Higher Education News

President Trump keeps Francis Collins on as head of NIH

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

President Trump announced Tuesday that he will keep Francis S. Collins as director of the National Institutes of Health.

Collins was first nominated for the position in 2009 by President Obama. Shortly after he took office, Trump announced that Collins would stay on in an interim role, and many scientists have wondered if Collins would be offered the position or would accept it on a permanent basis in the new administration. Trump surprised many this year by proposing cuts of nearly 20 percent in the budget of the NIH, which normally has support from Democrats and Republicans alike.

In the world of science, Collins is a giant, having led the Human Genome Project, which produced a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book.

The NIH is also a center of some of the country's hot-button issues with regard to science. In his position, Collins has attracted support from many Christian leaders and some conservatives in Congress because he has talked and written about his belief in God and his commitments as a Christian. At the same time, some Republican members of Congress have criticized him (and last month urged Trump to replace him) because of his support for stem cell research and the use of human embryos in some research.

The tensions over the NIH and Trump's science policies can be seen in the reactions to Collins's tweet saying he was honored to be asked to stay on.

Honored to be selected by @POTUS to continue as #NIH Director. I consider it a privilege to continue to lead this noble enterprise.

— Francis S. Collins (@NIHDirector) June 6, 2017

Many scientists responded with tweets saying things such as, "May you continue to be a voice of reason and advocacy for science!" and "Great. Fight the cuts!" and "We are all greatly relieved." In addition to scientists' comments, Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, weighed in, writing, "Congratulations to @NIHDirector Dr. Francis Collins for his vision, leadership & continued service at the @NIH."

But other scientists, noting the cuts Trump has proposed for science agencies and his open disregard for scientists on a range of issues, questioned the decision by Collins. Wrote one scientist, "I can't believe you would give any façade of legitimacy to this disgusting administration. The only noble action is to quit in protest."

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Report details one approach to making college affordable

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

Recent proposals to make higher education tuition- or debt-free have had huge price tags attached -- hundreds of millions of dollars, in the case of plans put forward by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential campaign. But a report released today lays out a very different approach to college affordability, with a much smaller -- and arguably more attainable -- sticker price.

According to a new report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers association, state and federal governments would have to put up a combined $34 billion a year, after a four-year build-up period, to make SHEEO’s definition of “affordable” college a reality for all postsecondary students, be they full- or part-time, traditional age or adult. This contrasts with many of the current state and district plans for free community college or public higher education, which limit participation to full-time students and/or recent high school graduates.

In this case, “affordable” is defined as graduates using no more than 10 percent of their discretionary income a year toward student loan repayments. Much of the $34 billion -- half of which would be paid for by states, half by the federal government -- would be aimed at need-based financial aid for students coming from low-income backgrounds who don’t have the chance to save money for college. The report suggests states fund the plan with increases to higher education appropriations over the course of four years, by an average of 5 percent each year.

“The SHEEO model takes a different approach [from savings-based or debt-free models]. Our proposal is that students should not have to pay more than 10 percent of their income toward loan repayment. So it’s forward looking,” said David Tandberg, principal policy analyst at SHEEO. “The benefits of college accrue after you graduate, therefore we should look at affordability in regards to income postgraduation.”

Definitions vary as to what affordable college means, as does funding for higher education in each state. SHEEO’s model defines college affordability from the perspective of the graduate being able to repay loans.

“Students in the lowest income quintile, they do not come in with resources. Saving is often nearly impossible, or it is impossible, and we don’t want them to be overburdened with work while they’re there,” Tandberg said. “It may make more sense to consider that their incomes will rise once they graduate.”

“It’s one way of looking at it,” Tandberg said. “We provide the detailed state-level data so that people can look at their own states and consider for themselves how they might approach affordability. … Maybe it’s free college, maybe it’s the Lumina rule of 10 model, maybe it’s a different one.”

In 2015, amid a flurry of tuition-free and debt-free college models being thrown around by Democratic politicians, the Lumina Foundation -- which also funded the SHEEO study -- developed a framework to try to define what affordable college might mean. The framework -- filled with caveats, and meant to be more of a baseline to define affordability rather than a one-size-fits-all prescription -- established a model called the rule of 10 as one way to define affordability.

Under the Lumina model, families would be expected to save 10 percent of their discretionary income for 10 years to meet their contribution to their children’s college education. (Families earning less than 200 percent of the poverty level wouldn’t be expected to pursue this part of the model.) Students, on their end, would be expected to work 10 hours a week while in college.

The Lumina model estimated that a family earning $100,000 a year could contribute $51,000 based on savings, and students would earn $3,625 during the school year.

The SHEEO model, which highlights the Lumina report as a comparison, doesn’t have the savings or work requirements in its assumptions. It’s also about three times as expensive as the Lumina model, though it also includes nontraditional and part-time students, which Lumina omitted.

State by State

SHEEO also works with the assumption that the federal government will match state contributions to higher education to reach the affordability thresholds. The data show that some states are better positioned than others to meet SHEEO’s model.

Broken down by state, Alaska, for example, is looking at just over $275,000 of additional spending in the first year of implementing the model for traditional students, not including the amount that the federal government would pitch in. By year four, that cost is still under $1 million. On the other end of the spectrum, Texas would be looking at more than $350 million in the first year, and more than $1 billion in year four.

The estimated cost devoted to traditional college students comes in just under $12 billion in the fourth year of implementation. The Lumina model carries a similar total cost after adding the estimated state-by-state contributions, however, it doesn’t account for nontraditional students.

The cost for reaching SHEEO’s affordability threshold for part-time and adult students, however, is $21.8 billion.

“There’s not as much done for these students, so often they don’t qualify for traditional financial aid programs,” Tandberg said. “Maybe they’re not taking enough credit hours. Or the existing financial aid program is only for students that are either going full-time or are going directly out of high school.”

The appropriations hikes required for states to reach their part of the model’s $34 billion mark -- on average, increasing higher education spending by 5 percent each year, for four years -- are “not insignificant,” but also “manageable” for many governments, according to the report. By comparison, over the course of the 2015-16 academic year, the federal government provided about $28 billion in Pell Grant funds and $18 billion in college tax credits. States provided about $12 billion in student financial support.

“We recognize that it’s a very large number, and that’s important in and of itself, because it’s an indication that we have not done enough on affordability,” Tandberg said. “Five percent, while significant, isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.”

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Advocates warn cuts to Office for Civil Rights would further slow resolution of Title IX cases

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

When students file a complaint that their institution mishandled or ignored claims of sexual assault or harassment, they can often expect to wait years for a resolution from the Department of Education. Those delays frustrate not only those bringing the complaints but colleges that remain under prolonged investigation as well.

Advocates say that problem would be exacerbated by cuts to staffing at the department's Office for Civil Rights included in last month's White House budget proposal. Under the Obama administration, OCR took on an increasingly prominent role in responding to sexual assaults on campus -- and in pressuring colleges and universities themselves to take more aggressive action on the issue. The budget maintains level funding for the office but calls for reducing full-time staffing by 7 percent to 523 employees.

That reduction is part of broader changes proposed throughout federal agencies to eliminate or cut back the role of offices designated to monitor and sanction discrimination.

Laura Dunn, the executive director of SurvJustice, said the organization was already waiting an average of four years for the resolution of complaints it filed under the Obama administration. And that was an administration that made addressing the issue of campus assaults a priority, she said.

Dunn said students and advocates could expect to wait even longer for the department to act on complaints if staffing at OCR is reduced further.

"I think that is a known outcome from the department's perspective," she said. "They know that they can't complete these investigations with such a lean budget and inadequate staffing."

As of last year, the backlog of federal Title IX investigations into mishandling of sexual assault or harassment allegations by colleges and universities exceeded 300 cases. By the time of Trump's election, 216 open investigations remained of sexual assault cases alone.

While the number of complaints filed shot up exponentially between 2011 and 2016 -- possibly as a result of the greater spotlight on the issue of campus sexual assaults -- staffing levels at OCR have declined steadily over the last four decades through Republican and Democratic administrations, although they saw an uptick under Obama.

A 2018 budget justification document estimated that a 2016 ratio of 41 cases per staff member will likely continue.

Dunn said slower enforcement would encourage more survivors of assault to seek remedy through the courts. Meanwhile, many would graduate or otherwise leave college without seeing their treatment by their institution addressed. Often, slow enforcement of complaints has meant survivors have had to pay out of pocket for outside counseling after being denied those services on campus.

"Everyone who is filing these complaints wants to have their campus treat them with dignity and respect. They want the normal college experience," she said. "Obviously, in a perfect world, these complaints would be resolved while a student is still in school."

Dunn noted that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has yet to meet with victims' rights organizations (although she has met with a Georgia state representative suing the department over its Title IX guidance). She said reducing staffing is a backdoor way of curtailing the department's role in tackling Title IX issues without issuing new policy.

In one of the department's first steps under the new administration, DeVos reversed guidance issued under Obama to protect the rights of transgender students. The secretary said the guidance had given rise to numerous legal questions and that the issue was better dealt with at the state level. Many experts expect the Trump administration to also scale back use of Title IX to deal with campus sexual assaults. Republican lawmakers have argued that the Obama administration illegally expanded the scope of anti-discrimination law and added greater liability for institutions that fail to deal with bullying, harassment or assaults.

Speculation on a new policy has focused on the possible repeal of Dear Colleague letters issued by the department under Obama directing campuses to take stronger action on sexual assault. But the department hasn't yet signaled a new approach on the issue.

Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said the budget proposal does not include plans for layoffs. Instead, staff cuts would be made through attrition, which is typically around 10 percent.

"Secretary DeVos is committed to the mission of the Office for Civil Rights," Hill said. Under DeVos's leadership, she said, the office's funding was kept level in the agreement Congress reached in April to fund the federal government through September. "And Secretary DeVos is keenly focused on OCR’s core mission to protect students from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age. We do not expect the budgetary impact on staff to have a negative effect on the department’s ability to expeditiously and impartially review cases."

Hill added that DeVos has already directed OCR and other offices within the department to proactively reach out to organizations that advocate for victims’ rights. OCR staff has met with Girls Inc. and is scheduled to meet with the National Women's Law Center. DeVos has also met with representatives from GLSEN, which advocates on LGBT issues in the K-12 education system, Hill said. 

Catherine Lhamon, chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said the proposed cuts to OCR would exacerbate the length of time required to solve Title IX cases and devastate the morale of the work force.

As head of OCR under Obama, Lhamon was a key figure in pushing colleges and universities to take a more active role in addressing and publicizing misconduct. The Obama administration's 2017 budget proposal sought to reduce OCR assignments to 19 cases per staff member. Lhamon said the persistent caseload level estimated in the Trump budget -- 41 cases per staff -- was untenable.

"It is not possible to perform the job under those kinds of demands," she said.

The results, Lhamon said, could mean more than longer wait times -- work on investigations would be less effective and the department could close cases that shouldn't be.

She said the Trump administration would need a dramatic course correction to demonstrate that it is serious about civil rights work.

"A budget like this sends a strong negative message to communities and students about the importance of civil rights across the board," she said. "If this budget proposal were enacted, the president and Congress would have imposed substantial harm on the nation."

(Note: Because of incorrect information from the department, this article originally misstated the victims' rights groups that have met with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has met with victims' rights advocates. The article has been updated.) 

