Higher Education News

Student art exhibit at Penn prompts fierce debate over suicide

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 07:00

A student’s art exhibit at University of Pennsylvania has stirred the campus after some accused her of exploiting suicide for the project.

Complicating matters is Penn’s history with student suicide -- the university has dealt with a series of high-profile cases in the last couple of years, and one suicide was Aug. 31, leaving some students raw and sensitive to the subject.

In a hallway of the university’s Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall hang posters with barely discernible names etched onto the sheets of Mylar. Only when they’re raised, lifted by hand or with the breeze of passersby do the sheets cast a shadow of the name on the wall underneath -- 14 Penn students who ended their lives over the last five or so years.

Senior Kate Jeon wrote in a statement accompanying her work for an advanced typography class that the art serves as a metaphor for the invisible battle of depression. Jeon couldn’t be reached for further comment, but wrote, “With each passing, are we taking time to consider how to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again? Every day, we ask each other, ‘How are you?’ and are content with the mindless answer, ‘I’m good.’ Are we asking that question out of habit or from a genuine curiosity to see how the other person is doing?”

Jeon wanted to set up her project outdoors but was denied permission to do so by university officials, said her instructor, David Comberg, a senior lecturer. He said the rejection by the institution to install it outside becomes part of the backstory of the project -- he lets students negotiate such details. He said the officials were “professional” to deal with, though they made it clear they wouldn’t support Jeon’s initial plans.

Administrators did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but Comberg said the nature of Jeon’s work concerned and offended some on campus.

Comberg said that although some criticized it for manipulating the campus’s grief, he still supports Jeon’s work.

“That somehow she was careless in using in the names the way she did, well, I still stand by her project, despite that it is offensive to some people. And we’re mindful of the fact it might trigger somebody, but this is important, this is an art project, a design project,” he said. “We felt that it was an expression, quite touching and sensitive, not unlike the names listed at memorial sites, like at the Sept. 11 museum.”

Comberg has assigned this project for four years. Students pick some sort of issue -- the perpetual speediness at which society moves, rape, sexuality in media -- and illustrate it. This is the first time a piece has received such great criticism.

At one point, someone printed out responses to the exhibit on sheets of paper and placed them right under the posters -- in big, bold capitals, one read, “DO NOT APPROPRIATE COLLECTIVE GRIEF FOR YOUR ART CLASS.”

Jeon wrote in a comment on the student-run news website, The Daily Pennsylvanian, “So cool to see people engaging with it.”

As demonstrated in the exhibit, Penn has seen a number of students die by suicide in recent years.

Nicholas Moya, a former president of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, took his life on Aug. 31. His fraternity wrote on Facebook that he “embodied the main [tenets] of our brotherhood.” The Moya family requested donations to the Kyle Ambrogi Foundation, a group focused on promoting awareness of depression and suicide prevention and that provides scholarships to young athletes.

Another student, Madison Holleran, died in 2014 -- the track athlete was the subject of a book, What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen, by an ESPN columnist that explored the pressures of attending an elite institution such as Penn.

Such displays can walk a line between honoring suicide victims and glorifying the practice, said Lisa Adams Somerlot, the director of counseling at the University of West Georgia and the president of the American College Counseling Association.

Adams Somerlot said she personally found little issue with the project as it was described to her -- she likened it to the campaign in which empty backpacks are placed in well-trafficked area of campus to represent student lives lost to suicide, an exhibition endorsed by many suicide-awareness groups, she said.

Penn could have embraced Jeon’s display and used it to open up a conversation and programming around suicide -- a committee of student affairs representatives, administrators and her professor could have benefited the artist. She did note there are potential privacy issues with an institution publicly discussing late students who may have had mental-health problems.

She acknowledged that a fear is the contagion phenomenon -- studies have shown publicizing details of suicide can increase their number -- but that clamming up about the problem also can’t be a solution.

“I don’t know what’s worse -- is contagion worse, or is it worse to not talk about it?” Adams Somerlot said. “This project may be a way to get at that. Shoving the project away in a back hallway is maybe not the way to do it.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free, confidential 24-7 service that can provide people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, or those around them, with support, information and local resources. 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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Political scientists see the discipline's historical division across four subareas as hindering their ability to understand Trump's America

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 07:00

President Trump’s rise to power prompted numerous think pieces from political scientists about the virtues (or lack thereof) of political neutrality in the classroom. But beyond questions about teaching and personal opinion, political scientists are also asking how they should study political science today. Namely, they’re asking whether the discipline’s traditional structure -- semi-siloed subfields including American politics, comparative politics (everyone else), political theory and international relations -- works in the age of Trump.

“For those of us who have been studying this country, it’s been remarkably stable over time,” said Suzanne Mettler, the Clinton Rossiter Professor of Political Institutions at Cornell University and co-author of a new paper on Trumpism and democracy; the article is an outgrowth of a workshop Mettler, an Americanist, and colleagues held at Cornell in June to promote dialogue across political science subfields -- a central message of the new paper.

While democracy “is always a work in progress and it always has its fits and starts, across our lifetime it has seemed to be on an upward trajectory, or improving. And now I think many people have concerns about that trend going forward,” Mettler said. “Some of us have realized we can’t understand the U.S. if we only the study the U.S. We need to put it in a comparative context … Americanists and comparativists can really learn from each other.”

Talking with colleagues who study Latin America, for example, she said, gives insight into the rise and decline of democracies, and which features of a political system promote or stave off what Mettler called “democratic backsliding.” Presidential systems paired with intense partisan divides such as we have now historically drive democratic instability, she said.

“Trumpism and American Democracy: History, Comparison and the Predicament of Liberal Democracy in the U.S.,” Mettler’s new paper, was uploaded a little over a month ago to Social Science Research Network, and its abstract already has been viewed close to 4,000 times. That’s no small feat for an academic article, suggesting Mettler and her co-authors -- a group of four political scientists representing different subfields -- have tapped into some undercurrent among political scientists.

The essay attempts to define Trumpism through a historical and comparative lens. Talking heads aside, it essentially concludes that political polarization within a two-party presidential system, status and class concerns with regard to political enfranchisement, and the erosion of democratic norms at the top of the political food chain and among the masses do in fact pose an existential threat to American democratic order.

Not in Kansas Anymore

“By treating the U.S. as a self-enclosed and fundamentally unique instance of democracy, we neglect the knowledge we have gained about regime change, stability and transition from other countries where these challenges have arisen more frequently,” the paper reads. “Pairing the comparative perspective with our historical and development perspective strengthens what we can learn from each. Although we gain contextual perspective by exploiting variation within the U.S., geographical blinders impose limits on inference and explanation.”

If political scientists cannot articulate “what is both common and distinctive about a political phenomenon, how it is similar to and how it differs from varieties of the same phenomenon elsewhere,” the paper continues, “what hope do we have of observing it clearly, measuring it precisely or explaining it convincingly? In the extreme, the presumption that a country’s politics is unique and thus not susceptible to comparison -- as in the presumption of ‘American exceptionalism’ -- becomes a self-fulfilling axiom.”

In an interview, Mettler didn’t propose the dissolution of subfields but urged more collaboration across them. That’s because the political threads of Trump’s election both predate his candidacy and will outlast his presidency, she said. Put another way, American politics aren’t likely to get any less paradigm challenging any time soon.

Mettler’s collaborators and co-authors are Tom Pepinsky and Ken Roberts, professors of comparative political science at Cornell, and two professors of American political development: Robert Lieberman, of Johns Hopkins University, and Richard Valelly, of Swarthmore College. Over all, their project aims to wed comparative analytical approaches with historical and developmental approaches to studying American politics, Mettler said, “enabling us to assess recent developments against earlier instances of democratic stress and to identify how processes of change have given rise to the present moment.”

A Growing Movement?

A number of other scholars elsewhere are also working in clusters toward more collaboration across subdisciplines, to better understand the political moment. Anna Grzymala-Busse, the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Professor of International Studies and a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, is currently organizing a conference on the rise of global populisms, for example. The institute’s Global Populisms project centers on the rise of global populist movements and the threats they pose to liberal democracies, from those in Latin America in the 1990s to postcommunist democracies in the 2000s and beyond.

Grzymala-Busse, a comparativist, said she knows of many political scientists “who are concerned both as citizens and as scholars with the threats to democracy and the rise of antidemocratic movements, parties and politicians.” But rather than any movement to abolish existing subfields, she said, there’s more of a “new recognition that Americanists and comparativists, especially, really need to talk more.”

Sharing a bit of what she called “comparativist Schadenfreude,” Grzymala-Busse said Americanists have “long thought” their subject of was unique and therefore demanding of a distinct set of analyses. Yet to many comparativists, she said, “what is currently happening in the U.S. is depressingly familiar.” Moreover, she said, “assumptions about the stability and unique dynamics and institutions of the U.S. have blinded scholars to the ways in which the U.S. is not immune, and subject to the same forces.”

Grzymala-Busse said that even before Trump, political scientists had been more willing to work across subfields, especially with respect to co-authorship and methodological approaches. Still, she said, while comparativists in particular know “quite a bit about authoritarian systems, why and how they are durable, and the ways in which they function,” they need to know “why a popular commitment to liberal democracy is not universally shared.”

American Democracy in Comparative Perspective

Also at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute, Didi Kuo manages the program on American Democracy in Comparative Perspective. The program focuses on problems with American government, such as declining trust and political inequality, as part of a broader look at the challenges facing Western democracies, she said; suggested reforms for the U.S. are inspired in part by reforms that have proven successful elsewhere.

The program not only encourages dialogue across subdisciplines but also dialogue across professions through its conferences. Topics covered include electoral systems, lobbying and campaign finance, budgeting, and bureaucracy. The program also has partnered with Central European University in Hungary, a current target of that country’s illiberal democratic regime.

“All of us involved with the Program on American Democracy in Comparative Perspective think the demarcation between American and comparative politics is fuzzy,” Kuo said -- hence the program's name. Even the center’s Americanist faculty members do comparative work, she added, and the “rest of us are comparativists who have long believed that the U.S. should be considered a case in comparative analysis.”

Kuo said American politics as a subfield has long been “dominated by formal and quantitative methods and a singular focus on one country.” Calling her group’s program an “early adopter, if not perhaps a pioneer” of the idea that an Americanist approach to contemporary problems can only go so far, she said that political scientists today “need explicitly comparative analysis.”

Scholars of American political development -- a branch of American politics to which Mettler subscribes -- actually have more in common with comparativists than Americanists, Kuo ventured. Why? Both scholars of American political development and comparativists try to answer “big questions about historical processes,” Kuo said, “and look at the complex interplay of structural and institutional factors that influence contemporary outcomes.”

Addressing the “big questions” posed by Trumpism in particular -- such as the durability of American democratic institutions, the question at the heart of Mettler’s and her colleagues’ paper -- Kuo said American political development scholars can help contextualize the current period of populism, nativism and inequality (none of which, she said, are new). Comparativists, meanwhile, can help “us understand democratic rollback and institutional brittleness, among other things.”

Going forward, Kuo said she hoped more political scientists would realize the usefulness of working across subfields, not only to understand what’s happening now but to lay out a research agenda that can “adequately address” the challenges that even advanced democracies now face.

To that point, Mettler’s paper on Trumpism says that looking ahead, “politics will matter, spanning all three of our dimensions, in ways that are hard to predict. The defense of norms and institutions of inclusive citizenship will be exceptionally important as we go forward, for example, as will debates about how to address the corrosive effects of rising inequality. Indeed, all of the norms and institutions [will] require defense and renewal. The very scope of the challenge underscores the gravity of the current moment -- and the need to be open to lessons from other national and political histories that once seemed of little relevance to the American experience.”

