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Anyone who’s ever taught a class knows some students say more than others. And most professors eventually develop some way of encouraging quieter students to contribute. In one more formal discussion-management technique, called progressive stacking, professors call on students who may be -- for a variety of reasons -- less likely to have their say. While every student is different, the reasons typically reflect the implicit biases observed outside the classroom, such as those related to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disability status. So, according to progressive stacking, a professor would call on a black or Latina woman before a white man, for example.
There’s the rub, at least in one class at the University of Pennsylvania. Stephanie McKellop, a graduate teaching assistant in history there, says she is under attack by fringe-right groups for using progressive stacking in her classes and then tweeting about it. Worse, she says, the university is cowing to such groups instead of supporting her. She’s claimed on social media that her classes were canceled this week and she may be asked to leave her program.
Here's some of what McKellop tweeted earlier this week. Her social media accounts are private, but the posts have since been shared by her supporters, some of whom have contacted Penn on her behalf. The trouble apparently began with a post in which she wrote, "I will always call on my black women students first. Other [people of color] get second-tier priority. [White women] come next. And, if I have to, white men." In a later post, she wrote, "Penn thinks I'm racist and discriminatory towards my students for using a very well worn pedagogical tactic which includes calling on [people of color]."
Steven J. Fluharty, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, refuted some of those claims in a statement Thursday, saying that McKellop has not been removed from her program and that Penn has “and will continue to respect and protect the graduate student’s right to due process.”
Penn knows and values the “importance of ensuring that students in groups that were historically marginalized have full opportunity to participate in classroom discussions,” Fluharty added. “Penn is strongly committed to providing respectful work and learning environments for all members of our community.”
Yet Fluharty seemed to validate McKellop’s claim that Penn has taken issue with her teaching style, saying that Penn is “looking into the current matter involving a graduate student teaching assistant to ensure that our students were not subjected to discriminatory practices in the classroom and to ensure that all of our students feel heard and equally engaged.”
McKellop did not immediately respond to an interview request Thursday. A spokeswoman for Penn said that McKellop has not been barred from teaching, but she provided no further details. McKellop’s adviser did not respond to a request for comment.
A number of academics expressed support for McKellop on social media and for progressive stacking. In general, it doesn't mean excluding men or white students from conversations, or forcing underrepresented students to talk. Instead, it means calling on students who want to talk in the reverse order that one might predictably do so, based on social biases.
Jessie Daniels, a professor of sociology at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, said progressive stacking has been around at least since she was in graduate school in the 1990s. She still uses it informally, to right her own tendency to call on men more frequently than women.
“If I have a class of 40 students, since Hunter is predominantly young women, I may have four or five young men in class,” Daniels said. “There’s still implicit bias, where we value men’s voices more than women’s voices, or men’s voices are deeper and carry more in a class. So I’m always trying to overcome my own bias to pick on men in class more than the women.”
As to whether purposely asking a woman to answer a question over a man was a kind of discrimination, Daniels said, “That gets it the wrong way around. This is a way of dealing with discrimination that we as professors can introduce into the classroom. It’s a good strategy, if you can do it.”
Daniels said she thought that the online backlash against McKellop seemed ripped from the “playbook” of the far right, which has attacked numerous professors involved in issues of race in recent months. Worse still, she said, McKellop, as a graduate student, is a particularly vulnerable target.
Cathy Davidson, director of the Futures Initiative at CUNY’s Graduate Center, has long advocated for inclusive teaching methods, including via the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory, which she co-founded. Davidson said Thursday that she didn’t particularly like progressive stacking, and that other methods seem “far better to me than making judgments on others’ privilege.”
Davidson instead recommended "inventory" methods that require participation by all students in the classroom, such as thoughtful "exit tickets" from a session, think-pair-share exercises or asking everyone to write down and then share a memorable sentence from a given reading.
Daniels said she didn’t know how pervasive progressive stacking is, but underscored that it’s nothing new. As for the situation at Penn specifically, Daniels said it would be unfortunate for the university to punish someone trying to “uphold its values. It would be a very misguided step on the part of Penn.”Academic FreedomTeaching and LearningEditorial Tags: Academic freedomGraduate studentsImage Caption: Stephanie McKellopIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday announced a proposed settlement with a website whose "military-friendly" rankings of colleges and universities allegedly promoted institutions that paid to be included.
Victory Media runs a number of magazines and websites targeting service members and their families and operates a tool and rankings to help prospective students find the right postsecondary program. But the FTC found that those publications basically functioned as paid advertisements for institutions.
Under the terms of the settlement, Victory is required to prominently disclose to readers that its rankings are paid endorsements. No financial penalty was included in the order, but each violation could result in a fine of up to $40,654.
“Service members and their families put themselves on the line every day to protect our nation,” the acting FTC chairwoman, Maureen K. Ohlhausen, said in a statement. “We owe it to them to make sure that when they look to further their education, they get straight talk instead of advertising in disguise.”
The proposed settlement is open to public comment for 30 days. The commission will decide whether to finalize it after Nov. 20.
Carrie Wofford, president of Veterans Education Success, said the group plans to monitor Victory Media websites and publications closely to make sure they comply with the terms of the settlement. VES documented the alleged deceptive promotions in a 2016 report. That report found that for-profit colleges, in particular, paid for exposure to service members through Victory's "military-friendly" designation.
Wofford said further steps should be taken by military installations, including the removal of Victory's "military-friendly schools" list and its GI Jobs magazine -- which includes education, transition, and job assistance for veterans -- from bases and Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals.
"It’s terrible for VA and DOD to be taken in by what FTC has now exposed as a fraudulent pay-to-play scheme," she said.
Wofford also said Congress should take action to reinstate GI Bill benefits for defrauded veterans.
Suzanne Treviño, a Victory Media spokeswoman, said the company had fully assisted the FTC and addressed every concern by the commission.
"GI Jobs readers benefit by learning more about different higher-level educational institutions that can help them transition from military to civilian life," she said. "Victory Media, a service-disabled veteran-owned business, looks forward to continuing to advocate for military-friendly schools and employers because we want to make life better for veterans."Student Aid and LoansEditorial Tags: Financial aidMilitary educationVeteransIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Robots are taking over the world (and the job market). Majoring in anything but a science or engineering discipline is foolhardy. A humanities or social science degree will get you a great job -- as a barista.
Read enough internet headlines and all of those might seem not only feasible but inevitable. But like many sweeping, future-looking statements, those and other proclamations about the decline and fall of the liberal arts should be taken with a truckload of salt.
George Anders's You Can Do Anything (Little, Brown and Company) is the latest book (others here and here) to make the case that students (and colleges and universities) should not shun the liberal arts. While designed mostly to help students arm themselves for the world of work -- Anders, a contributing writer at Forbes, brings a consumer focus to You Can Do Anything -- the book's use of job-market data and plentiful anecdotes about students, institutions and programs will probably prove compelling to career services administrators, faculty members and anyone else hoping to encourage a liberal arts major they know.
Via email, Anders answered questions about the book, which follow.
Q: You Can Do Anything is among a set of new books that challenge the prevailing narrative that technology and artificial intelligence threaten to make the liberal arts and they skills they build irrelevant. Yours doesn’t run from job or salary data to make that case, but cites them directly to make the case that the “new pessimism” about those fields is “out of step with what broad economic data tell us.” How so?
A: A close look at the data shows good news on two fronts. First, the U.S. economy has created at least 626,000 jobs -- and perhaps as many as 2.3 million -- since 2012 in what I’m broadly calling “the rapport sector” or the “empathy economy.” These arise in areas such as project management, digital marketing, graphic design and genetic counseling. Such work not only pays quite decently; it also requires an ability to solve problems by understanding different points of view. This work is tailor-made for liberal arts graduates.
