Higher Education News

Research suggests that students may make more academic progress by focusing on task-oriented goals than on grades

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 08/01/2017 - 07:00

If a student wants to earn an A in a class, the best way to do that might not involve concentrating on the grade at all.

Instead, students should set their goals on the shorter-term, more tangible parts of a class -- committing to doing homework, showing up to a certain number of classes or dedicating a set time for exam preparation -- according to a working paper (abstract available here) from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The paper’s authors measured two types of goal setting, performance based and task based. After surveying close to 4,000 college students in two field experiments, they found that performance-based goals -- setting a goal to earn a certain grade in the class used for the survey -- didn’t have a statistically significant effect on whether a student actually got that grade. But when students set their goals on the tasks required to earn those grades, they performed better over all, even though that wasn’t explicitly their goal.

“If you take the view that students don’t have the self-control to study as much as they want to, then something like goal setting is going to be effective,” said Victoria Prowse, one of the authors of the paper and an associate professor in the economics department at Purdue University.

The study was born out of the idea to look at ways to motivate students to do better academically, Prowse said. Financial incentives -- such as tying financial aid to grade point averages, or rewarding students financially for certain grades -- are inherently expensive and hard to do at scale. Goal setting, on the other hand, is easier and cheaper to replicate, which makes finding effective ways to do it all the more important, Prowse said.

“Performance goals are maybe the most obvious goals you could set. Students want to get an A or an A-minus,” Prowse said. “If we want successful changes in our classrooms … we want to be focusing that goal setting on input rather than output.”

Ultimately, the authors propose potential changes to the organization of universities in light of their study. The paper names ways for courses and academic advising services to design themselves around task-based goal setting in an effort to help students more effectively.

“In a fully online course, it would be especially easy to incorporate task-based goal setting into the technology used to deliver course content,” the paper reads. “For example, students could be invited to set goals for the number of end-of-module questions they will answer correctly before progressing to the next module.”

The students surveyed were undergraduates in an on-campus, four-credit, semester-long class at an unnamed public university. The class was “well established prior to [the] study” and requires a C or better to graduate with a degree in the subject. In the task-based group, students were asked to set a goal for the number of online practice exams they would do as part of their preparation for the midterm and final exams.

In the performance-based group, on the other hand, students set goals for the letter grades they wanted to get in the course as a whole, as well as on the midterm and final exams. While both groups performed better than the control group, the performance-based group’s results were not statistically significant.

“Numerous studies in educational psychology report noncausal correlational evidence which suggests that performance-based goal setting has strong positive effects on performance,” the paper reads. “Another contribution of our paper is to cast doubt on this correlational evidence using our experimental finding that performance-based goals have small and statistically insignificant effects on performance.”

Prowse said that when students set performance-based goals, it’s possible that they don’t really know what work needs to be done to reach that goal. Task-based goals, on the other hand, are more tangible. And by putting in the work to do certain tasks related to homework and studying, the students went on to earn better grades.

“They really want to get an A, but they don’t know what to do to get an A,” she said of students who use performance-based goals. “With task-based goals, we can kind of steer a student toward actually putting in effort on activities which could be rewarding in some sense to their performance.”

Important caveats to the study are that task-based goal setting is, generally, more effective for male students than their female peers, and that it’s more effective for helping students who are already doing well than low-achieving students, Prowse said.

“There’s quite a lot of research in psychology, and in particular in educational psychology, that shows that male students might have more self-control problems than female students,” she said. “So the female students, in a way, are already managing themselves pretty well.”

That goal setting isn’t as effective for low-achieving students is one of the limits of the study -- it’s not a panacea for every student.

“It helps students be more likely to get an A, or an A-minus, or even a B-plus,” Prowse said. “You might think they’re kind of low-hanging fruit, the students who are struggling getting C’s and D’s -- these goals are really pushing students up to get the best grades rather than helping low-achieving student.”

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National U experiment combines multiple pieces of personalized learning

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 08/01/2017 - 07:00

National University is working to create a personalized education platform that combines three of the buzziest innovations in higher education -- adaptive learning, competency-based learning and predictive analytics for student retention.

The California-based nonprofit university is spending $20 million on the four-year project, with a goal of using the new platform in 20 general education courses by next year. If successful, the university said the approach could apply to a broader swath of academic programs.

“How do we create a university that truly tries to adapt to the needs of its students?” said David Andrews, National’s president. “We have to have a better model for serving adult students.”

The urgency Andrews describes might seem surprising for a university that for decades has been structured with the nontraditional, working adult student in mind. The average age of its roughly 30,000 students is 32, and just 50 are of the first-time, full-time variety. A majority are women and a quarter are veterans of the U.S. military.

National, which has 28 campus locations in California, Nevada and Washington State, is considered a pioneer in online education. About 60 percent of students attend online. And the university was one of the first to allow students to enroll each month, rather than on a semester system.

But the monthly start format is no longer innovative, said Andrews, as a growing number of colleges have borrowed from the playbook of the University of Phoenix and other early entrants into the adult-serving market.

National’s board brought in Andrews last year in part to lead the $20 million project. He previously was dean and professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education. He was also the founding dean of Ohio State University’s College of Education and Human Ecology.

“I’ve tried just about every type of institution, with the exception of a community college,” he said.

Several experts said National appears to be one of the first to try to incorporate adaptive, predictive analytics and competency-based approaches with the same courses.

Loosely defined, adaptive learning is a form of courseware that adjusts automatically to individual students’ abilities and progress. Predictive analytics involves the use of data to help faculty members, advisers and students themselves stay on track, such as through triggering early-warning alerts when a student slips. Competency-based education programs drop conventional grading and break courses and credits into competencies that must be mastered.

National said it is exploring other emerging forms of personalized learning as part of the project, including first-course screening assessments and microbadging.

In addition, the university last month created a research and development arm, dubbed the Precision Institute, which will lead the project and support faculty members to study its progress. The university will make that research publicly available.

“We will be bringing in research fellows from around the country,” said Andrews. “We don’t just want this to be benefiting National students.”

More to Follow?

Phil Hill, an education technology consultant, said a key to whether the project succeeds is how well National grasps the challenges it’s trying to overcome.

“There’s a huge risk that you don’t understand the problem,” he said, referring to the challenge of designing academic programs around adult learners. Hill also wondered about National’s heavy focus on technological solutions. “Will they truly learn and adjust as they go along?”

While Hill was skeptical, citing the many buzzwords National used in announcing the work, he said the experiment is worth watching. “It’s definitely interesting. It’s a relatively large university that appears to be going all in on personalized learning.”

Mark Milliron, the co-founder and chief learning officer at Civitas, which has partnered with the university, said few academic programs include the range of emerging technologies and approaches National is pursuing.

“Those innovations tend to be done in silos,” he said, but he predicted that would change. “That’s the next phase for a lot of people.”

Milliron describes adaptive courseware and what Civitas does in somewhat similar terms. He said “pathway” analytics, like those Civitas offers, are designed to help students better devise a path to and through an academic program. Learning analytics are focused more on course work.

National’s attempt to put all the pieces together won’t be easy, Milliron said, particularly the competency-based part. That’s because competency-based learning tends to require approval from accreditors and to challenge the typical faculty role. Financial aid accounting also can be a challenge for those programs.

“The traditional higher education system is set up to be semester based,” he said. “That’s how the infrastructure grew up.”

Andrews agreed, adding that completion rates can be a challenge in competency-based programs, because of the flexibility they give students to progress through a program at their own pace.

The role of faculty members will be different in the pilot’s initial batch of 20 general education courses, said Andrews. For one thing, participating instructors have been asked to find three to five sources of open educational resources for each “microcompetency.”

Andrews is working on this himself, for competencies he will teach in the pilot. Instructors will track the efficacy of course material, adjusting it based on what they see.

“We think we can bend the price point” by using OER, he said. “We’re trying to create as much variety in those choices as possible.”

If National succeeds in creating a new iteration of its adult student-oriented degree programs, Hill said it won’t be the first time the university has been on the leading edge.

“They were among the real innovators to meet diverse learning needs,” he said.

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Higher ed mergers are difficult, likely to grow in popularity, speakers say

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 08/01/2017 - 07:00

MINNEAPOLIS -- Mounting fiscal pressures on higher education institutions would seem to have created a ripe environment for mergers between colleges and universities, yet many administrators remain unconvinced such deals will actually happen.

Listen to those who have completed or considered mergers, and it's not hard to see why leaders are skeptical. The process is fraught with difficulty.

Still, the idea that more mergers are coming has persisted. The topic was explored in depth Monday at the National Association of College and University Business Officers annual meeting. A panel offered different perspectives from leaders who have guided their institutions through completed mergers within a university system, one whose private institution was absorbed by a much larger public university, and one whose public university decided not to go forward with acquiring a private college.

Their general consensus was that mergers are extremely difficult, but they are likely to take place in increasing numbers in the future. That means high risks and high potential rewards.

“Trustees don't know how to manage this; university administrators don't know how to manage this,” said Allen Morrison, chief executive officer and director general of the Thunderbird School of Global Management, which in 2014 agreed to become a part of Arizona State University after a controversial deal that would have had it acquired by the for-profit Laureate Education chain fell through.

“And yet it is happening and it needs to happen,” continued Morrison, who joined Thunderbird in late 2014 when the deal with Arizona State was finalized. “If it is managed properly, it can be incredibly positive for all the parties involved. But if it just is left to fumble along, we're going to have some real serious issues.”

The NACUBO panel spoke days after Inside Higher Ed released its annual Survey of College and University Business Officers, finding some interest in mergers but skepticism that they will actually happen. One in eight chief business officers said senior administrators at their institutions had serious internal discussions about merging with another college or university in the last year. But about nine in 10 said mergers were not likely.

Monday's panel discussion started with an overview of trends that seem to point to more mergers in the future than have happened in the past, however. Pressure from falling enrollments is building on small institutions with fewer than 1,000 students, said Kasia Lundy, managing director of Parthenon-EY, a consulting firm within Ernst & Young. The number of U.S. higher education transactions in the mergers and acquisitions category has gone from 12 in the 2000s to 22 between 2010 and 2017, she said.

“We are now on track, I think, to have three times as many mergers in this decade as we had in the previous decade,” she said.

Reasons for institutions to merge are many. They can save money by becoming larger organizations. Large institutions might want to acquire smaller ones if it adds to the depth or breadth of their operations. Merging into larger institutions can also give small colleges the protection of a better-known brand name or additional institutional resources with which to improve their performance.

Panelists warned that the merger process is extremely long. Leaders can expect it to take between one and three years. And if they perform proper due diligence, they might find that, despite the time and energy invested in a deal, the best move is to walk away.

Salem State University made the decision to walk away from a merger it had been exploring with Montserrat College of Art in 2015. Leaders said at the time that the numbers “just didn't work.”

Karen House, the vice president for finance and business at Salem State, did not elaborate Monday on the public university's reasons for not acquiring the private art college. She said the deal was attractive because the art college drew more students from out of state than did Salem State and because of its quality programs. Leaders also wanted the art college to succeed for the sake of their shared region in Massachusetts.

Salem State leaders looked at the corporate world and at other cases in higher education to try to find a template for evaluating and carrying out a merger, House said. They found little that was applicable because of the lack of historic M&A action in higher education and because the for-profit world is very different. As a result, university leaders in many ways created their own process and learned lessons from it.

For example, they did not identify a set of criteria they would use to make their decision early in the evaluation process, House said. Laying out the factors that would lead them to say yes or no to a deal at an early date would have made the entire evaluation more efficient, she said.

The process included a steering committee with top leaders from both institutions, as well as two trustees from each side. The committee met regularly to exchange information. It eventually was led by a part-time project manager, and the sides evaluated seven years’ worth of financial statements.

Trustees played a critical role in the final decision. Administrators had invested enough time and energy in the prospective deal that they had a difficult time evaluating it. Trustees supported the idea but also challenged administrators to prove it was the right move.

