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Higher Education News
Before a confirmation vote at the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee this week, Betsy DeVos responded to more than 800 written questions from Democratic members of the committee. Those answers didn't help persuade any Democrats to support her as the next secretary of education -- her nomination advanced to the full Senate on a party-line 12-11 vote -- but one response has stirred concerns among higher education researchers that the Department of Education will not remain committed to maintaining federal data currently published on its website.
Those data are critical, researchers say, to studying issues like student debt, student persistence, graduation rates and job placement outcomes.
Asked about maintaining what is currently found on the Federal Student Aid data center, DeVos said she looked "forward to reviewing the information provided and ensuring that the data center is providing useful information about activity related to Title IV programs."
That response was in line with many of her answers in her confirmation hearing and in other written responses to senators -- promising to study an issue or follow the law but otherwise avoiding commitment to a specific policy. That approach is also not uncommon for most cabinet nominees but has nonetheless troubled higher ed researchers who prioritize transparency.
Mamie Voight, the vice president of policy research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, said that response has provoked discussions within the higher education research community about downloading and maintaining data sets from the FSA data center, College Scorecard, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and other sources in case they are not maintained or regularly updated by the department in the future.
"Especially in the past few years, we've seen a lot of really useful data come out of the Department of Education. It's useful for consumers and it's useful for policy makers and researchers," she said. "We haven't heard clear information from the current administration about whether they'll maintain those data or not."
IHEP has used College Scorecard data, which were released in 2015, to study loan repayment rates and what influences students' ability to repay their loans. The group leads the Postsecondary Data Collaborative, a partnership of more than 30 organizations that advocate for increased access to quality data on higher education. Voight said that promoting access to those data has been a priority for the group under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Elise Miller, a higher education data expert and former vice president of research programs at the Access Group, said she began downloading federal data sets this week as a precautionary measure.
"It just made sense, because we've seen things happening at other agencies, so why not collect it while we can," Miller said.
In the final weeks of the Obama administration, "guerilla archiving" groups formed at university campuses across the country to download and store federal climate data out of fears that the Trump administration might delete government research from the internet. And in the first week of the new administration, directives sent to employees at several federal agencies involved in science created fears that the White House would block their research from reaching the public.
Matthew Soldner, a principal researcher at the American Institute for Research, said those reports as well as DeVos's comments on FSA data have sparked concern that education data could be less available under the new administration.
"However unlikely, anything that smacks of ED taking a step backwards on data availability deserves scrutiny, when virtually everyone in the higher education community is working hard to make information more available to students, families and policy makers, not less," Soldner wrote in an email.
In case those comments are indicative of a new approach from the administration, AIR has already taken steps to download data, including institution-level loan and grant volume reports, financial responsibility composite scores, and business information resources from the Federal Student Aid data center. Soldner said that although the disappearance of IPEDS data "seems beyond the pale," the group also downloaded the most recent version of those data.
David Bergeron, the former acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education under President Obama, said it has been a goal of the American higher education system since 1980 to make more and better-quality data available. A change in policy involving the accessibility of federal data would be at odds with that long-term goal, he said.
"It would impede the improvement of higher education in the United States," Bergeron said. "It would move us away from being able to do peer review and know what programs at higher education institutions are effective."
Both Republicans and Democrats have backed those efforts. Republican Virginia Foxx, the chairwoman of the House education committee, last year sponsored legislation that would require the government to expand the population of students on which it collects data to include part-time students as well as transfer students.
Bergeron said DeVos could have avoided new concerns by embracing those transparency goals in her answers to senators.
"It's the tone of the response that sets people's nerves on edge, particularly with what happened in other agencies like the EPA," he said.Student Aid and LoansEditorial Tags: Education DepartmentFinancial aidIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
Data dashboards and performance feedback can motivate middle-range students to work a little harder to earn a desired grade, a new study found.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan School of Information and the educational technology company Blackboard, explores a growing trend in higher education -- that of collecting data about students and presenting it to them at important junctures during their college careers, with the hope that doing so will lead to higher grades and improved retention and graduation rates.
“There is an assumption that providing students with dashboards of information and data about their performance will help them,” John Whitmer, director of research and analytics at Blackboard, said in an interview. “It’s becoming pervasive in educational technology.”
But the actual impact of giving students access to their data has not been thoroughly studied, Whitmer said. Usually the information is delivered to students by people who are trained to analyze the data, such as advisers and faculty members. If colleges were to cut out those middlemen, he said, would students understand the data, and would that understanding motivate them?
The researchers tested those questions in a simulated class. Forty-seven students volunteered for the experiment, and they were split into four smaller groups: first by their grade point averages (with the split running between students with a B average or higher and those below a B), then by the type of performance feedback the system gave them -- simulating either high performance (“You’re a rock star in this course” or “You make it look easy”) or low performance (“You haven’t been around much lately” or “The course got you down? You can do it”).
The students received performance feedback -- as well as a graph showing their performance compared to the class average -- at three crucial points during the simulated course: early on in the semester, right after the midterm and just before the final. They were asked to imagine what, if any, impact the feedback would have if they had received it during a course they had already completed -- for example, an important major requirement.
Students in the experiment were asked to comment on each of the three rounds of feedback. They then took a final survey in which they reflected on whether the feedback could motivate them to change their behavior if presented to them in a real class.
The findings suggest that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to giving students data-driven feedback about their academic performance. Some students with high GPAs said the feedback made them feel smart, since the graphs consistently showed them ahead of the class average, while others with high grades said it discouraged them from working as hard.
Generally, students said they were interested in having access to the dashboards, even though some of them questioned whether a connection between frequently logging in to a learning management system and academic performance existed in the first place.
One statistically significant finding stood out: students with a GPA of B or lower said they would be more likely than students with higher GPAs to use the feedback feature and take action in response to what the system was telling them -- for example, seeing an adviser or talking to their professor.
That finding runs contrary to what the researchers expected going into the experiment. Whitmer said he assumed high-performing students would benefit most from seeing how they compare to the course average -- like “super athletes looking to optimize their performance,” he said.
While the study may hint at a use for data dashboards that increases academic performance among at-risk students, the researchers stressed that further studies are required. Although their study grouped half of the participants into a low-GPA category, those students were in no way in danger of failing. The researchers instead described them as students who may have been used to earning A’s in high school but found themselves earning a B average or below in college.
“What this kind of research can help us figure out is which students can benefit most from feedback,” said Stephanie D. Teasley, research professor in the School of Information.
Michigan previously built a data dashboard initially designed for advisers, Teasley said, which inspired the university to work with Blackboard on the study. The ed-tech company supplied both technology and funding for the study. It is not yet peer reviewed, but the researchers plan to submit it to a scholarly journal, she said.
One comment the researchers received from some students in the experiment shows that feedback meant as encouragement can accidentally backfire. These were some of the students who received the message “You make it look easy” -- but instead of seeing it as a compliment, the students felt such a message cheapened the effort they put into their studies.
“They knew it didn’t come easy to them,” Teasley said. “It was the result of hard work. Those are the kind of nuances that this research can reveal to help us shape these tools.”Image Source: BlackboardIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
The largest U.S.-based for-profit college chain became the first benefit corporation to go public Wednesday morning.
Laureate Education, which has more than a million students at 71 institutions across 25 countries, had been privately traded since 2007. Several major for-profit higher education companies have over the last decade bounced back and forth between publicly and privately held status; also yesterday, by coincidence, the Apollo Group, owner of the University of Phoenix, formally went back into private hands.
“This is an important moment for us,” Doug Becker, Laureate’s chief executive officer, said in an interview, adding that the company wants to continue investing in its missions and growth.
“We already operate at high quality and work with regulators regardless of political changes all over the world. In terms of business, we’re in a position to invest in growth, because we will have less debt, and that’s really good for the company.”
In its public debut, the company raised $490 million.
Although it primarily operates outside the U.S., Laureate was often mentioned in stories related to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Former President Bill Clinton is a former honorary chancellor of the chain, and the compensation he received and the Clintons' ties to Laureate drew the attention of her political opponents, only sometimes accurately.
Becker said the move to become the first benefit corporation that is public is one way to show that Laureate is putting quality first.
“There is certainly plenty of skepticism about whether for-profit companies can add value to society, and I feel strongly we can,” Becker said, adding that Laureate received certification from the nonprofit group B Lab after years of “rigorous” evaluations.
The B Lab’s B Corporation seal is given to companies that meet a set of standards for quality and responsibility, particularly among for-profit institutions.
Becker said beyond focusing on quality and student outcomes, Laureate wants to focus on why the company is good for society and showing that being a for-profit isn’t at odds with that idea.
But the certification and the move to becoming a benefit corporation doesn’t prove a for-profit will not make bad decisions or commit risky actions that hurt students, said Bob Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and for-profit critic.
"The one thing that being a benefit corporation does is reduce the likelihood that shareholders would sue the corporation for failing to operate in the shareholders' financial interest," Shireman said. "So it makes a marginal difference, and there's no evidence that benefit corporations, in the 10 or so years they've existed in the economy, cause better behavior."
Companies and investors could make better choices and decisions for their students without needing a benefit corporation model to do that, Shireman said, adding that the legal protection it provides is small.
"What's more important are what commitments are being made under the rubric of being a benefit corporation," he said. "How is that going to be measured and enforced … and how can they be changed or overruled by stockholders."For-Profit Higher EdEditorial Tags: For-profit collegesIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
New presidents or provosts: Bonaventure Central Wyoming Housatonic McHenry Northwestern Saint Xavier SUNO UT-Knoxville Yeshiva
Football players at private institutions in college sports’ most competitive level are employees, the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel stated this week, and will be treated as such if they seek protection against unfair labor practices.
In a memorandum sent Tuesday to the board’s regional directors, the NLRB’s general counsel, Richard Griffin, wrote that “scholarship football players in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision private-sector colleges and universities are employees” under the National Labor Relations Act. While limited to granting protections under just one section of the act, the memo clarifies that football players at private FBS programs are entitled to campaign for their own interests as employees, including asking for pay, free of retaliation. There are 17 private colleges and universities in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Football Bowl Subdivision.
With the memo, Griffin continues to chip away at the NCAA's amateurism model. Last year, his office issued a similar notice regarding how private institutions govern the ways football players communicate with reporters and on social media. In that memo, he also stated that the athletes are employees.
The new memo partly answers a question left open by the full National Labor Relations Board in 2015, when it declined to assert jurisdiction over whether football players at Northwestern University could form a union. It does not reverse that ruling, however, nor does it carry the force of law. But Ramogi Huma, who led the unionization efforts at Northwestern and is executive director of the National College Players Association, said that Tuesday's memo "brings college athletes one step closer to justice."
"It's definitely historic," Huma said. "By declaring that these athletes are employees, the general counsel is saying that his office is committed to protecting college athletes' employee rights under the labor laws, and I think that can't be understated. It's what the players at Northwestern set in motion, and this is a major milestone."
The NLRB’s 2015 decision, while narrow, effectively reversed a ruling 16 months earlier by the board's Chicago regional office saying that, under the National Labor Relations Act, scholarship football players at private universities are employees.
The university appealed the Chicago office’s decision to the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington, urging the board to reverse the regional director’s decision. In amicus briefs filed in July 2014, Northwestern's argument was backed by at least eight other private colleges, six Republican members of Congress and the NCAA.
Two months earlier, Northwestern football players held a secret ballot to decide whether they would unionize, but the ballots were impounded due to the university’s appeal. Following the NLRB’s decision, those ballots were destroyed. The players at Northwestern said their goals for collective bargaining included increasing scholarships and coverage for sports-related medical expenses, minimizing the risk of traumatic brain injury through measures like reduced contact in practice, improving graduation rates with help from an “educational trust fund,” and securing due process rights.
The board, in declining to assert jurisdiction, noted that the issue of college football players' unionizing affects both public and private institutions. And the NLRB has no authority over public institutions. So ruling in a case involving one private institution, the board suggested, would destabilize the competitive balance between public and private universities.
In Tuesday’s memo, Griffin, the NLRB’s general counsel, stated that by not asserting jurisdiction, the board “expressly declined to resolve the issue of whether college football players are employees under the NLRA.” Scholarship FBS athletes at private institutions, Griffin wrote, “clearly satisfy the broad definition of employee and the common-law test.”
“Scholarship football players should be protected [by the NLRA] when they act concertedly to speak out about aspects of their terms and conditions of employment," he wrote. "This includes, for example, any actions to: advocate for greater protections against concussive head trauma and unsafe practice methods, reform NCAA rules so that football players can share in the profit derived from their talents, or self-organize.”