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Analysis suggests age bias at play in reduction of federal funding to early-career researchers

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

Young researchers represent the future of science and often make unexpected discoveries. Yet National Institutes of Health grants to principal investigators under the age of 46 have dropped steadily since 1982, according to a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That’s despite a near tripling of inflation-corrected federal funding for the NIH over the same period, meaning age bias, not scarcity of resources was likely at play, the study says. The PI success ratio, or the fraction of basic-science researchers receiving grants, also dropped for younger scientists (under 46) and increased for those over 55.

The NIH already has begun work to improve the grant outlook for younger researchers, and the new paper suggests such efforts -- namely the Early-Stage Investigator priority policy started in 2008 -- have been successful. Together with the National Institute of General Medical Sciences’ Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award program to reward senior PIs with research time in exchange for less funding, the paper says, these changes “may reverse a decades-long trend of more money going to older PIs.”

The paper also recommends that additional resources be devoted to transitional postdoctoral fellowships already offered by NIH.

“Future of Fundamental Discovery in U.S. Biomedical Research” was written by brothers Michael Levitt, professor of structural biology at Stanford University and, Jonathan M. Levitt, a senior researcher in informatics at the University of Wolverhampton in Britain. They assert that not having a traditional Research Project Grant, or R01 grant, from the NIH isn’t so bad -- as long as scientists are “given the funding needed to work independently and make their new discoveries in fundamental, curiosity-driven, basic-science research.”

The paper notes that a majority of Nobel laureates made their prizewinning breakthroughs before the age of 40 and that many tech CEOs dropped out of college to start their innovative ventures. It focuses on NIH grants because tenured medical school faculty members -- who are most dependent on external funding academic scientists -- receive most of their grants from the institutes.

For their analysis, Levitt and Levitt looked at age variation among R01 grantees. The median age grew from 40 to 50 over the period studied, while U.S. life expectancy grew by just about five years. The average age of first-ever R01 grantees also increased (the black dotted line below).

They also considered age distribution for R01 grantees, clinical science PIs and basic science PIs, finding that the number of R01 grantees under 46 declined over time, as did the number of basic science PIs. The growth rate for clinical scientists over 55 was highest in that group.

To rule out funding changes as a factor in what they observed, Levitt and Levitt studied the relationship between congressional appropriations for the NIH and R01 funding allocations by age. Funding for older R01 grantees increased steadily but dropped for middle-age grantees after 2004 and hardly changed for younger grantees. Since 1995, funds for R01 grantees over 55 increased by $2.3 billion but decreased by $6.5 million for younger grantees.

Levitt and Levitt say it won’t be easy to increase the number of young basic science PIs, but that “new fundamental discoveries made by young PIs in the United States are vital for future breakthroughs in biomedicine.”

They also suggest that post-2008 NIH efforts to support early-career researchers are making a difference, since grant success ratios for PIs under 45 have risen since 2010, to well about the mean level for PIs over all. 

“We see no alternative but to increase the [Early Stage Investigator policy], which should be strengthened using an age-related correction,” the paper says, endorsing expansion of the research-release program for senior faculty members, as well. Continued monitoring of the issue through periodic study using anonymized data is important to Levitt and Levitt, too, who “hope that existing PIs over the age of 55 will realize how fortunate they were in their youth and help younger PIs by mentoring them for independence and originality.”

Michael Levitt, a Nobel laureate, has previously described helping young scientists get the opportunities afforded to baby boomers as his "pet project." He said via email that he was optimistic more funds could be directed toward younger scholars, even in era of proposed cuts to the NIH. That’s because as funds become increasingly tight, he said, "proper stewardship is increasingly important.”

“Young people make the breakthroughs that fuel future research,” he added.

Levitt and Levitt make a strong scientific and economic case for supporting early-career researchers. Some research looking beyond Nobel Prize winners suggests age is but a number when it comes to scientific impact, however. Still, many scientists are concerned with the funding climate for their early-career counterparts.

Bruce Weinberg, a professor of economics at Ohio State University who recently published a study suggesting that the science work force is aging due to demographics and the lifting of the mandatory retirement age for academe, said the flow of "resources to young and early-stage investigators is a critical factor in enabling young and early-stage researchers to establish independent careers." So the new results are promising in that there's “some evidence that NIH’s efforts to address the aging of the biomedical research work force are helping,” he added.

The National Academics of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently launched the Next Generation Researchers Initiative, another intervention in early-career funding problem. Michael Lauer, deputy director for extramural research for the National Institutes of Health, said at a meeting for the initiative earlier this year that rates for successful grants are going up for those over 60, but down for both early- and midcareer scientists.

Lauer said Monday that "NIH agrees more should be done to support early-career and midcareer scientists," and that it's a topic of active discussion. The new findings offer data-based evidence that the post-2008 early-career policy "is having a positive impact but may not be going far enough in ensuring a robust future generation of productive basic biomedical researchers," he added.

Gary McDowell, a biophysical scientist and resident at Manylabs workspace who advocates for junior scientists as executive director of the nonprofit Future of Research, agreed with the recommendation to put more postdocs on their own K99 fellowships. A “shift of the postdoctoral work force to fellowships would be a way to start trying to make the postdoc a more independent position, like it is intended to be,” he said.

He also pointed out that the proposal to award more R01s to early-career investigators complements current discussions about a possible NIH grant cap. That cap, announced last month, limits the number of R01 grants a single PI can hold to three. About 6 percent of NIH-funded investigators currently exceed that.

“NIH has been acting to address a biomedical research work force dangerously out of balance,” Francis Collins, its director, said in announcing the cap. “While we have made progress in reversing the decline in grant funding to early-career investigators through various programs and policies, the percentage of NIH awards that support this group remains flat.” Unfortunately, “gains for early-career investigators have been offset by a decline in the percentage of NIH awards that support midcareer investigators," he said. "The only group for which the percentage of grant funding is increasing is late-career investigators.”

Moreover, Collins said, “the distribution of NIH grant funding is highly skewed, with 10 percent of NIH-funded investigators receiving over 40 percent of NIH funding. While that might be just fine if the data suggested that this is the best way to get results, analyses conducted by both NIH and others have shown that incremental research output gradually diminishes as the amount of support per investigator increases.”

Highlighting a finding of the new article, McDowell said the aging of the work force “did not have to lead to a decline in PIs under 46, and particularly basic sciences PIs. The system needs to address its own sustainability, and I agree that targeting the way money is distributed is a key way of doing this.”

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Foreign branch campuses in Qatar monitor major diplomatic rift

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

The decision by five Arab nations to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar and in some cases recall their citizens will have implications for branch campuses of foreign universities based there. Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen all said Monday they were cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar, and all of those countries except Egypt have ordered their citizens to leave Qatar, as The New York Times reported -- raising questions of whether students from those countries enrolled in Qatar's foreign branch campuses will have their degree studies interrupted, and of whether Qatar's prized image as a relatively stable and secure destination for study and research in the Middle East could be under threat.

Based on what the Saudi and U.A.E. governments describe as Qatar’s support for terror and sectarian groups intent on destabilizing countries in the region, Qatar’s Arab neighbors have also closed off their airspace to Qataris and prohibited citizens of the Persian Gulf country from passing through their land and sea territories. The Republic of Maldives, a nation made up of about 1,200 islands in South Asia, also announced its decision to sever relations with Qatar on Monday.

The Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the actions taken against it by fellow Gulf countries as "unjustified" and as being "based on baseless and unfounded allegations." The ministry pledged "that these measures taken against the state of Qatar will not affect the normal course of life of the citizens and residents of the state and that the Qatari government will take all necessary measures to ensure this and to thwart attempts to influence and harm the Qatari society and economy." Already international media outlets have reported that Qataris were emptying supermarket shelves in anticipation of possible shortages of food, for which the nation is heavily dependent on imports.

An embargo on tiny, oil-rich Qatar could have outsize impacts on the international education world. Numerous well-known U.S. universities -- Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Georgetown, Northwestern, Texas A&M and Virginia Commonwealth Universities -- have campuses in the Education City complex in the capital city of Doha that have been financed by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. Officials at some U.S. universities with campuses in Qatar said Monday that they were monitoring the situation and that summer classes and other operations are continuing.

Alan Cubbage, the vice president for university relations at Northwestern, which has a branch of its journalism and communication school in Qatar, said in an emailed statement that the campus has “fewer than 20 students from the affected Gulf countries who are scheduled to be enrolled in the fall 2017 semester.” A summer program enrolls about 90 students, only two of whom, Cubbage said, come from the affected countries.

“Northwestern University in Qatar remains open, and summer classes are ongoing,” Cubbage said. “We are keeping students, faculty and staff at Northwestern University in Qatar informed, and university officials continue to be regularly in touch with the appropriate government agencies in Qatar and the U.S. The safety and security of our students, faculty and staff are top priorities of the university.”

Virginia Commonwealth University, which operates an art and design-focused campus in Qatar, reported that its campus there enrolls about 365 students representing 41 nationalities and employs 63 faculty representing 15 nationalities. Michael Porter, a university spokesman, said two of 28 students enrolled for the summer session hold passports from countries that have severed relations with Qatar.

“It is too early to know the real impact on VCU Qatar, including travel plans of our students, faculty and staff,” Porter said via email. “We are in summer session right now and operating on a normal schedule. The leadership of VCU's campus in Doha is in close contact with the U.S. Embassy, deans of the other universities in Education City, Qatar Foundation officials and Global Rescue for any contingency planning regarding the diplomatic situation in the Gulf region. We are closely monitoring the situation and will advise as the ramifications become more clear.”

Texas A&M’s engineering campus in Education City enrolls 543 students, including 497 undergraduates, of whom 45 percent are Qatari. "We are in touch with our students, faculty and staff in Qatar, and our branch campus is operating as normal,” Texas A&M’s president, Michael K. Young, said in a one-sentence statement.

“One of the goals of the campuses in the first place was, I think, to appeal to Arab students who for family or for other reasons wouldn’t want to go to the U.S. to study; they actually could go to a U.S. campus in the region. Closing off that avenue could be a bit of a hit for the universities,” said Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, an expert on the Gulf region and a fellow for the Middle East at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

“The other thing is just the impact of the regional instability, the message or the signal it sends out that Qatar is not a safe place. That may impact not just students from the region who may not be allowed by their government to go to Qatar but students from around the world,” Coates Ulrichsen continued.

“It’s not necessarily going into a war zone, but you’re going into a part of the world where tension is incredibly high. That may begin to hit on the reputation of Qatar as a relatively safe place in a volatile part of the world.”

“They have two months' breathing space,” Coates Ulrichsen said of Qatar's foreign universities. “If it begins to hit students who have already accepted positions to begin in August, if it becomes harder for the campuses in the Gulf to recruit, to retain faculty who may be looking to get out while they can, this could all feed into more problems the longer it goes on.”

Among other U.S. universities with campuses in Qatar, Cornell, which has a medical school there, declined to comment on the diplomatic rift. Carnegie Mellon, which has a campus with business and information technology programs in Education City, said it has 24 students from some of the affected countries. "There is no summer session in Qatar, though at this time it is unclear what the long-term effects will be," a university spokeswoman said in written responses to questions. "We’ll continue to monitor the situation and confer with the U.S. State Department, and CMU will offer any necessary assistance to any members of our community who may be affected."

