Higher Education News

Gatekeeper or rubber stamp? Recent tenure denial raises questions about a president's role in tenure decisions

Inside HigherEd - 3 hours 22 min ago

Faculty advocates argue that tenure decisions are the primary domain of professors, and yet most institutions still involve presidents in the process. So what is the appropriate role of a college or university president in tenure cases?

That’s what faculty members and administrators at Lafayette College are trying to figure out in light of a recent presidential tenure veto that roiled the campus. Yet while Lafayette captured national attention -- in part because of the rejected professor’s protest method (a hunger strike) -- it’s not alone in trying to iron out the president’s role in tenure decisions.

“We do have a standard that if a president is going to overturn a faculty recommendation, it has to be for compelling reasons,” says Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary of academic freedom, tenure and governance for the American Association of University Professors. “But that does raise the question ‘Who gets to decide in the end whether reasons are compelling?’”

Tiede was speaking generally about AAUP policy, but the “compelling reasons” language is also at play in case of Juan Rojo, the assistant professor of Spanish at Lafayette who launched a hunger strike after being denied tenure last month despite the unanimous or majority support of three separate faculty review panels.

The reason? President Alison Byerly, citing what she called a pattern of negative student evaluations of teaching, said Rojo didn’t meet the college’s standard for exceptional instruction -- its most important tenure criterion. Lafayette’s Faculty Handbook mimics AAUP’s standard for presidential tenure vetoes, namely that they should happen in “rare instances and for compelling reasons which should be stated in detail.” And Byerly argued that just being a good teacher instead of a superb one was, in fact, compelling.

Rojo and a faculty panel disagreed with the assessment and the rationale, pointing to Rojo’s broader record of positive student evaluations of teaching and increasingly positive peer reviews. The faculty passed a motion at a special meeting earlier this month asking Lafayette’s Board of Trustees to rescind its negative decision, which was based largely on Byerly’s recommendation.

The board did reconsider -- or at least gave the request “serious consideration” before again backing Byerly, Edward W. Ahart, chair, wrote in a letter to the clerk of the faculty last week.

While the Rojo decision stands, Ahart said, “We fully support the suggestions made by [Byerly] and several faculty leaders that further discussion and examination of our tenure process is needed. … The board recognizes that this case has been painful for the community and has revealed significant differences of opinion within our community about some important aspects of the tenure review process.” Ahart asked the faculty to designate a group of representatives to “begin the dialogue that is needed to create a greater level of mutual understanding and agreement.”

A Lafayette spokesperson referred questions to Ahart’s letter, but it’s likely that the compelling reasons standard will be one point of discussion. Rojo thinks it should be, along with more general questions about the role of the president in tenure cases.

“The role of the president is understood by the faculty to be limited,” he said. “The faculty's reading of ‘compelling reasons’ differs dramatically from both the board's and the president's. So much so that over 100 faculty members have urged both the president and the board to change their positions based on what they perceive as presidential overreaching.”

Referring to Ahart’s comment to the faculty clerk that “successive layers of review provide a system of checks and balances in which the responsible parties at each level must affirm their concurrence with a preceding recommendation,” Rojo said, “There has been no balance here. The decision was overwhelmingly in my favor.”

Again, like Lafayette, AAUP’s Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities says that presidents and boards should normally concur with the faculty judgment, except in rare instances for compelling reasons that should be stated in detail. AAUP’s Committee on College and University Governance has said a bit more about the “compelling reasons,” but not much:

“Even if the administration and governing board are persuaded that the faculty judgment is incorrect, they should reverse it only on that rare occasion when they can provide convincing reasons for rejecting the faculty’s presumed academic expertise. A compelling reason should be one which plainly outweighs persuasive contrary reasons.”

If AAUP is short on examples, it’s helpful on process. Tiede said that in the event of a presidential veto, there should at least be additional elements of academic due process, “in particular an opportunity to appeal to an elected faculty body when discrimination, an academic freedom violation or inadequate consideration are alleged.”

Rojo has publicly expressed concern that research suggests student evaluations of teaching are unreliable indicators of teaching quality, and that women and minorities are at a particular disadvantage when it comes to student bias. Lafayette’s board formed a special subcommittee to study his case, which referred it back to the collegewide faculty tenure and promotions committee -- something Tiede said was in keeping with the spirit of shared governance. Yet that committee again endorsed Rojo, to no avail.

Byerly’s not the first president to get into a shared governance spat with faculty members over personnel decisions. Phyllis Wise, former chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was widely criticized for blocking the hiring of American Indian studies scholar Steven Salaita for his anti-Israel tweets, for example.

Presidential Input Varies Widely

Scandal hasn’t scared presidents away from the tenure process altogether, however. A 2015 Inside Higher Ed-Gallup poll of presidents found about 60 percent of respondents across institution types want more of a role in tenure decisions -- at the associate’s degree-granting level, 70 percent of presidents say they do. Some 58 percent of presidents say they have blocked the hiring of scholars whose competence they questioned, and 54 percent say they’ve blocked scholars from getting tenure for the same reason. Presidents at doctoral-level public institutions were the least like to say they’ve blocked someone from getting hired due to concerns about competence (42 percent), but the most likely to say they’ve blocked someone from getting tenure over such doubts (76 percent). About half of surveyed presidents say they conduct their own tenure reviews.

Robert O’Neil, former president and professor emeritus of law at the University of Virginia, said a “compelling” basis for presidential reversal struck him as “imprecise” and in need of clarification. Yet he described even his own experiences with overturning faculty-approved personnel actions at different institutions over his long career as “varying widely.”

He’s reversed several strong faculty recommendations because “thin”-seeming research records, for example, he said, and reversed one negative recommendation in the interest of what he described as affirmative action. Arguments for and against tenure can differ between campuses, he said -- in which one values research over teaching or vice versa, for example -- but generally, institutions and their boards are “empowered to determine and apply the core criteria for promotion and tenure.” That’s particularly true at private institutions, he said, since boards at public institutions may be subject to statutory or constitutional restraints.

One irony of the Lafayette case is that colleges generally receive much criticism for valuing research over teaching, yet this situation centers on a president saying she is concerned about teaching issues, consistent with the liberal arts mission.

Judith Shapiro, president of the Teagle Foundation and former president of Barnard College, said she wasn’t privy to private details about the Rojo case. But in general, and ideally, she said, presidents are involved enough in the tenure process that vetoes of faculty recommendations don’t come as surprises -- or don’t happen at all.

Shapiro said she read every tenure case as president at Barnard, and sat in on a collegewide appointments committee as a nonvoting member. As a result, she said she was so actively engaged in faculty-led tenure decisions that she never vetoed a single recommendation, for or against.

That level of presidential involvement is more feasible at a liberal arts college than other kinds of institutions, Shapiro admitted. But in any setting, she said the president’s role boils down to “maintaining the integrity of the tenure process.” That means making sure all procedures are followed, she said, and -- perhaps -- helping the faculty make a tough call about a colleague who isn’t living up to professional standards.

“Sometimes faculty members need to step up to the plate and make a hard decision about their colleague,” Shapiro said.

Kiernan Mathews, director and principal investigator of the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education, said his organization didn’t have a stance on the issue of presidential vetoes, but that colleges and universities, first and foremost, must follow their own policies and procedures regarding tenure and promotion. Similar to O’Neil, Mathews said that if those rules allow a veto for "compelling" reasons, they should be clear about what meets that standard, "and perhaps allow the candidates to address any new concerns that have arisen."

Like Shapiro, Mathews also argued that presidents can sometimes play an important gatekeeper role when the faculty is truly divided over a candidate’s fitness for tenure. In one such example at an unnamed institution, Mathews said, a large minority thought the candidate fell short, but because “collegial faculty suffer few direct consequences for passing the buck, they all voted in favor, then let the tough decision fall on the administrator -- whose salary, they’ll argue, reflects the hazard pay afforded for making unpopular decisions.” Such pressure towards “collegiality” can be especially strong in small college settings, where anonymity -- both on and off campus -- is limited, he added.

In any case, Mathews said, it’s importantly to remember that the “human cost” of tenure denials “falls squarely on the candidate’s shoulders.” Careers and even one’s mental health can be devastated by rejection. So it’s important to reflect on how a candidate got so far, only to be denied at the presidential level, he said. “How many chairs, mentors, colleagues failed this poor professor? Where was the communication, the push and pull, between faculty and administration about what it takes to get tenure at this institution?”

Mathews said he looks to institutions to prove their “mettle” in the year after controversial tenure denials, through soul searching and, when appropriate, restorative justice. In one case at another unnamed institution, he said, a major research university denied five professors tenure in one year, all of them women. After determining that such outcomes weren’t in line with its values, the university made concerted efforts in some of those cases to find the professors suitable employment elsewhere.

“Universities can do (and some do) better in fully supporting their own on the way out the door,” Mathews said via email.

Editorial Tags: TenureImage Source: iStockIs this breaking news?: 

Prairie State College student says he was racially profiled by campus police

Inside HigherEd - 3 hours 22 min ago

A black student at Prairie State College, a community college located outside Chicago, told the college’s trustees last month that he believes he was racially profiled by a campus police officer while trying to attend his first class of the semester. Prairie State officials say the officer did nothing wrong, but some of the college’s faculty and staff members are expressing concern that the board chair was combative and too quick to dismiss the student’s complaints.

“Officers should not stop and question students because of their ethnicity or the fact they think they seem out of place,” an anonymous letter, signed “faculty and staff,” stated. “We ask, would this have happened if the student were white? We don’t think it would have.”

The student, D’Marco Griffin, said he was entering the college’s health-tech building on Aug. 23 when he was stopped by a campus police officer. Still wearing his blue work vest, Griffin had arrived early after concluding a shift at the local Walmart so he would have time to locate his classroom. Within minutes of entering the building, the student was approached by a campus police officer.

Griffin said the officer told him that he “looked out of place,” and that something “seemed off” about him being in the building. The student explained he was there for a class, and the officer asked him to provide identification. When he reached into his pocket to retrieve his ID, Griffin said, the officer “tensed and sternly instructed [him] not to reach into” his pockets.

As another officer arrived, Griffin said, he was told to put his hands behind his back. The officer patted Griffin down and asked if the student had any items on his person he should know about. Griffin told him he was carrying his box cutter from work, and the officer temporarily confiscated it, as well as Griffin's wallet and class schedule. After confirming Griffin was a student, the officer returned the wallet and schedule and walked him to his class.

The next week, Griffin attended a board meeting and told the trustees about the incident, according to a video of the meeting.

“It was a very humiliating experience,” Griffin said during the meeting, adding that he felt sick to his stomach during the incident and that he worried about his safety when the officer ordered him not to reach into his pockets. The officer never drew any weapons on Griffin, but the college's police force is a sworn agency and many of its officers are armed. A short police report of the incident largely confirms Griffin's account, but it does not contain details about what the officer may have said to the student during the encounter.

Throughout Griffin’s time speaking during the meeting, the board’s chair, Jacqueline Agee, repeatedly interrupted the student.

Griffin: This is just an ordeal that I know definitely could have went very less --

Agee: What do you mean by that?

Griffin: It could have went badly, seeing --

Agee: Why is that?

Griffin: Seeing as how, you know, myself and the officer having different perspectives. I’m just on my way to class and he perceived me as a threat, if you will. If I had just failed to properly comply when he told me not to reach for anything, even after he asked for some type of identification, I could have easily not been here today.

Agee: Why?

Griffin: Due to perceived notions on his end, him seeming to be on the defensive with me giving him virtually no reason to be defensive.

When Griffin began to hand out a written statement to the board members and conclude his remarks, Agee allowed him to distribute the documents but interrupted him again. “You’ve gone way over your time, D’Marco,” she said. “I’m letting you go because it’s usually cut down to three minutes, but I’m letting you go, so you need to wrap it up.”

Griffin had spoken for about four minutes.

In a statement Monday, the college said that administrators first heard of the incident through a post on the student's Facebook page, and that the college's dean met with him the following day. Following the meeting, the dean "felt the situation had been resolved," the college stated, but Griffin addressed the Board of Trustees later that evening. The college said it had not seen the anonymous letter signed by "faculty and staff" until Monday.

"Because the board takes students’ concerns very seriously, the board chair agreed to give Mr. Griffin the floor that evening, despite the fact that, according to board policy, the board is allowed four business days’ notice before allowing a member of the public to address the board on items not included in the agenda," the college said. "College officials have reached out to Mr. Griffin through various channels since he addressed the board, but to date, Mr. Griffin has declined to meet with any of those individuals. It is the opinion of the college that the officer acted appropriately, given the circumstances."

Toward the end of the board of trustees meeting, Prairie State College’s police chief, George Pfotenhauer, also defended the officer’s actions, saying he had done nothing wrong or illegal. Griffin, Pfotenhauer said, had entered the building through a door that was normally locked by that time in the evening. Pfotenhauer acknowledged that Griffin would not have known not to use the door, as it was accidentally left unlocked that particular evening, but said that it was the student using this entrance that worried the police officer.

“He didn’t say anything derogatory, he didn’t say anything inflammatory," Pfotenhauer said, also noting that the officer did not touch the student, "other than a quick pat down.”

“And he had a knife,” Agee responded, referencing the student's box cutter he had in his pocket from work. “Through that [stop], he found a knife.”

When another board member clarified that it was a box cutter, and attempted to explain that the college should provide comfort to the student for being stopped and searched when had done nothing wrong, Agee interrupted her, as well.

“When the police officer gives the comfort level to the wrong guy, that’s when the police officer doesn’t go home at night,” she said. "What if he was a bad guy with an AK [assault rifle]? I'm going to give him comfort?"

In the anonymous statement this week, faculty and staff members said they sat “paralyzed in shock as [Agee] glared across the room at Mr. Griffin, interrupting him and trying to make the student feel incompetent.” That Prairie State College is a predominantly black institution -- with 57 percent of its students being black or African-American -- made the incident all the more disturbing, they wrote.