Second, broad-based earnings data from PayScale, a Seattle labor-research firm, shows that many liberal arts majors achieve strong midcareer incomes even if they start slowly at first. It’s a mistake to focus only on starting salaries, which highlight the short-term value of preprofessional degrees in fields such as nursing or accounting. Take the longer view, and you’ll find that philosophy or political science majors pull ahead after a decade or so. Their midcareer earnings average about $80,000 a year, noticeably ahead of RNs or CPAs.
Q: You compare analysis of the job market in today’s environment to studying the topography of Hawaii’s Big Island, where volcanic eruptions constantly alter the coastline, with new fields cropping up that “prize the strengths that emerge from a robust liberal arts curriculum: curiosity, discernment, adaptability and a prepared-for-everything gusto that can turn chaos into triumph.” You make the case that while technological change may be driving the emergence of these new fields, many of the needed positions are what you call “bridge-building jobs” that marry C. P. Snow’s “two cultures.” Can you explain this phenomenon?
A: The eye-opener for me involved a series of visits to OpenTable, the online restaurant-reservation company. It makes much of its money selling customer-behavior data to restaurants. OpenTable needs only 14 data experts to crunch the numbers nationwide, but getting restaurateurs to accept and embrace these findings is much more challenging.
So OpenTable employs more than 100 restaurant relations managers to fan out across the U.S. with iPads, meeting the proud, prickly people who run high-end restaurants and suggesting ways of putting this data to use. Many of these specialists happen to have majored in English, psychology or similar nontechnical fields in college. Small wonder; the key skill in such jobs involves a knack for lucid communication and an ability to win the restaurateur’s trust. Such jobs are quite new; they didn’t exist a decade ago. And they bear out the notion that rapid advances in software are creating huge demand for people who can humanize tech in ways that make it usable (and even appealing) for the rest of us.
Q: We are in an era in which “success” (for students, academic programs, colleges and universities) is increasingly being judged by short-term job outcomes and incomes. Parents of current and prospective students, especially, seem to be focused on that, to the point that counselors for low-income high school students tell me they often hear parents pushing their children into business and vocational fields over the humanities and social sciences. Yet you advise readers of your book that “the greatest payoff for your college education is likely to be years away, perhaps in your fourth job, perhaps in your seventh.” Will students and parents be that patient? Will the politicians and policy makers who are devising accountability systems (which often focus on short-term outcomes)?
A: This quandary worries me. Other countries admire America’s creativity, which comes largely from giving people room to roam around a lot in their educations and in their careers. Yet we seem to have lost confidence in one of our greatest strengths. We’re wanting higher education to be a source of career stability -- when it’s actually much more valuable as a source of career mobility.
It’s important to acknowledge how much the student-debt explosion has shortened people’s time horizons. A lot of the exciting, meandering career paths that I describe are a lot more feasible if you’re not one missed paycheck away from financial ruin. I’m glad to see that some (well-off) colleges are making it easier for students with limited means to graduate with little debt. A bigger rethink of higher education finances is needed, so that the freedom to explore doesn’t seem like an unaffordable luxury.
Q: Why do defenders of the liberal arts and nonvocational higher education struggle so much to explain the value of terms like “critical thinking”? Can you describe the analysis you undertook to try to improve on those arguments? And in a (partially) related question, do you believe there are labeling problems with terms like that and “liberal arts”?
A: Within academia, critical thinking is celebrated as a process. That resonates poorly with employers -- whose world is defined by results, results, results -- even though they want what critical thinking can accomplish. We’ve got a translation problem on our hands. To illuminate this, and to offer a way out, I rounded up thousands of job ads from big employers (Apple to Allstate) that asked for “critical thinking” and paid at least $100,000. Poring through them, I found five ways that the abstractions of critical thinking get translated into the realities of employers’ needs. The key elements: a willingness to work in uncharted areas, the analytic skills needed to generate strong insights, expert decision making, a knack for reading the room and persuasive communication.
The more that liberal arts graduates can demonstrate that their time with diphthongs or Descartes has imbued them with these five skills, the easier it will be to impress potential employers.
I started this book with the belief that the “liberal arts” name encapsulated so many valuable strengths that recent labeling anxieties could be overcome. I haven’t abandoned that view, but I’m open to alternatives.
Q: Are colleges and universities as a collective group doing enough to prepare their graduates for a life of work? Are they (and should they be) focusing more on long-term rather than short-term skills and competencies? To what extent are the campus career services improvements that you highlight at places like Wake Forest, Brigham Young, Indiana and Rutgers Newark representative of broader trends or outliers? And to what extent is workplace readiness a domain of the faculty (and appropriately embedded in the curriculum) as opposed to a co-curricular matter best left to career services?
A: Each academic department is its own story, but the message from student enrollment trends is stark. Academic disciplines that are seen as career useful will attract more students. Ones that are seen as career useless will atrophy. Fortunately, it’s possible to celebrate learning for its own sake and weave in a sufficient amount of career readiness, too. BYU’s initiatives with Humanities Plus are exemplary. Career services departments alone can’t carry the whole load, but I’m impressed with the way that a single career class -- or more active bridges to recent grads in the work force -- can help current students in any discipline graduate with a good shot at a collegeworthy job.
Solutions are embryonic but developing rapidly. In the book, I chose to highlight schools making rapid progress, with the hope that good habits will spread. We still have a lot of faculty that are puzzled, brittle and defensive about what it takes to get a job in the real world -- and we can’t turn all of them into part-time career counselors. But I came away convinced that young-alumni networks are a vital, untapped resource. Recent grads know how to get that first job, and they’re eager to share. I’d like to see alumni-relations offices spend less time hunting for giant donations and more time fostering life-changing connections that span the graduation-day divide. This can be hugely helpful for first-generation students, who might arrive on campus with less social capital than their peers -- but who shouldn’t leave that way.
Q: Is the current disdain/lack of respect for the liberal arts a momentary or a permanent condition -- and if the latter, is it serious enough to degrade them such that we see them vanish for all but the privileged?
A: Ah, the ultimate dystopian scenario! I’ll take the challenge. Even in the bleakest future, people’s desire to learn can’t ever be crushed. I’m imagining a noisy cybercafé, full of degenerates playing first-person shooter games, in which a few patrons slip into a back room, bolt the door and draw the curtains. They are janitors, hospital orderlies and nannies by day. But at night, it’s a different story. One of them pulls out a tattered copy of Rousseau’s The Social Contract. And the spirit of intellectual discourse takes hold again.Editorial Tags: Liberal artsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
WASHINGTON -- Survivor advocates who have repeatedly claimed they were shut out of a process to shift existing federal policy on campus sexual assault gathered outside the Department of Education's headquarters Thursday to raise their voices on the issue.
Nearly a month after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded 2011 Obama administration guidelines on handling charges of campus assaults, advocates held a vigil to protest the rollback of those federal policies and to show continued support for survivors of assault. A crowd of between 100 and 150 gathered to hear statements from fellow survivors and declare their resolve in pushing back against the new direction under DeVos.
Survivor advocates say the 2011 guidance pushed colleges and universities to take sexual assault seriously for the first time by making clear their responsibilities to investigate and adjudicate claims of sexual misconduct. Jess Davidson, the managing director of End Rape on Campus and an organizer of the vigil, said in an interview that the Thursday event was a demonstration to survivors that advocates would not let the issue fall to the wayside.
"We were really seeing that survivors across the country were just feeling devastated. We were getting calls from clients who didn't know if they should stay in school or what this meant for their cases," Davidson said of reactions to the rescinding of the Obama-era guidelines. "We wanted to take a minute to honor and recognize what survivors are feeling right now."
Davidson said activists have seen success pushing campus leaders to maintain existing policies since DeVos rescinded the Obama guidance and issued new interim guidance to colleges and universities. Davidson said the secretary has yet to seriously incorporate the needs of survivors in her decision making.
