tissue. The law could force the university to refund millions of dollars from those grants, IU’s complaint stated. The university also objected to the possibility of its researchers being prosecuted.

“Even were Dr. Lahiri to stop doing his research in the state of Indiana as a result of the enrolled act, he runs the risk that the mere act of transferring his research to another institution would constitute a felony,” the university’s suit said.

IU also argued that it is unable to determine which of its research activities are prohibited by the new Indiana law. The university has some biologics that have been stored frozen for years, and it would be impossible to determine if they were derived from fetal tissue, it said in its complaint. Further, the university argued the new law could slow the pace of research, prevent breakthroughs and dissuade researchers from coming to Indiana.

“We don’t do research just for the hell of it,” said Fred Cate, IU’s vice president for research.

“We do new research because it leads to new discoveries and creations, which benefit peoples’ lives,” Cate said. “If we are told by state law that we cannot use certain tools in that research, tools that are widely used in every other state, that are professionally acceptable, that are ethically acceptable, then we are hurting the people of the state of Indiana. We’re hurting the people who benefit from this research, and we’re hurting the people who do that research.”

The fetal tissue used in IU research is received from the Birth Defects Laboratory at the University of Washington, according to its lawsuit. Such tissue comes from abortions and miscarriages.

IU filed its request for an injunction the day after a federal judge said it could not intervene in another complaint filed last month by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra McVicker Lynch denied the university’s request to join that complaint on the grounds that it raised issues separate from Planned Parenthood’s case. But she also invited IU to file its own lawsuit.

The move to challenge the law is unusual, acknowledged Margie Smith-Simmons, an IU spokeswoman.

“By challenging portions of Indiana House Enrolled Act 1337, Indiana University is taking an extremely rare stance, and one the university would prefer not to take,” she said in the statement. “But the university felt compelled to do this in an effort to protect its researchers from criminal prosecution, to protect the research enterprise as a whole and to protect the research that has the potential to save thousands of lives, if not more.”

The legislation’s author, Republican Representative Casey Cox, declined a request to comment through an Indiana House Republican Caucus spokeswoman. Indiana Governor Mike Pence did not immediately return a request for comment.

But Pence, a Republican, praised the act when he signed it. The governor called the legislation a “comprehensive pro-life measure that affirms the value of all human life.” The act contains a number of provisions focused on abortion but not directly on fetal tissue. It prohibits performing an abortion if a provider knows a woman is seeking the procedure solely because of a fetus’s ethnicity or sex, or because a fetus could be diagnosed with a disability.

“I believe that a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable -- the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn,” Pence said in a statement in March. “HEA 1337 will ensure the dignified final treatment of the unborn and prohibits abortions that are based only on the unborn child's sex, race, color, national origin, ancestry or disability, including Down syndrome.”

The conflict in Indiana comes as national university groups have pushed back against the tone of debate surrounding fetal tissue research. The Association of American Medical Colleges, Association of American Universities and Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities sent a letter at the end of March to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives expressing concern over reports that the panel planned to subpoena researchers, graduate students and others involved in research linked to human fetal tissue.

“Many scientists and physicians are deeply concerned for their safety and that of their patients, colleagues and students in light of inflammatory statements and reports surrounding fetal tissue donation,” the letter said. “We are troubled that this information is being sought without any rules or process in place to govern how the panel will use and protect personally identifiable and other sensitive information.”

Legislative efforts could be beginning to have an impact on research across the country, said Jennifer Poulakidas, vice president of congressional and governmental affairs for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. This type of law can dissuade researchers from working with fetal tissue, she said. Statutes in particular states can push researchers to work in other states, she added.

Broadly, the Indiana law demonstrates the tensions that can be present between universities and legislators.

“Generally speaking, universities don’t like to see any type of research be blocked or banned or have unnecessary restrictions imposed,” Poulakidas said. “This is research that has always been legal. And these sort of state-by-state restrictions are definitely curbing institutions’ ability to participate in this research.”

Academic FreedomEditorial Tags: Academic freedomImage Caption: Indiana University's Stark Neurosciences Research Institute

Growing number of community colleges use multiple measures to place students

Inside HigherEd - 9 hours 18 min ago

Community colleges have known for years now that placement tests alone aren't a great measure for determining the skills of incoming students.

So more colleges are using multiple measures for placement, such as students' high school grade point averages or scores on college entrance exams. But even that comes with challenges, as colleges decide which measures carry the most weight and what to do for students who may not have those additional measurements.

"Any single test isn't going to be predictive [of student success], but the advantage of having other measures is you have various ways to get placed out of developmental education," said Elisabeth Barnett, a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College.

There are various ways colleges are seeking to use multiple measures to place students. Some use a hierarchy, such as ranking GPAs or SAT exam scores. Others have created algorithms to determine student success based on a mix of measures.

"Quite a lot of colleges are going this direction, in part because COMPASS is going away," Barnett said, referring to the placement exam from ACT.

The GPA method is still the preferred option in addition to placement tests. And a recently released study from the Center for Community College Student Engagement highlights the inadequacy of relying solely on placement tests, by finding that many students may have been placed in developmental courses erroneously.

The report found that 40 percent of students self-reported needing a developmental course in at least one area after taking a placement test, despite achieving the equivalent of at least an A-minus GPA in high school.

"This points out that multiple measures would be a better tool for placement, and if this were the case, then perhaps these students would not have been placed in developmental education at all," said Evelyn Waiwaiole, CCCSE's director, in an email.

Davidson County Community College in North Carolina began using multiple measurements for placement three years ago, after the state's board of community colleges approved of a new incoming student policy. The college uses a hierarchy of measures that first takes into account a student's GPA. If a high school graduate doesn't meet the GPA and transcript criteria, then he or she can use college entrance exams like the ACT or the SAT to demonstrate placement into credit-bearing, nondevelopmental courses. In addition, students can use previous college credit to bypass remediation. Davidson uses placement tests as a last resort if a student doesn't have any of the above.

"The test we were using to place students was flawed. It was a high-stakes test," said Susan Burleson, vice president of student success and communications at Davidson, adding that what it really measured was how students performed on a single day and whether or not they had recently prepared for the exam.

But the switch to using GPAs also caused controversy in the state, Burleson said, partially because there are concerns about the equivalency of a GPA from one high school versus another.

In the end, the level of prior academic preparation a student received in high school or the quality of their teachers didn't matter, Burleson said, because the data behind their GPA told the same story.

And using high school grades isn't an exact science. Colleges and states still have to decide what GPA will stand as a cut score. For example, North Carolina uses a 2.6 GPA as the barrier between placement in gateway or developmental courses, Barnett said.

Another challenge, said Pam Eddinger, president of Boston's Bunker Hill Community College, is that recent high school graduates often arrive at the city's largest two-year institution without a GPA. So recently Boston Public Schools and Bunker Hill agreed to a data-sharing agreement and are aligning their curricula so students can take developmental courses before they enter college.

Much of what colleges know isn't based on rigorous research, but on trends, Barnett said. For example, Long Beach City College is using an assessment algorithm that weighs students' high school achievement and scores on a standardized assessment to predict performance.

The algorithm method is more complicated, but it is helpful because high school GPAs often are not readily available, she said, adding that the North Carolina system is straightforward and easy to replicate with limited training.

"The bottom line is that high school GPA is a better predictor than anything else," said Barnett. "It's not really a single measure. It's a compilation of course grades over time."

Community CollegesEditorial Tags: AdmissionsAdmissions / registrarAdult educationAssessmentCommunity collegesImage Caption: Davidson County Community College

Akron abandons advising experiment with outside start-up after 1 year

Inside HigherEd - 9 hours 18 min ago

The University of Akron's decision last year to hire a local company to supplement its student advising and mentoring staff seemed ill-fated to many observers. The company, Trust Navigator, had no other higher ed customers, and the move came soon after the university eliminated numerous positions in its student success division. And the $840,000 price tag seemed high for a university that was struggling with enrollments and revenue.

So Wednesday's announcement by the university that it would not extend the one-year contract with Trust Navigator may surprise few people.

A statement provided by the university said that a review showed the experiment with Trust Navigator's "success coaches" did not produce "an appreciable difference in the fall-to-spring retention rate for students" compared to the previous year without them. An Akron spokesperson said in an interview that fall-to-spring retention was "essentially flat" from the year before.

"Based on that review and with input from our academic leadership and student success teams and the Faculty Senate, we have decided to allow this contract to expire at the end of June," said the statement.

The statement implied that constrained finances contributed to the decision, as enrollment of new freshmen at Akron for next fall could be down by as much as a quarter from last year, based on data that show 23 percent fewer freshmen having paid a confirmation fee (like a deposit) compared to this time last year.

Akron's decision to hire Trust Navigator was embroiled in controversy from the very start. It was announced at the same Board of Trustees meeting at which the university said it would eliminate 215 nonfaculty jobs, including dozens in the student success division.

Critics also questioned the selection process the university used to choose the unproven start-up, which had no other university clients then and, according to an article in Cleveland.com, still doesn't.

Rob Reho, chief operating officer for Trust Navigator, told the website that university officials described the contract nonrenewal as a "budget decision."

"We are sad because we think we made a viable impact and helped students like we were supposed to do," Reho told Cleveland.com. "We did a lot of things outside the scope of the contract and felt we were true business partners. But we respect the decision of the university."

AdmissionsEditorial Tags: Retention

Colleges award tenure

Inside HigherEd - 9 hours 18 min ago

The following individuals have recently been awarded tenure by their colleges and universities:

Arkansas State University

  • Nicole Arnell, art
  • Annette Bednar, clinical laboratory sciences
  • Claudia Benavides, sports management
  • Amy Buzby, political science
  • Maureen Dolan, biological sciences
  • Bilinda Norman, nursing
  • Ilwoo (Josh) Seok, mechanical engineering
  • Stacey Sloas, physical therapy
  • Amanda Wheeler, athletic training
  • Melissa Wilkinson, art
  • Guolei (Jason) Zhou, biological sciences

Bates College

  • Senem Aslan, politics
  • Rachel Boggia, dance
  • Eden Osucha, English
  • Clarisa Pérez-Armendáriz, politics
  • Paul Shea, economics
  • Nathan Tefft, economics

Michigan Technological University

  • Laura Brown, computer science
  • Molly Cavaleri, forest resources and environmental science
  • Qinghui Chen, kinesiology and integrative physiology
  • Qingli Dai, civil and environmental engineering
  • Tarun Dam, chemistry
  • Timothy Eisele, chemical engineering
  • Ramon Fonkoue, humanities
  • Durdu Guney, electrical and computer engineering
  • Timothy Havens, electrical and computer engineering
  • Soonkwan Hong, business and economics
  • Myounghoon Jeon, cognitive and learning sciences
  • Alexander Labovsky, mathematical sciences
  • Scott Marratto, humanities
  • Raymond Swartz, civil and environmental engineering
  • Xiaoqing Tang, biological sciences
  • Chee-Wooi Ten, electrical and computer engineering
  • Steve Walton, social sciences
  • Feng Zhao, biomedical engineering

Mount Saint Mary’s University, in California

  • Sylvine Deprele, physical sciences
  • Michael Giang, psychology
  • Amanda Romero, sociology

Northwestern College, in Iowa

  • Julie Dragstra, nursing
  • John Hubers, religion
  • Sandie Kinsinger, psychology

Wagner College

  • Denise Gasalberti, nursing
  • Rita Reynolds, history
  • Steven Thomas, English
  • Abraham Unger, government and politics

SUNY Buffalo boosts graduation rates with 'Finish in 4' pledge

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 07:00

A decade ago just 35 percent of students at the State University of New York at Buffalo graduated within four years. That number climbed to 55 percent last year, and the gain was accompanied by a rare narrowing of graduation-rate gaps for minority and low-income student populations.

A key part of the university's broad completion push is a pledge it introduced for students in 2012. And the so-called Finish in 4 program features serious commitments, by both students and the university.