In justifying its decision, the general counsel’s office argued that the athletes, like employees, work full-time hours during the regular season, receive “significant compensation” in exchange for their work, and can be “fired” from the team for poor performance or other factors.
“We determine here that the application of the statutory definition of employee and the common-law test lead to the conclusion that Division I FBS scholarship football players are employees under the NLRA, and that they therefore have the right to be protected from retaliation when they engage in concerted activities for mutual aid and protection,” Griffin wrote. “It is our hope that by making our prosecutorial position known, we will assist private colleges and universities to comply with their obligations under the act.”
Griffin was appointed the NLRB's general counsel by President Obama in 2013. His term ends in November, and his replacement could issue different guidance. Donald Remy, the NCAA's general counsel, said the new memo does not reflect a binding position of the NLRB and that the document will not affect the association's stance.
"The NLRB previously decided that it would not exercise jurisdiction regarding the employment context of student-athletes and their schools," Remy said. "The general counsel’s memo does not change that decision and does not allow student-athletes to unionize. Students who participate in college athletics are students, not employees."Editorial Tags: AthleticsNCAAIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
The University of California's Berkeley campus has a storied history of protests and free speech. But Wednesday night it was roiled by violence surrounding a planned appearance by the highly controversial Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos -- and the show did not go on.
Berkeley police canceled the speech by Yiannopoulos after, they said, "an apparently organized violent attack and destruction of property" forced them to evacuate Yiannopoulos to protect him and the hundreds of protesters and audience members. The Berkeley statement blamed the violence -- which included fires, the throwing of Molotov cocktails and fireworks thrown at officers -- on a "group of about 150 masked agitators who came onto campus and interrupted an otherwise nonviolent protest."
The much larger group of nonviolent protesters appeared to include many students and faculty members. But it was the outside protesters who led to the event being called off. Authorities said that those protesters set fires, threw rocks and fireworks at police officers, and "attacked" some members of the crowd, who were then rescued by police officers.
"Campus officials said they condemn in the strongest possible terms the violence and unlawful behavior that was on display and deeply regret that those tactics will now overshadow the efforts of the majority to engage in legitimate and lawful protest against the performer’s presence and perspectives," the university's statement said.
UPDATE: Even though Berkeley resisted calls to rescind the invitation to Yiannopoulos and set up security to permit him to speak, President Trump went on Twitter this morning to condemn the university, blame it for the violence and suggest that its federal funding be cut. He tweeted, "If UC Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view -- no federal funds?"
If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017
Yiannopoulos has been stirring campus controversies for a year now -- and his Breitbart connection has become more controversial, given that website's links to Donald Trump. A Yiannopoulos appearance at the University of California, Davis, was called off amid protests -- despite a strong push by the institution to enable the event to take place, even as officials criticized Yiannopoulos's message. A man was shot and seriously wounded outside a Yiannopoulos appearance at the University of Washington last month.
Wednesday night's protests focused as much or more on the president and his policies, which many of the protesters derided as "fascist."
Like many campuses in this recent string of incidents surrounding Yiannopoulos appearances, Berkeley had ramped up its police presence and taken significant measures to guard against violence.
Berkeley officials also issued several statements both condemning the rhetoric Yiannopoulos typically uses and rejecting calls that the university prevent him from speaking. In the statements, the university noted that the campus Republican group invited Yiannopoulos and only that group could disinvite him.
In a message to the campus last week, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks rejected the idea that Yiannopoulos was promoting serious political debate. "In our view, Mr. Yiannopoulos is a troll and provocateur who uses odious behavior in part to 'entertain,' but also to deflect any serious engagement with ideas. He has been widely and rightly condemned for engaging in hate speech directed at a wide range of groups and individuals, as well as for disparaging and ridiculing individual audience members, particularly members of the LGBTQ community."
But Dirks also said that Berkeley would be wrong to bar Yiannopoulos from campus. "Consistent with the dictates of the First Amendment as uniformly and decisively interpreted by the courts, the university cannot censor or prohibit events or charge differential fees. Some have asked us whether attacks on individuals are also protected. In fact, critical statements and even the demeaning ridicule of individuals are largely protected by the Constitution; in this case, Yiannopoulos’s past words and deeds do not justify prior restraint on his freedom of expression or the cancellation of the event."
This week, Berkeley officials also expressed alarm over plans announced on the Breitbart website to use the Yiannopoulos appearance at Berkeley to start a campaign against campus efforts to help students who lack the documentation to remain in the United States. "There are concerns that he will be employing the strategies of using pictures and personal information of Cal students during his speech, which, as you know, is simultaneously being live-streamed, therefore making these images widely available and subsequently putting students at risk," said a message from the university's student affairs office.
But journalists and other described a roving band of protesters who invaded the campus hours before the speech was to occur and rampaged.
Twitter and other social media were filled with images of the violence.February 2, 2017
Protests against Milo at UC Berkeley. Protesters chanting "This is what community looks like." pic.twitter.com/a0YIZ3epIc— Shane Bauer (@shane_bauer) February 2, 2017 Students and ViolenceEditorial Tags: Student lifeActivismImage Source: UC BerkeleyImage Caption: Scene from the Berkeley campus Wednesday nightIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
Faraj Aljarih is a translator, a journalist and a student in a master's program focused on teaching English to speakers of other languages at Washington State University. He loves the small town of Pullman, Wash., which is about the same size as his hometown of Saluq, Libya, and which he says has been incredibly welcoming and supportive. After the election of President Trump, someone left a bouquet of flowers at the door to the local mosque, and an open house hosted by the mosque in early December was packed with local residents wanting to show their support.
“Everybody was there, everybody on the same message, we are stronger together. This is the message we received,” Aljarih said.
“I feel at home here.”
Aljarih hadn’t planned to leave Pullman any time soon -- not for good, at least -- but he might have to. After three years away, he’d like to return to Libya this summer to see his family and to get married. But now that Trump has ordered a ban on entry into the U.S. for nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries, including Libya, Aljarih is not sure whether he’d be able to get a visa to come back to the U.S. if he leaves. The entry ban is for 90 days, but it’s unclear if that will be extended.
“I’m not receiving any money from the U.S. government,” said Aljarih, whose studies are funded by a Libyan government scholarship program that supports the education of around 1,100 students in the U.S. and 850 in Canada. “My government supports me and everything works very well, but with this ban I’m not sure if I can continue. I will finish my master’s degree, but I am uncertain if I will be able to come back to do my Ph.D. because of this ban. If this continues, I may do my Ph.D. in Canada.”
“I haven’t seen my family in three years,” Aljarih said. “If I want to see them, I will not be able to come back here, and if I want to stay here, I will not be able to see my family.”
International students at U.S. universities are among those who suddenly found their professional and personal choices circumscribed by the executive order signed by Trump last week barring entry into the U.S. for nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Some students and scholars caught outside the U.S. at the time the order was signed found themselves stuck abroad, unable to resume their jobs or degree programs, but even those whose circumstances were not so immediately dire have found their choices constrained for reasons related to their national origin.
Data from the Institute of International Education show that about 17,000 students in the U.S. come from the seven countries affected by the entry ban, including about 12,000 from Iran, 1,900 from Iraq and 1,500 from Libya. Under the executive order's terms, current students from the countries covered by the ban don't have to leave the country, but Department of Homeland Security guidance states that student visa holders "who were out of the country at the time of the signing, or who travel out of the country and attempt to return, will not be allowed to return at this time." Issuance of new visas for nationals of the seven affected countries has also been suspended.
The executive order barring entry from certain countries -- which has been criticized by many civil rights groups as a pretext for banning the entry of Muslims -- was justified by the Trump administration as a terrorism-fighting measure. During the campaign Trump pledged to temporarily suspend visa processing from regions “that have a history of exporting terrorism” and put new, more “extreme vetting” processes in place.
“I’ve already been extremely vetted,” said Rania Chafint, a junior studying political science at Montana State University with dual Greek and Libyan citizenship.
Chafint, who was born and raised in Benghazi, said it took her four months to get a visa to come to the U.S. Because the U.S. embassy in Libya was closed, she flew to Cairo, where she stayed for the four-month duration. (The U.S. embassy in Tripoli has been closed since July 2014, due to violence between Libyan militias.)
“The process includes multiple interviews, and they needed paperwork. I couldn’t do it from home. I needed to be within the city so when they called me I’d be able to provide whatever they needed. Also, they held onto my passport for as long as the process was ongoing,” Chafint said.
When the executive order barring entry for Libyans was announced, Chafint said she felt like she was “being blamed for the actions of a few. And I felt betrayed, because I worked really hard to get this visa that is now compromised. I guess I felt legally protected, but now not so much.”
As a dual Greek-Libyan citizen, Chafint should be allowed to re-enter the U.S.: the latest guidance from the Homeland Security department states that dual nationals who are citizens of a nonbanned country can enter, with the caveat that they will treated according to the country whose passport they present. But, as Chafint pointed out, guidance for dual nationals has been inconsistent in the initial rollout of the order. “Even if they did confirm that I could come back into the country, that’s still a reversal from what they first said. And so I wouldn’t be confident. I guess that’s the best way I can put it.”
Chafint said that in talking to students from other countries that aren’t on the list of seven banned countries, “they said that they were worried too about what this means to them.”
“I think international students are realizing that their status in the U.S. is more fragile than they had thought it would be.”GlobalEditorial Tags: Foreign countriesInternational higher educationIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
Macalester College President Brian Rosenberg’s assessment of President Trump’s immigration executive order stands out as unusually sharp, a direct and scathing judgment distinct from the steady stream of critical statements issued by college and university leaders in recent days.
Not every college or university president has the ability to share such a strong set of opinions so clearly -- and many might find themselves facing blowback from trustees, donors or politicians if they did. But Rosenberg said he has been in his position long enough, and Macalester’s mission is clear enough, that he was able to take on the highly charged topic in his own voice.
Rosenberg posted a letter Monday, three days after Trump issued an executive order temporarily blocking immigrant and nonimmigrant visitors to the United States from seven majority-Muslim countries. Trump’s order set off a wave of confusion and national protest while also drawing condemnation from a broad slice of higher education leaders, many of whom have students and faculty members who were immediately affected. Many of their statements stressed disagreement with the administration's policy and pledged support for students who may be affected.
In his letter, Rosenberg applauded statements from other college and university presidents. Trump’s immigration order directly impacts those who work and study at U.S. colleges, making it appropriate for higher education leaders to comment on it, he wrote.
But some of his peers’ statements were too cautious, continued Rosenberg, who leads a college in St. Paul with a strong international focus in the curriculum and with a 2,100-student body that is considered left-leaning. Rosenberg argued that leaders should speak with “particular force” when policies pose a great threat “to the central purpose of higher education.”
The immigration restrictions threaten safety, security and basic human rights, Rosenberg wrote. He went on to offer a blistering critique of Trump’s action.
“It takes no court to see that these orders are cowardly and cruel,” Rosenberg wrote. “They make a mockery of the claim that we are a country of generosity and decency.”
Later in the letter, Rosenberg referenced the turmoil that unfolded over the weekend as travelers bound for America were turned away from airports overseas or detained in airports on U.S. soil.
“Part of the perniciousness of these actions is the extent to which they have, through lack of competence or lack of compassion, spread confusion and panic,” Rosenberg wrote.
Those words stand out as some of the most personal levied by a college or university president in the wake of the executive order.
“I think it’s really important for my communications to come from me, and to be genuine, and to be in my voice,” Rosenberg said in an interview Tuesday. “I wanted something that didn’t sound like institutionspeak. I wanted something that sounded like a human being talking to human beings.”
Macalester has students from countries named in the executive order, Rosenberg said. He declined to specify how many. Macalester’s website says it has students from 88 countries and that a quarter of its student body is made up of citizens of other countries.
“We do have students who are from some of the affected countries,” Rosenberg said. “And, put most bluntly, it’s going to force them to choose between school and seeing their families. It’s heartbreaking. And then, of course, there are students from other countries and other parts of the world -- the administration has said this might not be the end of the list -- who are waking up every day and wondering if their country is going to be added.”
Rosenberg drew parallels between Trump’s executive order and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. He also sees the turning away of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust and the McCarthy era as analogous, he said.
“You never know how you would behave, and whether you would have the outrage to speak out,” he said. “I just had to ask myself, if I look back in 10 years, will I be at peace with the way I reacted?”
