Higher Education News

Study suggests university incubators can hurt innovation, patent revenue

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

Business incubators are booming among universities lately, with many top research institutions establishing incubators and bragging about their ability to help move innovation out of the ivory tower and into the marketplace.

But new research published in the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal shows that university-affiliated incubators aren’t all they’re cracked up to be when it comes to at least one key metric of innovation -- patents. Incubators’ establishment is actually associated with a decrease in average patent quality and licensing revenue across the country’s top research institutions.

That doesn’t mean incubators over all saddle universities with a negative net impact, say the research’s authors, Baylor University Entrepreneurship Professor Peter G. Klein and University of Bath Innovation and Entrepreneurship Associate Professor Christos Kolympiris. Instead, they say, their findings show that universities may be changing their mind-sets and incurring hidden costs when they start business incubators.

The findings drew skepticism from leaders at university incubators and technology transfer offices, who argued that patents aren’t the only measure of innovation success at universities and incubators. Critics also pointed out that the findings do not necessarily hold true at all universities.

Klein and Kolympiris set out to examine the effect incubators have on U.S. research universities’ innovation quality -- universities emphasizing incubators may be tilting their philosophy away from long-run, high-level teaching and research, Klein said. Universities want their faculty members and students to perform research and get patents, he said. At the same time, universities are increasingly trying to become technology and entrepreneurship hubs, helping to turn those patents into viable businesses. Meanwhile, many are also struggling with funding and trying to supplement their budgets with revenue from patent licensing.

It’s hard to examine innovation quality, however, so Klein and Kolympiris decided to use patents as a measure of innovation quality. They first analyzed more than 55,000 patents granted from 1969 to 2012 at U.S. universities largely in the Association of American Universities, examining forward citations -- the number of times a patent is cited by subsequent patents. They also analyzed licensing income.

If incubators complement high-quality research on campuses, one would expect patent quality and licensing revenue to improve once incubators are established, Klein said. But the authors found the opposite to be true.

They found a drop in innovation quality follows the creation of university-affiliated incubators. Then they found a reduction in licensing income after incubators were established.

Those results suggest university incubators compete for resources with technology transfer offices, the authors wrote. It also suggests they compete for resources with other campus programs and activities.

“To be honest, we weren’t expecting to find the results we found,” Klein said. “We went into it thinking we would document more positive effects.”

The takeaway from the research is not necessarily that incubators are bad or that universities should not establish incubators, Klein said. It’s that a university may incur hidden costs when it changes its mind-set by establishing an incubator.

“We think commercialization is great,” Klein said. “I’m all about entrepreneurship and innovation, but I think we need to take a balanced perspective and realize that universities are complex coalitions of groups, and they have multiple objectives. It’s not always possible to be all things to all persons.”

Klein and Kolympiris had no way of observing the actual mechanisms involved in the changes they observed, Klein said. Klein’s sense from talking to those working in technology transfer departments is that the symptoms observed may be a case of split priorities.

“It’s not the incubator, per se, that is the driver,” he said. “That’s just a symptom of the university deciding, ‘We’re all about different things.’”

Universities, after all, do not have unlimited budgets. They may be able to raise funds for some new operations, but in many cases at least some money for incubators has to be diverted from somewhere else in an institution.

So university budgets are reallocated. Resources that might have gone toward research might be funneled to application.

The authors said that their report is a look at top research universities on the whole -- the situation could be very different on individual campuses.

“We’re saying that on average, this is the effect that we’ll find,” Kolympiris said. “It is possible that some universities will actually benefit from having an incubator. Quite a few would lose. The effect is the average effect.”

Questioning the Findings

University leaders involved in technology transfer offices and incubators disagreed with some of the study’s key premises. Brett Cornwell is executive director of Texas A&M Technology Commercialization, the technology transfer organization for the Texas A&M University System. It manages more than 900 patents.

Universities are all structured differently, so depending on a university’s organizational structure, there might be very little connection between funding, incubation activity and patenting decisions, Cornwell said. But he added that patents aren’t always a good proxy for innovations -- particularly where incubators are concerned.

In Cornwell’s experience, young and unsophisticated technology commercialization programs emphasize patenting. Institutions with more sophisticated activities, including incubators, are usually more selective in what they patent.

“When you talk about having incubators and accelerators, almost by definition that means the university is getting closer to the market, thinking about market pull,” Cornwell said. “That implies sophistication and sophisticated decision making about what you invest in and what you don’t invest in.”

Further, Cornwell questioned whether forward citations are always a marker of patent quality. The true quality of a patent is the value a company can derive from it, he said.

That value doesn’t necessarily show up in licensing income, either. Universities divide royalty monies between different parties like tech transfer offices and inventors. And incubation might lead to other benefits for a university, Cornwell said.

“At the end of the day, the university receives 35 percent of that top-line income,” Cornwell said. “What was interesting is the same companies that were licensing the same tech for us and were paying the royalties had done about five times more sponsored research.”

Economic development is an important part of many university incubators, according to Keith McGreggor, director of Georgia Tech’s VentureLab start-up incubator.

“The economic development angle, which is at least a part of the university spinning things out, is predicated on jobs created and tax bases for revenue generated by the companies that try to spin out and stay local in the state,” McGreggor said. “And that’s not the same thing as measuring the impact of patents that are created.”

McGreggor also wondered about equating income from patents to patent quality.

“If the university has a very progressive approach to pricing the intellectual property, say for the benefit of their own spinouts, then the measure of value of that wouldn’t necessarily be reflective of that spinout’s subsequent action,” he said

McGreggor said he feels no tension between research and incubation at Georgia Tech. He hasn’t seen a competition for resources.

“I don’t think this is a zero-sum game with respect to resources allocated,” McGreggor said. “I wonder how it will be when the entrepreneurship faculty encounter the technology licensing offices and the incubators, how that will change our landscape in coming years.”

Texas A&M and Georgia Tech were both included in the innovation study. But they’re not the only ones that pointed out incubators might have benefits beyond patents and royalties.

They can help recruit faculty and students, said Stacy Strauss, director of the Innovation Center at Ohio University (which is not an AAU member and was therefore not part of the study). “Students, if they know they have an opportunity for experiential learning outside the classroom, perhaps by being embedded within the staff of a biotech company -- that’s a way the university can attract and retain a higher-quality student,” Strauss said.

Klein and Kolympiris acknowledged those arguments. They are not saying incubators destroy value over all, Kolympiris said. Incubators can add many other forms of value, including prestige and connections to local communities.

The researchers freely admit that they are not measuring those other outcomes, Klein said.

“Maybe universities should have incubators, even if they have some possibly harmful effects on basic research,” Klein said. “If this research helps to begin a conversation or deepen ongoing conversations about these issues -- what is a university for, what should universities do -- we think that’s terrific.”

Editorial Tags: Business issuesIntellectual propertyImage Source: Baylor UniversityImage Caption: Peter Klein is a professor at Baylor University.Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0

Paying tuition with credit cards comes at a cost

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

It’s becoming more and more common for colleges to accept credit cards as a form of tuition payment, but college and university finance officials say there’s a cost to that convenience for students and families -- and it’s not worth it.

About 85 percent of public and private colleges accept credit cards for tuition, according to a 2016 survey by CreditCards.com. Of those, more than half -- 57 percent -- charge a service fee.

The fees vary, but the most common is 2.75 percent of the amount charged to the card, the same review found. So, for example, if a student owes $4,500 in tuition this semester and decides to pay with a card, that student would have to pay an additional $123.75.

Oftentimes when families pay tuition with a credit card, they’re doing it to rack up rewards points -- like frequent flier miles -- on their cards, said Ronald Ramsdell, founder of College Aid Consulting Services, which helps families reduce their out-of-pocket expenses for college tuition.

“That’s a mistake,” Ramsdell said. “[The fee] will not only wash out the benefits of a rewards program, but could cost even more than the value of that reward.”

At his company, financial consultants advise all their clients to find another form of payment. Not only does the service fee cancel out the airline or hotel points added to the card, Ramsdell said, credit cards make it too easy for families to go into debt. With high interest rates and the tempting option to sign up for more cards, families who go that route often fall behind on payments and end up with bad credit scores.

“Credit cards should be the last resort,” Ramsdell said. “You won’t come out ahead.”

College and university officials tend to agree. Thomas Schmidt, associate director for the University of Minnesota’s Office of Student Finance, said that for a long time, his office resisted accepting credit cards -- he considers it a “bad practice.” But eventually, the demand from students and parents became too high to ignore.

“When we instituted credit cards, we didn’t publicize at all that we were doing it. It wasn’t something that we wanted to promote,” Schmidt said. “It’s not a good idea. We don’t encourage people to do it.”

The university has tried to make the process as transparent as possible, Schmidt said. Before the tuition is charged to their cards, users will go through several screens that clearly state a fee of 2.75 percent will be tacked on to the payment. It also shows exactly how much that fee will add to their total cost. So if the student who owes $4,500 in tuition attends the University of Minnesota, he would clearly see -- before finalizing the payment -- that the amount charged to his credit card will be $4,623.75.

When they first added the option about 10 years ago, the credit card method was popular, Schmidt said, but before long, the numbers started to drop.

Today, credit card payments account for about 13 percent of all tuition transactions at the University of Minnesota, but they make up only about 5 percent of all tuition dollars paid. This means that many families who pay with credit cards are only charging a portion of the tuition to the card and paying the rest with other methods.

The University of Colorado in Boulder also accepts credit cards -- an option that became available about three years ago, according to Greg Atkins, director of the bursar’s office.

Throughout the payment process, Boulder’s website will stop and ask users twice if they want to accept the associated fee of 2.75 percent, Atkins said.

Because the fee is absorbed by a third-party processor, the university has nothing to gain from disguising the costs associated with credit cards. The website is clear and up front about the fee so families can make an informed decision, Atkins said.

“It’s a personal choice,” he said. “If a family wants to make a payment through a credit card, that’s up to them.”

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New presidents or provosts: Grand Rapids Holyoke Morris SAU Tech USC Upstate

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 08:00
  • Michelle Behr, provost, senior vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college at Birmingham-Southern College, in Alabama, has been named chancellor of the University of Minnesota, Morris.
  • Brendan Kelly, vice president for university advancement at University of West Florida, has been selected as chancellor of the University of South Carolina Upstate.
  • Jason Morrison, vice president for academic affairs at Carl Albert State College, in Oklahoma, has been appointed chancellor of Southern Arkansas University Tech.
  • Bill Pink, vice president and dean for work force development at Grand Rapids Community College, in Michigan, has been promoted to president there.
  • Christina Royal, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Inver Hills Community College, in Minnesota, has been named president of Holyoke Community College, in Massachusetts.
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DeVos confirmation squeaks through Senate

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

Betsy DeVos saw her nomination for education secretary clear its Senate hurdle Tuesday when Vice President Pence broke a 50-50 tie. Every Democrat and Independent and two Republicans opposed her nomination.

To many of the teachers' groups and other critics who protested, called and emailed their senators, the confirmation of the pro-charter school, pro-voucher Michigan billionaire was a blow to public education. But while most of the public debate about her nomination swirled around issues affecting K-12 public schools, it largely neglected the realm of higher education.

Observers of higher education policy said DeVos could have a significant effect in the short term by changing tack on Obama administration strategies that saw the department take on a bigger oversight role involving for-profit colleges and student loan servicers.

DeVos’s public image took a scouring during the confirmation process. After a rocky hearing on Capitol Hill in which she often looked unprepared or ill informed about questions of education law and policy, she was widely mocked on forums like Twitter and Saturday Night Live. Newspaper editorial boards across the country questioned her competence and qualifications for the job. And DeVos did nothing during the confirmation process to win over Democrats who were -- at best -- skeptical of her nomination since Donald Trump announced her as his pick to lead the Department of Education.

The contentiousness of the confirmation process has led some observers to question whether DeVos will begin her tenure as a weaker secretary. But Barmak Nassirian, the director of federal relations and policy analysis with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said Secretary DeVos’s credibility and effectiveness will be a direct function of her conduct on that job.

