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If harassers weren’t already on notice before this year, they are now. But while there’s increased awareness of sexual misconduct within academe, the phenomenon remains understudied. It’s unclear, for example, just how many students -- especially graduate students -- and faculty members are affected. Also unclear is whether incidences of harassment have decreased of late, even if reports have increased (if indeed they have).
A new crowdsourced survey of experiences with sexual harassment in academe doesn’t seek to answer those questions in a scientific way. But the survey and its 1,200-and-counting entries are attracting attention across higher education for illuminating an ongoing problem in ways that statistics alone could not.
Some of the accounts are immediately shocking, describing legal descriptions of assault -- “A professor wrote me a letter of recommendation for the job market and then stuck his tongue down my throat” -- while others are more subtle. A self-identified department chair at an elite institution described how her first writing mentor as an undergraduate praised and encouraged her for two years before inviting her out and hitting on her as he consoled her about a family loss. From then on, she wrote, “every gesture, any ‘standing too close,’ any compliment all changed tone. All the ‘support’ changed tone … I felt lost. What a strange thing to have to view one’s physical self as an intellectual impediment.”
Some accounts reek of injustice, such as that by a former tenure-track professor who said her notoriously sexist department chair had been encouraged to recruit a female professor prior to her hire, and then constantly criticized her -- in contrast to the regular external praise she received. She left her campus after the experience, accepting a settlement from the university over an offer of reinstatement to the same situation.
All of the accounts are linked in that they suggest abuses of power, along with the residual slow burn of having years if not decades of academic work undermined in moments.
Karen Kelsky, a former tenured professor who runs the academic job consulting business The Professor Is In and a blog of the same name, started the online survey last week. It includes questions on what happened and when, what the harasser’s gender and position relative to the victim were at the time (professor, etc.), institution type and field, institutional responses and career consequences for the harasser (if any), and the impact of harassment on the career and health of the person who experienced it.
Respondents were not required to answer all questions, and Kelsky made clear that while responses would be stripped of names, all other information would be freely available online.
“I leave the definition of ‘sexual harassment’ open; you may share anything that you feel merits inclusion here,” she wrote. “My goal here is to make visible the unacknowledged scope and scale of the problem of sexual harassment in academic settings in the aggregate -- with complete anonymity for all who participate. I will make no effort to use this information for any purpose except to increase public awareness on my blog. I will make no effort to identify the contributors or the actors in their stories in any way.”
Responses poured in, from students, professors, former academics and other researchers alike. The survey got a major boost from social media, where it was shared enthusiastically by many, often accompanied by the hashtag #MeTooPhD -- a riff on the broader #metoo sexual harassment awareness campaign. Some of those who didn’t personally respond also took the survey as a call to action on reform, for their disciplines or academe in general.
Kelsky said Thursday that she created the survey to “give victims a place to share their stories, to know they are not alone and to realize the systemic, institutional and patterned nature of sexual abuse in the academy.” She said she hoped men felt a bit uncomfortable reading and that they'd "closely examine" their own behavior, as well as that of their colleagues. She added via email, “You cannot solve a problem if you can't see it. This survey aims to make the problem visible to all.”
Reading all the submissions revealed major themes, including what Kelsky described as the pervasiveness and severity of abuse, extending to rape and stalking. The “systematic protection” of abusers over victims, stood out, too, demonstrating the "sheer force of patriarchal solidarity in keeping powerful men safe and insulated from consequences," she said. There are also recurrent, “devastating” consequences for women -- and the academy, in terms of women’s lost contributions when they grapple with harassment.
“Countless women on the survey describe being hounded out of the Ph.D. entirely, being forced to change projects or advisers or institutions, resulting in disrupted work and loss of funding and continuity," Kelsky said. She noted that some accounts describe having hidden out in closets or empty rooms to avoid a harasser.
Robin Nelson, an assistant professor of biological anthropology at Santa Clara University, co-wrote two peer-reviewed studies -- one this year -- based on surveys on harassment at scientific field sites. Nelson said she wished she was surprised by Kelsky’s findings, but that she wasn’t, based in part on her own work.
“In institutional structures that are set up so one individual has power over the career trajectory of another, there’s always the possibility of abuse,” Nelson said. “So I’m not really surprised, just saddened by how many folks have had to manage this as they make their way through the beginning of their careers.”
Nelson said she worried, to a degree, that the design of Kelsky’s study could put respondents -- especially those in smaller fields -- at risk of being identified, and therefore retaliated against. The point has been raised on social media, with others arguing against it. (Kelsky in an interview reiterated that the study was not scientific but rather sought to “hold space” for those who have experienced harassment. She also suggested that it was “infantilizing” to assume academics don’t understand the concept of informed consent.)
Yet Nelson said the study holds value in it's easy to see similarities between experiences, cutting through the false perception of isolation many victims feel. Over all, she said, academe is still at the beginning of the road to reform. Clear rules against harassment are important, she said, but attitudes about those rules need to shift, as well.
“We are incredibly tolerant of people who have broken the rules and allow them, in many cases, to remain in our midst for different reasons -- they hold a lot of social capital, or we consider them geniuses or incredibly bright,” Nelson said. “We have got to stop valuing individual scholars over the physical safety and mental health of everyone in our field.”
Kelsky echoed that idea, saying that when people “bemoan the loss of the contribution of Famous Man X, they are ignoring the loss of contribution of the five or 25 or 50 or more women he harassed out of the field entirely.”FacultyThreats Against FacultyEditorial Tags: FacultyGraduate studentsMisconductImage Source: =Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment:
Almost a third of first-time college students choose a major and then change it at least once within three years, and students who started out in mathematics and the natural sciences are likelier than others to switch fields, federal data released Thursday show.
The brief report from the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, drawn from the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study, finds that 33 percent of bachelor's degree pursuers who entered college in 2011-12 and 28 percent of students in associate degree programs had changed their major at least once by 2014.
About one in 10 had changed majors twice.
Students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs were likelier than those in non-STEM fields (35 versus 29 percent) to change majors.
And students who started out studying math were likeliest of all: 52 percent of those who initially declared as math majors ended up majoring in something else, followed by 40 percent of those in the natural sciences, 37 percent in education, 36 percent in humanities disciplines and 32 percent in engineering and general studies, as seen in the chart below.
What does it mean that math majors are likelier to leave their major than students in other fields? Given the marketplace demand for math majors (and students in other STEM fields), is it a problem that STEM majors are abandoning their majors at a greater rate than other students are?
Ed Venit, managing director of the student success collaborative at EAB, which published a study last year showing that students who changed majors graduate at a higher rate than those who don't, said many students who plan to major in rigorous fields like math because they excelled in high school may find themselves "in a little over their head" in the college-level discipline.
Venit said that EAB researchers more generally find a tendency among students to move from specialized fields like math (and the "extremes" of fields in the arts and humanities as well, like the fine arts) into more catchall fields such as business and psychology.
Given employers' strong demand for math majors and other students with strong quantitative skills, and by extension the desire among students to pursue such majors, it's essential that educators seek ways to make those fields less off-putting to students -- and not by reducing rigor, Venit said.
"You would never want to water down the rigor" of math and other fields, he said, but it does make sense to redesign the classes and improve the nature of instruction (as various national initiatives are doing). Colleges and universities also should strive, Venit said, to create desirable "off-ramps" for students who get waylaid from their original academic goal (for instance, directing students whose academic skills may fall short of those necessary to become a nurse or doctor into public health or other health professions).
Michael Pearson, executive director of the Mathematical Association of America, acknowledged that math has sometimes been seen as a barrier to postsecondary success and that math educators were striving to improve instruction and the perceived relevance of the discipline.
But he noted that enrollments in math courses at all levels of education are up about 20 percent in the last five years, and said that the interest in graduates with strong quantitative skills was strengthening the "pervasiveness of mathematics."
Pearson said he was inclined to attribute the large proportion of students leaving math for other fields more to the reality that college students "are exposed to new areas of study, like engineering, that don’t have nearly as much visibility in high school" than to a decision against math.
"I suspect they're choosing to use their math skills in new ways," he said.Editorial Tags: MathematicsAcademicsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment:
A leadership struggle at the top of the College of Saint Rose, in Albany, N.Y., has been thrust into the spotlight after several members of the small private college’s Board of Trustees, including its board chair, resigned in recent weeks.
Boiling tensions between some trustees and the college’s embattled president, Carolyn J. Stefanco, are laid bare in trustees’ resignation letters made public this week. Resigning trustees found fault with Stefanco’s leadership style, strained relationship with the board, repeated clashes with faculty members, requests for additional compensation and management of the college, which they said has left it in a perilous financial situation. They called the president secretive and occupied with personal interests, and the former board chair alleged that she was targeted after she asked the president to avoid additional external commitments in order to focus on the college.
The college’s administration responded Thursday by saying applications are up for next year and that Saint Rose has developed from a regional institution into one that can draw students nationally and internationally. But such a transition takes time, and the college’s enrollment was hurt when New York State started a program offering free tuition to many students attending public college this year, administrators argued. They are working to reduce the college’s deficit, and Saint Rose has increased its fund-raising, they said.
Saint Rose also released a statement from the new chair of its Board of Trustees, Sister Mary Anne Heenan.
“Many of the challenges existed before President Stefanco arrived in 2014,” she said in the statement. “In the last three years, she has implemented changes we, the trustees, directed. She has worked diligently with us to address emerging financial, enrollment and personnel challenges. We have a board of 28 extremely talented trustees, all of whom care deeply about the mission of the college and are focused on making progress.”