"There is a really consistent pattern here where DeVos is locking survivors and survivor advocates out of the room and so they take to the streets," she said.
Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the department, said DeVos has been focused on bringing all voices to the table in discussing campus assault policies. "To say that anyone has been kept out of the conversation is just false," she said. "The secretary and the Office for Civil Rights has met with numerous survivors and their advocates."
Hill said DeVos has said repeatedly that campus assault must be confronted head-on but that accused students must also know guilt is not predetermined. "Unfortunately, under the previous administration’s directives, too many students were being failed by the system that was in place to adjudicate these horrific cases," she said.
Laura Dunn, executive director of SurvJustice, one of the group's involved in organizing the vigil, told attendees Thursday night that serious work is ahead for advocates of survivors. But she said they are organized in a way they were not before the Obama administration issued its guidelines.
"I remember distinctly how alone I felt as a survivor on campus," she said. "Look around you -- none of us are alone right now."Editorial Tags: Sexual assaultImage Caption: Vigil at Education DepartmentAd Keyword: Campus AssaultIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Bates, T. (ed.) (2017) Tracking Online and Distance Education in Canadian Universities and Colleges: 2017 Vancouver BC: The National Survey of Online and Distance Education in Canadian Post-Secondary Education.
The anglophone version of the public report, as well as the full technical report, is now available for free downloading (Click on the title above or onlinelearningsurveycanada.ca – you will be asked for your e-mail address and a password).
The francophone version of the public report will be available on October 27 from https://formationenlignecanada.ca
Key findings of the report are:
- Canada is a ‘mature’ online learning market: almost all Canadian colleges and universities now offer online courses and many have been doing so for 15 years or more;
- there is at least one institution in every province that offers online courses or programs;
- online enrolments have expanded at a rate of 10%-15% per annum over the last five years;
- online learning now constitutes between 12%-16% of all post-secondary teaching for credit;
- online learning courses can be found in almost all subject areas;
- online learning is providing students with increased access and greater flexibility;
- two-thirds of Canadian post-secondary institutions see online learning as very or extremely important for their future plans
- most institutions have or are developing a strategy or plan for online learning
- LMSs are used in almost every institution, but no particular brand dominates the Canadian market
- a wide range technologies are being used with or alongside the LMS,the most predominant (over half the institutions) being online conferencing/webinar technologies, video-streaming and print;
- OER are used in just under half of all institutions but moderately and open textbooks in less than 20%
- there was no or little use reported of learning analytics, AI applications or competency-based learning, although tracking such use is difficult, as they are instructor- rather than institution-driven
- hybrid learning (defined as a reduction in classroom time replaced by online learning activities) is widespread in terms of institutions, but low in use in most institutions (less than 10% of classes), although again this is not easily tracked; however, it was reported to lead to innovative teaching;
- MOOCs were delivered in less than 20% of institutions in the 12 months prior to the survey, and one third reported they did not intend to offer MOOCs in the future
- the main benefits of online learning were seen as:
- increased access/flexibility
- increased enrolments
- more innovative teaching;
- the main barriers were seen as:
- lack of resources (particularly learning technology support staff)
- faculty resistance
- lack of government support (reported most in Québec and least in Ontario);
- there were difficulties in obtaining reliable online course enrolment data: most institutions are not systematically tracking this and there are variations between provinces;
- the report ends by recommending a standard system for reporting on digital learning.
The report deliberately does not draw out any implications or make any value judgements. Readers should draw their own conclusions. However here are my personal thoughts on the results, and these do not necessarily reflect those of the rest of the team:
- smaller institutions (below 2,000 students) found lack of resources particularly difficult and were less likely to offer online courses: what could be done to provide better support for such institutions that want to offer more online teaching?
- government support to institutions for online learning varied widely from province to province, and this showed in the figures for enrolment and for innovative teaching: some provinces may need to reconsider their policies and support for online learning or they will fall further behind other provinces in online provision for students
- many institutions are in the process of developing strategies or plans for online learning: what worked and what did not work in those institutions that already have plans in place that could help inform those institutions now still developing plans in this area?
This report would not have been possible without the support of many different organizations which are listed in the report itself. In particular, though, we are indebted to the staff in all the institutions who responded to the survey.
This is the first national snapshot of online and distance learning for both colleges and universities in Canada but its value will be much enhanced by a more longitudinal set of studies. The research team is working with potential sponsors to establish a stronger organizational structure, more secure long-term funding, and a more representative steering committee for the survey. I will be reporting back as these developments evolve.
In the meantime, thanks to everyone who helped make this report a reality.
When Richard Spencer stepped out on stage at the University of Florida on Thursday, it was following weeks of preparation, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on security, and repeated condemnations by administrators and professors who said they deplored Spencer’s brand of white supremacy, but were constitutionally bound to let him speak.
He was instantly met with boos – members of the crowd attempting to shout him down.
Anxieties both among students and university leaders abounded for weeks. This was Spencer’s first event since he helped direct the deadly Charlottesville demonstrations, where white nationalists marched the University of Virginia campus and then the city, and a woman was killed.
But there were few reported scuffles and injuries. Spencer was able to address the crowd shortly after the scheduled 2:30 p.m. starting time. By a little after 4 p.m. on Thursday, he had departed, though protesters still lingered. To those who worried about large-scale violence, or a legal dispute if Spencer had been unable to talk, there was relief on both counts.
From the moment Spencer began speaking at the campus arts center, the audience jeered. He was greeted with expletives and cries of “go home.” A steady drumbeat of chanting remained throughout his talk, which soon morphed into a question-and-answer discussion after it was clear the crowd would not remain entirely hushed. Spencer was able to be heard and the chants were not so nonstop he couldn't make his points, though the audience overwhelmingly rejected them.
Spencer seemed to relish the reaction, casting his naysayers as “childish,” calling them at one point a “mob” and “grunting morons.”
“Why do you think that you need to suppress speech?” Spencer said, as some members of the audience stood starkly giving him the middle finger. “The answer is because you know that what I am saying is true. You know what I am saying is powerful. You know what I am saying is going to change the world. And therefore, you all want to stop it. You’re going to fail.”
“Do you not want to hear something, poor little babies, that might contradict something your professor told you? Awww. Might you have to think a little bit, child?”
The university had tried to maintain normalcy for the day, with classes initially remaining scheduled, But with protesters (most anti-Spencer) arriving, many professors called off classes. The scene outside where Spencer spoke was anything by normal. Snipers were positioned on building roofs, hundreds of law enforcement members, more than 500, were spread across the campus.
The list of items forbidden at the event was lengthy – no bags or purses, bottles or laser pointers, masks or bandanas. And no weapons.
A nearby hotel parking lot had been flooded with police vehicles. Roads close to where Spencer was speaking were shut down. One student posted to Twitter that her bus stop had been shut down, and she arrived late to class only to find it had been canceled.
The demonstrations, however, remained relatively peaceful. Thousands of protesters had gathered on the campus of more than 50,000 students -- one group screamed “Nazis not welcome here” as they marched down a sidewalk, a banner unfurled before them.
Only one man was arrested, Sean Brijmohan, 28, for bringing a gun onto campus, according to the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. He had been hired by a media organization as security, police said.
During the talk -- which Spencer called the biggest free speech event of the students’ lifetime -- almost none of the questions he fielded were serious inquiries of his platform -- in his words promoting “white identity” and the creation of an ethnostate in America.
A couple audience members asked why Spencer insisted on speaking to campus when its constituents clearly didn’t want him there. Another asked him how it felt to be punched in the face, a reference to the infamous incident at President Trump’s inauguration, in which Spencer was socked during a live interview.
One alumna referenced Charlottesville when she addressed Spencer. She had asked how Spencer would respond to people who say that he should take responsibility for violent acts committed in the name of him and the alt-right, the far-right wing movement characterized by racist views that Spencer helped create.