“They were aware there was this really immediate desire to get to yes,” House said. “At one point they said, and it was a caution, ‘Be careful that the vortex of the deal doesn’t draw you in. You really need to make the right decision for the right reasons.’”

The University System of Georgia, on the other hand, has completed a dizzying number of mergers between its institutions. In 2010 it had 35 institutions, including roughly 10 in parts of the state where the population of 15- to 24-year-olds was projected to decline. So the system embarked on a series of mergers that had it combining administrations -- but not closing campuses. It has 28 institutions today and expects to be down to 26 in January, said Chancellor Steve Wrigley.

The system has proceeded with the clear goal of serving students better, Wrigley said. That meant asking how to meet students' needs and raise attainment levels -- questions that conflict with the impulse some state systems feel to protect local interests.

“Those are different questions than how do we protect our institutions,” Wrigley said. “And you get very different answers about policies and budget decisions and allocations and directions when you ask those kinds of questions.”

It wasn't easy, of course. When the university system pursued its first set of four mergers, it laid out an aggressive timeline of consolidating institutions within 18 months so that it could meet accreditor timelines and federal financial aid deadlines.

Challenges included identity issues on campuses and consolidating student populations with different levels of college readiness, said Shelley Nickel, the university system's executive vice chancellor for strategy and fiscal affairs. Blending institutional missions and culture was also difficult.

“This does not happen in 18 months, believe me,” Nickel said. “That's something that goes on for years and years.”

Officials estimate the university system has saved $24 million through its consolidations. They say the money has been redirected to student success initiatives, like advising, in order to try to raise retention and graduation rates.

Ultimately, Nickel said, every consolidation is different. Leaders learn something new with each set of institutions they consolidate. They have learned to have certain details in place when announcing a consolidation -- including the new institution's name and its president. Another lesson is that transparency through the process is key.

“These are people's lives that you're dealing with,” Nickel said. “They want to know where they're going to end up on the org chart, and you need to think about that in the decisions that you make.”

Morrison, of Thunderbird, recommended engaging a broad group of stakeholders during the merger process. Alumni are an important part of an institution. So are donors. It's a leadership challenge, he said.

“The consequence of these things will be highly impactful,” he said. “It impacts things like the endowment -- what do you do about the endowment -- and you have people who have given the institution often millions and millions of dollars that have buildings named after them. How do you engage them in this discussion?”

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Study: Many community college students struggle with access to food

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 08/01/2017 - 07:00

Some community college students have struggled with access to food -- a previously documented trend that has now been quantified on a national scale in a new report released Tuesday.

The issue of food insecurity -- defined as reduced quality of diet and access to nutrition -- has slowly surfaced as a more prominent national health concern and prompted some legislative debate, both in the states and federally. This is the first study that attempts to capture the national scope of the problem on college campuses. The new study finds that 13 percent of students at community colleges experienced food insecurity in 2015. That figure is far below the estimate in a much-discussed study released in March, but researchers say that the 13 percent figure should be cause for alarm.

The Urban Institute, a left-leaning think tank, relied on a data from a national survey conducted monthly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Current Population Survey allowed researchers to consider those households with college students.

The Urban Institute collaborated with two professors and the Brookings Institution to try to determine the pervasiveness of food insecurity. The researchers found that the situation was even worse during the economic downturn that started in 2008. From that year through 2014, an average of roughly 21 percent of those households with community colleges indicated that they couldn’t access proper food all the time.

“The economy was in a really bad place for a long time there,” said Diane Schanzenbach, one of the researchers and a senior fellow at Brookings. “Unfortunately, you’ve got so many people locked into expenses. You have to pay a certain amount on rent -- you can’t cut back on rent -- so one of the only things you’ve got that is flexible is food, and that’s not a great place to cut back.”

Schanzenbach urged a national conversation on the obstacles that food-insecure community college students must overcome simply to learn the skills necessary to enter the job market -- some students balance child care and full-time work, and finding lunch shouldn’t be an additional barrier, she said.

As also noted in the report, remedies for this problem must be targeted and retooled depending on the institution, whether it’s located somewhere rural or urban, Schanzenbach said.

Various congressional committees handle different aspects of these problems, and so forming a commission specific to food insecurity would perhaps be beneficial, she said.

One option would be to re-evaluate government assistance for food -- the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known now as SNAP, previously the Food Stamp Program -- which is only available to college students who work 20 hours a week or participate in Federal Work-Study, Schanzenbach said.

The study suggests lowering the minimum number of hours required to work to be eligible for benefits -- a potentially crucial change for community college students, many of whom are enrolled part-time.

Other researchers said they believe the study understates the problem.

Students are much more mobile than in previous generations, said Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University and the founder of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab. Some may be homeless, and others can’t be tied to a household for some other reason. As a result, the Urban Institute's approach wouldn't capture these students.

Goldrick-Rab helped conduct the March study of food insecurity that involved individual surveys of community college populations. It generated buzz but did not capture a nationally representative sample of students. That study included 33,000 students at 70 community colleges across 24 states, and it showed about two-thirds of them struggle with food insecurity. This was a fraction of those who were offered the survey, a total of 750,000 students. (Note: While the March study found that 67 percent of respondents were food insecure, 56 percent is a better comparison figure to the Urban Institute study. That's because the 67 percent finding included students who reported "marginal" food security, a category the new study did not include in its overall figure for food-insecure students.)

“If it were possible to use this type of national data, we would have,” Goldrick-Rab said, adding that while she was thrilled additional research was being done, it should not trump existing studies.

Kristin Blagg, a research associate with the Urban Institute, called Goldrick-Rab’s concerns “valid.”

“I agree that we need better, nationally representative data on this issue,” she said via email.

In part, the study also tried to identify which students grapple with this issue the most, said Blagg. Black students attending two-year institutions and those who were unemployed suffered the highest rates of food insecurity. Blagg said this study can be built upon with additional research.

Estimates from the new report are likely conservative, said Katharine Broton, an incoming assistant professor of higher education at the University of Iowa, also an affiliate of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab.

She said though leaders in higher education recognize the challenges concerning food and nutrition on their campuses, lawmakers do not always -- she said she’s pleased that it’s receiving more widespread attention. Broton mentioned a proposal by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab to expand to higher education the federal National School Lunch Program, which provides free or reduced-price meals to students in K-12 schools.

Wick Sloane, an Inside Higher Ed columnist who also teaches at Bunker Hill Community College, said in an interview he appreciates these sorts of studies because they reflect the problems he and his colleagues see on college campuses.

“To us, this is a big deal -- a national study,” Sloane said.

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Recent scandals show leaders failing to navigate acceptable behavior standards against changing mores

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 07/31/2017 - 07:00

Successful people in power sometimes behave badly -- in both their professional capacities and in their personal lives.

The last few weeks in higher education provide two prominent examples. The head football coach at the University of Mississippi resigned July 20 after a call from his mobile phone to an escort service was revealed. The University of Southern California took steps to fire its former medical school dean from the faculty after allegations came to light that he repeatedly used hard drugs and socialized with a group of much younger people, some of whom had criminal backgrounds and one of whom overdosed in his presence.

In both cases, the universities acted after outside parties brought leaders’ behavior to light. The two situations raised questions about the universities’ priorities and processes. They also put the institutions' ethical and moral standards for their leaders under scrutiny.

Those standards aren’t always clear, especially in a time when social mores are rapidly changing and the line between professional and personal life seems to be ever blurring. Nor are they always consistent between different jobs at different institutions in various parts of the country.

But the fact remains that moral standards do exist for leaders in higher education. And the cases of those who run afoul of accepted behavior are an important reflection of those standards in a world where messy and unclear morality is often obscured further by the temptations of money and success.

Mississippi Coach Called Out

Situations involving leaders who are said to have violated moral or ethical standards often come with a large share of twists and turns. The case of the University of Mississippi and its head football coach, Hugh Freeze, is no exception.

Freeze had coached the Ole Miss football team since the end of 2011, a time period that included a win in the lucrative Sugar Bowl in 2016. But the NCAA has also been investigating the university and its football program under a wide-ranging infractions case. It delivered a notice of allegations Jan. 22, 2016.

The way the university and its football program reacted to the NCAA investigation is at the center of a lawsuit filed by its previous football coach, Houston Nutt. The lawsuit, filed this month, alleges Ole Miss athletics officials carried out a “misinformation campaign” over several years to mislead the media, boosters and recruiting prospects about the nature of the NCAA investigation’s targets. The strategy, the suit alleges, was to have off-the-record conversations with journalists to say that most of the NCAA’s allegations were targeted at Nutt and his staff instead of Freeze. The strategy escalated, with Freeze courting “the entire 2016 recruiting class under false and misleading pretenses,” the lawsuit says. It claims the university violated its severance agreement with Nutt, which prevents the institution from making statements that could damage the coach’s reputation.

Nutt’s lawyer gathered phone records in an attempt to prove Freeze and other university officials contacted journalists. In the process, he, along with the help of a researcher who is a fan of the Ole Miss rival Mississippi State, found a one-minute call from Freeze's university-issued mobile phone to an escort service in January 2016. At one point he emailed the university’s general counsel, suggesting a deeper examination of the phone records because of a call that would be “highly embarrassing for all of you and extremely difficult to explain.”

Nutt's lawyer would spread word of the phone call to the media, explaining the move by saying the lawsuit was in federal court, not “junior high school,” according to Yahoo Sports.

University officials said they determined Freeze’s phone had never called that number at any other time, initially labeling it a dialing mistake. But they looked at the rest of Freeze’s phone records, finding what Ole Miss Athletic Director Ross Bjork called a “pattern of conduct that is not consistent with our expectations.”

Freeze resigned without a buyout or settlement. A university spokesman contacted for additional comment referred to a July 20 press conference at which university officials announced the coach's departure. Officials said at that press conference that Freeze’s privacy is important and that they would protect information regarding his pattern of behavior.

“While Coach Freeze served our university well in many regards during his tenure, we simply cannot accept the conduct in his personal life that we have discovered,” Mississippi Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. Officials cited no additional allegations related to Freeze's management of the football program in the case. In fact, they specifically said his departure had nothing to do with the NCAA investigation.

Freeze told USA Today Wednesday that “God is good, even in difficult times.”

Officials also said at the press conference announcing Freeze's departure that if he had not resigned, they would have terminated him under a clause in his contract for “moral turpitude.”

Moral Turpitude

While moral turpitude may sound like a Victorian-era label, it’s a term that frequently appears in contracts and state law. But it carries a definition that is by no means standardized.

Moral turpitude is normally, but not always, defined by court decisions in a particular state, said Raymond D. Cotton, a Washington-based lawyer who represents boards and presidents in contract negotiations. When it is included in a university employment contract, moral turpitude isn’t always defined. It’s often included alongside a laundry list of other undesirable behavior, like fraud, misrepresentation or plagiarism.

Moral turpitude can also come up in cases of faculty dismissal. The American Association of University Professors recommends faculty who are dismissed for cause receive either notice or salary -- unless moral turpitude is involved.

The AAUP’s 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure identifies moral turpitude as an exceptional case in which a professor may be denied a year’s teaching or pay. It applies to behavior that goes beyond warranting a discharge and is “so utterly blameworthy as to make it inappropriate to require the offering of a year’s teaching or pay.”

The standard is not that moral sensibilities in a particular community have been broken, AAUP documents show. It is behavior that would bring condemnation from the faculty.

Moral turpitude is also in the AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure. Faculty handbooks at colleges and universities often incorporate moral turpitude for cases of faculty dismissal.

When Cotton is representing boards of trustees who are hiring presidents, he always tries to write in a moral turpitude clause, he said. It gives trustees more power in a situation where they feel a leader has violated standards of behavior.

“I want to put it in the hands of the board,” he said.

Still, courts have stated that moral turpitude is “an elusive concept incapable of precise definition.” Experts generally agree its definition is likely to change over time.

“Take Colorado,” Cotton said. “Five years ago, smoking marijuana on the street could be defined as an act of moral turpitude. Not today. It’s legal.”