Stefanco has been a controversial figure at Saint Rose for several years after rounds of layoffs and budget cuts. In May 2015, Saint Rose announced the elimination of 40 administrative and staff positions, only 17 of which were vacant. Then in August of that year, college leaders said more cuts would be coming because of a $9.3 million structural deficit. The college would go on to announce the elimination of 23 faculty positions and 27 academic programs in December 2015. Many of the faculty members whose jobs were cut were tenured.
The American Association of University Professors later issued a report finding that the cuts rendered tenure “virtually meaningless” and that faculty members had been repeatedly left out of deliberations or had been ignored. The AAUP voted in June 2016 to censure the college. Faculty members voted no confidence in Stefanco in February 2016 and voted to ask that the president be removed last April.
After the April vote, trustees announced “unwavering support” for Stefanco. But that support waned among at least a handful of trustees.
Their concerns were brought to light by the Albany Times-Union, which on Thursday published excerpts from several trustees’ resignation letters.
Trustee Gregory Serio wrote that he wanted to support the president and the college but that Stefanco no longer enjoyed his confidence.
"Her secretive management style, closed-circle communication methods, obvious preoccupation with personal interests and apparent disdain for the board and its critical role in the governance of this institution are serious and, probably, irreparable shortcomings for any executive, within or without higher education," he wrote, according to the Times-Union.
The newspaper also quoted from the resignation letter of the college’s now former board chair, Judith Calogero. She wrote that trustees had committed enormous amounts of time and effort to improving the effectiveness of the college’s leadership and management, but that they had not been successful. Trustees were divided over the prospect of taking corrective action, she wrote.
Calogero did not send the letter to the newspaper, she said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed Thursday. She sent the document to the Board of Trustees and did not intend for it to be released publicly, she said.
“I hope my former colleagues on the board will be able to turn this around,” she said. “It’s my alma mater. I love the place. A lot of people in my family have attended the college, and I have nothing but best wishes for them going forward.”
Calogero provided a copy of her resignation letter because it had already been quoted from extensively in the press.
Most faculty members have no confidence in the college’s administrative team, but the team has no plan to improve the relationship with faculty members, Calogero wrote in the letter. She called turnover in the college’s academic leadership unprecedented, writing that four provosts have served in the last two years, that the current interim provost doubles as a dean and that the college’s remaining three dean positions are all filled on an interim basis because their predecessors left.
More than 130 employees left Saint Rose between 2015 and 2016, Calogero wrote. Many of those departing had been administrative appointees. No information was shared with the Board of Trustees about their departures, and the board asked that exit interviews be conducted with a trustee present, Calogero wrote. That proposal was rejected.
Calogero also wrote that thousands of dollars have been spent planning what would be the second administrative building renovation in 10 years, even as other college-owned buildings fell into disrepair. The college will be burdened by deferred maintenance for years to come, she predicted.
She also pointed to a $3.6 million deficit for the last fiscal year and a $12.1 million deficit estimated for the current fiscal year.
“Enrollment is down, student retention is down, the discount rate is at a historical high, student housing occupancy is down, new programs that were expected to bring new students have failed or stalled, and the strategic plan is failing,” Calogero wrote. “All occurring within the last three years under the current leadership team.”
Calogero asked the president to temporarily not take on additional external commitments like board appointments, she wrote. That would allow Stefanco to dedicate her professional time and energy toward Saint Rose, where they were needed. But the request was disregarded, Calogero wrote.
“A campaign was initiated to have me change my position, with repeated requests by phone and email,” she wrote. “When that didn’t work, my authority as chair of the Board of Trustees was further undermined by lobbying other trustees, causing much disruption and divisiveness. The chair-elect joined the campaign, who together with the president brought the topic forward to the full board, to attempt to overturn my decision and further undermine my authority to act. This resulted in the most unprofessional display I’ve ever witnessed at our October board meeting.”
Calogero’s letter also references the president asking for additional compensation when faculty and staff were being laid off. The board opposed the requests in the past, but that may be reversed now, Calogero wrote.
The president is not requesting additional compensation, a Saint Rose spokeswoman said in an email. Stefanco has not received a raise since starting at the college in 2014 and has experienced reductions in benefits, as have other administrators, she said. The spokeswoman declined to comment on specific communications between the administration and trustees, calling such communications confidential. But she did share the college’s overall undergraduate tuition discount rate, which is 52 percent.
The Times Union reported that at least six trustees have resigned in recent weeks, but Saint Rose says the number of resignations is five since Nov. 1.
A statement from the college also said the $12.1 million deficit is a forecast made three months into the current fiscal year. The college is working to increase revenue and cut expenses to reduce the deficit, and it raised more than $7 million in gifts last year, its highest level in 15 years, it said.
The college has almost 2,500 full-time undergraduate students and students enrolled in nearly 6,000 graduate credits, it said. It also said first-year applications for the fall of 2018 are up over last year and that it enrolled a record first-year class in the fall of 2016 before being hit by New York’s free college tuition program for public institutions.
“Our finances remain a very significant challenge as we seek to keep tuition affordable, compete with the SUNY and CUNY systems’ offer of free tuition, and find the money to invest in our programs and facilities,” the statement said. “Our faculty, staff and administration deliver an amazing, life-transforming education despite the financial challenges.”
The college’s full-time undergraduate enrollment has been slipping for years, according to statistics available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Saint Rose had more than 2,800 full-time undergraduate students in 2010, more than 2,700 in 2012 and 2,540 in 2015, the most recent year for which data are available.
Faculty members expressed surprise and concern at the trustee resignations, saying they reflect serious issues with Stefanco’s performance.
“I think everybody is still rather in shock,” said Kathleen Crowley, a professor of psychology who is president of the Saint Rose chapter of the AAUP. “I think the sentiment is that a change in presidential leadership at this point would be beneficial. But to be honest with you, I think for the situation to improve, it would probably best if the president acknowledged the growing lack of support that she has and would leave and give us a year of transition so we could mount a search for a new president.”
About 10 years ago, the college had 212 full-time faculty members, Crowley said. Now it has 173. Faculty benefits were cut in 2015, and many often teach overload courses now. The number of adjuncts has risen and is now over 200.
“Probably the greatest difficulty right now is the sense of, I’d have to say, doom and fear on campus,” Crowley said.Image Source: College of Saint RoseImage Caption: Sister Mary Anne Heenan, CSJ, left, with President Carolyn J. Stefanco, was elected chair of the College of Saint Rose Board of Trustees after several trustees resigned.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment:
After a student was found dead the morning after attending a party at Florida State’s Pi Kappa Phi fraternity chapter, the university suspended Greek life indefinitely.
The student, Andrew Coffey, 20, was pledging the fraternity, which was ordered by its national chapter to shut down last month. His death was associated with excessive alcohol consumption, and Florida State has also banned the consumption of alcohol at all events hosted by student organizations affiliated with the university.
Florida State’s new alcohol and Greek life regulations came into effect just over a month ago, but the institution hasn’t stopped its examination of the drinking culture on campus. Earlier this month, John Thrasher, university president, urged faculty and staff to refrain from serving alcohol at any holiday functions held on campus.
“I am now asking that as you plan departmental or office holiday functions and parties, if they are held on campus, you refrain from serving alcohol,” he said in a memo sent to university employees. “I have instituted this policy for functions I am hosting, and while it has not been popular, my guests have understood.”
The memo is nonbinding, and alcohol remains available on campus in certain situations. Since the Greek life suspension, the president’s box has not served alcohol during football games, though guests in other box seats are still free to imbibe. (Florida State’s stadium does not sell alcohol to guests at large, a move several universities have embraced in recent years.)
In his memo, Thrasher examined alcohol consumption from a broader perspective. “I feel strongly that Florida State University is a family,” he said. “As a family, we share our problems and our solutions. This is about setting an example for our students, and, as mentors and leaders, I hope that you will all support this step along the road to culture change.”
It remains to be seen how long the president’s alcohol ban will last, and if other universities will embrace the move. A Florida State spokesman said he wasn't aware how long the president's stance is intended to last, but said Thrasher “feels strongly about leading by example while the university takes this time to reflect on the loss of a young life and make efforts to shift the campus culture in a more positive and healthy direction.”
Ohio State University, the University of Michigan, Indiana University, Texas State University, Ball State University, Louisiana State University and Penn State University are all public institutions where Greek life has been put under some form of sanctioning in recent months. Sanctions range in severity: Penn State’s administration banned Beta Theta Pi in March after student Timothy Piazza died following a Beta Theta Pi party in February. Greek life now runs under new regulations stemming from the death. On the other hand, Ball State fraternities governed by the university’s student-led Interfraternity Council reached an agreement with the administration in October to ban alcohol at events until the end of January, as a sort of reset measure aimed at reshaping fraternity culture.
A spokesman at Texas State wasn’t aware of any similar plans to ban or discourage booze at faculty events at the institution, and neither was a spokesman for Michigan. A spokesman for Indiana said that the university has not “considered or had a discussion about a policy similar to that one at this time.” Representatives from the other universities mentioned did not respond to requests for comment.
In industries outside academe, alcohol policies have been examined in a similar manner, however. In some of those cases, the prompt hasn't been fraternity abuse of alcohol but rather incidents of sexual harassment. At Vox Media, which publishes the websites Vox, SBNation and Racked, among other news sites, the annual holiday party’s open bar has been nixed, and instead employees who choose to drink will be subject to a two-beverage maximum. The move comes after the company fired its editorial director, Lockhart Steele, following allegations of sexual harassment.
“We recognize that even though alcohol isn’t always the reason for unprofessional behavior, creating an environment that encourages overconsumption certainly contributes to it. We hope that you all appreciate the spirit of this change and we look forward to celebrating with you,” an email to staffers read.
