Higher Education News

New findings cast doubt on 'marshmallow test' success claims

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 07:00

Stanford University’s famous “marshmallow test,” that adorable assessment of willpower that has fascinated educators and social scientists for decades, may not necessarily hold the key to prosperity, health and happiness, new research suggests.

Instead of simply bolstering young people’s abilities to resist temptation, the research finds, adults may need to consider deeper interventions -- such as helping mothers earn college degrees, improving parenting skills and home environments and, well, pulling children out of poverty.

In other words, success may be a bit of a heavier lift than simply training preschoolers not to eat a marshmallow off a plate for 20 minutes.

In a new study using longitudinal data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), researchers at New York University and the University of California, Irvine, found that interventions inspired by the marshmallow test, which successfully boost children’s early “delay ability,” might have no effect on later life outcomes. In other words, teaching children to delay gratification may not necessarily be the key to a happier, more productive life.

Much of the difference between children who succeed a decade or more later and those who don’t, they say, can be explained by more complex factors such as a family’s socioeconomic status, parenting skills, home environment and whether a child’s mother earned a college degree.

Using the federal data, NYU’s Tyler W. Watts, along with UC Irvine’s Greg J. Duncan and Haonan Quan, replicated the well-known findings by former Stanford University researcher Walter Mischel, who in the 1960s got the idea to gather children at Stanford’s Bing Nursery School and present them with a variety of sweet treats, including marshmallows.

Mischel and his colleagues told children that they would be left alone in a room with the treat or, in some cases, a picture of the treat. They were told they’d get permission to eat it immediately by ringing a bell -- or they could wait for up to 20 minutes until an adult returned. If a child waited, she got two treats instead of one.

Mischel and subsequent researchers later found that the longer children resisted the treat, the better they performed on several key measures, including academics. Eventually, the children who waited earned more and were healthier. Subsequent research found that those children also performed better than the bell ringers in avoiding problems like drug addiction and jail time.

The conclusion, it seemed, was clear: bolster children’s early self-control and the benefits will accrue.

But Watts, an assistant professor of research and a postdoctoral scholar at NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, said the earlier experiments had problems. For one thing, the sample of children was small and highly selective -- children were originally recruited from those with Stanford ties, and though Mischel’s original sample included more than 650 preschool-age children, follow-up studies focused on a much smaller group. Of 653 children from Mischel’s original study, researchers were able to find only 185 for follow-ups, Watts and his colleagues note.

“The statistical approach used to do that work could be updated,” Watts said in an interview. “People haven’t really looked at this with the type of scrutiny you’d expect today, if those findings were to come out as newly published material.”

Watts said he and Irvine’s Duncan have long been trying to figure out what skills schools can boost in early childhood “to get the most bang for your buck.” Helping children delay gratification has long seemed a likely strategy.

“If you can tune up a kid’s ability to delay gratification or to wait longer on something like the marshmallow test, that may unlock a lot of benefits later on in life,” he said.

They’d recently learned that the NICHD study, which has tracked about 1,300 young people from birth in 1991, included a version of Mischel’s marshmallow test “sitting there in the data. Someone had decided to collect it.” The only known reference to the NICHD marshmallow data, he said, comes from a 2013 study by University of Pennsylvania researcher Angela Duckworth, whose research on the topic has popularized the idea of developing "grit" in young learners, an idea that a few other researchers have questioned recently. Duckworth could not be immediately reached for comment.

In the NICHD study, researchers gave the children, then aged 4 and a half, a seven-minute marshmallow test -- much shorter than the original. Researchers measured children’s ability to wait down to the second.

Sifting through the data, Watts and his colleagues found that about 55 percent of children hit the seven-minute mark without eating the treat, but that kids from wealthier families actually found it harder to wait that long. By contrast, many more children whose mothers had a college degree made it to seven minutes -- 68 percent, compared with 45 percent for children whose mothers did not finish college.

As with Mischel, they found that waiting correlated to better outcomes later in life. Compared to children who couldn’t wait even 20 seconds before ringing the bell, those who waited up to two minutes scored higher in basic skills, both in first grade and in high school. For children who could wait the entire seven minutes, the difference grew more.

But here's the sticky part: when Watts and his colleagues factored in family characteristics, the differences began to fall away. In most cases, by high school, outcomes between the bell ringers and the children who waited for that second marshmallow were "rarely statistically significant."

Grouping together children whose mothers hadn’t completed college showed that all had similar achievement levels at age 15 -- the children who could wait just 20 seconds and those who could wait the entire seven minutes.

Similarly, there were few achievement differences among children whose mothers had completed college, no matter if they rang the bell or waited the full seven minutes.

The results, Watts and his colleagues write, create further questions about what the marshmallow test actually measures. Could focusing simply on interventions that improve a child’s ability to delay gratification be doomed to failure if teachers don't address “more general cognitive and behavioral capacities”?

In an email, Mischel noted that the data set used by Watts et al. found "a significant positive correlation between delay time and academic achievement" that strengthens earlier findings.

He also said years of research by him and his colleagues, as well as by others, have found that "a child's ability to wait in the 'marshmallow test' situation reflects that child’s ability to engage various cognitive and emotion-regulation strategies and skills that make the waiting situation less frustrating. Therefore, it is expected and predictable, as the Watts paper shows, that once these cognitive and emotion-regulation skills, which are the skills that are essential for waiting, are statistically 'controlled out,' the correlation is indeed diminished."

He added, "The 'marshmallow test' was developed to find a method -- a window -- that allows us to see how people, especially children, manage to deal with the frustration of waiting for something they really want to have. This window opened the way for many experiments that identified the conditions and mental-emotional strategies and skills that make this challenge manageable or not. The long list includes, for example, trust in the promise-maker, and diverse cognitive and 'cooling' strategies to make the waiting easier."

Indeed, subsequent research has used Mischel’s paradigm to test, among other indicators, whether children in unpredictable circumstances might actually be acting rationally by eating that first marshmallow without waiting.

In a 2013 University of Rochester study, for instance, researchers offered a group of children the chance to draw a picture with a small set of crayons or to wait, marshmallow style, for a nicer set of art supplies. But there was a twist: in a few cases, the children who waited didn’t get the nicer supplies -- instead they got an apology from adults and the same old lousy set of crayons.

Presented moments later with an actual marshmallow and Mischel’s famous offer, children who’d been tricked into waiting for the phantom art supplies were less likely to wait for that second marshmallow.

Researchers concluded that these children were acting rationally -- they’d just had their beliefs about the “stability” of the world tested, and they likely ate that first marshmallow because they correctly reasoned that waiting, i.e., trusting that adults would do what they said they’d do, wouldn't pay off.

But Mischel said his research and subsequent work based on it "does not suggest that the method is a crystal ball that predicts our future, or that training children to wait for marshmallows is a panacea. A close reading of the Watts et al. paper adds to this understanding. Unfortunately, our 1990 paper’s own cautions to resist sweeping over-generalizations, and the volume of research exploring the conditions and skills underlying the ability to wait, have been put aside for more exciting but very misleading headline stories over many years."

Whatever one concludes from Mischel's findings, Watts said, the test has been “extremely influential” to developmental psychologists. “It’s told us a lot about how young children approach really interesting problems and what’s going on in kids’ minds at a really young age.”

He said researchers and educators need to be more careful when making pronouncements about ideas like self-control, and to temper our expectations. “If we think that this is actually an important skill that we try to target for kids to unlock later life outcomes,” he said, “our results suggest, ‘Probably not.’”

The larger problem, he said, boils down to this: psychologists need more research that tackles not just correlation, like the marshmallow test and its suggestion of future self-discipline, but causality.

“What we’re really trying to scratch at is a causal effect. And the only way to really identify what kinds of changes in kids’ skills and competencies are going to have causal effects on their later development is through experimental work. That’s the only way to really get at that.”

The study was published May 25 in Psychological Science.

Editorial Tags: PsychologyImage Source: Getty ImagesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Marshmallow TestTrending order: 2College: New York UniversityStanford UniversityUniversity of California, Irvine

Colleges announce campaign starts and completions

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 07:00

Starting Off

  • Dartmouth College has announced a campaign to raise $3 billion by 2022. The college has already raised $1.5 billion. Major goals include funds for financial aid and a new leadership program for all undergraduates.
  • University at Buffalo of the State University of New York has started a campaign, without an end date, to raise $650 million. The university has already raised $451 million.
  • University of Maryland at College Park has announced a campaign to raise $1.5 billion by 2021. Priorities include research and student aid. So far, $902 million has been raised.

Finishing Up

  • Villanova University has raised $759 million in a campaign, started in 2013, with the original goal of raising $600 million. Gifts in the campaign have created 10 centers and interdisciplinary institutes, 14 new endowed faculty positions, and 295 endowed scholarships.
Editorial Tags: Development/fund-raisingIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Villanova University

Why do campus abuse cases keep falling through the cracks?

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 07:00

When horrific, large-scale cases of sexual abuse emerged at Pennsylvania State University in 2011 and more recently at Michigan State University, higher education leaders expressed shock and vowed that such abuses would never happen again.

Then last month, it happened again. The Los Angeles Times reported on a University of Southern California gynecologist accused of decades of “serial misconduct” at a student health clinic, accusations now being investigated by police.

In each of the abuse cases, critics say key leaders failed to act on abuse reports until it was too late and dozens or even hundreds of victims came forward. How could the complaints fall through the cracks?

In several recent cases, presidents who mishandled abuse cases made one key error, said Susan Resneck Pierce, president emerita of the University of Puget Sound, who now serves as a consultant to presidents and trustees. She said they hadn’t created a campus culture in which it was expected that they’d be informed of allegations of inappropriate behavior.

“I don’t care how large the institution is,” said Pierce, an Inside Higher Ed columnist and author of the 2011 book On Being Presidential: A Guide for College and University Leaders. “I fervently believe that presidents share the responsibility with their boards for the health and integrity of the institution and all of its aspects. They not only need to understand that, but it needs to be understood on campus.”

In cases where presidents know about misbehavior but don’t act, she said, fears of bad publicity often drive inaction. But she noted that in many cases, “The cover-up creates more negative publicity than actually acting on an original allegation would have done.”

At Penn State, Michigan State and USC, anger at senior administrators has been mostly focused on the abuse cases discovered after someone should have recognized and reported the problem.

After the Times last month detailed nearly three decades of complaints at USC against George Tyndall, more than 400 people contacted a USC hotline with reports that he photographed patients’ genitals, touched women inappropriately and made “suggestive and sometimes crude remarks about their bodies.” Tyndall has denied wrongdoing and told the Times that his exams were thorough but medically appropriate.

The scandal cost USC president C. L. Max Nikias his job, which he’d held since 2010.

The Tyndall revelations came a year after the Times reported on drug and alcohol abuse by Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito, the onetime dean of USC’s medical school who reportedly led “a second life of partying with young criminals and addicts.” Puliafito's replacement, Rohit Varma, resigned amid allegations that he sexually harassed a colleague in 2002.

USC says Nikias first learned of the allegations against Tyndall in the fall of 2017, but the Times reported that Tyndall was the subject of staff and patient complaints stretching back decades. The university barred him from treating patients only after a nurse reported him to the campus rape crisis center. An investigation found that Tyndall had sexually harassed students and performed pelvic exams that departed from “current medical standards,” but USC agreed to allow him to resign with a financial payout. It also didn’t report him to the Medical Board of California or tell his former patients, but later acknowledged that it should have.

At least 20 plaintiffs have filed civil lawsuits against USC and Tyndall, the Times reported. The Los Angeles Police Department has also opened an investigation.

Laura L. Dunn, a Washington lawyer who specializes in campus sexual assault cases, said a kind of “institutional loyalty” often blinds presidents to lurking potential dangers.

“There really is a sense of some people that there’s no way anyone on their campus could do harm,” she said. “Their campus is a great place and a great culture, and they don’t leave the possibility there might be a bad egg in the mix. And there always can be.”

Too often, Dunn said, because colleges and universities don’t anticipate that there could be “a serious predator” on campus, they don’t establish chains of communication that could handle the problem quickly and appropriately. “And that really is a failure at the top.”

Peter McDonough, general counsel of the American Council on Education, said that once university leaders hear about abuse claims, they must ask themselves whether the cases are truly one-time events or an indicator of more criminal behavior on campus.

“Do you really press as to whether it’s more likely that it’s the tip of an iceberg?” he said. “Maybe you do. Do you really, really press as to whether it’s indicative of a cultural or operational problem that has a much larger scale to it?”

If anything, McDonough and others said, college presidents suffer from the opposite problem: they tend to view their campuses as better prepared for such crises than others.

