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Higher Education News
Higher education reforms that have forced lecturers at Spanish universities to gain teaching accreditation have resulted in significantly reduced job satisfaction, a new study says.
Analyzing a survey of more than 1,000 Spanish university lecturers, researchers at the University of the Basque Country, in Bilbao, found that the vast majority of respondents were unhappy about many of the recent state-led changes relating to teaching and accreditation.
The law now requires universities to submit study plans for an independent review by an authorized agency, such as the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation of Spain (Aneca). Prospective lecturers must gain an Aneca-backed teaching certificate and hold a Ph.D. to apply for “public service teaching positions,” says the paper by Jon Olaskoaga-Larrauri, Xabier González-Laskibar and Pablo Díaz de Basurto Uraga, titled “Spanish University Reforms and Job Satisfaction: Is There Only One Way Out?” and published in the journal Educational Policy last month.
A majority of the 1,134 teaching staff who answered a questionnaire sent by the authors believed that the recent changes had made teaching much more bureaucratic and had eroded academic values, the paper says.
Some 88 percent agreed that their teaching duties were “increasingly more subject to rules and procedures," of whom 72 percent said this had significantly lowered their job satisfaction.
A total of 75 percent also said that they now “devote more time to purely administrative tasks”; of that group, 89 percent said this had significantly lowered their job satisfaction.
Some 65 percent of respondents also believed that “academic principles and values are losing validity and are being replaced by the specific rules of the university I work for,” the paper says.
Of those who perceived this loss of academic autonomy, 85 percent said it had made their job satisfaction much lower. Some 49 percent of staff also felt that they “no longer have the same freedom to make decisions on my teaching duties.”
Academics with at least 10 years of teaching experience, who accounted for 75 percent of respondents, tended to view the impact of reforms less favorably than newer lecturers, the results also suggest.
However, lecturers are not wholly pessimistic about some of the audit-led changes occurring in Spanish universities, the paper says.
While 53 percent of respondents agreed that universities now have more methods to assess teaching quality, only 15 percent of these respondents were unhappy about this. In contrast, 37 percent of these respondents were more satisfied with a closer monitoring of teaching, with the remainder offering no opinion on this.
“Any assessment implies recognition, even if only implicitly, and those who consider they are doing a good job may well be grateful for that recognition,” the paper suggests.
It adds, “Most lecturers … seem willing to submit to the developments that imply quality assessment, provided it is not interpreted in a narrow sense, such as accountability or the fulfillment of standards that restrict their academic freedom and reduce their job satisfaction.”GlobalEditorial Tags: Foreign countriesTimes Higher EdIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
After a combustible election season, campus leaders perceive a disconnect with the American public, watch Washington with anxiety and seem more confident in their financial sustainability.Multiple Authors: Doug LedermanScott JaschikAd Keyword: Presidents2017Section: 2016 ElectionAdmissionsAssessment and AccountabilityCommunity Colleges
The idea of a three-year bachelor’s degree is nothing new.
But it generally hasn’t been promoted at pricey private universities, which tend to attract students with their entire campus experience instead of just the credits being earned. That changed in at least one case in February, when New York University unveiled a new program it calls NYU Accelerate. The program is designed to clear a way for some students to graduate in less than four years from a university that has long been criticized as one of the most expensive institutions in the country that does not meet students' full financial need.
Other institutions have introduced three-year-degree efforts in the past, notably including the private Wesleyan University in 2012 -- eight graduates out of about 730 completed their degrees in three years in 2016, up from two to three students per year in the years before that program was put in place. And enterprising, organized students have always been able to graduate in three years from most colleges, but few try to do so. Still, NYU’s move is noteworthy in that it reflects an escalating discussion around student costs, even at institutions that had previously seemed largely immune to blowback from increasing student expenses.
Now the larger question remains: Will the three-year-degree program have any significant impact on affordability at an institution quoting undergraduate cost of attendance at nearly $72,000 per year on paper? Reactions have varied, with administrators praising the accelerate program and other ideas put in place as innovative measures at an institution that is surprisingly constrained by its per-student endowment levels in a staggeringly high-priced New York City market. Meanwhile, experts said the affordability efforts do not amount to systematic changes, and some student critics bashed them as gimmicks. (The preceding paragraph has been updated to more accurately reflect NYU's estimated cost of attendance for domestic students who do not commute.)
The accelerate program leans heavily on changes to advising and chances for students to maximize the credits in their class schedules. All undergraduate schools at NYU now have acceleration advisers who are ready to discuss transfer and Advanced Placement credits and courses with students. An academic planning tool will alert students when their academic plans would have them graduating in more than four years. Currently, 81 percent of NYU students graduate in four years or less and 84 percent graduate in six years or less. The various schools are also attempting to increase the number of two-credit courses they offer.
Two-credit courses are important, because NYU’s full-time tuition covers 12-18 credits, but many students only take 16. Now the idea is that students can pair 18-credit semesters with some summer classes, January term classes and credits from Advanced Placement or community college classes to earn a bachelor’s degree in less than four years.
The idea comes as NYU is also pursuing other options to improve its affordability. Faculty members were asked to review textbook requirements, and 1,000 fewer textbooks were required for courses this spring than in the same semester a year before. Students have started an effort to share their unused dining hall meals, and university officials have lowered the number of meals incoming students are required to buy. The university is making online financial education tools available to students, and it has increased its shuttle service between Brooklyn and Manhattan, which it says saves students money they otherwise would have spent on the subway.
“There is no one silver bullet that can solve the affordability issue for our students,” President Andrew Hamilton said in an update on affordability issued last month. University leaders have also pointed out that tuition and fee increases were trimmed for the current academic year, rising by only 2.9 percent for most undergraduate programs. It was the lowest rate of increase in two decades -- tuition and fees have generally increased by 3.5 percent to 4 percent in recent years, including several years of historically low inflation rates.
The moves represent small slices of total student cost of attendance, especially when compared to the university’s quoted tuition and fees of more than $49,000 for most undergraduate schools this year. They’re still relatively small after factoring in financial aid packages. NYU did not share its discount rate for the current academic year, but its average net price for full-time beginning students was $35,106 for 2014-15, according to federal data on price including tuition and fees, books and supplies, and a weighted average for room and board.
Officials say they aren’t sure how many students will take advantage of the new accelerate program. But it should be noted that a large number of NYU students are already graduating early -- roughly 20 percent of undergraduates earn their degrees in less than four years.
So in some ways, the accelerate program is less a sea change than it is a formalization of what students were already doing.
“It seemed that we should at least make it clear to people that if they wanted to do it and they were majoring in a subject for which it was feasible to do it, we would lay out a path,” said Ellen Schall, a senior presidential fellow and professor of health policy and management at NYU who chairs the university’s Affordability Steering Committee, which is made up of deans, faculty members, students and an administrator. “It’s not advice. It’s not required. It’s not by any means to be imagined that this works for everybody.”
Schall listed several other affordability efforts underway at NYU, including a goal of saving $10 million on administrative efficiencies and finding additional savings in its procurement contracts. The moves can all add up to translate to real savings for the university and for students, she said.
She went on to argue that NYU’s per-student endowment is much lower than those of many of the university’s peers. NYU’s endowment totaled just under $3.5 billion as of June 30. That translates to about $70,000 per student. It’s also much less per student than elite private universities such as Princeton University, where per-student endowment levels are well over $2.5 million.
As a result, NYU does not have the financial resources to simply cut its quoted tuition by a large figure like 20 percent, Schall said. It decided to look for significant pain points for students and use that conversation to generate additional ideas for increasing affordability. The university is also in the middle of a campaign to raise $1 billion that will go exclusively to scholarships.
It is still noteworthy, however, that NYU’s endowment weighs in with the 27th highest total in the country, according to an annual survey from the National Association of College and University Business Officers and the nonprofit asset-management firm Commonfund.
At least some students are skeptical that accelerated graduation is a way to make NYU more affordable for the masses. The editorial board at the Washington Square News, NYU’s student newspaper, called the proposal about students graduating in less than four years a “gimmicky slap in the face.” The accelerate proposal takes a side effect of NYU’s affordability problem and attempts to label it as a solution, the board wrote. It continued by arguing that the idea ignores the fact that many students struggle to graduate in four years and that students have to pay additional tuition for summer and January term classes.
“These supposed solutions seem to suggest the working group believes that four years at NYU is a luxury for the richest students, even as most students in the U.S. require more than four years to finish,” the editorial said before going on to criticize the Affordability Steering Committee and working group that generated the idea. “The working group is implying that the full college experience is an exclusive luxury for students who can afford the tuition.”
But faculty members who are part of the affordability groups said the idea is not to rush students. It’s to provide them with an option.
“It depends on the student,” said Allen Mincer, a professor of physics who chairs NYU’s Faculty Senators Council for those with tenure or who are on the tenure track. The Senators Council has not had an official discussion about the latest affordability measures, but Mincer is also on the Affordability Steering Committee.
Mincer would not recommend that students who are not prepared for heavy course loads attempt to graduate in less than four years, he said.
“Are you rushing students?” he said. “I think you have to balance that against those students for whom this would be somehow enabling them to have a decent education here.”
Mincer is trying to reflect the emphasis on affordability in his own classroom. He teaches a science course on particle physics and astrophysics for nonscience majors. Its content doesn’t line up perfectly with any available textbooks, so in the past he ordered two books for the course. Now, with the talk about reconsidering textbook requirements, he decided to try some pedagogical innovations he’d been considering, such as prerecording lectures before class so that students can listen to them in lieu of textbooks.
Yet Mincer also cautioned that balance is necessary when it comes to affordability. NYU remains a tuition-dependent institution, with tuition and fees generating 55 percent of operating revenue.
“We have to be able to run the place,” Mincer said. “As a faculty member, I still want to see myself get paid. There are real costs you can’t avoid.”
Erica Silverman is an M.P.A. student at NYU who is also on the Affordability Steering Committee. The NYU Accelerate program can be helpful for students who want to enter the work force earlier or those who have trouble affording the cost of living in New York City, she said.
Silverman received her bachelor’s degree from NYU in 2014 but had been admitted to an accelerated master’s program in her senior year. She started taking graduate courses as an undergraduate in order to lessen the load on her graduate studies. Then she took a year off to work and save money before returning to graduate school. Silverman also watched friends graduate early.
Sitting on the Affordability Steering Committee has helped Silverman understand that broad changes at NYU are going to take time. She hopes the current initiatives are the beginning of a larger movement on behalf of the institution.
“You start to see how complex these big institutions are,” she said. “I think it could eventually lead to more and more positive movement.”
Experts noted that universities don’t have as much flexibility in controlling student costs as many expect them to. Large portions of their expenses are tied up in buildings or faculty compensation. Those costs can’t easily be cut -- and a university could risk its reputation if it did decide to suddenly slash them.
At the same time, institutions have come under increasing pressure on issues of student affordability. They have generally responded by increasing sticker prices and discounting tuition heavily for students who cannot otherwise afford to attend.
NYU has been criticized over the years for raising its sticker price, for not meeting the estimated financial need of every student it admits and for overall stinginess in giving financial aid -- NYU offers enough aid to meet full financial need for only 7 percent of undergraduates, according to data gathered by the College Board. It can argue it faces unique circumstances, such as the high prices in Manhattan or a per-student endowment that doesn’t keep up with the institutions in the Ivy League to which it likes to compare itself.
Beyond those arguments, it’s interesting to see NYU take part in an affordability conversation prominently including the idea of graduating in less than four years, said Ed Venit, a senior director at higher education research company EAB.
“What we see schools saying is they have a lot of different restrictions,” Venit said. “They can’t really control -- or at least it’s going to be an uphill battle to reduce -- the cost of college. But what they can do is reduce the cost for an individual student.”
Other institutions with low four-year graduation rates have been making efforts to push on-time or early graduation, Venit said. Think of public universities and the “15 to Finish” campaign emphasizing taking at least 15 credits in order to graduate in four years.
As a high-priced private institution, NYU fits a very different profile, however.
“They’re doing it for the same reason,” Venit said. “They’re using the same strategies as schools very dissimilar to them.”
NYU has a much higher four-year graduation rate than many other institutions. Its four-year graduation rate was 81 percent for undergraduate students who sought a bachelor’s degree and started in the fall of 2009, according to federal data. In contrast, the national four-year graduation rate has been roughly 40 percent in recent years.
It only makes sense to emphasize three- or three-and-a-half-year degrees at institutions that already have high four-year graduation rates, said Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. There are other reasons it would make sense for the university to look at accelerated degree options, such as the fact that many of its students graduate with high levels of debt -- including its low-income students.
“I suspect more students at NYU would be open to the three-year option than would be at, say, Princeton,” Baum said. “Princeton meets [financial] need.”
Over all, Baum has mixed feelings about the idea of students graduating in less than four years. It’s hard to criticize, because graduating in a timely manner can improve affordability for students, she said. But universities must be careful not to push students to take too many classes. And it’s not clear how much more popular NYU’s program will make graduating in less than four years.
NYU may be a different type of institution emphasizing graduating in less than four years, but the idea itself is not new, Baum reiterated.
“People have been talking about three-year degrees for such a long time,” she said. “Twenty years ago people were having this conversation.”
NYU officials argue that the university’s average debt upon graduation has been going down over the past five years, falling by about 25 percent to just over $30,000. The university has tripled its financial aid budget to more than $300 million per year over the decade from 2005 to 2015. It has also more than tripled the average grant given to incoming freshmen, from $8,900 to more than $30,000.