In another email to Vox employees, sent at the beginning of November, Vox’s management said it was looking into “tighter policies around alcoholic beverages at company events and meetings and generally ensuring work events and interactions meet the highest standard of professionalism.”
Kimberley Timpf, senior director of prevention education at EverFi, which runs the online alcohol education program AlcoholEdu, said that Thrasher’s message signaled that Florida State was willing to come to the table with students.
“At the core of it is the idea that this president wants to communicate that alcohol is not a required part of socializing,” she said. She added that binge drinking and alcohol safety are comprehensive subjects that require “a lot of difference pieces that need to come together” for a solution.
“There needs to be some consistency across campus,” she said. “If we’re trying to message to them that alcohol is not necessary to socialize, then we need to do that ourselves.”Editorial Tags: Student lifeImage Source: iStockIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment:
Todd Schweisinger wasn’t anywhere near millionaire status when he was working for $4 an hour at a roller rink at the age of 10. But neither were Dr. Dre, Ice Cube or the other members of the 1980s hip-hop group NWA.
Schweisinger worked at Skateland USA, the iconic skate rink founded in Compton, Calif., in 1984 (and featured in the 2015 biopic Straight Outta Compton), that also acted as a concert venue, helping launch the careers of up-and-coming '80s hip-hop groups.
Now, though, it’s Schweisinger’s turn.
The 42-year-old professor doesn’t have the trappings of a one-percenter: he lives in the same $60,000 house he purchased when he was a doctoral candidate at Clemson University, where he is now a senior lecturer in mechanical engineering, and his minivan didn’t have air-conditioning until last year, when he finally caved and spent the money needed to keep him cool during South Carolina’s wicked summers. But that frugality is what has helped put him on the path to pledge 95 percent of his estate to Clemson, a sum he’s hoping will reach $2 million.
“My father instilled in me a hard work ethic,” Schweisinger said. “I’ve worked really hard for my money, and I thought about, ‘Who is going to be the best steward for my money when I’m gone that will share my vision and passion?’”
Through holding a tight budget, working with a financial planner and plans to make investments in real estate, Schweisinger is planning to set up an endowed scholarship fund that can -- when entrusted and invested with the Clemson University Foundation -- last in perpetuity to fund full-ride scholarships, with preference for students from South Carolina.
“I made a lot of friends at Clemson,” said Schweisinger, who earned his master’s degree and Ph.D., both in mechanical engineering, from the institution. “And when they graduated, a lot of them moved into new houses, updated the car that they had been driving for something newer, or got married and had big weddings.”
Schweisinger, on the other hand, kept living “like a graduate student,” opting to keep the house he was already in. He drives 1988 minivan and a 1982 pickup.
He first approached the university’s fund-raising office in 2008 to begin talks about the future of his estate, but his outlook on spending had been shaped years before.
“When I was in elementary school, I’m sure I wanted fancy cars, a big house and all kinds of things,” he said. His parents were always supportive of him working and spending his money on whatever he wanted as a teenager, but the video games and other items that captured his adolescent attention would soon be dated and cease to interest him.
“So at some point in time, I just thought, gosh … maybe the big house, the car, the other fancy things I wanted, isn’t really what makes me happy,” he said.
Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said he was caught by surprise when he heard about Schweisinger’s donation.
“To give back so overwhelmingly, you have to believe in what you’re doing. You have to believe in your students, you have to believe in what they can achieve,” he said, adding that the donation reaffirmed his “faith in the goodness of people.”
A scholarship endowment carries personal significance for Schweisinger, who is unmarried and without children. As a Ph.D. student, he was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, and the medical costs associated with it forced him to take out student loans.
“I’m grateful for what I have, specifically my degree. When I completed that degree, I felt like I had accomplished everything I’d set out for, so I didn’t feel like I … [needed] much else to feel complete, other than to put some food on the table,” he said.
He started giving back immediately in the form of teaching, which he considers a form of public service. He also volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The $2 million endowment, though, is a guarantee that he can keep giving back after he’s gone.
“Being in higher education is a very personally rewarding career,” he said. “And I enjoy putting students first.”Editorial Tags: LifeImage Caption: Todd Schweisinger is a senior lecturer in mechanical engineering at Clemson University.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment:
As the #metoo sexual harassment awareness campaign continues, several more institutions are taking action against professors accused on their campuses.
On Monday, A. Morrie Craig, a longtime professor of veterinary toxicology at Oregon State University, will appeal his faculty-backed termination to the institution’s Board of Trustees. The specific allegations against Craig, who did not respond to a request for comment, have not been made public. But the university has said, in relation to his case, that it takes seriously “all complaints of bullying and sexual harassment.”
Craig was accused in May, and he testified on his own behalf during a two-day hearing on the case overseen by a special committee of Oregon State’s Faculty Senate, according to The Oregonian. That committee recommended Craig’s dismissal for cause in October, and the university soon notified him of his termination.
Appeals of faculty-backed termination decisions are rare, in part because terminations of tenured professors remain unusual. But Craig reportedly petitioned a county court to review the decision. A judge said he had no jurisdiction over the campus, however, so Craig pursued a last-ditch appeal option: going before the board.
Steve Clark, university spokesperson, declined to share details of the case, but said via email that Oregon State has “explicit policies regarding such actions, including for faculty.” Policies on bullying and harassment consider the severity of allegations, as well as allegations that are less severe but occur over a long period of time, he said.
Brett Sokolow, executive director of the Association of Title IX Administrators, said Wednesday that whether faculty members challenge terminations, in court or internally, remains something of a “mixed bag.” Some of the “really guilty ones,” or those who are most privacy conscious, will not, he said, while those who feel “wronged” or who are unwilling to admit misconduct are more likely to challenge their terminations.
Yet Sokolow said he has noticed an increase in contestations of late, “perhaps because we are seeing an increase in those who are being terminated instead of given a quiet exit.” Previously -- as recently as a year ago -- hushed buyouts and departures for professors found to have committed misconduct were “the norm,” he said. But things have shifted and the faculty member “looking to make a quiet exit is not going to have that option as readily now.”
Earlier this month, the University of Virginia confirmed that John Casey, author and Henry Hoyns Professor of English, won’t be teaching in the spring. Casey, who is on a preplanned sabbatical this term, did not respond to a request for comment. But he’s been placed on leave next semester, when he was set to lead two graduate courses, pending a university investigation into multiple complaints from students. He’s been publicly accused of inappropriately touching students, commenting on what they’re wearing, using profanity to refer to women in readings and ranking female students based on attractiveness.
Anthony de Bruyn, university spokesperson, told Inside Higher Ed that Virginia “is committed to ensuring a safe, nondiscriminatory educational and work environment and takes seriously any allegation of conduct that would violate university policy prohibiting sexual and gender-based harassment.”
Even on campuses that have seen faculty departures over harassment, student advocates say they want more -- more training for employees and students, and more protections for students who report alleged misconduct. Students at San Jose State University, for example, on Tuesday held a party and rally to celebrate the recent resignation of Lewis Aptekar, a longtime professor of counseling education found by the university to have harassed a graduate student by repeatedly asking her out on dates and asking about her relationship status. Another student later made similar claims, which the university said could not be substantiated.
Elisa Stewart, Aptekar’s attorney, told Inside Higher Ed earlier this year that after an investigation into his conduct in 2016-17, Aptekar was cleared of wrongdoing by a “thoughtful, diligent and unbiased process with adequate protections in place to protect all the parties.” An earlier, 2015 investigation was “flawed, and consequently, the result is not reliable,” she said.
Aptekar wasn’t terminated; he resigned in exchange for $75,000, according to university records, after he criticized how the university handled his case. But students nevertheless celebrated what they perceived to be a win for their cause.
Valerie Lamb, a graduate student in education counseling at San Jose State who helped Students Against Sexual Harassment, or SASH, organize the rally, said the campus group is seeking “justice” for professors who engage in harassment. One aim is to get professors found to have committed misconduct terminated, she said, and the other is to serve as “safe space” for students affected. Lamb said SASH and other advocates also hoped to benefit from the media attention surrounding sexual misconduct, in terms of effecting a more positive climate and possible policy changes -- no more “slaps on the wrists" for harassers.
The university said in a statement that it currently requires all faculty, staff and administrators to complete training on avoiding and combating sexual harassment annually, via a two-and-a-half-hour online course. The training includes case studies from the California State University system and is compliant with system executive orders prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation, sexual misconduct, relationships between employees and those over whom they have significant authority, domestic violence, and stalking.FacultyTeaching and LearningEditorial Tags: Graduate studentsMisconductImage Caption: San Jose State students organized a victory party over a professor's departure.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment:
It’s not every day that a community college gets courted by a Major League Baseball team.
It’s also not every day that a community college gets to turn away a professional baseball team, either.
But that’s exactly what happened Tuesday evening when the Peralta Community College District’s governing board directed its chancellor to “discontinue planning for a community engagement process on a possible baseball stadium.”
The Oakland Athletics have spent about a year examining where to build a new ballpark in the city. In September, the A’s announced that they wanted to build the new, 35,000-seat stadium on a district-owned 15-acre property near Oakland’s Laney College, which is one of Peralta’s four two-year institutions.
The Athletics’ plan promised to address displacement of residents and small businesses and to create new affordable housing and well-paying jobs. The team also proposed opportunities for partnerships on mixed-use developments that would help generate revenue for the district.
But faculty groups, students and community organizations have been vehemently opposed to the proposal.
