Higher Education News

Author discusses his new history of American higher education

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 07:00

Many histories have been written of American higher education, but Charles Dorn has taken a new approach in For the Common Good: A New History of Higher Education in America (Cornell University Press). The book is in some senses chronological, telling the story of the founding of the early New England institutions and proceeding onward. But Dorn does not attempt to be comprehensive in all periods. Rather, for different periods of time he focuses on one sector or another, from the first institutions to the land grants to the teacher education colleges to women’s colleges and historically black colleges. And he focuses on how different sectors aimed to promote visions of higher education “for the common good” -- even if some of those sectors were exclusionary for some of their history.

Dorn is professor of education and associate dean for academic affairs at Bowdoin College. He responded via email to questions about his book.

Q: There are many histories of American higher education. What made you think there was room for another? What led to your approach, focusing on different sectors at different times?

A: Yes, there are many higher education histories, and I’ve never been completely satisfied with what they offer. Most fall into one of three categories: 1) “house” histories written about particular institutions; 2) archival studies of particular institutional types, time periods or student cohorts; and 3) “synthetic” histories that are chronologically sweeping but mostly descriptive (and mainly synthesize previously published work). In contrast, For the Common Good is a comprehensive historical analysis of higher education that is both thesis driven and grounded in original archival research.

The method I employ investigates a wide range of institutional types established over the course of two centuries throughout the United States. From the community college to the elite research university -- in states from California to Maine -- I examine how colleges and universities have historically contributed to the common good.

This new approach captures the expansiveness of U.S. higher education, especially student and institutional diversity, without sacrificing important local and regional influences. The history of higher education during the early national period, for instance, has typically been told through the stories of New England colleges such as Harvard and Yale. South Carolina College (present-day University of South Carolina), however, was established in 1802 as the first state-sponsored higher education institution in the United States to receive ample political and financial support. How does that college’s Southern history revise our understanding of higher education’s development in America? For the Common Good engages exactly these kinds of questions.

Q: Your theme is that higher education evolved for the “common good,” as your title says. But many of the sectors you discuss -- women’s colleges, black colleges, Roman Catholic colleges -- came into being because establishment higher education excluded various groups. How do you reconcile your “common good” theme with that part of history?

A: Absolutely -- and that has been the most interesting element of my research for this book. Although the founders of America’s earliest colleges consistently declared an institutional commitment to the public good, they often defined “the public” in narrow and exclusive terms. My research demonstrates how Americans responded by advocating for increased higher education access and affordability and also for greater curricular relevance. This advocacy frequently led to reform, with colleges and universities changing their practices over time. Critics, however, often judged the pace of these reforms as too slow and established entirely new kinds of institutions to advance what they understood as the common good. For instance, reactions against residential colleges that maintained proficiency in Latin and Greek as admissions criteria and offered a classical course of study resulted in the founding of “normal schools” (dedicated to teacher training) and colleges devoted to the study of agriculture, mechanics, mining and military training (later abbreviated as “A&M”).

These “new” kinds of institutions (which were actually borrowed from European models) adopted less stringent, if not entirely different, admissions requirements, charged little to no tuition and offered “practical” courses of study. Similarly, historically black colleges and universities, women’s colleges, junior and community colleges, and public urban universities were all founded in reaction to the kinds of institutions that came before. Still, they too declared an institutional commitment to advance the public good. Indeed, given the wide variety of colleges and universities established in the United States over the course of two hundred years, a long-standing dedication to promoting the common good comprises the core of a grand narrative of American higher education history.

Q: You mention for-profit higher education in your epilogue. Did you consider a chapter? Could the common good theme have worked with this sector?

A: Unlike diploma mills, which have been in existence since at least the early 19th century and charge a fee for illegitimate degrees, accredited for-profit colleges and universities claim to provide specific forms of educational (often career) training. They are relative newcomers to American higher education -- too new to warrant their own chapter in a two-century study of college and university history. Nevertheless, these businesses, if conducted responsibly, could meet student needs by providing occupational training in ways that are accessible, flexible and affordable.

Participation in the “knowledge economy” often requires employees to possess specific kinds of knowledge and skills applicable to their vocational pursuits. For-profit colleges could be well suited to facilitate the acquisition of this knowledge and these skills, especially through the use of innovative online platforms. Unfortunately, many of these businesses, such as the recently defunct Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institutes, are less interested in educating students than in building wealth for investors by transferring billions of public dollars to private shareholders, an approach that has failed to guarantee either student success or corporate profitability.

Q: Having looked at the evolution of higher education through various sectors, are you concerned about the viability of particular sectors today?

A: Definitely. In 2003, just two U.S. colleges charged more than $40,000 a year for tuition, fees, room and board. Six years later, more than 200 did. The beginning of the Great Recession in 2008 catalyzed this spike in cost, driving down endowments and accelerating already-declining state support for higher education. One important ramification is that tuition at four-year public institutions, nationally, has come to provide a greater source of revenue than state appropriations. However, it’s not simply the nation’s economic climate that now dictates what colleges and universities charge, it’s the adoption of a corporate approach to operations that has already proven remarkably expensive to implement and extremely difficult to reform because of its overwhelming preoccupation with status.

The experiences of institutions such as Virginia’s Sweet Briar College reveal the risks associated with this model. Sweet Briar survived the maelstrom of the 20th century, including two world wars and an economic calamity, only to announce in 2015 that it was closing. Although the particular challenges confronting rural women’s colleges played a role in the institution’s financial decline, the combination of a corporate model of operation and the effects of the recession led to college officials’ announcing that the institution would end operations following the close of the academic year. As Inside Higher Ed reported at the time, “There are some liberal arts colleges -- places such as Williams, Amherst, Bowdoin and Middlebury Colleges -- that have prestige to attract students and the financial means to promote both constant campus activities and plenty of opportunities for urban experiences.” “But,” claimed Sweet Briar President James F. Jones, “it is increasingly difficult for other colleges to compete.” Ultimately, legal action combined with strong alumnae support saved Sweet Briar. Yet, Moody’s Investor Service has estimated that the number of four-year public and private higher education institutions that will go out of business over the next few years could triple annually. Today, few sectors of higher education today are impervious to this risk. [Editor’s note: Sweet Briar subsequently announced it would continue operations and has done so.]

Q: A recent poll by New America found many Americans doubt that higher education is about the common good, and that they perceive colleges as promoting the interests of colleges. Why do you think the public is cynical about higher education, especially in light of the idealism you highlight in the history of American higher education?

A: A social ethos of affluence has certainly come to characterize higher education in the 21st century, leading many to question colleges’ and universities’ dedication to the public good. In the same way that many students now report pursuing a college degree primarily in an effort to position themselves for an affluent future, colleges and universities regularly engage in decision making that maintains institutional affluence as its primary rationale. Yet, as I describe in the book, colleges and universities have always pursued wealth. That is to say, although the “search for gold” has taken on an unprecedented urgency in recent years, the search for donors and their dollars dates back to the nation’s early history.

The predominance of a social ethos of affluence, however, has not eliminated competing commitments. Civic-mindedness, for instance, continues to matter in higher education. In 2013, when an Arizona community college enrolling over 40,000 students moved to tighten its admission standards in the face of community opposition, its regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, penalized it for demonstrating “a lack of understanding of its role in serving the public good in its community.” Similarly, two years ago, when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker proposed replacing the Wisconsin Idea (characterized by the University of Wisconsin’s commitment to public service) with the far narrower objective of meeting “the state’s work force needs,” popular backlash led him to abandon the idea.

From research that benefits the public welfare to the active recruitment of students from marginalized populations to sustained efforts to cultivate civic competence, colleges and universities continue to advance the public good in the 21st century. As the New America poll reveals, over 60 percent of respondents continue to believe that college is primarily a societal good rather than a private one, indicating that even today a majority of Americans maintain faith in colleges’ and universities’ commitment to the common good.

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Study questions effectiveness of online education for at-risk students

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 07:00

As online education proliferates, is it effective for those students who are already at risk because they may not have been well prepared for higher education in the first place?

According to a new study from the Brookings Institution, students who are the least well prepared for traditional college also fare the worst in online courses. For top students, taking an online course didn’t definitively have a negative effect on a student’s grade point average. But for others -- especially lower-performing students -- taking online courses was associated with higher dropout rates and lower grades, both at the time the course was taken and in future semesters, when compared to students who took classes in person.

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The study’s authors, Eric Bettinger of Stanford University and Susanna Loeb of the Center on Children and Families, wrote that online courses aren’t living up to their potential.

“Thus, while online courses may have the potential to differentiate course work to meet the needs of students with weaker incoming skills, current online courses, in fact, do an even worse job of meeting the needs of these students than do traditional in-person courses,” they wrote.

The study’s data are limited in scope but have depth beyond a typical survey size -- they are based on data from DeVry University, a large, nonselective for-profit online college with more than 100,000 students, 80 percent of whom are seeking a bachelor’s degree. Representatives for DeVry were not immediately able to be reached for comment.

The setup of DeVry’s courses created two groups for researchers to compare, since DeVry offers each course both online and in person. Those courses also follow a similar structure -- they’re based around the same syllabi and use the same textbooks, as well as the same tests, quizzes and assignments. Even the class sizes are similar, and many professors teach both types of courses.

All those similarities might be part of the problem. Because of the lack of consistency that an online course has, its direct similarities to the in-person course might not be helpful.

“In short, DeVry online classes attempt to replicate traditional in-person classes, except that student-student and student-professor interactions are virtual and asynchronous,” the Brookings report reads.

The average DeVry student takes about two-thirds of their classes online, with the remaining third being taken in person.

The academic disparities that arise when comparing the students’ performance in in-person courses versus online courses are stark. The study found that those who take online courses are likely to score 0.44 points lower on a 4.0 GPA scale. If a student earned a B-minus when taking an in-person class, the study found that student would have earned a C online, on average.

Those results seemed to trickle down, too. Drops of 0.15 points in overall GPA are seen the next semester, and next-semester courses in the same subject area or for which the online course was a prerequisite were observed to drop 0.42 and 0.32 points, respectively. Bettinger and Loeb took this to mean that, by taking an online course, students not only received a worse grade, but learned less, since future grades also suffered.

One of the target demographics for online courses is students who have stopped out of college and need a more flexible course load. But it seems as though online courses have a stop-out problem of their own: students who took an online course were nine percentage points more likely to drop out the following semester, compared to their in-person peers. For those who do re-enroll, the study found that taking an online course reduces the number of credit hours taken in future semesters.

The study found that the negative associations with online courses are concentrated in lower-performing students -- the same ones who are often a key demographic for recruitment to online courses and online universities, since they might not fit in with the traditional college path.

Still, the researchers weren’t calling for the end of online instruction.

“On the contrary, online courses provide access to students who never would have the opportunity or inclination to take classes in person,” the report read.

What needs to change, according to the report, is how these courses can provide not just access, but better learning outcomes -- especially for those who need it the most.

“Nonetheless, the tremendous scale and consistently negative effects of current offerings points to the need to improve these courses, particularly for students most at risk of course failure and college dropout.”

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Comments from Betsy DeVos about unsettled law raise doubts about commitment to LGBT protections

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 07:00

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last month told lawmakers at a congressional hearing that states and local communities were better equipped than the federal government to deal with issues of regulation, drawing condemnations and negative headlines. In front of a Senate subcommittee last week, she had noticeably changed her tune, telling senators repeatedly that any school receiving federal funding is required to follow federal law.

That assurance came with a pretty big caveat, however. Pressed by Democrats on how she would protect the rights of LGBT students, DeVos said in areas where the law is “unsettled,” which she said included issues of bias against gay people, her department would not be “issuing decrees.”

Those comments have fueled concerns among advocates for those students that the department under DeVos will abandon its role in enforcing protections for gay and transgender students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Meanwhile, her testimony was hailed by conservatives who accused the Obama administration of overstepping its bounds in clarifying the rights of those students.

Advocates were disturbed by DeVos’s statements partly because many view as increasingly settled that federal anti-bias rules do apply in cases of sexual orientation and gender identity. A growing number of high-level federal court cases have found those protections under federal law extend to LGBT individuals. While exemptions exist for religious institutions, the trend overall has been clear, according to many legal experts. And advocates say the department plays an essential role not just in enforcing those protections but in clarifying the rules that colleges and universities operate under.

Others say that even if the law is unclear, that doesn’t remove the obligation of the department to offer guidance and enforce the law. The language of the Title IX statute is itself vague as to whom it extends protections to, stating only that institutions shall not discriminate against someone on the basis of sex, said Jim Newberry, a lawyer who heads the higher education practice at Steptoe & Johnson. Even with an accumulating number of federal court rulings, the absence of a Supreme Court decision mean some guidance from the department is necessary. And as the enforcer of federal civil rights law, it must also spell out the rules of the road for the institutions it polices in those areas.

The Obama administration issued multiple guidance documents detailing the obligations of institutions involving transgender students in 2016 and with respect to gay and lesbian students in 2011 and 2014.

In one of her first acts as education secretary, DeVos in February rescinded the guidance on transgender protections. A month later, the Supreme Court kicked a high-profile lawsuit involving a now former Virginia high school student, G. G. v. Gloucester County School Board, back to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, citing the change in the department’s position. The case was the first instance in which a federal appeals court ruled on Title IX protections applying to a transgender student, although a number of rulings had held that transgender individuals were covered under Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex.