“Name a single incident in which some alt-rightist went out and murdered someone,” Spencer said.
The alumna responded “Charlottesville,” citing the death of Heather Heyer, who police said was struck by a car driven by James Alex Fields Jr., a reported white nationalist from Ohio.
Her killing “remains unclear,” Spencer said.
The crowd screamed back: “It’s your fault.”
“All I demand is that he receive a fair investigation, and a fair trial,” Spencer said, referring to Fields. “Which I fear he may never get because he is used as a scapegoat. The fact is his vehicle was attacked. His vehicle rammed into another vehicle mysteriously, that rammed into other people, then other people were injured as he was attempting to escape. This is a very strange method of committing murder.” (His account differs considerably from those of onlookers and law enforcement.)
An attendee asked Spencer why felt multi-culturalism was a determent to society.
Spencer launched into a nostalgic account of “peak America” that his parents knew in the 1950s, with diners, ice cream dates and drive-in movie theaters – a “white America in the mid-century.”
He said that his generation was born “strangers into our own land,” a country defined by the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which ended immigration quotas.
“All institutions have been a part of … what’s called ‘the great erasure,’” Spencer said.
Though a line of Spencer’s alt-right fans sat in the front row, many in plain white shirts, almost none took a turn on the microphone. They left out a side door shortly before Spencer ended his talk. One of his supporters did ask him how to stop religious in-fighting within the alt-right, especially when some of its more devout followers couldn’t look to Spencer, a self-professed atheist, as a leader.
Spencer responded: “that’s unfortunate,” and said he wouldn’t deny Christianity its place in European history.
The university spent weeks arranging Spencer’s visit after first denying his request to appear in the wake of Charlottesville, citing safety considerations, but eventually allowing him to reschedule, amid his threats to sue if he was not permitted to speak.
Auburn University earlier this year had canceled his talk for the same reasons, but a graduate student from Georgia State University filed a lawsuit on Spencer’s behalf then, and with a judge’s court order he was able to address the Alabama public institution.
Shortly after Charlottesville, white nationalists had publicly linked the events there to potential campus rallies, giving colleges and universities a legal route to block Spencer, lawyers have said in interviews.
The university has spent upwards of $600,000 on security, bringing in the additional police presence from across the state. Republican Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in part to help coordinate those forces.
Spencer himself spent a fraction of what the university paid -- a little more than $10,000. Per a Supreme Court case decided in 1992, Forsyth County, Georgia v. The Nationalist Movement, institutions are not allowed to pass high security fees along to a speaker, as it’s a potential way of restricting free speech.
Florida administrators were deliberately vocal in denouncing Spencer’s message, while simultaneously trying to explain their obligation as a public institution to accommodate him. Both members of a faculty union at Florida and students had created petitions urging them to stop his speech.
But President Fuchs tweeted before Spencer’s talk (which he told students to avoid): “I don’t stand behind racist Richard Spencer. I stand with those who reject and condemn Spencer’s vile and despicable message.”
Spencer thanked police and the institution at the end of his talk before once again turning to the crowd, telling them he and the alt-right would continue “to fight.”
“The world is going to look at this event, and the world is going to have a very different impression of University of Florida because you acted this way. And let me tell you, the world is not going to be proud.”
Editorial Tags: Student lifeImage Source: Photo by Brian Blanco / Getty ImagesImage Caption: Protest outside Richard Spencer talk at University of FloridaIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
When a poster urging gay, bisexual and transgender students to kill themselves appeared on the Cleveland State University campus, the president didn’t condemn or criticize the fliers, as has become usual for college administrators faced with blatantly hateful expression on their campuses.
Instead, he defended free speech.
“CSU remains fully committed to a campus community that respects all individuals, regardless of age, race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation and other historical bases for discrimination,” President Ronald M. Berkman said in a statement Monday. “CSU also is committed to upholding the First Amendment, even with regard to controversial issues where opinion is divided. We will continue to protect free speech to ensure all voices may be heard and to promote a civil discourse where educational growth is the desired result.”
Now, activists, alumni and students are infuriated. In interviews they expressed puzzlement and anger over Berkman’s reply, an unusual deviation from the typical response. University leaders are generally quick to take down and denounce hateful fliers. And many presidents of public institutions manage to do so even while noting the First Amendment issues that may prevent punishing the expression. As anger over his initial statement grew, Berkman backtracked and said he found the message of the fliers “reprehensible,” adding a caveat that the “legal framework” made blocking such posters difficult.
The flier, posted last week (the same day the institution opened a new center for LGBTQ students) shows someone hanging by a noose, and statistics on queer people who consider suicide.
The top of the poster reads “follow your fellow faggots.”
A spokesman indicated the poster would have been allowed to remain if the university’s procedures had been followed, igniting further backlash and leaving advocates to question the institution’s policies.
But Berkman was correct in that the poster was protected by the First Amendment, said Ari Cohn, a lawyer and director of the individual rights defense program with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, a free speech watch group.
“While the posters seemed to encourage individuals who identify as part of the LGBT community to commit suicide, that can't be proscribed any more than saying something like ‘go kill yourself’ in the context of a Twitter argument (which happens, often),” Cohn wrote in an email. “Regardless of how hateful and ugly the speech may be, it does not fall into an unprotected category of speech, and CSU is legally required to adhere to the First Amendment.”
Hateful fliers have appeared on a number of campuses in recent months, but almost all of them are racially prejudicial, not attacking the LGBTQ community.
Dear CSU community, please join me for an open meeting tomorrow to discuss a recent incident involving an anti-LGBTQ+ poster on campus. pic.twitter.com/ae1u7wBty3— Ronald M. Berkman (@PresBerkman) October 17, 2017
The president issued another statement Tuesday after vehement public criticisms.
“I wanted to acknowledge that yesterday I failed to express my personal outrage over a recent incident involving [an] anti-LGBTQ+ poster that was recently posted on campus,” Berkman said. “While I find the message of this poster reprehensible, the current legal framework regarding free speech makes it difficult to prevent these messages from being disseminated.”
He also announced he would lead a forum yesterday to discuss the campus’s concerns. Spokesman William Dube, who did not respond to a request for an interview, instead emailed a statement confirming the poster’s existence. Another statement regarding Wednesday’s meeting is expected today.
Still, this did little to satisfy some students. One junior, Molly Stachnik, helped plan an event today in the campus courtyard in which students who are members of minority groups could share how the president’s response hurt them, she said in an interview.
Stachnik, who identifies as queer, said the campus and its administrators and professors are largely supportive and she has not dealt with homophobia there before. But she said in the current political climate that actions as simple as posting a hateful flier can snowball into much more serious events -- shootings fueled by discrimination, for instance.
“We want to make our voices heard,” Stachnik said. “We want to send a clear message to Berkman that we’re not going to stand for this, that this is not OK, we’re not going let this get swept under the rug.”
Both state and national organizations also said they were disappointed by Berkman's response.
Representatives from Equality Ohio, a policy-centric LGBTQ group, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks prejudice across the country, used the same word to describe the posters: “appalling.”
Alana Jochum, executive director of Equality Ohio, questioned why the posters did not violate the university’s antidiscrimination policy, which in part states that discrimination is “unwelcome verbal, nonverbal, graphic, physical, electronic or other conduct that subjects an individual to an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational or employment environment.”
She said a forceful condemnation of the posters is required, as the fliers advocate for bloodshed against LGBTQ people -- she noted that the figure in the poster appears to have their hands bound.
“It is violence, it’s targeting a specific population, and generally threats are not protected speech,” Jochum said.
Equality Ohio reached out to the president’s office directly offer assistance in helping repair the administration’s relationship with the campus, Jochum said. If the university’s policies allow for such a poster to be displayed, they should be re-evaluated, she said.