A. Scott Weber, senior vice provost for academic affairs at the University at Buffalo, helped create the pledge. He describes it as a demonstration of "joint responsibilities to make progress to a degree."

The 1,479 incoming students who took the university's pledge in 2012 signed their names on a piece of paper and promised to register for classes on time, follow a structured curricular plan and talk with an academic adviser at least once a semester.

Students also took an assessment designed to help them choose a major and career path as part of the pledge. And they have to be in an approved major by the time they complete 60 credits, which typically is the midpoint to a bachelor's degree.

Half the university's incoming class took the pledge in 2012. This academic year more than three-quarters of new students signed onto an updated digital version. Weber also signs each pledge, as do student advisers.

"We track every one of these students," Weber said. "If they haven't met their goals, they're no longer part of the cohort."

That can come with a cost -- Finish in 4 includes the university's promise that students who meet their obligations but do not graduate in four years may finish their degree at the university without paying any more tuition and fees. While students who wash out of the program still get all the supports, like advising, the tuition guarantee goes away.

Likewise, the university has tried to make sure students can get into the classes they need to finish on time.

The University at Buffalo is a big place. It enrolls 20,000 undergraduates and 10,000 graduate students. The university, like many of its large public peers, often had overbooked courses, including ones required for completing a major.

"We felt we weren't really meeting some of our obligations," said Weber.

So the university bit the bullet in 2012, creating 300 new course sections -- the equivalent of 10,000 slots for students. And many of those new sections were in high-demand courses.

The university spent $2.1 million on the program in the fall of 2012, officials said. And spending on additional student advising and other supports has raised the annual cost to $2.5 million.

It has paid off for students.

Of the initial group of pledge signers, 930, or 63 percent, have graduated, topping the national on-time rate of 34 percent for public institutions. (The rate is 60 percent for research-intensive universities like Buffalo, according to federal data, meaning the university has closed that gap.) And while the self-selecting pledge group topped their nonpledging peers -- 52.7 percent of whom have graduated, according to preliminary data -- Buffalo's overall four-year rate also is close behind at 55 percent. And the universitywide, six-year graduation rate is a solid 74 percent.

Likewise, the percentage of black students at the university who completed their degrees within six years rose by 20 percentage points in the decade before 2013, earning Buffalo praise in a report by the Education Trust.

One reason Finish in 4 has helped more than just the students who signed on is that its support services are available to all. And the scale of the program has helped it become a widely known priority.

"A lot of this, we were doing before," Weber said. But the influence of the Finish in 4 "brand" has been more powerful on campus than predicted. "This is part of our university's vocabulary."

Changing Status Quo

Paula Lazatin signed the pledge in 2012, when she first enrolled at the university. She was surprised to learn that so many students weren't graduating on time.

"I really wanted to make sure I was one of the ones who finished," Lazatin said.

The national college completion campaign, which President Obama and foundations have led, obviously extends to research universities. But some might share Lazatin's surprise that roughly half of students graduate within four years at universities like Buffalo, which is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities.

A growing number of research universities want to improve graduation rates. For example, the University Innovation Alliance is a relatively new coalition of 11 research universities around the country that are sharing techniques for getting more students to graduation and for cutting equity gaps.

Likewise, the University of Texas at Austin is spending big to boost its four-year graduation rates, which have long lingered just above 50 percent. So has the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, a flagship like UT Austin, which has increased its rate to 59 percent from 42 percent in a relatively short period of time.

Completion experts praised Buffalo for its decade-long push on graduation rates, which this year will include a universitywide early alert system to identify students who are struggling and help to get them back on track. And while Buffalo has gotten slightly more selective in its admissions during the same time period (with a 25-point gain in students' median SAT score), Weber said selectivity hasn't been a primary driver of the graduation-rate gains. He points instead to the systematic approach the university has taken to identify and reduce the barriers students face.

Patrick Methvin, deputy director of postsecondary success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, praised the university's financial commitment to the effort. "They're putting skin in the game," he said.

Methvin cited other completion programs that funnel money and resources to helping students get to the finish line, including the City University of New York's Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, which features $4,700 in additional spending per year for each student participant. But he said that level of fiscal commitment is far from the norm.

Many campuses, systems and states are making on-time completion a priority, said Danette Howard, vice president for policy and mobilization at Lumina Foundation. For example, she cited the spread of 15 to Finish programs, which encourage students to take 15 credits per semester. But Howard said relatively few of those efforts include the sort of spending Buffalo has added for student supports.

"They put in place all these wraparound services to ensure that students graduate on time," she said.

Research and Completion

The University at Buffalo had enough advising capacity in place when the program began, Weber said, but the pledge ensured more students were seeing their advisers. Academic departments also created curricular plans for each degree path as part of the completion program.

Some faculty and staff members were wary of the project, Weber acknowledges.

He heard worries about a cheapening of degrees amid the grad-rate push. And advisers wondered if they might have to absorb some of the tuition-guarantee costs as well as more work.

But Satish K. Tripathi, the university's provost during the program's creation, was a strong supporter. He made sure it wasn't just a pilot program, Weber said, with an "everybody's in" mentality. Tripathi became the university's president before Finish in 4 began.

Most lingering doubts about the program have been washed away by its success, according to university officials. And it helps, Weber said, that President Obama came to campus in 2013 to unveil his college ratings plan, giving a shout-out during his speech to the university and the progress it has made on graduation rates.

"Not many deans are thinking about their graduation rates at an R1 university," said Weber, but they are at Buffalo.

Weber said the program has become a recruiting tool for both students and parents, who understandably like the university's attention to timely graduation.

The SUNY System is also seeking investment to roll out Finish in 4 at all its 64 campuses.

For her part, Lazatin said the pledge was a goal to lean on during the long, hard days when she was taking 21 credits or more in a semester.

"It got overwhelming sometimes," she said. "But it helped me stay on track."

This month Lazatin graduated, on time, with three majors.

Editorial Tags: Graduation ratesNew YorkImage Source: SUNY at BuffaloImage Caption: SUNY at Buffalo students during a 2013 campus visit by President Obama.

University of Florida, Elsevier explore interoperability in the publishing space

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 07:00

The University of Florida and Elsevier are unveiling a project to connect the institution’s repository of scholarly works to the larger network of publishing platforms, giving users a portal through which they can explore tens of thousands of articles by the university's authors.

Researchers at UF publish around 8,000 scholarly articles a year, and about a quarter of them appear in the top 10 percent of the most cited journals. Elsevier’s journals are the most popular destination; about 1,100 articles appear in the publisher’s journals, and they generate more citations than articles published elsewhere, on average.

Yet with all that research output, UF hasn’t had a culture of authors depositing their articles in its institutional repository, said Judith C. Russell, dean of university libraries at UF. The repository collects research and disseminates it free, but while graduate students might deposit their dissertations, anyone looking for research published in scholarly journals has had to look elsewhere. In fact, until this year, the Institutional Repository at the University of Florida, known as IR@UF, contained just seven articles that appeared in journals published by Elsevier, she said.

How research by UF authors is cited. (Source: Elsevier)

As more funding agencies -- most notably the federal government -- require that researchers make their work accessible to the public, many universities are looking for ways to ensure they are in compliance. During conversations with administrators and faculty members, Russell said she saw an opportunity for the library to tackle that challenge. More broadly, she said, they voiced an interest in the library aggregating scholarship by UF authors, making it discoverable to researchers and showcasing it more broadly.

Doing so, however, would require collecting information about tens of thousands of scholarly articles. As the university debated its options, Russell said, one major problem emerged: “How do we do this in a manner that accomplishes those objectives but doesn’t put additional demands on the time of faculty?” she said.

The university believes automation is the answer. Last week, UF announced a first-of-its-kind pilot to link the repository with ScienceDirect, Elsevier’s online journal and ebook catalog. Instead of filling the repository with tens of thousands of journal articles, the university is using application programming interfaces (APIs) to search ScienceDirect on a regular basis for new articles published by UF researchers. The repository stores the metadata gathered from those searches, presenting it as though the researchers themselves took the time to type up and submit the articles' titles, collaborators, time of publication and more.

When researchers now browse the repository, they’ll find links to more than 31,000 articles that appeared in Elsevier’s journals, the oldest dating to 1949. As long as they or the institutions they are affiliated with subscribe to those journals, they can read the article as it appeared in print (open-access articles are of course readable by anyone).

“The nice thing about this pilot is it opens up the repository,” said Alicia Wise, Elsevier’s director of access and policy. “Rather than being the end destination, it’s part of the fabric of interconnected platforms.”

Wise is talking about interoperability -- the notion that different platforms, systems and tools can work together without data being lost as researchers move between them.

Interoperability has already made its mark on other segments of higher education, for example the learning management system market. Instead of being locked into a single system and its default grade book, calendar and collaboration tools for years, colleges can now increasingly customize their systems by plugging in digital tools that work across all platforms. The focus has since shifted to ensuring users can track learning analytics data, too, regardless of which platforms and tools they use.

“The idea of the Internet is that it should be easier and more efficient for researchers to enter information once and for all our systems in the background to share that work,” Wise said. “Information doesn’t need to be replicated in lots of different places. It needs to be available, switch across platforms as needed, and there needs to be good two-way linking between those services.”

In the case of the UF pilot, interoperability doesn’t just benefit researchers. Elsevier, since it serves up the articles from ScienceDirect, collects data about what users are reading, Wise said.

While the pilot could be seen as UF handing some control of its institutional repository over to Elsevier, Russell said she views the partnership as “enriching” the content available. The articles available through ScienceDirect don’t replace any of the university’s own content, she pointed out. Additionally, the repository contains dissertations, theses and other materials the university has digitized -- including more than 11 million images, grant proposals, undergraduate research projects and more.

UF plans to pursue similar partnerships with other publishers, and it also hopes to expand the Elsevier pilot, Russell said.

The next stage of the project will likely look at how to increase access for users who aren’t subscribers. The goal, Wise said, will be to grant any user the option to see “some full text” -- either the published article (after an embargo period) or a manuscript.

“Most repositories don’t hold as much information as [universities would] like,” Wise said. “We can save them some hassle and effort by working together.”

Books and PublishingPublishing IndustryEditorial Tags: BooksPublishing

'Neighbors 2' depicts rebellion against sorority rules banning alcohol

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 07:00

There’s an early scene in the new film Neighbors 2 where three characters -- all freshman women who are rushing with a sorority -- attend a fraternity party. The women are disgusted by the sexist behavior of the fraternity members and the predatory atmosphere of the house. The décor includes a flashing neon arrow pointing the women upstairs to the men’s bedrooms.

The young women would rather party back at the sorority house and on their own terms. The problem: they can’t. “In the United States, sororities are not allowed to throw parties in their own houses,” a sorority leader tells them. “Only frats can.”

Then, as if talking to the film’s audience, she stresses that the rule is real and encourages people to "look it up.”

While there’s not a law banning sororities from partying (a common, though untrue, sorority legend claims that having alcohol in a house where several women live would legally make the place a brothel), it’s true that sororities are generally not allowed to drink or serve alcohol. The National Panhellenic Conference, the organization that governs the majority of the country's sororities, maintains that its not an official conference policy, but rather an arrangement all its members have agreed to.

"For our member organizations that provide housing, they’ve each made a commitment to provide substance free spaces primarily because they are academic spaces," Dani Weatherford, executive director of the National Panhellenic Conference, said. “But the reality is that our organizations do host social functions. They simply do so elsewhere on campus or at other venues off-campus. And they provide third-party vendors as at least one way to make sure guests that drink do so in a safe environment.”

The rule is also a way of keeping down insurance costs. Fraternity insurance costs are notoriously high, thanks, in part, to many of the risks that come with their parties. Fraternity members may spend nearly $200 per member on insurance policies, according to the Washington Post, while sorority members typically pay around $50.

No matter the origins of the rule, some women have long decried it as sexist.

“Because sororities are prohibited from serving alcohol, they can’t host their own parties,” Jessica Bennet, a columnist who writes about gender issues for Time, wrote in 2014. “They must also abide by strict decorum rules. So night after night, women line up, in tube tops and high heels, vying for entrance. Even their clothes are a signifier of where the power lies.”