In April, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Title VII protections applied to gay and lesbian employees in a case involving Ivy Tech Community College. And last month, the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of a transgender student in Wisconsin who identifies as male and sought to use the boys’ bathroom at his high school.

Federal cases much farther in the past have also recognized the rights of gay students. A 1984 ruling from the Fifth Circuit found that public colleges and universities must recognize student groups for gay students.

DeVos hasn’t indicated whether the department will also withdraw the Obama guidance regarding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And the department didn’t respond to an inquiry about plans for those guidelines. But advocates aren’t taking positive signs away from her latest appearance before lawmakers.

Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the testimony suggested the Department of Education may be abdicating its responsibility to enforce the law protecting LGBT students.

“Ever since the secretary’s last trip to the Hill, the education and civil rights communities have been eager for her to clarify that she believes all schools that accept federal funds must follow federal law,” she said. “Now that we finally have that clarification from her, it’s apparent that we should put an asterisk next to it.”

Tobin said federal courts have made clear rulings that federal law prohibits discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But she said it’s precisely in those areas where the law is unclear that institutions need clarification from the department in plain English and students need assurance that there is a backstop for their rights. In the absence of clear policies, there have been cases where gay and transgender students say their rights have been violated.

Guidelines themselves won’t be worth much if the department is not also an effective enforcer of Title IX violations, said Sejal Singh, campaigns and communications manager for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress.

“Even if more and more courts rightly recognize that colleges can’t expel students for being LGBT and schools can’t disproportionately discipline LGBT students, that’s not going to mean anything if the Department of Education isn’t taking action to make sure schools are compliant with the law,” she said.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, said the Trump administration’s actions and comments so far could encourage administrators at schools and universities to turn a blind eye to discrimination.

“This could be a wink and a nod to schools across the country that the Department of Education does not actually intend to fully enforce federal law,” she said.

Some institutions may feel empowered to adopt policies that undermine protections for LGBT students, Warbelow said. That could mean requiring transgender students to use bathrooms not conforming with their identity or supporting faculty who refuse to use a student’s correct name or misgender them, she said.

The Human Rights Campaign played a large role in pushing the Obama administration to begin publicly releasing a list of colleges and universities that seek religious exemptions to Title IX protections. DeVos in her Senate testimony today suggested that she was open to discontinuing that practice, another worrying sign for the organization.

More significantly for its critics, the department under Obama issued guidance on Title IX in the form of Dear Colleague letters or other nonbinding documents at a faster clip than just about any administration that came before. In addition to issues of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, those guidelines also dealt with the treatment of victims of sexual misconduct. The department’s activity was partly a function of the increased public attention on those issues over the last decade. The Office for Civil Rights as well saw an exponential increase in complaints filed against both K-12 schools and higher ed institutions.

But conservative critics argued that the administration overstepped its bounds in issuing those guidelines and effectively created new law via regulation. They also claimed it violated the rights of religious institutions, despite the large number of Title IX exemptions granted by the department.

Christen Price, an attorney who was a frequent critic of the previous administration, said Democrats’ questioning of DeVos last week was political grandstanding. Via email, she said that the real victims of discrimination under the Obama administration were religious institutions.

“We can all agree that discrimination should never be allowed, which is what Secretary DeVos was getting at. Unfortunately, we saw the federal government operate as a lead discriminator repeatedly throughout the Obama administration,” Price said. “Whether we are talking about the privacy and dignity of all students when they use intimate facilities such as shower rooms, locker rooms and restrooms or the ability of a private, religious school to operate consistent with its mission as its secular counterparts have the freedom to do, it is imperative that the voices and concerns of all students and parents be heard and balanced, and that all Americans continue to have their First Amendment-guaranteed freedom to live, work and attend a school consistent with their faith and conscience without fear of government retaliation.”

Ryan T. Anderson, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said DeVos appeared to be arguing that the role of the department is to enforce existing law, not create new law. Heritage argues that policies dealing with LGBT students should be left up to institutions themselves.

“Colleges and universities should be free to set their own policies on marriage, sexuality, gender, etc.,” Anderson said via email. “And then students, parents and teachers should be free to decide what sort of school they want to be a member of.”

Tobin of the National Center for Transgender Equality said that kind of discretion is not how civil rights laws have ever worked in the U.S.

“There are of course many different reasons that students and families take into consideration of where they go to school, but basic facts about who they are should not have to be one of them,” she said.

Attorneys who work on Title IX cases say the reality is that even with a number of federal court rulings endorsing protections for gay and transgender students, the vagueness of the statute and the absence of any ruling from the Supreme Court mean the department has a role to play in interpreting the law. That’s especially true because courts in the past have paid some deference to the agencies charged with enforcing federal statute, as demonstrated by the latest turn in the G. G. case.

“Could we benefit from clarity from the department? Absolutely. It’s still going to be relevant,” said Kimberly Lau, a partner at Warshaw Burstein LLP who frequently handles cases involving Title IX complaints. “It’s going to be relevant for these courts to look to the administering agency for Title IX. They’re going to want to see how the department interprets that statute.”

Lau, who has represented both complainants and students accused of misconduct on campuses, said the Trump administration appears so far unwilling to take an affirmative position one way or another. She said instead of guidance from the department, new legislation is necessary from Congress clearly spelling out protections.

In the absence of new federal law, Lau said the department should absolutely weigh in. But new guidelines should be drafted with an opportunity for the public to comment, she said. The Obama administration was criticized by conservatives -- and by some institutions -- for issuing guidelines without going through a public comment process.

“It will make for a better set of guidelines if you have the input of the public,” Lau said.

Despite DeVos’s insistence that her department won’t “issue decrees,” attorneys involved in higher ed law agreed that taking no position at all on the rights of students and the obligations of institutions isn’t feasible.

“The agency’s got to come up with some sort of consistent way of applying the statute,” Newberry said.

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Professor accused of raping disabled man sees her convictions overturned

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 07:00

One of the stranger legal cases to ever touch academe took an unexpected turn last week when an appeals court overturned the convictions of Anna Stubblefield. The former chair of philosophy at Rutgers University at Newark was sentenced to concurrent 12-year prison terms for two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a disabled man, though she claimed the contact was consensual based on a highly contested form of communication.

Stubblefield said she and the man, known in court documents as D. J., were in love, but a jury found she’d raped him. That’s after his family members and other experts said he was unable to consent due to severely limited intellectual capacity stemming from cerebral palsy.

Stubblefield lost her job and went to prison but appealed the case based on the fact that the jury hadn’t been allowed to hear from her own expert witness. That witness, Rosemary Crossley, is controversial in her own right but found that D. J. could communicate. Yet Crossley in her assessment used the form of communication that Stubblefield did in her own interactions with D. J., and her entire three-day evaluation was deemed inadmissible.

Not a “recognized science” was what the judge in Stubblefield’s first trial called facilitated communication, in which an assistant physically helps a person communicate -- usually holding their hand over a keyboard or letter board. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that facilitated communication doesn’t work, since the communicaton assistant will inevitably influence what comes across, even unknowingly through what’s been called the ideomotor reflex. Facilitated communication’s most uncharitable descriptions characterize it as no better than a Ouija board.

Still, the method has its champions, who say it’s helped unlock the inner thoughts of those who can’t otherwise communicate them to the outside world, including nonverbal people with autism. While many academics and others following the case said it was clear that Stubblefield used her position of authority as an ethics scholar and a trusted family friend to rape D. J. in her office, some saw the case as raising crucial questions about the autonomy of disabled persons. At times during Stubblefield’s case, it seemed like facilitated communication was on trial alongside her, though, again, the judge never let the jury hear from an expert proponent.

The appeals court found that decision to be flawed, however, and ordered a new trial in which the jury -- not a judge -- would be able to assess the validity of Crossley's conclusions.

In a decision released Friday, State Judge Ellen Koblitz said that Stubblefield “was precluded from fully presenting her defense” based on the lower court’s “cleansing” of facilitated communication from the record. Ordering another trial with a new judge and Crossley’s assessment of D. J. -- at least those parts not involving facilitated communication -- Koblitz said that the first jury was unfairly given “no evidence that any other lay or expert person believed D. J. to have the intellectual capacity to consent to sexual activity.”

She noted, for example, that the jury on the first go-around also was not able to review portions of Crossley’s evaluation in which D. J. was said to have independently correctly answered 43 of 45 scored questions, most of which required literacy skills. The judge also said that another witness -- an assistant who’d interacted with D. J. as college student -- was prevented from testifying and speaking of her experiences with him.

“The factual setting here was extraordinary, and it called for a liberal admission of evidence supporting defendant's defense to allow her the opportunity to convince the jury of the reasons for her unorthodox perception of D. J.'s capabilities,” Koblitz wrote. “The jury was not presumptively gullible. It did not have to be shielded from employing its common sense to fairly evaluate the testimony from both sides.”

The decision also notes that the only evidence of Stubblefield’s alleged assaults comes from Stubblefield herself. Some context: the former professor learned about facilitated communication from her mother, the disabilities scholar Sandra McClennen. Focused on racial justice early in her career, Stubblefield increasingly centered her work on ableism, or discrimination against disabled people. In 2008, after she showed the film Autism Is a World to a class, a graduate student approached Stubblefield and asked if something he’d seen -- facilitated communication -- might help his younger brother, D. J.

Stubblefield began to work with the man, pro bono, first supervised by the family and then alone. By 2011, their relationship turned romantic, according to what Stubblefield told the family. Horrified, they broke off contact, but Stubblefield continued to share her feelings for D. J., saying she’d leave her own family for him, and attempted to visit him at his day care facility. The family contacted Rutgers to complain, launching what would become a criminal case.

Crossley, who is based in Australia, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. She runs the Anne McDonald Centre for facilitated communication, which in Australia more than in the U.S. means both physically assisted communication and independent communication by nonverbal people using computer-like or other devices. Crossley made a name for herself in the 1970s and '80s by training teenagers with cerebral palsy to communicate through spelling, eventually writing a book turned movie called Annie’s Coming Out about her first student, Anne McDonald.

Crossley has fans but also critics -- a lot of them. Among her detractors is, interestingly, the magician James Randi, who was so confident facilitated communication is a hoax that he once offered a $1 million cash prize for proof that it works. Others have said that facilitated communication may well work, but argued that Stubblefield's case, with all its particulars and criminal bent, is a poor vehicle for discussing it.

Others still have focused their concerns more on disability studies scholars’ reactions to Stubblefield. Mark Sherry, professor of sociology at the University of Toledo and immediate past chair of the American Sociological Association’s disability section, wrote a 2016 paper saying he was disappointed in the way some academics have failed to broach potentially significant questions surrounding the case.

“I am deeply concerned that there has been a lack of critical reflection from disability studies scholars as to the danger of their role becoming de facto rape apologists,” for example, he wrote. “It seems to me that disability studies scholars ought to be framing this behavior in terms of the epidemic of rape and sexual violence against disabled people, which has been documented elsewhere. We live in a rape culture -- the fact that very few disability studies scholars are framing their discussions in terms of rape culture is alarming.”

Pointing out that D. J. is black, while Stubblefield is a white academic who offered to help him for free, Sherry wrote, “These dynamics cannot be ignored -- imbalances of power underlie most cases of sexual abuse, rape and other forms of sexual violence. Yet they seem to have been sidelined when disability scholars rallied around their colleague and friend.”

Sherry said this week that despite the overturned convictions, Stubblefield’s “rescue fantasy and need for power resulted in the rape of this intellectually disabled man, justified through the sham technique of facilitated communication.” He accused the appellate court of admitting a “discredited pseudoscience through the back door” and Crossley of manufacturing assessment results  in a way that still amounts to facilitated communication. He also said he feared the decision will "intensify the suffering" of the "true victims" in the case, and "embolden more people using facilitated communication to unconsciously manufacture the consent of their rape victims to justify behavior that should result in imprisonment.”

Jason Travers, an associate professor of special education at the University of Kansas and outspoken critic of facilitated communication, said allowing Crossley's testimony could change the verdict in the new trial, "but not because she obtained authentic evidence that the victim could communicate." Whether Crossley held the victim's hand, as did Stubblefield, or held a letter board in front of his suspended finger, he said, "the use of facilitated communication during assessment can only produce erroneous results."

Allowing Crossley to endorse this "quintessential pseudoscience" and asking a new jury to consider it could wrongly lead at least someone to believe it's legitimate, Travers added. "We live in a post-fact world where scientific evidence is increasingly devalued and poorly understood. Facilitated communication is a remarkably powerful illusion capable of compelling belief among individuals of all stripes. Why wouldn't we expect a jury of our peers to be impervious to its allure?"

D. J. supposedly authored an academic paper, with Stubblefield’s help, published by Disability Studies Quarterly in 2011. In it, D. J. references the work of psychologist Steven Pinker, among others. The article was retracted earlier this year, but not based on Stubblefield’s conviction or any stated problem with facilitated communication. Rather, the editors blame the paper's “major overlap” with an article D. J. also published in The Communicator, a publication of the National Autism Committee. That issue includes a tribute to McDonald, Crossley’s first client.

A spokesperson for Rutgers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Stubblefield also was ordered to pay $4 million in damages to D. J.'s family in a separate civil case last year.

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AU Beirut professor turned back at U.S. airport

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 07:00

A professor at the American University of Beirut traveling to an engineering conference in California was denied entry into the U.S. by immigration officials at Los Angeles International Airport in a case that could raise renewed concerns about the impact of the Trump administration’s travel policies on academic exchange.