Further, NYU has a high number of Pell-eligible students, about 5,500. That’s more than Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia combined, they say, adding that the average institutional grant to Pell-eligible students was more than $39,000 last year. The average NYU grant to Pell-eligible students has jumped from covering 55 percent of tuition and fees to covering 82 percent in the last five years, according to university officials.
Of course, costs for tuition and fees and room and board have also been rising.
All the chatter about affordability has not hurt NYU’s application volume. The number of students applying for first-year admission in the class of 2021 rose 6 percent year over year to more than 67,000 students, the university announced in January.
It’s a complex picture, said Fred Carl, an associate arts professor who is the chairman of NYU's Contract Faculty Senators Council. Affordability and student debt have been much talked about on campus, and the affordability committee and Affordability Steering Committee and working group have been soliciting ideas widely.
“Saying, ‘Cut tuition and nothing else matters,’ I don’t know that I agree with that,” Carl said. “I think that you start where you can and you keep moving.”Editorial Tags: College administrationCollege costs/pricesImage Source: New York UniversityImage Caption: NYU plans to make it easier for students to graduate in less than four years.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
The Republican replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act will have negative consequences for both adjuncts and other employees at many colleges, as well as for low-income students and academic medical centers, say observers of health care policy in higher education.
The elimination of the employer mandate means that some institutions may choose not to continue offering health insurance to adjunct instructors who aren’t full-time employees. The weakening of subsidies for Obamacare exchanges and -- eventually -- federal support for state Medicaid expansion will hurt the ability of many students to obtain insurance coverage, experts said.
How those effects play out for each student will likely differ campus by campus and state by state. And details of the proposed replacement plan could change. Meanwhile, the House plan, dubbed the American Health Care Act, has come under attack from both advocates for expanded health care and critics on the right who are referring to it as Obamacare 2.0.
But advocates say the bottom line of the bill released this week is that it shifts more costs to states while potentially leaving millions of students uninsured and making the existence of part-time workers more precarious.
“What you’ll see is a cut in coverage -- not just who’s covered but the type of coverage provided,” said Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy.
The bill provides less generous subsidies to those in lower- and middle-income brackets to purchase insurance through state exchanges. It ends federal support for state expansion of Medicaid -- a key feature to the Affordable Care Act’s drive to provide health insurance to the poorest Americans -- after 2020. And it converts Medicaid funding from an open-ended commitment to a “per capita” system, which observers say will mean less support for the program.
Weaker federal support for Medicaid in particular could put more pressure on states to find money elsewhere in their budgets. And it could have negative consequences for college completion, Duke-Benfield said, because one of the top reasons students drop out of college is financial difficulties.
Sam Leitermann, president and CEO of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, said the bill maintains some important components of the Affordable Care Act, including a ban on denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions and a provision that allows individuals to remain on their parents’ health insurance plan until age 26. But he said the penalty for a lapse in coverage was concerning -- if an individual goes more than 60 days without insurance, when they do buy coverage again they could see their premiums go up by 30 percent.
“It removes good parts of the ACA and doesn’t replace them,” Leitermann said. “It’s ACA light, which means we have lost something.”
Maryann Haytmanek, director of the New Choices/New Options Program at Northampton Community College, works with students to help them obtain coverage through Medicaid or the state insurance exchange. Haytmanek said students at the Bethlehem, Pa., college who did not earn enough to qualify for subsidies on the exchange were able to get insurance coverage when the state expanded Medicaid in 2014. Without that access to coverage, it would be more difficult for students to persevere with medical challenges and complete their degree plan, she said.
“It’s really a retention issue,” she said. “You don’t have to miss class. You can be comfortable knowing you are healthy and that you can go see the doctor when you need to.”
Johnetta McNeil, a second-year Northampton student majoring in nursing, said she was able to qualify for coverage through Medicaid after realizing she could no longer work full time and pursue her academic program. McNeil, who is asthmatic and has seasonal allergies, said her coverage makes it possible to afford medication like an inhaler without paying out of pocket.
“It makes a difference knowing that if I go to the doctor, I know my inhaler or my Flonase will be covered instead of trying to come up with the money,” she said. “That money that didn’t come out of pocket you can put toward your books or utilities for classes -- paper, pens, pencils.”
Impact on Adjuncts
Ending the employer mandate won’t necessarily mean large numbers of adjuncts lose insurance. But that's because of the way many colleges responded to the health-care law. Many of them, noting that they had to cover those who worked more than 30 hours per week, cut adjunct hours. Had colleges not done so, the Affordable Care Act might have been a major advance for adjuncts seeking health insurance, although some did gain.
Maria Maisto, president of adjunct advocacy group New Faculty Majority, said those employees at institutions that cut their hours could see a return to the higher course loads they were assigned prior to the health law’s implementation. And for some adjuncts who did get heath insurance under the law, that could go away.
“The bottom line is it’s going to depend by institution whether or not this has any impact whatsoever,” said Andy Brantley, president and chief executive officer of CUPA-HR, which advises colleges on human resources issues. “At this point, all of that is to be determined on an institution-by-institution basis.”
National higher education organizations that advise colleges and universities on federal policy changes also say the impact on contingent faculty and other employees will depend on the course staked out by individual institutions.
It also remains to be seen how student health insurance plans offered by colleges and universities may be affected by this bill, said Steven Bloom, director of government relations at the American Council on Education.
“This is really one of those issues where the devil is in the details,” Bloom said. “A word changed here or there can make an enormous difference.”
On Thursday, a group of seven hospital groups, including the Association of American Medical Colleges, released a statement expressing concern that the legislation would weaken Medicaid and result in a loss of coverage through the program. Karen Fisher, the AAMC’s chief public policy officer, said the increase in the uninsured population that would result from changes to Medicaid would put pressure on academic medical centers, which act as safety net institutions for those patients.
“Clinical revenues help offset the costs associated with graduate medical education,” Fisher said. “To the extent that there is less clinical revenue, there’s going to be pressure on the other missions of academic medical centers, including their medical education and their research missions.”AdjunctsEditorial Tags: AdjunctsImage Source: Getty ImagesImage Caption: Republican leaders unveil their health plan.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
Harvard Law School announced Wednesday that it will start an experiment in which it will accept the Graduate Record Examination for admissions, not just the traditionally required Law School Admission Test.
The potential of the GRE in law school admissions has been much debated in legal education circles in recent years, and the decision of Harvard Law to accept it could resonate well beyond Cambridge.
"Any time Harvard Law School comes out with a change, the law school admissions world will take notice," said Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs at Kaplan, which helps prepare students for the LSAT and the GRE, among other tests.
Harvard Law's announcement explained the shift this way: "The pilot program to accept the GRE is part of a wider strategy at Harvard Law School to expand access to legal education for students in the United States and internationally. The GRE is offered frequently throughout the year and in numerous locations around the world. Many prospective law school applicants take the GRE as they consider graduate school options. The law school’s decision to accept the GRE will alleviate the financial burden on applicants who would otherwise be required to prepare and pay for an additional test."
The statement went on to say that the shift complies with requirements of the American Bar Association. ABA guidelines state, "A law school that uses an admission test other than the Law School Admission Test sponsored by the Law School Admission Council shall demonstrate that such other test is a valid and reliable test to assist the school in assessing an applicant’s capability to satisfactorily complete the school’s program of legal education."
Harvard said it conducted a study, based on students who took both the GRE and LSAT, and found "that the GRE is an equally valid predictor of first-year grades."
Before Wednesday, the only ABA-accredited law school that accepted the GRE and the LSAT was the University of Arizona, which took the step last year. Marc L. Miller, the dean at Arizona, said at the time, "We believe that law schools and the legal profession need a greater number of high-quality applicants with the widest range of life, educational and professional backgrounds. Having only one admissions test as an access point automatically reduces that number and puts us out of line with every other profession and academic discipline, none of whose regulators require any standardized test for admission, much less a single test."
Arizona and Harvard may soon have company in letting applicants submit either the GRE or the LSAT. A spokesman for the Educational Testing Service, which produces the GRE, said ETS is working with 14 law schools on validity studies to show the reliability of the GRE in law school admissions. ETS is also working on a national study.
A spokeswoman for the Law School Admission Council said of Harvard's decision that "schools have that right under the current ABA standards."
The council has not always been as accepting, as seen when Arizona made its decision. At one point the council sent Arizona letters that were interpreted as a threat to kick the university out of the council, although after criticism the council said it was simply seeking clarification of Arizona's policies. That dispute led nearly 150 deans of law schools to write to the council to demand that it stop plans to oust Arizona. "Experimentation benefits all of us," the deans' letter said.
Thomas of Kaplan said that many would-be law students consider the GRE to be an easier exam than the LSAT. Further, he said that it is easy for students to take the GRE when they want, giving that test a logistical advantage over the LSAT.
The LSAT has sections on reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning and writing. The test does not have questions about the law -- or anything specific to law schools.
Thomas said that, in the near term, those who have decided they definitely want to go to law school may well have one or more law schools to which they are applying still requiring the LSAT only, and so will be forced to take the LSAT. But he said the many law schools -- unlike Harvard's -- that worry about attracting applicants also want to appeal to those who are looking at multiple graduate and professional options. For them, the ability to take one test and apply to both master's programs and a law school may encourage them to consider law school.AdmissionsEditorial Tags: AdmissionsLaw schoolsImage Source: Harvard Law SchoolIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
Students and faculty members are usually the most active participants in campus discussions about the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. A new report that’s highly critical of the boycott campaign argues that governing boards must also play a role in such discussions and ultimately act as a backstop for academic freedom. While the report has some early supporters, some academic opponents of BDS say its recommendations may do more harm than good.
“Campus Free Speech, Academic Freedom and the Problem of the BDS Movement,” released today by the American Council for Trustees and Alumni, describes the boycott as “one of the greatest threats to academic freedom in the U.S. today,” and governing board members as “protectors” of their institutions’ “core values.”
ACTA is neutral on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and advises boards to remain so. Indeed, its new report says that the university “is pre-eminently the appropriate place to raise and debate opinions on such contested issues as the two-state solution, the borders of the state of Israel, the status of Jerusalem and the behavior of the nations in conflict.” But in recent years, it says, says the “anti-Israel movement has encouraged an increasing number of flagrant violations of academic freedom and free expression.”
Both faculty members and students feel BDS’s impact, the report says, and it merits the “careful attention of trustees, policy makers and the academic community at large. At stake is nothing less than the integrity of American higher education.”
Much of the report is an overview of numerous on-campus incidents related to the Israeli-Palestinian debate with implications for academic freedom, such as when protesters at the University of Minnesota attempted to shout down invited speaker Moshe Halbertal, Gruss Professor of Law at the New York University and a professor of Jewish thought and philosophy at Hebrew University, in 2015. ACTA praises the Modern Language and American Historical Associations for voting down BDS-related resolutions and criticizes the “politicization” of professional associations that have taken steps to support the boycott. Those include the National Women’s Studies Association, the Association for Asian American Studies and the American Studies Association.
The report raises concerns voiced elsewhere that some anti-Israel rhetoric bleeds into anti-Semitism, and it questions why Israel, among other nations accused of human rights violations, has been singled out for the boycott. It notes, for example, that Rachel Beyda, who was applying for a judicial position on the student council at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2015, was asked by certain members whether she’d be able to remain “unbiased” in her role because she was Jewish and involved in Jewish groups.
With regard to board members, ACTA says that trustees increasingly are lobbied by BDS supporters, such as when some 500 students and faculty members at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology petitioned their universities to divest stock in companies that did business in Israel, in 2002.
“These are hardly isolated attempts,” the report says. “In the 2014-15 academic year alone, at least 19 resolutions or referendums were considered on college campuses. … As a trustee, you will need to be ready to respond articulately and firmly to inappropriate pressure to change the manner in which your school’s endowment is invested or the companies with which it conducts business.” No American college has actually divested, and many resolutions are by student groups that have no control over endowments.
ACTA also warns that disorderly conduct, anti-Semitic vandalism or physical assault related to the BDS may expose a university to liability, and that limiting contact with Israeli academics and institutions could impede scientific progress.
To these ends, ACTA advises governing boards to:
Mark G. Yudof, professor emeritus of law at the University of California, Berkeley, and former president of the University of California, called ACTA’s analysis “superb” and a “reliable reference work for governing boards.” Others were less complimentary.
“Is there anything beneficial about this report? That’s a tough question,” said Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary of tenure, academic freedom and governance at the American Association of University Professors. The organization opposes boycotts as incompatible with academic freedom, but Tiede said he had several concerns with ACTA’s take. From AAUP’s point of view, he said, other dynamics pose a much greater, more immediate threat to academic freedom -- most of all recent political and legislative attacks on tenure, curricula and funding for higher education. Perhaps most importantly, he said, asking a board to safeguard academic freedom -- especially by “ensuring intellectually diverse views” -- poses risks to academics freedom. Faculty members, in consultation with their administrations, are best suited to such tasks, Tiede said, while boards may or may not offer final approval.
Cary Nelson, a professor emeritus of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who has vocally opposed BDS, also criticized ACTA’s recommendations, saying via email that they “cross the line in themselves threatening academic freedom, namely by asking administrators and governing boards to ensure that departmental curricula offer balanced views of the state of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Both individual faculty and entire departments can teach from a particular political point of view if they choose, he said, “so long as they welcome dissenting student opinion.”
Nelson said institutional responsibility lies only in “assuring that diverse political views obtain across the campus curriculum as a whole.” So if a given department “castigates Israel as an undemocratic settler-colonialist state,” he added, “the administration should fund faculty appointments and courses in interested departments elsewhere that present a different view.”