“You don’t want to be on Saturday Night Live being made fun of. That’s generally not a good way of building effectiveness,” he said. “It is possible to overcome those kinds of perceptions with impressive conduct and good administration of programs.”

Nassirian, a frequent critic of for-profit colleges, said it appears the Trump administration will be more sympathetic to that sector and the student loan servicing sector. The Obama administration introduced a number of regulations to step up accountability of for-profits that receive revenue from federal financial aid.

Those regulations, which the department pursued independently of any congressional mandate, came under frequent attack from Republicans in Congress. Whereas Obama's second secretary of education, John B. King Jr., made no bones about aggressive oversight of for-profits, it's likely the department will be less active in that role under DeVos. Jeff Andrade, a senior adviser with the McKeon Group who has previously worked at the department and for GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill, said DeVos would find power through the secretary’s bully pulpit to highlight problems that conservative critics have found with the department’s current approach.

“Most casual observers will take a look at the Obama administration’s position with respect to for-profits and come to the conclusion that a lot of it was bureaucratic and regulatory overreach,” he said. “A lot of it was done without congressional input, without congressional leadership and in many cases without a legislative mandate.”

Even after receiving intense scrutiny from Democrats, DeVos has made few policy commitments on issues like student loan policy and implementation of gainful employment rules or other oversight measures in the for-profit sector. But it’s likely that she will find more areas of agreement with Republican congressional leaders than did her Democratic predecessor, King.

DeVos said after her confirmation that she will be a tireless advocate for all children.

"I appreciate the Senate’s diligence, and I am eager to get to work," she said in a statement. "Partnering with students, parents, educators, state and local leaders, Congress, and all stakeholders, we will improve education options and outcomes across America."

GOP lawmakers have put rolling back the Obama administration's regulatory legacy at the top of their agenda. They've indicated they plan to use the Congressional Review Act to block “midnight regulations” like the borrower defense and teacher prep rules finalized in the waning months of the Obama administration. They could also look to defund gainful employment, which the department crafted to weed out vocational programs that graduate students with high volumes of student loan debt and poor prospects of paying it off.

Andrade said DeVos could undertake a re-evaluation of the gainful employment regulations, including the quality of the data and metrics used. And the department under DeVos could give programs currently deemed failing more time to come into compliance with the regulations.

“She obviously can’t wave a magic wand and make the regs go away,” Andrade said.

Much of the heavy lifting on those issues will also be done by staff members that have yet to be named. DeVos hasn’t indicated whom she might name to serve as an assistant secretary or under secretary.

Mark Huelsman, a senior policy analyst with progressive think tank Demos, said the public outcry that accompanied DeVos’s confirmation could make her more cautious about pursuing controversial agenda items.

“There’s absolutely a chance she would be chastened by this, given the level of opposition to her confirmation,” Huelsman said.

DeVos’s confirmation as secretary could also mean a more chastened department in regulatory areas beyond the for-profit sector. In areas such as guidance for campuses on enforcement of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and oversight of loan servicers, the department could be “less of a cop on the beat,” Huelsman said.

Under the Obama administration, the department through Dear Colleague letters pushed colleges and universities to take a more active role in investigating sexual assaults on their campuses. Those policies could be among the first to be shifted in a department whose leadership is more sympathetic to concerns about due process rights for students accused of sexual assault. Advocates for victims of sexual assault say federal guidance was critical to ensure institutions were reporting and resolving cases appropriately, but many critics -- including some Republican politicians -- said the Obama administration's policies denied the accused fair treatment.

But there are a number of nonideological issues that could keep the department preoccupied in the coming months, said Dennis Cariello, a former attorney at the Department of Education who now advises institutions including for-profit colleges. He pointed to a Government Accountability Report from last year that found the department has miscalculated the costs of income-driven repayment programs and news, more recently, that it had included an error in loan repayment rates in the College Scorecard.

“The department is basing policy on repayment rates that are wrong. There’s no Republican or Democratic way to make sure you have correct data,” he said. “You’ve just got to get that done.”


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Growth in charitable contributions to colleges slows in 2016

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 02/07/2017 - 08:00

Growth in charitable giving to colleges and universities slowed markedly in 2016 as increased giving from corporations, foundations and other organizations counterbalanced a slowdown in personal gifts and a drop in giving to the country’s largest fund-raising institutions.

Colleges and universities drew $41 billion in giving in the fiscal year ending in June 2016, up slightly from $40.3 billion the year before, according to results from the Council for Aid to Education’s annual Voluntary Support of Education survey released today. That’s a growth rate of 1.7 percent, sharply lower than the 7.6 percent growth rate recorded from 2014 to 2015.

The growth rate comes to 0.4 percent after adjusting for inflation using the consumer price index, said Ann E. Kaplan, who directs the annual survey. It represents a decline of 0.1 percent using the Higher Education Price Index, which is designed specifically to track costs for higher education.

A decline in personal giving set the stage for the flat overall growth rate. Even without adjusting for inflation, alumni giving fell 8.5 percent, to $9.9 billion, in 2016. Gifts from individuals who were not alumni dropped 6 percent, to $7.5 billion.

The year-over-year decline in individual giving came as the stock market struggled -- large personal gifts generally fluctuate along with market performance as wealthy donors find their funds drying up or multiplying. The decline also comes a year after individual giving rose drastically, with alumni giving having jumped 10.2 percent and nonalumni individual giving having spiked by 23.1 percent in 2015.

“Because personal giving was so high the year before, that’s often a very hard benchmark to meet,” Kaplan said. “And then the stock market really plays a role.”

Sue Cunningham, the president and CEO of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, cautioned against reading too much into a single year's drop in individual giving. CASE sponsors the Voluntary Support of Education report.

"It is important not to draw sweeping conclusions from one year of data," Cunningham said in a statement. "For example, although personal giving declined in 2016, as the Council for Aid to Education notes, personal giving to higher education actually grew 6.7 percent between 2014 and 2016."

Even while personal giving fell, stronger stock market performance from 2015 likely helped drive up giving from organizations in 2016. Many of those organizations would have made giving commitments for the future back in 2015 based on their finances at the time.

Organizations increased their giving in 2016, the Council for Aid to Education found. Corporate charitable giving to higher education rose by 14.8 percent, to $6.6 billion. Foundation giving increased by 7.3 percent, to $12.5 billion. Giving from other types of organizations added 9.8 percent, to $4.5 billion.

That’s notable because foundations are the largest source of charitable support for higher education, accounting for 30.4 percent in 2016. Alumni are the second-highest source of support at 24.2 percent.

Over time, giving has been shifting away from individuals and toward organizations, Kaplan said. Individuals often use organizations as vehicles for their personal philanthropy, notably utilizing closely held companies and donor-advised funds.

The CAE survey asked 223 of 950 institutions it surveyed for more information on contributions from such closely held organizations. It found that counting their contributions as personal gifts would result in responding institutions’ recorded personal giving being 10.9 percent higher.

“Personal giving is definitely shifting into organizations,” Kaplan said. “It has been for some time. Donor-advised funds are increasingly the way. You don’t have to have the same means as somebody who forms a foundation.”

Tilted Toward the Top

College and university fund-raising continued to be top-heavy in 2016 -- the top 20 fund-raising institutions took in a whopping 27.1 percent of the $41 billion raised in total by all institutions. But top-20 fund-raisers lost ground slightly. They raised $11.2 billion in 2016, down from $11.36 billion in 2015.

The number of large gifts also dropped. Just two gifts eclipsed $100 million in 2016, a $102.3 million individual gift to the University of California, San Francisco, and a $109.1 million foundation gift to Stanford University. In 2015, institutions reported eight gifts of $100 million or more to the survey. Many of the gifts last year were in the form of art or other tangible property, however. Bringing in those types of gifts takes time and resources.

“That can’t happen every year,” Kaplan said. “It takes a long time for that type of gift to occur, because you can’t just accept it. You have to have the building to display it in.”

Charitable contributions are an important part of university budgets. Yet they have only represented about 10 percent of college and university expenditures in recent years. That’s down from a peak of 15.7 percent in 2000.

The decline happened even as a large portion of donations are earmarked for current operations. Gifts for current operations were 61.3 percent of total giving in 2016, roughly the same as the year before.

The data show donations alone cannot fund colleges and universities, Kaplan said.

“Even if it were all current operations, you’re going to have to find money somewhere else,” Kaplan said. “You’re not going to keep the lights on with charitable gifts.”

Donors restrict much of their support for research, which represented the largest share of earmarked support in the survey. The amount restricted for student financial aid has inched up in the last decade. It was 15.9 percent in 2006 and 16.8 percent in 2016.

This year’s Voluntary Support of Education survey comes at an uncertain time for the fund-raising field. Individual giving to colleges and universities would seem likely to increase in 2017 if the stock market can hold onto or build on recent gains. But organizational giving, which typically lags behind market performance, could be hurt by the same 2016 market that hit individual giving.

At the same time, the potential for changing tax policy introduces another level of uncertainty. Lowering top marginal tax rates or limiting charitable contribution deductions -- two policies discussed by Republicans in power in Washington -- are considered likely to depress charitable giving over time, according to the Council for Aid to Education. But those same changes can also shift giving forward and backward into tax years that are more or less advantageous for donors.

The Council for Aid to Education surveyed 950 institutions for its 2016 report. Comprehensive results from the Voluntary Support for Education survey will be released this spring.

The survey is one of several wintertime reports that provide glimpses into higher education finances. An annual Grapevine survey released Monday found a small increase in aggregate state support for higher education across the country. A National Association of College and University Business Officers survey released in January found a negative endowments return in 2016.

2016 Top Fund-Raising Institutions

1. Harvard University $1.19 billion 2. Stanford University $951.15 million 3. University of Southern California $666.64 million 4. Johns Hopkins University $657.29 million 5. University of California, San Francisco $595.94 million 6. Cornell University $588.26 million 7. Columbia University $584.81 million 8. University of Pennsylvania $542.85 million 9. University of Washington $541.44 million 10. Yale University $519.15 million 11. Duke University $506.44 million 12. University of California, Los Angeles $498.80 million 13. New York University $461.15 million 14. University of Chicago $443.30 million 15. University of Michigan $433.78 million 16. Massachusetts Institute of Technology $419.75 million 17. Northwestern University $401.68 million 18. Ohio State University $386.11 million 19. University of Notre Dame $371.76 million 20. Indiana University $360.94 million Administration and FinanceEditorial Tags: Development/fund-raisingImage Source: Council for Aid to EducationImage Caption: Charitable contributions to colleges and universities rose 1.7 percent in 2017.Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0

Teacher suspended for withdrawing college recommendation letter for student who displayed swastika

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 02/07/2017 - 08:00

Many high school seniors dread the midyear report, which shares with colleges the first-semester-of-senior-year grades they have earned. Those experiencing a senior slump fear that their stellar grade point averages may now be a little less stellar, tarnishing an otherwise exemplary record.

But what about ethical issues that come up after applications have been submitted, after teachers have sent in glowing recommendations? Should they be reported? Should college admissions officials worry if such incidents aren't reported?

That is a question raised by a controversy in Massachusetts, where a teacher at Stoughton High School has been suspended after she revoked a letter of recommendation she wrote for a student and then explained the reason why. The student created a swastika out of tape and propped it up against a recycling bin. When a Jewish girl at the school noticed the swastika and asked the other student to remove it, he did so and then used a slur. Three teachers have since been reprimanded -- two of them for talking to the student about what was wrong with putting up a swastika and talking about it in class. One teacher was suspended for revoking the letter of recommendation she wrote and telling colleges why she was doing so.

The names of the various people in this case haven't been released, and the school isn't talking. School officials have said that the student who made and displayed the swastika was disciplined, but the teachers involved said that the school didn't communicate with other students, or take the issue seriously enough. They said the school should have encouraged a discussion of what happened, to teach students about why swastikas offend and hurt so many people.

While the school hasn't said in public why it disciplined the teachers, they were punished after the school received a complaint from a parent of the student who made the swastika. "The student believed that he was being targeted, creating a hostile environment for him by members of the faculty because of his actions, despite having already been disciplined by the administration," said a letter to the school's staff from Superintendent of Schools Marguerite Rizzi. The Enterprise reported on the letter, which was not released to the public.

