Higher Education News

Whittier College's law school won't enroll new students

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 07:00

Whittier College announced Wednesday that it will no longer admit students to its law school.

While currently enrolled students will be able to continue through graduation, the law school is effectively shutting down.

Many law schools in recent years -- with fewer students applying and a tough job market facing graduates -- have shrunk the size of their student bodies. But actually shutting a law school is highly unusual. (Two law schools in Minnesota merged in 2015.)

A statement from the board of Whittier College said the board has been considering the future of the law school since 2015 and considered options such as having the law school become part of another institution. But none of those plans worked out, the statement from the board said. "We believe we have looked at every realistic option to continue a successful law program. Unfortunately, these efforts did not lead to a desired outcome," the statement said.

A statement posted on the law school's website (since removed), with a notice that it could be attributed to the law school, criticized the board's decision.

"We are obviously devastated by the Whittier College Board of Trustees’ decision to discontinue the program of legal education at Whittier Law School," the statement said. "For more than 50 years, we have provided a high-quality education to students of diverse backgrounds and abilities -- students who might not otherwise have been able to receive a legal education and who are now serving justice and enterprise around the world. As is well-known, the last few years have been extremely difficult for law schools across the country. Whittier Law School felt those challenges keenly, and we took significant steps to address them. Sadly, our sponsoring institution opted to abandon the law school rather than provide the time and resources needed to finish paving the path to ongoing viability and success. We believe this action was unwise, unwarranted and unfounded."

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the students at the law school are not white, and Whittier law faculty members have long pointed with pride to their efforts to promote diversity in the legal profession. A slight majority of students are women. The college says that it is the third most diverse law school in the country.

At the same time, Whittier law graduates have struggled on the job market. Data published by the law school about job placement show that just 30 of the school's 141 graduates in 2015 had gained full-time employment that required passing the bar. Preliminary data for 2016 show that 38 of that year's 128 graduates were employed in such positions.

Some law school faculty members have gone to court -- so far without success -- seeking to block Whittier from moving to close its law school. A brief filed by the faculty members says that Whittier College is seeking to profit from the land on which the law school is located and is violating agreements with professors.

Students at the law school are planning a rally to protest the decision to shut the law school.

The Orange County Register reported that students said they were stunned by the news when they attended an emergency meeting called by the law school on Wednesday. “They dropped a bomb on us a week before finals,” one student said. “People were in tears.”

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Report finds unsettled pathways to the college presidency

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 07:00

Everything about the college presidency today seems to be unsettled, including the career pathways new presidents take on the way to the top job on campus.

Current presidents face a slew of new challenges as demographics drive colleges and universities to enroll increasingly diverse student bodies with new sets of needs, as financial constraints impose harsh realities on institutions, and as technology threatens to upend the campus and the workplace. At the same time, the professional ladders leaders climb on the way to becoming presidents is changing -- just as a large number of long-serving presidents are expected to soon retire.

Yet presidents too often find themselves running from crisis to crisis or falling into short-term thinking. As the job pressures mount, and as presidential tenures shorten, leaders are looking for quick wins that will allow them to show their boards of trustees or their next campus that they have a record of getting things done.

It all adds up to a college presidency that lacks cohesion, according to a new report released today titled "Pathways to the University Presidency." The report, a joint effort from the Center for Higher Education Excellence at the auditing and consulting firm Deloitte and from the Center for 21st Century Universities at Georgia Tech, says that today’s presidents need to be constantly shifting in their roles and able to exhibit a range of skills. They need to be able to tackle everything from raising money to building new types of institutional partnerships.

“There is a growing range of pressures and constituencies and stakeholders that demand a much, much greater balance across a wide variety of activities and skills,” said Cole Clark, Deloitte’s executive director for higher education and one of the report’s co-authors.

The report’s authors used several different research techniques to compile a wide-ranging look at the college presidency, its future and the talent pools that will feed it. They surveyed college presidents, collecting responses from leaders at 112 private four-year institutions and 51 public four-year institutions. They interviewed presidents and trustees. They analyzed 840 sitting presidents’ curriculum vitae to gain a sense of where current presidents have worked in the past.

Their resulting analysis provides new insight into the state of the college presidency and its future direction at a time when many are eagerly awaiting another much-looked-to report on the topic, the American Council on Education’s American College President study. That study is due out in late spring or early summer, five years after the last edition sparked discussion of a soon-to-come wave of retirements.

The Deloitte and Georgia Tech report’s analysis of CVs yielded an interesting list of what authors dubbed higher education’s “talent factories” -- campuses where numerous current presidents previously worked as faculty members, deans, provosts or senior staff members. The list includes many of the Ivy League institutions one would expect: Brown, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton and Yale Universities; Dartmouth College; and the University of Pennsylvania. It also includes some other prestigious institutions and top public institutions that might be expected, such as the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Indiana University in Bloomington; the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Johns Hopkins University; Texas A&M University and the University of California, Berkeley.

But authors noted a pair of surprise appearances on the list: Arizona State University and Georgia State University. Both are well-respected institutions that don't embrace typical models of higher education.

The list suggests opportunities for future research to try to determine why certain institutions turn out a high number of presidents, Clark said. Authors weren’t able to delve into that question in the current report, which only looks at CVs from a quantitative standpoint.

Authors were able to conclude that the pathways leaders are taking to the presidency are becoming more varied. The provost’s office is no longer the sole gateway to the presidency. Instead, academic deans are often jumping the provost’s office and being hired as presidents.

But the dean-to-president move is much more common among men than women -- a difference report co-author Jeffrey J. Selingo noted when he briefly previewed the report’s findings during the American Council on Education’s annual meeting in March. Male presidents had made the jump from dean 43 percent of the time, while women presidents did so 18 percent of the time, according to the report.

The report also says that presidents who did not serve as provosts tended to have become presidents more recently, meaning that particular pipeline is probably a new trend. And it says that presidents who hadn’t been provosts tended to work at smaller institutions. About two-thirds of presidents in the report’s CV analysis who had never served as provosts led institutions with fewer than 5,000 students.

Provosts, meanwhile, are increasingly seen as leaders who bring a different skill set than presidents. Provosts are believed to be focusing “inward and down” -- meaning they work with faculty members and students on academics. Presidents, in contrast, are thought to be looking “up and out” -- dealing more with relationships with governing boards, the public, political leaders and alumni.

Surveyed presidents were asked to rank the importance of different skills needed when they started their jobs. They ranked being an academic and intellectual leader last. They ranked being a strategist as the top skill, followed by being a communicator and storyteller, being a fund-raiser, being a collaborator and having “financial and operational acumen.”

Report authors noted a difference in the way new presidents and veteran presidents viewed themselves. New presidents tended to see themselves in a financial and operational light and as leaders needing to get things done. Veterans tended to see themselves as academic leaders in a collegial and intellectual higher education community.

Veterans and new presidents also differed in who they believe will replace them when they leave their jobs. Veteran presidents who have held their jobs for more than 15 years tend to believe a provost is likely to succeed them. Presidents with less than a decade on the job believe their successors are more likely to come from the private sector.

However, presidents agreed regardless of the length of their tenures -- and the size of the institutions they led -- that fund-raising is a major part of the job. Many also agreed that they felt unprepared for the task of raising money. Surveyed presidents were asked to say how prepared they were to oversee different campus areas. They rated fund-raising and alumni/donor relations below areas like strategic planning, academic affairs and budgeting.

“They call that out as an area where they feel like they need the most leadership development and training,” Clark said.

But the report’s authors noted that being a college president has traditionally involved on-the-job training, instead of the formal training that many private-sector chief executive officers receive in business school.

For instance, many presidents said they wanted leadership training. Yet presidents did not feel comfortable receiving such training.

“Leadership development is stigmatized in higher education,” the report quotes one anonymous public university president saying. “There is knowledge out there that can help people become better leaders, but it’s vilified among faculty members who don’t understand it.”

Almost two-thirds of presidents reported having coaches or mentors to prepare them for their positions. But only one-third of those surveyed said they still received coaching to help them as they continued to navigate the job.

College and university presidents could use another form of help, according to the report: help setting long-range goals. Many presidents feel pressure to focus on the short term, which can cause them to make decisions like tying academic programming to the current job market, forming enrollment plans that ignore long-term demographic shifts and drumming up quick fund-raising dollars instead of emphasizing larger commitments over time.

The fact that college presidents are increasingly jumping from job to job has caused other issues, the report says. Strategic plans are being rewritten frequently, and presidents are often ending up at institutions that don’t fit their interests or backgrounds. The report is blunt in labeling some administrators “career climbers” who apply for presidencies at many different types of institutions only because they want to be a president somewhere -- anywhere.

The report is also critical of many search processes, saying that few search committee members understand the job of president that they are trying to fill. And it is skeptical of boards and committees that search for new presidents in response to a controversy, or to find a president who leads in a different way than their predecessor. That’s a particularly salient point at a time when renewed student activism and the ever-churning world of social media can generate controversy in the blink of an eye.

Colleges and universities should consider more succession planning than they do today, the report suggests. It argues that leaders who are promoted internally can be more effective more quickly than those who are hired from outside an organization. But that’s at odds with the perception of surveyed presidents, more than half of whom said they thought external candidates make better presidents.

Succession planning and leadership training can help organizations even if they don’t promote a new president from within, Clark said. Such efforts can give other high-level administrators the skills they need to help new presidents be effective, regardless of whether they were hired from within or from a national search.

“I know that, particularly today with all the pressures that higher ed is facing, there is a pervasive feeling that a new leader needs to come from the outside,” Clark said. “But at the same time, there is no substitute for developing talent from within. That certainly can have a positive benefit on presidents who are recruited externally as well.”

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Students who attend college full-time for even one semester are more likely to graduate

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 07:00

A growing body of research shows that college students who enroll full-time, taking even 12 credits’ worth of course work in a single semester, are much more likely stick with college, save money and eventually graduate.

Yet while the researchers behind these studies encourage efforts to nudge more students to go full-time (ideally taking 30 credits in a year), they warn against neglecting the many who will continue to attend part-time because of work and family demands -- currently only 38 percent of community college students are enrolled full-time, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

In addition, they said colleges and policy makers should avoid full-time enrollment incentives that veer toward the punitive. Some critics have made that charge about the 30-credit provision in New York State’s new free-college plan, which means students will be on the hook to pay back the tuition costs of their second semester if they fall even a credit short in a year.

The latest evidence of the benefits of full-time enrollment status comes in a newly released report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin.

By looking at transcript data of 17,085 students from 28 community colleges, the center found that 34 percent of students who went full-time for at least some time earned an associate degree or a certificate, compared to only 23 percent who enrolled part-time throughout their community college experience.

Full-time enrollment in the first term also led to a substantial graduation rate bump, according to the study, which tracked students from 2005 to 2013.

Students who took at least 12 credits when they first arrived at college were more likely to return for a second year (77 percent compared to 64 percent) and to earn a credential (38 percent compared to 31 percent).

“Because there is an obvious benefit in students having some full-time experience, a full-time edge, you might say, colleges should consider asking each student one straightforward question: Is there any way you could attend full-time, even for one semester?” Evelyn Waiwaiole, the center’s executive director, said in a written statement.

The new report builds on previous research from the Center for Community College Research at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Last year CCRC released a study looking at the comparative benefits of students who took even larger course loads -- at least 15 credits -- during their first semester of enrollment at public institutions in Tennessee, both at two-year colleges and four-year institutions.

Community college students who took at least 15 credits were 6.4 percentage points more likely to earn a credential than those who took 12, the study found. That gap was 11 percentage points among students at four-year institutions.

The findings from the two studies in some ways fly in the face of conventional wisdom, which holds that less prepared and first-generation students, including those from minority groups or low-income backgrounds, should ease their way into college with relatively light course loads.

“That turns out to be very bad advice,” said Davis Jenkins, a senior research associate at CCRC and co-author of the Tennessee study. “It’s the soft bigotry of low expectations. … We’re not being straight with students.”

Don’t Forget Part-Timers

In general, full-time students are much more likely to graduate than their part-time peers, as community colleges have long known. Yet the substantial benefits of any experience as a full-time student might surprise some.

The Center for Community College Student Engagement report describes several reasons why this might be happening.

One is that students who initially take a full load are more likely to be required to go through a new-student orientation. And full-time students spend more time on campus and have better access to support services, including academic advisers. Just as important, they have more opportunities to collaborate with other students and to be exposed to full-time faculty members.