Lecia Brooks, outreach director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said this was not “a free speech issue.” She called the president’s response “wholly unacceptable” and advised LGBTQ allies to draw attention to this on campus.
“The response of taking a poster down because it doesn’t follow policy, or you have got to protect free speech before a condemnation of homophobia and the disgusting nature of the flier, is just missing the whole point,” she said.
Phyllis Harris, executive director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, said in a statement she appreciated Berkman's "clarification" to his initial message, but said that leaders should "boldly" use their power to condemn hate speech.
"The focus of this conversation should remain on the physical and psychological safety of Cleveland State’s LGBTQ community and not on the rights of those who wish them harm," Harris said.
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ lobbying group, also released a statement to Inside Higher Ed. “It’s disappointing that CSU President Ronald Berkman failed to initially grasp the seriousness of the despicable anti-LGBTQ fliers that appeared on his campus,” HRC’s legal director, Sarah Warbelow, said. “It is particularly heartbreaking that these fliers, which used anti-LGBTQ slurs and cruelly talked about LGBTQ people and suicide, surfaced on the day CSU opened its new LGBTQ center. Universities have an obligation to ensure that students aren’t being harassed and discriminated against. And while we appreciate that President Berkman followed up with a stronger message of personal outrage over the incident, it has never been more important for our leaders -- on campus and off -- to immediately recognize, condemn and take action when LGBTQ people and others in marginalized communities are viciously targeted.”DiversityEditorial Tags: Gay rights/issuesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Newly unearthed text messages show the Cobb County, Ga., sheriff and another local Republican official bragging that they influenced the decision that led to Kennesaw State University’s cheerleaders being removed from the field during the national anthem.
On Sept. 30, five cheerleaders took a knee during the national anthem before a Kennesaw State football game. The university's original explanation was that -- despite public complaints about the cheerleaders from Sheriff Neil Warren and State Representative Earl Ehrhart, both Republicans -- the decision to keep cheerleaders off the field for subsequent games until after the anthem finished playing, which went into effect the week after the protest, was completely coincidental, not related to the protest and made by the institution’s athletic department.
But the text messages show the politicians boasting about how they maneuvered the change with the president.
“Thanks for always standing up too [sic] these liberal that hate the U.S.A.,” Warren texted Ehrhart.
Kennesaw State President Sam Olens “had to be dragged there but with you and I pushing he had no choice. Thanks for your patriotism my friend,” Ehrhart wrote back.
The texts were reported Tuesday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which obtained them via a public records request. On Wednesday, the University System of Georgia issued a statement saying it would conduct a "special review" of the allegations that the decision to remove the cheerleaders was a political one.
In a statement Wednesday, Olens -- a former attorney general -- said that the timeline of the events was being misconstrued. He said the decision to change the pregame activities had been made by the athletic department -- and he had been informed of that decision -- before he spoke to Warren.
"In hindsight, I regret how the events over the past two weeks have unfolded and admit that the circumstances could have been handled better," he said. "I believe that a university should be a marketplace of ideas, encouraging free expression and open dialogue. To that end, I welcome the opportunity to meet with the cheerleaders and any student who wishes to participate in a discussion about how we can work together to continue to make KSU a university of which we are all proud."
Olens previously told the Journal-Constitution that no outside pressure at influenced the decision to remove the cheerleaders from the field during the national anthem, and he stood by that narrative in his statement Wednesday.
“Decisions about game-day programming is [sic] the responsibility of KSU's Department of Athletics and they have been clear about their reasons for making the adjustment,” he told the Journal-Constitution last week.
Kennesaw spokeswoman Tammy DeMel laid out a similar story to Inside Higher Ed last week, saying a number of changes have been made to the pregame ceremonies "to refine and enhance the game-day atmosphere for our fans."
Olens’s appointment as president of Kennesaw State last year was controversial, scrutinized in part because of his lack of academic background and anti-gay stances he took during his political career. Olens was appointed without the formation of a formal search committee, prompting fears that his appointment was a political one.
In another text, Warren bragged that removing the cheerleaders from the field was his and Ehrhart’s idea.
“Not letting the cheerleaders come out on the field until after national anthem was one of the recommendations that Earl and I gave him!” he said.
The cheerleaders, as well as local activists, doubted Kennesaw State’s story before the text messages emerged, and Tuesday’s revelations only added to that doubt.
"We are deeply disheartened by the revelations revealed in these messages. We were exercising our First Amendment rights in the most American way possible," the cheerleaders, under the moniker The Kennesaw 5, said in a statement. "We took a knee for a purpose and we continue to kneel for this cause. These text messages only leave us with more questions on how the university handled this situation. We would hope the university would defend its students from political leaders. To this day, President Olens has not met or requested a meeting with us. We are owed a meeting and to have this matter addressed publicly."
Davante Lewis, the brother of one of the cheerleaders, said the University System of Georgia was obligated to investigate the decision behind removing the cheerleaders.
“The board has to answer to their decision” to pick Olens in the way that they did, Lewis told Inside Higher Ed. “They didn’t conduct a full national search, they did not present multiple candidates to the faculty, students and community, and they kind of bowed to what seems to be political pressure.”
Lewis said the narrative laid out in the text messages did not surprise him.
“It is what I expected to find,” he said. “This now deepens the power that faculty and students have been talking about for months since his appointment -- that he is not comfortable being an academic, but is comfortable being a politician -- and is answering and making decisions based on the politics of those choices.”DiversityEditorial Tags: College administrationImage Caption: Sam OlensIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Professors say Purdue president is trying to deflect attention from 'inaction' on white supremacy on campus
Purdue University President Mitch Daniels is facing criticism for his response to a request that he investigate a series of white supremacist messages on campus. In particular, a group of faculty members have accused Daniels of drawing a false equivalency between neo-Nazis and antifascist activists, and of personally attacking a professor who’s been critical of him in the past. The group says Daniels’s tone recalls President Trump’s initial comment that there was violence “on many sides” of the August protests in Charlottesville, Va., that left a woman protesting the assembled white supremacists dead.
Purdue declined comment on the professors’ specific accusations against Daniels but pointed to his past statements condemning racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and violence. Daniels also has said there is no evidence that anyone affiliated with Purdue was involved in placing white supremacist fliers that have appeared on campus in the past year.
In an op-ed in the local Journal & Courier this week, six professors said the campus branch of the Campus Antifascist Network -- a nascent national movement to fight white nationalist activity on college campuses -- reported to Daniels seven documented instances of Nazi propaganda at Purdue since November. In the first such instance, a person or people sympathetic to the white nationalist group American Vanguard posted fliers denouncing “white guilt” and “cultural Marxism” around campus. More recently, in September, desks in an Honors College classroom were reportedly arranged to resemble a swastika. The antifascist network also sent Daniels what it called “documented evidence of support by people at Purdue” for Identity Evropa, another anti-Semitic white supremacist group whose fliers have appeared on campus. The evidence in question is screen shots of texts from a supposed student expressing affiliation with the group.
At other colleges and universities, many white supremacist poster campaigns have been the work of off-campus groups. So Daniels's assertion that no one at Purdue is involved isn't necessarily odd. But many faculty members at Purdue have previously asked Daniels to more strongly condemn any suspected white supremacist activity on campus, and his standard response has been to denounce hate and bigotry while refusing to -- in his words -- give specific hate groups the attention they are seeking.
So instead of investigating any Purdue ties to Identity Evropa, the professors wrote in their op-ed, Daniels “chose to: (a) reassert the principle of ‘free speech’ for Nazis; and (b) target a faculty member with a long record of antiracist work in a polemic closely resembling that of the U.S. president when the latter blamed ‘both sides’ for the tragedy at Charlottesville.”
The professors were referring to an email exchange between Daniels and a leader of the Campus Antifascist Network, Bill Mullen, a professor of American studies who has previously been critical of the nontraditional president. The exchange began with the antifascist network's request earlier this month that Purdue investigate and issue a report on white supremacy on campus.
