Higher Education News

Faculty speak out against proposed buyer for Westminster Choir College

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 02/26/2018 - 08:00

Critics of Rider University’s plans to sell Westminster Choir College were not appeased last week when the university revealed the prospective buyer is a for-profit company based in China. If anything, they’ve grown even more opposed to the deal.

Faculty members and alumni are raising numerous concerns in the wake of Rider’s announcement that Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co. signed a nonbinding term sheet calling for it to pay $40 million to purchase Westminster’s $19 million endowment, facilities, programs and campus in Princeton, N.J. The buyer -- which until recently was called Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure Co. -- has little experience in education, they say, and it is a for-profit company that is unlikely to operate Westminster with the commitment necessary for a top-tier music school.

At the same time, Rider faces a new lawsuit from a neighboring institution over its sale plans. Princeton Theological Seminary filed a lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court seeking to block the sale, arguing the donor who originally gave Westminster its campus in Princeton wanted Princeton Theological Seminary to receive the land if Westminster ever stops training music ministers for evangelical churches. The seminary’s lawsuit means Rider faces at least three legal cases related to the Westminster sale, as it was already in the midst of an arbitration case with faculty members and a separate lawsuit in federal court from students, parents and alumni.

Rider’s leadership maintains that it is acting in Westminster’s best interest. But the university was already attempting to blaze a new path in higher education by selling off one of its campuses. The latest resistance to the effort narrows that path considerably.

Faculty members had already worried Rider was going to sell Westminster to a for-profit company operating K-12 schools in Asia. Last week’s news confirmed those fears, prompting faculty members at both Westminster and Rider’s main campus in nearby Lawrenceville, N.J., to express heightened concerns.

“Knowing the buyer does not allay any fears whatsoever,” said Elizabeth Scheiber, president of Rider’s American Association of University Professors chapter. “In fact, I know among several of us, this has actually deepened our concern.”

The Rider AAUP is already in a grievance process related to what it believes were unfair layoff notices sent to Westminster faculty last year to cover the chance the college closes if it is not sold. That process will continue despite last week’s sale announcement. It is expected to go before an arbitrator in March.

Beyond the legal maneuverings, the proposed sale is a hit to morale at Rider, said Scheiber, who is a professor of French and Italian. It sends a message that faculty members are worth no more than monetary value, she said.

Rider’s plans to sell Westminster date back to last year. Administrators had been exploring moving the choir college from Princeton to Rider’s main campus in Lawrenceville as the university grappled with budget gaps. It was a reversal from two decades ago, when Westminster addressed its own budget woes by merging into a financially sound Rider. After the idea of moving the choir college generated an outcry, the administration changed tactics last year and said it would attempt to sell Westminster to a buyer that would keep it on its campus.

The outcry continues now that a buyer has been named. Joel Phillips, a professor of composition and music theory at Westminster, said he felt “sickened” by the news.

Westminster’s prospective buyer only changed its name from Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure Co. to Kaiwen at the end of December, Phillips pointed out.

“They made steel girders,” he said. “And then they decide to go out and buy an education institution.”

Market research services have described the company as creating bridge steel structures, crane steelworks, ship blocks and heavy steel for power plants. But they also have described an international education segment operating primarily in the domestic Chinese market.

The company changed its name because of a reorganization, according to Rider. The university’s administrators say the company’s core business is now education and education-related activities. Its leaders want Westminster to attract U.S. students and students from overseas, said Rider president Gregory G. Dell’Omo.

“We’ve always known that the future of music education -- you look at piano and vocal and choral -- it really is toward Asia,” Dell’Omo said. “We’ve had a difficult time trying to tap into the Asian market. They understood the value.”

Concerns about the buyer are understandable, Dell’Omo said. But although Kaiwen is a for-profit company, it will run Westminster as a nonprofit organization. Kaiwen’s K-12 academies in China, which are focused on sports and performing arts, have proven the company invests in programs, personnel and pedagogy.

“They clearly understand the need for proper investment in running a top-quality educational institution,” Dell’Omo said. “Now, again, that’s not higher education in the U.S. I do know -- and the communications so far indicate -- they are willing to hire the consultants and staff who do know how to run higher education.”

Kaiwen wants to make employment offers to Westminster faculty and staff, according to Rider’s official announcement last week. But the terms have yet to be determined.

One day before Rider announced the deal, it was hit with the lawsuit from Princeton Theological Seminary. Westminster has its campus in Princeton because a donor, Sophia Strong Taylor, gave it 28 acres of land in 1935, the suit contends. The gift covenant required Westminster to train ministers of music for evangelical churches and teach the Bible to the whole school for at least one hour per week, according to the lawsuit. If the covenant is broken, the land is to become the seminary’s property.

The seminary agreed to Westminster merging into Rider in 1992 after it had been assured the choir college would continue to serve the donor’s original intent, according to the lawsuit. But the sale proposal does not comply with that intent, it says.

“Rider’s intention to sell the campus and use the proceeds to fund Rider’s operations that are unrelated to the continued operation of Westminster violates the Agreement and public policy,” the lawsuit says. It goes on to charge Rider with obtaining a $15 million line of credit in 2017 by securing a mortgage against the campus, and with using $8 million from that line of credit “for purposes inconsistent with the agreement.”

The suit asks for a permanent injunction preventing Rider from selling the campus to any buyer that will not operate and maintain it in compliance with the agreement and the donor’s original intent. It also asks for damages, fees and reimbursement for other costs.

“We have repeatedly attempted to engage Rider on these issues as news of the proposed sale emerged, but we have been kept at arm’s length,” said Craig Barnes, president of the seminary, in a statement issued when the lawsuit was announced. “We don’t take this legal action lightly, but we have had no choice but to ask the court to intervene. We are hopeful that this matter will come to resolution quickly and fairly, in a manner that honors our institutional agreements and preserves Mrs. Taylor’s intent.”

The seminary has nothing to add now that the identity of the buyer has been revealed, a spokeswoman said.

Rider responded with a statement saying it has discussed the issues with the seminary for about a year. The university is disappointed and believes the filing of the suit was premature.

“Rider’s main focus has been to find an entity to continue running Westminster in Princeton, which we have now done,” the statement said. “It has been our intention when we achieved that goal to return to discussions with the Seminary to address its demand for a share of the net proceeds, to the extent there are any. Rider has supported and sustained Westminster Choir College since 1991, when the Seminary declined to do so. Rider will not allow this lawsuit to derail its efforts to finalize its plan to find a new entity to run Westminster.”

A lawyer representing alumni suing Rider in a separate lawsuit -- the one in federal court -- said the news about the buyer will not affect the legal process.

“At this point, Rider has still not released the terms of any proposed transaction,” said the lawyer, Bruce Afran, in a statement. “Without knowing the actual terms of a proposal, it is impossible to confirm it will even remotely comply with New Jersey non-profit law and the 1991 merger agreement between Rider University and Westminster Choir College. Nothing that Rider has presented will affect in the slightest the pending lawsuits that will continue in full force.”

One of the alumni who has been active in trying to secure Westminster’s future on its campus echoed that sentiment. “There are so many questions that are not answered,” said Constance Fee.

One of the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit said the parties are seeking an injunction to stop the sale process. "I am not impressed by the company or the school," plaintiff Matt Koller said via email. "If you look at the timeline of the company, it’s clear that they have not been in the education business for very long at all (2016). Their K-12 school is not even K-12 yet, and they have no experience operating a higher education institution."

Regardless of whether an injunction is ultimately granted, the lawsuits are another hurdle for Rider. The university has not yet signed a binding sale agreement, meaning the deal is far from set in stone.

Jeffrey Halpern is an associate professor of sociology at Rider and the contract administrator for the Rider AAUP. He remembers the original merger that brought Westminster into Rider and says the university made certain legal commitments to maintain the choir college and continue its existing function.

The current lawsuits are likely to impede the sale proposal, he said.

“I can’t imagine that anybody would ever enter into the sale of a property when its title is unclear,” Halpern said. “I certainly know I wouldn’t buy a house with an unclear title, and when there is ongoing legal action, I can’t imagine anybody would actually close a deal.”

Halpern criticized the university’s administration for treating Westminster like an unprofitable business line. Selling off such lines is proper for a for-profit business with shareholders, he said. But it’s not the way nonprofit universities, which serve the public good, are supposed to think.

Even if the sale is delayed or stopped, the proposal has already been hurting Westminster, Halpern said. Recruiting students has been difficult, and donations are down. Faculty members, the core of any institution, are disheartened.

“Rider is acting in a way that is hollowing out Westminster,” Halpern said. “It may reach a point where there’s nothing left to save or buy.”

The idea of the sale is bad for U.S. higher education more generally, argued Scheiber, the Rider AAUP president.

“These are nonprofit educational institutions who reinvest back into the local economy,” Scheiber said. “To say we’re going to open this door, to say, ‘Hey, it’s easy money,’ I think it’s a very bad precedent to start down this road.”

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Two Massachusetts colleges say they may merge; small black college will close

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 02/26/2018 - 08:00

Students and faculty members at two Massachusetts colleges who checked their email early Sunday morning received a shock. The two institutions -- Lasell and Mount Ida Colleges -- are discussing a merger.

Supporters of Concordia College in Alabama, meanwhile, received news that struck many of them as tragic. The college, the only Lutheran historically black college, will shut down. That was the second closure in a week, coming days after a similar announcement from Atlantic Union College, in Massachusetts. Both Concordia Alabama and Atlantic Union are in a category of college -- very small, religiously affiliated institutions -- that many experts say are especially vulnerable these days.

Similarly, Lasell and Mount Ida are both small institutions, with small endowments, in the Northeast, where demographic trends are not favorable to higher education.

The potential merger follows an agreement by Wheelock College to merge into its neighbor, Boston University -- and amid speculation that the number of mergers and closures in higher education is about to increase. (Inside Higher Ed, in partnership with Gallup, is holding a conference on mergers and other forms of collaboration among private colleges on April 19. Information is available here.)

A Midnight Announcement

The news about the latest merger talks went out very early Sunday morning and surprised many.

"Both colleges understand that it has never been more important to plan for the long-term future, and not just that of the next five to ten years. The goal of a union would be to create a more robust learning experience that would take advantage of distinctiveness of the programs, curricula and experiences of each institution. Under the potential merger, we would have the opportunity to add academic depth to our traditions of small classes and faculty mentorship, while maintaining the benefits of a high-quality independent education," said a joint announcement by Michael Alexander, Lasell's president, and Barry Brown, Mount Ida's president.

The statement added that "with the prospect of pooling resources and a shared commitment to controlling the cost of tuition, together we will have the opportunity to give students of all income levels an elevated educational experience."

Both colleges are primarily undergraduate and have similarly sized enrollments (1,500 for Mount Ida and 2,000 for Lasell). Both institutions enroll primarily students from Massachusetts. Both charge tuition rates (not counting aid) of a little more than $34,000 a year. And both focus on professionally oriented programs. The Education Department's College Scorecard lists the most popular programs at Lasell as business, communication, and parks and recreation. For Mount Ida, the most popular programs are personal and culinary services, and health professions.

And both operate out of the exclusive zone of elite Boston-area colleges that admit only a fraction of applicants. Lasell and Mount Ida admit 76 and 68 percent, respectively, of applicants, according to the U.S. Education Department's College Navigator site.