Several experts likened moral turpitude to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous “I know it when I see it” definition of hard-core pornography in 1964. But some resisted labeling the term as a simple catchall in a contract.

“I think it’s impossible in a contract or in a policy to describe every form of potential misconduct,” said Ann Franke, the president of Wise Results, a consulting firm that addresses legal issues and risk management. “Moral turpitude draws a line. It’s a line that sets off extremely bad behavior from sort of normally bad behavior.”

Franke hasn’t seen many struggles play out at universities over what does and does not constitute moral turpitude. Someone charged with a moral turpitude violation has typically done something significant, she said.

“That individual would run additional reputational risk if they were to sue the institution saying it was only pretty bad, it wasn’t horribly bad,” Franke said. “That’s not a lawsuit that a lot of people would be eager to bring against a former employer.”

Franke didn’t comment on specific cases. But she acknowledged there is often a tension between the urge of a college or university to help a leader who may have behavioral health issues and its need to have leaders that its board, faculty and students trust.

“In higher education there is often a laudable impulse to try to assist people and help them grow and overcome problems,” she said. “Knowing when that approach is inappropriate or no longer applicable can be challenging.”

Yet some criticized the term “moral turpitude” as harking back to a bygone era of rigid standards for behavior.

“The whole notion of moral turpitude has a very mixed history,” said Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at New York University who edited The Ethics of Sport (Oxford University Press). “It’s a quaint, antiquated concept, a 19th-century agreement about how gentlemen -- I’ll use that term purposefully -- behave.”

Caplan does not oppose the idea of a policy intended to ensure officials uphold others' trust, Caplan said. But he’s not sure the term “moral turpitude” is specific enough to be effective. The distinction between what is acceptable in personal and professional life could probably be laid out more clearly in most cases, he said.

Definitions of morality become tricky in a world of evolving standards, Caplan said. He also pointed out that in the world of college athletics, different people are held to different standards. He gave the example of a benchwarmer being more likely to lose his scholarship after a bar fight than a star quarterback would be.

The idea can easily be extended to coaches and university officials.

Money talks, but so does success, Caplan said. Right or wrong, what boosters and donors are thinking can matter when it comes to defining what an institution views as unacceptable behavior.

“It matters when you’re trying to placate a board that has a lot of tensions around gender equity on it versus a bunch of boys who love that football program,” Caplan said. “It’s fairly interesting that those who control access to the top positions -- boards and trustees -- they actually at the end of the day end up setting the standard for moral turpitude.”

Doctors and Drugs

Another situation unfolding that lays bare questions of morality, money and power among high-ranking university officials is that of the University of Southern California and its former medical school dean.

That dean, Carmen Puliafito, was an eye surgeon with a good reputation. He was well regarded for raising money and improving the medical school’s rankings and profile since he took over about a decade ago. Press photographs show him at swanky events posing with celebrities.

Then the Los Angeles Times published an explosive story July 17 saying the 66-year-old Puliafito “kept company with a circle of criminals and drug users who said he used methamphetamine and other drugs with them” in 2015 and 2016.

The story described photographs and videos the newspaper said it reviewed. In one, a tuxedo-wearing Puliafito was said to swallow an orange pill he described as ecstasy. In another, he was said to use a butane torch to heat a glass pipe outfitted for methamphetamine use before inhaling and exhaling white smoke, while a woman sitting next to him was said to smoke heroin. Some photos reportedly showed Puliafito's associates in late-night visits to the dean’s office at the USC Health Sciences Campus in Boyle Heights holding drug paraphernalia.

Puliafito was also said to have written prescriptions for asthma inhalers for his associates to help their lungs, which were irritated from smoking methamphetamine and marijuana.

Puliafito resigned as dean -- a post with a $1.1 million annual salary -- in March 2016. He told the Times the next month that he resigned so he could pursue a biotech job.

Three weeks before his resignation, he was present in a Pasadena hotel room when a 21-year-old woman overdosed. A police report said officers found methamphetamine in the hotel room, but they did not make arrests. The incident was not exposed until the Times report.

The woman told the Times she and Puliafito had been partying a the hotel for two days when the overdose occurred. She said after she woke up in the hospital, Puliafito picked her up and they returned to a hotel room to continue “the party,” the Times reported. She also told the newspaper she was working as a prostitute in 2015 when she first met Puliafito.

After he left the role of dean, Puliafito remained on the medical school faculty and was said to be accepting new patients at campus eye clinics when the Times story was published.

The story's publication set off a two-week period of public back-and-forth between the newspaper and USC. The university put out statements reacting to the situation and explaining itself. The Times published articles calling the university's actions and explanations into doubt.

After the story was published, the university announced Puliafito had been placed on leave from the school of medicine and that he was not seeing patients. In a July 18 letter posted by the university, president C. L. Max Nikias said USC condemns the unlawful use or distribution of drugs. It also expressed concern about Puliafito.

“Unfortunately, the issue of substance abuse is not uncommon and impacts individuals at all levels of society,” the letter said. “Reports of high-powered executives, doctors and others with substance abuse issues have become all too common -- individuals who function in their workplace but have serious issues affecting their private lives. We understand the frustrations expressed about this situation, and we want to assure our community that we are taking all of the proper steps to examine and address it. More broadly, we are working to determine how we can best prevent these kinds of circumstances moving forward.”

On July 21, Provost Michael W. Quick wrote another letter saying the university had been given access to information on Puliafito’s behavior. That day was the first time it saw the information firsthand, Quick wrote. In response, the university started the process of terminating Puliafito’s employment and stripping him of tenure.

The same day, Nikias posted another letter saying the university had hired a law firm to investigate Puliafito’s conduct, the university’s response and its policies and procedures.

“We are outraged and disgusted by this individual’s behavior,” Nikias wrote. “It runs counter to our values and everything for which our university stands.”

Two days later, the Los Angeles Times posted another article pushing back against the idea that USC officials had only recently learned about Puliafito's alleged drug use. The newspaper repeatedly inquired about the dean over 15 months, it said, sometimes describing information reporters had gathered. The Times wrote about a series of emails sent and phone calls made to officials including Puliafito, a senior vice president for university relations and the university's president, Nikias. In one case, a reporter delivered a sealed note requesting an interview about the matter to Nikias's home, only to have the note returned, unopened, the next day by courier with a letter from the university's vice president for public relations and marketing saying the reporter had crossed the line. The article went on to quote medical ethicists who said USC had a duty to investigate allegations against Puliafito right away, even if they were incomplete, because of his position as a medical professional and leader.

The negative headlines kept coming. A Times column published July 26 brought up the case of former USC head football coach Steve Sarkisian, who was fired after the newspaper investigated his alcohol use at a previous job. It was titled “Yet Another USC Scandal Requires Blunt Talk About Money Culture and Values on Campus.” It quoted an anonymous USC physician who said he hopes the president does not keep his job over the handling of the situation but ultimately expressed skepticism because “money wins out.”

A Times editorial argued the full story about Puliafito should have come out last year, because an anonymous witness had called Nikias’s office and told two employees about the overdose for which Puliafito was present shortly after it happened. That same source called the newspaper, causing it to investigate over the next 15 months. The editorial said the Times repeatedly made phone calls and sent emails to USC leaders in an attempt to discuss allegations, only to be ignored or rebuffed.

“A reporter even hand delivered a letter to Nikias’s home, asking to discuss the circumstances of Puliafito’s resignation,” the editorial said. “The letter was returned to the Times by courier, along with a letter of complaint from USC’s vice president for public relations, who said the reporter ‘crossed the line’ by taking a letter to Nikias’s house. How, then, can USC leaders be taken seriously when they feign shock and outrage at the Puliafito story?”

Contacted Friday, the university answered questions from Inside Higher Ed by referring to past letters posted by USC’s leaders. One of them was a July 26 letter from Nikias saying he was forming a task force to address questions raised by the organization. “We could have done better,” he wrote.

“As a result of this recent incident, it is clear to us now that the university currently has only loosely defined procedures and guidelines for dealing with employee behavior outside the workplace that may be improper or illegal and has the capacity to affect USC,” it said. “And, presently, the university has very limited capacity to conduct investigations and follow up on leads or anonymous reports of such employee behavior.”

Then Saturday, the Times published another article after Nikias sent an additional letter to the USC campus late Friday. In that letter, the president said the university had in fact received complaints about Puliafito when he was dean. Puliafito had been disciplined and received professional development coaching, Nikias wrote.

The provost, Quick, had placed Puliafito on notice for being disengaged in 2015, the letter said. In March 2016, two USC employees told the provost Puliafito was even more removed from his duties. That prompted officials to confront Puliafito, who then resigned and was placed on sabbatical.

Nikias wrote that at the time, university leaders were unaware of illegal or illicit activities. He went on to say a communications staff member received an "unsubstantiated tip" about the Pasadena hotel incident in the fall of 2016. Officials asked Puliafito about the incident, and he said a friend's daughter had overdosed and he accompanied her to the hospital, the letter said.

The president also acknowledged that the Times this March provided the university with questions and a copy of a 911 recording from the Pasadena hotel incident. The university referred the recording to a committee that assesses clinical competency, which found no existing patient care complaints or known clinical issues.

That investigation was reopened after the Times published its first report on Puliafito this month, Nikias wrote. The Medical Board of California also started an investigation into the allegations the report contained. And the university moved to fire the former dean.

“In my view, we acted when we felt we had the information necessary to act, and then we acted decisively,” Nikias wrote.

Sunday the Times published a piece saying that medical school employees had complained repeatedly about Puliafito, his temper, his publicly humiliating colleagues and what they perceived as him having a drinking problem. The piece said that Nikias's Friday letter was sent after USC had been contacted by the newspaper about the story it planned for Sunday.

The Times interviewed current and former university employees for the piece. It also reviewed letters of complaint from 2012, when the university was evaluating the dean and preparing to give him another contract.

One of the letters said Puliafito had alienated faculty and created a “siege mentality” in which employees were worried about their welfare, according to the Times.

Puliafito submitted a 19-page self-evaluation. He pointed out that he had raised more than $500 million and recruited prominent researchers, the Times reported.

Despite complaints, USC reappointed Puliafito to a new five-year term in 2012, the newspaper wrote.

At least some complaints reached USC upper management, according to the Times. Among numerous examples, it said one unnamed senior faculty member reported calling the provost's offices after Puliafito appeared intoxicated during an encounter.

The Sunday report also quoted an admissions dean who said she left her job because she could not work under Puliafito. An unnamed administrator was quoted saying that Puliafito was often absent during working hours in 2015 and 2016.

It is not clear what mechanism the university is using to fire Puliafito.

USC’s Faculty Handbook does cover moral turpitude. The handbook lists moral turpitude as adequate grounds for faculty dismissal alongside violations like neglect of duty, incompetence, violations of academic freedom, misconduct and unmanaged conflicts of interest.

Consequences of Violated Trust

The boundaries of acceptable behavior aren’t always clear until they’re crossed. But some are clearer than others, even if acceptable behavior is more of a fuzzy spectrum than a series of bright lines -- smoking methamphetamine is not the same thing as smoking marijuana, which is not the same thing as drinking a martini.

Regardless, once the boundaries are crossed, the USC situation serves as a reminder that the fallout can be damaging to leaders up the food chain.

The argument can be made that Puliafito’s behavior broke moral standards. One can also be made that USC leadership broke the community’s trust in the way it reacted.

Negative press has been flooding in from across the country. Nikias’s job could be in jeopardy. And faculty have been roiled.

Paul Rosenbloom is a computer science professor who is the president of the faculty at USC. He declined to specifically address Puliafito’s alleged behavior other than to say faculty members have been upset and concerned. Faculty members offered mixed reactions to the way the university handled the situation, Rosenbloom said. Some are uncertain about what was actually done and why, and there have been responses ranging from support to condemnation to calls to wait for more information.

A crisis-management firm hired by USC released a letter from the chairs of 23 departments at the medical school affirming support for Nikias and Quick, the Times reported.