Other initiatives include the Bright Line Watch, which was established earlier this year by four political scientists to highlight the risks to the American system of government. Kurt Weyland, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, and Raúl Madrid, another professor in the department, earlier this year hosted a conference on their campus called "President Trump's Populism: Lessons from Europe and Latin America."

Benjamin Knoll, John Marshall Harlan Associate Professor of Politics at Centre College, who has written about the challenges of teaching in the Trump era, said he doesn't expect a major paradigm shift or the doing away with subfields altogether. But he agreed that “more cross-field work is needed between Americanists and comparativists in order to better understand Trumpism and its effects.”

That assessment is based on his experiences at Centre, where Knoll focuses on American politics.

“This last year has forced me to branch out to the comparative politics subfield to try to make sense of the Trump presidency,” he said, noting that he’s teaching himself about comparativist concepts such as democratic consolidation and democratic backsliding, along with democratic transitions in other countries.

“Now in my American politics courses,” he said, “I can no longer take it as a given that the American government or its citizens widely agree on the basic premises of liberal democratic principles and norms.”

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History professors receive suspicious email, suspect right-wing campaign

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 07:00

David Greenberg often receives more emails than he knows what to do with. And as a history and journalism professor specializing in American politics, he often gets emails from high school and middle school students, who are sometimes required to contact historians for projects.

Yet a recent email, received at the end of last week, seemed too peculiar to let go without a response.

“It was odd,” said Greenberg, who teaches at Rutgers University.

The email in question, sent from a Gmail account, was from someone who said she was a high school student considering pursuing an undergraduate degree in history. She told Greenberg how she had been reading the German historian Leopold von Ranke and wondered what Greenberg thought about the objectivity of history -- an area von Ranke wrote on in the 19th century -- and whether history could be “a scientific and objective discipline,” according to a copy of the email.

Greenberg thought it was unlikely that a high schooler was reading original work from von Ranke, and the question struck him as odd in general. In an effort to be “polite, but brief,” he directed her to other reading on the matter, much like he would assign reading to a student.

“This is a question I have thought a lot about, but to give you an answer that fully reflects my thinking would take more time than I have right now,” he wrote. “Suffice it to say that it is an important and complex question, and I urge you to read the many great historians who have weighed in on this question over the centuries.”

It turns out, however, Greenberg wasn't the only one to receive the email. Professors and graduate students at at least six institutions received correspondence from the same email address. Some professors and historians even think the student might be a fictitious character made up as part of a right-wing trolling scheme, or part of an effort to catch “liberal professors” in an embarrassing trap. Even if the student in question -- who did not respond to multiple requests for comment at the Gmail address used to contact the professors -- is just an kid doing research, in an age of "fake news" and partisan tension, historians are treading carefully.

James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, said that his organization had become aware of the emails over the holiday weekend, and was planning a review of the situation -- and what to do when members are approached by unverified students and members of the public -- when staff returned Tuesday.

"This is one more reminder of the caution with which everyone should approach email and social media," he said in an email. "When I receive a query from someone claiming to be a student but without an institutional address, I ask the name of their school and teacher. If I do not receive a satisfactory response I end the conversation."

It was on Facebook that Greenberg noticed his peers had received similar emails. In one instance, the student had even sent graduate students at Harvard a link (which, as of Monday evening, was available here) to a survey asking for more detailed responses.

“At first one of my [Facebook] friends who is also [University of Texas, Dallas] faculty and I were wondering if this email might have originally come from someone at UTD, since we both got the email, but then when I learned of all the other schools getting it, it seemed to me that someone elsewhere must be casting a wider net,” Lora Burnett, a teaching fellow in history, said in an email to Inside Higher Ed.

What’s even more curious, Burnett pointed out on her blog, where she wrote about the incident, is that the University of Texas, Dallas, doesn’t have a formal history major, instead offering “historical studies.” So why would Burnett be of interest to a prospective history major, which the student claimed to be, Burnett thought. Unless, of course, the email is “fishing/trolling by a [right-wing] outlet looking to create a fake-scandal headline: ‘Liberal Professors Don't Believe in Objective Truth About Past’ or some such nonsense.”

“I wasn't altogether sure how to read this email,” Burnett wrote. “It's an unusual inquiry for a prospective student, and it seems odd that it's coming to me in particular. Even though my last name starts with a B, I'm not the first faculty member on the departmental directory listed as a history prof. Did the person send a customized email to every single historian? And if so, why?”

Despite her reservations, Burnett answered in earnest, thinking about her duties as a professor and her wish to help anyone who comes knocking.

“In the strict sense, science requires empirical observation/reporting of an experimental result that can be replicated or duplicated in identical conditions by another set of observers,” she wrote in an email to the student. “Since historical events cannot be recreated in the identical conditions [in] which they first occurred, it would be a mistake to consider history a nomothetic science. However, history is still deeply concerned with veracity, fidelity to facts and so forth.”

It was after Burnett posted about the episode on Facebook and on her blog, however, that she started to think that student wasn’t who she said she was.

“This was most definitely an insincere inquiry from someone who is emailing history profs and history grad students across the United States to get their views on objectivity,” Burnett wrote in an update to the original post. “Also, who reads von Ranke for fun?”

Other historians commented on her Facebook post as well, expressing their suspicion about the email.

“I got an email from [the student], as did the other graduate students in my program I mentioned it to,” John Gee, a doctoral candidate at Harvard, told Inside Higher Ed via email. “It's different from the other email, though, in that it doesn't mention Ranke and includes a link to a survey with questions about objectivity in the study of history. I think the basic idea is the same, though.”

Gee said he couldn’t be 100 percent sure if the email was malicious; he recalled a time when he and several graduate students had received a similar, though not suspicious, email out of the blue. At the same time, however, it wouldn’t be the first time graduate students got emails from less than well-meaning people, either.

“I don’t know if the email is a scam or not,” he said. “It certainly could be, but Harvard grad students might have received an email either way.”

Of course, some noted, it could just be an eccentric student doing research for a project. The only one who could perhaps answer the questions raised by the emails -- which were sent to institutions such as the New School, the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Indiana University at Bloomington -- would be the student herself.

“I have no problem with a high school student or conservative group wanting to engage with scholars on their conceptions of objectivity, and if they believe we are wrong … so be it,” Greenberg said. “That’s a legitimate debate to have.”

“If there’s a false pretense, if someone is pretending to be someone they're not, that’s dishonest.”

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Cengage offers new OER-based product for general education courses

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 07:00

For years, big-time publishers have been skeptical of open educational resources, questioning their quality and durability. But one of those publishers, Cengage, is today announcing a new product line built around OER.

Cengage predicts that the use of OER -- free, adaptable educational course materials -- could triple over the next five years. In a report published last year, Cengage said that education and technology companies were ready to “embrace the movement” -- adding their own services and technology to create “value-added digital solutions that help institutions use OER to its best advantage.”

With OpenNow, Cengage is sending its clearest signal yet that it is serious about OER. Taking OER materials freely available online from sites such as OpenStax, Cengage has added its own assessments, content and technology to the materials, which will be delivered through an “intuitive, outcomes-based” platform that can be integrated into students’ learning management systems. Focusing on general education, OpenNow has launched with courses in psychology, American government and sociology, and more courses in science, economics and the humanities will be available this fall.

The "open" in OER is commonly understood to mean that content should be openly licensed. Accordingly, Cengage says that all written content in the OpenNow platform, including assessments and some materials that were previously under a Cengage copyright, will be registered under an open CC-BY license so that institutions can adapt and customize the content to meet their own needs.

Though the course content is ready to use “out of the box,” Cengage said that it can offer instructional design team services if desired. The OpenNow platform, and all its content, complies with Americans With Disabilities Act regulations.

Cheryl Costantini, vice president of content strategy for Cengage, said that the content in the OpenNow platform would be “available for anyone to use for free outside of our solution.” But for those who want to use the OpenNow platform, fees start at $25 per student per course. “The $25 is for the delivery of content that’s aligned to assessment and learning objectives, the additional assessments and videos we either curated or created, and the outcomes-based platform with personalization and analytics,” said Costantini.

The $25 price point is in line with prices charged by Lumen Learning, which has also developed proprietary OER courseware, and which could be a potential competitor for Cengage. Though obviously more expensive than finding OER content and providing it to students for free, Cengage said that the $25 price point was still affordable and would ensure access to high-quality materials. The average price point for Cengage’s other digital course-materials products is $80. Many general education courses have historically required the purchase of books that can easily top $100.

Asked why Cengage was choosing to move into the OER space now, Michael Hansen, Cengage CEO, said that the company is evolving to meet the needs of a changing market. “We respect that some of our customers want to use OER, and it has the potential to change the learning experience,” said Hansen. “OER offers pedagogical flexibility -- instructors can change it, remix it, improve it -- and students can actively contribute to it. This can make learning more engaging and effective. Giving our customers this flexibility, while providing students value, is a positive thing for everyone,” he said.

“Instructors aren’t just looking for affordable content; they want the ownership that comes with OER. But it takes time to find and vet OER content that is current and accurate,” added Costantini. She said that a pilot launched last year by Cengage, which blended OER and proprietary content, had taught the team a lot about working with OER. “We learned how to maintain and sustain this content. And we learned how to improve it and then give it back to the community,” she said.

Richard Baraniuk, the founder of OpenStax -- a nonprofit provider of free, peer-reviewed OER textbooks, which is based at Rice University -- said he supported publishers and companies taking OpenStax content and adapting it. “We actually feel great about it; OpenStax is 100 percent oriented toward helping students, so we’re in favor of any product or service that improves student learning and saves students money,” said Baraniuk.

Asked if he minded companies making money from OpenStax content, Baraniuk said he didn’t have a problem with companies charging for content they had added value to. He noted that while OpenStax does have several relationships with companies and publishers that provide OpenStax with a revenue stream, there are no legal restrictions on companies wishing to take OER content and build on it.

Phil Hill, the co-publisher of the blog e-Literate and a partner at MindWires Consulting, said he was not surprised by Cengage’s OER announcement. “If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that Cengage has been saying for at least a year that they wanted to get into this space,” he said. Hill says he was surprised, however, at how aggressively Cengage seemed to be promoting OER with this announcement. “We’ve seen other publishers dipping their toes in, but this seems as if it is central to Cengage’s strategy.” He noted that the announcement could cause other publishers to accelerate their OER strategies. “The movement is not going away,” he said.

While previously OER might have been viewed as a threat to publishers who set high textbook prices, Hill said he thought there had been a shift in publishers’ opinion of OER “from threat to opportunity.” He noted that many problems faced by traditional publishers -- how to reduce prices, how to enable customers to customize content, how to ensure students have their materials on the first day of class -- were problems that OER can solve. “So why not use OER to solve them?” he asked.

And indeed other major publishers -- such as Macmillan Learning, Pearson and McGraw Hill -- have been talking about the benefits of using OER, offering help in doing so or adding business lines focused on OER.

Hill noted that the timing of the Cengage announcement -- just before the annual Open Education Conference in Anaheim, Calif. -- was interesting. “I think this is going to cause a lot of heads to spin in the OER community,” said Hill. “There are some who are antipublisher through and through, and others who don’t mind who provides OER, as long as they are following open principles and providing cheaper curriculum to students. It’s going to be really interesting to see what the receptivity to this news is at the conference.”