While it measures a slightly different phenomenon, an ACE survey released last April found that 55 percent of presidents said staff and administrators at other institutions were “good” or “very good” at seeking out and listening to differing viewpoints; 73 percent said the same of their own staff and administrators.

The problem affects most organizations, said McDonough, not just colleges and universities. He noted that the top commander of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet lost his job last year after a pair of collisions involving the destroyers Fitzgerald and John S. McCain cost the lives of 17 sailors.

"I kept thinking, ‘How likely is it that he was actually responsible for those accidents?’” said McDonough. “‘Was it something about the culture, or was it something about the priorities that caused some slippage in focus on safety?’”

A review last December found that the collisions were the result of an “over-bureaucratized” Navy with “misaligned authorities, complicated command and control responsibilities, and diffuse accountability structures.”

McDonough said the coffee chain Starbucks offers a more helpful leadership model. After police in Philadelphia arrested two 23-year-old African-American businessmen who were sitting in a Starbucks shop in April, the company could have simply “refocused” that location’s staff on customer service without bias. Instead, “They shut down all of the stores in America, basically. The leadership there said, ‘We are not going to presume this is an isolated situation or issue.’”

Just as importantly, he said, Starbucks executives took a larger view of the incident. “They were recognizing that whatever they thought was probably less relevant than what the world thought.”

But unlike Starbucks, he said, college and university presidents can’t easily make big, sweeping decisions, since faculty are, in essence, running their portion of the institution, with students and donors keeping an eye on the process.

“It’s not a pyramid in which the president can decree to two people who report to her what is going to happen, and then they decree down, and it happens,” he said. “A president, at some level, needs to be in a negotiation with constituencies on campus in a way that corporate leaders are never in negotiations with constituencies.” Public institutions have even more players, he said, including lawmakers and taxpayers.

In large colleges and universities, where the president is, for instance, a political scientist by training, he will naturally rely on the dean of the medical school to evaluate serious issues there and bring them to his attention only when necessary.

Before he became president at USC, Nikias was an engineering professor. Graham Spanier, Penn State’s former president, was a well-known professor of human development and family studies, sociology, demography, and family and community medicine.

“The larger the institution, the more likely that you are counting on people who run the sections of it, what we might call the silos, to frankly only bring to you something that demands your attention,” McDonough said. “Because a president’s time is a zero-sum game.”

Pierce, the former University of Puget Sound president, said presidents of any background -- historians or poets or engineers -- must still be held accountable for what happens. “I was an English major,” she joked. “If you’re going to be a college president, you really should understand, in at least broad strokes, what is permissible and what’s not and what’s expected of you in your role as president.”

That includes familiarity with the law. “And there are pretty clearly established laws about the requirement that any allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated.”

Similarly, the president of a large university like Michigan State or USC can’t make an excuse about layers of bureaucracy between them and the department where abuse took place.

“In a larger institution, there are more layers of people with various responsibilities below the president than on a small campus,” Pierce said. “Nevertheless, the principle is still the same: the buck stops here. It is the president’s responsibility.”

All the same, she cautioned that it’s difficult for most of us to fully understand exactly how most college presidents handle misbehavior, since in most instances the investigations and their results are behind a wall of legal silence.

“We’re looking at it through only a partial lens, because so much of what is happening is governed by confidentiality,” she said. “So we don’t know about the cases where things have been handled effectively and legally.”

But Pierce said college and university leaders who handle such cases well have a few things in common. They have clearly articulated procedures for reporting abuse or harassment. “And you can’t just send those out in one email.”

Students and staff know where to go and whom they can tell when they suspect abuse, she said. “And I feel strongly that there have to be multiple people across campus who are trained to receive those complaints and who are identified” as such. “There is often a good deal of discomfort that people who want to make an allegation have about going forward, so you want to give them a number of options.”

Then, she said, “You need to make it very clear what your policies are forbidding retaliation.”

Dunn, the D.C. attorney, agreed. “As the leader, as the president, you really do have to have foresight. There may be emergencies on your campus. There may be active shooters. There may be serial predators. You have to prepare for the worst even if you expect the best.”

Editorial Tags: Sexual assaultStudent lifeImage Caption: The former presidents of Penn State and Michigan State, Graham Spanier and Lou Anna Simon, and the outgoing president of USC, C.L. Max NikiasIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Abuse Scandals Keep HappeningTrending order: 1College: Michigan State University

Close ties between University of Michigan’s investments and donors draw scrutiny and criticism

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 07:00

Recent scrutiny of investment practices by the University of Michigan is raising concerns about conflicts of interest and ethical lapses at colleges and universities seeking to increase their endowments.

Questions about Michigan’s investment practices were prompted by an investigation by the Detroit Free Press, which found that a large portion of the university’s nearly $11 billion endowment is invested in private equity, hedge and venture capital funds, and real estate investment firms run by top university donors and alumni investment advisers.

The newspaper chronicled how the university received hundreds of millions of dollars in donations from executives at top investment firms and then invested in funds managed by those same firms.

Among other things, the newspaper highlighted how Michigan invested its funds. More than $400 million went into funds managed by alumni who advise the university on its investments, according to a series of articles by the Free Press, which scrutinized the relationship between Michigan's investments and its donors. The university also invested in companies “owned or co-led” by at least four members of a nine-member committee focused on helping the university increase its endowment, the newspaper reported.

“On top of working capital, their companies, based on industry practice, likely charged millions of fees and profit-sharing as the price for managing the university’s money; exact figures remain secret,” the Free Press reported.

Michigan administrators have pushed back against the Free Press reports and defended the university’s investment practices, which they insisted involved no favoritism to donors or payback for their donations. They also issued a detailed written statement responding to various assertions in the Free Press articles. (The statement also includes written responses the university provided to numerous questions posed by the Free Press reporters.)

"Over the years, the university’s investment portfolio is distributed among hundreds of different investment companies representing a strategically balanced approach to investing designed to maximize returns on those investments," part of the statement reads. "The current value of investments the university has in funds being managed by members of the university’s Investment Advisory Committee represent 2 percent of the university’s total investment portfolio. That means 98 percent of the university’s investments are managed elsewhere; by fund managers who are not, in any way, advising the university regarding investment approaches.

"The fact is, U-M alums are some of the top investment managers in the nation. We would be foolish not to reach out to these alumni for their high-level advice and, when it fits with the university’s investment approach, to invest in their well-managed funds. The key fact is that all investment opportunities get vetted in the same fashion and we only invest with funds and managers that meet our stringent criteria."

Additionally, Rick Fitzgerald, the university's assistant vice president for public affairs, said in an interview that the members of the advisory committee do not have direct influence on Michigan's investment decisions. "They're only an advisory committee," he said. "They meet twice a year and advise the university on strategic investment. The give advice; they don’t make any decisions for the university and don’t decide on individual investments."

The Free Press also reported on the unusual pay structure of Michigan's chief investment officer -- 5 percent of his incentive pay is based on the endowment’s performance over three years.

"His bonus is also tied to his individual performance evaluation and how well Michigan performed compared with similarly sized schools," the newspaper reported.

According to Institutional Investor, the similarly sized institutions include about 100 other colleges or universities.

"This is controversial, one fund’s performance doesn’t affect another’s, and organizations can have vastly different needs and risk tolerances," the article states.

Fitzgerald, the university spokesman, said the incentive pay was not at all unusual.

"It's a pretty common practice in investment offices," he said. "He has a base salary and an opportunity to earn additional compensation based on the performance of investments."

Institutional investment and wealth management experts say Michigan is not alone in engaging in investment practices that have potential conflicts of interest, or at least the appearance of conflicts of interest. The experts say other colleges and universities have similar practices and are also risking their investments and their reputations.

“Some of the practices at the University of Michigan especially were not appropriate and not consistent with corporate governance best practices,” said Timothy Keating, an expert on endowment performance and head of the investment firm Keating Wealth Management LLC.

Keating was one of several people interviewed who found Michigan’s investment practices troubling.

“Unfortunately there are many such practices at endowments and the sins come in various shapes and sizes,” he said, adding that the increased media attention would bring more public awareness about the questionable practice. “I think they are going to be smoked out one by one.”

Michigan’s endowment is the ninth largest overall nationally and the third largest public endowment behind those of the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

The Free Press investigation also found that the advisory committee members tasked with helping Michigan increase its endowment steered donors to a special university fund, the Chief Investment Officer Endowment, established to help “defray the costs” of paying the sizable salary of the chief investment officer -- the same person who determines where Michigan invests its money. The committee members contributed more than $1 million to this fund, the newspaper reported.

The investment officer “was one of the university’s highest paid employees with more than $2 million in compensation in 2016,” the Free Press reported. “(His base salary was $690,000 in the same year.)”

Fitzgerald said there was "a real misconception" about the fund, which he said was not fully funded or operational.

"It's no different than an endowed professorship, of which we have hundreds on the campus, or an endowed position for the head coach or athletic director," he said. "It doesn’t provide any additional compensation. It's a way for donors who feel strongly about a particular program and want to support that program to help to keep the costs of the university down. It has zero impact on the level of compensation, it just changes the source of funding of who pays for that position."

The appearance that a gift was made to an institution with either the implicit or explicit expectation that it would then create income for a donor can be problematic on many fronts, said William Jarvis, an expert on investment policy and governance for endowed nonprofit organizations and former executive director of the Commonfund Institute, which promotes best practices in financial management.

“In a situation where a donor makes a gift and the perception is that the investment was in return for that gift, there’s potential for other donors to be discouraged and to not make a gift if they feel it was improper,” he said.

Jarvis is currently the managing director of U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management. He spoke about investment practices by colleges and universities in general, not about the University of Michigan or any other institution in particular. He said such practices also posed potential risks to an institution’s reputation.

“The appearance of improper relations can be compounded if the investment product does not perform well,” he said. “The risk there, with 20/20 hindsight, is that other donors or stakeholders could look at the institution and say you exposed yourself to improper risks because you did this thing. You took the gift, invested with the person who made the gift and then the performance was below par.”

Jarvis, who writes and lectures about best practices in investment strategy for endowments and foundations, said there are no separate or official standards or laws governing such practices “other than general fiduciary behavior standards that address conflicts of interest.”

Those standards include recusal, meaning the donor should not participate in discussions about managing the money -- “That doesn’t cleanse it, but it helps to manage the perceptions,” he said -- and transparency by the university about donors and management of investments. “Of course disclosure helps a lot,” he said.

“There are some institutions that acknowledge they engage in this practice and the reason that they give is that they want to have the services of people who are not only supportive of the institution but also skilled in matters of investment. I think that is a minority view,” he said. “The view that is more generally held is that this is not appropriate. The general view is that endowment investments should be done in an impartial way.”

Kent John Chabotar, founding partner of MPK&D consultants, an education strategy and leadership consulting firm, and the former president of Guilford College, agreed that impartiality is ideal when choosing investment funds, but he did not see impropriety in the University of Michigan’s decision to create an endowment fund to support the operating costs of the office of the chief investment officer, or for providing incentives for the CIO to earn additional pay.

Chabotar said successful CIOs are in high demand and work in a very competitive field.

“If I have a really good CIO and people are trying to poach him, I’m going to try like hell to keep him. If it happens to mean paying him two or three times what I’m making, so be it,” he said.

Chabotar also believes institutions could invest in funds managed by donors under the right circumstances and with full disclosure.

He recalled when he was chief financial officer at Bowdoin College, a donor whom Chabotar described as “a very loyal alum, very wealthy, relatively young” pledged $15 million to the college and provided $3 million in cash up front. The gift came with the stipulation that the $3 million would be invested and managed by the donor, who promised to grow the investment into the full $15 million.

“At the end of the due date, we didn’t get the $15 million,” Chabotar said. “We got $40 million.”

Although such arrangements are “usually bad practice,” he said, they can work when done with transparency.

“We didn’t hide it,” he said. “The board talked about it a lot. The school trustees endorsed and approved it. It occurred over three years, and all the i’s were dotted and t’s crossed. Everything was aboveboard.”

Although the college benefited from the arrangement, “I would not recommend it as a matter of course,” Chabotar said. “My concern was setting a precedent by having donors pledge money and not follow the investment procedures. I prefer one endowment and one company under central control.”

By allowing donors to manage investments, “You open up yourself to problems,” he said. “In this case it worked out fine, but just suppose in the course of making investments, the person goes way into debt with your money. You’re going to be on the hook for the money.”

He said the practices at Michigan have “the appearance of, and probably was, a conflict of interest” and should raise red flags, especially at a state-funded public university that has a large fiduciary duty to the state and its residents.