In a subsequent email to Mullen, which Purdue shared with Inside Higher Ed, Daniels cited the university’s free speech policy, approved in 2015, saying, “We may condemn but we don’t silence individuals in the university community, regardless how offensive or preposterous their remarks or writings may be.”
By contrast, Daniels said, “we distinguish between words and conduct and would act swiftly to expel from Purdue’s community anyone -- faculty, staff or student -- who resorts to physical intimidation or violence.”
In recent days, Daniels continued, “I have spent considerable time replying to multiple messages from citizens who find your various pronouncements abhorrent and unacceptable and demand that you be sanctioned or expelled from the university entirely. In particular, your defense of the so-called antifa organization, a group that has not only advocated but practiced violence, gave deep offense and embarrassment to many.”
For reference, the Campus Antifascist Network has said it does not advocate violence but would encourage self-defense against ethnonationalists, especially for the most vulnerable people on campus. While its name is clearly inspired by the antifascist movement, the national campus group is not part of antifa, a group that in some cases espouses violence to fight facism.
Daniels also said he’d previously defended Mullen’s own right to express views that were “widely interpreted as racist, in the form of that oldest of bigotries, anti-Semitism. On each occasion, I have given the simple answer I am giving to you. In an honest moment you know that Purdue is a community deeply committed to tolerance and inclusion.”
Describing Daniels’s stance as “deeply frightening,” the op-ed's signatories -- including Mullen’s wife, Tithi Bhattacharya, a professor of history -- said Daniels “has deliberately chosen to champion freedom, a precious value and right, in the most narrow and circumscribed way possible -- as free speech alone … What good is the right to free speech if it is severed from the right to work and exist freely without the threat of racist violence?”
They added, “We face a clear choice here at Purdue: resist the Nazis or allow their politics to flourish.”
Mullen said Wednesday that Daniels’s assertion that he’d defended antifa “is an attempt to deflect the discussion away from his inaction on white supremacy at Purdue.”
As for Daniels’s comment about anti-Semitism, Mullen called it an “undocumented smear.” Mullen said he is “an open advocate for Palestinian human rights” and a faculty adviser for Students for Justice in Palestine at Purdue, and that Daniels is trying to “stigmatize this work as anti-Semitic.”
It's “really ironic that [Daniels] ignores a request from a group of people protesting a swastika on campus in order to make spurious allegations against the protesters,” he added.
A spokesperson for Purdue highlighted an August statement from Daniels and Provost Jay Akridge saying, in part, that “racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and violence like that demonstrated in Charlottesville are the antithesis of [Purdue’s] values and have no place on our campus.”
More recently, Daniels released a statement saying there is “zero evidence that any member of the Purdue community is involved in these leaflets, and there is nothing new to say about the situation. We reiterate our past statements and our disinclination to do exactly what these despicable people want most, which is to give them attention their minuscule numbers and their abhorrent views do not merit.”Academic FreedomThreats Against FacultyEditorial Tags: Academic freedomImage Caption: Mitch Daniels Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is offering some students the option to be awarded tamper-free digital degree certificates when they graduate, in partnership with Learning Machine. Selected students can now choose to download a digital version of their degree certificate to their smartphones when they graduate, in addition to receiving a paper diploma.
Using a free, open-source app called Blockcerts Wallet, students can quickly access a digital diploma that can be shared on social media and verified by employers to ensure its authenticity. The digital credential is protected using block-chain technology. The block chain is a public ledger that offers a secure way of making and recording transactions, and is best known as the underlying technology of digital currency Bitcoin.
A news release Tuesday described how MIT has been thinking about using block-chain technology to secure digital credentials for the past two years. In 2015 Philipp Schmidt, the director of learning innovation at the MIT media lab, began issuing nonacademic digital credentials to his team, but he did not have a good way of managing these credentials digitally.
In collaboration with Learning Machine, Schmidt and his team began to develop an open-source tool kit, called Blockcerts, that any college can use to issue credentials using block-chain technology. With the addition of the Blockcerts Wallet app, this information can be encrypted, and students can prove ownership of their diploma through the generation of a unique numerical identifier.
The technology means that students can quickly share their virtual certificates with potential employers without involving an intermediary. Third parties can verify the legitimacy of the diploma by pasting the URL of the certificate into an MIT-hosted portal. This portal can instantly verify the legitimacy of the certificate, negating the notarization step often required in the verification of paper certificates.
Chris Jagers, CEO of Learning Machine, said that many of today's students expect to be able to just send digital copies of their academic credentials to employers and institutions, but that until now there wasn’t good technology to support this. “We heard of students trying to Snapchat their grades to admissions; they didn’t understand why they couldn’t just text a picture,” said Jagers. “It should be that easy to share records, and this generation of digital natives expects that. But before this technology came along, this wasn’t possible.”
Mary Callahan, university registrar and senior associate dean at MIT, said that a key motivation behind the pilot was to “empower” students to take greater ownership of their academic qualifications. She said the technology enables students to share their achievements with whomever they wish in a way that is secure, verifiable and efficient. “I think it’s got real potential,” said Callahan. “We wanted to lead the way, and we expect others to follow.”
The first cohort of 111 students who were able to take part in the pilot graduated this summer, with 43 choosing to take part. Callahan said that potentially all students graduating in February 2018 would be given the digital diploma option. Asked whether she thought this could one day replace paper, Callahan did not rule it out but said that the change would take time.
Aside from convenience for students, the technology also tackles another issue facing universities -- fake degrees. “There are a lot of people who pretend to graduate from MIT with fake diplomas,” said Jagers. “This provides a format that people can’t fake.”
Callahan confirmed that verifying authenticity was an important aspect of the technology for the university, which she said “definitely gets its fair share” of fraudsters.
While some students may struggle to understand the technology behind the app, understanding how the block chain works is not necessary to use it, said Jagers. He noted that there has been strong interest in the technology from dozens of academic institutions, as well as companies and governments. The University of Melbourne is already piloting digital diplomas with the app.
Though some companies are looking to sell their block chain-based products, Jagers said that keeping the Blockcerts app and tool kit free and open source is important. “If everyone is doing this in a proprietary way, then the records won’t be universally verifiable. The whole point is to create records that don’t have any dependence on an issuer or vendor.”
While MIT may be among the first institutions in the U.S. to use block-chain technology to award digital degree certificates, Thomas Black, assistant vice provost and university registrar at Johns Hopkins University, said that other institutions are experimenting. He noted that his institution was also looking to use block-chain technology to award degrees, but he would be taking a different approach than MIT.
Instead of working with third parties, Johns Hopkins is building its own system and creating a private ledger -- rather than using Bitcoin's public one, like MIT. “Universities are very protective of their authority to certify learning. I don’t know that we need to have this public ledger approach,” he said. “You can use block-chain technology very nicely by establishing a private ledger.”
Black noted that many institutions already use digital signing services to verify the authenticity of their PDF documents through Adobe. Companies such as Parchment and Paradigm also offer verified digital versions of diplomas, said Black. “The concept of digital signatures is nothing new,” he said. “But perhaps universities could start to replace Adobe and others in these roles.”TechnologyEditorial Tags: TechnologyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
Setting out his grand vision to reinvigorate the European Union at the end of last month, Emmanuel Macron made clear he had big plans for the continent's universities.
By 2024, the French president said, Europe should have "at least 20" of what he called "European universities," offering students the chance to "study abroad and take classes in at least two different languages." These European universities will help to "create a sense of belonging" that will be the "strongest cement for Europe," a later press release argued.
The details may not be quite as grand as the rhetoric. These universities would not be new, a spokeswoman for the president clarified. They would be a "network of existing universities, but they will have to introduce important changes to work better together" and allow students a "change of country and university each year, within the network, with a common curriculum," she said. Despite Britain's vote to leave the E.U., English could still be one of the languages of teaching, she added.
