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Reading serious literature isn't the norm among American adults these days. But nonprofit Books@Work hopes to encourage adults to continue to read and learn after they have left formal schooling by organizing literature discussions in the workplace.
“Many adults are undereducated,” said Ann Kowal Smith, who started the organization in 2010. “It’s about getting them back into the system as lifelong learners.”
Books@Work pays college professors to lead literature seminars for employees at a rate of $500 for four one-hour sessions. The professors are also paid a stipend to account for transportation. Each hourlong weekly class, usually spanning three months, contains a discussion of three narrative texts. The seminars do not culminate in a grade, and professors don't need to mark papers or exams. The programs cost about $5,000 each and are paid by the employer.
Instructors are selected by location: once the organization decides to hold a seminar in a certain place, it contacts the local colleges to find interested professors, Smith said. Instructors participating in the program have come from private and public institutions, including American University, Cleveland State University, Beloit College, Arizona State University and Oberlin College.
Laura Baudot, an associate professor of English at Oberlin, has taught four monthlong Books@Work sessions since being introduced to the program last year. Baudot said that teaching adults in the workplace has helped her figure out how a postsecondary liberal arts education "fits into the wider world." Among the texts Baudot has taught are short stories by John Steinbeck and Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly (now a critically acclaimed movie). Baudot has taught the program in several companies.
"As we lose faith in the value of it for undergraduates, employers are seeking it out," Baudot said.
Books@Work has held courses in a range of industries, including manufacturing, health care, food services, technology and even higher education itself. In spring 2016, Books@Work started a seminar at Ohio’s Case Western Reserve University. The college currently offers two literature courses to faculty and staff alike.
“It allows faculty and staff from all over the university to come together and read a book,” Mary Ann Dobbins, wellness coordinator at Case Western Reserve said in a video. “When you talk about a book, when you talk about themes from books with people who you don’t normally interact with, you get to really know people deep down.” Several classes have continued to meet after their sessions have concluded, without the instructor, Dobbins said.
The seminars, Smith said, are a “safe space,” encouraging employees to have important conversations about race, religion and politics. “What we find is that the books are wonderful venues or vehicles to have these conversations,” Smith said.
Since its founding, Books@Work's instructors have led discussions on nearly 600 books representing a range of genres, including classic, contemporary, Western, non-Western, fiction, nonfiction, poetry and short stories. Some texts Books@Work continues to use include Franz Kafka’s A Hunger Artist, James McBride’s The Color of Water, Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Chinua Achebe’s Dead Men’s Path.
To Smith, the “ideal books and stories” involve “interesting characters, often with a moral dilemma or an ethical dilemma.” In response, participants often “take very different views of the story,” which “lends itself to the comparison of ideas, and different perspectives,” Smith said.
Daniel Contofalsky, a program participant who worked in manufacturing, said in a video that the program helped him think about a text in a different way.
“Everyone kind of brings in their own thing,” Contofalsky said. “I know we’ve had multiple times where it’s like, here’s how I read something, and then it’s fun to, you know, talk to somebody else, and they’re like, yeah, I read it this way, and it’s like, all right, I never would have thought of it that way, but now that you say that, I see that.”
Books@Work also holds seminars for community members in Ohio, where the organization was founded, including veterans, urban parents and nonteaching staff in public schools, as well as police officers and other residents.Editorial Tags: EnglishImage Caption: Annie Calderon from Catholic University leads a Books@Work discussion.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
- Assumption College: The Reverend Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
- Baldwin Wallace University: Janet L. Kavandi, director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's John H. Glenn Research Center.
- Canisius College: Allegra C. Jaros, president of the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital; and Norma J. Nowak, executive director of the Center for Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences at the University at Buffalo, of the State University of New York.
- Colgate University: Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
- Fisher College: Paul Francisco, chief diversity officer and head of work-force development programs at State Street Corporation.
- Goucher College: April D. Ryan, political analyst for CNN and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks.
- Harvard University: U.S. Representative John Lewis.
- Lafayette College: Marcia Bloom Bernicat, U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh.
- Radford University: U.S. Senator Tim Kaine.
- Swarthmore College: Edgar Cahn, the poet; Sonia Sanchez, the poet and activist; and Francisco Valero-Cuevas, professor of biomedical engineering, biokinesiology and physical therapy at the University of Southern California.