Mount Ida's endowment is valued at $15.6 million, and Lasell's at $45 million, meaning that both institutions depend on tuition revenue for their budgets.

Reactions on social media from alumni, students and parents were tepid, with many expressing surprise and disappointment. Some of that may of course be based on the limited information released and the midnight weekend announcement, something that drew criticism from supporters of both colleges for coming at a time of day when people couldn't immediately seek more information.

Lee Pelton, the president of Emerson College, which is based in Boston, closely watches trends in Massachusetts higher education.

Of the merger plans, he said that they were "part and parcel of a market correction in our industry, as small struggling institutions with small endowments and high discount rates, and volatile enrollments, are seeking to find their way." He said that these were particularly difficult times for colleges that depend on the shrinking number of students from Massachusetts. Emerson might have been such a college a generation ago, but now it enrolls only about a third of its students from all of New England. The college also has campuses in Los Angeles and the Netherlands and is about to start programs in France and Switzerland. The college admits a little more than one-third of applicants.

Pelton said there are risks when two institutions, neither of which have considerable resources, merge. Stressing that he was not talking about Lasell or Mount Ida, he said that "in general the merger of two struggling institutions with similar assets does not guarantee a stronger single institution but may in fact produce a single struggling institution."

Closure in Alabama

The announcement of the closure of Concordia came from the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, which noted "great sadness" over the decision.

A statement from the synod said in part, "Since July 2006, of the total subsidy (not including scholarships) given to the 10 campuses of the Concordia University System, CCA [the Alabama college] alone has received more than 44 percent of that amount. But in spite of this assistance and funds from other sources, CCA -- whose own efforts to stay viable have been robust -- was not able to achieve acceptable and sustainable financial performance."

The statement added, "The synod must continually evaluate how it allocates its limited resources in the face of so many worthy mission-and-ministry opportunities both at home and abroad. This often requires the synod’s Board of Directors to make difficult decisions in following the principles of wise and faithful, Scripture-mandated stewardship."

Concordia was founded -- as the Alabama Lutheran Academy -- in Selma in 1922. Rosa J. Young, known as "the mother of black Lutheranism in America," started the college.

The college has about 400 students. More than 90 percent are black, and more than 90 percent are eligible for Pell Grants, meaning that they come from low-income families.

The statement on closure noted that Concordia Alabama "has hardly been alone in facing such difficulties. In recent years, many small, private, liberal arts colleges have closed owing to financial pressures and other factors, such as low enrollments and small endowments. Religiously affiliated colleges have been particularly hard hit, as have historically black colleges and universities."

Atlantic Union College, in Massachusetts, will also close this year, its board announced Wednesday. The college is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

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Event sponsored by Jewish and pro-Israel groups at University of Virginia is disrupted and speakers shouted down

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 02/26/2018 - 08:00

Charles Murray, who was famously shouted down at Middlebury College last year, spoke without incident at Stanford University last week. Since the Middlebury incident, he has appeared at many campuses, typically with protests outside that did not prevent him from speaking.

On Thursday night, an event at the University of Virginia was disrupted, and it fits a pattern of such disruptions in recent years. While much public discussion has focused on concerns about the rights of conservative speakers to appear, the Virginia disruption was of a panel featuring Israeli military reservists. And the University of Virginia is but the latest institution where events organized by Jewish and pro-Israel groups have been disrupted.

At Virginia, the event in question was sponsored by the Brody Jewish Center (the Hillel at the university) and a pro-Israel group, Hoos for Israel. (Wahoos is the unofficial nickname of Virginia's sports teams, and "Hoos" is a common derivative of that.)

A group protesting -- believed to include both students and nonstudents -- entered the room and started shouting anti-Israel slogans through a megaphone, preventing the speakers from being heard. Video of the event obtained by the university showed that Rabbi Jake Rubin, executive director of Hillel at the university, asked those protesting to let the program go on and said they could ask questions of the panelists and otherwise engage in discussion with attendees. The protesting students refused to do so and continued to shout at the speakers, making it impossible for the event to proceed as planned. Police were called; they said they are investigating a reported assault that took place. When police arrived, the protesting group left, and the event resumed.

"While free speech and the ability to protest are important aspects of college life, we are disappointed that protesters refused to engage in conversation and instead continued to shout intimidating and hostile slurs directed at students, staff and panelists," said a statement from the Brody Jewish Center.

Allen W. Groves, dean of students at the university, sent a message to the campus Friday in which he condemned the protest for disrupting the free speech rights of the event organizers. He said that the protest "runs counter to our important shared values of respect and intellectual inquiry, and should be firmly rejected." And he said that several university rules appeared to be violated by disrupting the event.

"Last night in Clark Hall, a meeting of Jewish students and a rabbi, properly reserved and wholly peaceful, was disrupted," he wrote. "I am told the scene in the room felt threatening to many students in attendance." He added that "with rare exception, there is danger in assuming one’s chosen side of an issue is free of fallibility or otherwise not open to question. We can only learn from each other if space exists to exchange ideas freely and without disruption from those with whom we may disagree. Indeed, having watched the video from last night, it appears clear the Jewish students and their rabbi extended an offer to engage in dialogue with the protesters disrupting their meeting, but that overture was rejected. This was a lost opportunity."

Officials said that no group has claimed responsibility for organizing the protest. Inside Higher Ed called a phone number for a pro-Palestinian group at the university, and the woman answering the line said that the group was no longer active and that she knew nothing about the protest.

Other Incidents

Virginia is not alone in seeing Israeli speakers shouted down or disrupted. Here are some other incidents on American campuses in the last decade.

  • In 2009, Ehud Olmert, a former Israeli prime minister, visited the University of Chicago to deliver what was to be a 20-minute speech. It ended up taking him an hour and a half to get through his prepared remarks, as some students jeered and shouted at him. Chicago is known, particularly in the last two years, as a place that has stated repeatedly that interruptions of speakers will not be tolerated.
  • In 2010, Michael Oren, at the time Israel's ambassador to the U.S., spoke at the University of California, Irvine. Every few minutes during his talk, a student would get up, shout something critical of Israel, be applauded by some in the audience, and be led away by police. (Video of the event, distributed by a pro-Israel group, can be found here.)
  • In 2012, hecklers interrupted a speech by an Israeli soldier at the University of California, Davis.
  • In 2013 at Florida Atlantic University, five members of the FAU Students for Justice in Palestine interrupted a talk by Israeli Colonel Bentzi Gruber titled "Ethics in the Field: An Inside Look at the Israel Defense Forces." The students said that their disruption was protected by the First Amendment.
  • In 2015 at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, a speech by Moshe Halbertal, a professor at New York University law school and a professor of Jewish thought and philosophy at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was delayed for 30 minutes when some in the audience started screaming at him. Halbertal helped draft the Israeli military's ethics code. His lecture topic was "Protecting Civilians: Moral Challenges of Asymmetric Warfare." When Halbertal eventually spoke, attendees said, he didn't focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he argued that militaries have a moral obligation to consider and minimize civilian deaths. He has been both critical and supportive of Israel's governments, although protesters characterized him as someone entirely supportive of the actions of Israel's government and military.
  • In 2016, the Hillel at San Francisco State University invited Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, to speak. No more than six minutes into Barkat’s speech, students aligned with the General Union of Palestine Students, stood and began chanting. They repeated, among other lines, “If we don’t get no justice, then you don’t get no peace” and “Get the fuck off our campus.” Some students who wanted to hear Barkat's talk gathered close around him but said that they couldn't hear him. (Video of this incident is at the end of this article.)
  • In 2016 at Irvine, a group of pro-Palestinian students disrupted a screening of a film Beneath the Helmet, about the lives of five Israeli soldiers. The protest involved shouting that made it impossible for people to hear the film, and students who attended said that they felt threatened. The Irvine chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine posted a note on its Facebook page that expressed pride in the protest but did not address the criticisms. "Today we successfully demonstrated against the presence of IDF soldiers on campus. We condemn the Israeli 'Defense' Forces, better defined as Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), because they enforce Zionist settler colonialism and military occupation of Palestinian land by the Israeli nation-state," the statement said. "Not only does the IOF commit murders and several violence against the Palestinian people, including its use of Gaza as a laboratory for weapons testing, but it enforces militarization and policing all over the world."

There are many other instances in which campus protests have been critical of Israel or visiting speakers seen as supportive of Israel, and other protests that have criticized the Palestinian movement or speakers associated with it. The above list is only about incidents where events were disrupted.

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Concordia Alabama, a historically black college, announces that it will shut down operations

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 21:43

Concordia College in Alabama has announced that it will end operations at the end of this academic year.

Concordia is a historically black institution, and the only such institution to be Lutheran. The announcement of the closure came from the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod, which noted "great sadness" over the decision.

A statement from the synod said in part: "[S]ince July 2006, of the total subsidy (not including scholarships) given to the 10 campuses of the Concordia University System, CCA [the Alabama college] alone has received more than 44 percent of that amount. But in spite of this assistance and funds from other sources, CCA -- whose own efforts to stay viable have been robust -- was not able to achieve acceptable and sustainable financial performance."

The statement added: "The synod must continually evaluate how it allocates its limited resources in the face of so many worthy mission-and-ministry opportunities both at home and abroad. This often requires the synod’s Board of Directors to make difficult decisions in following the principles of wise and faithful, Scripture-mandated stewardship.

Concordia was founded -- as the Alabama Lutheran Academy -- in Selma in 1922. Rosa J. Young, known as "the mother of black Lutheranism in America," started the college.

The college has about 400 students. More than 90 percent are black, and more than 90 percent are eligible for Pell Grants, meaning that they are from low-income families.

The statement on closure noted that Concordia Alabama "has hardly been alone in facing such difficulties. In recent years, many small, private, liberal arts colleges have closed owing to financial pressures and other factors, such as low enrollments and small endowments. Religiously affiliated colleges have been particularly hard hit, as have historically black colleges and universities."

Atlantic Union College, in Massachusetts, will also close this year, its board announced Wednesday. The college is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

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Admissions officers take a stand to back high school students engaged in anti-gun protests

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 08:00

High schoolers regularly joke about infractions that might end up on their "permanent record," the one that will be reported to colleges to which they apply. But now some school districts, faced with growing activism by high school students pushing for tougher gun laws, have promised to suspend students who stage walkouts or protests during school hours. The superintendent of a Houston-area district specified that all such activity would result in three-day suspensions, even if parents authorized participation.

For those students who have been accepted to college, have applications pending or would apply in the future, suspensions can be serious business. Many colleges require high schools to report on suspensions and some other sanctions against students. And so students have been asking: If I join the growing protest movement, will I endanger my admission to college?

On Wednesday and Thursday, a number of colleges answered that question: such suspensions will not be held against applicants in the future or those already admitted to college, whose high schools would also report suspensions. It is highly unusual for college admissions offices to tell high schoolers that being suspended won't hurt their chances, but statements from admissions leaders made clear that they would view such suspensions as highly unusual if not inappropriate.

Statements issued by admissions leaders not only sought to reassure these high school students, but praised the activism that has grown since last week's deadly shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla.