Nicole Allen, director of Open Education at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, which supports the adoption of OER on campus, agreed that Cengage’s announcement signaled a shift in thinking of big publishers towards OER. “The traditional publishing industry has done a complete 180 on OER,” said Allen. While she said it was great that publishers were “getting with the program,” she said it was important for consumers to keep asking questions.

“It’s one thing to brand something as open, and another thing for it to actually be open,” Allen said. “As OER has gained momentum, more and more companies want to attach themselves to the idea of being open. But for each product that’s launched, we need to keep asking questions. Is it really open, or is it just being branded as open? Open is not just a set of attributes, it’s a set of values and practices that make education better.”

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York College of Pennsylvania hosts art exhibit about racism, but only for those on campus

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 07:00

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

On York College of Pennsylvania's website, information about the college's art galleries describes programming at the college as "free and open to the public."

For an exhibit wrapping up, however, the public is not invited. In an unusual move for a college museum (or museums generally) York has restricted attendance to those who are students, faculty and staff members of the college, and selected invited guests. The public hasn't been invited.

Pamela Gunter-Smith, the president of York, said in an interview Monday that she learned about the race-focused exhibit only a week before it was to open -- shortly after the violence that accompanied the August march of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va. She said that the decision to go ahead with the exhibit, but close it to the general public, was for her “as a woman of color, a damned if you do, damned if you don’t” decision.

The exhibit, “Rewind,” is by Paul Rucker, a Baltimore artist whose work focuses on the racism he sees as a black man in society and history. The exhibit features a mix of artistic creations, such as a series based on Ku Klux Klan robes, but in colors and patterns that will surprise those expecting white only. There are also images of lynchings and artifacts, such as a branding iron used on runaway slaves who were captured. Some of the artifacts include the use of racist language, such as a cartoon from 1860 called "The Nigger and the Tiger."

Anyone reading the background material would know that the exhibit is intended to remind people about racism, and to condemn racism. And the college has organized a series of lectures and events to provide what Gunter-Smith calls "the context" for the art.

She added that the exhibit "is very provocative, and elicits very strong emotions." She said she was confident that the college could provide the necessary guidance and information to its students. But she wasn't sure that would be the case with members of the public.

Had Charlottesville not happened, Gunter-Smith said, she might not have had the same concerns she did when "Rewind" was about to open. "When the exhibit came to us, it was not a usual time."

And Gunter-Smith added that, in weighing options, "my No. 1 concern and obligation is to the students and this campus and the learning environment."

Hunter O'Hanian, executive director of the College Art Association, said via email that York's handling of the situation left him with questions.

"It’s curious why an educational institution would mount an exhibition that can only be seen by those with valid IDs and their guests," he said. "It seems they do not believe that the general public is capable of seeing the work and understanding the context in which it is presented. I’m not sure what information they have that leads them to believe their student body has more ability in handling the work than the general public. One also wonders what steps they have taken to provide the proper context for the work, if needed. It just doesn’t seem to make sense."

Rucker, the artist, said via email that he was pleased with the student response to the art and disappointed that the college had limited access to his work.

"The students at York have been amazing and supportive. They've come to the show and special events in large numbers," he said. "The frustration I have with the institution is deeply rooted in the missed opportunity, and the 'concern for safety' rooted in fear."

He said his art isn't designed to make people comfortable. "I do this work for the sake of dialogue and discussion. I'm not a commercial artist," he said.

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As speaker interruptions continue, controversial policy is adopted in Wisconsin

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 07:00

The University of Oregon is the latest higher education institution to have a major speech interrupted by protesters, with students -- including one with a megaphone and others with banners -- shutting down the State of the University speech Friday.

More than 1,600 miles away, officials at the University of Wisconsin are preparing to shift the balance of power if their university is faced with similar circumstances.

“Nothing about us, without us,” video shows the students chanting. Signs read “Take back our campus” and “CEO Schill,” a reference to university President Michael Schill.

The scene was similar to Virginia Tech’s State of the University speech earlier this month, where the president was interrupted by students protesting against the university’s employment of a graduate student accused of being a white supremacist. At the end of September, College of William & Mary students shouted down a speaker from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The students at Oregon did not have a cohesive message, The Oregonian reported, but rather expressed a wide array of grievances, including issues with tuition.

“We are no official, established group here at the University of Oregon, we are simply the students,” Charlie Landeros, a student and organizer of the protest, told reporters Friday. “We’re here because we believe that the university inherently belongs to the students, and over the years, the university has been taken away from us. We say no more.”

The university said the protests crossed a line.

“The students are here exercising their right to free speech,” university spokesman Tobin Klinger told The Oregonian. “It’s unfortunate that the demonstration got to the point where it actually violated university policy in terms of demonstrations that hinder the university’s ability to do its work and function -- and this was a formal function.”

Protesters at Virginia Tech were escorted out by university security, which allowed the speech to go on. At Oregon, Schill -- who was to announce a $50 million anonymous gift -- had to take his speech to an online video after protesters effectively shut the event down.

The same day, however, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents passed a Republican-backed policy aimed at punishing students who disrupt campus speakers. Although the policy at the University of Wisconsin is aimed more at shielding outside speakers invited to campus, rather than university addresses, it’s an escalation in the students-versus-administration battles of free speech that have dominated media coverage of higher education for the last year.

The policy at Wisconsin leaves no doubt that the board there wants to see significant punishments for students who disrupt speeches: students found to be "disrupting the expressive rights of others" twice are to be suspended, and those who are found to have disrupted a speech a third time are to be expelled.

Offending students are those who engage in "violent or other disorderly misconduct that materially and substantially disrupts the free expression of others."

Politically conservative students have complained in recent years about their speakers being heckled and interrupted during campus speeches. In some cases, speeches have been shut down before they even happen, with universities citing safety concerns.

Protesters, however, have argued that they also have free speech rights, including the right to protest. On top of that, some of the speakers invited -- such as Milo Yiannopoulos or Ben Shapiro -- have expressed blatantly bigoted, and some say dangerous, views, which fall far outside the mainstream. Protesters have said that those views do not deserve to be heard.

“Perhaps the most important thing we can do as a university is to teach students how to engage and listen to those with whom they differ,” Wisconsin System President Ray Cross told the regents, according to the Associated Press. “If we don’t show students how to do this, who will? Without civil discourse and a willingness to listen and engage with different voices, all we are doing is reinforcing our existing values.”

Some, however, argued that the policy further suppresses free speech by punishing protests, and have accused the board of trying to win the favor of Republican lawmakers. The policy mirrors a GOP-backed bill in the statehouse.

Tony Evers, a Democrat running against incumbent Republican governor, Scott Walker, cast the only no vote against the policy, saying that it could put restrictions on protests that he said could be protected under the First Amendment. Walker, the AP noted, appointed all but two of the board’s 18 members.

“This policy will chill and suppress free speech on this campus and all campuses,” Evers said. Other Democratic leaders opposed the measure on the grounds that it was too broad and not defined narrowly enough.

It’s not clear if protesters at William & Mary, Virginia Tech and Oregon have been, or will be, punished by their respective universities. Klinger, of Oregon, told Inside Higher Ed that it was too early to tell what, if any, punishment might be handed out, and the university was still reviewing the incident. William & Mary students were found to be in violation of the student code of conduct, though officials last week declined to specify what, if any, punishment there would be. A Virginia Tech spokesman said students were not punished since they left the speech when asked to do so. But Wisconsin’s policy could pave the way for other boards to adopt similar policies.

“Who’s going to show up to a protest if they think they could be potentially expelled?” Democratic State Representative Chris Taylor, whose district includes the University of Wisconsin, told reporters at a Thursday news conference on the policy.

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Pro-colonialism article has been withdrawn over threats to journal editor

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 07:00

Bruce Gilley’s eyebrow-raising essay in favor of colonialism has been scrubbed from the scholarly record, but not for any of the reasons cited by its critics. (Among them: that it was historically inaccurate, that it ignored the vast literature on colonialism and colonial-era atrocities, that it was rejected by three peer reviewers, and that Gilley himself requested it be pulled.)

Rather, the article has been withdrawn because the editor of Third World Quarterly, the journal in which it appeared, has received credible threats of violence. That’s according to a note posted online by journal's publisher, Taylor & Francis.

“Following a number of complaints, Taylor & Francis conducted a thorough investigation into the peer-review process on this article,” the note reads. “Whilst this clearly demonstrated the essay had undergone double-blind peer review, in line with the journal's editorial policy, the journal editor has subsequently received serious and credible threats of personal violence.”

The threats are linked with the publication of Gilley's piece, the statement says, and as the publisher, “we must take this seriously. Taylor & Francis has a strong and supportive duty of care to all our academic editorial teams, and this is why we are withdrawing this essay.”

Third World Quarterly published Gilley’s essay, “The Case for Colonialism,” last month, prompting near-immediate criticism. Detractors charged that Gilley, an associate professor of political science at Portland State University, had selectively -- or at least insufficiently -- engaged the literature on colonialism to support his claims that those societies that have embraced their colonial legacies have fared better than those that haven’t. Critics also rejected Gilley’s argument for a limited return to colonialism in some instances.

“Aside from being wrong on the facts, articles like these merely perpetuate dubious justifications for U.S. military interventionism and long-term nation-building projects in distant lands with populations that resent foreign occupation,” wrote Sahar Khan, a visiting research fellow in the libertarian Cato Institute’s defense and foreign policy department, for example. “We should expect more from scholarly journals.”

Some 15 members of Third World Quarterly’s editorial board -- nearly half the body -- resigned amid the controversy, saying that in addition to the article’s content, they objected to the publication process. Three separate peer reviewers had rejected the article, they said, so it remained unclear to them why the piece had eventually been published as an opinion-style essay anyway.

The journal’s London-based editor, Shahid Qadir, said that the essay, like all articles, did in fact go through double-blind peer review. Yet soon even Gilley asked for the article to be withdrawn, saying in a statement, “I regret the pain and anger that it has caused for many people.”

Taylor & Francis later said it was reviewing the matter in a “rigorous, methodical and measured way,” according to guidelines established by the international Committee on Publication Ethics. Those guidelines don’t prescribe one particular editorial process but do emphasize transparency in procedures. Through weeks of controversy, the publisher had not removed the article. Now that's changed.

Taylor & Francis did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday, but its most recent statement about the essay’s withdrawal suggests that review process is complete. Yet the rationale for pulling the article has some concerned, since it seemingly legitimizes threats as a way of getting controversial journal articles withdrawn.

John K. Wilson, an independent scholar of academic freedom and co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog, told Inside Higher Ed that academic misconduct within an article itself is the only reason to remove it from the scholarly record.

“There's a real danger when we give into death threats, whether it's canceling speakers or censoring publications,” he said. “The obvious danger is to free expression. But it also creates a greater incentive to threaten, if people know that they can accomplish their goals by making a threat.” People are actually less safe as a result of giving in to threats, he added.

Qadir, who, like Gilley, did not respond to requests for comment, is far from the only academic to face death threats for their speech or actions in recent months. Of that trend, Wilson said that colleges, universities and police departments “need to make a much more concerted effort to identify people who make actual death threats and prosecute them.”

Death threats cause "serious trauma to the people who are the victims of them, and they have a severe chilling effect on free expression,” Wilson added, “and colleges ought to devote serious resources to punishing them rather than spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on security every time a controversial figure comes on campus.”