AUB said George Saad traveled to the U.S. on Friday, June 2, to present his work at the American Society of Civil Engineers' Engineering Mechanics Institute conference in San Diego. “At the gate in Charles de Gaulle airport, he was interviewed by a representative from the U.S. embassy in Paris to confirm his identity before boarding the flight to LAX,” AUB said in a statement. “He was cleared to fly but was met in LAX by immigration officers, who continued to interview him. Then he was informed that his visa was canceled, and he was put on a return flight out of LAX.”

Saad, an assistant professor of engineering at AUB, a prestigious, American-style institution chartered in the state of New York, has graduate degrees from two U.S. universities -- a master’s from Johns Hopkins and a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California -- and is a licensed engineer in California, according to his online CV and California professional registration records. “AUB is surprised and concerned by the restrictions placed on a scholar who was traveling in order to share his research in the engineering field,” the university said.

Saad did not return multiple email messages seeking comment. In an interview with The New York Post, which first reported on the refusal, he said he was interrogated for four hours upon arriving at LAX, that his phone and laptop were seized, and that he had to give passwords for the devices. He told the Post he has traveled to the U.S. without incident about 15 times, including for engineering conferences in 2015 and 2016, and that he was not given an explanation for why he was refused entry.

A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said only that Saad “was found inadmissible under the provisions of INA,” the Immigration and Nationality Act.

“CBP officers are thoroughly trained on admissibility factors and the Immigration and Nationality Act, which broadly governs the admissibility and inadmissibility of travelers into the United States,” the agency said in a statement. “It should also be emphasized that CBP strictly prohibits profiling on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“CBP denies entry to an average of 700 individuals a day -- less than one-tenth of 1 percent. We recognize that there is an important balance to strike between securing our borders while facilitating the high volume of legitimate trade and travel that crosses our borders every day, and we strive to achieve that balance and show the world that the United States is a welcoming nation.”

Section 212 of the INA states a long list of reasons why foreign nationals would be ineligible for a visa or admission into the U.S., including reasons related to health, criminal activity, and terrorism and national security.

“I can’t tell you why he was excluded, but those grounds [for exclusion] are really broad,” said Ally Bolour, an immigration lawyer in Los Angeles and a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Board of Governors. “We are seeing this all over. This is a high-profile case, but it’s happening to ordinary folks that nobody hears about.”

“INA 212 has a good purpose; its purpose is to exclude people that might do us harm. That’s why Congress put it there, but then when you apply it without any rationale, and really profile people -- and that might have happened here -- it has a chilling effect,” Bolour said.

“We have clients, sometimes they have to wait months and months and months with no light at the end of the tunnel until and if the visa is issued,” Bolour continued. “What this situation presents is even after that drama, someone at LAX or another port of entry can just randomly deny [entry] with no explanation whatsoever. The chilling effect is people like [Saad] will not come to the U.S. next time. They don’t want to be humiliated. Remember, it’s at least a 12-hour flight, they hold you at LAX, then they put you on a plane. It’s extremely uncomfortable, not to mention humiliating.”

The denial of entry to Saad comes amid widespread concerns in higher education that President Trump’s ban on travel from six Muslim-majority countries -- temporarily halted by the courts -- and his proposals for more “extreme vetting” of international visitors could have a chilling impact on academic exchange. (Lebanon is not among the six countries included in the halted travel ban.)

Many are worried that incidents like this will prompt international scholars to stay away from U.S.-based conferences. In February, Henry Rousso, a Holocaust historian from France traveling to speak at a symposium at Texas A&M University, was interrogated for 10 hours and nearly sent back to Paris before an immigration law professor at A&M intervened on his behalf. In that case, Rousso seems to have come under scrutiny due to confusion on the border officer’s part about whether he could accept an honorarium while in the U.S. on a tourist visa (international visitors who enter on tourist visas are typically prohibited from receiving payment, but there are exceptions for honoraria for academic activities).

The U.S. Department of State recently began asking extra questions of certain visa applicants related to their social media handles, employment and travel histories, and familial connections, despite the objections of more than 50 academic groups that argued that the enhanced questioning is "likely to have a chilling effect not only on those required to submit additional information, but indirectly on all international travelers to the United States" and could lead to long delays in processing times.

A State Department spokesperson said of the supplemental questioning that "maintaining robust screening standards for visa applicants is a dynamic practice that must adapt to emerging threats. We already request contact information, travel history, family member information and previous addresses from all visa applicants. Collecting additional information from visa applicants whose circumstances suggest a need for further scrutiny strengthens our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity."

The American Society of Civil Engineers, which sponsored the conference that Saad was planning on attending, issued the following statement about him being refused entry.

“The American Society of Civil Engineers believes that the United States must continue to welcome qualified individuals from all countries, to study, teach, work, create jobs and carry out scholarship and other activities that will enhance our health, safety and welfare. ASCE urges the Trump administration, Congress and interested parties to work together to develop sound policies that ensure our visa system prevents entry by those who wish to harm us, while maintaining the inflow of talent that has contributed so much to our nation.”

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Facebook testing features to let users teach online courses

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 07:00

Facebook is testing new features in its developer community that, if rolled out across the platform, could let anyone on the social networking service teach online courses.

Moderators of some Facebook groups listed as school or class have recently noticed that they can add course units that link to one another. As members of the groups work their way through the units, their efforts are tracked by a progress bar.

The features are part of an initiative, known as Developers Circles, to connect local developers with one another that Facebook launched at this spring at its developers conference, F8. The company is working with online education provider Udacity to create training programs for developers who participate in the circles.

On its website, Facebook describes the circles and the new features as a way for developers to learn about artificial intelligence, internet-connected devices and other topics that the company is interested in. However, some Facebook users who aren’t developers have begun noticing that they are now able to add course units to their groups as well, suggesting the features may be available more widely.

There are several missing features that may prevent instructors from testing Facebook as an online learning platform -- no grade book, for example. And beyond the feature set, some instructors may be wary about teaching on Facebook out of concern that information about them and their learners could be mined for valuable advertising data.

The company didn’t have much to say about its interest in online learning. A Facebook spokesperson, speaking on background, said the features are “something we’re testing” and that the company should have more information to share later this year.

Facebook is the latest tech giant to take an incremental approach to education. Apple has steadily added features to iTunes U, its learning platform, and its computers and tablets have long been popular in the classroom. While most universities have put content on iTunes U as one of several ways to offer free online lectures and courses, at least one -- Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. -- has gone as far as using the platform as its learning management system.

Google has used a similar strategy with its productivity suite for education, Google Classroom, which has gained some traction among educators, particularly in the K-12 space. The company’s Chromebooks, a line of affordable laptops that run a beefed-up version of the web browser Chrome, have emerged as a popular alternative to Apple’s products.

Facebook, while initially restricted to college students, hasn't for most of its history shown a serious interest in becoming an education platform. As Facebook has grown from a social media network to a massive tech company, however, the company has branched out. Some of its recent acquisitions or initiatives involve artificial intelligence, live sports streaming and virtual reality, to mention a few.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has recently taken an interest in education. He and pediatrician Priscilla Chan, his wife, in 2015 founded the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which among many initiatives is exploring whether personalized learning can benefit students.

With nearly two billion active monthly users on the site, Facebook wouldn’t need a large number of them to teach a course to become a major presence in the online education market. In comparison, Udemy, an online learning platform founded in 2010, says more than 15 million students and 20,000 instructors use the site.

David S. Janzen, professor of computer science at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, is one of them. He has for years taught a Java coding course on Udemy, which his profile shows more than 6,500 learners have taken.

In an email, Janzen said he has no interest in teaching a course on Facebook.

“I am skeptical about Facebook entering online learning,” Janzen said. “I expect they will have some success just based on their size, but I don't expect them to become the dominant player in online learning. There is a lot of healthy competition. Also, I'm nervous about a deep integration of social media and learning. The mix of constant interruption (social media) with a need to focus (learning) seems counterproductive.”

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Report details major issues at University of Louisville Foundation

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 07:00

A new report on operations at the University of Louisville Foundation describes in devastating detail a series of excessive spending practices, unbudgeted expenses, unapproved actions, high executive compensation and unrecorded endowment losses.

The foundation’s Board of Directors in many cases did not approve foundation activities or were not aware of them, according to the 135-page report, which was produced by an independent investigating firm and released Thursday. Foundation officers often did not provide board members with enough information to allow them to make informed decisions, it said. The foundation mixed its pots of cash, leaving it unable to identify funding sources for particular transactions and scrambling its endowment valuation. Foundation employees in some cases sought to hide their actions from the media.

Leaders at the University of Louisville and its foundation generally refrained from commenting in depth Thursday, when they reviewed the report for the first time. It “paints a disturbing picture,” said the chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees, J. David Grissom, in a statement. He did not rule out legal action in the future.

“The board has not yet determined what legal actions, if any, should be taken as a result of the forensic investigation conclusions,” Grissom said. “However, I would anticipate that the board, after consulting with counsel, will, within the next couple of weeks, make that determination.”

The report has been hotly anticipated since it was ordered last year in the wake of the ouster of James Ramsey, who was president of both the university and the foundation. Ramsey’s leadership had come under intense scrutiny and political pressure before he stepped down from the role of university president last summer, leaving a role he had held for 14 years. He later resigned from the foundation presidency.

The foundation receives and administers donations for the University of Louisville. It manages an endowment reported to be worth more than $700 million as of the 2016 fiscal year. It is made up of 13 wholly owned subsidiaries and several joint-venture partnerships.

The university hired the consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal to conduct the examination amid major questions about foundation spending. The report focuses on the time period spanning the 2014 to 2016 fiscal years. In doing so it examines some decisions dating back to the early 2000s.

Specific Findings

According to the report, the foundation made loans to its subsidiaries and reported the balance of those loans in its endowment pool -- even though the subsidiaries appeared to not be able or not to be required to repay those balances.

For instance, the foundation loaned a subsidiary $10 million in endowment funds for a grant without approval from its Board of Directors. The grant does not represent an asset, but its principal amount plus interest have been listed as an endowment pool asset. That means the university overstated the endowment pool’s market value by $11.2 million. In another case, a similar series of loans that was approved by directors led to the endowment pool market value being potentially overstated by more than $60 million.

Investments in high-risk start-up companies are also examined. The foundation invested $9.9 million from its endowment pool into companies now valued at less than $2 million. The foundation also guaranteed loans and other benefits, likely costing $3.2 million more in losses. Documents showed at least one company was required to rent space from a foundation subsidiary in exchange for a $3.2 million investment. It appears some companies funded research through donations instead of research sponsorship agreements so that they could avoid paying university overhead charges.

Those and other issues have contributed to the foundation spending far more than is called for in its endowment spending policy. Its policy is to spend 7.48 percent of its endowment’s three-year average market value annually. But the report finds effective spending rates as high as 15.14 percent in 2014, 10.99 percent in 2015 and 14.64 percent in 2016.

In December 2004, the foundation board authorized Ramsey to spend $5 million over five years from an undesignated quasi endowment that at the time was valued at about $17.6 million. Directors removed the time restriction and, apparently, the amount restriction in 2007. The fund was entirely spent by the end of March 2014. Some spending went to executive compensation and bowl game trips. They did not appear to have been in accord with board authorization, the report found.

The foundation and the University of Louisville Athletic Association did deals in which the foundation purchased properties for the athletic association or funded expenditures for it. In return, the athletic association waived required donations for tickets to men’s basketball games and football games. It also transferred cash to the university.

The foundation spent $15.1 million for the athletic association, including $4 million for former football coach Steven Kragthorpe, as part of a coaching staff reorganization. The foundation received only $11.6 million in consideration in return.

The foundation funded $4.9 million in compensation for a group of athletic association employees between 2010 and 2016. That included $1.8 million in compensation to Athletic Director Tom Jurich under an employment agreement with the foundation.

Deferred compensation the foundation awarded to Jurich and men’s head basketball coach Rick Pitino exceeded the market value of funds designated for the payments. Money set aside for the compensation awards was recorded as accruing interest at a rate greater than average market returns, the report found.

The foundation funded $800,000 in season tickets every fiscal year for the Office of the President. The office was to give the majority of tickets to donors and alumni. It also sold a small number of the tickets it held. The tickets would have required a total donation of $18.6 million over 10 years under normal circumstances. But the athletic association agreed to waive $9.6 million in exchange for the foundation financing four special projects costing $8.5 million.

Other events scrutinized related to athletics included the foundation liquidating endowment assets to fund a loan to purchase a golf course. The course’s owner was considering selling, and the university’s golf team played at the course. The athletic association was concerned the golf teams would not have a place to play. The foundation used endowment assets to fund a loan to purchase the course but did not list the loan as an endowment pool asset in its accounting. It also changed an interest rate below returns it would have expected to earn if the funds remained in the endowment pool, according to the report.

The foundation’s Board of Directors does not appear to have been informed of all property acquisitions for the athletic association, the report says. It also cites documents from a foundation official attempting to conceal the relationship between the foundation and association.

One 2012 letter from Kathleen Smith, who was chief of staff for the president and assistant secretary, says, “This note is between you, Tom [Jurich], Dr. Ramsey and me. I do not want it on the email where we have very little control. Please destroy your earlier note to me. I have done same here.”

The letter was a part of negotiations between the athletic association and the foundation that resulted in the athletic association using properties in exchange for transferring $2 million to the University of Louisville in order to fund university faculty and staff salary increases.