One of the most detailed statements came from Stu Schmill, dean of admissions and financial services at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"Some students who have been admitted to MIT’s Class of 2022 have asked us if their acceptance will be rescinded if they are disciplined for joining the protests, while other applicants still under consideration are wondering if they have to choose between speaking out and getting in," wrote Schmill. "We have already informed those who asked that, in this case, a disciplinary action associated with meaningful, peaceful participation in a protest will not negatively impact their admissions decision, because we would not view it as inappropriate or lacking integrity on its face. The purpose of this blog post is to communicate that fact more broadly and explain our reasoning as to why."

Schmill added, "We have long held that students should not make decisions based on what they think will get them into college, but instead based on values and interests that are important to them. We believe students should follow compasses over maps, pursuing points of direction rather than specific destinations and trusting they will end up where they belong. As such, we always encourage students to undertake whatever course of action in life is most meaningful to, and consistent with, their own principles, and not prioritize how it might impact their college applications."

Further, Schmill expressed support for the idea of participating in protests that reflect student values. "We also believe that civic responsibility is, like most things at MIT, something you learn best by doing: indeed, to be civically responsible is to put into practice the obligation we owe to each other and to the common good." He added, "So: if any admitted students or applicants are disciplined by their high school for practicing responsible citizenship by engaging in peaceful, meaningful protest related to this (or any other) issue, we will still require them to report it to us. However, because we do not view such conduct on its face as inappropriate or inconsistent with their prior conduct, or anything we wouldn't applaud amongst our own students, it will not negatively impact their admissions outcome."

Schmill was not the only one to speak out. On Twitter, admissions leaders from the California Institute of Technology, DePaul University, Smith College, Trinity College in Connecticut, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Worcester Polytechnic Institute all posted assurances to students. Tulane University published such a statement on its admissions blog.

I’m in too. I would never punish students in the #Admissions process for standing up for what they believe in. https://t.co/aJZ5OBjVOo

— Angel B. Pérez (@AngelBPerez) February 22, 2018


I’m in too! Everyone, especially our youth, has the right to free speech and the ability to peacefully protest for what they believe in. And admissions should never hold that against them!

— Jarrid Whitney (@JarridWhitney) February 22, 2018


Agreed. I can’t believe I even have to clarify this: students applying to WPI will not be penalized for exercising their 1st Amendment rights to speak out against gun violence.

Thanks @JonBoeckenstedt, @akilbello & others for spreading this movement of support for our students. https://t.co/z2BtVpc7yu

— Andrew B. Palumbo (@InsideAdmission) February 22, 2018


To students worried about disciplinary action for getting
suspended for standing up for your beliefs: we’ve got you on this side. #Smith2022 #ParklandStudentsSpeak

— Deb Shaver (@deandebshaver) February 22, 2018


Dear Students: If you participate in protests against gun violence and incur school discipline for walking out, you can rest assured you can report it to DePaul and we won't hold it against you. #ParklandStudentsSpeak

— Jon Boeckenstedt (@JonBoeckenstedt) February 22, 2018


Students: If you participate in peaceful protests against gun violence and receive school discipline for walking out, staging your protest, etc., please rest assured that you can report it to UMass Amherst, and we won't hold it against you. #ParklandStudentsSpeak

— UMass Admissions (@UMassAmherstUA) February 22, 2018 AdmissionsEditorial Tags: AdmissionsImage Caption: Stu Schmill of MITIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Go Ahead and Protest!Trending order: 2

Study: students believe they are prepared for the workplace; employers disagree

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 08:00

College students may believe they’re ready for a job, but employers think otherwise.

At least, that’s according to data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which surveyed graduating college seniors and employers and found a significant difference in the groups' perceptions.

The association surveyed 4,213 graduating seniors and 201 employers on eight “competencies” that it considers necessary to be prepared to enter the workplace. This information comes from the association’s 2018 Job Outlook Survey.

For the most part, a high percentage of students indicated in almost every category they thought they were proficient. Employers disagreed.

“This can be problematic because it suggests that employers see skills gaps in key areas where college students don’t believe gaps exist,” a statement from the association reads.

The biggest divide was around students’ professionalism and work ethic. Almost 90 percent of seniors thought they were competent in that area, but only about 43 percent of the employers agreed.

Nearly 80 percent of students also believed they were competent in oral and written communication and critical thinking, while only roughly 42 percent and 56 percent of employers, respectively, indicated that students were successful in those areas.

Per the survey, only in digital technology skills were employers more likely to feel that students were prepared versus the seniors themselves.

Almost 66 percent of employers rated students proficient in technology compared to 60 percent of the seniors.

But Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup's higher education division, which also conducts research related to graduates and careers, said these sorts of definitions can vary.

For instance, Gallup has found that generally an employer believes that "critical thinking" is coming up with new, original thought. But in an academic sense, it can mean more picking apart ideas in depth, he said.

Written communication can differ, too, he said -- some students might excel at writing technical reports or papers with lots of citations, but these are far different than writing for marketing, Busteed said.

"I think in some ways these studies beg for further exploration," he said.

Busteed also pointed out that the lifestyle for the traditional undergraduate student likely does not match how they will need to operate when they enter the work force.

Undergraduates are typically scheduling classes later in the morning and staying up until the late hours of the night, which does not prepare them for an eight-hour workday, he said.

The easy solution: set students up in a more professional environment, Busteed said -- this could be internships or co-op programs. If students can't go to an actual office, then the environment should be brought to them so they have a better sense of how a workplace runs.

"It's good news because there's real quick fixes, but it's not a prevalent as it should be," he said.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities has conducted similar research. In 2015, it found that students thought they were far better equipped for jobs than employers did.

The AAC&U looked at some of the same measures as the association. Specifically around oral communication, students ranked themselves highly -- about 62 percent of students believed they did well in this area compared to 28 percent of employers. That and written communication showed the biggest gaps in the AAC&U report (27 percent of employers versus 65 percent of students).

“When it comes to the types of skills and knowledge that employers feel are most important to workplace success, large majorities of employers do NOT feel that recent college graduates are well prepared,” the AAC&U report states. “This is particularly the case for applying knowledge and skills in real-world settings, critical thinking skills, and written and oral communication skills -- areas in which fewer than three in 10 employers think that recent college graduates are well prepared.”

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Authors discuss new book on why American professors and universities focus on the U.S.

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 08:00

College and university leaders talk all the time about their embrace of global agendas: they strive to enroll international students. They sign agreements with institutions around the world. They boast about the global perspectives of their campuses.

But is American higher education truly global? Or could it be increasingly parochial?

A new book argues more for the latter view than the former. Reward structures, particularly for faculty members in social science fields that should be global in perspective, are pushing them inward instead, according to Seeing the World: How U.S. Universities Make Knowledge in a Global Era (Princeton University Press). The authors are Mitchell L. Stevens, associate professor of education at Stanford University; Cynthia Miller-Idriss, associate professor of education and sociology at American University; and Seteney Shami, a program director at the Social Science Research Council and founding director of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences. Their book is based on interviews with scholars in a range of social science disciplines.

Stevens and Miller-Idriss responded via email to questions about their book.

Q: College and university presidents talk all the time about their institutions’ "global vision" or internationalization. Yet your book suggests areas in higher education that have a decidedly American focus. Why is that?

A: There’s no question that U.S. universities are courting clients and patrons all over the world. But we found that these global ambitions are often not matched by faculty in the social sciences, who are often ambivalent about international research. Social-science journals, book publishers and faculty hiring committees in the U.S. strongly favor scholarship on North American and Western European topics. It’s a peculiar but powerful legacy of the 20th century, when these regions were unquestionably dominant on the world stage.

Q: As you look at disciplines, are some better than others at embracing an international perspective?

A: Not better or worse, but different. Economists often were adamant that their economic explanatory models had primacy over cultural context: the world provides cases for economists to test the models. As one of them put it, “To understand what their census statistics mean, I don’t need to speak their language. This is just wrong.”

Political scientists have a strong comparative tradition, which enables them to recognize and appreciate place-specific inquiry. But we heard repeatedly that regional expertise was second to methodological expertise as political science gets “teched up,” as one of them put it, in quantitative methods.

Sociologists were the most parochial of the three disciplines. Sociology department chairs said frankly that they deliberately steer graduate students away from international study because such projects on non-U.S. topics are less likely to have purchase on the tenure-line job market.

Q: Why does the tenure process seem to encourage American researchers to focus on their own country?

A: The tenure process is largely mediated by disciplines. Scholars have to attain recognizable disciplinary success through publications and presentations in disciplinary journals, university presses and conferences. External reviewers are primarily or even exclusively drawn from the same discipline. And because those disciplines prioritize their own theoretical abstractions, contextual knowledge loses out. This isn’t only a problem of U.S./national versus global knowledge, but rather of the value placed on knowledge dedicated to particular problems or contexts.

Q: Will the American focus hurt American higher education?

A: In the long term, yes, because the relentless race to build prestigious universities worldwide will mean ever more opportunities for scholars who can produce knowledge of consequence for patrons outside the U.S. We believe that American social scientists jeopardize their long-term relevance if they remain ethnocentric. But in the short term, the rest of the world continues to believe that Americans produce the best scholarship.

The challenge for social scientists is to leverage their current strong reputations while also adapting to secular changes in where the money is coming from. Though we didn’t investigate it systematically in this book, it appears that the professional schools -- especially schools of business and public policy -- have been most canny in responding to the globalization of academic patronage.

Q: Many global trends -- "America first" in the United States, Brexit in Britain, nationalism elsewhere -- seem to suggest a shift inward around the world. Does this influence American researchers? Does it concern you?

A: The big, but little recognized, factor here is the end of the Cold War. Between 1945 and 1989, leaders in the U.S. federal government and the national academy largely shared a conviction that communism posed an existential threat to the countries in what was once called the West. The global ascendance of capitalism and the steady rise of China, India and Brazil as economic powerhouses has upended the old good vs. evil narratives that, for better or worse, organized a great deal of academic patronage in the second half of the 20th century. There is no clear storyline or center of gravity now. We all want to be global, but no one is quite sure what that entails.

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States add restrictions to tuition-free college plans

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 08:00

For years, many states -- believing that a postsecondary credential is a necessity to succeed in the economy -- have moved toward making the first two years of college tuition free. But a growing number are attaching requirements and conditions to tuition-free plans that worry advocates for low-income students.

Minimum grade point average requirements are common. And several free-college programs now mandate that students major in certain subjects, take drug tests or enroll full-time to be eligible.

Mississippi, for instance, is considering a bill that would restrict free tuition to career and technical education programs. And Kentucky's free community college program is limited to students who seek certificates in five state-identified industries with worker shortages -- health care, advanced manufacturing, transportation and logistics, business services and internet technology, and construction.

"We would prefer states enact the most universal possible free college programs," said Morley Winograd, president of the Campaign for Free College Tuition. "But we're also cognizant that [they are] enacting free college tuition for different reasons and therefore they are likely to arrive at a different legislative solution to address, in the legislation, the problem they're trying to solve."

The details of each initiative play out differently state by state, he said, and depend on the economics, goals and politics of each region.

"It's a reflection of why they think they're giving out the benefit," Winograd said. "Some legislators and voters are doing so because they want everyone to have an opportunity for an education that is necessary to a successful economic life, but others are thinking of it as a particular tool or weapon to improve their economic development prospects."

It's understandable that states would want to direct their students to industries where they know there are shortages or potential for future growth, Winograd said. But it can be difficult for many high school students to know which career they want to pursue or if they will have the ability to pursue those careers.