“We’re all really excited,” said Jennifer Shanoski, president of the Peralta Federation of Teachers and a chemistry instructor at Merritt College. “Especially in these times when people feel so powerless with everything happening to us all the time. Here’s an instance where good old-fashioned organizing and grassroots organization worked.”
In a team statement released Wednesday, the A’s said they were “shocked” by the board’s decision not to move forward.
A's STATEMENT: We are shocked by Peralta’s decision to not move forward. All we wanted to do was enter into a conversation about how to make this work for all of Oakland, Laney, & the Peralta Community College District. We are disappointed that we will not have that opportunity.— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) December 6, 2017
The news also caught Oakland leaders by surprise.
Oakland remains fiercely determined to keep the @Athletics in Oakland. It is unfortunate the discussion w/ Peralta ended so abruptly, yet we're committed, more than ever, to working with the A’s and our community to find the right spot in OAK for a privately-financed ballpark.— Libby Schaaf (@LibbySchaaf) December 6, 2017
Jowel Laguerre, the district’s chancellor, said the board didn’t make its decision specifically because of opposition from the campus groups, but because they want to focus on assessing the needs of the college and seeing what other partnerships are available.
“The district will build on its shared governance model to reimagine the district’s needs and the resources to meet them. We will develop a robust and inclusive internal engagement process to assess our needs and partnerships aligned with our mission. The Board of Trustees will continue due diligence in determining the costs and benefits of potential development,” the board’s statement said.
In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Laguerre pointed out that Peralta has challenges with its infrastructure and wants to focus on better addressing the housing and food-insecurity needs of its students.
“The board is really focused on the long-term future of the district and not necessarily the opposition that came up for something that was not well detailed,” Laguerre said.
A lack of details helped keep faculty and students from supporting a ballpark on college property.
The A’s “approached the district and administration well, but there was not a lot of transparency and openness with faculty, staff and students,” Shanoski said. “They tried to do these sort of listening tours, but there was never any information being provided.”
Laguerre said there wasn’t anything for people to be against because the proposal wasn’t a project yet, just a concept.
“It’s easy to say yes or easy to say no but more difficult to say, ‘Let’s think about this and how can this happen,’” Laguerre said. “Even though we’re not using the Oakland A’s project to ask those questions, that’s what we’re asking. How can we use the resources we have and what kind of partnerships can we develop?”
For the different groups on campus, the A’s couldn’t sufficiently address concerns around the potential impacts of a new ballpark on the college and surrounding area.
Community and faculty groups raised concerns on issues ranging from the effect of construction and game noise on classes to displaced housing and gentrification in the neighborhoods surrounding the college.
“We didn’t make a knee-jerk reaction,” said Donald Moore, president of the Laney Faculty Senate and an anthropology professor. “Part of it was listening to the Oakland A’s and getting a bunch of supportive comments and no meat behind it. No substance.”
Moore said whenever anyone raised concerns about traffic or displaced businesses, the team would make reassuring statements about mitigating any problems the ballpark would bring, but they did not provide details or research to explain how they would solve those problems.
Laguerre said some of the issues faculty raised, like noise concerns, could have been addressed once the proposal was farther along in planning. But the experience of receiving an offer has helped the college learn how to deal with development and partnership proposals, he said.
Meanwhile, many people around Oakland are eager to keep the team in the city, especially after the Oakland Raiders received approval from the National Football League to move to Las Vegas in 2019. Prior to selecting the college’s land, the A’s considered a waterfront site or a new stadium near their current home at the Oakland Coliseum.
Moore said with the Raiders leaving for Las Vegas and the Golden State Warriors abandoning nearby Oracle Arena for San Francisco, the A’s could have the Coliseum to themselves to redevelop and improve that neighborhood.
“We want to keep the A’s in Oakland, as well,” Laguerre said. “I believe in and stated we need to do everything we can to keep the Oakland Athletics in Oakland, but it’s not just Peralta’s job to do that. It’s the whole community that needs to come together around that particular issue.”Community CollegesEditorial Tags: Community collegesCaliforniaImage Source: Laney TowerImage Caption: Laney College's campusIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment:
Howard University, a revered historically black institution, allowed two students, alleged serial rapists, to remain on campus, according to a federal lawsuit that claims administrators failed in their handling of sexual assault reports.
While the university doesn’t explicitly have a legal obligation to remove any student, activists and experts interviewed said when such a pattern emerges, institutions can act, and should do so. Some say that historically black colleges and universities have notoriously been slow to respond to sexual misconduct.
The lawsuit coincides with a national debate over the federal gender discrimination law Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Critics of the Obama administration have said his Education Department’s interpretation of Title IX was overzealous and resulted in accused students being treated unfairly on campus. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has since pulled the Obama rules on Title IX, dating back to 2011, and is in the process of revising them.
In May, five women, current or former students at the Washington university, filed the lawsuit under the pseudonyms Jane Doe 1 through 5, all asserting they had been sexually assaulted and that administrators generally ignored them or lagged in their responses. Their cases dragged on for many months, when Howard’s policy (and previous federal rules) required a 60-day timeline, according to the complaint.
Right after Thanksgiving, a sixth Jane Doe joined the lawsuit, with details about how her case has not been resolved eight months after she reported her rape, and her suit said that she still sees around campus her alleged attacker, who has multiple reports of sexual assault against him.
“The university’s actions have exacerbated and extended, rather than corrected, the resulting interference with the educational opportunities of each woman,” the lawsuit states.
No court case has definitively concluded that an institution needs to bar a student from campus once he or she is reported for sexual assault, said S. Daniel Carter, president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, which consults with colleges on matters of sexual misconduct.
The Title IX standard colleges must meet is eliminating a hostile environment, Carter said.
“But when you get accused of multiple offenses or criminally convicted, it becomes harder and harder to make the argument that anything short of removal is sufficient,” he said.
But with the Howard case, the punishment seemingly wasn’t even a question -- administrators allegedly did so little that they weren’t even considering suspension until apparently more than seven months or so after one report had been filed, Carter said.
Spokeswoman Crystal Brown said in a statement that Howard does not comment on Title IX cases or pending litigation.
“Howard University takes very seriously all allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence and gender-based discrimination occurring on the university's campus or involving the university's students. Our commitment is evidenced by our rigorous enforcement of the university's Title IX Policy on Prohibited Sexual Harassment and Gender-Based Discrimination in Education Program and Activities. The university has been, and remains, committed to diligently investigating any such allegations to ensure a safe and healthy community for our faculty, staff and students.”
According to the lawsuit, Jane Doe 2 reported her rape to administrators in October 2015, expressing concerns that her alleged assailant was a resident assistant in her dormitory and thus had access to her room key. He had stalked Doe 2 since the beginning of that semester, the suit states, but Howard’s Title IX coordinator, Candi N. Smiley, told Doe 2 he could not be moved until an investigation had finished.
Doe 2 provided Smiley that October with text and email messages that allegedly proved that she was being harassed and that the rape occurred, but she did not hear any response until December, when Smiley asked Doe 2 to resend them.
She tried to drop out at the end of fall 2015 semester after hearing no response for the rest of that year -- the lawsuit states Doe 2 was on “the brink of losing her scholarship” and depressed and fearful she would encounter her rapist. Doe 2 had moved out of the dormitory where he was a resident assistant, but found later she had been charged for doing so when administrators had assured her she would not be. The university also removed her Pell Grant and need-based scholarship from her transcript, charged her for that amount of money, and sent her multiple notices threatening to send her to collections, the complaint states.
Doe 2 didn’t hear anything from Howard until March 2016, right after she had reached out to Doe 1, who had gone on a “storm” on Twitter how the university had similarly botched her report of rape -- against the same man who allegedly assaulted Doe 2. He had transferred from University of California, Los Angeles, after being accused of sexual misconduct there, the suit states.
For a third time, Smiley asked to see the text messages Doe 2 had sent twice, the complaint states. In April 2016, Smiley informed Doe 2 that the university had suspended her alleged attacker for two years.
But no one notified Doe 1 of the outcome. She reported her rape in February 2016, but after she met with Smiley, Doe 1 didn’t hear anything from her from March 1 through March 21, except for Smiley contacting Doe 1 to ask if she had been discussing the rape in text messages with her friends -- she had not, the lawsuit states. Doe 1 called Smiley four times during that period with no response.
Frustrated, Doe 1 posted to Twitter in late March 2016, identifying her and Doe 2’s attacker -- that’s how she connected with Doe 2.
This prompted Howard to release a statement: “There has been an allegation of sexual assault committed by a Howard University student against another Howard student. The university administration is aware of the allegation and took immediate action as soon as we learned of this matter.”
By that point, Doe 1, who was also a resident assistant, had been fired from her position based on a report her alleged assailant gave to residence life.
No one ever told Doe 1 that her rapist was kicked off campus.
In a similar set of circumstances, Doe 6 reported her sexual assault in April 2016, but largely did not hear from administration until a full year later, when a dean told her the attacker had raped someone else and that the university was “reopening her case.” Doe 6 also discovered before she reported her alleged assailant he had multiple cases of sexual violence already open against him -- but he still is permitted on campus to this day, according to the complaint. BuzzFeed first reported details of the amended complaint.
Though institutions can't weigh character evidence when adjudicating a Title IX complaint, they can factor in multiple reports with a pattern, said Laura Dunn, founder of SurvJustice, which advocates for sexual assault victims.
The job of Title IX coordinators is not only to respond to reports, but also track these patterns of discrimination on campus, Dunn said. In theory, a college or university can flag an individual even without a complaint to work from, she said -- or, in the event of a dead end to an investigation, a person can be removed from a position of power. In the Howard case, the alleged rapist could have been fired as a resident assistant during the investigation.