Perhaps more predictably, proponents of BDS also were critical of the report.
Rahul Saksena, a staff attorney at the nonprofit Palestine Legal, said that any “reasonable reading” of the report will see a “fundamental flaw in its assertion, on the one hand, that BDS undermines free speech and academic freedom, while endorsing, on the other hand, administrative efforts to thwart BDS activities and unconstitutional legislative efforts to censor Palestinian human rights advocacy.”
Bruce Robbins, Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University and a leader of the ultimately unsuccessful BDS effort within the MLA, quoted ACTA’s statement that academic freedom is at times “uncomfortable and in tension with other important campus values.” In this case, he said, some of that discomfort comes from "the fact that Israel has for so long and so grossly denied academic freedom to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. How can this not count heavily in the balance for anyone trying to be truly fair on the issue?”
Michael Poliakoff, ACTA’s president, in an interview underscored the report’s point that numerous other countries, including, for example, Turkey, have in recent years been accused of egregious violations of academic freedom and human rights (and yet there is no movement to boycott Turkey). So the singling out of Israel suggests something untoward about BDS, he said.
Over all, Poliakoff said, the report is in keeping with the longtime values of the academy and ACTA’s position that trustees are fiduciaries who are not only responsible for their institutions’ financial well-being “but also responsible for academic freedom and the delivery of a high-quality education.” Inasmuch as BDS efforts hinder those aims, he said, “these are issues that trustees need to address.”Academic FreedomEditorial Tags: Academic freedomImage Source: American Council of Trustees and AlumniIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
A new study out of Yale University confirms a notion college and university administrators have held for years -- that substance abuse is linked to a decline in student grades -- but this study also reveals a number of trends among college students that surprised its authors.
Researchers at Yale University and the Institute of Living in Hartford, Conn., found that students who drank a moderate to heavy amount of alcohol actually had similar grade point averages to those who consumed little or no alcohol. However, students who used moderate to heavy alcohol as well as marijuana saw their grades plummeting.
The study tracked more than 1,100 students at two unnamed colleges in Connecticut over the course of two years, beginning with their first semester of freshman year. The students involved in the study answered a series of questions about their patterns of substance use every month.
To the authors’ surprise, very few students reported using marijuana while abstaining from alcohol -- so few, in fact, that they could not draw conclusions about that subgroup of students.
The researchers found that although the 1,100 students achieved comparable SAT scores, their academic performance varied greatly in college. Students who drank minimal alcohol and used minimal marijuana had an average GPA of 3.10, while those who drank alcohol earned an average GPA of 3.03. The most dramatic change occurred in students who used both alcohol and marijuana -- their GPAs averaged 2.66.
Godfrey Pearlson, senior author of the study and professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Yale, said the combination of those two drugs can have a number of different effects on student achievement.
“If you’re hanging out with friends and drinking and smoking marijuana, it’s time you can’t spend studying -- that’s one explanation,” Pearlson said. “Another explanation is harming yourself cognitively. Your working ability and your ability to concentrate are affected by the drug. Marijuana smoking by itself produces a certain degree of apathy, so you’re less motivated to study. If it’s less important to you, you’re less likely to engage in it.”
They also found that when students in the third category -- those with lower GPAs -- decided to limit their alcohol and marijuana intake, their grades improved.
“So it’s not that once you’ve done the drugs, there’s irreparable damage to your brain,” Pearlson said. “Their GPAs started coming back up.”
Finally, the researchers observed that about 60 to 70 percent of students who fell into one distinct category -- such as those who drink heavily or those who don’t drink at all -- did not move out of that category over the two years recorded.
This, the authors said, can be especially useful information for college administrators.
“If colleges want to discourage people from getting into one of the heavy-use groups, I guess the bottom line is they’re going to have to get that message across very early,” Pearlson said.
Because college students tend to get “locked in” to the lifestyle they choose early on, there should be greater awareness about what those decisions could mean later, said Shashwath Meda, first author of the study.
Students often enter college with an exaggerated idea of who is drinking and how much they’re drinking, Meda said. In reality, many students choose to abstain.
“Just informing them that is actually not the case can actually go a long way,” Meda said. “If people start talking about it and steer away folks from drug use in the first semester or so, I think you can put a lot of these students on the right path.”
Pearlson also suggested colleges intervene early and often with their students. "If people don’t perceive drinking a bit or smoking some weed harmful in any way, they’re more likely to indulge,” Pearlson said. “If the college got that message across early, that would make a difference.”
Colleges will ultimately have to invest more funding and resources in prevention and education programs in order to see significant results, said David Arnold, director of NASPA’s Bacchus Initiatives, which promote safe and healthy campus environments.
“Reports like this can be something we get really concerned about, but it can also be something we get really excited about,” Arnold said. “It can help students succeed. When we get reports like this, we are seeing resources we need to start directing … to [find] the best practice possible.”Editorial Tags: Student lifeAlcohol and drugsImage Source: iStockIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
Speaking at a panel discussion in 2014, Tom McMillen, a former member of Congress and retired professional basketball player, warned of a coming apocalypse to the status quo of college sports.
At the time, the National Collegiate Athletic Association was facing lawsuits on several fronts over its amateurism rules and player safety. Three months earlier, the association’s president, Mark Emmert, had been grilled during a contentious Senate hearing in which lawmakers criticized the NCAA and its members for exploiting athletes and mishandling reports of sexual assault. The National Labor Relations Board was considering whether football players at Northwestern University should be allowed to unionize. Meanwhile, the White House and members of Congress were exploring the idea of creating a presidential commission on college athletics.
“You’re going to be facing a day of reckoning,” McMillen said to the roomful of college sports leaders.
More than two years later, that reckoning has yet to fully occur, but McMillen says it’s still coming. And when it happens, he’s aiming to have members of Congress already listening to the concerns of college sports officials. In December McMillen announced that his LEAD1 Association, which represents the 129 athletics directors and programs at the NCAA’s most competitive level, had created a political action committee to "support candidates for elective office."
The PAC, which McMillen says has no set agenda, joins the NCAA’s own lobbying in Washington, which the association has greatly increased in recent years. Since 2014, the NCAA has spent $1.4 million on lobbying.
“[The NCAA] would like to initiate discussions with members of Congress about having some public policy that would help protect their amateurism model,” Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist and professor at Smith College, said. “My sense is the NCAA and LEAD1 are concerned about the various antitrust challenges to college sports. And they have good reason to be.”
Amateurism Under Threat
The NCAA spent more on lobbying efforts in 2014 than in the previous three years combined, spending $580,000 on hiring outside lobbyists for the first time in more than a decade. Since then, the association has spent another $820,000.
At a press conference during the NCAA’s annual meeting in 2015, Emmert said that he didn’t consider the federal interest at the time "to be a threat," and that he viewed it as a sign of how important college athletics are to the country. The association was not pushing for any specific legislation or changes in the law that would help preserve its amateurism model, he said.
When asked why, then, the NCAA was spending record amounts on lobbying, Emmert said the efforts were just an attempt to tell its side of the story to Congress.
"There's not always as strong information as we'd like," he said. "These issues are complicated, and we've simply been communicating with them about what is going on, and what's not going on, and how we're trying to constantly make things better."
Those complicated issues have not subsided.
In August 2014, Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in a lawsuit brought by Ed O’Bannon, a former college basketball player, that the NCAA violated antitrust law by not allowing athletes to be paid for the use of their names and likenesses. The ruling would have allowed but not required colleges to pay players about $5,000 each year beginning that fall. The payments would have been capped at that amount and held in a trust fund until the students completed their athletic eligibility.
The decision was seen at the time as a major blow to the NCAA, and the association appealed the ruling. An appellate court said that it agreed with the original ruling that the NCAA violated antitrust laws, but it backed the association’s opinion that college athletics should not be thought of as minor-league sports. Thus, the judges wrote, compensation for athletes should be limited to funds related to their education.
The panel stated that the “difference between offering athletes education-related compensation and offering them cash sums untethered to educational expenses is not minor,” calling the difference a quantum leap.
The NCAA praised the latter part of the decision, and, at the association’s annual meeting in January 2015, the NCAA’s five wealthiest conferences voted to allow programs to cover the full cost of attendance for athletes, which for many institutions entails providing players with additional stipends up to several thousand dollars. But the NCAA decided to challenge the ruling that it had violated antitrust laws. O’Bannon and his lawyers also petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing again that players should be allowed more than just full cost of attendance.
In October the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. The decision meant the NCAA’s amateurism model survived, but in letting a lower court's ruling stand, the court also set the stage for two other antitrust lawsuits that both seek to allow compensation for athletes beyond athletic scholarships.
In March 2014 lawyers representing a former West Virginia football player named Shawne Alston filed a class action against the NCAA alleging that the association violated antitrust law by limiting compensation to athletic scholarships. That same year, Jeffrey Kessler, a leading antitrust lawyer who has previously won major victories for National Football League and National Basketball Association players, filed a lawsuit on behalf of a former Clemson University football player named Martin Jenkins.
As the O’Bannon case made its way through the courts, the Jenkins case has loomed in the background as potentially the largest threat yet to the NCAA’s amateurism model. At a meeting of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, Lorry Spitzer, a tax lawyer and professor at Boston College Law School, said the Jenkins lawsuit “really would end the world as we know it” for college sports.
Last month the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel, Richard Griffin, wrote a memo that stated 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.
Last year, Griffin's 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 answered a question left open by the full NLRB 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, but neither does it carry the force of law.
Later that week, Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican and chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said in a statement that Griffin should "abandon his partisan agenda or step down immediately." Griffin's term as general counsel will end in November, at which point President Trump will choose his replacement.
“This partisan memorandum puts the interests of union leaders over America’s students, and it has the potential to create significant confusion at college campuses across the nation,” Foxx said in a statement issued jointly with Representative Tim Walberg, a Michigan Republican who is chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions. “It’s an affront to hardworking Americans for Griffin to double down on his extreme, big labor agenda, especially at a time when a new president is entitled to move the NLRB in a new direction.”
The NCAA also criticized the memo, with its general counsel, Donald Remy, saying, “Students who participate in college athletics are students, not employees.”
A Presidential Commission
In 2013 Representative Charlie Dent, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and Representative Joyce Beatty, a Democrat from Ohio, introduced legislation that would establish a presidential commission on intercollegiate athletics.
A year later, Representative Jim Moran, a now-retired Democrat from Virginia, introduced a similar piece of legislation. In 2015 Dent and Beatty were joined by three other House members to introduce another version of the bill that would have created a 17-member panel to review and analyze college sports issues -- including the academics of athletes, the financing of college athletics and safety protections -- and report their findings to the White House and Congress. The legislation was not voted on, and Dent is expected to reintroduce the bill again.
McMillen, a longtime critic of the exorbitant spending in big-time college sports, has spoken in support of the creation of such a commission in the past, but he said he believes the idea has less momentum with the new White House and Congress. "With all the pressing issues in our country, I think it would be very difficult to get college sports on the national policy docket," he said.
McMillen and the president have known each other since 1985, when Trump donated to McMillen's first campaign. In September LEAD1 will host a gala in the presidential ballroom of the Trump International Hotel in Washington. An early invitation to the event described it as allowing athletics directors to meet with “members of Congress and special guests, including the president and vice president of the United States.” An updated invite later dropped the references to the White House, and McMillen said LEAD1 had not approved of the invitation, which was created by a consulting firm.
While LEAD1 still maintains that it has no agenda, it is possible that the PAC will eventually push for an antitrust exemption. McMillen introduced a bill that would have granted the NCAA such an exemption while he was a member of Congress representing Maryland. An antitrust exemption would help resolve many of the legal issues at play in the current lawsuits against the NCAA. Many have also speculated that LEAD1 was formed as an effort to fight attempts to force colleges and the NCAA to pay athletes.
While McMillen believes that “paying athletes would be devastating for just about every college sports program across the country,” he said LEAD1 has “never discussed this pay-for-play matter as a legislative agenda item.”
“We have only told members who we are and to call us if they have questions about athletics directors or college sports,” he said. “The legislative agenda is set by the presidents, and the institution’s government representatives will be primarily charged to try to implement it. We hope we can help them on college sports-focused issues where our expertise may be needed -- issues like Title IX, drones flying over stadiums, tax reform -- but we will not take the lead. The PAC is purely a way to build relationships.”
Specifically, the PAC will focus on members of Congress who are former college athletes. There are 46 of them.
Emmert said in January that LEAD1 -- which represents athletics directors who are all members of the NCAA -- has not discussed any of its goals with the association, but that he does not expect the PAC's work to conflict with the NCAA’s.
“They’re an independent professional association, and they have an opportunity to do a variety of things,” Emmert said. “We work hard in Washington, D.C., to not lobby, but to simply tell stories about what college athletics are all about and how it serves our students and how it serves our states and communities. And we’re going to keep doing that.”Editorial Tags: AthleticsNCAAImage Source: Photo Illustration | Jake NewIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
John Nemeth, executive director of scientific research society Sigma Xi, was a doctoral student at North Carolina State University when the original Earth Day was organized in 1970. The demonstrations across hundreds of U.S. cities were a "general uprising" to protect the country's natural resources, he said.
But Nemeth rejects comparisons between this year's march and the original Earth Day celebrations, despite the shared April 22 date.
"They're two different ideas," he said. "Earth Day is primarily a pro-environment operation. This is science in every possible aspect that you can think of -- A to Z."