“If the decision is faulty and the endowment goes down as a result, then there’s less money to fund stuff like financial aid, faculty salaries and capital improvement,” he said. “I also don’t think students are well served by decisions made on personal relationships instead of merit. It’s a bad example for them.”

Dean Zerbe, national managing director of the Alliantgroup, a tax consulting services firm, agreed.

“Good luck firing the donor when the returns aren’t that good,” he said.

Zerbe said university administrators that overlook potential conflicts of interest and “self-dealing” in university investment practices aren’t asking themselves the right questions.

“What is lost in these endowment discussions is how is this helping students?” he said. “Where is the money going? What is the payout rate on these investments? Is it reducing costs? Is it making it possible to educate more students and admit more low-income students?”

Zerbe, former senior counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, said conflicts of interest by university board members or trustees and donors are not uncommon.

“This is kind of a constant problem,” he said. “People confuse doing well for themselves with doing well for a charitable cause. It’s for the board members to understand that they’re there for a charitable cause.”

Zerbe said a university should only use the investment services of a company owned or managed by a donor or trustee under conditions that are favorable to the institution.

“What you want to see is the donor doing it for free or heavily discounted,” he said.

Even better, Keating said, would be for the colleges and universities not to engage in any questionable investment practices in the first place.

“I think the simplest solution is to have an absolute prohibition saying, ‘We will no longer be doing these kinds of investments for the simple reason that it creates the perception of a conflict of interest,’” he said. “Anything that creates even the appearance of a conflict of interest should be eliminated in toto.”

“That should be the guiding principle and I don’t think it’s a very difficult principle to either implement or adhere to.”

Keating points to Yale University and its $27 billion endowment as a model.

“There’s no question in my mind that Yale has the best-run endowment in the country,” he said. “It has typically been at the forefront of governance in trying to eliminate conflicts of interest.”

He also noted that David Swensen, Yale’s chief investment officer for the past 33 years, is widely regarded as one of the best in the country and “has gone through great lengths to assure that Yale implemented and adhered to best practices.”

And because Yale has the second largest private endowment in the country, it also has the resources to put the best practices in place, Keating said.

“Smaller endowments look to the larger endowments, whether private or public, because they have the resources to put best practices in place,” he said.

Until more universities follow suit, the attention now being paid to Michigan will have far-reaching consequences on the investment practices of higher education institutions overall, Keating said

“People are going to say, ‘Michigan got raked over the coals and we should learn a lesson,’” he said. “I think Michigan will be the turning point and there will be less of that going forward.”

The tide may already be changing, and, ironically, Michigan may be helping to lead the way.

Soon after the Free Press investigation, the university announced new transparency measures about its investment practices "as a further expression of its commitment to transparency and appropriate governance regarding investments," according to a March 29 article in The University Record, a publication for faculty and staff.

The changes were announced at a Board of Regents meeting following a "review of the policies, procedures and practices that surround the Investment Office, and considering best practices," according to the article.

"The institution will move from verbal disclosure of potential conflicts of interest to written conflict-of-interest disclosure statements from members of the all-volunteer Investment Advisory Committee," Regent Andrew Richner said in the article. "A small number of the university's investments are in funds managed by members of the IAC. Going forward, should the university make new investments in such funds, it will call specific attention to them for regents to ensure transparency and prepare a plan to manage any perceived conflict. Additionally, the CIO (chief investment officer) will present the overarching investment strategy annually at a regents' meeting,"

Richner also said that committee members that have conflicts of interest related to discussions of an investment strategy "will be recused from any such discussion."

The board also recommended the committee redesignate the endowment for the university's chief investment officer "to a need-based student scholarship (or other areas of the institution, as selected by the donors) to avoid any perception of a conflict. The university will not accept any future donations specifically in support of the Investment Office."

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Authors discuss new book on faculty role in curricular change

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 07:00

How does the college curriculum evolve?

That's the central question of Making Sense of the College Curriculum: Faculty Stories of Change, Conflict, and Accommodation (Rutgers University Press), which is based on contributions in the form of in-depth interviews with 185 faculty members from 11 colleges and universities, representing all sectors of higher education. The authors identify trends that cross sectors, in particular the care with which professors consider the goals of various programs and requirements. While the book makes clear that change in the curriculum is rarely speedy, and sometimes messy, it finds that under certain conditions, professors do agree to make meaningful changes.

The authors include Robert Zemsky, chair of the Learning Alliance, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of several books, including Checklist for Change: Making American Higher Education a Sustainable Enterprise (Rutgers University Press), which argued for consideration of more dramatic changes than perhaps would be endorsed by the professors interviewed for his new book. He was joined by Gregory R. Wegner, director of program development at the Great Lakes Colleges Association, and Ann J. Duffield, a strategic planning and communications consultant to colleges and universities who serves on the Board of Trustees of the Sage Colleges.

Via email, the three authors jointly responded to questions about the new book.

Q: What led you to approach the topic of the curriculum in this way, with a focus on discussions with faculty members?

A: Actually, we started out heading in the wrong direction. We thought our task was to document what worked as colleges and universities sought to revise their curricula. We should have known better -- simply put, there had not been enough successful curricular redesigns to produce an informative study. We then restated our task, making it a riddle that needed to be solved. Why had there been so little curricular change? Why not the same kind of restructuring in response to disruptive change that was recasting the work of lawyers, librarians, bankers, even physicians? To answer that question, we needed to talk with faculty, to listen to them, not as adversaries or recalcitrants, but as actors in a drama with an increasingly uncertain denouement. We needed to learn directly how faculty members described their experience -- with students, faculty peers, administration and society as a whole. We needed to go in search of what it meant to be a faculty member in a turbulent era.

Q: Your book features interviews with faculty members from many sectors of higher ed -- were there differences in perspectives by sector?

A: Higher education's skeptics and critics notwithstanding, the common thread linking almost all the faculty whose stories we collected was a commitment to helping students harness the power of knowledge. Often, but certainly not always, the actions faculty take to help students differed by sector, reflecting both student attributes and institutional goals. It was not uncommon for some faculty to describe their role in terms that combined academic preparation with social development of students. Faculty from institutions that prepare students to enter specific careers upon graduation often spoke of the constraints of external accreditation or certification requirements. Across the spectrum of institutions, public or private, faculty spoke of the pressure they feel to curtail costs, on the one hand, and to help their institutions recruit and retain capable students on the other. A recurring sentiment was that the faculty role has come to encompass a growing number of responsibilities, often at the cost of being able to teach students well.

Q: What did you find, across sector, as the primary motivations for professors in terms of how they seek to organize the curriculum?

A: Almost always the motivation to change stemmed from dissatisfaction with the supply of courses. Changes in the discipline, faculty interests or student demand would spur a drive to create new courses within a department. Alternatively, a decline in enrollment in existing courses that represent the specialties of tenured professors would spur strategies to change graduation requirements for majoring in a given department or otherwise highlight underenrolled courses to attract greater student interest. A fundamental desire within academic units was to preserve the core elements that define a field of study. Those elements often coincided with the expertise of tenured faculty members, and there was always an awareness that recasting the curriculum can impact the jobs of real people. Beneath every proposed change are the self-interests of departments or individual faculty who have benefited from the curriculum as currently delivered. In the most telling of our faculty stories, it most often fell to administrators to deliver the message that the curriculum needed to change -- for reasons of efficiency, intellectual integrity -- and often to heighten their institution's competitive standing among prospective students and their parents.

Q: How did your research change the way you view faculty members' relative priority of teaching versus research?

A: Here there was both good news and not so good news. Among the faculty we talked with, there was both a broad and deep commitment to teaching, to doing it well and to exploring alternative pedagogies. In the 180-plus faculty stories we collected, there was a palpable passion for their own as well as their students' growth and discovery. Sometimes it was a journey that translated into new research interests. In other cases, the desire to make it new for themselves led to different ways of conceiving the learning process. Active learning techniques, faculty-student research and technology-enhanced instruction were increasingly common. What was lacking was a parallel commitment to the curriculum -- and for good reasons. Almost uniformly, the faculty featured in Making Sense of the College Curriculum had had enough -- too much regulation, too much focus on economic models that rewarded butts in seats and almost nothing else, too many failed attempts that taught the same lesson -- it's just not possible to get there from here. What faculty wanted was to do their own thing, wherever possible unencumbered. It was a perspective that mirrored in an equally unencumbered commitment to their research.

Q: For college leaders -- from the faculty or administrative ranks -- what advice would you offer based on the book for those who seek to change the curriculum? How can faculty support be built?

A: The lesson we hope our work teaches senior administrators and faculty leaders is that they bear a special responsibility for spurring curricular change, all while making certain that curricular redesign is in fact the work of the faculty. Success needs to celebrated, faculty champions should be recognized and faculty initiative rewarded.

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George Washington's new Title IX processes put sexual assault cases in hands of single investigator

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 07:00

As speculation swirls over how the Trump administration will direct colleges to handle campus sexual assaults, George Washington University has moved away from a panel of students and professors judging these cases, handing them over instead to a single investigator.

Institutions relying on one official -- whether that is an internal employee or an outside contractor -- is nothing new for adjudicating cases that fall under the federal gender antidiscrimination law, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

But the shifts at George Washington speak to a larger debate on how colleges will respond to an Education Department that has given them far more flexibility under Title IX than the previous administration did -- which is detrimental, supporters of sexual assault survivors say. The “single-investigator” model remains unpopular among those advocates, as well as civil liberties and legal experts. Those who favor the system believe it removes the responsibility from a mix of panelists who may be inexperienced with sexual assaults and the proper procedures.

The Education Department is also investigating George Washington, which has been the subject of two recent Title IX complaints, one from an alumna blaming the university for neglecting her after she reported alleged sexual violence. The woman sued the university last month. A second lawsuit, filed in D.C. Superior Court last month, alleges that the institution didn’t protect five female current or former student workers from a sexual predator who harassed them in the workplace and allegedly raped three of them when they were drunk.

Coinciding with the legal pressure on the university come the changes to its Title IX policies, which the Board of Trustees approved this month and which take effect July 1.

“This policy unifies our Title IX procedures and policies for all of our GW community members and places them all under the aegis of the Title IX office,” Caroline Laguerre-Brown, vice provost for diversity, equity and community engagement, said in a statement. “It also provides additional detail about the processes involved and the preparation that goes into the decision making around those processes and gives more detailed guidance on questions that individuals may have as they are considering what is the best way for them to come forward.”

Laguerre-Brown said by email later that the single-investigator system was "the preferred approach to provide a just, equitable and thorough process for our community." She added that the policy includes "numerous steps and procedures" for a fair investigation.

No longer does a six-person group of students and professors collect evidence on a case and then determine whether there was a sexual misconduct violation. Now one official, either from the university or an outside hire, will make that call after interviewing both parties and witnesses and conducting an investigation. Then another administrator will hand down a punishment, if needed.

The policy doesn’t spell out who investigators might be, other than that they need annual training on sexual violence.

Among the other changes: mandating that professors and academic advisers report sexual assault that they learn about, previously only a requirement for department chairs and administrators.

Though faculty members generally believe the policy is an improvement, they said they have been displeased with how rushed the process was and how they were not given adequate time to review it. Some student activists, however, say they are satisfied with the changes.

“It’s comforting to know that trained Title IX investigators will be helping survivors navigate what can be a very challenging, scary and long process,” Kalpana Vissa, a George Washington senior and co-president of GW Students Against Sexual Assault, said in a statement. “To have someone who understands the policy and whose job it is to support survivors is going to make a world of difference.”

Students can also now choose not to pursue a traditional process at all. The Education Department last year allowed institutions to start using alternative resolutions to cases, which for George Washington isn’t specified in policy, other than possible education or training programs for an accused student, or conversations with him or her. Other institutions have green-lit “alternative resolutions” in their policies, but generally not for rape cases. Laguerre-Brown said the decision to proceed with an alternative resolution is done case by case.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last fall rolled back Obama-era guidelines on Title IX, which survivor advocates credit with drastically improving the culture and campus processes for rape and sexual violence victims. Critics of the Obama rules have said they were an unfair overreach (though they largely were based on existing guidance on Title IX) and that accused students often weren’t provided “due process” rights. New draft direction from the department is expected this fall.

Interim directives from the department permit alternative resolutions, remove certain time frames for sexual assault investigations, and allow institutions to use whatever evidentiary standard they wish -- a particularly controversial point. The temporary rules don’t favor either a full panel or a single investigator.

A department spokeswoman didn’t respond to request for comment on what the department’s preference might be.

But outside of colleges and universities, a single-investigator model is often disliked, experts say.