He decided he needed to be honest about policies and behaviors that he saw as inconsistent with the college’s mission and outside normalcy. He was aided in that goal by the fact that Macalester has a relatively narrowly tailored mission statement for a college.
Macalester is a liberal arts institution with a special emphasis on “internationalism, multiculturalism and service to society,” its mission statement says.
“Whether you agree with the policies or not, it is unquestionably the case that they are in conflict with the mission of this college,” Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg’s long tenure at Macalester also likely enabled him to take such a firm stance. He’s been the president there for nearly 14 years, giving him time to build trust with different constituencies like faculty members and trustees. Rosenberg didn’t even ask trustees to review his letter before sending it, he said -- although he did ask some members of his senior staff to read drafts and help him edit.
Although his letter said some college and university presidents’ statements on the immigration order were too cautious, Rosenberg was not willing to call on other presidents to use wording as strong as his. His circumstances are unique, he said.
“One of the things I don’t want to do is hold myself up as a model for other people,” he said. “This is the way I respond, but every college and university president has to decide what is best for her or him, and I respect the right of everyone to make those decisions.”
College and university presidents have found themselves the targets of criticism in the past for statements they made about Trump. Many issued statements shortly after the election that may have played well among liberal-leaning students but drew attacks from others, including those on campus.
The social media reaction to Rosenberg’s statement has yet to follow that pattern. Commenters overwhelmingly supported the president’s stance, with many directly thanking him or crediting him for not parsing his words.
The overwhelmingly positive reaction is unusual, Rosenberg said.
When Rosenberg wrote the letter, he was careful to put in a passage addressing the right to disagree with his views.
“I respect the right of anyone to argue that one or more of these proposed changes in policy is defensible,” he wrote. “I hope others will respect my right to argue that they are not.”
Still, as a president, Rosenberg has a megaphone that many students or staff members do not. College and university leaders have been criticized in the past for issuing statements that ignore the viewpoints of conservative students or those who aren’t liberal.
Rosenberg’s biggest concern about writing was appearing to silence students who don’t agree with him, he said. He has to weigh the potential impact on different communities against the possible damage to Macalester when he speaks.
“There’s no simple formula,” he said. “You make a decision, and 95 percent of the time I come down on the side of remaining silent. But 5 percent of the time I come down on the side of feeling I need to say something, because the issue about which I’m speaking is central enough to the mission of the college.”
Rosenberg’s charge of cowardice might stand out to those who are worried about foreign terrorists entering the United States. Asked whether there is an argument to be made that the immigration policy addresses a threat to safety, the Macalester president asked for evidence that the new policy is addressing the potential problem.
“If the government is going to impose dramatic new policies, I think the government has a responsibility to the people to explain the rationale for those policies,” he said. “Of the seven countries that were explicitly mentioned in the ban, in the last 30 years the number of Americans killed on American soil by residents of those countries is exactly zero.”
Rosenberg wrote that he will leave it to courts to decide whether Trump’s actions are legal. Regardless, he wrote that “legality and morality are not always aligned.”
The college president did, however, acknowledge limits to what Macalester can do as an institution. Yet his letter detailed the actions the college will take as it copes with the new policy.
He pledged to lessen the impact of the executive order with any concrete action available within the bounds of the law. He said Macalester would provide those directly affected by the new policy -- particularly students and employees who are Muslim or fall under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy -- with the financial aid, housing, legal help and counseling they need. He said Macalester would argue against Trump’s action in any possible public setting.
Rosenberg is far from the only higher education leader to use strong words when discussing Trump’s order. Several associations blasted it, with American Anthropological Association President Alisse Waterston saying “hateful cultural ignorance” lay behind the order. But associations often have more freedom to issue opinions on controversial issues than institutions’ presidents.
Many other college and university presidents more generally referenced deep concerns and the idea that the order runs against institutional values and academic freedom. Before Rosenberg’s letter, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels offered some of the most plainspoken criticism, calling Trump’s order “a bad idea, poorly implemented.” Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth wrote about “threatening language from the White House,” being “appalled by the religious test that is included in this new immigration order” and a “revulsion against the politics of fear and scapegoating.”Foreign StudentsEditorial Tags: Foreign Students in U.S.Image Caption: Macalester College President Brian RosenbergIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
The controversy over President Trump's ban on entry to the U.S. by nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries continues to prompt campus disputes.
Questioning a Fund-Raiser at Mar-a-Lago
Harvard University medical students have organized a petition calling on the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which is affiliated with Harvard's medical school, to change the location of a February fund-raiser scheduled for the Mar-a-Lago golf club. The club is owned by the Trump organization, and the president frequently vacations there. The students say the club is no longer an appropriate location for an institute event.
"President Trump’s executive order has additionally jeopardized the ability of health professions students, researchers and clinicians from the barred countries who work legally in the United States to care for patients and advance medical knowledge," the petition says. "For example, Samira Asgari, Ph.D., was barred from entering the United States to begin her postdoctoral research on tuberculosis at Brigham and Women’s Hospital because she is from Iran. Seyed Soheil Saeedi Saravi, Ph.D., also Iranian, had planned to begin postdoctoral research on cardiovascular disease at Brigham and Women’s Hospital but had his visa indefinitely suspended."
The petition ends by saying that if the cancer institute relocates its fund-raiser, "the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute will demonstrate its core values to the nation, to the medical community and, most importantly, to patients."
Dana-Farber released a statement late Tuesday defending the decision to go ahead with the event.
"Cancer knows no national boundaries, and we share your concern about the effect of the new executive order on immigration on our staff and patients. People who have come to us from other countries -- whether scientists, clinicians, students or staff -- have contributed, and will continue to contribute, greatly to our work against this terrible disease. It is also imperative that we are able to care for people for whom advanced cancer care is not available locally, and to train people to bring the latest techniques and therapies back to their home countries," the statement said. "That said, the forthcoming fund-raiser in Palm Beach is planned many months in advance and raises critical funds to support this lifesaving work. Contracts have been signed, and a large number of people have committed to attend. Canceling the event outright would only deny much-needed resources for research and care."
Professor Apologizes for Email Message
Norou Diawara, associate professor of statistics at Old Dominion University and president of the university’s Coalition of Black Faculty and Administrators, has apologized for an email message he sent to some faculty members and graduate students in which he criticized those not joining protests. One of the protests was over the new Trump policies.
“Really screw you if you cannot go to any of these events. You are not American,” said the email (in all capital letters), The Virginian-Pilot reported.
Diawara told the newspaper that he had been trying to galvanize people and that he sent an apology to those who received the email.
Adding an Event in Canada
Digital Pedagogy Lab announced Tuesday that it was holding off on registration for its annual institute (to be held at the University of Mary Washington) to consider whether it could add a parallel program in Canada.
"Effectively, Donald Trump has expressed in policy a xenophobic conviction that, whether or not the executive order is overturned, will have lasting effect on the national psyche, and on our Muslim colleagues, neighbors and friends, both here and abroad," said a statement posted by the lab.
"We are operating under a legal agreement with the University of Mary Washington, but we’ll be investigating how flexible we can be within that agreement. We are considering hosting a second parallel event in Canada that can include our international colleagues. Whatever we do, our first thought is to protect and honor those of our colleagues, students and institute attendees who may not feel safe coming to the U.S., even if they are allowed entry," said the statement.
So while holding off on registration, the lab is asking potential attendees to fill out a preregistration form that includes these questions:
Wheaton Adds Scholarship for Refugees
Wheaton College in Massachusetts announced Tuesday that it is adding a full scholarship for students who are refugees.
The scholarship will be awarded to a student fleeing conflict in his or her home country. Preference will go to anyone from one of the nations, such as Syria, covered by Trump's recent orders on immigration and visas.
“We are establishing the Wheaton Refugee Scholarship as a way of adding our voice to the chorus of people across the country who are calling for the immigration ban to be lifted,” President Dennis M. Hanno said. “I encourage other colleges and universities to join us.”Editorial Tags: Federal policyImage Source: Getty ImagesImage Caption: Mar-a-Lago Golf ClubIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee advanced the nomination of Betsy DeVos to lead the U.S. Department of Education Tuesday with a party-line vote of 12-11. But her confirmation by the full Senate does not appear to be a sure thing after two Republican committee members expressed doubts about voting for her confirmation on the Senate floor.
Maine Senator Susan Collins said DeVos's focus on charter schools as a philanthropist and activist raised questions about whether she understood her primary focus as education secretary would be to strengthen all public schools. And Collins voiced concerns about the nominee's commitment to enforcing the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.
In addition, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said, "This nomination is very difficult to me," citing comments from thousands of constituents concerned about DeVos's potential leadership of the department. Those Alaskans questioned DeVos's commitment to public education as well as whether she would uphold IDEA and federal civil rights laws in schools. Both Republican senators, however, said they would vote to advance the nomination out of deference to President Trump.
"I will show the same respect and same deference to President Trump's nominee as I did with President Obama's, and I will therefore vote to report Mrs. DeVos's nomination to the full Senate," Murkowski said. "But do know that she has not earned my full support."
The comments indicated an opening for DeVos's opponents, who held public demonstrations in the lead-up to the committee vote and have flooded the phones of senators' offices. Democrats already have indicated they will vote against DeVos as a bloc and are looking for Republican votes to stop her confirmation.
The committee hearing before the vote rehashed much of the ongoing debate between committee members over the qualifications of DeVos and the confirmation process.
Democrats, including ranking member Patty Murray of Washington, said they were frustrated not to have received more opportunities to question DeVos, who has no record in public policy or education outside of her political activities in support of charter and school voucher expansion. A former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, she has supported mostly conservative political candidates across the country. And she has led efforts like the Alliance for School Choice, where she also served as chairwoman.
"We simply have not been given all of the information we need to make a decision as senators charged with robustly scrutinizing a president's nominee," Murray said.
Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and the committee's chairman, said the committee had spent as much time questioning DeVos as it did President Obama's two education secretaries, Arne Duncan and John B. King Jr. He also pointed to more than 1,400 additional written questions submitted by senators before the committee vote.
"I believe she’s already the most questioned education secretary [nominee] in our history," Alexander said.
DeVos's responses to those written questions, which senators had received by Monday, didn't allay Democrats' concerns or provide clarification on many issues, senators said -- including some questions on higher education issues. Murray said that many of the responses were copied from other sources or simply reiterations of laws that are already on the books. A Washington Post report published before the committee's meeting Tuesday found that written answers to questions appeared to include sentences or phrases from sources that were used without attribution.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat who has been a frequent critic of the for-profit college industry, said she was disturbed that DeVos had not committed to using the department's resources to hold such institutions accountable if they mislead students or commit fraud. DeVos also refused to commit to canceling the loans of students who were defrauded by for-profits, Warren said.
Activists, student loan borrowers and a handful of Democratic senators pushed the Obama administration in its final months to provide automatic group discharge to students who attended failed for-profit chains, including ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges, arguing that they would not receive that relief from the Trump administration.
"It is hard to imagine a candidate less qualified or more dangerous to be entrusted both with our country's education policy and with the country's trillion-dollar student loan program," Warren said.
North Carolina Republican Richard Burr said the Democrats' comments added up to a "character assassination" of DeVos and accused the minority party of deciding long ago to oppose her.
The contentiousness of the confirmation process for DeVos doesn't bode well for future bipartisan cooperation on the committee, some senators said. The manner in which the nomination was advanced, Murray said, could "dramatically impact our ability to work in good faith going forward."Student Aid and LoansEditorial Tags: Federal policyEducation DepartmentImage Source: Getty ImagesImage Caption: Senators Susan Collins of Maine (left) and Lisa Murkowski of AlaskaIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
Among political science professors, even controlling for measures of productivity, some types of faculty members earn more than others. A new study published in PS: Political Science and Politics seeks to illustrate the characteristics of those who are compensated better. The study is based on an analysis of full-time faculty members who earned Ph.D.s from 2003 through 2008.
Among the findings, based on demographics and career trajectories that the researchers in the study tracked (and controlling for some measures of scholarly success), the study shows that in political science departments:
For many political scientists -- say, a minority woman who earned her Ph.D. at a nonelite institution and who works at a teaching institution -- these factors can build upon one another.
While salary inequities are nothing new in higher education, the study may be significant because it looks at relatively recent cohorts of Ph.D.s who, in theory, were entering the academy at a time when equity was valued, if not assured.