The debate over Stoughton High has attracted considerable attention in Massachusetts, much of it on how the school responded. But admissions experts say the incident has important ramifications for college admissions -- and the need for admissions committees to have complete evaluations of applicants.

James W. Jump is author of the Ethical College Admissions blog. He is also director of guidance at St. Christopher’s School, in Richmond, Va., and formerly was an admissions officer and philosophy professor in higher education and president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

He said that in 40 years of admissions work, he has never rescinded a recommendation. But that doesn't mean he doesn't think it would be his right to do so. He said "if a student did something egregious" after he had submitted a recommendation, he would tell the college that the recommendation was no longer valid. Jump said he probably wouldn't say why, "but would assume that the very statement would raise a red flag for the college to investigate."

"From an ethical standpoint, I would argue that the teacher owns the letter and has the right to rescind," he said.

David Hawkins, NACAC's executive director for educational content and policy, said there are two references in the association's Statement of Principles of Good Practice that suggest that the Massachusetts teacher was doing the right thing.

The statement (sort of an ethics code for all involved in admissions) lists as a mandatory practice for high schools that they should "provide, as permissible by law, accurate descriptions of the candidates’ personal qualities relevant to the admission process." And the statement lists as a best practice that high schools "report any significant change in a candidate’s academic status or qualifications, including personal school conduct record between the time of recommendation and graduation, where permitted by applicable law."

Louis L. Hirsh, an admissions consultant who is chair of NACAC's Admissions Practices Committee and was formerly director of admissions at the University of Delaware, said that, to him, the controversy raised issues about trust, and he noted that trust between high schools and colleges is a key part of the entire admissions process.

Via email, he said, "In my view the question college admission committees are asking themselves is this: Can we trust letters of recommendation that come from a school district where faculty members may be disciplined for what they say in them?"

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Betsy DeVos's connection to The College Fix, a conservative higher education news site

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 02/07/2017 - 08:00

Few were surprised when The College Fix began running articles supportive of President Trump’s pick to be education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

The College Fix describes itself as a student-reported dose of “right-minded news and commentary” from across the country. Its provocative headlines tend to be skeptical of higher education and frequently criticize the prevalence of liberalism on college campuses. Other news organizations, including Breitbart, have covered reporting from the site. Inside Higher Ed has cited campus controversies in which The College Fix has been involved.

But The College Fix is connected to DeVos in ways it has not previously publicized. Her son sits on the board of directors for the Student Free Press Association, a nonprofit group that runs the site and that has received a large portion of its funding from an anonymous conservative donor fund that the DeVos family has donated to heavily in the past.

The connections could give a glimpse into the views of an education secretary nominee who has been largely a blank slate on higher education since she was tapped for the position in November. As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on DeVos's confirmation today, her ties to The College Fix show that the DeVos family, long noted for its attempts to influence public policy in favor of K-12 charter schools, also touches higher education news media.

Federal tax forms for the Student Free Press Association list five directors for 2015, the most recent year available. One of them is Rick DeVos, one of Betsy DeVos's sons.

Rick DeVos was not compensated for the role, the forms show. They list him as putting in an hour per week, on average, indicating he is not involved in day-to-day operations.

The College Fix's founder and chairman, John J. Miller, acknowledged that Rick DeVos is a board member in a brief phone interview Friday. But Miller declined to go into detail.

The DeVos family has not given the media organization money, Miller said. But tax documents show the DeVos family has donated money to a conservative fund that in turn has donated large sums of money to the Student Free Press Association.

Donors Capital Fund gave $265,600 to the Student Free Press Association in 2014. That was more than half of the $482,729 in total revenue that the group disclosed that year. The fund contributed similar amounts in several previous years.

The fund is affiliated with Donors Trust, which also gave money to the association, in 2011. Both nonprofits were founded in Virginia in 1999, share the same leadership and control a total of more than $100 million in assets. Anonymous donors who maintain balances of more than $1 million are referred to the Donors Capital Fund, which also funnels money through gifts to Donors Trust, according to federal tax filings.

"Donors Capital Fund only supports a class of public charities firmly committed to liberty," the fund says on its website. "These charities all help strengthen American civil society by promoting private initiatives rather than government programs as the solution to the most pressing issues of the day in the areas of social welfare, health, the environment, economics, governance, foreign relations and arts and culture."

Lack of Disclosure

While the two funds are designed to be private and anonymous, DeVos family charities have given them money.

The Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, the largest of the family's charity groups, reported giving $6.5 million to Donors Trust through its DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative between 2009 and 2012. Richard and Helen DeVos are Betsy DeVos's father- and mother-in-law.

So while it's impossible to say for sure whether DeVos money went to The College Fix, at least one DeVos family foundation gave a substantial amount of money to the affiliated fund of two of the site's biggest financial supporters.

Foundations with positions on higher education give money to many journalistic organizations. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, has funded reporting by The Hechinger Report, Washington Monthly and many other news outlets. Likewise, The 74, a web publication focused on K-12, has disclosed that it received financial support from the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation.

So while issue-driven philanthropy is not new to education reporting, The College Fix's lack of disclosure about its relationship with the DeVos family is problematic, said Aly Colón, a professor of media ethics at Washington and Lee University.

Colón said it's a good idea to disclose any potential conflicts of interest within news articles.

“All I can say is that it raises questions,” he said. “The less questions an organization raises about what it does and why it does it, the more effective it can be.”

The College Fix has written supportively about Betsy DeVos with relative frequency. On Nov. 23, the day Trump nominated her for education secretary, the site assembled supportive responses from prominent Republicans. On Jan. 20, it ran a story headlined “Attacks on Betsy DeVos show ‘how ideological and unmoored the campus rape debate has become.’” The next day it ran a piece by Dave Huber, an assistant editor for the publication, saying educators hypocritically ripped Betsy DeVos after they had complained for more than a decade about No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, the signature pieces of education reform from President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, respectively.

That piece described Betsy DeVos as “someone who believes in less federal red tape and oversight and more autonomy for teachers,” before asking, “educators are actually griping about that?!”

The article closed by saying “Betsy DeVos -- hopefully -- will be someone who looks ‘outside the box’ for the solutions which seemingly have eluded educationists for decades.”

None of the College Fix articles referenced the fact that Rick DeVos serves on the board of the site's parent organization. Nor did they acknowledge any potential funding stream from the family.

Disclosing such relations does not completely eliminate questions about conflicts of interest, Colón said. But it gives readers the information necessary to make an evaluation.

Asked whether The College Fix had a policy on disclosing its relationship with the DeVos family, Miller, the founder and chairman, declined to respond.

Miller directs the Herbert H. Dow II Journalism Program at Hillsdale College, a conservative institution in Michigan that does not accept federal funding. His profile there says that he fell in love with opinion journalism when he was 18 years old and is supportive of students learning journalism by practicing it.

Miller has written about members of the DeVos family in publications for well over a decade. In Philanthropy magazine in 2011, he profiled Rick DeVos and an art competition he created in Grand Rapids, Mich., with funding from the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. In 2003 he wrote a piece for the National Review on Betsy DeVos's concern about a proposed Michigan ballot initiative to ban affirmative action.

That article shows disagreement between Betsy DeVos and Miller. She was chairwoman of the state GOP at the time, and Miller quotes her as saying the referendum would divide people along racial lines. Miller was skeptical of that argument, writing that an earlier California proposition "doesn't sound too divisive." He closed by calling on Michigan Republicans to be leaders among a herd of followers, but not before writing that Betsy DeVos was following Democrats.

"What’s more, she is following the lead of liberal Democrats in attacking a civil rights initiative for Michigan," he wrote.

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Clemson professors fast to pressure university to take stand against entry ban

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 02/07/2017 - 08:00

Three Clemson University professors are fasting for six days to put pressure on the administration to oppose President Trump’s executive order temporarily barring admission of refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Enforcement of the executive order, which bars nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States, has been temporarily halted by a federal judge. The Trump administration is appealing a temporary restraining order preventing it from enforcing the ban, which, with some exceptions such as for lawful permanent residents and certain dual nationals, largely bars students and scholars from those countries from traveling to the U.S. Those who were already in the U.S. at the time the order was signed did not have to leave the country but could not return if they did.

Some college leaders have chosen to denounce the ban -- which many civil rights groups have described as a pretext for barring the entry of Muslims -- in strong terms.

“What we want to do is put pressure on the university to join numerous other universities to issue a statement opposing the Muslim ban,” said Todd May, the Class of 1941 Memorial Professor of the Humanities at Clemson and one of three professors undertaking what they're calling the Fast Against Silence. May said that as of early Monday evening, 14 other Clemson professors and students have signed up for shorter fasts in solidarity.

“At this point the university is refusing to do that,” May continued. “They’ve signed on to the American Council on Education letter, with [about] 600 other universities, expressing concern [about the executive order], but not real opposition. Many of those universities, many of those 600, have themselves issued separate statements condemning the ban.”

May and two other professors have committed to a liquid-only diet through Sunday morning. They began their fast on Monday and say they can be found in front of Sikes Hall, Clemson’s administration building, during business hours Monday to Friday of this week. (Two of the professors will leave to teach their regularly scheduled classes. May is on sabbatical.)

May said there were “several reasons” for the university to speak up. “One is to join their voices with the voices of other universities and their weight. Remember, Clemson for indirect reasons has a lot of weight right now. They just won the national football championship.”

“A second thing is for the sake of students here at Clemson. I’ve talked with a lot of Muslim students here. A lot of them are feeling afraid, isolated and not supported by the university administration because they won’t issue a public statement.”

In addition to signing the ACE letter, which registers concerns about the ban and affirms international exchange as “a core value and strength of American higher education,” Clemson President James P. Clements has issued two public statements about Trump’s executive order. Neither takes a stand against the ban, but both advised students, staff and faculty from the seven countries not to travel internationally and states the university’s support for them.

“The university administration has identified our students from the affected countries -- approximately 115 -- and is in the process of reaching out to help them access resources, get answers to their questions regarding the executive order and provide additional assistance as we can,” one of the messages from Clements said. The statement from Jan. 30 reports that the university was also in the process of identifying faculty and staff from the affected countries and had scheduled a series of informational sessions.

“Our international students, faculty and staff, and their families, are a valued and vital part of our university community,” Clements wrote. “Furthermore, diversity and inclusion are foundational values of our university and necessary for Clemson to fulfill its mission.”

Asked about the faculty fast, the media relations office at Clemson issued a statement to Inside Higher Ed stating that the university “respects the rights of its employees and students to voice their personal views in an appropriate manner.” In an interview with a newspaper in South Carolina, where Clemson is located, Clements said the university’s board does not comment on political issues.

“There’s always going to be an issue that comes out, and another one next week and another one next week,” Clements is quoted as saying in a Greenville News article published Friday.

“I’m happy to talk to the faculty, students and staff as I’ve done,” Clements said. “We had a whole bunch of information sessions this past week to talk about the executive order and what it means and to help the students, faculty and staff in any way that we can.”

Another of the professors who’s fasting said the university administration can do both.

“It’s not really a binary between serving students and speaking out,” said Chenjerai Kumanyika, an assistant professor in the department of communication at Clemson.

"I’m taking care of my students," he said, "and at the same time we’re speaking publicly to say we denounce this ban."

"Many people I know are affected or work with people who are affected," said Mike Sears, an associate professor in the biological sciences and the other faculty member fasting. "For science in our country to remain strong, we need to have a diverse work force. I’m here in support of that and also to be a role model for our students in the sciences who often don’t see their professors taking political action."

More personally, Sears said his wife’s grandfather had been in a Japanese internment camp in Utah. “You can see where these kinds of policies can flip that direction,” Sears said.

“For me, you have to take a stand now,” Sears said. “Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn’t, but if you’re not out here, it certainly can’t help.”

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Duquesne University Press to shut down later this year

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 02/07/2017 - 08:00

The Duquesne University Press will shut down later this year, an “unexpected” decision that is already facing pushback from scholars.