Outside the U.S., at least two Canadian higher education institutions, the University of Calgary and the College of the North Atlantic, have campuses in Qatar, as do two U.K.-based institutions, University College London and the University of Aberdeen (the latter of which announced the opening of its Qatar campus in April); a French university, HEC Paris; and a Dutch institution, Stenden University of Applied Sciences. Calgary said in a statement that “it is business as usual" at its Qatar campus.

“We are currently monitoring the situation in Qatar and have been in contact with all University of Calgary in Qatar employees,” the university said in its statement. “At this point, while this situation is of political and diplomatic concern, there has been no indication that there is any increased security risk to our staff or students. The Canadian Embassy has not advised Canadians to do anything differently today, and so we are advising our staff and students that it is business as usual.”

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Modern Language Association taps Paula Krebs, dean at Bridgewater State and longtime humanities advocate, as new executive director

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

Paula Krebs, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, will be the Modern Language Association’s new executive director starting in August, the group announced Tuesday.

Krebs takes over for Rosemary Feal, MLA’s longtime executive director, who announced her plans to step down from the position last year.

“Paula Krebs is a scholar of demonstrated passion and commitment, dedicated to articulating the value of the humanities, supporting academic standards and strengthening the professional standing of all those who teach and work in humanities-related fields,” Diana Taylor, MLA president and University Professor of Performance Studies and Spanish at New York University, said in a statement.

Krebs is a scholar of English who was a tenured professor at Wheaton College in Massachusetts for two decades before moving on to administration and, eventually, Bridgewater State.

At Bridgewater, she worked with faculty members on strategic planning and sought to increase community engagement. A longtime advocate for the humanities who has served on MLA’s Executive Council, Krebs organized a regional consortium of employers, public humanities representatives and academic leaders to develop strategies for defining and measuring the postgraduation success of humanities majors. She has also worked to promote the idea that students earning doctorates in the humanities should be prepared for careers at regional public universities and community colleges, not just at elite institutions.

Prior to leaving Wheaton, she worked as special assistant to the president for external relations. She’s served as an American Council on Education fellow in the president’s office of the University of Massachusetts and has written op-eds for Inside Higher Ed. Here’s a 2016 piece on the importance of hard data in communicating the value of a humanities degree to the public. She also wrote a series of columns on teaching issues with her sister, then a community college instructor (and now assistant dean of students at Rutgers University at Camden).

Krebs said Monday that she’s “especially interested in fostering deeper public understanding of the value of the humanities” in her future with the MLA. Projects such as the association’s language enrollment census “make the impact of studying and teaching the humanities tangible, not only to students but also to their parents, to legislators and to employers,” she said. “Bringing attention to the vital work humanities practitioners do is crucial for improving the working conditions for those teaching the humanities, so often in insecure contingent positions.”

Asked what the role of MLA is in 2017, Krebs said it’s “to ensure its members can do their jobs.”

“We support them so that the humanities will remain an important and vibrant part of our communities,” she said, “and so that future generations can bring critical analysis, language mastery and writing skills to bear on their civic and professional lives.”

Anne Ruggles Gere, professor of English and education at the University of Michigan and chair of the MLA’s executive director search committee, said that when she and her colleagues began looking for a replacement for Feal, they hoped to find someone who would bring broad perspective to the organization.

Krebs “does exactly that,” Gere said in a statement. “Her commitment to supporting all members of our profession; her experience working with partners from the community, government and business; and her advocacy of the value of humanities study will be vital to her work at the MLA.”

Feal, a scholar of Spanish and MLA’s executive director since 2002, has championed second-language education, non-tenure-track faculty issues, digital initiatives such as the Humanities Commons, and expanding notions of the humanities work force. She said this week that she’s long known Krebs as “an imaginative and committed leader,” whose term on the Executive Council left lasting good effects.

“I deeply admire her role as a public advocate for the humanities,” Feal said. Krebs “has such a wide range of experience in private and public institutions, which will serve the MLA well.”

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Publishers' new anti-counterfeiting measures include certification seals on books

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

Textbooks from Cengage Learning and McGraw-Hill Education will this fall begin to feature a certification seal that, when scanned with a smartphone app, will help readers verify that the books came from the publishers and not from a counterfeiter.

The certification seal is the latest effort by textbook publishers to stanch losses in the print market. The textbook industry in general is contracting -- Cengage estimates it declined by 14 percent in 2016 -- and piracy is one of several reasons why. According to Cengage’s numbers, piracy costs the company between $70 million and $100 million a year.

Michael E. Hansen, chief executive officer of Cengage, said in an interview that counterfeit books have become a much more widespread issue in the last two years.

“What changed is just the amount of counterfeits in the market has spiked over the last 18 to 24 months,” Hansen said. “The more we started to dig in and do test purchases, the more we came across, in some cases, a staggering number of counterfeits in certain marketplaces.”

Hansen declined to name specific marketplaces but described them as “not very heavily policed or regulated marketplaces” where anyone can buy or sell products. He compared the issue to the problems with counterfeit goods seen in the athletic and luxury apparel markets.

Cengage's certification seal (see thumbnail) will appear on the cover of all of Cengage’s print books. Scanning the seal’s QR code sends readers to an authentication website where, by matching the design of the book in their hands to Cengage's catalog, they can confirm that the book is legitimate. If the design doesn't match, readers can report the counterfeit.

McGraw-Hill Education is planning to introduce similar seals, called Prooftags, to all its future print titles as well, Tyler Reed, the company's director of communications, said in an email. He declined to say how much the company loses from piracy.

Publishers have every reason to fortify their physical textbook sales. Cengage, for example, has set a goal of becoming “90 percent digital” by 2020, but at the moment, the growth that its digital products are posting can’t outweigh the decline it and other publishers are seeing in the print market.

According to Cengage’s results for fiscal year 2017, activations and gross sales of digital courseware products grew by 14 percent and 7 percent, respectively, compared to the previous year. Over all, however, the company reported a 10 percent decline in adjusted revenue over the same time period.

“Even as the industry moves as rapidly as it can to fully digital solutions, the fact remains that print is a very big part of the business today and cannot be ignored,” Joseph J. Esposito, a management consultant who works with publishing and software companies, said in an email. “Piracy is generally associated with digital products, but there have always been (and will always be) print pirates as well.”

Attrition in the print market, which includes lost revenue from students opting for rental books, was the single largest driver of that decline, Cengage said. But other factors also played a role. Piracy shaved off another 3 percent in year-over-year revenue growth, making it as big an issue as higher education enrollment declines.

“The Cengage program is an attempt to create a bulwark around the company’s print revenue,” Esposito wrote. “This does not have to be wholly successful to be financially useful to Cengage, as every pirated copy stopped is potentially a Cengage sale earned.”

Hansen said that in addition to hurting the company, which is unable to invest the revenue into the development of digital course materials, piracy also hurts authors, who don’t earn royalties from sales of counterfeit books, and students, who are unable to access digital supplementary materials that are normally bundled with print books and accessed using a unique code.

The certification seal is a last-ditch effort to protect students, and Cengage hopes to identify counterfeit books before they are sold by working with its partners, Hansen said.

Cengage and McGraw-Hill Education, along with Elsevier and Pearson, previously formed the Education Publisher Enforcement Group to raise awareness about counterfeit books. As part of that initiative, the publishers in March jointly released a set of anti-counterfeit best practices on how textbook distributors can prevent the sale of counterfeit books.

In the cases where students end up buying counterfeit books, Cengage will work with them to ensure they obtain a legitimate copy, for example by offering them discounts to purchase the title directly from the publisher, Hansen said.

Other textbook publishers on Monday said they were committed to combating counterfeiting, though they did not mention specific plans to introduce certification seals.

“Pearson takes piracy and counterfeiting very seriously and is committed to ensuring students get authentic, high-quality course materials when they make a purchase,” Scott Overland, director of media and communities at Pearson, said in a statement. “We are actively working to curb piracy, including developing unique identifier measures that simplify the process of authenticating textbooks.”

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Social media allows for more stalking on college campuses

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

AUSTIN, Tex. -- In one stalking case that Detective Mark Kurkowski handled, a stalker sneaked a cell phone into a woman’s car and hard-wired the phone to the engine. When she turned the car on, the phone would charge. It was set to silent and programmed to automatically answer any call -- a simple, now dated flip phone turned into a way to spy on her anytime.

Methods of stalking have trended toward digital in the age of social media. Offenders can now use any number of platforms -- Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat -- to send unwanted messages and more easily ferret out their victims’ locations at any time -- sometimes because those victims have voluntarily shared them online.

What remains consistent: those stalked most often fall into the traditional college age range -- 18 to 24 -- often forcing administrators to work with law enforcement and remain vigilant of tactics, said Kurkowski, who works in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department on its domestic violence and abuse response team. He investigates stalking regularly.

He presented last week at the annual conference of college health officials, the American College Health Association, offering to them what he called -- in jest -- a road map of how to stalk someone, so they could recognize the signs. Kurkowski urged collaboration among campus officials, police and advocacy groups to combat the crime better.

At least 7.5 million people are stalked every year, according to the Stalking Resource Center, a branch of the nonprofit National Center for Victims of Crime. Of those victims, the highest rates were among teenagers and those in their early 20s. About 30 out of every 1,000 people ages 18 and 19 were stalked, and 28 of every 1,000 for those 20 to 24, per a U.S. Department of Justice report from 2009. In some instances, stalking serves as a warning sign, preceding a much more serious crime -- a rape or murder.

What complicates matters is how regularly students post to social media, Kurkowski said. During his presentation, he rattled off a number of ways that even less digitally adept people can track someone’s movements.

Both Facebook and Twitter allow posters to tag exactly where they’re writing a status or taking a photo. Digital photographs also contain a code that can show exactly where it was taken -- the exact latitude and longitude. Though some websites strip this information when someone publishes it online -- not all, like Tumblr, the blogging site, do.

Law enforcement agencies can ask for records from these social media giants, though the request usually takes quite a while to process, Kurkowski said.

Foursquare was a popular mobile application several years ago that enabled users to publicly check in  at certain places to earn points. It has since been transformed into a more Yelp-style service, but the same company developed a similar app called Swarm.

Kurkowski said that one stalker was following multiple women and would arrive at bars even before they did -- the women couldn’t figure out how he was accomplishing this until it was pointed out they were broadcasting that information online.

“It’s a hard line of saying when not to use it,” Kurkowski said of social media. He added that recently, his department has discouraged leaving those sites entirely because they are so prevalently used to communicate.

“It’s a matter of using it wisely, and using those security controls on the sites. It depends on the individual. You might not need that, but if you’re experiencing stalking behavior, you might need to re-evaluate on some of those sites making yourself safer.”

But faculty members are not immune, despite the crime’s frequency among the younger generation. Kathleen Washburn, an assistant professor of American literary studies at the University of New Mexico, wrote in an American Association of University Professors publication about her experience being stalked.

Anonymous letters and gifts were sent to her mailbox, sometimes months apart, she said. Washburn was unsure of who was delivering them, but she began encountering the same former student all over campus. The correspondence grew unceasing, though at first her colleagues discounted her concern.