If women aren’t allowed to throw their own parties, the argument goes, then those hoping to socialize with other sorority and fraternity members on campus are forced to attend fraternity parties. In a widely criticized decision that highlighted the lopsided nature of the relationship, the National Panhellenic Conference urged University of Virginia sorority members last year to avoid attending a major fraternity party, saying the event could be dangerous.

“This is gender discrimination,” sorority members said in a petition against the decision. “Instead of addressing rape and sexual assault at U.Va., this mandate perpetuates the idea that women are inferior, sexual objects.”

In Neighbors 2, the rules against partying lead the three freshmen to start their own independent sorority off campus, starting an escalating prank war between the house and the sorority’s new neighbors. “This is a sexist and restrictive system,” one of the women says. “We’re going to start a sorority where we can party the way that we want to.”

The plot line has generated a fair amount of positive reviews for the film, with critics surprised by the raunchy comedy’s feminist tilt. The arguments made by the movie’s characters echo those made by some real-life sorority members.

In 1988, Dartmouth College’s Sigma Delta split from its national sorority because of “irreconcilable differences.” Those differences included disagreeing with the organization’s “emphasis on men in national songs and overall attitudes.” And, yes, the now independent Sigma Delta throws parties.

“Fraternity members feel so entitled to women’s bodies, because women have no ownership of the social scene,” Molly Reckford, the sorority’s social chair, told The New York Times last year. “You can’t kick a guy out of his own house.”

That imbalance has led some sexual assault prevention advocates to argue that sorority women would be safer if they could throw -- and be in control of -- their own parties.

A recent review by United Educators, a risk management and insurance firm, of 305 sexual assault reports on college campuses from 2011 to 2014 found that about 24 percent of repeat offenders of sexual assault were reported as fraternity members.

A study published in the NASPA Journal in 2009 found that 86 percent of fraternity house residents engaged in binge drinking, compared to 45 percent of nonfraternity men. Fraternity members were twice as likely as nonfraternity men to engage in unplanned sex. Another study published by NASPA Journal concluded that women involved in Greek organizations were 74 percent more likely to experience rape than other college women.

While the majority of fraternity members do not commit sexual assault, they are three times more likely to than nonmembers, found a 2007 study authored by John Foubert, a professor of higher education and student affairs at Oklahoma State University and founder of the sexual assault prevention program One in Four.

Foubert, however, said he is not sure serving alcohol at sororities would be the best way to combat the problem.

“I believe it is delusional to think that hosting a party with alcohol could lead to fewer sexual assaults, no matter who it is that hosts,” he said. “If a sorority were to host an alcohol party on their own turf, it would be especially difficult to police the activities of intoxicated men. In a fraternity house, such men can be policed by their brothers, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. In a female-controlled space, drunk, sexist men are unlikely to respect the authority of women hosting an event.”

Students and ViolenceEditorial Tags: DiscriminationFraternities/sororitiesImage Source: Universal PicturesImage Caption: Free from rules banning alcohol, members of a new independent sorority throw a party in the film 'Neighbors 2.'

Colleges start new academic programs

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 07:00
Editorial Tags: New academic programs

Baylor University prepares to fire president over handling of assaults

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 07:00

This developing story has been updated.

Sitting in his office last November, surrounded by football regalia and ornaments featuring Bible passages, Kenneth Starr, the president of Baylor University, defended his institution’s handling of sexual assault and domestic violence.

“If you look at the way we approach the issue of interpersonal violence,” Starr said, “I believe a fair-minded judge would say, ‘You’re doing everything that you can.’”

Baylor’s Board of Regents seemingly would disagree. After months of allegations that the world’s largest Baptist university has continuously mishandled -- and sought to suppress public discourse about -- sexual assaults committed by its football players, the board reportedly was moving this week to fire Starr, and his resignation is now expected.

According to sources close to the situation, the university’s athletic director, Ian McCaw, and its head football coach, Art Briles, are “also on the chopping block,” but their fate remains less clear. Starr has not been fired, though an announcement about his job status is expected sometime near the end of this month. Starr could have the option to remain on campus as part of the faculty. Starr currently has dual positions of president and chancellor, the latter job largely focused on external relations. One possibility is that he will remain on as chancellor but not president.

Earlier this month, Pepper Hamilton, a law firm the university hired to investigate how it has handled allegations of sexual assault, presented a lengthy oral report to the board summarizing its findings. The report places ultimate blame for the mishandling of several sexual assault cases squarely on Starr.

“The Baylor Board of Regents continues its work to review the findings of the Pepper Hamilton investigation, and we anticipate further communication will come after the board completes its deliberations,” the university said Tuesday in a written statement. “We will not respond to rumors, speculation or reports based on unnamed sources, but when official news is available, the university will provide it.”

The Pepper Hamilton report, according to the sources, found that Starr encouraged a culture of second chances, while providing little oversight to the athletic department and the football team, and failed “to provide consistent and meaningful engagement with Title IX,” the federal antidiscrimination law that dictates how colleges should investigate and adjudicate cases of campus sexual assault.

Baylor hired its first full-time Title IX coordinator in November 2014, three years after the U.S. Department of Education told colleges to do so. 

Starr is a renowned judge and lawyer, having argued nearly 40 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and served as independent counsel during the investigation that led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. He became president of Baylor in 2010. When Starr first took the job, he said last year, he visited Fred Cameron, a prominent lawyer and former member of the university’s board, and asked him for advice.

“Win some football games,” Cameron replied.

Starr took the advice to heart and made an immediate splash as president by threatening legal action against the Southeastern Conference and Texas A&M University when that university decided to leave the Big 12 Conference, a move that many at the university feared would break up the league and leave Baylor without a big-time conference home. Texas A&M ultimately bolted for the wealthier SEC, but Starr’s threats are credited with helping give other waffling Big 12 teams enough pause that they decided to remain with the league.

The rise in stature of Baylor’s football program under Starr is frequently described as “meteoric,” though it also has concerned some on campus, who worry that a university so focused on football could lose sight of its Baptist mission.

In 2010, the head coach, Art Briles -- who had already begun laying the groundwork for the program’s revival two years earlier -- led the team to the Texas Bowl, finishing off the Bears’ first winning season in 15 years. A stream of successes followed, culminating in the construction of a new $266 million stadium to house the team.

The success and higher profile of the football program have, university officials assert, helped Baylor raise $400 million since 2012 to support a flurry of construction and other projects around campus, including a new building to house the business school and a $100 million scholarship initiative.

“As we would say in Christendom, it’s like an early rapture,” a member of Baylor board said in 2012. “We spent 40 years wandering the wilderness. I hope this is our exit.”

Later that year, a Baylor linebacker was arrested and later convicted of sexual assault. At the player’s trial, four other witnesses said he had raped them as well.

In 2013, Samuel Ukwuachu -- then a freshman all-American at Boise State University -- was dismissed from that university’s football team for “violating team rules” after a drunken dispute with his then girlfriend ended with the player putting his fist through a window. The woman later alleged that Ukwuachu hit and choked her. Just weeks after he was dismissed, Ukwuachu transferred to Baylor to play football there.

That October, Waco police received a call saying that Ukwuachu had sexually assaulted a fellow student. The victim, a soccer player at Baylor, testified that she screamed “no” as Ukwuachu raped her in his apartment after homecoming.

In June 2014, Ukwuachu -- who still had not played a game at Baylor -- was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of sexually assaulting the female student. Even then, the football team’s defensive coordinator said he expected Ukwuachu to play that fall. Ukwuachu was found guilty of sexual assault last August. He was sentenced to six months in jail and 10 years on probation.

Sexual assault is a famously underprosecuted crime, yet not only did local law enforcement officials move forward with the case, they successfully charged and convicted Ukwuachu. Meanwhile, according to a Baylor official who testified during the trial, the university never held a campus hearing because there was not enough evidence to move forward. In August 2015, Texas Monthly published an article raising questions about whether Baylor officials knew of Ukwuachu’s previous violent behavior.

Over the next several months, ESPN published a series of reports detailing a number of other sexual and physical assaults seemingly kept quiet by the university and committed mostly by football players. In one case a female student said she was twice physically assaulted by a Baylor football player. In another, a woman told police a football player threw her against a wall.

In a 2011 assault case involving two football players, according to ESPN, local police pulled the case “from a computer system so that only persons who had a reason to inquire about the report” would be able to find it. In all, at least five football players have been accused of assault since Starr became president.

Earlier this month, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported that a Baylor tennis player is also under investigation for sexual assault and that a Baylor fraternity president was indicted on four counts of sexual assault after an incident in February.

“Sexual assault education and prevention are vitally important to our university,” Starr said in a statement in April. “Throughout Baylor’s storied 171 years of operation, the hallmark of a Baylor education has been our unwavering Christian faith. Our faith binds us together and calls us to love one another as Christ Jesus loves us. By God’s grace, our distinct Christian mission will continue to provide a guiding light for Baylor nation.”

Students and ViolenceEditorial Tags: AthleticsSexual assaultImage Source: Getty ImagesImage Caption: President Ken Starr charges the field before a Baylor football game.

Beyond North Carolina, colleges add gender-neutral bathrooms to support transgender students

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 07:00

To support its transgender students, Oregon State University has started handing out pink-and-blue-striped pins that read #IllGoWithYou. By wearing the pins, students offer to accompany their transgender peers to gender-exclusive spaces -- like bathrooms and locker rooms -- where they may feel unsafe.

“It shows support,” said Cindy Konrad, assistant director of LGBT Services and Outreach. “It shows there are people on campus who care.”

When the campaign began in the fall, it was months before North Carolina barred transgender people at public colleges from using bathrooms associated with their gender identities. And even now, as the ban continues to attract national attention, the controversy seems far away from Oregon State.

And in many ways, it is.

“It isn’t something that people are particularly worried about happening here,” Konrad said.

Oregon State already has 200 gender-neutral bathrooms on its 400-acre campus. Konrad thinks it’s a good start, but that it would be helpful to have more.

The #IllGoWithYou campaign started off slow. But by the winter, the university’s other cultural centers wanted to take part. “Now, we get six to 10 people coming in a day asking about the buttons,” Konrad said.

At the state policy level, Oregon’s climate is nothing like North Carolina’s. Earlier this month, the Oregon Department of Education released guidelines for supporting transgender students, including a recommendation to provide gender-neutral accommodations for students who request them.

But despite the 2,500 miles separating the states -- and the fact that, in many cases, efforts to support transgender students have been in motion for years -- the North Carolina law is changing the discussion’s tone.

“We’ve seen a real surge in interest around these issues,” Konrad said. “The situation in North Carolina is helping to spur conversations on all campuses.”

‘A Lack of Clear Policy’

In response to the North Carolina legislation, the Obama administration issued a letter earlier this month, directing public schools to allow transgender students to use services in a way that’s consistent with their gender identity. The administration has made clear that the letter applies to higher education as well. (Some colleges have obtained exemptions based on their religious views.)

For years, many colleges have been expanding services -- and not just bathrooms -- for transgender students and employees. Many others have not done much but have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. The debate in North Carolina has led to more institutions announcing specific policies that protect the rights of these students.

Yale University announced this month, along with commencement information, that gender-neutral bathrooms will be available in 23 buildings. On its website, Yale details the bathrooms’ locations in an interactive map.

Additionally, Yale will now allow students to use the name they prefer, rather than the name on their birth certificate, on their diplomas. And many other colleges are adopting similar changes -- typically small ones -- that allow transgender students to complete everyday activities as their preferred gender.

“There’s just a lack of clear policy or options,” said Zooey Sophia Pook, coordinator of LGBT+ programs at New Mexico State University.

In many cases, she said, the problem isn’t discrimination. Rather, the problem is that the world isn’t already suited to meet transgender students’ needs. Simply expanding access to services for these students goes a long way, Pook said.