Timothy R. Austin, provost and vice president for academic affairs, informed press staffers about the decision on Friday. He sent a statement to the campus later that day, describing the decision as a cost-cutting measure. The press receives an annual subsidy north of $200,000.

“In the context of rapid changes in the world of scholarly publishing, Duquesne has been far from alone in having to confront the challenging question of whether it could afford to continue to underwrite the costs of a press,” Austin said in the statement. “In recent years, the press has been unable to attract sales adequate to cover its costs and the university has committed large sums to subsidizing its operation. In an era of cost containment, this is no longer a viable path.”

The small press, which specializes in Continental philosophy, humanistic psychology and medieval and Renaissance literature studies, publishes about 10 books a year -- enough to cover its operating costs, but not its salaries and graduate assistantships, press director Susan Wadsworth-Booth said.

Sales have remained more or less flat over the last couple of years, though the press, which turns 90 this year, experienced a period of disruption last year when it was forced to find a new vendor for distribution and warehouse services. With that issue resolved, however, Wadsworth-Booth said she was hopeful the situation would improve.

“It was unexpected,” Wadsworth-Booth said. “I indicated to the administration that we would be happy to discuss some plans to cut costs and maintain the imprint -- perhaps just concentrating on our most successful subject areas, but they indicated that was not the path they wanted to take.”

Others at the university involved in running the press said they, too, were still dealing with the news. Erik Garrett, an associate professor in the department of communication and rhetorical studies who serves on the press's advisory board, said he was still in “shock” from Friday's announcement. As recently as the Monday before the announcement, he said, the press was notified that one of its titles had won the French Voices Award, which is presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the PEN American Center.

Garrett also expressed a willingness to work with the administration to save the press.

Wadsworth-Booth said the press will continue to operate at least through the end of May -- perhaps longer -- to fulfill its existing obligations.

News of a protest began to spread over the weekend, with some faculty members, researchers and staffers with other university presses pointing to the campaign that saved the University of Missouri Press from closure. The University of Missouri System in 2012 announced plans to shut down the press for financial reasons, but the press survived -- and continues to operate today -- after moving to the flagship campus at Columbia.

“That’s a very different situation,” Wadsworth-Booth said about the comparison. “We’re very unlike Missouri.”

So many wonderful books on Milton and early modern topics have been published by Duquesne UP @DUPress1 - speak up for this important press! https://t.co/Evrs8wWGcn

— Milton Society (@MiltonSociety) February 4, 2017

Astonishing news coming from Duquesne re: @DUPress1. Terrible news for publishing in our field. https://t.co/0oW8sOqE5q

— JDS Prose (@DonneProse) February 3, 2017

Duquesne joins the many university presses that in the face of mounting financial difficulties have closed down or come dangerously close to doing so over the last several years. Even some presses at larger universities are feeling those same pressures.

Many defenders of university presses question the idea of cutting them for failing to be self-sustaining, noting that presses promote a central mission of higher education -- the dissemination of knowledge. Others note that colleges rely on university presses -- not only on their own campus, but elsewhere -- to publish works that help launch the careers of scholars.

Peter Berkery, executive director of the Association of American University Presses, said in a statement that the organization is monitoring the situation at Duquesne.

“Like most members of the scholarly communications ecosystem, AAUP was alarmed to learn that Duquesne University has announced plans to close its press,” Berkery said. “The association is in the process of gathering additional information in order to determine whether, as is so frequently the case, an alternative to closure may be possible.”

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Study finds negative diversity experiences affect student learning

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 08:30

Amid all the literature about the merits of college diversity, an important trend is often overlooked, according to a new study in The Journal of Higher Education. Although more students report having positive experiences by studying and living with those from different racial, religious, political, gender and ethnic groups, negative experiences are fairly common, too -- and they can impair student learning and cognitive development, according to the study.

The study, titled “Engaging With Diversity: How Positive and Negative Diversity Interactions Influence Students’ Cognitive Outcomes,” seeks to add to the conversation about campus diversity by examining the incidence and influence of negative diversity experiences.

The authors found that, in a sample of over 2,500 students at four-year institutions, 43 percent of African-American students reported having a “high” number of negative diversity interactions, as well as 37 percent of Hispanic students and 40 percent of Asian students. Twenty-five percent of white students said the same. These negative experiences -- which may reflect hostile, hurtful or tense interactions with students who are categorically different from them -- have negative consequences for the development of critical thinking skills and show a need for cognitive development among some white students and students of color, the study found.

On the other hand, all four ethnic and racial groups studied had more positive diversity experiences than negative -- 47 percent of African-Americans, 56 percent of Hispanics, 53 percent of Asians and 30 percent of white students. They also noted that positive diversity experiences -- which might be associated with constructive discussions, shared meaningful experiences or friendships across different races, religions, genders or ethnicities -- encourages students to challenge their viewpoints and consider complex issues.

Most research in this area has identified positive or neutral diversity experiences, but because of that, it clearly ignores an important dimension of the diversity experience, said Josipa Roksa, lead author of the study and a professor of sociology and education at the University of Virginia. Her study tries to fill that void.

In exploring how often students have a bad experience with someone of a different background and what the repercussions of those bad experiences are, the authors are not critiquing diversity itself, Roksa said. They are instead critiquing the way colleges prepare their students to embrace diversity.

Negative experiences, as recorded in the study, occurred when students felt their ideas and opinions were shut down due to prejudice and discrimination; when they felt insulted or threatened based on their racial, religious, ethnic or gender identity; or when they had hurtful, unresolved interactions with diverse students.

“Higher education institutions really have not delivered on their promise of diversity,” Roksa said. “It’s one thing to have a diverse student body -- that is a crucial first step -- but you have to ensure that interaction between groups is positive.”

“To me, this is about intentionality,” she added. “Higher education institutions are not helping students develop the skills to navigate that diversity, to engage it, to embrace it, to make it a positive experience.”

Colleges have a responsibility, Roksa said, to address both the positive and negative outcomes of bringing together students from very different backgrounds, especially since many students are not exposed to diversity in their K-12 educations.

Most negative diversity experiences in college are minor incidents that don’t get a lot of attention or scrutiny, Roksa said, but based on the results of the study, they clearly leave an impression. She emphasized the importance of colleges initiating that conversation early, before minor incidents escalate and become a national issue.

“To me, this article is a call for colleges and universities to engage diversity on a deeper level -- not just by admitting diverse student bodies but by helping students embrace and benefit from diversity,” Roksa said. “And that requires concerted effort.”

The other authors of the study are Cindy Ann Kilgo, a professor of educational leadership at the University of Alabama; Teniell L. Trolian, a professor of education policy and leadership at the University of Albany, State University of New York; Ernest T. Pascarella, a professor of higher education at the University of Iowa; Charles Blaich, director of the Center for Inquiry at Wabash College; and Kathleen S. Wise, associate director of the Center for Inquiry at Wabash College.

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States report 3.4 percent increase in higher education appropriations

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 08:00

State support for higher education is rising moderately this fiscal year, with more than three-quarters of states posting increases on the way to countrywide percentage growth in the low single digits.

Support across all states rose by 3.4 percent from the 2015-16 to 2016-17 fiscal years, according to preliminary data gathered in the latest Grapevine survey, which was released today. That’s an increase of approximately $2.75 billion, driving total state support to nearly $83.6 billion.

“We had a modest increase across most states,” said James Palmer, a professor of higher education at Illinois State University and Grapevine editor. “It’s an indication, I think, that there’s a willingness across states to fund and increase funding for higher ed.”

The broad trend does not match much faster rates of increase seen before the financial crisis of a decade ago, Palmer said. But it does reflect a shift from the widespread cutbacks that states carried out in the lean years after the financial crisis.

Even though the broad trend was upward, funding levels played out differently in individual states. Most notably, Illinois remains mired in a multiyear budget standoff that has drastically affected public funding for higher education. Lawmakers have put only makeshift funding in place for the current fiscal year after allocating stopgap funding last year. Last year’s stopgap funding for higher ed in Illinois, roughly $817 million, was the equivalent of just 17 percent of funding that had been allocated in the last year Illinois had a full budget, the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to Palmer. Stopgap monies allocated so far for the current fiscal year, $1.4 billion, are higher but still only equal to 29 percent of 2014-15 levels.

The situation in Illinois is still evolving, so more money could be on the way for the current fiscal year. But the last two years have been unsettled enough -- and unusual enough -- that the Grapevine report also breaks out across-the-board funding changes for the 49 states other than Illinois. Across those states, state funding rose 2.7 percent this year to $82.2 billion.

Signs of the financial strain are showing at Illinois universities. Those that lack nonstate resources have been particularly hard hit, such as Chicago State University, which last year declared financial exigency and later controversially parted ways with its president after only nine months. Observers at the time wondered about the university’s ability to survive, pointing out that its cafeteria had been closed for weeks and its library had limited hours.

The large University of Illinois System has also been affected, prompting leaders there to support a proposed deal that would limit tuition and increase emphasis on in-state students in exchange for predictable funding over five years.

“I think this is unprecedented in the history of the Grapevine project,” Palmer said, noting the project goes back to the 1960s. “I think the Illinois situation is an anomaly. The fact that we haven’t had a full state budget for two years is indicative of the fiscal impasse that the state finds itself in.”

When last year’s Grapevine report was released, Illinois wasn’t the only state without a budget. Pennsylvania hadn’t finalized one, either. But Pennsylvania has since broken its budget stalemate, leaving Illinois standing alone as its budget impasse drags on through its second year.

The more than three-quarters of states -- 39 in total -- that posted increases in higher education funding in 2016-17 raised it by significantly different amounts. The smallest increase was 0.2 percent in Colorado and Wisconsin. The largest was 10.5 percent in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, 10 states reported decreasing funding: Alaska, Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wyoming. West Virginia was home to the smallest decrease, 0.4 percent. Wyoming had the biggest decrease, 8.8 percent.

This year the survey also measured higher education funding from Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., for the first time. In Puerto Rico funding rose by 0.2 percent. Funding in D.C. rose by 6.6 percent.

Changes in state funding were significantly less varied than they were last year, when increases ranged from 0.1 percent in Kentucky to 16.2 percent in Oregon and decreases ranged from 0.1 percent in New Jersey to 14 percent in Arizona.

Over all last year, the Grapevine report found 39 states increasing state funding and nine reporting decreases. Countrywide state support for higher education rose 4.1 percent between 2014-15 and 2015-16, it found.

Many of the states experiencing declines in funding this year are energy-rich states that depend on taxes or fees tied in some way to the oil and gas industry, Palmer said. The oil and gas sector has been struggling amid low prices recently.

“That’s an indication of the extent to which funding for higher education is in part dependent on the capacity of states,” Palmer said. “When tax revenue within the states goes down, capacity to fund higher education goes down, and we tend to see decreases in funding for higher education.”

Louisiana is one such state with a large energy industry and a drop in state funding this year. State funding for higher education dropped 7.2 percent in 2016-17, the third-largest drop in the Grapevine report. But the state of the oil industry is only part of the story behind the funding drop, according to Joseph Rallo, commissioner of higher education in Louisiana.

State statute and the Louisiana Constitution protect nearly all areas of state spending, he said. Some health care spending and higher education are virtually all that are left unprotected, so they are cut when state revenues fall short.

“As the income stream has gone down -- not just because of the revenue from oil or minerals, but across the board from jobs or income tax -- they have to balance the budget,” Rallo said. “It’s simply that we’re unprotected.”

Public higher education in Louisiana is preparing for a round of midyear cuts. Legislators are attempting to find ways to close a budget hole of more than $300 million. State funding has already been cut sharply in recent years, including other rounds of midyear cuts in the past.

Different institutions will handle cuts in different ways. But they have real impacts for students, Rallo said.

“Tuition has gone up, sadly,” he said. “We’re being told for next year, the budget woes are even worse.”

South Dakota was on the other side of the spectrum, with the third-highest percentage increase in state support, 9.3 percent year over year. No single factor drove the increase, said Michael G. Rush, executive director of the state's Board of Regents.