“Title IX sex discrimination procedures, especially ones involving allegations of gender-based violence, are complex matters not well suited to having a single official with sole responsibility for resolving them,” S. Daniel Carter, a college safety consultant and president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, wrote in an email. “While Title IX systems ought not to mimic full court proceedings too closely, given the serious issues involved, basic checks and balances beyond a single decision maker are warranted. This is especially so in the rapidly evolving legal landscape that higher education finds itself in now, where the mistakes or biases of even one official can result in an adverse legal ruling.”

For the last several years, accused students have swamped institutions with lawsuits that allege bias against them during sexual assault proceedings. Some of these plaintiffs have been successful.

When one investigator has been involved with the cases that Carly Mee, a lawyer and interim executive director for legal advocacy group SurvJustice, has handled, they haven’t gone well.

Often one official doesn’t know all the questions to ask to yield the important information to resolve a case, Mee said. Despite that these investigators are often trained, sometimes they haven’t been prepared to sensitively handle survivors, she said.

When a hearing occurs, both sides can submit questions for the panelists to ask, too, Mee said. This, and cross-examination, isn’t always possible with an investigator, she said.

“I think schools like it because it is a simpler process,” Mee said. “You don’t have to train as many people … it gives the school more control. They’re the ones getting to ask the questions and not handing over any control to the parties.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a civil liberties watchdog that often lobbies for due process rights, believes that a single investigator can deprive students of this.

Even if a person is unbiased, he or she is still serving as a prosecutor, judge and jury, said Samantha Harris, FIRE’s vice president of policy research.

She also noted the problems with the accused not being able to confront their accuser in some fashion.

But Brett A. Sokolow, president of the Association of Title IX Administrators, said that George Washington isn’t truly using a “single-investigator” system because of its extensive new appeals process.

An appeal is made to a reviewer that the university hires, no one internal, but often an outside attorney.

Sokolow did recommend that George Washington add one additional step. Instead of the investigator determining whether a violation happened, then an administrator administering the consequences, have another university representative review the investigator’s report and then decide whether to move forward with punishment, he said.

“I am opposed to the single-investigator model … except at the very smallest and resource-strapped private schools and colleges,” Sokolow said by email.

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New presidents or provosts: Claremont Louisville Mount Saint Mary Montana Salisbury Tasmania UNH

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 07:00
  • Jason N. Adsit, dean of the School of Arts, Sciences & Education and director of the educational leadership doctoral program at D'Youville College, in New York, has been appointed president of Mount Saint Mary College, also in New York.
  • Neeli Bendapudi, provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas, has been selected as president of the University of Louisville, in Kentucky.
  • James W. Dean Jr., executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been named president of the University of New Hampshire.
  • Jon Harbor, associate vice provost for teaching and learning and executive director of digital education at Purdue University, has been chosen as executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Montana.
  • Len Jessup, president of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, has been selected as president of Claremont Graduate University, in California.
  • Jane Long, senior deputy vice chancellor and vice president at La Trobe University, in Australia, has been chosen as provost at the University of Tasmania, also in Australia.
  • Charles Wight, president of Weber State University, in Utah, has been appointed president of Salisbury University, in Maryland.
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How sexual harassment allegations against a guest speaker rocked Santa Barbara City College last semester -- and, one professor says, cost him his job

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 07:00

A longtime adjunct professor of philosophy at Santa Barbara City College says his career is collateral damage in the political moment.

The professor, Mark McIntire, is hardly the first professor to claim that. But he recently defended another professor accused of sexual misconduct. So looking at McIntire’s case means looking at Me Too through the lens of campus speech.

At least, that’s what McIntire and his supporters say. McIntire’s critics counter that his case has little to do with free speech and everything to do with teaching quality.

Either way, McIntire’s story is an interesting one about how a set of misconduct allegations and an all-campus email battle dominated Santa Barbara City College last semester.

Warning Email

McIntire invited Michael Shermer, a well-known skeptic and columnist for Scientific American, to speak on campus in March about debunking beliefs about the afterlife and utopian societies.

The 400-hundred seat auditorium was unusually empty for such a talk, perhaps due to what Shermer didn’t know while he was speaking. Earlier that morning, Raeanne Napoleon, chair of chemistry, shared a four-year-old BuzzFeed article with the campus, detailing sexual misconduct allegations against Shermer.

“Shermer is someone who has been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault (rape) by multiple women,” Napoleon wrote, linking to BuzzFeed. “Although the police did not bring formal charges against him, there have been many witnesses that have publicly corroborated the stories of the victims.”

Napoleon wrote that while Shermer “still has the right to free speech,” she wanted “to warn the women attending the talk that they should be careful not to be alone with him or hang around late on campus after the talk is over. I am also using this platform to highlight this information to faculty and staff so that you can choose whether or not you will support this event.”

In an interview, Napoleon said that McIntire was well-known on campus for oversharing his political views via the campus email system, so she’d directed her email program to send messages from him to the trash. As a result, she’d missed earlier communiqués about Shermer, she said. But she felt compelled to comment when she heard about the talk at the last minute, especially in light of Me Too.

A handful of professors responded to the email, with the majority thanking Napoleon for the information.

The student newspaper also posted a story about the allegations prior to Shermer’s talk.

Shermer vehemently denies the allegations against him, which involve attempted groping and other lewd behavior at scientific conferences. One woman publicly accused him of rape, saying he'd purposely gotten her drunk at a conference in order to assault her. He says the encounter was consensual and that they were both sober. His full response, which treats the allegations against him like concepts to be debunked, is available here. Shermer speaks regularly on college campuses.

McIntire soon responded in a private email to Napoleon and another faculty member, saying he was disappointed that “scientists” had urged women not to be alone with Shermer, despite having no clear proof of misconduct. (Of course, legal experts say that clear proof of sexual misconduct is often especially difficult to obtain.)

“Even beyond that, a higher level of hysteria is pushed suggesting that ‘…whether or not you will support this event’ is somehow a litmus test on supporting unproven accusers,” McIntire added. "I suppose I could hire private security to follow the accused every moment on campus, but I have no probable cause to do so. Accusations are insufficient evidence of guilt in my ethical calculus.”

Napoleon wrote back saying that she’d thought about it more and wondered “if I should have emailed you first before going all campus. I respect the work you put into the faculty colloquium and I would hope that you didn’t know about this ahead of time. It would have been nice to receive a heads up.” Yet, she said, "I stand by what I did regardless.”

Email Threats

Shermer then emailed Napoleon and the college president, Anthony Beebe, threatening them both with legal action and demanding the removal of the school newspaper article about him, along with a "retraction" and an apology from Napoleon.

“This is no bluff,” he wrote, referencing his legal representation. “This law firm specializes in defamation and libel cases and are one of the best in the country. What you did was immoral and illegal. I will not stand for it. I am a public intellectual from which my entire livelihood depends so I cannot allow these sorts of illegal acts taken against me.”

McIntire shared a similar response from Shermer over the all-campus email, criticizing the student journalist by name for not contacting him directly. Shermer said to Napoleon, in particular, “My son is too young to understand the evil that you have wrought, but my wife fully understands and she too will be on the look out [sic] for you. Further, you are not to contact my employers, business associates, colleagues, or anyone else, especially here in Santa Barbara where I intend to raise my family, with the intent to harm me, and if you do I will prosecute you to the extent of what the law allows.”

(Via email, Shermer said that he responded as he did because Napoleon mentioned the police in her initial email, and police were never involved in his case. “Given that this is a falsehood, a lie, and given that her intention was to harm me by getting people to boycott my talk and hurt book sales and, ultimately further damage my reputation upon which I base my livelihood, that is what makes this libelous and thus defamatory,” he wrote. Napoleon said the police never brought charges, so her email is correct. Shermer has said that Chapman University, where he is a presidential fellow, investigated the claims against him but could not substantiate them.)

Shermer’s lawyer then sent Napoleon a cease and desist letter, so she hired a lawyer and sent her own. He sent another, prompting one of Napoleon’s colleagues to set up a Go Fund Me account to cover her legal fees.

McIntire continued to defend Shermer, including by commenting on the student newspaper piece online.

“Shermer was treated shabbily by Dr. Napoleon’s irresponsible all-campus email attempt to cancel his colloquium, or at very least to suppress audience attendance. She succeeded only in fingering herself as a calumniator of the very worst stamp,” he said.

In an email to another faculty member, McIntire referred to Napoleon’s olive branch-style email to him as a “morning after regret.” In the context of a conversation about sexual assault, Napoleon said, that comment, among others, seemed inappropriate if not suspect.

She and three female other faculty members involved in the debate eventually filed sexual harassment complaints against McIntire, which are still pending.

‘I Will Never Be Rehired’

In the meantime, McIntire says, he was told by his new department chair that after more than 20 years of teaching, he would not be rehired. His department chair allegedly cited McIntire’s failure to grasp fundamental philosophical concepts, his statements on social media and his propensity to assign papers on politically charged topics -- especially about gun control.

McIntire said that as far as fundamental philosophical concepts go, he did post a video for an online class of someone poorly describing induction and deduction -- by design. As for his statements on social media, he said it’s unclear what they have to do with the college. And he always lets students pick their own topics, he said.

“My removal is because I publicly oppose the ‘social justice warriors’ who have seized control of Santa Barbara City College of late,” McIntire explained on the Go Fund Me page he set up to cover his own legal costs; Napoleon has no intention to sue him, she says, but McIntire believes his case will end up in court. His union contract affords longtime adjuncts in good standing priority in reapppointments, so he's appealing the decision before he takes any formal legal action (still, the contract says that the seniority rehiring preference disappears with negative reviews).

The “real reason I will never be rehired,” McIntire says on the page, “is that I was the sole faculty voice expressing the cause of marginalized religious, conservatives, libertarians, homeschoolers and/or Trump voters on staff, faculty and [in the] student population … These are violations of my First and Fourteenth Amendments [sic] protections.”

He said as much at recent college Board of Trustees meeting, arguing that diversity today means "a diversity of superficialities, people who are members of categories, categories such as ethnicities, categories such as genital configurations, categories such as immigration status, categories such as incarceration."

McIntire, an outspoken political conservative who says he’s a longtime friend of the late actor and former National Rifle Association president Charlton Heston, has been a controversial campus figure for some time. But until President Trump’s election, he says, he was more of the college's token conservative than any perceived threat to campus order.

“I was a pet they kept under the stairs,” he said of life pre-Trump. Now, he says, “I’ve arrived at the conclusion that the [college] faculty thinks of itself as an independent nation state whose codicils transcend the rules of the United States.”

Even last fall, he said, his master's degree paperwork mysteriously went missing from a campus office, and he had to both replace it and help the college verify that Catholic University of America was accredited at the time his philosophy degree was conferred. 

Napoleon, who says she’s been hung out to dry by the college in terms of legal support, and who says there's a big gap between the college's action on harassment and its rhetoric, disagrees with the idea that McIntire is a political target, however.

"This has been a boondoggle," she said. "He is not not being rehired because he defended Michael Shermer. He’s had several poor faculty evaluations.”

McIntire has had three negative faculty reviews this year. But he said there’s no squaring the timing of those reviews with what’s happened on campus and the 20-plus years of satisfactory teaching reviews before now.

“We would not be talking if Raeanne Napoleon hadn’t fired off that viral email,” he said. “That’s dispositive.”

The college did not respond to a request for comment.

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Federal court to resolve questions over loan forgiveness for defrauded borrowers

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 07:00

After granting student borrowers a temporary victory last month against the Department of Education, a federal judge this week will consider larger questions about whether all Corinthian Colleges students misled by their former institution should get full relief of their student loan debt.

A handful of former Corinthian borrowers, represented by the Project on Predatory Lending at Harvard University, are suing the department over a plan, announced in December, to award partial relief of student loan debt to defrauded borrowers. Federal Magistrate Sallie Kim ruled last month that the system violated the Privacy Act by improperly using average earning data from Social Security records, and issued an injunction against collecting on those loan debts.

What remains at question, though, is whether a de facto policy previously existed at the department that dictates any misled borrowers who attended Corinthian institutions should get full debt relief. If such a policy did exist, it could aid the arguments of borrowers seeking full debt relief.

Kim will hold a hearing today to try to determine whether a so-called Corinthian rule was in place at the department, as well as other questions involving loan forgiveness for defrauded students.

“It comes down to how formal that rule may have been,” said Clare McCann, the deputy director for federal higher education policy at New America's Education Policy program and a former department official under the Obama administration.