For example, 30 percent of students who attended part-time throughout community college reported that they never talked about career plans with an instructor or adviser, according to a center survey, compared to 19 percent of always full-time students and 22 percent of students with fluid attendance patterns.

“They get early engagement. They’re not just getting engagement in that last semester,” Waiwaiole said in an interview. She adds that full-time students are “just more knowledgeable about the experience of how to get through college.”

Both Waiwaiole and Jenkins said they hope research on the benefits of full-time attendance will help colleges to adjust how they operate. That means tweaking schedules to make it possible for working students to take more courses. And for students who do go all in with a full-time load, they said colleges need to do more up front to help them set a plan to get to graduation.

“We really have to change educators’ mind-sets,” said Jenkins.

Complete College America is a nonprofit organization that is pushing hard on full-time enrollment with a campaign dubbed 15 to Finish. The group’s president, Tom Sugar, applauded the new report from CCCSE, pointing to “tragic” graduation rates for part-time students.

“Fifteen credits work better for students across the board,” said Sugar.

The group, which receives funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, points to several states and institutions that are seeking to make a 15-credit load more appealing to students. Minnesota and Indiana make additional state-based grant aid available for students who go full-time, Sugar said. And the Indiana University System charges the same tuition rate for 15 credits as it does 12 credits -- so-called “banded” tuition rates.

Even so, part-time students will remain a large group in American higher education, at least for the foreseeable future.

Only half of the four-year college students in CCRC’s Tennessee study sample attempted to take 27 or more credits in their first year. And just 28 percent of the state’s two-year college students took at least 15 credits in their first semester, the study found, with that number dropping to 20 percent for a full year.

“We need to help our colleges find ways to better design their services to help part-time students,” said Karen Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream, a nonprofit group that works on college completion in the two-year sector.

While Jenkins said he supports efforts to encourage more students to take 30 credits in a year, it’s important to recognize that this is far from an easy lift.

“Students who have limited means, it can be difficult for them,” he said, particularly as many work for 30 or more hours a week.

In addition, Jenkins said research shows that the retention and completion benefits of taking a full load is about attempting the courses, not necessarily passing all of them. Community college students tend to fail 15 to 20 percent of their courses, he said.

New York left little margin for error in its free-college plan’s 30-credit requirement, likely by design. And participating students who fail courses might be surprised to receive a tuition bill.

“There’s good intention with this. And it builds on the momentum about access,” Stout said of New York’s legislation. But she adds that “it’s going to shut a lot of people out.”

Stout said tough questions remain about who can go to college full-time, and called for a nuanced approach to policies that seek to move more students in that direction.

“Is privilege behind the full-time edge?” she said.

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White nationalist, backed by court order, appears at Auburn

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 07:00

White nationalist Richard Spencer addressed Auburn University Tuesday night, making a typically inflammatory speech, which the university had tried to block. Some attendees interrupted his talk, and a large group protested outside, chanting, "No fascists, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A."

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins ruled that Auburn, as a public institution covered by the First Amendment, had to allow Spencer to speak. The university previously said that doing so would create unsafe conditions.

Before a crowd that alternated between cheers and jeers, Spencer spun a narrative: white identity has been ripped away from people, and people are no longer comfortable celebrating "European" heritage and its place in history. A "black cloud" eternally hangs above the heads of most white people, a sense of guilt for their ancestry and concepts like misogyny, Spencer said.

Instead, white pride has been replaced with weak substitutes, like the kinship on football teams, which Spencer went on to insult as "bullshit," drawing boos from the crowd at a university where pride in the football team crosses political lines.

"All of those identities are ultimately toothless, they’re ultimately meaningless," Spencer said.

At times, audience members snapped back at Spencer. When he said that it was "truly sick" that Auburn would bring in people who were "not the greatest exemplars of the African race," who would sexually abuse the white women on campus, someone in the crowd screamed back that "white men rape, too." (From video of the audience, it was unclear how many of those there were connected to Auburn, although it was clear some were not. Spencer had supporters and critics in the crowd.)

Spencer said that the so-called alt-right -- of which he is seen as a leader -- is all about identity. Another person called out, "You're about hatred, that's what you're about."

Spencer shook his head: "Seriously, try to get a little more creative."

He also spoke at length about the battle to secure the space for the evening's talk, touching on free speech and the power of language. Spencer said his rhetoric disrupts "business as usual," which is why his "enemies," like the "communist scum outside" fight him. Outside, students and nonstudents rallied against Spencer. At least two arrests were made.

Cameron Padgett, who told the crowd that he was a student from Georgia, rented a university building for Spencer and filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court in Alabama to demand that Auburn let Spencer appear.

In his complaint, Padgett wrote, “Auburn is not allowed … to pick and choose what views are to be presented in a facility open to the general public for holding meetings and giving and hearing speeches. Auburn is engaging in a thinly disguised ideological litmus test by which those sharing its official views find their rights protected while those who challenge the Auburn views have their right to freedom of speech canceled based on some anonymous telephone threats.”

University administrators published a statement Tuesday indicating they would comply with the judge’s order, but said that Spencer attempted to stoke conflict on the campus in a way that is “divisive and disruptive.”

“Whether it's offensive rhetoric, offensive fliers around campus or inappropriate remarks on social media, we will not allow the efforts of individuals or groups to undermine Auburn's core values of inclusion and diversity and challenge the ideals personified by the Auburn creed,” the statement reads in part.

An earlier statement from the university said it “deplored [Spencer’s] views, which run counter to those of this institution.”

Spencer posted a video statement to YouTube, calling the judge’s ruling a “great victory” for the alt-right and free speech. He was much more buoyant compared to another video he released Friday, in which he sharply criticized the university.

“If Auburn thinks that I’m going to back down because they canceled on me, that I’m just simply going to politely go away, then they don’t know me at all. They should have done their research,” Spencer said.

Spencer, in addition to helping coin the moniker “alt-right,” is president of the white nationalist think tank National Policy Institute. The Southern Poverty Law Center, an advocacy group that monitors bigotry and racist organizations nationwide, labels Spencer as an extremist and calls him “a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old, a kind of professional racist in khakis.”

Spencer vowed in November to take his message to college campuses. He spoke at Texas A&M University in December. Some called for Texas A&M to block Spencer’s appearance, but university officials said as a public institution it had to allow the visit, however deplorable educators find Spencer's views. The university sponsored an event that coincided with Spencer’s, which featured speeches denouncing him and some musical performances. The university also constructed a wall where students could write out their thoughts in light of Spencer’s visit.

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University System of Georgia announces new administrative review

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 07:00

After gaining recognition for repeatedly pulling off mergers between its colleges and universities in recent years, the University System of Georgia is turning its scrutiny toward the administrative setup at its campuses and system office.

System Chancellor Steve Wrigley announced a new comprehensive administrative review process Tuesday that will have the 28-institution, 321,551-student system searching for efficiencies and improved processes. The move marks a major initiative for a new chancellor who took over in January for the retiring Hank Huckaby, who drew widespread attention for consolidating 14 of Georgia’s colleges and universities into seven since 2011.

Georgia is far from the only state to seek administrative efficiencies. But given how aggressive the system has been in consolidating campuses, its efforts are likely to be closely watched to see how the latest effort fits with its still-unfolding consolidations. The system is currently pursuing another pair of mergers approved at the beginning of this year that will fold four institutions into two.

The administrative review does not mean that Georgia will avoid consolidations in the future, Wrigley said. Rather, it complements the system’s consolidation push.

“It is the next step beyond the consolidation efforts,” Wrigley said. “It fits nicely, because we have had an emphasis on trying to keep administrative costs as low as possible and trying to realize savings on the administrative side.”

The review is set to examine administrative functions in all departments across the university system and its campuses. It will not include core faculty activities like teaching and research.

Goals are to find savings opportunities in more efficient processes, realigned positions and restructuring and centralizing some operations. Savings could then be put toward student support services and academics, keeping up with the latest practices.

"Higher ed has changed a lot in the last 10 to 12 years," Wrigley said. "Students have changed. How it is organized has changed. How students learn, off-line offerings -- so many things have changed."

A 16-member Comprehensive Administrative Review Committee will lead the effort. Two phases are planned. The first will scrutinize the university system office and four to six other colleges and universities to be announced at a later date. Remaining institutions in the system will be examined in the second phase, expected to start in the fall of 2018.

Each phase is planned to take between eight and 16 months. The second phase could be split into additional phases.

System leaders don’t yet know how much money they expect to save. They acknowledge job cuts and position eliminations are possible. Since the review process is expected to stretch over multiple years, leaders hope many positions will be able to be eliminated by not filling vacant jobs that open up when an employee leaves. But they are not yet prepared to rule out layoffs.

The review comes after Georgia’s state auditor recently reviewed college costs in the state. The cost of attending a public college or university in the state rose 77 percent in a decade as per-student state appropriations dropped amid an increase in enrollment, Georgia’s HOPE scholarship made smaller average awards and colleges and universities increased fees, it found.

The system’s budget is approximately $8.4 billion in the current fiscal year. It receives approximately $2.2 billion in state appropriations.

Georgia’s public institutions face some financial pressures, as do all public colleges and universities, Wrigley said. But he said the auditor’s review and financial pressures were not the sole reasons for pursuing an administrative review.

“I don’t really think about it as fiscal pressures leading to other decisions,” Wrigley said. “I think we need to think about it from a different standpoint, and look at the cost side in every possible way.”

Wrigley also pointed out that he has been a part of University System of Georgia leadership since 2011 -- former Chancellor Huckaby hired him that July as executive vice chancellor, and he was at the University of Georgia before that. As a result he has a familiarity with presidents and other administrators in the system who might otherwise balk at the review effort from a new chancellor.

“I don’t know that it would be the same as somebody coming in from outside and launching something like this,” he said. “We’ve talked about it off and on, and we’ve talked with our presidents about it. There was an awareness that we’d be going down this path and that it is the next step beyond the consolidation efforts.”

Taking a hard look at system and institutional administrations makes sense for an organization that has gone through as much change as the Georgia system, said Thomas Harnisch, director of state relations at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

“It looks like they’re pursuing a multipronged strategy,” Harnisch said. “Georgia has been the national leader in pursuing intercampus efficiencies through mergers, so it makes sense that they would also seek out intracampus efficiencies.”

Some states have formed steering committees to guide their administrative reviews, and others have hired outside consultants, Harnisch said. Georgia is asking the newly formed steering committee to review the effort's methodology, look at its project phases and analyze data gathered.

The committee’s members include university presidents, other administrators, a student and a faculty member. Kelly McFaden, an associate professor of social foundations of education at the University of North Georgia and the chair of that university’s Faculty Senate, is the faculty representative on the steering committee.

McFaden believes that a well-functioning administration helps faculty members in their jobs, she said. Her aim is to make sure changes put in place are good for faculty members and the system as a whole.

The University of North Georgia was created in a consolidation completed in 2013. Consolidations have typically been said to have saved money and increased efficiency -- the University System of Georgia has estimated that its consolidations resulted in a collective savings of $24.4 million. But some have voiced concerns that they resulted in combined universities with too many administrators left over from each constituent institution.

The administrative review is a chance to examine that issue, McFaden said.

“My hope is that this is an opportunity to say, ‘Now that we have gone through these round of consolidations, and now that the landscape of higher education is changing, are we being as efficient as we can be?’” McFaden said. “I mean revisiting how the administrative structures were combined at the time of consolidation.”

The chair of the University System of Georgia Faculty Council, Elizabeth Desnoyers-Colas, wants to find out more about the review. Desnoyers-Colas is also an associate professor of communications at Armstrong State University, which is in the process of being consolidated with Georgia Southern University.

“We don’t know what criteria they are using to do this review of administrators,” she said. “We don’t know what questions they’re asking.”

Still, faculty members generally welcome the step, she said.

“I do suspect some of the colleagues I’ve talked to have the same questions,” she said. “I think they welcome the step and would like to know more about it and how it’s going to work.”