Technical institutes received a special appropriation to make instructor salaries competitive. Universities received a bump in funding for salaries, and the state provided money for a "tuition buy-down," offering funding that normally would have come from tuition.

The prospects for future increases in the state are unclear, though. South Dakota is not an energy-heavy state, but its budget is looking tight for the upcoming year. Agriculture is a large driver, and some low commodity prices have driven down sales tax revenue, Rush said.

"It doesn't look very rosy," he said. "I hope we don't lose ground."

The Grapevine report released Monday also includes two- and five-year comparisons for a better look at funding trends over time. Looking back two years and comparing fiscal 2014-15 budgets with 2016-17 budgets, 40 of 49 states posted increases. The smallest increase came in Mississippi, 0.4 percent. The largest increase was in Oregon, 21.5 percent. Nine states reported a decrease. The smallest decrease was in Kentucky, 0.4 percent. The largest decrease was in Oklahoma, 18.7 percent.

Comparing this year with 2011-12 -- a year when higher education received federal stimulus money -- 42 of 49 states posted five-year increases. Those increases ranged from 2.1 percent in Arizona to 51.4 percent in New Hampshire. Seven states experienced decreases ranging from 1.8 percent in both Arkansas and Kansas to 17.8 percent in Oklahoma.

The Grapevine data are intended to provide a tentative early look at the state of higher education funding. It’s collected annually as part of a project between the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. The Grapevine data precede the release of an annual SHEEO report that provides a more in-depth examination of state higher education support and includes factors like inflation and enrollment.

Grapevine data include tax and nontax support for operations and other higher ed activities but do not measure other sources of college and university revenue, like tuition.

Percent Change in State Appropriations

State Total Support, 2016-17 (dollars) 1-Year Change 5-Year Change, Including Stimulus Funds Alabama 1,562,306,106 4.5% 4.5% Alaska 335,851,000 -6.9% -6.7% Arizona 842,010,200 4.7% 2.1% Arkansas 999,831,300 1.1% -1.8% California 13,579,469,229 2.5% 48.5% Colorado 866,808,182 0.2% 34.4% Connecticut 1,154,757,551 -4.1% 21.6% Delaware 234,722,700 2.1% 10.1% Florida 4,578,325,642 4.8% 26.4% Georgia 3,203,141,388 5.2% 18.2% Hawaii 667,478,019 10.5% 27.8% Idaho 460,323,000 9.9% 38.0% Illinois* 1,408,803,500 -- -- Indiana 1,760,033,532 0.3% 13.4% Iowa 855,409,017 0.7% 15.5% Kansas 769,175,109 0.3% -1.8% Kentucky 1,170,767,200 -0.5% -5.2% Louisiana 1,094,801,855 -7.2% -11.5% Maine 299,575,645 4.8% 10.6% Maryland 1,964,463,400 5.5% 22.3% Massachusetts 1,544,319,564 3.4% 27.8% Michigan 1,877,039,600 2.8% 21.1% Minnesota 1,543,313,000 0.7% 20.1% Mississippi 1,013,678,408 -2.4% 6.2% Missouri 1,089,159,140 5.2% 16.7% Montana 253,311,859 1.6% 25.3% Nebraska 773,101,444 3.4% 18.9% Nevada 570,958,220 6.0% 20.7% New Hampshire 125,200,059 -2.1% 51.4% New Jersey 2,083,569,000 0.7% 4.3% New Mexico 861,383,002 -4.8% 7.0% New York 5,765,073,288 2.8% 18.8% North Carolina 3,978,682,420 3.9% 11.2% North Dakota 419,650,340 3.4% 22.0% Ohio 2,303,647,976 3.5% 14.4% Oklahoma 857,022,108 -7.6% -17.8% Oregon 814,589,131 5.0% 43.9% Pennsylvania 1,693,108,000 2.8% 3.3% Rhode Island 188,214,286 5.3% 4.1% South Carolina 1,094,964,380 6.7% 27.4% South Dakota 238,612,300 9.3% 31.8% Tennessee 1,732,289,377 5.6% 22.4% Texas 7,600,210,799 2.5% 17.6% Utah 978,663,600 4.9% 34.3% Vermont 92,326,259 1.7% 2.5% Virginia 2,054,183,184 10.3% 26.5% Washington 1,878,116,000 6.1% 37.9% West Virginia 484,109,152 -0.4% -10.9% Wisconsin 1,473,947,300 0.2% 33.1% Wyoming 382,164,128 -8.8% 13.1% Total, 50 states 83,572,660,899 3.4% 16.2% Total 49 states without Illinois 82,163,857,399 2.7% 20.2%

*Illinois lawmakers did not pass a budget for the last two fiscal years. Listed dollar totals are stopgap funding for higher education.

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Judge blocks enforcement of Trump's entry ban

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 08:00

The U.S. Department of State has restored the validity of visas from individuals from seven countries whose nationals were barred from entering the United States under an executive order signed by President Trump. The State Department's move follows a federal judge's decision Friday night to temporarily block the enforcement of that order nationwide.

The ruling by Judge James L. Robart, of the federal district court for the Western District of Washington, temporarily bars the government from enforcing the 90-day entry ban for nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The temporary restraining order also enjoins the government from enforcing a 120-day ban on the entry of all refugees and an indefinite suspension of the admission of refugees from Syria.

The government immediately appealed the ruling. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Saturday to deny the government's request for an immediate stay of the restraining order pending full consideration of its emergency motion.

The battle in the courts over the legality of Trump's executive order is far from over. But in the meantime, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Saturday it has “has suspended any and all actions” to implement the entry ban and would “resume inspection of travelers in accordance with standard policy and procedure.”

The State Department has also restored the validity of visas from the seven countries, which it had provisionally revoked in response to Trump’s executive order.

“We have reversed the provisional revocation of visas under Executive Order 13769,” a State Department official told Inside Higher Ed. “Those individuals with visas that were not physically canceled may now travel if the visa is otherwise valid.”

Some students who had been barred from re-entering the U.S. have begun their travels back to their campuses. The Professional Staff Congress at the City University of New York reported Saturday that one such student, Saira Rafiee, a doctoral student from Iran who a week earlier had been blocked from boarding a New York-bound plane, had landed in Boston and was en route back to CUNY.

Numerous students and scholars from the seven banned countries who were abroad at the time the order was signed had been unable to re-enter the U.S. Under the terms of Trump's order, those already in the U.S. did not have to leave, but they would be unable to re-enter the country if they did -- in effect preventing them from engaging in any personal or professional international travel.

Trump’s executive order has been widely condemned by civil rights groups as a pretext for banning the entry of Muslims, a step the president called for during his campaign. Education groups and university leaders have criticized the order for undermining key higher education values of inclusion and internationalism and for preventing travel by talented students and scholars to their campuses. One open letter, signed by 48 university presidents, including the leaders of all eight Ivy League institutions, condemned the entry ban as "dimming the lamp of liberty and staining the country’s reputation."

In a statement Friday, the White House described Robart's ruling as "outrageous" and defended the president's executive order as "lawful and appropriate." A subsequent statement from the White House deleted the word “outrageous,” but Trump did not hold back his outrage on Twitter, saying, “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump has justified the executive order as intended to keep terrorists out of the United States.

"The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart," Trump said in another tweet. "Bad people are very happy!"

Impact on Higher Education

Robart, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, a Republican, ruled in response to a suit filed by the attorneys general of Washington and Minnesota. In issuing a temporary restraining order barring enforcement of the entry ban, Robart determined that “the states have met their burden of demonstrating that they face immediate and irreparable injury as a result of the signing and implementation of the executive order.”

The ruling includes explicit references to education and to the damage to public universities caused by the order. "The executive order adversely affects the states' residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations and freedom to travel …. In addition, the states themselves are harmed by virtue of the damage that implementation of the executive order has inflicted upon the operations and missions of their public universities and other institutions of higher learning, as well as injury to the states' operations, tax bases and public funds."

Washington State University, the University of Washington and the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges all filed supporting documents in the states' suit against Trump and the U.S. government.

Asif Chaudhry, vice president for international programs at Washington State, said in two separate declarations that the university has about 136 undergraduate and graduate students and nine faculty members from the countries affected by the entry ban. He outlined several specific examples of ways in which the entry ban has negatively affected the lives of students and faculty from these countries by preventing them from traveling into and out of the U.S.

Among the examples cited in the declaration: “One graduate student, who holds a paid, grant-funded research assistantship with WSU, works on a team that conducts atmospheric research, which is dependent on field experiments and collaborations worldwide. She was scheduled to participate in experiments and equipment maintenance in Greenland, which is a standard expectation of research assistants in this laboratory, but is now unable to do so. This individual also was planning to attend a summer institute in Canada and now likely will be unable to do so.”

Chaudhry's declaration states that other research assistants have had to cancel job interviews in Canada or attendance at international conferences, and that two visiting scholars from the affected countries who had planned to come to Washington State are now unable to. One was turned away in transit, in Amsterdam.

"WSU has at least one faculty member who is currently unable to return to WSU," Chaudhry's declaration states. "She is a research associate from an affected country who is paid from a National Science Foundation project. She traveled to Germany in January to defend her Ph.D. at another university and was scheduled to return to WSU on Feb. 11, 2017, to continue her scientific research and faculty position. The executive order will prevent her from being able to do so, and the research on this project has been put on hold until she can return."

Jeffrey Riedinger, the vice provost for global affairs at the University of Washington, said in his declarations with the court that the university has about 96 students and 15 scholars, including postdoctoral researchers and adjunct faculty, from the seven countries affected by the travel ban. This is in addition to faculty members from the seven countries who are permanent residents in the U.S.

Riedinger expanded on the case of one such faculty member, a dual citizen of Iran and Sweden. "Although this faculty member is a lawful permanent resident, important members of her immediate family are not," the declaration states. "Her immediate family members, including her mother, mother-in-law, children and grandchildren typically visit her in the United States two to three times each year. The executive order will prohibit such visits for the next 90 days. If the policy is extended for a longer period or indefinitely, I am concerned that the faculty member may find it necessary to consider leaving the university and the U.S. I believe that her departure would be a very significant loss to the university."

Presidential Concerns

Nearly 600 college presidents wrote to Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly under the umbrella of the American Council on Education about the executive order on Friday, hours before the ban was temporarily enjoined. The latest letter follows a letter of concern sent by ACE and 50 other higher education associations earlier in the week.

The letter signed by about 600 presidents does not condemn the order, as some presidential statements have done, but does express concerns about it.

It states, "We take seriously the need to safeguard our nation and also the need for the United States to remain the destination of choice for the world’s best and brightest students, faculty, and scholars …. Our nation can only maintain its global scientific and economic leadership position if it encourages those talented people to come here to study and work. America is the greatest magnet for talented people from around the world, and it must remain so."

"We are confident that our nation can craft policies that secure us from those who wish to harm us, while welcoming those who seek to study, conduct research and scholarship, and contribute their knowledge and talents to our country," the letter states.

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At a time some fear closure of physics programs, Virginia Union starts one

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 08:00

At a time when a number of small colleges and universities are rethinking and shrinking their curricula due to budget, enrollment and other concerns -- in some cases shuttering programs in what are traditionally viewed as core disciplines -- developments at Virginia Union University stand out. The university recently reintroduced its physics major.

“Physics is the basis of all sciences -- that’s why so many departments do service courses for chemistry majors, or teach physics for math or biology,” said Shaheen Islam, a professor of physics at Virginia Union who won a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to reopen the physics department. “Everybody knows this, so hopefully now we’ll start to see the trend move the other way.”

Islam was referring to a trend of institutions considering shuttering their physics departments as they look for ways to cut costs in a time of uncertain enrollments and financial futures. The University of Southern Maine’s physics department was on the chopping block in 2013, for example, but survived. A number of departments in Texas weren’t so lucky, with the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board announcing in 2011 that it would begin phasing out up to seven of its 24 public undergraduate physics programs for failing to graduate 25 majors every five years, or about five annually. Several cut programs were at Texas’ historically black colleges and universities, causing scientists to worry that the discipline’s diversity gap would be widened as a result.