These proposals are "nothing new," argued Kurt Deketelaere, secretary general of the League of European Research Universities. "We do all of that, in the sense that we have an exchange of students, Ph.D. students, staff … we have courses in all kinds of languages." The ideas are simply being thrown around to make Macron sound "pro-European," he said.
But in the Upper Rhine region, where the river flows out of Switzerland and heads north to divide France and Germany, a new institution free of any one nation-state emerged last year, and it may hold lessons for Macron's "European universities."
The European Campus -- a collaboration between the Universities of Basel, Freiburg, Haute-Alsace and Strasbourg and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology -- allows for the free circulation of students between institutions and seamless joint bidding for research money.
The aim is "to have an alliance that allows the universities to stay autonomous but to be more competitive on the European and international level," creating a "critical mass" of student numbers, research equipment and "ideas," explained its director, Janosch Nieden.
The European Campus is something called a European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC), a legal entity recognized by the E.U. that allows public authorities from different member states to team up and provide joint services more easily. There are about 50 across the E.U., explained Nieden, but "we are the first grouping … that has been set up solely by universities."
The main focus is on research. "There's a lot of funding on the European level that can be asked for by the entity," he explained. Many projects have been funded by Interreg, an E.U. body that spends on cross-border cooperation initiatives. It has also just put in a bid to Horizon 2020 (the E.U.'s research and innovation program) for a five-million-euro ($5.9 million) grant for a quantum sciences graduate academy. Bidding together through a cross-border legal entity "is the easiest and fastest way to foster cooperation between universities," Nieden said.
But joint bids to national research councils are a lot harder, he explained, and currently the campus is trying to convince German, Swiss and French agencies to accept applications.
Students can also take modules at any of the other universities in the alliance, free of fees. But language barriers have stymied this. "Young Germans don't learn French that much anymore," Nieden said.
German universities are hyperorganized, arranging specific lecture rooms many months in advance, whereas French universities, which cannot as easily control their student intake, create their timetables much later. This makes it hard for students of other universities to book courses in advance, according to Nieden.
As such, student mobility is "not easy to see," he added. Of the 115,000 students across the five universities, just 1,000 per semester exercise their right to study at a different campus.
The name is also something of a misnomer: the institution does not have its own physical site. And for now, the European Campus cannot grant degrees of its own, so students still receive qualifications from their respective national universities. Still, over the next five to 10 years, the campus may develop its own qualification, largely aimed at students from outside Europe who want to study at all of the universities, Nieden said.
"We were very happy about the speech of Macron," he added. Whether the French president gets his way depends on wider discussions about the future of the E.U. -- but regardless, the continent's universities are already experimenting with multinational forms.GlobalEditorial Tags: FranceGermanyTimes Higher EdIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
New study pushes back on decades of studies suggesting that scientific productivity peaks early and declines thereafter
Conventional wisdom on faculty research productivity, backed by decades of studies, says that it’s all downhill after tenure. A new paper challenges that paradigm, suggesting great variability in peak research activity among individual scientists -- even if their aggregate productivity curve still feeds the posttenure “dead weight” myth.
“Despite the persistent conventional narrative and expectations about productivity, individual people have incredibly diverse careers,” said Samuel Way, a postdoctoral research associate in computer science at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the paper’s lead author. “This is a cautionary tale to administrators and other people in power in the sciences as to why they shouldn’t expect everyone’s career trajectory to look the exact same way.”
The majority of academics who don’t fit the mold “aren't errors, they’re people,” he added.
Way said the finding has implications for hiring and funding decisions and tenure and retirement policies. If only a fraction of academics -- approximately 20 percent in the study -- peak in productivity early in their careers, faculty search committees might do well to look beyond younger, prolific candidates, for example. Institutions, meanwhile, might worry less about older professors delaying retirement.
“The Misleading Narrative of the Canonical Faculty Productivity Trajectory” was published online Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Way’s co-authors are Boulder computer science colleagues Allison C. Morgan, a Ph.D. candidate, and Aaron Clauset and Daniel B. Larremore, both assistant professors.
While past studies have “firmly established that the conventional academic productivity narrative is equally descriptive across fields and time, their analyses are based on averages over hundreds or thousands of individuals,” reads the paper. “This raises two crucial and previously unanswered questions: Is this average trajectory representative of individual faculty, and how much diversity is hidden by a focus on a central tendency over a population?”
The new analysis is unlike previous ones in its scope and detail, encompassing virtually all tenure-track and tenured professors of computer science in the U.S. and Canada over the last 40 years. To compile their data set, the authors matched 200,000 publications with publicly available hiring information on nearly 2,500 tenure-line faculty members from all 205 computer science Ph.D. programs in the two countries.
While the professors' average productivity curve peaked early and declined slowly over time, resembling those in so many studies before this one, the picture looked very different when the authors mapped individual data against it. Just 20 percent of professors fit the curve, while the other 80 percent were all over the map, staying steady or even peaking late in their careers. That's regardless of their departments' prestige.
Source: Samuel Way
While the most common productivity peak among professors in the sample was five years after hire, just half the senior professors studied reached their peak by that time in their careers.
The authors’ attempt to explain that diversity led them to a second, significant finding: departmental prestige predicts overall individual productivity and the timing of first (lead) author publications to last (senior) author publications. That is, "researchers who graduated from or were hired by top-ranked institutions are significantly more productive at the onset of their careers, and, furthermore, productivity of high-prestige faculty tends to grow at faster rates and achieve higher peaks than researchers employed by other institutions."
Researchers' productivity grew by a median of about two additional papers per year while working at elite institutions (the top 20 percent of programs) compared with the rest of their peers. Researchers who earned doctorates from elite institutions also exhibited faster early-career growth than their peers from lower-ranked programs.
Way said that scientists from top Ph.D. programs likely have access to resources that have allowed them to set up labs and execute research agendas with relative speed. One potential area for future study, he said, is what policies enable such early-career research success, and whether they can be replicated at less prestigious institutions.
Similar to others, Way’s study notes that scientists now publish about four times more papers per year than they did in 1970; that was established as a control early in the study to more accurately study professors working then and now as part of the same sample. About half the papers in the study were published by about 20 percent of the professors in the sample.
Women were also found to publish significantly less than men early in their careers, to the tune of about 0.5 fewer publications, regardless of where they trained or were hired; the authors suggest this discrepancy is an area for future study.
Way’s isn’t the first study to push back on the prevailing view on productivity. A 2016 paper published in Science, for example, argued that scientific impact, at least, is randomly distributed within the sequence of papers published by a scientist -- so it’s not age dependent.
Bruce Weinberg, a professor of economics at Ohio State University, co-wrote another paper published in PNAS earlier this year on the aging scientific work force; he found that the average age of employed scientists in the U.S. increased from 45 in 1993 to nearly 49 in 2010. While the study had potentially negative implications for the job market for younger scientists, Weinberg said at the time that older scientists doesn't mean less innovative science, and he called the prevailing wisdom on that front “at best an oversimplification and maybe wrong.”
The new study is, therefore, broadly consistent with Weinberg’s research, he said Tuesday. “There are many people who are more creative later in their careers, and the tendency to do the most or best work early in the career is actually less common today than it had been in the past.”
Weinberg said he's found that people whose work is more empirical or experimental tend to do their best work later in their careers, while people whose work is more “conceptual or theoretical or abstract tend to do their best work earlier in their careers.” As knowledge accumulates over time, he added, “it takes longer for people to get to the knowledge frontier, and people tend to do their best work later in their lives.”
That said, Weinberg noted that Way’s emphasis on computer science is particularly interesting because the field often emphasizes abstract conceptual reasoning, which would seem to lead to earlier peaks.
As to how the findings might inform institutional policies, tenure decisions and resource allocation, Weinberg said it’s important to recognize systematic individual variations “because not everyone is going to follow the archetypical pattern.”