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Colleges announce commencement speakers

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 07:00
  • Carnegie Mellon University: Meg Whitman, president and chief executive officer of Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
  • Colby College: Joe Biden, the former vice president.
  • College of St. Scholastica: Federal Judge Patrick Schiltz.
  • Framingham State University: U.S. Representative Seth Moulton; and Jonathan T. M. Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity.
  • Furman University: Alexander Stubb, the former prime minister of Finland.
  • Guilford Technical Community College: James C. Williamson, president of the North Carolina Community College System.
  • Monmouth University: Bobbi Brown, the cosmetics executive; and Joseph M. Rigby, president and chief executive officer of Pepco Holdings Inc.
  • Morgan State University: Joe Biden, the former vice president.
  • Mount Holyoke College: Dolores Huerta, lifelong social justice organizer and activist.
  • New Hampshire Institute of Art: Jane Chu, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • State University of New York at Cobleskill: Christopher P. Gibson, a former member of Congress; and Judith A. St. Leger, vice president for research and science for SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment.
  • Susquehanna University: John R. Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial Inc.
  • University of Georgia: Ernie Johnson Jr., host of TNT’s Inside the NBA show; and Marshall Shepherd, director of the atmospheric sciences program at the university.
  • University of Puget Sound: Tim Egan, the writer.
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PayScale rankings of ROI have influence (and significant limitations)

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 07:00

Blame it on PayScale.

Ten years ago this summer, the compensation data firm began publishing data on the colleges whose graduates earned the highest salaries. “For what it costs, a B.A. degree might as well be made of gold,” the company’s first report said. (It also noted that in the 2007-08 academic year examined then, the price of a four-year public degree averaged $6,185, and “costs at private colleges and universities can skyrocket beyond $33,000 for tuition, room and board.”

Today the former figure stands at nearly $21,000, and the sticker prices for a year at the most expensive private universities now start with a six. So it isn’t surprising that PayScale has expanded the data it publishes about higher education and been widely mimicked. Rankings providers like Money and Forbes have incorporated the data into their formulas, the American Institutes for Research's College Measures is working with numerous states to produce their own measures of college economic payoff, and even the federal government, in its College Scorecard, has included a measure of postcollege earnings in the outcomes data it provides.

The newest entry into the mix, The Equality of Opportunity Project, uses graduate earnings data to show how well (or poorly) colleges help their graduates climb rungs on the country's economic ladder.

Many college leaders dislike the metric, but the public eats it up -- and PayScale feeds its appetite.

PayScale today releases its 2017 College ROI Report, which provides information on the return on investment -- the 20-year compensation advantage gained by attending that institution -- for the typical graduate of 1,400 public and private nonprofit colleges. As is our practice, Inside Higher Ed does not report on the results of this or any of the burgeoning number of other rankings of colleges, given the skepticism with which most informed observers view their methodologies. This year's report from PayScale, like many such studies, shows engineering and science-oriented colleges having the best ROI, and sees a significant edge for public institutions, where the costs of attendance are much lower than at private nonprofit ones.

But given the PayScale data’s widespread use and the interest in ROI that the company’s approach has both helped spawn and capitalized on, the 10-year mark represents an appropriate time to look at its evolution and influence.

Most experts agree that the PayScale report has improved since its inception, and that the company has made changes over the years to address some of the criticisms directed its way, for instance by significantly refining how it calculates how much students at a given institution spend on their education. "They are definitely trying to do the right thing," said Robert Kelchen, assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University.

But some of the PayScale metric's fundamental flaws remain: because the company bases its data on voluntary survey reports, its samples for certain colleges and majors may not be representative. And its institutional rankings are heavily influenced by the makeup of the colleges' programs, favoring institutions whose programs lean toward high-paying fields.

Perspectives on PayScale

Critiques of data like PayScale's range from the broadly philosophical to the narrowly practical.

Many people in higher education just plain don't like the idea of measuring a college education primarily (or even significantly) through graduates' income. "PayScale has shoved aside the philosopher king as the arbiter of the worth of college," Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity College Washington, wrote in an Inside Higher Ed essay late last year arguing for a new way of defining higher education's value proposition.

As an expert on higher education finance and now provost at the University of San Francisco, Donald E. Heller sympathizes with McGuire's argument, but he concedes that "the horse is out of the barn" in terms of measuring the value of higher education at least partially by graduates' economic outcomes.

"The first thing I say is to acknowledge that college is a lot more than what you're going to earn, and it's important that we keep that in context," Heller said. "But people are very interested in this idea of ROI. When I go to admissions events, parents often ask questions like, 'Is my kid going to get a job that will allow them to pay off debt and not live in my basement?'"

If many college administrators are (at least grudgingly) accepting the idea that their campuses are going to be judged in part by such measures, they still very much insist that the data should be meaningful. And on that front, experts continue to cite problems with the PayScale data (as they do with virtually all sources of such data, including the College Scorecard). The company derives its data from individuals (about 150,000 a month) who voluntarily submit their compensation information to use one of the company's services. The college ROI data are not part of the company's core business, but they give PayScale visibility.

One key issue is the data's representativeness. Tod Massa, policy research and data warehousing director at the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, whose own longitudinal data system also produces earnings data about graduates, notes that the new PayScale college-level data are based on 1.3 million respondents over a decade, from 2007 to 2017. "I just don't know how representative that is," he said.

That's especially true when you drill down to the institution and major level, said Heller of San Francisco. "Some of the institutions in the top 15 have fewer than 100 data points, and all self-reported," he said. "It's hard to know if it is at all representative of the college." He said PayScale should be "much more honest" and transparent about the "severe limitations of the data."

Katie Bardaro, vice president of data analytics at PayScale, acknowledges that the company cannot change its underlying approach to data collection but insists that it is constantly subjecting the information to "rigorous validation." The company compares college-level data to those from the federal government's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, for instance, to "make sure we don't have over- or underrepresentation of [students in] a given major," and has begun comparing its data to those from the federal government's College Scorecard to ensure comparability.

Such comparisons are difficult because of differences between who is counted, though; the College Scorecard isn't a voluntary sample, like PayScale's information, but it includes only people who received federal financial aid. PayScale includes only people who have a bachelor's degree (no advanced degrees) -- excluding the many graduates of liberal arts programs who go on to earn graduate and professional degrees that contribute to their career and earnings success; the College Scorecard includes those without a degree at all. And many state-level databases, like Virginia's, usually don't track graduates who ultimately leave the state for work.

Kelchen, of Seton Hall, agrees that the PayScale data are too limited to be leaned on too heavily. "I would hesitate to view the PayScale data in isolation," he said.

But "if we triangulate them with the College Scorecard data and the state data systems, we might really begin to get a sense of how things look," he said. "If those data sources match up, I'd feel pretty comfortable."

The ultimate vision behind the College Scorecard (assuming it survives the Trump administration, which may be unlikely to support anything with Obama administration fingerprints on it) is for it to have data at the program level as well as the institution level, which would make its information more comparable to PayScale's and to some of the state-level databases. "Getting the Scorecard to the point where you could disaggregate by majors would give us a lot more confidence," Heller said.

"Until one of us gets perfect information, yeah, I think it's fair that we should be trying to triangulate," said Massa of Virginia.

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History journal apologizes for assigning review of book on urban education and inequality to someone viewed as a white supremacist

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 07:00

American Historical Review, a flagship journal in history, has apologized for assigning a book about inequality and urban education to a professor who has been criticized by many as a white supremacist.

Many historians say that the review -- in criticizing the book's author for not focusing on "sociobiology" -- was effectively criticizing her for not endorsing widely discredited views about race and intelligence. The journal is commissioning a new review of the book but is not retracting the review that it published.

The book in question is Making the Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and Its Limits (University of Chicago Press), by Ansley T. Erickson, assistant professor of history and education at Teachers College of Columbia University. The book was published last year, to positive reviews.

The book focuses on Nashville, Tenn., and examines how various decisions by public school systems and the forces that govern the school systems promote inequality along racial and economic lines. The book acknowledges the role of racism in American society and in the development of public school systems and policy.

The reviewer selected by AHR, as the journal is widely known, was Raymond Wolters, professor emeritus of history at the University of Delaware. Wolters has published a series of articles in American Renaissance, a publication that urges a focus on "white identity."

One of his articles is "Why Have We Unlearned What We Knew in 1900?" In the article, Wolters laments that, after World War II, the United States and its allies "decided to put as much distance as possible between their nations and Nazism, which they came to define as refusal to accept diversity. In retrospect, we can see that this set the stage for dismantling the existing particularisms in Western societies."

He goes on to suggest that immigration to the United States and Europe from "non-whites" could "ultimately destroy the victors of World War II." Wolters also criticizes "culturism" for controlling American higher education and trying "to silence those who give Darwinian or biological explanations for race and sex differences in achievement." And Wolters praises the late J. Philippe Rushton, whose work on race and intelligence has been widely condemned by scientists as racist.

Wolters did not respond to email messages seeking comment for this article.

A series of letters in the new issue of AHR blast the journal for assigning the review to Wolters and for publishing it. They said it was unfair to Erickson and a disservice to history to let this review appear.

"Many experts in the field, tonight, have begun openly questioning the broad editorial quality of the American Historical Review," wrote N. D. B. Connolly, Herbert Baxter Adams Associate Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University. "History as a discipline lies diminished under such questioning. This is not about academic freedom. This is not about freedom of speech. This is not about creating room for debate. This is about whether the AHR remains a place where professional historians can still safely expect professional handling of their work. In an age of salacious news and clickbait, no serious scholar should expect as bad-faith a review in such an important professional venue as what I read this evening."

Zoe Burkholder, associate professor of educational foundations at Montclair State University, cited two reasons why the journal should not have published the review. "First, it is inappropriate and unfair that you selected a white supremacist who believes in black racial inferiority to review a civil rights history book," she wrote. "Wolters’s views are no secret -- in fact, they are well-known among historians of education."

Burkholder added, "Second, it is an act of both racism and sexism to publish this review without editorial comment. It is racist because this review implies there is a science of racial difference that Erickson legitimately did not take into account, when you know perfectly well that is not true. It is sexist because you handed over a published book of a junior, untenured female faculty member to a white, male, senior scholar in the field to review when there was plenty of available evidence that he would not be able to offer an accurate and fair review. His review is biased and unfair, yet it is published in our discipline’s most prestigious journal. Female scholars have enough trouble getting tenure and advancing in academia without the added burden of prejudicial book reviews, a burden you just placed on Erickson."

Robert A. Schneider, interim editor of AHR and professor of history at Indiana University at Bloomington, published an apology at the end of the letters.

His statement, in full: "The AHR deeply regrets both the choice of the reviewer and aspects of the review itself. As for the choice of the reviewer, I have reviewed the process by which he was placed on our 'pick list' of potential reviewers, and I have been reassured that we were not aware of his publicly aired and published views when he was selected. His university webpage reveals him to be a legitimate scholar with a fairly long and solid publication record; our database also confirmed his status as an academic who has published in credible scholarly venues. It is absolutely true, of course, that a little more digging would have turned up evidence that would have -- and has -- discredited him as a legitimate scholar.

"Regrettably, we did not dig further. Worse yet, we did not investigate his views even when his review was flagged for my perusal. This is entirely on me. I recall lingering over that last sentence where he mentions sociobiology, wondering whether it was appropriate. In retrospect I should have lingered longer. As well, this sentence should have prompted me to look into his recent publications, which would certainly have convinced me to pull the review. Alas, I did neither, for which I owe both Professor Erickson and our readers an apology. We will be commissioning another review of her book."

Via email Schneider said that the journal was reviewing procedures to prevent anything like this from happening again.

Many of the critical letters to the journal have called for the review by Wolters to be retracted. Schneider said the journal is in the process of placing a statement about the review before it in the digital editions of the journal.

But he said that there would be no retraction. "We did indeed consider retraction as an option but, in consultation with the [American Historical Association, which sponsors the journal] and Oxford University Press, we decided not to go this route," he said. "There were several considerations, but one in particular speaks to a fundamental principle: in a sense, it would be 'convenient' for us to retract this clearly egregious review -- everyone would like to go back and eliminate their mistakes. However, this would not only be self-serving, it would also amount to effacing evidence -- something historians especially are loath to do -- of an error."

Erickson, via email, said, "I appreciate the apology and the plans for a new review. A retraction would be largely symbolic. The original text would continue to circulate in print and digitally. And as it does, it serves as a useful reminder of the AHR's participation in this problem. I care more about the actions that come next. For the AHR and other scholarly journals who have published false assertions of 'sociobiology,' this episode is a clear prompt to scrutinize their book-review processes (and their broader editorial and peer-review processes). They must identify and work to change the mechanisms -- including the underrepresentation of people of color in the profession -- that produce spaces where racism can be moved along through the pipeline rather than be recognized and interrupted."

She has been discussing the review on Twitter.

.@ScribnerUMCP @ndbconnolly @andrewkahrl @nataliapetrzela @zoeburk @pastpunditry @NYMag 11/ This is a prompt to examine institutions, practices, norms. Whose ideas figure, whose ideas count.