Officials also showed interest in concealing from open records requests compensation the foundation paid, according to the report. It cites one email between Smith and David Saffer, a lawyer, in which Smith discusses taking the vowels out of the name of a foundation subsidiary that administered deferred compensation plans until 2014.

“Thought taking the vowels out of Minerva could work too,” the email said. “I’m fine with either but needs to be difficult to figure out for media.”

The report also found that the foundation paid out compensation beyond budgeted amounts its Board of Directors approved and that additional compensation was not transparent. It found the Office of the President directed the foundation to not include deferred compensation from the foundation budget.

From 2005 to 2016, the deferred compensation plan cost the foundation $21.8 million -- $8.4 million in vested contributions, $4.1 million in accrued earnings and $9.2 million in tax gross-ups, which are reimbursements for taxes paid on income. Foundation officers worked to conceal the compensation from open-records requests. Contributions and earnings of $12.5 million went to just nine employees.

The foundation purchased properties at prices above appraised value. It paid $10.3 million above value for eight properties. It paid a total of $30.1 million for properties not generating revenue. In some cases the foundation’s Board of Directors also approved property acquisitions without identifying the source of funding used.

Unbudgeted and overbudgeted expenditures led to the foundation liquidating $42 million of its endowment pool assets. Foundation spending resulted in underwater endowments -- restricted endowment programs with a current market value below the size of the initial gift -- reported at $23.7 million as of June 30, 2016.

Consultants gathering information for the report found that the university did not always preserve data. In one instance, the university’s IT department erased and repurposed Ramsey’s hard drive before the consultants began their investigation.

The Office of the President made procurement card purchases that may not be in compliance with university policies, the report said. A January 2017 compliance review identified several cases where employees used procurement cards for personal expenses, including home internet service and personal meals.

Diane Medley, the foundation’s chair, released a statement that did not comment on the report specifically.

“I am going to take some time to digest what I’ve read before making substantive comments about the findings,” Medley said. “But I would point to the myriad changes we have undertaken at the foundation over the last few months as evidence that things have already changed for the better, particularly in terms of governance, financial management and overall transparency. Along with the new board and the foundation’s executive director, Keith Sherman, we as a team have worked hard to get this foundation back to a place where it can fulfill its vital work -- to support the academic mission of the University of Louisville.”

Distancing Itself From the Past

The university has sought to distance itself from Ramsey’s leadership. Representatives on Thursday described the audit as a “retrospective on how the University of Louisville Foundation operated under previous leadership.” The university’s interim president, Greg Postel, sent an email on Wednesday, before the report was released, spelling out numerous changes put in place over the last eight months.

Those changes include governance reforms like prohibiting the same person from serving as president of the university and its foundation. They also include the foundation complying with Kentucky’s open-records law, establishing a line-item budget and appointing 12 new members to the foundation’s 15-person board.

“The audit should help us close the door on the previous chapter for both the university and the foundation,” Postel’s message said.

Other changes that have been put in place include the foundation hiring a full-time executive director and chief operating officer, holding board meetings monthly instead of quarterly, and putting in place a memorandum of understanding between the foundation and the university to define their individual roles.

Additional reforms were geared toward added spending oversight and public transparency. The foundation has also killed its controversial deferred compensation program, which provided about $20 million to a small group of administrators.

Postel released a statement on the audit Thursday.

“As I have said since I took this position in January, I am committed to being transparent and to operating above the board,” he said. “I also am committed -- and I think our recent actions confirm this -- to returning this university to solid financial footing. The steps we are currently taking will position us well for the future.”

Ramsey's lawyer, Steve Pence, told The Courier-Journal that he could not comment until he read the report. The report says that Ramsey declined to be interviewed in person by investigators, as did eight of 18 former foundation board members.

The forensic audit comes after a report released in December by Kentucky’s Auditor of Public Accounts found fault with the foundation’s governance and relationship to the university. That report found a concentration of authority had caused ineffective governance practices, as well as a lack of checks and balances. It also noted representatives of the Auditor of Public Accounts office were not able to consistently access information until new leaders were put in place at the university and the foundation.

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Liberty University president won't be leading task force on higher ed regulation after all

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 07:00

In the months since Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said in January that he would be leading a presidential task force on higher education, the announcement went unacknowledged by the White House and the Department of Education, and few details have been forthcoming.

Now it appears that a Falwell-led task force won’t be materializing at all. Politico reported Thursday that multiple sources said there is no task force and no plan to launch one.

Falwell, one of President Trump’s earliest supporters, had promised that the task force would deal with federal regulation of colleges and universities as well as accreditors. He said he announced the enterprise after getting the green light from Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist. Many higher education leaders, including some who are critical of the Trump administration and not particularly close to Falwell, have praised the idea of simplifying or eliminating some regulations of the sector.

In a statement through the university, Falwell indicated that he would still be involved in a White House task force dealing with education.

"The White House contacted me last week and asked me to be a part of a group of 15 college presidents to address education issues," he said. "This is a White House task force and not a Department of Education task force."

Trump last month gave the commencement address at the Liberty campus in Lynchburg, Va. But his speech notably left out any mention of a task force.

While no announcements of the Falwell task force have been forthcoming, the department appears poised to conduct an  in-house review of regulatory policies. In February, the White House issued an executive order directing all federal agencies to set up a "regulatory reform task force" to identify rules for potential elimination.

Asked by Senator Lamar Alexander during a Senate subcommittee hearing this week about her plans to pursue regulatory reform of higher ed, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the department is on its way to carrying out recommendations of a 2015 report produced by the bipartisan-appointed Congressional Task Force on Federal Regulation of Higher Education. DeVos added that the recommendations in that report, which was produced by a panel of 16 college presidents, "coincide" with the aims of the president's executive order.

A department spokesman said the department is unaware of the White House making any announcement of a Falwell-led task force and would therefore have no comment to make.

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Instructor who says she brought adjunct union to Barnard no longer employed there

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 07:00

When Georgette Fleischer, a longtime adjunct instructor of English at Barnard College, was first denied an appeal over a lost course assignment, her lawyer advised her to unionize. With the help the United Auto Workers and other interested instructors, she did just that, and remembers the early days of the campaign as some of the proudest in her life.

Three years later, in a twist of fate, Fleischer is out of a job. She says the college is retaliating against her -- and others who also have not been reappointed -- for union activism. And while the union has filed a grievance on her behalf, she’s also on the outs with union leaders after disagreements over collective bargaining. Fleischer says that the union contract, signed this spring, averting a planned strike, is so light on job projections that she was better off without it.

“This is one of the worst betrayals of my life,” she said. “I wanted to unionize to create conditions that would strengthen and preserve jobs. Now Barnard’s administration has finally realized its long-held dream of getting rid of me.”

Barnard denies that retaliation was a factor in Fleischer’s non-reappointment. But Fleischer can’t help but connect the dots between her 17 years of teaching and not getting reappointed after organizing for the union. UAW says the contract was approved by members by wide margin, and that it offers non-tenure-track professors a significant pay increase and other benefits they’ve never before had. Other instructors agree. Yet Fleischer believes the contract, by laying out various reasons for which adjuncts can be terminated or not reappointed, legally “concretizes” Barnard’s right to get rid of gadflies and other inconvenient professors.

Fleischer’s trouble began in 2014, when she was not reassigned to the first-year seminar program in which she'd long taught over some negative comments in students' evaluations of her teaching. Given the ongoing debate over the validity of such evaluations and their place in personnel decisions, she asked the administration for a grievance hearing but was told she wasn’t a faculty member with such rights and sought legal advice. The lawyer she chose said he’d help her take the fight to court, which he did, winning Fleischer a right to appeal; the state judge in the case rejected Barnard's contention that a lecturer without a contractual appointment is not subject to its faculty Code of Academic Freedom and Tenure. Fleischer still lost the seminar course after a faculty vote but, for her, the legal judgment was crucial: in the absence of another set of rules, adjuncts are still employees with certain rights.

Fleischer's counsel still advised her to see about forming a union, to stave off problems in the future. There was an adjunct faculty union boom at the time, and Fleischer found help though the UAW, which represented New York University graduate students and, later, graduate student employees and part-time faculty members at other New York campuses, including Columbia University. Things started off right, but Fleischer said she soon butted heads with the local unit president over collective bargaining and other issues.

She eventually resigned from the bargaining committee. Negotiations proceeded, and the union voted to approve a contract that was widely viewed as among the best yet for adjuncts anywhere. Minimum per-course pay is now $7,000, increasing to $10,000 over the five-year contract, a notable pay increase for most instructors. Term faculty members' annual salary will increase from $60,000 to $70,000 over those five years. There’s a provision for health care access, and those teaching nine or more credits per year -- and six or more credits per year starting in 2019 -- are eligible for a college subsidy of half that provided to full-timers. Multi-year appointments of up to four years based on length of service now exist, as does separation pay for those who have taught for seven semesters or more. 

But in addition to other qualms with the fine print, Fleischer says the contract now specifically outlines how administrators can get rid of union members they don't like. 

Under the contract, union members may be denied appointments or course assignments due to elimination, downsizing or mergers of academic units or programs, or the creation of a full-time position that assumes the courses they teach. Other reasons are course cancelations in line with the rest of the contract, changes in course offerings due to curricular modifications and the availability of an instructor with “significantly more relevant credentials and experience.” Non-reappointment is based on unsatisfactory performance or conduct, failure to meet contractual requirements or extracurricular misconduct that could affect one’s teaching effectiveness. But a discharge for "just cause" clause only applies to mid-appointment terminations.

That’s how things took a nosedive, she says. The first-year writing program in which she’d worked for years, formerly staffed mainly by adjuncts, was transitioning to a full-time faculty model. She applied for a full-time position but wasn’t even interviewed, she said. (The college confirms this but says two of three full-time slots went to faculty members who had previously been part-time.)

In late May, Fleischer was summoned to the writing program director’s office for what she assumed was a semi-routine meeting. But college legal and human resources officers were there, she says, as she was told she wouldn’t be teaching this fall at all. The stated rationale was twofold: the transition to full-time faculty in the writing program, as now allowed by the contract, and student evaluations. The second reason didn't make sense, though, she says, as her student ratings have improved since 2014 and she's been called “a creative and dedicated teacher” by a department administrator as recently as 2015. She also noted she received a strong review from a visiting accreditor who sat in on her class in 2011.

Fleischer said she’s had previous disagreements with faculty members in her department, including by inadvertently drawing negative attention to it though neighborhood activism against bike racks and a noisy restaurant that landed her -- and Barnard’s name -- in the New York Post’s Page Six gossip section and Gawker (the latter deemed her the "Soho Noise Nazi)." That, combined with the union issue, created something of a perfect storm, she said.

UAW says it’s aware of six faculty members who have not been reappointed (all have been offered severance packages), and that it’s meeting with the college to discuss them. It’s seeking details on each case and wants to negotiate over proposed financial agreement language that would release Barnard from all liability.

“We raised adjunct wages very significantly,” said Maida Rosenstein, president of the local UAW. “We also established eligibility for partial health coverage for the first time ever, and it improves over the life of the contract.” On job protection, she said, the contract provides for multiyear appointments for adjuncts who previously were appointed from semester to semester. Barnard must act in good faith in making appointments, and adjuncts who are not reappointed are paid a severance package equivalent to prior earnings of between one semester and three years, depending upon length of service. The college must also give advance notice of appointments and assignments, and there are assurances of academic freedom.

Barnard said in a statement that there is “no basis for the claim that we make appointment decisions based on union activism. To be clear, union activism was not and will never be a consideration in staffing our courses.”

Academic departments chairs, in consultation with the provost, determine courses that are taught in any given semester, it said (a spokesperson later noted that reappointments to the writing  program were based on teaching evaluations). “Our contract with the Barnard contingent faculty union stipulates the process and terms by which appointments are determined, and the guiding principle has always been the integrity of our academic program. The majority of the bargaining unit, including its leaders, were reappointed this academic year.”

Despite her experience, Fleischer said the moral of the story is not to fear unionizing. Rather, she said, it’s for faculty members to make sure they’re still in charge of the process.

“The union needs to be directed by the membership.”

Sonam Singh, another instructor of English and member of the bargaining committee, said via email that some of the adjuncts terminated this year had significant seniority, which speaks “to how cavalierly the Barnard administration treats the careers and contributions of contingent faculty.”

At this point, though, he said, “it’s not clear (to me, at least) what role union activity played in the firings and how much was simply in line with the typical year-to-year churning in and out of adjuncts -- an activity that we, under the contract, finally for the first time have a transparent view of.”

Either way, he said, “we’re pursuing the situation and are preparing to take action in line with the wishes of individual faculty and the best interests of the contingent faculty as a whole.”

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Esports quickly expanding in colleges

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 07:00

What was perhaps a wild pipe dream decades ago, merely a Dorito-fueled teenage daydream, has come true: colleges are paying students scholarships to play video games.

But hold your gasps of indignation. The concept of collegiate esports has blossomed and become much more organized in recent years. Some smaller private institutions view gaming as a way to attract prospective students amid enrollment downturns, and even a number of Division I colleges and universities have entered this digital arena.

“I’m typically talking to parents,” said Michael Brooks, the founder of the National Association of Collegiate eSports. “The parents -- they’re doing their jobs, looking out for interests of their son or daughter, but the most common question I receive is ‘Is this real thing?’ And that’s totally fair -- it’s brand-new.”