NMSU already has a number of gender-neutral bathrooms. While they’re harder to add to older buildings, most new buildings on campus have them. The university is also adding more housing options for transgender students, as well as an option for preferred names on class rosters.

“I completely understand the climate of the school,” said Pook, who is transgender. “I really wanted to push these things.”

States That Push Back

The guidance from the Education Department, while aimed at North Carolina, applies across the country. But that doesn’t mean that all states agree -- and now, some are pushing back.

In Louisiana, Attorney General Jeff Landry encouraged colleges to refuse the federal government’s guidance, and state legislators have also questioned whether President Obama’s actions were legal.

Louisiana State University did not respond to requests for comment, but the institution had already promised to add more gender-neutral bathrooms last March. “Everyone wants to be comfortable when taking care of a basic need, like using a restroom,” Derrick Rovaris, vice provost for diversity, told The Times-Picayune at the time. “The gender-neutral restroom gives everyone the opportunity to feel comfortable.”

In resisting states, sometimes it’s the colleges themselves that matter most. Even in North Carolina, private colleges -- which aren’t affected by the new legislation -- are working to show their support for their transgender students.

Last week, Duke University announced that it would turn some of its single-stall bathrooms into gender-neutral facilities. While the university isn’t building any new restrooms, the goal is to have one gender-neutral bathroom in every building that already has single-stall bathrooms.

At Duke, many are vocal opponents to the North Carolina legislation. A petition, started by Duke employees, got 600 signatures in the first day.

The new initiatives weren’t prompted by the state legislation, though they weren’t entirely unconnected, either. The gender-neutral bathrooms are part of an ongoing effort -- but the legislation prompted Duke to emphasize its commitment to equality, said Benjamin Reese, vice president of Duke’s Office for Institutional Equity.

“There are strong feelings about anything that the governor or the Legislature might do that might directly or indirectly infringe on equity or fairness,” he said.

DiversityEditorial Tags: Gay rights/issuesImage Source: Oregon State University's Pride CenterImage Caption: Buttons from the #IllGoWithYou campaign at Oregon State

Champlain College touts benefits of interdisciplinary four-year general education program

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 07:00

Keeping general education fresh is challenging: by the time a new program takes hold, it can lose its original meaning or significance to faculty members and students alike. The result is often cafeteria-style sampling, in which undergraduates pick seemingly easy courses to fulfill various requirements over their first two years without thinking about how they might enhance their eventual majors. That’s why Champlain College has for a decade embraced its unusual model.

Champlain has constraints -- namely staying true to its pre-professional mission. The result is decidedly off-menu: a strict, interdisciplinary general education program with requirements for all four years, in which students must integrate what they’re learning in their other, more career-oriented courses. It’s not a traditional liberal arts curriculum, but Champlain’s vertical Core, as it’s known, achieves the dual aims of making the college distinct among its peers and adding texture and depth -- and an arguable edge -- to students’ pre-professional educations.

“A lot of the time professional education and graphic design education are very separate from the liberal arts -- kids go and take whatever liberal arts they want to take,” said Suzanne Glover, an associate professor of graphic design, who team teaches a required capstone course to seniors with an anthropologist as part of Champlain’s Core. “But there is no attempt to connect the two different kinds of education, so what frequently happens is that students don’t see the value or relevance of the liberal arts and how they apply to what they want to do in life.”

Through Champlain’s Core, she said, “students are a lot more engaged.”

Beyond student engagement, employers increasingly value graduates who are able to integrate their liberal arts and technical training, Glover said. “The field has changed so much that the graphic design industry is demanding that of us.” And the proof is in the placement numbers: 97 percent of 2014 graphic design and digital media graduates are employed or continuing their educations, and 88 percent are employed in areas related to their fields. Those rates are much higher than many other peer programs, Glover said. Champlain’s cybersecurity majors, among others, are similarly in demand.

So how exactly does the Core division work?

Students enter Champlain most often knowing what they want to study, from accounting to social work; it’s not a place students come to explore the liberal arts, as there are no liberal arts majors. They enroll in a majority of major classes each semester, starting as freshmen, but are required to take at least one Core general education course each semester throughout their four years. The first year focuses on concepts of the self and community, with two seminars on each in the fall and spring, respectively. The second year focuses on the Western tradition, and students may choose two of four seminars offered each semester. Junior year centers on global themes, such as human rights and responsibilities, and senior year’s Core is dedicated to a capstone experience course taught by one professional-division professor and one liberal arts professor. It culminates with a major project of the students’ design, which local professionals are invited to come view.

“We are scaffolding opportunities for students,” said Betsy Beaulieu, dean of the Core division. “We believe very strongly in hands-on experience in majors right away, and there are internships built into the pre-professional programs, to help students have as much clarity as possible for 18- or 19-year-olds about the paths they’re headed down. And we’ve built the Core to complement those experiences. [Students are] getting the soft skills employers want, along with critical and creative thinking.”

Beaulieu said the Core program is driven by inquiry, meaning that students work in groups and are encouraged to ask questions and see issues from multiple perspectives. And while Champlain is unabashed about how this kind of education might help students find jobs -- as well as its positive impact on admissions and enrollment as a marketing tool (parents reportedly love it) -- Beaulieu said it’s also about some of the more classical notions of a liberal arts education. That means setting students up for personal success and living more meaningful lives.

Not a Vocational School

“Students didn’t come to a vocational school -- we’re not just teaching students a trade regardless of what major they’re in,” Beaulieu said. “Graduates are also going to be members of communities, families and civic organizations.”

The first semester of the Core, focused on the self, for example, includes such readings as Othello; David Linden’s The Accidental Mind: How Brain Evolution Has Given Us Love, Memory, Dreams, and God; and Forty Studies That Changed Psychology. The semester ends with all students completing a self-portrait of some kind (they’ve done everything from baking a cake to painting a mirror) and a reflective essay. The subsequent community-based semester includes conversations about what makes a community good, just and sustainable, and features works by Plato, Karl Marx and Adam Smith. Ethics is woven into all elements of the Core.

Throughout the Core, there are no exams. “We’re not interested in what they can Google easily,” Beaulieu said. “They have to show they can be a creative and critical thinker. … Our graduates speak well, write well and know how to collaborate.”

Previously, Champlain had a more menu-style general education program. But when former president David Finney arrived in 2005 after a stint at New York University, he focused on a three-pronged approach to education: career training, life skills development and interdisciplinary course work in the liberal arts. That meant rethinking how and why Champlain was administering general education through its “upside-down,” immediately major-intensive curriculum.

Things haven’t been seamless -- earlier iterations of the Core were even less selective. But the program has come into its own over time. The second-year seminars, for example, on everything from “ethics and the environment” to “heroines and heroes,” are relatively new, and give students more choice.

Integration of pre-professional studies into core courses is what the Core is all about. Beaulieu said that flow the other way -- meaning Core ideas into pre-professional courses -- varies by instructor, but that it’s not unusual to have Plato come up in a marketing class, for example. Glover, in graphic design, said she doesn’t plan for discussions of core concepts in class, except for the team-taught capstone, but they naturally come up -- and she encourages them.

Craig Pepin, a longtime associate professor of liberal arts at Champlain and associate dean of assessment in the Core division, said the initial transition to the interdisciplinary general education was “challenging” in terms of faculty buy-in for many, especially in terms of disciplinary identity. “At the very least, it made some faculty very uncertain and tentative in the classroom in the first few years,” he said in an email interview.

“I think that succeeding as a teacher (and a scholar) in the interdisciplinary space requires a degree of flexibility, curiosity and humility, as well as an inclination to venture into new areas,” Pepin added, noting that interdisciplinary buy-in is no longer an issue, because new Core faculty members are now recruited based on that mission.

One such new faculty member is Michael Kelly, an assistant professor of liberal arts in the Core and Faculty Senate president with a background in rhetoric and composition.

Kelly said he didn’t begin his Ph.D. program thinking he’d teach at a pre-professional college like Champlain, but that he’s a believer in the mission. And an unexpected benefit is his colleagues, who have an unusual focus on being effective teachers, he said. That’s because the work is stretching and collaborative -- Kelly’s co-taught a capstone course in game design, for example -- and there’s little room for ego.

“There is an absence of the really esoteric disciplinary infighting that you tend to see at research-intensive institutions,” he said.

Kelly said Champlain is also a surprisingly fun place to teach because of the clear, intentional mission of the interdisciplinary core. “Students may be more inclined to ask those sorts of important questions here because there’s a name for it,” he said. At the same time, he added, there’s perhaps even more room for more integration of professional education and liberal arts, such as offering a qualitative rhetoric core course combining statistics and rhetoric targeted at economics-oriented majors.

Yet while Champlain “may not have everything figured out yet, we’re on the right track in terms of maintaining the salience of the liberal arts within a higher education environment that is increasingly professional, and a working environment that’s more complex than ever,” Kelly said.

“Redefining what it means to be a professional necessitates that the liberal arts are a really important component,” he said. “There’s a way to earn a degree in international business that looks fairly conventional -- accounting courses, finance -- but what it means to be a professional is more important than that. It means having a complex understanding of what human rights look like across the world and a deep sense of history in order not to repeat mistakes of the past. And an understanding of ways environmental considerations are tied to economies and terrorist groups and really seeing the connections across academic contexts. … That’s a mission I can get behind.”

Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: Liberal artsImage Source: Champlain CollegeImage Caption: Students attend class at Champlain College's residential campus in Vermont.

Northwestern joins Harvard in urging exclusive clubs to open up their membership

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 07:00

Looking to end “a system of privilege and oppression,” Northwestern University announced last week that most student groups on campus must begin admitting any interested students by next year or they will lose university funding. That could mean groups like the campus food magazine Spoon University and the student-run marketing firm Form & Function Marketing, which have in the past been selective, would have to take all who want to join.

The decision has its supporters, but also its critics, who argue that allowing anyone into any club will dilute the quality of a group’s membership. Similar debates are taking place at other institutions, with colleges reconsidering whether historically exclusive organizations should still have a place on their campuses.

“Colleges are being pushed by students to be more inclusive,” Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, said. “I think the era of elite clubs and secret societies, which have really excluded folks on the basis of criteria that colleges feel they shouldn’t endorse, is slowly ending. We’re moving toward a society and a university that’s trying to create more inclusive environments.”

Several institutions, including Amherst College and Wesleyan University, have banned all-male fraternities in recent years. Last year, Sigma Phi Epsilon announced that it would allow transgender men to join the fraternity. In a widely derided decision last October, the student senate at Pitzer College, a private institution in Los Angeles, rejected a proposed yacht club, saying the concept was too exclusive.

In 2014, Bowdoin College said it would no longer recognize the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship, a campus Bible study group, after it refused to agree to the college's policy that any student, no matter their religion, could run for election as leader of any student group. After similar incidents at California State University and Vanderbilt University, lawmakers in North Carolina passed a bill ensuring that Christian student groups in their state would be safe from such intervention.

Earlier this month, Harvard University barred its students from participating in several off-campus, single-gender groups after unsuccessfully urging the organizations to become coeducational. Those who choose to participate in the off-campus clubs would be banned from leadership positions on campus and from receiving prestigious awards. The move drew praise from those critical of Harvard’s exclusive, all-male final clubs, but elicited sharp criticism from organizations like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which called the decision “a threat to freedom of association.”

At Northwestern, the plan to create more inclusive student groups has been in the works for five years, the university said.

The new policy would affect most groups that use an admissions process for recruiting new members, including the exclusive Institute for Student Business Education, a selective group that provides various educational and experiential learning opportunities to students working toward a career in business. Students can currently try to join ISBE through an application and interview process, though the club only accepts about one-third of the 200 or so students that apply each year.

The policy would exclude some groups, however, such as Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators, a student club that works with victims of sexual assault and thus requires a selective membership process. Fraternities and sororities, which are recognized by Northwestern but are independent from the university, would also not be subject to the new policy. Certain sports and performance clubs could receive exemptions, as well, on a case-by-case basis, the university said.