— Ansley Erickson (@ATErickson) April 17, 2017

.@ScribnerUMCP @ndbconnolly @andrewkahrl @nataliapetrzela @zoeburk 4/ This is not one publication. It's a peek at tolerance for hateful racist thought in the mechanisms of our profession. That’s the problem.

— Ansley Erickson (@ATErickson) April 17, 2017 DiversityEditorial Tags: BooksDiversity MattersIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 1Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, April 18, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 

Harvey Mudd cancels classes after student protests over issues of race, workload and more

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 07:00

The circumstances that led to protests and a two-day shutdown of classes at Harvey Mudd College have been brewing for years -- long bottled-up tensions about workload, race issues and a new and painful student mistrust of the faculty.

Monday and Tuesday this week, the California college will not hold classes, the cancellation following a student sit-in last week at the campus, where minority students issued demands to administration -- among them to funnel more money into counseling services, specifically geared toward students of color, and to prioritize minority student groups with funding and other perks.

Students didn’t ask for a cancellation, but rather the college did so to allow students and faculty members time either to consider some of the persisting issues on campus or to recuperate after a tense few weeks, Maria Klawe, the college’s president, said in a phone interview.

The move is highly unusual. Even as many campuses face tensions on race and other issues, it is rare to shut down for even a day as a result.

The elite science and engineering-centric institution has suffered a string of misfortunes with the deaths of three students since last July, prompting fresh grief among the campus community every time, Klawe said. The latest, a beloved campus leader with a sunny disposition, was found dead in his room from undetermined causes. The other two students died in separate car accidents. Harvey Mudd enrolls about 800 students, and such deaths affect the tight-knit community deeply, Klawe said.

Last month, too, a controversial report regarding student workload and faculty opinion of students leaked to the student newspaper, The Student Life. A committee examining the college’s classroom environment commissioned a study from the Center of Inquiry at Wabash College in Indiana. Two representatives from the center visited campus and conducted focus groups with students and faculty members.

Their findings: students expressed distress over their assignments, some reporting they fretted their showers were too lengthy because they needed more time to work, or they dreaded the prospect of getting sick, because they’d fall behind.

Harvey Mudd eight years ago revised its core curriculum, cutting it back from four semesters of courses to three and allowing for more elective classes. It was a measure that faculty and administrators believed would reduce student workload and stresses, and they were frustrated to learn it was not successful after many months of planning, Klawe said.

Some faculty members, meanwhile, told the interviewers that students were not prepared for their classes, and that they’d observed deterioration in the quality of students accepted to Harvey Mudd over the years. They described students as wed to their phones and not committed to the sciences.

Klawe said that the center didn’t capture a proper sample of either students or faculty members. The report focused on people with complaints to assure they wouldn’t be missed, but the final report lacked balance and presented it as representative of all faculty members’ opinions -- which was not the case, she said.

Faculty viewed the report, but it was withheld from the students to avoid the hurt feelings that would come from the faculty’s comments -- all were anonymous, Klawe said.

Still, someone provided it to the student newspaper, and a story on the so-called Wabash report was published two weeks ago, the same day that a memorial service for one of the students was being held on campus.

Students read the story, and later some of them printed out jumbo-size versions of the more stinging remarks from professors included in the report and plastered them to the president’s house and faculty members’ offices.

Later that week, students organized a march around campus and presented administrators with their demands. They want five new counselors for the coming academic year, with three of them being people of color, “to reflect the increasing need of health and wellness initiatives at Mudd to reflect and serve its diversifying student body,” the students wrote on a website detailing their requests.

Funding for mental health services should be boosted every year by 25 percent, they wrote, until the 2021-22 academic year. They called for a release of the student affairs office’s budget, and additional money -- $3,000 each -- for six student groups that represent minority interests on campus.

The administration also should carve out dedicated spaces in the college’s new academic building for each of these six groups, they wrote.

When administrators didn’t respond to the demands, Klawe said, the students staged the sit-in April 12.

Students who staged the sit-in did not respond to interview requests. FEMUnion at Harvey Mudd, a student group that advocates for women in science, technology, mathematics and engineering fields, wrote in a Facebook message to Inside Higher Ed that the student organizers “were tired” and did not wish to be interviewed.

Klawe compromised on some of the student requests at the sit-in.

She will provide $1,500 to each of the six minority student groups, a one-time allocation, with the administrators willing to consider it in future years depending on how the money is used. This comes in addition to the money student groups affiliated with the college already receive.

The student affairs budget will be sent to students by the end of the week, once the college figures out how to shield the salaries of the employees of the division.

The college will also formulate a proposal for increasing mental health services this week, and establishing a space for the student groups elsewhere on campus, though not necessarily a separate place for each one, Klawe said.

Klawe described the significant shifts that have occurred on campus in the past decade -- white men have historically dominated at the college -- until it attempted to diversify the campus, a campaign that has seen relative success.

While leadership there has recruited more women -- to the point where they comprise nearly 50 percent of the student body -- gains in the numbers of Hispanic and black students were sluggish until recent years, Klawe said. As a college recognized for its sciences, Harvey Mudd competes with institutions like Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both with higher profiles.

With this diversity comes growing pains, and practices that benefited what was the traditional Harvey Mudd student still linger, but are being identified.

Students pointed out a couple years ago that all lecturers in a campus speaker series were white men, Klawe said. In a required, basic course for engineering majors, women performed poorly until the college tweaked how it was taught, bringing in a hands-on component in which students built mini robots that could function underwater. The same mathematics concepts were being taught, but in a way that would appeal and allow women to thrive, Klawe said.

Like with many institutions nationwide, the results of the presidential election upset the campus population, according to Klawe, and so, in a largely positive step, conversations on campus have become more “radicalized” and have centered more than ever on social justice reforms.

Some faculty spent Monday afternoon in a training learning more about sensitivity toward minority groups and women.

“We’re trying very hard to listen,” Klawe said.

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Documents show Drexel is investigating professor's tweets but it's unclear whether faculty is involved

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 07:00

Drexel University is moving forward with an investigation into a professor’s controversial tweets, and it’s unclear what, if any, backing the inquiry has from the faculty.

George Ciccariello-Maher, an associate professor of politics and global studies at Drexel, is the professor who tweeted on Christmas Eve (academically tongue-in-cheek, he’s since said) that all he wanted for the holiday was “white genocide.”

More recently, Ciccariello-Maher tweeted that he wanted to “vomit” after seeing someone give up a first-class airline seat to a uniformed soldier; Ciccariello-Maher said he was motivated by concerns about U.S. military actions oversees -- namely the March strike on Mosul, Iraq, that killed many civilians.

Ciccariello-Maher’s tweets may be highly unpalatable to some, even some of those sympathetic to his academic and political views. What’s certain is that his Twitter feed (now private) is becoming a test case for academic freedom -- as evidenced by letters to the professor from his provost, obtained by Inside Higher Ed from a third party.

In the most recent letter, dated April 3, M. Brian Blake, provost, informed Ciccariello-Maher that his “behavior has left me with no choice but to ensure that an appropriate review is conducted in order to deal with this serious distraction to the important academic mission of the university.”

Blake said it’s the university’s “intention to commission, in consultation with Faculty Senate, a special committee of inquiry to investigate your conduct and provide findings and recommendations to me concerning your extremely damaging conduct.”

The provost said that Ciccariello-Maher’s conduct is “even more concerning” because he previously sent a “cautionary letter” about the professor’s social media activity after his “white genocide” tweet. Blake in that letter, dated Feb. 2, expressed concerns about two other tweets on the professor’s feed going back to 2015:

  • “#BringBackFields, then do him like #OldYeller,” which, in Blake’s words, “many interpreted to mean that you called for the murder of Ben Fields, the South Carolina deputy school resource officer who violently arrested a female high school student.”
  • “Off the Pigs,” which Blake said “many interpreted as your advocating for the murder of police officers.”

Blake cited Drexel’s academic freedom policy, noting that it’s derived from guidelines from the American Association of University Professors. AAUP has a problem with that characterization, though, saying it leaves out a crucial caveat (more on that later).

“The college or university teacher is a citizen, a member of a learned profession and an officer of an educational institution. When s/he speaks or writes as a citizen, s/he should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but his/her special position in the community imposes special obligations,” the policy says. “As a people of learning and an educational officer, s/he should remember that the public may judge his/her profession and his/her institution by his/her utterances. Hence, s/he should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinion of others and should make every effort to indicate that s/he is not an institutional spokesperson.”

Blake went on to say that Twitter communications are thus “protected speech” under the policy but that faculty members also have a “special obligation” to, in his words, “act responsibly, particularly where the speech has the potential to affect community safety and the right of all our community members to live, work and learn in an environment free of undue harassment, hostility or danger.”

This “special obligation” is even “more pronounced given Twitter’s character limit that often impedes one’s ability to provide complete context and perspective, frequently at the expense of accuracy and the ability to communicate one’s real intention,” Blake said.

Over the past 16 months, Blake added, “the university has been faced with heightened concerns for community safety, received significant negative feedback and has unfortunately spent considerable time and resources as a result of your statements on Twitter.”

Blake devoted much more attention to the issue of institutional impact in the April letter. In addition to outrage and “suggested violence” against university personnel, he said that the university is facing backlash from would-be students and donors.

“Numerous prospective students whom the university has admitted have written to the university stating that they will not attend the university because of your conduct, and at least two potential significant donors to the university have withheld previously promised donations,” Blake said. “The nearly unmanageable volume of venomous calls that the university has received -- during this critical time in the academic year when prospective students are deciding where they want to attend college -- compelled the university to consider turning off its phones in the days following your tweet, and we have real concerns that admitted students were unable to get through with questions.”

Blake added, “Despite my efforts to engage in a constructive dialogue with you in the hopes of making you more self-aware of the consequences of your actions, your course of conduct suggests to me that you are unable or unwilling to calibrate your actions to consider the damages that they cause to your university and all those who work so hard to advance the mission of the university.”

Ciccariello-Maher declined to comment on his case Monday, other than to say via email, “The fact that ranking Pennsylvania Republicans are calling on me to be fired only underlines the absurdity of an already absurd situation. I'm sure they would defend the rights of right-wing racists to speak on campus in the same breath that they demand my head.”

Neither the chair nor the vice chair of the Faculty Senate responded to requests for comment. Drexel declined to comment, saying any potential look at Ciccariello-Maher would be a private personnel matter. So it remains unclear how, if at all, the faculty will be involved in the inquiry.

As for what, exactly, the university will investigate, Blake in his April letter said that “in light of the serious damage to the university and its reputation that your provocative tweets have caused, it is imperative to determine whether you have violated the university’s Code of Conduct and/or other policies and whether your tweets are a violation of the special obligation that a faculty member has under Drexel’s academic freedom policy.”

The AAUP’s longstanding Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure says that faculty members “should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances.” Hence, it says, “they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.”

Greg Scholtz, director of tenure, academic freedom and governance at the AAUP, said that the statement is followed by a long, “most pertinent” footnote from the association's Statement on Extramural Utterances. It says the “controlling principle” is that a professor’s personal expression of opinion “cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness for his or her position,” and that extramural utterances “rarely bear upon the faculty member’s fitness for the position.”

Any final decision, it continues, “should take into account the faculty member’s entire record as a teacher and scholar.”

AAUP also maintains that faculty peers -- not administrators -- should determine matters of professional fitness.

In short, Scholtz said, “extramural speech is protected under principles of academic freedom unless it implicate the fitness of the faculty member as a teacher or researcher,” and it’s difficult to see how any of Blake’s concerns about enrollments or donors, in particular, factor in.

John K. Wilson, an independent scholar of free speech and academic freedom and co-editor of AAUP’s “Academe” blog, said it appeared Drexel was making “no effort to even allege that this professor is unfit to serve,” and agreed that the bulk of Blake’s letter “is devoted to recounting the hostile reaction to his tweets” -- not any basis of punishment under AAUP standards.

Wilson also called Blake’s assertion that guidelines for extramural utterances are even more pronounced on Twitter because context is minimal a “disturbing limit on academic freedom in social media.”

Ciccariello-Maher is far from the first professor to face administrative scrutiny of his social media activity.

A review of recent cases suggests those professors with tenure fare better than assistant professors or untenured lecturers and adjuncts. One notable exception was Saida Grundy, an assistant professor of sociology at Boston University whose tweets about race led to calls for her dismissal; her cause was helped by sociologists rushing to defend her, arguing that some of her comments about white people were grounded in sociological research. Another untenured professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison also faced public furor over tweets about police, but the administration has thus far backed Damon Sajnani, assistant professor of African cultural studies. At the same time, Ciccariello-Maher's case differs from others, because he continued to post controversial tweets even after he was warned not to.