“It’s pretty clear Howard University was not proactively engaging,” she said.
The prevalence of repeat offenders has been challenged in recent years. One 2015 study, led by then Georgia State University assistant professor of psychology Kevin Swartout, now an associate professor, purported that only 25 percent of the men who reported committing acts of rape did so multiple times.
This went against oft-cited research in 2002 by David Lisak, then a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts that cited the number as high as 63 percent.
In light of the newer study, colleges should act more carefully, said Brett Sokolow, president of the Association of Title IX Administrators and the NCHERM Group, a consulting firm for institutions.
“In a situation in which serial offenses are alleged -- but a pattern may not yet be proven -- I think colleges would be well advised to bring their behavioral intervention or threat assessment teams into play,” Sokolow wrote in an email. “Colleges don’t want to suspend anyone without reasonable cause, but often they’re really only speculating as to pattern and the potential to reoffend when all they have are allegations.”
Not all the plaintiffs in the Howard case allege that their attackers raped multiple people.
After Jane Doe 3 began a relationship with a campus police officer, he sexually and physically abused her: according to the lawsuit, he “hit her, pushed her, strangled her and threw things at her.” She told Howard officials she was suicidal and requested solo counseling, not group therapy, as had been suggested, but they ignored her calls. Because her grades slipped, Doe 3 was worried she would lose her Reserve Officers' Training Corps scholarship, and she found that administrators were either indifferent or unhelpful in helping her make up course work or register for new classes.
After Jane Doe 4 was raped, administrators and professors did not assist her in rescheduling her exams, and, she said, her alleged assaulter essentially ignored the no-contact order against him. She often encountered him on campus, and administrators did not help her set up a schedule to avoid him in common areas such as the gym or dining halls as she had requested.
Doe 4 then learned she might share a dormitory with her alleged rapist, which administrators had promised her would not happen. Administrators acknowledged this was an error but did not confirm with Doe 4 that he would not live on campus until days before campus move-in, the lawsuit states.
Her alleged assailant was then suspended for a semester, but Doe 4 spotted him at a homecoming pep rally in October 2016. She told campus police he was blocked from campus, but the cops were unaware of this -- the complaint states that the Title IX office never told the police the man was restricted from campus and did not remove him until Doe 4 showed an officer proof of the ban on her phone.
Jane Doe 5 reported her rape to campus officials in April 2015, a month shy of her graduation. She did not feel safe enough at Howard to finish her credits, and requested to do so on another campus. After she took summer classes, the university waited seven months to let her know if the credits would actually count. The alleged assailant in that case was suspended for two years, and the lawsuit states he was later criminally convicted in the District of Columbia for a separate sexual assault.
Howard in July filed to dismiss the complaint, citing the fact that an institution only violates Title IX when an official is aware of, but willfully ignores, ongoing harassment. The university said once it learned of the alleged assaults, it took action: even if the women “disagree with the particulars of Howard’s response, Howard did not subject plaintiffs to intentional gender discrimination,” it wrote in the motion to dismiss.
Black Colleges and Sex Assaults
Howard is a prominent historically black college, but some say the issues there reflect broader problems for HBCUs. One challenge at these institutions is that most lack sufficient resources for all kinds of needs, including investigating sex assault accusations. Such scant resources can result in little investment into combating sexual violence, said Venkayla Haynes, a survivor and a representative of advocacy group Know Your IX. She said HBCUs are also very focused on their images, fearful that reports about sex assaults could hurt them.
Already, too, black men and women are often disproportionally criminalized, so some survivors are hesitant to report and reinforce that image, she said.
Haynes, also a regional adviser for the It’s on Us campaign launched by the Obama White House, said she has dealt with many HBCUs that simply disregard issues of sexual violence. She said she’s sat with victims while they tell their stories to administrators but that they’re never officially recorded.
But just blaming the historically black institutions for deficiencies in sexual assault reports is unfair, said Felecia Commodore, assistant professor of higher education at Old Dominion University, who studies HBCU leadership and governance. Many other institutions have permitted serial offenders to remain on campus, she said.
What tends to happen is when a predominately white institution is found to have dealt with a report of sexual assault poorly, it's treated as an institutional issue only. When an HBCU does, it's characterized inevitably as an issue among all of them, and thus a racial problem, Commodore said.
Black students, particularly black women, face unique challenges in reporting. HBCUs promote a "family atmosphere" and sometimes victims will struggle to tell someone when they know their attacker well, Commodore said. Black women often fear, because of stereotypes, being cast as hypersexualized, and some believe they won't be taken seriously, she said.
"I think it’s really important that we take seriously when any student comes forward saying they’ve been sexually assaulted," Commodore said. "In the case of HBCUs, I think there is a tendency to underreport, and we need to take seriously supporting [survivors] and making an environment where they don’t feel like they have betrayed people."
HBCUs have not always accomplished this, though.
Recently, signs appeared on the campuses of both Spelman College and Morehouse College, both members of the Atlanta University Center Consortium, along with Clark Atlanta University. They accused the colleges of “protecting” rapists. The Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel at Morehouse was spray-painted with “Practice what you preach Morehouse [and] end rape culture.”
Alongside this, a Twitter account, @WeKnowWhatYouDid, was opened, using the hashtag #weknowwhatyoudid and posting the names of alleged perpetrators, identifying some as serial rapists.
While some HBCUs claim to support programs to curtail sexual violence, they are not always realized, though they are advertised publicly, said Haynes of Know Your IX -- Howard promotes such resources on its website.
“But the real change comes when a survivor reports and is actually being taken care of in the way they should,” Haynes said.Editorial Tags: Sexual assaultIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment:
Academic Ableism (University of Michigan Press) notes the progress higher education has made to be more inclusive of people with disabilities than in the past. But the book isn't full of praise. Rather, it offers critique after critique of the way colleges have ignored or responded inadequately to the needs of many students and professors.
The author is Jay Timothy Dolmage, associate professor of English at the University of Waterloo, in Canada, who takes disability issues seriously. Below the signature line on his emails is this phrase: "If you have an accommodation need for a planned meeting, please email me directly and I will do my best to make appropriate arrangements. Should you require any materials sent via this email address in an alternate/accessible format, please let me know."
Via email, he responded to questions about his new book.
Q: What drew you to disability studies?
A: I grew up in the disability rights movement in Canada -- and my entire family is still involved in this movement. But when I was a kid, it began with a fight for my brother’s right to go to an inclusive school, in our neighborhood, with his friends and my sister and I. We took that fight all the way to the Ontario Supreme Court of Appeal … and we lost! So we moved to a school [district] where he could be included in a regular classroom, and we supported the subsequent legal challenges that eventually established the right to inclusive education. My mother and my sister, in particular, still work directly to help families protect and achieve this right to education. I see myself as carrying this fight into higher education.
Q: Much of the early discussion about disability in higher education focused on legal requirements about buildings -- stairs, bathroom facilities, etc. How did those discussions shape the way academe perceives these issues?
A: In the book I say that this history has, in part, established disability in mainly legal and medical terms. This means that disability isn’t seen as an identity as much as it is seen as a diagnosis, and this diagnosis is seen to have -- not cultural or social values -- but legal requirements attached to it; minimum legal requirements. So disability gets framed as something you can get wrong if you don’t have the right infrastructure, as at best something that is a cost: you have to get that infrastructure up to the minimum. That’s a pretty problematic way to view 10 to 15 percent of students -- as legal risks, as costs. That said, the metaphors that come from physical accessibility -- ramps, elevators, etc. -- we can do some useful things with these metaphors, urging people to see accessibility much more broadly. What are the ways you build ramps and elevators in your own classroom, to invite everyone in?
Q: More recently, much of the discussion has been about technology, and how various technology tools can be (or many times are not) accessible. How has that changed the narrative?
A: Well, I don’t think it has changed it much at all. Still, the requirement for access is constructed as a cost. It is a really frustrating, unfair calculus. To make content accessible in a general sense, that’s seen as a duty -- it is seen as just good teaching. But when something like digital content needs to be made accessible for people with disabilities, that’s not seen as an investment, it is seen as a cost, one to be avoided if possible. And so people really do avoid it. At the very best, we get digital “ramps” that actually cost people with disabilities, or that make learning much more difficult for them -- these are ramps in the back door of higher education, not in the front door.
Q: In the United States, there is constant discussion of what is "reasonable" in terms of providing assistance. Does that "reasonable" test bother you?
A: Oh, goodness yes. Who is constructed as having the “reason” in this situation? It’s not the disabled student. And because it is not coming from the learners themselves, but instead through bureaucracies designed to deliver the very minimum, we don’t get very logical or reasonable accommodations at all. Around 90 percent of accommodations in North America are the same, rubber-stamped thing: more time on tests and exams. That’s good -- lots of people need that and use that accommodation to keep up with their peers and to provide evidence of how much they have learned. But it shows how little imagination there is -- we teach in myriad innovative ways, but we give the same little minimal accommodations over and over again, and force students to ask, over and over again, and prove their disability, over and over again? It is almost absurdist. The lack of innovation, the repetition, the lack of generosity and curiosity, the lack of communication between teachers and learners, I could go on and on. So, yes, it bothers me!
Q: Do you think academe devalues those people who have a disability of some type?
A: Unfortunately my answer here is a confident one: definitely. I think it is hardwired into academic culture. Around 90 percent of students with learning disabilities get accommodations for those disabilities in high school. Only around 10 percent of those same students, when they go to college or university, seek accommodations. That is even though those same disabilities could be experienced more deeply in higher ed. So why is that? Well, it is a culture that is all about independence, competition, achievement, measurement, comparison, perfection. Admitting that you need help seems out of the question.