It shouldn’t be lost, however, that even if USC leaders tried to do everything right, they were faced with a difficult scenario.

“It really is a land mine when you’re dealing with off-campus behavioral mental health, substance-abuse issues with an employee and protecting your community,” said Sean Rossall, a crisis strategist based in Los Angeles who is CEO and managing partner at Dick Jones Communications. Rossall also received his master’s degree from USC, but he is not working for the university in this case.

“What is expected as ethical, moral behavior of employees around the clock as a broad community representative of the university?” Rossall said. “I think it’s really going to force them to think about that and think about the type of culture they impart with their people.”

Nikias raised some of the same questions in his most recent public letter. He wrote that the university would be addressing questions about balancing individual rights and privacy rights against protecting faculty, students and others. He asked how the university should separate allegations of criminal behavior that should be reported to police from problems with addiction that require compassion.

He also asked how the university can make sure incoming reports, “even if anonymous and questionable,” get passed on to higher officials and the compliance office.

Generally, allegations against those dealing with vulnerable populations need to be taken seriously and investigated, experts agreed. That would include deans dealing with students, doctors treating patients and coaches on the football field.

“They need to adopt a policy of investigate first and find the answers so you can make informed decisions,” Rossall said. “It is a tough needle to thread, but not impossible. You can conduct investigations in a manner that’s respectful of the employee without jeopardizing things.”

 

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New data point to white working class skepticism of the value of college

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 07/31/2017 - 07:00

Many professors and college leaders were stunned and concerned by recent data showing that more than half of Republicans say that colleges have a negative impact on the U.S., with wealthier, older and more educated Republicans being least positive.

Now comes a new poll with skepticism about higher education -- this time based on a survey of white working-class voters of all political affiliations. The findings indicate attitudes in this group that run directly counter to the views of college educators -- that higher education is essential to individual economic advancement. The key findings:

  • A majority (57 percent) said a college degree “would result in more debt and little likelihood of landing a good-paying job.”
  • A large majority (83 percent) said a college degree was “no longer any guarantee of success in America.”

The results come from a poll on a range of political issues commissioned by House Majority PAC, a political action committee that is working to regain a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. The group is seeking to identify which issues resonate with white working-class voters, which for the purposes of the study included those over the age of 24 without a college degree.

A summary of the findings by the pollster Brodnitz/Normington and published by Politico said in part, “In short, when these voters hear people tell them that the answer to their concerns is college, their reaction is to essentially say -- don’t force your version of the American dream on me.”

The survey is being discussed at a time when many Democratic groups are continuing to debate which messages will allow the party to connect with voters who backed Donald Trump and many congressional Republicans in the last election.

A key part of the message of Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign and of many other Democrats was that their party would help people afford college. Clinton backed a plan to make public higher education free to most families through a state-federal partnership. Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent who challenged Clinton from the left during the Democratic primary, also pushed free public higher education. And he has been talking up the issue as a key to efforts to rebuild a Democratic majority.

While the college message did not resonate with the people surveyed, the message of job training did. The poll found that white working-class voters, including those who identify as Republicans, favor more of an emphasis on job training to help Americans compete in the global economy than they favor making it harder for foreign companies to sell goods in the U.S.

The pollsters’ summary says, “A message that says we need to understand that not everyone wants to go to college is also effective. This means we need to make sure that those who do not attend college get the skills and training they need to get jobs.”

The summary is almost sure to frustrate many people at community colleges, who note that their institutions are in fact colleges and provide job training every day -- with many campuses focused on job training in settings that don’t look like stereotypical colleges and that in many cases offer certificates, not just degrees.

Study after study has found that a college credential is essential for economic advancement, and these studies include associate-degree programs that focus on job-related training.

Mark Huelsman, a senior policy analyst at Demos, a group that helped develop and push free public higher education plans, tweeted out a series of replies to the new polling data. And one of the issues he stressed was that people need to remember that “college” isn’t just one image or one type of institution.

He noted that 40 percent of American students are at community colleges, but that “in the American lexicon ‘college’ still invokes the leafy four-year campus.” And he added, “It only gets worse as some media complain about colleges as bastions of ‘political correctness,’ untrue/dumb as that may be.”

Huelsman said he understood some of the skepticism found in the poll. “For working-class whites, there’s justified cynicism that taking on any, much less $30K, debt should be the pathway to a stable job,” he wrote ($30,000 would be slightly more than the typical debt level of someone who takes out loans to finish a four-year degree).

But Huelsman said that the solution to these challenges cannot be for Democrats to stop campaigning for free public higher education. “We need a better way to talk about this,” he said, and it needs to focus on the working class, including training, and not be “a middle-class giveaway.” He added, “I’m simultaneously scared that we’ll overcorrect and say postsecondary isn’t important (spoiler: it’s really important!)”

Further, Huelsman objected to too much focus on the white working class, noting the many nonwhite members of the working class.

He pointed to another new poll, this one by Demos, that may confirm the House Majority PAC’s findings about relatively modest white working-class interest in college tuition as a big issue, but that found much more interest among black working-class voters.

Among white working-class voters who voted for Barack Obama and then voted for Trump, only 21 percent saw debt-free public college as a major issue. That was behind six other possible issues, with building up infrastructure in ways that would create jobs attracting the most support, from 43 percent of these voters.

Among black working-class voters, however, 39 percent identified debt-free public college as a top issue, and that was the second rated of the seven possibilities. (Raising the minimum wage won top billing.)

As one of Huelsman’s tweets said, “The white working class [does not equal] the working class.”

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Math journal editors resign to start rival open-access journal

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 07/31/2017 - 07:00

The four editors in chief of the Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics have informed their publisher, Springer, of their intention to launch a rival open-access journal to protest the publisher’s high prices and limited accessibility. This is the latest in a string of what one observer called “editorial mutinies” over journal publishing policies.

In a news release last Thursday, the editors said their decision was not made because of any “particular crisis” but was the result of it becoming “more and more clear” that Springer intended to keep charging readers and authors large fees while “adding little value.”

Nearly every member of the board of the Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics will be resigning when their contract with Springer ends in December. These members will form the editorial board of a new journal to be called Algebraic Combinatorics. The journal covers an area of abstract algebra that can answer questions such as the number of possible five-card poker hands in a 52-card deck.

The four editors in chief of the old journal will transition to the same position at the new journal in December. In the interim, two editors in chief have been appointed to get the new journal up and running.

In an interview, Hugh Thomas, an editor in chief of the Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics, said the board approached Springer to explore making the journal freely available online, but they were told that “this was not something that Springer would consider.”

With support from an open-access advocacy group called MathOA, the editors plan to create a freely accessible online-only journal that will follow the principles set out by the Fair Open Access Alliance.

Unlike the old journal, which charged authors article processing charges (APCs) of up to $3,000 to make articles accessible to readers without subscriptions, the new journal will be freely accessible to anyone. “We think $0 is a better deal,” said Thomas.

Initially the new journal will receive financial and computational support from a French OA initiative called Centre Mersenne. Victor Reiner, interim editor in chief of Algebraic Combinatorics, said that the journal would work with MathOA to secure more funders but expected its running costs to be very low -- “We won’t need much,” he said.

Asked what challenges lie ahead for Algebraic Combinatorics, Reiner said a key obstacle will be getting academics to recognize the new journal as the successor to the old one. However, Reiner said he has been “very heartened” by the support the announcement has received, adding, “It seems people have been clamoring for this.”

Reiner said that beyond the switch to OA, he hopes the new journal will continue to “run similarly smoothly, with the same high-quality papers and the same mathematical scope.” He added, “I just look forward to us making decisions on our own, without consulting Springer.”

In a statement, Springer said that it intends to keep publishing the Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics and is looking to appoint a new editorial board. Asked whether the company had worked with the editorial board to address their concerns, Springer said that it had “expressed its availability to change the existing business model of the journal.”

The spokesperson said that Springer already offers free access to archived journal issues after an embargo period of three years, and noted that research articles from the journal can easily be shared with other researchers online through the publisher’s SharedIt initiative.

This is not the first time that a journal’s editorial board has decided to revolt against their publisher. In one high-profile 2015 case, the editors and editorial board of the linguistics journal Lingua decided to resign and start rival journal Glossa in protest against publisher Elsevier’s open-access stance.

According to the Open Access Directory website, cases of mass journal resignations can be traced back to 1989 and have taken place on average once per year since the late ’90s. However, research by Todd A. Carpenter, executive director of the National Standards Organization, has suggested that such editorial mutinies rarely cause long-term damage to the abandoned journal.

A press release from MathOA says that “nearly all” of the editorial board members will be leaving the old journal to join the new one. Thomas explains that this is not indicative of any divide in opinion on the move -- one member has decided to retire, and another has been unreachable. “To my knowledge, no one has expressed an active intention to remain with JACO at Springer,” says Thomas.

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Qatar Foundation leader discusses Education City and the blockade's impact

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 07/31/2017 - 07:00

For two decades Qatar has been building its Education City, which is now home to six prominent American universities. The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development has financed the project for the small, wealthy nation, which is located on the Arabian Peninsula.

Last month, however, five Arab nations began a blockade and severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, raising worries about the possible impact on Education City and its U.S. partners -- Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Georgetown, Northwestern, Texas A&M and Virginia Commonwealth Universities.

Inside Higher Ed’s Scott Jaschik recently met with Omran Hamad Al Kuwari, the executive director of the foundation's vice chairperson and CEO office, to talk about the blockade’s impact and to catch up on what’s new at Education City. A lightly edited transcript follows, below, and a podcast recording is here.

Q: What is the impact of the boycott on the universities in Education City and also the universities that are native to the area?

A: Thanks for having us. The impact has been very minimal. The first few days, of course, [there were] a lot of questions about what’s going to happen on the ground, what it means for supplies and everything. After the first few days, we saw how the government reacted very proactively. And right now it’s back to business as usual. We don’t see an impact. We haven’t seen any drop-off of students or faculty. And we’re working very closely with all our partner universities.

The impact that we are worried about is the students from the blockading countries, we’re not sure how those governments are going to allow them to come back or stay. So what we’re doing is we’re proactively reaching out to all those students, working with them to see [if there’s] anything we can do to either find them, in terms of solutions, until hopefully this conflict is resolved, or to help them stay if they can. And that’s really our primary focus right now.

Q: The timing of this wasn’t when the campuses were at full strength in terms of students and courses. Did the students from the blockading countries who were still there go home or stay?

A: It’s a bit of a mix. A lot of them stayed. We had summer classes there. So a lot of them stayed and some of them went back. It’s not clear-cut, because some of them are married to citizens of Qatar. And some are there for a semester taking summer classes. So case by case.

But what we’ve done is made sure that they know they’re welcome to stay, and everything we can do to make sure they’re comfortable, or if they’re not sure if they can come back, we were coordinating with all the main campuses -- and they’ve been great -- our partner universities to see if they can accommodate them for a semester or even transfer. Because the most important mission we have is from [Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani], the CEO and founder, to make sure those students aren’t impacted negatively -- they don’t lose a semester, they don’t lose a year. And that’s what we want to focus on, the education component of all this. And that’s where we see we can add the most during this crisis.

Q: As the various universities joined Education City, they cited the stability and security there. For those who are still being recruited and or consider new campuses, do you worry about a change in that reputation because of what’s going on?

A: It’s normal that people would ask those questions. But we’re not concerned, because what’s happening is those people who are either recruited to start next semester are asking the embassy or their colleagues, and they’re getting the comfort they need. And the people who are already there know how it is. That’s why Education City blossomed, because it was a safe space physically as well as intellectually. People can come and learn and talk to each other and explore new ideas. That’s what we want to maintain.

Q: Education City gathered together a series of professional schools and specialized programs, while others in the region have tried to build up a whole university. How is that model working, and how do you compare it to others?