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Follett, Lumen Learning announce OER partnership

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 07:00

Open educational resources provider Lumen Learning has a new partner in its effort to get more faculty members to use alternatives to commercial textbooks: the college bookstore.

Lumen, a start-up based in Portland, Ore., said on Monday that it had teamed up with Follett, creating a new channel for its course content to reach more faculty members. Follett operates more than 1,200 physical and 1,600 virtual bookstores, and will feature Lumen’s content alongside commercial educational materials from more than 7,000 publishers.

Additionally, Follett is contributing a “significant” amount to Lumen’s new $3.75 million financing round (the company declined to give a specific figure).

In interviews with Inside Higher Ed, the two companies gave slightly different explanations about why the partnership makes sense.

Follett emphasized its “long history of putting students and faculty first,” comparing the partnership with Lumen to its early entries into the textbook rental and “inclusive access” markets.

“It’s important for Follett to put its money where its mouth is,” said Roe J. McFarlane, chief digital officer at Follett Higher Education. “If we care about affordability and accessibility, paying lip service to this is no longer acceptable to the marketplace.”

Follett isn’t “saying OER is going to save the day,” McFarlane continued. But the company has received a “phenomenal amount of feedback” from colleges where faculty members are looking for affordable alternatives to commercial textbooks, he said, and it is making an effort to address those concerns.

“We are saying it is an option for those that want to consider it, and it is a very affordable option,” McFarlane said. “We want to make sure that we have that span of offerings, should they wish to teach with these materials.”

Follett has existing relationships with OER providers, but the partnership with Lumen is the first deal Follett has signed with a provider to offer its OER courseware, McFarland said.

For Lumen, the partnership is an effort to address one of the major issues facing the growth of OER: discoverability. Most faculty members say they would be happy to assign free or low-cost course materials -- as long as they are high quality -- but that they have trouble finding the right content for their classes.

A 2016 survey by the Babson Survey Research Group, for example, found issues related to the availability and discoverability of OER as the top four barriers that faculty members said prevent them from assigning those course materials -- among them, the lack of a comprehensive catalog of OER or colleagues who could point them in the right direction.

Lumen’s catalog includes OER for 78 different courses. Since its launch in 2013, the start-up has gained a greater understanding of why some faculty members use OER and others don’t, said Kim Thanos, founder and CEO of Lumen.

“One of the obstacles is this challenge of how we get OER out of a side path in terms of faculty consideration, review and adoption, and start to move it more into the mainstream process that faculty use to consider and adopt learning resources,” Thanos said. By teaming up with Follett, she added, Lumen is able to put OER in front of many more faculty members by using infrastructure they are already familiar with -- Follett’s platform.

Despite lingering issues around discoverability, open resources have gained traction in higher education -- particularly in high-enrollment general education courses, which have been the focus of many OER initiatives. Many of those initiatives are taking place at the state level. Most recently, politicians in New York reached a budget deal that includes $8 million to expand OER use at the City University of New York and State University of New York systems.

Lumen has also seen growth. So far this academic year, the company has delivered content to more than 100,000 students, which it says adds up to about $10 million in savings compared to if those students had bought commercial textbooks. The company is expecting to generate $10 million in savings this fall alone, suggesting the growth will continue, Thanos said.

Lumen has previously worked by signing contracts with individual colleges and helping them begin OER initiatives on their campuses, charging students a $10-25 “course support fee.” Students will pay the same to access OER through Follett’s platform.

The company will continue to work with colleges and universities, Thanos said. She added, “We’re not looking to do a similar partnership with other bookstore providers,” suggesting the deal with Follett is somewhat of an exclusive one.

The $3.75 million investment more than doubles what Lumen has raised to date. Thanos said the start-up will use the funds to accelerate its own growth.

“This is not a next round leading toward many more rounds,” Thanos said. “We do believe we’re on a nice path toward being financially self-sustaining and being a healthy, growing company.”

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Colleges announce commencement speakers

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 07:00
  • Bates College: Geoffrey Canada, president of the Harlem Children’s Zone.
  • College of Saint Benedict: Corie Barry, chief financial officer and an executive vice president at Best Buy.
  • Dillard University: Janelle Monáe, the singer and actress.
  • Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis: Tamika Catchings, the basketball player.
  • Nicholls State University: Jonathan Foret, Louisiana environmentalist and educator.
  • Ohio State University: Abigail Wexner, a lawyer and philanthropist.
  • Roberts Wesleyan College: Shirley V. Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.
  • Saint John’s University, in Minnesota: Dan Whalen, president of the Whalen Family Foundation.
  • San Francisco State University: Neda Nobari, the Iranian-American philanthropist.
  • Springfield College: Richard H. Carmona, former U.S. surgeon general; and Massachusetts State Senator Gale D. Candaras.
  • University of North Georgia: State Senator Renee Unterman; Steve Vande Loo, founder and owner of Advanced Beverage Concepts; and others.
  • University of Pittsburgh: Larry J. Merlo, president and chief executive officer of CVS Health; and S. Epatha Merkerson, the actress.
  • University of Redlands: Michael Lin, superintendent, Corona-Norco Unified School District; Kevin Eubanks, the jazz and fusion guitarist; and Randy Walker, vice president of BC Technical.
  • Wells College: Pamela Lewis, founder and president of PLA Media in Nashville, Tenn.
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New York's tuition-free college program sparks debates and defenses

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 07:00

Details of New York’s free public college tuition program stoked a stream of strong reactions in the days since Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers reached a deal that will have it starting this fall.

Perhaps the most controversial element of the program, which is called the Excelsior Scholarship, is a work and residency obligation that kicks in after students graduate. Scholarship recipients will have to live and work in New York State after graduation for the same number of years they received Excelsior Scholarships, or their grants will turn into loans.

The program has also generated discussion around a requirement that students complete 30 credits per year to remain eligible. And the 30-credit requirement comes with another caveat that has been previously overlooked: students who don’t complete 30 credits in a year could have some of their Excelsior Scholarship clawed back. They’ll still be eligible for the first semester of free tuition in the year in which they failed to complete 30 credits. But after that year is over, they could receive a bill from their college or university asking them to pay for their second semester, unless a hardship is declared.

The 30-credit requirement has further inflamed a long-ranging debate over how to best ensure students, particularly first-generation and low-income students, earn their degrees after enrolling in college. It has also expanded to include discussion over the best way to encourage colleges and universities to help such students graduate on time.

Those arguments join the disagreement over the program’s work and residency restrictions, which has turned into a battle over the merits of brain-drain protectionism on a state-by-state basis in a country where college graduates often move to pursue jobs and opportunity. It also joins existing arguments on whether the program should provide more money for low-income students and whether enough money has been set aside to cover costs.

Together, the discussions reflect the fact that the Excelsior Scholarship is a groundbreaking program that’s captured attention across the country. Now the question is whether it will prove to be an effective policy, making it easier and cheaper for New York students to attend college, or an elaborate tangle of red tape that overpromises, restricts students and will ultimately underperform.

Study in New York, Live in New York, Work in New York

The Excelsior Scholarship is a “last-dollar” program that bridges the gap between tuition costs and previously available state and federal aid. It’s available to students who are New York residents and attend public four-year colleges and universities and community colleges.

In its first year, the program will be available to students from families with annual incomes of up to $100,000 per year. The income limit will go up to $110,000 in 2018 before rising to its ultimate cap of $125,000 the next year.

Those details are essentially the same as what Cuomo proposed when he first unveiled a free-tuition plan in January. But New York Republicans added a major change during the legislative process, adding the residency requirement. The governor has since come out in support of that requirement, however.

“Why should New Yorkers pay for your college education and then you pick up and you move to California?” he said, according to The New York Post.

Not everyone agrees with that sentiment. It’s at odds with the historic relationship between public higher education and taxpayers, according to Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Traditionally, state colleges and universities have posted lower tuition for in-state students than for other students, under the idea that taxpayers had been helping to fund those institutions for years before their children enrolled, Nassirian said.

“This notion of creating a prospective [postcollege] residency requirement kind of breaks that historical arrangement,” he said. “It’s really dangerous to turn it on its head.”

Yet this is far from the first time student aid has been tied to some kind of residency requirement. Such requirements have cropped up at the state level in free community college plans, like a newly enacted plan in Arkansas that would require its grant recipients to work full time in the state for at least three years after graduation. Many states, including New York, also have loan forgiveness programs helping graduates pay off their student debt if they work in certain professions and in certain geographic areas.

Maine a decade ago started offering a tax credit reimbursing student loan payments to residents who earned their degrees in the state and decided to work there. The program has since been modified several times to establish different qualifications and benefits.

No other program seems similar enough to the Excelsior Scholarship to serve as a proxy for how New York's program will affect graduates, however -- in specifics or in size. In Maine, for example, 5,642 people filed returns for the tax credits in 2015 at a cost to the state of $9.3 million. In contrast, New York has appropriated $87 million for the Excelsior Scholarship’s first year alone. That money is enough to cover an estimated 22,000 students.

Many believe more students will apply for Excelsior Scholarships, however. Cuomo’s office has estimated that 940,000 families with college-aged students will be eligible for the program by the time it is fully in place in 2019.

“We don’t have many programs that are like this,” said Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University who has written about challenges the Excelsior Scholarship program faces. It will be hard to look at other programs as a way to predict how many New York students will be affected by the residency requirement, he said.

“The closest thing we have is probably a federal TEACH Grant,” Kelchen said. “To some extent, that encourages staying in a particular state, because it can take time to get a teaching license in another state.”

The U.S. Department of Education runs the federal TEACH Grant, which offers up to $4,000 per year to students who commit to teaching in low-income school districts for at least four out of eight years after they graduate. Those who don’t fulfill their TEACH Grant commitments have their grants converted into loans, similar to the mechanism in the Excelsior Scholarship.

In 2015, a Government Accountability Office report found that about a third of the TEACH Grant’s 112,000 recipients had their grants converted into loans. That rate won’t necessarily be reflected in New York’s program, however. The report said some conversions were the result of government or contractor errors.

Cuomo’s office says 84 percent of graduates from the state’s higher education systems -- the State University of New York and City University of New York -- stay in the state after graduation. That roughly aligns with SUNY data on students who earned associate and bachelor's degrees, provided the portion of students who live in New York after graduation roughly aligns with the portion who work in the state.

SUNY data show 83 percent of students employed in New York State in the first year after graduation. The portion drops to 78 percent in the second year after graduation and to 73 percent in the fourth year.

In many other states, especially those with struggling economies, top students routinely leave the state after graduation. But that's not the case in New York, as reflected in the relatively high number who remain. Some of the reasons graduates leave the state, such as to enroll in graduate or professional school, would entitle them to defer the requirement that they remain in state or have their scholarships converted to loans.

Meanwhile, another analysis shows about a fourth or a fifth of New York’s college graduates leave the state within four years. Douglas Webber, an assistant professor of economics at Temple University, analyzed U.S. Census Bureau Data and estimated that between 20 percent and 25 percent of New York college graduates leave the state within four years of receiving their degrees.

Data limitations mean that’s a rough estimate of past conditions, though. It doesn't distinguish between private and public institutions, so it doesn't align perfectly with the Excelsior Scholarship, particularly if graduates from public colleges are more likely to remain in the state. And even if the estimate is accurate, it isn’t necessarily predictive of the future -- many students could very well decide to stay in New York in order to keep their Excelsior Scholarships from converting into loans.

Webber argued such a decision is also a significant impact, however.

“You don’t necessarily need to know how many people are going to leave the state in order to know how many people it’s going to affect,” Webber said. “In some sense, if you decide to stay in the state because of this requirement, I would also count that as someone who is affected.”

The residency requirement can have numerous economic implications, Webber said. Research shows that the first job a graduate lands can have a major impact on their earnings in the future, he said. Economists liken the labor market to a ladder -- if you start on a lower rung, it’s harder to climb as high as you would have if you started on a higher rung.

So taking a slightly lower-paying job in state instead of a higher-paying one out of state can matter over time.

“One of the big reasons that a college degree gives you so much earning power is because it allows you to compete in a national labor market,” Webber said. “Just from the perspective of taking that away, or at least putting up a barrier to that, it absolutely will affect earnings in some people.”

It should be noted that New York has the job center of New York City, given graduates a fertile ground for in-state jobs at typically higher wages than those paid elsewhere. Still, some graduates could find it difficult to pay for New York's high cost of living right after graduating. They will not have the option of living across the river in New Jersey if they want to keep their scholarships from converting into loans.