Washburn wrote, “I soon learned that many people do not consider stalking to be a ‘real’ crime and are quick to defend open access to public universities in particular. No one should be profiled as a potential criminal simply for going about his or her daily business; establishing a pattern of harassment involves much more than an eager student’s repeated visits to office hours or the coincidence of overlapping schedules. The legal threshold for stalking usually entails both a ‘course of conduct’ by the perpetrator and a ‘standard of fear’ for the victim. Yet one of my colleagues suggested that giving in to fear was the real problem, a perspective that focuses far too much on the emotional state of the person being targeted. Given the high rate of stalking on campus, concerns about it should never be dismissed. Stalking is not simply a personal matter. It is an issue of campus safety.”

States vary in their definitions of stalking, and often universities can punish the behavior before the legal system, highlighting the importance of an institution’s involvement in such cases, Kurkowski said.

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, or simply the Clery Act, requires institutions to report incidents of sexual violence to the federal government, information that is then made publicly available. Stalking was one of the crimes that a 2013 amendment to the law required colleges to track and disclose.

Federal statute also requires colleges and universities give training to incoming students about stalking and where to report it.

Most stalking incidents now involve some form of technology, and in many cases, offenders exploit legal services for their purposes, Kurkowski told the crowd.

Certain applications can change the number that appears on a caller ID to any one the stalker wishes, allowing him or her to mimic a personal number like that of a victim’s mother or father. This is called spoofing -- and stalkers can even pay to have their voices disguised when calling someone else, Kurkowski said.

Though this is rarer, some have been known to attach a GPS device to a victim’s vehicle to monitor their movements, Kurkowski said. Cameras have also shrunk and can be hidden more easily, he said.

In one case, local law enforcement did not believe a victim, a young woman who was being stalked -- a man would enter her house and make cuts on her clothes, on the breast area or rear, Kurkowski said. She set up cameras to try to catch him in the act, however, when she came home one day she found the cameras had been dismantled -- meaning he had already hidden some to watch her.

Though police did not work with the victim in that particular case, campus law enforcement does tend to be more responsive because of requirements of the Clery Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Kurkowski said.

He said he works with academe in his jurisdiction often, and even outside the mandated training, colleges and universities do sponsor events related to stalking. January, for instance, marks Stalking Awareness Month.

“Working together with community members, prosecutors, judges, probation and parole, once we work together is when we can truly protect that victim’s safety, hold our offenders accountable,” Kurkowski said.

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More accommodations for transgender students on the horizon

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 07:00

AUSTIN, Tex. -- Many people don't notice if a restroom is labeled gender neutral. To a transgender student, though, that sign could make the difference about whether they deliberately dehydrate to avoid using the bathroom. A campus doctor asking transgender students their preferred pronoun could reassure them enough to return if they suffer a medical emergency.

Academe nationwide has started identifying small ways to create campuses more welcoming for transgender students as they emerge as a more visible presence and voice their expectations.

But colleges and universities do not all keep to the same pace, depending on support from administrators and the size and will of staff to move on some of these issues. At the annual meeting of campus health professionals here, discussion Friday centered on how to bring simple changes to campuses -- regardless of area political leanings -- that would ensure more inclusivity for transgender students.

These are students who historically grapple with more mental health problems, have a higher rate of contracting a sexually transmitted disease and are sometimes fearful to take advantage of even basic campus services, like a health center.

“Every detail, from pronouns to access to care and access to bathrooms, everything implies the difference between an affirming space where our lives are celebrated and a nonaffirming space,” said Sebastián Colón-Otero, a therapist at the University of Texas at Austin who identifies as a transgender man. “Anything we can do, from changing a brochure to including pronouns in an email, is an incredible step forward.”

Though most studies tend to focus either on transgender adults or transgender youth outside the college-age demographic, the American College Health Association -- which sponsored Friday’s session on transgender students -- administers a countrywide survey of student health, which in 2013 revealed that the transgender population reported more mental health-related issues, as well as harassment, both verbal and physical, compared to their cisgender peers (people whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth).

But 50 percent of those transgender students surveyed also indicated they visited their campus mental health centers or something similar, which could be an outlet for university officials to connect those students to other campus resources, said Jenna Messman, the sexual health programs coordinator at the University of Maryland, College Park. Messman led the talk on Friday.

In a later interview, Messman pointed out that awareness of the transgender community has heightened since about 2014 -- commonly referred to as the “transgender tipping point,” named for the Time magazine cover featuring actress Laverne Cox.

Cox and Olympian and reality star Caitlyn Jenner have commonly been credited with taking transgender issues into the mainstream.

The University of Maryland has introduced a slew of efforts aimed at improving the transgender experience on campus, Messman said during her presentation. Some are significant -- such as ensuring that the student insurance plan can pay for hormone therapy for transgender students. Others simply come by removing references to gender. A campaign about menstrual cups referenced “UMD students” who menstruate, rather than women.

Near men and women’s campus bathrooms there are signs advertising where someone can use a gender-neutral restroom, Messman said.

Her university has stressed measuring how well it has accommodated transgender students, Messman said. She showed off the institution’s rating on the Campus Pride Index, an organization that judges how well universities have met the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer campus population. It’s used often when students and sometimes their families are researching prospective colleges. Maryland earned a 4.5 out of 5 for its LGBTQ accommodations.

Atypically, Maryland also participated in the Human Rights Campaign’s Health Care Quality Index, which generally only measures larger health care systems, like hospitals. The university has been designated by the LGBTQ advocacy group as a “leader in LGBT health-care equality.”

The ACHA has released guidelines for assisting transgender students, namely that they should be offered health insurance for hormones and surgical procedures, and medical records should match their gender identity. The association also urges continual training and drafting transgender-specific medical policies.

Early in her presentation, Messman informally surveyed the audience, asking them how well they felt their institutions addressed transgender students' issues. The results were mixed.

At James Madison University, for instance, the training for their campus peer educators until recently was archaic, as a health-care coordinator from the institution described it. It contained “relics” that often singled out gender, describing hypothetical abusers as “him” only, the coordinator said.

Now, peer educators there start by using their preferred pronouns, normalizing the practice.

At the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, a Candy Land-style game called It’s Not Taboo was developed, said Rebecca Juarez, a wellness coordinator at the university.

The game asks questions about sex, but not just about heterosexual intercourse, Juarez said. It also helps remove some of the awkwardness in talking about some of these issues. The concept garnered great interest among some of the other attendees.

“It’s been really effective in bringing sex down to their level, making it approachable,” Juarez told a small group of officials.

Such small touches can help relax not only transgender students, but also those who might not fit the traditional gender molds, said Colón-Otero, of the University of Texas at Austin. Some women might not fit a feminine stereotype, and some men might not be masculine, he said.

Initiating some of these changes hinges on buy-in from the top -- like the university president who is willing to wear a preferred pronoun on a name tag, Messman said.

Campus politics -- such as religious affiliation -- and size can be barriers, she said. But that’s why in her presentation she suggested tinier changes that can accomplished much more easily. Even if there are only three people staffing a health center, when it comes time to refresh certain forms, they could ensure that the references are gender neutral, Messman said.

Students often rely on their time in college to discover themselves and often come out during that period, she said.

“For some students, they’re coming into contact with vocabulary, terminology and people they never knew,” Messman said. “And they’re saying, ‘This is who I am,’ and being exposed to that. That’s why this is so important.”

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Analysis finds significant drop in humanities majors but gains in liberal arts degrees at community colleges

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 07:00

The number of bachelor's degrees in the humanities conferred in 2015 -- 212,512 -- was down 5 percent from the year before and nearly 10 percent from 2012, the high point for such degrees.

Those figures are from an analysis being published today by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences as part of the organization's Humanities Indicators project.

The trend is likely to alarm humanities professors and many others in academe. Many humanities departments have found themselves struggling to maintain tenure-track faculty lines and, in some cases, to continue departments. Humanities professors are quick to note that their departments play crucial roles in general education for students from a range of majors. But many colleges and universities have been allocating positions and deciding on departmental fates in large part based on numbers of majors.

The humanities also saw a decline in the share of all bachelor's degrees awarded, falling below 12 percent for the first time since data were available that compared degrees awarded by disciplines. The data come from the Education Department's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

Compared to 10 years ago, only engineering, health and medical sciences, and the natural sciences have seen increases in the share of bachelor's degrees awarded.

Humanities saw a decline in the proportion of degrees awarded of 20 percent, while business and management saw a decline of 13 percent and education saw the largest drop at 27 percent.

The humanities' share of all bachelor's degrees was the same at public and private institutions, according to another analysis released by the academy. This represents a shift over the last three decades. It used to be the case that a larger share of bachelor's degrees were awarded by private institutions -- a group that includes many liberal arts colleges -- than by public institutions.

Robert B. Townsend, director of the Washington office of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, said that he began "hearing concerns from faculty eight or nine years ago about declining enrollments" and that he sees the new data as confirming these fears.

He said less is known on what is "shaping students' decisions." He said that he understood the "widespread speculation about a cultural environment that pushes students toward majors with obvious professional outcomes," but he noted that some vocational fields, such as business and education, are also seeing declines.

Among majors within the humanities, the largest declines were among English and history -- disciplines that are traditionally the most popular in the humanities. They saw a combined drop of 10 percent in 2015 and a 16 percent drop from 2012 to 2015.

As the data above show, communication (a field some classify as a social science and not in the humanities, as the academy does) now has more majors than English or history.

Trevor Parry-Giles, director of academic and professional affairs at the National Communication Association, said that many in the discipline have long thought of it as "a hybrid" of the humanities and the social sciences, and that this may be a plus in attracting students.

"We live in a communication age," he said. "Our faculty and our scholars do a nice job of demonstrating the relevance of the major for prospective students."

Parry-Giles also reported that departments are reporting a shift in how people become communication majors. It used to be the case that many majors say communication as "an exit ramp for those who didn't want to finish a business major," but now more are starting off with a plan to major in communication.

Increasing Interest at Community Colleges

Most of the data released today will likely depress humanities professors. But those at community colleges may have reason to celebrate an analysis released on their institutions.

Much of the data about associate degrees at community colleges does not break out majors with the same granularity as can be found for bachelor's degrees. So the data that follow use a combination of degrees, including the popular liberal arts and liberal studies degrees, to track trends in the humanities at community colleges. Almost all of those programs involve substantial instruction in humanities disciplines.

Using that definition of humanities, the study found that 2015 saw a continuation of a trend in which associate degrees conferred in the humanities have increased in number every year since 1987, by an average of 4.3 percent per year.

As a result of that growth, the share of associate degrees awarded in the humanities grew from 25.7 percent to 41.8 percent from 1987 to 2015. Over the same period, the share of associate degrees awarded in vocational and professional fields fell from 55.9 percent to 33.2 percent. (One caveat about these data is that many community college students transfer to four-year institutions without having earned an associate degree.) These trends in associate degrees may be seen in the following graph.

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Evergreen State remains closed amid another threat, and groups frame controversy in different ways

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 07:00

Evergreen State College was hoping for normal operations this week, but the divisions on campus remain visible in the competing statements being issued.

The college has faced weeks of controversy as some minority students have said they are unsafe on campus and called for the firing of a faculty member who spoke out against a campus activity on race and a proposal to evaluate all proposed new faculty positions based on their relevance to equity and diversity efforts. The faculty member was at one point advised by the campus police chief that it would be unsafe for him to be on campus amid reports that some students were engaged in marches around campus to find him.

Amid another development that officials said constituted a "direct threat," the Evergreen State campus was closed on Thursday and Friday.