So most students who do get accommodations wait until at least their third year to get them; they would rather struggle and try to get through than ask for help. And we see the same trends on the postgraduate level and definitely among faculty -- have a look at the recent collection Negotiating Disability: Disclosure and Higher Education for more on this. The question, for educators, then, needs to be: How am I part of this culture, even unconsciously? What toll is this taking on me? On my students? What makes me afraid to admit this, or to admit my complicity in it? How can I work to change this culture?
Q: Higher education constantly considers issues of diversity, but many times the focus is on race and gender. Where should disability fit in?
A: It should fit in intersectionality. Disability is never “alone with itself” -- that is, there are always ways that it is inflected, influenced, shaped by gender, race, sexuality and other identity markers. It’s something that is awesome about disability identity: there are cultures of inclusion across all of these vectors of difference. But, historically, those combinations and intersections were used much more negatively. Disability was used as a marker of biological deviance and inferiority, flexibly applied onto a range of bodies to construct them as less than human.
As to the history of that, and its politics, isn’t easy to get away from. But disability is a really important form of diversity, just never “alone” -- disability is one of the important ways that real diversity takes shape. I hope that the book begins to show this value -- that we need to move on from legal and medical definitions of disability. We need to move on from minimal “reasonable” accommodations. We need to take a hard look at a culture that wants to deny disability despite the real cost of doing so. If disability can be seen as part of the fabric of higher education, as something that comes in the front door, not around back, as something that drives change and innovation and builds community, then my feeling is we will all become better teachers.New Books About Higher EducationDiversityEditorial Tags: DisabilitiesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment:
Germany’s Max Planck Society of research institutes has launched a women-only program of tenure-track positions to improve its gender balance and stop rivals poaching its best female scientists.
The Lise Meitner excellence program, named after the pioneering early-20th-century physicist, is one of several women-only hiring initiatives that some observers believe are becoming more common while the proportion of women in top research positions remains stubbornly low.
Christina Beck, a spokeswoman for Max Planck’s network of 83 institutes, said that the program was being launched because “the competition for highly talented female scientists is increasing all over the world, while the pool of excellent women is not really growing.”
“Other institutions successfully recruit the best of our female scientists at group leader level,” she said.
Backed by more than 30 million euros ($35.5 million), the society will create up to 10 five-year research group leader positions annually for the next four years. Unlike the network’s previous women-only initiative to recruit group leaders, which ended in 2015, these positions will be on the tenure track, meaning that recipients get the chance to make their positions permanent at the end of the period.
Grietje Molema, president of the Dutch Network of Women Professors and a professor at the University of Groningen, said that women-only programs were getting more common in Europe and called the move by Max Planck a “good step forward.”
“Affirmative action” was an “essential part” of tackling the underrepresentation of women in research, she said.
In 2003, Groningen started offering Rosalind Franklin Fellowships -- some of which have been co-funded by the European Union -- which grant female researchers placements of up to six years. Toward the end of the fellowship, fellows are assessed and, if successful, promoted to associate professor with tenure. After a further four to seven years, they are assessed again, with the chance to become full professors.
The Technical University of Delft also offers women-only fellowships at the assistant, associate or full professor level.
But women-only recruitment drives were not enough, Molema argued. “These programs are fantastic, but you have to fix the system,” she said.
One problem was that mainly male senior academics tended to promote “a copy” of themselves to top positions, leaving women behind, she said.
Louise Morley, director of the Center for Higher Education and Equity Research at the University of Sussex, acknowledged that “any positive discrimination intervention is always controversial as critics argue that it is in opposition to merit. However, when any social group is so underrepresented, some focused actions are necessary.”
The most recent statistics from the European Commission show that only small steps toward gender equality have been made on the higher rungs of the academic promotion ladder. Women represent 47 percent of Ph.D. graduates, but just 21 percent of academics at the highest level, according to She Figures 2015, with the proportion of female researchers dropping the higher the position.
Germany has a below-average proportion of female researchers at the top level (17.3 percent), as do the Netherlands (16.2 percent) and Britain (17.5 percent). The best performers are Macedonia (66.7 percent), Malta (44.5 percent) and Croatia (38 percent).
At Max Planck, the proportion of female group leaders has risen from 21.6 percent in 2006 to 34.6 percent now, Beck said.DiversityGlobalEditorial Tags: Sciences/Tech/Engineering/MathTimes Higher EdWomenIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment:
Scholars push for free access to online citation data, saying they need and deserve access to reference data they helped create
“Open citations now!” So concludes a new open letter to publishers from researchers who support making scholarly citations freely available, in the interest of better citation analysis. Advocates of such efforts say that references are a pillar of scholarly work and that being able to understand how articles cite each other shouldn’t require an expensive subscription to a database.
In short, just as open-access proponents argue for free access to scholarly articles, open-citation proponents want free access to publication citation data.
“References are a product of scholarly work and represent the backbone of science -- demonstrating the origin and advancement of knowledge -- and provide essential information for studying science and making decisions about the future of research,” the letter says. “We therefore issue a strong call to all publishers to make available to the academic community that which it created in the first place.”
The letter builds on the Initiative for Open Citations, or I4OC, which 60-some organizations and publishers launched in April. Goals of that initiative include the establishment of a global, public web of linked scholarly citation data to “enhance the discoverability of published content,” both subscription access and open access. Such a web would especially benefit those outside academic institutions -- or outside wealthier universities -- who lack subscriptions to commercial citation databases, according to I4OC.
Other benefits include the ability to build new services based on the data and create a public citation graph to explore connections between existing fields and the growth of new ones, advocates say.
Cassidy R. Sugimoto, an associate professor of informatics at Indiana University at Bloomington and president of the International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics, is among the letter’s original signatories. She said Tuesday that open citations wouldn’t make a huge difference in her own work, since she has access to highly curated Web of Science data through her professional collaborations and affiliations. However, she said, “it would make a huge difference for students and scholars” worldwide who don’t have that “luxury.”
Sugimoto said that in her capacity as a reviewer and editor, for example, she’s read papers that lack broader “generalizability” because the authors clearly lacked access to data that could have answered their own research questions. That perpetuates a “two-tiered system” in which only scholars with expensive data-source subscriptions are able to do large-scale analyses, and publish in the most visible venues as a result, she said.
Many publishers already have committed to open citations, providing free access to the reference lists they submit to Crossref, a nonprofit cooperative that interlinks published content.
Yet a large minority of major publishers still consider reference lists proprietary data, according to the letter, which frames open citations as similarly important to promoting research reproducibility, reducing misconduct and increasing access to scholarship.
Currently, the letter says, the ability to undertake large-scale and generalizable bibliometric research, both basic and applied, “is limited to a few well-funded centers that can afford to pay for full access to the raw data of Web of Science or Scopus.” And the remaining bulk of bibliometric research “is restricted to the analysis of small data sets or the use of freely available data sources,” such as PubMed, Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic -- all of which suffer from “shortcomings,” which the letter defines as incomplete coverage, data quality problems, lack of transparency or limited large-scale accessibility.
In order to conduct rigorous analyses, therefore, “scientometricians need a data source that is freely available and comprehensive.” It’s “a matter of scientific integrity, scientific progress and equity -- we must ensure that all members of the scientometric community are able to participate in and validate the research in the field.”
Approximately half of the references deposited in Crossref are now freely available -- a good start, advocates say. The new open letter calls out Elsevier in particular for holding out, since some 65 percent of the remaining, closed references are protected by the mega-publisher, which also owns the paid-access Scopus citation database. Adding Elsevier’s references alone would increase Crossref’s proportion of open references to approximately 83 percent, by the letter writers’ calculations.
Elsevier said in a statement Tuesday it already follows I4OC guidelines in that Scopus’s citation data is structured and separable. However, it said, “not all of Scopus’s citation data is freely accessible and reusable, reflecting the value we have invested in licensing and curating the data that underpins Scopus. Thus we continue to take a wait and see approach as to whether we will sign on to the I4OC.”
Yves Gingras, a professor and Canada Research Chair in history and sociology of science at the University of Quebec at Montreal, who has written critically about how citation metrics are used to evaluate individual scholars, said he “totally approved” of the idea of making citation data publicly available. (Gingras also recently published a paper finding that comparative rankings within the Web of Science tend to give countries with close relationships with the U.S. a “citation advantage,” due to the strong presence U.S. research within the database.)
Given that authors publish papers with “public money,” he said via email, “it also makes sense have to the references (hence citations) of these papers also in open access.”Libraries and PublishingEditorial Tags: FacultyPublishingResearchIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment:
WASHINGTON -- As the competing Republican tax plans from the House of Representatives and the Senate head to a conference committee that will square the differences and create a final piece of legislation, graduate students are worried.
A group of 40 or so activists and graduate students, organized in part by Faculty Forward and the Service Employees International Union, took their concerns to Capitol Hill Tuesday in a protest outside the office of Representative Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House. Upon coming to the office’s locked door, the protesters held their demonstration in the hallway.
It was a short-lived affair, with police quickly arresting nine people who declined to move after being given a warning. However, the protest captured the anxiety some graduate students expressed regarding the tax legislation, especially provisions stemming from the House bill.
“If it’s filled with any, or most of, the provisions aimed at higher ed, then I’ll have to drop out of my program,” said Tom DePaola, a doctoral candidate in education policy at the University of Southern California and one of the nine protesters arrested.
Graduate students who took to the Hill, many of them organizers at their respective graduate student unions, took issue with a broad range of measures presented in the tax overhaul, for reasons related to higher education and not. But, some said, if the tax legislation was going to pass, they hoped that some of the provisions in the House bill would be stripped in conference.