Others questioned whether New York's government is prepared to verify that thousands of Excelsior Scholarship recipients continue to live and work in the state for years after graduation. The scholarship covers two-, four and five-year programs, meaning that in some cases officials would need to verify a student’s workplace and residency for half a decade.

“In my estimation, any state aid program that requires students to live and work in a certain state will be administratively burdensome and confusing for students to navigate,” said Sarah Pingel, a senior policy analyst with the Education Commission of the States. “We can look to states that currently offer loan forgiveness for working in certain occupations as an example. State-run loan forgiveness programs are generally very small in size but have eligibility requirements that can be difficult for states to monitor and enforce.”

New York officials have argued that they will be building upon an existing verification infrastructure, however. Graduates will have to verify their residency by providing some type of documentation like a pay stub, tax return or phone bill. The State’s Higher Education Services Corporation will notify students of requirements. That agency already oversees several existing state loan forgiveness and scholarship programs with residency requirements.

It's worth emphasizing, however, that those programs are smaller than the Excelsior Scholarship is expected to be. New York had seven programs in 2015 that were classified as conditional grants, conditional loans, loan assumption programs or loan forgiveness programs, according to the latest data available from the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs. Those programs covered a total of 1,371 recipients. Their expenditures totaled $7.7 million.

30-Credit Requirement

The governor’s office has cast the Excelsior Scholarship’s 30-credit-per-year requirement as a component that will ensure students complete college on time. It has strong support from Complete College America, a nonprofit group backing the 15 to Finish campaign that encourages students to take at least 15 credits a semester.

The group’s president, Tom Sugar, compared New York’s program to the tuition-free community college Promise programs that several states have put in place and other aid programs that require students to take 12 credits per semester. The Promise programs are built for access, he said. But he went on to argue that access without completion lets students down and can lead to a loss of public funding in higher education as policy makers and taxpayers see money as being spent without results.

“Access is critically important,” Sugar said. “If success doesn’t follow, it will all be over with.”

The Excelsior Scholarship attempts to balance its 30-credit requirement with some flexibility for students. Students can use a January or summer term to get to their 30-credit requirement. The minimum number of credits they need to take per semester is 12. The scholarship can also be paused for certain interruptions, like a family death, medical leave or military service.

Still, many wonder how the 30-credit requirement will affect low-income students who may need to work summers to pay for rent or college fees -- expenses that the Excelsior Scholarship program does not cover. They say the benefits of free tuition need to be available to part-time students. And they wonder if students will drift toward easier programs in order to ensure that they will meet the academic standards necessary to keep their free tuition.

Sugar sees it another way: he believes the strict requirement will force public colleges and universities to change. They might find new ways to support students and start scheduling classes at more convenient times so those students can work while they attend class, Sugar said.

“The 30-credit requirement in Governor Cuomo’s plan will inspire innovation,” he said. “It will inspire colleges to adopt strategies that are proven to work, to help students accumulate more credits and therefore graduate closer to on time.”

It’s not entirely clear how many students at public colleges would have to change their behavior to meet the 30-credit requirement. Currently, about 80,000 SUNY students from households with incomes of $125,000 per year or less take 15 credits per semester in the fall and the spring. Roughly half already attend tuition-free under existing forms of student aid.

What is becoming clear is what will happen to Excelsior Scholarship students who fail to complete 30 credits in a year. The legislation that authorized the Excelsior Scholarship says that such a student is only eligible to receive their award for the first semester of that year.

So the student becomes ineligible for the second semester of the year. Colleges and universities will be responsible for charging such students.

That makes the Excelsior Scholarship a high-risk proposition for students and families, said Tom Hilliard, senior researcher at the Center for an Urban Future, a New York City-based nonprofit organization.

“You’ve really moved far away from free college as a benefit to the student,” he said.

Sugar, of Complete College America, declined to comment on the possibility of a student receiving a bill for their second semester after missing the 30-credit cutoff, saying he had only recently learned that detail about the New York program and that the state still has to go through an administrative rule-making process that could impact the specifics of such a situation. Instead, he addressed the general concept of a strong set of incentives and disincentives.

“Is it a good thing or a bad thing that the incentives are strong?” he said. “Certainly, the notion that you might get a bill because you didn’t complete -- I understand how folks might react to that negatively. But these incentives need to be strong, because the reward is so great.”

It should also be pointed out that New York offers several programs and benefits for part-time students. Tuition at its community colleges is low. The state makes part-time Tuition Assistance Program grants available to students who have previously completed a year of classes at a load of 12 credits per semester.

Other Requirements

Meanwhile, the debate will likely continue about numerous other parts of the Excelsior Scholarship. Since Cuomo first unveiled his plan in January, some experts have pointed out that New York already has a generous Tuition Assistance Program that helps students pay the cost of tuition. They wonder if the money allocated to free tuition would be better spent on assisting low-income students with support services or helping them pay other costs that can keep them from finishing college, like room, board and fees. Public institutions have often turned to increasing such costs when they are unable to raise tuition.

Additionally, critics have argued that New York has not set aside enough funding to cover costs. They say New York's allocation, $163 million over three years, isn’t enough to cover a potential 940,000 families.

Administrators at some of New York’s private colleges and universities -- many of which have been critical of the free public tuition program or think it threatens their institutions' futures -- have pointed to language in the authorization bill that allows the state’s Higher Education Services Corporation to set up a lottery for awarding scholarships in the event that funding does not match demand. They’ve taken to derisively calling the program the “SUNY Powerball.”

Cuomo’s administration has expressed confidence that the state will provide enough funding to meet demand. And it is true that, in states with tuition programs benefiting the politically influential middle class, legislators tend to come through to provide necessary money.

The governor in public appearances has focused on a larger argument, saying that the idea of free college is powerful. It will inspire students, he said last week in an interview with talk radio host John Catsimatidis.

“It says, every child who puts his head on the pillow or her head on the pillow -- you can be a success,” he said, according to a transcript of the appearance circulated by his office. “It doesn’t matter if Mom and Dad can’t pay for college. It says to parents, ‘Don’t worry about paying for college. Don’t worry about choosing between paying rent and paying for college education. The state will invest in your child because that’s an investment in the state.’”

That argument appeals to many of Cuomo's critics, who believe there is something to be said for highlighting the importance of higher education and putting new money into public colleges and universities after years of disinvestment across the country. But the argument also highlights their biggest problem with the governor's signature program: that students and parents attracted by the glamorous promise of free tuition might be let down by a tangle of fine print that runs from residency requirements to scholarship clawbacks.

“What is the likelihood that parents and students will get past the message of free?” said Nassirian, of AASCU. “It’s absorbing the very powerful and, frankly, important message of ‘free’ in huge letters and then footnoting it in fine print with all kinds of contingencies.”

Paul Fain contributed to this article.

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Image of Trump sets off dispute at Stanford

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 07:00

A Stanford University law professor says administrators there blocked her from using an image of Donald Trump to promote an academic conference, "The Way Forward: Title IX Advocacy in the Trump Era." Late Friday, the university said she could use the image -- a shift the professor says is the result of her efforts to publicize the dispute and that the university says is just about the process playing out.

The image is from the leaked video of Trump during an Access Hollywood appearance in which he talked (believing himself to be off camera) about groping women, asserted he could have sex with women when he wanted to and said of women that he would "grab them by the pussy." While Trump has since said he was engaged in "locker room" banter and that his comments shouldn't be taken literally, the video's accuracy and that of the screen shot that the professor wanted to use are not in dispute.

Nonetheless, Stanford law school administrators told Michele Landis Dauber, the professor, that she could not print posters using the image, or use the image on a website promoting the conference, which starts May 1.

An email Dauber provided to The Guardian, which first wrote about the dispute, from Sabrina Johnson, associate dean of the law school, said, “We have been clear since January that these Access Hollywood images could give the appearance of partisanship, and since the event is [a law school] event, they shouldn’t be used in the marketing of the event. This is per university policy.” The university recently agreed that Dauber could appeal the matter to the university's general counsel, but has not committed to a time frame for the review, and the conference is now fast approaching.

The Guardian reported that Lisa Lapin, a spokeswoman for Stanford, at first denied that the university barred Dauber from using the materials. But after The Guardian shared Johnson's email with Lapin, she acknowledged that the university asked Dauber not to use the image, but said there had been no final decision.

On Saturday, Lapin emailed Inside Higher Ed to say the general counsel had reviewed the matter and determined that Dauber could use the image to publicize the conference.

"Stanford, like many universities, has long had a policy that, except in very limited circumstances, it will not provide formal endorsements of specific political or policy decisions. This reflects a belief that the university must remain a forum for open debate, even potentially contentious debate, and that refraining from institutional endorsements is essential to creating an environment where members of our community are empowered to advocate their own views," Lapin said. "In addition, as a nonprofit the university must comply with the law that prevents it from engaging in certain partisan activities. While the university does not take positions, individuals on our campus are encouraged to share their ideas."

She added, "Late Friday, when the general counsel had the opportunity to review the issue, the office determined that the use of the photo for this specific policy conference would be permissible under policy. The general counsel, however, did appreciate the law school's original concern that the photo could have created an appearance of partisanship at odds with the goal of creating an environment where all feel free to share their views, even on deeply contested matters, and that the law school could choose not to use the photo in promoting its event."

Via email, Dauber said that the issues involved here raise important principles. First, she said it was wrong for Stanford law officials to imply that the image is partisan.

"This photo -- which is clearly not partisan in any sense of the word -- is also possibly seen as critical or upsetting to some," she said. "Challenging content is not the same as partisan content. Difficult content and difficult conversations about controversial issues are what you are supposed to be able to have at universities. That's the point of academic freedom and the First Amendment principles that undergird it.

"Within broad outlines, speech that is challenging, speech that is critical, speech that gets students thinking about issues is what lies at the very heart of academic freedom. That is the opposite of what is happening here, which is censorship. The notion that a photo of the president of the United States, for which he posed and was paid to pose, is somehow itself 'partisan' when he is not even a candidate for office is not credible."

Dauber added that it was "particularly worrisome that they refused even my request to simply remove Stanford's name and logo from the flier and allow me to print and distribute it on my own and at my own expense. That improperly restricted my own ability to simply engage in free speech as a faculty member," she said. "It is the job of Stanford University to protect and defend faculty academic freedom. It is not the faculty member's job to have to constantly do battle with the university to have the right to speak on controversial topics like sexual assault."

On Sunday, after being told Stanford would let her use the image, Dauber said, "I have been working for months to get the university to allow the use of this image. I made many separate attempts over a four-month period after the initial decision to bar the image, including asking senior administrators to reverse the decision. I'm disappointed that it took media reporting in order for the university to honor its obligation to protect faculty academic freedom."

Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary for academic freedom, tenure and governance of the American Association of University Professors, said via email (before Stanford said it would let the image be used) that he was concerned about Stanford's handling of the situation, which he said raised important academic freedom issues.

He said that the Internal Revenue Service has long recognized the "essentially educational role" of colleges, and that students and faculty members can critically discuss political issues and government leaders. This does not constitute partisan activity by the institution, and the IRS has never claimed otherwise, Tiede said.

"Clearly, references to statements made by President Trump that have been interpreted by many as describing acts of sexual assault are relevant to a conference on Title IX advocacy in the Trump era," Tiede said. "It appears that the decision by the Stanford administration may be an excuse for preventing political controversy from arising out of the use of this image."

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Students and sugar daddies in age of student debt

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 07:00

Concerned about cash flow, Kenny, a closeted gay man and football player at a public Minnesota college, about a year ago signed up for Seeking Arrangement.

It's a website that promotes relationships between a younger, cash-strapped individual, a sugar baby -- stereotypically envisioned as an attractive woman -- and a wealthier, older man (or woman), a sugar daddy or sugar mommy. Sugar babies may be showered with cash or gifts and are spoiled and pampered in exchange for their company -- or more, depending on the circumstances.

Such an arrangement does perhaps appeal to the penniless college student, who may be weighed down by debt or trying to avoid debt. Data provided by Seeking Arrangement show that of its 3.2 million users in the United States, about 1.2 million, or a little less than 40 percent, identify as students. In the United States, the site’s roughly 2.3 million female sugar babies outnumber the 484,695 sugar daddies.

Recently, the website gained notoriety for its ties to a case at Coastal Carolina University. The entire cheerleading team was suspended, and an investigation by the South Carolina university unearthed evidence that team members participated in an escort service set up on Seeking Arrangement.