Peter Wood, president of the conservative National Association of Scholars, wrote in a post for Minding the Campus that more people have read Gilley’s article as a result of the controversy than ever would have without it. Nevertheless, he said, the problem “lies in the successful deployment of professional opprobrium and actual threats of murder to kill the article. That success was ultimately aimed at ensuring that other scholars who dissent from the contemporary orthodoxy of anti-colonialism will keep their mouths shut.”

He added, “It is further aimed at ensuring that generations of students will see no whisper of dissent from this orthodoxy in the published literature, and hear no hint of it from their instructors.”

Calling many presidents who have responded to similar controversies concerning scholars on their campuses “feckless,” Wood wrote that presidents tend to “offer a false equivalence between the right of a faculty member to say something ‘controversial’ and the spurious ‘right’ of other faculty members to threaten and intimidate that person. There is no such right.”

In the context of academe, he added, “disagreement must be grounded in arguments and evidence, not in menace.”

Calling on Portland State to implore Taylor & Francis to restore the article, Wood also suggested that deans and provosts match the names of potential faculty hires against the list of thousands of signatories to petitions against Gilley’s essay.

“Signing such petitions, after all, is a public declaration of hostility to the very principles that the university say are ‘bedrock,’” he wrote. “A candidate’s name on such a petition at least raises a question of whether such a person is to be relied on to uphold the standards of a free intellectual community.”

Responding to Wood in a blog post for “Academe,” Wilson called his latter suggestion an “extraordinarily alarming and disturbing call for a blacklist … Professors should be judged on their academic credentials, not their political views (including whether or not they support someone’s view of academic freedom).”

Farhana Sultana, an associate professor of geography at Syracuse University who helped organize one of the petitions for retraction, said via email she, too, has faced “considerable attacks and abuse for my involvement in this debate, so I empathize with the concerns regarding safety, and I fully condemn all threats of violence, targeted harassment and online bullying.”

She added, “To reiterate, [the] aim of the petition was about upholding rigorous academic scholarly standards, integrity and ethics by the journal; it had nothing to do with curtailing the author’s right to free speech. It should also not be associated with any threats to the journal’s editor in chief or anyone else.”

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Some colleges opt to outsource Title IX investigations, hearings

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 07:00

When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced she had withdrawn the Obama administration’s rules on investigating campus rape, her message rang clear: due process and fairness were paramount.

“The notion that a school must diminish due process rights to better serve the victim only creates more victims,” DeVos said last month in announcing the Education Department’s intent to revise the federal regulation on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the law prohibiting gender discrimination.

The Obama guidance on Title IX, issued in 2011 in the form of a Dear Colleague letter, has been attacked for creating hostile environments at colleges where overzealous administrators disregarded the rights of those accused of sexual assault. At the same time, many victims' advocates credit that letter with creating protections for survivors, saying that investigators had previously failed to properly find out what happened.

But some institutions don’t leave Title IX investigations or adjudication of sexual assault to college leaders or panels. Particularly since the 2011 letter, some have hired outside parties to do the work for them -- lawyers or other trained professionals to conduct the investigation, retired judges for disciplinary hearings.

It’s a move generally intended to eliminate any potential conflicts of interest and ensure professionals conduct the type of work that some institutions have sometime struggled to understand.

“Like many schools, we involve an outside investigator -- in our case, they are always paired with an internal investigator. This doesn’t appear to be a new or trending practice -- there are many models,” said Julie Jette, a spokeswoman for Brandeis University, a private institution in Massachusetts.

Djuna Perkins is a lawyer and former prosecutor based in Deadham, Mass., who has done this type of work for not only Brandeis, but Amherst College, Harvard University, Eastern Nazarene College, Mount Holyoke College and Wheelock College, among others.

Her practice, which specializes in these investigations, was established in 2012, shortly after the Dear Colleague letter -- and she’s been busy since.

Perkins said she’s found that most Massachusetts colleges successfully follow their own policies, which she sometimes reviews to make sure they match federal guidelines. The 2011 letter didn’t institute any unreasonable demands, she said, but sometimes colleges have found following them difficult.

Another lawyer, and a former member of Obama administration who requested anonymity to discuss these investigations (the lawyer is in the midst of one now) and Title IX candidly, said institutions have improved since 2011, but many still don’t meet the federal government’s requirements.

The lawyer said some colleges have simply borrowed their sexual harassment policies from their employee guide, but that those guidelines often mention nothing about the learning environment.

“Sometimes they’re just not catered to the educational setting,” the lawyer said.

Perkins said she offers institutions various training sessions -- one of her most popular being the standard of evidence by which to judge these cases and, essentially, when to stop collecting evidence. The evidentiary standard has served as a major political sticking point, with some activists believing it should be boosted from the “preponderance of evidence” standard that the Obama administration required colleges to use to “clear and convincing.”

The preponderance of evidence standard, which is also used for civil cases, means there’s a 50.1 percent chance that the accused is responsible; with clear and convincing, the threshold is closer to a 75 percent chance. New information from the Education Department now allows institutions to use either one.

With all the legal jargon, sometimes the public can confuse campus hearings with a courtroom, Perkins said. Survivor advocates and college administrators have often tried to make clear these types of proceedings aren’t criminal ones, and so in some ways, involving lawyers and judges could become problematic because their specialty lies in the judiciary system.

Laura Dunn, executive director of SurvJustice, a victim advocacy group, said she's had concerns about this approach. One institution, for instance, hired an ex-prosecutor who inquired into sexual history, which the Obama-era rules prohibits.

College leaders interviewed said they ask the professionals to whom they outsource the work to undergo training on trauma and the correct approach to working with victims and the accused.

Perkins said her background matches well -- at one point in her career she served as a civil litigator, and the way she opened up subjects was making them more comfortable, just as she does with the students she interviews during investigations.

“In the moment, when I’m in the room, it’s a conversation,” Perkins said. “I want to know what was going through your mind, your version of what happened, so I can best put it all together. If they’re not comfortable, they don’t give you enough information.”

Bentley University, also in Massachusetts, hires investigators and has been doing so since the 2014-15 academic year, said Andrew Shepardson, vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

At the private institution of a little more than 5,000 students, it’s advantageous to use someone without any connections to students, Shepardson said. Student panels that play a role in adjudicating cases at many colleges have been criticized for their potential conflicts of interest, with both the accusers and accused. The investigator gathers all the facts, looks at relevant documents and conducts interviews, and then submits to a hearing panel a conclusion of whether the investigator thinks sexual misconduct occurred. That panel makes the final decision.

Shepardson said that to avoid conflating the campus process with a trial, the university remains “student focused” at all times -- the leaders there care about their well-being, and the process involves conversations, not cross-examinations.

Shepardson said he would also recommend Bentley’s practices to other institutions.

“Our model, which is focused on fairness for all parties, uses external, unbiased experts to investigate very complicated situations,” Shepardson wrote in an email. “However, the final authority for determining if the investigation is complete, if rules were violated and what sanctions are appropriate rest with our own staff -- all of whom are specially trained on Title IX issues at Bentley.”

At Vassar College, where administrators call on hired retired judges to help run their Title IX hearings, they want to avoid any “smell of a courtroom,” said Rachel Pereira, the director of equal opportunity and affirmative action, and Vassar’s Title IX coordinator.

The college hires the judges from JAMS, known formally as Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services. It interviews potential candidates then calls on them as needed if they fit what the university is looking for, Pereira said -- that they’re familiar with trauma and issues impacting adolescents.

Vassar’s proceedings are laid out much differently than a judge might be accustomed to -- students pick the location where they’re held, and time is allowed for breaks, Pereira said. Snacks are provided, too -- lemonade and cookies. The judge goes by their first name, not a formal title.

The college needs people versed in due process, and no one better than a judge understands those protections, Pereira said. After the judge -- Vassar pulls from a pool of three of them -- hears the case, they will make a recommendation that is either adopted or rejected by the dean of students.

“There’s a chance of perceived bias and just the general sense the discomfort of thereafter seeing that professor on campus,” Pereira said, in explaining why the college doesn’t use a panel of faculty and staff to adjudicate cases. “There’s greater confidentiality, and presumably an outside party will not have to interact with these students again.”

Pereira said she’s found this type of outsourcing to be successful -- it brings a sense of equity to both parties.

“Having adjudicators who understand their role here, engaging in our educational process, has definitely been a good experience,” she said. “We do not expect everyone to understand the process, and we do not call everyone who we’ve interviewed. There are some people who just don’t get it.”

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U of Washington, Tsinghua launch innovation-focused programs as part of Microsoft-funded partnership

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 07:00

A new academic enterprise, born of a partnership between the University of Washington and China’s Tsinghua University -- and seeded with $40 million in funding from Microsoft -- welcomed its first class of master’s students this fall.

The Global Innovation Exchange, or GIX, opened in September in a new building in Bellevue, Wash., about a 10-minute drive from the UW campus in Seattle. It is enrolling 43 students in its first cohort across two programs, a 15-month master of science in technology and innovation (MSTI) offered by UW, and a 21-month program in which students spend an additional six months studying at Tsinghua and receive master's degrees from both universities. Of the initial class, 22 students come from China, seven from the U.S., and the remainder from Canada, Estonia, France, India, Pakistan, Paraguay, Russia, Switzerland and Taiwan.

Although it is starting quite small, Vikram Jandhyala, GIX’s co-executive director, said the goal is to grow GIX to enroll 3,000 “learners” -- a term he used instead of “students” to reflect a focus on executive training as well as traditional degree programs -- within 10 years.

“Many American universities are trying to set up satellite campuses in different countries, especially in China,” said Jandhyala. “We wanted to invert that model.”

Jandhyala said Washington wanted to see how it could build on Seattle’s reputation as a hub for high-tech talent. “It gives us benefits because it connects us to the Tsinghua ecosystem and their connections as well,” he said. Tsinghua, which is widely regarded as China’s most elite technology-focused university, is based in Beijing.

Jandhyala said representatives from Tsinghua, Washington and Microsoft preside over GIX's board, and the vision over the next 10 years is to add additional industry and university representation to the board. "The goal is to get two to three more universities as well as three to four more companies at that level," he said.

Jandhyala said Microsoft's $40 million in funding has gone toward construction of the new building -- named after former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer -- as well as operational costs over GIX's first three years. Speaking to Inside Higher Ed in 2015 at the time the $40 million donation was announced, Microsoft's now president, Brad Smith, said that the company hoped to contribute ideas for research projects as well as internships and mentors. “Ultimately, if GIX is a success, every company in every part of the technology ecosystem in Puget Sound will benefit from that success,” Smith said at the time. “It will add to the talent pool, it will add to the innovation energy” of the region.

In some ways. GIX is similar to the new Cornell Tech graduate campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, which is a collaboration between Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. Both are large-scale, international academic partnerships in which a foreign university has co-located with a U.S. university in a major city here in the U.S. In both cases the partnership between universities was made possible by an injection of resources from a third, nonuniversity entity (in Cornell Tech’s case, the city of New York, which did not offer money, but did offer land). Both have a focus on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.

UW’s new 15-month, interdisciplinary MSTI program, which has a $54,000 sticker price -- the 21-month dual degree program with Tsinghua costs $77,000 -- is intended to teach students to “take an innovation from concept to development and launch,” per the description on the GIX website. Students take project-based courses in technology development, including hardware and software development, design thinking, and entrepreneurship.

For their culminating “launch project,” students “take an idea from concept to prototype and get a product ready for market” -- either their own idea or one that comes from industry. Jandhyala said that industries will pay GIX up to $150,000 a year for the privilege of having its students work on their projects.