“It’s a changing culture,” Brent Turner, executive director of the university’s office of Campus Life, told the student newspaper, the Daily Northwestern. “Student Affairs has a strategic plan and one of those tenets is to enrich the Northwestern community. What better way to do that than creating access and removing all the barriers for students to get involved?”

Some students disagree, saying they support the idea of a more inclusive campus but that requiring student groups to become open admission is not the solution.

“If there are no barriers to enter a student group, students would undoubtedly join for the sake of joining and organizations would be saturated with unmotivated students who don’t value the group as much as they would have had they faced an application process,” Jacob Altstadt, a columnist for Northwestern’s student newspaper, wrote. “Requiring open admission creates an equality of results -- rather than an equality of opportunity -- that incentivizes laziness and strips our campus of any semblance of motivation to innovate. Inequality of results is a fact of life.”

Added Cooper Wetherbee, a project manager in the analytics arm of the Institute for Student Business Education, “At a school that takes pride in being selective -- one that this year rejected almost 90 percent of the 35,000 applicants seeking admission -- it is both disingenuous and misguided to sacrifice the depth of students’ engagement in their extracurricular pursuits in order to promote so-called inclusivity at a superficial level.”

Attempts in recent months to force Harvard's final clubs to open their membership to women have also been met with resistance.

In March, Harvard University released a report of recommendations on preventing and dealing with sexual assaults on campus. The report was similar to many other sexual assault reports released in recent years, with recommendations that included creating more detailed policies and providing more prevention education and training to students.

Where the Harvard report differed was in its emphasis on the university’s final clubs -- wealthy, private, historically male-only organizations that have existed at the university for two centuries. Fraternities and sororities were also singled out in the report.

“A woman’s physical appearance is often seen as the basis for entry to these spaces, and female students described a general expectation that entering final club spaces could be read as implicit agreement to have sexual encounters with members,” the report read. “We understand that many of the clubs typically exclude nonmember men from parties, which gives an unambiguous frame to social events, eliminates nonmember male bystanders and enables a gender ratio that makes it easier for members to have a sexual encounter.”

Final clubs, as well as fraternities and sororities, are not officially recognized organizations at Harvard, but about 30 percent of students are members of the groups and the university has frequently urged the clubs to become coeducational. Most have refused.

Earlier this month, the university announced that new students who join any “unrecognized single-gender organizations” would not be eligible for leadership positions on campus, such as being a member of a sports team, or any prestigious academic awards, including the Rhodes Scholarship.

Members of Harvard’s male final clubs argue that they’re being treated unfairly by administrators. A letter by one club to its members last year after it reluctantly decided to become coed complained that “Harvard is unfairly scapegoating the final clubs for Harvard’s poor performance on sexual assault issues.”

While the recent focus on final clubs stemmed from the university’s report on sexual assault, university officials say the decision to ban students from single-gender clubs is part of a larger attempt to steer Harvard toward becoming a “truly inclusive” community.

“Over time, Harvard has transformed its undergraduate student body as it welcomed women, minorities, international students and students of limited financial means as an increasing proportion of its population,” Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s president, said in a statement. “But the campus culture has not changed as rapidly as the student demography.”

Among those complaining about the change are Harvard’s six all-female final clubs and four sororities. Earlier this month, the organizations’ members protested the decision on campus and on Twitter. “What do we want?” female demonstrators chanted during one rally. “Female spaces! When do we want them? Now!”

In a statement, Harvard officials defended the decision, saying that “change is difficult and is often met initially by opposition.”

The female Harvard students argue that their groups are being punished for the behavior of their male counterparts -- that they are collateral damage of the university’s ongoing war with the final clubs. Their concern is shared by the National Panhellenic Conference, which released a statement earlier this month urging Harvard to “consider the ramifications this policy shift will have on programs and opportunities for women” on campus.

“When trying to break down these artificial barriers based on race or gender identity, there will be some issues of collateral damage that may not have been part of the original problem,” Kruger, of NASPA, admitted. “Universities are trying to focus on the larger good.”

DiversityEditorial Tags: DiscriminationImage Source: Flavia Cuervo | TwitterImage Caption: Female Harvard students protest the university's decision to bar students from joining unrecognized single-gender organizations.

Sting operation involving a sham college led to 21 arrests

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 07:00

In the fall of 2013 Jun Shen allegedly sent an email to officials at the brand-new University of Northern New Jersey offering her services as a recruiting agent for foreign students. According to the federal criminal complaint against her, Shen, a Chinese national and U.S. permanent resident who owned an international student consulting company in Levittown, N.Y., subsequently left a recorded message for UNNJ officials saying she had at least 50 students ready to transfer to the institution.

Between November of 2013 and March 2016 -- right before federal prosecutors announced that UNNJ was a fake university set up by the government as part of an elaborate sting operation -- Shen allegedly recruited approximately 150 foreign individuals to UNNJ despite knowing that they would not be attending classes. For her recruiting services Shen received a percentage of the “tuition” her clients paid: the criminal complaint estimates that Shen earned a total $164,775 in commission payments.

The tuition Shen’s recruits forked over didn’t pay for classes. UNNJ didn’t offer any. Nor did it employ any faculty. The university was nothing more than a website and storefront offices staffed with undercover agents posing as school administrators.

Federal officials allege that foreign nationals, with the help of recruiters like Shen, paid to enroll in the sham UNNJ as a way to maintain their status to live and work in the U.S. on student visas, though they weren’t genuine students at all. It’s what prosecutors describe as a pay-to-stay scheme.

The federal sting operation that ended last month in the indictment of 21 people, including Shen, on visa fraud-related charges, renewed focus on the problem of fake colleges, but its real target was the brokers, or agents, it ensnared.

Federal officials allege that the defendants -- many of whom worked as recruiters or consultants serving international students -- fraudulently obtained or attempted to obtain student or work visas for approximately 1,000 foreign nationals from 26 different countries. In many cases the recruiters allegedly obtained false student records for their clients, including UNNJ transcripts and diplomas.

Shen’s lawyer did not return multiple requests for comment. Lawyers for the other defendants identified by name in this article declined interview requests.

The 21 defendants in the case are variously charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud, conspiracy to harbor aliens for profit, making false statements and H-1B visa fraud. Apart from the alleged fraud involving student visas, two of the defendants, who were affiliated with information technology staffing companies, are accused of a separate scheme in which they falsely represented their clients would work at UNNJ in applications for H-1B guest worker visas.

The arrests, announced in early April, shed light on a shadowy world of suspect colleges that abuse the student visa system and the agents who stand to profit from such abuse. In the middle are the UNNJ “students” who initially entered the U.S. on F-1 visas to attend other educational institutions. UNNJ offered a way for them to prolong their stay in the United States.

Supply and Demand

Many of the foreign nationals who enrolled at UNNJ gained authorization to work under a program for students on F-1 visas known as curricular practical training, or CPT. The program is intended to enable legitimate foreign students to work in an internship or practicum that is considered integral to a course of study. But at UNNJ there was only work, no study.

“We have a lot of students who are looking for a school to maintain F1 status and apply to CPT,” one of the defendants, Jiaming Wang, the president of the California-based American International Education Center, allegedly wrote to UNNJ in an email cited in a criminal complaint. Another recruiting agent named as a defendant, Yanjun Lin, allegedly wanted to know whether UNNJ would authorize CPT on the student’s first day of enrollment. “I want to make sure that our student [sic] don’t need to go to school. They can work full-time,” Lin allegedly stated in a recorded call cited in a criminal complaint.

“Schools exist where educated immigrants can find an avenue of staying longer in the U.S. under the guise of being a student and work under the CPT program,” said Neil G. Ruiz, the executive director of George Washington University’s Center for Law, Economics and Finance and an expert on foreign student enrollment trends in the U.S. “You’re basically paying for status and the chance of getting an H-1B visa” -- for which there is an annual lottery, and for which there are not enough to go around.

“What the U.S. government is trying to do is attack the demand side for this school,” Ruiz said of the UNNJ investigation, “but the real issue we have to also deal with is the supply side.”

“The government needs to tackle the supply side to ensure that we don’t have a lot of these schools popping up to become visa mills for foreigners to just work in the United States.”

A July 2012 U.S. Government Accountability Office report issued in the wake of a high-profile visa fraud case involving an unaccredited California institution, Tri-Valley University, found that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Student and Exchange Visitor Program had inadequate processes in place to identify and combat school fraud. There are more than 8,000 schools certified by SEVP to enroll international students.

Since the GAO report, federal officials have brought visa fraud-related charges against the operators of a few different schools. The former CEO of Herguan University, in California, pleaded guilty to submitting false documents to the Homeland Security Department and in September was sentenced to 12 months in prison and ordered to forfeit $700,000.

Three senior executives at Micropower Career Institute, a for-profit college with five campuses in New Jersey and New York, and the Institute for Health Education, in New Jersey, were sentenced in January on charges related to financial aid and student visa fraud.

A trial date has been set for August for the owner and manager of four Los Angeles-area colleges that federal officials say were at the center of another pay-to-stay scheme: the American College of Forensic Studies, Likie Fashion and Technology College, Prodee University/Neo-America Language School, and the Walter Jay M. D. Institute.

At least some of the defendants in the UNNJ case knew about these prosecutions and discussed them with the undercover agents posing as school officials, according to the criminal complaints against them. Shen, for example, allegedly advised UNNJ not to accept transfer students from Micropower so as to avoid becoming law enforcement’s “next target.”

Another defendant in the case, Avinash Shankar, a citizen of India and the president of an international student consulting firm in Bloomington, Ill., allegedly engaged in a text message conversation with an undercover agent posing as a UNNJ official in which Shankar described finding an online news article about the sentencing of Herguan’s president.

“I’m seriously wondering that [the school] will also fall in this limelight someday by some smart-ass trying to prove that we are also in the same trend like Herguan,” Shankar allegedly wrote.

The Students

The Department of Homeland Security devised the sting operation to catch the recruiters. Students who signed up for the fake UNNJ were not criminally charged, but the Student and Exchange Visitor Program terminated the student records of active UNNJ students as well as many former ones who had since transferred to other institutions. Students who could find another SEVP-certified school willing to accept them could seek reinstatement or, otherwise, leave the country. Some of the former UNNJ students have received notices to appear in immigration court, the first step in deportation proceedings.

Since the announcement of the sting operation in early April, some of the students have fought back, arguing, per the title of a New York Times article on this subject, that they were “collateral damage” in the government’s investigation. Inside Higher Ed spoke to several students who said they believed that the university -- and its unusual arrangement in which they could work full time and not attend classes -- was perfectly legal.

One student from China, who asked to be identified by his nickname, Mas, said he had found a job teaching painting in the Bay Area after he earned an M.F.A. at a California institution. His OPT period -- a postgraduation work authorization phase of one to three years available to international students -- was expiring, and he started looking for an education-related program he could enroll in while keeping his teaching job.

Going to school while working full time is not typically an option for an international student on an F-1 visa. Regulations require foreign nationals on student visas to be enrolled in a full-time course of study and prohibit them from working without specific authorization (such as through the CPT program).

But Mas found an agent -- one of the defendants in the case -- who, he said, “gave me some information about CPT. Before that I didn’t really know the CPT program.”

“She told me if I take the part-time CPT, I need to go to class, but if I take the full-time CPT program, I don’t have to go to class,” said Mas. “I trusted her.”

Another former UNNJ student who asked to remain anonymous described being persuaded by an agent’s assurance that it would be possible to obtain accounting credit through UNNJ without attending class and while continuing to work as a mergers and acquisition consultant (the student, who identified as a graduate of a top-tier American M.B.A. program, wanted accounting credits in order to sit for the CPA exam).

“You’re getting your credit by doing things related to your major,” said the student, whose agent was not among the 21 defendants. “This is pretty much like for medical students, their residency program. It totally makes sense to me and also as an M&A consultant I work a very tight, busy schedule. I appreciated the flexibility.”