The Olympian obtained a copy of the threat, which was made to law enforcement. The threat: “Yes, I’m on my way to Evergreen University now with a .44 Magnum. I am gonna execute as many people on that campus as I can get a hold of. You have that? What’s going on there? You communist, scumbag town. I’m going to murder as many people on that campus as I can. Just keep your eyes open, you scumbag.”

The college had hoped to open on schedule today but closed the campus because of another threat received over the weekend.

Evergreen State has long had a reputation for a left-leaning student body, but also for providing a rigorous liberal arts education. The recent controversy, however, has made the college a target for widespread criticism as being politically intolerant. Supporters of protesters insist that they have been unfairly portrayed, while others say the college has failed to stand up for free speech.

Until the board issued a statement on Saturday, Evergreen State officials had largely praised the student protest movement and agreed with the critique on campus that press reports were being unfair to the college.

In its Saturday statement, however, the board said that a minority of those on campus had engaged in uncivil and inappropriate behavior.

"We are deeply committed to ensuring that Evergreen provides a civil, safe campus environment for all," the statement said. "During the last week, the conduct of a small percentage of Evergreen’s community members exhibited unacceptable behavior that is completely contrary to Evergreen’s values. Although almost all of students continued to attend classes and receive the extraordinary education that Evergreen delivers, the lack of tolerance and respect displayed by a few during these recent events and disruptions is indefensible."

Further, the statement said, "Freedom of speech, civil discourse and open debate has been a cornerstone of our country’s history -- and Evergreen’s history. In difficult times, these pillars become even more significant. Intellectual inquiry, freedom of expression, tolerance and inclusiveness are core tenets of Evergreen’s philosophy and approach to education."

The statement also pledged that the board supported the college's recent and planned efforts to enhance diversity and inclusiveness on campus. But the statement cautioned against expecting all changes to take place immediately. "The tumultuous events of the last week have revealed the need to delve further into issues of diversity and equity at Evergreen," the board statement said. "Going forward, the college will take a measured approach, which is crucial to ensure that we respond appropriately, rather than reactively."

The board statement does not name any individuals, but a letter circulating among faculty members, and already signed by more than 50 of them, demands a "disciplinary investigation" of Bret Weinstein, the biology professor who many students have demanded be fired.

Among the reasons Weinstein is controversial is that he opposed the way a campus tradition called the Day of Absence was carried out this year. The day is based on a 1965 play by that name by Douglas Turner Ward. The play is about an imaginary Southern town in which all the black people disappear one day. The idea behind the play is that societies with deeply racist ideas in fact depend on the very people they subjugate. The play is in some sense the inspiration for events like this year's national Day Without Immigrants.

For many years at Evergreen State, minority students and faculty members have observed a Day of Absence in which they meet off campus to discuss campus issues and how to make the college more supportive of all students. Later a Day of Presence reunites various campus groups. Weinstein said he's been aware of the tradition for some time, and never objected to it. But this year, organizers said that on the Day of Absence, they wanted white people to stay off campus. Weinstein opposed this shift, and he posted a message on a campus email list in which he objected to the proposal to ask white people to stay off campus.

"There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and underappreciated roles (the theme of the Douglas Turner Ward play Day of Absence, as well as the recent Women's Day walkout), and a group encouraging another group to go away," Weinstein wrote. "The first is a forceful call to consciousness, which is, of course, crippling to the logic of oppression. The second is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself."

That email led to much criticism of Weinstein, including the demand that he be fired. He and his supporters argue that he is upholding equity in his stance and that -- regardless of what one thinks of the Day of Absence -- objecting to the way it was held this year should not have someone labeled a racist and a target for firing.

The faculty letter criticizes the way Weinstein has spoken out about the situation to many journalists, saying that his recounting of events has been unfair (a charge he denies). "Weinstein has endangered faculty, staff and students, making them targets of white supremacist backlash by promulgating misinformation in public emails, on national television, in news outlets and on social media," the letter says.

The letter also calls for the college to support the student protest movement. "We acknowledge that all of us who have power within the institution share responsibility for the racist actions of others. Furthermore, those of us who are white bear a particularly large share of that responsibility," the letter says.

On social media, students involved in the protest movement have made much of the way conservative websites have jumped on the Evergreen State controversy, frequently using words like "mob" to describe the way student groups have demanded Weinstein's ouster.

But as word of the controversy has spread (along with videos showing the protest activities), criticism of the protest movement has also come from liberals.

Writing in The New York Times on Sunday, the liberal columnist Frank Bruni said that students are correct that campuses and society need to do more to fight racism. But he added, "We’re never going to make the progress that we need to if they hurl the word 'racist' as reflexively and indiscriminately as some of them do, in a frenzy of righteousness aimed at gagging speakers and strangling debate."

He wrote that Weinstein's campus statements were "a reasonable perspective and a prompt for discussion, not fury." Bruni's headline for his column: "These Campus Inquisitions Must Stop."

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Why did UNC call off course based on Chapel Hill athletic-academic scandal?

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 07:00

Three years after a major report revealed the scope of academic fraud at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill -- 3,100 students over two decades, many of them athletes -- some allege the university may still be trying to cover it up.

Jay Smith, a professor of history who developed a course on universities and big-time athletics, including the UNC scandal, says the university won’t allow him to offer the class this year over concerns about “blowback.”

“I wasn't surprised that administrators were unhappy that I was teaching this course, but I was genuinely surprised that they were brazen enough to quash it in the way that they did,” Smith said. UNC may have “the most ham-handed administrators in all of higher education. It's embarrassing.”

Last summer and fall, Smith taught a course called Big-Time College Sports and the Rights of Athletes, 1956 to the Present, which is based in part on his research for 2015’s Cheated. Smith co-wrote the book with Mary Willingham, a former UNC learning specialist and whistle-blower in the scandal over nonexistent “paper classes” to boost students’, especially athletes’, academic records.

The class was popular and Smith wanted to offer it again this fall. But Smith -- backed by emails first obtained and published by The News & Observer -- suggests he was prevented from doing so over administrative fears it would make the institution look bad all over again.

UNC says faculty members maintain control over the curriculum. While the College of Arts and Sciences is currently reviewing all course offerings as part of a strategic planning process, it says, administrative pressure was not a factor in the fate of Smith’s class.

Smith has no written “smoking gun” that the college quashed his course. In mid-2016, though, when he pitched the new course for the fall, his department chair wrote to him saying he was “more than willing to fight for your right to teach this course in the regular academic year (or whenever you would like to do so). But I suspect that there will be resistance from the usual suspects. I have no idea about on what basis the higher administration can interfere in course scheduling but I anticipate that they will try to do so.”

The course was offered that fall. But Smith says that college-level administrators worked to block him from again offering the course in fall 2017, despite initially seeming amendable to putting it on the schedule. Smith, for example, documented a 2016 conversation with Kevin Guskiewicz, his dean, in an email to him that reads, in part, “I wanted to restate the main takeaways from the meeting, just to be sure that we're on the same page for all of them. Even though I had been given to believe that you'd been feeling pressure from outside the [campus] to get my 383 course off the schedule for next year, you said that no such pressure had been applied. And you added that, as far as you were concerned, the history department and I could go ahead and schedule the 383 if we believed that the course was consistent with department needs and did not disrupt the department's ‘strategic plan’ in any way.”

Guskiewicz responded that a colleague would be discussing the matter with his chair. And the next day, Smith says, that chair notified him in person he was sorry he’d have to keep the sports course off the schedule for this year.

A majority of Smith's department colleagues have signed an open letter asserting that he and his course "were singled out for unprecedented and adverse scrutiny."

"The suppression of [the course] clearly violates this standard and threatens the university’s reaccreditation," the letter says. "We see it as a serious infringement of freedom of inquiry, a fundamental feature of intellectual life in every authentic university." Contrary to some accounts, it adds, "it is clear to us that this was not an autonomous 'chair's decision.'"

The history chair, W. Fitzhugh Brundage, William B. Umstead Distinguished Professor, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He reportedly told The News & Observer that he and college deans had an understanding that the course would be offered again in 2018, and that he didn’t know where the “blowback” was coming from. “Obviously there is someone somewhere who is troubled by the course,” however, he added.

Bubba Cunningham, UNC’s athletic director, reportedly was concerned about the course, responding to a 2016 athletics training center tour request from Smith by offering to teach the class himself.

“Given that I have a M.B.A. and 20 years of relevant, practical experience in intercollegiate athletics, I believe I would be better suited to teach this class,” Cunningham wrote in one of the emails published by The News & Observer. He also initially rejected the tour request, saying Smith was “divisive” in his public comments and therefore could make students and staff too uncomfortable.

Smith invited Cunningham to speak to his class but otherwise responded, “Sorry, I’m the historian. And I’m the guy who went to the trouble of creating the course, getting it approved through all the proper channels, and getting it added to the history department’s listing of courses.”

Cunningham scheduled a tour for Smith’s class after the professor complained to UNC’s chancellor and provost, but didn’t speak to students.

Guskiewicz, the college dean and a concussion expert who reportedly hosted Smith’s class last year at his research center, told the Raleigh, N.C., newspaper that scheduling decisions are “entirely up to the department chair.”

Joanne Peters Denny, UNC spokesperson, said the university "offers hundreds of courses on a wide variety of subjects. We always stand by the rights of our faculty to express their views in the spirit of academic freedom."

Smith said the situation “adds to the embarrassing manner in which UNC has handled the entire athletic-academic scandal,” including legal arguments the university has made in its defense to the National Collegiate Athletic Association. It’s all the more reason his course should be offered, he said.

“A self-respecting university with nothing to hide would not try to suppress open discussion about its own recent past,” he said. “For students, though, the course is also valuable because it historicizes and contextualizes an institution and a phenomenon -- big-time college sports -- to which they are all devoted in various ways.”

Despite administrative fears, Smith said, just about 20 percent of the course is devoted to UNC. There’s a history of college sports, a discussion of their inherent power dynamics and, most importantly, he said, students “learn how powerless the athletes in the system really are, and how subject to abuse and exploitation they have become over the past half century, as the financial stakes of the operation have steadily expanded.”

Addressing some arguments that he’s too “biased” to teach the course, Smith said passion for one’s subject matter is always a good thing. “Should my feminist female colleagues not be permitted to teach about the history of feminism? Should Southerners be prevented from teaching about the history of the American South?” he asked. “Are these questions not absurd? The people who ask them should be embarrassed.”

Willingham, Smith’s co-author on Cheated, and now a literacy director at KIPP Delta Public Schools in Arkansas, said that Smith's course “undermines the legal position of UNC towards the NCAA,” and described athletics as apparently still "in charge" of the campus.

"Ironic how UNC allowed athletes to enroll in bogus paper classes to protect eligibility and graduation rates for more than two decades," she added, "while canceling a popular real class on the history of athletes' rights."

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University of Missouri System tries to turn cuts into a new direction

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 07:00

Faculty leaders reacted with a mix of caution and optimism Friday after University of Missouri System President Mun Choi outlined a series of substantial budget reductions, employee cuts and reallocations across the system’s four campuses, many of which will significantly impact the struggling flagship in Columbia.

Cuts and layoffs have been expected for weeks because of decreases in state funding for the system and declining enrollment. But Choi, who started as president in March, is seeking to go farther, reallocating some funding to try to reposition the system for the future. For example, new faculty members will be hired in some key areas, even as some faculty positions are cut.

The goal is to make tough decisions now in order to serve students and protect faculty research, Choi said.

“We could have just sat back, complained about the budget cut, complained about the enrollment drop,” Choi said during a meeting in which he described the changes. “But the message from the community was resounding in that they wanted us to move forward to make bold decisions that strengthened the university.”

The system is facing an 8 percent reduction in state appropriations -- $35.9 million​ -- in the 2018 fiscal year. Costs that cannot be avoided, such as building maintenance, are also expected to rise by $15 million. Tuition revenue across the system is expected to drop by $11 million -- although that number obscures that fact that two campuses are expected to post tuition gains offset by a decline at the flagship in Columbia of $10 million and a decline at the University of Missouri St. Louis of $5.6 million.

Systemwide, 474 administration, faculty and staff positions are being eliminated. About half of those jobs are currently vacant, Choi said. It is difficult for the system to make any changes to its budget without affecting employees because about 80 percent of its budget is made up of personnel costs.

The cuts are set to hit the University of Missouri Columbia hardest. It will lose 307 positions, 135 of which are faculty positions.

The University of Missouri Kansas City will lose 51 positions, 29 of them faculty. Missouri University of Science and Technology will lose 50 positions but no faculty spots. The University of Missouri St. Louis will lose 30 positions, 16 of them faculty.

Meanwhile, the system offices will lose 36 positions, including 16 administrators. The cuts include closing the system’s federal relations offices in Washington and restructuring its government relations efforts at the state level.

Choi is calling for another $39 million in strategic investments. Redirecting how money is spent will enable the system to hire 212 faculty members across the system -- 161 in Columbia, 25 in Kansas City, 19 in St. Louis and seven at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

The budget announcement comes after weeks of planning. Choi earlier this year told campus leaders to draw up plans for budget cuts of between 8 percent and 12 percent to compensate for state funding cuts and falling enrollment.

Enrollment has been hit particularly hard in Columbia. The flagship campus is expecting its smallest freshman class in two decades this fall -- 4,000, down by about 14 percent year over year and by about a third from 2015. Its overall enrollment is projected to decline 7.4 percent. University leaders have blamed the enrollment decline on a decreasing number of high school graduates and on fallout from turmoil in the fall of 2015, when students protested what they saw as a culture of racism on the Columbia campus, leading to the eventual resignation of then president Tim Wolfe and then Columbia chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.

Plans call for finding efficiencies and eliminating duplications across the system. For instance, three campuses use the Canvas learning management system and one uses Blackboard, Choi said. They could all be placed on the same system. Plans also call for cutting some programs and looking at consolidations between campus academic programs. For instance, plans call for cuts to theater programming at Kansas City and closing some centers and institutes at the flagship campus.

“We can’t be all things to all people,” Choi said. “We have, across the four campuses, 400 majors. We duplicate majors from campus to campus. In some cases we may say if you want to study this particular discipline, you may want to consider this campus as opposed to coming to our campus here. We cannot afford to have programs in which we don’t provide the highest level of student success.”

Faculty members will need to be consulted for such programmatic changes to be considered legitimate, said Ben Trachtenberg, an associate professor of law and the chair of the University of Missouri Columbia Faculty Council.

Trachtenberg was not surprised by the details released Friday, although he expressed regret that some employees were losing their jobs. The administration has not declared financial exigency, and no tenured or tenured-track faculty members are being laid off, he said. Some tenured and tenure-track faculty jobs are not being filled after retirements or departures for other jobs, though.

There is reason for optimism that the current budget plans can lead to long-term planning for the future after years of turnover in leadership positions, Trachtenberg said.

“For a very long time, people at this university who have been paying attention have complained that we have done a lot of budgeting decisions almost by accident,” he said. “I would say the university cannot avoid making values-based decisions about what we want to do if we’re going to go in the right direction. Otherwise we’re going to go in the direction of happenstance.”

Some faculty members have pointed out that the Columbia campus is in line for a larger share of cuts than other campuses, Trachtenberg said. But he pointed out that the state funding cuts have been spread evenly across the system, that Columbia is by far the largest institution in the system and that it is experiencing a steep drop in enrollment.

“It’s going to be hard to justify saying to the other campus in the system -- as much as I’m a Mizzou partisan -- because Mizzou has an enrollment decline, we’re going to fill up a sack of money in Kansas City and bring it to Columbia,” he said.

It’s unpleasant to go through cuts, said Gerald Wyckoff, a professor of molecular biology and biochemistry who chairs the Faculty Senate at the University of Missouri Kansas City. But he pointed out that the campus has a mission to serve the students and its region.

“The declining state support for that mission is challenging,” Wyckoff said. “But we have to help the students be the people that they want to be and help the region grow, and that’s the idea. Nobody’s happy about it, and there’s certainly cuts that people would prefer not to see. But we’ve got to take the opportunity to make the changes we need.”

Wyckoff was concerned about the possibility of eliminating programs at Kansas City. Some students won’t be able to travel for a particular program, meaning they might not be served, he said.

Across the state, the University of Missouri St. Louis has been working to realign its budget for a year and a half, said Pamela Stuerke, a professor of accounting who is the chair of the university’s Faculty Senate and University Assembly.

“I’m hopeful,” Stuerke said. “We’re not so much seeing this as cuts as we’re seeing it as a realignment and re-envisioning.”

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Health survey for faculty, staff first of its kind

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 07:00

AUSTIN, Tex. -- Most professors and other university staffers say they're in good health, but some can identify instances of workplace bullying, according to the results of a broad new pilot study unveiled here Thursday.

The study, developed by an American College Health Association coalition, in part mirrors another widely administered survey, also by the ACHA, that focuses on student wellness -- the National College Health Assessment. That survey allows all the colleges and universities that participate to glean information about their own student population, but also to compare it to the larger pool of institutions that participate.

The National Faculty Staff Health Assessment, meanwhile, is being touted as the first of its kind to offer such a deep look at the health of university employees, a comprehensive examination of both their physical and mental well-being, while also recording demographic information.

Student campus climate surveys are quite common. But few health assessments exist for employees beyond the ones delivered through human resources, and often those are required for insurance purposes and concentrate just on the individual, said Nikki Brauer, the director of health promotion and wellness at Illinois State University. Brauer also chairs the ACHA’s faculty and staff health and wellness coalition.

The faculty and staff assessment is still being tweaked. The data released Thursday were based on a survey of just four institutions -- all four-year, three public and one private -- for a total of nearly 2,090 faculty and staff members, including adjunct professors. They completed the survey between December and April.

More than 86 percent of those who responded rated their overall health as excellent, very good, or good.

A little more than 67 percent indicated they either agreed or strongly agreed that their college or university cared about their health and well-being.

“We weren’t really surprised by what they said,” Brauer said in an interview.

More than a quarter of responders observed some “uncivil” behaviors among their coworkers, though. About 34 percent said they had seen phone calls and emails ignored; 31 percent indicated they had noticed someone being given the “silent treatment,” and a little more than 29 percent said that someone had taken credit for another’s work.

Nearly half of the people who answered the survey said they'd witnessed gossip about another coworker.

A very small percentage -- around 6 percent -- indicated they had observed what they considered verbal abuse. Not even 1 percent reported noticing physical or sexual abuse.

Brauer had little to say about those particular findings other than noting them in her presentation Thursday.

The survey also measured alcohol and tobacco use. On one question that asked if the respondent in the last two weeks had consumed more than five drinks in two hours, overwhelmingly people said no. A vast majority of respondents indicated they had never consumed any form of tobacco, including cigarettes and cigars, e-cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco.

Those who worked on the survey received a deluge of feedback on additional questions to ask, particularly concerning questions regarding life circumstances and gender and sexuality.

Survey respondents wanted questions about pregnancy and to respond in more depth when the survey asked about their marital status or whom they lived with. Many wanted a “spouse” option added on both the questions about living arrangement and marital status, as well as an “engaged” option.

While many were pleased that the survey did include inquiries about gender and sexuality, some believed that the question about gender assigned at birth was offensive, the presenters said. Indeed, many transgender people do not wish to discuss their past classification.

Questions around whether someone identified as transgender seemed to get a little muddled. Though 52 indicated they identified as transgender, when asked on a separate question about which term they used to describe their gender identity, only one person said transwoman, and none said transman.

Some did find the survey too invasive, or too lengthy, according to the presenters.

The survey is intended to launch spring 2018.

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Research advocates push back on Trump proposal but don't see imminent cuts to university research in Congress

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 07:00

Advocates for university-based research are working hard to make sure Congress doesn't buy into what they say is a specious argument made by the Trump administration: that the federal government can cut reimbursement payments to research institutions without undermining the quality of the studies themselves.

In March, after the release of the White House's skinny budget for the 2018 fiscal year, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told congressional appropriators that large proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health could be covered by reducing indirect-cost payments to universities. The complete budget proposal released by the Trump administration last week spelled out those lower reimbursement rates for NIH -- payments for indirect costs would be capped at 10 percent of an NIH grant value. That approach, the administration said, would bring reimbursement rates in line with those made to private foundations.

"Increasing efficiencies within the NIH is a priority of the administration," said budget justification documents released by the White House last week.

To date, Congress hasn’t indicated serious interest in pursuing the kind of major cutback in those payments staked out by the Trump administration in its 2018 budget proposal. A House of Representatives panel on research and technology last week took up the issue of how those indirect costs are negotiated -- a matter that has drawn periodic interest from Capitol Hill.

Republicans on the subcommittee expressed interest in streamlining those facilities and maintenance costs -- often referred to as overhead payments -- to provide more direct funding for research. University representatives cautioned that any reduction in federal funding could result in less research.

Tony DeCrappeo, president of the Council on Governmental Relations, said GOP lawmakers appeared to be in a fact-finding mode in their approach to the issue.

“I didn't hear anyone say [they support] what the budget calls for, which is to dramatically reduce or eliminate payments in order to cut the NIH budget,” he said. “I didn't get that message from anyone.”

Even though lawmakers haven’t endorsed the proposal to cap reimbursement rates, advocates for university-based research are concerned enough about its inclusion in the White House budget that they are actively looking to make the case for the value of those payments. Cutting those payments, they say, is the same thing as reducing support for research, because it would force universities to shoulder more of the costs of experiments.

And there are enough members of Congress elected since the last major fight over indirect costs that advocates see good reason to spend time pushing back against the White House proposal.

“You can’t conduct cutting-edge medical research without high-tech facilities, utilities, hazardous-waste disposal and specialized maintenance and regulatory compliance personnel,” Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities, said of the White House budget. “This proposal guts NIH support for these research costs. If enacted, the proposal will literally turn out the lights in labs where universities have no other funding to pay for these essential research infrastructure and operating expenses.”

Jennifer Poulakidas, vice president for congressional and governmental affairs at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said misperceptions remain in Congress about how university research is paid for -- enough for the group to spend serious energy making a case against drastically altering the current reimbursement system.

"It's very much a top-tier concern for us," she said.

Barbara Comstock, a Virginia Republican and chairwoman of the House subcommittee on research and technology, said last week that it was important to see if it’s possible to streamline overhead costs “so that more money can go directly into research.”