“They don’t control the curriculum, but the problems students work on come from industry,” Jandhyala said. GIX recently announced the first five members of its “industry consortium,” as well as an “academic network” of eight universities. Apart from the two primary academic partners, Washington and Tsinghua, the universities that have joined on are: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, in Switzerland; Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; the Indian Institute of Science; Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; National Taiwan University; the Technion, in Israel; Tecnológico de Monterrey, in Mexico; and the University of British Columbia.

Jandhyala said the idea is that the academic network universities will recruit students for GIX and can send their faculty members to teach or for short visits. He added that each of these universities has its own connections with industry that he hopes GIX can tap into.

Jason Lane is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Educational Policy and Leadership at the State University of New York at Albany, where he directs the Cross-Border Education Research Team. He said he sees GIX as part of a larger trend of countries “looking at ways to leverage internationalization for economic development, innovation and research.”

“We see a lot of developing countries importing campuses because they want to improve their R&D and innovation ecosystem," Lane said. “This is the first time we’re really seeing -- more explicitly here than in the Cornell example -- but both of them are examples of importing the research infrastructure of another country into the U.S. to help build out our own innovation ecosystem, and contribute here.”

GlobalEditorial Tags: International higher educationImage Source: The University of WashingtonImage Caption: The Steve Ballmer building, the newly constructed home for GIX.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 

New presidents or provosts: Augustana Birmingham Eastern Illinois Fairfield GVSU Gwynedd Hobart Penn Xavier

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 07:00
  • Melissa Baumann, assistant provost for undergraduate studies and director of the honors college at Auburn University, in Alabama, has been chosen as provost and chief academic officer at Xavier University, in Ohio.
  • Maria Cimitile, associate vice president for academic affairs at Grand Valley State University, in Michigan, has been promoted provost and executive vice president for academic and student affairs there.
  • Deanne Horner D'Emilio, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Carlow University, in Pennsylvania, has been appointed as president at Gwynedd Mercy University, also in Pennsylvania.
  • Jay D. Gatrell, professor of geography and environmental studies and vice provost for faculty affairs and research at Bellarmine University, in Kentucky, has been selected as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Eastern Illinois University.
  • Mark R. Nemec, dean of the William B. and Catherine V. Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies at the University of Chicago, in Illinois, has been appointed as president of Fairfield University, in Connecticut.
  • Philip Plowden, deputy vice chancellor at the University of Derby, in Britain, has been named vice chancellor at Birmingham City University, also in Britain.
  • Wendell Pritchett, Presidential Professor of Law and Education at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, has been chosen as provost there.
  • Gail Summer, vice president for academic affairs at Ferrum College, in Virginia, has been named provost and vice president for academic affairs at Augustana College, in Illinois.
  • Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement and the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Community College Leadership at the University of Texas at Austin, has been appointed as president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, in New York.

 

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UNC to proceed with capital campaign launch, despite looming NCAA report

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 07:00

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been preparing to launch a major fund-raising campaign today, but for a short time Thursday the effort seemed poised to be overshadowed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association announcing long-awaited penalties against the university.

By the end of Thursday, however, circumstances had apparently changed. The fund-raising campaign announcement was still on for Friday. The NCAA announcement was not -- although speculation about the NCAA's findings remains rampant.

What happened is not entirely clear. Neither UNC nor the NCAA have shed much light on the situation.

UNC has been preparing to launch a $4.3 billion capital campaign Friday, billing it as the largest fund-raising campaign in history by a university in North Carolina and in the Southeast. Various announcements are planned throughout the day with high-ranking administrators and trustees.

On Thursday morning, it seemed the capital campaign might be upstaged by the NCAA. The NCAA Committee on Infractions would be releasing its final report on a long-running UNC case at noon Friday, tweeted Andrew Carter, a reporter for The News & Observer. That report would represent the end of a closely watched investigation into no-show classes that helped UNC athletes remain eligible over many years ending in 2011. The scandal has dragged on, embarrassing a university that has historically claimed it could balance academic values and athletic prowess.

Notice went out Thursday morning to parties associated with the investigation that the Committee on Infractions was going to release a final report, including penalties, Carter reported. But by Thursday afternoon, UNC had announced the NCAA report was not being released. Joel Curran, vice chancellor of university communications at Chapel Hill, issued a short statement on the matter.

“Due to scheduling circumstances, there will be no release tomorrow regarding the NCAA Committee on Infractions decision,” Curran said. “We have not yet received the committee’s public infractions report. We anticipate we will be informed 24 hours prior to the actual release at a later date.”

A university spokeswoman declined further comment. An NCAA spokeswoman confirmed the university’s statement but did not respond to follow-up queries asking if an announcement had ever been planned for Friday.

Carter stood by his story on Twitter, posting that the NCAA’s original intent was to release the report Friday.

Have deleted the below tweets to stop them from being RT'd. Original reporting was correct: Was NCAA's intent to release this tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/lbtYV5oIgA

— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) October 5, 2017

UNC is announcing a $4.3 billion fundraiser tomorrow. There are events all around campus the entire weekend, many important people in town. https://t.co/ek12U20lJZ

— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) October 5, 2017

David Routh, UNC's vice chancellor for university development, said he was not involved in any talks regarding the NCAA.

“I was not in those discussions, so I really don’t know,” he said in an interview. “I’m just happy that we have tomorrow to talk about the campaign and the things we need to raise money for.”

Pressed on whether he knew of the existence of discussions between UNC and the NCAA, Routh said he had been consumed with coordinating volunteers in town and planning Friday’s announcements. He also answered a question about whether kicking off a fund-raising campaign on the same day NCAA sanctions were announced would have been an odd dynamic.

“We all work really hard to tell the story clearly of what the priorities of the university are and what we need to raise money for and what we stand for,” he said. “We worked really hard to have tomorrow do that.”

The fund-raising campaign is raising money for students, experiential learning, faculty hiring and retention, and signature initiatives, Routh said. The university is increasingly trying to show how it has impacts beyond the borders of its campus, he said.

Still, the situation raised eyebrows among outside observers who wondered what UNC meant by “scheduling circumstances” -- particularly since university officials do not typically appear together with NCAA officials when final investigative reports are released. Experts were also surprised by the lack of additional comment from UNC and the NCAA.

“It’s cliché, but the silence is deafening,” said Daniel Swinton, managing partner at NCHERM Group, a law and consulting firm. “That strikes me as odd. I’m not sure if it’s improper, but it certainly makes me wonder: How much influence does UNC have in this process?”

While that might raise questions about the NCAA’s independence, Swinton does not believe the NCAA announcement will have a large impact on UNC’s fund-raising capabilities in the long run.

“Memories around these sorts of things are not super long,” he said.

Some alumni might not agree with that assessment. But the university’s capacity to raise money likely depends less on when the NCAA makes its announcement than on how UNC responds.

“I think what will be most important when thinking about the long-term fund-raising opportunities for UNC is to look at what the institution is doing about the input that they’re receiving,” said Teresa Valerio Parrot, principal of the national higher ed public relations agency TVP Communications. “If they take the guidance from the NCAA and they can talk about structural changes and ethical changes that have occurred at the university, that really helps alumni and donors and community members to remember that this is an institution that they want to be associated with and that they want to contribute toward.”

UNC’s last comprehensive campaign ended in 2007. It raised $2.38 billion from 194,000 donors.

NCAA sanctions against UNC have long been expected after an investigation by Kenneth Wainstein, a former U.S. Department of Justice official, in 2014 found systematic and far-reaching academic fraud at the university spanning nearly two decades. More than 3,100 students, many of them athletes, enrolled in and passed classes they never attended and that were not taught by a single faculty member, Wainstein stated in a report. In 2015, the NCAA issued level-one allegations against UNC, signaling the most serious breach of conduct possible.

A second notice of allegations was issued in April of last year, and a third was sent in December. The infractions committee heard the case in August. The NCAA has focused on the time period from 2002 to 2011.

The committee typically takes eight to 12 weeks to release its final report. Colleges and universities receive notification 24 hours before the report is issued.

Whenever it is issued, the NCAA’s report will come on the heels of a bombshell announcement at the end of September that fraud and corruption charges were being brought against several college basketball coaches, sneaker company representatives and financial advisers involved in an alleged scheme to steer athletes to certain colleges and agents in exchange for money. No one at North Carolina was named in the charges, which led to the ouster of University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino and Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich.

Last month’s charges have stoked renewed discussion about how deep corruption runs in big-time college athletics.

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William & Mary students who shut down ACLU event broke conduct code

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 07:00

Students at the College of William & Mary affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement broke the code of conduct there last week when they shut down a talk by an American Civil Liberties Union representative, though officials at the public institution won’t say if or how they will be punished.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU’s Virginia chapter, attempted to discuss free speech issues with students at the college in Williamsburg, Va., on Sept. 27, but no more than a few minutes into her talk, students holding signs lined the stage where she was speaking and drowned her out with chants of “ACLU, free speech for who?” “The oppressed are not impressed,” “ACLU, you protect Hitler, too,” “Blood on your hands,” “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and “Your free speech hides beneath white sheets.”

Later, when it was clear her talk couldn’t continue, students interested in Gastañaga's views tried to speak with her one on one. Those protesting simply yelled louder, preventing this. Gastañaga was never able to address the small crowd that had gathered, either broadly or individually.

Gastañaga said in a statement Thursday that William & Mary, as a public institution, is obligated to protect free expression and prevent a "heckler's veto" from stopping a speaker. The ACLU encourages colleges and universities to combat and call out discriminatory speech, she said.

"What happened at William & Mary on Sept. 27 is a part of a larger national trend that is challenging campus leaders across the country to find the right formula for assuring that critical community conversations can take place in a culture of inquiry consistent with a true learning environment. Actions that bully, intimidate or disrupt must not be without consequences in any such formula," her statement reads.

A member of the Black Lives Matter chapter, speaking during the demonstration, said the ACLU had hidden behind “the rhetoric of the First Amendment” to defend white supremacists. The woman who spoke pointed to the ACLU’s decision to back a white nationalist’s lawsuit against the city of Charlottesville, Va., where a woman protesting the white nationalists was killed at a rally in August.

“The ACLU and liberals believe that legality determines morality,” the student said. “Not too long ago, the Constitution dictated that black people only counted as three-fifths of a person. The Constitution cannot be your moral compass. In contrast to the ACLU, we want to reaffirm our position of zero tolerance for white supremacy no matter what form it decides to masquerade in.”

The group invoked the violence in Charlottesville in a statement issued Thursday night: “The ACLU consciously chose to intervene on behalf of organized white supremacy in Charlottesville. We find this intolerable. Members of our organization were nearly struck by the car that killed Heather Heyer on Aug. 12 -- our protest of the ACLU event on Sept. 27 was driven by our firm belief that white supremacy does not deserve a platform. The right to free speech is a fundamental human right. However, speech that condones, supports or otherwise fails to explicitly condemn injustice must be directly confronted.”

In written statements, both President Taylor Reveley III (who was traveling and unavailable for an interview) and a spokesman said the protest was “not acceptable.”

“We do not want any event to be ended early or shut down because someone disagrees with the views of the speaker or is attempting to prevent speech and questions by those attending. We must be a campus that welcomes difficult conversations, honest debate and civil dialogue. We are reviewing our planning and protocols and taking measures to prevent this from happening again,” the spokesman, Brian Whitson, said in a statement Thursday.

Citing federal privacy laws, Whitson declined to answer whether students would be disciplined for the protest, though he said the university takes “this matter seriously” and was “taking appropriate action.”

Whitson noted that disrupting an event such as Gastañaga’s talk, sponsored by the student-led programming organization Alma Mater Productions, violates several provisions of the student code of conduct. Consequences for breaking the code range from expulsion to students being required to complete an “educational activity” related to their infraction.

Alma Mater Productions deferred comment to the university.

Other institutions that have dealt with controversial figures being shouted down on campus have publicly announced punishments against students. Most notably, at Middlebury College, where the author Charles Murray was silenced in March, at least 67 students were punished, a majority being put on probation.

If students feel they can shut down an event with impunity, they will continue to do so, and so institutions must take a strong stance, said Ari Cohn, director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s individual rights defense program.

He called the students who interrupted the speech “profoundly misguided.” Cohn said the students may believe that minorities may have unequal access to a free speech platform, but that what they don’t realize is that censorship almost always hurts these communities first.

“They might find themselves similarly drowned out by force,” Cohn said.

FIRE does not advocate for particular consequences -- “the punishment must fit the crime,” Cohn said.

The best way students can be advocates for people of color and those who are unrepresented is by earning their degree, said Ebony O. McGee, an associate professor of education, diversity and STEM at the Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University. She said there are other ways to advocate without shouting down a speaker.

She said students of color face much larger barriers to earning their degree at a predominantly white institution such as William & Mary and a toxic environment without the added stress.

“Getting your degree doesn’t make you less of an activist. It gives you power you may not ordinarily have to speak if you didn’t have it. I think it actually increases your ability to make things happen,” she said. “I just don’t want these students -- even if they have the right idea -- to compromise their college education because they want to shout at a speaker.”

The Black Lives Matter chapter has never been officially recognized by the university, Whitson said. Students involved with the group never pursued the designation, he said.

The university will “always” look for opportunities for its students to learn about the importance of free expression, Whitson said, adding it recently held, without incident, an event on partisan polarization that featured speakers from across the political spectrum.

“William & Mary will continue to have events in the future that address and explore uncomfortable topics. They occur here nearly every day, as they should at a leading university. That will not change,” Whitson said.

This incident coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first black students enrolling at William & Mary in 1967. The university will celebrate this benchmark the entire academic year. Whitson said the institution has acknowledged concerns about the racial climate on campus. Like many colleges, William & Mary created in 2015 a task force on improving race relations, which provided a list of recommendations.

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Study links student cheating to whether a course is popular or disliked

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 07:00

Professors can employ plenty of best practices to reduce academic dishonesty among students. But those efforts might be doomed if students don't like the course in the first place.

According to new research by Eric Anderman, a professor of educational psychology at Ohio State University, whether a student likes or dislikes a class can disrupt previously established predictors of whether or not they’ll cheat. The paper, “Academic Cheating in Disliked Classes,” was co-authored by Sungjun Won, a graduate student in educational psychology, and appears in the journal Ethics & Behavior (abstract here).

Anderman witnessed cheating firsthand when he was a high school teacher. Now having studied cheating for about 20 years, he said previous research pointed to two important factors when it comes to predicting whether or not students will cheat: whether a professor emphasizes mastery of a topic -- think “learning for the sake of learning,” he said -- or whether they emphasize extrinsic outcomes, such as the importance of high-stakes tests.

In classes that emphasize mastery, Anderman said, levels of cheating are lower. When grades or tests are the emphasis of a class, cheating increases.

But his new research throws a wrench into that theory: when students don’t like a class, those correlations don’t hold up. In short, it’s hard to predict if a student will cheat, no matter what the professor emphasizes, if the student doesn’t like the course.

“Neither of those [emphases by the professor] predicted their behavior,” Anderman said of the students surveyed.

In all, 409 students from two large research universities were surveyed. Anderman said they were asked questions similar to his other research on cheating, but this time the questions also focused on whether or not the students liked the class.

Whether students were more likely to cheat in a course that they didn’t like than in a course that they did like wasn’t explicitly researched, Anderman said, but there is “indirect data” that might suggest that.

“There’s a long line of history that shows that students are more likely to cheat in math and science classes than in other classes,” he said. And math and science courses were the least popular among the students in his research.

Interestingly, the beliefs around cheating -- whether it was right or wrong, justified or not justified -- still echoed previous research. Students in classes that were organized around mastery still felt like cheating was wrong, more so than their peers in classes centered around grades and testing. But those beliefs didn’t necessarily correspond with behavior in this study.

“The pattern was still there for the beliefs about cheating,” Anderman said. “But the pattern was not there for cheating behavior.”

Instead, Anderman found a new predictor of cheating when it comes to courses a student doesn't like: a student’s "need for sensation" and proclivity toward risk-taking behavior.

“People who are, sort of, thrill seekers -- people who are more likely to want to do wild and crazy things -- are going to be the ones in those classes who are more likely to give in and cheat,” he said.

So what are professors to do if they teach an unpopular course? Whether a student likes or dislikes a course is often out of a professor’s hands, after all. Anderman recommended emphasizing mastery and avoiding high-stakes tests, even if the cheating correlations behind them might not hold up as well in disliked classes.

“You absolutely can’t control whether students don’t like your course, but you can control how you do assessments in the class. Focusing on mastery or focusing on the extrinsic, on the grades, you can control that,” Anderman said. “I don’t know how many faculty are really aware that it’s more likely to happen in certain areas, like math and science.”

“The kinds of instructional practices that you use can, in fact, make a difference,” he said.

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Experts consider significance of Apple's deal with Ohio State

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 07:00

Apple has sold products to colleges, sometimes at meaningful discounts, for a long time, but no deal has ever looked anything like the collaboration just announced with Ohio State University.

Beginning next year, Ohio State will be integrating Apple technology into all its teaching and learning experiences as part of an institutionwide initiative called the Digital Flagship University. By giving each first-year student an iPad Pro (complete with keyboard, Apple pen and apps for “learning and life”) the university aims to create “the world’s largest and most effective integrated learning community.” Apple will be providing the iPads to Ohio State at a discount, though the terms of the deal have not been revealed.

In addition to Apple hardware for students, an Apple-designed iOS laboratory will teach students, faculty, staff and local residents how to create new apps using Apple’s Swift programming curriculum, which was introduced at several community colleges and high schools earlier this year. (Note: This article has been updated from a previous version to note that the laboratory will not be staffed by Apple employees.)

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he approved the Ohio State collaboration because the university had been “aggressive and forward thinking” in its approach to the deal. “I can’t imagine anybody else to do this with,” said Cook. “They’re going to set an example I hope many others will follow.”

A Shift in Strategy

Joshua Kim, director of digital learning initiatives at Dartmouth College's Center for the Advancement of Learning (who also blogs for Inside Higher Ed) described the partnership between Apple and Ohio State as “big news” that could represent a significant shift in Apple’s higher education strategy.

While Apple has a long history of offering discounts to higher education on its technology, Kim said the Ohio State deal looks like a departure from the norm in its focus on the educational uses of the technology, not just the machines and software. While many colleges have launched initiatives where students are given individual iPads or MacBooks (often referred to as one to one programs), the pairing of this with an iOS Design Lab is “something new,” said Kim. In the past, colleges have outlined their educational objectives, but Apple has not been prominent in those discussions, while it has been front and center at Ohio State.

“I think this has potential to both catalyze learning innovation at Ohio State as well as pushing Apple to develop applications and programs that will be of greater interest to the larger higher education community,” said Kim. He added that he is hopeful that the partnership is a signal Apple is ready to “return to its roots” and make higher education a strategic priority.

Michael Carter, director of TextGenome, a project that helps build technology to improve student literacy, and former director of education research at Apple, agreed that creating a “pipeline” of developers was an important aspect of the Ohio State deal for Apple. “Everyone at Apple and in Silicon Valley knows there aren’t enough engineers to go around,” said Carter. He noted that Ohio State could act a pilot for Apple, allowing it to experiment at one institution before expanding. The focus on iPads in the Ohio State deal, rather than MacBooks, is likely because Apple has been struggling to sell iPads since Google’s Chromebook became popular, Carter said.

Indeed, critics of Apple have in the past said that the company has a history of achieving its corporate goals by talking about education -- and then capturing large markets through deals with educational entities.

At the same time, the company remains popular with students and faculty members.

The opportunity for colleges to arrange similar partnerships with Apple is something many would be watching closely, Kim said. He noted that his and other colleges have already been in contact with Apple to discover where they might collaborate. “This Ohio State partnership is certainly bigger in scope and scale than other partnerships that I’ve heard about, but it is in line with how I’ve been watching Apple’s approach to higher education evolve over the past couple of years,” said Kim.

If Apple truly commits to innovation in higher education, it could “really move the needle,” said Kim, as other companies like Google and Microsoft could follow suit. “All of these companies would be smart to put educational innovation, and partnerships with higher education, at the center of their plans,” Kim said, but he noted that such progress would not mean that university leaders would stop being skeptical of the return on investment of large-scale technology-adoption projects and company partnerships.

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Former CUNY official on her book about the Pathways program

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 07:00

The City University of New York in 2010 began an ambitious effort to help students better transfer credits across the system’s 25 campuses, with an overarching goal of creating more efficient pathways to degrees.

The three-year process was anything but easy. Faculty groups pushed back hard on the so-called Pathways initiative, decrying the attempt by CUNY’s central administration to create a slimmer, standardized core curriculum of 30 credits across the large system. Votes of no confidence, lawsuits and lots of news media coverage followed before Pathways crossed the finish line.

Alexandra Logue, then CUNY’s chief academic officer, led the project. In her new book, Pathways to Reform: Credits and Conflict at the City University of New York (Princeton University Press), Logue gives an insider’s look at Pathways, with broad takeaways about how to tackle the transfer problem in American higher education.

Logue, who is now a research professor at CUNY's Graduate Center, recently discussed the book with Inside Higher Ed. The email exchange follows.

Q: In the book you mention growing awareness about problems students face with transferring credits. Do you think the Pathways push would be less controversial today?

A: Unfortunately, I do not believe that Pathways would be less controversial today. The resistance to this initiative came almost entirely from the faculty, and the growing awareness that you mention is among higher education researchers, policy makers and administrators. Only a very small proportion of faculty have higher education as their scholarly focus, and otherwise they are understandably unlikely to make contact with the literature on transfer and related subjects. For example, faculty were, and are, unaware of the fact that most public higher education systems now have a common general education core curriculum for all students in that state’s public colleges and universities. It should be the responsibility of administrators to help faculty learn such information.

Q: Why is it so difficult for universities and systems to revise their general education requirements?

A: There are many reasons, involving both faculty and administrators. At most institutions, faculty create and maintain the general education requirements. Making changes in general education curricula can be significantly slowed, sometimes to the point of not happening at all, by the many approvals often needed from faculty committees.

In addition, having a required course in the general education curriculum is highly desired by departments. Most faculty in any department appreciate and love their disciplines, and feel it is important for students to be exposed to them. In addition to obtaining lifelong useful information and skills from their general education courses, some students may decide to major in one of the general-education-required disciplines, to the well-deserved delight of the associated faculty. Further, when a department provides a general-education-required course, that department receives many more enrollments, and more enrollments mean a larger department budget, including a larger part-time faculty budget and more full-time faculty. With more faculty comes more political power on a campus -- a large department voting in unison can sway collegewide faculty votes. It is therefore not surprising that general education requirements often reflect years of hard-fought negotiation, negotiations about which departments’ courses will be required and which will not, negotiations that many faculty do not want to repeat.