The federal government identified 1,076 foreign nationals who fraudulently obtained student visa status with the assistance of the 21 agents and brokers indicted in the case. About two dozen of these students are identified (anonymously) in criminal complaints as co-conspirators: these individuals allegedly obtained, through their agents, false academic documents and, in one case, came into the school to sign fake attendance sheets in different colored pens.

The government has, however, maintained that all 1,076 students, not just the two dozen identified in the complaints, were "willing participants in the scheme." It does not intend to refund the money students paid in tuition because it was used to perpetuate fraudulent activity.

“There was no school,” said Matthew Reilly, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, which is prosecuting the case. “There were no classes, there were no books, there were no tests.”

“This was an operation that was set up to get visas for people.”

But Barmak Nassirian, the director of federal relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said the students who say they legitimately believed UNNJ was offering a legal route for them to stay -- and work -- in the U.S. have a point. The institution, by design, had all the outward signs of legitimacy, including approval to operate by the state of New Jersey and accreditation by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges and the Commission on English Language Accreditation. The accreditors were knowing partners in the sting operation.

UNNJ was also, of course, certified by the Department of Homeland Security to enroll foreign students.

“What level of due diligence is a regular civilian supposed to engage in?” Nassirian asked. “Is it too good to be true? Of course it’s too good to be true, but it does happen in life that some amazingly good things become available to people, to desperate people.”

“You’re already more receptive. If you’re a person who was just denied an H-1B because they ran out of slots, the idea of being around for an extra year to take a second bite of the apple may be appealing. At that point you’re desperate and just trying to hold on. Here comes the University of Northern New Jersey,” Nassirian said.

Louis Farrell, the director of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program, said in a written statement that international students need to know their rights and responsibilities when they hire agents or recruiters. “The Student and Exchange Visitor Program urges international students to do their research. They must ensure the school where they enroll meets their educational objectives, and they should be wary of any recruiter who promises they can work without restrictions while attending school.”

“Based on current regulations, international students are ultimately responsible for maintaining their immigration status while studying in the U.S.”

The Agents

The growing practice of colleges paying commissions to recruiting agents who send them foreign students has been hotly debated in recent years, but the UNNJ case brought attention to a little-known subset of educational agents who are serving international students already present in the U.S. As the number of international students has grown -- particularly at the undergraduate and even the high school level -- the pool of students who could turn to “onshore” agents to facilitate their transfer to other institutions, legitimate or not, is growing.

Three of the agents implicated in the UNNJ investigation, two of whom were from the same agency, had been screened by ICEF, a well-known company that vets and trains recruitment agents. ICEF’s director of marketing and communications, Korinne Algie, said both of the agencies had been vetted within the past two years. The agencies, Algie said, had received “glowing references from some well-known, well-thought-of U.S. institutions, both at university level and at the English language level.” (She declined to name those institutions.)

Algie said the agencies have been “blacklisted” from ICEF events pending the company’s investigation.

“That’s what is very interesting and very concerning about this news -- that you could have respected universities and in this case ICEF vouching for agents that are engaging in activity that leads to arrest,” said Eddie West, the director of international initiatives for the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

“I think it does beg a broader question of how effective quality assurance mechanisms are,” West said.

Federal financial aid law prohibits universities from paying per capita commissions when they recruit domestic students. This legal ban on commissioned recruitment doesn’t apply to “foreign students residing in foreign countries who are not eligible to receive federal student assistance.”

The language of the statute is such that NACAC warns colleges that they risk violating the law if they pay commissions to agents who recruit international students residing in the U.S.

NACAC in any case only permits its members to use commissioned agents “when recruiting students outside the U.S.” and calls upon universities that choose to engage with them to “ensure accountability, transparency and integrity.”

The American International Recruitment Council, an association that certifies overseas recruitment agencies, used the news of the UNNJ arrests as an opportunity to remind its certified agencies that AIRC standards require them to only place students at accredited institutions (though UNNJ was, on paper, accredited). Michael Finnell, AIRC’s executive director, said the association would be looking at the issue of agents providing services to students already in the U.S. to see whether that's something that should be addressed in the standards.

It is unknown how many agents are engaging in the type of fraudulent activity the UNNJ defendants are accused of. But in their own words there is student demand.

“Actually we already do this for about five years,” one of the indicted agents, Wang, allegedly said in a recorded phone call. “Every year we have, I can least 300 to 500 students … We send them to a different school … They want to keep the F1 status and … just a waiting for H-1B.”

New presidents or provosts: Ga. Southern Hood Marymount California Montana-Western SJU SUNY Delhi WSU WGU Yavapai

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 07:00
  • Jeanne F. Brady, professor of educational leadership at Saint Joseph's University, in Pennsylvania, has been promoted to provost and vice president for academic affairs there.
  • Jaimie Hebert, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Sam Houston State University, in Texas, has been chosen as president of Georgia Southern University.
  • Deborah Hedeen, dean of the college of education at Idaho State University, has been appointed provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Montana Western.
  • Michael R. Laliberte, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, has been named president of the State University of New York College at Delhi.
  • Lucas Lamadrid, vice president of higher education programs for Three-W International, in Florida, has been chosen as president of Marymount California University.
  • Ron Liss, president of Cuyahoga Community College's western campus, in Ohio, has been selected as vice president of instruction and student development at Yavapai College, in Arizona.
  • Scott D. Pulsipher, president of Needle Inc., in Utah, has been chosen as president of Western Governors University, also in Utah.
  • Debbie Ricker, dean of academic services at York College of Pennsylvania, has been appointed provost and vice president for academic affairs at Hood College, in Maryland.
  • Kirk Schulz, president of Kansas State University, has been named president of Washington State University.
Editorial Tags: College administrationNew presidents

Pomona moves to make diversity commitment a tenure requirement

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 07:00

Pomona College's faculty has voted to change the criteria for tenure to specifically require candidates to be "attentive to diversity in the student body."

While many colleges and universities encourage faculty members to support diversity efforts, and a few have encouraged tenure candidates to reference such work, Pomona's requirement may go farther in that it applies to all who come up for tenure. The faculty voted overwhelmingly this month to approve the change. At Pomona, the faculty controls the tenure criteria, so the vote is final, although there is a grandfather clause exempting those already in the tenure-review process.

The key changes in how faculty members are evaluated can be seen in this part of the Pomona policy, with bold indicating the additions made this month:

Intellectual leadership at the college includes, most particularly, but not exclusively, good teaching that is attentive to diversity in the student body, meaning competence in all, and excellence in at least one, of these teaching activities as measured by the high standards that prevail at Pomona College:

  1. Lecturing;

  2. Leading seminars and discussions;

  3. Guiding laboratories, independent studies, theses, tutorials, studios, performances/exhibitions, rehearsals, student research, coaching or any other modes of individual or collaborative learning, whether or not explicitly offered for course credit.
  4. Fostering an inclusive classroom where all students are encouraged to participate in discussions, studios, rehearsals, performances, activities and other course exercises.

Further, the Pomona policy outlining the preparation of a tenure portfolio by a candidate says that the faculty members should "specifically address their efforts to create and maintain an inclusive classroom. This may include describing classroom practices used to encourage the participation of a diverse student body, or to cultivate an awareness of differing backgrounds, focuses, and needs among the student body and broader community. Techniques such as communities of learning and community partnerships are relevant here, as are the inclusion of scholarly and other works emerging from the perspectives of underrepresented groups, or any other classroom practices that support inclusivity and diversity."

The changes were similar to one demand of students at Pomona in campus protests in the fall. Students organized a petition drive -- signed by hundreds -- and a few dozen students brought the petitions to the faculty meeting where the vote took place. The petition stated that the changes in the tenure criteria were "a crucial step towards recognizing that an essential component of exceptional teaching and service is meeting the needs of a diverse student body."

Eric A. Hurley, associate professor of psychology and Africana studies, is among the professors who worked on the policy changes. He said that the idea has been under consideration for three years, well before last fall's protests. He said that Pomona routinely asks candidates for new faculty positions about their vision for teaching a diverse student body, and he and others questioned why that wouldn't be examined at the point of tenure review.

"This is already part of our job but as the student body has changed, what it means to do that job, with close mentoring as what we do, is also starting to change," Hurley said.

With regard to the student protests at Pomona and elsewhere, Hurley said it was important to realize that students want "structural change," not just short-term adjustments. A college could, for instance, hire more minority counselors, a worthy thing to do, but they might leave in a few years. Changing the considerations for tenure, in contrast, is a permanent change of the type students want and faculty members at Pomona agree is needed.

Different Approaches to Diversity Considerations

A number of universities have in recent years adopted policies that have sought to encourage faculty members to consider diversity issues in their teaching and research. Oregon State University in 2015 changed its guidelines for tenure and promotion to state the following: "Oregon State University is committed to maintaining and enhancing its collaborative and inclusive community that strives for equity and equal opportunity. All faculty members are responsible for helping to ensure that these goals are achieved. Stipulated contributions to equity, inclusion and diversity should be clearly identified in the position description so that they can be evaluated in promotion and tenure decisions. Such contributions can be part of teaching, advising, research, extension and/or service. They can be, but do not have to be, part of scholarly work. Outputs and impacts of these faculty members’ efforts to promote equity, inclusion and diversity should be included in promotion and tenure dossiers."

That policy leaves open the possibility that stipulations about diversity may vary from position to position.

Virginia Tech has for a longer time had a policy that encourages those up for tenure and promotion to describe their work on diversity. When -- as happens from time to time -- the university is criticized for allegedly imposing certain political stances on tenure candidates, officials have said that the diversity issue is optional, and that tenure candidates are not required to believe or report anything specific in their tenure portfolios.

Last year, the then-provost of Virginia Tech, Mark G. McNamee, wrote a letter to the editor of The Richmond Times-Dispatch taking issue with such criticism.

"The suggestion that contributions to inclusion and diversity are a litmus test for promotion are patently false," McNamee wrote. "A close reading of the university’s P&T guidelines reveals, time and again, that a candidate 'may' include examples responsive to the criteria. It says may -- not must."

Hurley said that Pomona wanted a policy that clearly applied to all departments, and that said diversity wasn't just a plus, but a requirement. "The college is now asking you to think about who your students are," he said.

Many faculty members, he said, already do so. But he said the change was important to them as well.

"For the people who already do this as a perceived responsibility anyway, this officially acknowledges that as contributing to your promotion," he said. "Before it was ambiguously a nice thing to do, but others would say you are doing this when you should have been doing X and Y."

'Litmus Tests'?

Leaders of the National Association of Scholars have written numerous critiques of Virginia Tech's policy and similar ones, arguing that references to diversity and inclusivity become political "litmus tests" for tenure candidates. Ashley Thorne, executive director of the group, said via email that she opposed the Pomona policy.

"While it is appropriate to evaluate faculty members' contributions to the university by way of service (in addition to teaching and research), it is inappropriate to make these expectations into ideological litmus tests," Thorne said via email. "Pomona's new requirement not only discriminates against faculty members who put academic excellence first, but it also can undercut the value of the education students will receive. And it may subvert faculty members' academic freedom to teach a subject according to their best judgment and field of expertise. A college should be encouraging its faculty members to prioritize books and ideas that are intrinsically good, true and important, regardless of whether they count as 'underrepresented.' Students deserve an education that is guided by intellectual worth, not topics that merely fulfill a diversity requirement."

Hurley of Pomona said that the new Pomona policy would in no way limit faculty members in terms of their political views or expressing them -- even if students disagree with those views.

"Inclusion doesn't meant students aren't meant to be challenged in their views. It doesn't mean anyone has to edit their academically grounded perspectives," he said. "It's not about protecting people's feelings by not saying anything anyone could disagree with. That's how learning happens."

But he said that, regardless of the ideas a professor might share, "there is a way that one might frame such a thing that is appropriate and a way that is not appropriate."

Henry Reichman, professor emeritus of California State University at East Bay and chair of the American Association of University Professors' Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, said he did not see problems inherent in the language of Pomona's new policy. But he said via email that what will be key is how the policy is used.