The system works like this: colleges form teams that train and compete with other institutions in some of the nation’s most popular strategy and battle video games. Those players often maintain stringent practice schedules that occupy a massive chunk of time, not unlike a typical athlete’s regimen.

Brooks’s association, which celebrates its one-year anniversary this July, gave structure to the handful of institutions that had already created varsity esports teams, starting with Robert Morris University Illinois, a private Chicago university that in 2014 wove gaming competitions into its athletics program and launched a scholarship program.

Robert Morris went all out -- players would don uniforms and eat postgame meals together, another ritual oddly similar to traditional athletics.

The “arenas” where these games are played, though, certainly depart from a football field or baseball diamond -- as Brooks describes them, they’re just complex computer labs, stocked with high-quality gaming PCs and hefty monitors, and gamers often pick their preference of keyboard, headset and mouse.

Nor are there spectator seats.

After all, if you were to witness matches, all you would see are students furiously clicking away, said Brooks, also the former director of strategic partnerships for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Not to say that no one watches -- an audience of sometimes thousands remains invisible, viewing online, usually through Twitch, an online broadcast service, he said.

Such a statistic interests larger institutions, which are more often out to capture recognition rather than more students, Brooks said.

When the association was created, only six institutions joined, but that has since climbed to more than 30 member colleges and universities, he said. Brooks expects their membership to almost double in the coming months. The association represents nearly 95 percent of the institutions with varsity esports. Its analysis of esports colleges shows that almost every one offers annual scholarships to their players, at about a $7,600 average payout.

Determining which university department should lead such a program can prove trickier.

Though the national label is “esports,” it belies what most consider the classic sports -- more than 42 percent of the association’s member institutions do keep esports under university athletics. Another 42 percent place it with a student affairs office or a similar branch, and 14 percent of institutions deem it an academic endeavor.

The association hasn’t taken a stance on whether esports should fall under athletics, and Brooks said he anticipates the courts will address such definitions and possibly compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law that protects against gender discrimination.

At Maryville University, in Missouri, athletics oversees the esports program, said Jarrett Fleming, the private institution’s coordinator of athletics and recreation.

“It’s really their time,” Fleming said. “This is the new generation of student athletes. It’s different because we haven’t seen anything like this.”

Though the program only was introduced a year ago, one Maryville team -- its League of Legends players -- has already tasted fame. Almost every esports institution fields teams playing League of Legends, which has long outlived the shelf life of most video games. It involves complex strategy commanding a “champion” and a mini army to destroy the opposing team’s base as quickly as possible. The developer of League of Legends, Riot Games, sponsors professional tournaments, too, with opportunities to vie for big bucks.

Maryville dominated the 2017 League of Legends college tournament and will travel to China in July for a worldwide competition.

The students were treated with more reverence than some professional athletes, being dusted with makeup for on-camera interviews and performing before a cheering crowd. They’ve taken home trophies from this and other competitions, and championship rings.

Fleming wouldn’t disclose exact scholarship amounts, but he said every player earned a $2,000 stipend just for participating. Originally, esports there was built up as a pipeline for potential students, a move that paid off for Maryville, he said, though he did not specify how many students the program has recruited.

Esports at Southwest Baptist University, also in Missouri, was meant to lure some students from their dormitory rooms, said Chris Allison, the esports head coach and director of the wellness and the sports center there. A former residence life official, Allison said he would observe students who, confined to their rooms with video games, would eventually flunk out. Esports at Southwest Baptist tries to forge a community of gamers who otherwise would be tied to those rooms, he said.

“If we bring that virtual community into physical space, with more of their students engaged and coming out of the dorm rooms, that relates to better retention and persistence to graduation,” Allison said.

The university provides scholarships dependent on skill at League of Legends, anywhere from $500 to $10,000, Allison said. Though it’s not a hard sell to students -- playing video games for money -- no formal recruitment channels have been established for this type of program, leaving Allison to scan online forums to explain it, he said.

Southwest Baptist’s League of Legends team plays the game between 15 to 20 hours a week and as a group does physical workouts and mental and -- as a religious institution -- spiritual exercises, too, Allison said.

Players are not glued to their seats the entire program -- they’re using stationary bicycles and taking Pilates classes, he said.

The physical therapy school is conducting research using the esports program on the “flight or fight” response that’s generated when someone plays video game -- while the adrenaline is worked out when someone plays a field sport, that’s not the case with games, Allison said.

A dozen students also helped sponsor an esports expo last spring that, despite being held on a day flash floods soaked the campus, drew in more than 200 people. It was a six-hour affair that featured League of Legends play, and for hours, the institution was featured on the Twitch homepage and garnered more than 70,000 views of the feed -- unprecedented attention for the small private institution.

“I would just encourage anyone that doesn’t know anything but wants to know about it to spend a little bit of time watching it,” Allison said. “For us really at the core it’s about community.”

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Colleges award tenure

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 07:00

Brandeis University

  • Jerónimo Arellano, Romance studies
  • Aparna Baskaran, physics
  • Olivier Bernardi, mathematics
  • Joel Christensen, classical studies
  • Xing Hang, history
  • Sebastian Kadener, biology
  • Jennifer S. Marušić, philosophy
  • Avital Rodal, biology
  • Anna Scherbina, business
  • Raphael Schoenle, economics
  • Stephen D. Van Hooser, biology

Clarkson University

  • Steven M. Pedersen, communication
  • Jie Sun, mathematics

Furman University

  • Kerstin Blomquist, psychology
  • Carolyn Day, history
  • Katherine Kelly, education
  • Laura Kennedy, music
  • Jeanne Provost, English
  • Alison Roark, biology
  • Andrea Tartaro, computer science
  • Natalie The, health sciences
  • Timothy Wardle, religion

Indiana University at Bloomington

  • Matthew Baggetta, public and environmental affairs
  • Jennifer Brass, public and environmental affairs
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University of Wisconsin Naming Partnership approaches halfway point

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 07:00

The price to buy nothing has gone up over the last 10 years, and an exclusive group of donors is very interested in finding out what the next 10 will bring.

In the fall of 2007, the University of Wisconsin Madison announced an unusual naming partnership for its business school. A group of 13 donors made gifts totaling $85 million. In exchange, the Wisconsin School of Business would not change its name for a period of at least 20 years.

Many universities try to name their business schools for a single major donor -- they don't leave them unnamed by a group. Wisconsin’s announcement also stood out because it came at a time of significant business school naming, a few years after the University of Michigan’s business school received $100 million from alumnus Stephen M. Ross in 2004 and subsequently renamed itself the Ross School of Business, and the year before the University of Chicago received $300 million from alumnus David Booth and decided to rechristen its school the Booth School of Business.

As a result, the Wisconsin arrangement grabbed attention across higher education, economics and fund-raising circles. Terry Hartle, the American Council on Education senior vice president, called it the most interesting development in philanthropy he’d seen that year. The Freakonomics blog posted what was perhaps the pithiest analysis: “$85 Million Will Buy You Nothing at the University of Wisconsin.”

In that post, economist Steven D. Levitt wrote that “it probably would have been a lot cheaper for the boosters just to bribe the Wisconsin Legislature to pass a bill preventing the naming of the business school, although that strategy would not have gotten them many positive headlines.”

The Wisconsin Naming Partnership has added a few donors since 2007. It’s up to 17 partners and has raised $110 million. But the term of the nonnaming agreement hasn’t been extended -- so now $110 million will still buy you nothing at the University of Wisconsin.

As the partnership is approaching its midway point, Wisconsin administrators and donors are thinking about how it came together, how it has worked and what might lie in its future. Some early chatter is beginning about whether donations could be accepted to push back the partnership’s ending date.

The discussion opens a window into the world of higher education fund-raising, valuation for naming rights and a university’s identity. It will also be watched with interest by fund-raisers, who even a decade later view the deal as an innovative idea that regrettably hasn’t been replicated elsewhere.

What’s in a Naming Partner?

Michael Knetter is the president and CEO of the University of Wisconsin Foundation. Previously, he was the dean of the Wisconsin School of Business, and he spearheaded the development of the naming partnership.

In the early 2000s, the University of Wisconsin was one of only a few Big 10 institutions without a named business school, Knetter said. When he started as dean, he began to examine the possibility of naming the school if a major donor could be found.

Internal analyses determined that such a naming agreement should bring in a donation of about $50 million, Knetter said. He started to have conversations with deep-pocketed donors, but those conversations take time. And during that time, Knetter started to question the idea of renaming the school.

“I felt a little bit uncomfortable thinking that one person’s name would somehow define the school’s brand forever,” Knetter said. “These school namings are usually in perpetuity.”

At the same time, naming prices seemed to be going up rapidly. Rather than risk jumping into the fray at the wrong time, Knetter thought it might make more sense to wait -- or to not name the school. As he talked with different donors, alumni and stakeholders, he became less and less sure renaming the school was the right way to go.

“It doesn’t really often work out that the brand that a business school gets through naming has greater value than the parent brand,” Knetter said. “Our parent brand was really extraordinary. And Wisconsin, I would say, has an ethos of egalitarianism about it that made me uncomfortable and I think made others uncomfortable. How would the business school be viewed on campus if we somehow tried to rebrand ourselves in a way that almost separated us, or distanced us, from the parent brand?”

Knetter came up with an alternative: preserve the name of the school for a finite period of time. Do it through a collective gift.

The idea aligns with three of the most important financial ideas taught in business school, according to Knetter. First, preserving future options can be valuable. Second, brand equity is valuable. Third, teamwork is important.

Knetter set about seeking donations totaling $50 million for the idea. The first $20 million to $30 million happened relatively quickly. Then he hit a long slow period. But after talks with some influential donors, donors bought in for well over $50 million in total. The partnership was announced at the end of October 2007, about two years after the first donors signed on.

Those involved said the idea seemed to fit the University of Wisconsin and its business school. The university and its business school are large and have many alumni, but they don’t necessarily have access to the same number of super-rich donors as do the country’s most elite institutions. The minimum donation amount for Wisconsin Naming Partners was $5 million in unrestricted money, and donors could put designations on money above that level. That allowed more donors to give relatively small amounts of money for a naming deal, rather than one mega donor giving a larger chunk in the $50 million range.

“No way I could have done that,” said Wade Fetzer III, a retired Goldman Sachs partner who has chaired the University of Wisconsin Foundation Board of Directors and co-chaired a university capital campaign. “And, in a sense, by subdividing or syndicating, that was the tool that allowed Mike to raise this amount of money.”

The funding was also notable because it was largely unrestricted.

“Particularly at Wisconsin but probably in most capital campaigns, probably 90 percent of the dollars are designated,” Fetzer said. “So, in a sense, this is consistent because it’s designated to the business school. But it’s still unrestricted.”

‘Hopefully the Money Is Gone’

The School of Business estimates that the naming partnership has funded about 10 percent to 15 percent of its annual budget, which totaled just under $68 million last year. The partnership has funded an average of 12.5 full-time faculty members annually, plus scholarships for Ph.D. and M.B.A. students. It has allowed the school to invest in programs and grow undergraduate enrollment from 1,362 in the fall of 2007 to 2,540 in the fall of 2016.

One important condition attached to the money is that it should not be treated like an endowment, said John J. Oros (at right), a naming partner who is the managing director at the private equity firm J. C. Flowers & Co. LLC and a former chair of the University of Wisconsin Foundation. It is intended to be spent in its entirety over 20 years.

“Hopefully all this money is gone, both principal and interest,” Oros said. “It maximizes the impact to the school in this 20-year period in which we’re taking the name off the market.”

The naming partners like to meet about once a year, Oros said. They typically talk about other university projects and fund-raising needs. They also serve as a sounding board for administrators.

“We were asked things like if we want to be on some sort of board of overseers, and we said no, we’d like to meet and golf once a year or have a nice dinner, and we’d like you to update us and share our opinions on some things,” Oros said. “The last thing we want to do is have bought control of the business school among 20 fat cats.”

In a few cases, donors have joined the group. One of those cases came when Knetter moved from business school dean to lead the university’s foundation. Donors raised $5 million for him, making him an honorary naming partner.

But the new additions did not extend the time frame for the naming partnership. That option could be on the table in the future. Most say that major decisions about the program are still a few years away, but it’s clear the 10-year anniversary has spurred some thoughts about the future.

“I think we said around the end of the 10th year we would let people think about buying more time off the market,” Oros said. “In the beginning, we worried a lot about how we were going to handle the transition from this 20 years to the next. Now, we think it’s probably in the last five years when we’re going to get organized.”

The business school has a new incoming dean, Anne P. Massey (at left), who could very well be at the helm as some of those decisions are made. Massey starts in August, taking over from François Ortalo-Magné, who is leaving to become dean of the London Business School.

Massey is still learning the intricacies of the naming partnership and reaching out to its different donors. She’s focused on mapping out opportunities for the school of business at a time of massive change in higher education and shifting student expectations.

Eventually, though, she knows talk will turn to the future of the naming partnership. She’s not willing to commit to a course of action yet, declining to rule out options from continuing the partnership as is, to reconfiguring it or moving the school to a new, permanent name.

“I think, from discussions, everyone is very happy with the naming gifts,” she said. “It may well continue to expand, bring other people on board. At the same time, we’re always stepping back and saying, ‘Should we be doing something differently?’ That’s a good conversation.”

Future Values

At the core of discussions about the partnership’s future is the ever-changing question of the value of a name. When leaders and donors had such discussions in the past, they talked about how well-known a donor needed to be -- or how much he or she needed to give -- to make renaming the school worthwhile.