“I was really brought out here when I saw that they were going to tax our tuition waivers as income,” said Skyler Reidy, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in history at USC. “It’s going to force people out of grad school; it’s going to force the most vulnerable students out. But it’s part of a bigger attack on the middle class.”
Doctoral students often work for relatively small stipends, but the upside for some of them is that their tuition is waived by their university. The House tax plan, however, would count those tuition waivers as taxable income, meaning many students would be taxed for roughly twice the income they actually see in their bank account.
Graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania also spoke out against the tuition-waiver provision last week, when they joined in protests against the tax overhaul held across the country.
The fate of the tuition-waiver provision, like many of the differences between the Senate and House tax plans related to higher education (laid out here) is up in the air. Given that the conference committee members haven’t been announced yet, it’s too soon to tell what’s going to be in the final text, though a spokeswoman for the Senate Finance Committee said that Senate Republicans hoped to keep their language regarding higher education matters.
“There was a strong desire among Senate Finance Committee Republicans to preserve current education incentives in the tax code,” Katie Niederee, committee press secretary, said in an email. “The Senate bill reflects the will of the committee. As we move to conference, Chairman [Orrin] Hatch will work with his colleagues to reconcile the differences and preserve the Senate language.”
A spokeswoman for Ryan did not return a request for comment on how committed House leadership is to seeing the tuition-waiver provision make it into the final legislation, or whether there were any higher education-related provisions from the House bill that Republican leaders were making a priority to make law. A spokesman for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell referred a request for comment to the Finance Committee.
Also weighing in on the fate of the two tax bills was Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. In a letter sent Tuesday to Hatch and Senator Ron Wyden, the Finance Committee’s ranking Democrat, as well as their counterparts on the House Ways and Means Committee, Representatives Kevin Brady and Richard Neal, McPherson lobbied in favor of the Senate bill’s language for multiple provisions.
McPherson, a former Michigan State University president and Reagan administration official, lobbied to nix the House’s tuition-waiver provision. He also argued against House language on employer-provided tuition assistance, the Lifetime Learning Credit and student loan interest deductions. He disagreed with the Senate, however, when it came to taxing universities’ unrelated business income.
"APLU has been communicating with public university leaders and urging them to contact their congressional delegation to detail their concerns and advocate for the provisions that are critical for their students and universities," Jeff Lieberson, an APLU spokesman, said in an email. "We don’t know the facts of this particular situation on the Hill today, but we know that students are speaking out around the country to express their strong concerns over the major tax increase they could face under the legislation being considered. Students nationwide are rightfully concerned about how this bill would impact them. We think it is critical that students appropriately exercise their constitutional rights to engage in the democratic process. Their voices need to be heard."
Students at Penn called the state’s Republican senator, Pat Toomey, urging him to vote no on the Senate’s plan. Toomey, an advocate for the bill, ended up voting yes.
“Neither the House and Senate plan are finalized,” Toomey’s office said in a statement last week. “When looking at a tax-reform package, it is important to remember that it extends beyond singular changes and deductions. So while both the House and the Senate plans adjust tax treatment for certain entities and eliminate certain deductions, they both also lower rates, double the standard deduction and increase the child tax credit, resulting in a net tax cut for millions of working-class and middle-income Pennsylvanians.”
Graduate students gathered in Philadelphia last week and those in Washington Tuesday, however, pointed to a litany of provisions -- many in the House plan -- that they and higher education advocates find worrisome.
In addition to the tuition-waiver provision, for example, deductions for state and local property taxes would be capped at $10,000 in the House tax bill. While those do not deal with higher education outright, some are worried that limiting the deductions will translate to less tax revenue going toward community colleges and public universities, as taxpayers in states that are generous to public higher education start to seek to curb state spending.
“What we’re really seeing is a targeted effort by the GOP to not just attack education, but working-class students’ access to it,” said Laura Jaramillo, a doctoral candidate at Duke University’s program in literature, who protested at Ryan's office.
Students were split on how optimistic they should be as the tax legislation winds its way through Congress, but Reidy hopes that -- even though he opposes the legislation at large -- the final text would, at the very least, be friendlier to graduate students.
“The House version of the bill contains some of the most vicious provisions,” he said. “When you go in to negotiate, why on earth would you fight to make life harder for grad students?”Editorial Tags: Federal policyGraduate educationImage Caption: Students protest outside Representative Paul Ryan's office.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment:
DeVry University was once among the largest for-profit institutions in the country and the crown jewel in its parent company’s collection.
But enrollments have fallen and the for-profit institution has seen multiple lawsuits over advertising, recruitment and job placement.
Now DeVry’s parent company -- Adtalem Global Education Inc. -- is transferring ownership of the institution, along with Keller Graduate School of Management, to Cogswell Education LLC. DeVry and Keller together enroll nearly 30,000 students. Cogswell is the owner of Cogswell College, a California-based private for-profit institution of about 600 students, that specializes in art, game design, music and software engineering.
No money is changing hands in the deal, which still requires regulatory and accreditor approval.
Both critics and advocates of for-profit colleges say Adtalem management had been signaling for at least a year that the company wanted to divest DeVry.
“Given that the asset is at break-even and declining, selling for zero is also not surprising,” said Trace Urdan, managing director at Tyton Partners and a longtime analyst of the for-profit sector, via email. “If the alternative is an expensive teach-out, then simply getting it off the books is a win.”
The transfer agreement includes a provision that Adtalem could earn up to $20 million over 10 years if DeVry’s cash flow maintains certain levels.
The move continues a shift in for-profit institutions moving from publicly traded status to a different or private status. A nonprofit missionary organization, the Dream Center, is purchasing Education Management Corp., and Purdue University is acquiring Kaplan University in an effort to create a new nonprofit online university.
"We’re seeing the large publicly traded for-profit colleges change their image over the last few years in some way or another,” said Tariq Habash, a policy associate at the Century Foundation.
But there are conditions to the deal that give Adtalem and Cogswell a way out of the agreement. For instance, Adtalem faces financial penalities if enrollment decreases. One condition calls for a minimum enrollment of 22,059 in May 2018. Cogswell can cancel the agreement if enrollments fall 1,500 students short of that target. DeVry's enrollment has fallen 21.4 percent year over year, to 19,287 as of September. Keller enrolls nearly 8,000 students.
Cogswell can also cancel the agreement if the number of borrower-defense claims against DeVry exceeds 2,250. Borrower-defense claims are applications for loan relief from students who state they have been defrauded or misled by their college. According to a November report from the Century Foundation, Adtalem had more than 1,900 claims against the company, of which about 1,600 were from DeVry alone, said Habash, who co-authored the report. The number of borrower-defense claims across all institutions has been growing in recent months, and it’s possible that more claims have been launched against DeVry, he said.
“There has been a lot of scrutiny on DeVry,” Habash said. “They’ve been under a microscope. Adtalem has been under a microscope and [the conditions] might be Cogswell’s way of ensuring if something new comes out buzzing in the public eye, they have an opportunity not to be stuck in the contract.”
Cogswell College officials said they had planned to issue a statement, but they did not provide one in time for publication.
Last year Adtalem settled lawsuits with both the Federal Trade Commission and the Education Department over job-placement claims at DeVry. Adtalem was formerly DeVry Education Group before the name was changed earlier this year.
“DeVry had made some important commitments to consumer protection, promising not to restrict students’ legal rights and to assure market accountability,” said Robert Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and critic of the for-profit college sector, in an email, referring to Adtalem management’s decision last year to voluntarily end forced arbitration agreements and lower the maximum threshold of revenue they received from federal financial aid from 90 percent to 85 percent, including military and veterans’ benefits. “This sale, so soon after those commitments were made, raises questions about the staying power of promises by any other for-profit school.”
Last year Adtalem announced that its institutions would make a set of commitments to students on issues of recruitment, enrollment, student outcomes and informed student choice.
“DeVry and Keller were, in essence, a distressed asset while the bulk of their other properties have been performing well,” said Jeff Silber, an education financial analyst with BMO Capital Markets, in an email. “While it’s still a bit shocking to think that DeVry itself will no longer be part of a publicly held entity, unfortunately, the institution had been underperforming for some time.”
Lisa Wardell, president and chief executive officer of Adtalem, said in a statement that the company would work closely with Cogswell Education to ensure a smooth transition for DeVry.
“Adtalem will now have more ability to focus on its remaining institutions across our three key verticals: medical and health care, technology and business, and professional education,” she said.
Adtalem maintains ownership of Carrington College, Chamberlain University, American University of the Caribbean, Becker Professional Education, Ross University School of Medicine and Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine.
For-profit observers admitted not knowing much about the private company that is looking to own DeVry.
“Given the relatively small size of the buyer,” the deal isn’t something that former education secretaries in the Obama administration would likely have approved, Urdan said, but he believes it’ll be interesting to see what the accreditors think of the transaction.
Habash said Cogswell operates schools with fewer than 1,000 students, which should raise red flags -- and that any institution that grows overnight by a factor of 50 should be looked at closely by the department and accreditors.
“It’s definitely not a done deal,” he said.For-Profit Higher EdEditorial Tags: For-profit collegesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment:
A new book on Chinese students and American higher education, Inventing the World Grant University: Chinese International Students’ Mobilities, Literacies & Identities (Utah State University Press), looks at the underground networks some students develop to navigate their classwork and the frictions at play as American universities seek, in the authors’ words, “to capitalize on international students while also policing them through policies of containment.”