"What is practically meant by 'attentive to diversity' will have to be established in practice before one could really judge," Reichman said. "After all, people who hate diversity are in a sense 'attentive' to it, and 'diversity' has multiple meanings -- cultural, ethnic, religious, gender and, of course, diversity of viewpoints. But I seen nothing wrong with the wording itself."

DiversityFacultyEditorial Tags: TenureImage Caption: Eric Hurley of Pomona

Conference at U Chicago poses hard questions about how liberal education can be revived

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 07:00

CHICAGO -- Liberal education has many critics these day, so how can its purveyors and supporters better defend it? That was the subtext of several panels at a conference on whether liberal education needs saving Friday at the University of Chicago.

For Julie Reuben, the Charles Warren Professor of Education at Harvard University, liberal education doesn’t need saving as much as it needs “reviving,” starting with a redefining of terms.

Redefining Terms

Like several conference attendees, Reuben commented on how liberal arts are often “hazily” described as synonymous with the humanities. And a liberal education, she said -- while commonly understood as “timeless” -- has over time in the U.S. meant different things to different people: foregrounded in the ancient languages, math and philosophy; centered on open inquiry; nonvocational and residential; or focused on certain pedagogical practices or disciplines.

All that is confusing, but not necessarily bad -- and perhaps even hopeful, Reuben said. “What it means is that the liberal education has been in crisis in earlier moments in history and people in education have managed to come together and revive it by giving it a new, semicoherent sense of it and what it means and what the rationale for it is.”

Reuben added, “I believe we’re at another one of those historical moments where we need to revive [it] through a form of redefinition and clarification.”

As in previous points in history, there are particular challenges to that end, Reuben said during a panel on liberal education in the modern university. Today, it’s primarily institutional structure: departmental silos, hyperspecialization and reward systems that exacerbate both, she said. That “doesn’t help us look up and engage in public conversations and engage in conversations across universities.”

There’s also a new push for utility of knowledge, including by funders who largely define it in technocratic terms or by limited goals about how to solve social problems, she said. Administrators often respond to those demands in ways that prioritize the long-term financial future of an institution, Reuben added -- not necessarily immediate, academic ones.

Most sympathetically, students and their families also share these concerns in relation to their personal financial futures, she said. But such discussions also create rifts between disciplines and among faculty members about what knowledge is useful in the modern world, in turn driving other divisions.

Touching on more common criticisms of liberal education, Reuben also said that recent intellectual trends and the critique of the idea of a canon pose additional challenges. She didn’t endorse the idea of a strict canon, but said that liberal educators need to move beyond “tearing down” intellectual traditions and think about what texts and works of art students should be wrestling with to understand the modern world.

A New (Old) Model

With that in mind, Reuben proposed that the aim of a contemporary liberal education should be to orient students to the world they live in and help them both envision and build the lives they want to live. Such an education should be humbling, she added, and include exposure to contradiction and ambiguity.

Reuben also proposed certain core courses that might serve that purpose: one on humans’ impact on the planet, inclusive of cultural and natural and social scientific perspectives; one on the origins and impact of European colonialism across the globe in terms of power, economies and culture; and one organized around the concept of the self, including philosophical, artistic and biological and psychological inquiry. She called her ideas “humble,” but also proof that educators should be “afraid” to begin such conversations.

Lorraine Daston, director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and a regular visiting professor in the Committee on Social Thought at Chicago, elaborated on Reuben’s point about the elision of the humanities and liberal arts during a panel on the history of liberal education. She said that as a historian of science, she’s often called upon to “mediate” between the natural sciences and humanities and social sciences, between which “the divorce rate is higher than the population at large.” Yet they simply cannot exist without each other, she said.

Daston called it self-evident that liberal education needs a scientific and mathematical component “now more than ever in the scientific and technology-saturated society in which we live, in order to prepare our free citizens to think, debate and act in a democratic society.” And indeed, as she and other speakers pointed out, the liberal arts from their inception have included math and some sciences. Equally important but perhaps more counterintuitive, Daston added, the sciences also need the liberal arts more than ever now, to provide students an “orientation.”

For example, she said, one only need mention the term “climate change” to discern how complex the problems facing modern scientists are. Yet scientists feel intensely constrained by more immediately practical concerns, such as securing external funding and improving their citation metrics; a broader, more liberal approach to science education might help relieve some of these pressures and attract more, brighter students to study them, Daston said.

Some of Reuben’s and Daston’s sentiments were shared by conference co-organizer Aviva Rothman, an assistant professor of social sciences at Chicago, who said a liberal education can leave students “unmoored” and uncertain, but also teach them to move beyond that fear and work to improve the world in ways they see fit. Observing that process in action -- and teaching students to read “sympathetically” as well as critically -- is the overall “joy” of the liberal educator, she said.

Rothman also said that educators tend to talk about the value of a liberal education in two registers: aspirational and practical, and that the conversations don’t have to be so separate. Several other speakers encouraged liberal educators not to shy away from meaningful discussions about the practical application of a liberal education -- meaning that it's all right to tell students it will help them in their careers as well as in their intellectual lives.

Getting More Practical

This may be especially important for students of color and first-generation students, said Micere Keels, an associate professor of comparative human development at Chicago, during a panel on the role of liberal education in democracy and social justice. Keels is studying a group of such students who went into college with the academic preparation and readiness for it, in part to see why those who don’t end up graduating leave. She said preliminary research suggests that students have intense anxiety about the value of a four-year degree that affects their ability to focus on their work because they simply haven’t seen it pay off before.

Educators could help these students by assuring them -- in part by helping them identify concrete pathways to jobs -- that pursuing the “famous life of the mind” as an undergraduate is worth the risk in both intrinsic and more practical rewards, Keels said.

Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of education policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, also pointed out during the democracy panel that some of the country’s most prestigious and well-endowed institutions have relatively small populations of Pell Grant recipients. In short, she said, further conversations about liberal education are incomplete without talking about who can afford to have it.

Beyond the Faculty

While many conversations about the liberal arts take place only among faculty members, Chicago’s conference included thoughts from administrators, as well. Alison Byerly, president of Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, said her role often demands that she act as a “salesperson” for liberal education, and that it doesn’t have to stand in opposition to her support for it as an academic. Like other speakers, she argued that reviving liberal education might mean stressing its intrinsic benefits as well as its potential for return on investment.

“It’s important to recognize that students are really borrowing and struggling” to come to college for a liberal education, and describing the liberal arts as useful “is not selling them short,” she said. In fact, she added, selling a liberal education as proudly, fundamentally useless has hurt its cause in conversations with the outside world.

In her own conversations with parents, students and donors, Byerly said she begins on common ground: that the pace of change today is rapid. From there, she said, the best argument for a liberal education is one she believes in -- that it’s the “best possible preparation" for change and reinventing oneself.

Does the role of the admissions office also have a place in such conversations? Theodore O’Neill, former dean of college admissions at Chicago, said yes. Colleges and universities do a disservice to liberal education by trying to attract students to apply with gimmicky gifts (pizza cutters elicited lots of laughter) and other incentives that have nothing to do with the goals of a liberal education, he said.

More applications and more demands about who gets in and why and under what discounts, if any, mean less time and latitude for admissions officers to really talk about whom they’re accepting or rejecting. Students are also “fulfilled” rather than given honest answers about their intended courses of study and whether the institution is otherwise a good fit. Such a “frenzy” can only impact education once students are on campus, O’Neill said.

“We sell what we think they want or what they’re told they want: choice, hands-on learning, preparation for careers, internships, study abroad, but not what we think would be best for them, or what is the best we can do for them,” he said. “Who are they, then, when they get to us? Have they been prepared to be liberal arts students?”

Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: HumanitiesImage Caption: Theodore O'Neill, former dean of college admissions at the University of Chicago, center, talks during a panel on liberal education there Friday.

Kansas cuts criticized for hurting large research universities

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 07:00

New higher education cuts in Kansas slash more deeply from research universities, highlighting the question of whether large institutions should bear the brunt of declines in state funding in order to ease the burden on their smaller sister universities.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback approved Wednesday a 4 percent, $30.7 million cut to the state’s higher education system for the upcoming 2017 fiscal year. The cuts in higher education funding were part of a larger batch of cutting totaling $97 million that also included deep decreases in Medicaid spending.

Cuts to state support are nothing new for Kansas’ university system, which includes six state universities, a municipal university, 19 community colleges and six technical colleges. The state has had to regularly chop spending in recent years amid declines in revenue during the tenure of Brownback, who pushed for deep tax cuts passed in 2012. But the latest round of cutting is notable in that lawmakers introduced a new formula changing the way higher education cuts translate to individual universities.

The new formula isn’t based on the amount of state funding each university receives or enrollments. It cuts a percentage of state funding based on their total operating budgets. As a result, universities that have more outside funding -- more research grants, higher tuition, larger endowments -- are seeing their state aid drop off more precipitously.

Effectively, that means the state’s two largest research universities, the University of Kansas and Kansas State University, are seeing the greatest hits, about 5 percent apiece. KU’s budget reduction totaled just over $7 million, plus the University of Kansas Medical Center saw a $3.7 million cut. K-State’s reduction was more than $5.2 million. The state’s other research university, Wichita State University, had its state support cut by 3.8 percent, $2.8 million. While landing federal research grants resulted in larger cuts for these universities, those grants are generally for specific research projects and not for the cost of educating undergraduates -- an expense typically supported by state governments at public universities.

Meanwhile, Kansas’ three other state universities saw smaller cuts, generally near 3 percent. Emporia State University lost $855,204. Fort Hays State University and Pittsburg State University each lost just over $1 million.

The distribution of the cuts has some at the larger universities protesting, saying they’re unfairly saddled with a majority of the hardship. The Kansas Board of Regents is unhappy as well, because it was not given the ability to decide how cuts are distributed. The new calculation’s biggest supporter is not backing down, however, arguing it’s an equitable move protecting smaller, more vulnerable institutions.

Leaders at KU and K-State blasted the new formula in early May shortly after it was proposed. They argued it punished their universities for being successful research institutions in a letter addressed to their schools’ alumni associations.

“This formula penalizes Kansas State University and the University of Kansas, whose all-funds budgets are higher because of our large research portfolios,” said the letter, which was signed by K-State Interim President General Richard Myers and University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “In essence, this formula punishes K-State and KU for conducting research and successfully securing federal research grants that bring new dollars to Kansas.”

Andrew Bennett, a professor of mathematics who is K-State’s Faculty Senate president, echoed those sentiments in an interview Thursday. The Faculty Senate has not voted on an official position regarding the cuts, but many professors are disappointed, he said.

“We’ve been left with a sense that the Legislature doesn’t necessarily understand -- if we have research dollars, we can’t move those research dollars,” he said. “They have been given to us by agencies to carry out certain research grants. We can’t use those funds to substitute for state dollars to teach freshmen calculus.”

But the lawmaker who introduced the budget cut formula, State Senator Jacob LaTurner, said it is fair. LaTurner is a Republican whose district in southeastern Kansas includes Pittsburg State University. The new calculation is an equitable action when higher education cuts are necessary, he said.

Across-the-board cuts based on state spending disproportionately hurt smaller universities, LaTurner said. He added that he would not apologize for doing his job, representing his district and watching out for an institution like Pittsburg State.

Allowing the Board of Regents to decide how to carry out spending cuts leaves open the possibility it will favor the research universities, LaTurner said.

“The regents have an attitude that we’ll all live and die together -- that's what they portray,” LaTurner said. “In fact, it is, ‘Everybody be quiet and we’re going to do things for the big universities.’”

Regents, unsurprisingly, see the landscape differently. They can make a more informed decision than a legislatively imposed formula, said Shane Bangerter, chair of the Kansas Board of Regents.

“From the system vantage point, we just think it’s a lot better policy for those kinds of decisions to be made by the governing board,” Bangerter said. “We have an opportunity to weigh programs and weigh the effect of each cut on each institution, rather than to make somewhat of an arbitrary decision in regards to who should feel the pinch worse than the other.”