A: We’re very proud of the model that came together 20 years ago -- now Virginia Commonwealth University is going to reach its 20th year, with Cornell as our first two universities. The most recent one is Northwestern. So we’re proud of that model, that you have a partner university that’s there providing the same education without any kind of interference from the host country, complete independence. And in exchange for that you get the same quality education. That was the premise for it.

What we’ve seen in the region, people are learning from that experience and coming up with models that fit them, which is great. What’s happening in Education City, which people may not realize, is that the model is evolving. It’s not just having eight universities, six of them American, that do their own programs. Also now, from a student-experience perspective, a lot that’s been done in the last few years enhanced it.  So, for example, the schedules have been readjusted, so if you’re a Northwestern student you can take classes at Georgetown. You can take classes at Carnegie Mellon. And there are some cases now that we’re working on where you can take a major from one of the universities and a minor in the other. In addition to that you can do research across [institutions]. So I think that’s very innovative in itself -- having the ability to take classes and experience three or four classes from three different universities. And also, on top of that, having summer program or a semester abroad or a year abroad. That’s where I think it becomes really interesting.

We’re also looking at scaling up the student population. We have this incredible infrastructure that we’ve built. We have these amazing faculty and a history of students who have come back and want to give back. And we want to be able to take advantage of that infrastructure. In addition to that, when Education City first started, it was really universities, at least the university component. But since then we’ve really focused on the research and development component. So we’ve set up these institutes looking at research but also policy development. So what’s happening now is undergraduate students can work with these researchers, or with these policy development experts, to work on real-life problems. So it’s not just about studying four years and going back. You become part of the development of society. We think the model was very unique when it first started, and it’s becoming even more unique and dynamic. We’re actually very excited about the next phase of that.

Q: Current U.S. policies are discouraging some students from the Middle East from coming here. Are you seeing any signs of students who might have come to the U.S. in the past coming to Education City?

A: Interest in the programs has been consistently high. What has had more positive impact, in terms of people showing interest, is you see in the last 10 years a lot of these alumni have graduated and taken on senior roles, moving up in organizations around the region. Every year you have more recruiters from different companies from all over the region coming to Qatar, where you want people to understand the region but have the highest standards, whether it’s Carnegie Mellon, Cornell or Georgetown.

That’s been what has increased it. I’m not sure that what’s happening in the U.S. or anywhere else around the world has had a direct impact. But we’ve seen a steady increase in interest, year after year, since we started. So that’s what we’re focusing on.

Q: Education City has a model of cultures working together. Do you worry about the hostility from some U.S. leaders, and from some Americans, to the region, to countries where most people are Muslim?

A: The current environment has basically made us believe that we have to get out there more and share our story more and invite people to come see what we’re doing. Everyone, in my experience, who has any experience with the Qatar Foundation or Education City has a different view than what you may have just mentioned. We’re very proud of what’s been happening. We really believe that it’s a model for the region and we feel that it has had a huge impact, directly and indirectly, others seeing what we’ve done and trying to do something that makes sense for them. I think that’s positive, too. So we try not to get into the politics of it -- we just want to definitely get out there more.

Q: The foundation and the government have made a huge investment in Education City. How do you judge the success?

A: By any measure, if you look back 20 years ago, we’re all very proud of what has developed and we see it as a success.  It’s not just the number of graduates that have come out. It’s also the mind-set, the kind of dialogue that having all these students and researchers and professors and employees there looking at education and R&D. Having them in one place and giving them a platform to speak from all over. I think that has had a huge impact on society. And at the same time also our society has grown, has developed dramatically. Our national university has improved. Our schools have improved.

So we see that the Qatar Foundation is part of that whole ecosystem, Education City in the heart of that. So it’s not just about the money that’s gone into bringing the universities in, it’s also the indirect benefits. It’s hard to imagine how Qatar -- even the region -- would look today if it wasn’t for the foundation. And we’re very proud of that and we think Education City is the key.

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MIT supports a custodian who has been detained and faces deportation

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 07/28/2017 - 07:00

A custodian at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been detained by immigration authorities and is facing possible deportation in a case that has attracted widespread attention at MIT and beyond.

MIT students and administrators have rallied on behalf of Francisco Rodriguez-Guardado, who fled his native El Salvador due to what his lawyer described as specific threats of gang violence and entered the U.S. in 2006. Immigration authorities rejected his claim for asylum in 2011 and issued a final order of removal, but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement used its discretion to issue successive one-year stays of deportation to Rodriguez, who has two young daughters, both American citizens, and a baby due next week.

Rodriguez’s advocates say immigration authorities should continue to use their discretion to allow him to stay in the country. But earlier this year ICE moved to act on his six-year-old removal order and, on July 13, took him into custody, where he remains. 

Rodriguez’s lawyers have filed a motion to reopen his asylum case and are also challenging his detention in federal court. In addition to the support he’s received from MIT, Massachusetts’ two U.S. senators, Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and U.S. Congressman Michael Capuano, whose district includes much of Boston and Cambridge and the city of Chelsea, where Rodriguez lives, wrote a joint letter of support for Rodriguez.

“He’s more than proven himself as a worthy citizen during the time that he’s been here. He’s always worked very hard, pays his taxes, is married, has kids, has another kid coming, a baby due on August 3rd,” said Matt Cameron, one of Rodriguez's lawyers. “This is obviously a very, very difficult time for his family.”

Cameron said that Rodriguez has no criminal record and that the only thing that’s changed in his case is “that we have an administration that wants to act on all final deportation orders, with no discretion and no distinction.”

 “If they’re not going to give discretion to someone with a spouse with a high-risk pregnancy due in a few weeks from the time from when they took him, I don’t know who they’re going to give it to, especially given the enormous amount of support he's gotten from MIT” and others, Cameron said.

An online petition in support of Rodriguez was signed by more than 1,000 individuals identifying as MIT students, alumni or staff, and the MIT Undergraduate Association wrote a letter on his behalf. The university administration has also gotten involved. In an interview with MIT's news office, the university's general counsel, Mark DiVincenzo, said MIT had gotten involved in various ways, including by writing letters in support of Rodriguez and by “securing a prominent Boston law firm to join his legal team, pro bono.”

“Certainly, reasonable people can disagree on our nation’s immigration policy,” Israel Ruiz, MIT’s executive vice president and treasurer, said in the interview with the university's news service. “But standing with Francisco isn’t about politics or Washington. It’s about seeking fair treatment for an upstanding individual who is the breadwinner for a young family, works at MIT, and has his own business, and who has consistently proven his value to MIT and to his home community in Chelsea.”

Ruiz, who oversees MIT's facilities and human resources departments, described Rodriguez as “an excellent employee, even earning a promotion in the past five years.” He had been granted permits to work in the U.S. 

Rodriguez’s union, 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, has also been involved in advocating on his behalf. “There’s no law that is obligating for him to be deported; it’s really about if ICE is going to use its discretion or not,” said Roxana Rivera, who described Rodriguez as active in his church, community and children’s school and as the main provider for his family.

“They’ve always had discretion. They’ve had broad discretion about determining who is a criminal, who’s not, who poses a threat and who doesn’t. There’s still an avenue here for them to say, 'we’re not going to focus on Francisco,'” Rivera said.

An ICE spokesman declined to comment on pending litigation. In a statement, the agency said, “On June 13, Francisco Rodriguez-Guardado, an unlawfully present citizen of El Salvador, reported to the ICE office in Boston, per prior agreement. An immigration judge issued Mr. Rodriguez a final order of removal in 2009. Since then, he has been granted four stays of removal so he could pursue available legal remedies.”

“After reviewing his case and in a further exercise of discretion, ICE chose not to place him in custody, allowing him to make timely departure arrangements.”

“After he failed to do so, he was placed into ICE custody, where he’ll remain pending the outcome of his immigration case.”

Rodriguez’s lawyer, Cameron, contested the accuracy of the ICE statement, saying that Rodriguez had, as he was instructed in June, brought a plane ticket for a direct departure to El Salvador to a scheduled July 13 check-in with ICE: Cameron said the government did not specify a time frame for departure, and that the purchased plane ticket was for mid-September, about six weeks after his baby is due. Cameron pointed out that the official government notice stating that Rodriguez would be taken into custody does not say anything about him not complying with ICE requirements, and further pointed out that testimony filed in the federal court case from an ICE acting assistant field office director, Yolanda Marfissi, revealed the government’s original plans to transfer Rodriguez out of Massachusetts on July 17 and remove him from the country on July 20 – one week after the July 13 check-in with ICE when he was detained.

“They were prepared to detain him and that was always going to be the plan,” Cameron said.

An ICE spokesman said, "We stand by our statement."
 

Editorial Tags: Diversity MattersImmigrationImage Source: Photo by Rose LincolnImage Caption: Francisco Rodriguez-GuardadoIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 2Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, August 1, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: A Deportation Case Galvanizes a Campus

Debate over civil rights center at UNC focuses on advocacy and academic freedom

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 07/28/2017 - 07:00

The University of North Carolina School of Law's Center for Civil Rights has long been a thorn in the side of the state government from its perch in Chapel Hill, as it sometimes files and joins in on lawsuits against the state. 

The center focuses on cases related to race, housing and education and voting rights. Recent efforts, for example, include involvement in a suit related to accusations of state-sanctioned environmental racism occurring under an allegedly neglectful Department of Environmental Quality.

Now, the system Board of Governors is looking to defang the center, and all centers and institutes at various UNC system institutions, by banning them from filing or joining in lawsuits. Those in favor on the board -- appointed by the state legislature and noted for its political leanings and connections to the Republican-controlled body -- say it is improper for one part of the state to sue another, and that it’s outside the scope of UNC’s mission for the law school to operate the center. The center, the staff of which is privately funded, has pushed back, saying the legal education and training it provides as it pursues social-justice issues is perfectly in line with UNC’s educational mission.

While that fight plays out, however, a question of academic freedom arises, as some fear the Board of Governors is overreaching its hand in deciding the legal actions that centers and institutes at various colleges and schools at the UNC system can make. 

The litigation ban would apply to any UNC system or center, but, according to local media, the Center for Civil Rights is apparently the only one that currently does any litigation. (Legal clinics would not be affected by the board’s decision.)

The American Association of University Professors, as well as Judith Welch Wegner, one of the law school’s former deans, have come out against the moves by the board, saying they represent a threat to academic freedom.

“The reason that the BOG says they have jurisdiction is because it’s called a ‘center,’ but much of what it does is really the same kind of thing that is done in the standard curriculum at law schools around the country,” Wegner said. 

“The fact that the board is intervening really intrudes on faculty judgment on what the curriculum is and what is appropriate for students to get pro bono credit for,” she said. Though the board says its move is aimed at all centers and institutions, Wegner is interpreting the board’s actions as “Thou shalt not have civil rights coursework.”

Opponents of the board's move say that the move is ideological, though it carries threats to both academic freedom and the centers policy success.

"As so many have pointed out, law clinics engage in litigation, and the Center should not be held to a different standard," Sherryl Kleinman, a professor of sociology at UNC Chapel Hill and AAUP member, said in an email. "Perhaps the Center's problem is its success. Those who either don't care about the civil rights of largely low-wealth communities of people of color, or who are ideologically against the work of the Center, want to keep the Center from doing its job. The litigation ban is against the mission of the university, which is to bring services to all North Carolinians, not just the privileged few."

Requests for comment from the board went unfulfilled.

The Role of Advocacy

In higher education as a whole, concerns about university-level advocacy are not just limited to centers and institutes at law schools. Advocacy programs linked to journalism and environmental science departments have also occasionally drawn similar ire from administrators and lawmakers.

“I think that over the years there’s been a substantial concern on the part of university administrations and state legislators, generally, about programs that either teach students how to litigate or are involved in investigations that may lead to legal actions,” said Michael A. Olivas, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center.

Wegner said that the board’s move not only affected the law school’s curriculum, but also that of faculty and students on campus, such as those involved in environmental causes, who collaborate with the center.

The move to close off centers and institutions from filing suit isn’t by itself an impingement on academic freedom, Olivas said, and the context -- especially regarding conflicts of interest that might arise when one part of the state sues another -- are important.