Cheerleaders were paid between $100 and $1,500 per "date" and collected shoes, clothes and designer handbags as compensation, the investigation found. The university was tipped off to the operation through a letter from someone described as a concerned parent, who alleged that team members were engaging in prostitution.

Coastal Carolina spokeswoman Mona Prufer responded to request for comment with an emailed statement: “Coastal Carolina University is still conducting an investigation. The cheerleading team remains suspended from cheer activities. The university, as an institution, has an interest in upholding its educational mission and its Code of Ethical Conduct.”

The cheerleaders interviewed for the investigation said they didn’t have sex with the men, and Seeking Arrangement has fought back against the characterization that the team members were prostitutes. But even the founder and chief executive of the website, Brandon Wade, has admitted previously, in an opinion piece on CNN's website in 2014, that his creation toes a line between empowering mutually beneficial relationships and facilitating the world’s oldest profession.

"Accusations of prostitution have clouded Seeking Arrangement since its inception, and I'll admit there is a fine line. But my intentions are pure. Why must we define a lifestyle we don't understand as unsavory?" Wade wrote.

The mission of Seeking Arrangement seems closer to the purpose of an escort service, which tends to be pricier than street prostitutes and provides a degree of emotional support and affection, like nonsexual massages, per a description of escorts included in a 2008 study published in the International Journal of Cultural Studies. One of the authors of that study, Tammy Castle, an associate professor of justice studies at James Madison University, was quoted in an Atlantic article calling sugar babies "escorts." Castle said Seeking Arrangement was attempting to avoid the negative stereotypes associated with prostitution, but sometimes money was exchanged for sex.

Wade launched the site in 2006 amid his own frustrations wooing women. Though the wealthy Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumnus found success in business, he still found he lacked confidence to approach women, and spawned the website to give them financial motives to date men like him.

As the site expanded, students flocked there, said Brook Urick, a Seeking Arrangement spokeswoman. The website’s leaders decided to offer free premium memberships for students, which grants additional search features to anyone registered with an “.edu” email.

Part of the draw for students can come from being able to dodge debt and pay for tuition, Urick said, but the appeal extends much deeper.

“Sugar daddies, sugar mommies, they’re businesspeople, they’re CEOs and entrepreneurs,” Urick said. “They have life experience, a wealth of experience, and they can mentor sugar babies who are in college. Sugar babies in college may not be finding satisfying relationships with the men, or women, with the people their age. College graduates will buy you a $1 beer; a sugar daddy, sugar mommy will buy you a $20 martini at a high-rise location or whatever. It’s an elevated dating experience.”

Such incentives are advertised through the site's Sugar Baby University page, specifically for college students, that describes "crippling" loans and a way to help through "alternative means."

Seeking Arrangement released a list of the colleges and universities that were the fastest growing on the website in 2016. The top three were Temple University, with 296 new sign-ups, New York University, with 244, and Arizona State University, with 163.

Temple’s website states it enrolls a little more than 38,200 students -- as of Jan. 27, when Seeking Arrangement published its list of popular colleges, 1,068 Temple students had registered on the site, a little less than 3 percent of its overall student body.

Urick attributes growth on the site to more people rejecting the stigma surrounding sugar relationships, a conquering of philosophical barriers for the site.

Asked about the Coastal Carolina case, Urick dismissed the notion that the cheerleaders are prostitutes and called the controversy “ridiculous.”

The website is properly regulated, Urick said, with certain language being flagged for review. She declined to discuss in depth the site algorithms that “keep the water clean.”

At the same time, Urick made clear that Seeking Arrangement can only control the confines of the site; it can’t bar the actions of others in the outside world. She presented a scenario: If two people meet in a bar but have an altercation later, is the bar at fault for providing that space?

In his CNN commentary, Wade wrote that dozens of prostitutes and escorts are kicked off the site every day.

“When you are providing a platform to meet successful and wealthy men, you will not always attract genuine hearts,” Wade wrote. “There are always going to be people in the world who are looking to take advantage of your generosity. But to put all users in one box marked ‘escort’ is simply unjust. Seeking Arrangement is a dating site, which means most of the men here are eventually hoping to have sex. Isn't that the point of dating? But this is not prostitution.”

Inside Higher Ed contacted nearly three dozen sugar babies on the website and offered them anonymity to candidly discuss their experiences. Few responded, and many that did asked to be paid for an interview. Inside Higher Ed declined to pay anyone quoted in this article, but did grant anonymity.

Kenny says he can’t find time to work, between football practice, his double major and caring for his mother, who is fighting stage-four breast cancer. He was adopted and, at age 15, disowned by his adopted father after he learned of Kenny’s sexuality.

An athletic scholarship and federal financial aid covers most of his college expenses, but Kenny’s bank account remains drained and leaves him unable to afford even some basics, like textbooks or food.

“When I first joined, I thought that maybe I could meet a good guy to get to hang with, get to know, have fun with, meet up with, be mentored by, etc., and also have a little help from,” Kenny said in an interview.

But he found little success.

Most of the sugar daddies are after a particular type of man, thin with a model face, Kenny said. Many are married, so their wives would notice large chunks of money being sent to the sugar babies.

Scammers are rampant on the website, Kenny said, and he’s been tricked into wiring money to a sugar daddy, losing about $500.

Urick said just like any other website, Seeking Arrangement sees its share of phishers and scammers, but that the site warns people not to share bank account information. After a certain number of people report an account, it’s automatically suspended, she said.

“We advise common sense,” Urick said. “Not sharing banking information -- common sense -- some of what these people are doing are sharing passwords and usernames. I can’t help you if you’re doing that.”

Another sugar baby, Desmond, was told by one man that he would wire money to Desmond’s account. It never posted to the bank, and the man instructed Desmond to send him some money instead, an attempt to fool him. Desmond refused.

A 23-year-old who previously attended the University of Arizona, Desmond tried Seeking Arrangement to defray school and living expenses. He had also racked up about $25,000 in credit card debt.

He connected with a Philadelphia-based sugar daddy, 55, who would fly Desmond out to Pennsylvania every month and help pay Desmond’s bills. He and Desmond were “intimate” only a couple times in the almost two years they remained in contact.

Eventually, Desmond moved back to his hometown of Pittsburgh to enroll in a local college.

“I feel like it's useful but it's also not,” Desmond said about Seeking Arrangement. “It can turn someone into a material person if they aren't already, and I don't know how to change back. It helped and hurt me. I ended up back home because I hated living in Arizona.”

Tammy, 21, a George Mason University student, lives her parents’ basement and works part-time at a research center earning about $400 a month.

That doesn’t come close to covering the $6,000 a month required for her tuition because her federal loans cover only a little more than half. Her parents chip in too, but her three younger siblings will approach college age soon, so she said she feels guilty.

She tried Seeking Arrangement after her bank account dipped in the negative three times in one week.

“I've always been a sexual person and I'm newly single so the idea of having sex for money is kind of like an easy buck. However, I soon learned sugar daddies (on here at least) aren't into underground prostitution. They want to make a young woman their pet. Like a trophy wife they can show off and spoil, more so than an escort type of thing,” Tammy wrote.

One sugar daddy offered to pay her $2,000 a month to meet just a couple times a month.  But she found the fun wore off quickly. They were old like her father, but not in “an endearing way.” The constant compliments about her eyes and her body wore thin.

She applied to be a Lyft driver instead.

“I consider myself sex positive feminist who advocates for the decriminalization of prostitution so we can better protect sex workers like me who would happily have sex with someone for money, but doesn't feel safe or enjoy playing games like the sugar baby/sugar daddy dynamic,” Tammy wrote.

But she still won’t sign off Seeking Arrangement.

She’s not willing to shut the door.


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Coloring book offers academics chance to be creative while poking fun at their lives

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 07:00

Julie Schumacher is not your typical writer when it comes to depicting (and poking fun at) academic life. Dear Committee Members, her 2014 work, was an epistolary novel written entirely in the form of letters of recommendation. All the letters are from Jason T. Fitger, professor of creative writing and English at fictional Payne University.

Now Schumacher is back with Doodling for Academics (University of Chicago Press), which is described as a "coloring and activity book."

Pages have images that reflect life in academe. There are two pages called "Financial Priorities." The first invites readers to color in two buildings: a humanities building (cracks in the wall, old-fashioned blinds, a tree stump) and a science building (shining glass facade, shrubbery and, of course, trees on the roof). The second invites readers to color in the new football stadium.

While administrators take plenty of grief in the book, the humor also points out foibles of faculty members and of those who love them. One page, called "Cheering Section," has speech bubbles to color in featuring quotes from relatives of a professor.

They include questions like, "Your cousin Bix already finished his law degree" and "That must be nice, working only a few hours a day." A page on fashion invites the reader to match various accessories (a whip and a bong, among others) with various personae of academe: grad student, donor, department chair and so forth.

A page inspired by the board game Life features squares saying things such as, "Vengeful colleague -- go back one space" and "Failure to publish -- stay here forever." Those whose rolls of the dice succeed eventually hit full professor, followed by death.

Schumacher, a professor and director of creative writing at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, wrote the text. Lauren Nassef did the illustrations. Schumacher responded via email to some questions.

Q: How did your colleagues react to Dear Committee Members? Did any come forward to suggest too close a resemblance to any characters?

A: I was very conscientious about not portraying real-life people, especially my colleagues, in Dear Committee Members. I love my job at the University of Minnesota and am not interested in endangering it. And my colleagues were very happy about the book; the dean even threw a party for me! One or two of my colleagues did ask me, after the book was published, whether I had used them as a model for Character X or Character Y, and I always, truthfully, said no. The only real resemblance is between Jay Fitger and me. He is the small, evil voice inside my head that I typically keep locked securely away.

Q: What led you to pick the genre of coloring and activity booklet?

A: The University of Chicago Press -- and editor Christie Henry -- came up with the idea and contacted me. At first I thought it was ridiculous, then I realized that it might be amusing. At a certain point in my writing career, having experienced the usual frustrations, I decided not to engage in projects unless they offered me some degree of pleasure and surprise. Doodling for Academics offered a good deal of both.

Q: Do you think professors who read this will actually color? Or just chuckle at the suggestions?

A: I know professors who do needlepoint or knit during faculty meetings; plenty furtively read email or doodle. Pulling out a coloring book and a set of crayons might raise a few eyebrows, but who knows? I think some newly minted Ph.D.s may be receiving the book as a gift.

Q: You have a bunch of pages (such as "Financial Priorities") that skewer inequities in higher education, in this case the relative comfort of buildings that house different kinds of departments. Do you think campus leaders might be moved by your critique? Any concerns administrators may not love the way their values are portrayed?

A: There are inequities in higher education, and, at the current moment, there is an emphasis on the STEM fields while the arts are often considered gratuitous. I direct the creative writing program at the University of Minnesota, and I know that literature and the arts help to make people's lives meaningful and worth living. We are not all cut out to be scientists or engineers, and higher education should, I believe, encourage intellects and abilities across the spectrum of disciplines.

Q: Will you move on to another genre for your next work on higher education? Any ideas?

A: I've written short stories and novels and five books for children, as well as a coloring and activity book. I'm open to almost anything.

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California appeals court rules Deep Springs College may admit women

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 07:00

A California appeals court ruled 3 to 0 last week that Deep Springs College, the smallest college in the United States and one of the most rigorous, may admit women.

The board of Deep Springs voted in 2011 to end its policy of admitting only men. But litigation from some alumni opposed to admitting women has held up the admission of women -- even as the student body, faculty members and many alumni have strongly backed the switch.

Deep Springs is a two-year college in the high desert of California with an enrollment of 26 and an unusual curriculum and history. But the focus of the legal fight has been less on the merits of single-sex education than on an issue that affects many colleges of all types: the circumstances under which a trust that sets up a program may be changed.

The alumni who challenged coeducation have argued that L. L. Nunn, the industrialist and educational thinker who founded Deep Springs in 1917, wanted to educate only men. And there are references in the trust documents to a mission of educating men.

But the college's leaders have argued that the unique style of education is the true mission of the college, not educating only men. The college has admitted very small classes of highly intelligent men, who take intense courses while managing both the college and its farm. Students who complete the program are admitted as transfer students to some of the most competitive colleges in the country. All students receive a full scholarship.

There are only a few other all-male colleges (besides seminaries) left in the country: Hampden-Sydney, Morehouse and Wabash Colleges and Saint John's University in Minnesota. Morehouse and Saint John's have close relationships with adjacent women's colleges. All the all-male colleges, except Deep Springs, want to remain that way.