Virginia Union, another historically black college, had its own physics program through roughly 60 years ago, but it was shuttered, according to information from the department. Its revival was facilitated by Islam’s grant and approximately $700,000 from the university to support a new physics lab.

Islam is currently recruiting majors for physics, as well as for a joint physics and engineering degree that involves three years of studying physics at Virginia Union and two years studying engineering at Howard University. “Engineering is really applied physics, so there’s much for them to study here,” Islam said.

One student who was a physics minor already has decided to stay on campus to complete what will be a triple major in physics, chemistry and mathematics, said Gerard McShepard, chair of the department of natural sciences at Virginia Union. He said the new programs afford students the “opportunity to meet work force demands with the aging population of physicists who will soon retire.”

As to why physics isn’t more popular, despite being so foundational to other sciences, Islam said the discipline tends to evoke Albert Einstein, quantum mechanics and advanced study for students, rather than a marketable degree. “But physics majors don’t have to go into teaching or research,” she said, naming science equipment sales and the military as just two immediate options.

Nationwide, the number of physics majors has actually doubled in the last 15 years, but the net number of departments has declined slightly, according to information from the American Physical Society. Monica Plisch, director of education and diversity at the organization, said the APS has been approached “by a number of physics departments that are under threat of closure due to low enrollments as institutions of higher education change their business model and look at cost-saving measures.”

Virginia Union has won praise from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which advocates for clear general education requirements that promote “foundational” skills and knowledge. “Offering hard science courses, majors and requirements is an indispensable part of the liberal arts core,” ACTA’s president, Michael Poliakoff, former vice chancellor of academic affairs and research at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said via email. “Like the space race of the 1960s, at this moment in history, American higher education can ill afford to shortchange students of opportunities in rigorous [science, technology, engineering and math] disciplines such as physics, college-level mathematics and other courses that train students in the empirical methods of science.”

He added, “Physical sciences have too often yielded to less rigorous approaches within general education programs. In order to stay relevant, today's liberal arts college must lead the way, and Virginia Union is a model of how colleges can restore subjects like physics to their rightful place.”

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Saint Joseph's in Indiana will suspend operations

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 08:00

Saint Joseph's College in Indiana announced Friday that it will suspend all operations after the end of the current semester and a graduation ceremony for seniors.

The college says it will help those of the 904 students who don't graduate find other options. Currently about 200 people are employed at the college, which said it would help them find a "smooth transition" to employment elsewhere. The suspension will last at least for the 2017-18 academic year.

"After significant introspection and countless hours of discussion among key administrators, the college has come to the solemn realization that its prior plans to grow out of the current financial challenges cannot be realized. The financial challenges are too steep in light of the current and potential resources available," said a statement released by the college.

"As a result, the board has concluded that the college cannot continue in its current form and needs to change the very fabric of the institution," the statement added. "This change must occur immediately to preserve our remaining resources to prepare for a launch of a future, re-engineered Saint Joseph’s College."

The statement added that the board considered either "significant operational restructuring" or shutting down the college, but that it lacked money for the former and wanted to preserve a chance for the college to be revived.

The college, a Roman Catholic institution, has operated since 1891. It has a 180-acre campus in Rensselaer, Ind., about midway between Chicago and Indianapolis.

The suspension of operations at Saint Joseph's comes at a time of growing concern over the finances of small, tuition-dependent private colleges that lack large endowments or other financial resources.

Dowling College filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December, moving to sell its two campuses on New York's Long Island after shutting down last summer due to financial problems. St. Catharine College in Kentucky was shut down in July. Marian Court College closed in 2015. Moody's has predicted that the number of private college closures will increase over past levels.

Finances have been of paramount concern at Saint Joseph's. Its accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, placed the college on probation in November. The commission's explanation for the action said that the college was in violation of the accreditor's standard that "the institution’s resource base supports its current educational programs and its plans for maintaining and strengthening their quality in the future."

In January, Robert Pastoor, president of the college, issued a letter to the campus saying that it needed to raise $20 million by June, and $100 million in total not long after that, due to "dire" finances. Officials told The Lafayette Journal & Courier that the college needed $100 million to deal with debt and deferred maintenance.

On a Facebook page formed recently by alumni trying to help the college, many comments suggested a sense that the college might not recover from suspending operation. Some comments focused on sadness, while many others said that the debt should never have been allowed to get so high that it could endanger the college.

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Experts say Trump cannot cut Berkeley's funds, despite his tweet

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/03/2017 - 08:00

The news out of the University of California, Berkeley, Wednesday night stunned many. A lecture by Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos -- known for his inflammatory insults -- was called off amid violent protests. While a large group of students and others engaged in nonviolent protest, an organized group of about 100-150 people from off campus, many of them masked, set fires, threw fireworks and rocks, and scuffled with police. The university had defended the right of Yiannopoulos to appear, but said safety issues forced it to call off the event.

Then Thursday morning, with Berkeley still cleaning up from the protests, President Trump weighed in.

If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017

The tweet set off much discussion in higher education. Some noted that Berkeley did not "practice violence" Wednesday night or deny free speech.

Many asked: Could Trump cut off federal funds to Berkeley? As a large research university, Berkeley depends on federal funds both for student aid and research. Hundreds of millions of dollars would be at stake if Trump could withhold the money.

Experts said they don't think the president has the authority to do so.

Tony DeCrappeo, president of the Council on Governmental Relations, a group that monitors laws and regulations related to research universities, said he knew of no law that would permit Trump to cut off funds to a university over a campus speaker.

The American Council on Education had a lawyer review the issue and found no such authority to punish a college over a speaker dispute, said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president at the association of college presidents. He said that, during the Nixon administration, officials discussed some ways to use federal funding to punish colleges that were the sites of anti-war protests, but the idea never went forward and was viewed as unconstitutional.

Federal laws do of course impose requirements on colleges receiving federal aid that have nothing to do with the aid, per se. And some members of Congress have used such laws to oppose certain trends on campuses. In the 1980s, U.S. Representative Gerald Solomon, a New York Republican, attached to several appropriations bills provisions that cut off federal funds to institutions that did not permit military recruiters on campus. At the time, many law schools did ban military recruiters, saying that the military's anti-gay discrimination (since ended) violated institutional policies. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law.

Hartle questioned whether any law or regulation should deny Berkeley the right to handle an event like the violent Wednesday night protest in a manner officials thought was best to preserve safety. Hartle said that Berkeley officials "clearly and unambiguously" affirmed the right of Yiannopoulos to speak.

Having done so, Berkeley tried to let Yiannopoulos speak and called the speech off only when facing violence that could have gotten much worse, Hartle said.

"That was a situation that was out of control," Hartle said. Campus leaders "have to assure a safe campus without violence."

He added, "I think second-guessing decisions like that made by [campus] law enforcement is a dangerous thing to be engaged in."

Notably, Berkeley's handling of the Yiannopoulos visit also won praise from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which regularly criticizes colleges that turn away controversial speakers.

"In the week leading up to Milo Yiannopoulos's appearance, the University of California, Berkeley, did in fact appear to uphold its obligations to protect its students’ First Amendment rights. Chancellor [Nicholas] Dirks’s letter to the campus community correctly rebuffed calls for the university to cancel the event, noting that as a public institution, expression cannot be banned based on content or viewpoint," said an email from Ari Z. Cohn, director of the Individual Rights Defense Program at FIRE.

"Dirks also properly explained that the university could not tax the event with excessive security fees based on the content of Yiannopoulos’s expression, or anticipated opposition to his appearance. FIRE welcomed Dirks’s strong defense of Cal students’ First Amendment rights, and we hope that others will follow in his footsteps even in the wake of what transpired last night."

As to the idea of cutting federal funds, Cohn said that through future legislation, "the government could certainly condition the receipt of federal funds to public universities on compliance with their already legally binding constitutional and statutory obligations, including the First Amendment." But he added that this doesn't make sense for Berkeley, given that the university was trying to comply with its obligations.

"To punish an educational institution for the criminal behavior of those not under its control and in contravention of its policies, whether through the loss of federal funds or through any other means, would be deeply inappropriate and most likely unlawful," Cohn said.

Berkeley has not responded directly to Trump's tweet. But it did release a statement Thursday afternoon condemning the violence and providing an update on investigations of what happened.

In the statement, Chancellor Dirks criticized those who engaged in violence. “The violence was an attack on our fundamental values, which are maintaining and nurturing open inquiry and an inclusive, civil society -- the bedrock of a genuinely democratic nation,” he said. “We are now, and will remain in the future, completely committed to free speech not only as a vital component of our campus identity but as essential to our educational mission.”

Other details provided by Berkeley:

  • Two students who are members of the Berkeley College Republicans were attacked on campus Thursday while doing an interview. Two men -- unaffiliated with Berkeley -- were arrested in the attack.
  • Only one arrest -- of a nonstudent -- took place Wednesday night. The university is reviewing recordings and seeking information about others who could be charged. Pro-Yiannopoulos people on social media have questioned why Berkeley didn't arrest more people Wednesday night, but Berkeley has said its police officers did an admirable job under tense conditions in preventing injuries and more violence.
  • An early estimate of the cost of damage to the campus is about $100,000. Costs include fixing broken windows, replacing a generator that caught fire and was destroyed, sandblasting paint off the concrete steps of the student union, and cleaning up graffiti.
  • Ten businesses off campus have reported damage.

The Politics of Criticizing Berkeley

Even if Trump can't cut a penny from Berkeley's budget, his tweet may well be great politics. Many on social media praised him and seemed to accept the view that the violent protesters represented Berkeley, and suggested that Berkeley did nothing to stop the violence. Berkeley has said that all its evidence points to the violent group coming from off campus. Tweets on Thursday said things like, "Yes, cut their funding" and "They destroyed property probably funded by taxpayers. Berkeley did nothing to stop distruction. CUT OFF ALL TAX FUNDING!" [Sic.]

Others questioned Trump's logic and defended the university.

As a UC Regent I'm appalled at your willingness to deprive over 38,000 students access to an education because of the actions of a few. pic.twitter.com/zzUaaaUM3u

— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) February 2, 2017

John R. Thelin, professor of the history of higher education and public policy at the University of Kentucky, said via email that the real story of Berkeley is in fact one of supporting free speech.

"It's important to keep in mind that the motto of the University of California is Fiat Lux! -- 'Let There Be Light!' That does not extend to invok[ing] smoke, mirrors, bombs or blasts," Thelin said via email. "As a Californian and a Berkeley grad school alumnus, I take the motto and symbols to heart. The Berkeley campus has a long tradition of open political forum stretching back to the 1930s, even long before the volatile, visible campus protests of the mid- and late 1960s."

As for the tweet, Thelin said, "President Trump's response seems to be a threat -- and probably predictable bluster. Stopping federal funding for research grants and/or student aid is both rash and probably not allowable."

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Lehigh president moves quickly on growth plans

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/03/2017 - 08:00

Lehigh University President John D. Simon wasted relatively little time in his tenure before launching an aggressive expansion plan.

Simon started as president of the private research university in Bethlehem, Pa., in July 2015. Just 15 months later, his Board of Trustees approved a plan to expand Lehigh’s 5,100-student undergraduate enrollment by 20 percent, boost its 2,000-student graduate enrollment by up to 40 percent, hire additional faculty members and start a new college concentrating on health.

“I think people these days expect that you’re going to do something sooner rather than later,” Simon said. “The idea that you can go on a yearlong listening tour -- I don’t think anyone has that long anymore.”

Simon noted that some of the pieces needed for an expansion plan were already in place when he came to Lehigh. The university already had a strategic plan in place that included calls for expansion and an emphasis on the subject area of health. Faculty and students have generally supported the growth plans as well -- although some have noted that expansion could bring unintended consequences for the surrounding Bethlehem community and cannot be expected to fix all academic and demographic challenges Lehigh faces.

More broadly, Lehigh’s expansion ideas come at a time when many colleges and universities feel compelled to try to change in size and geographic reach in order to secure their futures. Still, Lehigh’s plans stand out as particularly ambitious. And the president’s own personal experiences told him to move sooner rather than later on big ideas.

By the numbers, Lehigh’s plan calls for raising enrollment by 1,000 undergraduates, from 5,080 today. It would increase full-time graduate enrollment by 500-800 students -- above the current level of 1,979, which includes both part- and full-time graduate students. The number of faculty members, meanwhile, would increase by 100, up from 521 full-time faculty members.

The larger number of people on campus, along with the investments in facilities required to start a new college of health, will require additional money. Estimates are that the university’s annual operating budget, which totaled roughly $475 million in 2015-16, would grow by about 25 percent. Capital investments in facilities are planned to include a renovated student union, new dormitories and a new science and research building.

Although the plans call for large investments, they’re necessary to expand and start a new college without drawing resources or students away from Lehigh’s existing programs, Simon said. Its four current colleges are Arts and Sciences, Business and Economics, Education, and Engineering and Applied Science.

“It’s an honest appraisal of the scale needed to be really successful at what we’re trying to do intellectually,” Simon said. “When you look at engineering here, or arts and sciences, or business, to steal populations from those would probably take some critical mass from programs they’re mounting and what they do well.”

The idea instead is to build the new college of health that positions the university in a new area while fitting with Lehigh’s existing strengths. It would be the major driver of growth, although Simon believes existing colleges and programs can expand as well.

For the operating budget, increases in enrollment will help to pay for faculty hiring. Capital investments will be funded by debt, philanthropy and other financing mechanisms, Simon said. He also hopes to grow Lehigh’s $1.16 billion endowment by about 20 percent to keep pace with the planned growth in undergraduate students.

Lehigh is in a strong spot to take on additional debt, according to ratings issued this fall, when the university was marketing bonds. In September, Moody’s Investors Service assigned an Aa2 rating, the agency’s third highest, to a proposed $150 million in taxable bonds and $35 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds. Moody’s cited Lehigh’s “strong balance sheet reserves and healthy operating performance” as well as its “excellent market position … strong fiscal management and ample liquidity.” The ratings agency did note, however, that Lehigh was taking on large capital investments in a competitive student market, even as it relies on student charges more than its peers.

Lehigh’s planned health college’s exact focus areas aren’t set yet. But it’s not intended to train clinicians. A faculty committee is currently considering options, according to Provost Patrick V. Farrell. They could include, for example, data analytics.

“We have a pretty aggressive program in data analytics,” Farrell said. “For a lot of the data analytics folks, this would be a really exciting and new area to work on, even though their background may not be related to health.”

The college won’t be created in a single year, Farrell said. He’s still sketching out the process to ramp it up into a full college. Lehigh described the expansion plans as a 10-year framework when it first announced them in October.

Finding new students poses one of the most critical challenges going forward. Lehigh enjoys a strong reputation in the Northeast, and administrators hope the new health college allows it to compete for more students close to home. Yet they will also look outside their traditional footprint, where Lehigh is not well-known in the same way Ivy League institutions are.

Lehigh has already made investments on the West Coast, notably partnering with the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center in San Francisco. It also had success in recent decades expanding its recruiting reach. Today, between 50 percent and 55 percent of its undergraduate student body typically comes from the four states of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, Farrell said. That’s down from 75 percent 20 years ago.

The West Coast and California are attractive recruiting grounds in part for their sheer number of expected students. Projections show they will have a relatively high number of students graduating from high school in coming years. A student body drawn from a more diverse geographic area would also be a positive for Lehigh’s on-campus experience, Farrell said.

The provost does not expect to drastically increase Lehigh’s discount rate in order to attract more students. The university’s quoted tuition for the 2016-17 academic year stands at $47,920, not counting housing and other fees. Its discount rate is about 34 percent.

“We probably will increase merit-based aid slightly,” Farrell said. “But what I think we’d like to do -- and we’ve had good success so far and will continue -- is to convince students they come to Lehigh not because we’re giving them the sweetest deal or the biggest merit-based aid check, but that you want to come here because this is a place you can flourish.”

“If they knew about the character of Lehigh and the kinds of experiences students have, we’re convinced they might say, ‘This is the kind of environment we want,’” Farrell continued.

Same Strategic Plan

Farrell has been at Lehigh since 2009. That’s the same year former President Alice P. Gast released a 10-year strategic plan that was the culmination of two years of work. Yet neither Farrell nor Simon believed it was necessary to redraw the strategic plan after Simon became president in 2015.

Both believed the plan was still pertinent in many ways. Action to meet some of its goals was delayed in large part due to the 2008 financial crisis, according to Simon.

Many of the goals would remain the same if a new plan were formulated today, Farrell said. For example, the plan advocates expanding Lehigh’s faculty and a focus on the area of health. So rather than spend a year or two drawing up a new strategic plan under a new president, Lehigh’s administration decided to find elements within the existing plan that they could execute right away.

“Let’s see how we can execute on those, which is really the Achilles’ heel of any strategic plan, in my experience,” Farrell said. “I think a lot of people are excited to hear, ‘Let’s make it happen. Let’s go there.’”

University leaders don’t always bring that attitude to the planning process. But experts said it can be a best practice when possible -- particularly when institutions have initially been unable to execute good plans for one reason or another.

“I view strategic plans as a living document,” said Rick Beyer, the managing principal of AGB Institutional Strategies, in an email. “Strategic plans should be updated every few years but not necessarily abandoned simply because of a change in presidents.”

Lessons From Virginia

Simon (at right) said he was able to hit the ground running at Lehigh in part because he had a long run-up to the presidency. He was appointed in October 2014 but didn’t start at Lehigh until the following July. During that time he was able to visit regularly from the University of Virginia, where he was provost and executive vice president.

But Simon’s experience at the University of Virginia also informed his approach to the presidency. He was provost at Virginia when the university’s Board of Visitors unexpectedly ousted President Teresa Sullivan in June 2012 -- two years into her tenure -- only to turn around and reinstate her two weeks later. Simon was noted as being critical of the board’s process to remove Sullivan during that time.

The Lehigh president didn’t delve deeply into his time at the University of Virginia during recent interviews. But his experience taught him to move quickly, he said.

“If you want to change anything, you have to get it started pretty soon, because you don’t have a large window,” Simon said. “I think to drive change, sustain change and do something, it takes five or 10 years. And that’s all you’ve got.”

Caution on Expansion

Yet it’s important to be careful about the expansion, said Slava V. Rotkin, a professor of physics and materials science and engineering who represents Lehigh’s College of Arts and Sciences on its Faculty Financial Planning and Operations Committee. While many faculty members support growth and research, they also know Lehigh remains a small institution that can be affected by expansion in many ways, he said.

Proving that Lehigh’s new college is high in quality will be a challenge, Rotkin said. So will finding the connections between existing departments in order to enable the new college to grow.

“I think we should see how all of that will be developing,” Rotkin said. “It’s exciting, new.”

The editorial board of Lehigh’s student newspaper, The Brown and White, also said the plans can have a positive effect if executed properly. But it cautioned that they should add to diversity among the university’s predominantly white student body, should not be confused with making academic improvements to existing operations and should not damage the community around the college.

“When we come back for our reunion, we want to see a university we can be proud of, not one that is diminished by ambitious goals and destroying a community,” it wrote.

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Experts say Rehabilitation Act refresh sets new baseline for accessibility standards

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/03/2017 - 08:00

A long-awaited update to a federal rule ups the pressure on colleges and universities to ensure that their information and communication technology services are accessible to students with disabilities, experts say.

The federal government last month finished work on updating section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which details the accessibility standards federal agencies, contractors and employers must meet both online -- like on a public-facing website -- and in person, like an information kiosk at the DMV.

Section 508 is now almost two decades old -- it was added as an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act in 1998 -- an eternity in the world of information technology. An advisory committee in 2006 recommended that section 508 be refreshed, and work on updating the rule continued throughout the Obama administration. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 18 -- two days before the presidential transition of power.

The rule goes into effect Jan. 18, 2018, giving federal agencies a year to prepare.

Section 508 doesn’t directly address accessible technology in higher education, but it still affects colleges and universities. Some colleges have determined on their own that they are covered by the law. A handful of states (and therefore sometimes their public colleges and universities) have used the law as a blueprint for accessibility. And some federal grant programs also come with accessibility requirements based on the law.

More importantly, according to accessibility experts and groups that advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, the law helps set the tone for what the federal government sees as a baseline for accessibility policies.

“What this does is it draws a line in the sand,” said Kevin Rydberg, senior accessibility consultant with Siteimprove, a website optimization company. “For those who have used the excuse of ‘We don’t know what the rule change is going to be, so we can’t design for it,’ that excuse is now gone.”

That development is particularly important at a time when lawsuits are becoming an increasingly common strategy to compel colleges to ensure equal access to higher education for students with disabilities. Atlantic Cape Community College, Miami University in Ohio and the massive open online course provider edX are just some of the education providers that have in the last few years faced legal action from advocacy groups and students.

In the cases where those lawsuits have been resolved through settlements, many colleges have agreed to follow the accessibility standard that the federal government now has established as its baseline. The updated rule requires agencies to comply with the AA level of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, a widely recognized standard developed by the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative.

While the U.S. Department of Justice under President Obama sometimes involved itself in accessibility lawsuits against colleges, it is not certain if the department will take such an active role under Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who has been nominated to serve as attorney general.

During the one-year window until the updated rule goes into effect, Rydberg said colleges should re-examine their design processes to ensure that accessibility is a central part of them -- not an afterthought. He recommended that colleges pay particularly close attention to digital resources and webpages intended to serve a wide audience and ensure that they conform to the accessibility standard.

“You have to have these processes built in from day one,” Rydberg said. “The time is now. Don’t wait until the deadline is looming.”

Advocacy groups such as the National Federation of the Blind welcomed the updated rule, even while pushing for education-specific accessibility guidelines. On Tuesday the NFB held an event in Washington, D.C., to push for the passage of the Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (AIM HE) Act, which would authorize the creation of a committee to produce voluntary guidelines for course materials.

“We feel very strongly that specific guidance is needed in the area of education,” Christopher S. Danielsen, director of public relations for the NFB, said in an interview. Until new regulations that deal specifically with higher education are approved -- such as under Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 -- he said “the [section] 508 regulations are going to be the accessibility regulations that people look to to see what the government thinks accessibility looks like.”

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At NCAA meeting, college sports leaders recommend supporting athlete protests

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/03/2017 - 08:00

From the protests at the University of Missouri over racial representation to the women’s volleyball team at West Virginia University Institute of Technology declining to stand during the national anthem, college athletes have embraced a renewed role in campus activism in recent years.

It may come in the form of a football team threatening to boycott a game over racial inequality or a quarterback posting a photo of himself online wearing a hat emblazoned with the words “Fuck Trump.” Either way, such protests often spark debates about free speech, with colleges and teams caught in the middle. That debate was a common theme at last month’s National Collegiate Athletic Association meeting in Nashville, Tenn., with college presidents, athletes and NCAA leaders all weighing in on the topic.

The consensus: let the players speak.

“From the Vietnam War to the present, student-athletes have felt compelled to use their platform to express opinions about social issues,” Kevin Rome, president of Lincoln University, said during a panel discussion at the meeting. “Whether by wearing black armbands or kneeling during the national anthem, student athletes should not lose their constitutional rights.”

When Tim Wolfe announced his resignation as the University of Missouri System’s president in November 2015, the decision came after weeks of demonstrations over the president’s handling of a string of racist incidents on campus. Student and faculty groups had been calling for Wolfe’s resignation, and a graduate student went on a weeklong hunger strike, vowing he would not eat until Wolfe was “removed from office or my internal organs fail and my life is lost.”

Then at least 30 members of the university’s football team linked arms with the hunger striker and gave an ultimatum: if Wolfe didn’t resign, they would boycott all football-related activities.

That included a game scheduled just days later. While it would be an exaggeration to attribute Wolfe's resignation -- and that of the Columbia campus's chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin -- largely to the players' actions, their well-publicized strike certainly helped tip the scales and highlighted what kind of economic power athletes hold. At a meeting of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics in May, Arne Duncan, a former U.S. secretary of education, asked if college players would consider organizing similar boycotts over athletics issues like concussion policies or name, image and likeness rights.

Rollins Stallworth, a former Stanford University football player and chair of the Pac-12 Conference’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, revealed that two of Stanford’s team captains boycotted football-related activities in 2015 during summer workouts after the university was late in providing players with scholarship money for participating in the camp. The protest was not nearly as dramatic as the strike at Missouri, Stallworth said, but “seeing the effect of two of our teammates doing that and what goes on in the locker room, the discussion that happens, you can see the potential that could happen.”

During the NCAA’s annual meeting last month, the chair of the Division I Board of Directors and the chairs of the Division II and Division III Presidents Councils all said they supported athlete protests and activism, particularly those involving social justice issues.

“Athletes have a prominent role,” said Alan Cureton, chair of the Division III Presidents Council. “On the 10 o’ clock news, it’s news, weather and sports. Not news, weather and opera. Athletes have a platform. We have an opportunity to be a voice for those who do not have a voice. We have an opportunity to speak up for those who can’t speak up. The platform allows athletes to say, ‘This is what I believe in.’”

That stance isn’t shared by everyone. Critics of the protest at Missouri were so worried that similar boycott attempts would take place elsewhere in the state that one Missouri lawmaker introduced legislation that would have stripped athletes of their scholarships if they boycotted games. Last year, a state senator placed a hold on the University of Arkansas' budget request after six members of the women's basketball team knelt during the national anthem to protest police shootings of African-Americans.

In August, Jim Mora, head football coach at the University of California, Los Angeles, publicly admonished his quarterback for wearing the “Fuck Trump” hat. When asked by a reporter how he would handle one of his players protesting racial inequality by not standing during the national anthem, Clemson University's head football coach, Dabo Swinney, criticized athletes who do not stand for the anthem and said, “Some of these people need to move to another country.”

Speaking at the NCAA meeting, Rome, of Lincoln University, was critical of such responses. “Restrictive policies are not the answer,” he said. “Sometimes the answer is to just not make an issue out of it.”

College sports reformers, meanwhile, have been encouraged by the protests and have said a boycott of a bowl game -- which are typically among the most watched and most lucrative games in a program's season -- would be one of the most impactful ways athletes could protest their treatment or take a stand for social justice issues. They seemingly got their wish in December, when the University of Minnesota football team said it would boycott the Holiday Bowl.

The focus of the protest, however, was not exactly what the reformers had in mind.

The Minnesota players were angry not over racial inequality or athlete safety, but over the suspension of 10 teammates who had been accused of sexually assaulting and harassing a female student. The university had conducted an investigation finding many of the charges to be valid. The athletes argued that the university had violated their teammates' rights to due process. The team’s head coach, Tracy Claeys, posted a message on Twitter supporting his players.

The boycott initially attracted sympathy from many alumni and those concerned about issues of due process, but support for the university's stance grew as details emerged about what happened to the female student, in particular after a redacted version of the university's equal opportunity office's report on its investigation was published online.

The report detailed why the university found that four of the players engaged in sexual assault and that others engaged in forms of harassment, such as videotaping the victim without her consent. The report also stated that some athletes tried to cover up what happened or violated other parts of the student code of conduct.

After the report was leaked, the players ended the boycott. The university fired Claeys, the head coach, two weeks later.

Kendall Spencer, a former college track athlete and the first student member of the NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors, said protests of that nature can be avoided if athletes feel as though they have a clear way of communicating their frustrations to an institution. Spencer said athletes too often feel they cannot voice their concerns with coaches and administrators, leaving colleges caught off guard when a team goes public with an issue.

When the football team at Northwestern University decided to unionize in 2014, Spencer said, the university’s student-athlete advisory committee told him that it “had no idea the football team even had a problem” until the unionization efforts went public.

“When people don’t communicate, it’s a free-for-all,” Spencer said. “And then you have to end up cleaning up house when someone has an issue and they go straight to the media. It begs the question: What kind of vehicles are we providing to student-athletes to have these kinds of conversations?”

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Study finds shift in Chinese Ph.D. education from Soviet to American model

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/03/2017 - 08:00

Chinese doctoral education has shifted from a Soviet to an American model, according to a working paper that demonstrates the growth and improvement of Ph.D. education in the country.

The paper, “From the Former Soviet Patterns Towards the U.S. Model? Changes in Chinese Doctoral Education,” finds that although there is still evidence of the impact of Soviet ideas, Ph.D. study has become increasingly influenced by the U.S. since the mid-1990s.

Futao Huang, professor at the Research Institute for Higher Education at Hiroshima University and international co-investigator for the University College London Institute of Education’s Center for Global Higher Education, who conducted the research, found that doctoral education and training is now based on course work and a structured curriculum, accompanied by a comprehensive exam and the submission of a doctoral dissertation, in a similar way to the U.S. system.

In addition, while engineering, science and medicine are still considered to be “priorities” for Ph.D.s, social science subjects such as management, law and economics have begun to occupy a larger share of the doctoral education sector in China.

Meanwhile, doctoral education and training in China has relied more on individual universities and less on research institutes, owing to the rapid expansion of research universities since the late 1990s, which suggests that “the impact of the former Soviet academic system on China has declined.”

Formerly, there was a clear division of labor between the two parts of the sector in a similar way to the old Soviet model, with universities producing professional and vocational graduates and research institutes undertaking research activities, according to the study.

The research highlights the reforms made, at both the national and institutional levels, to the old Chinese higher education system modeled on the Soviet Union’s.

These changes include the building of large comprehensive research universities through merging specialized institutions, the implementation of national policy and strategies of creating several world-class universities, and the “massification” of Chinese higher education, particularly since 1998.

These changes have led to the growth and improvement of doctoral education in China, according to Huang. Between 1995 and 2014, the number of new entrants at the Ph.D. level increased more than sixfold and the number of graduates increased more than tenfold.

The paper also highlights several challenges, largely due to the rapid growth of doctoral education, increased marketization or deregulation of government control, and the lack of quality assurance mechanisms.

Although there has been growth in the number of inbound international students studying in doctoral programs in Chinese universities, they constitute a “tiny proportion” when compared with Australia, Britain, Japan and the United States. The proportion of international academics in doctoral programs is also low.

Academic corruption is also an issue at the doctoral level, Huang continued, claiming that “many universities spend a lot of money on public relations or use their networking to influence reviewers who evaluate their application to provide doctoral programs.”

There are also examples of government leaders and businesspeople seeking doctoral degrees despite the fact that they cannot fulfill the minimum requirements for graduation from a doctoral program, he said.

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AAUP says colleges should defend professors targeted for online harassment due to political views

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

Joseph Palermo, professor of history at Sacramento State University, has been writing publicly about his left-of-center political views for years, to little feedback. So he was surprised by the vitriol he experienced recently for asserting in a blog post critical of Donald Trump that climate change is man-made -- a position consistent with the thinking of leading scientists.

“I got death threats, ad hominem attacks, lots of shaming -- putting ‘professor’ in quotation marks -- and someone urging me to go commit suicide,” Palermo said in an interview. “There were about 50 emails and 200 to 250 tweets. … It seemed very much an orchestrated attempt to try to intimidate me.”

Online harassment of academics, who usually have easily accessible web profiles and email addresses, is nothing new. But with many targeted faculty members sharing their stories in recent months, and with political winds blowing in a decidedly anti-science direction, the American Association of University Professors has released a statement condemning actions like those taken against Palermo.

“The AAUP does not dispute the First Amendment rights of [politically oriented news and other] organizations, nor does it call for government censorship or sanction against them,” reads the statement on targeted online harassment. “It does, however, condemn efforts to intimidate or silence faculty members, and it urges others to do so, as well. Governing boards of colleges and universities have a responsibility to defend academic freedom and institutional autonomy, including to protect institutions from undue public interference, by resisting calls for the dismissal of faculty members and by condemning their targeted harassment and intimidation.”

Specifically, AAUP “urges administrations, governing boards and faculties, individually and collectively, to speak out clearly and forcefully to defend academic freedom and to condemn targeted harassment and intimidation of faculty members.”

It also recommends that “administrations and elected faculty bodies work jointly to establish institutional regulations that prohibit the surreptitious recording of classroom discourse or of private meetings between students and faculty members.”

Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary for tenure, academic freedom and governance at AAUP, said the organization was concerned not only about past attacks on scholars, but about those yet to come.

“We’ve seen legislative attacks on academic institutions and tenure, and there is just a general climate developing that is hostile to the role that universities play in society,” he said. “It’s really important in the climate that we’re in right now that governing boards and administrations and faculty members, individually and together, speak out in favor of their colleagues.”

AAUP’s statement does not refer to scholarly or other criticism that is clearly free speech, but rather repeated harassment and intimidation, Tiede said. “This is really about inundating somebody with threats, which, whenever that gets reported, creates a chilling climate” for everyone else, he said.

Palermo, for example, wrote on The Huffington Post in December that “people who dismiss science in one area shouldn’t be able to benefit from science in others,” and so if “Trump and his cohort believe the science of global warming is bogus, then they shouldn’t be allowed to use the science of the internet for their Twitter accounts, the science of global positioning for their drones or the science of nuclear power for their weaponry.”

A number of political blogs picked up the essay, writing that Palermo wanted Trump banned from Twitter because he didn’t believe in climate change. Palermo said he was making a rhetorical point, but that it was lost on his critics -- many of whom accused him of hypocritically advocating that the then president-elect be censored.

Palermo received more messages of hate after he appeared on Fox News’s Tucker Carlson Tonight to defend himself, but struggled momentarily to name a precise source for his assertion that 98 percent of scientists believe in climate change. (For the record, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration says, “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”)

Even prior to the flare-up, Palermo said he emailed his faculty union and department chair to alert them that two nonstudents attended his class one day last fall, furiously taking notes and exchanging comments in the back of the lecture hall. That, combined with the advent of websites such as Professor Watchlist, an online registry of “radical” professors, rings of "neo-McCarthyism,” he said.

Beyond Palermo, numerous other professors have claimed intimidation in recent months. Olga Perez Stable Cox, an instructor of psychology at Orange Coast College who was secretly videotaped talking about the results of the presidential election, said she had to leave the state due to threats. Also last fall, the Middle East Studies Association asked the State University of New York at Plattsburgh to affirm the academic freedom of Simona Sharoni, a professor of women’s and gender studies who said she received physical threats over her public comments on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

In another case, George Ciccariello-Maher, associate professor of politics and global studies at Drexel University, was criticized for tweeting that all he wanted for Christmas 2016 was "white genocide," which he has previously argued is not a real threat to whites in the U.S. Drexel first strongly condemned the professor's tweet, then backed down somewhat in a second statement, after many academics said the university failed to defend its professor.

Tiede said institutions have had mixed responses to the targeted harassment of faculty members. He praised the University of Madison at Wisconsin, though, for defending a controversial course on whiteness -- and the free speech of its instructor -- to state lawmakers.

Rick Legon, president of the Association of Governing Boards, said his organization hasn’t issued guidelines about online harassment specifically, but that it “would be supportive” of those suggested by the AAUP.

Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Pennsylvania State University, who has been targeted both online and legally for his work on climate change -- specifically his "hockey stick" graph suggesting that it is man-made -- helped draft the statement for AAUP. Via email, he said, "I am fortunate in that these attacks were highly publicized and numerous academic and scientific groups and societies came out to support me, and to demand that my institutions -- the University of Virginia and, later, Penn State -- did the right thing and stood up to the pressure campaigns to have me fired from my job."

He added, "What I worry about are the many more academics who are under the radar screen, who don’t have access to the support structure that I had, and are every bit as much or more vulnerable simply because of the research they are doing and because of their willingness to speak truth to power. … Good-faith debate is not only OK, it is welcome -- and critical -- in our academic discourse. But bad-faith smear campaigns and pressure campaigns against academics whose findings or views might seem threatening to powerful interest groups? We must defend academics against that."

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