Corinthian shut down in 2015 after reaching a peak enrollment of more than 80,000 students. Tens of thousands of those students have sought discharge of their loan debt in recent years through borrower-defense claims, alleging that their program inflated job placement rates, misrepresented career services, made false claims about credit transfer or otherwise misled them. The Obama administration found many of those claims were justified, issuing debt relief for 31,000 borrowers by January 2017.

After going nearly a year without approving a new claim, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos unveiled the partial relief system, saying it would ensure taxpayers aren’t forced to shoulder unjustified costs. That also meant going forward, borrowers who successfully demonstrated they were misled by their institution could still be on the hook for thousands in loan debt.

Borrowers and their attorneys have argued in court that a policy of full forgiveness for Corinthian students was codified in several internal department documents that would require DeVos to issue full debt relief to Corinthian students.

In a court filing last week, the department said one of those documents was already available in the public record and provided no evidence of a written policy. The other, government lawyers said, was a deliberative internal document and should not be released or even viewed as indicative of any department position.

But student advocates have argued that the department under the previous administration consistently and publicly said that Corinthian borrowers would get full debt relief -- before DeVos announced the new policy.

The department additionally said last week that it was considering options for determining the appropriate amount of debt relief for borrowers that wouldn’t violate the Privacy Act. Those options could include using publicly available earnings data or having borrowers directly submit salary information themselves.

That latter possibility worries some student advocates concerned about making the loan forgiveness more complicated for defrauded borrowers.

“If there was a requirement that not only each student apply individually, but that they also supply individual documentation as well, it would make it much more difficult to get relief in the hands of students that need it,” said James Kvaal, president of the Institute for College Access and Success.

The findings in the lawsuit could also have implications for a new borrower-defense rule currently being promulgated by the department. DeVos last year blocked a new regulation issued by the Obama administration from going into effect and said she would craft her own rule. The department has said it will continue to review claims based on 1995 statutory language.

New data published last week by the Century Foundation shows that borrower-defense claims have continued to pour in to the department despite little federal outreach to students.

Between August and March, the number of pending claims increased by 29 percent, to more than 127,000. Most of the new claims -- about 9,000 -- came from Corinthian students. The biggest increase among any institution came from students of the online DeVry University.

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Faculty groups at Conn.'s two-year colleges call for end to consolidation plans and more state funding

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 07:00

In the weeks since the accreditor for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system rejected plans to consolidate the state's 12 community colleges into a single system, a growing number of faculty groups have called for an end to the plan and for the departure of the leaders who proposed it.

The proposal would have shrunk the community college side of the system from 12 presidents to one vice chancellor, reduced other administrative positions and eliminated campus financial and academic officers.

But in the wake of the system's accreditor turning down the proposal, faculty senates and leadership organizations at Central Connecticut State University, Naugatuck Valley Community CollegeNorwalk Community College, Three Rivers Community College and the Connecticut State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors have called for a change to the Board of Regents, greater investment in the system or Mark Ojakian, the system's president, to step down.

Nine of the 15 Regent positions and the president of the system are appointed by the governor. Four of the Regents are appointed by the Legislature and the other two members are students elected by their peers.

Last month, the New England Association of Schools & Colleges, the system's accreditor, expressed concerns with the consolidation plan, which Ojakian's office has argued would save money amid declining enrollments and decreases in state funding. The commission said the proposed Community College of Connecticut would be a new institution and not a "substantive change" to the system -- meaning the merged colleges would have to become candidates for initial accreditation, which could take five years. Despite the setback, the system's leaders are continuing to push a merger.

"Considering the punitive comments made by [the commission], by moving forward President Ojakian and the [Board of Regents] jeopardize the accreditation of the community colleges and the state universities. The … commission did not reject this plan but they made abundantly clear their skepticism about its feasibility. By moving forward our students' ability to access financial aid is threatened," the resolution from Norwalk's Faculty Senate said.

The system hasn't responded to the faculty groups. A spokesperson said these same groups opposed the consolidation plan since it was first proposed.

"Both my team and staff at NEASC have been working to identify ways we can meet our goals to address student needs while coming to terms with our fiscal conditions," Ojakian said in a May 10 email update on the proposal. "We're exploring options such as moving gradually toward consolidating 12 colleges, first merging into three regions, (for example) three accredited colleges with four campuses each, or some variation, that breaks the path to a single college into steps over a number of years."

Ojakian, who added in his letter that tuition will not increase next year, is expected to release more details of the system's plan in late June. Meanwhile, the system has until July 30 to send a consolidation proposal to the regional accreditor.

Lois Aime, director of educational technology at Norwalk Community College and president of the College Senate, said since NEASC's letter there has been concern over how the system will move forward.

"Something needs to be done," she said. "What has happened so far is [Ojakian] has wasted a tremendous amount of time, money and effort on everyone's part to put something forward that NEASC was critical of, and they didn't outright reject it, but they were critical of the concept."

Elena Tapia, president of Connecticut State's AAUP, said the organization was "relieved" to hear NEASC's response to the consolidation plan.

"For months, CSU-AAUP has advocated for a more measured, thoughtful and research-based approach to find creative solutions," she said in a written statement. "Rather than talk of closures and consolidations, it would behoove the Board of Regents to find the political will to push for greater investment in public higher education. Rather than orchestrating more cuts, the Board of Regents should work to create a plan that truly utilizes the skills, insights and knowledge of the faculty, staff and students."

But one of the biggest complaints from faculty is that they've been kept out of consolidation discussions, Tapia said in an interview.

"We're incredulous," she said. "Any of us at the community college or state university, we have gone through NEASC accreditation. We know how extensive and how detailed it is and what a gargantuan experience it is, and we don't believe they have the know-how to do that. We also believe they have continually rejected our input."

Aime said there's concern at Norwalk especially because the college is expected to deliver a five-year accreditation report next year to NEASC as part of maintaining the institution's current accreditation. Some Norwalk faculty and staff members are questioning if the college would have the necessary administrative levels to maintain the college's accreditation after the proposed consolidation.

Ultimately, the faculty groups have argued that a merger wouldn't alleviate the system's decline in resources and enrollment, but more state funding could.

According to a 2017 State Higher Education Executive Officers Association report, Connecticut saw the largest decrease in state appropriations from the previous year of any other state -- a 12.1 percent decrease. Since the recession, state funding per student is down 19 percent.

Tapia said some state legislators want to invest more in public higher education and are pushing for more funding for the system.

"Quite frankly, the State of Connecticut could just fund higher education," Aime said. "We're one of the wealthiest states in the country and next to bottom in supporting higher education."

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As U.S. political leaders disavow globalism, universities expand global ties

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 07:00

WASHINGTON -- As American political leaders walk away from embracing globalism, many U.S. universities are proceeding with long-held -- and strikingly diverse -- visions to expand their offerings worldwide, officials said Friday.

“The problems we face now are global -- whether it’s global health, whether it’s economic and social development, whether it’s climate change,” said Thomas Banchoff, vice president for global engagement at Georgetown University. “National solutions do not work. And unfortunately our education systems are still organized upon national models.”

Georgetown in 2005 became one of the first U.S. universities to establish branches in an experimental campus in Doha, Qatar, called Education City. The 229-year-old Jesuit university opened a new campus made up solely of its School of Foreign Service, offering students from the region what Banchoff said is an “identical” education to the one it offers in the District of Columbia, with similar requirements and, in many cases, faculty members transplanted from the United States.

Thirteen years later, he said, “I won’t call it an experiment anymore.”

Banchoff was joined at a forum, sponsored by the Qatar Foundation, on new models in international collaboration by officials from Texas Tech University and Columbia University’s School of General Studies and by Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, CEO of the Qatar Foundation, which founded Education City. The campus, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, features offerings from six U.S. universities, among others, including Weill Cornell Medical College, Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts, Northwestern University’s journalism and communications programs, engineering from Texas A&M University and Carnegie Mellon University’s business, computer science and information systems programs.

Sheikha Hind said the unusual combination of programs is intentional. “Too often, change is manifested in revision, building upon what has come before,” she said. “If that were the approach two decades ago in Qatar, Education City would not have been built nor even conceived. We must always dream bigger.” She noted, for instance, that students may now major in journalism at Northwestern's Qatar campus and minor in politics at Georgetown's.

"We continuously want to innovate and try something different," she said. "It is trying something -- it’s not just implanting something that exists, but actually creating something that makes sense for that country.”

Though the past few years have seen the rise of nationalist movements here and abroad, Banchoff said Georgetown students still recognize the importance of a “global mind-set,” an openness to other cultures and the humility needed to solve big, intractable problems.

“We’re moving into a new world where the United States is still the predominant power, but it must learn increasingly to work with, to collaborate with, other countries around the world around these global challenges,” he said.

Columbia University’s Victoria Rosner said its new, four-year, dual-B.A. partnership with Trinity College Dublin solves what has long been a problem with study-abroad programs: students spend too little time abroad and learn little about a region’s language or culture.

“At its worst it’s a form of tourism,” she said.

The program’s first class is due to matriculate this fall, offering students two years in Ireland and two at Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus in New York City. At the end of four years, Rosner said, students will earn two bachelor’s degrees -- one from each institution. It is similar to an existing dual undergraduate program that Columbia established in 2010 with France’s Sciences Po.

With the new partnership, she said, Columbia looks to create “a student climate that is thoughtfully cosmopolitan and really committed to a multicultural way of life.”

Texas Tech this fall is due to open its first campus outside the United States, in San José, Costa Rica. Like many universities, it already maintains a study-abroad center -- this one in Spain.

The effort is a partnership with the Promerica Group, a conglomerate of financial companies in Central and South America.

“We wanted to grow our international footprint, because that’s what research universities do,” said Sukant Misra, Texas Tech’s vice provost for international affairs.

The effort will initially offer students from the region a mix of five undergraduate degrees: electrical engineering, computer science, industrial engineering, mathematics and restaurant, hotel and institutional management.

The areas of study, Misra said, are “not necessarily based on our strengths -- it is based on their needs.”

“We wanted to partner with Costa Rica … to advance the educational ambition of the country,” he said.

Though the recent blockade of Qatar by a handful of countries in the region has complicated matters for many Education City students, Sheikha Hind said it hasn’t compromised the larger effort.

“If anything it has strengthened our mission,” she said. “Education City was built for the region -- not just for the region, but globally. It was built to break those barriers and provide quality education to a region that did not have that before.”

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Two groups whose memberships extend beyond liberal arts issue statement in support of liberal arts and its disciplines

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/01/2018 - 07:00

In an era when liberal arts programs are being eliminated or changed at institutions public and private, two organizations on Thursday issued a joint statement in defense of the values of liberal arts education and of liberal arts disciplines.

"In recent years, the disciplines of the liberal arts, once universally regarded as central to the intellectual life of the university, have been steadily moved to the periphery and increasingly threatened -- by some administrators, elected officials, journalists, and parents of college-age children. The study of the history of human societies and forms of human expression is now too often construed as frivolous, and several colleges and universities have recently announced the wholesale elimination of liberal arts departments," says the statement from the Association of American Colleges & Universities and the American Association of University Professors.

The statement goes on to object to the argument -- put forth by many politicians and regularly promoted by pundits -- that studying the humanities (one part of the liberal arts) leaves students unable to pursue good careers after graduation.

"Students majoring in literature, art, philosophy, and history are routinely considered unemployable in the technology and information economy, despite the fact that employers in that economy strenuously argue that liberal arts majors make great tech-sector workers precisely because they are trained to think critically and creatively, and to adapt to unforeseen circumstances." (And indeed numerous studies have found that humanities graduates not only land jobs but are successful and happy in life. Consider the data in this February report from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.)

For both the AAUP and AAC&U, the statement is notable because both groups represent people and institutions that extend well beyond the liberal arts. AAUP members come from a wide range of disciplines. AAC&U generally talks about "liberal learning" more than the liberal arts, and stresses that the value it places on general education and a meaningful curriculum apply to preprofessional programs, not just the liberal arts.

But the organizations' statement said that current trends in which liberal arts programs are shrinking endanger the meaning of higher education at all kinds of institutions.

"We believe that institutions of higher education, if they are truly to serve as institutions of higher education, should provide more than narrow vocational training and should seek to enhance students’ capacities for lifelong learning," says the statement.

The statement does not name any institutions. But several lines appear to respond to some of the ideas put forward by administrators at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. That institution has become a focal point for many academics after it announced plans this year to eliminate 13 majors -- including English, history, political science and sociology -- to focus more attention on job-oriented programs. Defenders of the shift have said that states like Wisconsin can't afford to support many liberal arts disciplines beyond those at the university system's flagship campus at Madison. Students at places like Stevens Point benefit from career-focused majors, the argument goes.

The statement rejects such a view.