They’re likely to have those conversations in the future. They’re also likely to have discussions about the length of any naming deal.

Colleges and universities have been increasingly moving toward trying to limit the length of naming deals. They’ve had some success with buildings, but schools still tend to be named in perpetuity.

For the last decade or so, universities have been working harder to leverage their opportunities when naming schools or buildings, said Tim Winkler, CEO of the Winkler Group, a fund-raising consulting group for nonprofit organizations, schools and institutions of higher education. In many cases, that comes after institutions years ago permanently named buildings after donors -- and then watched, unable to negotiate new deals, as other colleges and universities brought in larger and larger naming donations as market conditions changed.

The Wisconsin School of Business has managed to put itself in position to take advantage of future inflation in naming gifts, Winkler said.

“You can’t fault the university,” he said. “They’re trying to raise money and use any legitimate means possible.”

Fund-raising professionals often wish the Wisconsin Naming Partnership could be replicated elsewhere. But so far, they have been unable to do so.

“I really think it’s a creative and wonderful gift,” said Martin Grenzebach, the chairman of Grenzebach Glier and Associates, a philanthropy consulting firm that serves nonprofit and higher education sectors. “It would be nice if we could replicate it at other places, but it hasn’t happened yet.”

Colleges and universities that are naming buildings and schools today are likely to look at the deals in 10 years and believe they were a bargain for donors, Grenzebach said.

The naming partnership’s donors offered several ideas that might explain why their naming deal hasn’t been duplicated. Announcing the decision to forgo a name can be riskier than it sounds, they said. Leaders have to evaluate whether the move will be viewed as a dedication to the school’s current identity, which would theoretically boost its prestige, or whether it will be considered an admission that they were unable to raise a substantial sum of money, which could hurt the school’s standing.

Also, there are relatively few business schools left that aren’t named after donors and famous alumni, cutting the number of candidates. Some mentioned the Stanford University Graduate School of Business as one of the few schools that has not been named after an individual. But an associate dean of development there told the Chicago Tribune in 2008 that the Stanford brand is sacred. Harvard University has also historically eschewed naming schools after donors, but it changed course with its public health school last year after a $350 million gift -- leading to debate about whether its medical school should be next.

The idea of brand and identity was also cited by Wisconsin boosters. The University of Wisconsin and its business school have a special identity, they said. It doesn’t mesh with the idea of being named after one person. Oros, one of the naming partners, pointed to a sense of camaraderie and jokingly suggested it is because plenty of beer is brewed in Wisconsin.

Of course, donors also acknowledged that every institution ascribes to a set of high moral principles and believes itself to be unique. And it should be noted that the Wisconsin School of Business is located in a building, Grainger Hall, that is named after businessman and donor David Grainger.

Oros said the school may have been able to forgo a name in part because it was so particular about finding the right name.

“I think it was our lack of success at finding a naming partner that led us to this as a better way forward,” Oros said. “We were so fussy about getting enough money if we ever did it, and doing it with the right name, that we never did it.”

Knetter, the university foundation president and former business school dean who crafted the partnership, said he thinks there was some value to being the first school to announce a nonnaming agreement.

Knetter also believes the deal will be renewed in 10 years. Yet he admits such a move could require unique circumstances.

“Nobody else has done this since then, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that nobody’s tried,” he said. “But it may not be as easy to do the second time. People have to trust and feel like it’s the right thing. And that trust was something I’ll never forget.”

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Study of faculty members with mental health issues finds mix of attitudes on disclosing and seeking assistance

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 07:00

Margaret Price, associate professor of English and disability studies at Ohio State University, taught for years before one conversation with the right person got her a crucial accommodation for her cognitive processing and memory issues.

“I thought I just had to tough it out. … Getting an accommodation for my particular mental issues had literally not occurred to me,” Price said of the time before her campus coordinator for the Americans With Disabilities Act arranged for a communication assistant to sit in on her classes and help.

Price’s experience is somewhat representative of those of other faculty members struggling with mental illness, according to a new study she co-authored. The paper finds that many professors confide “unofficially” in select colleagues but don’t inform their institutions to ask for help -- both out of a sense of professional risk and lack of awareness about where to turn. (Note: Price had previously written publicly about her mental health diagnoses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, including for Inside Higher Ed. Ironically, though, she said, she hadn’t sought help from her university.)

“Disclosure of Mental Disability by College and University Faculty: The Negotiation of Accommodations, Supports and Barriers” says it’s the first-ever cross-institutional survey of its kind and seeks to fill a major gap in the research on faculty members with mental disabilities. Desk rejected by several different journals as too out of the box before being accepted by Disability Studies Quarterly, the study sheds light on how far faculty members have come in terms of seeking out support for mental disabilities, and how far institutions still need to go in terms of promoting and offering related accommodations.

Price and her co-authors recruited some 267 participants who self-identified as having mental disabilities, mental illnesses or mental health histories. The researchers posted on Listservs across disciplines and reached out to human resources and disabilities offices on a number of campuses, along with professional organizations.

One major finding is that 70 percent of respondents had no or limited familiarity with accommodations they can seek in working conditions, and 87 percent didn’t use them at all.

Given the stigma that still attends mental illness in many corners of academe, a surprisingly large share of respondents -- 62 percent -- did say they’d disclosed their condition to someone on campus. Half of those disclosed to colleagues, and 21 percent said they’ve informed their department chairs.

Some 20 percent had even shared their diagnoses or experiences with students. Just 6 percent disclosed to a dean or provost, while an even smaller share (4 percent) disclosed to an office of disability services.

In most cases, respondents said their disclosure experiences were helpful. “For all groups to whom faculty members reported disclosing, the trend was toward more positive effects of disclosure,” reads the study -- with the exception of those who reported to human resources, although these were few, possibly in anticipation of negative experiences. Those who disclosed to students strongly skewed positive.

The study doesn’t claim to be representative of academe as a whole; it didn’t attempt to identify how many faculty members have mental illnesses, women were overrepresented in the sample (70 percent) and faculty members of color were underrepresented, at 7 percent, though the authors did make a concerted effort to reach out to historically black colleges and universities.

Price says further intersectional research involving these groups is needed, along with research involving LGBTQ faculty. Two-thirds of the sample were on the tenure track or tenured, while 16 percent of respondents reported being on contracts of less than one year. Most were at graduate-level institutions.

Still, results paint a significant portrait of faculty mental health. The most common primary diagnoses reported were depression (47 percent), followed by anxiety (38 percent), bipolar disorder (8 percent) and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (5 percent).

Stigma and Disclosure, Awareness and Accommodation

All participants were asked, "How familiar are you with accommodations that you may be entitled to under the law?" Almost half said they were "not familiar at all," and about 25 percent said they were "slightly familiar." Seven percent were "extremely familiar" with accommodations to which they were entitled, and just 13 percent said they’d asked for such supports.

Of those who’d never requested accommodations, 50 percent said they didn’t need them. Some 33 percent were not aware they were available, and 31 percent said it wasn’t anyone else’s “business.” About one-quarter worried asking for services would affect tenure or promotion decisions, and 22 percent worried how people would respond or behave toward them going forward.

Open-ended responses suggested a common fear of stigma upon disclosure. “Fear of losing [a]ll credibility,” someone said, while another wrote, “I do not think that the risk of serious reprisal is high, but I have seen a colleague with a serious mental health issue subjected to constant gossip, originating with administrators, and I believe such would seriously damage my ability to work.” Another respondent pointed out it was very different to talk about being stressed with colleagues than to reveal a diagnosis.

Those who hadn’t told anyone on campus said they’d avoided it due to feeling “that it's not other people's business” (62 percent) or that "it's not relevant to my work” (51 percent). Many others worried about negative professional outcomes.

Stigma and privacy came up again and again. Someone wrote in an open-ended section, for example, “I also have two other disabilities that are visible, so often use those as rationales for any accommodations I need for mental health issues (e.g., instead of saying, ‘I had a bad night sleeping because of anxiety,’ I would say, ‘I was up all night with my health condition’). People at work know about the other disabilities and I talk about them freely.”

Following disclosure, respondents said, their strongest support came from spouses and significant others. Colleagues and chairs were less often described as supportive. Professional organizations, on-campus mental health services, staff members and supervisors were seen as least supportive.

To promote awareness of services, the study says, institutions can establish “clear lines of communication about accommodations that are available. In some cases, this may mean creating a consistent policy where none existed before. Responses to our survey suggest that channels for providing accommodation for faculty members tend to be confusing and are often handled on a case-by-case basis, rather than operating according to consistent guidelines.”

Of perceived risks associated with disclosure, authors say that when “the attitude toward mental disability is uncertain or unclear, faculty members may be more conservative with regard to sharing their mental disabilities with others.” Wider attention to such issues among faculty -- “that is, systemic attention to making workplaces more accessible for mental disabilities" -- is therefore, “a necessary step toward reducing the stigma associated with such disabilities.”

Mark Salzer, one of Price’s co-authors and chair of rehabilitation sciences at Temple University, said he didn’t know of any institution that had yet taken a systemic approach to mental disability and access for faculty members. Professors’ lack of disclosure for all kinds of reasons -- the academy’s premium on being a "rational" thinker, for example, or the fact that mental illnesses may be episodic -- probably perpetuates the problem and vice versa, he said. But institutions must accommodate faculty members because it’s required by law and should do so because it can only lead to better teaching, he added.

Salzer said that institutions have gotten very good at accommodating some physical disabilities but remain “completely stumped by psychiatric ones.” Accommodations don’t have to be complicated, though, he said. Faculty members who teach eight courses per year might request to teach three each in the fall and spring and two more over the summer instead of teaching four and four during the regular academic year. Or they might request classes between certain hours of the day.

Even if deciding to disclose is still a challenge, as is accessing services, Salzer said he was “pleased” if not surprised that the survey showed most eventual decisions to share had been positive.

Price has been writing about and studying disability, including her own, since 2011. Since that time, she said, echoing Salzer's comments and her recent findings, stigma surrounding mental illness has subsided but institutional supports remain a challenge. She advised institutions to begin simply by informing all faculty members -- those with mental illnesses and those without -- of a central office or person charged with responding, and to grow from there.

A third co-author, Stephanie Kerschbaum, an associate professor of English at the University of Delaware, recently published with Price a resource guide for institutions on faculty mental health. It’s informed by data gleaned in the survey. The pair is also working on a qualitative interview-based study of professors’ experiences with mental health and disclosure. (Amber O'Shea, a research scientist at Temple, is the new study's fourth author.)

So far, Price said, interviewees' experiences are very mixed, and academe as whole must do better. “Many institutions are doing well,” but only because “there’s a dedicated individual or group.”

ResearchEditorial Tags: Career AdviceDiscriminationFacultyLifeImage Caption: Margaret PriceIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 4Advice Newsletter publication date: Thursday, June 8, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: Portrait of Faculty Mental Health

Court upholds University of Michigan's gun ban

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 07:00

A state appeals court ruled Wednesday that the University of Michigan is allowed to keep its ban on guns on campus, standing against recent court and legislative rulings elsewhere that have limited or eliminated similar bans.

An appeal to the State Supreme Court is “looking probable,” said Steven Dulan, the attorney who represented plaintiff and Ann Arbor resident Joshua Wade. He said he still has to have talks with Wade, and they have several weeks to make their final decision.

The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's ruling, 2 to 1, dismissing Wade’s complaint against a 2001 University of Michigan ordinance prohibiting firearms on university property for students, staff and the general public. Generally, as public institutions, universities have had a hard time pushing back against gun rights for the general public, oftentimes only being able to regulate students’ possession of firearms.

In 2016, 16 statehouses considered bills dealing with loosening or changing various regulations regarding the possession of guns on campuses, in some cases considering allowing concealed carry, according to a database compiled by advocacy group the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus.

Wade had sought a waiver exempting him from the university's firearm prohibition. When that failed, he sued on Second Amendment grounds, and also on grounds that the University of Michigan was violating state law prohibiting local governments from regulating certain aspects of gun laws.

The court sided with the university, ruling that the school is a “sensitive place,” as established in 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling District of Columbia v. Heller, where restrictions on the Second Amendment can be legal. Additionally, the court ruled that the university is a “state-level institution” and did not fall under a state law establishing which local governments cannot regulate gun laws, since they’re defined specifically under Michigan law as “a city, village, township or county.”

“We conclude, again, that the Legislature clearly limited the reach of [the law] to firearm regulations enacted by cities, villages, townships and counties,” Judge Mark J. Cavanagh wrote for the court’s majority opinion. “The university is not similarly situated to these entities; rather, it is a state-level, not a lower level or inferior level, governmental entity.”

The court also noted the “unique character” of the university's Board of Regents, citing the rights of the university for “matters involving the university’s management and control of its institution or property.”

Dulan, Wade’s attorney, said he disagreed with the court's ruling regarding the Board of Regents, and he believes the court has given the body too much power.

“Essentially, what’s happened is the Court of Appeals has place the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan on a co-equal status with the Michigan Legislature,” he said.

Dissenting, Judge David H. Sawyer focused on the authority of the university to regulate the possession of firearms for nonstudents and the general public who, as he notes, are legally allowed to carry guns in public spaces. He argued that a gun ban shouldn’t be able to apply to parts of campus that are accessible to the general public, though he wrote he wished to “leave to another case the questions of defendant’s authority to regulate the possession of firearms by its students or employees, or in areas in which the general public are prohibited access.”