While Way’s paper focuses on computer science professors, he said there’s no reason to think his findings won’t apply to other fields, even those outside the sciences. Indeed, he and his colleagues are interested in applying their analysis to other disciplines going forward.
Cassidy Sugimoto, an associate professor of informatics at Indiana University at Bloomington, co-wrote a paper finding that professors in sociology, economics and political science (on average) remain highly productive across the span of the career. While productivity increases steeply until promotion to associate professor, her paper says, it remains stable thereafter. Collaboration, meanwhile, increases with age.
That eventual stabilization isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Sugimoto said Tuesday, since “one could question whether the drive for hyperproductivity in the pretenure era produces the highest-quality research.” It would be useful, therefore, to see Way’s data matched to citation counts, she said.
Sugimoto said she did question whether the posttenure "dead weight" argument has become something of a straw man. First-time recipients of major grants from the National Institutes of Health are 42 years old, on average, she said, and resources are strongly concentrated around senior researchers.
“In an increasingly collaborative age, scholars benefit by the size of their labs, which is associated with more senior scholars,” she said. “The tenure model certainly promotes high productivity in early years, but I have seen no strong data that demonstrates a general posttenure decline. Most of the conversation tends to revolve around isolated anecdotes.”DiversityFacultyEditorial Tags: HiringResearch universitiesImage Source: Samuel WayImage Caption: There's more than meets the eye to the typical faculty productivity curve.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?:
One of the loudest complaints about higher education these days is that prospective students lack good information about the value of college credentials and, likewise, that employers too often are left in the dark about the knowledge and skills they can expect of credential holders.
A sprawling new project seeks to change that by creating a centralized database of information about postsecondary credentials -- all 250,000 or so of them in the U.S., ranging from Ph.D. to badge, professional license to apprenticeship and certificate.
The nonprofit Credential Engine, which is planning a formal launch in December, has tapped a broad range of advisers to develop a common language about credentials, with a focus on the “competencies” people should have after earning them.
Credential Engine’s web-based registry allows colleges, professional associations, unions, other credential issuers and state governments to post public-facing information about credentialing programs. The site also plans to feature information about how credential earners fare in the job market, including wage data from state and federal sources.
The overarching goal of the project is to increase transparency about credentials, said Scott Cheney, Credential Engine’s executive director.
He said the registry seeks to be a “neutral repository that reveals the marketplace.” That would be an improvement from the current situation, Cheney said, where “people are making big decisions because of whatever marketing material comes to them.”
So far, roughly 160 organizations have uploaded information about 1,264 credentials to the registry. Some colleges are among the early adopters, including Elon University, which has uploaded descriptions of all 97 of its offered degrees and other credentials.
“It’s a time-consuming process,” said Rodney Parks, the registrar at Elon. “It takes time to understand the language.”
Even so, he said, Credential Engine has tremendous potential and is worth the work.
“This will be the one-stop shop for credentials,” said Parks.
Indiana, Washington and New Jersey are among a handful of state governments that are at various stages of participation in the project.
For example, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education has begun posting information about health-care credentials, including descriptions of academic and job-training programs, what assessments and training occur in those programs, and how the issued credentials are viewed by accrediting agencies and licensing boards.
“We have every health program that’s offered by a public institution in the registry,” said Ken Sauer, senior associate commissioner and chief academic officer for the commission.
At least seven Indiana state agencies are participating in the project, as are K-12 schools, public and private colleges, representatives from the U.S. military, and several industry associations. If the project is successful, Indiana plans to follow up with information about credentials in other industries.
Sauer said the goal is to make the site useful for students, colleges and employers.
“This is a way to signal to educational institutions and providers what skill sets need to be developed in their programs in order to align with the skill sets that employers need,” he said.
What Comes Next?
The Lumina Foundation and JPMorgan Chase are funding Credential Engine, which grew out of the Credential Transparency Initiative. It relates to other Lumina-backed efforts, including Connecting Credentials, which is attempting to create a common language for comparing credentials.
Credential Engine’s backers face a long, uphill climb, as supporters of the project acknowledge.
When plans for the registry were announced last year, some were skeptical about the project's scope and whether it was achievable. But most agree that a central repository for better information about credentials is needed. And if it’s not Credential Engine, experts said, another organization eventually will figure out how do it.
“The time is right,” said Jonathan Finkelstein, the founder and CEO of Credly, a digital credentialing company.
While Finkelstein said Credential Engine is a “mighty undertaking” that will take a long time, the potential payoff makes it worthwhile. “It’s to everyone’s benefit that their credentials are discoverable.”
The effort has the backing of several powerful organizations on the employer side. The Business Roundtable helped promote the registry’s launch and is part of Credential Engine’s business advisory group. So are representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Manufacturing Institute and the National Retail Federation, among others.
Ryan Craig, co-founder and managing director of University Ventures, a higher education investment firm, also is an adviser. Craig said the credentialing site has the potential to become what he calls a “competency marketplace,” a skills-based meeting point for employers, students, job seekers, policy makers and college curriculum planners.
And the biggest upside for Credential Engine is what others might do with the credentialing information, he said.
“Ultimately the competency marketplace is going to work not because a bunch of human beings have cleverly developed a taxonomy,” said Craig, but “because we have algorithms that are doing a good job of interpreting the data.”
As a result, Craig described Credential Engine as a “prototype of what could be done, algorithmically, at a larger scale.”
Bringing Clarity to a ‘Chaotic Ecosystem’
An algorithmic future is part of the plan for Credential Engine.
The nonprofit is working to create an open applications marketplace, which will allow outside organizations to build customized web apps to use the registry’s data. For example, a technology company could create a searchable database about credentials for prospective college students. Or employers could create applications to tap registry information for their HR systems, to better understand the skills and competencies job applicants should have based on their credentials.
Many industries provide easily searchable information about what they sell, with airline fare aggregators being a commonly cited example of Web 3.0 commerce. Backers of Credential Engine hope the registry can bring a Kayak-style approach to data on postsecondary education and job training.
Cheney said the goal is to enable people to "search and compare credentials just like you would SUVs."
If successful, the site would help make sense of a “chaotic ecosystem,” said Holly Zanville, senior adviser for credentialing and work-force development at Lumina. “Why can’t we do that in credentialing?”
Information on student outcomes, including job placement and earnings, will come from the states. Cheney said Credential Engine also may draw data from a federal agency, such as the U.S. Census Bureau or the Internal Revenue Service.
The site will not collect or work with information on individual students and graduates, however, instead using sources of aggregate, nonidentifiable data. As a result, Cheney said, Credential Engine will not pose privacy risks.
“We will have no individual records about people,” he said.
The group also might partner with nongovernmental data-collection organizations to bolster the registry, said Cheney, with the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center as a possibility.
Washington State’s Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board collects information about the market value of postsecondary training programs in the state that receive public funding. The board has posted data on wages of graduates, completion rates and enrollment for roughly 3,500 programs on its Career Bridge site. The audience is students, parents and lawmakers.
The goal for Credential Engine is to produce similar public-facing information for the broader universe of credentials, said Eleni Papadakis, the board’s executive director.
“We believe that’s the new communication channel in work-force development and education,” she said.
In addition to better data, supporters of the Credential Engine project hope it will bring clarity to the credential discussion by helping to create a standardized infrastructure.
“Conversations often suffer from a common-language problem,” said Finkelstein, who added that Credential Engine “standardizes and digitizes the descriptions of credentials.”
But for that to happen, the group will need to get information from many colleges and others on the credentials they issue.
Papadakis urged colleges to be pioneers by participating in the project.
“If not, we’re never going to learn to do this better,” she said. “This all goes away if we don’t have the data owners putting things in.”Editorial Tags: Adult educationCareer servicesCareer/Tech EducationIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: