Higher Education News

Colleges create new programs

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 02/14/2017 - 08:00
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In wake of violent protests, colleges prepare for chaos

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 08:00

A crowd of about 1,500 people -- many of whom were college students -- gathered on the University of California’s Berkeley campus this month to peacefully protest the appearance of conservative writer and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.

They had come to march, to carry signs and to raise their voices in dissent of the Breitbart figure’s controversial points of view, as is within their First Amendment rights. They did not come to start fires or break windows.

But their message was overshadowed by another, smaller mass of about 150 protesters who did come to start fires, break windows and hurl rocks at police officers -- and who accomplished all of those things. They wore black and concealed their faces with masks. They brought -- and used -- bats, metal rods, fireworks and Molotov cocktails to get their message across, in the process undermining “the First Amendment rights of the speaker as well as those who came to lawfully assemble and protest his presence,” a spokesperson for Berkeley said in a statement.

The group, which many have characterized as one made up of anarchists, was practicing black bloc tactics.

Black bloc is a strategy intended to unify protesters through their black clothing, masks and paramilitary tactics. The protesters become indistinguishable from one another, creating confusion for law enforcement officials and chaos among innocent bystanders.

Black bloc is more of a shifting movement and shared strategy than a formal organization. It can be traced back to the 1970s in Germany, The Washington Post reported. The tactics have been used at protests across the globe, but in the last few months -- particularly since Nov. 8, when Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election -- black bloc protesters have made more appearances than usual.

They interrupted peaceful anti-Trump protests in Portland, Ore., the week of the election. They descended on Washington for President Trump’s inauguration last month, smashing the windows of a Starbucks and damaging a bank and a limousine, among other property. Later that same night, across the country, they caused mayhem on the University of Washington campus.

The Berkeley incident has demonstrated to many campus officials the danger posed by black bloc protests to colleges. Nonviolent student protests can get mischaracterized. So, too, can the actions of a university, as when critics (including President Trump) suggest that institutions aren't committed to free speech that black bloc protests prevent. Damage can be significant -- at Berkeley, the black bloc protesters destroyed about $100,000 worth of campus property.

Officials at Berkeley are still investigating the events that unfolded there Feb. 1. Meanwhile, security officers at other campuses have begun to discuss preparedness and best practices around these issues.

David Mitchell, chief of police at the University of Maryland College Park, called the recent resurgence of black bloc an “infiltration.”

“These are folks, in my view, who are not interested in freedom of speech. They’re interested in taking advantage of an opportunity to commit crimes and wreak havoc,” said Mitchell, who has been in law enforcement for over 40 years and has witnessed black bloc tactics on several occasions. “They are here to destroy property and … cause disorder. It’s very unfortunate, and it’s very unlawful.”

The University of Maryland has almost 40,000 students, and over the years, Mitchell said, he’s seen those students protest just about every issue out there.

“I can differentiate between black bloc and my student body,” Mitchell said. “My student body is interested in freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble.”

“I know many of our protesters here on campus -- these are good people who want to air their concerns and want their voices to be heard,” he added. “When you have that and it’s a peaceful protest, then suddenly there’s an infiltration with fires starting, it reinforces the bias against college kids and college students protesting. Certainly we don’t want that here. I don’t think my students want that here.”

It’s true that, amid the chaos that erupted on Berkeley’s campus, many people associated the violence with Berkeley students. However, the university believes the anarchists “invaded” the campus and were not affiliated with its students.

“At Berkeley, it’s clear there was a very serious difference between the majority of protesters and the minority who were engaged in black bloc tactics,” said Angus Johnston, a historian of American student activism and online blogger for the website Student Activism. “The vast majority of students protesting were not engaged in those tactics.”

Despite crowd control and safety measures in place to handle those who were peacefully protesting Yiannopoulos’s appearance, Berkeley officials did not anticipate black bloc.

The protests there, which also left five people with minor injuries, have reignited a conversation at other colleges about what to do if a similar incident occurred on their campuses.

Other colleges and universities should look at what happened at Berkeley and learn from it -- including what worked and what could have been improved, said Sue Riseling, executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

When something like this happens, campus law enforcement officials have to consider dozens of variables, she said, including where the protest is happening, how quickly it could escalate, whether the violent and nonviolent protesters are intermixed or separated, how many security and police officers are available to help, and crowd size, she said.

“What we have found is being prepared ahead of time is really key,” Riseling said. “It may not be a speaker that trips it. It may be another action of the president that trips it. It may be a community member. You don’t know what’s going to trip it.”

The violent protests seen at Berkeley and on Inauguration Day interfere with all Americans’ right to participate in democracy, Riseling said.

“Their voices are silenced by this black bloc activity,” she said. “It’s very important that people who are invited to speak get to speak … no matter how repugnant some people may feel their views are. They are protected under the Constitution, and that’s really important. It’s also important for people who disagree with the speaker to have their voices heard.”

Both Riseling and Mitchell commended Berkeley’s handling of the situation because it did not result in severe injuries or death.

“It always could be worse,” Mitchell said. “The property damage was disappointing and absolutely unlawful, but that certainly could’ve been worse as well. I applaud the way they handled the incident.”

Kim Richmond, director of the National Center for Campus Public Safety, said she has been trying to remind universities about the resources available to plan and prepare for these events.

“Each community should be having conversations ahead of time with administration, students, potential activists,” Richmond said. “I think the campuses who are doing a good job of preparation are looking at every time there’s a situation, or even if there’s not, simulating a situation and asking, ‘What is our local response going to look like? What is our campus’s stance on this?’”

Colleges have to be prepared to adapt, Richmond said. For example, at Berkeley, the police officers felt that trying to get in the middle of the crowd would’ve sparked more violence and resulted in more severe injuries. They chose not to try to arrest the black bloc protesters, because they felt it would have compromised the safety of their students.

These are scenarios that no college wants to find itself in, but Mitchell said it’s important to have a plan in place because, given the current political climate, it’s likely to keep happening.

“The mood of the country is such today, with such division, that I don’t think this is going away any time soon,” Mitchell said.

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Brown U's series on campus speech faces its first test, with a scholar using racial slurs during a talk

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 08:00

Campus speech debates have become heated, and even violent, in recent years. What happened at Brown University recently isn’t one of those incidents. Instead of protests, a visiting speaker -- and his controversial comments, including the N-word -- prompted discussion.

Geoffrey R. Stone, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, was at Brown this month as part of the campus’s “Reaffirming University Values: Campus Dialogue and Discourse” program. Richard M. Locke, Brown’s provost, introduced the series of lectures and workshops last semester as a way to “consider how to cultivate an environment in which we, as a community, can discuss conflicting values and controversial issues in constructive and engaging ways.”

The role of “dialogue on campuses and in public life more broadly has become of increasing concern in recent years,” Locke said in a letter to the campus. “The ways in which we talk across difference have become as important as the substance of the issues we discuss, especially the divisive ones.”

Like a number of other institutions, Brown has seen student unrest over on-campus race relations since students at the University of Missouri at Columbia staged protests on their campus in 2015. While it wasn’t seen as a national hotbed of such protests, as a famously liberal university, Brown still was taking something of a risk in attempting to tackle today's campus speech issues head-on.

Locke described the worthiness of the cause like this: “At the core of these efforts is a robust recognition of our fundamental commitment, as an institution of higher education, to learning -- on the part of students, faculty and staff. Our success in these endeavors rests on the commitment of members of our community to this approach.”

Conversations about serious issues are “too often characterized as polarizing, and occur in a highly charged, rancorous atmosphere where speakers often anticipate being criticized, ridiculed or ‘called out.’ Those who are uncertain or uncomfortable often remain silent or are reluctant to engage,” he added. “We must work to empower all individuals to share their viewpoints, even if it makes some of us, at times, feel uncomfortable. Creating an environment in which productive dialogue occurs is essential for our university."

Stone, a First Amendment scholar and former provost at Chicago who chaired its Committee on Freedom of Expression, delivered a speech at Brown called “Free Speech on Campus: A Challenge of Our Times.” He began with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s dissent to a 1919 decision, Abrams v. U.S., in which the court upheld a ruling against a group of young Communists who opposed American involvement in World War I.

Holmes, Stone said, “warned, ‘We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression’ even of ‘opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten’ compelling government interests that an immediate check is necessary to save the nation.”

Stone said the passage had animated his career, and said that it’s “important to understand that, like the freedom of speech, academic freedom is not a law of nature. It does not exist of its own force. It is always vulnerable, and should never be taken for granted.”

Indeed, he said, academic freedom didn’t really exist for much of the 19th century, and that any “student or faculty member who dared argue, for example, that women were equal to men, that blacks were equal to whites, or that homosexuality was not immoral would surely [have been] expelled or fired without hesitation.”

Similar issues arose again during the more recent McCarthy era, he added, proving that “academic freedom is, in fact, a hard-bought acquisition in an endless struggle to preserve the right of each individual, student and faculty alike, to seek wisdom, knowledge and truth, free of the censor’s sword.”

What does that have to do with today’s students? Stone said that anyone who benefits from academic freedom has an obligation to it, namely by defending it “when it comes under attack” and by struggling “to define the meaning of academic freedom in our time.” As seen in the Abrams case, he added, “the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of speech is not self-defining. Neither is academic freedom. Each generation must give life to this concept in the face of the distinctive conflicts that arise over time.”

Stone listed recent free speech flare-ups at colleges and universities, some of which involved student demands for censorship. Those include revocations of invitations to speakers on a number of campuses, calls for Vanderbilt University to fire a tenured professor for writing publicly about her highly critical views on Islam, and requests that Amherst College remove posters saying “All Lives Matter.”

Cautioning against censorship, Stone encouraged students to “always be open to challenge and question." He warned them that censorship was a two-way street that could eventually be used against them and said suppression of speech chills speech.

While colleges and universities should promote civility and mutual respect, and support students who feel vulnerable, he continued, “The neutral principle of no suppression of ideas protects us all. This is especially important in the current situation, for in the long run it is likely to be minorities, whether religious minorities, racial minorities or political minorities, who are most likely to be silenced once censorship is deemed acceptable.”

Controversial Q&A

While Stone could be described as a free speech “purist,” his views are very much in line with those of other First Amendment scholars, and his prepared remarks proved uncontroversial, even at Brown. During a lengthy question and answer period, however, he was asked by Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at Chicago, who was also at Brown, about a professor's role in cultivating a civil classroom space.

Stone responded that the "real issue with civility is, What are the bounds of civility?" For both students and faculty members, he said, classrooms are "narrowly defined professional settings" that don't warrant expectations of full free expression. The use of epithets, for example, he said, "is perfectly appropriate if relevant to the material, but inappropriate if a faculty member calls a student a kike, or if a student calls another student a nigger. I would say that's crossing a boundary."

Stone said he'd only ever encountered slurs in the classroom once, 35 years ago, when he was teaching the "fighting words" doctrine, or the notion that some speech is not protected when it could provoke violence. A black student in his class commented that such restrictions are outdated and unnecessary, Stone said, and another student responded, “You nigger, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” The first student promptly reached over to the second to grab him by the neck -- suggesting that the doctrine may not be so old-fashioned after all.

Several questions later, a black undergraduate student told Stone, “I wanted to thank you for your charge to boldness, and, in that spirit, would also like to respectfully request that you refrain from openly using racial epithets in public spaces. I understand you’re not representing an administration right now, but certainly that has a chilling effect on speech for people in the room.” She argued that slurs can be easily alluded to without being said outright.

In response, Stone said, “I teach, among other things, the First Amendment. There are cases that involve these words. You can’t talk about the words in the class when you’re discussing whether the word should be legal or not? Doesn’t make any sense. Or you read it in a novel that uses the words and you can’t use the words? Sorry. But I do hear you.”

The student then asked whether civil discourse was about tone or substance, saying she found Stone's slurs "deeply uncivil."

Stone responded, “Someone who goes around yelling and screaming epithets, even outside the classroom, in a public setting, I would say is being a jackass -- can I say that? Is that OK? Just want to make sure.” He again asked if it was OK to curse when talking about the 1971 Supreme Court case Cohen v. California, about a Vietnam War protester's right to wear a jacket saying "Fuck the Draft."

The student could not immediately be reached for comment, but the student newspaper, The Brown Daily Herald, reported that “many attendees” said they were “uncomfortable with Stone’s response" to her question, in that it was "rude" or compared profanity to slurs. Yet the lecture was otherwise uneventful.

Stone said in a phone interview that his intention was never to “mock” the student, but rather to drive home the underlying point of his speech: “When you legitimate censorship, you’re putting yourself in a very vulnerable position. … Do you really want people deciding which words you can and can’t use?”

Still, Stone underscored the importance of civility and respect, and advised against the “unnecessarily gratuitous and inflammatory” use of racial epithets. “There are educational and cultural values that people should respect,” he said, adding that it would be wholly inappropriate for him to call a student a slur, for example.

A talk on free speech and academic freedom doesn’t meet that bar, though, he said. Despite what's been happening elsewhere, to other scholars, the incident at Brown was in fact the first time a student expressed offense at Stone's use of language, he added. "I've actually been kind of disappointed that students in the audience haven't been more challenging."

On the other hand, as recently as five years ago, Stone's remarks -- prepared and off-the-cuff -- would have been unremarkable in an academic setting, he said. "What makes this moment unusual is that it's students who are demanding censorship, when historically they've opposed censorship."

Christina Paxson, Brown’s president, introduced Stone prior to his talk. In emailed statement, she said, “The student asking her questions reflected exactly the type of open expression we are cultivating at Brown.”

John Wilson, an independent scholar of academic freedom and co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog, disagreed with Stone, saying, “It's possible to talk about slurs without using slurs,” and that he usually chooses not to use them. Stone could have said the N-word, with everyone understanding his meaning, for example.

But the “point of a free society is that it's a choice,” Wilson added. “People are free to ask that people not use slurs, and people are free to disagree and use them. I don't see a request as a form of censorship. There's a vast difference between a discussion about what's appropriate and a demand for censorship.”

And clearly, he said, “this is a context -- talking about offensive language -- where the use of slurs is often appropriate.”

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Yale removes Calhoun name from residential college, but name remains at other colleges

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 08:00

Yale University announced Saturday that it will remove the name of John C. Calhoun from one of its residential colleges.

"The decision to change a college’s name is not one we take lightly, but John C. Calhoun’s legacy as a white supremacist and a national leader who passionately promoted slavery as a 'positive good' fundamentally conflicts with Yale’s mission and values," said a letter released by Peter Salovey, the president. Calhoun is notorious in American history for his effectiveness in protecting slavery and promoting bigoted ideas about black people in the era prior to the Civil War.

Saturday's announcement marks the end of decades of debate at Yale over Calhoun, an alumnus. Last year, Yale announced that it would keep the Calhoun name on the residential college, and that doing so was part of the commitment of the college to acknowledging and teaching the history of the institution's connections with slavery. The decision led to protests and considerable condemnation.

A few months later, Yale announced it would reconsider its decision, and that it would first create a system for evaluating requests for such name changes. That panel was then convened, as was another to consider whether the Calhoun name should be removed. On Saturday, Yale's board made a final decision on the matter.

Salovey's letter noted that Calhoun was different from others in history who may be honored at Yale or elsewhere. "This principal legacy of Calhoun -- and the indelible imprint he has left on American history -- conflicts fundamentally with the values Yale has long championed. Unlike other namesakes on our campus, he distinguished himself not in spite of these views but because of them. Although it is not clear exactly how Calhoun’s pro-slavery and racist views figured in the 1931 naming decision, depictions in the college celebrating plantation life and the 'Old South' suggest that Calhoun was honored not simply as a statesman and political theorist but in full contemplation of his unique place in the history of slavery," Salovey's letter said.

He added, "In making this change, we must be vigilant not to erase the past. To that end, we will not remove symbols of Calhoun from elsewhere on our campus, and we will develop a plan to memorialize the fact that Calhoun was a residential college name for 86 years. Furthermore, alumni of the college may continue to associate themselves with the name Calhoun College."

Or those alumni may adopt the new name for the residential college, which will honor Grace Murray Hopper (right), a pioneer in computing who earned a master's degree and doctorate from Yale in the 1930s. She had a long career in the U.S. Navy, retiring with the rank of rear admiral.

Yale is not alone in changing names or symbols that honor people whose bigotry was once tolerated but is no longer. Harvard University's law school dropped a seal that was the family seal of Isaac Royall Jr., who was honored as a major early donor to the law school but was also involved with the slave trade in the 18th century. Centre College recently changed the name of McReynolds Hall to the building's street address, following a request by students who did research on James Clark McReynolds, a Supreme Court justice from 1914 to 1941 who is considered among the more bigoted justices of his era. McReynolds frequently left the bench if a female or black lawyer argued before the Supreme Court. He was also known as an anti-Semite, refusing to talk to Louis Brandeis for three years following Brandeis's appointment to the high court because Brandeis was Jewish.

Other colleges, however, have maintained names -- including that of John C. Calhoun -- despite strong opposition in some cases from students, faculty members and others.

Here are some of the cases where institutions have either rejected the idea of changing a name, including some cases where the institutions have suggested reconsideration may be possible down the road, and one where the name has not been a source of public controversy.

Buildings, Statues and Programs That Honor Calhoun and Others

Institution Figure Honored Status Calhoun Community College, in Alabama

John C. Calhoun

There are no known plans to change name. Clemson University

John C. Calhoun

Honors college is known as the Calhoun Honors College. Calhoun and his family members had many ties to Clemson. Clemson University

Benjamin Tillman

A major campus building honors Tillman, a notoriously racist politician in South Carolina who was known for promoting and joining in violence against black people. The Clemson board rejected the idea of a name change in 2015, releasing a statement that said in part, "Every great institution is built by imperfect craftsmen. Stone by stone they add to the foundation so that over many, many generations, we get a variety of stones. And so it is with Clemson. Some of our historical stones are rough and even unpleasant to look at. But they are ours and denying them as part of our history does not make them any less so." Princeton University

Woodrow Wilson

Students and others urged the university to drop the name from the institution's public affairs school, and one of its residential colleges, due to Wilson's racist attitudes and actions as president.

The university in 2016 rejected the idea, but vowed to be “honest and forthcoming about its history” and transparent “in recognizing Wilson’s failings and shortcomings as well as the visions and achievements that led to the naming of the school and the college in the first place.”

Stanford University

Junipero Serra

Many students want the university to rename several structures that honor Serra, an 18th-century Roman Catholic priest who created missions throughout California. While Serra was declared a saint by Pope Francis last year, many Native Americans contend that Serra worked to destroy the cultures and beliefs of those who were in California before the missionaries.

Stanford last year created a panel to draft guidelines for how to consider renaming buildings and other spaces that honor those with imperfect (and worse) histories.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"Silent Sam"

Students periodically protest and demand the removal of "Silent Sam," a statue that honors Confederate war dead. University of Virginia

Thomas Jefferson

Some students and faculty members have asked Teresa Sullivan, president of the university, to stop quoting Jefferson, who founded the university, given that he owned slaves. "Though we realize that some members of our university community may be inspired by quotes from Jefferson, we also realize that many of us are deeply offended by attempts on behalf of our administration to guide our moral behavior through their use," said a letter sent to Sullivan.

She responded by writing, "Quoting Jefferson [or any historical figure] does not imply an endorsement of all the social structures and beliefs of his time, such as slavery and the exclusion of women and people of color from the university."

Winthrop University

Benjamin Tillman

Tillman Hall at this university has also been controversial, with many saying the name should change. In 2015, someone wrote "violent racist" on a portrait of Tillman in the hall. In November, black stockings stuffed to reflect the black lives Tillman took were hung in an art protest outside the hall.

The university has condemned the vandalism and pledged to consider how to deal with the Tillman name as part of larger discussions about race at the institution.

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White House, Republicans reach out to historically black colleges

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 08:00

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump frequently asked African-American voters, "What do you have to lose by trying something new?"

Less than a month into his presidency, leaders of historically black colleges and universities are exploring what they may have to gain from a new relationship with the Trump White House and congressional Republicans.

Some HBCU leaders found themselves disappointed with the first African-American presidency within the first few years of the Obama administration. Now some see a chance to address many of the shortcomings of the previous administration with a White House led by a president overwhelmingly rejected by the vast majority of black voters -- partly because of his history of inflammatory statements about minority groups.

Trump and advisers including Omarosa Manigault, the former Apprentice star who now serves as director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison, have already met with a handful of HBCU leaders, and the White House is crafting an executive order dealing with those institutions, said Johnny C. Taylor Jr., the president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. GOP lawmakers, meanwhile, have organized a meeting in D.C. later this month of elected officials and representatives from more than 100 historically black colleges.

Taylor said that in discussions going back to early January, the Trump team has simply listened to what he and other representatives of minority-serving institutions have had to say. But the meeting later this month with lawmakers is expected to be more of a two-way conversation. And HBCUs have not been shy about making requests of the Trump administration in the talks they've had so far, he said.

"We asked them to look very critically at how to make it a far more successful and far more impactful order by bringing the [HBCU] initiative into the White House and including a specific commitment from federal agencies to spend a fair share of their funding with HBCUs," Taylor said.

He said he also said he spoke in support of charter schools and other school choice options on HBCU campuses and the need to support infrastructure programs at those institutions.

"They're listening. And that so differentiates them, frankly, from our more recent past experience," Taylor said.

The Obama administration faced an uproar from the HBCU sector in 2011 over the rollout of new Department of Education rules limiting access for many families to PLUS loans to pay for a child's education. The change affected colleges and universities across the board, but the effects were particularly pronounced at historically black colleges, which enroll a much higher proportion of low-income students than the national average.

Other criticisms of Obama from leaders like Taylor had as much to do with issues of tone and focus as actual policy differences. But nonetheless, he said, he is optimistic that the sector is "being brought into the conversation prior to decisions being made."

On Feb. 28, congressional Republicans will host college leaders in a meeting at the Library of Congress. The offices of Senator Tim Scott, the first African-American senator from South Carolina, and Representative Mark Walker, a North Carolina Republican whose wife earned two degrees at Winston-Salem State University, have taken the lead in organizing the event.

Jack T. Minor, a spokesman for Walker, said all historically black colleges were invited to the event.

"The new administration expressed a desire to work better with HBCUs and bring opportunity to schools. We want to listen to how the federal government can help," he said.

Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University in New Orleans, is among the HBCU leaders who have already said they will attend those meetings. A supporter of President Obama, Kimbrough said he would push lawmakers to expand support for Pell Grants, whose recipients attend HBCUs at a disproportionate rate.

While HBCU leaders have been vocal about grievances with the Obama administration, connections by those institutions with Trump have been subject to sharp criticism up to this point. Talladega College, a historically black institution, came under fire from critics for sending its marching band to participate in Trump's inaugural parade last month -- even though campus leaders said they would have participated no matter who won the election.

And it may be difficult to build a consensus about policy issues. Much of the agenda espoused by President Trump and Republican congressional leaders -- keeping taxes down while spending more on the military, borders and some infrastructure projects -- could make for tight budgets in the student aid programs on which HBCUs depend.

Kimbrough said that his role is to advocate for his university, no matter who happens to be in charge in Washington.

"My responsibility, no matter who is in office, no matter their political affiliation, is for them to support my institution," Kimbrough said. "I'll meet with anyone."

While he understands the frustration with the previous administration from others in the sector, Kimbrough said the sector is still benefiting from stimulus funds approved during the first year of the Obama presidency.

HBCU leaders like Kimbrough should have no problem making a compelling case for supporting their institutions, said James T. Minor, the senior strategist for academic success and inclusive excellence at the California State University System. A former deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Postsecondary Education at the Department of Education under Obama, Minor is an expert on addressing student achievement gaps.

"The question is how well the case maps what becomes of the Trump administration’s agenda for higher education and whether or not that includes HBCUs as a central component of whatever the strategy is," Minor said.

Minor said the contents of the executive order issued by the White House as well as the education budget it submits to Congress could confirm the fears of many skeptics in minority communities.

"Or there’s an opportunity to really create a bridge and to demonstrate postelection the aptitude, the ability and the willingness to build bridges with programs that bring us together versus those that could be understood as divisive or polarizing," he said.

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Oregon's public universities criticize state's free community college program

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 08:00

As Oregon faces budget shortfalls and an education sector eager to hold onto the money it has, a dispute has emerged about the future of the state’s free community college program.

The state’s public universities, which saw a slight decrease in freshman enrollment last fall, are pointing out issues with the Oregon Promise that could influence legislators to cut funding for the program. For example, while a recent report found that more of the state's high school graduates are now applying for federal financial aid and attending college, students from higher-income families are disproportionately benefiting from the program.

“We were very transparent from the start that in implementing a last-dollar program, more state dollars would go to higher-income kids and families than lower income, because lower-income families will get Pell Grants,” said Ben Cannon, executive director of the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission. “The real question should be what impact the program has had on college-going rates for recent high school graduates of all income levels. We believe Promise shows increases for all students and for lower-income students; that’s more Pell dollars coming into the states.”

The report on the Promise program’s first semester revealed that it reached more students than projected, with 6,745 receiving the scholarship compared to 5,700 high school graduates who enrolled in a two-year college for at least six credits in 2014. More than 19,000 Oregonians applied for the grant and nearly 10,500 of them met the Promise’s 2.5 high school GPA, residency and financial aid application requirements.

Of the eligible Promise applicants, about 1,100 chose to attend a four-year institution in Oregon and didn’t receive the grant.

However, enrollment of Oregon’s high school graduates in the state’s public universities declined slightly in 2016 compared to recent years -- 17.6 percent of Oregon high school students who graduated last year enrolled in one of the universities this past fall, compared to 18.3 percent in 2015 and 18 percent in 2014.

Some Promise advocates point to the enrollment declines as the main reason why public university leaders in Oregon are pressuring the Legislature to instead move funding from the Promise program to the state’s need-based grant, which is awarded to low-income students who attend Oregon’s public universities.

“The presidents and provosts of Oregon’s seven four-year public universities have communicated publicly to state leaders that any additional state financial aid funding should first go to fully fund the need-based Oregon Opportunity Grant program, before appropriating additional funds to the Oregon Promise program, which is not need based,” Steve Clark, a spokesman for Oregon State University, said in an email.

Clark said the university does not have statistics for the number of students who choose to use the Promise at a community college instead of attending the university.

Portland State University officials can’t directly attribute all of their decrease in new freshman resident applications to the Promise, but they’re certain the program played some role in the drop.

The university saw a 9 percent decrease in first-year, in-state resident students from this year compared to last year and a 14-percent decrease in new freshman residents who were admitted to the institution.

“In the application pool we saw a decrease in resident applicants this past fall, and we think it's attributable to Oregon Promise,” said Shannon Carr, executive director of undergraduate admissions at Portland State University. “The information about Oregon Promise was sent out, and it wasn’t really clear in terms of how many students were receiving it … how far that money would go …. Counselors were really advising students to start at a community college instead of a four-year institution. We saw that conversation happening from the guidance counseling community, and that had an impact on overall applications.”

Carr said she doesn’t want to fault the counselors for helping their students make informed and smart financial decisions about college. But she said some students “put all their eggs in one basket and were not necessarily getting Oregon Promise.”

Carr said the university is optimistic about the number of students interested in enrolling this coming fall and that partially has to do with the “uncertainty and not a lot of conversation about Promise.”

This year the university unveiled its own initiative to provide free tuition to Oregon residents who have a 3.4 high school GPA and are Pell eligible. The program guarantees four tuition-free years.

“We did this for a wide range of reasons, so it’s not solely a response to Oregon Promise,” Carr said. “We’re primarily a school of access …. We thought some of the neediest students didn’t even apply to four-year schools because of Oregon Promise and they knew their tuition would be covered. They failed to realize that with federal financial aid they may even come out better, especially those with strong academics … starting at a four-year school.”

Morley Winograd, president and chief executive officer of the Campaign for Free College Tuition, said he’s not surprised there was a “counterattack” to the first year of success in Oregon’s program. There was similar pushback from four-year institutions in Tennessee, he said.

“The Promise program in Oregon is accomplishing its purpose in increasing enrollment in higher education,” Winograd said. “It isn’t criticism, but a grab for the money. That’s the fight there, and we’ll see it in every state as four-year colleges and universities will say, ‘Send the money to us.’”

Carr said Portland State hasn’t taken an official stance on the Promise program, but that any program supporting students going to college is positive. However, she said, more thought should have been put into increasing participation of minority and low-income students.

The state made changes to its need-based grant program prior to the Promise scholarship's creation, Cannon said, in an effort to prioritize more low-income students.

The grant now has a much lower income threshold, he said, which means many middle-income families are no longer able to receive the grant. Those dollars are going to more lower-income students.

“That’s the important context for the Promise,” Cannon said. “Obviously it’s not need based. The state dollars flow inverse to need, but we’re also putting much more in the way of financial aid to the lowest-income students than ever before by shifting dollars.”

Short on Funding

Oregon Promise recipients from higher-income backgrounds drive up the cost of the program because they don't receive federal Pell Grants. The state's Legislature agreed in 2015 to fund the program’s first year for $10 million. But officials are estimating the cost to rise to $13.5 million. Cannon said that number would approximately double as a new group of students are brought in for the second year.

“There will be very rigorous conversations this legislative session about whether to continue the Promise and, if so, at what funding level,” Cannon said. “That’s partly because of the budget shortfall our state faces. All programs are likely to undergo a greater level of scrutiny than they would at other times, and because this is a new program, it will get even greater levels of attention.”

Oregon is facing a $1.8 billion budget gap, which means everything is on the table, said Andrea Henderson, executive director of the Oregon Community Colleges Association, adding that there is an $80 million budget gap for the community colleges and a $100 million shortfall for the public universities.

“Yes, there is a percentage of students who have fairly high [expected family contribution], but on the other hand many students indicated they wouldn’t have gone to college if it wasn’t for the Oregon Promise,” Henderson said. “We know we’re getting additional federal financial aid dollars, and last year we led the nation in FAFSA filings for students.”

But warnings came from the community colleges a year ago about the program, along with concerns over funding. Those colleges wanted to see the program lower its GPA requirement and expand beyond recent high school graduates.

“We had reservations about this program before it passed,” Cannon said. “But when the Legislature decides to use the word ‘promise,’ it should mean something.”

Going Second

The discussions in Oregon may seem like a blow to a free college movement that has been picking up steam from San Francisco to New York and Rhode Island.

Oregon was just the second state in the country to implement a widespread free community college initiative, following Tennessee.

“They were an early adopter,” said Martha Kanter, a former undersecretary of education under President Obama, who leads the College Promise Campaign, which advocates for free community college. “But they didn’t have the sustainable components Tennessee had or the history on how to build and move it further year after year.”

“It’s all about design,” she said. “In Oregon, they wanted to serve everyone, and that did affect Portland State.”

The program just needs time to adjust, said Oregon State Senator Mark Haas, who helped create the program and sits on the College Promise Campaign board.

“Just by anybody’s metrics, this is doing really well … this is changing the culture in our state,” he said. “The fact that the universities have this in their crosshairs begs the question of what should the universities be doing. Maybe the universities should take a page from the community college handbook and be more responsive to customers.”

Conversations in the state about funding the Promise or even making changes to it are still early, although there have been suggestions like placing an income or expected family contribution cap on the program so students above a certain income level wouldn’t qualify. Such a move could reduce the cost of the program or allow the state to spend more dollars on lower-income students.

“We’re supporting continuation of the program as it currently stands,” Cannon said

Community CollegesEditorial Tags: Community collegesOregonIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0

Saint Joseph's plan to suspend operations prompts questions looking ahead and behind

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/10/2017 - 08:00

This fall, leaders at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., had a plan to avoid a financial crisis and accreditation crunch bearing down on them.

The Roman Catholic liberal arts college started negotiations to license out windmill-filled farmland it owns. Saint Joseph’s can’t sell the 7,634 acres of land under the terms of a trust. But the college could lease the future rights to the land in exchange for a lump-sum payment that would allow it to stay operational as it revamped its operations.

Leaders approached the Mayo Clinic in August. They wanted to license out the land, which generates about $2 million a year, for an as yet undetermined number of years. In exchange the college hoped to receive $35 million.

But negotiations hit a roadblock in December. The Mayo Clinic was only offering $15 million to $20 million, said Robert Pastoor, Saint Joseph’s College president.

“We were hoping for more in order to give us a little bit more time to work out some of these problems financially,” Pastoor said. “The $15 million certainly would not give us enough time.”

The stalled negotiations set off a chain of events that led to Saint Joseph’s announcing a suspension of operations on its campus after the end of the current semester. That suspension, announced at the end of last week, thrust Saint Joseph’s into the uncharted, difficult territory of trying to shut down classes and reboot itself after a year’s break. It also galvanized faculty members, alumni and students, many of whom knew the college’s cash was tight but still feel they were kept in the dark about the severity of the college’s fiscal situation.

Pastoor had talked with faculty members, employees and students to discuss the negotiations over the farmland, he said. Shortly after they stalled, rumors started circulating. Those rumors included one that the college was going to close in March.

So Pastoor sent out a letter Jan. 25 saying the college needed donors to commit $20 million by June. It required a total cash influx of $100 million.

Nine days later the college’s Board of Trustees voted to suspend all academic activities on the Rensselaer campus following graduation in May. Saint Joseph’s would only continue a bachelor of science in nursing program run by St. Elizabeth School of Nursing in Lafayette and consider other programs if they were at off-campus locations.

The decision is an attempt to escape from $27 million in debt without fighting the uphill battle of an annual operating budget deficit that has grown to between $4 million and $5 million. It is also a bid to drastically retool Saint Joseph’s to compete in a market that has become increasingly difficult for small, private liberal arts colleges -- without having to go through a new multiyear accreditation process.

“The suspension will allow us to really develop a very different business model for the future,” Pastoor said. “But it also allows us to envision a new institution that will still appeal to the disenfranchised and marginalized students that we normally bring to campus.”

Yet Pastoor describes the model going forward as uncharted territory. The goal is to reopen Saint Joseph’s, which has 904 students and 200 employees, on its Rensselaer campus. But leaders do not know how many students they want to enroll. Programs could be cut. New programs could be added.

A few faculty members will be asked to remain and chart a path forward, but a majority will likely lose their jobs. Pastoor himself has said he will step down in May. Saint Joseph’s only has enough cash on hand to carry it through the end of May, the president said. It has about $6 million left in its endowment and is asking the Indiana attorney general for permission to remove restrictions on that money so it can use it to pay its bills.

The college is heavily reliant on tuition today but also posts a 65 percent discount rate. It wants to shed its debt during the suspension of operations, but it’s still trying to figure out how. Discussions with bankers are beginning.

Fierce Blowback

Fund-raising could be a difficult option, if early reactions are any indication. Alumni, faculty members and students quickly gathered on social media and in person as word of the suspension of operations spread. Many questioned the decision-making process and what they felt was a lack of transparency. One week, they were being asked to donate $20 million in four months. The next, they were being told the college was suspending operations and being presented with a list of 19 institutions to which students could transfer under teach-out agreements.

The college’s Alumni Association posted a note online promising to find answers to questions, including whether the suspension can be prevented. Representatives from the Student Association posted the results of a Feb. 8 vote of no confidence in university leaders. One professor said he was on a search committee preparing to hire new faculty members until a hiring freeze was handed down Jan. 18.

Elysse Hillyer, a 2012 graduate, started the center of much of the discussion, the “Involved for Life” Facebook page, in January, when she learned of the financial trouble. It soon turned into a gathering place for students, faculty and alumni after the suspension was announced.

Hillyer has a hard time believing that the college could reopen if it suspends its operations this spring. She’s skeptical that the institution could pay off its debt at that point. If the college does reopen, she believes it would be a completely different place than it has been in the past.

She is also frustrated with the decisions leaders made in the past. The fact that Saint Joseph’s had financial problems was well-known.

“We knew we needed to do these things to fix the school, and I feel not very many things were tried to fix it besides just getting into more debt,” Hillyer said. “I don’t feel we changed any more programs to add potential new students. I just feel like there weren’t many options explored.”

Another group of alumni has been much more aggressive. It issued a press release Thursday saying alumni have been discussing whether the college’s board members should remain in their current positions.

The release said prospective students have continued to receive solicitations from the college in the days since it announced the suspension of operations. It said applications, admitted students, deposits and campus visits had all risen year over year as of the end of January. It also expressed disappointment in faculty and student question-and-answer sessions held earlier this week.

“I have been able to view and read the transcripts of both [faculty and student] Q&A sessions and I am embarrassed at what I saw,” said Mark Andrew Zwartynski, who graduated in 1974, in a statement in the release. “Because I saw nothing. I saw a decision made long before the faculty, staff, students and SJC community had any opportunity for input, the sharing of experience or intellect.”

During the question-and-answer sessions, Board of Trustees Chair Benedict Sponseller explained the rationale behind the sudden decision to suspend operations. He told students on Monday that the college is running out of money. It might not be able to pay for instructors and could lose accreditation midsemester, he said.

“Do you know how irresponsible it would be of this board to allow you to be in the middle of a semester -- we lose our accreditation and you find yourself into a semester, you paid a lot of money, but you’re going to get no credit?” he said, according to a three-hour video posted online. “That would certainly be irresponsible of us.”

The worries about accreditation come after the Higher Learning Commission placed the college on probation in November because of its financial position.

The Higher Learning Commission has been in contact with Saint Joseph’s to learn about its plans, according to spokesman Steve Kauffman. He declined to comment on the specifics of the situation. But broadly, he said, the Higher Learning Commission does not pull accreditation midsemester.

“In the best interest of students, the Higher Learning Commission would not withdraw accreditation in the middle of a term,” Kauffman said in an email.

Pastoor, the college’s president, acknowledged that he might have been able to communicate a greater sense of urgency at times as he interacted with the campus and alumni. Still, he consistently communicated that the college’s financial situation was difficult, he said.

“Certainly after we started negotiations with the Mayo Clinic, people knew that this was our last gasp,” Pastoor said.

A History of Financial Trouble

The college’s recent history made it clear that finances were tight. Saint Joseph’s had been warned by the accreditor in 2012 that it needed to get its financial house in order, according to Bill White, a professor of history and member of the college’s financial advisory committee.

“We got notice that we would go on probation in March of 2015,” White said. “It wasn’t voted on yet, but that was the recommendation by the visiting team. And they were only visiting in 2015 because they warned us in 2012 that there’d be a focus in three years, looking specifically at our finances.”

Documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service clearly show Saint Joseph’s losing money every year in recent history. It posted a net loss of $1.1 million in the year ending in June 2012. It lost about the same amount in 2013 before posting approximately $2.5 million in losses in each of 2014 and 2015, the most recent year for which IRS forms are available.

Those losses came as expenses grew and revenue held flat. Expenses increased from $35 million in 2012 to $40.7 million in 2014 before inching back down to $39 million in 2015. Revenue, meanwhile, was $36.2 million in 2012, peaked at $38.2 million in 2014 and fell back down to $36.9 million in 2015.

At the same time, the college’s cash dwindled rapidly. Cash, savings and temporary cash investments dropped from about $6.6 million in 2012 to $5 million in 2015.

The college’s total assets rose in that time frame from $126.7 million to $134.6 million. But most of that growth came from land, buildings and equipment, which rose from $96.8 million to $106.3 million. In the event of a cash crunch, those assets are only good if someone is willing to buy them.

Pastoor was not the president for the bulk of that time -- he was only hired during the spring semester of 2015.

Outside experts said not enough time has passed for the president to have put drastic changes in place and fix Saint Joseph’s financial situation. Still, they said it had to be clear that the college was in trouble.

“It should have been clear to them for a long time that this is a bad situation,” said Karen Goldstein, an independent consultant with George K. Baum & Co. and former vice president for finance at several institutions. “It’s hard for me to imagine that nobody knew about it.”

White, the history professor, said he’s backed cost cutting for years.

“For the last five years, I’ve been telling whoever would listen that we should cut,” he said. “At least consider what I call a plan B of cutting out this. And I’ve always been told there is no plan B.”

Instead, documents show the college wanted to grow. The college had recently embarked on a strategic planning process and created an operational plan for 2016-20. That plan called for adding students by growing undergraduate programs, developing new online and certificate programs, and expanding and developing new graduate programs. By the fall of 2020, the hope was for 490 additional students from those efforts.

The college also hoped to raise a cumulative $21.5 million by 2020.

An assessment of weaknesses in the document points to a “culture of information hoarding” and fluctuating enrollment. It notes that incoming first-year enrollments have fluctuated between 249 and 216 in recent years.

The assessment reads like a list of the challenges facing many small, private liberal arts institutions.

“The college’s financial resources are currently limited due to its heavy dependence on tuition revenue coupled with an endowment that is inadequate for its size,” it says.

“The college is also challenged by outdated residence halls, insufficient dining and student center spaces, poorly maintained infrastructure, and dated, inefficient classrooms,” it says.

Changing Just in Time? Or Too Little, Too Late?

The furor over Saint Joseph’s plan to suspend operations and re-engineer itself contains echoes of the near shutdown of Sweet Briar College in rural Virginia. Sweet Briar’s previous board moved to close the all-women liberal arts college in March 2015 because of a difficult financial environment and enrollment projections. But alumnae resisted and won an agreement to keep the college open under new leadership -- although it had all but closed by the time new leaders took over.

Many higher education leaders believe that closing an institution while it still has resources to pay for the expensive shut-down process can be the right move. It allows institutions to pay faculty members severance and help students find new colleges.

But a debate still rages about Sweet Briar. The jury is still out on whether that institution will be viable in the long term.

“I think the survival of Sweet Briar has fueled hope among some vulnerable colleges that alumni won’t allow their beloved alma mater to close,” said Merrill P. Schwartz, senior vice president for AGB Consulting. “But every situation is different, and I would caution that Sweet Briar’s success may not translate to institutions with less affluent alumni or a less distinctive mission.”

Closing with cash on hand sounds easy in principle. But it’s harder on the ground as employees lose their jobs, students lose their place of study and alumni watch the home of their memories placed under lock and key. The question becomes when to pull the plug.

Faculty at Saint Joseph’s are worried about losing their health care benefits if cash dries up, said White, the Saint Joseph’s history professor. They worry that all the terms of their contracts won’t be fulfilled. Nontenured faculty had received letters of nonrenewal saying their contractual obligations will be honored, but those with tenure had yet to receive letters as of Wednesday.

Others wondered what Saint Joseph’s plan to reopen would mean for students’ loans. Federal loans can be forgiven in some circumstances when a student’s college closes when they are enrolled or shortly after they withdraw.

And many are left wondering if alumni could have found money to allow Saint Joseph’s to retool without suspending operations. The short period of time between the presidential appeal in January and the decision to close didn’t allow for fund-raising, said Jackie Bradway, a 1995 graduate who is on the board of the college’s official Alumni Association.

“The swiftness of what has transpired over the last few weeks is what shocks us,” she said. “We weren’t given the chance to go out to our alumni and try and get that money.”

Administration and FinanceEditorial Tags: Business issuesImage Source: Saint Joseph's CollegeIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0

Program management market expands to the boot camp space

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/10/2017 - 08:00

The rise of coding boot camps is creating a new market for companies that help colleges break into the business.

The growth in online education at public and private nonprofit institutions created what has been come to be known as online program management (OPM) providers -- a term that encompasses companies such 2U, Academic Partnerships and iDesign, but also divisions of larger education companies such as Pearson and Wiley. Central to many of them is that they offer marketing, enrollment, instructional design and student support services to colleges looking to offer fully online degree programs.

Now a new market segment is materializing. Call it “continuing education program management.”

Start-ups not affiliated with universities -- think companies such as Flatiron School, General Assembly and dozens of others -- already have a head start in the boot camp space. But the market is still developing, and the companies working with colleges to launch their own boot camps say higher education, with its tradition of offering continuing education, is well positioned to capture market share.

“The boot camp space doesn’t have to be owned by Silicon Valley-backed companies,” said Todd Zipper, CEO of the Learning House. “It could easily be brought to you by Ohio State University.”

Learning House has since its founding in 2001 established itself as an OPM provider that mainly works with small- and medium-size colleges. In 2015, the company made two acquisitions: Acatar, an education platform the company said would make it more competitive among prestigious universities, and the Software Guild, a boot camp provider.

Since then, Learning House has signed partnerships with five institutions to build online boot camps: Baker University, Kent State University, Oregon State University, the University of Georgia and Wichita State University (the Software Guild also had an existing partnership with Concordia University St. Paul). Some of them, like Baker, already have boot camps up and running, while others have begun marketing and intend to enroll their first students later this year.

“The Learning House is in the business of translating curricula from face-to-face to online, so we saw an opportunity there,” Zipper said about the company’s expansion into the boot camp business. He added that he views boot camps as a “logical extension” for colleges as well, given their history of teaching computer science.

Trilogy Education Services works exclusively in this market. The start-up is younger -- it launched its first class in fall 2015 -- but its list of clients already includes 18 universities, among them Northwestern University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of California, Berkeley. About 10 of them have boot camps up and running.

Unlike Learning House, Trilogy focuses on boot camps where education is delivered mostly face-to-face. Its boot camp at the University of Texas at Austin, for example, meets three times a week -- three hours each on Tuesdays and Thursdays and four hours on Saturdays -- for six months.

“I thought that if we could combine the best of what higher education institutions provide and the format and some of the best practices of boot camps, we could have a very powerful combination,” Dan Sommer, CEO and founder of Trilogy, said in an interview. “Historically continuing education has been a center of innovation at many institutions -- a place where there’s a lot of focus on meeting the needs of industry. There are certain areas where we at Trilogy believe we can supplement and support [them].”

Of course, not all colleges are choosing to partner with companies such as Learning House and Trilogy. Some, like Northeastern University, have launched boot camps on their own. Northeastern now offers its Level boot camp in five different locations in the U.S. and Canada.

Baker University, a private Methodist institution located southwest of Kansas City, Kans., was not in a position to go it alone, said Jacob Bucher, dean of the School of Professional and Graduate Studies. The college, which enrolls slightly under 3,000 students, turned to the Software Guild mainly for help with finding qualified instructors to teach programming in Java and .NET. The boot camp enrolled its first students last fall.

“We didn’t at the time have the faculty to launch a full-on coding bachelor’s degree,” Bucher said in an interview. “With higher education accreditation standards, it’s hard to find faculty -- especially locally, because there’s a lot of money to be made in the private sector.”

The university is exploring additional ways to offer credentials other than college credit, and is considering additional programs to add to its boot camp lineup, Bucher said.

“We’re trying to find ways to deliver Baker education and meet the needs of our working adults and industry,” Bucher said. “Boot camps are one option.”

Several independent boot camps market their programs to potential students with money-back guarantees tied to job placement. Many states prohibit that practice, however, though it is in some cases unclear how the bans apply to boot camps.

Mindful of those rules, the colleges launching boot camps and the companies helping them are steering clear of making guarantees.

“We try to avoid making those claims and guarantees at all cost,” Zipper said, but added, “talking to people about results is a different thing.”

Similarly, Sommer said, money-back guarantees are “not something we need to do nor desire to do. If we’re providing a great service to students, we’re priced right and we’re delivering good results to students, that’s not an area of differentiation that we’re focused on.”

Awarding college credit to students who finish the boot camp programs could be a differentiating factor, but Sommer and Zipper said that idea has only reached the discussion stage at this point. Since boot camps typically attract working professionals either looking to add to their skill set or make a career change, colleges aren’t prioritizing awarding college credit.

“We’re not trying to force the issue, because we know we can make the model work without it, but we think over time it can open them up to a substantially larger buyer base,” Zipper said.

That audience -- working professionals -- presents a lucrative opportunity for colleges. Boot camp programs are normally priced between $10,000 and $15,000, and students generally pay the entire sum themselves. Baker’s program is priced at $8,500, but it is set to increase to $10,000, Bucher said. The university offers a $500 discount for alumni.

As with OPM providers, the companies helping colleges build boot camps normally pay for start-up costs and recover their investments through tuition revenue-sharing deals. Sommer declined to say how big a share of the tuition revenue Trilogy keeps, but he described the agreements the company makes with colleges as “extremely equitable.” Bucher said the university keeps less than half of the tuition revenue generated by its partnership with the Software Guild.

Editorial Tags: Business issuesTechnologyIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0

Iowa lawmakers push bill to severely restrict collective bargaining for public campus employees

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/10/2017 - 08:00

Academics in Iowa are fighting proposed legislation they say will ravage their unions, with negative consequences for the institutions as a whole. Observers say it looks like Wisconsin's union takedown all over again.

“Republicans said they were just going to tweak a couple things in the legislation on collective bargaining, but this isn’t tweaking -- they produced a bill that was nearly 70 pages long and completely gutted it,” said Joe Gorton, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Northern Iowa and president of its longstanding faculty union.

“We won’t be able to negotiate on evaluation, we won’t be able to negotiate on reductions in force or staff cuts or grievance procedures or health insurance -- all these things are all the table,” Gorton said of the potential impact of Iowa’s HSB 84.

Indeed, the bill specifically prohibits contract negotiations over insurance, leaves of absence for political activities, supplemental pay, transfer procedures, performance evaluations (for faculty members and other employees), procedures for staff reduction, grievance procedures for resolving questions arising under the agreement, and any employment “advantage” based on seniority.

Applicable to all employees except those in public safety, the bill also limits mandatory topics for negotiation to “base wages,” saying that pay increases shall be no more than 3 percent or the local consumer price index -- whichever is lower. Unions would have to be recertified by election prior to the end of every collective bargaining agreement in a two-thirds vote by all members, not just voting members -- a major effort, and at the union's expense. And the governor could reject agreements, even those agreed upon by employees and institutions.

Beyond concerns about faculty members’ collective bargaining rights, Gorton said he wondered how the bill would affect the university’s ability to recruit and retain top faculty as the only public university in Iowa with collective bargaining for professors. A recent union survey of its members found that 82 percent would consider leaving the university, either by seeking employment elsewhere or retiring early, if they lose the right to bargain collectively with Iowa’s Board of Regents. Some 97 percent of faculty members said collective bargaining was important for morale.

A number of members wrote in comments comparing the bill to controversial legislation that severely limited public-sector employees in Wisconsin, in 2011. Here are some examples:

  • I am a Wisconsinite, so start with Wisconsin as cautionary tale … it appears that Iowa wants to follow its brother to the north in an ill-considered race to the bottom.
  • I hope that the legislators can learn from the example of Wisconsin that what they thought would remove sources of unneeded cost to the state actually kept costs down, compared to what universities need to do now to attract good faculty.
  • We are already paid less comparing to other equivalent institutions. Having a union was one of the pluses for me to accept the offer from [Northern Iowa].
  • Collective bargaining was a major factor in my decision to make a career at [the university].

Northern Iowa's faculty union stands alone, but some professors at the University of Iowa publicly expressed interest in forming a union there in 2015, following a controversial presidential appointment. There are also other unions for higher education workers in the state, such as the graduate student assistant union at the University of Iowa affiliated with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. That union describes the bill as "horrible" and is asking members to fight, including by testifying against it at a Monday hearing in Des Moines.

"Iowa Republicans have launched a full-scale, Wisconsin-style attack against public sector unions and public education," union leaders said in a memo for members. "These bills would kill collective bargaining and unions in Iowa."

Gorton said his campus is still recovering from its own period of bad blood between the faculty and administration, over the university’s decision to discontinue nearly one-fifth of the university’s academic programs and close the laboratory school without consulting the faculty.

The new legislation in Iowa comes on the heels of a controversial bill to eliminate tenure at state institutions. But unlike that effort, which is increasingly unpopular -- and which the regents have opposed -- there appears to be broad support for the one limiting collective bargaining. It was introduced just this week but already has passed procedural votes in both the state House and Senate. The latter flipped to GOP control in November.

Republicans have said the bill is about giving employers more flexibility, including that to terminate poor performers and reward good ones. State Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig and chairman of the Senate's labor committee, still acknowledged some comparison to Wisconsin, however, the Associated Press reported.

"There are a lot of similarities, and it's because although our issues are not what Wisconsin's are in degree, they are similar. Therefore the solutions are going to be similar," he said. "But to the matter of degree, we are not Wisconsin and we approach this from a different direction."

In Wisconsin, legislation limiting unions was followed up by what many have called a legislative "gutting" of tenure protections for faculty members at public institutions. Public faculty members in Ohio staved off lawmakers' attempt to effectively end collective bargaining for most professors in 2015, in part by partnering with other unions in the state. The Iowa faculty union is embracing a similar strategy.

Gorton said efforts to limit tenure and collective bargaining for faculty members -- whether in Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin or Missouri, where tenure is also being challenged -- were part of the same agenda to "devalue" public higher education.

"Public higher education in 50 years is not going to look like it did 50 years ago, and that's a problem for you and for me," Gorton said.

David Vanness, an associate professor of health population sciences at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who vocally opposed changes to tenure policies there, said he thought Iowa's "version of Act 10" -- as Wisconsin's blow to collective bargaining was known -- is that limiting bargaining to "small" increases in wages "would drastically limit faculty union power, and together with recertification could certainly harm membership."

What's happening in Iowa "certainly does seem familiar," he added.

Editorial Tags: Unions/unionizationImage Source: University of Northern IowaIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0

Editors discuss new volume on the many fictional portrayals of higher education

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/10/2017 - 08:00

Think about fictional portrayals of higher education, and the work of David Lodge or Jane Smiley or Randall Jarrell might come to mind.

But fiction about American higher education goes back quite a bit further. Fanshawe, an 1828 work by Nathaniel Hawthorne, may be the earliest example. The novel features the president of Harley College (a fictional institution likely based on Hawthorne’s alma mater, Bowdoin College). These days, fictional portrayals of higher education are not just in novels or films but in video games, comic books and more. Throughout, American higher education has frequently been mocked, and the images of academics have contributed to anti-intellectualism, according to a new book.

Anti-Intellectual Representations of American Colleges and Universities: Fictional Higher Education (Palgrave Macmillan) includes essays on a range of genres, issues and periods. The editors are Barbara F. Tobolowsky, associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Texas at Arlington, and Pauline J. Reynolds, associate professor of higher education in the Graduate Department of Leadership and Counseling at the University of Redlands. They responded via email to questions, sometimes answering together and sometimes offering individual reflections (indicated in the answers that follow by their initials).

Q: Much previous analysis of fictional portrayals of higher education has been about novels or films. Your collection includes comic books and video games. Why did you cast a wider net?

BT: Our impetus for the scope of this book is based on two assumptions. First, that society, in general, seems to hold anti-intellectual beliefs. And, second, that media reflects and informs the public’s worldview. We thought it was important to test these assumptions, so we invited authors to investigate the representation of higher education in a wide range of media. If each medium portrayed higher education in similar terms, it might help explain why these beliefs are so pervasive.

PR: Also, representations of higher education do occur across media more broadly so we wanted to make sure that the book itself represented the multiplicity and breadth of this messaging. Comic books and video games, as older and newer media respectively, may reach differing audiences, and we think it’s important to examine the ubiquity of higher education depictions across forms.

Q: As you look at various genres, are there some that are more accurate and others less accurate when it comes to portraying higher education?

BT: I wouldn’t say that any genre is more “truthful.” The more two-dimensional the portrayal, the less accurate it becomes regardless of the medium. In fact, there are elements of truth in all of them. Stereotypes always contain a bit of truth, which is why they persist.

PR: Naturally, though, intended audience and the experience/identity of creators influence the portrayal of academia or college life. So a novel written by a faculty member will probably differ in narrative focus from a comic book written by a college graduate.

Q: Much of American society (outside of the genres you discuss) is arguably anti-intellectual. Do you think the fictional portrayals reflect that anti-intellectualism or are part of the reason for it?

BT/PR: Both.

BT: Gabriel Weimann in Communicating Unreality (2000) explored the concept of “cultivation,” which argues that repeated and consistent depictions over time both reflect and inform public views. The thinking is that people pay attention to (watch/read) what they like and agree with. So, it is likely that popular entertainments reflect the views of the audience to some extent. When these views are expressed over time and in a range of media, they become impossible for all viewers/players/readers to avoid even if some members of the audience have yet to form an opinion. This makes the representations very powerful -- and instructive.

Q: The television show Community was originally a subject of concern for many community college leaders, but some of them came to embrace it. Can popular culture change attitudes about parts of higher education (such as community colleges) that are frequently ignored by the mainstream press?

BT: Cultivation theory is based on the idea that the more someone watches a police procedural television show, for instance, the more that viewer integrates the ideas conveyed in the series to their own understanding of the world. There has been a body of research that connects popular culture with attitudes and behaviors. Pauline and I and the other authors believe this is equally true about the higher education depiction. For instance, television has been credited with affecting students’ major choice. One recent example of this is how the success of the CSI franchise has led to an uptick in students majoring in criminology and criminal justice. However, it isn’t a new phenomenon. In the past, the applications to law school increased during the heyday of L.A. Law. We contend that if there are positive depictions of college life, students, institutional types, majors, Greek life and academics, this can affect not only individual behaviors, but the state support of our public institutions as well.

Q: In recent portrayals of higher education (and of faculty members in particular) are there one or two that were particularly damaging? One or two that may have been closer to the truth and helped people understand higher education?

BT: Our work did not look at the effects of these images. However, the prevalence of these negative views may contribute to recent challenges to higher education such as debates regarding the purpose of higher education (public good or private benefit), the cost of higher education, tenure and so forth. Specifically, Felicity did a good job in the first season dealing with real college issues such as the transition to college and financial aid. However, there are very few examples among all the media that promote positive images of intellectual work. A few of the video games and comic books did value scholarship, but this was not a consistent message in even these media.

Q: If you could pitch a television network or film producer on a fictional higher ed story that might do some good, what plot would you propose?

PR: I’d pitch a show or movie that depicted diverse representations of faculty and students. There are far, far too few representations of people of color and women as faculty. And as students, racially diverse cast members are more often relegated to the role of best friend or supporting cast member unless they are part of an ensemble cast such as Community. I’m really looking forward to seeing how new BET show The Quad represents an HBCU, its students, faculty, admin and staff.

BT: I think any film or television series that didn’t rely on stereotypes would go a long way to change the narrative. If faculty were focused not just on getting tenure at the expense of students; if students and faculty valued learning; if students would not be measured by their looks and social connections at the expense of their minds, then these depictions would benefit the public in terms of their view of higher education and society, in general. However, as cultivation theory states, it will take many stories over time to truly have an effect.

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Colleges announce commencement speakers

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/10/2017 - 08:00
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Appeals court keeps Trump's travel ban halted

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/10/2017 - 08:00

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday to keep in place a temporary restraining order barring the Trump administration from enforcing an executive order banning entry into the U.S. for nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which came in a lawsuit filed by the states of Washington and Minnesota, is a defeat for the Trump administration, which is expected to appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel specifically said that Washington State and Minnesota had legal standing to challenge the travel ban in part because of the impact on students and faculty members at public universities. The decision said that the states "allege that the teaching and research missions of their universities are harmed by the executive order's effect on their faculty and students who are nationals of the seven affected countries. These students and faculty cannot travel for research, academic collaboration, or for personal reasons, and their families abroad cannot visit. Some have been stranded outside the country, unable to return to the universities at all. The schools cannot consider attractive student candidates and cannot hire faculty from the seven affected countries, which they have done in the past."

The court specifically cited concerns raised by the University of Washington and Washington State University. "According to declarations filed by the states, for example, two visiting scholars who had planned to spend time at Washington State University were not permitted to enter the United States; one was informed he would be unable to obtain a visa. Similarly, the University of Washington was in the process of sponsoring three prospective employees from countries covered by the executive order for visas; it had made plans for their arrival beginning in February 2017, but they have been unable to enter the United States. The University of Washington also sponsored two medicine and science interns who have been prevented by the executive order from coming to the University of Washington. The University of Washington has already incurred the costs of visa applications for those interns and will lose its investment if they are not admitted. Both schools have a mission of 'global engagement' and rely on such visiting students, scholars and faculty to advance their educational goals."

"The interests of the states’ universities here are aligned with their students," the decision said. "The students’ educational success is 'inextricably bound up' in the universities’ capacity to teach them. And the universities’ reputations depend on the success of their professors’ research. Thus, as the operators of state universities, the states may assert not only their own rights to the extent affected by the executive order but may also assert the rights of their students and faculty members."

The executive order, signed by President Trump Jan. 27, temporarily barred entry to the U.S. by nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and also suspended all refugee admissions. Under the terms of the temporary restraining order, which the appeals court left in place, the government has suspended all enforcement actions related to the ban, and travel by individuals from the affected countries into the U.S. has, for now, resumed.

In denying the Trump administration's request to overturn the restraining order, the court found that the federal government had not shown it was likely to prevail on appeal in regards to the states' claim that the ban violates due process rights of individuals from the affected countries. And while reserving judgment on the states' claims that the ban violates the Establishment and Equal Protection clauses of the Constitution "because it was intended to disfavor Muslims," the court nevertheless noted the "serious nature of the allegations the states have raised with respect to their religious discrimination claims."

The court also noted that the Trump administration, which cited the need to bar the entry of terrorists as the reason for the order, "has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States. Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the executive order, the government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all. We disagree."

Many higher education groups and leaders spoke out against the entry ban, which among other things threatened to disrupt international student admissions by halting all visa processing from the seven countries for at least 90 days. Many in higher education see the ban as contradictory to core values of higher education like inclusiveness and internationalism.

At the University of Washington, the ruling was seen as something to celebrate.

Appeals court unanimously rules against Trump travel ban https://t.co/bRzO5TICoB via @seattletimes | Happy to support ALL #UWComm students

— UW Communication (@UWComm) February 9, 2017

Trump, who has justified the order as necessary to prevent terrorists from entering the U.S., had a different reaction.


— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2017 Editorial Tags: Adaptive learningImmigrationIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0

Baylor not alone in shielding athletes accused of misconduct from punishment

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 08:00

In 2009, a Pennsylvania State University football player was accused of sexual assault. The player was told to report to the university’s Office of Student Conduct for an interview. As he sat down with student conduct officials, according to a report released last year by the US. Department of Education, the player had one question:

“Does football know I’m here?”

The question was not unusual, according to the department’s report. While overshadowed by the scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach who was convicted in 2012 of 45 counts of child abuse, Penn State’s football program for years sought to shield football players from the university’s student conduct office. Former head coach Joe Paterno “repeatedly resisted” attempts to discipline his athletes through the typical campus process, university officials told the Education Department. The result was that some athletes thought they had a “license to break the rules.”

The scenario mirrors some of the incidents detailed in a court document -- filed last week by three of members of Baylor University’s Board of Regents -- that describes how Baylor’s former head football coach allegedly covered up sexual assaults and other misconduct by his players. Similar complaints were included in a lawsuit filed against the University of Tennessee at Knoxville last year, in which eight women alleged that athletes accused of sexual assault were given preferential treatment in the student conduct process.

Likewise, it evokes the 2012 allegations that officials at Florida State University covered up sexual assault complaints against its star quarterback. And the recent allegations at the University of Richmond, where one student says the basketball player she accused of assault avoided punishment because “athletics was breathing down [the] neck” of student conduct officials. And the similar allegations made in September about a football player at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“This is an issue across the country, and we’ve seen it for a long time,” said Brenda Tracy, a victims’ advocate and member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence. “Athletics already exist in a silo, and football coaches and athletic directors have always preferred taking care of these sorts of things in-house.”

‘Special Rules for People With Special Talents’

In May, Baylor’s Board of Regents asked the university’s president to resign and fired the head football coach over allegations that they had continuously mishandled -- and covered up -- sexual assaults committed by football players and other students.

Pepper Hamilton, a law firm the university hired to investigate how it has handled allegations of sexual assault, presented a lengthy oral report to the board, which placed blame on the university’s president, athletics director and football coaching staff. The extent to which the head football coach, Art Briles, and his staff covered up complaints of sexual violence and other misconduct has not been entirely clear, as the university declined to release a detailed report about Pepper Hamilton’s investigation.

But last month, a student filed a lawsuit against the university alleging that at least 31 football players committed 52 rapes while Briles was coach. Last week, three Baylor regents filed their response to a defamation lawsuit brought against them by the university’s former director of football operations, Colin Shillinglaw. In that filing, the regents included a series of text messages that they argue demonstrate how the “football program was a black hole into which reports of misconduct such as drug use, physical assault, domestic violence, brandishing of guns, indecent exposure and academic fraud disappeared.”

Among the incidents included in the filing is a description of how Briles and his staff handled allegations that a defensive end on the team physically abused his former girlfriend. She filed a report with local police, according to court documents, and provided the report to Shillinglaw and two assistant coaches. There was no evidence, the regents stated, of the report ever being shared outside the athletic department.

In April 2013, a female volleyball player told her coach that she was gang-raped by five Baylor football players in 2012. The volleyball coach shared the names of the players with Briles, who, according to the filing, replied, “Those are some bad dudes. Why was she around those guys?” The female athlete’s mother later met with an assistant football coach, providing the same list of names. Nobody ever reported the alleged gang rape to any university officials outside the athletic department or to police. At the time, Baylor did not have a full-time Title IX coordinator.

Ian McCaw, the university’s athletic director at the time, was notified of the 2012 gang rape, but allegedly -- and incorrectly -- told the volleyball coach that if his player did not press charges, then the athletic department could do nothing.

In a 2013 text message conversation between McCaw and Briles, McCaw was informed about a player who had been arrested for assaulting and threatening to kill another student. A football staff member attempted to talk the victim out of pressing criminal charges, Briles texted, and local police agreed to keep the incident out of public view. “That would be great if they kept it quiet,” McCaw replied, according to the court filing.

McCaw resigned from Baylor in May after being sanctioned by the university. In November, Liberty University hired him as its new athletics director.

“Mr. McCaw was faced with a complex situation wherein he desired to honor the wishes of the alleged victim, who was unwilling to speak to the police, according to her coach, and a request from her coach for guidance as to where he should go with information he had obtained in 2013 about this incident,” Tom Brandt, McCaw’s lawyer, said in a statement released Friday by Liberty. “Mr. McCaw responsibly directed the head coach to the Office of Judicial Affairs, which handles student conduct matters and was the appropriate venue to take such an allegation.”

Liberty declined to comment on the 2013 text message conversation. When first asked in November why Liberty would hire McCaw after the scandal at Baylor, the university said McCaw “is a godly man of excellent character.”

Three other Baylor football staffers have found work elsewhere since leaving the university after the scandal came to light. Kendal Briles, the team’s former offensive coordinator and son of the former head coach, was hired in the same position at Florida Atlantic University in December. The university defended the hire, with Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic’s head football coach, saying, “I don’t think because you’re on the staff and there’s an issue going on that no one has said you’re directly involved in, that it should follow you.”

Since then, Kendal Briles was specifically named in connection to the scandal. In the lawsuit filed by a female Baylor student last month, the younger Briles was accused of contributing to the culture at Baylor by luring recruits to the team with promises of attractive female college students. “Do you like white women?” Kendal Briles allegedly said to one recruit. “Because we have a lot of them at Baylor, and they love football players.”

When asked this week about the new allegations, a Florida Atlantic spokesman said Kiffin’s earlier “statement still stands, and the university does not comment on issues at other universities or any related litigation.”

The recent court filings also detail instances where Baylor’s athletic department reached out to local lawyers on behalf of football players accused of sexual violence and other crimes. The lawsuit filed against the University of Tennessee last year made similar allegations, including that accused athletes -- and no other students -- were provided with a list of sympathetic lawyers, many of them athletic boosters. As part of that lawsuit’s settlement, the university agreed to no longer provide the list of lawyers to athletes, and it created a commission that will re-examine its hearing processes for bias.

The lawsuit described Tennessee as showing a “deliberate indifference to known sexual assaults so as to create a hostile sexual environment.” The university settled the lawsuit in July for $2.48 million.

The report released in November about Penn State, which was written by the Education Department to summarize an investigation into the university violating the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, included several other examples of the university offering favorable treatment to athletes accused of violence. Football players at Penn State, the department stated, were led “to believe that there were special rules for people with special talents.”

In 2002, a Penn State football player was accused of sexual assault and was suspended for two semesters. Unbeknownst to the student conduct officials who suspended the student, according to the Education Department, the player was still allowed to travel with the team and play in the Capital One Bowl that year. In numerous other cases, “athletic department and football program officials questioned the nature or severity of sanctions imposed for various offenses.” One such case involved a football player who was suspended after he was accused of forcing a woman into a bathroom and sexually assaulting her.

“You know you want this,” the player allegedly said, holding the bathroom door shut as the woman fought to open it. “I’m a football player. You know you want this.”

In 2007, a group of Penn State football players broke into an apartment to confront a man who had reportedly disrespected a teammate, leading to what witnesses described as a brawl. After hearing about the incident, Paterno, the former head coach, sent an email through his personal assistant to the president and athletic director, saying, “I want to make sure everyone understands that the discipline of the players involved will be handled by me as soon as I am comfortable that I understand all the facts.” Later, when one of the players failed to appear for a meeting about the incident with a student conduct official, the athlete said that Paterno had told his players that if they visited the student conduct office, they would be “thrown off the team.”

Penn State said in a statement in November that it has since improved its procedures for addressing sexual assault and other misconduct involving athletes.

“While regrettably we cannot change the past, today the university has been recognized for significantly strengthening our programs since 2011,” the university said. “The safety and security of our university community is a top priority.”

The NCAA’s Response

The Big 12 Conference, of which Baylor is a member, announced on Wednesday that it would withhold 25 percent of future revenue distributed to Baylor, pending a review of the university’s sexual misconduct processes. The NCAA has not announced whether it will take any similar action.

Currently, the association does not have any rules related specifically to sexual misconduct of athletes. After its largely failed attempt to punish Penn State over Sandusky’s abuse, according to several sports law experts, the association is likely wary of sanctioning any more institutions over issues outside its official purview. In Baylor’s case, the association may have more of a say -- if it can establish that football players were receiving special treatment not available to other students.

The NCAA waded into similarly sordid waters last year when it charged the University of Louisville with four rules violations after a former men’s basketball assistant paid an escort service to provide strip shows and sex for recruits and other players.

“The Baylor case is certainly closer to the NCAA’s traditional jurisdiction than Penn State ever was,” said Josephine Potuto, a law professor at the University of Nebraska and a former member of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions. “It fits within the current bylaw structure if whatever was going on was special to athletes. There would be an underlying violation related to providing extra benefits to athletes. It’s an ill fit, but it does fit.”

It’s an ill fit, Potuto explained, “because ‘extra benefits’ is just a terrible way to describe this behavior. The NCAA will need something more specific than that if they want to continue in this area.” The NCAA has indicated that it might, in the future, be willing to take a larger role in punishing sports programs when their teams and athletic departments interfere with sexual misconduct investigations.

In July 2014, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, released a report suggesting that more than 20 percent of institutions allow their athletic departments to oversee sexual assault cases. McCaskill called the finding “borderline outrageous.” And in a Senate hearing that week, Mark Emmert, the NCAA’s president, promised he would raise the issue with the association’s members.

Later that year, the NCAA released a handbook instructing colleges on how best to prevent and respond to sexual assaults involving athletes, and adopted a resolution telling athletic departments not to interfere with such investigations. The guidelines are not enforceable rules, however, and since the handbook’s release, several institutions have been accused of allowing their athletic departments to influence disciplinary decisions for athletes accused of sexual violence.

During a discussion on college sports issues at the Aspen Institute in September, Emmert admitted that the guidelines had been ineffective at some institutions, despite strong support for the handbook and resolution among the association’s members.

“We passed that unanimously, promulgated it, continued to talk about the issue, and then we had a series of very high-profile issues happen yet again over the past, even, just six months,” Emmert said. “It’s pretty shocking to me personally when you see universities not understanding what that relationship should be.”

The NCAA recently formed a new committee to explore the possibility of creating rules that would allow the association to punish colleges that do not follow the 2014 resolution. The decision came after 170,000 people signed a petition created by Brenda Tracy, the victims’ advocate, and her son that asked the NCAA to ban any athletes who have committed violent crimes.

In 1998, Tracy reported being gang-raped by football players while attending a party at Oregon State University. The Oregon State players were punished with a one-game suspension and 25 hours of community service. The players’ coach at the time, Mike Riley, called the two men “really good guys who made a bad choice.” Since 2014, Tracy has visited college campuses to speak to football players about sexual assault, including recently meeting with the team at the University of Nebraska, where Riley now coaches.

Earlier this year, Tracy and Oregon State’s president persuaded the Pac-12 conference to adopt new rules barring programs from offering scholarships to athletes who have been kicked off another team for assault and harassment. The Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 have also adopted similar policies.

Tracy has since become a member of the NCAA’s Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence. The commission has not drafted any legislation yet, she said, though “the discussion is moving in that direction.”

“In many cases, athletes are committing sexual violence against other athletes,” Tracy said. “The NCAA has a large population of athletes who are survivors. These are women and other athletes who feel betrayed by the organization. I feel like the NCAA has an obligation to protect its membership.”

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Satirical higher ed social media accounts go serious in wake of Trump election

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 08:00

Academics are keen observers of the absurd in their professional lives -- or so their many ironic, often gallows-humor social media accounts suggest. From jokes about students not reading the syllabus or the pain of peer review to Mark Wahlberg-inspired research memes, their posts bring smiles and eye rolls. Yet in recent weeks, a number of these often anonymous accounts have taken a serious turn, speaking out against the policies of the Trump administration thus far.

“I simply couldn't make a joke of what's going on politically, and I think having an academic response is important,” the faculty member who tweets as @AcademicBatgirl said in an interview. The tenured professor, an American teaching at a Canadian university, used to share posts mostly about things such as postholiday “writing amnesia” (not knowing what the hell one’s manuscript is about after too much time away), or the neurosis of the academic creative process. But lately, she’s been posting more things like this:

Dr ABG calls this #alternativedata #alternativefacts #resist pic.twitter.com/zGvvmFbg7v

— Dr Academic Batgirl (@AcademicBatgirl) February 6, 2017

I haven't seen anyone call Trump what he is: a eugenicist. @NickKristof explains why (w/o the E word, so I said it). https://t.co/131DwfmbuY

— Dr Academic Batgirl (@AcademicBatgirl) January 26, 2017

She also partially outed herself with this tweet, in response to Trump’s reported missive ordering White House staffers to “dress like women.”

“I can't ignore the problems that are now escalated given the political situation,” she said. “I couldn't rightly speak for all academics, or give voice to colleagues. Rather, I just want to be courageous enough to say something. I think not saying something would be irresponsible.”

A nearly tenured professor at a public college in the South started his anonymous Twitter account, @ProfessorJaded, several years ago as something of an experiment -- to create a literary character and test out story lines. The handle has become more of what he described as “a blended synthesis of my own experiences and snarky quotes, which I would never say aloud in a normal setting,” however.

“The daily grind, ridiculous questions that would annoy me, different aspects of work that I found ridiculous each continued to serve as my inspiration to keep the Twitter account alive,” he added in a Twitter message. Here some representative examples:

I'm not your parent …
I don't care about why you're not here any more than you care about why I might miss a day.
Just get it together.

— Professor Jaded (@ProfessorJaded) February 6, 2017

Tough day?
Always remember that it's never too early in the semester to cry under your desk, grieve your lost choices, or rethink your life.

— Professor Jaded (@ProfessorJaded) February 1, 2017

The account developed a following based on its observations of academic life, and for that reason, among professional ones, Professor Jaded kept politics out of it -- until now. Recent events “became too much for me to keep my hedgerow between academics and state,” he said. Trump’s “oblivious approach to higher education isn't just discouraging -- it’s infuriating. His obsession with image makes even the vainest college administrator look like a humble beggar.”

Professor Jaded has criticized Trump’s controversial immigration ban as well as his nomination of philanthropist Betsy DeVos for education secretary (and her infamous reference to guns as a necessary tool for schools to fight off grizzlies).

I had a student from Syria who's working toward a degree and saving money to bring his family to the US. Thanks for keeping me safe, T-Rump.

— Professor Jaded (@ProfessorJaded) January 29, 2017

The shear turnout of the #WomensMarchOnWashington #WomensMarch is the only thing that could have made me feel better about yesterday …

— Professor Jaded (@ProfessorJaded) January 21, 2017

Another social media humorist known as Lego Grad Student usually tells of the trials and tribulations of graduate school through the tiny, painted-on eyes of his popular character. His elaborate Lego tableaux, posted on Twitter and elsewhere, can be dark -- hinting at the psychological toll graduate school can take, for example -- but they used to always be somehow lighthearted.

Yet the graduate student behind the handle, at a West Coast research university, was so affected by the 2016 election that he was “compelled” to express how he felt, he said via email.

“On the morning of Election Day, I had made the flag post to remind people simply to vote,” he said. “That night, once the election was effectively over, I was trying to process how I felt and was even writing a short essay about it, but I just couldn't capture what was going on in my head. Almost instinctively, I turned to that flag I had made and broke it apart, having it crush the grad student underneath.”

It said more than words could, so he posted it, along with several follow-ups.


— Lego Grad Student (@legogradstudent) November 9, 2016

Some things have broken and cannot be fixed any time soon.

But no matter what, we have to move forward, stay focused, and keep trying. pic.twitter.com/XwO2Vbxp6p

— Lego Grad Student (@legogradstudent) November 13, 2016

Like others mentioned here, Lego Grad Student has continued making humorous posts alongside political ones. He also found a way to combine efforts, parodying in a series of nonvisual posts his recent dissertation defense and things heard and seen on the campaign trail.

Committee member: "How'd you get such strong results?"

Me: "I just grabbed them by the p-value. When you're a scholar, they let you do it."

— Lego Grad Student (@legogradstudent) December 15, 2016

Committee member: "Regardless of how you got your data or did the analyses, your conclusions simply don't foll--"

Me: "WRONG."#phdprotips

— Lego Grad Student (@legogradstudent) December 15, 2016

Over all, said Lego Grad Student, “my posts have been a combination of my processing my personal frustrations, trying to remind others that they are not alone, and helping other students wrestle with their own feelings. The more of a positive response I got from people, the more politically charged I think my posts might have become.”

Like your commentary in Legos? The plastic female scientists at @LegoAcademics had this to say about the immigration ban:

The ban undermines the collaborative ideals science and destroys our community. Academics: support your colleagues, students, friends. pic.twitter.com/M0Yjd6ZBMn

— Lego Academics (@LegoAcademics) January 30, 2017

Here are a few more pointed contributions from other accounts:

Still watching the news pic.twitter.com/necqBpLWJ6

— Academic Pain (@AcademicPain) January 25, 2017

RIP: The American Presidency (1789-2017)

— Anonymous Professor (@anonymousprofs) January 20, 2017

We hope it won't take 4 years before we resume regular programming. We'd prefer snarky tweets abt admin, colleagues, & students to tyranny.

— Oh the irony (@IronyPhD) January 26, 2017

You know how parents get super-upset when someone hurts their kid?

That's how America feels about the GOP confirming DeVos. We won't forget

— Professor Snarky (@ProfSnarky) February 7, 2017

Professors and students have also flocked to Shit Academics Say (@AcademicsSay on Twitter) over the years to laugh and cringe at various professorisms and obtuse academese, like this classic:

I am currently out of the office but will nonetheless reply immediately due to self-regulation inefficiency & a profound inability to say no

— Shit Academics Say (@AcademicsSay) December 21, 2016

The account, managed by Nathan C. Hall, an associate professor of education and counseling psychology at McGill University in Canada, has always had something of a serious side, offering readers various notes on motivation or messages of support in between the satire. But it’s become more serious lately, too, with posts linking to a searchable index of academics worldwide providing logistical support to scientists unable to enter the U.S. due to travel restrictions, for example, and news about the upcoming March for Science.

"Scientists do not believe in building walls. Rather the opposite: science is about human collaboration to benefit mankind" @MiguelNicolelis

— Shit Academics Say (@AcademicsSay) January 31, 2017

It's not activism. It's critical thinking in action.

— Shit Academics Say (@AcademicsSay) January 30, 2017

When research is subversive and teaching is protest, learning is hope. Never stop learning.

— Shit Academics Say (@AcademicsSay) February 1, 2017

Hall said that after taking a recent hiatus from his account, and hearing stories about students unable to attend conferences over the border, U.S. colleagues losing qualified student applicants and more, it became clear that “not providing encouragement or resources to academics who are increasingly struggling with challenges to academic freedom and mental health due to the recent dramatic shift in U.S. politics was not something I could easily justify.”

Given his background in psychology and having developed @AcademicsSay in part to raise awareness of well-being in higher education, he added, “it felt disingenuous to avoid discussion of these issues for fear of being criticized as a non-American interloper or going partisan for the sake of retweets.” Although it would be easier to stay silent or stick to the sarcastic script for which the account is known, he said, “the very real flip side is leaving an increasingly large community of struggling academics behind and shirking the responsibility of giving back that comes with social media influence.”

Certainly not all humorous higher ed accounts have gone serious since the election. But the trend toward the political raises questions about the role of the academic in what some have called a “resistance.”

One of the faculty members behind @anonymousprofs said it was important to weigh in. “Perhaps the choir of dissenters might convince those who get Jedi mind tricked that Trump is going to make a sovereign country pay for a wall between our two countries that they should vote for someone else -- anyone else -- four years from now,” he said.

Hall said because he’s already used Shit Academics Say to draw attention to online threats to academic freedom or the “underbelly” of academic publishing, it seems “unethical and self-serving for me to sit out this latest fight when a quick tweet or Facebook post can make a difference, either by informing my audience of ongoing developments and avenues for engagement, or just sharing a smile.”

He added, “If I can help my community feel a bit more hopeful, happy or validated, I think it's worth it.”

Lego Grad Student said he never had any intent to get into politics, because he didn't want to alienate people or "sell" them something they didn't sign up for. But, now, he said, “I can’t help but feel that we've entered new territory where I simply felt irresponsible staying silent or acting as if it didn't matter.” And while he’s for the most part “preaching to the choir,” he added, “I am generally speaking to issues and events which I believe should be broadly seen as negative, and I think it is important to help people remember that they aren't alone, and to help maintain their attention to what is going on.”

As have others since the election (including fans of rogue U.S. National Park Service Twitter accounts), Academic Batgirl recalled Martin Niemöller’s statement that begins, “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak up.”

As academics, she said, “we have a responsibility to speak up in times of despair. … As a woman, I must speak up. As an academic and a woman, I absolutely must speak up.”

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International graduate student applications grow, but at slower pace

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 08:00

More international students continue to apply to and enroll in U.S. graduate institutions, though not at the rapid pace seen in recent years, according to a report released Thursday by the Council of Graduate Schools.

Application and enrollment rates did increase, but the rates of growth have slowed from last year -- down to 1 percent (from 3 percent in 2015) for applications and remaining constant at 5 percent for enrollment. Although the 5 percent enrollment growth rate is the same as 2015, both are down from the two previous cycles, which saw rates of growth of 10 percent in 2013 and 8 percent in 2014.

The annual International Graduate Applications and Enrollment report evaluated data collected from surveys last fall of nearly 400 participating U.S. graduate institutions. The surveys have been conducted every year since 2004. This year, the council collected data on students' degree objectives, regions of origin, eight major countries of origin and 11 fields of study.

China and India are still contributing the most first-time international graduate students by country, at 36 percent and 27 percent, respectively. But enrollment for Chinese graduate students remained flat this year over last, and it declined for India by 7 percent.

Compared to last year, enrollment from the Middle East and North Africa dropped by 11 percent -- 13 percent from Saudi Arabia by itself -- and from Brazil by 9 percent.

Over all, international graduate students make up 25 percent of first-time graduate student enrollment, based on data from universities that participated in the survey.

“International students continue to be a vital part of U.S. graduate education,” said Hironao Okahana, the report's author and assistant vice president of research and policy analysis for the Council of Graduate Schools.

Okahana called the 5 percent enrollment increase a “healthy” rate of growth and praised the milestone of international students reaching one-quarter of those enrolled in master’s and doctoral programs for the first time.

“We hope these trends will continue and doors for U.S. graduate education remain open for both domestic students and international students,” Okahana said.

In light of two recent major political events -- the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the 2016 U.S. presidential election -- it’s quite possible next year’s report could reflect a break in years of international students increasingly vying to study in the United States, Okahana said, though it’s still too early to predict exactly what changes may occur.

“There are several factors that seem to drive international student mobility into coming to the United States,” he said. “Political climate is a factor. It’s not the factor, but it’s a factor.” He cited the strength of the economy and job markets of both the U.S. and students’ home countries as other important considerations.

But more significant than Brexit and the election of President Trump, Okahana said, is the executive order Trump signed on Jan. 27, which temporarily barred immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Africa (before the order was suspended by a federal judge Feb. 3).

Beyond the prospective students living in those seven countries, others may interpret the order as a sign that the U.S. does not welcome foreign students or that their countries could at some point join the list.

“Certainly the executive order, this particular one, will put enormous uncertainty on visa holders, particularly those from the affected countries,” Okahana said. “I personally would not be surprised if this is weighing heavily in prospective students’ mind, or even current students who are already in the country.”

Because the survey was administered between Sept. 25 and Oct. 31, neither Trump’s election victory nor the executive order are captured in the report released Thursday, but Okahana said the Council of Graduate Schools will monitor the numbers closely over the next application and admission cycle.

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Q&A with author of book about black male students

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 08:00

College is often a transformational time for students, filled with challenges, uncertainty and self-discovery. For black male students, these challenges can be even more daunting. That’s what Derrick R. Brooms tries to capture in his new book, Being Black, Being Male on Campus (SUNY Press), which explores the experiences of 40 black, male college students trying to navigate social, academic and cultural life on campus.

Brooms, associate professor of sociology at the University of Louisville, wanted to shift the narrative about black men in educational settings by writing about their lived experiences rather than retention and graduates rates. The discussion surrounding black, college-going men today is predominately negative -- the media and broader public give more attention to the “disinterested, disengaged black male” than the one who performs and achieves at or above average. And those latter scenarios are often depicted as rare success stories.

The author, a black man who was once a college student himself, wrote this book in hopes of allowing the 40 men to tell their stories and, in the process, reveal what it’s really like to be black and male on an American college campus.

Brooms spent almost three years interviewing 40 students from two unnamed public universities. Some attended a predominantly white institution in the rural Midwest where black students make up about 15 percent of the 10,000 students on campus. The others attended college in the South, at a larger metropolitan research university where black students account for 11 percent of the student body.

Through one-on-one interviews, focus groups and surveys, Brooms learned about the men’s early influences, aspirations and how they fit into the larger college experience. Each chapter of the book is peppered with anecdotes Brooms collected during the interviews, revealing honest, complex and emotional reflections.

Inside Higher Ed recently asked Brooms about the book. His emailed responses are below.

Q: Much of your book draws from the experiences of 40 black men whom you interviewed in depth. Why did you decide to take this narrative approach in chronicling the experience of black men in college?

A: This approach was taken to highlight their voices as a measure to assess and understand their experiences from the men’s point of view. I believe that if we are to understand the men’s experiences, then we must make space for them to express and make meaning from their experiences. This perspective is even much more necessary given the ways in which black men have been diminished and denigrated in wider society, in educational discourse and in educational institutions in particular. Much of what we learn about ourselves is offered to us through the messages we receive from and the interactions we have in social institutions. Given the importance placed on schooling and educational attainment, we must do more to understand how black students experience schools and how institutions act on them.

Importantly, much has been said about black males in the educational pipeline and, all too often, negative portrayals and deficit narratives accost them and their efforts at every turn throughout the K-20 pipeline. Additionally, we constantly hear that black males are in “trouble” and in need of “saving,” and we also hear that they are not serious or they do not care about school. Much of this narrative uses and depends on statistics to make a case about achievement gaps. That is, one might argue that if we simply looked at the numbers then we could determine who is doing well and who is not. But educational experiences across the K-20 pipeline are no simple matter. All too often, the onus of black males’ performance is placed at their feet, as if their experiences are not impacted by school faculty and staff and by institutions -- as well as other environmental, ecological and sociopolitical factors ….

Thus, we have a critical need to listen to and learn from black men, and other students of color, as they attempt to navigate and negotiate their time in college. Quite often, black men’s voices are left to the sideline. If we are serious about understanding the experiences of these and other students, and if we are serious about improving their schooling experiences, then we must begin with them as creators of knowledge about their own lives and experiences.

I see this work as being written with these 40 black men, as opposed to me writing about them ….

Q: How do your own experiences as a black, male college student compare to the ones represented in your book?

A: I see many of my own experiences with those of the black men represented in this book. I attended the University of Chicago (’96) for college and had a myriad of experiences, both positive and negative. Overwhelmingly, my positive experiences outweigh my negative experiences. Still, all of my experiences inform my teaching praxis, service (both on and off campus), and research. Quite easily, I can recount instances in college in which my intellectual acumen was denigrated and questioned simultaneously; I experienced racial harassment, racial slurs and disparaging remarks on and around campus; and I experienced racism in and out of the classroom. There were a number of individuals who seemingly wanted to make it quite clear that I didn’t “deserve” to be at the university -- or, more accurately, that I didn’t deserve to be at “their” institution.

What mattered most in my experiences were relationships that I developed with peers, faculty and staff who cared about me, supported me academically and personally, and who wanted me to succeed. These individuals mattered a great deal in how I experienced college. Additionally, it mattered that I was able to connect with and engage in a variety of organizations on campus that helped support my efforts as well. Thus, as I think about the students that I teach, work with, learn from, serve and support, I think about their possibilities in addition to their strengths and assets.

Q: Based on your own college years and what you learned from the 40 subjects in the story, how has the campus experience for black men evolved in the last few decades?

A: As has been seen by recent events across college campuses, our students tell us that although much progress has been made, there is still a great deal of work to do to make educational opportunities more equitable for students of color. In particular, I’m thinking about the recent #BlackOnCampus movement and the My Culture Is Not a Costume campaign, along with the alterations and discontinuing support for various programs of study such as bans on Mexican-American studies, defunding (or underfunding) of ethnic studies programs, and cuts to black studies programs, to name a few. Here, I wish to note that many of the issues and struggles highlighted impact black male students and other students of color alike.

In recent years, we have witnessed our students develop a much sharper analysis of their college experiences, which has been bolstered by their learning from the past. Much of what students shared during the past few years eerily resemble experiences of black students on white campuses from decades ago: hostility, isolation, alienation, racism and micro- and macroaggressions. Black male students continue to highlight campus environments that are hostile to their presence and disturb their sense of belonging. They continue to recount separate and segregated college campuses -- even as efforts for “diversity” have increased dramatically over the past two decades. They highlight how they feel unsupported by many of their peers, faculty, staff and administrators, which often repositions them as “outsiders” on campus. As a result, as the students in my study offered, they often are in a state of limbo in trying to find their place on campus where they believe they (can and do) belong, where they feel valued and that they matter, and where they feel that they can succeed.

An important component of their experiences are their abilities to achieve and succeed in spite of, not because of, the campus environment or obstacles that they faced. This finding reveals the assets and strengths, resilience, and motivation that the men bring with them to campus, which they invariably rely on to “make it through” college ….

Q: All the students you interviewed attend historically white institutions. This affected how they were treated, what was expected of them and how comfortable they felt on campus. What can and should be done to alleviate the pressure and isolation of feeling “like you’re really, really, really a minority” on campus, as one student put it?

A: The challenges that students of color face on white campuses require that we think differently about college and the impact of the campus climate (institutional history, structures and policies as well as programs and opportunities, perceptions and attitudes of campus, and external sociopolitical and political economic context). Without a doubt, campus climate affects what students experience on campus, how they experience their time on campus and their efforts for success. Education scholars such as Jacqueline Fleming, Walter Allen, Edgar Epps, Sylvia Hurtado, Sam Museus and others have provided us with data on institutional culture and climate, frames for understanding students’ experiences, and made a number of recommendations for improving college campuses for students of color. Additionally, the work of James Earl Davis, Terrell Strayhorn, T. Elon Dancy, J. Luke Wood, William A. Smith, Shaun Harper and many others has been instrumental in illuminating how black men experience college in these college environments. As I reflect on their research in conjunction with my own work and findings from this study, I believe there are a number of things that colleges can do to alleviate undue pressures and isolation that students feel and experience.

First and foremost, I believe that student voices must be at the heart of improving campus environments. We must consult with students about their experiences and their needs so that any programs that are developed keep them as a focal point. Whatever we do for students but without students is against students. Second, I believe that improving campus climate takes a collective effort, spanning the gamut of administrators, faculty and staff members. We cannot afford to pass off these efforts to a single office on campus (e.g., office of diversity) or a single point person (e.g., diversity officer). Campus climate affects all students; thus, all members of the campus community should be charged with contributing to improving how all students across various social identities experience campus. Third, I strongly encourage colleges and universities to move beyond compositional diversity and make greater efforts toward inclusion. Diversity has become rhetoric and a buzzword that too many colleges tout as an achievement. Instead of diversity, I encourage college administrators to focus on inclusion; instead of a diversity plan, colleges need to establish and intently pursue inclusion and equity plans. Here, colleges must provide specific and strategic resources to ensure that all students are provided with opportunities to perform at their highest abilities. Creating an inclusive campus climate must be an institutional effort that occurs in both in-class and out-of-class settings. Building an inclusive campus requires that faculty and staff members are invested in inclusion; we must move away from what Jeff Duncan-Andrade calls “hokey hope” and instead be much more intentional in our efforts to create and sustain inclusion on our campuses ….

Finally, I strongly encourage administrators and other stakeholders to stop viewing instances of hostility and racism as isolated incidents on campus. Such a perspective continues to diminish and marginalize students’ experiences and allows for students to be otherized on campus. At the same time, we also cannot allow our students’ struggles to be “learning opportunities” for the campus. We have mounds of data from as far back as we care to look that recount many of the challenges that our students face. Colleges and universities must do more to improve equity and build inclusive campus environments. We need to move from being reactive to proactive so that we take intentional steps toward improving our college campuses so that all of our students can thrive, excel and pursue their goals.

Q: Explain to readers the Black Male Initiative program. For many students featured in your book, BMI was an integral part of their overall college experience. Why does this program work so well? How can BMI be expanded or improved?

A: Black Male Initiative programs are male-centered programs primarily designed to increase the retention and graduation of black male students. These programs have boomed across colleges and universities over the past two decades. Many of these programs consist of both academic and social components intended to provide support and resources for black men on campus. Academically, the programs help support students’ in-class experiences through formal and informal mentoring, tutoring, student-led study sessions and workshops and activities that have an academic focus. Socially, the programs offer opportunities for black men to connect on campus, learn from each other, engage in social activities and support each other in their social and personal lives. Thus, across both domains, the programs can help black men establish a “community” on campus that supports their efforts in multiple ways.

For the men in my study, BMI was an integral part of their overall college experience, and they identified the program as a significant space for their academic and personal development and growth. The men gave primacy to the peer relationships that they developed through their engagement in the program, which helped alleviate feelings of isolation and alienation. Instead of feeling alone, the men interpreted BMI as a communal space where they could be supported. Additionally, given the challenges that many of the men faced, they also identified BMI as a counterspace on campus, which helped them resist some of the hostility that they experienced. This counterspace was critical, as they were able to share experiences and learn from each other ways to negotiate and navigate the college more effectively. Additionally, BMI helped reduce the size of the campus and helped them put their experiences within a broader perspective. Within BMI, the men expressed that they had a community to lean on and learn from, which helped bolster their academic efforts and their persistence. Some of the men intensely expressed that BMI helped them gain or further their sense of purpose on campus.

Importantly, how the men made meaning of their BMI experiences was situated within their own needs, goals and desires. What their engagement and meaning making from BMI reveal is the need for multifaceted and multidimensional efforts to enhance their collegiate experiences. The men identified BMI staff as key institutional agents who they believed were invested in their success. Their beliefs that these staff members, as well as BMI members and a handful of faculty and staff, cared about them and wanted them to succeed helped strengthen their resolve to be resilient and persist. These findings amplify the importance of relationships and support in these black men’s college experiences.

BMI programs can be expanded and improved through greater institutional efforts to support these programs. In my assessment of the programs in this study as well as several others, BMI programs are understaffed and underresourced. Unfortunately, and not necessarily surprisingly, too many BMI programs have one staff member or budgets that defy logic of being called a budget! At one institution in the study, a single staff member served as an adviser, program coordinator, coach, advocate and mentor (both formal and informal) to all of the students engaged in the program. This type of structure does not sufficiently meet students’ needs, and it can undermine the possibilities and longevity of BMI staff members as well. Additionally, given the range of student needs, more resources are required to support their college matriculation. I argue that BMI programs cannot be posited as one-stop shops where supposedly all of these students’ needs can be met. BMI programs must be positioned to work in conjunction with other offices on campus and must include faculty involvement as well. Student affairs and academic affairs, especially at the institutions included in my study, have a long way to go in working collectively and collaboratively to support these students. At the same time, in thinking about faculty of color in particular (several of whom were identified by students in the study), our colleges and universities must do more to support and appreciate the various roles that they play on our campuses. We cannot ask more of faculty of color while continuing to underappreciate the multiple levels of service they provide to and the multiple roles they play for our students and campuses. And when we think about faculty involvement in BMI-type programs, we need faculty support from a range of backgrounds, disciplines and social identities.

Finally, I also believe, as the students shared as well, that our administrators must do more to support BMI programs. Students want to see administrators’ support through their actions and their presence. Students want more than administrators saying that they care; in fact, students interpret care through actions and behaviors. The mere existence of a BMI-type program is not enough. Just as improving campus climate takes an all-inclusive effort, improving the collegiate experiences of black men requires inclusive and holistic efforts.

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Paper says it is time for publishers to punish tardy journal editors

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 08:00

Editors of academic journals should be investigated for “professional negligence” if peer review at their publications takes too long, says a leading critic of the scholarly publishing industry.

Despite many editors being unpaid or poorly remunerated for their work, plant scientist Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva believes they “should be held accountable” if authors are made to wait for an “excessive or unreasonable amount of time” before a decision is made on their research.

Writing in Publishing Research Quarterly, Teixeira da Silva, formerly of Japan’s Kagawa University, says keeping authors in limbo for months or even years causes great stress to academics and damages their careers by delaying publication.

However, editors face little accountability, censure or punishment for subjecting scholars to unnecessary delays, says the paper, written with Judit Dobranszki from Hungary’s University of Debrecen, titled, “Excessively long editorial decisions and excessively long publication times by journals: causes, risks, consequences and proposed solutions.”

Studies show that peer review had taken as long as three years, while, in some extreme cases, authors had waited up to eight years after their manuscripts were accepted to see their work published, the paper says.

Peer review involving original research should take no longer than five to eight months and initial proposals to editors should be answered within two weeks, suggest the two scholars.

Journals should clearly state when authors should expect feedback and publishers should pressure “peers to respect deadlines … and blacklist those peers who … exceed deadlines,” say the authors.

In the case of “exceptional delays,” unless “formal and sincere apologies” are offered to the authors, editors should be “removed from the editor board or even [face] an ethical inquiry at the editor’s research institute,” they recommend.

“Victims of a lack of professionalism” who face long delays should also be “offered additional rights, including the right of challenge or the right to suggest the formal removal of an editor from their post, without fear of retribution or retaliation,” they add.

The paper follows several run-ins between Teixeira da Silva and publishers over his claims they had unnecessarily delayed publication of his work. He was banned from submitting work to journals published by Taylor & Francis in 2015 over “continuing challenges” to their procedures, as well as “inflammatory language,” according to the website Retraction Watch.

Speaking to Times Higher Education, Teixeira da Silva explained his frustration at publishing delays, particularly when papers had already been accepted for publication.

For instance, a journal paper he had written about Donald Trump remained unpublished, despite being accepted by an online journal well before the U.S. election, he said.

However, he acknowledged that the disciplinary approaches laid out in his article may backfire if they alienate academics from accepting peer review posts, which are largely unpaid.

Instead, more root-and-branch change is needed to make publishing more professional, which might include paying peer reviewers, he suggested.

“Banning, reprimanding, cutting and punishing [would] lead, ultimately, to a sense of bad feeling and bitterness, at least by one party,” he said, adding, “you cut your peer pool by eliminating potentially important peers.”

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Pulse podcast features interview about Memorang

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 08:00

This month’s edition of the Pulse podcast features an interview with Yermie Cohen, co-founder and CEO of Memorang, a free digital study tool for students.

In the discussion with the Pulse's host, Rodney B. Murray, Cohen describes how students can prepare for exams with the company's premade flash cards and quizzes, and how Memorang works with publishers and authors to develop its content.

The Pulse is Inside Higher Ed’s monthly technology podcast, produced by Murray, executive director of the office of academic technology at University of the Sciences.

Find out more, and listen to past Pulse podcasts, here.

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Study sees gender gaps in Ph.D. programs, by discipline and prestige

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 08:00

Women earn 60 percent of baccalaureate degrees and 46 percent of doctoral degrees, excluding professional programs, according to 2015 data from the National Science Foundation, yet they’re still underrepresented in many disciplines. Why? A new study points to segregation by gender based on field of study and what it calls program prestige.

“Prestige segregation is weaker than field segregation but substantively important,” the paper asserts. “On average, between 11 and 13 percent of female doctoral students would need to ‘trade’ programs with men in order to eliminate prestige segregation.”

Averaged across all fields and adjusting for field segregation, men are overrepresented in the most elite programs by a factor of 1.06. But overrepresentation in many fields is substantially higher, according to the study, with the most segregated field, mathematics, approaching a male overrepresentation factor of 1.5. “A 6 percent male advantage in elite representation in the average program, up to a 50 percent advantage in some especially prestige-segregated fields, is a nontrivial gender disparity,” the paper says.

Beyond prestige segregation -- measured using program rankings by the National Research Council -- the paper suggests that field segregation in doctoral education is pronounced, follows a similar pattern as segregation at the undergraduate level and is strongly associated with field-level skills -- namely math and language.

“Close to two-thirds of the net association between gender and field is captured by a five-category measure of math skills,” the paper says. “This disparity could, of course, reflect differences in the student populations (primarily undergraduate vs. exclusively graduate), in the measures of skill, or in modeling strategies. If there is indeed more skill-based gender segregation in graduate education than in undergraduate education, the sources of these disparities warrant further research.”

“Degrees of Difference: Gender Segregation of U.S. Doctorates by Field and Program Prestige” was written by Kim A. Weeden, Jan Rock Zubrow ’77 Professor of the Social Sciences and chair of sociology at Cornell University; Sarah Thébaud, assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara; and Dafna Gelbgiser, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for the Study of Inequality at Cornell. It was published this week in Sociological Science.

Using program-level data on earned doctorates from 2003-14 from the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and the research council's 1995 rankings of doctoral programs, the study’s authors awarded each program an absolute and relative prestige score. Institution type was also considered, and gender ratios for each field were calculated.

Comparing the math and verbal skills of the 41 research council fields with the average 2008 math and verbal Graduate Record Examination scores of test takers intending to go to graduate school in a given field of study, the authors constructed categorical variables differentiating five skill groups.

Eventually they matched most of the 3,271 programs ranked by the research council to the 5,132 programs listed in IPEDS as granted degrees in council research fields. Last, they cross-classified arrays of field, program prestige and gender from the merged data.

The authors were unsurprised to see that gender segregation by field in doctoral education is extensive, with men or women overrepresented in the average field by a factor of 2.12, and a third of male or female doctorates needing to change their disciplines for men and women to receive the same percentage of Ph.D.s in all fields.

Prestige segregation was weaker, but still “substantively significant,” according to the paper. Some 12 percent of male or female doctorates would need to change programs to achieve full integration, it says, with men or women overrepresented by a factor of 1.29.

Assessing the relationship between field segregation and skills via various models, the authors found that 65 percent of disciplinary imbalances by gender are associated with math skills, as measured by GRE scores, which were lower on average for women. The association for verbal skills was just 19 percent.

Regarding prestige segregation, the authors’ analysis suggests that men are overrepresented in programs in the top three deciles but especially in the top decile. Women’s representation, meanwhile, “increases toward the middle of the prestige distribution, reaching its peak among ranked programs in the 71-80th percentile bucket.”

Men’s representation increases again in the bottom two prestige groups, but not to the same extent as male overrepresentation in the top two decile groups.

In another model, men were overrepresented in the top prestige groups, while women’s representation increased as ranking declined.

Looking at both program and cross-disciplinary difference by gender, math skills account for about 15 percent of the total field-level variation in the strength of prestige segregation, the paper says, while verbal skill shift effects account for about 22 percent. So field-level skills “contribute only modestly to observed differences in the strength of prestige segregation.”

Discipline by discipline, another model showed that women are underrepresented in the highest-prestige programs in most, but not all, fields. Top-decile programs are male dominated in 27 of the 41 research council-ranked fields, female dominated in four fields -- Spanish, biomedical engineering, materials engineering and geography -- and gender neutral in the remaining 10 fields.

Male overrepresentation in the top decile programs is particularly strong in economics, in which men are overrepresented by a factor of 1.27, and mathematics, where men are overrepresented by a factor of 1.48.

The authors don’t claim to know why they observed what they did, but they do explore whether their findings are consistent with various social phenomena: self-selection of Ph.D. students based on observed ability, self-selection based on self-assessed ability, self-selection based on prestige-linked program attributes, prestige-linked admissions decisions by the programs themselves, and gender-specific attrition.

“The overrepresentation of men in the highest-prestige programs is broadly consistent with all of the posited mechanisms at the point of admissions,” the paper says. But men’s overrepresentation “in the top programs -- and the absence of strong skill-based variation across fields in this pattern -- is more consistent with self-selection based on perceived ability, at least under the assumption that there is a generalized cultural belief that men are better at all higher cognitive tasks, not just math-related tasks.”

Regardless of its source, the authors say, “the basic pattern of prestige segregation will be familiar to students of gender inequality: women are underrepresented among graduates of programs that most often lead to the higher-paying, higher-prestige jobs. This pattern has obvious implications for efforts to address gender inequality in the [science, technology, math and engineering] work force, including academia. Indeed, representatives of elite STEM departments have long claimed that a barrier to diversifying the faculty is the shortage of women and minority Ph.D.s from status-equivalent institutions.”

Results show that in most fields, the tacit assumption -- that elite Ph.D. pipelines are more male dominated than average Ph.D. pipelines -- "is on the mark," the authors argue. So from a policy perspective, "efforts to diversify the faculty at elite research institutions must be complemented by efforts to reduce prestige segregation at the doctoral level."

As far as further research, the paper suggests that the “near-exclusive focus in the theoretical literature on the social psychological, macroinstitutional and cultural antecedents of segregation might usefully be supplemented with attention to the organizational antecedents of segregation.” More than that, it says, fields of study do not capture “all the ways that men and women’s experiences in higher education, even within a given education level, differ.” Program prestige is just one structural issue with potentially important consequences for gender inequality.

Weeden reiterated via email that the data don’t tell why women are underrepresented in high-prestige programs, but again speculated that women could be self-selecting out of applying to the elite programs, “whether because -- on average -- they tend to score lower on the math GRE, because at a given level of observed ability (e.g., a given score on the GRE) they tend to underestimate their own ability, or because they have different sets of constraints on them than men when it comes to choosing a Ph.D. program.”

At the same time, she said, admissions committees could be selecting men and women differently and making decisions about whom to admit partly based on their own ranking. If there’s a broader lesson within the paper, she added, “it’s that we need to pay more attention to departments as the organizational actors that are making admissions decisions -- a perspective that tends to get lost in much of the research on gender in higher education.”

Cultural beliefs about gender and aptitude are deep-seated and hard to change, so what can be done? Weeden said that if women are selecting out of the applicant pools at elite programs, “one possible point of intervention is the undergraduate advisers, who can encourage their most talented female students to apply to elite programs.” Elite programs can also help by making sure that their admissions processes “don’t overlook talented women who may not rise to the very top on GRE scores, but who show exceptional promise on less easily ranked dimensions,” she added.

Catherine Hill, director of research for the American Association of University Women, said the paper's conclusions are in line many of the association's, especially about how women may self-select for careers based on flawed assessments of their abilities. "Over all, male students overestimate their skills while female students underestimate their skills relative to objective indicators of competence," she said. "Both men and women miss the mark when it comes to self-evaluation. These kinds of errors can result in missed opportunities, wasted time and poor choices."

The article recalls experiences described by Sara Hottinger, interim dean of arts and humanities and professor of women’s and gender studies at Keene State College, in her recent book, Inventing the Mathematician: Gender, Race and Our Cultural Understanding of Mathematics. Among other anecdotes, Hottinger describes self-selecting out of a mathematics graduate program, despite having an aptitude for the field.

She said the new paper poses questions about whether women are self-selecting out of high-prestige programs due to their perceptions of themselves — that they’re not capable enough — or due to the attributes of the top programs themselves; Hottinger didn’t like how competitive math could be, for example.

In high-prestige programs in quantitative fields, such as math and engineering, she said, it’s likely a combination of both. “Women may not necessarily see themselves as real mathematicians because we live in a culture that equates mathematical skill and success with masculinity,” she added. So women “might assume they are not skilled enough to get into the top programs or that they will ultimately be unsuccessful in those programs. It also may be the case that women who consider or visit these programs find the environment within the program itself unfriendly or unsupportive.”

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After Trump entry ban, Iranian students and scholars share their stories

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 08:00

An executive order barring entry to individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries signed by President Trump -- enforcement of which has been temporarily halted by a federal court -- has directly affected more than 17,000 international students and untold numbers of foreign-born scholars who have made their careers in the U.S., many of them former international students themselves.

The majority of the students directly affected -- more than 12,000 of them -- come from Iran, the 11th-leading country of origin for international students in the U.S., right after Mexico, according to data from the Institute of International Education. Under the executive order, students and scholars with most types of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas from the seven banned countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- were not required to leave the U.S., but those who happened to be outside the country at the time of its signing were not allowed to re-enter and those who left the U.S. would not be able to return as long as the ban remained in place. The executive order called for a ban of 90 days, but it is not clear if that would be extended.

With the restraining order in place, travel has resumed, but the situation remains changeable and subject to court decisions. Civil rights groups have criticized the ban as a pretext for barring the entry of Muslims, a step Trump called for at one point during the campaign. Trump has justified the executive order as a terrorism-fighting measure. "This is not about religion -- this is about terror and keeping our country safe," he said in a Jan. 29 statement.

“The president said multiple times that ‘this is not about religion -- this is about terror and keeping our country safe,’” said Shiva, an Iranian assistant professor of computer science at a Midwestern university who asked that her last name not be used. “It hit me really hard hearing those words. I was thinking about hundreds of Iranians that I know and have met in the U.S. that are all scholars at best universities or are working at the best tech companies. They are doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs …. How can someone link us to terror? It was unjustified in my mind.”

Shiva is one of a group of friends who created a Facebook page, “Your Nextdoor Iranian,” which shares personal stories from Iranians in the U.S. Many of the stories shared are from people who report getting their master’s or Ph.D. degrees at U.S. universities. According to data from the Institute of International Education, the majority of Iranian students in the U.S. -- more than three-quarters -- study at the graduate level, and the majority, again, more than three-quarters, are enrolled in STEM fields.

“The idea of the page came up instantly as a way to show Americans who Iranian people really are, at least those who are already living among them,” Shiva said. “We wanted to show we are humans with simple concerns of being able to visiting our families, or not being separated from our husbands and wives, being able to study where we deserve to be. We wanted to show how each one of us is contributing to this country and show how this ban is affecting each one of us.”

Shiva, who is in the U.S. on a work visa but has applied for a green card, shared her story of how the ban has affected her. “I came to the U.S. to attend a university for my master’s in computer science in 2009. I finished my master’s and my Ph.D. in July 2015. I then started a tenure-track assistant professor position in August 2015. As a junior faculty, I already have a lot on my plate, and while I have to focus on my research, this new order has introduced so many concerns for me. I have invested so much time and money in my future during the past seven years, and now I am worried that I have to move somewhere else and I have to start all over again. This is not easy. Staying here with this new immigration ban means not being able to attend any international conferences and not being able to see my family ever again. I had previously been working with Singapore and Finland on different research projects that I will not be able to continue since I am not able to travel.”

Other stories on the Facebook page include that of Samira Asgari, an Iranian national who holds a doctorate from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. She was initially barred from entering the U.S. to begin a postdoctoral position at a Harvard University laboratory focused on tuberculosis progression.

Asgari, who filed suit in federal court to contest her denial of entry, was refused permission to board U.S.-bound planes despite having a J-1 exchange visa issued on Jan. 27, the date the executive order was signed. According to the legal complaint, she is an expert in genomics, infectious diseases and computational biology, and her research involves “state-of-the-art sequencing technologies for finding the variants that confer susceptibility to infections, and in particular, pediatric infections.” She finally made it to Boston on Friday, six days after she first attempted to board a U.S.-bound flight.

Ali Rostami, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in computer engineering at Rutgers University, is also featured on the Facebook page.

“I spent last four years of my life to help developing driving safety systems for American people to get hurt less and American companies to make more profit. Even thinking about the fact that one out of every two Americans don’t want me here makes me sad. Not nervous, just sad,” he wrote.

“I’m sad because they don’t even know me, and yet they don’t want me here,” Rostami said in an email interview. “It’s called racism. I am getting punished because of something I never did. They don’t know what percentage of these seven countries’ citizens in the U.S. are contributing to the society and what percentage are engaging in unlawful activities. It’s sad, because when I was watching CNN on my flight to LA from NYC, I saw Americans responding to a question if they support the travel ban with ‘Yes. I feel much safer now in an airplane.’ We don’t deserve to be called terrorists. Statistics show zero terrorist incidents (at least after Sept. 11) by citizens of these seven countries. That’s where you find yourself discriminated, getting punished for a crime you (or your people) never committed. That makes you feel lonely. Treated unfair.”

Rostami said he knew when he left Iran he might not be able to visit his family because of the long time it takes to renew visas. But he thought his family could at least visit him in the U.S., “even if they have to go to a third country to do the interview at a U.S. embassy and wait for six to eight months for a tourist visa, if they could get one. Now, living in the U.S. feels like spending my life in a first-class prison.”

“Frankly, I think if they ever say we don’t want you (with continuing the ban), I’d simply say goodbye,” he said. “I’m confident that I’ll be fine finding a highly paid job in Europe.”

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