Congress and federal watchdogs have periodically taken an interest in questioning how those payments are made and whether the formula for reimbursing universities for research costs should be altered. And the GOP hasn’t been alone in pushing for changes to the current system: the Obama administration said at one point it was considering implementing an unspecified flat rate for all institutions. But after serious pushback by large research universities, it abandoned the idea.

Decades earlier, government auditors found that Stanford University had misused reimbursements to pay for costs related to a yacht and for decorations for its then president’s house. The university saw its reimbursement rate curtailed severely; other institutions made voluntary corrections, and the government implemented a number of new regulations on the payments. Those included a 26 percent cap on administrative costs that applies only to universities and not other grant recipients.

A 2013 Government Accountability Office report found that from 2002 to 2012, the growth of those indirect costs at the National Institutes of Health slightly outpaced that of direct costs over the same period. It recommended that the agency assess how to deal with the growth of those costs potentially limiting funding available for research. NIH argued that those costs have remained a stable percentage of its overall budget.

The House Science, Space and Technology committee has no jurisdiction over the NIH, but it pushed GAO to discuss preliminary findings from an analysis due in the fall of overhead payments to NSF grant recipients. However, John Neumann, director of natural resources and environment at GAO, cautioned that lawmakers should not jump to conclusions about those early findings.

And research advocates counter that those reimbursements don’t come close to covering the full amount universities spend on research costs. A 2015 NSF survey frequently cited by the American Association of Universities found that institutions made $4.9 billion in unreimbursed facilities and administrative expenditures that year.

Each university negotiates reimbursement rates for indirect costs ahead of time with either the NIH or the Office of Naval Research covering periods of three to six years. Those rates vary widely from institution to institution, driven by factors including the type of research work conducted and the geographic location of the campus.

The biggest research powerhouses -- including universities like Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Johns Hopkins University -- typically negotiate the highest reimbursement rates for indirect costs. Critics of the current indirect costs arrangement say the wide variation of rates is evidence of an unfair system that favors those well-resourced institutions. Comstock said in last week’s hearing that it raises the question “of whether or not we have inadvertently created a system of have and have-nots, where wealthy institutions benefit the most.”

But even leaders at universities with smaller research portfolios say a proposal like the one in the White House budget would have negative effects for all institutions. The University of Oregon is in the midst of building a new research campus, using a $500 million gift from Phil and Penny Knight. David Conover, the university's vice president for research and innovation, said a reduction in reimbursement rates would undermine the whole purpose of investing in those new facilities.

"The university would have no incentive to do what we’re doing in terms of adding buildings and new technology, and bringing in the best scientists the world," he said. "None of that would be feasible if there was no ability to reimburse the university for just a portion of the costs associated with operating the buildings."

DeCrappeo of the Council on Governmental Relations said a flat rate that significantly lowers reimbursements on par with the Trump proposal could conceivably hurt institutions with smaller research portfolios as much as the big-name universities.

“That could create more of a concentration than there currently exists,” he said. “You could argue that a large private institution, if they chose to do so, might be able to withstand that a little bit longer.”

Barry Bozeman, a professor of public affairs at Arizona State University who studies how the federal government funds university-based research, said the current system is archaic but added that the White House proposal is "absolutely draconian and would have disastrous effects.”

And Bozeman said he is skeptical that reductions in indirect cost payments would lead to more funding for researchers themselves. Before changing policy on those reimbursements, he said Congress should commission research on the real costs of university research and the implications of indirect costs for investigators, university budgets and the scientific enterprise as a whole.

"If you're going to keep the doors open at a university, you have to have resources," Bozeman said. "If they don't come from one place, they have to come from another. This is a big resource."

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University of California plan links first-generation students with similar professors

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 07:00

Rebecca Covarrubias, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, didn’t plan on being a professor. She wasn’t even sure she’d attend college. Her Phoenix-area family was tight-knit and supportive, but no one at home had attended college before her, and Covarrubias was mostly focused on making money after high school. Yet she applied to the University of Arizona because her friends were doing it, got a full scholarship based on her academic record and decided to take the opportunity.

Once Covarrubias got to campus, she wasn’t sure how to “do” college, either. She didn’t attend office hours or attempt to connect with professors because she didn’t know that was important.

She learned, of course. But years later, Covarrubias is trying to help make college a little easier for first-generation students as the Santa Cruz campus faculty lead on the University of California’s systemwide First-Gen Faculty campaign.

The initiative, which encourages instructors on campus to identify themselves via T-shirts, buttons and other means as the first in their families to graduate from a four-year institution, starts next week during Santa Cruz's Student Success Week. Fifty-four professors have signed on so far, along with dozens other faculty supporters.

Systemwide, some 800 faculty participants are expected to wear First-Gen Faculty shirts and share their experiences with their students across nine undergraduate campuses during the first week of classes this fall.

Janet Napolitano, system president, said in a statement that by training faculty members to connect with undergraduates “unfamiliar with college culture -- and ensuring that these faculty are highly visible on across UC’s campuses -- UC aims to connect first-generation students with the tools necessary for academic success, to foster a sense of belonging and ownership among this critical student population, and to ensure that UC continues to serve as an engine of economic mobility for our diverse population of undergraduates.”

At Santa Cruz, Covarrubias said, “We’re already having students contact us, thanking us for creating something like that -- for being so transparent. It’s basic but it’s super meaningful and impactful. When students feel less intimidated, the more we can bridge those divides that might exist.”

First-Gen Faculty is mostly a visibility campaign, for now. The idea is that first-generation students can seek out professors with similar experiences as role models or mentors. Faculty members can share advice and alert students to essential campus services. Covarrubias expects that the campaign will evolve into lunch meetings for first-generation students and faculty members, so that they can meet outside the classroom, as well. She’s also helping to organize faculty training on first-generation issues for later this summer. Individual campuses will share best practices with each other, as faculty and staff education on issues central to first-generation students is part of the systemwide initiative.

Another long-term program goal is to move conversations about first-generation students beyond just their deficits.

“These students are not just lacking something, but in so many cases come with additional strengths,” Covarrubias said. Sometimes they’re parents who are managing households themselves, or students who are helping their own parents or caregivers with child care, budgeting, translation and supplemental income, she added.

Reframing the conversation also means recognizing what a successful student looks like. Many professors tend to consider highly confident, talkative, individualistic pupils as engaged, Covarrubias said, but engagement comes in different forms, shaped both by culture and personal experience.

Martin Berger, vice president for academic affairs at Santa Cruz, said that focusing on first-generation students “is one of the most important things that the U.S. should be doing in the 21st century.”

To “unlock the full potential of the country, you need to do more than educate the same elite population generation after generation,” he added. “Doing so limits our ability to innovate and problem solve. The more heterogeneous our approach, the more creative our solutions.”

Some 42 percent of University of California System students are the first in their families to attend a four-year college or university.

Karen Kelsky, an academic career consultant and moderator of the "Professor Is In" blog, said she'd never heard of a program like California's and approved of the concept, in that it "would help first-gen faculty and graduate students as well. In my work I constantly talk to and hear from first-gen Ph.D. students who struggle to understand the unspoken codes of the academy."

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Librarian behind list of 'predatory' publishers still faces harassment online

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 07:00

Months after an academic librarian deleted lists of “predatory” journals and publishers from his blog, a website with derogatory comments about his academic qualifications and mental health remains online.

Jeffrey Beall, scholarly communications librarian at the University of Colorado at Denver, for years maintained lists of scholarly journals and publishers he deemed “predatory” -- meaning they abused open-access publishing practices for their own monetary gain. The lists, while controversial -- one publisher threatened to sue Beall for $1 billion -- were a resource for many scholars wondering if the invitation to publish a paper or present at a conference sitting in their inbox was legitimate.

Beall in January removed the lists from his blog, scholarlyoa.com, reportedly because he “was forced to shut down [the] blog due to threats and politics.” Beall has declined to speak publicly about the decision.

Scholarlyoa.net, however (note the different top-level domain), remains. The website, which records show was created in 2014, bills itself as a “critical analysis of Jeffrey Beall’s blog [on] open-access publishing.” Beall’s own blog came with the tagline “Critical analysis of scholarly open-access publishing.” (Further quotes from the website have not been edited for grammar and spelling errors.)

“Beall is a so-called self-proclaimed journal critic who openly criticized and has attempted to discredit many Open Access Journals,” the “About Us” section of the website reads. “This campaign is part of a larger campaign to destroy Scholarly Open Access journals. … Beall’s conspiracy against the open access movement must end.”

The website goes on to label Beall an “academic terrorist,” a “predatory blogger” and an “alcoholic and drug addict” who “utilizes his blog to extort open access journal publishers to feed his drug habits.” It features several photos of Beall that appear to be taken from the university's website and Beall's social media profiles.

In its “About Jeffrey Beall” section, the website questions Beall’s academic credentials and accuses him of being “a huge cost to the University of Colorado system.” Another section mocks his criteria for determining whether a journal or publisher should be considered “predatory,” suggesting Beall is “suffering from some undiagnosed mental disorder.”

The website is now one of the top results when searching Beall’s name online. The domain was registered privately, meaning that information about who created the website is withheld from public view.

Friends of Open Access, the anonymous group behind the website, describe themselves as a “group of librarians across the world, honoring intellectual freedom and advocating freedom of expression with an opposition to censorship.” During 2015 and 2016, the group regularly updated the website with blog posts about Beall. The last entry was published on Feb. 27, 2016.

The home page appears to have been updated following Beall's decision to delete the lists. “Beall doubles down..,” the website reads. “Predatory blog shutdown. Jeffrey Beall will be criminally prosecuted in USA for fraud, extortion, bribery and money laundering.”

In a disclaimer, the group writes that the website and its assertions “constitute free speech,” comparing it to a book review. “In our opinion, Jeffrey Beall’s Open access blog is a very low quality blog, and potential researchers can benefit from our review about Beall’s blog,” the disclaimer reads.

Inside Higher Ed sent questions to the email address listed on the website and received a reply from someone who signed off using the group’s name.

“So-called bogus Beal [sic] list is still around the web,” the group said in response to a question about why, after Beall deleted the lists, the website is still up. “Therefore we need to keep this website active to expose Beall's conspiracy and corrupt practices. Beall is a[n] academic terrorist and professional scammer, may can [sic] emerge in a different form. Be vigilant.”

Roger C. Schonfeld, director of the scholarly communication program for the research and consulting group Ithaka S+R, said in an interview that the email and website read as though they were not written by librarians, but by someone whose business or personal interests were affected by Beall’s lists.

Schonfeld acknowledged that opinions on Beall’s work are sharply divided. “Lots of people have felt that his work has had a lot of value, but a lot of people have felt it’s the wrong approach and that it unfairly stigmatizes open access,” he said. “But all that said, the specific way that this website addresses the issues in calling someone an ‘academic terrorist’ -- it just doesn’t seem to me that, even anonymously, a professional librarian would say that about a peer.”

A spokesperson for the university said in an email that she was not aware of the website, but that she had forwarded the information to Beall and the university’s legal team. Beall, in a separate email, said, “Already seen it.”

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Pulse podcast features interview with Ken Hartman, online learning veteran

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 07:00

This month's episode of the Pulse podcast features an interview with Ken Hartman, a veteran of the online learning and currently CEO of Degree Quest.

In the conversation with the Pulse's host, Rodney B. Murray, Hartman -- past president of Drexel Online, amid other roles -- discusses various aspects of online education, including enrollment trends, judging quality, faculty development and the use of data analytics.