In defending his state's free tuition program, New York governor Andrew Cuomo addressed criticism about its residency requirement by asking, "Why should New Yorkers pay for your college education and then you pick up and you move to California?"

Martha Kanter, a former under secretary of education in the Obama administration, now leads the College Promise Campaign, another advocacy group. She said state lawmakers manage their free-tuition programs aggressively for the same reason they created them.

"Political leaders around the country are frustrated that not enough students are graduating, the progress isn't fast enough and it takes too long to move students through the process," said Kanter.

The harder question, she said, is how states and systems can help students who are working full-time take more credits and be successful, which requires covering transportation, childcare, textbooks and more.

"It's a balancing act," Kanter said. "If you put requirements of high [grade point average] and full-time, you're going to have more success and fewer students participating. The more selective you are, you probably will see better outcomes from the research."

Requirements for Colleges

Sometimes states have added requirements to tuition-subsidy programs that are aimed at colleges rather than students.

California, for example, last year passed a law to make the first year of community college tuition-free for first-time students. That program joins roughly 50 local tuition-free initiatives in the state, as well as the rebranded California Promise Grant, formerly known as the Board of Governors fee waiver for low-income students, which makes community college tuition-free for approximately one million of the state's 2.1 million community college students.

The California College Promise program places requirements on community colleges that want to participate -- colleges must partner with K-12 school districts in an early college commitment program as well as use the state's guided pathways project.

Not everyone is happy about California's approach to free college, however.

"We believe all of higher education should be tuition-free," said Dean Murakami, a professor of psychology at American River College and president of the Los Rios College Federation of Teachers, a faculty union. "But this program is now going to get those students who are middle and higher income. It targets a population that is not that vulnerable, and we have a concern there. We're paying for rich people to come in. And is supplementing their fees a good usage of the money at this point?"

California governor Jerry Brown's budget, released last month, would allocate about $46 million toward the Promise program.

"We think there are better alternatives," Murakami said. "We can use that to help vulnerable, low-income students."

Murakami said those dollars could be better used to help students with homelessness, the cost of textbooks, transportation and childcare, or food insecurity, which are issues at-risk community college students face even when tuition is free.

Eloy Ortiz Oakley, the community college system's chancellor, said in a letter to the institutions that even with the fee waiver and the statewide Promise program, "the struggle to lower the full cost of attending college has only scratched the surface, because attending a California community college is still far from free."

Those communities and institutions in the state that have been raising money or working with local leaders to create Promise programs will have the flexibility now to use those funds to offer a second tuition-free year, or cover books, supplies and other expenses for low-income students because of the statewide Promise, he said.

Most faculty members don't see a problem with the early commitment program, which educates families on college opportunities, financial aid and offers preparatory courses. But some institutions may not be prepared to participate, he said.

As for guided pathways, those are decisions made on the local level by individual campuses and academic senates, Murakami said, adding that the law's conditions weren't included in early discussions with faculty leaders.

"What they're doing here is they're coercing colleges and districts to be part of guided pathways and early commitment programs because if they're not, they can't get the funding to help these students," he said.

But colleges have to move beyond incentivizing access and toward incentivizing completion, Oakley said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed.

"We want true access for students," he said, "to make sure the reforms we put in place lead to greater outcomes for students."

A couple of colleges may be challenged by the requirements, Oakley said, but all 114 have notified his office that they intend to participate.

The Push for Full-Time

The California program would only benefit students who attend community college full-time. That requirement, which other states also have included, has been criticized by free-college advocates.

"I wish everyone could take 15 units in a semester, but that's not possible if most students are working full-time," Kanter said. "The easy thing to do is put more requirements on students. The hard thing is making sure they get advising, mentoring and mapping schedule."

However, Winograd said, he views attendance or completion requirements differently from postgraduation residency rules, for example. Both New York and Rhode Island's programs include residency requirements.

"It's one thing to get kids into college," he said. "But it's ultimately not the end of the challenge unless we get them to complete their education."

Winograd points to former president Obama's national proposal for free community college, which would have required participating students take at least 12 credits a semester.

In New York, in order to qualify for the state's tuition-free program, which also applies to four-year institutions, students must take 30 credits a year. A postgraduation residency requirement also asks recipients to live and work in the state for the length of time they participated in the scholarship program.

"We would not be supportive of something that required people to work in the state if there is any kind of labor mobility that would be restricted," Winograd said.

Tennessee has received wide acclaim as the first state in the country to offer free community college, through the Tennessee Promise. But Bill Haslam, the state's Republican governor, recently called for a requirement that students complete 30 credits a year to maintain the scholarship.

Officials in Tennessee are optimistic that encouraging students to pursue full-time status will help raise graduation and retention rates. An end-of-the-year report from Complete Tennessee revealed that the state still struggles with community college completion, with three-year graduation rates averaging 20 percent in 2016.

"We focused a lot on access and made gains on the college-going rate," said Samantha Gutter, education policy adviser in the Tennessee governor's office. "But our completion rates in Tennessee are not where we would like them to be."

The six-year graduation rate is 26.3 percent for the state's community colleges and 56.8 percent for undergraduate programs at universities. The state wants to increase the percentage of adults with a certificate or degree from 40.7 percent now to 55 percent by 2025.

"This is truly 30 [credits] in 12 [months]," Gutter said. "We want to set the bar high, but also give them the flexibility to complete within a year and get them on track. We're hearing from the critics, but this is a research-based practice."

Research showed a positive impact on students in Indiana after they received a financial incentive under the state's 15 to Finish initiative.

The completion requirements in Tennessee wouldn't apply to adults in the state's Reconnect program, which is tuition-free for nontraditional students. And the state is asking colleges to create ready-made guides that build in the 30 hours for students.

If students can't complete 30 credit hours, the scholarship isn't revoked, Gutter said, but lowered by $250. And because the Promise is a last-dollar scholarship, those students who receive Pell Grants wouldn't see a dramatic change.

There's one additional safeguard. Students who received college credit in high school through dual-enrollment courses, International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement could apply that credit to meeting the full-time requirement, Gutter said.

But, she said, the state isn't broadcasting those safeguards directly to students.

"Even students who come from a disadvantaged background can rise to meet these expectations," she said, adding that, on average, Tennessee Promise recipients take 13 credits a semester.

Drug Testing in West Virginia

West Virginia's free college program mandates that graduates remain in the state for two years. And the Legislature also is considering a requirement for tuition-free recipients to take a drug test at their own cost.

The proposal drew the ire of free-college advocates like Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University, who tweeted, "Let's be clear: the people pushing 15 to Finish, tying financial aid to credits, are the same people imposing work requirements on the social safety net and drug testing free college. These are no leaders."

Let’s be clear: the people pushing 15 to Finish, tying financial aid to credits, are the same people imposing work requirements on the social safety net & drug testing free college. These are *not* leaders. https://t.co/N84nwSuoMV

— Sara Goldrick-Rab (@saragoldrickrab) February 2, 2018

But Winograd said the proposal is a political compromise.

"The way to secure the votes needed was to assure that people who are breaking the law wouldn't be a recipient of this benefit," he said. "It is worth noting the provision passed the Senate unanimously. Democrats and Republicans in West Virginia voted for the idea."

Kanter said the country is moving in the right direction on free tuition and hopes the added requirements don't restrict access for students.

"I'm still holding the flag of college for all, and we need a more educated country," she said. "There is a lot of lost talent, and the more restrictions politicians put on Promise programs or need-based aid, like if you add more drug testing … what will it do for the population you're there to lead and serve? I'm hoping politicians learn from research and listen to the research and don't pick the easiest things based on money."

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Why the University of Groningen canceled plans for branch campus in China

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 08:00

The University of Groningen had grand plans for a branch campus in China. One of the oldest and largest universities in the Netherlands, Groningen planned to create a broad research university in the northeastern Chinese city of Yantai that would eventually enroll 10,000 students across a range of bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. programs. In 2015, the university signed a tripartite agreement with its partner institution, China Agricultural University, and the city of Yantai, which agreed to cover construction and renovation costs for the campus and to cover budget deficits. Groningen would have joined a small number of Western universities -- including Duke and New York Universities in the U.S. and the Universities of Liverpool and Nottingham in the U.K. -- with a full-fledged branch campus in China.

It was not to be. Groningen’s board announced late last month that it would not proceed with plans to offer Groningen degrees in Yantai, citing “insufficient support” for the plan from the University Council, an elected body composed of half faculty and staff members and half students. In the case of the China campus, the council did not just serve in an advisory or consultative capacity: instead it had what a university website describes as “the right of consent to the definitive decision to found a branch campus in Yantai.” University Council members explained that their consent was required for the university to gain final approval from the Dutch government to grant degrees in Yantai under the terms of a new law on transnational education.

University Council members said the reasons for their opposition varied, with some opposing the campus due to concerns about restrictions on academic freedom in China and others having more practical objections to the specifics of the plan. A report from a University Council commission charged with evaluating the business plan for the campus describes a number of practical concerns, including worries about the adequacy of the budget, which was to be subsidized by the local government, insufficient support for the Yantai campus among faculty in two of the six programs that would initially be offered there, and the lack of a clear exit strategy.

According to the commission report, withdrawal from the 30-year agreement was only possible due to a situation of force majeure, breach of contract or by mutual agreement, and a potential exit scenario after four years could only occur in the case of mutual agreement or through an arbitration decision from a court in Hong Kong.

The commission largely sidestepped the hot-button issue of academic freedom, devoting just a paragraph to noting that there are different views on the matter and asking readers to judge for themselves.

Ultimately, the report concludes that "there are a number or risks that have not been sufficiently thought through" while the benefits to Groningen were, for the most part, "difficult to quantify." Among the benefits that were discussed in the report were new resources and possibilities for research and for student mobility, as well as a potential rise in Groningen's international recognition and position in university rankings.

"The commission supports internationalization but sees too little added value in setting up a branch campus, relative to existing initiatives, to justify the efforts that the branch campus entails," the report states.

The head of the commission, Olaf Scholten, a professor of nuclear physics, said he concurred with the commission’s conclusions. Scholten said that his additional worry was that the university would not be fully reimbursed for the time its faculty and staff spend on the Yantai campus, with potential negative effects for the education and workload in Groningen. He acknowledged that this is a soft argument -- he cannot prove it will be a problem -- but the possibility concerns him nevertheless.

"The thing that worries me is that in order to achieve this, there’s a large flow of money going from the local government into this branch campus. My concern is that the reimbursement that the University of Groningen can receive from this would be under pressure," he said.

Bart Beijer, the chair of the University Council’s nine-member Personnel Faction and a policy officer in educational affairs, where he deals mostly with quality assurance and elearning, said it had become clear that the majority of council members opposed the plan. For some, he said, academic freedom and human rights issues were the main reasons, while others had doubts about the benefits for education in Groningen and the level of faculty support for the project.

Beijer said that he was not personally among those who opposed the plan. “Unlike the others I was prepared to wait a few months for a better plan,” he said. But he had a number of worries. These included “the risk of underestimating the workload for Yantai back in Groningen,” “the lack of benefits for the educational programs in Groningen” and “the continuous costs to keep up the quality of the programs in Yantai. Although it was said that Yantai would pay these costs, the budget as it was known to us looked insufficient.” Beijer said he was also worried about “the lack of support by those (two out of the six programs planned to start in Yantai) who had to do the most of the work.”