“There are some reasonable concerns about the use of resources and conflicts of interest,” he said, although he noted that, while not familiar with UNC specifically, generally, centers and institutions are able to take care of those issues. 

Rolling the center’s work into a legal clinic might guarantee more academic freedom, and potentially “insulate it as an instructional program, from trustees who might think that any such thing might be an embarrassment or a concern to a given trustee that might have ties to the industries [being sued],” Olivas said.

The possibility of starting a clinic might not be as easy as it sounds, however. The state legislature recently cut $500,000 of the law school’s appropriations, which came after a proposed $4 million spending cut.

“One wonders, since the board is now heavily populated with former legislators … I think it’s quite hard to assume that there won’t be further repercussions down the line,” Wegner said. 

The News & Observer reported that five of the 12 board members are former lawmakers, and described the board as “overwhelmingly Republican.” Republicans have controlled the board elections since 2011, and the board previously shuttered UNC’s Center of Work, Poverty and Opportunity, despite similar outcry about academic freedom.

The Board votes on Aug. 1. For Wegner, the value of the Center for Civil Rights is obvious, even if its future isn’t.

“This is public service, and it’s also clearly education,” Wegner said.

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Pulse podcast features interview about new digital legal education platform

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 07/28/2017 - 07:00

This month's episode of The Pulse podcast features an interview with Vikram Savkar, vice president and general manager for legal education at Wolters Kluwer.

In the interview with Rodney B. Murray, the Pulse's host, Savkar discusses Connected Casebook, a blended learning platform focused on student mastery of legal education. The two explore the state of digital publishing and adaptive and competency-based learning, among other topics.

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

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

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 07/28/2017 - 07:00

 

 

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Survey finds business officers increasingly considering more painful options

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 07/28/2017 - 07:00

More chief business officers see a financial crisis for higher education, but questions remain about whether they are pursuing aggressive enough strategies to meet the challenge.

Multiple Authors: Doug LedermanRick SeltzerAd Keyword: bizofficer2017

Study says common admissions practice -- measuring 'demonstrated interest' -- favors wealthier applicants

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 07/27/2017 - 07:00

"Demonstrated interest" is one of the admissions criteria used by many competitive colleges -- even though it may not have anything to do with an applicant's intelligence or character. The term refers to ways that an applicant shows he or she is serious about enrolling at a given college. An applicant who calls with questions about a particular program is more valued than one who doesn't communicate beyond applying. An applicant who visits shows more demonstrated interest than one who doesn't, and so forth. Many colleges factor in demonstrated interest to admissions and aid decisions, wanting to admit applicants who will enroll. The idea is to have better planning and to improve the yield, the percentage of admitted applicants who enroll.

A new research paper suggests that demonstrated interest has become another way wealthy students have an extra edge -- and recommends that colleges consider policy changes as a result.

Using data from a "highly selective" college (provided on condition that the institution not be identified), the paper finds that colleges are making a logical decision to consider demonstrated interest (it does lead to higher yields). But the study found more. It found that colleges most favor demonstrated interest of the kind that costs money. A student who visits campus, and does so long enough to participate in activities, will gain much more of an edge than an equally qualified student who talks with a college representative at a college fair at her school.

The impact is greatest on those with high SAT scores -- suggesting that many colleges (below the Harvard/Stanford level of competitiveness) are wary of admitting some applicants with high SAT scores and little demonstrated interest for fear of being used as a "safety school."

Those with both high SAT scores (on average wealthier applicants than others) and a campus visit are up to 40 percentage points more likely to be admitted than comparable students without those two "signals," as the paper calls those qualities.

The paper will appear in the journal Contemporary Economics Policy. Its authors are three economists at Lehigh University (James Dearden, Chad Meyerhoefer and Muzhe Yang) and Suhui Li of Mathematica Policy Research.

Data from the National Association for College Admission Counseling show that 16.9 percent of four-year colleges say they view demonstrated interest as having "considerable importance" in admissions decisions, and another 33.3 percent see it as having "moderate imporance." That is far below the emphasis placed on grades, but well above such factors as an interview or work experience.

The paper calls for colleges to subsidize campus visits for low-income applicants -- at least as long as colleges intend to favor those applicants who make the trips. It also says colleges could try to factor in family income when deciding how much weight to give demonstrated interest. But the best approach, it says, is to give everyone the same shot at visiting.

In many cases, a low-income family may not only have difficult affording college trips, but parents may not be able to take time off of work, the paper notes. "For a lower income family, those costly visits to schools are burdensome," said Dearden.

Meyerhoefer said that when he started this research project, he had no idea how influential demonstrated interest has become. He grew up in a rural area without much of the admissions guidance some students receive. He said when he spoke to high school students bound for college while doing the study, he found that many have been told by their counselors to be sure to visit campuses and earn demonstrated interest points, creating an advantage for those (generally from families of means) with counselors in the know. "These students are quite savvy," he said.

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Order on transgender troops could shake up service academies

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 07/27/2017 - 07:00

On Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that his administration would roll back previous guidelines that allowed transgender individuals to openly serve in the military.

“[P]lease be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” Trump announced in a tweet. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [sic] in the military would entail.”

It is unclear what impact this policy could have on U.S. service academies and other military programs, several of which either have or formerly had transgender students enrolled.

....victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017

Even the fate for transgender troops currently serving is unclear, though many read it as the impending end of service for those currently serving as openly transgender. When pressed during Wednesday’s White House press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press secretary, was vague on what the president’s directive would entail, saying that the White House and the Department of Defense “will have to work together as implementation takes place and is done so lawfully.”

When asked about a timeline for a new guidance from the White House on transgender service members, Sanders did not have an estimate. 

The uncertainty about what the new order means extends to service academies and Reserve Officer Training Corps programs at non-military colleges, though it generally points toward a reversal for transgender hopefuls. Previously the Department of Defense was working toward a policy set to be in place by July 2018 to determine how it would accommodate transgender troops. The policy read, in part:

The gender identity of an otherwise qualified individual will not bar them from joining the military, from admission to our Service Academies, or from participating in ROTC or any other accession program. 

How much of that is reversed -- including admission to service academies and participation in ROTC programs -- by Trump’s new announcement is not clear. The White House did not respond to a request for comment on how the new policy would apply specifically to service academies and ROTC programs.

In May, USA Today reported that there were two transgender cadets, one each at West Point and the Air Force Academy, who were set to graduate that month. They were cleared to graduate, but not serve in their respective branches, as the military had not yet developed the pipeline for accepting new transgender troops. (The Obama-era order allowing transgender individuals to serve openly applied to those already enlisted, and gave the military a set time to develop protocols for accepting new service members.) 

A West Point spokesman said that the institution is unaware of any transgender students currently enrolled, and that the process of graduating, but not being able to serve, was still in place given that the accession system hadn’t changed since May.

West Point deferred further comment to the White House on what any new policy might mean for admission and current cadets, as did the Department of Defense, the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy.

“We will continue to work closely with the White House to address the new guidance provided by the Commander-in-Chief on transgender individuals serving the military,” Navy Captain Jeff A. Davis, director of defense press operations, said in a statement. “We will provide revised guidance to the Department in the near future.”

Alana Miller, a spokeswoman for the Coast Guard, which runs a service academy in Connecticut, said that the Guard is “working with the Department of Defense to see what that means for our policy.”

The new order also puts into question what military programs outside the service academies -- such as Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs -- will do about transgender students, and whether transgender students will still attend, or can commission, after graduation from service academies. The Citadel, a four-year public military college in South Carolina, says cadets are expected to be “actively sensitive” to “issues related to different cultures, gender, race, lifestyle choices, sexual orientation and religious beliefs” in its Blue Book of regulations for its corps of cadets.

In 2016, Kenton Pendrey graduated from the Citadel after originally enrolling as Keisha Pendrey. During his transition to become a man, he requested that professors and peers refer to him as “he,” which many at the institution embraced as it worked to update its policies on transgender cadets in an attempt to get ahead of the changing national discussion on the topic.

“The core values [of The Citadel] are honor, duty, respect,” said spokeswoman Kimberly Keelor. Given that the White House has not yet issued any guidance or policy on transgender service members, Keelor said it was too premature to comment on if or how the Citadel’s policies might change.

At Norwich University, a private military institution in Vermont, its policies toward transgender students won’t be changing in light of Trump’s announcement. However, the university acknowledged that any change to the government’s policies would affect students after graduation.

“President Trump’s announcement affects those wishing to enter into the military, which describes about 103 of our 2017 graduates who commissioned into the military following commencement in May,” Kathleen Murphy-Moriarty, vice president of marketing and communications, said in an email. “This announcement does not impact Norwich policy, but it may impact any student wishing to serve in the military.”

“All students and employees should feel welcome and comfortable at Norwich University,” she said. “We take seriously our responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students and employees, including our transgender students and employees."

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Author discusses her new book on writing advice for academics

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 07/27/2017 - 07:00

Professors do a lot of writing, but that doesn't mean that they are good at it. That's a central point of Write No Matter What: Advice for Academics (University of Chicago Press). The author is Joli Jensen, the Hazel Rogers Professor of Communication at the University of Tulsa, where she founded and directs the Henneke Faculty Writing Program. Via email, she responded to questions about her new book.

Q: What do you consider to be the major obstacles that academics face in their writing?

A: The craft of academic writing has been needlessly mystified, so many of us feel shame and fear when our writing doesn’t go smoothly. But writing rarely goes smoothly! University life makes writing even more challenging by setting the stakes very high (“publish or perish”) and shrouding it in secrecy, while expecting excellent teaching and lots of service. My book offers faculty a variety of techniques to help them accept the realities of the academic environment; reduce writing anxiety; secure writing time, space and energy; recognize and overcome writing myths; and maintain writing momentum. I hope it helps to demystify the academic writing experience.

Q: Do you see particular challenges in some disciplines?

A: I do.The humanities, social sciences and sciences each offer somewhat different writing demands. In the humanities, research is usually individual and interpretive, so writing can feel like a lonely excursion into uncharted terrain. The challenge is to make an original, individual contribution in a vast sea of possible perspectives. In the sciences, the research process is more collaborative and data-driven, and writing can feel impersonal, formulaic and obligatory.

The challenge in the sciences is to juggle multiple collaborative writing projects, often at various stages of completion, in ways that keep grant money and publications flowing. The social sciences draw from both traditions, so social scientists can experience both the individualized anxiety of the humanities scholar along with the pressured project juggling of the research scientist.

Q: You lead a faculty writing program. What does that program do?

A: The Henneke Faculty Writing Program at the University of Tulsa offers monthly workshops, confidential individual coaching, a collection of writing-related books and resources, designated writing space, and faculty-led writing groups. The various workshops I offer include Myths We Stall By; Securing Writing Time, Space and Energy; Dealing with Stalled Projects; and Becoming a Public Scholar; along with Writing Plan workshops for semesters, summers and sabbaticals.

Q: A common complaint of professors is that they can't find time to focus on writing. What do you recommend in terms of finding the time? Do you favor "every day" or finding concentrated chunks of time?

A: I recommend spending at least 15 minutes a day in contact with your writing project. This offers frequent, brief, low-stress daily contact with your writing project which helps keep the project “write-sized.” It can include “ventilation,” which is spending 15 minutes writing about how you don’t want to work on your project at all. Daily project contact makes it much easier to commit to and use longer (but no more than 3 hours) writing sessions each week. Naturally prolific writers choose to write a few hours every day, but most of the colleagues I work with commit to daily 15 minute contact, with a plan for longer scheduled writing sessions 3-4 days a week. Faculty writing groups, focusing on accountability (not content critiques), are great ways to maintain weekly writing time commitments.

Q: Many faculty members have a challenge when writing for a non-academic audience. Do you have a few tips for such writing?

A: Yes. I am starting a new Public Scholar Initiative at the University of Tulsa to help my colleagues create articles, podcasts and books for a non-academic audience. The focus is on learning how to tell an accessible, compelling and accurate research story using everyday language and narrative techniques drawn from journalism and creative nonfiction. The key is to use anecdotes, argument and evidence to describe research to an audience who doesn’t know or care about “the field.” Once you’ve identified the narrative elements in your research story, you can use a variety of nonfiction writing techniques to explain to non-academic readers why your research matters.

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University of Colorado Boulder adding back fraternities

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 07/27/2017 - 07:00

More than a decade ago, Lynn Gordon Bailey Jr., better known as Gordie, died of alcohol poisoning in a fraternity house at the University of Colorado Boulder. The 18 year old and fellow pledges were told to drink four handles of whiskey and six bottles of wine – Gordie passed out, and never woke up.

In the aftermath, the fraternities refused to sign an agreement with the institution in 2005 that would have allowed for closer oversight – primarily they objected to a rule that would have pushed recruitment from the fall to spring semester of freshman year. They severed their relationship with Boulder and have functioned independent of it since.

Now, affiliated fraternities will return to the university, but not the same collection of robust chapters that still exists, some in housing they own just across the street from campus.

These are two new fraternities, creating an unusual split between the existing system and those that will be under university purview. Boulder’s decision to expand Greek life also departs from the trend of institutions either curtailing fraternity powers – largely because of hazing episodes -- or attempting to shut them down altogether.

Namely at Harvard University, a panel of faculty and administrators recommended fraternities, sororities, and other exclusive campus organizations be phased out, even though they aren’t tied to the institution – the group asserted that these clubs perpetuate discrimination and exclusion.

But Boulder officials say that launching these fraternities and its own council will tap into and energize students and alumni, in particular because one of them, Phi Delta Theta, was previously established on campus and so has an extensive alumni base, said Stephanie Baldwin, assistant director for Greek life.

The two new chapters, Sigma Tau Gamma and Phi Delta Theta, will come in the spring and fall, respectively. The latter shut down in the early 2000s because of “risk management” issues, Baldwin said – she could not specify further, nor could Sean Wagner, chief operating officer of the national branch of Phi Delta Theta.  

In 2015, Boulder announced it would invite the unaffiliated fraternities – which number fewer than 20 – back to campus, but movement stalled and discussion stopped, Baldwin said. She said that the chapters were not keen on a homecoming because they valued independence they had built.

Indeed, though a spokesman from the Interfraternity Council, Marc Stine, refused an interview, he did direct Inside Higher Ed to a report from the Daily Camera, where he’s quoted as saying:

“The carrots dangling out there, but what's the stick? What do I have to agree to? What are the obligations? What authority that undergraduates currently have total control over would they be ceding to a new council or university administration?"

The Camera quotes Stine as saying the council was “turned off” two years ago by the way the university would punish fraternities and handle their financial disclosures – Baldwin said in her interview she’s not sure what that means.

A couple months after the council turned down the university’s offer, Boulder started considering other fraternities not yet created on campus – it found at least two. A spokesman from Sigma Tau Gamma declined comment.

Wagner of Phi Delta Theta said the fraternity had eyed the campus even after it had left because of the many alumni there and its proximity to the Denver metro area. The chapter was first established there in 1902, he said.

The fraternity will not be provided housing, but Wagner said he still sees significant potential – he noted that Phi Delta Theta differentiates itself with its policy barring alcohol on any of its properties.

Most of the poor press that Greek life generates stems from alcohol-related hazing and the deaths of pledges – these incidents have started to be more harshly punished, both by institutions and prosecutors, experts say.

Acknowledging that some colleges are shifting away from Greek life, Baldwin said that students still remain heavily interested in that culture, and Boulder wants to feed that in a positive way.

Both the university and the two new fraternities benefit, Baldwin said. Phi Delta Theta’s extensive alumni network could attract potential donors, and the fraternities can use university facilities and resources for recruitment and marketing, unlike the off-campus fraternities, she said, which must pay to rent out a space like any other business.

Baldwin said the university has heard questions and concerns from some new students and parents about the difference between the unaffiliated fraternity network versus the two new ones.

“I think we’re in an opportunity here to basically create a fraternity from scratch, though. We have an opportunity to use innovative approaches and don’t have any baggage with these two groups,” she said.

Should this new system work, Baldwin said she would hope it would entice the existing fraternities to rejoin the university.

Her department will determine later if additional staff members are needed later to accommodate the fraternities – Wagner said Phi Delta Theta tries to fill its chapters with an average of 60 to 70 men.

In the fall, Phi Delta Theta will send to campus a couple of professionals to help with the initial round of recruitment, which is typical, Wagner said. He said that the fraternity feels that an institution is a key and necessary support for a fraternity brother, and that stipulations that Boulder has asked for are standard.

Any Boulder Greek organization is asked to agree to campus policies, which allows them access to funding and other university perks.

The campus’ sororities and its Multicultural Greek Council never separated from the university. 

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Researcher returning to Taiwan to lead university discusses challenges facing nation's universities

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 07/27/2017 - 07:00

After spending 35 years training and working in the United States, Wen-Hwa Lee, president of China Medical University in Taiwan, knows a thing or two about how research systems work. He understands the effect that government policy can have on the type of research a country produces, he knows what pushes scientists to compromise their integrity and how hard professors should be working.

It is with these thoughts ticking over his in mind that he has returned to his home country to become the president of the private institution, based in Taichung, which carries out teaching and research on Chinese and Western medicine side by side. 

Students can take a Western medical degree or a traditional Chinese medicine degree, and even combine modules from both courses in the early years of their studies.

Speaking to Times Higher Education at the Research Excellence Summit for the Asia Pacific region earlier this month, Lee, a specialist in the field of tumor biology and a professor at the University of California, Irvine, before leaving the U.S., said that he had “deep concerns” about the research environment in Taiwan, especially when compared with its regional research powerhouse neighbors Singapore and South Korea.

Although Taiwan invests significantly in research and development -- 3 percent of its gross domestic product in 2014, according to its national statistics bureau -- Lee said that the funding is not spent “efficiently."

In fact, of the NT$484 billion ($16 billion) spent on research and development that year, only 9 percent went on basic research. More than double that proportion went on applied research, with the remainder allocated to “experimental development”, a term describing research that draws on existing knowledge.

Directed research “is very lacking," said Lee. The government is pushing research funding to help develop industries including the green energy and biotechnology sectors, he said, adding that he feared that this would be a difficult task, as the country has not cultivated technical talent in these fields.

“[If] you want to develop industry, you have to have sufficient infrastructure [and] sufficient knowledgeable people that you can build industry on,” Lee warned. He continued that it was not easy to lure talent from overseas because Taiwan is competing with other Asian countries in these fields.

“Human resources are the most difficult. They take a long time to cultivate … the only way is to build from scratch,” he said.

Lee described Taiwan as suffering externally from China -- which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province -- and internally from “political fighting and instability of the political system”. He added: “Taiwan can do much, much, better. I think I can contribute something, and that is what I want to do."

This is why he is hoping to develop his university into a “bright spot” for research in the country. His premise is that researchers in Taiwan working individually will not be able to compete with their counterparts in the U.S., calling for an interdisciplinary approach. “One team is not enough, it will [need] three or four teams to solve the big problems,” he said, giving the example of medical engineers, computer scientists and Chinese medics at the university joining together to study the effects of acupuncture.

The work ethic of researchers in Taiwan also needs to be brought under scrutiny, Lee said. “Taiwanese professors in general are not as hard-working as professors in the U.S.,” he added, suggesting that this was partly rooted in the process for gaining professorships not being highly selective enough.  

Taiwan’s record on research integrity has come under scrutiny in recent years. One of the first big fake peer-review scandals happened in Taiwan, when in 2014 a researcher at National Pingtung University of Education was caught reviewing their own work. The incident led to one journal retracting 60 papers and cost the then Taiwanese minister for education his job.

Professor Lee said that researchers in Taiwan had been “prone” to misconduct in recent years and that it was a “serious issue”, which he attributed to the fact that the policies in place for promotion count publication numbers. “This is wrong, you have to read the paper to see its true value,” he added.

In an attempt to try to alleviate some of the pressures researchers are up against that can spur them into misconduct, China Medical University has different tracks for promotion that focus on teaching and research separately.

Lee is putting a lot of emphasis on sorting out these problems because the consequences of faked data are “disastrous”, he said. “Our university is extremely serious about this issue. If anything is discovered people are fired.”

“Integrity is constantly a problem for the research field…. But I cannot tell you that this is not going to happen any more because it is too early, and this is human nature,” he added.

 

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Several countries launch campaigns to recruit research talent from U.S. and elsewhere

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 07/26/2017 - 07:00

Fancy moving abroad? A host of new initiatives by national governments -- in Britain, Canada, France and most recently Germany -- seek to lure foreign researchers to their shores with pots of money earmarked for international recruitment.

Britain has allocated 100 million pounds (about $130 million) to a new fund, called the Rutherford Fund, to attract foreign researchers for stays ranging from anywhere from a few months to 10 years. In an initiative tied to the celebration of the country’s sesquicentennial, Canada has budgeted 117.6 million Canadian dollars (about $94 million) in one-time funding to attract 15 to 35 internationally based researchers to take up Canada 150 Research Chairs at the country's universities. Both the British and Canadian programs are open to researchers from a variety of fields, including the natural sciences and engineering, the health sciences, social sciences and the humanities.

France, meanwhile, is providing 60 million euros in funding (about $48 million) -- half from the government and half from matching funds provided by universities and scientific institutions -- specifically to recruit international climate scientists. The initiative from French President Emmanuel Macron is cheekily called “Make Our Planet Great Again,” in a clear jab at President Trump, who favored the campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” and has announced plans to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement.

Germany recently announced that it would join the French initiative and said details of its own call for applications for fellowships would be published soon.

“These countries are looking to take advantage of what’s going on in the U.S.,” said Al Teich, a research professor of science, technology and international affairs at George Washington University. “They’re trying to attract scientists at a time when I think they see an opportunity because the U.S. has become a less attractive place -- or they believe the U.S. has become a less attractive place.”

It remains to be seen what caliber of talent countries are able to attract with these funding schemes. The Canadian government said in a press release it wants to "leverage Canada’s strengths as a destination of choice for the best and brightest world-leading scholars and researchers." The money for the Canada 150 Research Chairs program comes from the existing Canada Excellence Research Chairs program, which awards grants to academics to start research programs at Canadian universities.

"I think it’s a good initiative, especially because we have a lot of researchers from the States who are trying to apply to Canadian universities now," said Maryse Lassonde, the president of the Royal Society of Canada: The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada and scientific director of the Quebec Research Agency for Nature and Technology. "It’s a good way to get them and open the door."

“This is Canada’s moment -- a time to strengthen research and innovation that impacts people’s lives -- and the Canada 150 Chairs program is an effective way to do just that,” Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada, said in a June press release. “It’s an important step toward making Canada the destination of choice for top talent around the world.”

Not everyone is a fan of the initiative, however.

Some academics have taken to Twitter to express frustration at a funding program that by its very design excludes most Canadians. The Canada 150 Research Chairs are open to expatriate Canadians, but researchers who already work at Canadian institutions are not eligible to apply.

In addition to questioning the exclusion of most resident Canadians, some also questioned the size of the grants, which are set at one of two award levels, 350,000 Canadian dollars (about $279,000) and 1 million Canadian dollars (about $797,000) per year. The government funding is for seven years, but the application process for the chairs requires Canadian host universities to put forward a plan for how they would retain the researchers after that point.

In a series of tweets, Jason Ellis, an assistant professor of educational studies at the University of British Columbia, expressed his disappointment about the program design in that it "excludes excellent candidates who work at Canadian universities, and it devalues both our institutions and their professors and graduates."

"The program not only overlooks Canadian academics fortunate enough to be employed in a full-time, tenure-track position, like I am, but … also passes over a large talent pool of Canadian-trained, Canadian-resident young academics who are struggling to find these sorts of … positions on a very difficult job market," Ellis said on Twitter.