“Working in a diverse environment at a predominately black institution brings both opportunities and challenges,” the statement said. “As our college becomes increasingly diverse, an understanding of culture and its effect on communication is more important than ever. These behaviors have a devastating impact on people’s physical and mental well-being, as well as their ability to fully engage as members of our learning community.”

DiversityEditorial Tags: DiscriminationImage Caption: D'Marco Griffin, a student at Prairie State College, addresses the college's trustees.Is this breaking news?: 

University of Colorado regent election could have major impact

Inside HigherEd - 3 hours 22 min ago

Colorado is more than a presidential swing state this year.

It is home to a statewide election that could swing the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents away from a Republican majority that’s endured for nearly four decades. The race pits Republican businesswoman Heidi Ganahl against Democrat Alice Madden, a former leader in the Legislature. It could have significant effects on an institution that has seen recent fights over state funding levels and is expected to go through leadership turnover as its president and other top administrators age.

The regents race has also dredged up divisive issues beyond those a Board of Regents is typically seen as having power over: research, energy production and climate change. Several sitting regents reported a spike in partisanship as the election nears and the high stakes hit home.

“This is an unusual election because it really is on the line,” said Linda Shoemaker, a Democratic regent who is not up for re-election this year. “I say it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the Democrats to take control of the Board of Regents.”

The race is not, however, easy to predict. Candidates have relatively little fund-raising ability, and there is no polling published on regents elections. More challenging, voters often have little sense of what a regent does or why they are voting for one. That leaves Colorado’s statewide regent votes usually following the top of the ticket in presidential election years. But political experts say that’s never a sure thing, and it’s particularly uncertain in this year’s unpredictable political climate.

Colorado is rare in electing regents to oversee its university system, a practice that is more common for community colleges. Just three other states -- Michigan, Nebraska and Nevada -- elect regents to exercise control over at least some of their universities, according to the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. In Colorado, seven regents are elected from congressional districts. Two are elected statewide. Regents’ terms run six years, and elections are staggered.

This year, three regents’ seats are up for election -- Democrat Michael Carrigan is term limited in a heavily blue district and Republican Sue Sharkey is running for re-election in a deep-red district. Republican Steve Bosley, who holds a statewide seat, is term limited and cannot run for re-election. Ganahl and Madden are vying to win Bosley’s seat.

Ganahl currently sits on the University of Colorado Foundation board. In 2000, she started Camp Bow Wow, a nationally franchised day care service for dogs that has since been bought by an animal health care company, and she also operates a charity called Moms Fight Back, which focuses on issues like teen drug use, sexual assault and child abuse.

Madden is the executive director of the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment at the University of Colorado Law School, a position she took in June amid press coverage noting she would govern her own employer if she becomes a regent. She is a former majority leader in the Colorado State House credited with creating a plan that flipped the state’s Legislature Democratic in 2004. On the topic of governing her own employer, she says she would not be the first such employee and that she can recuse herself in case of conflict of interest. She also says it would be wrong to prevent the university’s tens of thousands of employees from running for regent.

The candidates staked out differing positions on several issues, notably on university funding. Ganahl says she isn’t against more state funding for the university but finds funding levels unlikely to increase. Therefore, she thinks the university system should cut costs, focus on fund-raising and find new sources of money. Madden, meanwhile, wants to fight for more state funding.

The issue is particularly pertinent in Colorado, where higher education funding has been squeezed in recent years. State funding totaled $197 million for the 2016 fiscal year, down from $207 million in 2001. Regents have also moved to cap tuition increases, this spring putting tuition increase caps in place and guaranteeing tuition levels over four years for incoming classes at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Some advocates have sought more state funding for the university system, including backing a controversial proposal to reclassify the state’s hospital provider fee. Reclassifying the fee would prevent it from counting toward a state revenue cap. Advocates argued that would make more revenue available for higher education funding.

Madden points to that issue as a reason she thinks the Board of Regents needs a change. The board did not weigh in on the hospital provider fee issue last year, she said.

“Over 300 state organizations -- including almost every college and university in the state -- signed a petition asking the governor to go to a special session to pass this bill,” Madden said. “The board refused to even bring up the resolution to a vote.”

Ganahl retorts that there was no guarantee any extra money would have gone to the university system.

“No one in Colorado has guaranteed any of that money would go to higher ed,” she said. “I’d rather focus on things we can control, like public-private partnerships with our communities and driving private donors and fund-raising.”

Also boiling to the top recently are issues of climate change and academic freedom. A trio of professors at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs drew the attention of conservative media at the start of this semester by sending out an email to members of a Medical Humanities in the Digital Age online course they are teaching. The email said that the course accepts scientists’ consensus that anthropogenic climate change is occurring and that other sides of the issue -- like the argument that anthropogenic climate change is not happening -- would not be taught or discussed. The email went on to ask students not to take the course if those ground rules were a problem and asked all outside sources used for the course to be peer reviewed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The incident prompted some controversial responses from University of Colorado Regents and its president, Bruce Benson. Benson sent an email to regents saying he had talked about the issue with Colorado Springs’ chancellor.

“I am not happy about it, and I shared that,” said the email, according to The Colorado Independent. “While the issue falls squarely in the realm of academic freedom, it also seems that a little more balance would have helped.”

CU Regent John Carson told The Washington Times students attend the university “to be educated, not indoctrinated.”

The incident was particularly pertinent to the race between Ganahl and Madden because climate change had already surfaced as a major issue. And Colorado Regents have been at the center of ideological questions before. In 2013 the American Association of University Professors raised concerns after regents moved to conduct a survey of the political climate at the university's Boulder campus because of concerns over liberal bias. Even Benson's 2008 selection as university system president had the American Federation of Teachers objecting because he was viewed as the architect of tenure changes the union believe to be a threat to academic freedom.

Madden argues the current Republican-controlled Board of Regents isn’t supportive of climate change research and has avoided discussing the topic in the past. Democratic leadership would be more supportive of researchers, she said.

“It’s definitely an atmosphere,” Madden said. “The chancellors will take the regents to their campuses, introduce them to their professors, show of all the amazing things we do, but they’re never going to take them to meet climate scientists.”

Ganahl said it’s not regents’ role to wade into specific research issues.

“The Regents Board is supposed to be a governing board, not a managing board,” she said. “Our job is to hire the president of the university.”

Regents’ energy and climate change debates predate the recent flare-up at the start of the semester, though. University of Colorado regents voted 7 to 2 in 2015 against having the university divest from fossil fuels. But some Republicans have worried a Democratic board would seek divestment again.

Ganahl addressed climate change and divestment in a video posted in August.

“This election for CU regent shouldn’t be about climate change -- we can leave that topic to the scientists,” she said in the video. “What we do know is that we promise to encourage feisty debates on tough issues, and this is one of those tough issues. But our focus at CU is on the students, and not on taking sides in partisan debates.”

Ganahl went on to say in the video that divestment would not be an effective way to protect the environment. Not including energy in university investments would be harmful, she said.

The climate change debate is also of interest because the university system’s president, Benson, founded an oil and gas company in 1965. Benson also ran for governor as a Republican in 1994 and has chaired the Colorado Republican party.

Regents approved Benson as president in 2008 on a party-line vote. Madden, who was still State House majority leader when Benson was being selected, had attacked his credentials.

“Aside from the blatant politics involved in this, he has a bachelor’s degree in geology,” she said at the time, according to The Denver Post. “He’s going to be the boss of world-renowned researchers? Now I’m wishing I’d applied. At least I have a juris doctorate.”

Today, Republicans worry the election could turn into a referendum of sorts on Benson, with Democrats ousting the longtime president if he wins.

But Madden said she was concerned at the time because of Benson’s background. She thinks he has done a good job of leading the university.

“He had a super-partisan background, but you know, he’s done a heck of a job,” she said. “He’s given his heart and soul to the job. He returns his salary to the university.”

Madden says she has no plans to run Benson out of his job, and the president hasn’t indicated interest in leaving. Still, Madden points out that the president is 78 and has been in office for the better part of a decade.

“This is a six-year term, so at some point we would be looking for a new president,” she said.

Asked about the president, Ganahl said she supports him staying as long as he wants.

“President Benson is one of the brightest, sharpest people I’ve ever met in my life, and he’s an incredible fund-raiser,” she said. “I don’t think he’s ready to step down, and I certainly don’t want him to.”

Several regents rejected the idea that the elected Board of Regents is an inherently political body. But the race is still viewed as having higher-than-usual stakes.

Faculty members are watching the race closely, said Joanne Addison, an associate professor of English who is vice chair of the University of Colorado Faculty Council and chair of the faculty assembly at the University of Colorado at Denver. She declined to discuss the race further, saying she was hosting candidates at an upcoming Faculty Assembly meeting and needed to be nonpartisan.

The regents election seems to have settled down somewhat after divisive issues swirled earlier, said Glen Gallegos, a Republican regent.

“Early on, I think we were hearing that it could lead to a different president, a different vote on investments,” said Gallegos. “But it just feels like it’s really calmed down.”

Gallegos was elected vice chair of the board in September after regents spent the summer unable to elect new board leaders. Regents elected a Democrat, Irene Griego, as chair, even though the GOP still has a 5 to 4 board majority.

“I have not seen this board as a real partisan board,” Gallegos said. “I personally would hate to lose that 5 to 4 vote, but I don’t think it’s the end of the world, either.”

Democratic Regent Shoemaker said she has been surprised by how much the outside world of politics has impacted the board this election season, though.

“Five people are out there working hard to elect Heidi,” Shoemaker said. “And four of us are working in our own ways to elect Alice and Hillary -- and Trump on the other side. It creates some real tensions when you’re trying to work closely and collaboratively with people.”

Bosley, the statewide regent Madden and Ganahl are running to replace, said many issues would come up with or without regent elections.

“The fact we’re elected and we’re elected by party injects some things that make it political,” he said. “Once elected, I would say 95 percent of the things we talk about we agree on and are not partisan in nature. The other 5 percent are philosophical things that would come up whether you’re an elected or appointed board.”

Being appointed by a governor is very different from being elected. Appointed trustees or regents answer to a constituency of one -- the governor. Elected officials have larger, more amorphous constituencies. Some states also have regents selected by legislatures.

“When there’s an election of trustees, people who have aspirations for a political career will often use running for one of those offices as kind of an entry to public visibility and a political career,” said Paul Lingenfelter, former president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers. “I think that does change the dynamics.”

From a strategic standpoint, winning a statewide regent election is difficult, Bosley said. Many voters don’t know what regents do, and fund-raising limits are very low. Bosley remembers driving 30,000 miles around the state as he campaigned for his election.

Some regents say this year’s statewide race is getting more press than it would have in the past.

“It seems like the regents race this year is really getting a lot of attention, and I think higher education has gotten more attention in the last few years,” said Sharkey, the Republican regent running for re-election in a heavily Republican district. “It’s an issue that even the presidential candidates talk about. It’s my perception from when I ran the first time six years ago that there’s a lot more public attention, public spotlight, being put on higher ed.”

Yet most experts agree the regents race is not taking top billing within the state, especially with the presidential election gobbling up attention. That would seem to indicate the race will go the way of the presidential election as voters cast their ballots based on political preference at the top of the ticket.

That’s often been the case in the past, said John Straayer, a political science professor at Colorado State University.

“The general picture I have is that … if there’s a CU regent race up in a presidential year with decent turnout, the odds tilt in the Democrats’ direction,” he said. “In down-ticket races they haven’t done well unless it happens to hit a presidential year.”

Yet it isn’t so simple. Many voters will cast their ballots in the presidential race but not bother to check off a regent candidate’s name.

Down-ballot regents underperform top-of-the-ticket candidates, said Stephen Ludwig, an at-large Democrat. When he ran in 2012, the number of votes cast for Barack Obama was 20.5 percent higher than the number cast for Ludwig. The number of votes for Mitt Romney was 15.5 percent higher than the number cast for Ludwig’s Republican opponent at the time.

It’s hard to generate interest in the campaign with current fund-raising limits in place, Ludwig said in an email.

“It is cost prohibitive to do a statewide campaign that would highlight the issues that could move the needle for people one way or another,” he said.

Businesses, federal political action committees, individuals and political committees are all limited to contributions of $200 per primary and $200 per general election for regents races. Political parties can donate nearly $16,000, and small donor committees can donate $4,850 over the course of the election cycle.

Madden had spent just $2,915 on the race and had cash on hand of $19,823 heading into the fall, the Coloradoan reported Sept. 7. Ganahl had spent $22,082.32 and had $12,144.42 on hand.

2016 ElectionEditorial Tags: Trustees/regentsImage Source: Madden 4 CU, Heidi for CU RegentImage Caption: Democrat Alice Madden, left, is running against Republican Heidi Ganahl in a Colorado statewide regent election.Is this breaking news?: 

IT workers fear more outsourcing at U of California system

Inside HigherEd - 3 hours 22 min ago

Information technology staff members across the University of California system are holding their breath to see if the layoffs and outsourcing at the San Francisco campus represent an individual cost-cutting measure or the beginning of a trend.

The UCSF Medical Center told staffers this July that -- because of decreasing federal health care reimbursement and cost increases associated with the Affordable Care Act -- it would cut 97 IT jobs by Feb. 28. Some of the positions will be outsourced to the Indian IT services company HCL Technologies. The university has also contracted with Dell and FireEye for data center and cybersecurity services, respectively.

“Faced with increasing service demands, as well as rising costs, various solutions were explored and discussed over an 18-month period,” UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood and UCSF Health CEO Mark R. Laret wrote in a July 25 email explaining the decision to staff members. “What became clear was that a new course was necessary -- one that would yield the services and capacity that the university needs within a budget that we could support.”

The layoffs affect UCSF’s IT office broadly, covering staff members responsible for application support and development, email and phone systems, and data center and network center operations and more, according to an email from university CIO Joseph R. Bengfort. Excluding contract and vacant positions, 49 career employees will lose their jobs.