The announcement late last month that Sigma Xi and, more significantly, the American Association for the Advancement of Science will become partners of the march signaled that the event has built mainstream cachet -- even as some academic scientists have raised concerns about the wisdom of a demonstration to advance the cause of science. Sigma Xi boasts more than 110,000 members and AAAS counts about 100,000 scientists among its ranks. Their involvement could be comforting to leaders of some higher ed institution who worry that the march, which began as an online discussion among first-time organizers, could become overly politicized. To many administrators, the top goal now is establishing good relationships with whomever President Trump picks to lead science agencies -- and some fear a large rally would suggest that scientists are allied against the administration.
The idea for the March for Science began in late January as an online discussion that quickly gathered momentum through social media. The event aims, among other broad goals, to promote evidence-based science in public policy and to connect researchers to the public. Scientists in Boston have already held a rally for similar principles, and more such events are planned.
Rush Holt, the president and CEO of AAAS, said scientists have an obligation to communicate their work to the public.
"That's part of science, the process of science … communication," Holt said. "What we see right now is a remarkable opportunity that I don't think we've seen in a long, long time to communicate with the public about the value of science."
It's not hard to see how the new administration could prompt those concerned about the role of science in society to take to the streets: during the campaign Trump called global warming a "hoax" perpetrated by the Chinese government; he has met with well-known skeptics of vaccination; and recent reports indicate the White House plans drastic cuts for federal agencies conducting environmental research like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The current political environment would appear to add to the urgency for science advocates to communicate the value of research.
But Holt said it's a priority for the organization to avoid any appearance of partisanship.
"Partisanship injects bias into the science process," he said. "And part of the reason we're demonstrating is to keep the process of science healthy. We don't do that by compromising the very principles that are necessary for good science."
The organizations also have larger aims for science communication that go beyond a march on a single day. Holt said that could take the form of teach-ins, speeches, museum open houses or other advocacy on the local level. The idea is that the march will be a jumping-off point for people involved or interested in science to play a more active role in sharing its value on the local level. It's unclear what specific form those activities will take as organizers continue planning for the march in April, but the partner organizations say it is essential to the success of the march.
"That sustainable momentum will happen there. It won't happen in D.C.," Nemeth said.
Academics who have taken issue with the idea of a march said they hoped to see its organizers follow through on those promises -- both to keep the focus on science and to continue communicating about it after that weekend.
A University of Chicago biologist, Jerry Coyne, an outspoken skeptic of the march despite his personal liberal politics, said he was somewhat heartened by the endorsement of AAAS. Coyne was even more encouraged to read this week that there would be an educational component to the march, including a teach-in at the National Mall, where researchers will speak to the public about their work. He continues to be concerned that the demonstration could be politicized. Scientists should avoid that, Coyne said, by advocating for scientific facts while refraining from endorsing specific policy solutions.
"Scientists can lose credibility if they prescribe certain solutions for problems," he said.
Rob Young, a coastal geologist at Western Carolina University, said he was skeptical that the message of a march would reach the Americans with whom scientists most need to communicate. And he said planning the event to coincide with Earth Day would play into the hands of media that would seek to obfuscate the goals of the march and identify it with a liberal, environmental agenda.
"My charge would be to everybody who attends the march: go march and develop a lot of energy and excitement around the idea that science matters, and then go home and act on that energy," Young said.
Many advocates involved with the event see no reason to become overcautious because others might distort a pro-science message. Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a former dean at the University of New Hampshire, said a demonstration of popular support for science should be seen as a positive for higher ed administrators advocating to the federal government.
"Telling Congress we care about these issues is important," Rosenberg said. "This is an opportunity to say a lot of people care about the role of science in society, and you can send a good signal to your constituents by continuing to support science programs."
(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of Sigma Xi members. The story has been updated.)Editorial Tags: Sciences/Tech/Engineering/MathDiversity MattersImage Caption: Scientists rally in Boston.Ad Keyword: Science Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
A large-scale analysis of gender disparities in research output and impact finds that while the number of women researchers has increased over the past 20 years, women researchers publish fewer papers on average than men and are less likely to collaborate internationally and to undertake research that cuts across the corporate and academic sectors. At the same time, a report on the findings notes there is little difference between papers published by men and women in impact as measured by citations and downloads.
The report, "Gender in the Global Research Landscape," is based on an analysis of Elsevier’s Scopus database, which includes abstract and citation data for more than 21,500 academic journals, book series and conference proceedings across the major research fields, as well as data on names of patent applicants maintained by the World Intellectual Property Organization. The main findings of the report, which examines research performance by gender across 12 countries or regions, over 20 years and in 27 fields, include:
The analysis also examined gender-related research and found that field is growing quickly -- faster than the overall growth rate for all scholarly research.
Holly Falk-Krzesinski, vice president for global academic relations at Elsevier and a member of the project team that produced the report, described it as "an important evidence-based examination of research performance through a gender lens, in so much as the scope of disciplinary breadth using our Scopus database is much larger than in any previously reported study."
Falk-Krzesinski underscored the importance of relying on data for policy discussions and decisions. "We found differences between different comparators, the different regions we examined, and between disciplines," she said.
"What was most prominent to us is the differences between the comparators," she continued. "We saw big spreads. For example, in Brazil and Portugal the proportion of women to men is almost at 50 percent … and [it] remains much lower in terms of proportion for Japan."GlobalEditorial Tags: International higher educationWomenImage Source: iStockIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
Hackers are taking the time to get to know smaller colleges.
IT departments at smaller institutions are reporting that they are spending increasing amounts of time protecting against the kind of sophisticated, personalized attacks that once plagued mostly large research universities.
Gone are the days of typo-ridden emails with questionable grammar addressed to “Dear Sir.” In their place are emails seemingly from legitimate senders -- administrators and local businesses among them -- that seek to gain access to financial and personal information. The fraudulent emails often asks recipients to double-check a payment, forward copies of tax paperwork or initiate a wire transfer.
“You can't just hide behind your small size,” said Nathan Phillips, chief information officer at Marylhurst University, a private liberal arts university just outside Portland, Ore. “What seems to have changed in the last year or two is that the attacks seem to be more directed. People are clearly doing research on who they’re targeting.”
Phillips shared the example seen above. The email was sent by a hacker who had gained access to an account owned by someone working at a company in the area, he said. At first glance, the message appears harmless -- the sender’s address is legitimate, and the recipient would normally handle questions about invoices.
Clicking on the link, however, would likely install malware on the recipient’s computer that could turn it into a launchpad for more phishing emails or lock it down and demand a ransom. (Thankfully, Phillips said, the college did not have to find out.)
The personalized phishing emails are an example of the ever-changing threat landscape colleges and other organizations face. Some institutions are also reporting attacks specifically targeting students, where hackers will impersonate administrators, staffers and potential employers to gain access to students’ accounts.
Stu Sjouwerman, CEO of the cybersecurity firm KnowBe4, said phishing attacks are particularly common in the lead-up to the April 18 tax filing deadline. He recommended colleges maintain extensive backups of their systems, update those systems “religiously” and do simulated phishing tests to keep people on campus mindful of cyberthreats.
Gary O. Roberts, chief information officer at Alfred University, said he has seen a sharp increase in phishing attacks since October. In one recent example, a member of the university’s executive team received an email -- purportedly from the university president -- urging her to initiate a payment. Other phishing attempts closely resemble official university email communication, down to the institution’s color scheme and logo.
“They’re drilling down, data-mining names,” Roberts said. “They’re looking at branding, messaging and how we interact with each other. We’ve never seen scams get that sophisticated before.”
The private university, located two hours outside of Rochester, N.Y., has about 2,000 total students.
Roberts said college IT departments are “on edge” about phishing attacks, especially in light of the role a phishing email played in the Democratic National Committee hack last year. Educating administrators, faculty members and staffers about how to identify phishing attacks has helped cut down on cases, he said, but it has also created a sense of paranoia. A growing number of suspicious-looking emails forwarded to his department for verification are actually legitimate messages, he said.
Roberts said he is concerned about the impact having to check and double-check emails is having on the administration’s productivity. “I don’t want to put that much of a wrinkle in the workflow of our executive team,” he said.
Phishing is also having an effect on the IT department’s finances, Roberts said. As the attacks become more sophisticated, the college is forced to invest in new security measures to keep up.
Generally speaking, IT departments are still feeling repercussions from the financial crisis. Many departments have yet to see their budgets recover.
“It’s hard for me to put a dollar amount on it, other than to say it’s quite frankly becoming a top concern,” Roberts said. “I’m doing less and less of moving the institution forward and doing more and more risk mitigation.”
Some college IT staffers are exploring other means of communication to decrease the risk that their systems will be breached.
Chris Blackstone, chief information officer at Spring Arbor University in Michigan, said the university has begun moving some of its internal communications to private chat services.
“Email is generally a terrible communication and collaboration tool,” Blackstone said in an interview. “There is a place for private chat at [colleges], because literally the only people who can get into that system are people who have accounts created for them.”TechnologyEditorial Tags: CrimeInformation TechnologyImage Source: Marylhurst UniversityIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
How can an instructor design an online course so as many students as possible can benefit from it?
Jessie Male is about to find out. Male, 33, is a Ph.D. student in English at Ohio State University, and she’s preparing to teach her first online course. But first, she has to create it.
The course in question is an introductory disability studies course, of which she is teaching a version (English 2277: Introduction to Disability Studies) on campus this semester. Male met with an educational technologist in her department Feb. 23 to discuss the work required to offer the course online.
She is now undertaking the bulk of that work: adapting the syllabus to fit an online setting. Beyond that lie administrative hurdles, including gaining the approval of several faculty committees in order to put the course on the calendar for this fall, or perhaps next spring.
Over the course of several interviews with Inside Higher Ed, Male spoke about her approach to course design and how her personal background influences the way she views accessibility issues.
During the interviews, Male spokes about “access moves” -- design choices that increase accessibility to education. Captioning a video lecture is an access move, for example. So is allowing students to revise and resubmit their work, offering students a choice of format to submit their work for their assignments, reducing the cost of course materials, and -- to some extent -- teaching a course online.
“It’s interesting to think about establishing an online space of its own as a movement toward accessibility, but it doesn’t necessarily became an accessible space unless there are very clear moves that are made to make it as such,” she said.
Broadly speaking, Male said, she is pursuing a vision of universal design, an architectural concept that has since made it to education. For Male, universal design means designing a course to work for everyone -- students with disabilities, students whose career or personal obligations prevent them from studying in person, students with anxiety, students taking a semester abroad, students who prefer reading a transcript over watching a lecture video -- everyone.
“I am very interested in ideas of universal design and not only building an online curriculum specifically for students with disabilities, but for students who might not be able to access an on-site education space for an array of reasons, whether it’s child care, temporary illness, disability or any other circumstance,” Male said. “It’s interesting to think about how many different students can be further accommodated by an online curriculum.”
Male also stressed that her approach to online education is one of many, and that she does not believe hers is necessarily the ideal way to design an online course. She has yet to finalize the syllabus, and she acknowledged that issues related to course materials and student services for now remain unresolved.
“I’m in the process of learning and discovering,” she said.
Male is not alone. Many faculty members -- and indeed entire institutions -- are struggling with making education accessible to people with disabilities. Just last week, the University of California at Berkeley said it would cut off public access to video and audio content after a U.S. Department of Justice investigation found it inaccessible to people with disabilities.
Inside Higher Ed will follow Male throughout the process, from the design phase to the classroom and beyond.
Boilerplate Language No More
For Male, the project -- and her specialization in disability studies -- has a personal angle. Both her mother and aunt contracted polio in the 1950s, and they both have post-polio syndrome, a condition where symptoms such as pain and muscle weakness re-emerge years after infection. Her aunt uses a wheelchair for mobility.
“It’s something that definitely impacts the family as well and their identities as women with disabilities,” Male said. “That’s absolutely informed my life, the way I teach, my scholarship.”
A glance at Male’s syllabus (click on the thumbnail to read it) reveals one way it differs from many others. The first section students see (after Male’s contact information and where and when the course is offered) is dedicated to accommodating students with disabilities.
Much of the syllabus was written by Margaret Price, associate professor of English and coordinator of the disability studies program at Ohio State. Male has made her own changes to suit her way of teaching.
Following the boilerplate language directing students to the university’s Office of Student Life Disability Services, Price added some additional language, which Male decided to keep:
I assume that all of us learn in different ways, and that the organization of any course will accommodate each student differently. For example, you may prefer to process information by speaking and listening, or you might prefer to articulate ideas via email or discussion board. Please talk to me as soon as you can about your individual learning needs and how this course can best accommodate them.
Rather than tuck that and other information the university requires faculty members to include in their syllabi toward the end of the document, Male said the placement sends a message to students.
“This is an 11-page syllabus,” she said. “By highlighting it at the top of a syllabus, you’re saying to students that accessibility, accommodation, support is highly valued in this space -- and these are the resources that you need.”
Male said students in previous classes have seen the language as an invitation to disclose a learning disability or express a preference to learn in a specific way.
“I’m not demanding any level of disclosure, but I’m saying in order for you to be successful and for you to achieve anything you want from this class, it would be very helpful for me to have an idea how you best learn,” she said.
Other required language, which in many face-to-face courses could have been copied and pasted without a second thought, is proving more difficult to change so that it fits an online course.
For example, Male’s syllabus includes a section about the academic and personal resources available to students, among them the university's writing center and counseling services. But those resources are first and foremost intended for students on campus. At the moment, Male said, she isn’t sure how to extend those services to cover online students.
“This is also why the syllabus design is a very lengthy process that’s lengthy for a reason,” she said. “These questions will come up as you adapt.”