He backed up his dissent writing that the university, although not a city, village, township or county, is still pre-empted by state law in general, and therefore the gun-regulation law regarding local governments -- which specifies local governments as a “city, village, township or county,” -- shouldn’t be the basis for determining whether the University of Michigan can regulate guns on campus.

“Clearly, the decisions of our courts on this topic do not support a proposition that defendant has free rein to determine which enactments of the Legislature it chooses to follow and which it chooses to ignore,” he wrote. “Turning to the issue at hand, I do not view applying pre-emption to the issue of firearm possession as invading either the university’s educational or financial autonomy.”

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White paper explores management-based approach to accreditation

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 07:00

Nursing homes in Australia and Ireland, Austrian school provinces, and the old telecommunications company Motorola may provide pointers on how to reform the higher education accreditation system, a new white paper argues.

Common to all of those organizations is that they have taken a “management-based” approach to quality assurance. Unlike the existing accreditation system in the U.S., which often takes the form of a once-in-a-decade paperworkathon culminating in a college being (or not being) reaccredited, such an approach emphasizes smaller, more frequent reviews, continuous improvement and peer benchmarking.

By using a management-based approach, the U.S. higher education accreditation system would be well positioned to handle an influx of alternative education providers and a larger shift toward quality assurance that places improving student outcomes front and center, the authors of the white paper argue.

“It shouldn’t be about just policing the bottom end of the market,” Martin Kurzweil, director of educational transformation at the consulting and research group Ithaka S+R, said in an interview. “If you’re just ensuring that the worst providers don’t have access to financial aid or are unable to operate, then you’ll raise the average level of quality, but it’s by eliminating the bottom end of the distribution. What we actually need to meet the needs of jobs and citizenship of the future is to shift the whole distribution [upward], and the only way to accomplish that is ensuring that providers across the spectrum -- not just at the bottom -- are improving.”

Ithaka S+R's Proposal:

  • Reduce barriers to entry for new accreditors
  • Focus accreditor review and recognition on the capacity to assess and reinforce educational quality and financial stability
  • Promote partnerships between new entrants and existing providers
  • Establish differentiated “tracks” for new entrants
  • Expand Title IV eligibility, shifting the focus of approval from gatekeeping to formative evaluation
  • Assess programs annually on a small set of standard student outcome and financial stability measures
  • Create differentiated consequences for not meeting standards
  • Make accreditation and student outcome reports public

Ithaka S+R this morning published the paper, which was written by Kurzweil, Ithaka S+R analyst Jessie Brown and Wendell Pritchett, the Presidential Professor of Law and Education at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. The paper builds on an event Ithaka S+R hosted in February at Penn that brought together about 30 administrators, accreditors, leaders of higher education associations and policy makers to discuss the proposal for a new accreditation system (see fact box).

The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, members of which were in attendance at the event, did not respond to a request for comments on the proposal.

The paper doesn’t go as far as other critiques of the accreditation system. It doesn’t refer to accreditors as members of a “cartel,” for example, or advocate razing the existing system to the ground and starting over from scratch. Nor does it suggest breaking the link to the federal government for financial aid.

Instead the paper argues that the “basic infrastructure” for an effective quality-assurance system already exists, though it needs to be repurposed to respond to the challenges of rising student debt and middling completion rates, Kurzweil said.

“It requires some important changes in practice in order to do that, but it’s not ‘rip it up and start over,’” Kurzweil said. “It’s having a tighter focus on educational processes and outcomes. It’s having more frequent engagement between the accreditor and the provider. It’s having differentiated results, as opposed to ‘approved/not approved.’ It’s having a range of consequences for shortcomings, as opposed to the death sentence or nothing.”

The paper suggests that programs should be evaluated annually, though that review would look only at a “small set” of student outcomes and financial stability measures. Then, every three years, the accreditor would conduct a larger review of how programs are making progress toward standard and self-defined goals, focusing on areas that the previous such review identified as needing improvement.

The structure means colleges would be scrutinized more frequently by their accreditors, Kurzweil acknowledged, but “if the focus is different and the reviews are less burdensome, they might take that deal,” he said.

Failing to meet minimum standards would trigger an investigation that could lead to “tailored support and consequences,” ranging from more frequent reviews and probation to partial loss of access to federal funding and removal of accreditation. On the other side, colleges with a track record of positive outcomes could see fewer reviews.

One of the proposal’s main objectives is to open the door for coding boot camps, massive open online course providers and other “alternative” education providers to become accredited. New programs are therefore evaluated based on criteria such as their partnerships with accredited providers, plans for growth and -- if worst comes to worst -- exit strategy.

And just as there are different consequences for an accredited education provider that doesn’t meet minimum standards, the paper also proposes that there should be “differentiated ‘tracks’” for providers to become accredited based on their performance.

Finally, the reports about the reviews should be made public in order to make the accreditation system more transparent, the paper proposes.

If done correctly, the approach “weeds out the poorest performers, while motivating and facilitating other institutions to re-examine and improve their processes and results continuously,” the paper reads.

The U.S. higher education sector doesn’t need to look to other industries for an example of an organization that uses a management-based approach to accreditation. During the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Education unveiled the Educational Quality Through Innovative Partnerships program, or EQUIP, in which third-party quality-assurance organizations evaluated pairs of alternative providers and accredited colleges. Many accreditors are also reviewing their own processes.

Some disciplinary accreditation bodies come close to what the paper is proposing. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, which is highlighted in the paper, reviews programs every six years, looking at learning outcomes that are aligned with industry standards. Programs that don’t meet those standards, however, may see more frequent reviews or be required to do additional reporting.

Since those processes have been in place, a 2006 report found, they boosted student performance and college planning efforts.

“In addition to the advantages cited, it is also important to recognize that every one of over 3,700 academic programs in 30 countries accredited by ABET has the benefit of both an industry advisory committee cooperating with the program leadership and a program-specific internal quality-management system that supports the program's continuous improvement implementation,” Joe Sussman, ABET’s chief accreditation officer, said in an email. “It is instructive to observe that far less energy is spent measuring what students are taught, and there remains a significant focus on what they have learned.”

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Poll finds stronger support in Europe for investing in vocational education than in universities

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 07:00

As voters in Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands go to the polls this year, some politicians and commentators want to tip funding and attention away from higher education and back toward vocational training.

In a worrying sign for universities, a unique pan-European survey suggests that this is a shift that would have widespread public support.

The survey of nearly 9,000 citizens in eight European countries reveals that, when forced to prioritize one area of education, only 17 percent chose higher education, compared with 30 percent who want more vocational education and training (VET). Thirty-nine percent backed general schooling and 15 percent preschool.

Support for prioritizing higher education was highest in Spain (30 percent) and Italy (23 percent), and lowest in Sweden (6 percent), Denmark and Germany (both 9 percent).

Marius Busemeyer, a political scientist at the University of Konstanz who helped lead the research, said, “I was really surprised that [support for vocational education] is holding up so well.” Despite the focus in recent decades on higher education expansion, “people still care a lot" about vocational education.

Enthusiasm for vocational training could be a reaction to the enormous expansion of universities, Busemeyer suggested. “If you have strong increases in spending in one field, then people tend to oppose further funding” and to “feel that more attention needs to be paid to other sectors.”

In Germany, there have been concerns that higher education is chipping away at the traditionally very strong vocational system: one prominent critic, the philosopher Julian Nida-Rümelin, coined the term Akademisierungswahn -- loosely translated as academic delusion -- to attack a supposed excessive focus on higher education, a term that has found support in the right-wing party Alternative for Germany.

It is “no longer the case” that the apprenticeship and vocational system is attractive enough to compete with higher education, said Busemeyer. In 2013, for the first time in German history, there were more students than apprentices, he added. Some apprenticeship positions have gone unfilled.

Meanwhile, in Britain, where complaints that too many young people go to university are still frequently made, the Conservative Party, ahead of this week’s general election, pledged a “major review” of funding across tertiary education as a whole. Although details are lacking so far, this could signal a diversion of money away from universities in favor of further education colleges and proposed new institutes of technology.

High levels of youth unemployment across Southern Europe could also be driving support for vocational education there, said Busemeyer. When asked why they backed some forms of education over others, respondents “care mostly about jobs,” he said.

The “bumpy transition from school to work” in France -- where nearly a quarter of young people are unemployed -- could help to explain why more than half of French respondents thought vocational education was the top priority, said Małgorzata Kuczera, a project manager of reviews into apprenticeship and basic skills at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Many French degrees also had a low labor market value, she added, while vocational programs are “underdeveloped” at upper secondary levels -- all explaining strong French support for more vocational spending.

But in Italy and Spain, where youth unemployment is even higher than in France, people are more supportive of higher education. This could be because vocational training was still of low status and attempts to improve it had not worked, said Busemeyer. “In Italy, maybe people think it’s simply not a viable option to build it up,” he explained.

The survey results, published as “Investing in Education in Europe: Evidence From a New Survey of Public Opinion” in The Journal of European Social Policy, may not reflect current opinion perfectly, as the poll was conducted in 2014. But it is the first survey to try to understand exactly which types of education the public value, rather than just looking at support for education spending as a whole.

Universities have benefited enormously from the expansion of higher education, Busemeyer argued, but this growth had reached a point where it could not continue with their traditional missions. “You need further differentiation in the system to blur the boundaries between higher education” and vocational education, he said.

This has already started to happen in Germany, he explained, where there had been an increase -- albeit from a low base -- of dual-study programs that combine academic and vocational learning.

In Italy, however, vocational education is still largely limited to schools, said Attilio Oliva, president of TreeLLLe, an Italian education think tank. Little was on offer from universities, where lecturers held a “snobbish” attitude toward teaching it, he said.

After pressure from industrialists, over the past three to four years Italy has established a number of technical institutes offering two-year courses, but they remain not well-known and still teach only a few thousand students, he said.

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New presidents or provosts: American Ball St. Central Carolina Chapman Edinburgh NKU Princeton Sioux Falls Sweet Briar

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 07:00
  • Brett Bradfield, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Sioux Falls, in South Dakota, has been promoted to president there.
  • Sylvia Mathews Burwell, former U.S. secretary of health and human services, has been named president of American University, in Washington, D.C.
  • Barbara Lettiere, vice president for finance and administration at Trinity Washington University, in Washington, D.C., has been chosen as president at Immaculata College, in Pennsylvania.
  • Peter Mathieson, president and vice chancellor of the University of Hong Kong, has been named principal and vice chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland.
  • Jon Matthews, associate provost and dean of business and media technologies at Central Carolina Community College, has been named provost of Central Carolina's Harnett County campuses.
  • Geoffrey S. Mearns, president of Northern Kentucky University, has been selected as president of Ball State University, in Indiana.
  • Glenn M. Pfeiffer, interim provost at Chapman University, in California, has been appointed provost and executive vice president for academic affairs there.
  • Deborah Prentice, dean of the faculty at Princeton University, in New Jersey, has been promoted to provost there.
  • Meredith Woo, director of the Higher Education Support Program for the Open Society Foundations, in Britain, has been selected as president of Sweet Briar College, in Virginia.
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Spate of presidents fired early in tenures with few reasons why

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 07:00

This summer’s college president departure season is off to a swift start that has largely been marked by little forewarning from colleges before exits are announced.

Many boards of trustees would consider it best practice to have a quick parting of ways with little surrounding drama. But it doesn’t always go so smoothly in higher education -- it didn’t last summer -- making the pace and tone of presidential partings so far this year stand out. Also noteworthy is that many recently announced transitions have involved leaders who are relatively young or who are early in their tenures.

The president of Washington College on Maryland’s Eastern Shore resigned just a week after word leaked that all was not well between her and the institution’s board. That president, former Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chair Sheila Bair, was two years into a five-year contract. She cited her family when she departed, but the college did not go into depth on reasons for her resignation.

The president of Ferrum College in Virginia, Joseph Spooner, was released from his contract after less than a year in office. Tuskegee University in Alabama is parting ways with its president, Brian L. Johnson, who was hired in 2014. And Carnegie Mellon University’s president, Subra Suresh, unexpectedly said last week that he is stepping down at the end of June. Suresh has been president of Carnegie Mellon for four years, but that’s a relatively short period of time for an institution with a history of lengthy tenures for leaders.

Every individual situation is different, as are the institutions involved. There has not been speculation that the Carnegie Mellon president was pushed to leave his job. Still, several consultants, lawyers and search firms have noticed the swift start, sudden announcements and seemingly increased churn on display over the last several weeks. None commented on specific situations but pointed out general trends that could be driving the developments.

“Boards have the best presidents in the world until they don’t,” said Frank Casagrande, president of Casagrande Consulting, a firm with services covering higher ed compensation, presidential assessment, board effectiveness and institutional planning. “It’s a cliff.”

Some faculty members have attributed the high rate of presidential turnover to a lack of true leadership during what is a difficult era for colleges and universities squeezed by financial and political developments. Other experts believe it is the result of business practices increasingly filtering into boards of trustees, who are now willing to quickly cut ties with a president who is not living up to early expectations.

Board behavior could also be contributing to the silence coming from colleges in the weeks leading up to presidential departures. Trustees could be moving toward putting in place clearer performance expectations and evaluations for presidents. When presidents don’t meet those expectations, the next logical move is to make a clean break after graduation. In some cases, like that of Washington College, institutions may even be able to name a replacement president without undertaking a new search.