Vicki Hesli Claypool, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Iowa and one of the authors of the study, said via email that she realizes many people can't act on the information in this analysis. Some have been hired at institutions that are focused on teaching undergraduates, for example. Still she said, based on the study, "where wiggle room does exist, in terms of which courses one teaches, yes, I certainly advise to opt for the graduate courses. I believe the benefits of teaching graduate courses are too numerous to list, but here are two: first, one gets paid to review relevant literature for one's own research when one puts together a graduate course. Second, when teaching grad courses, one becomes friends with graduate students who eventually become valuable co-authors."
As for the impact of negotiation, Claypool said it was important that women engage in salary discussions and not simply accept offers, even if men are more likely these days to benefit from such tactics. "A lesson learned from this study is that everyone should negotiate; they should do it regularly and forcefully," she said. "Not all negotiations lead to requests being met, and some superiors may be a bit put off by it, but (on average and over the long run) the potential benefits of negotiating far outweigh any negatives."
The research also has important implications for department chairs and administrators, Claypool said. Her advice to them: "The playing field is not level. Helping out women and minorities is still a good and fair thing to do."
Sara McLaughlin Mitchell, a professor of political science at Iowa and another author of the paper, said via email that one way to help the careers of women is to focus on factors that are rewarded. She noted that the study shows women are rewarded for publications, and yet women publish fewer articles on average than do men. "Institutions could take steps to ensure that female faculty have access to opportunities that promote research productivity, including leave opportunities, lower teaching loads, support for securing external grants, reduced advising and service responsibilities, and access to graduate research assistance," she said.
Further, Mitchell said, women should be encouraged to learn how to negotiate, and departments should educate everyone about gender bias. "I have heard male administrators say that a woman was being too 'pushy' or 'demanding' in negotiations," Mitchell said. "I firmly believe that some of these gender biases can be minimized by a) educating administrators about implicit biases and b) teaching students/faculty how to negotiate, given these biases exist."
The other authors of the paper are Brian David Janssen, a graduate student at Iowa; and Dongkyu Kim, assistant professor of political science at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.Editorial Tags: Political sciencePayIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
The new target of the academic boycott movement is the United States.
More than 3,000 academics from around the world have signed on to a call to boycott international academic conferences held in the United States in solidarity with those affected by Trump’s executive order barring entry by nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries. The ban on entry into the U.S. has left some students and scholars with valid visas stranded outside the country while others are stuck inside it, unable to leave the U.S. for personal or professional reasons for fear they won't be let back in.
The entry ban, which affects nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, has been widely condemned as discriminatory and as undermining values central to American higher education such as inclusion, openness and internationalism. Civil rights groups have described it as a pretext for banning the entry of Muslims, which Trump explicitly called for during his campaign.
“When we saw the recent news about what’s been dubbed the Muslim ban, we questioned what we could do as academics,” said Nadine El-Enany, a lecturer in law at Birkbeck School of Law at the University of London and an organizer of the call to boycott conferences.
"As academics, we felt that the best way that we could demonstrate very clearly that we are unwilling to benefit from privileges that are so unfairly, unjustly denied others is to refuse to take up those privileges but also to clearly indicate that our business, as educators, cannot go on as normal while such an emergency is happening," said El-Enany, who has withdrawn from an upcoming conference on law, culture and the humanities hosted by Stanford University.
Signatories to the document calling for a boycott of international conferences held in the U.S. pledge not to attend them while the ban is in place. The document goes on to state, "We question the intellectual integrity of these spaces and the dialogues they are designed to encourage while Muslim colleagues are explicitly excluded from them."
Academics abroad have been publicly weighing an academic boycott on social media and in newspaper commentaries in recent days. Helen McCarthy, a reader in history at Queen's University London, published a piece in The Guardian asking, "Should we change our plans in solidarity with our banned colleagues, or would doing so only isolate U.S.-based scholars whose critical voices are needed now more than ever?"
In the article McCarthy summarized the responses to a Twitter thread she initiated on the subject. The thread, she wrote, yielded diverse opinions and no consensus: some questioned whether a boycott would achieve anything useful or whether it could be damaging, while others saw it as an important act of solidarity. "Others advocated moving all meetings to other countries, although [they] recognized this would penalize U.S. scholars unable or unwilling to travel for fear that re-entry could be denied," McCarthy wrote.
McCarthy's piece also discussed issues of perceived personal safety. Formal boycott calls aside, some academics have expressed concern about traveling to the U.S. due to concerns about racial profiling and increasing concerns about racist and specifically anti-Muslim attitudes and actions.
Nadya Ali, a lecturer in international relations at the University of Sussex, wrote in a piece for Times Higher Education that she has decided to withdraw from participating in the International Studies Association's annual convention, which will be held in Baltimore in February. "This is an important date in the calendar of those who work in international relations," Ali wrote. "However, Donald Trump’s election victory, which followed a campaign during which he raised the prospect of Muslim registers and internment and which provoked a spike in hate crimes against minorities, has combined with my previous experience of being racially profiled by a U.S. airline and airport staff while traveling to attend the ISA’s 2013 convention in San Francisco to convince me that the personal cost of attending this year’s event would be too high. I now feel -- and I doubt that I am alone in this regard -- that I would be genuinely and immediately unsafe in the U.S."
In the wake of the travel ban, academics publicly debated on social media whether it would be ethical to attend ISA's conference when some of their colleagues could not. For example, Megan MacKenzie tweeted, "Is traveling to a conference in the U.S. ethical when your peers cannot (or are afraid to)? Asking for a friend. #MuslimBan #ISA2017"
“I’m still conflicted, to be honest,” said MacKenzie, an associate professor in the department of government and international relations at the University of Sydney. MacKenzie is chair of the ISA's section on feminist theory and gender studies, so she's signed on for significant administrative responsibilities at the convention.
“I’m really moved by arguments that business as usual and traveling under a ban when colleagues and friends cannot is complicit. I understand that argument. I really do,” MacKenzie said.
“And I also empathize with the argument that this is a space for intellectual exchange and potentially for collective action, so disrupting that opportunity has lasting impact. Some individuals, especially grad students and early-career scholars, they might have invested all of their travel funds for a year into this conference. I’m sure by now they have tickets, etc., so if they don’t go to this conference, that’s it -- not just for the ISA, but for the year.”
“Bottom line, I would like everyone to support each other no matter what their decisions are,” she said. “If they see the conference as a source of collective action and very important in terms of intellectual exchange, great, but they should also respect those colleagues that feel anxious or have made a conscientious decision not to go.”
The ISA issued a statement this weekend saying it would refund registration fees to those denied visas or entry into the U.S. for the convention. The statement also discouraged scholars from boycotting the event.
"Although we recognize that some are urging a boycott of the Baltimore convention because of the imposed travel ban, we strongly encourage everyone who can to come to Baltimore," the statement said. "That way, we will have the opportunity to discuss how to move forward as an association in this changed reality. Otherwise, we allow further suppression of our scholarly interactions."
Unlike statements from some other academic associations and university leaders, the ISA statement did not condemn the entry ban -- though it did express the leadership's deep concerns about its implications. The statement cites the group's nonprofit status, "which prevents the association from taking partisan stands on policy issues."
Some members saw the ISA's statement as insufficient. In a post for the international relations blog Duck of Minerva, Charli Carpenter, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, expressed astonishment at what she described as the ISA's "tepid" response.
"I have been waiting for the past few days to see how the International Studies Association would respond to news of Trump’s executive order banning entry into the U.S. for many travelers, including those from a number of Muslim countries -- since this ban obviously affects numerous of our colleagues who are, like many of us, slated to travel to the International Studies Association Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.," Carpenter wrote. "Would the ISA issue a condemnation of this policy? I wondered. Would they offer support and reassurance to colleagues trapped outside U.S. borders? Would they announce arrangements to Skype in scholars unable to appear in person? Would they consider relocating the conference to Canada or elsewhere abroad, if not this year then in future years?"
"Astonishingly, the ISA promises to do none of those obvious things. Instead, ISA simply promises not to penalize any international travelers affected by the ban, urges members not to boycott the conference, and informs us the ISA cannot take stands on political issues. As my co-blogger … points out this tepid response is not nearly adequate to the situation at hand and it is in fact an insult both to our comrades from targeted Muslim-majority countries or on green cards, as well as to all of us who are taking political risks to speak out and resist these draconian and dangerous policies."
Mark A. Boyer, the executive director of ISA, said in an interview that the statement released this weekend was intended "to deal with the specific logistics around the upcoming convention, what happens for scholars who are going to potentially lose registration fees."
He said the association's academic freedom committee is circulating a separate draft statement responding to the entry ban, which according to the association's processes would then be submitted to the executive committee for its consideration. In regard to the question of where to hold future conferences, Boyer said that's an issue that he expects will be taken up by the association's governing council at its meeting in Baltimore. The association already has contracts for the next six annual meetings after the one in Baltimore: San Francisco in 2018; Toronto in 2019; Honolulu in 2020; Las Vegas in 2021; Nashville, Tenn., in 2022; and Montreal in 2023.
For the Baltimore conference, which is happening in about three weeks, Boyer said the association has heard from a small number of participants who cited Trump's election as their reason for withdrawing. Boyer said the association has identified five registrants who are from the seven countries affected by the entry ban -- although he noted that number may be an underestimate of the registrants directly affected, as it wouldn't account for, say, a Sudanese scholar at a British or Canadian university.
“At the most general level, I think the issue is that we are trying to be very thoughtful about everything we do," Boyer said. "We know it’s impacting scholars from around the world, and that these are not any easy decisions that we’re making at this present time."GlobalEditorial Tags: International educationImage Source: iStockIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
College and university endowments’ net returns declined for the second straight year in 2016, dropping into negative territory and posting their worst results since the depths of the financial crisis.
Endowments returned an average of -1.9 percent in the 2016 fiscal year that ended in June, net of fees, according to an annual survey released Tuesday by the National Association of College and University Business officers and the nonprofit asset management firm Commonfund. That’s significantly below last year’s return of 2.4 percent and follows a decade of volatile ups and downs. It’s also substantially lower than the 7.4 percent median annual return endowments are generally considered to need to average in order to maintain their purchasing power over time.
The year’s negative returns dragged down 10-year average annual returns to 5 percent, down from 6.3 percent a year ago. It knocked the 5-year average annual return rate to 5.4 percent, down from 9.8 percent a year ago. And it pulled the 3-year average annual return rate to 5.2 percent from 9.9 percent last year.
Negative returns for the year should not come as a surprise after early reports in the fall indicated the largest college and university endowments struggled in the 2016 fiscal year. But they could still cause problems for institutions trying to balance demands for endowment spending on priorities like financial aid and research against the need to grow the funds so they can continue to exist in the future.
“There’s no number here that’s anywhere near 7.4 percent,” said William F. Jarvis, Executive Director of the Commonfund Institute, in a conference call on the results. “This is a period in which formulation of investment policy for long-term institutions becomes very, very challenging.”
Even though investment returns plunged, a large majority of survey respondents reported increasing the amount they spent from their endowments.
Nearly three-quarters of respondents, 74 percent, said they increased endowment dollars spent to support their institutions’ missions. The median increase among institutions that reported boosting spending came in at 8.1 percent, which was above the rate of inflation.
“Our institutions obviously felt, even in an environment where the investment returns were negative, that they have the need to rely on endowment funds,” said John D. Walda, NACUBO president and CEO.
Endowment spending has been under the political microscope lately. Some have argued that tax-advantaged endowments should be subject to minimum payout requirements, similar to requirements placed on private foundations. Notably, U.S. Representative Tom Reed, a Republican from New York, has been an outspoken advocate of the idea.
But Walda said such a change could hurt endowments in the future.
“There is, as many of you know, increased pressure from some policy makers and members of Congress to further raise endowment spending by instituting mandatory payout rates with regard to student financial aid,” Walda said. “This could easily hamper an institutions’ ability to manage spending rates in a prudent way.”
Regardless of any possible changes to the law, last year’s combination of negative returns and higher spending could signal a problem for colleges and universities that rely on endowment spending for large portions of their operating budgets. Endowment spending funds 9.7 percent of survey respondents’ operating budgets, on average.
Large institutions drew even more of their operating budgets from endowment spending. Among institutions with endowment assets of more than $1 billion, endowment spending funded an average of 15.9 percent of operating budgets. Institutions with assets of $25 million or less drew just 4.6 percent of their operating budgets from endowments, on average.
That doesn’t mean institutions with small endowments are in the clear, though. They are more exposed to year-to-year fluctuations.
“Particularly the small institutions that are in the study, if we have another couple of years of stagnant returns -- if I can call them that -- they’re going to have to seriously consider cutting back on the amount of dollars that are spent at their institutions,” Walda said. “Smaller endowments, I think, have the most volatility to them as a result of these returns, and obviously they have more of a challenge in growing the corpus of the endowment through additional gifting.”