In the face-to-face version of the disability studies course, students are graded on a 100-point scale. Their final grade is based on their performance in four short assignments (including an introductory exercise, a captioning exercise, a documentary analysis and a final reflection) worth 30 points; a group accessibility audit, 15 points; participation, 15 points; note taking, 10 points; an artifact presentation, 5 points; and a final project, 25 points.
Not all of those assignments will be included in the online version of the course, Male said.
The note-taking exercise is out -- no need to take notes when lectures are delivered in the form of a video with its own transcript, she said.
The assignment is an attempt to help students take ownership of their own education, she explained. Instead of a student who missed class emailing her to ask what he or she missed, Male assigns a student to take extensive “collaborative” notes from one lecture. The student has to make sure to identify important questions discussed during that lecture and define relevant concepts, then make the notes available on the class’s learning management system.
“I really can’t imagine how to replicate the kind of goals that I have for the collaborative notes and apply them to an online space,” Male said. She added that she will probably add one more short assignment in its place.
While the course is housed in the English department, it is not writing intensive, Male said. Students are free to turn in assignments in the form of video or audio (as long as they provide captions, of course).
Students also have options for how they can satisfy the class participation requirement. The syllabus makes it clear that students who don’t feel comfortable raising their hand can participate “through email correspondence, discussion board, office meetings or short response papers.” That means finding out how to grade class participation won’t be an issue once she begins teaching online.
Participating in class discussions online counts just as much as in person, Male said. “Why wouldn’t it? They’re engaging with the materials. They’re asking questions. They’re responding to each other.”
She added, “When I first started teaching … I made a lot of assumptions about what participation was. I assumed it was the way I participated as a college student -- raising my hand, being active in conversations, providing my perspective or opinion, arguing with my classmates, etc. -- really asserting myself as an active presence vocally. That’s not the way lots of students want to communicate or [that] is best for them to communicate.”
The artifact presentation and group accessibility audits will also make the jump to online, although in a slightly tweaked forms. The first -- a five-minute presentation during which students talk about anything from an anecdote to a Facebook video related to disability -- will be handled as discussion threads on the online messaging board.
“It no longer becomes a launch pad for discussion, but instead becomes an opportunity for students to be engaging with the outside world and applying it to the questions we’re asking in those original course objectives,” Male said.
And the group accessibility audit -- where students examine a physical or digital space of their own choosing and evaluate how accessible it is -- will lose the group part. Working with other students will be optional, since students will likely be much more spread out than those taking the course on campus.
“Again, we’re thinking about different ways of accessibility and accountability,” Male said.
How (and When) to Communicate
While Male may have determined how she will evaluate participation in an online course, she is prepared that the ways in which she communicates with students will change.
First of all, there will be more of them. Prior to this semester, the largest course Male ever taught enrolled 24 students. She currently has 44 students in the face-to-face disability studies course. The online version of that course will also seat 45.
“You’re going to find other outlets to foster relationships with your students,” Male said. Then, with a laugh, she added, “It’s a little bit like [the ABC reality dating show] The Bachelor. You have to find some way of establishing yourself as a person in this space. There are all these ‘contestants’ [read: students]. What’s going to make you stand out?”
On campus, Male offers office hours. Online, she will offer videoconferencing hours to give students some semblance of face-to-face time. But she said she will enforce a window of time for students to connect online -- if that window doesn’t work, students themselves are responsible for emailing her to suggest a different time.
In addition to email and videoconferencing, Male will be active on the discussion board. She is also considering a mandatory midsemester check-in, meaning she will have connected one-on-one with each student at least once during the course. Feedback -- both her own and peer grading -- will be handled in more or less the same way it is in the face-to-face course: through the learning management system.
In other words, even though a fully online course gives students more flexibility to decide when they want to study, Male is not creating an expectation that she will be available around the clock.
“I believe in protecting myself and my time,” Male said. “I apply that to face-to-face spaces as well. I tell my students, ‘These are my office hours. If they don’t work for you, please email me. We’ll set up an alternative time.’ I don’t check emails on weekends. The labor involved in being a professor is exhausting, and it can be all encompassing if you let it.”
Access to Course Materials
Access to course materials has been at the center of lawsuits against colleges and universities across the country. Some organizations that advocate for the rights of people for disabilities, such as the National Federation of the Blind, are lobbying Congress to pass the Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (AIM-HE) Act, which is intended to help develop guidelines for accessible course materials.
Male said the purpose of her course is to give students a “taste” of disability studies. Therefore, all the readings in her class are available for free online.
“That’s also a question of access,” she said. “I don’t want to assume that a student can pay $50 for a disability studies textbook.”
The course also includes several films, and Male said she refuses to assign one unless she can find robust captions -- not automatically generated ones.
If there are students in her class who are working with the Office of Student Life Disability Services -- for example if they use screen readers or need physical textbooks -- she will be notified weeks in advance. But that is not a perfect system, Male acknowledged.
“That’s rooted in the assumption that all students are working with disability services, which is not the case, and I would assume not the case when students are taking online classes,” she said.
The introductory exercise -- the first assignment in the class -- presents another opportunity for students to talk about how they learn best and share accommodation requests, if any. But that still attempts to address issues after the fact rather than tackle them before class starts, Male said.
“That’s something I want to avoid -- the waiting to say, ‘This is what I need’ -- and move toward a space of universal design and pre-emptively thinking there are students who learn in different ways,” she said. “How can I present [information] visually, textually, as audio? Those are modalities I as an educator am still very much learning and working through and evolving.”
Despite the many changes needed to teach the course online, the course objectives and desired outcomes will remain the same no matter how the class is taught, Male said.
“These objectives to me would not be successful if they could not translate over multiple platforms,” Male said. “That’s part of accessibility and universal design -- that there are multiple modalities of design and leaning.”Online and Blended LearningEditorial Tags: DisabilitiesOnline learningImage Source: Jessie MaleIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
Revised travel ban excludes current visa holders but continues to raise concerns for higher education
President Trump on Monday signed a new executive order temporarily barring nationals of six Muslim-majority countries -- Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- from entering the U.S. after enforcement of an earlier entry ban was halted by federal courts. The revised ban, which goes into effect March 16, does not apply to lawful permanent residents of the U.S. and individuals from the six nations who already have valid visas, including student and exchange visas.
The exemption of current visa holders from the entry ban represents a notable change from an original executive order authorizing an entry ban, which was signed by Trump on Jan. 27 and followed by the State Department provisionally revoking most visas granted to individuals from the affected countries (an action it subsequently reversed in response to court rulings). Some international students and scholars who held otherwise valid visas to enter the U.S. found themselves stranded abroad after the first order was signed, unable to board U.S.-bound planes to return to their campuses.
In another change from the previous order, the new order excludes Iraq from the list of banned countries.
Higher education groups largely described the newly revised entry ban as an improvement from the original but still highly problematic for international educational exchange and research collaborations. The order could depress enrollments of new applicants to American universities from the six countries and will prevent universities and university hospitals from bringing in new postdoctoral scholars, visiting faculty members and others from the six countries who don’t already have visas for 90 days.
“While the revised executive order is more limited in scope than the first one, the impact is significant,” Peter McPherson, the president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said in a statement. “The effect of this new order goes well beyond just the higher education community, but as a public university association, we are particularly aware of how this will impact campuses. During the 2015-16 school year, more than 15,450 students and over 2,100 scholars from the six countries targeted in this ban studied and conducted research at U.S. universities. The pipeline of new students and scholars from those countries -- many of whom are in the midst of the college application process -- is now cut off. Public research universities are also concerned that the new order could have a chilling effect on students and scholars in other countries who are considering whether to study and conduct research in the United States or elsewhere.”
The Trump administration has justified the temporary entry ban as necessary to prevent the entry of terrorists while the federal government reviews screening and vetting procedures. Trump has said he wants to put in place "extreme vetting."
"As threats to our security continue to evolve and change, common sense dictates that we continually re-evaluate and reassess the systems we rely upon to protect our country," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a briefing Monday. "While no system can be made completely infallible, the American people can have high confidence we are identifying ways to improve the vetting process and thus keep terrorists from entering our country."
"This executive order seeks to protect the American people as well as lawful immigrants by putting in place an enhanced screening and vetting process for visitors from six countries," said Jeff Sessions, the U.S. attorney general. "Three of these nations are state sponsors of terrorism. The other three have served as safe havens for terrorists … countries where governments have lost control of their territory to terrorist groups like ISIL or Al Qaeda and its affiliates. This increases the risk that people [who] are admitted here from these countries may belong to terrorist groups or may have been radicalized by them. We cannot compromise our nation's security by allowing visitors entry when their own governments are unable or unwilling to provide the information we need to vet them responsibly, or when those governments actively support terrorism. This executive order responsibly provides a needed pause so we can carefully review how we scrutinize people coming here from these countries of concern."
After the review period, the text of the executive order states that "the secretary of homeland security, in consultation with the secretary of state and the attorney general, shall submit to the president a list of countries recommended for inclusion in a presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of appropriate categories of foreign nationals of countries that have not provided the information requested until they do so or until the secretary of homeland security certifies that the country has an adequate plan to do so, or has adequately shared information through other means. The secretary of state, the attorney general or the secretary of homeland security may also submit to the president the names of additional countries for which any of them recommends other lawful restrictions or limitations deemed necessary for the security or welfare of the United States."
The new version of the executive order, which replaces the original, repealed order, also calls for the suspension of refugee processing for 120 days and caps the number of refugees to be admitted to the U.S. in fiscal year 2017 at 50,000, less than half the Obama administration's target of 110,000.
Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law expert and professor at Cornell University Law School, described the newly revised order as “essentially old wine in a new bottle. It assumes that travelers from the six Muslim-majority countries and all refugees are inherent security risks. Analysts in the intelligence unit at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), however, found little evidence that citizens of the seven countries included in the original travel ban pose a terror threat to the United States. The draft DHS report concluded that citizenship is an 'unlikely indicator' of terrorism threats to the United States and that few people from the countries in the original travel ban have carried out attacks or been involved in terrorism-related activities in the United States.” (An Associated Press article about the draft DHS report referenced by Yale-Loehr, including a link to the document, is available here.)
“The revised executive order will not quell litigation or concerns,” Yale-Loehr continued. “U.S. relatives will still sue over the inability of their loved ones to join them in the United States. U.S. companies may sue because they cannot hire needed workers from the six countries. And U.S. universities will worry about the impact of the order on international students’ willingness to attend college in the United States.”
Enforcement of Trump’s original entry ban was halted by federal courts in response to a lawsuit filed by the states of Minnesota and Washington. Harm to public universities -- and to their students and faculty -- was key to establishing the states' standing to sue in that case.
In upholding a temporary restraining order preventing the government from enforcing the entry ban, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled last month that the federal government had not shown it was likely to prevail on further appeal in regards to the states' claim that the ban violates due process rights of individuals from the affected countries. And while the court reserved judgment on the states' claims that the ban violates the establishment and equal protection clauses of the Constitution "because it was intended to disfavor Muslims," the unanimous ruling by a panel of three judges noted the "serious nature of the allegations the states have raised with respect to their religious discrimination claims."
During the campaign Trump called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." David Cole, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote an article on the organization's website titled "We’ll See You in Court, 2.0: Once a Muslim Ban, Still a Muslim Ban."
"The new order will be less catastrophic in its rollout than the first, both because it exempts those who already have visas and because it will not go into effect until March 16. But it’s still religious discrimination in the pretextual guise of national security. And it’s still unconstitutional," Cole wrote.
Many college leaders and associations issued statements condemning the original entry ban for inhibiting universities' ability to attract top talent and for being contrary to core values of higher education including internationalism and multiculturalism. In various statements issued Monday, higher education groups said they remain concerned about the new ban as well.
"The president’s new executive order on immigration -- albeit an improvement over the original order banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries -- remains overly broad in scope and threatens to adversely impact higher education in America," the American Association of State Colleges and Universities said in a statement. "While we understand and respect the president’s stated goal of securing our homeland, we also believe that a categorical ban on the entry of individuals based purely on national origin will undermine the ability of our public institutions to attract the best minds to teach and study at our state colleges and universities."
Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, issued a statement welcoming "the Trump administration’s effort to clarify the executive order first issued on Jan. 27, 2017," and described the new order as "a step in the right direction."
"Yet while the revised order has narrowed the number of people impacted by the travel ban, we fear that those still excluded -- coupled with the faulty initial rollout and the harsh rhetoric that often accompanies today’s public policy discussions about immigration -- still creates a climate where it is far more difficult for international students and scholars to view this country as a welcoming place for study and research," Broad said. "When these individuals come to the United States, they bring their creativity and intellectual talents to our country and leave with a direct experience of a democratic society and a free market. It is in America’s interest that the necessity of protecting the border from those who wish us harm does not undermine our ability to attract the most talented students and scholars to our shores."
A frequently asked question document posted by the Department of Homeland Security specifically addresses questions on the subject of current F, J or M student or exchange visa holders. "Are international students, exchange visitors and their dependents from the six countries (such as F, M or J visa holders) included in the executive order? What kind of guidance is being given to foreign students from these countries legally in the United States?" the FAQ asks.
The answer (in part): "The executive order does not apply to individuals who are within the United States on the effective date of the order or to those individuals who hold a valid visa …. Individuals holding valid F, M or J visas may continue to travel to the United States on those visas if they are otherwise valid."
The FAQ states that visas will not be revoked solely on the basis of the order. The order includes provisions for case-by-case waivers to the entry ban, and cites as one example of an appropriate circumstance for such a waiver a case in which "the foreign national has previously been admitted to the United States for a continuous period of work, study or other long-term activity, is outside the United States on the effective date of this order, seeks to re-enter the United States to resume that activity, and the denial of re-entry during the suspension period would impair that activity."
"The revised travel ban’s loosening on its restrictions for current visa holders may reduce some of the concerns of current international students and scholars," said Hilary Kahn, the president of the Association of International Education Administrators.
"However, the new travel ban and also the temporary suspension of expedited processing for H-1B visa petitions will have serious implications for the international education community. International student applications are already down for many of our member institutions, and many current students and scholars will still not be comfortable traveling," Kahn said. "While Iraq has been removed from the list, there are still six other countries remaining, and there is no doubt that international education is only beginning to feel the immediate and broader impact of these restrictions. As AIEA said in its earlier statement of Jan. 30, we believe that this is a time when international educators cannot be neutral, and we continue to call on our colleagues to advocate for cross-cultural understanding and the international exchange of people and ideas."
"We are hopeful that the administration’s executive order imposing a travel ban from selected countries will cause less immediate disruption to university campuses than the Jan. 27 executive order it replaces," said Mary Sue Coleman, the president of the Association of American Universities, in a statement. "The new exemption for current visa and green-card holders from the six affected countries means that students and faculty already on university campuses can, for the most part, leave the country and re-enter without being automatically prevented from returning. We are also pleased that the new order provides for a case-by-case waiver process for individuals from these six countries and specifically cites study and work as circumstances in which case-by-case waivers might be appropriate."
"Nevertheless, although we firmly agree with President Trump that it is essential that the federal government protect our country from those who would harm it, we remain concerned that the new order, like its predecessor, poses a fundamental long-term threat to America’s global leadership in higher education, research and innovation. Among other things, the new order will still limit entry of thousands of gifted students and faculty from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen who wish to come to the United States to study, teach and conduct cutting-edge research and scholarship," Coleman continued.
"Perhaps most alarmingly, this order conveys the same damaging message to talented people from the six affected countries, as well as others: you are no longer welcome here. This message is especially clear in the absence of a statement by the president that America needs to remain the destination of choice for the world’s most talented students, scientists, engineers and scholars."GlobalEditorial Tags: Federal policyImmigrationInternational higher educationImage Source: Getty ImagesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
Prior to the attempt by Charles Murray to speak at Middlebury College on Thursday, college officials told students who were preparing to protest Murray that disrupting his speech would violate college policies and could result in punishments up to suspension. Many students present then proceeded to shout and chant in ways that made it impossible for Murray to talk.
And later on Thursday some protesters -- a group believed to be a mix of students and people unaffiliated with the college -- then attacked a professor who was to have moderated the question period, pulling her hair so strongly she needed a neck brace the next day. This group also stomped on a car trying to drive Murray and the professor away.
On Monday, Middlebury's president vowed that there would be "accountability" for those who violated college policies and engaged in violence.
Laurie Patton, the president, sent a message to students and faculty members that said in part, "Because of the complexity of the events and actions that took place, we have initiated an independent investigation to establish a baseline of information. Once that work is completed, the college will follow a process of determining a course of action for each individual understood to be involved in some way in the events of last Thursday. This will take some time. Our process must be fair and just. To be clear, I want to state that peaceful, nondisruptive protest is not only allowed at Middlebury, it is encouraged. We all have the right to make our voices heard, both in support of and in opposition to people and ideas. Our concern is acts of disruption and violence, where available means of peaceful protest were declined."
The shouting down of Murray was recorded and posted to YouTube and elsewhere, and many students who were shouting so that Murray couldn't speak appear to be clearly identifiable. But college officials have noted that some in the room were silent, and others shouted when Murray took the stage and then were silent. At the same time, many others shouted until the college said the public lecture wouldn't take place.
With regard to the attack on the professor and the car after the event, Patton wrote that the police of Middlebury (the Vermont town, not the college) would take the lead in that investigation and the college would cooperate.
Patton also vowed to push ahead on issues raised about the broader environment at Middlebury.
"Creating true community is hard work, and yet that work is essential and is our collective responsibility," she wrote. "This week, we will mark the beginning of opportunities for reflection and engagement. We have already heard from many community members on all sides of the issues, and that has been deeply encouraging. Existing groups on campus have written to help us understand what the community is feeling and might need going forward. We have much to discuss -- our differences on the question of free speech and on the role of protest being two of the most pressing examples."
College officials have said that while they expected protests, the size, intensity and disruptive nature of the demonstrations was well beyond what they expected, and made it impossible for them to simply clear the hall.
Middlebury's policies on disrupting college events are clear in banning much of the type of activity that was visible Thursday as Murray tried to speak.
The first of two relevant paragraphs in the policy states, "Middlebury College does not allow disruptive behavior at community events or on campus. Disruptions may include purposeful blocking the view of others at the event; banners or items that block the audience's view; noise or action that disrupts the ability of the audience to hear (e.g., shouting out or use of a bullhorn) or disrupting essential operations at the college."
The second paragraph states, "If an event or essential operation is disrupted by a group or individual, a representative of the college may request the action to stop or ask the person or group to leave the event or area and move to an approved location for protesting. Individuals or groups who disrupt an event or essential operation or fail to leave when asked are in violation of the college's policy of respect for persons and may also be in violation of the policy regarding disrespect for college officials. These violations of college policy may result in college discipline. Disruption may also result in arrest and criminal charges such as disorderly conduct or trespass."Editorial Tags: Academic freedomStudent lifeImage Source: Middlebury CollegeImage Caption: Laurie PattonIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
White supremacist activity is seeing an upsurge on college campuses, primarily by outside groups seeking to attract attention or support among students, according to a report released Monday by the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.
As of Monday, there have been 107 incidents of white supremacist activity on campuses during the current academic year -- most commonly leaflets or posters from white nationalist groups, the report says. Of these incidents, 65 have taken place in 2017. The level of activity in the last year is "unprecedented," the report says, compared to far fewer incidents in the past such that the group added the study this year.
When Inside Higher Ed and others have reported on some of these incidents, various websites have said that these incidents are hoaxes or "fake news." The ADL said that the tally in the report is of verified incidents, sorted by location, and with photo documentation, campus reports and other evidence for each incident.
Groups like Identity Europa, American Renaissance and American Vanguard have claimed responsibility for most of the activity. But the report notes that, in some cases, more than offensive posters have shown up on campus.
Last year, a white supremacist took responsibility for hacking printers at numerous campuses and making them print out pro-Nazi leaflets (right). Colleges and universities have continued to experience such hacking this year. These incidents upset many students in campus libraries, who initially believed that what they found on printers must have been printed by someone in the same room.
And in some cases, the activity involves live appearances. Richard B. Spencer, leader of a white supremacist group called the National Policy Institute, spoke at Texas A&M University in December. The university organized a large counterevent, and protesters appeared outside the venue where Spencer spoke and (holding signs) inside the room as well.
Many called on Texas A&M, which permitted the event but did not invite Spencer, to block his appearance. But the university said that, as a public institution, A&M was required by the First Amendment not to make decisions on potential events based on the views of those seeking to speak.
The report said that Spencer and others have specifically said college campuses are a target for their groups to stir controversy and (the groups hope) attract supporters. Spencer told The Washington Post that he planned a major focus on college campuses.
The posters that have been showing up on campus include phrases such as "Imagine a Muslim-Free America" and images such as classical sculptures with calls to embrace a European vision.
The report noted that on the website American Renaissance, a blog post explains the tactic of putting up these posters: "These posters can appeal to whites anywhere, but they are primarily intended for college campuses, which are especially promising because they are bastions of anti-white propaganda that gets more extreme every year. At the same time, students have easy access to alternate sources of news and information that refutes the nonsense they hear every day in class. Students are therefore perfectly primed for a push towards racial consciousness."
As to the question of why these groups are more active on more campuses, the report says that extremist white groups have viewed the results of the presidential election as a sign that they can act now, and includes quotes from white supremacists about how pleased they were with the election of Donald Trump. "White supremacists, emboldened by the rhetoric of the 2016 presidential campaign, are stepping out of the shadows and into the mainstream," the report says.DiversityEditorial Tags: DiscriminationDiversity MattersImage Caption: Poster that has turned up on many campusesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 1Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Matt Parker, an aquaculture business specialist at Maryland Sea Grant, describes his work as free consulting for people who want to get into aquaculture, or farming of marine wildlife like fish or shellfish. That includes disseminating the latest research on best practices in oyster-growing operations -- an industry that has grown rapidly in the Chesapeake Bay area in recent years -- from the University of Maryland Extension to local businesses.
"It's the extension's job to relay the research in the university out to the industry," Parker said. "We're kind of like a conduit for research."
That kind of key assistance to local businesses could be imperiled by cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sought by the Trump administration. According to a budget memo obtained by The Washington Post, the White House is proposing to cut the budget of NOAA by 17 percent. Among the specified cuts in that document, the administration proposed eliminating the entire budget of the $73 million Sea Grant program -- a network of 33 college and university programs that tackle conservation and research programs, including the work of Parker and other extension agents with the Maryland oyster harvesting.
The memo, which came from the Office of Management and Budget, is part of the annual White House budget process. The executive branch directs agencies to draft budgets to submit to Congress based on White House priorities. The final numbers could change as administration officials and, later, Congress negotiate specifics. But the proposal to zero out Sea Grant’s funding suggests that the program may be fighting for its life.
Those who work with Sea Grant say it has fueled the growth in coastal regions of aquaculture industries that didn’t exist 20 or even 10 years ago. Scientists and businessmen alike compare the impact of the program on coastal businesses to that of land-grant universities in improving agricultural production in the U.S. While Sea Grant hasn't been around as long as the land-grant model -- the program just celebrated its 50th anniversary -- proponents said loss of that support would dramatic.
Sea Grant doesn’t just pay for lab-based campus research. It also funds educational outreach and work on practical problems faced by communities, often with the direct input of local businesses. Karl Havens, director of the Florida Sea Grant, said he believes Congress will save the program.
“It's an extremely practical program. Ninety-five percent of the money they appropriate goes directly to state programs. Only 5 percent stays in Washington,” he said. “What do we do with it? We solve problems that are identified by local businesses, residents and communities.”
Havens is in D.C. this week, along with the directors of other Sea Grant programs, for a national advisory board meeting. The trip was unrelated to reports of the proposed elimination of the program but provides those directors a timely opportunity to apprise lawmakers of the program's recent accomplishments in their districts.
State-level Sea Grant directors and their partners in academe and the business world say the work funded by the program is geared toward local environmental problems as well as industry needs -- all the while producing good science. John Weinstein, interim dean of the School of Science and Mathematics at The Citadel, said funding he and collaborators at Clemson University have received through Sea Grant has led to 12 presentations at national scientific conferences, two peer-reviewed publications and several community-based lectures to raise awareness of microplastic pollution.
“Because of this funding, we have made much progress towards a comprehensive understanding of the sources and fate of microplastics in the harbor, as well as the toxicological implications that microplastic exposure has on key species,” he said.
The talk of eliminating the program has local business owners as concerned as university-based researchers. Bob Rheault, executive director of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, said in a letter he sent to members of congressional appropriating committees that the proposed cuts to NOAA funding were "potential job killers."
"Our industry can be an engine of job growth in many ways, but many of these proposals will damage our ability to grow shellfish," Rheault wrote. "There are lots of measures we could take to create jobs (including regulatory reform), but stripping our national investment in marine science is not going to help."
Business leaders say if funding for research at university extensions is eliminated, that research won't be done by the private sector. Most aquaculture enterprises are small, family-owned companies, said Bill Sieling, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industry Association.
"They don't have the money or the resources to do that kind of research," he said.
In the shellfish and seafood industry, that work has involved improvements to sanitation, quality control, and the selection of the proper gear for harvesting shellfish like oysters.
"This is a win-win-win. There's no downside to this program," Sieling said. "It would really be a terrible blow to our industry -- not just in Maryland but in many other states."Editorial Tags: Trump administrationImage Source: Florida Sea GrantImage Caption: Staff of Sea Grant partner agencies collect water quality data at an oyster recruitment site.Ad Keyword: EnvironmentIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
Study details tool to help professors measure the amount of active learning happening in their classrooms
Want to be a more effective teacher? There’s an app for that. Or, at least, there soon may be.
“Classroom Sound Can Be Used to Classify Teaching Practices in College Science Courses,” published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, previews a new tool that measures the extent to which professors use active learning in their classrooms. Scholars involved in the study hope to make the tool into an iPhone application so others can work to increase their use of high-impact teaching practices. For now, it's available online, here.
“It’s really hard to change if you don’t measure what it is you’re starting with,” said the study's co-author, Kimberly Tanner, professor of biology education at San Francisco State University. “It’s like trying to lose weight without a scale. To make changes you need some really quick feedback.”
Active learning happens when students participate in classroom discussions and solve problems, rather than just listening passively. And previous studies suggest that active learning results in greater learning gains and student retention rates than lecture-only courses. So Tanner and dozens of other researchers across natural science, technology, math and engineering fields and institutions worked to create and test a machine-learning algorithm that uses sounds to identify teaching styles in college and university classrooms.
They argue that there’s a particular need for their tool in the natural sciences, since hundreds of millions of dollars have gone toward improving STEM teaching nationally in hopes of keeping students -- especially underrepresented minorities and women -- in the so-called pipeline. And while all evidence suggests that significant learning gains can be made by many professors incorporating even a little active learning into their courses, the study says the “extent to which large numbers of faculty are changing their teaching methods to include active learning is unclear.”
The new tool is called Decibel Analysis for Research in Teaching, or DART. It reports what types of activities are going on in a classroom based on sound waveforms, categorized as follows, down to half-second audio samples: single voice, multiple voice and no voice. Lectures and question-and-answer periods count as single voice and are indicative of a nonactive teaching style. Multiple voice samples, including discussions and transitions, are considered active learning, as are no-voice samples, such as when the entire class is engaged in a silent writing activity.
Essentially, DART computes the volume and variance of sounds in a classroom. Average volume and high variance indicates one person speaking at a time, or lecturing or otherwise not engaging students in active learning. High volume and low variance, observed in multiple-voice, pair discussions, for example, means active learning. Low volume and low variance also means active learning is happening, as all students are likely engaged in a task.
The idea behind DART is that professors don’t have to guess how much active learning they’re asking their students to do, but can actually measure it to a relatively precise degree. Based on an initial study of 1,486 class session recordings from 67 community college and four-year university STEM courses, DART is 90 percent accurate, in classroom settings both big and small. In other words, the algorithm was nearly as good at determining what kind of learning was happening as were human annotators in the large-scale study of 1,720 class hours involving 49 instructors.
Perhaps surprisingly, the amount of time spent on active learning was higher in courses for biology majors than non-biology majors. The authors take this finding as a proof that DART can be used to study teaching styles across more disciplines, institutions and course types going forward. All courses in the study were taught by professors who had completed STEM-teaching professional development.
Over all, the professors fared well in their pursuit of active learning. While single-voice instruction was observed in all courses a majority of the time, 88 percent of analyzed courses used active learning in at least half the class sessions. Female instructors were more likely to engage their students in active learning than were men.
Tanner said that professors sometimes don’t mean to dominate class time with lectures, but passion for their subject matter can unwittingly lead them away from active learning. DART is a clear, objective measure of how often that’s happening, she said.
The Association of American Colleges and Universities works to promote high-impact teaching practices, among other goals. Lynn Pasquerella, president, said via email that these practices should be "infused throughout a student's entire curriculum," and DART's value is that it offers a "point of information" for faculty members who are committed to engaged learning.
"If faculty tend to overestimate the amount of time their students are engaged in active learning processes, DART can provide data that will prompt the redesigning of assignments and foster enhanced student engagement," she said. "Learning outcomes can then be assessed comparing courses that rely most heavily on active learning with those that are dominated by lectures. We know that high impact practices have a disparately positive effect on students from underrepresented groups. As a result, there is significant potential for this tool to advance the equity imperative in STEM and beyond."
Again, the paper suggests that DART could aid “systematic analyses” of the use of active learning in classrooms, and says that its relative simplicity, affordability and ability to protect student and professor privacy (capturing sound types, not course content) make it ideal for such a pursuit. Tanner emphasized that it's a tool to improve one's teaching and learn more about the profession, and said it shouldn't be used by external parties for evaluation or punitive purposes.
“I think that DART will allow us to ask questions about how things are and aren’t changing in higher ed,” she added.Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: TeachingIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
Thursday was "the saddest day of my life," wrote Allison Stanger, a prominent political scientist who is a professor at Middlebury College, in a Facebook post on Friday. Thursday was the day that Stanger was scheduled to moderate the question period after a lecture by Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute best known for being co-author of The Bell Curve. But the public lecture wasn't to be, as students turned their backs on Murray and shouted and chanted for such a long period that Murray couldn't speak.
When Murray couldn't speak, the college moved him and Stanger to another location to livestream a discussion. But after that event, some of the protesters surrounded them as they were leaving. Some shoved Stanger and yanked her hair with such force that she needed to wear a neck brace the next day.
That a professor was physically attacked has added to the soul-searching at Middlebury. Stanger, politically liberal and far from Murray on most issues, agreed to a student request to moderate the question period because, she wrote, she wanted to encourage students, and looked forward to a good debate.
She wrote on Facebook (in a post she authorized Inside Higher Ed to quote) that the event went terribly wrong.
"I want you to know what it feels like to look out at a sea of students yelling obscenities at other members of my beloved community. There were students and faculty who wanted to hear the exchange but were unable to do so, either because of the screaming and chanting and chair pounding in the room, or because their seats were occupied by those who refused to listen and they were stranded outside the doors," she wrote.
"I saw some of my faculty colleagues who had publicly acknowledged that they had not read anything Dr. Murray had written join the effort to shut down the lecture. All of this was deeply unsettling to me. What alarmed me most, however, was what I saw in student eyes from up on that stage. Those who wanted the event to take place made eye contact with me. Those intent on disrupting it steadfastly refused to do so. It was clear to me that they had effectively dehumanized me. They couldn’t look me in the eye, because if they had, they would have seen another human being. There is a lot to be angry about in America today, but nothing good ever comes from demonizing our brothers and sisters."
To many at Middlebury and elsewhere, the idea that students shouted down a speaker was shocking, and the idea that some of those protesting surrounded a car and stomped on it was even more upsetting. But as Stanger's account has circulated on campus, people there have been particularly distraught by a physical attack on a respected professor.
Of the attack on her, she wrote, "When the event ended and it was time to leave the building, I breathed a sigh of relief. We had made it. I was ready for dinner and conversation with faculty and students in a tranquil setting. What transpired instead felt like a scene from Homeland rather than an evening at an institution of higher learning. We confronted an angry mob as we tried to exit the building. Most of the hatred was focused on Dr. Murray, but when I took his right arm both to shield him from attack and to make sure we stayed together so I could reach the car, too, that’s when the hatred turned on me.
"One thug grabbed me by the hair and another shoved me in a different direction. I noticed signs with expletives and my name on them. There was also an angry human on crutches, and I remember thinking to myself, 'What are you doing? That’s so dangerous!' For those of you who marched in Washington the day after the inauguration, imagine being in a crowd like that, only being surrounded by hatred rather than love. I feared for my life."
The details about Stanger are not the only new information coming out about what happened Thursday.
Middlebury officials now say that a small group of six to 12 people who appeared not to be students were involved in the attack on the car and Stanger. These people were dressed in black and wore masks. Earlier some of them tried to enter the lecture hall and were turned away. Those who shouted down Murray were students, but those who attacked the car (a group that included students) appeared to be led by the outside group (whom Middlebury officials said appeared older than most of the college's students). College officials called the town police when the car was attacked, but the attackers had run away by the time police officers arrived. No one was arrested. College officials said the size and intensity of the protest surprised them.
The reports about the nonstudents, dressed in black and with their faces covered, are similar to those from the University of California, Berkeley, and elsewhere about anarchist "black bloc" protests that have turned up on some campuses.
With Middlebury investigating what happened -- including illegal acts in the attacks on the car and the professor, as well as violations of college policies -- students have not come forward with their names to claim responsibility for what happened, or to discuss their views. Video and numerous photographs show many identifiable students during the protest in the lecture hall. Some students anonymously posted a statement on Beyond the Green, a blog about the college. The authenticity of the statement cannot be verified, but another Middlebury blog also posted it, and both blogs maintain that they received the statement from students involved in the protest. The statement defends the protests and offers a different version of events, blaming the college for the altercations for being too aggressive in trying to protect Murray.
As to what happened to Stanger (her account has been confirmed by the college), the statement says, "Professor Stanger’s hair was not intentionally pulled but was inadvertently caught in the chaos that Public Safety incited. It is irresponsible to imply that a protester aggressively and intentionally pulled her hair." The statement also defends the idea that it was appropriate to block Murray from speaking because the students view him as racist.
Some faculty members who spoke out against the Murray invitation are also concerned about what happened. Michael Sheridan, chair of anthropology and sociology at Middlebury, said he would have preferred for Murray not to have been invited. Once the invitation was made, he argued that it shouldn't have been a standard lecture but more of a structured debate.
He said he stood silently with his back to Murray and then left the room, and that he was "shocked and dismayed" by what happened to Stanger. "The loud student protest was ethically wrong and a strategic error," he said via email. "I told some students (who I thought to be in touch with the leadership) that silent, nonviolent resistance was the best way forward."
UPDATE: Murray on Monday published his account of what happened. An excerpt on the students who blocked him from giving the public lecture: "Some were just having a snarky good time as college undergrads have been known to do, dancing in the aisle to the rhythm of the chants. But many looked like they had come straight out of casting for a film of brownshirt rallies."
In some ways, the events at Middlebury reflect tensions within academe about limits that some see on free speech. Most proponents of academic freedom insist on the right of speakers to be able to deliver an address without being disrupted. To prevent a speech through shouting such as what took place at Middlebury is known as a "heckler's veto."
The tactic has been used beyond Middlebury. In one much discussed case, protesters at the University of California, Irvine, repeatedly interrupted the Israeli ambassador to the United States. In 2013, students at Brown University used repeated interruptions to block a talk by Ray Kelly, New York City's police commissioner at the time.
At Irvine, those who blocked the speech said that their actions were justified by the Palestinian cause. At Brown, they said the New York City police department's tactics were racist. At Middlebury, students said Charles Murray's work -- especially The Bell Curve -- promotes racism. They cite the Southern Poverty Law Center, which sums him up this way: "Charles Murray, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has become one of the most influential social scientists in America, using racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women, and the poor."
The Bell Curve has indeed been widely criticized for not only its conclusions, but its methodology and for the way it considers issues of race. (This piece from Slate summarizes the criticism. A defense of the book from Murray may be found here.)
Those who defended the right of Murray to speak at Middlebury (at the invitation of a student group) said that there were many appropriate ways (asking him tough questions, educating people about the concerns about his work, or silent protest) that would have expressed their views without blocking the talk.
How Students -- at Middlebury and Beyond -- View Free Speech
Student views on free speech on campus are complicated. A recent poll of college students by Gallup found that a large majority of students support the idea that colleges should not restrict speech on campus just because some political views are controversial or unpopular.
But students distinguish between speech that is controversial and speech that they view as using slurs or stereotypes about certain racial and ethnic groups. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of students said that colleges should be able to restrict speech that uses "slurs or other language that is intentionally offensive to certain groups." Students who are female, black or Democrat were more likely than others to believe this, but solid majorities of students who are male, white or Republican also shared that view.
Many Middlebury students and faculty members say The Bell Curve is intentional hate speech. (Murray says his book is social science.) A letter in the student newspaper from a group of faculty members, published prior to Thursday's events, said, "Mr. Murray is … a discredited ideologue paid by the American Enterprise Institute to promote public policies targeting people of color, women and the poor. His work has employed a combination of eugenics and other pseudoscience that has time and time again shown to be based on false premises, inadequate research and erroneous conclusions. He is not an academic nor a 'critically acclaimed' public scholar, but a well-funded phony. His research is an insult to the intellectual integrity of Middlebury College."
The Middlebury President's Agenda and Response
One irony of the Middlebury debate is that Laurie L. Patton (right), president there since 2015, has numerous times talked to students and faculty members about her concerns about less than full support on campus for the idea of free and open discussion. And Patton has explicitly rejected the idea that being committed to diversity is inconsistent with being committed to free speech.
For example, in a December 2015 address before a town hall meeting at Middlebury, Patton said, "I want us to have an open and complex understanding of free speech. Free speech is not the opposite of inclusivity. We need both if we are to move forward in any meaningful way. In fact, the very way that we create a more inclusive community is by exercising free speech and continuing to create understanding even in the midst of difficult tension-filled conversations. If we do not exercise free speech, we will never learn what others are thinking, and we will never learn how to understand what we may have said or done that makes the world harder for someone else."
On Friday, Patton sent a letter to students and faculty members in which she apologized to Murray and Stanger and said that she was "deeply disappointed" in what had transpired. Patton attended the event, at the invitation of students, and was criticized by many (and booed at the event) for doing so, even as she criticized Murray and said she was not attending to endorse his views.
In her letter, Patton said that Middlebury "will be responding in the very near future to the clear violations of Middlebury College policy that occurred" Thursday.
"Today our community begins the process of addressing the deep and troubling divisions that were on display last night. I am grateful to those who share this goal and have offered to help. We must find a path to establishing a climate of open discourse as a core Middlebury value, while also recognizing critical matters of race, inclusion, class, sexual and gender identity, and the other factors that too often divide us. That work will take time, and I will have more to say about that in the days ahead," she wrote.
Patton added, "Last night we failed to live up to our core values. But I remain hopeful. Last evening, several students, faculty and staff representing a large spectrum of political perspectives remained in Wilson Hall to discuss the events and to talk about building bridges. Their ability to reach across differences in a rigorous but respectful way was a stark contrast to the events that preceded it. I firmly believe these are the Middlebury values that we have lived so long and that we must strive to embody in the future."
In an email to Inside Higher Ed on Sunday, Patton described her thinking on the situation as being concerned about free speech, but also many broader questions in higher education and society.
"We exist in a new common dilemma -- and we just saw it played out on our own beloved campus of Middlebury, known for its peacefulness until now. Controversial speech, or speech by a controversial person, is even more difficult in a time when the very idea of a public sphere has become so fragile. Such speech is also more difficult in a time when issues that should be shared educational values become exclusively owned by 'the left' or 'the right,'" Patton said.
She added, "I worry that in our current state, deep educational commitments, such as the vibrant exchange of ideas across international borders, or studying the history of oppression and freedom, may be impossible to share as common public goods. On college campuses, there are so many legitimate struggles playing themselves out in our own public spheres: How does one acknowledge the necessary discomfort that a liberal education must entail, while at the same time honoring and uncovering the difficult experiences of our students who have walked in the American margins? The discussion is not simply an issue of free speech rights and policies, although it must begin there. We are challenged to have a conversation about speech for which we have no blueprint. Engaged, committed speech, speech countering other speech, is so much more necessary now. And so much more painful."