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

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

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University of Dallas struggles to find expansion direction amid questions of identity and curriculum

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 07:00

The University of Dallas has backed away from a controversial proposal to wade into adult degree completion -- a proposal that roiled the liberal arts university over much of the last year.

The proposal isn’t dead yet. But it has been moved behind a pair of other expansion ideas some see as a better fit for the private Roman Catholic university, which has long embraced an expansive core undergraduate curriculum rooted in the classics. Many faculty members worried an adult degree-completion program would not uphold the spirit or content of that core curriculum.

They also wondered whether the university’s resources could be better spent elsewhere. The University of Dallas is in better financial shape than many other small private liberal arts colleges, several of which have had to slash budgets and lay off employees. Some have suggested that Dallas could try to boost fund-raising to position itself for a stronger future.

Administrators, however, say the university is highly dependent on tuition and faces growing financial pressures in coming years. In their view, the university needs to find new sources of tuition revenue, and adult degree completion is a potentially promising path. They plan to continue to study the idea, and some hope it can lead to a way to expand the liberal arts in a new age with new sets of students.

In short, the debate is continuing to play out at the University of Dallas. And it has laid bare the fact that even strong and solvent liberal arts universities can struggle with an identity crisis in today’s fast-changing higher education market.

A Year of Debate

Faculty members reported first learning of the controversial proposal at the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year. Debate ebbed and flowed throughout the year, reaching high intensity this spring.

The university’s president, Thomas W. Keefe, acknowledged the idea has been enveloped in drama. But he said that Dallas needs to explore new ideas.

The university has successfully grown from 317 freshmen in the fall of 2009 to 430 expected in the upcoming fall, Keefe said. It is expected to break even on a $60 million budget next year.

Yet it is highly dependent on undergraduate tuition and will not be viable forever at its current size of 1,400 undergraduates and 1,000 graduate students. Health care costs are rising rapidly. The university’s tuition discount rate is too high at 57 percent, according to Keefe. He projects a financial crunch unless the university can find new sources of revenue within five years.

Therefore, the university needs to explore a variety of options to set itself up for the future, Keefe said. One of those options is a program for adult students who want to return to college to earn four-year degrees.

“What I want us to do is be agile enough to recognize we need to look for opportunities,” Keefe said. “If you have a good academic enterprise -- a great academic enterprise like we have -- then there have to be more opportunities for us to share this.”

Keefe does not want to put any program in place that would affect the academic integrity of the university, he said. Nor would he start one before feeling sure it would be financially viable.

Currently, the adult completion idea is under additional study. An ad hoc committee is examining it in depth. Enrollment administrators are reaching out to local corporations to see if they have employees who would enroll in a degree-completion program. The university is also studying the Dallas-Fort Worth area to gauge how many adults have some college credits but no degrees, and they are trying to determine how many such adults would be interested in earning degrees.

The ad hoc committee is being led by the dean of the university’s School of Ministry, Ted Whapham. Its first question is whether an adult degree-completion program fits with the University of Dallas mission, Whapham said.

“I am hoping we will be able to calm the water a little bit, look at the issue from all sides,” he said. “It can’t simply be a question of an adult completion program. It would have to be precisely a University of Dallas degree-completion program.”

Other key questions are whether the program could actually generate new revenue and whether it could operate without significantly affecting other university operations, Whapham said. He doesn’t yet know what level of revenue or enrollment a new program would need to be viable.

Whapham sees his committee as having the chance to ask what a liberal arts education means today and will mean in 15 years.

“I think that the often-cited gap between professional education and a liberal arts education -- I think it’s kind of overblown,” he said. “This ongoing process of reflecting on what does it mean to undertake a liberal arts education in general, and more specifically what does it mean to undertake a liberal arts education in 2017 or for 2020 or 2030 in the United States -- these are the questions I find exciting. I find them important.”

Alternative Views

Many don’t see it that way, and they have gone public with their objections. For example, Christopher Malloy, an associate professor of theology, wrote an opinion piece in April in the university’s student newspaper saying that the proposal is well intended but fiscally imprudent and counterproductive.

“The insinuation that UD should begin serving in a radically new way represents mistaken judgment, and to goad a reluctant staff towards such change would constitute bad leadership,” he wrote. “The metroplex has many needs, to be sure. But does that mean we as an institution should neglect our proven post to undertake something completely different?”

Malloy wrote at a time when the adult degree-completion program was being discussed as its own college. University leaders have backed away from that idea, leaving open the possibility that it could be a program within an existing college if it is created.

Some faculty members could be more open to plans that do not call for the creation of a new college. Still, that wouldn’t necessarily address their most basic concerns.

“It’s the question of identity,” said William Frank, a professor of philosophy who chaired the university’s Faculty Senate for the past three years. “I need to explain something that is particular to the University of Dallas. It has a very distinctive approach to education at every level.”

That approach includes a strong commitment to Roman Catholic intellectual and spiritual heritage, Frank said. It also includes a strong liberal arts education.

Everyone who receives an undergraduate degree at the university goes through the curriculum referred to as “the Core.” The curriculum includes courses in English, history, philosophy, theology, economics, politics, science, mathematics, language and fine arts taken in sequence. In total, it is listed at 19 courses.

“There are very few options in there,” Frank said. “When they take philosophy, they take three named courses. And the first philosophy course becomes the foundation for the second. You have no idea how wonderful it is to teach somebody that third philosophy class.”

Some faculty members fear a new adult degree-completion program wouldn’t adhere to the same high standards. If, for instance, the program focuses on bringing in students who already have two-year degrees, it would be impossible for those students to complete the existing core curriculum while studying any other subjects over two years.

An early idea was to offer adult students completing their degrees some sort of 60-credit-hour program. It would try to deliver the spirit of the core curriculum over five courses.

“The university would be introducing a paradigm which is wholly different,” Frank said. “Some say it would cheapen the more common degree, because they’ll both have bachelor’s degrees from the University of Dallas.”

Faculty members also worry that other universities in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex already operate better-established programs for adults.

However, it might be possible for the University of Dallas to create a new program in liberal studies that would stand out, Frank said. The idea is to essentially turn the current core curriculum into a major for adult returning students.

Other faculty members believe that there could be a place for an adult degree-completion program but that it cannot be the university’s only path to continued financial stability. Blake Frank is an associate professor in the university’s College of Business. Blake Frank -- who is not related to William Frank -- is also a member of the university’s Faculty Senate and recently finished a term as its vice chair.

“I don’t think we can hang our cap on one thing that would be the white knight in terms of being the savior program,” he said. “There are all kinds of graduate programs that could become part of our portfolio. You don’t have all your eggs in one basket. These days, you need a lot of eggs and a lot of baskets.”

Faculty members have worried that they were not involved enough in forming the adult degree-completion idea. They also wonder whether chasing tuition revenue is the best strategy for the future or whether the university would be better served dedicating more resources to fund-raising.

“If right now being tuition driven isn’t working, how is simply increasing the size of the tuition drive going to work?” said Matthew Walz, a professor who chairs the university’s philosophy department. “We know a lot of distinct places get large donations.”

Of course, many institutions try to increase the amount of money they raise. The University of Dallas posts a number of giving options, including naming opportunities. But many colleges and universities struggle with the limits of their donor bases.

The ad hoc committee examining a new adult program is expected to report back this fall. In the meantime, the university’s Board of Trustees has prompted it to move to expand a doctor of business administration program and a graduate program in classical education.

The business program is expected to go from a cohort of about 15 students every other year to adding a cohort every year. The classical education expansion will be geared toward educating more teachers of classical education. It could take the form of reaching out to K-12 charter schools focused on classical education to find interested teachers.

Walz said those ideas seem to fit better with the university’s identity.

“That looks like it’s got the genetic makeup of UD,” he said. “It’s trying to meet the contemporary prudently, without the sacrifice of that commitment to the Western intellectual tradition.”

The two ideas have become top priorities in part because of the potential pitfalls that have been pointed out regarding an adult degree-completion program, said Keefe, the university’s president.

But at the end of the day, the university’s operating margin is too thin to discard good ideas without exploring them, he said.

“Maybe this is just getting us to think outside the box,” Keefe said. “Maybe I’m too disruptive in doing this and it causes consternation for too many people. But at the end of the day, I have a responsibility to make sure that when I retire, this university thrives.”

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Survey finds regrets among most former college students but belief in quality of their education

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 07:00

A majority of Americans who attended college say they received a quality education. But half would change at least one of these three decisions if they could do it all over again: the type of degree they pursued or their choice of major or institution.

Those are among the key findings from a new annual survey conducted by Gallup and Strada Education Network, the former USA Funds.

While 51 percent of the nearly 90,000 respondents said they would change one big decision, the most common regret was their choice of major, with 36 percent saying they wish they’d chosen differently.

The survey found that 40 percent who pursued or completed a bachelor’s degree would pick a different field of study compared to 31 percent of those who hold a technical or vocational certificate.

Over all, 28 percent of respondents said they would choose a different institution, while 12 percent said they would pursue a different level of degree.

The report said these findings suggest that people’s regrets about higher education are not driven entirely by their thoughts about the colleges they attended.

“Rather, individuals’ desires to change their education decisions may be a function of having made decisions without comprehensive information, such as an understanding of employment opportunities, earning potential or the implications of long-term student debt,” said the report. “In short, education consumers’ regret about their previous decisions could be read as a signal to improve the resources available to inform future education decisions.”

Respondents who attended college but did not receive a degree were the most likely to say they would change at least one of three education decisions. That’s understandable, given that students who take out loans for college but never graduate are three times more likely to default, according to federal data.

What is surprising about that finding, the report said, is the relatively small gap between those with regrets who don’t hold a degree and those who do.

For example, 59 percent of respondents without a degree would change a decision compared to 52 percent with a bachelor’s degree and 54 percent with an associate degree. Respondents who attended graduate or vocational programs were the least regretful.

Debt also is a driver of regrets. Not surprisingly, respondents with more student loan debt said they would make different decisions.

However, there was very little variation by debt level among respondents on whether they would pursue a different major, with an overall three-percentage-point range across all five quintiles of debt level. But large debt holders were more likely to say they would attend a different institution or pursue a different type of degree.

On the optimistic side, at least from the academy’s perspective, the quality of the education former students received does not appear to be a major concern for most American college goers.

The survey found that four of five respondents who completed a credential or degree program said they received a high-quality education, ranging from 81 percent of vocational or technical credential holders and 81 percent of associate degree holders to the highest approval, 95 percent, among graduate degree holders.

Even 70 percent of respondents who attended college but did not complete said they received a high-quality education.

“This is a positive outcome for current postsecondary leaders,” the report concludes, adding that “however, the fuller picture of education consumers’ experiences reveals there is room for improvement in guiding them to and through their paths to successful completion and on to rewarding careers.”

Strada and Gallup said the report would be the first of many from a three-year survey, dubbed the Education Consumer Pulse. The survey will be conducted daily, with a goal of asking 360,000 current, past and prospective college students about their experiences in higher education.

“We hope the Education Consumer Pulse will serve as a catalyst for deeper exploration and application of consumer insights to help solve the critical challenges facing our postsecondary education and work force development systems,” Bill Hansen, Strada’s president and CEO, said in a written statement.

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