Henk-Jan Wondergem, a member of the University Council and chairman of the student party Lijst Calimero, similarly said insufficient faculty support for the project was a decisive factor in his party -- which has five members on the council -- coming out against the campus. “The most important reason was the fact that the same degrees were offered in Yantai and in Groningen, and we did not have the confidence with the plan that was there that the quality of education could be ensured, which threatens the value of the diplomas in Groningen here,” he said. “That had to do with a lot of technical underlying factors, relating to the budget, reacting to how much staff will come from Groningen to Yantai, and how soon new staff would be hired by Groningen in China.”

Wondergem also said the student party was concerned about issues related to academic freedom and plans to appoint a Chinese Communist Party secretary to the Yantai campus board. In a November statement, Groningen’s president, Sibrand Poppema, said that the university would protect academic freedom and independence and that the Communist Party representative on the board would have no control over programs. A memorandum of understanding between Groningen and China Agricultural University on the establishment of Yantai Groningen University states that “in accordance with the higher education laws and regulations of China and the Netherlands, academic staff and students at Yantai Groningen University shall enjoy academic freedom and an autonomous and independent academic environment.”

“In the end, I think it really boils down to if you are going to have a really intensive intercultural cooperation, how much of your own values are you willing to give up,” Wondergem said. “That’s a really personal choice. For us we said we think offering our degrees, our diploma from a Dutch university which is 400 years old under a university which is run by a party secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, is just too far. It’s just a step too far. It crosses a line that we do not want to cross.”

By contrast another student party, the Student Organization Groningen -- which also has five representatives on the University Council -- was in support of the Yantai campus. “We saw it as a very positive and interesting opportunity for the university,” said Zeger Glas, the chairman of the party. Glas said he saw benefits “in terms of international reputation and recognition -- which could lead to an influx of more and better students, more and better staff and research funds” as well as “opportunities to study in a high-quality program in China.”

“We found those advantages were definitely weighing up against the disadvantages or risks that we would take when we would set up the campus,” Glas said.

Joost Herman, a professor in globalization studies and humanitarian action and head of Groningen’s Department of International Relations and International Organization -- and a strong supporter of the Yantai campus plan -- criticized the University Council for “only seeing obstacles and not seeing opportunities.”

“U Council has basically focused on the practicalities of the implementation of these four bachelor of science programs that will be the first ones on offer at the campus in Yantai, and in my opinion, the ones with real experience in China, academic experience, were simply not consulted.” Herman argued, in effect, that the Council focused in fine detail on practical questions of implementation “while missing out on the bigger picture.” (Scholten, the head of the University Council’s commission on the Yantai campus, said the “University Council has consulted several experts inside and outside the university with experience in China” and that as such the commission did not repeat the exercise. The commission’s charge, he said, was primarily to examine the business plan for the campus.)

“What disturbed us,” Herman said, “was U Council, wonderful colleagues who normally give advice to the Board of Directors, due to political pressure they were catapulted into this position of co-decision, whereas normally they are in a kind of advisory role. I do believe that strategic decisions that have effects for the next 20 to 30 years should be at the level of the board.”

“By not going there we now completely cut off the possibility of influencing the next generation for the next decades to come who will be the rulers, so to speak, of Chinese society,” Herman said. “We are throwing away an enormous opportunity to make an effect, to make an imprint.”

Spokespeople for the University of Groningen did not respond to multiple requests for interviews with the president, Poppema, or another senior administrator. In a statement about the decision not to offer Groningen degree programs in Yantai, Poppema left open the door for other future activities there: “In the near future we will investigate, together with the faculties and degree programs, which other forms of collaboration are possible in Yantai,” he said.

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New presidents or provosts: Cabrillo CCNY Cheyney FAMU Indiana State Middle Georgia Silver Lake Tulsa UConn

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 08:00
  • Jon Anderson, professor of management and former deputy provost at the University of West Georgia, has been selected as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Middle Georgia State University.
  • Vincent Boudreau, interim president of the City College of New York, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Robert B. Callahan, vice president for administrative, enrollment and student services at Mount Mercy University, in Iowa, has been chosen as president of Silver Lake College of the Holy Family, in Wisconsin.
  • Deborah J. Curtis, provost and chief learning officer at the University of Central Missouri, has been appointed president of Indiana State University.
  • Craig H. Kennedy, dean of the College of Education at the University of Georgia, has been selected as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Connecticut.
  • Larry Robinson, interim president of Florida A&M University, has been appointed to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Eunice Tarver, interim provost of Tulsa Community College's Northeast Campus, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Aaron A. Walton, interim president of Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, has been appointed to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Matthew Wetstein, assistant superintendent and vice president of instruction and planning at San Joaquin Delta College, in California, has been selected as president/superintendent of Cabrillo College, also in California.
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Higher ed group seeks key role in alternative credential landscape

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 08:00

Major employers will be invited to have their internal training programs evaluated for academic creditworthiness under a new digital credentialing system led by the American Council on Education.

The initiative, launched today, will see ACE team up with the digital credential provider Credly to help people put a value on skills they have learned outside college courses.

Through a $1.5 million grant from the Lumina Foundation, ACE will work with employers to assess which skills and competencies employees can derive from work-based training programs, and how much college credit these are worth.

Employees who complete these training programs will be provided with shareable digital credentials to help them demonstrate what they know and what they can do. An official machine-readable transcript will also be provided that can easily be shared -- if and when the workers choose to do so -- with colleges and universities for academic credit.

While making it easier for working adults to enter postsecondary education is what many college officials might care most about, that's not the sole driver behind the new effort. The digital credentials offered through the initiative can also be used as third-party verified résumés when employees seek new jobs.

Valuing learning that happens outside colleges is not a new endeavor for ACE. Forty years ago, it launched the College Credit Recommendation Service, which helps people get academic credit for exams and training that are not part of degree programs. This new initiative will build on the success of the service, but will be useful not only to workers thinking of getting a degree, but also to those looking for recognition of their skills.

Ted Mitchell, president of ACE, said in a news release that the initiative’s focus on digital credentials is “about creating a new language for the labor market” and not just nudging people who may have no experience of postsecondary education to pursue college degrees.

“We’re fostering collaborations between employers and institutions that reflect the reality of today’s adult learners, and our shared responsibility in creating more seamless pathways from employment to education, and economic opportunity,” said Mitchell.

Ryan Craig, the managing director of investment firm University Ventures, said that the ACE initiative fits in with the emergence of a “competency marketplace” that places less focus on “pedigree and degrees” and more focus on ability.

By working with Credly, ACE and the Lumina Foundation are recognizing that “it’s imperative for the future health and well-being of the sector that higher education set the direction,” said Craig.

But Sheryl Grant, director of research at the Community Success Institute and former director of badging research and alternative credentials at HASTAC at Duke University, said the announcement was “not really surprising.”

“This looks to me like it is supercharging a lot of the efforts that these organizations are already making around prior learning assessment, competency-based education and organizing credentials so that they have value to outside organizations,” said Grant. She noted, however, that all the organizations involved were well placed to succeed with the initiative because of their expertise in these areas.

Louis Soares, vice president for strategy, research and advancement at ACE, agreed that the initiative was building on a lot of things that ACE was doing already.

“The project will help us develop a sustainable and scalable platform to continue that work,” he said. He noted that the companies ACE already works with to evaluate their training programs have expressed “an increasing desire to document competencies -- we’re trying to keep pace with that.” ACE has worked with large companies like McDonald’s and Jiffy Lube, as well as smaller organizations.

Jonathan Finkelstein, founder and CEO of Credly, said he anticipated the scale of the initiative would be big. Credly began working with ACE last year and has seen heightening demand for digital credentials, even from people who aren’t intending to get a college degree any time soon, said Finkelstein.

“Employers who subject their training programs to third-party review are recognizing that they need to project to employees (and the talent that they would like to attract) that they are the kind of place that places a premium on upskilling and ongoing training and professional development,” said Finkelstein.

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How did a professor's stray email linking to an 'Inside Higher Ed' article result in a letter of reprimand?

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 08:00

We’ve all had our digital mishaps: sharing a link from the wrong web browser tab in a professional email, or sending a text that autocorrect has made nonsensical.

Most such mishaps end with an embarrassed apology and a note to self to check twice before clicking “send.” Sheldon Pollack’s did not. The professor of law and political science at the University of Delaware has been formally reprimanded by Matthew Kinservik, vice provost for faculty affairs, for sending the wrong colleague a link to an Inside Higher Ed article with the word “penis” in it.

Pollack, a longtime Delaware professor and former president of the Faculty Senate, says he also narrowly escaped mandated counseling recommended by the university’s human resources office.

“This is an outrageous violation of academic freedom and free speech,” Pollack wrote in a draft appeal of the reprimand he prepared for the Faculty Senate’s Faculty Welfare & Privileges Committee and shared with Inside Higher Ed. “This administrative action is arbitrary and capricious. The ‘unprofessional’ action that Dr. Kinservik deems to be a violation of university policy and professional ethics is protected speech.”

Here’s what happened. In May, Inside Higher Ed published a news story about an Alan Sokal-style hoax article that somehow made its way through the peer-review process and was published by Cogent Social Sciences. The bogus paper, called the “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct,” argued that the “conceptual penis is better understood not as an anatomical organ but as a social construct isomorphic to performative toxic masculinity.” You get the picture.

Chuckling, Pollack forwarded a link to the news story to a male colleague who is a good friend, as well as his own son, with the message “I always wondered why I felt emasculated on university campuses of late. This article explains why.” But instead of his friend, he says, his email program autofilled the contact for a female colleague with similar initials, with whom he had recently corresponded about a promotion and tenure issue.

The female colleague, whom Pollack did not name, responded by telling Pollack his email was inappropriate and asking what he meant. Pollack wrote back that he was sorry and explained he’d sent the note accidentally. “It is a story about an academic satire that someone published that I thought Jeff would appreciate,” he said, referring to his friend and intended recipient. “Guess you didn’t,” he added.

Six months later, Pollack says, the female colleague formally complained about the matter, along with another personnel-related issue (that Pollack did not disclose because he said it related to a confidential promotion decision about another colleague).

Earlier this month, after having reviewed the complaint, Kinservik sent Pollack a formal letter of reprimand, which he described as a corrective action and his duty under the university’s unlawful harassment policy.

“Sending this email with this message and a link to the IHE article, even by mistake, and including a comment that can only be regarded as gender-based bias, even as a joke, is unprofessional and represents a misuse of university email and shows poor taste and poor judgment,” Kinservik wrote.

Pollack says the university’s human resources department also recommended that he attend sexual harassment counseling as a result of the incident, but that Kinservik ignored that recommendation.

“Yes, it is hard to believe,” Pollack wrote in his appeal to the senate. “The vice provost of faculty affairs has issued his Letter of Reprimand to me for ‘unprofessional’ behavior consisting of sending this totally innocuous email to a colleague … Using the word ‘emasculated’ in an email is not a violation of university policy, and it certainly cannot be punished by the [Delaware] administration. It is neither ‘gender-based bias’ nor prohibited speech. The text of my email was not unprofessional, although my email skills were obviously amateurish.”