“Someone is saying, ‘We’ve done the presidential review, and it’s not what we were hoping for,’” Casagrande said. “Now the question is, ‘What’s the timing of the exit strategy? How do we not interrupt the academic year?’”

Departures after graduation often make sense for all sides, said Alexander Yaffe, president and CEO of Yaffe and Company.

“If it isn’t a burning platform, let people wrap up the year,” said Yaffe, whose firm’s services cover presidential compensation, contracts, transitions and performance assessments. “Go through your transition and appoint someone as an interim when things are less complicated, during the summer.”

Yaffe does not see a single issue driving the presidential turnover this year. Higher education is under economic and academic pressure, and boards are giving presidents less time to work out problems, he said.

Many boards are also becoming less deferential to presidential leadership, Yaffe said. They often have a clear set of objectives in mind for a president.

“I think that if you lay out a set of goals and objectives and you don’t achieve them and the reason they’re not achieved is because of circumstance, I think a president is going to get more running room to make some changes,” Yaffe said. “I think if that continues for several years, then the board starts to say, ‘Wait a minute, let’s get someone else at the helm.’”

College president tenures are generally believed to be shortening. But it should be pointed out that there is not yet a definitive way to say presidential turnover is up this year.

Many who watch the world of college leadership are waiting for a new edition of the “American College President” report from the American Council on Education, which is expected this month. Until then, the latest edition is from 2012, meaning it can’t be used to determine the most recent trends. The last report did show the average tenure of presidents dropped from an average of 8.5 years in 2006 to seven years in 2011.

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities estimates one in four of its member campuses have gone through leadership changes at the presidential level in recent years. The association does not have good longitudinal data, but turnover is generally up recently, said the organization’s director of state relations and policy analysis, Thomas Harnisch.

“What I can say is that the volume of turnover in recent years is far more than it was a generation ago,” he said. “It speaks to an overall instability in higher education as well as a general retirement from the baby boom generation.”

Estimates of turnover among presidents at private colleges eligible for Council of Independent Colleges membership have averaged around 100 in recent years, according to the organization’s president, Richard Ekman. This year is unusual not because of data showing a spike in overall number of transitions, he said. What is more remarkable is that many presidents who are leaving are relatively young or are departing institutions that appear to be healthy.

CIC estimates that there were 95 presidential transitions among its members in 2016 -- a number that includes transitions of presidents who were leaving for reasons ranging from retirement to taking another presidency. CIC estimates there have been 92 transitions and counting so far in the 2017 calendar year.

A number of issues have been making the job of college president difficult for many years, Ekman said. They include pressure to discount tuition. Ekman also believes this year stands out because of pressure from a high level of continued interest in the tuition-free public college movement.

CIC has also noted a jump in turnover among chief academic officers, he said. Last year, about a third of chief academic officers turned over, up from about a quarter the year before.

That could be another indicator of building pressure on college leaders, including president. It’s likely that presidents are delegating an increasing number of difficult issues to chief academic officers, Ekman said. Those officers are in turn using up their political capital as they grapple with challenges.

“The turnover is bigger than the turnover of presidents,” he said. “The old vision of the dean or vice president being a faculty representative who is going to do a stint as a dean for 10 years and go back to the faculty, that’s all gone now.”

Another major higher education search firm, Academic Search, reported an uptick in searches for presidents and higher education administrators more generally.

“Last year was probably the busiest we’ve had,” said Jessica Kozloff, president and senior consultant at Academic Search. “Talking to other colleagues in the search world, I think it’s true for, if not all of us, most of us. We’re just seeing much more activity.”

One aspect of the increased activity is retirements, Kozloff said. Experts have been predicting a wave of retirements among aging college presidents for several years. But she noted reports of increased pressure on presidents as well.

“I’m also hearing from clients for presidential searches that they feel a tremendous amount of pressure right now in terms of enrollment and competition,” Kozloff said. “That’s not really very scientific. It’s just sort of what I’m seeing at the presidential level.”

William G. Tierney, a professor of higher education and the co-director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California, argued a core issue is the quality of current college presidents. He said via email that presidents are not on par with top leaders of the past like the late Notre Dame president Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh.

“It reflects presidents uniquely unqualified in navigating their institutions through turbulent times,” Tierney said. “The issue may be racial or economic or social, but our presidents are mostly managers when we need leaders. I do not see Ted Hesburgh right now; I see people in gray flannel suits.”

Other experts pointed to changing dynamics between governing boards and presidents as being behind the current turnover trends. They also attributed trends to board composition.

Raymond D. Cotton, a Washington-based lawyer who represents boards and presidents in contract negotiations, has said growth in the number of businesspeople on boards of trustees has led to changes in the relationship between boards and presidents. Those with business backgrounds are used to reporting earnings on a quarterly basis, Cotton said. Higher education does not function on such a short timetable.

Asked about the current spate of swift and silent presidential departures, Cotton said boards may be learning lessons from past firings that have not gone well. If a board is not happy with a president but that president has not broken any laws or committed any acts amounting to cause for dismissal, it can be cleaner to part ways with a president after the academic year is over.

“I think the boards have gotten more sophisticated about how to do it,” Cotton said. “They’re going to replace him or her but wait until commencement is over.”

The reasons for presidential turnover are different from institution to institution, said Rod McDavis, managing principal of AGB Search.

“Every presidency is so unique that it’s hard to sort of cluster these together,” McDavis said. “But when you look at categories, certainly one category would be differences between presidents and boards of trustees -- things that cannot be reconciled.”

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Federal appeals court revives professor's case against Texas Tech over his anti-tenure views

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 07:00

James Wetherbe, Richard Schulze Distinguished Professor at Texas Tech University’s Rawls College of Business, is the rare academic who doesn’t want tenure. He thinks so little of tenure, in fact, that he’s been waging a four-year legal battle against the notion that professors must assume it to advance their careers.

Wetherbe had little success in his first lawsuit alleging that he missed out on promotions and was otherwise retaliated against for his anti-tenure views; it was dismissed in 2014 on the grounds that the professor’s comments against tenure up until he lost out on a deanship and an honorary title weren’t substantive enough to support his claim of a First Amendment violation.

But a second lawsuit alleging continued retaliation for his speaking out against tenure may proceed to trial. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has reinstated Wetherbe's new complaint against a dean at Texas Tech, reversing a lower court’s ruling that tenure is more of an individual working condition than a matter of public concern and therefore not protected speech. His case was bolstered by news articles about his first complaint and additional opinion pieces he’s written since 2012, including one in the Harvard Business Review.

“Media coverage noted in Wetherbe's complaint, as well as the fact that various media outlets published Wetherbe's articles, shows that Wetherbe's speech was made against the backdrop of an ongoing public conversation about tenure, which indicates that the public is actually concerned about tenure,” reads the unanimous decision by a three-judge appeals court panel.

“In fact,” it says, “Wetherbe’s position as a professor who has rejected tenure could make his thoughts on tenure of greater interest to the public given his unique experience and vantage point. … While defendants argue that Wetherbe's speech was made ‘in the course of performing his job,’ there is no reason to infer from the complaint that writing articles on tenure or speaking to the press are part of Wetherbe's job duties.”

Wetherbe believes that tenure is a failed policy because it, in his view, allows bad professors to keeping teaching. He prefers continuous, rolling contracts for faculty members instead, similar to those already in place on some campuses.

In an interview Tuesday, Wetherbe said that his case is significant because it seeks to establish tenure as a matter of public concern and -- crucially -- that academic freedom is protected by the First Amendment. Wetherbe believes free speech rights are a stronger safeguard for academic inquiry and expression than tenure.

“There are people who said, in the first case, ‘You’ve just proven you need tenure,’” he said. “But I say, hold on a second. Tenure just keeps you from getting fired.” It doesn’t necessarily prohibit institutions from making life difficult for professors they disagree with, he said -- which is what Wetherbe alleges continued to happen at Texas Tech even after he filed his first complaint.

The second lawsuit accuses a key defendant, the former business dean, of retaliating against Wetherbe -- essentially trying to get him to quit -- by assigning him first-year instead of graduate-level courses with little notice, upping his teaching load and returning part of a major grant for Wetherbe to Best Buy. The dean, Lance Nail, allegedly claimed a new entrepreneurial and innovation online journal project the grant was to fund wasn’t prestigious enough.

“Sorry I agreed to do this, here's your $100,00 back," said Wetherbe, recalling his embarrassment at having to return the money. 

Wetherbe’s attorney, Fernando Bustos, said that if Texas Tech challenges the decision, the case could go to the U.S. Supreme Court, with major implications for academe. The current high court precedent for speech and public employees, Garcetti v. Ceballos (2005), found that workers can’t claim private citizens’ First Amendment protections when commenting on their "official duties." But the decision left room for a possible exemption for academics, and Bustos said a case such as Wetherbe’s could fully explore it.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit already weighed in on protected speech and official duties for faculty members in 2013, in Demers v. Austin. The case pertained to a former Washington State University communications professor, David Demers, who said he was retaliated against for criticizing in writing his college's faculty structure and administration. The court ultimately decided decided that Garcetti does not apply to professors’ official duties, and what must instead be used is a previously established legal balancing test between the interests of a public employee as a citizen and the interests of his or her employer. 

A spokesperson for Texas Tech said the university expects to file a motion for summary judgment, or a request that a judge rule on the case before any trial.

John K. Wilson, and independent scholar of academic freedom and co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog, praised the appeals court for finding in Wetherbe’s case that tenure issues are of public concern, “because clearly they are.” 

Yet Wilson said the First Amendment already protects academic freedom, and has for at least 50 years, since Keyishian v. Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that states can’t prohibit employees from being members of the Communist party; Harry Keyishian was a professor at what was then the University of Buffalo who faced dismissing for refusing to sign a statement saying he’d never been a Communist.

Hatred of tenure is already therefore a First Amendment right under academic freedom, Wilson said, “but so few professors have been dumb enough to oppose tenure that it's probably never come up in an academic freedom lawsuit before.”

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Republican senators raise doubts about White House budget proposal

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 07:00

WASHINGTON -- When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos makes an appearance before lawmakers on Capitol Hill, one would expect a hostile reception from Democrats who have opposed her since she was nominated for the job. Less expected is open skepticism from Republicans.

That's exactly what DeVos got Tuesday, however, at a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing on the proposed White House budget for 2018, which includes deep cuts to education programs as well as other nondefense spending.

"This is a difficult budget request to defend," said Missouri Republican Roy Blunt, the subcommittee's chairman, in opening the hearing.

Blunt said it was unlikely the kinds of cuts proposed in the budget would be passed by Congress. Those cuts included reductions to college-readiness programs like TRIO and GEAR UP as well as to campus-based aid like Federal Work-Study. Taken together, those proposals would make it more difficult for students to get into college and graduate to get well-paying jobs, Blunt said.

The critical reception of the budget from Blunt and several fellow Republicans underlined how extreme many of the proposed spending cuts would be. Blunt noted that lawmakers in April were able to reach a deal on an omnibus 2017 spending bill that accomplished priorities like restoring year-round Pell Grants and slightly increased funding for several aid programs. The White House budget would take the department in the opposite direction, even for some stated priorities of the administration.

Senator Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, said proposed cuts to career and technical education -- which the Trump administration has praised as an alternative to traditional four-year college -- were "troubling." The White House budget cuts CTE grants to states by $168 million -- about 15 percent.

DeVos also underwent repeated grilling from Democrats who took issue with the budget cuts she was tasked with defending, as well as recent staff hires and her approach to student loan policy. Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said the White House budget proposal would worsen the student loan crisis in the country and said the Department of Education under DeVos did not appear willing to police the for-profit colleges that are responsible for a disproportionate number of student loan defaults.

The secretary said climbing student loan debt volumes are a real concern but the government must address a much broader issue in higher education.

"We haven't done a good job of helping students know what their full menu of options are when pursuing higher education," DeVos said. "We've segmented our career and technical education so that it seems like the lesser of two choices."

Year-Round Pell

The Trump administration has endorsed restoration of year-round Pell Grants, a policy change already enacted by Congress that allows eligible college students to use Pell benefits for summer semesters. But work remains for the department to spell out how the implementation of the program will proceed. The guidance it issues will clarify to colleges and universities when those benefits can be paid out and which students would qualify.

DeVos told senators Tuesday that the department is on track to issue guidance for the program by July 1. But there appeared to be some confusion after the hearing about whether additional aid would actually be available to students this summer. A department spokeswoman said it was unclear "pending further guidance from the department" whether that aid would be released to students this summer.

Title IX Religious Exemptions

In an exchange with Senator James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, DeVos also indicated she was open to ending the publication of a list of institutions that seek exemptions from Title IX's requirements for religious reasons. In response to pressure from advocates for gay and transgender students, the department began releasing a list of those colleges and universities in the final year of the Obama administration. A 2015 report from the Human Rights Campaign said the department doesn't have much discretion in the granting of those exemptions but argued that public knowledge of the requests is important to protect LGBT students. Without transparency, those students could find themselves enrolled at institutions legally granted the ability to discriminate against them, the group argued.

Lankford told DeVos federal law allows institutions to seek those exemptions and that proactively releasing a list -- as opposed to a response to a Freedom of Information Act request -- is a form of shaming religious entities.

DeVos said it sounded like a public list is not necessary.

"Religious liberty is a very key and important issue to be discussed in the context of all educational settings," she told Lankford.

Asked whether DeVos's comments signaled a change in the policies of the department, a spokeswoman said no decision has been made regarding the religious exemptions list.

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