A National Debate
The events at Middlebury have quickly become the subject of much national debate, with various figures saying that the events were significant and worthy of public debate.March 4, 2017
From D.C. to Middlebury: There is "something of ill-omen...the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country."
Groups and individuals who write regularly about free speech on campus expressed deep frustration with what happened at Middlebury on Thursday. A blog post from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said, "FIRE will defend anyone’s right to peacefully protest and challenge any speaker or idea, but responding to speech with violence, or by shouting it down, is not acceptable …. The use of mob violence to respond to constitutionally protected expression is an affront to our nation’s liberal traditions. It must not be allowed on our campuses."
On the “Academe” blog of the American Association of University Professors, John K. Wilson wrote that the idea of shouting down speakers is morally wrong and can endanger the ability of the disadvantaged in society to have their voices heard.
"Shouting down speakers, such as the recent suppression of Charles Murray’s speech at Middlebury College by a large crowd of protesters, is wrong. Plain and simple. It’s wrong. Shouting down speakers is morally wrong, unprincipled, anti-intellectual and utterly indefensible. For a long time, I thought this was an obvious position, but it’s becoming increasing clear that some people on the left think it’s a good idea," wrote Wilson, an independent scholar who writes on free speech issues.
"What is the fundamental principle behind the idea of shouting down a speaker? Is the principle that people should have the freedom to shout down those they don’t like? By that logic, white supremacist gangs should be allowed to shout down people of color whenever they try to speak. Is the principle that a big crowd of people should get to shout down those they don’t like? Obviously, bigots can form a big crowd, too. There’s no good reason why an unpopular viewpoint should be shut down."
Wilson also argued that the protest at Middlebury helped Murray. "As a tactical matter, shouting down Charles Murray doesn’t stop racism. It reinforces the delusions of white people that they’re the victims of oppression. Censorship doesn’t refute anything Murray says, it only makes him a free speech martyr," he wrote.
Jose B. Gonzalez, a professor of English who has written sympathetically of student protesters nationally, said via email that college leaders should hesitate before criticizing the students at Middlebury who interrupted Murray. "The student protests are more than a criticism of Murray," he said. "They arise from a higher ed system that negates the existence of suppressed views. I am sure college presidents don't want to hear that their institutions aren't broken in some form, but they need to reflect on what made students take on this activism."
A Caution About What Middlebury Means
Stanger, the professor who was attacked, wrote in her Facebook post that she was concerned that people might see last week's events as being just about places like Middlebury, and not see broader societal problems reflected in the tumult at the college.
"To people who wish to spin this story as one about what’s wrong with elite colleges and universities, you are mistaken. Please instead consider this as a metaphor for what is wrong with our country, and on that, Charles Murray and I would agree," Stanger wrote.
She added, "This was the saddest day of my life. We have got to do better by those who feel and are marginalized. Our 230-year constitutional democracy depends on it, especially when our current president is blind to the evils he has unleashed. We must all realize the precious inheritance we have as fellow Americans and defend the Constitution against all its enemies, both foreign and domestic. That is why I do not regret my involvement in the event with Dr. Murray. But as we find a way to move forward, we should also hold fast to the wisdom of James Baldwin: 'Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.'"Editorial Tags: Academic freedomImage Source: AP Photo/Lisa RathkeImage Caption: Middlebury students protest during Charles Murray's aborted public lecture.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
On Sept. 27, 2013, Ecclesia College President Oren Paris III signed an agreement accepting $200,000 from the Arkansas General Improvement Fund -- $200,000 that had been directed to the college by Republican State Senator Jonathan E. Woods, federal prosecutors say.
The same September day, Ecclesia College cut a check for $50,000 to a consulting firm that had been established the day before by Randell G. Shelton Jr., a friend of both Paris and Woods. Shelton took the check and used it as an initial deposit to open a bank account for the consulting business. Then four days later, on Oct. 1, Shelton transferred $40,000 from the newly opened bank account to a personal account owned by the state senator, Woods.
Also on Oct. 1, Woods withdrew $33,000 from his personal account to buy a cashier’s check. The only funds in the account at the time had come from the consulting firm’s account, which was only filled with money from Ecclesia College.
Shelton issued a check to himself on the same day from the consulting firm’s account for $1,035.62, writing that it was a reimbursement for gas expenses. Two days later, Ecclesia College’s Board of Governance approved a $25,000 bonus payment to its president, Paris. The board approved the bonus on the same day the college deposited the state General Improvement Fund money into its own account.
That series of events is described in an indictment issued March 1 of this year against Woods -- who did not run for re-election past the start of 2017 -- Paris and Shelton. A similar series of transfers took place numerous times between September 2013 and October 2015, according to the indictment. A federal grand jury charged the three men with multiple counts of mail and wire fraud in the alleged kickback scheme. The college was not named in the indictment.
Paris paid a total of $267,500 to Shelton’s consulting firm over the two years without the knowledge of Ecclesia’s Board of Governance, according to the indictment. He also had the college hire a secretary in the summer of 2013 at the behest of Woods, paying her a salary of $43,000 and increasing her bonus from $4,000 to $7,000 during the hiring process, the charging document alleges.
It’s rare for a college president to face such a serious set of charges. But Paris has not signaled any intent to leave Ecclesia, a work-learning interdenominational Christian college founded by his parents. Paris, his mother and his brother-in-law are all on the Board of Governance. His sister, Christian singer-songwriter Twila Paris, is on the college’s Board of Regents.
On Thursday the Board of Governance issued a statement backing Paris, writing that while the charges should be taken seriously, its members believe the president acted with integrity and is a “godly leader.”
“We are in unanimous agreement that Dr. Paris should continue in his mission as president of Ecclesia College through these challenging times,” said the statement, which is not signed by Oren Paris but is signed by his mother and brother-in-law. “And to Oren, let us remind him what the Book of Isaiah tells us: ‘No weapon formed against you will succeed, and you will refute any accusation raised against you in court. This is the heritage of the Lord’s servants, and their righteousness is from Me. This is the Lord’s declaration.’”
An attorney for Woods, Patrick Benca, issued a statement Friday on behalf of the former state senator (pictured below) denying wrongdoing.
“Senator Woods is innocent of any wrongdoing,” it said. “I had faith that the investigating agencies would draw the correct conclusion that Senator Woods has committed no crime. Unfortunately, the indictment combines and selects unrelated events and conversations in an attempt to connect dots that are not linked and portrays standard grant request procedures, followed by all legislators, as somehow unique and illicit. Where evidence does not exist, gross assumptions have been inserted to weave a narrative that ensures a biased, slanted and misrepresented ending. Senator Woods would never abuse the trust and position given to him by his constituents. I am confident that once all of the facts are presented to a jury of Senator Woods’s peers that he will be found innocent of all charges brought against him.”
The director of Ecclesia’s Office of Communications, Angie Snyder, did not return a request for additional comment or interview Friday. But talk of Paris’s involvement in a kickback scheme has been circulating for months, particularly after former Republican State Representative Micah Neal pleaded guilty in January to taking $38,000 in bribes for steering money from the state’s General Improvement Fund to two nonprofit organizations based in Fayetteville and Springdale. Ecclesia College is located in Springdale.
Paris issued a statement Jan. 5 after Neal’s guilty plea stating that no one associated with Ecclesia College had provided money to legislators.
“We have never been a party to any agreements to funnel money to any state Legislature,” the statement said. “At the end of the day, I am secure in the knowledge that there has been no wrongdoing either on my part or the school’s part, and any rumors, innuendo or any future news reports that say otherwise are simply untruthful.”
But the indictment clearly names Paris. It notes that he received more than $300,000 in compensation from the nonprofit corporation that operates the college located in Springdale between June 1, 2012, and May 31, 2016, and that his family members and their spouses have received more than $1 million in compensation from it during that same time period. The kickback scheme’s purpose was for Paris to enrich himself, his family and the college by paying bribes to Woods and Neal through Shelton in exchange for the legislators securing money for the college, according to the indictment.
The scheme was designed for Woods and Neal to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting bribes in exchange for using their official positions as legislators to steer money, the indictment says. It says that Shelton was intended to make money by keeping a portion of bribe funds before passing them on and that an unnamed businessman was intended to make money by paying bribes to legislators in exchange for money being directed to other organizations.
The indictment outlines a long involvement between the college president, Paris, and the state senator, Woods. It details plans by Paris in January 2013 to call Woods to talk about maximizing the college’s participation in the Arkansas General Improvement Fund. That fund receives money whenever the state runs a budget surplus. The money is then typically routed to economic development districts across the state to be used on local projects.
In April 2013 Paris sent a text message to Woods with talking points intended to convince lawmakers to support Ecclesia.
“Good selling point to conservative legislators is that [the college] produces graduates that are conservative voters,” the text message said, according to the indictment. “All state and secular colleges produce vast majority liberal voters.”
Woods replied that he agreed, the indictment said.
In early August of that year, Ecclesia was preparing a General Improvement Fund grant application asking for $105,000, the indictment says. Paris signed a grant application Aug. 9, 2013, that requested a higher amount, $130,000, to purchase a 23-acre parcel of land with a student residence hall adjacent to the college’s property. The purchase was needed to provide space for incoming resident students starting in the fall of 2013, the application said.
On Aug. 19, Woods sent a text message to Paris telling him to increase the amount of money requested in the grant to $200,000, according to the federal indictment. Paris did so. About a month later, he was signing an agreement that had Ecclesia receiving $200,000.
The indictment also alleges that Woods and Neal steered $200,000 in General Improvement Fund money to Ecclesia in 2014 after another organization returned $400,000 from the fund. Ecclesia filed a grant application that said the money would go toward a $500,000 project to buy 25.5 acres for “much-needed” residence and work-learning facilities.
“Woods previously had advised Neal that Woods had an arrangement with Paris whereby Paris would pay Woods a percentage of funds Woods obtained for [the college],” the indictment says.
Ecclesia used a total of almost $700,000 in taxpayer money to buy nearly 50 acres, according to a January report in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette. The local building department showed no new buildings or renovations occurring on the properties, the newspaper reported. Local reports also said that properties purchased in 2013 were purchased at prices well above appraised values and that the college already owned more than 200 acres.
The college enrolled 283 students in the fall of 2015, all but three of them undergraduates, according to federal data. Its accreditor, the Association for Biblical Higher Education Commission on Accreditation, listed its 2016 head count at 285. The college lists a dozen bachelor’s degrees, four associate’s degrees, a TESL certificate and a master’s of Christian leadership as its offerings. Many are available online.
The federal indictment alleges a long series of deposits in the chain between Ecclesia, Shelton, Woods and Neal. In addition to the $200,000 grants, it lists additional instances where Ecclesia received state money, including sums as small as $30,000 and as large as $91,500.
Woods also sponsored legislation designed to direct state funding to work colleges in Arkansas. A bill passed at a time when Ecclesia was the only work college in the state.
Money Woods directed went through the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District. The district stopped acting on Ecclesia’s grant applications after being served with a grand jury subpoena in October 2015.
Between September 2013 and October 2015, Ecclesia paid Shelton a total of $267,500, according to the indictment. Paris authorized the payments but did not inform Ecclesia’s Board of Governance, it says. He was interviewed by federal agents about the payments in late October 2015, at which point he made a report to the Board of Governance. That report allegedly said that the consulting firm’s activities had positioned Ecclesia with large donors in a way that would have the college bringing in millions of dollars in the future.
Little information is publicly available about Ecclesia College’s finances, because it does not file federal 990 tax forms. It is part of Ecclesia Inc., an organization that does not file tax forms with the IRS because it is listed as a church. It lists itself as part of an Ecclesia Network that includes operations called Strategic Missions, Ecclesia Relief and Development, Bibles for the Nations, Twila Paris Productions, Ecclesia Children’s Ministries, and Happy Few Unlimited.
Ecclesia College is accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education Commission on Accreditation, an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation that specializes in religious institutions. Ecclesia was last reviewed in 2011 and is scheduled for its next commission review in 2020.
Higher education leadership experts said the college is in an extremely unusual situation. College presidents are not typically the subject of federal indictments -- and those that are facing serious charges are typically expected to take a leave of absence or step down. For example, the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute suspended former president and CEO Alain Kaloyeros without pay in 2016 amid allegations of bid rigging for economic development projects. Kaloyeros resigned shortly afterward. He has recently argued that SUNY’s nonprofit development arms should cover his legal bills as he fights federal and state corruption charges.
The optics of having an active president under investigation can be damaging for an institution as it tries to carry out business as usual or recruit students. A leave of absence can also help a president who needs time to prepare a legal defense, said Kent John Chabotar, former president of Guilford College and founding partner of the higher education consulting firm MPK&D.
Boards may hold off on terminating a president until guilt is proven, he said. But it’s often best for everyone if presidents take a leave of absence, at the very least.
“Some boards are more strict about this than others,” Chabotar said. “I just think best practice is if somebody is indicted, they’re put on a leave of absence.”
Ecclesia is also rare in that it does not report its financials publicly and it is closely related to a single family. That can raise questions about institutional oversight.
“In the greater field of higher education, we don’t have scandals like this,” said Raymond D. Cotton, a partner at the Washington law firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP who specializes in higher education law. “Why? It’s because we have a system of checks and balances, which we don’t have here.”Editorial Tags: College administrationImage Source: Ecclesia CollegeImage Caption: Ecclesia College President Oren Paris III was named in a federal indictment.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0
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