Higher Education News

Education Department releases interim directions for Title IX compliance

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 14:56

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued guidance Friday granting colleges new discretion in how they comply with requirements under federal Title IX law to resolve and adjudicate allegations of sexual misconduct on campus.

DeVos at the same time rescinded 2011 and 2014 guidelines issued by the Obama administration that survivor advocates say have been critical in pushing for new protections, including guarantees that victims of assault are not denied access to an education. The department's Office for Civil Rights will use the new guidance document to assess institutions' compliance with Title IX until a promised federal regulation dealing with campus sexual misconduct is finalized.

The new guidance from the department grants colleges the ability to set their own evidentiary standard for misconduct findings, to pursue informal resolutions such as mediation and to establish an appeals process for disciplinary sanctions. It also includes language dealing with protections for accused students.

"This interim guidance will help schools as they work to combat sexual misconduct and will treat all students fairly," DeVos said in a written statement. "Schools must continue to confront these horrific crimes and behaviors head-on. There will be no more sweeping them under the rug. But the process also must be fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes."

The 2011 Obama administration guidance, frequently referred to as the Dear Colleague letter, became a focus of ongoing controversy over federal Title IX policy in recent years, even though it drew largely on already existing guidelines and federal law. Congressional Republicans as well as groups that advocated for more "due process" protections for accused students argued that the administration overreached and had issued new mandates through the guidance process without appropriate formal input.

Advocates for survivors of sexual assault called the document -- and the decision to rescind the Obama guidance -- a betrayal of protections long fought for on campuses. And they said language issued by the department tips the scales toward protecting the rights of accused students, rather than victims, noting that sexual misconduct only in recent years became recognized as a major issue to be addressed in higher education.

Some higher education organizations were receptive to the additional flexibility in resolving misconduct complaints, however. And longtime critics of the Dear Colleague letter praised the secretary's focus on fairness for accused students.

Colleges and universities are unlikely to undertake major changes to existing policies after the release of the new federal guidelines, at least immediately. A binding regulation should be finalized sometime in the next year to 18 months. But advocates said the document released Friday rolls back clear protections and removes clarification colleges themselves had asked for to better fulfill their responsibilities under Title IX.

"It sets up a system where schools can, with the consent of the department, stack the deck against us in a way that is just profoundly unfair," said Alyssa Peterson, a policy and advocacy coordinator with Know Your IX, a group that works to end sexual violence on campuses.

Among the notable changes from previous guidelines:

  • Colleges can apply either a preponderance of evidence standard or a clear and convincing evidence standard to reach findings about alleged misconduct. Previous guidance from the Obama administration stated clearly that institutions should use the preponderance standard, which sets a lower burden or proof for findings of misconduct.
  • The department says there is "no fixed time frame" under which a school must complete a Title IX investigation. The 2011 guidance stated that a "typical investigation" takes about 60 days after a complaint is made but said more complex cases could take longer.
  • Campuses may opt to set an appeals process policy that allows appeals by both parties or by accused students only.
  • Where colleges determine it is appropriate, the new guidelines say they may facilitate an "informal resolution" such as mediation.

Reactions to the New Guidance

The guidance released Friday said campus administrators have an obligation to respond when they know or should reasonably know of incidents of sexual misconduct, whether or not a student files a complaint. And it clarifies that existing voluntary resolution agreements reached between the Office for Civil Rights and institutions remain in effect.

"When the government sprang its 2011 letter on colleges and students without warning, it made it impossible for campuses to serve the needs of victims while also respecting the rights of the accused," Robert Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group that's been highly critical of Obama administration policies on Title IX, said in a written statement. "With the end of this destructive policy, we finally have the opportunity to get it right."

While the 2011 Dear Colleague letter didn't go through a formal comment process, it was preceded by discussions and meetings with students, parents and administrators, including multiple visits to campuses. (Survivor advocates have noted no such public engagement preceded the rescinding of the DCL or the release of the new guidance Friday.) DeVos initially offered no comment on the letter when discussing federal Title IX policy this summer, even as she said current federal policy should be improved. In a one-day Title IX summit in July that included a meeting with university presidents and campus lawyers, no higher education institutions called for the department to rescind the letter.

But in a speech earlier this month, DeVos blasted Obama administration policies and said the guidance had created a "failed system" that encouraged violations of students' rights. Proponents of the Obama-era guidance noted that it made clear that both parties involved in campus proceedings should get equal treatment.

Naomi Shatz, a lawyer with the firm Zalkind Duncan and Bernstein, who represents students in campus disciplinary proceedings, said the new instructions from the department do make meaningful clarifications spelling out that both parties are entitled to see and respond to investigative findings before a decision is reached on alleged misconduct. However, she said she didn't expect major changes to campus policies in response to the guidance document.

"They’re not going to turn on a dime and revamp everything based on nonbinding recommendations, especially when they know there are going to be binding regulations coming out," Shatz said.

Higher education groups made similar comments Friday, even as they said colleges would have serious work to do to determine the effects of the new guidance document. Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said the new guidelines provide some additional flexibility to schools that were not there before. But the department's decision to rescind Obama administration guidance wouldn't affect the commitment of colleges to address sexual assault, he said.

“There are some things where institutions will have to take a careful look at their own practices relative to what the new guidance requires,” he said. “The default setting on this for most institutions will continue to be to do what we have been doing.”

Campus administrators handling Title IX investigations said they do not anticipate altering their processes following the new directive.

"It won’t change our response to sexual misconduct; we’re not going to change our current policy in any way and we're going to await formal guidance from the department," said Howard Kallem, Duke University's director for Title IX compliance. "We're focused on making sure Duke continues to have a fair and balanced and transparent process, and we think we do."

Crystal C. Coombes, the senior deputy Title IX coordinator at the University of South Florida, said she was pleasantly surprised by the department's action.

This changes little for her institution, Coombes said, and seems to hark back instead to Title IX guidance issued in 2001. She said some colleges were not abiding by the rules the 2001 guidance established, and that the 2011 Dear Colleague letter served as a "stronger fist" for some of those older requirements. Most institutions operate far beyond the minimum standards required by the 2011 guidance, she said.

Coombes complimented the removal of the 60-day window for investigations, saying it was "very, very rare" that the entire process could be wrapped up in two months.

While the new information does allow colleges to choose between two standards of evidence, Coombes said the preponderance standard is preferred because "clear and convincing" comes too close to a judicial model that does not fit in a university setting.

Eric Butler, the Title IX coordinator at the University of Denver, agreed on the evidentiary standard, saying that preponderance should remain.

"This is not a criminal proceeding, even though people like to compare it to criminal proceedings," Butler said. "The government should have to hop through every possible hoop to send someone to jail. Part of this is controlling its community; a student has to agree to certain standards of conduct, and sexual misconduct is one of them."

The department's communications seemed to emphasize only the rights of the accused, said Butler, highlighting that universities can pick whether to extend appeal rights to both parties -- or just the accused.

Amy Foerster, general counsel at Bucknell University, said there is a perception among some that the steps taken by DeVos were necessitated by the fact that colleges and universities have been getting Title IX wrong.

"I simply don't think that's the case as a general rule," she said. "Colleges and universities have been working really hard over the last several years to ensure that they have processes that provide a level of fundamental fairness for all students involved in these really difficult cases."

Proponents of the Obama guidelines say many institutions have made progress in recent years, while others still have significant work to do. Alexandra Brodsky, a lawyer and fellow at the National Women's Law Center, said many colleges will read DeVos's actions as a signal to slow down their efforts to improve protections for students.

"I also worry about schools that have been and continue to be hostile, and have really chafed at the department's calls to respect students' rights," she said. "I think the overwhelming thing we have heard from schools is that they wanted guidance, they wanted help, they wanted clarity."

DeVos's decision will make the work of those colleges harder, Brodsky said.

Catherine Lhamon, the assistant secretary for civil rights at the department during the Obama administration, said DeVos's action showed that the federal government is no longer looking out for students.

"The Trump administration's new guidance is dangerously silent on critical parts of Title IX. This backward step invites colleges to once again sweep sexual violence under the rug," she said in a written statement. "Students deserve better, the law demands better, our college and university community must continue to commit to better, and we as a country must demand more from the U.S. Department of Education."

-- Jeremy Bauer-Wolf contributed to this article.


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Racist incidents at colleges abound as academic year begins

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 07:00

This article contains explicit and potentially offensive terms that are essential to reporting on this situation.

The attack that left a black Cornell University student bloodied last week may be the most severe racially charged incident on college campuses in the early weeks of the academic year, but it is far from the only one.

Experts say these apparently racially motivated events are nothing new in academe, though they’ve gained more visibility in recent years with the advent of social media, forcing administrators in an age of transparency to act more quickly and aggressively.

At Cornell, the Black Students United group occupied Willard Straight Hall for several hours Wednesday, harking back to another protest in the 1960s in which black students overran the student union, though in that instance they were armed with guns.

Black Students United were protesting the recent assault of a black student; the victim returned home to find a group of other students arguing with his housemate. When he tried to intervene, most of the students in the group began punching him and using a racial slur.

The university is investigating the Psi Upsilon fraternity’s connection to the attack. It was suspended last year after its president was accused of sexual assault, but the university withdrew its recognition after the fraternity threw a party during the probationary period. Cornell announced this week that Psi Upsilon intended to close the chapter after the allegations.

One student, John Greenwood, 19, was arrested and charged with third-degree assault and second-degree aggravated harassment. He has apologized for using “unacceptable and inappropriate” language but denied any physical fighting.

A roundup of some of the other reported incidents within the last week or so:

  • Racist language and symbols were posted at least twice on the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville campus, including a note on the door of a student’s on-campus apartment that read “filthy nigger.”
  • A swastika was carved into a campus elevator, and the N-word was written on the whiteboard belonging to a black student at Drake University.
  • At Cabrini University, a racial slur was written on the door of a first-year student Saturday, and two additional sightings were later reported in residence halls.
  • Lewd language and the N-word were scrawled on door name tags of black students at the University of Michigan. Later, protests and a fight broke out over the university’s response to this and other incidents.
  • “Nigger lives here” was written on a name tag of a student at Westfield State University.
  • Fliers encouraging students to join a white nationalist group were posted around the University of Louisville campus.
  • White nationalist fliers were also distributed around Stockton University advertising the “alt-right” movement, characterized by its white supremacist and racist views.
  • At Purdue University, fliers were posted by a group called Identity Evropa, a white supremacist group that bragged about the posters on Twitter. The group also mentioned other colleges where it hung fliers recently, including Stockton, Simpson University, Shasta College and Millersville University.

Generally, the responses of universities have been to denounce these actions and begin police investigations. At Cornell, President Martha E. Pollack convened a task force to examine campus bigotry and directed campus Greek organizations to develop new trainings around diversity.

“For the vast majority of Cornellians who abhor these recent events, our community needs your help,” Pollack said in a statement. “Please speak out against injustice, racism and bigotry and reach out to support one another. Ours must be a community grounded in mutual respect and kindness.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes nationwide, documented a total of 1,863 hate-related incidents between Nov. 9 and March 31, of which 330 occurred on college campuses.

The center has previously reported that many instances of hate or bias involve fliers being hung on college campuses, and these primarily come from outside organizations, not students. These hate groups have targeted college campuses and run rampant on them, said Lecia Brooks, the center’s outreach director.

White nationalist or alt-right speakers, such as Richard Spencer, who helped found the movement, have also pursued an extensive campaign of provocative speeches at colleges, many of which have inflamed campuses by drawing sizable and sometimes violent protests.

“When an alt-right personality is scheduled to speak on campus, the most effective course of action is to deprive the speaker of the thing he or she wants most -- spectacle,” the center wrote in its guide on the alt-right at colleges. “Alt-right personalities know their cause is helped by news footage of large jeering crowds, heated confrontations and outright violence at their events. It allows them to play the victim and gives them a larger platform for their racist message.”

Shaun R. Harper, executive director of the University of Southern California’s Center on Race and Equity, has studied campus climate and race issues on campuses for a decade or so. He said his extensive interviews with students reveal that these issues have persisted for some time but have simply come to light because of the new ways society communicates.

Of the nearly 50 campuses he’s visited, on only one did he not find a black student who had been called a “nigger” by some campus community member, sometimes even a professor, he said.

“The kind of things that we’re reading online now and seeing in tweets and in Facebook posts are consistently the same kinds of things I’ve been hearing for a decade in focus group interviews and our climate studies,” Harper said, adding that the election of President Trump does seem to have emboldened white supremacists.

Students, professors and staff are perhaps more aware of these incidents since the election and more likely to report them, said Brooks.

Harper expressed frustration that institutions have commissioned him and his groups in the past to assess the campus trends on race but the leaders have sometimes done little with the data he presents. Harper said that only a handful of universities have shared the full results of his investigations on their campuses, an act he called “responsible,” but not courageous.

Sometimes, he said, these issues are addressed quietly, or administrators attempt to persuade students not to discuss them widely. Instead, campus leaders should take strong stances -- and not try to remove the element of race from racist incidents, Harper said.