Finally, some administrators, attempting to accumulate clear accomplishments that will help them in their next job search, or wanting to minimize conflict on campus, do not hasten to provide the structures and incentives needed to facilitate modifications to general education curricula, modifications that will take years to effect and will almost certainly involve faculty dissension.

Q: A frequent faculty complaint about Pathways was that it was a top-down initiative. How does the book address this concern?

A: In the end it was a top-down initiative. However, it was either take that approach or continue to harm students. The book describes what actually happened.

For some 40 years, loss of credits upon transfer had been considered by many within CUNY to be the worst problem facing CUNY undergraduates. During those decades, although the faculty, as led by the University Faculty Senate (UFS), had made statements about the problem, they had not proposed any solutions. As the years went on, CUNY was under increasing external pressure to solve the problem.

For two years before we developed Pathways, the central CUNY administration communicated clearly to the UFS that solving the problem was one of our top priorities. However, the UFS showed little interest in this topic. During the following year, we first released a report on the problem which included some general suggested remedies. Next we released a draft of the Pathways policies and asked for feedback. At that point the faculty suggested some alternative solutions, but none of those alternatives would have effectively solved the transfer issues. However, we did, in response to comments, make changes in the original draft policies. Over the next two years, the UFS and the faculty union repeatedly promised to propose alternatives to Pathways. But no new alternatives ever appeared.

Some of this lack of response is understandable. Devising a common general education framework for 19 different undergraduate colleges requires a great deal of knowledge about such matters as how students transfer and how the entire CUNY system is structured, as well as requiring time and effort, all resources that are generally scarce among faculty who are largely, and justifiably, focused on their own teaching and research.

Also, the final Pathways policies gave considerable flexibility to the colleges. Although we set the total credits for the new general education requirements, how those total credits would be divided and what they would consist of were left up to faculty-dominated committees. The CUNY central office did not, as some public higher education systems have done, tell the faculty what courses were to be offered for the general education portion of Pathways. To ensure course quality, we made sure that, with Pathways, CUNY faculty would still choose and devise the courses, approve the courses (by all of the usual mechanisms plus an added universitywide faculty committee), teach the courses, and evaluate and revise the courses. Our goal was to do only what was necessary to ensure that students were not harmed by transferring; in all other respects the colleges and faculty would make the decisions.

Q: You write that criticism from faculty members and others ultimately improved Pathways. How so?

A: There were cases in which constructive, critical input from faculty helped us to make specific improvements in the policies. For example, a natural science faculty member convinced me that courses that are required for the natural science majors should be allowed to count for not only the life and physical sciences category of the Pathways common core, but also the scientific world category. This change enabled natural science majors to have room in their programs to take an additional nonscience course, broadening their liberal arts educations. More generally, the constant stream of comments and criticisms that we received made us examine everything that we did that much more closely, trying to look at the implications of every policy for every constituency, and to devise the policies that would be most beneficial for all. The critiques also compelled us to communicate constantly about what we were doing, and reminded us to regularly consult with all affected parties. Given the volatile atmosphere, we needed to be very precise about what we were doing and why.

Q: While CUNY is somewhat distinctive, what are a couple of the most important lessons for others that you learned from this process?

A: All of us involved in establishing Pathways learned many lessons, including how best to facilitate student transfer, the positive results of always being transparent and correct, and the power of the internet to influence a university controversy. I also learned that it is possible to make significant change, even highly controversial change, but not without the support of many others, and not without incurring a career and an emotional price. If we want to facilitate change that benefits students, we need to provide such support, as well as decrease the price that may need to be paid by the administrators.

Q: Is the transfer issue a crisis? And, in general, do you feel American higher education is heading in the right direction on transfer?

A: There is no question that large numbers of American college students are spending excess time and their own -- as well as taxpayers’ -- money for their degrees due to lack of credit transfer. In some cases, these problems may result in transfer students not completing their degrees.

An August 2017 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office showed that, on average, students lose 43 percent of their credits upon transfer. However, on the positive side, during the past five to 10 years, research on and discussion of the challenges facing transfer students have significantly expanded, and the connections between these challenges and lack of graduation have been elucidated. This attention appears to be resulting in, at the very least, more attempts to establish policies that will facilitate credit transfer. Therefore, American higher education does appear to be heading on the right path. Whether it will reach the end of the path remains to be seen. It is my hope that my book will help.

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New federal data on student borrowing, repayment and default

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 07:00

New federal data show that college students are taking out more student loan debt and also taking longer to pay it off.

The report from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, released today, examines patterns of student loan repayment for two separate groups of borrowers -- those who started college in the 1995-96 academic year and those who started eight years later, in 2003-04. Twelve years after beginning their postsecondary educations, the second group had paid off a smaller proportion of their student loans and had defaulted at a higher rate on at least one loan.

In addition to the rising price of college, multiple factors may have contributed to changing profile of student loan repayment. Students who entered college in 2003 would have graduated or left college around the time the U.S. entered the Great Recession. Changes in federal policy also have made options like income-driven repayment more popular. And experts say the composition of student loan borrowers has changed, too, as enrollment at community colleges and for-profit institutions spiked in the recession's wake.

The report found that 12 years after first entering college, the median percentage owed on student loans by the first cohort of borrowers was 70 percent. For the second borrower cohort, that number was 78 percent. Over the same time frame, 18 percent of those in the earlier cohort had defaulted on at least one student loan, while 27 percent of the more recent cohort had done so.

Experiences were not uniform among those struggling to repay their federal loans. Faring worst were students who began a degree program but never received any credential and those who attended for-profit institutions. More than half of borrowers who began college in 2003-04 and attended a for-profit institution defaulted on at least one student loan within 12 years; more than a quarter of those who attended a community college did so.

Compared to the earlier cohort of borrowers, the only student subgroups who appeared to do as well or better in making progress toward paying off student loans after 12 years were those who attended a four-year institution or those who earned a bachelor's degree. Student borrowers who entered college in 2003 and attended a public four-year institution had paid off an average of 61.7 percent of their remaining student loans. Among the earlier borrower cohort, this group paid off 63.1 percent of loans after 12 years.

Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute who studies higher education finance, said overall loan repayment rates can be misleading without examining the types of borrowers taking out student loans. She said that, over time, many more students have enrolled in community colleges and for-profit colleges, and borrowers who attend those institutions tend to perform worse in paying off student loans.

"The issue is the composition of the borrowers has changed so dramatically," Baum said.

David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges, said it would stand to reason that, if students are borrowing more on average to pay for college, repayment would be more drawn out.

"It’s also possible that students simply decided to avail themselves of other repayment options that allowed for more time," he said, adding that the second cohort "obviously would have run smack-dab into the Great Recession."

Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, which represents for-profit institutions, said defaults in his sector likely rose due to the recession and increasing enrollment attributed to the growing popularity of online courses.

"This is also a snapshot of the past and is in no way reflective of where this sector is today," Gunderson said. "Our sector has evolved and is now focused on outcomes."

For example, while enrollments are down across the for-profit industry in recent years, Gunderson said degree-completion numbers have largely held steady.

Short-term training programs are more popular than ever with policy makers who are eager to boost skills training they say will lead to higher employment. But the NCES report found that, among borrowers who started a postsecondary program in 2003-04, those who earned an undergraduate certificate, as opposed to an associate or bachelor's degree, had a default rate of 29.9 percent -- higher than if they dropped out entirely (29 percent).

Jeff Strohl, director of research at Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, said the center's research has found that less than 50 percent of certificates have any reasonable earnings returns.

"Like all postsecondary credentials, students today really need to look at how the level of attainment and program combine to provide opportunity," he said via email. "Our research supports the long-term findings that college is worth the cost, but that general finding does not apply to every possible credential in every field."

The report reconfirmed findings by many who study higher education that even students with small amounts of debt can default, said Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University. But Kelchen said it's hard to tell what specific factors are driving the higher number of defaults and slower progress repaying student loans.

"It's hard to tell what's because of the recession, what's because of the increase in student debt levels and what's a result of changes in student loan repayment options," he said.

Kelchen said it's important for the Education Department to continue to track default rates over the long term. And he said more data on student loan repayments could help show the effects of payment options like income-driven repayment plans and also disentangle patterns of loan repayment for graduate and undergraduate students.

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Coker College lets faculty deviate from standard Monday, Wednesday, Friday teaching routine

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 07:00

Despite the increased chatter about evidence-based teaching practices, traditional academic structures don’t really support them: the average lecture hall screams for, well, lectures. It’s also hard to start and finish a dynamic learning activity within a typical 50-minute class block.

Seeking better ways to engage students and integrate its liberal arts and preprofessional missions, Coker College in South Carolina is doing away with that last convention, starting this semester -- sort of. Instead of holding classes on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays for 50 minutes, the college has changed its schedule to allow interested professors teaching Monday-Wednesday-Friday courses within certain time slots to teach for an hour each on Mondays and Wednesday and for two hours every other Friday.

The Friday block is now an opportunity for pedagogical innovation and deeper student learning. Courses on many campuses are already offered in blocks of up to three hours, of course, but sometimes they are sustained lectures of the type that might take place in shorter periods. The idea at Coker is to actually use the time.

“Higher education in the last five or six years has reached a point where we talk very well and have a lot of good evidence about engaged learning, like flipped classrooms and active learning, but our basic systems don’t actually encourage or foster that,” said Tracy Parkinson, vice president for strategic partnerships and special assistant to the president at Coker. “So we were looking for relatively simple ways of creating an environment for faculty to do the kinds of instruction we’re reading about all the time.”

Parkinson and the rest of Coker’s administration strongly backed the initiative, but it was also inspired, in part, by a majority-faculty committee white paper on recruiting and retaining faculty members (the occasion for the report was a new college strategic plan).

The committee praised Coker’s “supportive and positive” work environment, including the transparency of the tenure process and new improvements to classroom spaces and technology. It also acknowledged recent efforts to foster collaboration and innovation in teaching but urged even more. Suggestions included more opportunities to co-teach courses, especially across disciplines; the adoption of cohort classes, with the same students in two or more courses; linked courses that meet separately some days of the week and together on others; and more flexibility in scheduling.

“We were looking at anything that we might need to change to improve student learning and student success,” said Will Carswell, chair of the Master Academic Planning Committee, vice president of external relations and a professor of music. “We didn’t shy away from the schedule, though any time you tinker with the schedule you are treading on thin ice.”

The college considered a variety of options for adopting the schedule blocks, such as having one day a week dedicated to them, but eventually settled on doing it on a voluntary basis within four time slots. So a 10 a.m. class section, for example, would meet Mondays and Wednesdays until about 11 a.m. and every other Friday until about noon; an 11 a.m. class would meet Mondays and Wednesdays and on the opposite Friday from 10 a.m. until noon. 

Some faculty members who have been teaching for many years don’t want to change how they teach, and others want to see how the first semester goes before opting in. That’s fine with Coker, for now, but the college plans on talking about teaching blocks with prospective faculty hires going forward.

Approximately 20 percent of the faculty have opted in to the new schedule this semester, for at least one class. More professors may opt in next semester; English and business professors are currently planning linked courses. Coker sees the future in that kind of collaboration -- that which meaningfully blends the liberal arts and preprofessional studies and doesn’t strain teaching capacity like traditional team teaching does (when two professors are responsible for the same course).