A total of 805 institutions participated in this year’s study of endowments. Participants’ endowments totaled $515.1 billion. The average endowment came in at $639.9 million, but that was driven up by a top-heavy field featuring eight endowments totaling $10 billion or more. Almost half of the survey’s participants reported endowments of $100 million or less.
All six endowment size categories experienced negative rates of return. Institutions with assets of under $25 million experienced the highest average rate of return, -1 percent. Those with assets between $101 million and $500 million experienced the lowest average return, -2.4 percent. The 1.4 percentage point spread between high and low returns by asset class was narrow compared to previous studies. Last year, the spread was 2.4 percentage points.
Average Percent Return by Endowment SizeAll Institutions $1B+ $501M - $1B $101M-$500M $51M-$100M $25M-$50M Under $25M Average FY2016 Return -1.9 -1.9 -2.2 -2.4 -1.8 -1.6 -1.0
Among five asset classes tracked in the survey, fixed income posted the highest return. Fixed income returned 3.6 percent in the fiscal year, up from 0.2 percent the year before. One other asset class had a positive return, a class that included short-term securities, cash and other assets. Its return was 0.2 percent, up incrementally from no return in the previous fiscal year.
Meanwhile, U.S. equities returned -0.2 percent, down from 6.4 percent the year before. Non-U.S. equities returned -7.8 percent, down from -2.1 percent. Alternative strategies returned -1.4 percent, down from 1.1 percent.
“Basically, the best way to describe it is that the U.S. equity market was the best house in a challenged neighborhood, the challenged neighborhood being public equity returns in general,” said Mark Anson, Commonfund chief investment officer.
The survey found variance within the different classes that make up the alternative strategies category. Non-campus private equity real estate returned 7.1 percent, down from 9.9 percent the previous year. Private equity, such as international private equity and merger-and-acquisition funds, returned 4.5 percent, down from 9.3 percent. Venture capital returned 1.5 percent, plunging from 15.1 percent. Other alternative strategies posted negative returns, notably commodities and managed futures, which returned -7.7 percent -- a level that still managed to come in ahead of the -17.7 percent return it posted in the prior year.
Institutions with assets below $25 million dedicated relatively large chunks of their investments to fixed income and U.S. equities when compared to larger colleges and universities -- 24 percent and 44 percent, respectively. Since fixed income was the year’s top-performing asset class, it helped to drive small endowments’ returns above those of their larger peers. Institutions with assets over $1 billion, on the other hand, only reported an average fixed income allocation of 7 percent and a U.S. equities allocation of 13 percent. Those same large institutions reported 58 percent allocation, on average, to the lower-performing alternative strategies class.
Still, endowments on the whole changed their dollar-weighted asset allocations very little from year-to-year. U.S. equities held steady at 16 percent in 2016 and 2015. Non-U.S. equities held stable as well at 19 percent, and short-term securities were level at 4 percent. Fixed income dropped a percentage point to 8 percent in 2016. Alternative strategies ticked up by a percentage point to 53 percent.
The effective spending rate for all 805 survey participants averaged 4.3 percent in 2016. That’s up incrementally from 4.2 percent the year before. Institutions with assets of more than $1 billion reported the highest effective spending rate, 4.4 percent. Those with assets under $25 million reported the lowest, 3.8 percent.
Gifts to endowments rose slightly, with the median total of new gifts to endowments rising to $2.8 million in 2016 from $2.7 million the previous year. The average new gift totaled $12.9 million, up from $10 million. But more institutions reported a decrease in gifts than reported an increase -- 48 percent said gifts decreased and 44 percent said gifts increased.
The survey also covered institutional debt. A majority of survey participants said they held long-term debt -- 594 out of 805. Average total debt of those institutions was $230.2 million as of June 30, 2016, up from $219.1 million the year before. Median debt also rose, climbing to $61.5 million from $58.2 million. Just under a third of participants, 30 percent, said they increased debt in the 2016 fiscal year. Meanwhile, 66 percent reported decreasing debt.
Below are the 25 largest endowments in the country and their change in size between 2015 and 2016.
Colleges and Universities with the Largest EndowmentsInstitution 2015 Endowment Value (in $1,000) 2016 Endowment Value (in $1,000) Percent Change Harvard University 36,448,817 34,541,893 -5.2 Yale University 25,572,100 25,408,600 -0.6 The University of Texas System 24,083,150 24,203,213 0.5 Stanford University 22,222,957 22,398,130 0.8 Princeton University 22,723,473 22,152,580 -2.5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 13,474,743
13,181,515 -2.2 University of Pennsylvania 10,133,569 10,715,364 5.7 The Texas A&M University System and Foundations 10,477,102 10,539,526 0.6 University of Michigan 9,952,113 9,743,461 -2.1 Northwestern University 10,193,037 9,648,497 -5.3 Columbia University 9,639,065 9,041,027 -6.2 University of Notre Dame 8,566,952 8,374,083 -2.3 University of California 7,997,099 8,341,073 4.3 The University of Chicago 7,549,710 7,001,204 -7.3 Duke University 7,296,545 6,839,780 -6.3 Washington University in St. Louis 6,818,748 6,461,717 -5.2 Emory University 6,684,305 6,401,650 -4.2 University of Virginia 6,180,515 5,852,309 -5.3 Cornell University 6,037,546 5,757,722 -4.6 Rice University 5,557,479 5,324,289 -4.2 University of Southern California 4,709,511 4,608,714 -2.1 Dartmouth College 4,663,491 4,474,404 -4.1 Vanderbilt University 4,133,542 3,822,187 -7.5 Pennsylvania State University 3,635,730 3,602,312 -0.9 Ohio State University 3,633,887 3,578,562 -1.5
Administration and FinanceEditorial Tags: EndowmentsImage Source: 2016 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of EndowmentsIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
The textbook publishing industry is considering a transformation that could significantly alter how faculty members assign readings, publishers make money and students obtain course materials.
For years, that transformation has been portrayed as a shift from physical textbooks to digital course materials, but that description doesn’t capture underlying changes in how course materials are delivered and paid for as the industry moves away from transactions and toward subscriptions.
That strategy is emerging as the industry faces pressures from all sides. Technology has given students new ways to obtain information. The rental and used book markets have cut into publishers’ bottom lines. Open educational resource providers have sprung up to offer free or affordable alternatives to traditional textbooks. And while the cost of textbooks continues to rise, some studies show students now spend slightly less on course materials than they did a decade ago.
Pearson is the latest company to feel the impact of those changes. The company this month said it experienced an “unprecedented” decline in the North American courseware market last year as revenues fell by 30 percent in the fourth quarter. Changing its 2017 outlook from stable to negative, the company slashed e-textbook rental prices and launched a new print rental program. Its stock dropped nearly 30 percent in response to the news -- the largest one-day drop the company has ever seen.
“In some ways I believe that is a long-coming wake-up call for the industry,” Peter J. Cohen, president of McGraw-Hill Education’s U.S. education group, said in an interview. “We and the rest of the industry are recognizing that the days of what had been a high-priced textbook is over.”
McGraw-Hill Education and other publishers are growing increasingly interested in a model called, among other things, all students acquire, day-one access, digital direct access and inclusive access. They generally refer to the same thing: Instead of shopping for their own textbooks, students pay a course fee that provides access to course materials -- delivered digitally unless students pay extra for a print-on-demand copy -- on the first day of class.
The inclusive-access model, common at some for-profit colleges but gaining traction in other sectors of higher education, has previously been described as a “win-win-win” situation. Colleges can point to fewer students who go without course materials and to -- they hope -- improved student outcomes. Publishers gain more reliable, recurring revenue. And students, since few of them tend to opt out from the model, benefit from volume discounts, meaning they end up paying less for their course materials than if they had shopped for a traditional print book or ebook.
Cohen said McGraw-Hill Education now wants to work with other publishers and the Association of American Publishers to “evangelize” and expand the inclusive-access model, an indication that the industry is endorsing some of the efforts it is seeing to change how it operates.
A spokesperson for the AAP said in an email that “concept of providing students with day-one access to their course materials at a lower cost is a top priority” for the association.
“As an industry, it’s incumbent upon us to sit down with our university and community college partners and talk about how we ensure that every student has access to the materials on the first day of class and every student can afford the materials that are required for the class,” Cohen said. “Between us, if we sit down and say let’s solve the problem, we can work together and provide an affordable solution.”
“That’s the philosophy,” he added. Any sort of meeting between the AAP, publishers and various colleges has not yet taken place.
A ‘Fundamental Pivot’
While publishers debate how best to promote the inclusive-access model, universities and start-ups are putting it to the test.
Indiana University’s inclusive-access model started as a pilot in 2009. By the 2015-16 academic year, more than 40,000 students got at least one textbook through what the university calls its eText initiative. The program passed $10 million in revenue last summer and has over the last several years posted double-digit growth. After seeing 43 percent year-over-year revenue growth last year, the eText initiative is this year on track to grow by even more -- 56 percent.
Bradley C. Wheeler, vice president for IT and chief information officer at IU, said the university isn’t doing anything different with the program today than it did eight years ago. It’s just that more faculty members are choosing to assign eTexts (for the program is opt in, not out), he said -- a development he attributed to a combination of faculty members and students growing more comfortable with reading and studying digitally, increased attention to the affordability of higher education, and the maturation of reading software.
Now that students are buying tens of thousands of books through the program, its partnering publishers -- it has about two dozen -- are “looking very, very favorably” at it and similar models, Wheeler said. But that wasn’t always the case.
“They were reluctant in the first days,” Wheeler said. “We dragged them there.”
IU also had to drag the publishers’ prices down. When they began negotiating, publishers saw the model as a way to cut out the middleman -- the bookstore -- but charge students about two-thirds of list price, Wheeler said. They eventually agreed that students would pay about 32 to 35 percent of list price. Today, average prices have dropped by a few percentage points, into the 20s. In other words, a textbook listed for $100 costs $20-30 through the eText initiative.
To be able to offer those discounts, IU had to get publishers on board with what Wheeler called a “fundamental pivot,” shifting them toward more predictable revenue streams.
Normally, publishers can count on a healthy return when they release a new edition of a popular textbook. In subsequent semesters, they see a significant drop-off as the used and rental book markets fill up with textbooks sold back by students who bought the edition when it was brand-new. The decline continues until the publisher releases an updated edition, restarting the cycle. Of course, publishers make nothing from the resale market.
“I don’t work in the publishing industry, but my perception is that the publishers are at a point where they have to do something materially different,” Wheeler said. “They’ve been working their rear ends off to hit that next quarter … on the old model, and it’s just really beginning to fail them wholesale.”
The inclusive-access model, in a nutshell, levels out the spikes and lulls. Students consistently pay course fees to access course materials every semester -- regardless of when a new edition was published.
Cohen, of McGraw-Hill Education, described the publishers’ traditional business model as “lumpy,” and compared the inclusive-access model to how companies that provide software as a service make money.
“It’s lower revenue for us per student, but more consistent revenue over time,” he said.
Opening Up the ‘Black Box’
Beyond revenue, the model also gives publishers access to something else of value: data.
Reading activity was once a “black box,” Cohen said, but when virtually every student in a course is using the same platform to study, publishers can gather usage data that could influence changes made to future editions of the course materials. Faculty members, meanwhile, can consult a dashboard to see the topics students struggle with and alter their lectures accordingly, he said.
“We think access to this data is incredibly powerful,” Cohen said. “We have the constant ability to monitor the quality of both our assessments and the content, and we’re able to improve them.”
The publishers are beefing up their capabilities in the digital learning market. McGraw-Hill Education has acquired four ed-tech companies since 2013: ALEKS, Area9, Engrade and Redbird Advanced Learning -- all of them providers of learning platforms.
Macmillan Learning is doing the same. Its recent acquisitions include the online writing took WriterKEY and, as recently as this month, educational platform provider Intellus Learning.
Ken Michaels, CEO of Macmillan Learning, said in an interview that he views the company as a "facilitator of education" in a larger ecosystem. He said technology is creating a need to be transparent about which course materials work best for students -- regardless of whether they comes from commercial publishers or other providers.
“I really want to enable professors and administrators to have the black boxes … to be able to link outcomes to curriculum to delivery to learning objectives to learning objects,” Michaels said. “That’s how we’re trying to move the industry -- to give the controls to the professionals that we partner with and not try to keep it within our intelligence for our business models and for our profits.”
Inclusive, but How Open?