He criticized University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan for her early “raceless” response -- that did not mention by name the groups involved -- to plans by Spencer and other white supremacists to invade the campus in August. Those white nationalists marched at UVA and in the city of Charlottesville, Va., with bloody protests leaving one woman dead.

Following Charlottesville, anxiety abounded among colleges, Brooks said.

“College presidents hoping that this wouldn’t happen on their campuses are quickly learning they need to be prepared and respond strongly,” Brooks said, urging institutional leaders not to minimize the trauma that these incidents cause.

Harper called it unfair that the students who have previously endured this treatment have not had their stories shared as broadly.

“It’s unfair to those students that what they were experiencing was somehow less racist, less impactful, less hazardous to their academic health and personal wellness,” he said.

Brooks pointed out that the race-related protests on the University of Missouri campus, perhaps one of the most intense display of activism, resulted in enrollment drops for the institution and the exit of the president. Should colleges not prove that they have committed to solving these problems, they could end up like Mizzou, she said.

“Students have a choice -- they don’t have to attend an institution where administrators are not supportive or don’t take a strong enough stance,” Brooks said. “Colleges and universities have everything to lose.”

Editorial Tags: DiscriminationDiversityDiversity MattersRacial groupsImage Caption: Students at Cornell University gather to protest the recent attack on a black student.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, September 26, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: A September of Racist Incidents

Advocates warn against immediate changes to campus assault policies

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 07:00

As advocates for survivors of sexual assault await more information on the Department of Education’s new approach to sexual misconduct on campus, they’re raising concerns that Secretary Betsy DeVos and her team are doing exactly what they slammed the Obama administration for: making new policy without sufficiently consulting the public.

The department is widely expected to issue as soon as today new instructions spelling out how colleges and universities should comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 after DeVos indicated she would rescind 2011 guidelines issued by the Obama administration.

Those instructions to campuses are expected be issued on an interim basis until a federal regulation is produced via a formal comment period. DeVos has argued that a formal comment period should have preceded the 2011 federal guidelines that have become a focus of debate over federal policy on campus assaults. She promised in a speech earlier this month to end “rule by letter” while blasting the current approach as a failed system.

And the department has avoided using the word “guidance” to refer to the promised interim instructions, saying instead that it would "make clear to schools how to fulfill their current obligations under Title IX" after the 2011 guidance is rescinded. But advocates see more than a little hypocrisy in DeVos shifting federal policy without more robust public engagement.

“The irony is very strong. And there is a lot of frustration,” said Laura Dunn, executive director and founder of SurvJustice.

As they wait for more details on what steps the department will take, many advocacy groups have offered concerns about the openness of the process for altering federal policy.

“It appears that they intend to go about doing exactly what they’re complaining the prior administration did, which means for them it’s not a procedural issue,” said Jess Davidson, the managing director of End Rape on Campus.

DeVos met with assault survivors as well as a separate group of students falsely accused of sexual misconduct in a day of listening sessions in July. While their roles were limited in meetings, advocacy groups accompanied both groups of students. A third meeting that day involved college leaders and lawyers working on Title IX policy before DeVos took questions from the press.

Some phone calls and meetings followed with groups not involved in the July listening sessions. But no other public forums have followed other than the secretary’s speech last month. And many advocates have been frustrated in attempts to reach the department with input.

DeVos has critiqued the Obama administration’s 2011 guidelines, known as the Dear Colleague letter, as containing insufficient due-process protections for accused students. And she has said they were issued without enough input from affected groups. Congressional Republicans, including Oklahoma Senator James Lankford, have also accused the previous administration of essentially engaging in rule making -- which requires a formal comment process -- by issuing guidance.

Proponents of the guidelines have challenged both arguments from DeVos. They say the Dear Colleague letter, for example, came after a national tour with visits to 12 campuses that included meetings with students and parents as well as college administrators. Advocates have called for DeVos to undertake a similar tour to hear from students and others affected by policy changes.

While the details of any interim instructions are unknown, advocates are concerned about a significant shift in policy without comparable engagement.

A department spokeswoman, Liz Hill, said new mandates will not be issued outside of a notice and comment process DeVos announced earlier this month.

“The department is also committed to providing clarity to schools regarding their responsibilities under the law when addressing sexual misconduct as rule making takes place,” she said in an email.

The interim instructions awaited by advocates -- as well as colleges, universities and critics of current federal policy -- could potentially address a handful of specific issues in the current guidelines that DeVos has said she will rescind. Among the frequently discussed aspects of the guidelines are the standard of evidence used in campus-based proceedings and certain due-process issues, like the ability to question the other party in those cases. If those items aren’t addressed in interim instructions, they will likely be taken up in the rule-making process.

The 2011 guidance from the Obama administration directed campuses to use a preponderance of evidence standard for adjudicating cases of sexual misconduct. Most colleges didn't state a clear standard before the guidance was issued but a majority of those who did used the preponderance standard, which aligns with those for findings of other civil rights violations.

While some conservatives have argued for using a higher “clear and convincing” standard for campus proceedings, that would also be contrary to signals from the department that it wants fewer mandates. This week a bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers sent a letter to DeVos urging her to maintain the preponderance of evidence standard.

DeVos’s speech on federal guidance this month argued that current guidance was inadequate and even harmful to fair processes on campus. She argued that a notice-and-comment period would allow the department to incorporate insights from all affected stakeholders. The department only afterward confirmed that she would rescind the Obama guidelines but without additional details on instructions to colleges in the interim.

Others involved in Title IX issues say the secretary has made clear in her public remarks other areas where some change is likely to be made. Kimberly Lau, a lawyer at Warshaw Burstein LLP who participated in the July meetings on Title IX policy, said one of those areas highlighted in DeVos’s remarks is the definition of what constitutes sexual misconduct.

The department has made clear, she said, that current guidelines will be changed and that the public will have an opportunity to weigh in through the formal process called notice and comment.

“I think that everyone’s pretty anxious -- rightfully so. They want some clarity and they want some specifics,” Lau said. “The administration has been pretty careful at this point to not say what is coming, but it's clear something is.”

But advocates are skeptical that DeVos will take their input seriously. They say thousands of comments have already been submitted on Title IX through one public comment period on federal regulation that ended this week -- the overwhelming majority of them in support of maintaining existing guidelines.

And some, like Dunn, view DeVos's remarks trashing the current federal guidance as potentially discouraging reporting by assault victims, despite the secretary’s statements that assault must be confronted “head-on.”

Dunn served on the American Bar Association task force whose recommendations were among those cited by DeVos earlier this month as potential solutions to ongoing controversies over Title IX policy. SurvJustice is among several groups that have met separately with Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson. But Dunn said one day with the secretary is not enough after several years of putting current policy into effect.

Others say the department may find itself in a bind after so stridently criticizing federal guidance as a tool to regulate civil rights practices.

“They’re learning very quickly that guidance is an integral part of administering some of our laws and particularly civil rights law. And guidance is an important tool for answering questions for schools,” said Anne Hedgepeth, vice president for public policy and government relations at the American Association of University Women.

Peter Lake, law professor at Stetson University, said DeVos’s announcement that she would craft a new regulation after a public comment process could be seen as a victory for purists of the Administrative Procedure Act, the law that governs how federal agencies craft and issue regulations.

“DeVos is saying if a hammer is going to come down on you, it's going to come through a clear rule that’s created through the APA process,” he said.

But even with a clearly stated regulation in place, he said, the department will find it difficult to avoid issuing more guidance in the future. Federal agencies always use some combination of rules, guidance and resolution agreements to make clear how institutions should act, Lake said.

“It's somewhat inevitable,” he said. “When you get new regulation, there will almost automatically be a cry for guidance documents.”

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PETA goes after a postdoc for her research on birds, and academics cry foul

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 07:00

Christine Lattin, a postdoctoral researcher in biology at Yale University, describes herself as a bird lover. Yet she and her work with birds have become targets for animal activists, in particular People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The organization has called on its supporters to demand that Yale stop backing Lattin’s research, and she’s been the subject of protests, including a small one in front of her home earlier this month. She’s also received emails telling her to kill herself.

“I was appalled to learn about the abuse of birds at the hands of Yale experimenter Christine Lattin, who's capturing these sensitive animals from their natural homes and intentionally tormenting and killing them,” reads a template protest email about Lattin on PETA’s website. “These cruel experiments are also wasteful, since they're not applicable to humans or any other species.”

PETA has responded to Lattin’s public attempts to defend her research, including in a point-by-point rebuttal called “PETA to Bird Torturer: Here Are the Facts.” The organization says Lattin’s work is unnecessarily cruel and essentially pointless, despite her assertions that her studies on stress in birds could be applicable to other species.

Lattin uses advanced imaging technology to study how wild birds’ neuroendocrine systems respond to changing environments. Her research, mostly on wild house sparrows, looks at how different neurotransmitters and hormones help these birds survive and thrive, with an emphasis on the stress response. How much stress is good and how much is bad, under which circumstances, and among which birds?

Lattin says that understanding stress in bird populations is important because habitat destruction, climate change and species invasions exist in their natural environments. And because the hormone and neurotransmitter pathways she studies in birds are similar to those in all vertebrates, she hopes her research will have implications for animals broadly -- maybe even humans.

The rub, of course, is that studying stress in birds in the lab environment means exposing them to stressful situations. In the interest of transparency, Lattin has posted all of her studies on her website. Examples include one in which she explored the possible effects of oil spills on birds’ stress response; it entailed mixing small amounts of oil (1 percent of food weight) into the house sparrows’ food and then seeing how they responded to what she called a “standard” stressor: a brief period of restraint in a breathable cloth bag. Subsequent blood samples suggested that the birds were not able to secrete normal concentrations of a stress hormone, meaning that could be a marker for oil exposure in future spills.

Another study involved making four-millimeter incisions in anesthetized sparrows’ legs, to study the role of stress hormones in healing small wounds that commonly occur in nature.

To study receptors in the brain and body, Lattin must euthanize the birds, under anesthesia. But she's also developing medical imaging techniques for studying live sparrows. She recently worked with an engineering student to design a 3-D printed plastic bird holder for scanning purposes, for example, and says she hopes to one day re-release her subjects into the wild.

Still, PETA says what Lattin's been doing at Yale is unethical.

“Snatching sparrows from the backyard, injecting them, wounding them, shaking and yelling at them, using them in several different experiments and then killing them -- this is what is at issue,” said Kathy Guillermo, a senior vice president at PETA. “She says she wants to help wild birds, yet her opening move is to cause them as much physical pain and mental anguish as possible. She has captured from the wild, tormented and killed more than 250 songbirds.”

Along with critics, the controversy has earned Lattin some senior supporters who say that her work is not only ethically managed but vital. And some of those supporters accuse PETA of choosing an easy target in Lattin, who is young, female and has yet to secure the kind of tenure-track position that has enabled other animal researchers to weather similar controversies in the past. Science recently asserted that Lattin is “much younger and less established than any scientist the group has singled out before,” for example.

Kevin Folta, chair of horticultural sciences at the University of Florida, was a past target of activists opposed to genetically modified foods, who said Folta failed to disclose funding from Monsanto (which Folta called negligible and which he used for public science outreach). He recently defended Lattin in a post on Medium.

“If they intimidate her out of research, or even destroy her presence on Google, they will steal the star of a young researcher on the rise, and that has incredible repercussions throughout the research community,” Folta said. Other young aspiring scientists “are collaterally affected by the intimidation,” he added. “Nobody wants to be a target. If Lattin succumbs to their campaign, someone else will be next, and most scientists would rather change projects than deal with threats, intimidation and harassment.”

Matthew R. Bailey, president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research, mentioned Lattin in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal this week, saying that scientists like her help animals live “longer, healthier lives.” Discouraging studies only “condemns animals to unnecessary suffering and death from preventable illnesses,” he added. “Real animal lovers should be proud to support animal research.”

Guillermo, of PETA, said Lattin is fair game and that “age and position had nothing to do” with PETA’s opposition to her.

“If we’d read about the experiments and found that a middle-aged tenured male professor with a nasty chip on his shoulder was doing them, we’d still have launched a campaign,” she said.

Lattin said Thursday that it’s “scary and upsetting to receive hate mail from people who don’t understand what I’m doing and just believe the misinformation PETA has spread about me and my research.” Some of the claims that bother her most are that she didn’t correctly medicate birds before giving them the superficial leg wounds and that her research isn’t relevant to other species. (For the record, PETA says that Lattin didn't give the birds in the leg-wound study pain medication, and contends that the anesthetic she used, isoflurane, isn't sufficient in that she should have used an analgesic to proactively address pain, too.)

Before PETA’s campaign, she said, “I thought I was doing a pretty good job communicating with the public about my research.” The situation has made her realize she wasn’t doing a good enough job, and that it was probably naïve of her to expect people to download her papers from her website to read about her experiments for themselves.

The silver lining, she said, is that she’s “gotten much better at communicating clearly about the importance of my work, and why it is necessary to use animals to do it. We can’t expect the public to understand why this work matters, and why it has to be done this way, unless we tell them.” It’s an “uncomfortable experience for a lot of scientists, but it is necessary,” she added.

Lattin has frequently said that her research is overseen by Yale. Karen Peart, a spokeswoman for the university, said via email that it “takes seriously its responsibility for the appropriate care of animals” and that its laboratories “comply with or exceed all federal regulations and independent accreditation standards.”

As the campus continues “to advance scientific knowledge and modern medicine, providing hope for millions of patients and their families, Yale scientists will sustain their commitment to the appropriate use of animals in research,” Peart added. “Our faculty members employ animals only when there are no alternative models for advancing their research.”

Of the complaints against Lattin in particular, Peart said Yale’s overseers of animal care “found that all of her research activities were approved and there was no evidence of noncompliance or inappropriate care.”

Those findings were shared with the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, a federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, and it “concurred that the allegations could not be substantiated and found no cause for further action,” Peart said.

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Student's clothing line blasts police brutality, and a conservative lawmaker seeks 'accountability'

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 07:00

“Fuck the police, they the biggest gang in AmeriKKKa.”

Eneale Pickett knows he’s being provocative with statements like the one above, which is to be featured on sweatshirts for his new collection of clothing set to be released today. And while he’s drawn ire from conservatives, the University of Wisconsin at Madison junior has said he’s trying to spark larger conversations.

"The goal of my line is never to change anyone's mind, but my job is to make you think about these things," Pickett told the local NBC station. In 2016 he found himself the center of controversy -- which escalated to death threats -- after he released a hoodie with the message “All White People Are Racist” written across the front.

Pickett’s soon-to-be-released collection and the 2016 collection were both from his clothing business, Insert Apparel, and both addressed racism and police brutality.

One of the 2016 pieces, for example, featured the phrase “If I encounter another cop with a God complex I’m going to have to show the world they are human.”

The 2017 collection also includes a promotional video that shows a decapitated pig’s head wearing a police officer’s hat, being held by a man also holding a bloody knife.

"Nobody really listens until you take it to the extreme," Pickett said.

Indeed, some have found his message extreme -- and inappropriate. In particular, a conservative state senator has called for the university to hold Pickett and the students in the video "accountable."

"It's vile, antipolice. Unbelievable, quite frankly, when I first saw it," State Senator Stephen Nass told the local ABC station.

Stories critical of the clothing line have circulated among conservative news sites, including the College Fix, Campus Reform and National Review, although none advocated for university action against Pickett. Neither Pickett nor Nass responded to requests for comment.

"Is this free speech? This is not free speech when you're inciting violence," said Nass, who has said the police and the Wisconsin Department of Justice should investigate the situation.

While UW Madison criticized Pickett’s clothing collection, it also said that it was protected by the First Amendment. It took the same position when his 2016 line gained attention.

We’re not affiliated with this apparel, nor do we endorse the message.

— UW-Madison (@UWMadison) October 7, 2016

“UW Madison strives to provide a welcoming and inclusive campus environment, while allowing everyone to share ideas and political views in exercise of their free speech rights,” a spokesman, John Lucas, said in a statement. “However, the university strongly condemns the glorification of violence such as that contained in the promotion of a student-produced clothing line.”

The clothing line is a private business activity, the statement said, and is unrelated to Pickett being a student.

Lucas added in an email to Inside Higher Ed that the university didn’t have a direct response to Nass's call for action, but that the University of Wisconsin System’s student code of conduct does not prohibit political speech.

The university did push back when a link to the promotional video was uploaded on a university file-sharing service, which Lucas said was due to its promotion of a noncampus commercial venture, which violates university IT policies. The link was taken off the file-sharing site.

Nass has been an outspoken critic of UW Madison before, threatening state funding to the institution because of a class called The Problem With Whiteness and a university program, Men’s Project, that explores problems related to masculinity.

"I have every right to do this. This is free speech," Pickett told local newspaper The Capital Times. "This is the same senator that supports free speech. But he only supports free speech when it comes to white supremacy."

Editorial Tags: Academic freedomCensorshipDiversity MattersStudent lifeImage Source: Nolan Ferlic / The Badger HeraldIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, September 26, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: Free Speech or Inciting Violence?

Roundup on college fund-raising campaigns

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 07:00

Starting Off

  • Daemen College has launched a campaign with the goal of raising $22 million. The campaign marks the college's 75th anniversary.
  • Illinois State University is starting a campaign to raise $150 million by 2020. The "Redbirds Rising" campaign has been in a quiet phase since 2013, raising gifts and pledges of $103 million.
  • Lees-McRae College has announced a $30 million campaign to enhance academic programs and to add graduate programs. The campaign raised 79 percent of the target during the quiet phase. The campaign will run through May 2018.
  • University of Minnesota has announced a $4 billion campaign, of which $2.5 billion has already been raised. Campaign priorities are described here.

Finishing Up

  • College of New Jersey announced the completion of its first capital campaign, in which it raised $47.6 million. The goal of the campaign, which started in 2012, was $40 million.
  • Roberts Wesleyan College and Northeastern Seminary announced that they have achieved a campaign goal, generating $44 million. The goal of the campaign, which started in 2012, was $42 million. Funds were used for a new science and nursing center, renovation of an adjoining science center, and growth of both institutions' endowments.

Has your college started or completed a campaign? Email info and links to editor@insidehighered.com.

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Education Dept.'s inspector general calls for Western Governors to repay $713 million in federal aid

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 07:00

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General has released the results of a much anticipated high-stakes audit of Western Governors University, with negative findings that could threaten the large online university and, more broadly, the growing field of competency-based education.

Citing concerns about an inadequate faculty role -- which the competency-based university contests -- the inspector general called for the department to make WGU pay back at least $713 million in federal financial aid.

The final audit report, issued today, also said the nonprofit university, which enrolls 83,000 students, should be ineligible to receive any more federal aid payments.

Experts said the Trump administration is unlikely to follow through on the inspector general’s recommendations, which the department can reject. The department has signaled that it will be a less aggressive regulator than it was under the Obama administration.

WGU enjoys a good track record with its accreditor and broad bipartisan support in Washington, with the Obama administration having often praised the university as an innovator.

The findings of the audit, which began more than four years ago, were not a surprise to most observers.

That’s because the Office of Inspector General, which is led by Kathleen Tighe, relied on a 1992 federal law that defines aid eligibility for distance education programs, which many have said poses a problem for WGU, some other competency-based programs, and possibly online education writ large.

The audit report said most courses at WGU do not meet the distance education requirement because they were not designed for regular and substantive interaction between students and faculty members. Those courses instead should have been labeled as correspondence courses, according to the inspector general.

Under the law, a college is not eligible to receive federal financial aid if more than half of its courses are offered via correspondence or if most of its students are enrolled in correspondence courses. The inspector general’s audit report said 62 percent (37,899) of the 61,180 students who were enrolled at WGU in 2014 took at least one of 69 courses (among 102 courses in the university’s three largest academic programs) that failed to meet the distance education requirements.

“None of these 69 courses could reasonably be considered as providing regular and substantive interaction between students and instructors, the key requirement to be considered a course offered through distance education,” according to the report. “Therefore, Western Governors University became ineligible to participate in the Title IV programs as of June 30, 2014.”

As a result, the inspector general said the department should require WGU to return $713 million in federal aid it received during the two years before July of last year, as well as any federal aid it received since then.

The university rebutted the report, both in responses to the inspector general that were included in the final report and on its website.

“Western Governors University respectfully, but strongly, disagrees with the findings in the Office of Inspector General’s draft audit report. WGU is, and has always been, fully compliant with Department of Education regulations since our founding 20 years ago by 19 U.S. governors,” the university said in a May letter to the inspector general. “Our innovative learning model, which has the support of the law, the department, our accreditor and policy makers, is validated by the outcomes WGU is delivering for our 82,000 students and 81,000 graduates.”

Unbundled Faculty Model

In previously released audits, the inspector general has questioned whether some competency-based programs should be classified as being of the correspondence variety. Others have criticized the department and accreditors for their scrutiny of competency-based programs, particularly those that do not rely on the credit-hour standard. (The department must approve these so-called direct assessment programs, determining whether they have an adequate faculty role in the process.)  

WGU uses the credit-hour standard, even though the U.S. Congress passed a law exempting it from certain requirements relating to the standard.

However, the inspector general found that the university’s unbundled (or disaggregated) faculty model, which is considered one of its primary innovations, runs afoul of federal distance education requirements.

Students at WGU are assigned a faculty member, called a student mentor, when they first enroll. Faculty mentors have at least a master’s degree in their field and are well versed in students’ program requirements, the university said. Mentors work with students regularly until they graduate.

The university also employs a Ph.D.-holding subject matter expert for each course, dubbed the course mentor. These faculty members interact with students as well. In addition, subject matter experts oversee each program of study at WGU. (Students must enroll in a program at the university, not just in individual courses.) And the university employs faculty evaluators, who review competency assessments.

The inspector general, however, found that “only course mentors and evaluators, not student mentors, product managers or council members, could reasonably be considered instructors.”

The report also said interactions between students and instructors were inadequate under the federal law.

“The course design materials for all 69 of these courses described courses that would be self-paced, interaction between the students and instructors that would primarily be initiated by students, and interaction between the students and instructors that would not be regular and substantive,” according to the inspector general. “The course design materials described limited interaction with course mentors that was typically on an as-needed basis and typically initiated by the student. Therefore, we concluded that the school’s faculty composition model did not ensure that the school’s courses were designed to provide the regular and substantive interaction between students and instructors required by the Title IV definition of distance education.”

In an interview, Scott Pulsipher, WGU’s president, said the inspector general’s report was based on a “misinterpretation and misapplication” of statutory and regulatory guidance.

“We vehemently disagree with the inspector general’s opinion,” he said. “We’ve been compliant with the laws and regulations since our founding.”

Pulsipher noted that the university’s regional accreditor, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, backs the university’s faculty model. And he said the inspector general had applied a “very narrow and tight definition of faculty” at the university, compared to the approval by its accreditor and other regulators of WGU’s varied and broad faculty roles.

Congress could intervene by changing the 1992 federal law, as some backers of WGU and competency-based education have been advocating. The university will work with federal and state policy makers, Pulsipher said, to address ambiguity in the law.

“We’ll work together to make sure it gets clarified,” he said.

A department spokeswoman said the agency was reviewing the report, but added that "it is important to note that the innovative student-first model used by this school and others like it has garnered bipartisan support over the last decade."

Observers React

Supporters of competency-based education said the federal government should update its regular-and-substantive requirement, but in a way that prevents fraudulent, low-quality programs from taking advantage of students.

Deb Bushway is an expert on competency-based programs. She’s currently provost at Northwestern Health Sciences University and previously worked for Capella University, the University of Wisconsin Extension and, briefly, as an adviser to the Education Department.

“The inspector general is clearly following the letter of the law,” Bushway said, adding that the report was not a regulatory overextension. But she also called it “more evidence that the law needs to be changed.”

Pulling the regular-and-substantive language completely, however, which some online education experts have privately pushed for, would be a mistake, said Bushway.

“That would invite bad players into the field and threaten the reputation of competency-based education,” she said.

Instead, Bushway and others call for a two-pronged solution, with a fix that would protect WGU and other competency-based programs in the short term while Congress revisits the law, perhaps as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Russell Poulin, director of policy and analysis at the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, said the department has done a “horrible” job of informing colleges about its expectations of how to comply with the regular-and-substantive requirements, which he said have changed over time.

In addition, he criticized the inspector general’s decision to base its compliance position on disagreement about the mode of teaching at WGU when there is no evidence of any harm to students.

“I totally agree with the intention of proponents of the ‘regular-and-substantive interaction’ rule, which is to avoid fraud. But it is an outdated method of reaching that goal,” he said via email, comparing it to a hypothetical decision by regulators to remove all ATM card readers because of the risk of credit card skimmers.

Poulin also said the inspector general used a narrow definition of the faculty role under the law.

“The issue is quality, and there are ways to redefine interaction and pair it with other requirements for determining a student’s academic participation in a course for financial aid purposes to achieve the goals of preventing fraud and assuring quality,” he said. “I am confident that WGU provides a quality education and is not fraudulent.”

Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said he hoped the department would reject the recommendations from the inspector general, which he said had applied an obsolete, 20th-century definition to a 21st-century institution.

“At the end of the day, we need a clear federal policy toward and definition of ‘online education,’ ” he said via email. “Until we have that, we are dealing with round pegs and square holes.”

Other experts, however, were more positive about the audit report.

“The audit’s findings should be taken very seriously, as the regular and substantive interaction requirement draws a clear distinction between self-learning and education and protects the integrity of federal student aid programs,” said Spiros Protopsaltis, a visiting associate professor at George Mason University who worked for the Obama administration as deputy assistant secretary for higher education and student financial aid after a stint on the Democratic side of the U.S. Senate’s education committee.

“The inspector general has rightly focused on ensuring that colleges comply with this key statutory provision, according to the department’s guidance,” he said via email. “Blurring the lines between correspondence and distance education and undermining the role of teaching entail enormous risk to students and taxpayers.”

A recently formed association for colleges that have created competency-based programs or are in the process of designing them, dubbed the Competency-Based Education Network, in May released a set of quality principles and standards for the field. The association on Thursday issued a statement that said the regular and substantive law should be updated.

Bushway and members of the group hope the new standards can help inform lawmakers as they consider revising distance education statutes.

Likewise, a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would create a so-called demonstration project for competency-based programs. The proposed legislation, which has substantial support, would grant statutory and regulatory flexibility to participants, including in the application of federal financial rules, while also creating new requirements aimed at accountability and transparency. (WGU first became eligible to receive federal aid in 1999 as part of a federal demonstration program.)

Information gathered during the project also could be used by Congress as it reauthorizes the Higher Education Act.

New America, in written comments submitted to the department this week, called on the Trump administration and Congress to keep the regular-and-substantive requirement on the books for distance education programs. But the group said it would support some shifts to the law as it relates to competency-based programs.

Amy Laitinen, director of higher education policy for the group and a former Obama administration Education Department official, said the law was a response to rampant fraud and abuse.

"We need to carefully fix (not gut) the now-outdated law to ensure that students are getting the academic and other supports that they need," she said via email. "If we don’t do it carefully, it will be a fast race to the bottom, which would be bad for students and bad for the competency-based education community."

Meanwhile, WGU will continue to be the largest and best known competency-based education provider -- by far -- while the Education Department decides what to do about the audit report.

On its website, the university described its take on the process to students and others.

“The inspector general has no decision authority; she cannot directly affect an institution’s participation in the federal student aid programs. Federal Student Aid will review the OIG’s recommendations and, upon the completion of its review, will issue a letter in which it will indicate whether it agrees or disagrees with the OIG’s findings,” the university said. “There is no fixed timetable for this review. Ultimately, it is the secretary of education who determines whether to accept or reject OIG recommendations.”

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Stony Brook professors worry budget is being balanced on backs of junior faculty, humanities programs

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 07:00

Faculty anger is growing at the University of Stony Brook, where cuts designed to reduce a budget deficit are concentrated in the humanities.

In addition to planned reductions in non-tenure-track faculty lines, three assistant professors of cultural studies in good standing within their department have been told their contracts will not be renewed past 2018. Two additional faculty members in theater have received similar notices of nonrenewal.

That’s on top of previously announced plans to cut humanities programs within the College of Arts and Sciences. Specifically, the departments of European languages, literatures and cultures; Hispanic languages and literature; and cultural studies and comparative literature will be combined into a single department of comparative world literature. The move involves suspending a number of undergraduate majors and graduate degree programs within those departments. The undergraduate major in theater arts also is suspended.

Meanwhile, Stony Brook is adding 13 other tenure-track faculty lines, mostly in the natural sciences.

Thousands of people, including many professors, signed a student-led petition against the cuts earlier this year. Some faculty members lashed out at President Samuel L. Stanley at a University Senate meeting Monday.

One of the most vocal professors at the meeting, according to faculty accounts, was Mireille Rebeiz, an assistant professor of cultural studies and comparative literature since 2014. She declined an interview request but confirmed that she was one of the nonrenewed tenure-track professors.

At the meeting, Stanley also announced that balancing the budget will entail a 3 percent decrease in academic personnel, a 6 percent decrease in administrators and a 10 percent spending cut across other areas.

Edward Feldman, a clinical associate professor of behavioral medicine and chair of the University Senate, said of the mood on campus, “The faculty are upset, and I understand why they’re upset.” At the meeting, he said, “several faculty made the point that we’re not a technical school -- we are a major university and we have an obligation to provide a high level of education across the board.”

Of course, he said, “What that looks like to different people is a different story.”

Stony Brook blames its nearly $35 million budget deficit, in part, on the SUNY 2020 Grant Challenge. Passed in 2011 by the New York Legislature, the $140 million initiative enabled Stony Brook and other campuses to hire faculty members and make additional investments. Revenue has since declined, however, creating a shortfall.

Some faculty members say they wonder how Stony Brook finds itself in a bind that other grantee SUNY campuses don’t. They question, for example, the university’s commitment to football and a major recent branding campaign called “Far Beyond.”

Peter Manning, a professor of English who has been at Stony Brook since 2000 and in academe for decades longer, said he’s “not seen morale on a campus as low as it now is here -- not even when we were being teargassed by [then California Governor Ronald] Reagan at Berkeley.”

The current administrative mantra, he said, “is that ‘No institution can do everything well, and we have to concentrate on areas in which we can excel.’” But if the natural sciences, technology, math and engineering are the campus’s traditional strengths, and if overinvesting in them via pricey start-up packages for their labs has contributed to the “crisis,” he said, then the university is “doubling down on a losing strategy.”

The “ground failure is a failure of imagination,” Manning said, in that “the administration cannot see that what they view as building on strength produces weakness when the vitality of campus intellectual life is diminished.”

The student petition says that comparative literature Ph.D. program has a high placement rate, that Hispanic languages and literatures has a strong track record of academic and community achievement, and that the theater department is a pillar of the campus culture. It also says that in suspending and eliminating programs and departments "with the most international scholars and students and who, thus, tangibly support diversity and global initiatives, the Stony Brook administration is endorsing a divisive brand of American exceptionalism that is championed by the current White House officials. This proposal goes against every principle contained in the university’s diversity plan."

In July, chairs of the departments within the College of Arts and Sciences sent a letter to their dean, Sacha Kopp, expressing their “categorical opposition to any plan that would deny renewal or promotion to tenure to faculty on programmatic reasons.” In other words, they said, citing legal and ethic concerns, the budget shouldn’t be balanced on the backs of faculty members in good standing who came to Stony Brook not as visiting assistant professors but as assistant professors working toward tenure.

Some on campus have been in touch with the American Association of University Professors over the issue. Anita Levy, a senior program officer at the association, said Wednesday that nonrenewals for budgetary reasons outside of financial exigency are rare. In such cases, she said, widely followed AAUP standards indicate that faculty members should take the lead on reappointments and non-reappointments. The association would call for additional due process protections if these faculty members were terminated midcontract, she added.

Robert Harvey, chair of comparative literature and cultural studies, said he approved all three affected assistant professors in his department for renewal and that he’s never seen such recommendations overturned. He called departments like his -- those with relatively low numbers of majors but an outsize cultural impact -- “soft targets” for metrics-based programs assessments.

“For some obvious reasons, we’re the weakest and poorest part of the university,” Harvey said, “but by tradition or conviction, [institutions generally] decide to support the humanities and the arts."

While a number of critics of the administrative plan for the humanities have expressed concerns about shared governance, Feldman said that the plan to collapse the language and literature departments did undergo faculty review through several University Senate committees. The senate is merely advisory, though, he said. And while Feldman said he did not think that the cuts were meant to target the humanities, he spoke to his dean about how the appearance of such targeting could affect the institution's reputation down the line.

Lauren Sheprow, a university spokeswoman, said via email that like many research universities across the U.S., Stony Brook is “faced with some new and unanticipated budget constraints. We are working to minimize the impact on our core mission of teaching and research, continuing to strive for the excellence and quality for which Stony Brook is known.”

All academic and administrative areas across the university have been asked to review their programs and budgets, Sheprow said. She noted that new fall 2017 enrollments in the reduced academic programs were low and that all current students will be able to finish their studies.

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Department of Ed rejects calls to update oversight measures

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 07:00

The Department of Education rejected two recent calls to improve its monitoring of the financial health of colleges and universities -- despite findings that its metrics predicted only half of institutional closures in recent years. 

A Government Accountability Office report released Wednesday found that the risk measure the department uses to assess colleges' financial health is badly out of date. While the department agreed to improve communication about how it calculates that measure, it rejected a call to improve the metric. And the Office of Federal Student Aid separately turned down recommendations to strengthen the data it collects for oversight of institutions.

Both developments came weeks after Secretary Betsy DeVos and her Federal Student Aid chief, A. Wayne Johnson, announced with few accompanying details that FSA was taking a more "comprehensive" approach to oversight. Departmental oversight applies to all colleges that receive federal aid, but those seeking more scrutiny have been concerned about for-profit institutions and some financially troubled small private nonprofit colleges at risk of closure.

Clare McCann, the deputy director of higher ed policy at New America and a former Obama Department of Education official, submitted a raft of recommendations to the department on how it could improve data collection. She said the inaction on recommended changes in both cases points to longstanding issues at Federal Student Aid as much as lack of interest in oversight at the department.

"It's a collision of inertia at FSA and a lack of leadership and accountability from the department," she said. "It just guarantees nothing is going to change."

Federal Student Aid conducts annual reviews of colleges and universities' financial health; those that don't meet standards must receive additional oversight and in some cases are required to provide financial guarantees to the department in case of closure. The GAO looked at the metric FSA uses to grade institutions' financial health, known as the financial composite score, and found that it has had an inconsistent performance because its underlying formula hasn't changed since 1997 -- meaning it fails to reflect changes in standard accounting practices. The result, GAO says, is half the colleges that have closed since the 2010-11 school year received passing scores on their previous assessment.

Sens. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, and Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat requested GAO complete the review after the collapse of for-profit Corinthian Colleges.

The GAO's report called for the department to update the metric -- a recommendation that the department rejected in its response. Matthew Sessa, the deputy chief operating officer at FSA, wrote in a response to the recommendations that the report hadn't demonstrated how changes to accounting standards had made the composite score less reliable. He added that the department would provide additional guidance to colleges on how it calculates the composite score.

Ben Miller, the senior director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said it was surprising to see a federal agency decline a recommendation from GAO. But he said the composite scores themselves have inherent lag time as a measure of an institution's financial health. For-profit colleges have six months to turn in a financial audit to the department, and not-for-profits have nine months to do so.

"You’re already talking about a very lengthy delay by the time you get that audit," he said. "The thing I worry about is a very abrupt hit to an institution's finances that causes problems. If you’re a hand-to-mouth nonprofit and you miss your enrollment target this fall, the department’s not going to see it for almost two years."

Miller said the composite scores are useful as long-term indicators but said they should be combined with a broader set of indicators tracking precipitous changes in an institution's financial health.

The department has taken some steps to expand its scrutiny of colleges beyond the financial audits that its composite scores are based on. It's begun to scrutinize colleges owned by the same private equity firms to consider whether they should be evaluated as a single entity to find financial risks that would be missed at an individual school level. And in 2014 it set up a special division devoted to monitoring large institutions with campuses in multiple locations. That division now monitors 47 companies operating for-profit institution. But the GAO found that most colleges that closed in the past five years were smaller institutions with an enrollment of fewer than 500 students.

And it said that some institutions have figured out how to game the composite score by taking on large amounts of short-term debt to boost their scores -- Corinthian Colleges, for example, the for-profit chain that went under in 2015, repeatedly took out large short-term loans at the end of its fiscal year to boost its scores and then promptly repaid the loans. (A Department of Education Inspector General report from February found that FSA should do more to prevent colleges from manipulating composite scores.)

McCann said all of those tools fit within a broader framework of federal oversight of the sector. McCann made 12 recommendations as part of a public comment period preceding FSA's plans to integrate several existing data sets into one large database tracking characteristics on the financial health of colleges and universities. Among those recommendations, she argued that the department should track any sanctions on higher ed institutions by law enforcement agencies, that it should require publicly traded institutions to submit SEC filings directly to the department, and that colleges should identify all programs offered entirely online. All 12 recommendations were rejected, most because the department found certain information was already tracked elsewhere or because it said they would be considered as part of a "future enhancement."

The takeaway, McCann said, was that FSA is not seriously re-evaluating what information about colleges it collects, even as it takes long-overdue action to streamline existing data. But she said momentum is building outside the office to push for serious changes in oversight of colleges.

"There is mounting pressure on FSA from people outside the department to focus more on this kind of thoughtful, timely oversight work that goes beyond the sort of check-the-box compliance they often do," she said.

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Georgia Tech erupts as police response questioned after fatal shooting

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 07:00

After a Georgia Tech police officer fatally shot a student Saturday, the campus has erupted over the police department's handling of the situation, with at least three protesters arrested and a police cruiser set ablaze.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation revealed the officer, Tyler Beck, who killed the student had only served on duty for about a year and had not undergone training necessary to deal with subjects with potential mental-health issues.

Scout Schultz, a 21-year-old student with a history of mental-health issues, died Sunday after being shot in the heart, family members said. Schultz was the president of the student group representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students and preferred the pronouns “they” and “them,” having identified as nonbinary and intersex.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which will review the incident, said this week that three suicide notes were found in Schultz’s room. Schultz had attempted suicide before.

It also released audio of a 911 call in which Schultz claims someone, possibly inebriated, was roaming the campus near one of the dormitories and carrying a knife and gun. Police confronted Schultz near that building Saturday. They held what officials have called a knife but Schultz’s family said was a multitool without any blade extended.

Multiple times officers attempt to speak with Schultz, who only responded with “shoot me,” per video of the event posted online.

At one point, Schultz slowly moved toward a group of some of the officers present -- someone directed them to “drop it,” but Schultz did not comply. Footage shows Schultz screaming and falling after a gunshot. Schultz was not carrying a gun.

Experts in previous interviews questioned why officers were not armed with Tasers. The university confirmed officers' other weapon is pepper spray.

Beck has been placed on paid leave, according to the university. He began working as an officer in spring 2016. Though he participated in more than 550 hours of training in the past two years, none was in the crisis-intervention preparation designed to deal with subjects with possible mental illness.

Following a candlelit vigil for Schultz on Monday, about 50 protesters marched to the Georgia Tech Police Department headquarters, according to the university (protest is seen at right). They carried a banner that read “protect LGBTQ” and were chanting.

A police car was set on fire and two officers suffered minor injuries, according to Georgia Tech. Three people were arrested and charged with inciting a riot and battery of an officer, the university said. One, Cassandra Monden, was a Georgia Tech student; the other two, Jacob Wilson and Vincent Castillenti, were not.

The Schultz family's lawyer, L. Chris Stewart, published a statement to Twitter on the family’s behalf, calling for peaceful protests.

Either be peaceful or go home. Nonsense is disrespectful and not productive. #ScoutShultz pic.twitter.com/hGbvErcUHh

— L. Chris Stewart Esq (@chrisstewartesq) September 19, 2017

“Our goal is to work diligently to make positive change at Georgia Tech in an effort to ensure a safer campus,” the statement reads. “This is how we will truly honor Scout’s life and legacy. Scout’s family respects the rights of those who wish to voice their opposition to what they feel is an unnecessary use of force, but they ask that it be done respectfully.”

Earlier, the family had said via the lawyer that Schultz’s “cry for help … was met with a bullet.”

Georgia Tech President G. P. Peterson in a statement Tuesday urged the campus not to draw conclusions too quickly and to wait until the Georgia bureau concluded its investigation.

“For now, we are focusing on mourning the loss and remembering Scout’s many contributions to the Georgia Tech community over the past four years. Last night’s vigil at the Campanile that was coordinated by the Pride Alliance and the Progressive Student Alliance was attended by almost 500 community members including Scout’s family. Unfortunately, they were also joined by several dozen others intent on creating a disturbance and inciting violence. We believe many of them were not part of our Georgia Tech community, but rather outside agitators intent on disrupting the event. They certainly did not honor Scout’s memory nor represent our values by doing so.

“Rest assured that our campus community is responding to these recent events in a positive and constructive manner, in spite of the many challenges they represent. I am grateful for our students, faculty, staff, campus leaders, and for our campus police. The response by our students to last night’s events is particularly heartwarming -- they were on Facebook and Twitter through the night trying to find ways to show support and to say this is not who we are.”

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Two college football players die after games last weekend; another is paralyzed

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 07:00

This has been one of the deadliest years for college football in decades.

Two players died after games last Saturday, CBS Sports and other news outlets reported, and three others died from football-related ailments during the off-season.

Robert Grays, who played for Midwestern State University, died after suffering a neck injury during a game Saturday, the university said. The 19-year-old Grays was a 5-foot-8-inch, 160-pound cornerback for NCAA Division II Midwestern State, which is located in Texas.

“Robert touched many lives while attending the university, but perhaps he will be remembered best for his smile,” Suzanne Shipley, the university’s president, said in a written statement. “He was an inspiration on and off the field to those around him, and he will be remembered with love and affection by his friends, classmates, coaches and teammates.”

Clayton Geib, a senior football player at the College of Wooster, died Sunday after complaining that he did not feel well after the Division III team's game Saturday, according to the college. Geib, who was 21, had cramps and was hyperventilating in the locker room after the game.

“Clayton was a wonderful student and member of the College of Wooster community, and beloved by many,” Wooster’s president, Sarah R. Bolton, said in a written statement. “Our hearts are breaking, and all our prayers and thoughts are with Clayton’s family, teammates and friends.”

Most of the 35 college football-related deaths since 2000 have been linked to overexertion rather than traumatic injury, CBS’s Dennis Dodd reported, citing research by Scott Anderson, the University of Oklahoma's head athletic trainer and an authority on player safety. However, traumatic brain injuries in football have been a focus in recent years.

“Training regimens are too often built on tradition versus based on science and place players at risk,” Anderson wrote in a 2012 research paper published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Earlier this year Dodd reported on several recent cases of Division I football players who were hospitalized after grueling workouts. In a particularly high-profile example from 2011, the University of Iowa concluded after an investigation that 13 Iowa football players were hospitalized after becoming ill with a muscle syndrome called rhabdomyolysis. The syndrome occurs when muscle is destroyed and releases into the bloodstream products that damage the kidneys. It can be caused by exercise and some dietary supplements.

Sickle-cell trait can also contribute to injury and death from overexertion.

A lawsuit filed by the family of a Rice University football player, Dale Lloyd, who died after a team workout in 2006 due to sickle cell-related complications, prompted the NCAA to recommend that teams test for the condition.

Yet college football player deaths related to overexertion and sickle cell, which affects one in 12 African-Americans, have continued.

Last year the University of California, Berkeley, settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of former Cal football player Ted Agu for $4.75 million. Agu, a pre-med student and defensive lineman, died at 21 shortly after a strenuous off-season conditioning workout, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Since 2000, six college football players have died from game-related traumatic injuries, according to Anderson. Tackling or blocking while leading with the head often is a cause. The NCAA has created rules aimed at reducing those injuries.

Yet Dodd, citing an unnamed witness to the play on which Grays was injured, said it was a routine tackle.

“If you really saw it, it was a football play,” the witness said. “He was in on a tackle. It was like anything you'd see on any other play.”

The last time two college football players died in the same year while playing the game (as opposed to during workouts) was in 2011, Dodd reported.

Also last Saturday, a Harvard University football player, Ben Abercrombie, severely injured his neck while making a tackle during the team’s loss to the University of Rhode Island.

Abercrombie, a first-year student, lost feeling in his arms and legs and has required breathing assistance since sustaining the cervical injury, ESPN reported. Doctors operated on his neck and are reportedly hopeful that the paralysis will subside.

Last month, The New York Times reported that Ed Cunningham, a college football analyst for the sports network ESPN, walked away from his job because of ethical concerns about injuries players sustain from the sport. Cunningham, who won an NCAA championship as a player at the University of Washington and who also played in the National Football League, in particular cited the risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease found in many former football players.

“In its current state, there are some real dangers: broken limbs, wear and tear,” Cunningham told the newspaper. “But the real crux of this is that I just don’t think the game is safe for the brain. To me, it’s unacceptable.”

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NCAA punishes Pacific after basketball coach helped recruits cheat

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 07:00

The former head men’s basketball coach at the University of the Pacific gave athletic prospects the answers to course work and tried to persuade multiple people to lie during a National Collegiate Athletic Association investigation into the alleged violations, the association announced today.

Ron Verlin, the head coach, who has since been fired by the university; a former assistant coach, Dwight Young; and a former special assistant to the team were all punished by the NCAA, likely making them unemployable.

An eight-year “show cause” order for Verlin and Young were among the sanctions the NCAA imposed -- the special assistant’s order extends seven years. This means that any NCAA institution hiring the men must provide the association with a reason why their duties shouldn't be restricted. Additionally, if Verlin is hired, he must be suspended for half of the first season he coaches.

The university has been placed on probation from now until September 2019. It must also pay a $5,000 fine and vacate the games that the players who cheated participated in.

Pacific had already given up the right to play in the postseason in the 2015-16 academic year and reduced its allotment of basketball scholarships.

The NCAA also found that a former men’s baseball coach had inappropriately given a student $16,000 to defray housing costs -- certain baseball games must be vacated, the NCAA demanded, and scholarships in the program were already reduced.

President Pamela A. Eibeck said in a statement to Inside Higher Ed Wednesday that the university does not intend to fight the NCAA verdict.

“We are proud that the NCAA found these corrective actions to be a meaningful and adequate means to address the violations, and that it cited the university’s ‘exemplary cooperation’ in describing our collaboration, which was our goal from the outset. We fully support this decision and have no intention of appealing … We were treated fairly during the process and we look forward to moving on. We remain focused on providing our students with a superior learning experience that prepares them to be successful in their lives and careers.”

In 2011, then assistant coach Verlin gave a prospective athlete enrolled in a distance learning course a 1,400-word paper titled “Taking a Look at Change” that the athlete could pass off as his own work, according to the NCAA’s initial report on allegations against Verlin.

Three years later, Verlin, by then head coach, provided answers to multiple prospects who were taking a mathematics course at Adams State University. He also arranged for the athletes to take exams without a required proctor.

Verlin meddled with the work of five athletes in total, the NCAA said.

In what the NCAA called “perhaps the most egregious violation of ethical conduct rules,” Verlin also encouraged others -- a close friend and an athletic prospect -- to give false or misleading information to the university and to the NCAA.

Verlin filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the university in March.

“We found this conduct falls well below the baseline of honesty and ethical conduct the membership expects of university staff members, particularly those setting the example for the development of student athletes,” Joel Maturi, former Minnesota athletics director and a member of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions panel, said Wednesday.

In June, experts criticized the NCAA for imposing light sanctions on the University of Louisville after a scandal there involving a former director of operations who arranged sexual encounters between sex workers and prospective athletes. Rick Pitino, the head basketball coach, failed to supervise the director, the NCAA said, suspending Pitino from the first five Atlantic Coast Conference games of the season.

The NCAA also ordered certain games vacated, possibly jeopardizing the national title the university won in 2013.

Despite the punishment, which some experts called a “wrist slap,” Louisville intended to appeal the NCAA decision.

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Labour Party in New Zealand joins global push on the left against tuition

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 07:00

On Aug. 1, New Zealand Labour Party leader Andrew Little resigned after his party hit a catastrophic low of 24 percent support in an opinion poll ahead of the Sept. 23 election. He handed control over to his deputy, Jacinda Ardern, then age 36.

A sharp, informal communicator described by some as a “rock-star politician” in the vein of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ardern has since won Labour a surge of support, predictably termed “Jacindamania” by the media.

One of Ardern’s key policies is a pledge to abolish tuition and increase living-cost support for students.

Labour support rose to 44 percent in a Sept. 14 poll, four points ahead of the center-right National Party, which has been in power since 2008 and might have expected that its portrayal of a strong economic record would guarantee further electoral success.

Developments in New Zealand fit within an emerging trend, evident in Britain and the United States, for politicians on the left and center-left to see opposition to tuition as a way to mobilize support among younger voters. In New Zealand, Labour has the chance to be a pioneer among national governments in the developed world by abolishing fees: in Germany, it was individual state governments that made such a change.

“If you’d asked me a month ago whether education was going to be a key, election-deciding platform, I would have said never in a hundred years,” said Chris Whelan, executive director of Universities New Zealand, which represents the nation’s eight institutions of higher education.

Average tuition fees at Kiwi universities are about 6,000 New Zealand dollars ($4,400) a year, under tiered fee caps that vary across subjects. The cost of education is split roughly 60:40 between direct public funding and the tuition repaid by graduates, said Whelan.

Graduates’ repayments on government-backed, income-contingent loans start once salaries reach NZ$19,084 ($14,000) and are deducted at 12 percent above that level.

The terms, more onerous than England’s student loans, are one explanation for concern on the issue, with one academic researcher warning that graduate debt is weighing down some and “potentially increasing inequality.”

Another key issue is New Zealand’s spiral in property prices and thus rents, meaning student living-cost support cannot cover accommodation in cities.

In August, Ardern announced that Labour would bring forward by a year its existing plan to phase in free postsecondary education. Students starting courses in 2018 would receive one year of fee-free study, gradually extended to three years by 2024.

Living-cost assistance would also be boosted by NZ$50 ($37) a week under Labour’s new plan, taking both the means-tested maintenance grant and universal maintenance loan to about NZ$220 ($160) a week.

Anticipating claims of a “cynical” policy seeking support from young voters, Ardern said that it was “unreasonable for us to expect that those who are furthering themselves for all of our benefit should have to live on NZ$170 a week.”

So, what is Universities New Zealand’s stance on Labour’s policy? “Our position is that anything that lifts participation in higher education has got to be good,” said Whelan. Although, given that 38 percent of New Zealanders currently enter university within five years of leaving school, “we are not sure how many more students there are out there who are not going to university for some reason that [Labour’s] policy might actually bring through,” he added.

Richard Shaw, a professor of politics at Massey University, said that the pledge to end fees was part of Labour’s “wider slew of policies aimed at appealing to younger people’s presumed sensitivities.”

“The whole idea was [Labour] brought [the policy] well forward because of these missing 200,000 voters,” said Whelan, noting the figure in circulation for numbers of eligible voters not registered.

But Shaw said that rates of voter registration among young voters “don’t look promising” thus far. So, he added, “we really don’t have the preconditions for a ‘youthquake’ à la the U.K.” (In this year's British general election, young voters backed Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn -- who pledged to abolish tuition fees in England -- in unexpected numbers.)

Taking a different view to Whelan, Shaw said that New Zealand Labour’s tuition fees pledge has “been a sort of second-tier issue” in the campaign “and it certainly hasn't shifted public sentiment the way that the removal of interest on [student] loans did a decade ago.” That move was credited with helping Labour unexpectedly hang on to power in the 2005 election.

But if the polls are reliable, Ardern and New Zealand Labour still have a shot at turning their vision of fee-free university education into reality.

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Cal State Northridge faculty members say system is attacking ethnic studies

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 09/20/2017 - 07:00

For the California State University System, it’s a bit of streamlining. For ethnic and gender studies professors at the university's Northridge campus, it’s not only overreach, but threatens the study of marginalized groups. Objectively, all that is clear right now is that the CSU system’s attempt to make its campuses’ general-education requirements more uniform is up in the air.

As it stands, an executive order from the CSU system chancellor's office would make the general-education requirements at all CSU campuses uniform, limiting them to five categories -- currently referred to in some documents as “areas” and in others as “sections” -- labeled A-E.

Current categories include English language communication and critical thinking; scientific inquiry and quantitative reasoning; arts and humanities; social sciences; and lifelong learning and self-development.

A sticking point, however, arises at Northridge, which stands out among CSU campuses for having Section F: Comparative Cultural Studies. Classes that can fulfill the Section F general-education requirement include courses in Africana studies, American Indian studies, Asian-American studies, Central American studies and gender and women’s studies. Leaders from each of the above departments -- as well as the coordinator for American Indian studies, which is a program but not a department -- signed a petition circulating among some faculty members who opposed the change, which comes at the cost of their courses standing out as general-education requirements.

“[Executive Order]1100 eviscerates CSUN’s unique and exemplary Section F Comparative Cultural Studies/Gender, Race, Class and Ethnicity Studies, and Foreign Languages, denying CSUN students an education based on cultural competency and respect for diversity,” the petition says.

And the timing couldn’t be worse, critics of the chancellor’s office say.

“Given our current social and political climate and the demographics of California, we need to continue to resist attacks on historically excluded peoples on the basis of race, ability, gender, sex and sexuality, and to support departments and programs that protect and empower our communities,” the petition says.

CSU system officials said the order was issued in an effort to make general-education requirements uniform across all campuses -- a move that is especially helpful for the 67,000 students who transfer into CSU campuses from other four-year and community colleges.

“We had a threefold purpose in devising this executive order,” said Christine Mallon, assistant vice chancellor for academic programs and faculty development for the CSU system. “And it is in response to what we’ve heard from students, and from outside parties including the Legislature -- concerns about how students might understand or misunderstand our requirements, how they could be streamlined to facilitate graduation and how, unintentionally, we may have policies that could add to inequities in student success.”

With streamlined requirements, Mallon said, students would be on an even playing field no matter where they were in the CSU system. This would especially prove helpful for transfer students, she said.

“The executive order was to help students,” she said. “Diversity and training our students how to live in a multicultural and global society is part of the CSU mission … all of these things are really important for us to facilitate students’ ability to get the courses they need, when they need them, and graduate on time -- while still getting the courses we all agree are part of what is in the breadth of a bachelor’s degree.”

Northridge is obligated to be in compliance with the executive order by fall 2018. How it will do so, or if it will do so -- although the order being rescinded, despite calls from some faculty, seems like a long shot, at this point -- remains to be seen. A teach-in dedicated to defending the Section F programs was scheduled for tonight, according to the Facebook page for the American Indian Student Association. The event was promoted by the coordinator of the American Indian studies program. Additionally, public statements from various departments have called for the rescinding of the order.

“We collectively resist and reject this violation of Faculty Consultation and Governance. These proposed changes reinforce the already profound divisions that exist in our society,” a statement on the website for the Department of Asian American Studies says.

Many who have organized against the order have said they support making general-education requirements more uniform -- except other campuses should follow Northridge’s route, not the other way around.

“While GE portability sounds like a good idea, it needs better-thought-out implementation. We propose that CSUN’s GE model, which aligns with the findings of the CSU Task Force on the Advancement of Ethnic Studies convened by the chancellor’s office, itself become the model across the CSU,” a statement from the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies says. “In its current form, EO 1100 does the exact opposite and aligns with the current push to end diversity in this country.”

How exactly Section F will be accommodated remains to be seen. CSU system and Northridge officials pointed to multiple options, including making Section F courses a separate graduation requirement that isn’t a general-education requirement, or splitting the courses among the other existing general-education sections.

Though any changes to the status quo have been rejected by a large number of Section F professors -- whose enrollment numbers might be at risk -- officials at Northridge said that solutions are still being debated.

“[Enrollment numbers] depend on what the solution is,” said Elizabeth Adams, associate vice president for student success at Northridge. “The curriculum is the purview of the faculty … there are some proposed solutions that would maintain -- we think -- the enrollment in these courses.”

The urge to maintain enrollment comes both from a point of looking out for the departments, Adams said, and because the university feels the content is important.

The Faculty Senate, or at the very least, the senate committee on curriculum, will debate and craft its opinion to the executive order next week, said Stella Theodoulou, Northridge's vice provost for academic affairs. From there, that opinion will be delivered to the office of the provost, who will report to the system chancellor.

“Both our president and our provost are committed to maintaining the comparative and cross-cultural studies requirement, but at the same time, we are part of a system and we understand we must comply with the executive order,” Theodoulou said. “We are trying to work with our faculty and encourage our faculty to find solutions that maintain the commitment, while also conforming to the executive order.”

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Much of Third World Quarterly's editorial board resigns, saying that controversial article failed to pass peer review

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 09/20/2017 - 07:00

Fifteen members of Third World Quarterly’s editorial board resigned Tuesday over the publication of a controversial article they said had been rejected through peer review.

The news comes a day after the journal’s editor in chief issued an apparently contradictory statement saying that the essay had been published only after undergoing double-blind peer review.

The paper, written by Bruce Gilley, an associate professor of political science at Portland State University and published earlier this month in the journal’s “Viewpoints” section, advocated a return to colonialism in some instances.

Gilley's essay was subsequently criticized as lacking in rigor, failing to engage with the broader literature on the topic and ignoring colonial-era atrocities. Current Affairs even compared Gilley’s treatment of the topic to Holocaust denial. But the resigning editorial board members focused their criticism Tuesday on what they described as a failed editorial process and dishonesty from Shahid Qadir, editor in chief.

“The editor of [Third World Quarterly] has issued a public statement without any consultation with the editorial board that is not truthful about the process of this peer review,” their public resignation letter says. Thus, “as we fully disagree with both the academic content of the ‘Viewpoint’ and the response issued in the name of the journal, we are forced to resign immediately from the editorial board of Third World Quarterly.”

Concerns about the editorial process led many academics to sign a petition, submitted to the journal's editors Monday, calling for the retraction of Gilley's essay. But the editorial board members’ resignation letter appears to confirm that the piece was initially rejected as an academic article during peer review, later rejected by at least one reviewer as an essay, and then published anyway.

The board members’ resignation letter says Qadir told them last week that Gilley’s paper was put through the required double-blind peer-review process, but that Qadir did not honor their subsequent request that he share the reviews with them.

The board members wrote, “We have now been informed by our colleagues who reviewed the piece for a special issue that they rejected it as unfit to send to additional peer review.” (The resignation letter quotes what it describes as an email from the guest editors and other concerned scholars.) Moreover, they wrote, a colleague who reviewed the piece as a “Viewpoints” essay after it was rejected by the special-issue editors also rejected it for that purpose.

“‘The Case for Colonialism’ must be retracted, as it fails to provide reliable findings, as demonstrated by its failure in the double-blind peer-review process,” the resignation letter says. “We all subscribe to the principle of freedom of speech and the value of provocation in order to generate critical debate. However, this cannot be done by means of a piece that fails to meet academic standards of rigor and balance by ignoring all manner of violence, exploitation and harm perpetrated in the name of colonialism (and imperialism) and that causes offense and hurt and thereby clearly violates that very principle of free speech.”

The resigning board members also demanded a new public statement from the journal about the circumstances under which it published Gilley’s piece. They’d “consider serving on an editorial board under different editorial arrangements," they added.

Other members of the journal’s editorial board remain. Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor and professor of linguistics emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, told Inside Higher Ed that it’s “pretty clear that proper procedures were not followed in publishing the article, but I think retraction is a mistake – and also opens very dangerous doors. … Rebuttal offers a great opportunity for education, not only in this case.”

Chomsky added, “I’m sure that what I publish offends many people, including editors and funders of journals in which they appear.”

Neither Qadir nor spokespeople for Taylor & Francis, the journal’s publisher, who are based in Britain, immediately responded to requests for comment.

Ilan Kapoor, a resigning board member and professor of critical development studies at York University in Canada who said he corresponded with the third reviewer, declined to share the reviewer's identity with Inside Higher Ed. But Kapoor vouched for the reviewer, describing her as an “established academic at a highly reputable” institution based in Britain. He said he had email proof that the reviewer was asked by the journal to review Gilley’s piece blind and that she rejected it after doing so.

Kapoor said that "Viewpoint" essays must be peer-reviewed. Qadir's note from Monday also says that all articles, including “Viewpoints” pieces, undergo double-blind review.

Farhana Sultana, an associate professor of geography at Syracuse University who helped organize the petition for retraction, said via email Tuesday that her efforts have been about “upholding academic journal publishing standards.” The petition was not a call for “retraction based on difference in opinion or to curtail free speech,” she said, but rather, about “shoddy pieces being published in academic journals and the fact that the journal failed to follow proper procedures in place so that academic publications are rigorous and scholarly -- that article by Gilley was not scholarly and was rejected after peer review, but the journal still decided to publish it.”

Gilley did not respond to a request for comment about the matter.

Margaret Everett, Portland State's interim provost, released an updated statement about the essay Tuesday, expressing continued support for Gilley’s academic freedom but also distancing the university from him. “‘The Case for Colonialism’ has generated a robust conversation and significant public and scholarly reaction,” Everett said. “The ideas and perspectives offered by Professor Gilley are his own and do not represent Portland State or our department of political science.”

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Abroad and online -- beyond Title IX’s reach?

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 09/20/2017 - 07:00

Online courses -- and especially the special brand of massive open classes that emerged earlier this decade -- have helped colleges expand their reach geographically as well as educationally; they are far likelier today than they were a decade or more ago to be educating students in, and from, other countries.

An unfolding lawsuit shows that a key federal law may not be keeping up with that reality.

The case in question may be familiar to Inside Higher Ed readers and fans of physics, because it involves the former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor emeritus Walter Lewin, whose enigmatic teaching videos have millions of views on YouTube. However, no videos of Lewin remain on any official MIT platforms. They were removed after an internal investigation at MIT found that Lewin had sexually harassed one of his students online, and consequently his “For the Love of Physics” MOOC, and his emeritus title, were removed.

Lewin’s accuser, Faïza Harbi, is now suing MIT and Lewin for compensation for the emotional distress she says she suffered as a result of Lewin’s conduct. Harbi’s legal team has made claims under tort law, state antidiscrimination laws and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal statute that prohibits gender-based discrimination in educational programs.

Both MIT and Lewin tried to dismiss Harbi’s claims, but they have only been partially successful. On Sept. 1, the federal judge in the case ruled that six of the nine claims that Harbi made would stand -- including a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress against MIT. Harbi’s Title IX claim, however, was dismissed.

Were Harbi an American, or an international student living in the U.S., her Title IX claim would likely have stood. However, as the judge explained in his ruling, because Harbi is French and was living in France, she did not qualify for protection under Title IX.

‘Title IX May Well Be Outdated’

Explaining his decision to dismiss Harbi’s Title IX claim, Judge F. Dennis Saylor said that “no reported case appears to have examined the precise question at issue here: whether Title IX protects a person abroad with respect to conduct committed in the United States and transmitted over the internet.”

Given that online learning allows students to be located anywhere in the world, Judge Saylor said that Title IX, enacted in 1972 with (understandably) no mention of the internet, “may well be outdated.” Despite this, Saylor said, it was not his job to dispute the law -- “this court is not empowered to ‘fix’ outdated statutes, no matter how worthy the goal may be.”

Ted Folkman, a lawyer at Murphy & King who has written about the Harbi case on his blog, said the issue comes down to extraterritoriality -- a “hot topic” in legal circles. “Congress wrote into the statute a limitation on who is entitled to the law’s protection and expressly excluded people not in the United States. Judge Saylor’s view [that Title IX does not apply to Harbi] is probably right, because there is a general presumption that federal laws do not have extraterritorial effect, and the words of the statute seem to reinforce that presumption here,” Folkman said via email. “It would be up to Congress to extend the law’s protection to foreign students studying abroad.”

Adele Kimmel, a senior lawyer at Public Justice, said it is understood that Title IX applies to any university or college that receives federal funds, even if that institution is completely online. But she concurred with Saylor’s assertion that while the law covers international students taking online courses while living in the U.S., it does not cover international students residing in another country. “Separate from Title IX, students may have protections under state antidiscrimination laws, but this will vary from state to state,” said Kimmel.

Looking for Guidance

Laura Dunn, founder and executive director of SurvJustice, which offers legal assistance to survivors of sexual violence on campus, said that she would like to see a thoughtful discussion about the limitations of Title IX, but she doesn’t expect the law to change. “Of course the issue of extraterritoriality comes up -- how can you enforce a law from one country in another country?” she said. “For now, I think the statute as written offers pretty significant protection for students.”

The Harbi case has, however, highlighted the need for more direction on how Title IX should be applied in contemporary situations, said Dunn. “This is an issue that would be perfect for [Education Department] guidance,” she said.

Khalilah Burton, assistant provost for institutional effectiveness and accreditation at Columbia Southern University, an online-only institution, agreed that there are areas in which Title IX guidance could be improved. “I’ll be interested to see in the future whether there are changes regarding clarity in the regulations for online interactions, not necessarily just at online schools … Brick-and-mortar institutions are having larger online platforms, and they will need guidance as well,” she said.

Burton said that her institution, a for-profit in Alabama, would treat all its students as if they were protected by Title IX, no matter where they were located. Jennifer Kalfsbeek-Goetz, dean of student learning and Title IX coordinator at Moorpark College, in California, said that her institution would do the same. “The most conservative look at Title IX or the Clery Act [a federal law relating to campus safety] might suggest that students have to be in the geography of the campus for it to apply. However, we would certainly consider an online classroom to be within the space of our campus,” said Kalfsbeek-Goetz.

Dunn, Burton and Kalfsbeek-Goetz all agreed that beyond having a Title IX coordinator and ensuring that employees have suitable training, institutions should ensure that the policies they provide to students and staff regarding expected behavior are clear.

Dunn suggested that institutions with online learning options, and even study abroad programs (where there is some confusion whether American students studying outside the country are covered), should contractually extend Title IX protections to students outside the U.S. “The relationship between that school and student is still there in that other country -- that doesn’t disappear. Schools could be progressive beyond the limitations of the law to assure students are protected,” said Dunn.

Asked what incentive there would be for colleges to do this, Dunn said, “I think schools do what people ask them to do, or what they will get in trouble for not doing. If a group of parents banded together and asked for this, I think some schools, perhaps some more progressive ones, would do it.”

The Social Media Problem

Billie Dziech, a professor of English at the University of Cincinnati and co-author of The Lecherous Professor: Sexual Harassment on Campus, said institutions need to do more to acknowledge the responsibility they have for students online. “It’s not as if the technology just appeared out of nowhere. We’ve known for a long time that online courses were going to pose all kinds of responsibilities to us.”

Dziech said that students engaging in online learning should be able to expect that courses be delivered “in a professional manner.” Very little is known about the prevalence of sexual harassment in the context of online learning, said Dziech, but she suspects that online-only students could be less likely to report incidents of harassment than campus-based students who have closer ties with their institution.

To combat this, Dziech suggested that faculty members and students be encouraged to report inappropriate exchanges they see or experience online. She added that institutions should also have clear and strict penalties for breaking the rules -- not just a “slap on the wrist.”

“If a professor sends someone’s 18-year-old daughter a picture of their private parts, and we send them on a Title IX sexual harassment training course, that accomplishes nothing. It sends a message to other faculty that they can do the same sort of stuff,” said Dziech. As a preventative measure, Dziech suggested that faculty should agree, as a condition of them being hired or keeping tenure, to not communicate with students through social media. “Why would a professor need to contact a student on Facebook? What’s wrong with using your .edu email?” asked Dziech.

In court documents, Harbi’s legal team said that Lewin originally reached out to Harbi through a Facebook group she created for students taking his MOOC. Evidence shared in court by Harbi’s legal team suggests the nature of Harbi and Lewin’s communications through Facebook, email and Skype quickly crossed professional lines -- with Harbi telling Lewin how she struggled to concentrate on her studies because of a history of sexual abuse, and Lewin offering to help her gain confidence by teaching her to masturbate.

Communicating through social media makes it almost impossible for institutions to spot red flags, said Stephen Downes, a senior researcher in online learning for Canada’s National Research Council. He said that online education providers typically encourage communications through their own discussion forums or Listservs, but there have always been cases of students and professors communicating by other means. “If there’s a way to message someone, people have been using it,” said Downes.

Unlike Dziech, Downes doesn’t believe a social media communication ban is necessary. Instead, he made an appeal to common sense online. “I don’t wish to sound naïve, but why don’t people, especially those in positions of power, just behave better online? Forget the legalisms, forget the codes of conduct. Just behave better. That would be my No. 1 suggestion,” said Downes.

“This isn’t an issue that’s specific to online courses, education or social media. It seems odd to me that people would think because something is online that they can behave differently. If you wouldn’t say it face-to-face to a person, why say it online?”

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Community college's job market study highlights need for middle skills despite low unemployment

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 09/20/2017 - 07:00

Every year St. Louis Community College surveys the region's employers to get a better picture of the area's work-force needs.

A growing number of colleges have bulked up their job-market research amid pressure from the public and policy makers for institutions to do more to improve wages and opportunities for working-class people. Community colleges in particular are feeling this scrutiny.

Administrators at St. Louis Community College view the report as one part of how it seeks to stand out as a leader in work-force development.

"The fact is the community college has its pulse on the economy and the job market," said Steve Long, associate vice chancellor of work-force solutions for SLCC. "In a larger sense, part of the value of this report is in communication with the employer community, job-training community, the federal network of training programs, and government and community-based organizations, that we need to work together to solve these issues."

The 2017 report found that 42 percent of responding employers anticipate increasing the number of employees, while only 2 percent expect to decrease their staffs. But nearly 60 percent of employers reported shortcomings in the applications they receive for open positions. In particular, employers complained about inadequate soft skills of job candidates, including interpersonal skills, critical thinking, problem solving, work ethic and teamwork.

The college surveyed more than 1,000 employers in the St. Louis region and compiled the information with federal labor market data.

Middle-skills jobs, or those that require more than a high school degree but less than a four-year degree, are important in eastern Missouri. According to the National Skills Coalition, 53 percent of all jobs in the state in 2015 were of the middle-skill variety. These jobs also account for slightly more than half of openings nationally.

These professions include skilled trades, industrial maintenance, precision machining, health care and nursing, all of which require some form of college-issued credential. Yet nearly half of people over the age of 25 in the St. Louis region have a high school diploma but no college degree, according to the report.

However, the report also revealed that 70 percent of employers have jobs open that require only short-term training, or training that could be completed within six months of finishing high school.

"Students come into these short-term accelerated programs, and they ask how quickly can they get a job," Long said. "We have to counsel them that you have to get the skills before you get the job, and some students choose to not go forward."

For those students who do choose to stay, the college has worked on integrating soft skills into the curriculum to address employers’ concerns about problem solving, critical thinking and teamwork.

"We try to embed those in our short-term accelerated programs," Long said, "and we try to talk to the faculty of degree and certificate programs about doing the same."

The National Skills Coalition has been advocating for changes in program eligibility for federal Pell Grant funding so short-term programs can qualify for financial aid, the lack of which can be a barrier for some students who seek to become certified in a skilled trade.

"A lot of these short-term occupational programs have smaller class sizes and need more equipment, so it's expensive," said Kermit Kaleba, federal policy director for the National Skills Coalition. "It's not like running another section of English compositions, so we think it's important from a financial aid perspective to make these programs more accessible."

Despite the work-force needs of St. Louis-area employers, the unemployment rate in the region is particularly low -- 4.2 percent as of May -- which means recruiting students to apply for middle-skilled jobs isn't easy. Potential students may feel it's too risky to leave their current employment for a middle-skills job or go to college to pursue a credential.

"In Missouri, the unemployment rate you usually hear about is 4 percent, but when you look at the larger unemployment rate or the rate for people who are working part-time for economic conditions, but want to work full-time, it's 9 percent," Long said. "There is a whole generation of young people, by income and race, who really have not been fully attached to the labor market."

That trend appears nationally, as well, with the unemployment rate at 4.3 percent as of July.

"We see people are making a set of choices based on their need to work and feed their families," Kaleba said. "They're making the choice between an available job that pays less, but [that] they can start right away, or going and enrolling in a community college program where you may get to a higher wage and have, longer term, better outcomes, but it's three months, six months, or 12 months down the line."

And colleges are going to have to be creative if they want to reach out to those young people, Long said.

"The middle-skill labor market and training market is not well advertised and communicated for a lot of job seekers," Kaleba said. "There are a lot of pathways with community colleges, union-run programs, apprenticeship programs, and there is confusion about the pathways to get the training and education. We don't talk about those job opportunities as much as we should."

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Is China punishing an American university for hosting the Dalai Lama?

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 09/20/2017 - 07:00

Is the Chinese government punishing the University of California, San Diego, for inviting the Dalai Lama to be its 2017 commencement speaker?

Victor Shih, an associate professor of political economy at UCSD who studies Chinese banking and fiscal policies, posted on Twitter on Saturday an image of a document “regarding questions about government-sponsored study (visit) abroad to UC San Diego.” Shih posted a Chinese-language document -- which he said a colleague received directly from the China Scholarship Council -- and an English translation suggesting that the agency will no longer process applications for prospective visiting scholars to UCSD who have not already scheduled visa interviews.

“China Scholarship Council puts a freeze on all CSC-funded scholars to @GPS_UCSD, presumably due to Dalai Lama visit,” Shih said on Twitter. Reached via email, he said, “My only comment now is that CSC did not freeze any funding to UCSD, or provide us with any funding in the first place. It seems from the statement that it will freeze funding going to Chinese scholars who wish to be visitors to UCSD.” He did not respond to follow-up messages seeking more information about his sourcing. The chair of UCSD’s 21st Century China Center, Susan Shirk, who was copied on Shih’s email to Inside Higher Ed, did not respond to inquiries.

On Monday Laura Margoni, a spokeswoman for UCSD, said, "We’ve learned unofficially that the China Scholarship Council has apparently issued instructions about CSC-funded visiting scholars who do not yet have visas -- that they will not be allowed to study at the UC San Diego. We were not notified of this directly by the China Scholarship Council, so we are currently making inquiries to find out if this is case.” She had no updates to share Tuesday as to the status of the university's inquiries.

The China Scholarship Council did not respond to emails seeking comment.

China Scholarship Council puts a freeze on all CSC funded scholars to @GPS_UCSD , presumably due to Dalai Lama visit pic.twitter.com/eoiLjBw2u9

— Victor Shih (@vshih2) September 16, 2017

Some Chinese students at UCSD protested the university's decision to invite the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner. The Chinese government regards him as a separatist. The Dalai Lama has long maintained that he wants autonomy for Tibet, but not full independence.

“The Dalai Lama is not only a religious personality but also a political exile who has long been carrying out actions to divide the motherland and to destroy national unity,” UCSD's Chinese Students and Scholars Association said in a statement after the invitation to the Dalai Lama was announced. The group said it had consulted with the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles for guidance.

A Chinese newspaper known for its nationalistic, bombastic rhetoric also blasted UCSD for the invitation and said its chancellor, Pradeep Khosla, “must bear the consequences for this.”

“Don't naively believe that China will acquiesce to the chancellor of UCSD. His support for Tibet independence will affect his personal and the university's exchanges with China. Chinese universities will take cooperative programs with it into prudent reconsideration,” the article in The Global Times said.

“It's suggested that relevant Chinese authorities not issue visas to the chancellor and not recognize diplomas or degree certificates issued by the university in China.”

Some scholars have expressed concern about the growing influence China has gained over American universities as the number of Chinese students in the U.S. has soared -- and as American universities have become increasingly reliant on the tuition dollars they bring. After the University of Calgary awarded the Dalai Lama an honorary degree in 2009, the Chinese government removed the institution from its list of accredited universities, raising concerns about possible impacts on recruitment and on the value of degrees held by alumni in China (Calgary's place on the list was subsequently restored).

The reported action by the China Scholarship Council in regards to UCSD would not appear to directly affect self-paying Chinese undergraduates, but only those scholars who are sponsored by the government.

Of the invitation to the Dalai Lama, the university had previously issued the following statement: "The University of California, San Diego, has always served as a forum for discussion and interaction on important public policy issues and respects the rights of individuals to agree or disagree as we consider issues of our complex world. Our 2017 speaker, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, carries a message that promotes global responsibility and service to humanity that is of great interest to the UC San Diego community and to our students as they enter their professional lives. As a public university dedicated to the civil exchange of views, the university believes commencement is one of many events that provide an appropriate opportunity to present to graduates and their families a message of reflection and compassion."

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New presidents or provosts: Channel Islands Crookston Eastern Michigan Hope North Alabama Rutgers WSCC

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 09/20/2017 - 07:00
  • Ross Alexander, vice chancellor for academic affairs at Indiana University-East, has been chosen as vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of North Alabama.
  • Geoffrey W. Chase, vice president at the WASC Senior College and University Commission, in California, has been selected as provost at California State University-Channel Islands.
  • Debasish Dutta, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and diversity at Purdue University, has been appointed chancellor of Rutgers University-New Brunswick, in New Jersey.
  • Mary Holz-Clause, dean of the Huntley College of Agriculture at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona, has been chosen as chancellor of the University of Minnesota-Crookston.
  • Rhonda Longworth, interim provost and executive vice president of academic and student affairs at Eastern Michigan University, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Cady Short-Thompson, dean of Blue Ash College of the University of Cincinnati, in Ohio, has been appointed provost at Hope College, in Michigan.
  • Vicky Wood, provost and vice president of academic affairs and student services at Marion Technical College, in Ohio, has been named president of Washington State Community College, also in Ohio.
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Controversy over a paper in favor of colonialism sparks calls for retraction

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 07:00

Denounced by some as “clickbait” and others as poor scholarship, a new article on the supposed benefits of Western colonialism has prompted calls for retraction. And while detractors are plentiful and pointed in their criticism, the debate and others like it has some wondering if retraction threatens to replace rebuttal as the standard academic response to unpopular research.

“The offending article has brought widespread condemnation from scholars around the globe,” begins a petition submitted Monday to the editor of Third World Quarterly and its publisher, Taylor & Francis, demanding the retraction of “The Case for Colonialism.” The petition says that the paper, written by Bruce Gilley, an associate professor of political science at Portland State University and published earlier this month as a “Viewpoints” essay, “lacks empirical evidence, contains historical inaccuracies and includes spiteful fallacies. There is also an utter lack of rigor or engaging with existing scholarship on the issue.”

With more than 10,000 signatures -- many from faculty members -- as of Monday, the petition continues, “We do not call for the curtailing of the writer's freedom of speech … Our goal is to raise academic publishing standards and integrity. We thereby call on the editorial team to retract the article and also to apologize for further brutalizing those who have suffered under colonialism.”

By its very title, Gilley’s article was bound to raise eyebrows, since academic scholarship across fields is brimming with cases against colonialism. And the article itself is indeed provocative: Gilley argues that “it’s high time to re-evaluate [the] pejorative meaning” of colonialism, since, by his accounting, “countries that embraced their colonial inheritance, by and large, did better than those that spurned it.”

Since World War II, in particular, he wrote, “Anticolonialism ravaged countries as nationalist elites mobilized illiterate populations with appeals to destroy the market economies, pluralistic and constitutional polities, and rational policy processes of European colonizers.” In our “age of apology” for atrocities, he added, “one of the many conspicuous silences has been an apology for the many atrocities visited upon Third World peoples by anticolonial advocates.”

Gilley supports his arguments through various examples, including that of Guinea-Bissau and its guerrilla war against Portuguese rule, led by Amílcar Cabral. The resulting war killed 15,000 combatants out of a population of 600,000 and at least as many civilians, Gilley says, and displaced another 150,000.

Once “‘liberation’ was achieved in 1974, a second human tragedy unfolded, costing at least 10,000 further lives as a direct result of conflict,” he says. “By 1980, rice production had fallen by more than 50 percent to 80,000 tons (from a peak of 182,000 tons under the Portuguese). ...Cabral’s half brother, who became president, unleashed the secret police on the tiny opposition -- 500 bodies were found in three mass graves for dissidents in 1981. A tenth of the remaining population upped stakes for Senegal. The Cabralian one-party state expanded to 15,000 employees, 10 times as big as the Portuguese administration at its peak.

“Confused Marxist scholars blamed the legacies of colonialism or the weather or Israel,” Gilley continues, and things have only “gotten worse … What might have become a prosperous and humane Macau or Goa of Africa is today a cesspool of human suffering. Western and African anticolonial scholars continue to extol Cabral’s ‘national liberation’ ideas. But actually existing Guineans may be asking: When are the Portuguese coming back?”

If Guinea-Bissau seems like an extreme case, Gilley says, it’s not. “Of the 80 countries that threw off the colonial ‘yoke’ after World War II, at least half experienced similar trauma, while most of the rest limped on. For 60 years, Third World despots have raised the specter of recolonization to discredit democratic oppositions and ruin their economies.”

Gilley’s prescribed remedy is to resurrect colonial governance in part by reclaiming the “colonial trajectory abandoned at independence.” Similar to the antisocialist “good governance” agenda in that it includes economic liberalization, political pluralism and administrative streamlining, Gilley says, colonial governance differs in that it “explicitly affirms and borrows from a country’s colonial past” and considers a state’s actual capacity to uphold the rule of law and deliver essential services.

Beyond seeking inspiration from a colonial past, Gilley proposes the idea of recolonization in some cases. Drawing again on the example of Guinea-Bissau, he imagined that its government could lease back to Portugal the small uninhabited Galinhas Island. Mainlanders could come to live under Portuguese-style institutions by choice for, say, 99 years, and a “small European state would grow up on the African coast.”

At 60 square miles, Gilley says, “Galinhas could, over time, easily accommodate the entire population of Guinea-Bissau. If successful, it would attract talent, trade and capital. The mainland parts of Guinea-Bissau would benefit from living next to an economic dynamo and learning to emulate its success, while symbolically escaping from the half-century anticolonial nightmare of Amílcar Cabral. The same idea could be tried all over the coastlines of Africa and the Middle East if successful. Colonialism could be resurrected without the usual cries of oppression, occupation and exploitation.”

The Case Against Gilley

It doesn’t take much looking to find holes in Gilley’s arguments, and a number of thinkers quickly offered critiques. The editor of Current Affairs, for example, wrote “A Quick Reminder of Why Colonialism Was Bad,” in which he called the downplaying of colonial-era atrocities “not only unscholarly” but “morally tantamount” to Holocaust denial.

“I suppose to those unfamiliar with the history, Gilley’s argument could appear superficially persuasive,” reads the Current Affairs piece. “But a moment’s examination of the record reveals why the case he makes is abhorrent. Gilley says he is simply asking for an unbiased assessment of the facts, that he just wants us to take off our ideological blinders and examine colonialism from an empirical perspective. But this is not what he has done. Instead, in his presentation of colonialism’s record, Gilley has deliberately excluded mention of every single atrocity committed by a colonial power. Instead of evaluating the colonial record empirically, he has distorted that record, concealing evidence of gross crimes against humanity.”

Farhana Sultana, an associate professor of geography at Syracuse University who helped organize the petition for retraction, said in a public Facebook post that she was personally offended by Gilley’s work and considered it “a ‘faux’ shock piece” published to attract clicks. “But personal reflections or moral outrage aside,” she wrote, “the article is utterly a shoddy piece of writing lacking any academic merit, based on which it should have been rejected by the journal. The article is historically inaccurate, lacking in empirical evidence, not engaging with the abundance academic scholarship on the topic, poorly written, conceptually weak, cherry-picks issues/topics, mischaracterizes scholarly work, poor cited and reproduces falsehoods.”

Engaging with this piece “does not advance our knowledge of colonialism or anything else, and thus does not serve any purpose, as there are plenty of excellent pieces that discuss issues of colonialism, imperialism, racism, etc., far better than this one,” Sultana added. “Any direct engagement with this piece only amplifies and emboldens horrific ideologies and practices that persist in academia and beyond. The journal should never have published such poor-quality work at all, as it undermines its own standards and reputation.”

Vijay Prashad, the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and a professor of international studies at Trinity College in Connecticut, and a member of the journal’s editorial board, spoke out against the paper on social media, saying that its publication violated Third World Quarterly's postcolonial legacy. Seeking to protect that legacy does not amount to censorship, he said. Some critics also have called for the Committee on Publication Ethics, a group that provides leadership on ethics across journals, to open an inquiry into the matter.

9. Had the editorial board been consulted about the essay, I'd have recommended it be sent to myriad mainstream journals for consideration.

— Vijay Prashad (@vijayprashad) September 13, 2017

Criticism vs. Censorship

The isn’t the first time scholars have called on a journal retract a controversial article in recent months. In philosophy, division over calls for the journal Hypatia to retract a paper comparing transgenderism to transracialism led to the resignations of top editors and the suspension of the associate editorial board. More recently, the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology re-reviewed, on ethical grounds, a previously accepted study on training a computer to recognize gay and straight faces.

In neither case was the article retracted (and in the latter case, it was mostly outside groups -- not academics -- that wanted the paper retracted). But are calls for retraction, not forceful rebuttals, becoming the new normal when it comes to disfavored research?

Justin Weinberg, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina and editor of Daily Nous, a popular philosophy blog, recently wrote that he wasn't an expert in Gilley's case or field, but that “our default reaction to cases like this should not be ‘retract!’ but rather, ‘rebut!’”

As academics, he wrote, “we should try as much as possible to rely on the exchange of evidence and arguments, not (directly) on the numbers of people who agree with us, or the strength of their agreement.” Supposing that Gilley’s article was peer reviewed but that arguments against it are largely correct, Weinberg asked, “How should those academics in a position to know these things respond? Is it by saying something tweetable that will convince lots of nonexperts to help them try to erase the article from history? That seems to be making use of inappropriate means towards an undesirable end. The history of academia is a history of mistakes -- and learning from them. If Gilley’s article is full of mistakes, then the job of the experts is to point this out and help us learn from them, so people are less likely to make them again.”

Sultana said Monday that while rebuttal is the standard practice in academe, it’s “only merited with items that are worthy of debate and solid pieces [that] offer up something intellectually sound and well researched to debate with at all.” Moreover, Sultana said, to offer rebuttals would only play into the metrics game that she and others suspect motivated Third World Quarterly to publish the piece in the first place (think: controversy equals clicks).

By publishing “The Case for Colonialism,” she added, the journal “threw into question the entire integrity of the academic publishing process as well as rigor in scholarship.”

Shahid Qadir, editor of Third World Quarterly, said in a statement Monday that Gilley’s piece had been published as a “Viewpoints” essay after “rigorous double-blind peer review.”

Speaking for the journal’s academic editorial team, Qadir said that by publishing the article “we are not endorsing its pro-colonial views.” Rather, he said, the team is “presenting it to be debated within the field and academy, which this justifiably has been. We will now continue this debate by publishing contradicting anticolonial ‘Viewpoints,’ to firmly challenge this opinion in the very best academic tradition.”

Alice Dreger, a former professor of medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University who resigned in 2015 after the university censored a controversial article in a faculty-produced journal, and who has written about intellectual freedom, said she saw a pattern in the recent calls for retraction. But unlike in her case, she said, it’s not administrators but faculty members leading the call for retraction. In addition to the other recent cases, she noted that Annals of Surgery in July retracted a paper, originally written in Polish, for using all male pronouns to reference to surgeons, according to Retraction Watch. It was likely a translation error, but the journal apologized profusely and pulled the paper until further notice.

“I don’t know what these people on the academic left are thinking, and as you know, I’m on the left,” Dreger said. Quoting the petition against Gilley’s piece, she continued, “You’re not calling for the curtailing of the writer’s freedom of speech? Really? So you just want a piece that’s been published retracted and presumably taken off-line? How is that not curtailing someone’s freedom of speech?”

Dreger said she had “no problem taking journals to task for shitty peer reviewing, or asking, ‘What the hell is wrong with peer review for letting this thing go through?’ or ‘How can you have piece that missed this whole area of scholarship or messed up the data?’ But calls for retraction because you don’t like the political message, which is exactly what this petition is saying? No.”

Raising a point that Weinberg offered in his post, Dreger also questioned the language in the petition -- namely that Gilley’s essay further “brutalizes” those who have suffered under colonialism. Describing it as hyperbole, she said it fuels political attacks against higher education from the right.

“They’re not just using the tools of the master, they’re building tools for the master,” she said.

Gilley did not respond to requests for comment. But he’s previously expressed disdain for what he sees as a lack of viewpoint diversity in academe, including in an August essay for Minding the Campus called “Why I’m Leaving the [American] Political Science Association.”

For the “looniest end of the left-wing academy, even the theory is hostile to viewpoint diversity,” he wrote. “They view the academy as a special zone of (left-wing) Truth that must be protected against (right-wing) Falsehoods of the real world. Genuine pluralism, from this vantage, is a cover for privilege and oppression … Why stick your neck out to accept a panel on political diversity at a political science conference when, to cite another of this year’s [APSA meeting] offerings, one can win kudos for accepting a panel entitled ‘Pussies Grab Back: Feminism in the Wake of Trump’?”

Margaret Everett, Portland State’s interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, appeared to back Gilley in a statement, saying academic freedom is “critical to the open debate and free exchange of knowledge and argument.” The university acknowledges “the right of all our faculty to explore scholarship and to speak, write and publish a variety of viewpoints and conclusions,” she added, and “respects the rights of others to express counterviews and to engage in vigorous and constructive debate about the faculty's work.”

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