Inventing the World Grant University was written by Steven Fraiberg and Xiqiao Wang, both assistant professors in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures at Michigan State University, and Xiaoye You, an associate professor of English and Asian studies at Pennsylvania State University. It is deeply grounded in theory, specifically theories of “mobile literacies,” an approach that the authors write “centers on how literacy affords and constrains movement of actors, identities and practices across geographical and social structures.” But readers who aren’t invested in the theoretical framework can still find much of interest in the authors’ analysis of how the recent and rapid growth in the number of Chinese students on American campuses raises questions about “who changes, how much and into what.”
At Michigan State's campus in Lansing, one of two research sites for the book along with a private summer program in China, the number of Chinese students grew from 600 students in fall 2006 to 4,527 in fall 2016. The authors write that universities like Michigan State have on the whole “been unequipped to absorb such a large contingent of students from a single region or to accommodate sometimes wide cultural and linguistic differences. Surrounding these matters are questions about how and whether or not educators should accommodate cultural and linguistic differences.”
Inventing the World Grant University considers what it means when a minority population becomes a majority in some classrooms: in a basic college writing course at Michigan State, for example, it is not uncommon for 80 to 90 percent of students to be from China. The book describes the tensions faced by faculty as they tried to adjust to the rapidly shifting student population, tensions, the authors write, that “were driven by the fact that many of the Chinese international students had not been socialized into a Western educational system and lacked the linguistic abilities to participate in discussion-style classrooms.”
Even those faculty members who come across in the book as especially thoughtful and culturally sensitive educators struggled. A physics instructor who participated in the authors’ research described the challenges he had in structuring group work in a 200-level class in which 27 of 30 students were Chinese (the instructor speculated that his class, which fulfilled a general-education requirement, attracted high numbers of Chinese students both because many had solid backgrounds in physics and because the class put fewer demands on their English skills than did other options).
“Say I have three Americans in my classroom, what do I do? Do I put one in each group of Chinese? Or do I let them [choose]? Typically I let them do the groups, and what happens is the three Americans sit together,” said the physics instructor, who is identified by the pseudonym Manuel Antonio.
“Automatically?” Fraiberg, one of the authors, asked.
“Automatically,” Antonio responded.
“They just self-select?”
“And actually the Chinese self-select, too, they sit together because they can speak their own language.”
Antonio made numerous adjustments. He hired Chinese-speaking “learning assistants” -- though the authors note that meant “that he himself was not always privy to the Chinese conversations between the assistants and lab groups.” He stopped using PowerPoint in class in favor of solving problems on an overhead projector after discovering that students had difficulty listening to his lecture while processing the written materials on the slides. Even so, he estimated that 10 to 20 percent of students struggled because of English proficiency issues.
"For example, one student did not know the term for the metal lead. In this scenario, while the instructor tried to imagine creative ways to explain it, the concept ultimately proved too fundamental. As a final resort, Antonio turned to a Chinese classmate to translate. Engaged in these types of large and small acts, the instructor continually sought out ways to balance an assortment of needs and bridge social and linguistic differences. While these adjustments were sound pedagogical practices standard in any well-managed classroom, they were distinct in Antonio's class because of the size and scale of the shifts," the authors write.
Inventing the World Grant University also provides a glimpse into the rich underground learning networks created by many Chinese students, in which weaker students -- so-called scumbags of learning, to use a term that was popularized by an internet meme -- seek help from fellow Chinese students whom they identify as "lords of learning." The authors write that the "prevalent invocation of this practice among Chinese students constructs a dynamic scene of collaborative learning that has both positive and negative implications. For example, it is typical for students to create and maintain course-themed, digitally mediated study groups on WeChat and QQ," two social media platforms popular in China.
"On these online platforms," the authors write, "students may discuss challenging concepts, prepare for quizzes and exams, and offer and receive help on homework. It might unfold in private tutorial sessions organized by students during which a lord unpacks course materials in accessible language to scumbags. Collaboration can also transgress into the realm of cheating, as students illegally acquire and trade answers to exam questions across sections and semesters."
One student known for his knack for economics, identified in the book by the pseudonym Lee, managed seven different tutorial groups in a single semester through the group chat function on WeChat. These groups ranged in size from seven to several hundred students.
Lee appreciated the ways in which teaching helped him to better master the material at hand: as he said, "If my explanation doesn't clarify the concepts, it is probably because my understanding was limited." He also understood that the opportunity to help fellow Chinese students with their economics classwork presented an opportunity to build social -- and material -- capital. “Helping my class friends will help me now and in the future,” he said. “For example, I get to build Renmai [a network of social relationship], as many Chinese students would say. Let me give you a very simple example. I need a car because I am staying here for the winter break, but I don’t have a car yet. I sent out a message in my friendship circle [on WeChat], and several people volunteered to lend me their cars. To me, that’s one way how Renmai works. Now I drive a BMW and a Jaguar in turn.”
Lee also saw broader benefits in helping other Chinese students succeed. “I'd love to see more high-achieving Chinese students in business school so that we can compete against the Americans,” he said. “Second, I am a firm believer that I will be able to improve myself by helping others. I'll be more successful if everybody else [Chinese] does well. I am idealistic in that way. We are the minority here, or I would even go so far to say we are a socially vulnerable group. We should really stick together to succeed.”
By contrast, another student, Yan (also a pseudonym), was drafted reluctantly into serving as an expert for a writing class, a role that for her was more of a burden than a boon. “To her, being bombarded with questions was not only annoying but confounding,” the book says. “What was really puzzling was that her classmates seemed to have no grasp of what was happening in the classroom.” Rather than read the assignments distributed by the instructor, “students resorted to Yan to provide explanations in a language they understood. These explanations ranged from basic questions about due dates, length requirements or submission guidelines to more complex issues with assignment completion,” the authors write.
In their conclusion, the authors consider the pedagogical implications of their research. “Broadly,” they write, “our study offers a framework to better understand the dynamics and complexities of teaching and learning in a space in which national identity, social class, culture and language are increasingly entangled. This framework provides key insights into a rich underground set of literacies and practices that remains invisible to educators.”
“Our study,” they write, “provides a glimpse into this population’s lifeworlds.”
In written answers to questions from Inside Higher Ed, the authors elaborated further on the implications of their research for pedagogy.
"We recommend what has been referred to as reciprocal pedagogy that is loosely summarized as engaging in genuine dialogue with international students and trying to learn about their backgrounds and histories. We see this as a two-way street in which both the teachers and students must shift their stances. Having noted our broader goals and aims, we did find some overall general trends and themes in the context of our research," the authors said.
“Central to working with Chinese international students is the importance of understanding the social, cultural and educational contexts in which many of them have been socialized. In part due to a highly structured educational system that revolves largely around a national entrance exam, many of the students are used to memorizing large bodies of information, deferring to teachers and authorities, and solving problems or questions with a single correct answer. As a result, many Chinese international students need more time and exposure to open-ended problem solving while learning to take positions and support opinions. They are also not generally accustomed to discussion-style courses with a stigma generally associated with losing face.”
“Students’ reluctance is often compounded by struggles with mastering the language. Though many of the students do learn English from an early age, they typically do so based on approaches that focus more on grammar or drill and skill as opposed to offering ample opportunities for practicing the language. Grounded in these contexts, we would therefore recommend constructing assignments with ample use of models, examples, and explicit aims or objectives. We would further encourage instruction that breaks down assignments into multiple stages with multiple opportunities for feedback. In the case of writing, this means employing multiple drafts that offer opportunities for practice and revision. Additionally important is recognizing and creating opportunities to unpack examples or concepts that are commonly taken for granted in U.S. contexts (e.g., frequent use of sports metaphors related to baseball or American football). A final key practice includes presenting classroom information in multiple modes or forms. One instructor in our study, for example, found that PowerPoint slides often contained too much information to absorb quickly when coupled with the talk, so began to write out notes and … solve mathematical problems on an overhead as he worked to make it easier for students to follow the course. In many ways, these recommendations reflect general best practices in university teaching and are not unique to Chinese international students.”
The authors continued, “Though such solutions are not perfect, we have seen that involving students in collaborative forms of learning can be useful, while also allowing Chinese speech and writing into the classroom. Indeed, central to our key findings is the significance of the collective or dense social networks of the Chinese international students that often influence their classroom practices and learning. While this has been addressed by other scholars and in popular media, we believe our findings add texture and a historical-social dimension to our understanding of how Chinese international students navigate the university. In some cases the students do segregate themselves or use their networks in a manner that is not always conducive or productive for deeper forms of study. But we also found many ways that the students’ informal networks were productive and a rich source of academic learning and socialization into the various disciplines. For example, we found many students take initiative in organizing their informal learning spaces to recruit each other as resources and unpack challenging course material. One key for instructors is to leverage these dispositions and design collaborative assignments that make everyone in the group accountable.”
“Finally,” the authors wrote, “one of the main findings is perhaps most relevant to business and engineering schools, but also we believe relevant to our understandings of student population as a whole. We found rich types of entrepreneurial activity on campus. Engaged in large- and small-scale enterprises, many of the students proved to be adept at problem solving, creative thinking and managing complex projects in their efforts to start their own student organizations and businesses that often stretched across transnational borders. In relation to students’ academic lives, the key is to tap into some of this creativity, ambition and drive that often goes below the radar or unnoticed in part because of language and cultural barriers. While this is to some extent dependent on the course or discipline, in a business class, for example, it might be useful to have students discuss the Chinese market or various marketing and business decisions based on the cultural context in China.”New Books About Higher EducationForeign StudentsEditorial Tags: ChinaInternational higher educationForeign Students in U.S.TeachingIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment:
- Marcellus Andrews, economics
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Prairie State College, in Illinois
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Tennessee Tech University
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