The importance of liberal arts as a meaningful part of a college education is "as true of open-access institutions as it is of highly selective elite colleges and universities," the statement says. "The disciplines of the liberal arts -- and the overall benefit of a liberal education -- are exemplary in this regard, for they foster intellectual curiosity about questions that will never be definitively settled -- questions about justice, about community, about politics and culture, about difference in every sense of the word. All college students and not solely a privileged few should have opportunities to address such questions as a critical part of their educational experience."

Michael Bérubé, the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature and chair of the Faculty Senate at Pennsylvania State University, is among the AAUP leaders who worked on the statement. He said the Stevens Point cuts were a "trigger" on why taking this stance is important right now. He noted that the AAUP has spoken up before out of concern over the way in which universities "prune" themselves of "the liberal arts disciplines that should properly be central to the institution's educational mission."

Will the statement be enough to make a difference?

Bérubé said that it may be increasingly important to push back against the narrative that liberal arts majors don't succeed in life. He provided a series of articles in Forbes (hardly a publication to be confused with the PMLA) noting the career successes of liberal arts graduates, including those in the humanities. Four of the links he noted are here and here and here and here.

Among liberal arts disciplines facing program elimination and reductions, humanities departments appear particularly vulnerable. Bérubé said that, in this context, talking about job outcomes is important, even if some academics dislike the idea.

"Distasteful as it may be to some people in the humanities," he said, "it seems about time to be making the case not only for the intellectual value but also for the economic value of degrees in the humanities."

Lynn Pasquerella, president of the AAC&U, said via email that the statement reflects the organization's new strategic plan, "centered on creating an ascendant narrative that contests accusations of irrelevancy and illegitimacy leveled against higher education, in general, and liberal education, in particular. At a time when there has been a decoupling of higher education from the American dream, the plan serves as a collective call to action to make visible the transformative power of colleges and universities, and for those of us who believe that higher education is inextricably linked to our nation’s historic mission of educating for democracy, the work seems more urgent than ever."

She said that there is "urgency" because of the trends of living in "an ostensibly post-truth era." Added Pasquerella, "Talk of higher education as a public good, of investing in society through education, and, in the case of land-grant institutions, of 'promoting the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life,' has been replaced by talk of a return on investment -- tuition in exchange for jobs. In these days of widespread skepticism regarding the value added of a college education and in the face of state systems excising 'the search for truth,' 'public service' and 'improving the human condition' from their mission statements, the overriding concern is that we are eroding democratic access to the more substantive avenues by which learning enriches us all."

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Report criticizes tax deduction that aids high-income grad students

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/01/2018 - 07:00

A new report from the Brookings Institution argues that the federal government is forgoing hundreds of millions in tax revenue each year through a tax credit that largely benefits graduate students with high incomes.

The Tuition and Fees Deduction benefits about 8 percent of graduate and professional students. But the report from Jason Delisle, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, finds that the median income of the borrowers who claimed the benefit in 2011-12 was about $100,000.

The total cost to the government is about $200 million, a fraction of what it would cost to expand the more popular American Opportunity Tax Credit, which is more beneficial to undergraduates. Delisle argues that money would be better spent on making a down payment for changes that would make undergraduate education more affordable.

“It’s a bunch of people with high incomes getting graduate degrees and getting a tax benefit,” he said.

Advocates for graduate education, though, say the report reinforces a false dichotomy between supporting undergraduate and graduate education.

Delisle’s findings are also part of a larger critique emerging in recent months over federal benefits for graduate students.

Those students were targeted for a rollback in benefits under both the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which passed in December, and the PROSPER Act, which advanced out of committee last year but hasn’t yet received a floor vote.

An initial version of the tax-cut bill would have stripped grad students’ tax deductions for tuition benefits, before that aspect was dropped thanks to heavy lobbying from student groups. And the PROSPER Act proposes capping graduate federal lending and eliminating Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which would have big implications for graduate students working in the public sector.

News coverage of student borrowers with exceedingly high loan balances -- a dental school graduate profiled by The Wall Street Journal last week holds more than $1 million in loan debt -- has also prompted discussion of whether the federal student loan program subsidizes wealthy universities and well-paid, well-educated borrowers and leaves taxpayers and low-income students on the hook.

Delisle himself has been a longtime critic of the Grad PLUS program, which he argues should be eliminated and replaced with credit products from the private market. The PROSPER Act would deliver on that recommendation by eliminating both the Grad PLUS and Parent PLUS loan programs.

Many economists, on the right and the left, have questioned the wisdom of using tax credits to advance higher education access. And Delisle says the tuition and fees deduction is another example of a program that primarily benefits student borrowers who least need the assistance, Delisle said.

“It’s really mostly a benefit for people working while they are in grad school,” he said.

The tuition and benefits deduction is open to undergraduate and graduate students. But it is only claimed by a small group of grad students because the government offers other tax benefits -- the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit -- that are more beneficial to undergrads and lower-income grad students, the report says.

The deduction is available to borrowers who earn more than $66,000 annually ($132,000 for joint filers) and up to $80,000 annually ($160,000 for joint filers). The data examined for the analysis don’t indicate what kinds of graduate students are claiming the deduction, but it could include teachers working toward a doctorate or business professionals pursuing an executive M.B.A.

Those borrowers can claim a maximum benefit of up to $880. That’s chump change, Delisle said, to those making six figures but could make a real difference to undergraduates struggling to pay for the cost of a college education.

Meanwhile, the deduction doesn’t benefit graduate students who don’t earn income or low- to middle-income grad students.

But Beth Buehlmann of the Council of Graduate Schools said assessing the tax credit based on the income of those claiming it doesn’t account for the whole financial picture of those students. Those borrowers have different life circumstances than those who claim the Lifetime Learning Credit, she said -- they’re older, they may have dependents and their occupation may require a master’s degree in order to advance.

“We’ve been nibbling and nibbling at graduate support by the federal government,” she said. “Why are we looking to graduate students and expecting to find ways to save resources on the backs of graduate students? It’s frustrating to think you can continually go back to the graduate student well.”

And Buehlmann said higher education must move past a graduate-versus-undergraduate framework.

Delisle said it’s perfectly appropriate to judge those benefits against each other.

“We are making a trade-off because we spend this money on grad students,” he said. “It means we have less money to spend on undergrads. I think that’s the wrong trade-off to make.”

Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said that he agreed in theory that tax policy is not the best way to promote access and completion for higher ed. But because various student benefits are overseen by different congressional committees, the elimination of aid via one program often doesn't mean an equal reallocation of funds elsewhere.

"That's where in practice it makes it difficult to support any reduction in benefits," he said.

And Draeger said while it's appropriate that the bulk of higher ed subsidies go to undergrads, he's never taken that to mean all subsidies.

"I don't know where the line is, but it seems like we're constantly arguing from the extremes."

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Most popular open-access monographs

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/01/2018 - 07:00

Last week University College London Press, Britain’s first fully open-access university press, celebrated a milestone -- one million downloads of its free academic books.

The three-year old press, which only publishes content that is free for all to read, has so far published 80 books, including monographs, edited collections and textbooks. The most popular title is How the World Changed Social Media by Daniel Miller et al., which has been downloaded more than 227,336 times since it was published in early 2016.

How the World Changed Social Media was the first book in a series of books that explores the impact of social media in different countries. The series, called Why We Post, has been extremely popular with readers, who, UCL said, come from all over the world.

The popularity of the OA titles is proof that open access is the most effective way to reach a wider, more diverse and global audience, said a UCL Press in a news release. Traditional monographs sell an average of 250 copies, but UCL Press’s OA titles are being downloaded thousands of times on average.

Top 5 Most Downloaded OA Books From UCL Press

  1. How the World Changed Social Media by Daniel Miller et al.
  2. Social Media in Industrial China by Xinyuan Wang
  3. Social Media in an English Village by Daniel Miller
  4. Textbook of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery by Deepak Kalaskar, Peter Butler and Shadi Ghali
  5. Fabricate 2017, edited by Achim Menges, Bob Sheil, Ruari Glynn and Marilena Skavara

A million downloads may sound significant, but Joseph Esposito, a digital media, software and publishing consultant, said download statistics by themselves are not meaningful. Esposito said he would like to know how many people read the content they download, and whether they understand it.

Charles Watkinson, director of University of Michigan Press, described UCL Press’s achievement as “impressive,” but he agreed with Esposito that there are “some complex questions about what ‘downloads’ actually measure that need dissection.”

UCL Press, the University of Michigan Press, the University of California Press and Cornell University Press recently collaborated with Knowledge Unlatched Research to look at how people who downloaded OA books from the digital library JSTOR used them.

Most of the OA books reviewed in the study were in the social sciences, with anthropology highlighted as a particularly popular area. The majority of readers came from the U.S., but the study revealed that academic institutions in developing countries such as the Philippines are also heavy users. Among institutions in the U.S., Watkinson said that community colleges such as the Lone Star College System, and high schools like Lakewood High School in California, also frequently used the resources.

The question of what the most meaningful indicators of OA engagement are doesn’t have an answer yet, said Watkinson. The University of Michigan Press’s most downloaded OA title is Strange Science: Investigating the Limits of Knowledge in the Victorian Age, but data from Altmetric -- a tool that measures publishing impact -- suggest the most talked-about OA book from Michigan on is Campaign Finance and Political Polarization: When Purists Fail. Which title did readers engage with more?

The University of Michigan Press is about to embark on a new project to try to better understand this question -- creating a framework for measuring and reporting usage of OA books. The project will begin today and is being conducted in collaboration with the University of North Texas, the Book Industry Study Group and KU Research, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Top 5 Most Downloaded OA Books From University of Michigan Press

  1. Strange Science: Investigating the Limits of Knowledge in the Victorian Age, edited by Lara Karpenko and Shalyn Claggett
  2. Partisan Gerrymandering and the Construction of American Democracy by Erik Engstrom
  3. The Jazz Republic: Music, Race, and American Culture in Weimar Germany by Jonathan Wipplinger
  4. Law, Liberty and the Pursuit of Terrorism by Roger Douglas
  5. Risk Criticism: Precautionary Reading in an Age of Environmental Uncertainty by Molly Wallace

Though there are many university presses in the U.S. that offer open-access publishing options, there are relatively few that, like UCL Press, are fully OA. The first fully OA university press in North America is thought to be Athabasca University Press in Canada.

Megan Hall, acting director of AU Press, said that by far the most popular titles at the press are in the field of online education. The press has a series called Issues in Distance Education, and titles in that series are downloaded tens of thousands of times each year, said Hall. Like others, AU Press is in the process of determining how to better track how many times each title is downloaded, as it can be difficult to track downloads that take place outside one's own site.

Mark Edington is the director of Amherst College Press, a fully OA press that launched just after UCL’s. Edington said Amherst College Press monographs typically sell around 300 print copies and are downloaded several thousand times. Popular OA titles at Amherst include The Rise of Trump: America’s Authoritarian Spring by Matthew MacWilliams and The Limits of Religious Tolerance by Alan Jay Levinovitz -- topics that “speak to the body politic,” said Edington. He added he was not surprised to see UCL Press “find a winner” with its timely social media series.

Though there are a handful of fully OA university presses in the U.S., there is more of a push toward this model in Britain, said Edington. In Britain there are open-access mandates attached to university funding that will soon include monographs as well as research articles. The London School of Economics, for example, launched a new OA press a few weeks ago.

But even in Britain, running a fully OA press is challenging, said Lara Speicher, publishing manager of UCL Press. Many university presses are not subsidized by their institutions and are required to fund themselves or make a profit. UCL Press receives around 400,000 pounds ($533,000) annually from UCL, but also has revenue streams from print sales, book-processing charges for non-UCL authors, grants and providing consultancy and publishing services to other institutions looking to launch their own university presses.

Erich van Rijn, director of publishing operations at University of California Press, said that finding a sustainable funding model to support OA book publication on a large scale is “one of the biggest impediments to a ‘flip’ to open access for university presses.” UC Press has an open-access monograph-publishing platform called Luminos that is partly funded by contributions from authors’ institutions, as well as funding from UC Press and sales from print editions of books.

Top 5 Most Downloaded OA Books From Luminos at UC Press

  1. Taiwan and China: Fitful Embrace, edited by Lowell Dittmer
  2. Precarious Creativity: Global Media, Local Labor, edited by Michael Curtin and Kevin Sanson
  3. Finding Jerusalem: Archaeology Between Science and Ideology by Katharina Galor
  4. The Dream Is Over: The Crisis of Clark Kerr's California Idea of Higher Education by Simon Marginson
  5. Afghanistan's Islam: From Conversion to the Taliban edited by Nile Green

Companies like Ubiquity Press have emerged to help university presses move toward OA. Brian Hole, founder and CEO of Ubiquity Press, said that the number of fully OA university presses worldwide is growing rapidly, though many of the company's 30 fully OA university press partners are outside the U.S.