Even campus bookstores -- which could be threatened by publishers delivering course materials directly to students -- want in. The National Association of College Stores, a trade association representing more than 3,000 stores, in 2015 led a $2 million investment round in RedShelf, a Chicago-based start-up that works with bookstores to bring inclusive access to colleges. The association participated in a follow-up round in 2016.
“As the course materials and retailing experts on campus, the professionals who manage the institution’s store should play a key role in making decisions about course materials and related services supporting student success in the future,” a spokesperson for the NACS said in a statement.
To RedShelf, Pearson’s results from the fourth quarter of 2016 are “like a dam breaking,” said Tim Haitaian, the start-up's chief financial officer. “We’ve been watching the cracks for a year or more [and] talking to the towns downstream about how things are going to change.”
RedShelf works with about 540 independently owned and operated campus bookstores to build the “pipelines” that enable faculty members to use the inclusive-access model, Haitaian said. The company has partnerships with more than 400 publishers and offers their content through an e-reader platform. It also offers a print-on-demand program for students who want a physical textbook (for which they pay an additional $20 or so).
Federal law requires colleges to give students the opportunity to opt out, but few do. According to RedShelf’s numbers, less than 6 percent of students choose to get their course materials from other providers on average.
That high sell-through rate may be a dream to publishers, but to others, it is raising questions about who truly owns the content.
David Harris, editor in chief of the free textbook publisher OpenStax, which is based at Rice University, said in an email that he is concerned about students being confined to a proprietary model that limits access and eventually cuts it off completely. In the case of RedShelf, for example, publishers set how many pages students can read offline and how many pages they can print, and restrict reading to one device at a time.
“Open educational resources are more than free books,” Harris wrote. “They present opportunities to enhance academic freedom, and they allow students permanent, unrestricted access to the materials they need most, supporting truly inclusive access.”
David Wiley, chief academic officer at Lumen Learning, touched on the same concerns in a blog post reflecting on the evolution of open educational resources.
"If the OER community doesn’t recognize that and start providing and promoting viable alternatives to publishers’ platforms, the best possible future for OER is being locked down inside a Pearson MyLab playing second fiddle to proprietary content," Wiley wrote. Lumen Learning helps faculty members use open educational resources in their courses.
IU was also concerned about students being forced to use multiple software platforms to access their course materials. The university decided to bring its own platform to the negotiating table and pay only for the publishers’ content. But that platform, too, cuts off digital access once students are no longer enrolled at the university.
There is also the issue of academic freedom. Forcing faculty members to use one model for assigning course materials could quickly backfire. Wheeler stressed that the growth of the eText initiative at IU is organic -- that is, that faculty members are volunteering (though sometimes after requests from students).
Those concerns, combined with the fact that smaller companies and universities themselves are promoting inclusive access, may explain why some major publishers are content with simply “evangelizing” for a model they could stand to benefit greatly from.
“We used to push products and, frankly, that’s what we had to do, but technology is changing that,” Michaels, of Macmillan Learning, said. “It really comes down to what students need to be successful and how professors and universities want to approach the delivery of knowledge. Our role is to facilitate and help them. It’s a very different mind-set.”Publishing IndustryEditorial Tags: PublishingImage Source: iStockIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
The Senate education committee will vote today on the nomination of Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education -- the next step in what has become one of the most publicly contentious confirmation processes for any Trump cabinet nominee and an unusually bitter fight over an education secretary nominee.
Democrats said last week that their entire caucus would vote against DeVos. North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp on Monday added her name to a growing number of Democrats who have individually announced their opposition to the Michigan billionaire and school choice activist’s leadership of the department.
Heitkamp’s office said 95 percent of constituents who contacted her office opposed DeVos. Meanwhile, teachers' groups and other critics held demonstrations over the weekend in Washington, Los Angeles and other cities.
But Senator Lamar Alexander, the Republican chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has rejected repeated requests from ranking member Patty Murray and other Democrats to hold additional hearings or delay a vote until they have more complete information on DeVos’s potential financial conflicts and connections to dark money groups -- nonprofits that can receive unlimited contributions from corporations and individuals to influence elections without disclosing donors.
Despite vocal opposition from the minority, there are no signs yet they will win the GOP votes necessary to block DeVos's confirmation.
President Obama's first education secretary, Arne Duncan, was approved by voice vote in 2009. Duncan's successor, John King, received a 49-40 vote in the Senate last year. Democrats say that unlike those two nominees, DeVos has no record in education or politics and that her history of political donations and activism on behalf of for-profit charter schools and school vouchers makes her an opponent of public education.
However, Alexander wrote last week that Democrats were “grasping for straws” to oppose her nomination. The real reason they were seeking to block her from taking over the department, he said, was that DeVos supports school choice for low-income students. He argued that federal money should follow students in the K-12 education system just as it does for Pell Grants in higher education.
The nomination of DeVos has led to a new level of contentiousness on a committee known for typically working in a bipartisan manner. And the nomination fight has created fissures in the bipartisan education-reform movement. Democrats for Education Reform, a pro-charter advocacy group, announced after DeVos’s confirmation hearing that it would not support her nomination.
And last week the charter school advocate Robert C. Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post that DeVos’s performance at the hearing was “disqualifying.”
Even some associated with DeVos’s alma mater, Calvin College, have opposed her nomination. More than 1,000 Calvin College alumni and students signed a letter last week arguing she lacks the appropriate experience and commitment to public education.
Progressive organizations and academic groups unsurprisingly came out strongly against DeVos in the lead-up to today’s vote. CREDO Action said Monday that 1.45 million people had signed a petition urging the Senate to block her nomination.
Also on Monday, the academic senate of the California State University system announced that its members had passed a resolution opposing the confirmation of DeVos, citing her lack of experience with federal education policy and “history of privatizing public schools.” The Cal State action reflected significant discomfort among higher education leaders about DeVos's lack of knowledge about, and seeming lack of interest in, postsecondary issues.
Friends of Betsy DeVos, a group formed to support her nomination, has sought to highlight her support from Republican governors as well as Democrats including former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and the founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools, Eva Moskowitz.
The Center for Law and Social Policy, a nonpartisan national organization that advocates for anti-poverty measures, wrote to Alexander and Murray Monday in opposition to DeVos. Olivia Golden, the group’s executive director, said that DeVos’s performance at the Senate confirmation hearing this month “confirmed what we already knew: she has no experience and policy understanding of disconnected youth and postsecondary issues broadly, and of college affordability and completion for low-income students in particular.”
Golden added that DeVos failed to convey in her testimony that she would be an advocate for the Pell Grant program and other support for low-income students.
With senators limited to five minutes of questioning each during DeVos’s confirmation hearing, Democrats submitted more than 800 written questions last week, including questions about her support for student financial aid programs.
In response to a question from Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, she said the goal of federal financial aid programs was to ensure access for traditionally underserved student populations.
“I think it is important to ensure that these students understand the programs that are available to them so they can make informed choices about their postsecondary options,” DeVos said. “I look forward to working with you and your colleagues to strengthen the federal student aid programs for these very students during the upcoming reauthorization of the [Higher Education Act].”Student Aid and LoansEditorial Tags: Congress/legislationEducation DepartmentIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
The following individuals have recently been awarded tenure by their colleges and universities.
Clover Park Technical College
Ramapo College of New Jersey
Many higher education leaders issued statements over the weekend in response to the Trump administration's executive order to ban immigrants and nonimmigrant visitors from seven countries, which are majority Muslim, from entering the United States. They criticized the ban for the disruption it caused to students and scholars and for confusion around the order and its implementation and, in many cases, expressed moral outrage.
The speed and volume of the response by the large number of colleges and academic groups -- some without a tradition of quickly weighing in on political developments -- was highly unusual.
The following is a sampling of the statements. (Others are quoted in this article.) Most are excerpts. Links to full statements have been included where available.
“The order must be rescinded, immediately, and the hateful cultural ignorance behind it must be named …
“To our friends and colleagues around the world, we feel compelled to emphasize this new administration’s actions do not reflect the views of a majority or even a plurality of the American people. This government cannot hide behind the spectacle and highly charged xenophobic rhetoric of nationalism any longer. Its policies and practices must be based on knowledge gained from systematic observation. To do otherwise places human rights and the rule of law in peril. We are watching closely, and hold this new administration accountable for remaining within the guide rails of truth and justice.”
"The United States has long benefited from scientific, cultural and economic contributions of international students and scholars. America's state colleges and universities have been strengthened by the presence of students and faculty from around the globe, including those from the seven countries specifically targeted by the president's executive order. We share in the collective commitment to protect our national security while at the same time enriching our nation with invaluable contributions from abroad. Accordingly, we respectfully urge the administration to reconsider its recent action."
"We recognize the importance of a strong visa process to our nation’s security. However, the administration’s new order barring the entry or return of individuals from certain countries is already causing damage and should end as quickly as possible. The order is stranding students who have been approved to study here and are trying to get back to campus, and threatens to disrupt the education and research of many others.
"We also urge the administration, as soon as possible, to make clear to the world that the United States continues to welcome the most talented individuals from all countries to study, teach and carry out research and scholarship at our universities. It is vital to our economy and the national interest that we continue to attract the best students, scientists, engineers and scholars. That is why we have worked closely with previous administrations, especially in the wake of 9/11, to 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."
"As the voice of Catholic higher education, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities expresses its strong opposition to the executive order signed by President Donald J. Trump concerning U.S. immigration policy. We stand in solidarity with other Catholic and higher education organizations that recognize the moral obligation of our country to assist migrants, particularly those who are fleeing any kind of persecution."
"I am an immigrant, a naturalized citizen whose family came stateless to this country. My deep patriotism for America is rooted in that experience. That patriotism is attached to the laws and ideals of the United States.
"Our country was not always hospitable to refugees and immigrants. It was essentially closed from the 1920s until the mid-1960s. It turned away refugees from Nazi Europe. We cannot now permit our country to return to the America First isolationism of the 1930s and redefine itself as place of xenophobia, intolerance and discrimination."
"With one quick signature, President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration overturned decades of legal, moral and historical precedent. The stay of this order by a district court in Brooklyn is temporary, and the future of it is uncertain.
"As faculty, we keenly understand the need for international connections. We value our colleagues overseas, we appreciate the global diversity of our local community and we recognize the scholarly significance of intellectual exchange across borders. Knowledge and understanding, we know, don’t belong to any one country. For these reasons, we are greatly dismayed by the shortsighted backwardness of this most recent executive order."
"President Donald Trump’s recent executive order imposing a 90-day ban on immigrant and nonimmigrant entry to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim nations is deeply troubling and has serious and chilling implications for a number of our students and scholars. It is fundamentally antithetical to Cornell University’s principles."
"We fully affirm the important role of the U.S. government in vetting and screening those considered for resettlement to our country; indeed, it is a God-ordained responsibility of government. However, the U.S. refugee resettlement program’s screening process is already extremely thorough -- more intensive, in fact, than the vetting that is required of any other category of visitor or immigrant to our nation -- and it has a remarkably strong record. While we are always open to improvements to our government’s screening process, we believe that our nation can continue to be both compassionate and secure.
"We would ask that you reconsider these decisions, allowing for resettlement of refugees to resume immediately so that our churches and ministries can continue to live out our faith in this way."
"Over the past few days, there have been executive orders issued that suspend admissions into the United States of refugees, immigrants and citizens of seven majority-Muslim nations. The uncertainty of what will come of these executive actions has the potential to create an environment of hostility, negativity and fear.
"Whether you were born in the United States or you are one of HACC’s nearly 300 international students who represent more than 60 countries, the central mission of the college -- to create opportunities and transform lives to shape the future together -- applies to each of you equally. You are right where you belong -- at HACC."
“Nearly half of the deans of Harvard’s schools are immigrants -- from India, China, Northern Ireland, Jamaica and Iran. Benefiting from the talents and energy, the knowledge and ideas of people from nations around the globe is not just a vital interest of the university; it long has been, and it fully remains, a vital interest of our nation …
“In these times of change, I hope and trust that all of us committed to the strength of American higher education can pursue these efforts together. Let us do so -- to borrow the words of the poet Seamus Heaney, one of Harvard’s most beloved visitors from other shores -- with our gates unbarred.”
“To the students, scholars, doctors, refugees, family members and others who wonder if the United States has lost its commitment to its core values as a nation of freedom, opportunity and welcome, let me unequivocally state that American citizens will not tolerate policies such as these that undermine our values and endanger our safety. We understand that America is part of the global community, and we will raise our voices with Congress, with the White House, with the media and in our communities to continue to adhere to the principles that have always made us strongest.”