Among those who have opted in to the program, faculty enthusiasm seems high, with some caveats. Jennifer Borgo, an associate professor of biology with a passion for undergraduate research, said she’s already teaching two courses according to the new schedule: a sophomore biology core class on ecology and evolution, and an upper-level biology elective called Behavioral Ecology. In both, Borgo tries to incorporate hands-on activities, in-class assignments and videos.

The ecology and evolution block has been somewhat difficult to manage, given that the class already has a three-hour weekly lab; Borgo said she has to fight the tendency to go long on lectures but breaks them up with active learning exercises and videos.

Borgo has “absolutely loved” the schedule for Behavioral Ecology, which has no lab period, however. “Fridays have been my time for exploration,” she said. During the first block, for example, Borgo assigned students an organism and they had to come up with questions, hypotheses and an experimental design.

“Given the emphasis I place on testing [predictions] in the class, I thought the students would greatly benefit from the activity,” she said. “And they did -- they were actively engaged and excited while working with their mealworms and beetles.” The second block will consist of a field trip to Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, inspired by a conversation on helping behavior (nestlings from previous years that stick around and help the following year’s offspring); a typical species that displays such behavior is the red-cockaded woodpecker, and the class hopes to see some.

Joshua Webb, an assistant professor of theater, said, "From the beginning, I felt I was at something of an advantage in teaching under the new modified [schedule]." His courses in technical theater tend to be hands-on, he said, so "planning longer lab sessions every other Friday is not only easy but quite valuable to my students."

Additional uses of the block period will include environmental science students visiting the campus’s Kalmia Gardens, business professors taking students to nonprofits and businesses, and the Quantitative Literacy Center having students in targeted gateway math courses meet in small sections on Mondays and Wednesdays and a in big block on every other Friday. Students in Spanish will have regular consultations and feedback sessions with professors and extra time for cross-cultural activities.

Some professors who want to teach in blocks were not able to this semester, due to scheduling. Joseph Flaherty, director of undergraduate research and assistant professor of biology, said he soon hopes schedule allows him to teach this way. More recent innovations in teaching and pedagogy, such as active learning, seem to be highly constrained by relatively short class meeting times, he added.

“My hopes will be that once students and faculty adjust to the new schedule and realize the potential benefits, we will expand and include most, if not all, of our semester courses into the new framework,” Flaherty said.

Over all, reactions from both students and faculty to the new schedule are “what you might expect -- initially expressing some uncertainty but eventually realizing what’s possible," he said. "I anticipate the trajectory of opinion from both students and faculty to continue on a positive path.”

Parkinson said Coker opted not to study the effects of the first semester of blocks, beyond anecdotes. In the future, however, he said, the college will engage its institutional research staff to measure  success; composition classes that are taught both in the new and “old” style are likely candidates for study.

Coker President Robert L. Wyatt said he believes that the new course blocks will help meet students where they are, since most high schools in the college’s recruiting areas now have block schedules.

“I think this is consistent with thinking and looking at the needs of the ‘homeland generation,’” he said, referring to today’s undergraduates.

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College Promise Campaign offers five models of sustainable tuition-free models

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 07:00

The popularity of college promise programs -- or tuition-free initiatives for community colleges and in some cases for four-year degrees -- has been growing across the country in the last few years.

But despite enthusiasm from families, policy makers, businesses and organizations to lower the cost of college, questions have remained over the best way to sustain these programs financially.

On Wednesday, the nonpartisan College Promise Campaign, which was launched by President Obama, and Educational Testing Service released five reports on the different tuition-free models operating in the country. The papers combine to form the “Designing Sustainable Funding for College Promise Initiatives” report, which doesn’t endorse any one approach but suggests the importance of financial viability.

“This is happening all over the country,” said Martha Kanter, a former undersecretary of education in the Obama administration, who leads the College Promise Campaign. “Thirteen states have passed legislation or governors have enacted some kind of executive order to move the Promise concept forward. It may be called something different, but we’re trying to track all of this to make reasonable progress going forward about what we can learn from these models and scale.”

“A hundred years ago, we made high school available to everyone in this country, and we know education beyond high school, whether it’s a certificate or degree, is going to be essential,” Kanter said. “If we can’t craft the financial sustainability model … we aren’t going to move forward and we’ve got to figure this out. We pay for what we value, so we can be a lot smarter.”

Combining Promise and College Savings Accounts

The first model the campaign examined was combining college promise programs with children’s savings accounts, which encourage families to begin saving for college when their children are young.

“It’s important to think of the mechanisms we use to pay for college,” said William Elliot, a professor of social work at the University of Michigan, who co-authored the paper on this approach. “When you pay for college with debt, you don’t think about how that affects people’s expectations for going to college and their long-term financial aid.”

Some people are loan averse and choose not to go to college, while others may drop out because of loans or have worse financial outcomes after graduation because of student loans, he said.

On the other hand, research on CSAs has shown that they improve the socio-emotional development of children, improve parents’ education outlooks of their children and help low-income and minority kids have better long-term financial health, Elliot said.

The Oakland Promise in California, for example, plans to offer multiyear college scholarships while also opening CSAs for babies born to low-income families within the city and all incoming kindergarten students in the Oakland school district. The city of Oakland is raising $35 million for the first four years of the program -- as of January, it has secured about $25 million.

The State Leaders

The more well-known promise programs are those that have taken off statewide in places like Tennessee and New York.

“We want 60 percent of Hoosiers having some quality degree beyond high school, and we’re at 41 percent right now,” said Teresa Lubbers, Indiana’s commissioner for higher education and a co-author of the state-funded promise program report. The state has the long-running 21st Century Community Scholars program, which provides merit-based financial aid to first-generation, low-income students. “There’s no way to get to our attainment goals without closing achievement gaps, and college promise programs are a way of doing that.”

The report outlines a variety of different ways to fund promise programs; each state has to consider not only sustainability but what is politically possible. The report details a number of options including tax credits, tax increment financing, external philanthropy or lottery revenues as methods of funding a statewide initiative, and then establishing an endowment.

In Tennessee, for example, the promise program is primarily funded from the state’s lottery reserves, of which more than $300 million was placed in an endowment that earns about $7.2 million a year. The Tennessee program, which launched statewide in 2014, has seen college-going rates increase from 57.9 percent in 2014 to 61 percent in 2016. FAFSA filing rates also increased from 60.4 percent in 2014 to 73.5 percent in 2017.

Philanthropy and Public-Private Partnerships

Despite the attention state-based models receive, the majority of promise programs are privately funded and place-based scholarships. The Kalamazoo Promise, for instance, is funded by anonymous donors, while the El Dorado Promise in Arkansas is funded by Murphy Oil Corporation. The Pittsburgh Promise is supported by founding partner the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

There are also programs like the Michigan Promise Zones, which combined public funds raised through an increase in the state’s education tax with private donations.

“There’s the Community Link Foundation, which in essence utilizes consumer spending to fund education,” said Hugh Fitzpatrick, president of Princeton Capital Management and a co-author of one of the reports, adding that the CLF negotiates with credit and debit card companies to allow consumers to receive rebates on purchases that can be donated to the charity of their choice.

Financing on Outcomes

A fourth recommendation from the report is using outcomes-based models, like social impact bonds or Pay for Success programs and income-sharing agreements.

“They’re designed to shift risk away from students,” said Audrey Peek, a researcher at the American Institutes for Research and a co-author of one of the papers. “In an income-share agreement, a student might receive $10,000 up front, and in return they agree to pay a percentage of their income for a determined period of time after graduation. If a student is less successful, they end up paying less than $10,000. Both outcomes are OK.”

Purdue University has an income-share agreement program known as Back-a-Boiler, with terms varying based on the student’s major and the amount they have to repay capped at 2.5 times the size of the original amount.

The Federal Role

Promise programs gained national attention when President Obama announced America’s College Promise -- a proposal that would have made two years of community college free nationally if states pledged to cover part of the bill.

But the report argues that the federal government shouldn’t explicitly support promise programs, as that could create a bureaucracy that chooses winners and losers.

“We see the goal as increasing access and success, not necessarily in getting a zero price,” said Sandy Baum, a senior fellow in the education policy program at the Urban Institute and a co-author of the report on the federal government’s role in promise programs.

The federal focus should instead be on incentivizing states to stabilize their postsecondary funding and support colleges and students, according to the report.

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Essay seeking to shape British conservative policy calls for higher level of educational attainment

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 07:00

Britain should set a target for 70 percent of young people to enter higher education, according to an influential higher education policy expert.

Nick Hillman’s proposal in A New Blue Book is likely to prove controversial with a sizable chunk of the Conservative Party, whose policies the publication aims to influence.

Hillman is director of the Higher Education Policy Institute -- although his book chapter is written in a personal capacity -- as well as being a former adviser to David Willetts in his time as a Conservative universities minister, and a former Conservative parliamentary candidate in Cambridge.

“In the context of Brexit, which may mean a reduction in the supply of highly skilled migrants, and rising life expectancy … we should be planning ahead to increase the time spent in education,” Hillman writes.

“A target of around 70 percent participation by 2035 should not be unachievable. That may sound ambitious, but it is a comparable trajectory to in the past and, as South Korea, Russia and Canada have all achieved participation way ahead of ours, it can surely be done.”

Figures released by the Department for Education in September showed the provisional higher education initial participation rate for 2015-16 was 49 percent, an increase of 1.4 percentage points on the previous year. The HEIPR covers 17- to 30-year-old English participants at British higher and further education institutions. However, the statistical release suggested that enrollment at alternative providers may add 1.5 percentage points to the figure -- pushing it over the 50 percent target set by the Labour government in 1999.

Asked by Times Higher Education why further expansion was needed, Hillman said the “needs of the economy are likely to mean a need for more high-level skills."

He noted that many professions where a degree was previously not required -- including teaching, nursing and policing -- have evolved to become graduate professions as the nature of work changed.

In his essay, Hillman notes that when former Prime Minister Tony Blair set the 50 percent participation target, “Conservatives spluttered into their coffee, opposed the target and then promised, at the 2005 general election, to send fewer people to university as a way of funding the abolition of tuition fees.”

Although the mainstream of the Conservative Party has largely swung behind expansion since then, some voices in the party remain opposed.

Hillman told Times Higher Education that while there were critics of expansion across the political spectrum, “it does sometimes seem a particularly difficult issue for people on the right.” He suggested this may be because “at its worst, right-wing politics can sink into a ‘them and us’ attitude” in which higher education was deemed as being the territory of the middle classes, while some Tory MPs represented constituencies with high participation rates and hence saw little merit in expansion.

But Hillman said that “if we’re going to help those other parts of the country,” that would either mean fewer places for richer students “or more places over all.”

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Colleges award tenure

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 07:00

Naval Postgraduate School

  • Mie Augier, business and public policy
  • Kathryn Aten, business and public policy
  • Naazneen Barma, national security
  • Jesse Cunha, business and public policy
  • Latika Hartmann, business and public policy
  • Bradley Strawser, defense analysis
  • Ryan Sullivan, business and public policy
  • Preetha Thulasiraman, electrical and computer engineering

University of Hawaii at Hilo

  • Celia Bardwell-Jones, philosophy
  • Jiren Feng, Chinese
  • Rodney Jubilado, Filipino studies
  • Marina Karides, philosophy
  • Rene Martin, astronomy.
  • Andrew Polloi,counseling services

West Liberty University

  • Keith Bell, criminal justice
  • Lihua Chen, business management
  • Craig Crow, business management
  • Leann DiAndreth-Elkins, education 
  • Dominique Hoche, English
  • Angela Rehbein, English
  • Anna Stephan-Robinson, music
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