In interviews with Inside Higher Ed, staff members said they are coping with the decision with a combination of frustration and resignation. Some said they are searching for IT jobs at other campuses in the system. Others said they are considering leaving the industry altogether. They asked that their names not be published as they still have five months of employment left.

“I’m trying to hang on,” a service center employee said in an interview. She said she worried about age discrimination in the job market, since she is in her 50s. “It’s going to be a tough battle.”

Other staff members bristled at the thought of training the workers who will replace them. To aid the outsourcing efforts, some staff members have had their organizational goals updated with a target of completing the transition plan by Feb. 14, with a stretch goal of Jan. 31. A staff member with about 20 years of experience at the university said he feels as though the university is rewarding employees for making themselves expendable as fast as they can.

“It’s pretty degrading,” the staff member said, adding, “I want to make sure that this cancer they’re going to introduce doesn’t spread across the UC system.”

Outsourcing IT jobs is much less common in higher education than in the private sector, said Russ Harrison, government relations director for IEEE-USA, a professional organization for technical professionals. The organization has more than 235,000 members in the U.S., but the layoff at UCSF is the first time it has been able to “conclusively prove” outsourcing in a university IT department, he said.

The layoffs even took some university officials by surprise. Larry Conrad, associate vice chancellor for IT and chief information officer at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in a Sept. 9 letter to staff members, “Candidly, I am not aware of any major university in the country which has successfully implemented such a substantive IT outsourcing initiative” as the one at UCSF.

Based on the increase in the number of H-1B guest worker visa requests by colleges and universities, however, it is likely that other institutions have done the same, Harrison said. While the U.S. only issues 85,000 such visas a year (20,000 of which are reserved for people with advanced degrees), colleges are exempt from that cap.

Some universities have come under scrutiny for their use of H-1B visas. Wright State University, for example, last year said it was being investigated by the federal government for potentially abusing the guest worker program.

“University people are beginning to realize these H-1B [visa holders] can fill just about any job,” Harrison said in an interview.

UCSF’s $50 million contract with HCL is now raising concerns in IT offices on other campuses as well. A UCSF spokesperson confirmed that the contract, as written, could be used by any of the other campuses and medical centers in the system. None have inquired about it so far, however.

Conrad, in the Sept. 9 letter, stressed that Berkeley has “no plans to follow UCSF’s path.” He still struck a pragmatic tone on outsourcing certain IT services, which he said universities and businesses need to seriously consider.

“You all know the university is under significant financial pressure, so we have to look at all options to deliver quality IT services to our community at the lowest possible cost,” Conrad wrote. “The IT business is constantly changing. What made sense 20 years ago doesn’t make sense today. What makes sense today likely won’t make sense in another 20 years.”

The other medical centers in the UC system gave varied responses to the question of whether they are considering outsourcing IT services. A spokesperson for UC San Diego Health in an email said, “No IT staffing changes being considered here. We are not outsourcing.”

At UC Irvine Health, a spokesperson said the center is “definitely facing some of the same financial pressures as UCSF,” but added that he was “not aware of plans to outsource IT staff” (though he had “not received confirmation one way or the other yet”).

A spokesperson for UCLA Health declined to comment, while UC Davis Health did not respond to a request for comment.

Many IT workers in the UC system are members of University Professional and Technical Employees, a union affiliated with the Communications Workers of America. Keith Pavlik, a senior publications coordinator at UCSF, is managing the union’s response to the layoffs. He said the union is planning several awareness campaigns, including appealing to Janet Napolitano, the system’s president, as well as to state legislators and members of Congress.

Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren, whose district covers parts of San Jose, has already come out against the outsourcing plan. Speaking to Computerworld, Lofgren said the university is “misusing” the H-1B visa program.

“There’s a number of reasons why this outsourcing is bad for all the stakeholders at the university, whether it’s the patients, the faculty and staff, the students or [their parents],” Pavlik said in an interview. “We will have the voice of public opinion on our side.”

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Colleges start new programs

Inside HigherEd - 3 hours 22 min ago
Editorial Tags: New academic programsIs this breaking news?: 

Campuses see flurry of racist incidents and protests against racism

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/26/2016 - 07:00

A year ago, racial incidents and lingering tensions on many campuses turned into protests in October that spread nationally in November.

This year, incidents have multiplied at the very beginning of the academic year. And so have protests. Some of the incidents are closely tied to campus issues. But many reflect the protest movement -- which extends well beyond campuses -- against police shootings of unarmed black men.

Many students are joining that movement, and in particular the calls of some not to stand during the playing of the national anthem before athletic events. And some of the racist incidents involve attacks on Black Lives Matter, frequently invoking the name of the movement along with racist images.

Here are some of the incidents:

  • At the University of North Dakota last week, students posted photographs of themselves in blackface to social media twice in a 48-hour period. In the image at the top of this article, the students added a reference to Black Lives Matter. The university is investigating whether the posts violate any rules. Mark Kennedy, president of the university, issued a statement that said in part: "I am appalled that within 48 hours two photos with racially charged messages have been posted on social media and associated with the UND campus community. It is abundantly clear that we have much work to do at the University of North Dakota in educating our students, and the entire university community on issues related to diversity, inclusion, and respect for others."
  • Also this month, Kansas State University and Quinnipiac University students posted photographs of themselves in blackface, prompting campus debates and denunciations.
  • At the University of Mississippi, students on Friday held a sit-in (at right) for several hours in the main administration building to demand a reaction from the university to a student's tweet in response to the protests in Charlotte, N.C., over the police shooting of a black man. The student tweeted of those protesting:  "I have a tree with room enough for all of them, if you want to settle this Old West Style." Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter, whom some students criticized for not immediately calling the tweet racist, issued a statement late Friday that said in part: "To be clear, we condemn the recent social media post by one of our students that referenced lynching. In light of our country’s history, that comment can only be seen as racist, offensive and hurtful, especially to members of our African American community. There is no place in our community for racist or violent acts."
  • San Jose State University officials are investigating two incidents involving graffiti with swastikas and "hateful language" in two separate incidents in dormitories. One of the swastikas was drawn next to the words "Admit One Jew." Mary Papazian, sent a message to the campus condemning the incidents and outlining a series of meetings being held about what had happened.
  • At Ohio University, a "free speech" wall where students may write what they want was the site of controversy last week when students found on the wall the words "Build the Wall" (an apparent reference to one of Donald Trump's campaign promises) and a drawing of a person hanging in a noose from a tree. Photos of the wall (at right) quickly spread on social media. Under university policy, the wall is "unregulated" unless there is "a specific threat of physical harm." The university issued this statement about the images that appeared last week: "Paint may be able to cover offensive messages and reprehensible images, however, it will never conceal our underlying societal problems. We must purposely work to understand and accept one another in order to address conflicts. Our most fundamental responsibility as an institution of higher education is to promote inquiry and learning. It is our intent that the Graffiti Wall will continue to teach our university community that words and images are powerful."
  • At the University of Dayton last week, a racial slur appeared on the door of a room of two black students. Eric F. Spina, the president, condemned this action. In an email message to the campus, he said that "this behavior is simply not acceptable and will not be tolerated." He added that "we will continue to investigate and will hold those responsible accountable for this action."
  • At the State University of New York at Brockport, officials are investigating how the words "niggers deserve to die" were written on a whiteboard in a dormitory that houses many minority students. In response, Heidi Macpherson, the Brockport president, sent a message to all students and faculty members condemning what had happened, reporting that an investigation was taking place, and saying that campus discussions would be scheduled to discuss hate speech.
  • A freshman at Belmont University ceased to be enrolled last week -- after he posted a racist photo on Snapchat, labeling three National Football League players with the N-word.
  • At American University last week, hundreds of black students held a protest over racist incidents. The rally was organized after two black women reported incidents involving bananas -- one thrown at a woman and one left outside the door of a woman. Students carried signs saying "Racism at AU Is Bananas."
  • At Eastern Michigan University, the letters KKK and racial slurs were found on several buildings last week, prompting protests and condemnations by university officials.

Protests During Athletic Events

Eastern Michigan students took to the field Friday night at a home football game to continue the protest over the racial slurs.

In the video below, the protest can be seen, starting at about 1:19.

James M. Smith, president of Eastern Michigan, issued a statement after the protest defending the right of students to rush onto the field after the game. He noted that university had worked to make sure this could happen in a secure way for the students in the protest and for the athletes and others on the field. "We have great respect for our students engaged in the constructive efforts underway to address the issues we face, and we strongly defend and support the right of students to peacefully demonstrate about issues important to them," Smith said.

In recent weeks, college athletes and cheerleaders have joined the movement started by Colin Kaepernick, the National Football League quarterback, to drop to one knee during the national anthem, seeking to draw attention to cases of racial oppression and police brutality.

At Southern Methodist University, several African-American members of the band -- while playing the national anthem -- dropped to their knees. Some students watching the game did the same.


4 #SMU band members take a knee while playing national anthem tonight vs. TCU #ESPN #ponyuptempo pic.twitter.com/epW7ml2M9U

— Rattle & Hum Sports (@CowboyCamp) September 24, 2016

On Saturday, football players at both Michigan State University and the University of Michigan (in separate games) raised their fists during the national anthem.

Possibly 7 Michigan football players raised their fists in protest of police killing blacks before today's game https://t.co/JmhTlzxnjH pic.twitter.com/3SdIyiLrMX

— nadeltanz (@nadeltanz) September 24, 2016

Several football players at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln took a knee during the national anthem before their game.

And on Saturday, members of the Black Student Union at Temple University declined to stand during the national anthem at the university's football game, and said that they would not do so for the rest of the season. A statement from the group said that their refusal to stand reflects "our discontent with the justice system and the state of our country."

Many fans and students at the football game of Morgan State University, a historically black institution, either sat or raised their fists during the national anthem.

Flags and Marches

Several campuses have been taking steps to try to express solidarity with those protesting the police shootings of black men.

The University of Vermont, at the request of the student government there, on Friday put up a Black Lives Matter flag, along with the flags of the United States and Vermont. A statement from the student government president, Jason Maulucci, said that the flag was meant as gesture of solidarity at a time that "so many are struggling with the violence and search for justice in this country."

The university posted the photo at left to Facebook, where many posted comments that were highly critical of UVM, calling it, for example, "a college with a majority of self-loathing white students."

Some expressed shock at how much criticism the university received (although many of the comments appear to come from people with no connection to the university).

And some praised the university. "Thank you for having the courage to support communities of color," wrote one person. "At a time when so many are feeling increasingly vulnerable to violence, it makes a difference for UVM to be actively creating a safe space and necessary dialogue. Communities are in pain. Empathy goes a long way towards building understanding."

Many of the protests have demanded more participation from administrators in the cause of racial justice. At Elon University on Friday, the Black Student Union organized a silent march, in which participants marched through the campus, not saying a word, to protest the recent police shooting in Charlotte, N.C., and other such shootings of black men.

Many white students joined the march, as did President Leo Lambert, Provost Steven House and several other senior administrators.

More Attention -- on Campus and Off

In an interview, Shaun R. Harper, executive director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania, said it was important to remember that racist incidents on campus -- just like police shootings of black men -- are not new.

Harper's center conducts interviews with students -- of all races and at all kinds of colleges -- about race relations. "The racial ugliness on campuses and on social media in recent weeks are not new," he said. "White students did not just suddenly start painting the N-word and other racial epithets on black peers’ residence hall doors and on ethnic cultural centers. This has been occurring for many, many years."

What's different, he said, is that students are using social media and other creative forms of protest to attract attention. Similarly, he said, the Black Lives Matter is using video and social media to draw attention to police shootings of black men -- also something that has been going on for a long time.

Students have learned from the movement, he said. "Students on predominantly white campuses can now distribute their own photos and videos for the world to see," he said. "They no longer have to wait for their campus newspapers to publish stories that may only get local coverage."

Kimberly A. Griffin, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Maryland at College Park who studies the campus racial climate, agreed that these incidents are not a new phenomenon (even if social media has changed the way people experience and spread the word about campus racism). "I think it's really important that folks know that we have a couple of decades of research that shows that the stereotyping, the name calling, the doubts of their academic abilities, the questions about whether racism really exists," Griffin said via email. "These things have been consistent and persistent in the lives of students of color."

At the same time, however, Griffin added that "I do think that this is a unique moment."

She explained: "Our national narrative is that the U.S. is a fair place where everyone has an equal chance to be great. What we are seeing on TV and on our computer screens is almost the exact opposite of what we say we are. While racism and violence against black bodies aren't new, I think that social media and technology are forcing people who may have thought that people were making up or overstating their experiences to actually see what is happening. At the same time, college campuses are getting more and more diverse, and students of color are demanding that these spaces be welcoming and inclusive for them. Again, these are things that student activists have demanded for decades, but perhaps larger populations of black and brown students and access to technology and social media make these demands feel louder than they have been."

Follow me on Twitter @ScottJaschik

DiversityEditorial Tags: DiscriminationImage Caption: U of North Dakota students shared this image on social mediaIs this breaking news?: 

U of Vermont medical school to get rid of all lecture courses

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/26/2016 - 07:00

Four years after two senior academics at Stanford University challenged medical schools to stop lecturing and start flipping their classrooms, major reforms at underway at a handful of colleges to change the way they teach medicine.

The University of Vermont last week became the most recent institution to join the trend, announcing a pedagogical reform in its College of Medicine that observers say is the most sweeping yet. The college will over the next several years remove all lecture courses, replacing them with videos students watch on their own time. And instead of sitting through lectures, students will meet in “active learning” classrooms, led by faculty members, working with their classmates in small groups.

“We teach evidence-based medicine all the time,” William Jeffries, senior associate dean for medical education at UVM, said in an interview. “If you have the evidence to show one treatment is better than the other, you would naturally use that treatment. So if we know that there are methods superior to lecturing, why are we lecturing at all?”

The approach builds on experiments at Stanford, which has worked with Khan Academy to test a flipped classroom model in certain medicine courses. Other institutions have taken that model a step further. The Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York, for example, has since the 2012-13 academic offered an entirely flipped curriculum.

UVM’s announcement, however, marks the first time a member of the Association of American Medical Colleges has declared it will abolish lectures across all its programs, Lisa Howley, the organization’s senior director of educational affairs, said in an interview.

“What we know about learning in general is different than it was decades ago,” Howley said. “Our medical students are of a generation that has grown up differently when it comes to technology and the impact that has on their ability to receive and retain information.”

But moving away from how medical schools have trained new physicians for centuries is no easy task. Major curricular changes could jeopardize the schools’ regional and professional accreditation statuses, repel prospective students, offend alumni donors and alienate some faculty members, to mention just a few.

The most pressing concern, Jeffries said, is also the simplest: money. “Most schools do not have the resources to ‘turn the battleship around,’’ he said.

UVM will put a $66 million gift, announced Friday, toward building renovating classrooms and retraining faculty members. It has also renamed its College of Medicine in honor of the donor, alumnus and retired physician Robert Larner.

The college will spend part of the gift on expanding its Teaching Academy, founded last year. Faculty members in the College of Medicine join the academy for three- to five-year periods, during which they are mentored by more experienced instructors, attend conferences and workshops, and complete self-paced courses, among other activities.

The overarching goal of the academy, Jeffries said, is to help faculty members discover teaching methods that can be as rewarding -- if not more so -- than lecturing.

“That internal oomph or dopamine release that you get when you lecture and are the center of attention is a barrier to converting faculty over,” Jeffries said. “What we need to do is ensure they have the time and support to develop alternative ways of teaching.”

The most powerful tool the med school has to win faculty members over is that they are “scientists at heart” and “understand the evidence” suggesting students in flipped classrooms perform better than students in lecture courses, Jeffries said. At Touro, for example, the pass rate on an important licensing exam has climbed to above 95 percent -- higher than the national average -- since the college flipped its curriculum.

About 80 faculty members joined the Vermont academy when it first opened, but the College of Medicine has a long way to go before the faculty is prepared to teach in the new classrooms. The med school has more than 700 faculty members in total.

The transition to an all-flipped model at UVM has already begun, and the university plans to complete it by 2022, Jeffries said. Lecture courses now make up a minority of the college’s foundational curriculum -- about 40 percent, down from 50 percent two years ago. The first semester courses have already been redesigned into a series of connected components, and the college plans to pour over data collected from them during a curricular retreat in February, where administrators and faculty members will produce a strategic five-year plan.

There are some major unanswered questions facing UVM, including what an education at the college will look like in 2022, how much time students will spend in the classroom and how faculty members will respond to their roles changing from lecturing to facilitating. Jeffries said he expects some of those details will be settled during the February retreat, while other pieces will fall into place as the medical school transitions away from lectures.

“A lot of this is a great unknown to us,” Jeffries said. “We are starting an evolutionary process in making this initial commitment ... to formulate a new model.”


Medical EducationTeaching With TechnologyEditorial Tags: Medical educationImage Source: Erin PostImage Caption: An instructor at the U. of Vermont Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine teaches in an 'active classroom.'Is this breaking news?: 

New film aims to portray fraternity in realistic -- and disturbing -- fashion

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/26/2016 - 07:00

A row of freshmen stand in a row, clad only in their underwear, against a brick wall in a dirty fraternity basement. They’ve already chugged several cans of beer and bottles of hot sauce, when a senior member of the fraternity -- the chapter’s de facto drill instructor -- picks one pledge out of the lineup, makes him promise not to puke, and forces a gulp of whiskey down his throat.

The freshman immediately vomits. As punishment, he is forced into a cage, where he is drenched with beer, liquor and urine. The moment comes around the halfway point of the new film Goat, a drama about hazing at a fictional university fraternity. When the scene concludes, there are still six more days to go in the fraternity’s “hell week.”

The hazing depicted in Goat is a far cry from the cheerful debauchery seen in fraternity classics like Animal House and Old School. With its big-name stars and opening to strong reviews, hazing prevention groups are hoping the film is part of a larger change in how people view the darker side of college fraternities.

“I think we are seeing a shift,” said Emily Pualwan, executive director of HazingPrevention.org. “If you think about the Animal House days, these things were happening but there was an increased tolerance of some of these activities. I think the extent of these issues is now becoming more apparent, and so you’re seeing it portrayed in films in a more realistic fashion.”

Goat stars Nick Jonas and Ben Schnetzer as Brett and Brad Land, two brothers who attend the fictional Brookman University. Brett is already a member of the Phi Sigma Mu fraternity when Brad arrives on campus looking for a fresh start following his having been carjacked and mugged. Brad, who has yet to come to terms with the emotional trauma of his assault, hopes to join his brother at Phi Sigma. The increasingly violent and perverse hazing rituals strain the brothers’ relationship, and Brett begins to reconsider his role in the fraternity.

The film also stars James Franco as a fraternity alumnus who, despite having graduated 15 years prior and is now married with a child, can’t help returning to the house and encouraging current members to embrace the chapter’s more violent rituals as a fundamental part of fraternity life. The film’s title refers to both what the fraternity calls its pledges and to a constant threat made by the older members: comply with their demands or be forced to have sex with a farm animal.

“Pledges gotta go through hell,” one member later says to Brett when he expresses concern for his brother. “Otherwise, what’s the fucking point?”

Goat is based on Brad Land’s 2004 memoir of the same name, which detailed his experiences with hazing as a fraternity member at Clemson University in the 1990s. At the time, Clemson’s then-president told a local newspaper that the book’s depiction of fraternity life at the university was out-dated. 

In 2014, the university's fraternities came under scrutiny again when a Clemson sophomore’s body was found floating under a bridge after he went missing during what was described as an early-morning group run with his Sigma Phi Epsilon pledge brothers. The student’s parents are suing the university, saying they believe their son died after falling from the bridge during a hazing ritual.

A Clemson spokeswoman this week said that university officials had decided to “refrain from commenting” on the film.

In reference to both National Hazing Prevention Week and the new film, the North-American Interfraternity Conference, through a series of tweets this week, encouraged fraternity members to help combat hazing. In a tweet linking to HazingPrevention.org ‘s website on Friday, the NIC said it was “deeply disturbed by movie depictions of hazing.”

HazingPrevention.org organized a series of screenings of Goat on college campuses last week, including at the University of Arizona, the University of California at Berkeley, and the College of William & Mary.

Goat offers a harrowing depiction of the devastating effects of hazing,” Lenny Sancilio, the group’s president and the dean of students at the State University of New York at Geneseo, said in an email. “Without painting anyone as ‘good’ or ‘evil,’ this well-crafted film gives us an excellent opportunity to open a discussion about the psychological and philosophical underpinnings that give rise to hazing in many areas of student life and why it is so critical to prevent it.”

Goat may soon be joined by another film that aims to depict fraternity hazing in a similar fashion. Last year, a film studio acquired the rights to adapt the 2014 memoir Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy. The book details incidents of hazing -- including members intentionally vomiting on pledges and forcing them to chug vinegar -- at Dartmouth College’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

The author of the memoir, Andrew Lohse, is a former member of the fraternity, and was featured in a Rolling Stone article in 2012 after writing a column in the student newspaper about his allegations. Lohse said Friday that there appears to be a growing market for books and films that take a more critical look at fraternity life.

“I think people definitely are paying more attention to, and have an appetite for learning more about, that dark side of fraternities,” Lohse said. “It’s part of a cultural shift from the idea that fraternities should be portrayed as just a fun, boys-being-boys, comedy thing. And I hope this shift is going to be seen on campuses, as well, not just in movies and in the media.”

Lohse’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon survived the firestorm over his allegations in 2012. Four years later, however, Dartmouth revoked the fraternity's recognition, and SAE's national organization suspended the chapter over separate hazing allegations.

Last year, Dartmouth also shut down the college’s Alpha Delta fraternity after its members were accused of branding the fraternity’s name onto pledges with a hot iron poker. The fraternity’s lawyer denies that the practice was mandatory or a form of hazing -- comparing the brands to piercings or tattoos -- but Dartmouth swiftly kicked Alpha Delta off campus.

The chapter was famously the inspiration behind the fraternity featured in Animal House.

“I do believe that we are seeing things change, in how fraternities are portrayed and with how campuses are dealing with them,” Pualwan, of HazingPrevention.org, said. “A light is being shone on the issue much more than in the past. But with at least one hazing death still happening on a college campus every year for the last 20 years, it’s clear we still have a long way to go.”

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'All lives matter' comment discussed as NACAC conference closes

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/26/2016 - 07:00

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Fallout from a controversial statement was on full display Saturday at the annual membership meeting closing the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s 2016 national conference.

The organization’s outgoing and incoming presidents both made a point of saying that black lives matter, a move coming two days after the outgoing president, Phillip Trout, drew criticism for saying “all lives matter” during the conference’s  opening general session. Several commenters shared their feelings on the events. Some debated the way the comments were discussed critically on social media.

Trout, a college counselor at Minnetonka High School in Minnesota, handed over the presidency Saturday to Nancy Beane, a college counselor at the Westminster Schools in Georgia. First, he presided over the membership meeting, opening with his second public apology in two days.

“At Thursday’s opening general session, I wanted to acknowledge all the violence occurring in our communities along with a statement of sympathy and solidarity for all those affected that should have used the words ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ” Trout said. “I regret that my insensitive statement caused hurt and offense and that the impact of my message of inclusion and respect actually had the opposite effect. I am sorry to have hurt the feelings of so many people, and I offer you my sincerest apology.

“Let me restate,” Trout said. “Black lives matter.”

Trout had issued an apology in a statement Friday that did not include the words “black lives matter.” His remarks Saturday were delivered to a large meeting hall filled with hundreds of people.

The Thursday comments generated negative responses on social media, although much was said to be posted privately on Facebook. Supporters of Black Lives Matter say that they value the lives of others as well, but the phrase "all lives matter" has become widely associated with those seeking to minimize the issue of police killings of black men and women.


How I feel after Phil Trout the president of NACAC and college counselor of Minnetonka, decided to say All Lives Matter. He doesn't get it. pic.twitter.com/xx1KOHEcay

— BougieBlackBlogger (@CicelyRenee) September 22, 2016


When NACAC CEO Joyce Smith took the podium Saturday, she addressed the social media climate. She mentioned difficult and uncomfortable situations. Then she said several words drive her in her work -- integrity, transparency, accountability and trust.

Smith went on to talk about respect, adding that she hoped the ideas she outlined resonated with attendees.

“I hope that all of us do think about our use of social media and the immediacy of the message, whether it’s in organizing something important or communicating with large groups outside of the conference,” she said. “Your words have power. But also know that we’re listening, and we will acknowledge when and how we can to make sure that you have an answer.”

Some in attendance did not fully agree with that message. Brandi Smith, a NACAC director and the assistant dean of admissions at Emory University, spoke during an open forum. She explained that she was speaking for herself, not in an official capacity.

“Earlier today, some comments were made about how we need to be transparent about what we are doing as an organization, and we should be careful about what we say on social media,” Brandi Smith said. “While I agree with that to an extent, I think it’s important to note that even as leaders, we must adjust to the times that we live in, and people will oftentimes find places like social media as an opportunity to have a voice.”

It is difficult to stand and speak in a large room filled with people like the one on Saturday, Brandi Smith said. Doing so can put a target on the speaker’s back.

“For some people, the comments that were made on Thursday were incredibly hurtful,” Brandi Smith said. “We can’t dismiss the feelings that people have. Their feelings are valid. The emotion is valid.”

The idea that speaking up is unacceptable is akin to victim blaming, Brandi Smith said.

"We are hurting, and many of us are trying our best to be positive,” Brandi Smith said. “But we are not necessarily living in a world or profession that always makes that very easy for us to do, and I think that is worth saying.”

Smith went on to call for cultural competency training and other work to move forward.

Objections to the phrase “all lives matter” often center on the idea that it minimizes the Black Lives Matter movement. Rakin Hall, an associate director of multicultural recruitment at the University of Southern California, stood Saturday to talk about the phrases.

"All life is precious," Hall said. "Regardless of your political affiliation, regardless of your religious stance, your gender identity, all life is precious."

But it’s important to note why the rallying cry is “black lives matter,” Hall said. He listed the names of several black Americans killed recently.

“We’re crying out because blood is in the streets,” he said. “Men are laying died, women are laying dead, unaccounted for. We are better than this, and as leaders of our institutions within this academe, please, keep fighting the good fight.”

Hall noted that NACAC’s members can have a major influence over students who will become leaders in the future.

When Beane officially took over the presidency and gave remarks, she also addressed the issue.

“It’s important this afternoon to say black lives matter, because they do,” she said. “Racism has been so deeply embedded within the fabric of this country from its early days, and it is a cancer which we have not yet seemed to eradicate.”

She went on to call for a way forward.

“We have to listen,” Beane said. “We have to forgive one another. WE have to keep working. I feel strongly that this is a crucial time in our country, as many of you this afternoon have referenced. While we can’t control or fix everything in the world, imagine what we can do."

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Panelists warn of international student bubble

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/26/2016 - 07:00

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- This year’s charged political climate in the United States could seriously hurt colleges’ and universities’ ability to recruit international students, according to high school counselors and admissions officers.

By one unscientific measure, 39 percent of counselors serving students from outside the U.S. said that the result of the U.S. election in November could change their students’ willingness to attend a university in the United States. The number is particularly eye opening for U.S. higher education leaders who increasingly look overseas for students who can fill classroom seats and pay high tuition bills.

The potential problems convincing international students to study in the United States were on display Friday at the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s 2016 national conference. A group of admissions officers and others involved in international recruitment held a session describing trends that could point to an international student bubble that’s ready to burst -- just like the housing bubble burst in the United States last decade.

The group conducted an informal political climate survey of 214 high school counselors, independent counselors, U.S. university representatives and foreign university representatives -- all based outside the U.S or serving non-Americans. In addition to the 39 percent of counselors saying the election could influence their students’ university choices, the survey found 64 percent of counselors saw an increase in the number of traditionally U.S.-bound students considering non-U.S. options. Reasons included costs, cited by 80 percent of respondents, along with guns and safety, each cited by about a third of respondents.

But concerns over the U.S. political climate were also illustrated by written-in survey responses. Meghan McHale Dangremond, associate director of admissions at Tufts University, showed a word cloud visualization that displayed terms most commonly cited in written-in responses.

Most-mentioned terms included Trump, concern, anti, work, Muslim, family and visa. Dangremond said she presented the word cloud in the shape of an elephant to convey the elephant in the room, the fact the talked-about Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president and as a nod to the mascot of her employer Tufts University.

"This is what we’re hearing, and this is what they’re hearing,” Dangremond said. “These are the conversations that they’re having on the ground. Our election process is on the mouths of 17-year-olds around the world.”

Dangremond warned against brushing off those concerns under the idea that admissions officers and the colleges and universities they represent tend to be liberal as a group -- or under the idea that the election has yet to be decided.

“Some of the concerns that we heard expressed basically told us that even if this election doesn’t go for the elephant in the room, the damage is done,” she said. “There are perceptions about the United States that have been plastered all over the media that have been made very public that are not flattering.”

Other factors deterring students from coming to institutions in the United States included difficulties in applying to U.S. colleges -- a perception of many hoops to jump through with standardized tests and applications.

Circumstances in other countries could also cut into the number of students studying in the United States. Economies in some key countries have slowed, countries have moved to cut scholarships for students studying in the United States, and countries have tried to build up their own higher educational offerings.

“You’ve got a lot of branch campuses that are opening up in and around the world,” said Ffiona Rees, senior associate director for international admission at the University of California, Los Angeles. “You’re getting regional hubs for American-style education.”

For example, the South Korean economy has slowed, Rees said. The middle class is finding it harder to pay for education in the United States, and there are more educational options within the region.

There is also a change in the way some job markets are perceived. Ten years ago, the perception in Japan and Korea was that a U.S. education opened doors and made it easier to get a job in a student’s home country, Rees said. That perception is now flipped -- the idea today is that students need to go to a top local university to have a leg up in the job market.

Japan stands as historical precedent showing international students can stop coming to the United States. In 1995, Japan was the top country sending students to the United States with 45,531 students. In 2015, just 19,064 students were at U.S. colleges and universities, according to data from the Institute of International Education.

Still, the number of international students has risen sharply in the last 20 years thanks in large part to China. There were 39,613 Chinese students studying in the United States in 1995. In 2015 there were 304,040.

Some signs indicate that the massive growth of Chinese students might not hold into the future. There have been moves to downgrade English in the college entrance exam called the Gaokao. Panelists also pointed to a general growth of higher ed options in China and elsewhere in Asia.

International students are increasingly looking at Canada, the United Kingdom, and Europe, said Kristin Dreazen, an educational consultant based in London. Universities in numerous other countries are also trying to recruit students from beyond their nations’ borders.

Dreazen pointed to Canada as a place that is attractive to international students in part because it is open to international students.

“It is very immigration friendly to international students, so students who are on a student visa have a very clearly defined path to permanent residency, the opportunity to work for a significant amount of time after they’ve graduated,” she said.

Currency exchange rates and length of education can also make other countries attractive, Dreazen said. Simply put, it takes fewer than four years to get an undergraduate degree in some countries. That cuts costs for students. So do exchange rates, which can make already-expensive U.S. higher education seem pricier while making education in other countries seem less expensive.

Meanwhile, funding for international students is running into some limits. Although many international students are self-funded, a substantial portion receive funding from scholarship programs, said Becky Konowicz, director of international admission at Santa Clara University.

The scholarship landscape has changed in some countries, she said. Significantly, the Saudi Arabian government has made changes to its foreign scholarship program, prompting American universities to brace for declines in students from the country. Brazil has also cut back.

“Part of this is there has been no replacement,” Konowicz said. “Something to think about as these programs disappear is what’s going to replace them for capacity for full-pay students?”

The changes to Saudi Arabian and Brazilian scholarship programs came amidst economic headwinds in those countries. Economic issues could also affect the Chinese market’s future, said Johanna Fishbein, university advisor at the United World College of SouthEast Asia’s Dover campus in Singapore.

“There is this perception that the Chinese economy is growing and that there is going to be plenty of money left for Chinese students, but actually, some people say that no, it’s really neither a boom nor a bust, it’s just very stagnant,” she said. “Is it a market that we can see growing? Not necessarily. We certainly can’t rely on that happening.”

In order to get a visa to study in the U.S., students need to show that their families have funding available, Fishbein said. So economic fluctuations can have real impacts on U.S. student populations if they hurt families’ savings.

U.S. colleges and universities can still deploy strategies to survive changes, Fishbein said. Colleges and universities can diversify, looking outside of the countries they have traditionally cultivated.

Pathway programs can be useful if universities invest proper attention to them and make sure they support international students, Fishbein said. International students can be interested in higher education connected to employment opportunities. And colleges and universities can evaluate their application processes and requirements.

“We’ve definitely seen when universities do make a choice to go test-optional, it certainly is perceived very well on the international side,” Fishbein said.

AdmissionsEditorial Tags: AdmissionsInternational higher educationImage Caption: Word cloud presented at NACACIs this breaking news?: 

Admissions group calls for more transparency on use of agents to recruit international students

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/26/2016 - 07:00

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Three years ago, the Assembly of the National Association for College Admission Counseling approved a change to its ethical standards to permit the use of commissioned agents in the recruitment of students outside the United States. The vote followed years of debate over the practice, which is controversial in part because federal law bars such commissions in the United States.

On Saturday, the NACAC Assembly approved a measure that would seek more information from agents and colleges about their use. The measure adds two best practices to NACAC's Statement of Principles of Good Practice, the organization's ethics code:

  • Colleges that use agents should "require those representatives to disclose to their student clients all institutions who are compensating them."
  • In colleges' promotional materials for international students, "institutions should offer to verify whether they have authorized any third party agents to represent them and indicate how students may request this verification."

The intent of the measure is to deal with what some in admissions see as a conflict of interest in the way agents interact with students. In the United States, guidance counselors or private counselors who advise students and families receive no money from colleges and universities, so there is no potential financial incentive to recommend one college over another. Many agents abroad, however, receive some of their compensation based on enrollment decisions, and these agents typically only work for some colleges. So the concern is that they may push some institutions over others without the international student knowing of the financial conflict.

Jon Westover, senior associate director of freshman admissions at Jonathan Law High School, in Connecticut, said at the Assembly that he viewed the measure as "a foundation on which we can build" and said that he wished that there was enough support to make these measures a required practice as opposed to a best practice (essentially just recommended).

He said that the measure sent a “message of integrity and transparency."

When NACAC changed its rules to permit the use of agents, and in discussions leading up to that vote, debate was intense and at times contentious.

In contrast, no one spoke against the best practices proposal Saturday, and it was approved by a vote of 194 to 8.

Privately, some NACAC members who are critical of the use of agents said they viewed the measure as well meaning, but unlikely to lead to serious changes in practice. They noted that it was not mandatory and that many agents work without much supervision by the American colleges that hire them.

AdmissionsForeign StudentsEditorial Tags: Foreign Students in U.S.Is this breaking news?: 

Trump questions spending decisions of colleges with large endowments

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 08:26

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, on Thursday outlined his first specific idea on how to make colleges more affordable. He said that he would work with Congress to pressure institutions with large endowments to spend more on students -- or to face a loss of their tax-exempt status.

A detailed plan was not released, but Trump said in a speech in Pennsylvania that college debt is having a devastating impact on many students and graduates. And he criticized the spending decisions of colleges and universities with "multi-billion dollar endowments."

According to a Washington Post account of the speech, he said that endowment spending should focus on students. "Instead these universities use the money to pay their administrators, to put donors' names on their buildings, or just store the money, keep it and invest it. In fact, many universities spend more on private-equity fund managers than on tuition programs.... But they should be using the money on students, for tuition, for student life and for student housing. That's what it's supposed to be for.”

On student loans, he said: “The students are choking on those loans. They can't pay them back. Before they start, they're in trouble. And it's something I hear more and more and it's one of the things I hear more than anything else,”

Trump has suggested for weeks that he would be making proposals on college affordability.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has made college affordability a major part of her campaign and has been talking about it quite a bit on the campaign trail. Her proposal would make in-state public higher education free for students with family income of up to $125,000. She has also proposed a three-month moratorium for all federal student loan borrowers on repaying their debt, during which time borrowers would get help refinancing their loans or moving into income-driven repayment plans.

Trump's proposal comes at a time that some Republicans in Congress and some experts who focus on low-income students have been suggesting that wealthy colleges should be spending more of their endowments on financial aid.

Regardless of what one thinks of those approaches, a key fact is that the overwhelming majority of college students enroll at institutions without large endowments. Further, some of the colleges and universities most generous with student aid -- including those at which low-income students do not have to borrow at all -- are among those with multi-billion endowments.

While endowment values fluctuate, about 50 colleges and universities are in the category of "multi-billion" cited by Trump. Close to another 50 may have endowments of $1 billion but less than $2 billion.

Large Endowments Reporting Losses

Trump's proposal also comes as some of the largest endowments in higher education are reporting losses for the last fiscal year.

On Thursday, Harvard University's endowment -- the largest higher education endowment -- reported that it lost 2 percent in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2016. A report released by the Harvard Management Company blamed a "low interest rate environment and market volatility," but also admitted that "execution was also a key factor in this year’s disappointing results."

The value of the endowment on June 30 was still enormous compared to the rest of higher education: $35.7 billion.

But an analysis by Bloomberg said that the most recent returns are part of "a decade of lackluster returns compared with the school’s elite rivals."

And Harvard is not the only university with a significant endowment reporting losses. Many large public universities -- including the Universities of California, Colorado, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Iowa, Washington and Virginia; and Ohio State University -- are reporting losses in the last year.

Response From Pro-Clinton Group

Correct the Record, a pro-Clinton group, released a statement Thursday denouncing the Trump proposal:

“Trump introduced what appeared to be an attempt at a college affordability proposal, which is ironic coming from the man behind the student-swindling Trump University and Trump Institute. He has no credibility to speak about affordable and high-quality education when his own employees were told to target single parents desperate to feed their children and encourage students to drain their retirement accounts. Americans deserve better than Donald Trump.


2016 ElectionEditorial Tags: Election 2016EndowmentsIs this breaking news?: 

Students who earn C's in gateway courses are less likely to graduate, new data show

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 07:00

For freshmen taking writing composition at the University of Arizona, receiving a C at the end of the semester may no longer warrant a sigh of relief.

Instead, some of them may have to repeat the class.

Two years ago, Arizona hired Civitas, an education technology company that uses predictive analytics, to track student behavior in an effort to boost student graduation rates. One finding jumped out: students' performance in commonly required courses was linked to whether they would graduate or drop out.

For instance, students at the university who earned an A or a B in an introductory English composition and rhetoric course had a 67 percent chance of graduating, a figure calculated by predictive models of actual graduation numbers. But if they received a C in the required course, students only had a 48 percent chance to graduate -- a difference of nearly 20 percentage points.

The university had considered the course to be low risk. Most students in English composition (81 percent) persist into the next semester. But the data convinced university officials that success in the course was vital in predicting whether students were likely to graduate.

After receiving the findings over the summer, university officials decided changes had to be made. They are currently discussing whether and how curricular policy should be adjusted in light of the data, although those conversations have just begun, according to Angela Baldasare, assistant provost of institutional research at Arizona.

The possible policy changes would be made by individual schools at the university, and those possibilities range from requiring that C students take a writing competency test to providing resources for students who didn’t obtain the top two grades. Another option individual schools could adopt would be considered more dramatic: students who received a C would be required to repeat the course before taking upper-level classes.

Using data to inform policies and practices at universities is nothing new. Predictive analytics have been commonly used in higher education for the past five to seven years, said Amelia Parnell, vice president for research and policy with NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Civitas works with scores of universities and colleges, including community colleges that have focused professional programs, and it found similar patterns beyond the University of Arizona. At El Paso Community College, for example, nursing students were much more likely to complete the program if they received an A in a foundational anatomy and physiology course -- in fact, students who receive a B or a C had a scant 35 percent likelihood of graduating.

If colleges were to start requiring students who earn Cs to repeat courses, that would be symbolic of a conceptual shift, experts said, switching the priority from students simply passing a course to students who master the material.

“What does it mean to give someone a D or a low C?” said Thomas Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College. “If the average grade in the past was a C, then it’s different than if it was a B or B-plus. You’re changing the definition of what it means to pass a course.”

One reason for this shift is grade inflation, Bailey said. Indeed, only 8 percent of students who takes the writing composition course at Arizona are graded with a D, F or withdrawal.

Vincent Del Casino, the university's vice provost for digital learning and student engagement and associate vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, said discussions surrounding the introductory writing course are nothing new.

“Our journalism school requires a C in a basic math course to be admitted,” he said. “Colleges are looking at whether students have certain grades in certain foundational classes. That’s normal.”

What is new, according to Del Casino, is that the data are being used at an institutional level to create various smaller changes unique to each college within the university.

“Nobody has dug into those relationships before on an institutional level,” Del Casino said. “If at an institutional level, we know that graduation rates start at foundational courses -- backed with data -- that’s exciting to us.”

At Arizona, 61 percent of students graduate in six years. That’s less than two-thirds of students who begin as freshmen, but it’s better than the national rate for four-year institutions. Nationally, 53 percent of students graduate within six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse.

More Proactive, Less Reactive

“The most critical piece of predictive analytics is to provide intervention,” said Parnell.

That means contacting the student during the semester instead of waiting until end-of-semester grades. And the earlier the better.

For example, Parnell encouraged universities to give the student’s adviser data about how many times she logs into her course management system and grades; to instruct the adviser to reach out to the student with resources; or to create an automated early alert system, which reaches out to students through text messaging or email when they’ve failed to turn in an assignment.

Andrew Koch, executive vice president and chief academic leadership and innovation officer at the John N. Gardner Institute, likened predictive analytics in academia to a game of bowling.