If the corrective action sticks, he said, “it will be a sad commentary on the current state of academic freedom and free speech (or the lack thereof) on the University of Delaware campus.”

For the record, Delaware’s Faculty Handbook says professors have ethical obligations “that derive from common membership in the community of scholars.” Professors “do not discriminate against or harass colleagues,” it says. “They respect and defend the free inquiry of associates. In the exchange of criticism and ideas professors show due respect for the opinions of others. Professors acknowledge academic debt and strive to be objective in their professional judgment of colleagues.”

The handbook further defines unlawful harassment as that which goes “beyond the mere expression of views or thoughts (spoken or written) that an individual may find offensive. The conduct must be sufficiently serious to unlawfully limit an employee's or student's ability to participate in or benefit from the activities of the university. Further, prohibited conduct must be evaluated from the perspective of a reasonable person in the alleged victim's position, taking into account all of the circumstances involved in a particular matter.”

Kinservik declined comment, saying the dispute was a “personnel matter.”

Pollack is, of course, appealing the corrective action with the senate and has filed a grievance with his faculty union, which is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors. He told Inside Higher Ed that the incident is a reflection of several “unfortunate trends on university campuses,” including increasing administrative control of academic affairs and what he called “a serious decline in respect for academic freedom and free speech.”

All professors must already be very careful about what they say in class, he said via email, “lest they offend a student or colleague. Now, the word ‘emasculated’ is deemed hate speech and ‘gender-based bias.’ I want to hear how the vice provost explains that.”

Deni Galileo, an associate professor of biology at Delaware and president of the campus AAUP chapter, said the union doesn't comment on pending faculty complaints or grievances. "Our local chapter and the national AAUP support academic freedom," he added.


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Evergreen State cancels 'Day of Absence' that set off series of protests and controversies

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 08:00

The annual Day of Absence at Evergreen State College took place for years without much notice outside the campus. That changed last year, when controversy over the event led to protests, counterprotests, threats and national debate. And that may be the last such day at Evergreen State.

A spokesman for the college confirmed that the institution will not hold the event this year.

The spokesman provided this statement: "With the fall 2017 arrival of the college’s first-ever vice president/vice provost [for equity and inclusion], Dr. Chassity Holliman-Douglas, the college is moving forward in the planning of a new equity symposium to be held this year. The symposium is not a replacement of Day of Absence/Day of Presence, but rather an opportunity for the Evergreen community to design a robust new equity event from the ground up." Asked to confirm that there would be no Day of Absence in addition to the symposium, he said that there would be no Day of Absence.

The Play and the 2017 Controversy

The Day of Absence was based on a 1965 play of the same 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.

For many years at Evergreen State, minority students and faculty members have observed a Day of Absence in which they met 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. While some have objected to the way the Day of Absence worked previously, it was the 2017 version that brought scrutiny on campus and national attention.

Last year, organizers said that on the Day of Absence, they wanted white people to stay off campus.

Bret Weinstein, a biology professor, posted a message on a campus email list in which he objected to the proposal to ask white people to avoid 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."

Weinstein went on to say he would be on campus on the Day of Absence and would encourage a similar stance by white people being asked to stay away. People should "put phenotype aside," he said. "On a college campus, one's right to speak -- or to be -- must never be based on skin color."

That email was widely shared, promoting threats against Weinstein and calls from student activists for Weinstein to be fired. While the college did not do so, he said repeatedly that Evergreen failed to forcefully defend his right to express his views.

Weinstein soon said that it was unsafe for him to be on campus, and he sued Evergreen for $3.85 million on the grounds of "hostility based on race," alleging that the college "permitted, cultivated, and perpetuated a racially hostile and retaliatory work environment … Through a series of decisions made at the highest levels, including to officially support a day of racial segregation, the college has refused to protect its employees from repeated provocative and corrosive verbal and written hostility based on race, as well as threats of physical violence." Weinstein and his wife settled the suit, agreeing to resign their faculty positions in exchange for $500,000.

Weinstein did not respond to a request for comment on the end of the Day of Absence. Nor did the First Peoples Multicultural Advising Services, which is listed as the contact for Day of Absence on the Evergreen website.

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Adams State president responds to criticism

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 08:00

The embattled president of Adams State University, Beverlee McClure, is negotiating her departure from the institution, hounded by accusations she bullied staffers and failed to remedy the university’s enrollment and financial woes.

But McClure, in an interview with Inside Higher Ed, maintains she is the victim and was subject to relentless online attacks by a former university employee, Danny Ledonne, who set up a blog, Watching Adams, dedicated to the failures of Adams State.

In the interview, McClure said that operating under the backdrop of Ledonne’s constant digital warfare -- which she claims is sexist -- became a daily stressor. Ledonne criticized her constantly and dredged up “private” photos from Facebook, she said. McClure had, at a 2016 Halloween party, mockingly dressed as an obese plumber, which some faculty members and the public have said was in poor taste and inappropriate for a college president.

McClure said she requested that she be placed on leave to avoid distraction. She said the Board of Trustees started mentioning in October that she might leave the university -- she said she could not explain their reasoning other than the trustees wanted someone to focus on the “internal,” when McClure’s push has been fund-raising and winning greater support from lawmakers. McClure declined to comment further, citing potential litigation between her and the board, though she said she hopes “it doesn’t come to that.”

Never before in her career has she dealt with someone like Ledonne, said McClure, who before her hiring in 2015 was president and chief executive officer of the New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry, the statewide chamber of commerce.

“It takes its toll,” McClure said. “It took a toll on the institution. It’s unfortunate. I will say this, too -- I consider myself a confident, successful woman, concerned about cyberbullying. Truthfully, if telling my story helps one other woman in this situation -- a public official -- that needs to be the focus.”

Ledonne worked at the university for four years in its mass communications program. His contract expired in 2015 and he was not picked for the next job he applied for there. He is perhaps best known as the creator of Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, a role-playing video game in which the user re-enacts the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. Players act as the gunmen, complete the massacre and then must toil through levels of hell before defeating Satan.

He sued the university after McClure had him banned from campus. She said in the interview she had been told of reports of Ledonne harassing people on campus, particularly women, though she said she could not provide details of his behavior for fear it would reveal his targets’ identities. Ledonne would also attend employee meetings despite no longer working there, she said. Ledonne has argued against McClure's accusations in depth on his blog, claiming they weren't truthful.

On the advice of the state attorney general’s office, McClure barred Ledonne from campus, though the ban was later lifted after his lawsuit, which was backed by the Colorado branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. Ledonne still writes his blog, most recently focusing on the Board of Trustees voting to place McClure on leave, in which he once again referenced the Halloween costume.

McClure said she was regretful but also defended the costume, saying other guests at the party found it “funny” and she was later contacted by local plumbers who said the same.

She said she never intended to offend anyone and that men attended the party dressed in full drag. Never did she publicly address the photos when they first emerged because the university didn’t want to “validate” what Ledonne was doing.

“At the time, in that context, folks at that party found it funny,” she said. “It wasn’t until Ledonne took it, spun it and made it negative that people jumped on the bandwagon. I just see this happening -- it’s a story across the country -- that social media will do this kind of thing, particularly to women. It’s cyberbullying.”

The Halloween party was hosted by Chris Gilmer, Adams State's former vice president for academic affairs, who left the university last year amid an apparent dispute with McClure. In negotiating his resignation, Gilmer received the rest of his salary and some money related to benefits, and he published a statement in which he acknowledged McClure had been accused of homophobia and creating a hostile work environment.

His agreement with the university forbade him or his husband from speaking ill of McClure, who said in her interview legally she could not talk much about Gilmer, though she did say his husband had become a “co-editor” of Watching Adams, Ledonne’s blog.

Ledonne’s supporters influenced the state chapter of the American Association of University Professors’ Colorado Conference, McClure said. Colorado’s AAUP wrote to Inside Higher Ed with concerns over “mismanagement” of Adams State, arguing that professors were intimidated by McClure and her administration to the point they met off campus and used outside email accounts to communicate.

McClure said she had invited the AAUP to campus to help address some faculty concerns and perhaps diversify the staff, with an eye toward adding more women.

Adams State has been plagued by the typical problems of a small public institution. Enrollment has continually slipped, with roughly 1,570 students enrolled in the spring 2018 semester. It also remains on probation by its accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, after HLC identified problems with Adams State's distance-learning courses.

McClure stressed that when the commission visited in November, it found that Adams State had met its standards once again and she anticipated the university would be removed from probation once the accreditor meets in June.

She also touted that during her tenure, the university restructured its debt, enrollment of minority students jumped and the graduation rate among Hispanic students -- who make up a large portion of the university's enrollment -- has climbed.

Asked if any of the criticism of her performance as president was justified, McClure said, “I don’t believe so.”

She said she has no relationship with the trustees any longer but wishes them and Adams State well.

“I think I did particularly well to elevate the reputation of Adams State in context of how someone was trying to destroy it,” McClure said.

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Achieving the Dream colleges find graduates report higher well-being

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 08:00

NASHVILLE -- Most community colleges don't view graduation rates alone as a measure of success. For many of them, transfer and job placement are equally viewed as successes.

But a new survey from Gallup shows that there are other ways, particularly after graduation, to measure the success of two-year colleges.

The report, "Measuring What Matters," surveyed more than 5,700 community college graduates from 15 Achieving the Dream colleges from five states and found those ATD institutions were outpacing other two-year colleges when it came to the reviews of alumni on how the institutions helped them get better jobs and have better financial, social and community well-being. Gallup also surveyed more than 2,500 associate-degree holders from non-ATD institutions to compare. The report was released during Achieving the Dream's annual conference.

For instance, the survey found:

  • 48 percent of graduates from Achieving the Dream colleges reported liking what they do each day and being motivated to achieve their goals, compared to 35 percent of graduates from other community colleges.
  • 32 percent of graduates from ATD colleges reported having a healthy financial well-being and can manage their economic life, compared to 19 percent of graduates from other two-year colleges.
  • 47 percent of graduates from ATD colleges reported having strong and supportive relationships in their lives, compared to 36 percent of graduates from other colleges.
  • 39 percent of ATD graduates reported liking where they lived, feeling safe and having pride in their communities, compared to 30 percent of other graduates.

Achieving the Dream works with community colleges on a number of initiatives that include engaging adjuncts, building guided pathways and increasing equity and completion.

"A lot of the earlier student success work zeroes in on completion and primarily associate degree completion, as if that was the end point," said Karen Stout, president and chief executive officer of ATD. "But what we're learning is that completion is now a progression measurement … this survey points to some additional elements around well-being and thriving that are also important measures of how successful we are in constructing student experiences on our campuses."

The national survey results also included data from ATD member El Centro College in Dallas, particularly in how students felt connected to the college as alumni. The college's graduates reported that El Centro professors had a lasting impact in their lives, said José Adames, president of the Texas college.

Adames said he wants to share the survey with not just the college's marketing department, but El Centro's career and technical education programs, foundation and community members to find out if the results reflect other graduates' opinions and to show the college's value to the community.

"The engagement piece is critical … it reinforces our long-term focus on the first-year experience," he said, referring to how faculty at the college help students make decisions from the moment they enter campus.