"We are grateful for the hard work of so many over the weekend, including our elected officials, to help secure the release of our student’s wife detained in New York. Our focus is, and always will be, the safety and well-being of our students and the Ohio State community. We continue to be focused on providing resources and working actively and quickly to help any other member of our community who might still be affected by this policy change …
"Ohio State remains engaged on this important issue with elected officials and national higher education organizations. While we acknowledge the importance of appropriate visa standards, we are very concerned about the broad implications of this new executive order."
"One of the virtues of America’s great colleges and universities is that they attract students from around the world, regardless of nationality or religion. Pearson has never taken partisan political positions, and we respect the rights of governments around the world to determine their own laws, but for all of us who care about the American education system, the implications of this particular policy are deeply worrying."
"We are dismayed about the impact of the executive order signed by the president denying entrance to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim nations. Portland State currently educates more than 1,900 international students, including 76 from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria that are part of the ban. Most of them are graduate students. The order has a chilling effect not only on these students but on our Muslim students and all international students."
"The president's order related to immigration is a bad idea, poorly implemented, and I hope that he will promptly revoke and rethink it. If the idea is to strengthen the protection of Americans against terrorism, there are many far better ways to achieve it."
"The ban encourages discrimination and promotes misleading and sometimes dangerous caricatures of religious people, practices and texts. It also places obstacles to the travel of Muslim scholars in and out of the United States, and threatens the free exchange of ideas among the society and partnering and affiliating organizations that advance learning and help make peace and understanding possible. Thus, the society strongly opposes the ban and its implementation."
"The State University of New York enrolls approximately 22,140 international students from 180 countries, including 320 students from the seven countries affected by the current ban on travel. SUNY is reviewing President Trump's executive order and surveying its campuses to determine the impact it may have on our students, faculty and staff both abroad and at home on our 64 college and university campuses.
"As always, our commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion are unwavering. Our founding principles and support for undocumented students, restated by the SUNY Board of Trustees at its meeting last week, continue to guide our actions as we review and react to new federal mandates with regard to immigration."
"We are deeply concerned by the recent executive order that restricts the ability of our students, faculty, staff and other members of the UC community from certain countries from being able to enter or return to the United States.
"While maintaining the security of the nation's visa system is critical, this executive order is contrary to the values we hold dear as leaders of the University of California. The UC community, like universities across the country, has long been deeply enriched by students, faculty and scholars from around the world, including the affected countries, coming to study, teach and research. It is critical that the United States continues to welcome the best students, scholars, scientists and engineers of all backgrounds and nationalities."
"Universities Canada does not typically comment on executive action being taken by another country, but we do so today because of the real impediment this new executive order poses to the free flow of people and ideas and to the values of diversity, inclusion and openness that are hallmarks of a strong and healthy society."
"This state and nation were settled by immigrants, and immigrants continue to make immeasurable contributions to our society. Moreover, I want to reiterate that accessibility, diversity of thought and the free and open exchange of ideas remain core values of the University of Kansas. That will never change, and we will continue our work to advance these values. And we will continue to let scholars around the world know this: no matter your country of origin, the color of your skin, your religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation or political leaning -- you belong at the University of Kansas, and we value the contributions you make to our community."
"As many members of the UMass Dartmouth community may already know, two members of our faculty were detained by U.S. Customs and Border Control officers at Logan airport yesterday afternoon (Saturday, Jan. 28) upon their return from an academic conference in Paris. This was a direct result of President Trump’s executive order, signed on Friday, restricting entry to the U.S. by citizens of seven foreign countries. Both professors are legal permanent residents of the United States with green cards …
"Now that our colleagues are safe, we want to be clear that we believe the executive order does nothing to make our country safer and represents a shameful ignorance of and indifference to the values that have traditionally made America a beacon of liberty and hope. This executive order is, furthermore, shockingly oblivious to the fundamental tenets of intellectual and academic freedom, which are enriched -- not endangered -- by international collaboration."
"While this recent executive order particularly impacts community members from a select set of countries, we are deeply concerned that it will have a chilling effect on higher education and research broadly. It challenges UMBC’s culture of inclusive excellence, and we will work closely with campus shared governance groups to advocate for our central values in the weeks and months ahead."
“The sweeping, indiscriminate and abrupt character of President Trump’s recent executive order halts the work of valued students and colleagues who have already passed a rigorous, post-9/11 review process, are vouched for by the university and have contributed so much to our campuses. If it stands, it will over time diminish the scope and strength of the educational and research efforts of American universities, which have been the source not only of intellectual discovery but of economic innovation for the United States and international understanding for our world; and, above all, it will demean our nation, whose true greatness has been its guiding ideals of fairness, welcome to immigrants, compassion for refugees, respect for religious faith and the courageous refusal to compromise its principles in the face of threats.
“We respectfully urge the president to rescind this order.”
"Beyond our concern for individual students, faculty and staff at UVA who are affected by the executive order, we are concerned about the larger effect this and related actions may have on American universities, including UVA, as we seek to expose students to international experiences. Being a great university in the 21st century means being a global university, and our entire university community is enriched and enlightened by interacting with teachers and students from other nations."
“Since our very beginnings, our country has been immeasurably strengthened by immigrants. Turning our backs on those in need today is worse than heartless. Since the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, discrimination on the basis of national origin has been illegal. The idea of a religious test for immigrants from some parts of the world is reprehensible, and we believe it to be unconstitutional. These are matters that will be resolved in the courts. Meanwhile, Wesleyan University will remain steadfast in our commitment to treat immigrants and refugees with the dignity and respect they deserve. This is what we mean when we say we are a sanctuary campus.
“Wesleyan is an institution of open-minded inquiry and education, and as such we refuse bigotry and demagoguery. As I’ve written before, ‘being horrified is not enough.’ We must take our revulsion against the politics of fear and scapegoating and turn it into efforts to create inclusive communities that celebrate diversity while building compassionate solidarity.”
"The president’s order is inconsistent with Williams’ essential values. It conflicts with our nondiscrimination policy, which forbids discrimination on the basis of national origin, religion and other identity attributes. On Saturday night a federal judge issued a stay on deportations under the order, and a number of organizations and individuals have announced plans to challenge the order’s constitutionality in the courts.
"This is a distressing time, but Williams prepares us for moments when moral courage is required. We can -- and must -- show the world we’re capable of something greater and nobler than fear."GlobalEditorial Tags: Federal policyInternational higher educationImage Caption: Some of the people and groups speaking outIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
WMST-L is like many online discussion groups for scholars. It features many posts in which scholars try to help one another. What would be a good book to add to a syllabus on a given course? What do people know about the content of a forthcoming conference? Who might be interested in joining a panel at a scholarly meeting?
And it was the response to a seemingly innocuous call for panelists and papers that has prompted scholars to quit the Listserv and call for a boycott. Those calling for the boycott say the list, a major forum for communication in women’s studies, gives voice to anti-transgender bigotry.
The call for panelists was for a session for this year’s conference of the National Women’s Studies Association. The session is to be called “Pregnancy Without Women: Representations of Reproduction in Art, Literature, Film and Culture.”
Organizers explained: “Almost 20 years ago, Jack Halberstam challenged scholars to consider ‘masculinity without men.’ At the time, this endeavor might have seemed perverse, but it ultimately challenged feminists to rethink the discourses they relied on to frame sexuality and sexual identities. In similarly counterintuitive fashion, this panel seeks papers that theorize pregnancy without women from feminist and/or queer perspectives …. We’re interested in how economics, race and ability complicate both ‘pro-choice’ rhetoric that relies on fairly narrow constructions of a self-reliant woman and also conceives of pregnancy (and abortion) as an issue that impacts more than just women. To paraphrase Halberstam, considering pregnancy without women ‘affords us a glimpse of how [pregnancy] is constructed as [pregnancy].’ Since pregnancy without women is not yet a biological possibility, we are particularly interested in papers that consider imaginative constructions of pregnancy through art, literature, film and so forth.”
Suggested topics included artificial reproductive technologies, pregnancy “as/not disability,” pregnancy in science “and speculative fiction,” the economics of pregnancy and abortion.
Some of those who responded on WMST-L then objected to the idea of discussing pregnancy without women, and some of those arguments suggested that being a woman should reflect biology alone. Transgender people and those who study them have a wide range of views on gender identity but generally reject the idea of a biologically driven gender binary. And they view those scholars who state such a binary as the only way to look at gender as hostile to the rights of transgender people.
One comment in particular angered trans scholars.
“We don't need supposedly progressive folks downplaying the importance of women's reproductive functions at this time. Let us stop this game now. Only women get pregnant and it serves women not at all to pretend this is not true!”
The comment was from Sheila Jeffreys, a professor at the University of Melbourne, in Australia, whose work criticizing the transgender movement has been controversial in other settings as well.
That post and other prompted Cael Keegan, assistant professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Grand Valley State University, to this weekend issue a call for a boycott.
“The continual rehashing of the validity, dignity and academic worthiness of trans identities, bodies and studies on this Listserv is unacceptable,” Keegan wrote. “The lack of moderator intervention to stymie these kinds of oppressive, exclusionary assertions is also unacceptable. The harm it does to trans users of this Listserv, and the terrible example it sets in this new era when trans people are becoming even more vulnerable (already, our health care under the ACA has been nationally suspended by a single federal judge), is inexcusable. The persistent stated beliefs that speaking about trans bodies or trans oppression is a ‘distraction’ and that acknowledging non-transgender (cis) privilege exists and needs to be interrogated is ‘insulting’ are retrograde and anti-feminist. In the new era, I cannot participate in these same tired discussions that position me and others like me as constantly in need of explanation, justification or silencing. I no longer have the patience to deal with this this kind of ‘feminism’ or this debate over my own worthiness or materiality as a human being.”
Keegan is national co-chair of National Women’s Studies Association's Trans/Gender-Variant Caucus. He called on people to leave WMST-L and instead discuss issues at the caucus’s webpage on Facebook. WMST-L has no formal affiliation with the association. Others are posting their intent to follow Keegan’s recommendations, and some others who are not doing so are joining in his criticisms of what they view as anti-trans attitudes on the list. He said that 58 people have joined the caucus in the last day.
After Keegan posted his call for a boycott, Joan Korenman, co-moderator of WMST-L, announced that she was shutting down the discussion of the call for papers on pregnancy without women.
Korenman, professor emerita of English and women's studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, said, “For a while, it seemed like an appropriate topic for an academic forum like WMST-L. There were a number of interesting and informative messages expressing differing points of view. However, the discussion has now become heated and acrimonious. Over the years, I have seen other forums destroyed by such discussions giving rise to a hostile atmosphere; I don't want to see that happen to WMST-L. Thus, please do not send any more messages on this topic to the list.”
Since posting that message, Korenman has been criticized for not calling out anti-transgender comments. She did not respond to an email request for comment.
Among those joining in the criticism of the response to the post was one of the authors of the call for papers, Karen Weingarten, associate professor of English at Queens College of the City University of New York.
Via email, Weingarten said she was “disheartened and upset about some of the negative reactions to our CFP. The anti-trans response was awful -- it was vitriolic, discriminatory and so narrow-minded. Even after several people wrote moving emails sharing their personal experiences and pleading with people to stop posting hateful rhetoric on the Listserv that attacked members' identities, it didn't stop. I agree with those who argued that the moderators shouldn't have allowed such hateful rhetoric to be posted on the list.”
For her part, Jeffreys is standing by her post and accusing her critics of censorship.
“The feminist ideas I voice are seen as threatening to the existence, not of persons who trans as they may continue to trans as cross-dressing predated the present trans phenomenon [sic], but to the ideological base of transgenderism as a practice in the present,” she wrote in an email message to Inside Higher Ed.
She said that “any attempts to downplay or erase, or take over women's bodily functions is anti-feminist and anti-women in the extreme.”
Of the current debate on WMST-L, Jeffreys said that “criticism of transgender ideology and language from a feminist point of view is now hugely repressed, mainly by angry men. There is severe silencing. Threatening to leave the list is a tactic to prevent feminist speech. It is censorship.”DiversityEditorial Tags: GenderDiversity MattersIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 3
WASHINGTON -- As John Inazu and Eboo Patel spoke to a group of Christian college presidents Friday about the speakers' conceptions of "confident pluralism," "modest unity" and "common ground," it was hard not to wish their words about the importance of respectful difference could be blared on loudspeakers around this capital city (and anywhere else people might seem not to be tolerating differences very well) at this moment in our cultural and political arc.