“I’m going to predict who’s going to bowl a 250 or better based on analyzing what happened in the first three frames, I’m going to have a very sound prediction,” Koch said.

But a prediction is just that, and nothing more. To actually encourage students to succeed in the class -- or if the goal is to bowl a 250 or better instead of just predicting the score -- that’s another story.

“Then I’m going to want to intervene in the first three frames to make sure things are going well, that the technique is right, etc.,” Koch said.

At Arizona, that advice hasn’t fallen on deaf ears.

This semester, professors in some departments at the university are calculating and posting midterm grades for students. The hope is that if students stay informed about their grades, they’ll be more likely to take steps to raise them.

“The important thing for us is that we can now use our data to more quickly identify students who aren’t doing well in composition and get them the support they need to improve their writing skills and their grade in the class,” said Baldasare. “We know that improving their grade in composition will serve them well regardless of the requirements in their particular major.”

Helping or Creating Barriers?

The use of predictive modeling isn’t a guaranteed solution. Although experts agree that it’s useful for institutions to have the data, they also brought up concerns about how the information is used.

“One question I have for universities: Is your policy about creating more barriers, or creating resources for students?” said Amber Garrison Duncan, strategy director at the Lumina Foundation

Since Arizona’s policies are currently being molded, it’s difficult to find data that can answer her question. But when it comes to requiring students to repeat a course even if they earned a C, federal data suggests that underrepresented and minority students may be the ones who are most likely to be affected.

“But if your policies are saying that you must get a B before you proceed onward, well, what do we know from analyzing the data?” Koch said. “It’s that first-generation, low-income, historically underrepresented students are the least likely to do well in these gateway courses.”

Indeed, the university's graduation rates for students from minority groups are lower than the rates for white students.

In the 2008 freshman cohort at Arizona, 62 percent of white students graduated within six years. In contrast, 54 percent of Latino students and 45 percent of black students graduated within the same time frame.

In addition, low-income and minority group students are more likely to be first-generation college students, which means they tend to have fewer resources to help them complete classes with high marks. Requiring these students to repeat a course with a C could inadvertently create one more hurdle for the school’s most vulnerable students.

Who Makes the Decisions?

Another concern: giving administrators greater discretion in curricular policy while simultaneously giving faculty members less.

“When you start mapping out the curriculum, you’re talking about something that gets into academic design. Traditionally you leave it to an academic department to map out curriculum and set standards,” said Phil Hill, a market analyst who studies technology in higher education and co-publisher of the “e-Literate” blog.

In deciding how to use the data, administrators at Arizona are not directly in discussion with faculty. Instead, they've invited deans and associate deans from each college to review the data; they are invited to "bring whatever key staff they deem appropriate" to the meetings, Baldasare said.

"It’s a first step in what we expect to become an expanded conversation with colleges about how we can use predictive analytics to support student success," she said.

Civitas, too, sees potential in the data. 

"The University of Arizona is taking the first steps in thinking through the appropriate, responsible use of these insights to remove previously unknown barriers to student success and graduation. These specific course findings will empower faculty and advisers to identify students most in need and provide the timely support services to those students during the term,” Laura Malcolm, senior vice president of outcomes and strategy for Civitas, said in a written statement. (Note: This paragraph has been added to a previous version of the article to include a comment from Civitas.)

Even so, an expert on writing courses is worried about what a possible curriculum shift might trigger.

A policy requiring a C in a gateway class could “put an inordinate focus on grade performance, which puts a lot of pressure on faculty,” said Doug Hesse, executive director of writing at the University of Denver and president of the National Council of Teachers of English. “It’s often the case in writing faculty that there are adjunct and grad assistants who don’t have protections of tenure. It’s pretty tempting to say, ‘Whatever, I’ll give the A or the B.’”

This debate, one with multiple strands, implications and consequences, is one with which everyone in higher education is familiar. They've got the data. How do they use it?

Teaching With TechnologyEditorial Tags: Graduation ratesTechnologyImage Source: University of ArizonaImage Caption: Students at the University of ArizonaIs this breaking news?: 

U of Tennessee investigating a professor and popular conservative blogger for tweeting that drivers should "run down" protesters in North Carolina

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 07:00

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville says it’s investigating a law professor’s tweet suggesting that motorists “run down” protesters blocking traffic following a fatal police shooting in Charlotte, N.C. The professor, a popular blogger with the Twitter handle @Instapundit, says he hasn’t been contacted by the university directly, and many free speech advocates say that his remark -- however objectionable -- should be protected.

“He apparently is unaware of how dangerous it is to the driver who runs over a human being, and he is apparently unaware that vehicular homicide is both illegal and evil,” said John K. Wilson, an independent scholar of academic freedom and co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog, referring to Glenn Reynolds, the professor in question.

Yet while Reynolds's tweet “is unquestionably stupid and morally repugnant,” Wilson said, “it generally should not be subject to investigation or punishment.” He didn’t threaten a particular person harm, Wilson said, and it “seems his overwrought statement was meant to convey anger with the protesters, not a serious call for violence against them.”

Robert O’Neil, a former president and professor emeritus of law at the University of Virginia who studies the First Amendment, had a similar opinion, saying he’d treat the “arguably tongue-in-cheek tweet as though it had been uttered orally during a rally, or even in print.” That means pausing to recognize its “inherent ambiguity,” as well as Reynolds’s physical distance from the events in Charlotte.

While O’Neil hoped Tennessee wouldn’t sanction Reynolds, he did say that “collegial guidance would certainly be appropriate” -- especially as Reynolds teaches law.

Reynolds, the Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at Tennessee and moderator of the conservative blog Instapundit, was temporarily blocked from Twitter Wednesday evening after he responded to a tweet from a local news station notifying the public that protesters were stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles on Interstate 277, outside Charlotte. “Run them down,” Reynolds tweeted.

The post immediately caught attention on social media and from news outlets, with many accusing Reynolds of inciting violence toward those demonstrating against the Tuesday shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott by a police officer. Reports vary as to whether or not Scott was armed, and his family, who deny that he was, have linked his death with police shootings of a number of other unarmed black men in recent years.

Reynolds, whose account has since been reinstated, said Twitter asked him to delete the tweet to return to service. He posted the tweet elsewhere lest he be accused of “airbrushing.”

On his blog Thursday, after his tweet attracted attention, Reynolds said, “I’ve always been a supporter of free speech and peaceful protest. … But riots aren’t peaceful protest. And blocking interstates and trapping people in their cars is not peaceful protest -- it’s threatening and dangerous, especially against the background of people rioting, cops being injured, civilian-on-civilian shootings and so on.”

Reynolds “wouldn’t actually aim for people blocking the road,” he wrote, “but I wouldn’t stop, because I’d fear for my safety, as I think any reasonable person would.” He later said that he agreed with a suggestion that “Keep driving” would have been more in line with what he was thinking, but that his tweets “can’t be all be perfect.”

On Thursday, Melanie D. Wilson, dean of Tennessee’s College of Law, posted a statement to the university website saying that she was “aware of the remarks” and of the “serious and legitimate concerns expressed by members of the [law college] family and the University of Tennessee community, as well as concerned citizens across the country.”

Wilson said Reynolds’s comments “do not reflect my views and opinions, nor do they reflect the values of the college and university,” and that she, administrators and faculty members are “investigating this matter.”

While the university is committed to academic freedom and diverse viewpoints, and Wilson and her colleagues support civil disobedience and free speech, she said, “we do not support violence or language that encourages violence. [Reynolds] has built a significant platform to discuss his viewpoints, but his remarks on Twitter are an irresponsible use of his platform.”

Seeming to invoke Reynolds’s status as a teacher, Wilson added that Tennessee law students are to become “not only responsible lawyers, but also responsible global citizens who are able to competently represent people of all backgrounds.”

Via email, Reynolds said he hadn’t been contacted by the university about any investigation, beyond Wilson’s statement. He referred additional questions to Robert Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, who could not immediately be reached for comment.

A university spokesperson confirmed that Tennessee is investigating the case. “University administrators, as well as the College of Law dean and faculty, are discussing a number of issues related to the tweet,” she said via email.

On Thursday evening, Reynolds published an apology in USA Today, where is a contributor; the newspaper promptly said it was suspending his column. "Wednesday night one of my 580,000 tweets blew up," Reynolds wrote said. "I didn’t live up to my own standards, and I didn’t meet USA Today’s standards. For that I apologize, to USA Today readers and to my followers on social media."

Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary for tenure, governance and academic freedom at AAUP, said what matters is that any question of whether Reynolds's tweets merit discipline should be referred to a faculty committee.

AAUP’s statement on extramural utterances -- those outside of teaching or research -- says that the “controlling principle is that a faculty member’s expression of opinion as a citizen cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness to serve. Extramural utterances rarely bear upon the faculty member’s fitness for continuing service. Moreover, a final decision should take into account the faculty member’s entire record as a teacher and scholar.”

Of course, referrals to a faculty committee don’t always happen. Steven Salaita was famously “unhired” by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014 for his anti-Israel tweets -- which some said incited violence -- absent a faculty review. A key difference between that case and Reynolds is that Salaita hadn't quite started his job, and Reynolds is a chaired professor. AAUP censured the university over the incident, and Illinois eventually settled a lawsuit alleging breach of contract and First Amendment violations with Salaita.

Reynolds’s case also recalls that of David Guth, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas who was suspended from teaching prior to a faculty review for tweeting the following after the 2013 shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington: “The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters.”

Critics said Guth was advocating more violence. FIRE argued that his speech was protected, and Guth said at the time that he didn't wish gun violence on anyone but that "if it does happen again -- and it likely will -- may it happen to those misguided miscreants who suggest that today's death toll at the Navy Yard would have been lower if the employees there were allowed to pack heat." He was allowed to return to teaching, but the Kansas Board of Regents ultimately approved a new policy limiting what employees may say on social media. The move was panned by First Amendment advocates, but the regents argued the new policy would better facilitate free speech.

Editorial Tags: Academic freedomImage Caption: Glenn Reynolds Is this breaking news?: 

Decreasing median incomes linked to rising numbers of Pell Grant recipients

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 07:00

The percentage of students receiving federal Pell Grants has grown as incomes have fallen.

A new report from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics found that the percentage of both independent and dependent students who received Pell Grants increased from 1999 to 2011. In 1999, 19 percent of dependent students -- or those who relied on their parents' income -- received the grants. That figure increased to 35 percent by 2011. Among independent students, the percentage of recipients increased from 25 percent in 1999 to 48 percent in 2011.

Those numbers correspond with decreasing median family incomes. In 1999, the median family income for dependent Pell Grant recipients was $29,500, after adjusting for inflation. That number decreased to $26,100 by 2011. For independent students, the median income declined from $14,300 to $12,700.

"This really reinforces the growing need for the Pell Grant," said Bill DeBaun, director of data and evaluation at the National College Access Network, a nonprofit organization that advocates for low-income students. "We know that the Pell is a great policy instrument promoting postsecondary access and opportunity to student groups that need it the most and who have the least access to opportunity. The decreasing median income from the report is there. It's very well targeted even as the demand grew."

After the recession, there were some concerns that the expansion of the Pell program would lead to less targeting or focus on low-income students. In 2008, for instance, the maximum Pell award was $4,350. That number has increased to $5,815 this year. But to address worries about rising costs of the program, the Obama administration in 2011 cut year-round access to the grants.

"The independent student income, it's about the level of federal poverty level for one person," said Lauren Walizer, senior policy analyst at the Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success. "With the maximum Pell, they're getting a boost of income by almost 50 percent. By extending to year-round Pell, if they get another semester's worth of Pell, that would boost their ability to engage in college."

Pell Grants are structured on family income and how much money families are expected to contribute toward students' college educations. Raising the maximum amount of money is one way of boosting the flow to the neediest students, but it can also increase the number of people who qualify for some Pell Grant funds. In 2008, there were 6.1 million Pell Grant recipients. That number grew to about 8.2 million recipients in 2014, according to federal data.

Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and an expert on financial aid, said higher-income families are receiving Pell Grants, especially if they have more than two or three kids in college at the same time. But besides exceptions like those, she said, the federal grant is going to people who have significant financial constraints.

Congress has been working to restore year-round Pell. This past summer the U.S. Senate attempted to restore the year-round measure, which would let students receive two of the need-based grants in one year to help pay for summer courses. But the U.S. House of Representatives rejected the proposal.

"You should be able to take your credits whenever you need them," Baum said.

Editorial Tags: Federal policyFinancial aidIs this breaking news?: 

Demographic changes prompt changes to application reading

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 07:00

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Colleges and universities are preparing for a future in which student bodies are less white, Northeastern and Midwestern. That means changes for admissions readers, those who evaluate applications from prospective students.

Admissions officers from three institutions shed some light on those changes in a session Thursday at the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s 2016 national conference. One of those institutions, Pomona College, has already seen a radical shift in its student body, according to Associate Dean of Admissions Ashley Pallie.

“In 1984, at Pomona, we were only 7 percent underrepresented minorities, and that would have been black students, Hispanic, Latino and Native students,” Pallie said. “In 2015 that number was 27 percent. In the class that we just enrolled, so the first-year students who are on campus right now, just over 49 percent of them identified as domestic students of color. And so that includes Asian-American students, Hispanic, Latino, two or more races, Native students and black students, and then another 12 percent identify as international students.”

The shift has led to changes in the way Pomona thinks about diversity, Pallie said. For instance, it looked at how readers were evaluating applications from Asian-American students -- a major part of the population in California. Pomona is about to hold its fourth training since December on reviewing applications from Asian-Americans, looking at students’ backgrounds and patterns of movement.

Previously the college seemed to have viewed Asian-American students under three groups, according to Pallie. But it went back to the drawing board.

“We literally pulled up a map,” she said. “OK, so where’s China. Everyone knows China. That’s great. And then Japan, Korea, India. Can someone point out Cambodia and Malaysia and Laos?”