The California appeals court noted that Deep Springs has in fact already changed in ways that deviated from Nunn's original vision. For instance, Nunn promoted religious instruction, which was dropped early in the college's history. Further, while Nunn advocated that students should govern themselves in their dormitory, the college now involves students in managing all aspects of college operations, giving students a managerial role -- including oversight of admissions and participation in the hiring and oversight of faculty members and administrators -- that is far beyond what Nunn envisioned or the norm in higher education.

The key finding of the appeals court was that a lower court had been within its discretion to approve a change in the trust guidelines for the college from promoting "the education of promising young men" to "the education of promising young people." There was no evidence, the appeals court said, that the lower court had exceeded its authority to determine which trust provisions were "administrative" (such as the reference to men) and which ones were focused on the central mission of the college (the overall approach). The lower court also noted arguments that admitting women would help Deep Springs advance its mission in that some prospective students and faculty members (male and female alike) won't consider a single-sex institution.

It remains unclear if last week's ruling will end the litigation. Those challenging coeducation and their lawyers could not be reached for comment.

Dave Hitz, the chair of the Deep Springs board, sent this statement to those affiliated with the college: "I am happy to announce that the appeals court ruled in favor of coeducation at Deep Springs. All three justices agreed. What does this mean? Is the lawsuit done? That depends. Until May 23, 2017, the objectors have the right to petition the California Supreme Court for review. If they do, we don't know if the court will accept the case for consideration or not. Never trust predictions about the legal system. Delays are common. Decisions can be overturned. That said, the trustees remain hopeful. This ruling is an important step toward a coeducational Deep Springs."

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Colleges announce commencement speakers

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 07:00
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College apologizes for recruiting to its pep band by attacking music majors

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 08:10

United Airlines isn't the only institution having a bad week on social media.

Goldey-Beacom College faced a barrage of criticism -- in its case over photographs of a promotion it mailed to high school students. The promotion highlighted the Delaware college's commitment to career preparation and scholarships for its pep band. But it did so by trashing music majors.

"Heading off to college to major in music? Well, good luck with that!" said the promotion, which was quickly posted to Twitter and Facebook. "Want a college degree that leads to a real job instead? Bring your instrument to Goldey-Beacom College, earn a practical degree that leads to meaningful employment and join our newly formed pep band to satisfy your continued passion for music."

Music lovers -- many of them music major graduates, gainfully employed -- flooded the college's Facebook page with comments and with ratings of one of five possible stars, dropping the college's rating down to 1.3 before the college closed the rating system.

The college then apologized on Facebook, posting a statement that said, "Goldey-Beacom College wishes to express regret for the offense caused by our promotional mailing, advertising our newly formed pep band. The message lacked good taste and respect for the fine arts in general, and music in particular. This communication was not fully vetted and approved prior to mailing, and certainly does not reflect our core values as an institution. We deeply appreciate music and all the arts, striving in every way to produce well-rounded graduates. We sincerely regret the offense that this caused. We understand those from around the country who were offended, and who reflected that in their one-star reviews on Facebook. We are sorry that this is your introduction to the college."

Negative comments have continued to appear.

Josh Kowalski, a music teacher and musician, wrote on Facebook, "Apology not accepted in the slightest. As a music educator who holds both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in music, this is unacceptable! As an educator I can not believe what I have read in your newsletter, and I will be sure to tell any student that comes to me in search of colleges to avoid your program and school at all cost. And just as a side note, being music is irrelevant and meaningless, then I suppose you will have no problem enjoying your movies, television shows, musicals, parties and other forms of entertainment without any music. Because it is people like me who went to school for this 'meaningless' subject who provide all of this for you. Good day and good luck with your school!"

One irony of the debate is that while the myth of the starving artist persists, most who major in the arts (whether at arts-oriented colleges or institutions with broader missions) are in fact employed. Not only that, but they are generally satisfied with their careers, which relate to their arts training, according to a series of studies by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project. The studies also found that these alumni, while happy, aren't wealthy.

One reason for the lack of wealth is that many arts students pursue degrees or training in arts education and build careers that mix professional performance with education. This is very much the case with music.

A study last year by Peter Miksza, associate professor of music education at Indiana University at Bloomington, and Lauren Hime, a doctoral student, found that those in a national sample who pursue careers in music education (which for many starts with a music major) are doing well in their jobs. Within a year of graduation, 93.6 percent are employed in their field and 77.2 percent report the job being "a very close or exact match" to what they wanted. Most also remain engaged in performance, and are happy with their career paths, but aren't wealthy.

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Dreamers grapple with increased stresses and challenges

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 07:00

The night of the presidential election, students gathered at the Titan Dreamers Resource Center at California State University, Fullerton, to watch returns.

“The atmosphere changed dramatically as soon as the results started coming in,” said one student, a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“For that week afterward, we felt like we were all mourning. I think we were all mourning different things, but for myself, I felt like I was mourning my chances of education and of work and of having my family together -- my chances for a future that I thought would be possible,” said the student, one of five undocumented immigrant students, or Dreamers, who agreed to be interviewed by Inside Higher Ed on the condition that their names not be used. All five students are undergraduates.

Since the election, many undocumented immigrant students at campuses across the country have been grappling with heightened anxieties about their own safety and that of their loved ones, as well as new uncertainties about their future opportunities in the U.S.

Many of these students are benefiting from the DACA program, which allows certain immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to receive two-year, renewable work permits and temporary relief from the possibility of deportation.

President Trump has sent mixed messages about whether he will keep the program, which was established under President Obama’s executive authority and therefore could easily be undone by Trump. Trump said during the campaign that he would immediately end DACA, which he described as an overreach of Obama's executive authority and a form of "illegal amnesty." But he has not touched it to date -- much to the relief of undocumented immigrants and their advocates -- and has more recently said he wants to “work something out” for Dreamers (without offering a specific plan).

Many undocumented immigrant students are also concerned that, even if DACA remains in place and continues to offer them employment opportunities and protection, new, expanded immigration enforcement priorities outlined by the Trump administration could make their parents -- or, in some cases, siblings -- more vulnerable to arrest and removal.

All of it adds to up to this spring having been an exceptionally stressful semester for many Dreamers on college campuses.

“I’m hearing much more extreme challenges than ever before,” said Henoc Preciado, the coordinator of CSU Fullerton’s resource center for Dreamers, which the university started in 2014.

“I have met students who have been told by immigration attorneys that there’s a pathway to residency for them if they get married to a U.S. citizen partner, and I know of students who are going in that direction, who are in a committed relationship with a U.S. citizen and who are speeding up the process to marriage, so they can be protected,” he said.

“I’ve met students whose parents have sat down with them and told them a very concrete plan of action in the event the parents are deported,” Preciado continued. “I’ve met students who have written letters to their loved ones, in the event they themselves become deported.”

“There’s a general fear within the undocumented community,” Preciado said. “There’s a fear among students in the event DACA is taken away, ‘how will I as an undocumented student … find employment, how will I support my family members who depend on me?’”

“Being a college student is already such a difficult thing in and of itself,” Preciado said, without “adding on the additional challenge of worrying about loved ones and worrying about one’s future on a very regular basis.”

“I know all my information, my fingerprints, everything is out there,” said one CSU Fullerton student, a junior, in reference to the information she provided to the government in order to sign up for DACA. “I would be easy to track.”

“My parents don’t have DACA, unfortunately, so that’s another stress that’s added,” said this same student, whose family came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was two years old. “I know in a sense, I’m sort of safe, but they’re not. They have no protection, so there’s just this constant fear.” The student worries especially about her dad, who has to travel around Southern California for his construction job. She calls home every day. “I always call at a time when I know my dad will be home,” she said. “Every time I call, my mom says, ‘oh, your dad’s here.’ She knows what I have in mind but am not asking."

A Center for Dreamers

The center Preciado oversees at CSU Fullerton is relatively rare. One of five identity-based resource centers under the Department of Diversity Initiatives and Resource Centers -- the others are the African American Resource Center, the Asian Pacific American Resource Center, the Chicana and Chicano Resource Center, and the LGBT Queer Resource Center -- the center offers a living room-type space for Dreamers to hang out and a variety of programs, including a twice-monthly empowerment program called Undocumented and Unafraid.

Among its activities, the center organizes support groups facilitated by professionals from the university's counseling center, organizes a special graduation ceremony in the spring for Dreamers and their families, and organizes social events like karaoke nights.

“We’re very fortunate that here at Cal State Fullerton we are a campus that is in many ways leading the way in a very public way in supporting undocumented students,” Preciado said. “We are unapologetic about the fact that we have a resource center specifically for undocumented students.”

After the presidential election, the center organized support groups facilitated by professionals from the university’s counseling center -- Preciado said one of those support groups meets in the Dreamers’ resource center, while the other meets in the counseling center’s space -- as well as a daylong immigration law clinic. The center has continued to host law clinics every Friday, at which students and their families can sign up for free 30-minute consultations with immigration lawyers who volunteer their time.

CSU Fullerton reports enrolling about 900 undocumented immigrant students this academic year. Many of CSU Fullerton’s undocumented students are among the more than 700,000 people nationwide who have benefited from the temporary protections offered by DACA, but not all of them have even that measure of protection.

One student interviewed by Inside Higher Ed just barely missed being eligible for DACA. To be eligible, immigrants have to have been under age 16 when they came to the U.S. and to have lived in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007. This student arrived in the U.S. as a 14-year-old from Mexico one month later, in July 2007. Former President Obama proposed an expansion of the DACA program that would have included him, but that expansion was halted by the courts.

“I’ve been here for 10 years,” said the student, who started at a community college before transferring to Fullerton and has known he's wanted to be an occupational therapist since his junior year of high school. “I’ve got a life I’ve already started to build here. I’ve got to finish my education. A lot of people ask me, ‘once you’re done with your education, do you want to go back?’ I’m not planning to.”

The student described being a Dreamer as an identity. “I am a Dreamer. I am a person who is here for my education, and I am fighting for my education,” he said.

Another student at Fullerton who does have DACA status said she was once asked, “As a Dreamer, what is your biggest dream?”

“I said I want to stop being a Dreamer. I want people to stop telling me that all I can do is dream. I want to make them happen,” said the student.

“I try to stay in a positive state but also be realistic,” the student continued. “I’m not married to the idea of DACA staying forever, but I am hopeful that there will be something or there will be a way.”

Uncertainty and Anxieties

Hundreds of higher education leaders nationwide have signed on to various letters calling on the Trump administration to keep DACA’s protections in place. One letter to Trump, organized by the American Council on Education and signed by more than 560 college presidents, said that many DACA recipients “now live in fear that the program [DACA] will be rolled back or revoked. In order to lift this cloud of fear, we ask that you commit to allowing these productive and high-achieving individuals to continue to work and study while your administration and Congress arrive at a permanent solution.”

Higher education leaders in support of keeping DACA stress that undocumented college students -- many of whom were brought to the U.S. as young children and have never known any other country -- have talents and tax revenues, they can contribute to the U.S. and its economy if they are able to work legally. Opponents of the program argue that it's unlawful and serves to reward and encourage illegal immigration.

As for Trump, he has changed his tone since the campaign, when he said he would “immediately terminate” DACA, but he also has not made a straightforward commitment to keeping the program. In February, he described many DACA recipients as “incredible kids” and said he was going to deal with the issue “with heart.”

Several of the students interviewed by Inside Higher Ed credit the establishment of DACA in 2012 with giving them the motivation and -- by virtue of the fact that DACA enabled them to work legally -- the financial means to pursue four-year college degrees. Undocumented immigrant students are not eligible for federal loans or grants, though California is one of a small group of states, along with Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Washington, where students are eligible for state-level financial aid.

“DACA came out one year after I had graduated [from high school]. I had started at a community college, but I think at the time I wasn’t really motivated to continue higher education,” said one student, whose family came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was four years old. “In addition to finding it really difficult to pay for school -- at the time my parents were helping me to pay for tuition and the rest of the school expenses -- I didn’t have that big of a motivation to continue pursuing a degree. When I received DACA, because of the fact that I was able to work and find a job, that helped me, I think, continue on to university.”

“At that time,” the student said, “there was a lot of talk about why undocumented students would go into higher education if their job opportunities after graduation were zero.” DACA has changed that.

The student got married last year to his girlfriend, a U.S. citizen whom he’d dated for five and a half years, and has applied for permanent residency. While his application is pending, he remains subject to the uncertainties surrounding DACA.

“It’s kind of awkward knowing it’s a 50-50 chance every single day, what would happen to the program and what that would mean for someone like myself,” he said.

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