Bangerter compared the cuts to research universities to cuts those institutions would have experienced under previous reduction allocations. Kansas loses about $1.5 million more, he said. K-State loses $1.1 million. Wichita State is roughly even, and other institutions saw lesser cuts because of the change.

“It comes out of everybody,” Bangerter said. “It’s just a little different proportion than if they’d done it the way they did in the past.”

Regents had been expecting a 3 percent cut, meaning the 4 percent reduction approved Wednesday was deeper than expected. The governor also approved the cuts on the same day the Board of Regents heard state universities’ 2017 tuition proposals. It’s now possible those tuition proposals could have to change, particularly at the large research institutions hit the hardest.

The University of Kansas had asked to increase standard in-state undergraduate tuition and fees by 4 percent, or $200.50, to $5,228.75 per semester. K -State had asked for a hike of 4.9 percent, or $227.45, to $4,902.25.

Both universities could come to rely more on other revenue sources. Out-of-state and international students bring in much higher amounts of revenue. KU had proposed standard undergraduate out-of-state 2017 tuition and fees rising 4 percent to $12,847.25. K-State had proposed a 4.9 percent hike to $12,292.75.

“There’s a relationship between state funding and tuition,” Bangerter said. “This is a national trend. Certainly we’ve seen it in all of our institutions, and a huge increase in the effort to attract philanthropic giving to the endowment, for example.”

There is some merit to the argument that research universities are taking on a new burden under the new formula, said Andy Carlson, a senior policy analyst at the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. But there is also merit to the idea that they can better compensate for state funding cuts by attracting higher-paying out-of-state and international students, he said. Institutions in many states have followed that strategy when times were tight in recent years.

“That would certainly affect the research institutions more significantly, but I think it’s safe to say that they probably have a lot more access to tuition revenue to kind of cover their operations,” Carlson said.

Ultimately, the fairest way to make cuts looks different depending on perspective, said Thomas Harnisch, director of state relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The Kansas situation stood out to him for another reason as well -- timing. The change in funding-cut allotment came relatively late in the process, he said. And it wasn’t clear until the end whether Brownback would use a line-item veto to strike the change from the books and allow cuts to be allotted in another way.

“I generally don’t see state lawmakers changing the game, changing the ground rules, this far into the session,” Harnisch said. “Usually they know in advance how the cuts are going to be distributed.”

Kansas is not the only state where the issue of support for smaller universities contrasted with funding for larger ones. In Illinois, colleges and universities have struggled amid a prolonged budget battle this year. Lawmakers approved some funding in April to keep state colleges and universities open through the summer.

But smaller institutions felt an outsize impact, Harnisch said. Chicago State University eliminated jobs for 300 employees this month.

“There were institutions on the front line, like Eastern Illinois and Chicago State, that just didn’t have the cushion,” Harnisch said. “Chicago State was near closing. Then you have institutions like the University of Illinois, which has a larger cushion to withstand some of the cuts.”

Back in Kansas, the latest cuts aren’t the only ones this calendar year -- Brownback in February announced a $16 million cut from higher education to close a budget gap for the current fiscal year ending in June.

And the threat of future cuts still looms. Brownback noted a state Supreme Court case over K-12 funding could force $40 million or more in additional spending. That spending could lead to additional higher education cuts, the governor said in a legislative message.

However it plays out, the uncertainty is hurting universities, said Tom Beisecker, chair of the department of communication studies and Faculty Senate past president at the University of Kansas. He anticipates being unable to fill open positions and losing top faculty members to competing institutions.

“If you encounter budget cuts, you have all kinds of decisions you have to make in terms of allocations of department resources, university resources,” Beisecker said. “It’s very difficult to engage in long-term planning, because the long-term planning keeps having to be readjusted downward.”

Kansas was also one of only a handful of states to see a decline in state funding for higher education between the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years, according to an annual study by the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers. Kansas funding fell 1.2 percent in the time period, it said.

State funding for higher education in Kansas has decreased by 8.6 percent, or nearly $100 million, since 2007-08, according to the Board of Regents.

FinancesEditorial Tags: State policyImage Caption: University of Kansas

Northern Illinois U Press fights to survive after being deemed 'nonessential'

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 07:00

This is a terrible year to be part of public higher education in Illinois. The state is approaching the one-year mark of operating without a budget. Despite a small stop-gap appropriation that was approved, public colleges and universities are being forced into layoffs and program cuts. And in this environment, academic publishing may be particular vulnerable.

Northern Illinois University -- with more than 5,000 graduate students and 22 doctoral programs -- is classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a "high research activity university," and it's not unusual for such institutions to operate a university press. But when NIU committees recently identified some programs as "nonessential" and thus targets for elimination, one of the programs that ended up on the list was the Northern Illinois University Press. Today is the last day for people to comment on the various targets for cuts.

Supporters of the press have been trying to rally support. But when university presses land in the situation of trying to justify their existence, they face challenges. There has been more local press coverage of the threat to the cheerleading squad than to the university press. And at some level, that's not surprising. Other academic or student programs that could be eliminated directly serve people on the campus in DeKalb, about 65 miles west of Chicago.

But if you look at the catalog for the current publishing season at NIU Press, you'll find books by academics at Illinois State, Marquette, Mercer and Yale Universities. Again, that's not surprising, because university presses aim to publish the best scholarship in their fields of expertise, not just to serve the campus. A university press supports the academic ecosystem of disseminating scholarship and (not a small matter) helping faculty members who are up for tenure or promotion demonstrate the value of their work. Northern Illinois professors benefit from a network of university presses across the country and the world, and the university contributes through its press to that system of publishing.

But when state support evaporates, that becomes difficult. The Southern Illinois University Press, for example, has lost 12 percent of its budget this year and 50 percent over five years. Only 17 percent of the funds for its press (which is larger than that of Northern Illinois) are from the state.

Northern Illinois University is not directly answering questions about why the press is on the endangered list, but the university has been sending out email messages to those who are expressing concern stating that all contracts will be honored, and that the press will continue normal operations during the next academic year.

To many, those reassurances do not go far enough. Two historians at Northern Illinois -- Andy Bruno and Christine Worobec -- have in the last week been circulating a letter to colleagues in fields where the NIU Press has been particularly strong. Many smaller presses focus on local area, and NIU Press publishes a lot of Illinois scholarship, but the press has also become a force in Slavic and Russian studies.

"Located at a regional public university, NIU Press has distinguished itself as a high quality producer of first-rate and cutting-edge scholarship," the letter says. "Especially in the fields of Russian and Slavic studies, it has published some of the most important works of the past several decades by many acclaimed scholars. Its relatively new Orthodox Christian series is top-notch. Since 2000, NIU Press books have won 48 book prizes and four honorable mentions."

Given that the press publishes only 20-25 books a year, the awards numbers are impressive, supporters argue.

One measure the university is considering when evaluating programs to kill is whether they could be self-supporting without university support. That could be difficult for NIU Press, as university funding is about $320,000 of the $750,000 total budget for the press.

Peter Berkery, executive director of the Association of American University Presses, said via email that association members were concerned about the situation at NIU, and that the press there shows the importance of smaller academic publishing outlets.

"AAUP appreciates the exceptional pressure the state of Illinois’s ongoing fiscal crisis is placing on its public universities," he said. "But to discount the relevance and impact of NIU's press because of its size seems incongruous. Indeed, NIUP’s pre-eminence in the field of Slavic studies serves as an outstanding example of the disproportionate contribution a small university press can make to both scholarly communications and an institution's reputation."

Publishing IndustryEditorial Tags: PressesPublishingImage Caption: Books from NIU Press that have won awards in recent years

Community colleges fret over overtime rules

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 07:00

Community colleges across the country could feel the biggest impact of the Obama administration's recent proposals to change overtime pay rules. That's due to the comparatively low pay of many of their administrative and support staffs, as well as the financial pressures the institutions are under as state budgets have tightened.

On Tuesday, the Department of Labor released new regulations that more than double the pay threshold at which employees qualify for overtime wages. The new regulations increase, to $47,476 from $23,660, the level at which salaried employees will be eligible for overtime. The rule also stipulates that the threshold levels will be raised every three years to reflect changes in the cost of living.

While most colleges are still evaluating how big an impact the rule change will have on their campuses, some administrators are certain there will be an effect.

"We do know that most of our campuses will be impacted, with many having scores of employees who will fall under the new threshold," said David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis for the American Association of Community Colleges. "Most of our campuses simply are not in a position to provide significant compensation increases and so they will have to manage around the new regulation."

For example, according to AACC data, 386 colleges have business and financial operations employees whose average pay is less than $47,000, with an average total of 12 employees. At 364 institutions, the average computer, engineering and science administrative position earns less than $47,000. Those colleges staff, on average, about 10 positions in that category.

Other support staff positions like librarians, tutors and financial aid officers could also be affected.

But the decision to compensate employees for the time they put into their work is being praised by the people in those positions.

"This is really great. In many instances, even though they're salaried, a lot of these professionals work over their allotted time and really have no compensation monetarily. They may have comp time, but that's not true money, and it's difficult trying to find the time you're owed," said Bob Fernandez, a political organizer for the Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges, a union representing employees at the institutions. "First, we must thank [President Obama] for understanding this is an issue that needed to be addressed. Second, people's time should be valued and they should be paid. No one is [saying] it's mandatory overtime. This is just if they work overtime, and I don't think anyone would begrudge anyone from working extra hours and being compensated for working those extra hours."

There are exemptions for those whose primary duty is instruction. So adjunct professors wouldn't qualify. Depending on the community college and its location in the country, the change could also affect some high-level employees within their systems.

"Some administrators could be affected," said Mark Heinrich, chancellor of the Alabama Community College System. "It's really all over the map because we have a number of categories for individuals who work in the system. That's precisely another issue. Who will this impact and how? Our salary schedules that we use to compensate employees are quite complicated and have been well thought through in the past. This is still so new that we're digesting what this means for us."

In Iowa, the state's Association of Community College Trustees has been able to deduce that the rule change will have a $10 million impact on Iowa's community colleges, said M. J. Dolan, executive director of the association.

"At some smaller colleges almost half of the staff would be impacted by the way the rules work," she said. "We are concerned about implementing such a large increase …. We had zero increase in [state] aid in 2016."

As is true for many community college systems, more than 50 percent of the Iowa system's revenue comes from tuition. That means that once the new rules take effect, students could see significant tuition increases, or significant layoffs could occur at the colleges, Dolan said.

But Fernandez said there always seems to be a budget problem when colleges talk about paying support staff and never when it comes time to talk about the six-figure salaries of deans, provosts and presidents.

"We're talking about individuals who make less than $47,000 a year. They can solve that problem," he said, adding that this isn't a labor-management issue, but a symptom of state and federal disinvestment in higher education. "The vast majority of higher education in the U.S. is suffering due to lack of public investment …. Both union and management would agree with that."

But the success of students also depends on the support staff, and not paying them for their work is nonsensical, Fernandez said.

In Kansas, already about 70 percent of community college funding goes to personnel costs, and there's very little room for additional costs when the state is reducing its investment in higher education and there is a reduction in local taxes, said Linda Fund, executive director at Kansas Association of Community College Trustees.

Fund said she's concerned about the impact the change will have to advisers who are consistently working more than eight hours a day with students, either in person, over the phone or by email.

"It's a hot topic for us these days, because some of these jobs are crucial to increasing completion numbers and student success," Fund said, adding that there's a geographic inequity also at play in that $46,000 may be considered a low salary in D.C. but is a pretty good wage in southeast Kansas.

That inequity will play a role in structuring not just the salaries of these nonexempt workers, but those who are exempt and have teaching duties, she said.

"Yes, we do want to pay our community college staff more and our faculty more. They do yeoman's work with students who need help and students who transfer or have been out of school for some time," said Dolan. "We do want to award them with additional dollars, and most of our staff are appreciative of the salaries they do receive. But given the financial times in Iowa's community colleges, it'll be difficult putting it in operation and it will probably have an impact on tuition increases."

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