The college has also been talking about the way students in the different populations are described and whether that lines up with any culturally significant aspects of a community. Is it significant culturally, for example, if a student is described as quiet? Does that create the potential for bias? How is leadership defined in different communities? It’s also looked at immigration patterns and levels of educational attainment among different groups.

Pomona received 8,100 applications in 2015-16, admitting 9.5 percent. It has 14 full-time readers and four seasonal readers.

For a look at a larger institution, take Ohio State University. Ohio State received 49,389 applications in 2015-16, admitting 49 percent. It employs 77 full-time staff readers and 21 seasonal readers.

Ohio State emphasizes that its readers should look at a student’s entire application instead of just a few data points, said Vern Granger, associate vice president and director of enrollment services.

“We try to convey the message to them that our job is to build a class and not admit a class,” Granger said. “If we were just admitting a class, we wouldn’t be here. Because anybody can enter [grades] and SAT scores and admit however many students. Our job is to really build a class and get them to focus on those priorities.”

Readers must be educated about a university’s values and priorities, Granger said. An institution can want readers to evaluate an application with a holistic view, but the word “holistic” can be a buzzword that means different things to different people unless they have been educated about it.

Ongoing training, review and feedback are critical, Granger said. Ohio State focuses on its mission statement and strategic enrollment plan.

“The mission statement of your university is a foundation,” Granger said. “When you’re building your application review process and you’re working on training, you really need to be aware of the priorities of your institution.”

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology follows the idea that more data reduce the chance of bias in the application process, said Lauren Avalos, associate director of admissions. That means an MIT-specific application with five essay questions and an optional sixth essay to provide more information. MIT also tries to review applications in context -- for example, not penalizing students from backgrounds that often don’t have access to advanced placement courses.

“The value of more information is it gives us this opportunity to get a little closer to the student,” Avalos said.

MIT received 19,020 applications in 2015-16, admitting 7.9 percent. It employs 19 full-time readers and 11 seasonal readers.

Outside observation points to different types of biases in admissions. Michael Bastedo, a professor and director of the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan, studied two unnamed flagship university admissions offices. He saw anchoring bias and correspondence bias, he said.

Anchoring bias is relying too heavily on the first piece of information someone sees when making decisions -- for example, an admissions reader looking over a sheet that has information on an applicant’s high school, and the information from that sheet then having a disproportionate impact on the reader’s evaluation of following data. Correspondence bias is tending to link facts to people’s personalities rather than the context surrounding them.

“When I did my fieldwork I saw people trying to fix these problems without identifying them the way I did,” Bastedo said. “They saw these problems and they were trying to train readers not to do them.”

Language monitoring was the first tactic Bastedo pointed out. So instead of talking about “a great essay” or “a poor essay,” admissions staff members would talk about “a helpful personal statement” or “a missed opportunity.” It might look at first glance like being politically correct, but it actually changed the way readers thought about applications, helping to keep them from overemphasizing one part or another, Bastedo said.

Another correction Bastedo suggested was reducing cognitive closure -- essentially making sure readers don’t try to force a decision early in the reading process. He also suggested changing error correction routines that had readers fearful of being told they had scored applications incorrectly.

“From the reader’s point of view, they live in fear of this phone call because they saw themselves making very high-stakes decisions,” he said. “They were being told they were messing up people’s lives.”

Bastedo suggested one more tactic to combat anchoring bias: considering the order of application information.

AdmissionsEditorial Tags: AdmissionsIs this breaking news?: 

Cornell dispute centers on work authorization for international students

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 07:00

International students coming to the U.S. are often eager to gain work experience, but they’re subject to legal restrictions that American students are not.

A dispute at Cornell University sheds light on the regulatory requirements that institutions have to navigate in authorizing internships or other training opportunities for international students and the stakes for those students.

The dispute -- which was largely resolved on Thursday -- involves a program called curricular practical training, or CPT, through which international students on F-1 visas can work up to full time in an internship or other type of cooperative education program with a sponsoring employer. The Department of Homeland Security regulations governing the program state that CPT can only be authorized when the work-related opportunity is "directly related to [a student's] major area of study" and "an integral part of an established curriculum."

At Cornell, the economics department had initially decided to stop facilitating CPT opportunities for international students pursuing paid summer internships for a few stated reasons, one being that the internships were not deemed "integral" to the major. The economics department has, however, backed away from that initial decision in response to a resolution introduced in the Student Assembly calling for the restoration of CPT opportunities, and now plans to continue to process CPT-related paperwork while faculty make some curricular changes.

The sponsor of that Student Assembly resolution, Akhilesh Issur, said he motioned to withdraw the resolution from the assembly floor in light of the department's change of heart. Issur, the international student liaison to the assembly, first proposed the resolution last week after fellow students, mostly juniors majoring in economics, approached him with "serious concerns" about their summer internship options.

“They are very stressed because recruitment has already started for internships in banking, finance and consulting, and they are unaware if they will be able to secure work authorization for next summer's internships,” Issur said in written responses to questions.

"A lot of international students seek initial work experience in the U.S. before going back to their home country because firstly, there are much more opportunities here, and secondly, this international experience is very important to get jobs back in their home countries as well," Issur said. "Not being able to get such work experience (via an internship leading to a job offer) therefore very much jeopardizes career aspirations of international students whether they want to remain here or go back home."

An internal report on the economics department's use of CPT -- excerpts of which were provided to Issur by the department's director of undergraduate studies, Stephen Coate, to explain the initial decision to cease offering CPT -- provides some background on how economics majors were previously using the CPT program, and why some faculty were concerned about the practice.

“Currently, some of our overseas undergraduate majors use CPTs to obtain work authorization for paid summer internships,” an excerpt from the report states. “Obviously, such internships are not required by our major. So, to meet CPT requirements, we certify that the internship is ‘required’ for a credit-­bearing course. This course is a one-­credit independent study that is undertaken in the fall semester following the internship. The student is required to write a short paper (6-­7 pages) describing (supposedly) some link between their internship and what they have been learning in the major.”

“We have a number of concerns about our current use of CPTs,” the excerpted version of the report says. “First and foremost, while we are arguably meeting the letter of the law, we are clearly violating its spirit. The fact of the matter is that these summer internships are not integral to our major or part of our program. We are simply inventing a course and claiming that the internship is required for it. We feel that this is abusing the system and we are highly uncomfortable facilitating this abuse.”

“Second, we see little educational value in having our majors undertake these independent studies. It is usually very difficult for them to identify a link between their internships and what they have been learning in the major. Indeed, it is typically the case that no clear link exists.”

The report further describes as “fundamentally unfair” the fact that the one-credit independent studies were being offered to international students but not to American students, who don’t need CPT authorization to do an internship. “Indeed,” the document states, “this asymmetry reveals in stark terms that the credit-­bearing course that we are claiming the internship is required for is nothing other than a gimmick to circumvent the law. If it were not, then the course would be available to all our majors.”

In an email, the chair of the economics department, Larry Blume, described the excerpted material as being "from an early internal thought piece from two faculty members that was speculative, and not reflective of the view of the entire department, the college or the university."

(To that, Issur said he was "perplexed about why the [director of undergraduate studies] only gave me 'a speculative' report that reflected the views of only two people when I specifically asked for the reasons that pushed the department as a whole to take this decision -- a decision that was indeed taken by the department.")

Blume, the Donald C. Opatrny '74 Chair, provided the following written statement Thursday afternoon: "The economics department is currently working with university administration to construct an educational experience that meets Cornell's academic standards. The department intends to adopt a new policy once this assessment process has concluded."

"We are sensitive to the concerns expressed by the Student Assembly about how this change in policy could disadvantage international students entering the job market. As faculty members, first and foremost, we have a responsibility to ensure that our curriculum meets Cornell’s long-held standards of excellence."

The statement concludes: "For any international students receiving an internship offer before a new policy is in place, the economics department will process their CPT paperwork. However, students must understand that the requirements for course work associated with that CPT will be determined at a later date, at which time students will be responsible for completing those requirements."

The Student Assembly resolution sponsored by Issur had maintained that there were ways for the economics department to improve the quality of the independent studies -- to make the requirements for them more rigorous and relevant -- and to make them available to American and international students alike, rather than eliminate the option altogether.

The decision to authorize CPT or not ultimately lies with what the federal government terms "designated school officials" -- a role typically performed by staff members in a university's international students and scholars office. The director of Cornell's international students and scholars office declined to comment for this article through a university spokesman.

The case at Cornell highlights the confusion that the regulations governing CPT have caused in the international education field. While the CPT program can be outright abused -- the fake University of Northern New Jersey, an institution with no classes and no faculty set up by federal investigators as part of a sting operation, enrolled many foreign nationals who used the sham school as an avenue to obtain CPT authorization to work full time -- there's also plenty of confusion on the part of legitimate educational institutions about when it is and isn't appropriate to authorize it.

“It’s supposed to be training, the opportunity’s supposed to be directly related to the student's major and it’s supposed to be -- here’s the great vagary -- an integral part of an established curriculum. So what is an integral part? What is a curriculum?” asked Scott F. Cooper, a senior counsel with the immigration-focused law firm Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy.

Cooper said the international education field has been waiting for further guidance from the federal government on these questions for years. Absent that, some colleges take a strict interpretation, only approving CPT when a work experience is a required component of a required course for a major, while others have been more flexible in granting it when a work-related opportunity is directly related to a student’s program.

"That's really the spirit of the regulation, I think, is if it’s directly related, and it’s something a student normally engages in as part of their educational program," Cooper said. "That’s the thing about the word 'curriculum': does curriculum technically mean a course, or do you look at it more as the educational program experience? That’s what attracts many international students to the U.S. It’s not just the courses. It’s the program experience."

GlobalForeign StudentsEditorial Tags: International higher educationForeign Students in U.S.Is this breaking news?: 

Small colleges face hurdles as they're pushed to change

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 07:00

PHILADELPHIA -- Bob Shea told a story about preparing to lead a general planning board retreat at an elite liberal arts college, only to hear that the board chair and president didn’t want to use the word “change.”

“It was too much of a hot-button topic on their campus,” said Shea, senior fellow for finance and campus management at the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Shea spoke Wednesday in Philadelphia at a NACUBO session for small institutions, presenting on updating business models.

Resistance to change -- or even using the word “change” -- could be a big problem for small colleges, particularly as many institutions report being squeezed by rising tuition discount rates and other financial pressures. But Shea and other presenters tried to walk more than 60 small-college representatives through related issues to help them find ways to update their business models. In doing so, they talked about a two-year NACUBO effort called the Economic Models Project, which is designed to explore the current state of higher education economic models and envision what alternative approaches might look like.

Presenters repeatedly said that no single answer will solve institutions’ problems. But Jacalyn Askin, manager of the Economic Models Project, at least offered an easy solution for leaders not wanting to use the word “change.”

“Fortunately there are lots of synonyms for ‘change,’” Askin said. “We just got the thesaurus out.”

Askin listed six broad issues small institutions have trouble with on their campus. Chief among them were faculty issues and revenue and expenses.

Under the issue of revenue and expenses, college representatives talked about demographic challenges -- like the shrinking supply of traditional-age students -- high discount rates and expensive employee benefits, as well as the cost of athletics and regulatory compliance. Colleges discussed issues of shared governance and tenure under faculty issues.

Other broad issues were public trust, internal and external communication, higher education’s value proposition and institutional survival. Askin found it particularly interesting that colleges were worried about survival, because data informing the issues was gathered before much-discussed stories broke about institutions closing.

“This particular exercise was done in September 2014, which preceded Sweet Briar,” Askin said, referencing the high-profile 2015 attempt to close the all-female college in rural Virginia, which was eventually reversed by alumnae.

Many colleges expressed a sense of losing their historic past, Askin said. Or they talked about a reluctance to dream big about the future.

Shea identified five more broad issues to examine. One was resource allocation. Another was that colleges and universities are labor-intensive organizations, typically with between 60 percent and 80 percent of their expenditures tied up in personnel costs. Another theme was capital, or the amount of reserves a college had on hand. Other themes were the external environmental factors affecting colleges -- the things they don’t control -- and the issue of leadership.

The idea of the Stockdale paradox is important for leaders in times of change, according to Shea. That idea is that leaders need to have faith they can succeed while still acknowledging the most brutal facts of reality.

NACUBO is working to find a set of metrics institutions can use to determine whether they are on a sustainable path. Right now it has a list of about 90 metrics. But that isn’t a realistic number of indicators to monitor, Askin said, so the association is working with chief business officers to narrow them to a more manageable list.

Top-ranked metrics so far include the tuition discount rate and how it is changing. Student-to-faculty ratio is also a top metric, along with the cost of acquiring grants and gifts, debt service costs, and deferred maintenance. Leadership churn was also listed.

The Economic Models Project isn’t about finding one model that will work for all institutions, Askin said. It’s about finding a framework to help institutions create new models for themselves. To that end, institutions need to think about their missions -- who they serve and whether they are a specific type of institution like a liberal arts college, historically black college or religiously affiliated institution. They also need to consider their structure, their core strengths and their strategies for using resources.

“Our emphasis in this is [that] the business model is not your financial statements,” Askin said. “Your financial statements are after-the-fact reflections.”

Larry Ladd, national director for Grant Thornton’s higher education practice, said he has seen the slice of colleges facing significant financial difficulties grow since he started at the firm in the late 1990s. Although there are no simple solutions to the problems such colleges face, institutions involved often share similar characteristics, he said.

“Usually by the time the college is calling us in, they’re worried about meeting payroll,” Ladd said. “Not necessarily in two weeks, but in six months. One of the first questions is, ‘How long do we have?’”

Common institutional characteristics often include boards loyal to their colleges but uncertain how to provide oversight, Ladd said. Presidents are extreme in their optimism. The chief financial officer position is either vacant or filled by someone new -- or by someone who is in no position to exercise power.

That’s important because financial leaders are key to pushing for new strategies and change.

“The chief financial officer is the pessimist,” Ladd said. “You should be actually driving the sense of urgency.”