The report also found that students of color who graduated from ATD colleges showed similar well-being rates to white students. Hispanic and black alumni, at 52 percent and 51 percent respectively, reported having an "excellent" experience at their community colleges, while 47 percent of white and 46 percent of Asian alumni reported the same.

Over all, nearly nine in 10 ATD graduates reported having a "good" or "excellent" college experience.

Northern Virginia Community College "has been a part of ATD for 10 years, and we have moved away from completion and just getting a degree to changing their lives," said George Gabriel, vice president of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Student Success Initiatives at NOVA. "It's not about bragging or recruiting. This shows that community colleges are doing our share, and maybe more than our share, in making good citizens and contributing to the community."

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British universities object to extra charges for articles that are more than 20 years old

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 08:00

Publisher Taylor & Francis has dropped plans to charge extra for access to older research papers online, after more than 110 universities signed a letter of protest.

The latest renewal of British universities’ deal with Taylor & Francis, which was agreed in principle at the end of January but is yet to be signed, for the first time covered papers published only in the past 20 years. Papers published in a one-year window between 1997 -- seen as the year that the digital academic publishing era began -- and 1998 would have been placed in a “modern archive,” and universities would have had to purchase access to this as a separate package.

Significantly, the 20-year span of papers included in the main deal, known as the “front file,” would have moved forward in time with each advancing year.

This meant that the number of papers in the modern archive would get larger every year and costs could escalate. In 2023, for example, universities would have had to pay for access to papers published between 1997 and 2003 as a separate package.

Universities that had previously licensed particular titles into perpetuity would still have had access to those papers at no additional charge.

In an open letter, head librarians from more than 110 British and Irish institutions, as well as representatives from Research Libraries UK; the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL); and the Irish Universities Association, warned that the new policy “will increase administration activities and costs substantially.”

The move would create “confusion and annoyance” for customers, says the letter, which adds, “Diminishing this coverage [to older articles] is opportunistic and potentially profiteering within a sector which is recognized to enjoy substantial profit margins at present as it greatly monetizes the outputs and inputs of publicly-funded research.”

Richard Parsons, chair of SCONUL’s content strategy group, told Times Higher Education that the new policy “is a line beyond what is fair and reasonable.”

“It gives the publisher another route to earn money from their collections. Collectively librarians consider this unfair and not in the ethos of partnership,” said Parsons, director of the Library and Learning Centre at the University of Dundee.

“After 20 years those articles suddenly disappear even though academics have been reading them before that and these are the people who produced the articles.”

Negotiations on Irish universities’ next deal with Taylor & Francis are ongoing.

In a statement issued Feb. 19, Taylor & Francis said that it had decided not to implement the new policy and that it would reinstate historic access as part of the main subscription.

“We apologize for the concern that the new policy generated, this was resolutely not our intention,” the statement said. “Taylor & Francis is committed to remaining a long-term partner not just to researchers and librarians, but to all those that participate in the scholarly process.”

Following the issuing of the statement, Parsons said that library directors “will be generally very welcoming of this development.”

“We are pleased to see the importance of partnership and consideration shown to the sector,” he said. “All were expressing concerns on behalf of readers, and easy access to scholarly publications needs to be both the focus of the publishers and librarians. We will welcome the opportunity to work further with Taylor & Francis to enhance and sustain the access to scholarly publications for University students and staff.”

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New data show wage gap between professors and other advanced degree holders

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 08:48

Professors earn about 15 percent less than others with advanced degrees, finds a study circulated Tuesday by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The study (abstract available here), "Why Are Professors 'Poorly Paid'?," uses data from the Current Population Survey to compare the salaries and other characteristics of those with Ph.D., Ed.D., J.D. or M.D. degrees. Those who reported their profession as "postsecondary teacher" were compared to everyone else. The study was conducted by Daniel S. Hamermesh, an economist at Barnard College.

In his comparisons of salaries, he found essentially no differences among those at the low end of the salary scale for professors and nonprofessors with advanced degrees. The gaps grew as one went up to the more highly paid in both groups.

Hamermesh also considered (but found evidence against) the possibility that the key factor could be the relative value of a J.D. or M.D. vs. a Ph.D. He excluded advanced professional degrees and found similar gaps between doctorate holders in and out of academe.

Another key finding from the study: "Although on average professors appear poorly paid compared to other highly-educated workers, their average weekly earnings are 44 percent higher than those of workers without advanced degrees (who are of the same age and have a workweek of the same length)."

To any who might imagine that lawyers and doctors work longer hours than professors, Hamermesh uses data from the American Time Use Survey to demonstrate that this is not the case. Hours of work are similar for professors and others with advanced degrees. There is a key difference: faculty members work more on weekends and less on weekdays than do others with advanced degrees.

The American Association of University Professors has argued for years that faculty salaries -- even if some years are better than others -- are eroding, particularly in public higher education. (AAUP data on faculty salaries, searchable by institution and faculty rank, may be found on Inside Higher Ed's website here.)

Why Do Academics Pick Their Careers?

Hamermesh writes that he wanted to determine why academics select careers, given that doing so may limit their earnings compared to others with advanced degrees.

To explore the issue, he sent a survey to 1,000 academics (generally economists) who specialize in labor markets. Economics is of course an area where there are jobs outside academe, so there isn't the presumption, as in some other fields, that a faculty job is the natural path after earning a Ph.D.

"Freedom and novelty of research, and the satisfaction of working with young minds, are by far the most important attractions into academe. Only 41 percent of respondents listed time flexibility as a top-three attraction, slightly fewer than listed enjoying intellectual and social interactions with colleagues."

He adds that female academics are slightly more likely to view scheduling flexibility as a key attraction to academe than do their male colleagues, but that the gap is not significant.

The paper concludes, "I have documented a fairly large wage disadvantage of academics behind otherwise identical advanced-degree holders."

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Scholar says new book on China's 'leftover women' fails to acknowledge her years of research in the area

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 08:00

Leta Hong Fincher, a well-known independent scholar of China, has been researching and writing about the country’s unmarried, educated, urban female population for years. The topic doesn’t belong to Hong Fincher alone, and Chinese even has a special term for this group of women over about 25: “leftover," or sheng nu. But Hong Fincher is something of a pioneer in the area, and many colleagues consider her 2014 book, Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China (Zed Books), required reading.

So Hong Fincher was surprised to find that a major new book, Leftover in China: The Women Shaping the World’s Next Superpower (W. W. Norton & Company), doesn’t acknowledge her at all in its extensive bibliography. And it’s more than a matter of ego: Hong Fincher says the book’s author, Roseann Lake, a journalist who now writes about Cuba for The Economist, has been following her work since 2011.

Back then, Lake reached out to Hong Fincher saying she admired a recent article Hong Fincher wrote about sheng nu for Ms. magazine. Lake said she was in the early stages of writing a book about China’s leftover women and she wanted to interview Hong Fincher. Busy with graduate school at the time, Hong Fincher declined. But she said she eventually shared an unpublished conference paper and asked Lake to cite her if she used any of her ideas. Lake also attended talks and conferences where Hong Fincher was speaking when they both lived in Beijing, Hong Fincher said.

That’s where things get a bit tricky. Hong Fincher, who argues that the Chinese government has launched an aggressive singles-shaming campaign to get sheng nu married and has otherwise rolled back women's rights, isn’t alleging that Lake plagiarized her outright -- at least not based on a quick first read of the book. But she is alleging that Lake, in failing to credit her for any of the work she’s done on leftover women, has in effect “erased” her from the scholarly record. That’s a concern scholars in other venues have expressed of late, saying the erasure phenomenon disproportionately affects women and scholars of color.

“There’s a long history here,” Hong Fincher said. “Now she has this powerful publisher, which has given her this platform, and she’s out there presenting all of these ideas as her own and pretending my work doesn’t exist. I’m very angry about it … It’s calculated erasure.”

Lake has denied any allegations of intellectual misconduct, saying in a statement that she purposely did not read Hong Fincher’s 2014 book as she was preparing her own manuscript.

“I am grateful for Leta Hong Fincher’s work on the subject and have cited it in articles that I wrote for Salon and Foreign Policy in 2012, after she and I had corresponded over the phone and email,” Lake’s statement says.

Since 2010, she added, “I have researched and written on the topic and have also raised awareness of it through creative means, including the Chaoji Shengnu cartoon series that was published starting in 2013, and a stage play called ‘The Leftover Monologues’ that debuted in Beijing in 2014. When Leta’s book was released, I decided not to read it because I was working on the manuscript for my own book, and I chose to stay focused on the stories of the women whose lives I feature in it.”

Lake did not respond to a follow-up question about why she avoided Hong Fincher’s book, namely how it would have interfered with her own writing.

In any case, Lake’s is an unusual defense for allegations of intellectual theft: claiming ignorance about a book's content by virtue of admitting you avoided it. And it’s done nothing to appease Hong Fincher, who has aired her concerns on social media.

“I find that excuse completely indefensible,” Hong Fincher said. “Taking that claim at face value, it doesn’t even make any sense.”

It’s true that Lake has previously cited Hong Fincher’s work: Hong Fincher said she also had concerns about the extent to which Lake’s 2012 Salon article on sheng nu echoed her own 2011 Ms. magazine article about them. But she didn’t pursue anything at that time because Lake had at least mentioned her in the piece. Here’s a side-by-side comparison Hong Fincher recently posted to Twitter of those two articles.

Compare Lake’s Salon paragraph (2012) on left with my Ms. paragraph (2011) on right pic.twitter.com/yyxqBIg6u8

-- Leta Hong Fincher洪理达 (@LetaHong) February 20, 2018

This time, Hong Fincher decided to speak out, and publicly. She initiated a previous, internal complaint against another scholar who wrote about leftover women with another publisher but said that process went nowhere because the onus fell on her to prove misconduct, distracting her from her own work. (The author of that second book did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hong Fincher's allegations.) Now, she said, people can read the two books and judge for themselves.

Hong Fincher has gathered much public support on social media. Some of her fans have made the leap from erasure to plagiarism on their own, accusing Lake of intellectual theft.

Rebecca Karl, an associate professor of history at New York University, also published a note in the Modern Chinese Literature and Culture website saying that Lake "appears to nowhere acknowledge in print how much her work and her text are indebted to Leta Hong Fincher, whose 2014 book, Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China, Lake’s work closely parallels. Lake seems to poach upon the latter’s research, thematics, and acumen, while never citing Hong Fincher as either source or inspiration."

Such conversations prompted ChinaFile, an online news source, to remove an interview with Lake. Announcing the move on Twitter, its editors said, "We invite authors to promote books on our site on the assumption their work respects basic scholarly and journalistic principles. At present, we don't feel confident of that assumption in the case of Leftover in China."

But is erasure a scholarly misdeed on par with plagiarism? Charles Lipson, a professor emeritus of international relations at the University of Chicago who has written about plagiarism, said Tuesday that the issue of citing "borrowed ideas" is a disputed one.

Of course, he said, “the best practice -- and the honest one -- is to openly acknowledge all sources, including those that prompted your concepts and language.”

But in more complicated cases, he said, “Everything rests on the second author's intentions, and those can only be determined by circumstantial evidence and guesswork.”

And second authors can make honest mistakes, Lipson added, saying that he recently came up with an ancillary idea and included it in a manuscript he’s writing. Before publication, a reader told him the idea was well-known, if not to him.

“If I had published the earlier version, I would have stolen an idea without knowing it,” he said.