"Finally, the program allocates large sums of money to single individuals -- sometimes amounts from approximately three to nine times … the typical academic salary for positions at a similar rank. By concentrating over 100 million [Canadian] dollars in the hands of a much smaller … number of scholars than was necessary, who will be recruited from outside the country, your government has passed up a chance to … use those funds to support a much larger number of young, Canadian-trained and Canadian-resident unemployed academics whose scholarly … potential is at this very moment enormously underutilized."

You could keep at least seven researchers like me busy for five years each with one of those chairs reserved for a come-from-away scholar

— Douglas Hunter (@DWHauthor) July 8, 2017

I would rather see a program for emerging scholars from CDN universities. Not what amounts to "how do we get more Ivy Leaguers up here?"

— Dr. Lucia Lorenzi (@empathywarrior) July 7, 2017

“I would have liked and I would still like for the government to take a broader and a more long-term view of 'how do we actually build up our existing programs in Canada,'" said Lucia M. Lorenzi, a postdoctoral fellow in English and cultural studies at McMaster University who also criticized the program on Twitter. "Yes, we might have 25 or 30 research chairs coming to universities across the country, but that can be unevenly distributed, and it’s not necessarily fixing the underlying problems."

Some have also questioned the tight deadlines for the program. The Canadian government launched the call for applications June 21, universities must submit preliminary applications for the candidates they're interested in hiring under the program by Aug. 18 and full applications are due Sept. 15. Job postings for the chairs from individual universities set varied deadlines for candidates, with some coming up this week or already past (others have set an early August deadline).

"The timelines are concerning in the sense that it’s hard to know whether or not we will be able to attract the best and brightest candidates simply because the universities are under tremendous pressure to move quickly," said Glen Jones, a professor of higher education at the University of Toronto. At the same time, he said, "I suspect the universities will do everything they can to make the best possible use of the program."

Christopher Walters, the director of communications for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, one of the agencies administering the initiative, said that the program is "designed to meet the needs of Canadian universities which have reported significant instances of researchers contacting them about opportunities in Canada" and that "we have every confidence that institutions are willing and able to recruit top talent for this one-time opportunity and we are encouraged at the level of interest expressed so far." Selected candidates will have up to 12 months to take up their positions.

"Clearly, one of the motivating factors is the notion that both following Brexit and the Trump presidency, there is a recognition that people may be more open to moving to other countries, and that has shaken up the international academic labor market a little bit," Jones said.​

In Britain, government officials framed the new Rutherford Fund as a way to send a message that Britain remains open to international scholars despite the country's plans to exit the European Union. "The Rutherford Fund will send a strong signal that, even as we leave the European Union, we are open to the world and will reinforce our ambition of making the U.K. the go-to country for innovation and discovery," Jo Johnson, the universities and science minister, said as part of remarks at a launch event earlier this month.

Half the £100 million allocated for the Rutherford Fund comes from existing monies dedicated to the Newton Fund, which supports science and innovation programs in service of economic development, and the other half comes from a new National Productivity Investment Fund announced last fall. The government expects to be able to fund up to 600 additional international researchers by expanding existing programs offered by the Academy of Medical Sciences and Research Councils UK, the British Academy, the British Council, the Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Royal Society.

James Wilsdon, a professor of research policy at the University of Sheffield, described the Rutherford Fund as a "welcome addition" of funding that complements existing mobility programs, including programs funded by the European Union. But he stressed that the Rutherford Fund was "announced in the context of Brexit and all the concerns across the U.K. research community about the negative effects of Brexit, in terms of encouraging people who are here already to leave and discouraging people who haven’t come here from doing so" -- either because of perceptions of Britain as being a more inward-looking place or because of changes to immigration and visa controls that could newly limit the ability of academics from the E.U. to live and work in the U.K. An estimated 15 percent of academics at U.K. universities come from other E.U. countries.

"We’re not just changing the funding schemes, we’re changing the fundamental basis on which people can enter and leave the country, and if you do that, the fundamental rules are more important than the fine detail of a funding scheme," Wilsdon said. "That’s the basis on which people decide where to live, where to work and where to raise a family."

"That's why for me, at least, the champagne stays on ice until we understand far more about the detail of the scheme and about the visa and migration rule context in which people will move in and out of the U.K. after Brexit," he said of the Rutherford Fund. "Until we know the answer to those things, new schemes are welcome, but they don’t solve the fundamental problem, which is more to do with those rules."

France, meanwhile, is attempting to position itself as a magnet for climate researchers. In launching the "Make Our Planet Great Again" initiative, the government explicitly cited Trump's climate policies as the motivation. "Following the decision of the United States to withdraw from the Paris agreement, the president of the republic called on researchers and teachers, entrepreneurs, associations and NGOs, students and the whole of civil society to mobilize and join France to lead the fight against global warming," a government press release said (in translation from French). The initiative, promoted on an English-language website, offers four-year grants of up to €1 million (about $1.2 million) for junior researchers and €1.5 million (about $1.7 million) for senior researchers.

"Personally I think it is not the best way to spend €60 million," said Olivier Berné, a research scientist in astronomy at the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology, in Toulouse, and one of the organizers of France's March for Science. "There are a number of difficulties in the French research system, in higher education, and, in particular, a number of universities in France are in a financial crisis. Maybe it’s not the best thing to spend €60 million and just give it to 40 or 50 people.”

“I think honestly this project is more about communication and political strategy, rather than a real scientific project," Berné said.

The French government recently proposed €331 million (about $386 million) in cuts to its higher education and research budget. In an article about the "Make Our Planet Great Again" initiative and the budget cuts, Nature quoted a biologist at the University of Montpellier and founder of the political advocacy group Sciences en Marche, Patrick Lemaire, as saying that the proposed cuts "should make any foreign scientist wonder about the generous invitation of President Macron to relocate to France … The cuts are a warning that the scientific environment they would find in France may be very far from the one they are promised."

But Nature also quoted Sacha Wunsch-Vincent, an economist at the World Intellectual Property Organization, saying that the initiative represents "a seismic shift in the branding of France" as a destination for research and innovation. The Nature article also quoted one American researcher who is applying, and who cites the lack of such funding opportunities in the U.S.

More than 1,000 scientists have inquired on the "Make Our Planet Great Again" website, according to Stéphane Blanc, a scientific delegate at France's National Center for Scientific Research (the CNRS, per the acronym for its name in French). As of July 20, Blanc said, the CNRS had invited more than 150 scientists who meet the basic eligibility criteria to apply for long-term stays. French language ability is not a requirement for the funding -- Blanc said most French scientists speak English, the international language of science -- and English-only speakers are welcome to apply.

“I would say that the majority [of applicants], around 50 percent, are from the States, but those numbers are changing every day; we have people from a lot of different countries that are applying," Blanc said. As with the Canadian program, the timeline for the French initiative is short: Blanc said the target date for selection of candidates is in November.

Teich, the research professor at George Washington University, said he is not aware of any research on the effectiveness of programs like these, though he noted that these programs "may be an effective way of letting the scientific world know that there are opportunities in these countries."

"What I can’t say is how well these actually work, because there are a lot of things that go into a researcher’s decision to move to a different country besides these large grants," Teich said. "That makes it more attractive, obviously, but they’ve got to find their research partners, institutions that they’re comfortable working in, places that their families might want to live. There are a whole lot of other things that go into making a decision to immigrate."

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Increasing share of good-paying jobs go to college graduates

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 07/26/2017 - 07:00

The college degree has solidified its role as the best ticket to the middle class.

With the title “Good Jobs That Pay Without a B.A.,” new research from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce would seem to offer some solace for job seekers with only a high school credential. But not much, as the study shows that an increasing share of well-paying jobs have shifted to workers who hold four-year or associate degrees.

The bachelor’s degree remains the “gold standard,” said Anthony Carnevale, the center’s director and a co-author of the new study, which he said also is “very good news for community colleges.”

The center examined who is getting “good jobs,” which it defines as those paying an annual wage of least $35,000 for workers under the age of 45 and $45,000 for workers over 45. The overall median income for jobs that meet those standards is $55,000.

Four-year degree holders captured an increasing share of the nation's well-paying jobs during the last quarter century -- holding 55 percent of them in 2015 compared to 40 percent in 1991. High school graduates without at least some college under their belts now hold just 18 percent of the good jobs, down 10 percentage points during the same time period.

The study found that the number of workers without a bachelor’s degree who hold good jobs increased slightly as the economy expanded, to 30 million from 27 million in 1991. But those jobs increasingly are going to associate-degree holders or to workers with some college education.

“Good jobs in factories at the height of the manufacturing economy in the U.S. only required a high school education or less,” the study said, “but the new good jobs almost all require at least some postsecondary education and training.”

For example, the number of workers who hold good jobs with only a high school credential declined by one million since 1991, while associate-degree holders or workers with some college picked up 3.2 million new good jobs.

Over all, good jobs for workers with some college grew by 11 percent, while good jobs for those with associate degrees increased by a whopping 83 percent.

Industrial production has increased by 60 percent in the U.S. during the last quarter century, the study said, but blue-collar employment declined by 30 percent over the same period. And manufacturing accounted for 2.5 million of the three million good jobs the economy lost since 1991.

Carnevale said the center was surprised by the growth of good jobs in what the study calls “skilled service fields,” which include health care, finance and IT. Those jobs now account for 14 million of the 30 million well-paying jobs that require less than a bachelor’s degree.

The increase in skilled service jobs helped soften the blow of America’s decline in manufacturing employment.

“Going in, we all thought we were going to find disaster,” said Carnevale.

Equity Gaps and Gainful Employment

Even so, the study includes plenty of troubling findings, particularly around equity gaps.

The study confirms some of the narrative around white men who are frustrated about a decline in well-paying blue collar jobs -- a demographic that helped fuel Donald Trump’s victory in last year’s presidential election.

“They took a big hit,” said Carnevale.

However, while there may be fewer good jobs for white men without college degrees, the group has a big head start on the rest of the country.

Men account for roughly two-thirds of the well-paying jobs held by workers without a bachelor’s degree, a proportion that has changed little since 1991. And white workers (men and women) hold roughly two-thirds of the good jobs going to workers without a four-year degree, although their share has declined somewhat due mostly to the rapidly growing work force of Latinos. The percentage of good jobs held by black workers has been largely flat.

White men “still get their disproportionate share” of sub-baccalaureate good jobs, said Carnevale. “Women don’t get good jobs until they get bachelor’s degrees.”

The news isn't all good for community colleges and their graduates. While the study shows that an earning an associate degree is a much better bet than trying find a good job without going to college, the odds aren’t comforting, particularly if students don’t have access to good information and counseling about job options.

Over all, a worker with a bachelor’s degree has a 75 percent chance of holding a good job, Carnevale said. An associate-degree holder has a 40 percent chance. In addition, four-year-degree holders can worry less about what they major in, he said. Associate-degree holders face more restrictive choices, as most of the good jobs are in the growing skilled service fields.

“Field of study gets more and more important as you go more sub-baccalaureate,” he said. “Those jobs are there. But a 40 percent success rate is not acceptable.”

As result, he said, the study provides evidence for the value of collecting and publicly releasing good data about the employment rates and ability to pay off student loans of college graduates, particularly workers who hold less than a four-year degree.

"Less education requires more counseling," said Carnevale. "This is an argument for very strong gainful employment-style transparency. And regulation in some cases."

The Obama administration’s gainful-employment rule, which applies to nondegree programs at nonprofit institutions and to all offerings from colleges in the for-profit sector, measures the ability of graduates to pay down their student loans. Sanctions would kick in for programs that don’t meet the rule’s thresholds.

For-profits and some nonprofit colleges, particularly groups representing historically black colleges and universities, opposed that regulation, as well as one aimed at enhancing protections for borrowers and taxpayers, the so-called borrower-defense rule.

The Trump administration’s Education Department last month hit pause on both rules and has begun the likely long process of starting over again to try to rewrite them.

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