Wishful thinking, of course. Inazu's and Patel's more modest charge was to talk with 100 or so members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities about why their institutions should not only care about but might actually showcase modern pluralism and the ability to build relationships across differences.
The subject is not an academic one for the association's members. While many of the campuses require students and employees to hew to Christian ideology, and hence feature little to no religious or cultural diversity, some of them are seeing significant growth in enrollments of Muslim students, among others.
And like many traditional institutions in an era of turbulent societal change, Christian colleges have endured conflicts over religious freedom (witness Wheaton College of Illinois, which in 2016 moved to fire a professor for wearing a hijab during Advent as a show of solidarity with Muslims and for explaining her action by saying Christians and Muslims worship a common God) and sexual orientation (with some colleges leaving the group in 2015 amid a rift over policies regarding gay professors). Even those colleges that might avert conflict on their own campuses cannot look inward if they want to be engaged in a broader world that is increasingly multicultural, said Shirley Hoogstra, the association's president. (Note: This paragraph has been updated from an earlier version to clarify Wheaton's actions regarding the head-scarf-wearing professor.)
"There may have been a time 25 years ago where you didn’t have to necessarily be cognizant of the religious liberties of others if you were a white Christian," Hoogstra said. "But in today's world, if Protestant Christians like us are going to ask for religious liberties, it's going to require us also to be vigilant about religious freedom for Muslims and Hindus and others, too."
To its credit, the Christian college group is not ducking these and other controversial issues; the agenda for last week's meeting also featured sessions on how to deal with same-sex marriage and the continuing racial turmoil on college campuses, although from a decidedly Christian standpoint.
The conflicts at Wheaton and elsewhere remained obscurely in the background during the session featuring Inazu, the Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law and Religion at Washington University in St. Louis, and Patel, founder and president of the Interfaith Youth Core, which aims to foster religious tolerance on campuses.
The focus was instead on the importance of cooperation despite differences and the role of higher education generally, and the CCCU's Christian (mainly Protestant) campuses in particular, in showing the rest of the country how it's done.
Patel, an Indian Muslim who has dedicated his career to encouraging interfaith cooperation on campuses, took an intensely personal approach to the discussion.
He began with stories of two evangelical students whose co- or extracurricular activities forced them into unexpected encounters with the religious "other" -- one who was unsure whether his religion would permit him to be "spiritually adopted" (in the form of receiving a Native American name) by an elderly Navajo woman on a service mission, and another whose offhand acceptance of an invitation to attend a candlelight vigil to support a torched mosque alienated members of her Christian student group.
"I promise you your students, in some way, shape or form, are having these types of encounters," Patel told the Christian college presidents. They may have been able to live in a bubble before, he said, but "no cave … is far enough away and closed enough off from other people" that they can do so today.
Being forced to confront the "other" may be difficult, but ultimately it is usually affirming, he said. "If the only people you meet or know are other people like you, you experience your identity as fate," Patel said. "But when you encounter and consider other views, and through dialogue and even disagreement affirm your perspective, you begin to experience your identity as choice."
Patel admitted to having a personal as well as professional stake in the question. "I really hope the only thing your students know about 1.6 billion Muslims, including two screwy kids in Chicago named Zayd and Khalil, my sons, is not just what they know from their Facebook news feed," he said. "They need to know other things than Islamic terrorism."
"And I have a stake in you all remaining deeply rooted Christians who are excellent neighbors in creating a civil society where I can be a Muslim and proud, and free, and safe, and American."
Inazu framed his remarks around his 2016 book Confident Pluralism (University of Chicago Press), whose subtitle ("Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference") reveals a surprising optimism at a time when the country often seems to be Clashing and Crashing Amid Irreconcilable Differences.
As Inazu tells it, though, the current turmoil is neither original nor unexpected. "This is not the first time we've confronted racial tensions, divergent views of morality, religious differences or coarse rhetoric," he argued, and the "success of the American political experiment," such as it is, has "always required finding modest unity against great odds."
He attributes much of today's social tumult to what the Roman Catholic writer Joseph Bottum described as the "great explanatory event from which follows nearly everything in our social and political history": the crumbling a half century ago of the mainline Protestant churches, which had shaped (for better or worse) the social identity and morality of the majority of Americans. That collapse resulted in loss (of coherence for many white Christian Americans) but also gain, in a broadening and enriching of American culture, Inazu argued -- and while some might yearn for a return to the past, "that is not only impractical, it is often offensive," he said.
"Going back to 1950s is not a good bargain for African-Americans," nor is going back to the 1940s good for Japanese-Americans, like his ancestors, Inazu said. "The past is not a good bet if your race, gender, religion or sexuality placed you at the margins of the political consensus that ruled those times."
Instead, we must go forward, he said, and "confident pluralism" presents a path to doing so. (Inazu took the phrase from a 2010 Supreme Court case in which a libertarian gay rights organization filed a brief backing the right of a group of Christian law students at public universities to discriminate against gay people in choosing its leaders.)
As he defines it, confident pluralism is not about what he termed the "elusive goal" of unity, in which fundamental differences among groups could be overcome and agreement reached. "Confident pluralism suggests the more modest possibility that we can live together in our manyness," Inazu said. "The vision doesn't entail illusions that our differences disappear; instead, it forces us to pursue common existence in spite of our many differences."
Confident pluralism assumes that mainstream groups "are confident [enough] in the beliefs and … institutions that sustain them" that they can afford to recognize and respect the beliefs and arguments of "other" groups, even if they disagree with them.
This recognition must be pursued through both legal and civic channels, Inazu said. The rights of all groups to associate must be constitutionally protected so they have spaces to form ideas and create a sense of community and belonging, and public forums and funding assured without regard to viewpoint or ideology. "We need to insist that the people we entrust to govern us honor basic constitutional principles to protect differences," Inazu said. (He acknowledges that sometimes creating space for one group to associate freely imposes costs on others; in other settings, he has argued that student groups at public institutions should be able to bar would-be members whose views, identity or behavior do not align with the group's mission.)
Government can't bring this about alone, he said. "It also depends on us in the everyday decisions we make without the constraints of the law," he said. "It matters in our speech -- how we avoid what I refer to as hurtful insults and conversation stoppers -- and whether or not we embrace certain forms of collective action, such as the boycott fascination unfolding on both sides of the culture wars today."
Our willingness to pursue relationships across differences requires aspiration to three goals: tolerance, humility and patience, Inazu said.
Inazu acknowledged that his words might seem incongruous or worse in a current environment in which "contested assumptions go unchallenged, tolerance becomes a demand for acceptance, humility is supplanted by moral certainty and patience loses to outrage" -- "we're seeing all of that across our country as we speak."
"I have been accused of naïve optimism," he said, noting that one reviewer of his book said it was "doomed to immediate irrelevance" for the lack of an audience that could comprehend and respond to it. But he said he was more optimistic than that because America's history of pluralism, "for all of its failings and shortcomings, and there are many," has worked throughout most of its history.
If the United States is going to embrace confident pluralism, Inazu said, college and university campuses might be expected to lead the way -- to be places "where students and faculty have the time and space not only to express disagreement in more than tweets and sound bites, but also to probe the reasons underlying our disagreement. A place where we can make mistakes and learn from them, and in doing so forgive one another."
Anyone paying close attention to the headlines on Inside Higher Ed might reasonably doubt whether campuses are fulfilling that role today, given the fights over speeches by those with unpopular views, denial of recognition for student groups based on their religious and political viewpoint, and student requests for protections (through trigger warnings and safe spaces) from views that might offend or traumatize them.
Inazu expressed hope that the academy could live up to the vision that the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre held out for it as "a place of constrained disagreement," in which students "enter into controversy with rival standpoints, doing so both in order to exhibit what is mistaken in that rival standpoint … and in order to test and retest the central theses advanced from one's own point of view against the strongest possible objections to them."
"Can the university be a place for MacIntyre's constrained disagreement?" Inazu asked. "A place that initiates students into the kind of conflict through which people learn to live together rather than fracture through indifference, apathy or violence?"
It must, he said, quoting MacIntyre, because "only from the university can the wider society learn how to conduct its own debates, practical or theoretical, in a rationally defensible way."
"If we are unable to harness the people, place and purpose of the university toward a more confident pluralism, in an environment that is in many ways the most conducive to modeling these kinds of civic practices, what does that say about our possibilities in the rest of society?"Religious CollegesEditorial Tags: ReligionSexual orientationImage Source: Photos by Warren PettitImage Caption: Eboo PatelIs this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
Reinhardt University, a small liberal arts college in Georgia, is piloting a program aimed at cultivating students’ soft skills and giving them an edge over their peers in the job market -- without changing the liberal arts curriculum that is the center of formal education there.
Similar to digital badges, which about one in five colleges have adopted as a form of alternative credentialing, Reinhardt’s new program seeks to quantify skills and reward those who have picked them up outside traditional college courses.
Reinhardt’s program, the Strategic Career Advantage Platform (S-CAP), was launched in fall 2016. Each month, the college offers a Saturday session focused on a different topic -- for example, one four-hour January session focused on emotional intelligence. Others so far have covered impression management, listening and mediation.
At the end of the session, the students are not tested on the material. Instead, they write and reflect on what they learned and how they could realistically communicate that to an employer, said Reinhardt President Kina Mallard. The idea is for students to recognize real-life scenarios in which they have used those soft skills -- such as conflict resolution, mediation and listening -- and to then highlight that on their résumés or in job interviews.
For every five sessions students complete, they will receive a pin to wear on their graduation gowns, marking the achievement.
Mallard said one of the problems with digital badges and electronic portfolios, which provide a single place for students to showcase their skills and accomplishments, is they rely on employers to do part of the work of figuring out what the credentials mean. S-CAP places the responsibility on its students.
“It’s not incumbent on the employer to research and understand the skills [our graduates] have,” Mallard said. “It’s incumbent on the employee.”
Mallard had the idea for S-CAP, part of a broader “enrollment to employment” initiative at the university, when she joined Reinhardt about a year and a half ago. Because Reinhardt is small -- about 1,400 students are enrolled -- and focuses on building student-faculty relationships, Mallard thought students would benefit more from the S-CAP design. “Students need a comprehensive career development program that starts at freshman year and goes all the way through,” she said, adding that getting a job is different from getting the right job.
S-CAP, however, is new and untested. Administrators still don’t know how employers will take to it, but Peggy Collins Feehery, director of career services at Reinhardt, will work with students throughout the year to turn the information from those sessions into résumé material and concrete talking points. A large component of this will involve mock interviews.
“I do think it will set our students apart,” Collins Feehery said, “and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”
As with other soft-skills training programs, S-CAP has some critics.
Colin Mathews is president and founder of Merit, a business that sells colleges platforms on which students can document honors, awards and out-of-class experiences that are relevant to future employment. He says soft skills are synonymous with life skills, and employers don’t need certificates, pins or badges to recognize which students possess the right set of life skills.
For example, employers like to hire athletes, Mathews said, because they know those students are disciplined, focused and able to balance a demanding schedule. They also like to hire students who hold down part-time jobs during the school year and first-generation college students, because those students are bold, tenacious and hardworking. The same life skills Reinhardt is trying to teach through S-CAP, Mathews said, are skills employers have been able to identify in their applicants for decades.
“That’s why badging has totally failed,” Mathews said. “They’re trying to invent a whole new language and have badges to communicate that language … but nobody cares.”
It’s important that colleges find a way to communicate to employers that a degree from their school is valuable, Mathews said, but hosting these makeshift classes is not the right way to do it.
Amber Garrison Duncan, a strategy director at the Lumina Foundation, said S-CAP is flawed because it’s missing an effective digital format.
“The digital part is becoming more critical,” Garrison Duncan, said, adding that electronic portfolios, which can be clicked on and read through, are helpful to employers during the screening process.
She said she often hears employers say they don’t care how students learned the skill -- whether it was through an academic course, an internship or another life experience -- they just care that the students have it at all.
“I think [S-CAP] is a great step in the right direction, and certainly we know what the potential is here for the learner,” Garrison Duncan said. “I would just encourage them … to continue to develop their program.”
That’s the plan for Reinhardt. At this stage, they’re “not billing it as more than it is,” Mallard said, but hoping to use this pilot as a way to understand what skills students lack and how they can best prepare them for their postgraduate endeavors.Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: Job placement/careersImage Source: Reinhardt UniversityImage Caption: Students discuss what they have learned in a session on soft skills.Is this breaking news?: Is this diversity newsletter?:
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