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Adams State President on leave after turbulent tenure

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 08:00

Adams State University president Beverlee McClure has been put on leave following complaints of her caustic behavior toward college employees.

McClure has been the target of much criticism, the most vigorous from a blog, Watching Adams, run by a former professor, Danny Ledonne, who widely publicized what he perceived as McClure’s faults, including her mockery of blue-collar workers with a Halloween costume in which she donned a fat suit and bulbous and yellowing false teeth.

A businesswoman by trade and the institution’s first female president, McClure was brought on in 2015 to help fix the many woes plaguing the small public institution in Colorado, but she has so far failed to remedy its troubles. She was previously the president and chief executive officer of the New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry, a lobbying group for businesses.

Adams State has suffered from sliding enrollments and has also had to deal with its accreditor placing it on probation shortly after McClure’s tenure began.

McClure has also both publicly and privately soured her relationships with some professors and other employees.

The costume criticism -- again, brought to the forefront by Ledonne -- comes from a party McClure attended in 2016, organized by Chris Gilmer, a former vice president for academic affairs. McClure’s costume included a suit that made her appear obese, with a faux belly hanging out of a much-too-small shirt emblazoned with the logo of a fake plumbing company.

She painted on a smudgy beard and popped in grotesque and decaying teeth and posted photos of herself to Facebook. One caption read, “Ain’t I pretty?”

The statement by the Adams State Board of Trustees does not touch on any of the blog’s attacks or the Halloween costume. Instead, they state that they and McClure have agreed their priorities are no longer “congruent.”

“The parties are therefore working to accomplish a mutually agreeable resolution,” the statement reads.

Cleave Simpson, chairman of the board, declined to comment beyond the statement other than to say he was disappointed in the way some media reports have mischaracterized its decision.

The trustees put in charge Matt Nehring, the interim vice president for academic affairs, who did not respond to a request for comment.

McClure could not be reached for comment.

In a statement last year, she defended herself against “cyberbullies,” not naming Ledonne’s website, but saying that they had gone after her reputation, both professionally and as a private citizen.

“I am disgusted by what I’ve seen,” McClure said. “These attacks have been the weapons of cowards, safely hiding behind a website to exercise their aggression. They try and take the moral high ground that they are ‘fighting’ to save the university. But it is anything but high ground and it is anything but helping save this university. These attacks are demeaning, and they constitute an act of violence not just against me, but also against people everywhere who have been the victims of such intimidation.”

Ledonne taught in the mass communication program at Adams State for four years, until 2015, when his contract was not renewed. McClure barred him from campus amid allegations he was harassing university employees, but he sued, with the backing of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and got his banishment lifted. The university settled the lawsuit for $100,000, paid through its insurance, which officials considered a nuisance case.

After McClure announced the ban, the state faculty union, the American Association of University Professors Colorado Conference, wrote to her expressing concern that she had violated Ledonne’s free speech and due process rights and that her actions would chill faculty expression.

By email, Steve Mumme, co-president of AAUP Colorado Conference, said the union has long been concerned with the “mismanagement” of Adams State.

Mumme said that after McClure kicked Ledonne off campus, faculty who did not agree with the decision and voiced their concerns were subject to “threats and intimidation” by her administration. Some professors feared they would not be promoted or would lose their jobs if they dissented, Mumme said.

“Chapter faculty were so fearful of administrative reprisals they insisted on meeting off-campus and resorted to using non-university email for most communications among themselves,” Mumme said in his email.

Gilmer, the former vice president for academic affairs, also departed from the university after eight or so months there, according to his LinkedIn profile, apparently after feuding with McClure.

He lodged an unknown complaint against McClure but later settled with the trustees and arranged to quit. Per the terms of the agreement, neither Gilmer nor his spouse could make “any disparaging remarks” about McClure, and his complaint would be dropped. The university would pay his salary in a lump sum, as well as some money related to his benefits, and set up a reference for him for future jobs.

The settlement also required him to release a statement, which he did.

In it, Gilmer acknowledged that McClure had been accused of creating a hostile work environment and of retaliation and “harboring homophobic tendencies.”

“Regrettably as many of you already know, the friendship which President McClure and I formed quickly and easily has unfortunately dissolved and has begun to affect the university in a negative way,” Gilmer said. “My husband and I freely admit that we have known and valued President McClure as a friend, co-worker and colleague since moving to Alamosa. President McClure was instrumental in helping us to secure a home near the university and attended our Halloween party and both of our birthday parties. In fact, she hosted my birthday party at her home.

“Some people have used this opportunity to spread misinformation, including on the Watching Adams site. I deeply regret any challenges recent events have created, and I am also very hopeful and fully committed that together we can move forward toward more noble goals.”

The Denver Post also cited five unnamed faculty members who criticized McClure and characterized her as bullying.

But in an interview with Inside Higher Ed, one professor, who asked to remain anonymous given the sensitivity of the topic, painted a more positive picture of McClure.

The professor said that she never had any negative interactions with McClure -- the president was always attentive and wanted to listen to faculty, the professor said.

McClure inherited “a tough time” and she believes the reasoning of the trustees, the professor said.

The Higher Learning Commission, the university’s accreditation agency, had deemed it out of compliance with commission standards in 2016 after it investigated reports of the ease of the institution’s distance-learning courses. Athletes at other universities had taken these classes to stay eligible, among other flaws such as a taxing faculty workload, the commission found. The problems started before McClure was hired.

The university remains on probation until the Higher Learning Commission meets in June, spokesman Steve Kauffman said. The commission won’t comment on active cases, Kauffman said, but it is aware of the issues on campus and the media reports. (McClure has made some inflammatory comments about the commission. In an interview after the university was put on probation, she said Adams State was the commission’s “whipping boy.”)

The professor who spoke sympathetically of the president said that a small number of her colleagues had “dramatized” the situation and helped create the Watching Adams site. In part, the professor requested anonymity because she was worried she would be targeted by the blog. To her knowledge, no one was discussing the Halloween costume from more than a year ago until Ledonne mentioned it again in a recent post, which the professor described as a “sleazy” move.

“We do some really great things here,” the professor said. “Just a few people magnify all the bad things and really taint our reputation. It’s unfortunate. We should be magnifying all the good things that we do here.”

Adams State is approaching its centennial, but like many liberal arts institutions, it has faced declining enrollment and thus financial difficulties. In a year, the number of students dropped from 1,635 in the spring 2017 semester to 1,577 in spring 2018.

AAUP’s Mumme said the history with McClure -- the poor judgment with the Halloween costume, how the distance-learning classes were later handled, the conflict with Ledonne -- is concerning.

“These actions establish a pattern of administrative and professional mismanagement that cast doubt on President McClure’s … competence and undermine the administration’s professed commitment to academic freedom and the practice of shared governance on campus,” Mumme said.

Editorial Tags: College administrationImage Caption: Beverlee McClure in her Halloween costume from 2016Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: A President's CostumeTrending order: 1

Public universities band together on completion rates and achievement gaps

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 08:00

A group of 100 public universities will work with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities to produce hundreds of thousands of additional degrees while also reducing achievement gaps for underrepresented student groups.

The college completion project, which APLU announced today, is the latest sign of greater urgency among public universities about graduation rates and student success, aided in part by performance-based funding formulas that are on the books in 35 states.

Even a few years ago, some presidents of land-grant universities would struggle to recall the student retention and graduation rates of their institutions, said Peter McPherson, APLU’s president.

“They know them now,” he said. “It’s clear that this is an important issue for universities and the country.”

Roughly 61 percent of students nationwide who first enrolled in a four-year public college or university in 2011 earned a bachelor’s degree within six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Another 3.4 percent of these former four-year university students earned a two-year degree during that period of time, while 11 percent were still enrolled in college.

The overall degree completion rate for black students at four-year publics was 50 percent, the center found, and about 56 percent for Hispanic students. In comparison, 71 percent of white students and 76 percent of Asian students earned a degree.

McPherson said the completion effort will be a big step for participating universities and the association, which is creating the new Center for Public University Transformation to manage its part of the project. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing funding for the association's initial work for the project.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said McPherson. “We’ve got to do better.”

The 100 universities will collaborate together in 10 “transformation clusters,” APLU said. The association will act as a matchmaker in helping to create the clusters, which will be formed around universities with common priorities. Some might include groups of institutions within states or regions, peer universities across state lines, or universities that are working on common student success strategies, according to APLU.

The focus for the collaborations will be to expand the use of proven completion strategies. Those might include high-touch advising and student services, co-remediation services, completion grants for students, regional transfer pathways, gateway course redesigns, and other evidence-backed approaches.

“Our focus on scaling known strategies will keep the effort lean and nimble,” APLU said, “and minimize the need for costly consultants and research studies.”

A Completion ‘Movement’?

The project is still taking shape, according to the group, and decisions about which universities will participate in specific clusters have yet to be made.

In some ways the effort resembles the University Innovation Alliance, a coalition of 11 large public research universities that formed about four years ago to work together on improving graduation rates, also with a focus lower-income and underrepresented students.

The UIA, which includes the University of Texas at Austin, Arizona State University, Georgia State University and Ohio State University, has announced substantial gains in degree attainment. For example, after three years, the group said, its 11 campuses were producing 25 percent more low-income graduates per year, with 100,000 additional graduates over all projected by 2025.

Bridget Burns, the alliance’s executive director, applauded the APLU project, describing the broader completion push by public universities as a growing movement.

“We’ve been trying to establish a drumbeat,” she said. “This is all exactly what we hoped would happen.”

UIA-style collaboration between research universities on academics remains relatively rare in a competitive industry, although Burns points to long-standing models like the Big Ten Academic Alliance. But increasing pressure on universities about completion rates, including by state lawmakers and in equity-minded university rankings like those produced by The Washington Monthly and The New York Times, seems to be spurring on more collaborative action.

In addition to the new APLU project, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities has created a coalition of 44 member institutions that are working on a student-success project focused on reimagining the first year of college. And the Gates-funded Frontier Set is a group of 30 colleges and universities, state systems and supporting organizations that are trying to improve student access and success.

“Working together is smarter and faster,” said Burns.

Robert L. Caret, chancellor of the University System of Maryland and APLU’s board chair, said collaboration is critical for student success and equity goals.

“From my personal vantage point, I have seen how collaboration between a public system and other state institutions produces important successes,” Caret said via email, “as we see in Maryland by having seamless ‘2 + 2’ partnerships with our state’s community colleges so that students can easily transfer to the University System of Maryland’s institutions and complete their four-year degree. There is similar potential for collaborative clusters to work effectively on a regional basis.”

One of the easiest ways for a university to improve its graduation rate is to get more selective, which tends to mean fewer students who are low income or from minority groups. Likewise, pushing completion goals typically doesn't improve a university’s research clout.

As a result, APLU’s new project will need to thread a needle of competing interests, not to mention ever-tightening state budgets.

McPherson was confident that participating universities can improve completion rates and close achievement gaps while still striving to attract more research dollars and top students.

“There’s real understanding that if you’re going to broaden your numbers of low-income, less-prepared students, you need to put in effort to help them complete,” he said, but adding that “I don’t think degree completion will replace research, nor should it.”

Editorial Tags: Graduation ratesFlagship publicsResearch universitiesState policyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: New Push on CompletionTrending order: 3
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