Within the U.S., however, there are promising initiatives to support OA university presses, said van Rijn. These include the initiative Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem (supported by the Association of American Universities, the Association of Research Libraries and the Association of University Presses); the Move It Forward project, being organized by the University of California, Davis; and Lever Press, an OA press that will fund publications with pledges from more than 50 liberal arts institutions; as well as Michigan Publishing and Amherst College Press.

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Panelists at international education conference discuss policy landscape for foreign students and scholars

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/01/2018 - 07:00

PHILADELPHIA -- Attendees at the annual NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference heard this week about the myriad of actual and planned regulatory and subregulatory changes that are in ways subtle and potentially substantial reshaping the landscape for international students and scholars in the U.S.

Restrictions on travel imposed by the third iteration of President Trump’s travel ban, currently in effect, have received widespread attention. But NAFSA's public policy experts presented this week on all sorts of other changes they’ve been tracking, as well as planned changes outlined in the administration’s spring regulatory agenda, which was published May 9.

Perhaps of most importance to higher education, the regulatory agenda includes plans for new rules to overhaul practical training programs, which provide work authorization to international students, as well as the H-1B skilled worker visa program. The H-1B program is important to colleges in two main ways: first, because they employ international scholars on H-1B visas, and second, because many of the international students whom they recruit come to the U.S. with hopes of eventually gaining an H-1B visa. Many professionals in international education have cited uncertainty about the future of the optional practical training program -- which enables international students to work in the U.S. for one to three years after graduation -- as well as uncertainty about the H-1B visa program as factors in the declines in numbers of international students seen at U.S. universities this past fall.

Speaking at a session at the NAFSA conference Wednesday morning, Steve Springer, the director of regulatory practice liaison at NAFSA, cautioned that not much is publicly known about what the planned rules will say, but the short descriptive blurbs in the regulatory agenda give some clues about the direction the administration might take.

The administration, for example, says it will propose a new rule on practical training programs in October “to improve protections of U.S. workers who may be negatively impacted by employment of nonimmigrant students on F and M visas. The rule is a comprehensive reform of practical training options intended to reduce fraud and abuse.”

As for H-1B, again the focus is on protecting American workers, much in line with Trump's "Buy American, Hire American" push. The regulatory agenda indicates plans to propose a rule in January "to revise the definition of specialty occupation to increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B program, and revise the definition of employment and employer-employee relationship to better protect U.S. workers and wages. In addition, DHS will propose additional requirements designed to ensure employers pay appropriate wages to H-1B visa holders.”

Another planned regulatory change Springer highlighted is a proposed rule, scheduled to be issued as soon as this month, that would rescind work authorization for certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders. Other planned changes would "adjust" (i.e., increase) program fees for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which were last updated in 2008, as well as fees for visa-related consular services. Of particular relevance to academic health-care institutions, a new rule scheduled for release in September would update the English language proficiency requirements for certain foreign health-care workers.

All those planned changes are in the future -- Springer cautioned against putting too much stock in the target dates set in the regulatory agenda, as they may or may not be met -- but some changes have happened already, including changes related to visa applications and what Trump has described as a need for more "extreme vetting." Some of the changes noted by Springer include:

  • The implementation of Form DS-5535, a supplemental form for certain visa applicants asking them for additional information about their travel, employment and address histories and about their familial ties. The form also asks about social media usage. (More recently, the State Department has proposed asking for information about social media usage of all visa applicants.)
  • The announcement of a multiagency National Vetting Center.

More generally, Springer described stricter scrutiny of visa applications as well as things like applications for optional practical training for international students already here in the U.S. "I would call it extreme scrutiny," he said. "Extreme ‘'blank' is the new catchphrase these days … extreme adjudications, extreme scrutiny. I think in every area we’re seeing this happen: visa applications, applications to [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services], petitions to USCIS -- just stricter scrutiny everywhere."

Rachel Banks, NAFSA's director of public policy, said at a separate session Thursday morning that many of the changes are happening at what she described as the "subregulatory" level -- "changes that do not require advance notice or call for public comment." Some of those she highlighted include:

  • August 2017 revisions to the U.S. State Department Foreign Affairs Manual that removed what Banks described as "helpful" language for consular officers to consider in assessing whether prospective international students have a residence abroad and whether they intend to depart the U.S. after their studies -- things they have to convince the consular officer of in order to get a student visa. The since-deleted language, available on NAFSA's website, stated that "it is natural that the student does not possess ties of property, employment, family obligation, and continuity of life typical of B [tourist and business] visa applicants" and said therefore that the requirement that they have a residence abroad should not in the case of a student "be exclusively connected to [such] 'ties.'"
  • USCIS's apparent adoption of a stricter interpretation of rules regarding the employee-employer relationships and conditions for third-party placements for international students participating in the optional practical training STEM extension program (NAFSA has more detail on this here). "That was just updated on their website and someone stumbled across it a couple months later," Banks said.
  • A proposed policy change, announced in May, which would make it easier for international students to accrue "unlawful presence" in the U.S. and potentially be subject to future three- or 10-year bars on re-entering the country (although this is not being done through the formal rule-making process, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is accepting comments on the change through June 11).

Banks also noted news reports that came out this week indicating that the administration will limit the duration of visas for Chinese graduate students studying certain high-tech fields for one-year terms, rather than the usual five years.

Other changes Banks noted -- not specific to higher education -- include the decision to end temporary protected status protections for citizens of El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal and Nicaragua (more background on that from The New York Times here). She noted that refugee admissions to the U.S. this year are also on track to be the lowest since 1980, at just 20,000 to 23,000.

"Taken together, all of these actions contribute to a message we as a country are sending to the rest of the world, and right now that message is just not very welcoming," Banks said.

"Except for Norway," an audience member called back -- presumably a reference to comments Trump reportedly made in January in which he asked why the U.S. should accept immigrants from “shit-hole countries” rather than places like Norway.

By comparison to what's been happening at the agency levels, there's been less activity at the congressional level -- and some good news from the perspective of advocates for international education.

Ilir Zherka, the executive director of the Alliance for International Exchange, an association of nongovernmental organizations that focus on cultural and international exchange programs, said that the Trump administration's budget proposal asked for a 75 percent cut in Department of State-funded cultural and educational exchange programs. But the omnibus bill passed by Congress in March -- and signed by Trump -- actually included a slight (1.9 percent) increase in the budget for these programs. The spending law also includes a provision requiring consultation with Congress regarding proposed changes to the J-1 exchange visitor program.

“You have an administration coming into power talking about the need for hard power, making an effort to dramatically cut exchanges as a way to represent that shift to hard power, and Congress instead reacting by funding at higher levels than at the past couple years," Zherka said of the outcome, which he attributed to "relationships, information and advocacy." Going forward, he cautioned against complacency on the part of advocates for international exchange.

"There's a lot of unpredictability right now."

The NAFSA conference concludes today. Conference organizers report that more than 9,600 individuals from 103 countries have registered for the annual international education conference.

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Seminary fires ex-president a week after it created new positions for him

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/01/2018 - 07:00

A week ago, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Texas, announced that Paige Patterson was stepping down as president. The seminary's statement said that its board was "grateful" for Patterson's contributions to the institution. The board named Patterson president emeritus (a position with compensation). Further, it announced that Patterson and his wife would live on campus as "theologians in residence."

A week later, those retirement positions have been eliminated. After another board meeting, Patterson was fired.

At the time Patterson stepped down as president, the board was facing growing pressure to remove him because of a series of comments or actions he took or is alleged to have taken with regard to women and sexual assault or sexual harassment. Among those comments are that women in seminaries need to work hard to become attractive, and that women should almost always stay with their husbands. (He apologized for a few, but only a few, of the comments.) Last week's board statement also said that the board "affirmed a motion stating evidence exists that Dr. Patterson has complied with reporting laws regarding assault and abuse."

In the week since, evidence has been growing that the board resolution may not be accurate.

The Washington Post reported that when Patterson was president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, in North Carolina, he allegedly told a woman who said she had been raped not to report her allegations to police and instead to forgive the man who assaulted her.

The woman about whom the Post wrote has now come forward on social media to confirm the article.

I am the woman you read about, #SEBTS 2003, not afraid, ashamed, or fearful. I am proud to be #SBC, bc of how many have responded with compassion & love. Our history isn’t our future. Ephesians 4:30-32, Romans 8.Please join us in praying tomorrow. #PaigePatterson #sbc18 #matthew5 pic.twitter.com/ZQNbL2zHip

— Megan Lively (@megannlively) May 29, 2018

And she is receiving support from the current president of Southeastern.

This took a tremendous amount of courage my sweet sister. Please know of our continued love, prayers and support. We are here for you. https://t.co/e4jx7YMwH9

— Daniel Akin (@DannyAkin) May 29, 2018

These reports prompted a new statement from the Southwestern board.

"During the May 30, 2018, Executive Committee meeting of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) Board of Trustees, new information confirmed this morning was presented regarding the handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against a student during Dr. Paige Patterson’s presidency at another institution and resulting issues connected with statements to the Board of Trustees that are inconsistent with SWBTS’s biblically informed core values," the statement said.

"Deeming the information demanded immediate action and could not be deferred to a regular meeting of the Board, based on the details presented, the Executive Committee unanimously resolved to terminate Dr. Paige Patterson, effective immediately, removing all the benefits, rights and privileges provided by the May 22-23 board meeting, including the title of president emeritus, the invitation to reside at the Baptist Heritage Center as theologian-in-residence and ongoing compensation."

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Colleges award tenure

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/01/2018 - 07:00

Centre College

  • Dina Badie, government and international studies
  • Michael K. Bradshaw, computer science
  • Sara Egge, history
  • Aaron Godlaski, psychology and behavioral neuroscience
  • Kerry Paumi, chemistry
  • Ravi Radhakrishnan, economics
  • David M. Toth, computer science
  • Brett Werner, environmental studies

Clarkson University

  • Jason Schmitt, communication and media

Dominican University, in Illinois

  • Drew Dalton, philosophy
  • Yijun Gao, information studies
  • Rose Ann Mathai, nutrition sciences
  • Timothy Milinovich, theology
  • Karen Snow, information studies

Finlandia University

  • Richard Gee, criminal justice
  • William Knoblauch, history

New York Institute of Technology

  • Aydin Farajidavar, electrical and computer engineering
  • Paolo Gasti, computer science
  • Fang Li, mechanical engineering
  • Mark Gugliotti, physical therapy
  • Lorraine Mongiello, interdisciplinary health sciences
  • Kristine Prazak, physician assistant studies

University of Missouri at St. Louis

  • Michael Campbell, criminology and criminal justice
  • Nicholas Husbye, educator preparation, innovation and research
  • Michele Meckfessel, accounting
  • Matt Vogel, criminology and criminal justice
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Sexual assault exams offered at University of Michigan health center

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 05/31/2018 - 07:00

WASHINGTON -- If students are raped at the University of Michigan, in most cases a nurse who specializes in sexual assaults can asses and treat them right at the campus health center, rather than sending them to the local hospital, a program that institution officials said makes survivors feel more comfortable and shows a commitment to these kinds of issues.

At the annual American College Health Association conference here Wednesday, representatives from Michigan walked through the benefits of offering sexual assault nurse examiners, or SANE, at the campus clinic. They are specially trained to conduct sensitive exams after a sexual assault, and to do it in a way that makes the survivor feel comfortable.

Instead of hiring new employees, or taking away clinicians from their normal duties, the institution shares the University of Michigan Hospital emergency room's 10 SANE nurses, who examine victims at the health center, not the emergency room.

Students later reported seeking out the health center because it felt more comfortable and less chaotic compared to the emergency room, said a University of Michigan physician, Susan Ernst. It was also more conveniently located, she said.

The exams are only offered at the health center until about 2 p.m., because the center closes at 5 p.m. and rape kits can be a lengthy process. After that hour, students are redirected to the emergency room again.

This practice started in late 2015, after student activists complained to the university administration that it needed to do more to combat campus sexual violence. Several years ago Michigan participated in an Association of American Universities survey that at the time was one of the biggest studies of campus sexual assault. The survey of 27 campuses, both public and private, revealed about 23 percent of female undergraduates had at some point been the victim of some unwanted sexual contact. A survey that Michigan conducted independently yielded similar statistics.

After the results were revealed to campus, students who were upset about these issues met with President Mark Schlissel, who in turn went to the health center staffers, who brought the SANE system to the health center.

The health center aggressively marketed the shift. It worked  with some medical students, who “took over” Snapchat to advertise it, a live stream that was viewed thousands of times in just six minutes, Ernst said. Getting buy-in from students, and their lobbying, can help bring about campus change, she said.

Ernst said in an interview after her session that the number of students receiving those exams has gone up in the past several years, but the cause could not necessarily be traced to the change to offering them on campus. The number of exams, both at the emergency center and campus health clinic, tends to skyrocket in the fall around football season. In November 2017, there were 17 total recorded exams in both facilities.

“I think it just shows that we care about these issues, and it creates a certain culture,” she said.

But Michigan seemingly lucked out in terms of bankrolling this deal. It borrows the nurses from the emergency center, and many of the other expenses are paid for either by the existing health-center fee that all students pay, by the state or through nonprofit donations (such as clothing for survivors).

Students also pay for nothing in this system -- the cost of the drug regimen that the Centers for Disease Control recommends following a sexual assault is covered by the university.

Other states and institutions lack those resources. One audience member pointed out, for instance, that in her home state of Rhode Island, almost no nurses are SANE-certified, so the universities would need to invest there.

Also complicating matters are the reporting requirements. While federal law doesn’t require clinicians to tell other administrators about a sexual assault, a Michigan state law does require physicians to report to police officers in the case of sexual assaults. To that end, only nurses and nurse-practitioners interact with sexual assault victims at the university, Ernst said.

Each state will have its own reporting requirements, too.

“This has been helpful, though, in so many ways,” Ernst said.

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Savannah State professors object to new, unwritten policy linking DFW grades to teaching effectiveness

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 05/31/2018 - 07:00

Teaching matters at Savannah State University, Georgia’s oldest historically black institution, and the faculty knows that. But professors there didn’t know until recently that the rate at which they give D and F grades and see students withdraw from their courses was impacting the tenure and promotion process.

The use of “DFW” rates to measure teaching effectiveness is controversial across academe, with critics saying there’s little to no peer-reviewed evidence that high failure rates (however institutions define them) and poor instruction are linked. Making DFW rates a formal measure of good teaching may pressure professors into passing students who haven’t earned it, critics also say. And D is not a failing grade, they note.

DFW metric proponents -- such as Michael J. Laney, Savannah State’s new provost -- say these data are another valuable piece of the instructional-quality puzzle that can't be ignored, however.

“The use of DFW may be a different normal at Savannah State, but it is an indicator of teaching effectiveness,” Laney said during a Faculty Senate meeting last month, after he was asked about a rumored -- and yet unannounced -- DFW policy, based on multiple faculty accounts. Continuing his lengthy response to the question, Laney said he talked to deans and decided that professors with DFW rates of 25 percent or higher over five years may be deemed ineffective teachers in tenure and promotion reviews.

“For me to look at a portfolio, and have this data and not the consider the data -- as far as I’m concerned, that’s an issue of integrity,” Laney said. He criticized "one-and-done" professors, or those who base course grades on one high-stakes assignment, in particular, according to accounts from several faculty members.

Laney said that the DFW rate was one metric among others, saying, “You will hear back from people, ‘I didn’t get promoted because my DFW rate was too high. That’s the only reason they didn’t get promoted.’” Yet “that may not be the only reason why they didn’t get promoted, but you need to have those conversations with your deans,” he added.

However one feels about the validity of DFW rates in the tenure and promotion process, what’s clear at Savannah State is that this was never approved through shared governance channels or articulated in the Faculty Handbook. So some professors are apparently being judged on a criterion of which they were previously unaware.

Savannah State’s current promotion paperwork asks professors about their teaching effectiveness, for example, but it does not say anything about DFW rates. Rather, it says evidence must include student ratings of faculty performance -- the use of which in tenure and promotion decisions also is controversial, given outstanding doubts about their validity. Professors up for promotion at Savannah State are expected to have above-average performance as measured by students’ evaluations, relative to the faculty within the applicant’s school or department. The department chair’s annual evaluation also is part of the process.

Georgia Southern University’s Faculty Senate successfully fought against the inclusion of DFW rates in annual evaluations, in 2012. Gregory Brock, a professor of economics at Georgia Southern who campaigned against the DFW criteria at the time, said this week via email that he was once advised by his chair to “get below 20 percent.”

“Its use lowers the quality of the institution and promotes the idea that we are just a diploma mill,” Brock said of such a policy. “The fact that some administrators created an arbitrary 20 percent line to get below is central planning worthy of the defunct Soviet Union.”

He added, “The overall rate is absurd, the lumping of the W with the D and F is absurd, and it captures how integrity is being sacrificed on the ‘don't let enrollment drop’ altar by bureaucrats.”

Falling enrollments are a concern at Savannah State, which is at a 10-year low. Unconvinced that a DFW policy is the answer to the problem, professors there have been advocating against it via open letters and media outreach -- albeit anonymously, citing an environment of retaliation.

A faculty member who did not want to be identified by name said in an interview that faculty concern “has to do with expectations when it comes to what they need to do for tenure or promotion. They’re now being judged on this new metric, having already submitted their portfolios, with no prior knowledge of it.”

Savannah State did not provide comment for this story.

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GOP lawmaker and former community college leader weighs in on the endowment tax

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 05/31/2018 - 07:00

Bradley Byrne came to the U.S. Congress after a stint as the leader of Alabama’s community college system. But the Republican's signature higher education bill so far backs a priority of many private institutions: the repeal of a new tax on college endowments.

Byrne says the legislation, which he co-authored with Representative John Delaney, a Maryland Democrat, reflects his view on the proper role of the federal government in higher education.

“I have the same concerns that other members of Congress have,” he said in an interview. “I’m just a little bit differently informed about it because I come from inside. I don’t want to punish people in higher education. I want to find ways, in a positive sense, to motivate them to do what they should be doing anyway and to do it better.”

As chancellor of the Alabama Community College System from 2007 to 2009, Byrne oversaw the system's 30 two-year colleges. He also headed the state's work-force development efforts.

Byrne's concerns reflect those typically voiced by conservative lawmakers -- complaints about alleged threats to free speech on campus, rising tuition prices and what they see as administrative bloat. But Byrne says he’s not letting those issues get in the way of what he believes is appropriate tax policy.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which Congress passed in December without any Democratic votes, included a new excise tax on private college endowments that’s projected to affect more than 30 institutions this year. It taxes investment income at private colleges with an enrollment of at least 500 students and assets valued at $500,000 per full-time student.

The final bill was a more narrow version of proposals included in earlier drafts of the legislation. And colleges are still waiting for details on how the tax will work -- the U.S. Department of Treasury indicated recently that regulations clarifying the law won’t be issued until later this year. But higher ed groups argue the tax sets a bad precedent. And Byrne, who voted for the final tax bill, agrees.

“First of all, it’s a new tax and I don’t know why in tax reform we’re talking about a new tax,” he said. “Secondly, I don’t like the policy concept of taxing charitable giving.”

That’s especially problematic for college endowments, Byrne said, because money from endowments is used to provide financial aid to low-income students. He has a personal connection to that issue, having received campus-based financial aid to attend Duke University as an undergraduate.

Massive university endowments, however, have for years been favorite targets of Byrne’s fellow congressional Republicans, who argue that colleges are not doing enough to reduce the cost of tuition and fees. For example, Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, has periodically renewed the issue, charging colleges with "hoarding assets at taxpayer expense."

And Representative Tom Reed, a New York Republican, last week announced new proposed legislation that would require the wealthiest colleges to spend 25 percent of annual earnings from their endowment on aid for low-income students.

The tax law itself did nothing to address college affordability issues -- it simply redirected money from endowment income to the U.S. Treasury in order to offset the cost of large tax cuts for businesses.

But Dean Zerbe, a former Grassley adviser on tax issues, told college presidents at an event Inside Higher Ed and Gallup hosted in February that they shouldn’t have been shocked by what was in the bill or by dissatisfaction with higher ed from members of Congress.

“If you were surprised, you weren’t paying attention,” he said.

Byrne said he agreed and that college leaders have work to do to improve communication with lawmakers.

“I do think colleges and universities have done a very poor job of relating to members of Congress and responding to issues that many of us have on both sides of the aisle,” he said.

Overemphasis on Four-Year Degree

On the right, much of the focus on college campuses for the past two years has been devoted to free speech issues -- from the protests over Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California, Berkeley, that drew a rebuke (and a threat to cut federal funding) from President Trump to less high-profile showdowns over controversial speakers elsewhere.

Byrne and other Republicans say universities have built up large bureaucracies with administrative bloat that helps fuel higher tuition rates. (Byrne's staff cited a report on regulatory burdens from the American Council on Education and a study from Vanderbilt University, although both focused on the costs to universities of complying with federal rules. Some researchers, including Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, have found limited evidence of explosive growth in academic administrations. And data from the College Board show the proportion of noninstructional staff declining over time across all higher ed sectors.)

Compounding those issues, Byrne said, is a failure by many college leaders to engage actively enough with their representatives in Congress.

“I’m painting with a broad brush and this is not true for every university. For example, universities in the state of Alabama are very communicative,” he said. “But I don’t think universities have done a good job of communicating in general with members of Congress, and they should be thinking more about that.”

One of the strongest supporters of the endowment tax, he said, had a strained relationship with the university in his home district.

Byrne, meanwhile, has made a point of seeking input not just from the colleges in his home district but from his alma mater as well. Duke’s government relations office originally brought the endowment-tax issue to his attention. (The university is not expected to be affected by the tax, at least initially.)

Chris Simmons, associate vice president at Duke's office of government relations, said having come from a leadership post in higher education, Byrne understands the relationship between the federal government and colleges and universities.

“It gives him a unique and important background as a federal policy maker,” he said. “To have someone like that in Congress is extremely important for those of us who advocate for higher education.”

Simmons said Byrne’s support of repealing the endowment tax doesn’t make him a lonely voice in the Republican caucus.

“I wouldn’t say he’s an outlier from the Republican Party by any means or he’s out on his own on this,” Simmons said. “There’s probably a lot of people in his party who have expressed concern.”

Besides Byrne and Delaney, the endowment tax repeal legislation has seven co-sponsors. Two of those are Republicans -- Texas representative Lamar Smith and Virginia representative Bob Goodlatte -- and fairly conservative ones at that. The bill’s Democratic co-sponsors, meanwhile, include Zoe Lofgren, a relatively liberal representative from California.

While the list of lawmakers backing the bill so far is modest, the co-sponsors indicate broad bipartisan concern about the tax. Simmons said colleges must find strong advocates no matter where they are on the political spectrum.

“Our job is to look at issues affecting us and identify good proponents and good advocates on each one,” he said. “We may find someone who’s outstanding on support of NIH research, but we may not see eye to eye on an issue involving student loans or immigration. That’s OK.”

And while Byrne is a supporter of higher ed on the endowment issue, he doesn’t shy away from calling out the failures of college leaders, or from supporting the Trump administration’s push to boost alternatives to four-year college degrees.

“I agree with [Education] Secretary [Betsy] DeVos,” he said. “We have overdone it with regard to our focus on four-year college education. Most people don’t want to spend four years in college. Most people want to spend only the time they have to spend in college to get whatever it takes for them to get a job that pays them good money.”

Most concerning to Byrne about what he sees as a potential overemphasis on a traditional college degree is the number of students who leave school with debt but no degree.

Federal data has shown student loan defaults have been concentrated in the community college sector -- where Byrne served in Alabama -- and among those who attended for-profit institutions. He said two-year-college students in particular face significant financial barriers beyond the cost of tuition, including transportation or childcare.

“We ought to be able to find ways to get that money to them so we don’t let the fact that a car broke down keep somebody from getting an education who needs it,” he said.

Byrne said he wished more grant aid could have been included for those students to address emergency financial barriers in the PROSPER Act, the proposal by House Republicans to update the Higher Education Act. He said those funds possibly could be more appropriate for a reauthorization of the Perkins Career and Technical Education law or the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

But Byrne said PROSPER took the right approach by applying the same accountability approach to all sectors of higher education. The federal government has a responsibility to provide some financial oversight of student loans, he said -- for example, by requiring colleges to advise students before they take out new loans. And Byrne said students should be given as many opportunities to choose a particular type of higher ed program as possible.

“The genius of American higher education is its diversity,” he said. “That’s four-year colleges, two-year colleges, for-profit colleges, not-for-profit colleges, public colleges, religious institutions, secular institutions. It’s that rich diversity we have out there. When we focus too much on one part of that diversity to the exclusion of others, I think it really has been harmful for people.”

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