Other characteristics of institutions facing difficulties include liquidity and cash management issues. Additional red flags can include violations of debt covenants and management that doesn’t effectively use data.

Universities also often feel they are special, Ladd said. They can be isolated from larger higher education associations and also draw students from a limited geographic area.

Against that backdrop, leadership is one of the most critical factors, Ladd said. The thinking at troubled institutions often centers on beliefs, he said. Leaders hold to the belief that they have a great institution, one that gives students a wonderful experience and allows them to go out and make a difference in the world. Leaders believe they will increase their enrollment. But the reality is different.

“People should come -- indeed they should,” Ladd said. “People should pay -- indeed they should. But they are not.”

Colleges have generally resisted mergers, Ladd said. In essence, they resist giving up their identities. He sees improving student retention as the most effective way to raise money for a college. It’s easier to keep students than it is to find new ones, Ladd said.

Ladd also acknowledged that it’s difficult to overcome that hot-button issue -- the fear of change. Financial officers can make the case for change without making it sound too intimidating, he said.

“You can’t make the change,” Ladd said. “But you can keep raising the questions.”

FinancesEditorial Tags: Business issuesImage Source: NACUBOImage Caption: Bob SheaIs this breaking news?: 

Q and A with author of new book on 'gender shrapnel' in academe

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 07:00

Ellen Mayock, Ernest Williams II Professor of Spanish and professor of women’s and gender studies at Washington and Lee University, wasn’t always a feminist. But a career in academe -- including a frustrating stint as the token female administrative “voice” -- led to a consciousness about how gender issues play out in the academic workplace. That transition is a major thread in her new book, Gender Shrapnel in the Academic Workplace (Palgrave Macmillan), which is a combination of theory, personal and gathered anecdotes, and recommendations for change.

Shrapnel takes its name from its central concept: that female professors and administrators aren’t necessarily overtly discriminated against as much as they are subject to regular insults and slights -- all of which build up over time to inflict real damage. The cumulative damage idea will be familiar to anyone following recent dialogues about race -- in that context this idea has frequently been described as microaggressions. Mayock’s gender-specific term is arguably more illustrative: gender shrapnel.

Put another way, digs such as “How does your husband deal with this?” (“this” being long hours at work that have amounted to a productive research agenda), lodge in one’s skin, like bits of shrapnel from an explosion meters off. One isn’t fatal but many over time pose risk to the woman -- or at the very least to her longevity in academe.

Yet the book is not all descriptive. It presents possible solutions, such as awareness training and a detailed instructor’s appendix to help better contain the blasts. As Mayock puts it, “When more women and men workers can capably evaluate their work environments, find the strength to speak out consistently against injustice, become CEOs and presidents who vociferously do not tolerate workplace injustice, and find support in other like-minded individuals, then we will have cleared much of the gender and intersectional shrapnel that continues to cause too many ‘Ow, it got me’ moments and to capture too much of our attention that could be placed more productively on the work itself.” 

Mayock responded to email questions about the book. Here is some of the conversation, edited for clarity and length. (Shrapnel also has a blog for further reading.)

Q: What is gender shrapnel, and how is it similar to microaggressions that have been cited in recent campus protests about race?

A: Gender shrapnel is a series of small workplace explosions that occur when no one person or organization is purposefully discriminating against women (or men, less frequently) based on sex, but when the gender norms of our homes and of our public interactions that consistently follow a patriarchal flow are replicated in the workplace, entrenched in the workplace, and then become the fabric of a pattern of sexual discrimination. This pattern is normally not consonant with the organization’s professed values and is often in direct opposition to Title VII and Title IX law. Gender shrapnel also encompasses the scattered bits of metal at the intersections of gender with race, socioeconomic status, sexuality, parental status, national origin and religion.

The excellent term “microaggressions,” originally coined by Chester Pierce in 1970 and made more commonplace recently through Derald Wing Sue’s 2010 Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation, is certainly linked to the concept of gender shrapnel. In Gender Shrapnel, I say that Pierce’s term is a useful way to understand the daily, frustrating, energy-sucking experience of dealing with discrimination. The metaphor of gender shrapnel obviously focuses on gender (and its connections with others of the so-called protected categories), and it implies that oftentimes the experience of discrimination, harassment and retaliation requires an understanding of uneven dynamics over time and a nuanced approach about when and how to confront the workplace injustice.

Q: What are “bad gender days,” and can you describe one of your own?

A: Each one of us can probably offer a highly unique take on the “bad gender day.” [Cisgender] men who feel limited by the emotional palette available to them, cis women who work so hard just to be heard and to be credited for their good ideas and work, and trans women and trans men who are even more boxed in by gender norms and scripts. These issues are so hard to navigate, and I wonder how we can move deliberately towards kindness and very firmly away from violence in these realms. I think most of us can generate a narrative of gender shrapnel, if we think analytically about our own experiences.

A bad gender day for me might include being interrupted at a meeting, hearing another credited with my idea or work, having someone speak for me, rather than listen to me, and/or being seen in a group of women and being asked what we are “plotting.” There are many worse gender days out there, so these are just a few lighter examples. Of course, we see in the news every day much more acute examples of the sexual violence so present on our college and university campuses.

Q: You cite Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, from which you’ve developed the notion of the professional mystique. What is the professional mystique, and how -- if at all -- has life for women working in academe and without improved since the early 1960s?

A: I talk about the professional mystique as a dissatisfaction with roles and cultures that women and underrepresented groups experience in the workplace. I relate this issue to women’s depiction in the popular press, the “role crisis” (i.e., which role[s] are we supposed to play at any given moment?), the “is this all?” phenomenon (Friedan), privilege envy (Friedan) and the structure of the workplace.

In many ways, life for women in the college and university workplace seems better now. There are more and more women, including women of color, graduating from undergraduate and graduate programs, so the pipeline is open. At the same time, a look at the statistics in Kristine De Welde and Andi Stepnick’s excellent volume, Disrupting the Culture of Silence, shows us that women and, in particular women of color (categorized by the authors as black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native women), occupy primarily the part-time and/or temporary (adjunct) ranks and, on the tenure track, primarily the assistant professor level. This means that women in the academic workplace are definitely experiencing a glass ceiling and a significant wage gap.

Another important issue to consider is women students’ and employees’ access to equality in the education workplace. If sexual discrimination, harassment and retaliation are an issue for educational institutions, then it’s more than likely that these institutions are not managing well the more acute problems of sexual assault and violence. We know that this goes against [federal antidiscrimination laws] and creates significant obstacles for girls and women in educational settings.

The U.S. government over the past several years has required educational institutions to inspect and revise their policies and practices. This increased vigilance sends the right message that illegal behaviors won’t be tolerated, although enforcement methods and goodwill about transparency still vary widely from institution to institution.

Q: The book has personal, academic and practical purposes. Who is its intended audience?

A: The book is structured to offer narratives of gender shrapnel, theorize about the problems of gender and intersectional dynamics, and offer solutions and training principles. In this sense, the first part of the book states clearly that stories matter, that we have to understand the nuance and the details to make more transparent the experiences of discrimination, harassment and violence. The second part of the book is perhaps the most dense, as it dives into legal theory and history, sociology, organizational management, and media analysis in order to name common denominators in different types of workplace injustice. I don’t leave my cultural studies/Hispanic studies roots behind, but rather enhance them through the incorporation of other disciplines’ scholarship. The third section, titled “Solutions,” has an extremely practical bent. This was of utmost importance to me, because I didn’t want to just lay out the stories and problems without offering clear, firm solutions.

Many people and groups, therefore, fit into the audience for the book. Some readers might want to get a sense of the minutia, or the textured details, of gender shrapnel; some readers, especially sociologists, women’s, gender and sexuality experts, lawyers, and journalists, might delve into the more data-heavy second part of the book; still other readers might go right to the nitty-gritty of training principles and solutions for creating an improved workplace environment. I laughed when several people told me they read Gender Shrapnel on the beach this summer. I love that! It is somewhat dense beach reading, but I do think many of the messages will speak to a wide audience, both in and beyond educational settings.

Q: What is tempered radicalism? How do you see it helping women in the academic workplace?

A: Tempered radicalism is a term coined by Debra Meyerson and Maureen Scully, who say that tempered radicalism is a process enacted by “the people who work within mainstream organizations and professions and want also to transform them.” I particularly like this concept, because it doesn’t ignore that we workers are human beings who have beliefs and platforms that we don’t just leave at the door when we enter the workplace. Meyerson and Scully believe that recognizing and understanding the broad array of views of different individuals in the workplace can help managers to effect fair change. This is good for men and women in the workplace. The one drawback they note is that the “radicals” can end up forming a part of an out-group, and organizational dynamics can stagnate with fixed in- and out-groups.

Q: How do we “clear the shrapnel”? What kind of awareness training should be required, for whom?

A: I believe that clearing the shrapnel requires a multipronged approach, which includes providing education about gender and intersectional dynamics and pitfalls to every member of the organization (students and employees in the academic setting), following up on that education in small and large groups, sending consistent institutional messages, considering and rectifying inequities in levels of visibility and invisibility, advertising new opportunities to all, and figuring out individual students’ and employees’ strengths that can contribute to organizational change. Gender Shrapnel provides instructions for training sessions, a glossary and recommendations for creating a more equitable work environment. We must make sure that we train the trainers well, or else the whole process can run off the rails.

The leaders of the institution or organization must make the training and follow-up absolute priorities for themselves and all students and employees.

New Books About Higher EducationEditorial Tags: Adult educationLifeWomenIs this breaking news?: 

More people enroll in college even with rising price tag, report finds

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 07:00

More Americans are attending college than ever before -- nearly 90 percent of millennials who graduate from high school attend college within eight years. But a far smaller proportion of Americans actually have a college degree: only 40 percent of students complete a bachelor’s degree in four years and 60 percent graduate in six years. At two-year colleges, 29 percent of students graduate in three years.

Those are the findings of a report released Thursday morning by the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education, an initiative from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences begun last November. The commission was tasked with assessing the future undergraduate education by analyzing facts and data rather than relying on anecdotes, and it was funded with $2.2 million from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

“Our ambition is to help the American population, the American people, to appreciate what college education means now in the United States, which is something much broader and more complex than what a number of us might have thought a few years ago,” said Michael McPherson, co-chair of the committee and president of the Spencer Foundation.

The committee's first report, "The Primer on the College Student Journey," examines the current state of undergraduate education, compiling numbers on everything from college preparedness to student loans and providing some analysis. The data comes from a range of sources, including the National Center for Education Statistics, along with think tanks, nonprofits and academic studies.

“From an early point, it was agreed that an important thing to do was get a baseline for the state of undergraduate education so we could get a common set of facts,” said McPherson.

This report will inform the committee’s work moving forward, and the committee plans to publish another report next summer on the state of higher education for the next 20-25 years.

The report published this morning is also a trove of data on higher education. Among the takeaways from the report:

  • When it comes to college attainment, gender matters. In 2015, 50 percent of women aged 25-29 had a bachelor’s degree; 41 percent of men did.
  • Race and ethnicity matter, too. Nearly three-fourths (72 percent) of Asian students aged 25-29 had earned an associate degree or higher. That percentage was much higher than for white (54 percent), black (31 percent) and Hispanic students (27 percent).
  • Many high school graduates are unprepared for college; half must take remedial classes. Remedial classes don’t always work, though -- just 28 percent of two-year college students who took these courses actually earned a degree in 8.5 years.
  • Students are borrowing more. In 2000, about 50 percent of students took out loans; that number had increased 10 percentage points by 2012.
  • A small number of college graduates default on their loans -- 9 percent. But many more people default if they attended college and did not graduate -- 24 percent. That is why “borrowers at greatest risk of defaulting are typically those who take out the smallest loan amounts,” the report said.

Rather than take the conventional four-year track to graduation, many students followed what the report called "a multidirectional transfer swirl."

Approximately one-third (35 percent) of first-time students either transferred or were simultaneously enrolled in two institutions over six years. Although traditionally people might consider transferring to mean moving from a two-year institution to a four-year institution, some students made lateral transfers -- that is, 15 percent of those enrolled at two-year institutions enrolled at another two-year college; 17.2 percent of students at four-year universities switched to two-year colleges; and 17.9 percent of students at four-year institutions transferred to a different four-year.

Socioeconomic status was another big indicator of what type of college students attended.

Those numbers are reflected in statistics from the high school graduating class of 2004: of the 40 percent that enrolled in four-year institutions, 39 percent were in the top socioeconomic quartile and 12 percent were from the bottom quartile. In contrast, among students who chose two-year institutions, 27 percent were from the bottom quartile and only 18 percent from the top.

Socioeconomic status also indicated whether students were likely to attend college at all. By 2014, just about half (52 percent) of low-income high school graduates immediately enrolled in college; 81 percent of high-income graduates did the same.

Add in financial aid, and the relationship of low-income students to college becomes even more complex. Approximately 85 percent of dependent students -- that is, students younger than 24 who rely on their parents for financial support -- with an income below $30,000 receive tuition subsidies that actually cover the entire cost of their tuition and fees.

Despite these financial resources, many lower-income students opt out of going to college because they are not aware of these opportunities. All they see is the sticker price, an expensive prospect.

The report also explored the rising price of college.

At public four-year institutions, students pay 73 percent more in net tuition -- the price they pay after scholarships, grants and loans -- than they did 20 years ago. In fact, they pay 55 percent more than they did only six years ago.

The price tags at private four-year colleges are rising, too -- students pay 32 percent more than they did two decades ago, and 10 percent more than they did 10 years ago -- but the steep increase in price of public colleges is the most significant change.

That dramatic change is often attributed to education-related spending such as faculty and instruction, according to the commission report. In fact, the report concluded, those rising prices are generally thanks to decreased funding from state governments and declining public subsidies.

Even so, the fact that more than 85 percent of students who graduate from high school have some sort of higher education experience before they turn 30 is encouraging to McPherson.

"One thing that really did hit me hard was how pervasive the college experience is in the American population," he said. "That is like nothing in American history."

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