- University of the Arts: Kevin Beggs, chairman of the Lionsgate Television Group; and Lorna Simpson, the visual artist.
- Virginia Tech: Governor Ralph Northam.
Several studies suggest that graduate students are at greater risk for mental health issues than those in the general population. This is largely due to social isolation, the often abstract nature of the work and feelings of inadequacy -- not to mention the slim tenure-track job market. But a new study in Nature Biotechnology warns, in no uncertain terms, of a mental health “crisis” in graduate education.
“Our results show that graduate students are more than six times as likely to experience depression and anxiety as compared to the general population,” the study says, urging action on the part of institutions. “It is only with strong and validated interventions that academia will be able to provide help for those who are traveling through the bioscience workforce pipeline.”
The paper is based on a survey including clinically validated scales for anxiety and depression, deployed to students via email and social media. The survey’s 2,279 respondents were mostly Ph.D. candidates (90 percent), representing 26 countries and 234 institutions. Some 56 percent study humanities or social sciences, while 38 percent study the biological and physical sciences. Two percent are engineering students and 4 percent are enrolled in other fields.
Some 39 percent of respondents scored in the moderate-to-severe depression range, as compared to 6 percent of the general population measured previously with the same scale.
Consistent with other research on nonstudent populations, transgender and gender-nonconforming graduate students, along with women, were significantly more likely to experience anxiety and depression than their cisgender male counterparts: the prevalence of anxiety and depression in transgender or gender-nonconforming graduate students was 55 percent and 57 percent, respectively. Among cis students, 43 percent of women had anxiety and 41 percent were depressed. That’s compared to 34 percent of cis men reporting symptoms of anxiety and 35 percent showing signs of depression.
Because work-life balance is associated with physical and mental well-being, and little is known about it in the graduate trainee population, the authors asked respondents if they agreed that their work-life balance was “good.” Of the graduate students who experienced moderate to severe anxiety, 56 percent did not agree, versus 24 percent who did. Among graduate students with depression, more than half (55 percent) did not agree with the statement (21 percent agreed).
The authors take those findings to mean that good work-life balance is “significantly correlated with better mental health outcomes.”
Graduate students’ relationships with their advisers or principal investigators are also known to impact the quality of their experience, so the study included questions about that, too.
The authors say they were alarmed to discover that that among graduate students with anxiety or depression, half did not agree that their immediate mentors provided “real” mentorship (about one-third of both groups agreed with that statement). Responses were roughly similar to questions about whether advisers and PIs provided ample support and whether they positively impacted students’ emotional mental well-being.
More than half of those who experienced anxiety or depression did not agree that their advisers or PIs were assets to their careers or that they felt valued by their mentor.
“These data indicate that strong, supportive and positive mentoring relationships between graduate students and their PI/advisors correlate significantly with less anxiety and depression,” the authors say.
Source: Nathan Vanderford
While some respondents with a history of anxiety or depression may have been more apt to respond to the survey, given the study’s design, the authors say their data should still “prompt both academia and policy makers to consider intervention strategies.”
The “strikingly high rates of anxiety and depression support a call to action to establish and/or expand mental health and career development resources for graduate students through enhanced resources within career development offices, faculty training and a change in the academic culture,” the study reads.
The authors suggest that institutions follow a successful National Institutes of Health program “train the trainer” model, in which faculty members and administrators are trained by mental health professionals to recognize and respond to students’ needs, providing referrals as needed. The same model could be used by career development professionals to train faculty members to help today’s Ph.D.s compete in the “vast and ever-changing job market,” they added.
Perhaps less simple, the study advocates a “shift in the culture within academia to eliminate the stigma [surrounding mental health issues] and ensure that students are not reluctant to communicate openly with their faculty advisors.” The authors do note that many in academe have spoken out about their own struggles. Yet, they say, fears of not gaining tenure or otherwise being judged by colleagues remain.
The paper also pushes for work-life balance, which it acknowledges is “hard to attain in a culture where it is frowned upon to leave the laboratory before the sun goes down,” especially in an ever-competitive funding environment. Faculty and administrators must nevertheless “set a tone of self-care as well as an efficient and mindful work ethic” to move the dial, they say.
Nathan Vanderford, assistant professor of toxicology and cancer biology at the University of Kentucky and assistant dean for academic development at its College of Medicine, co-wrote the study with colleagues across several campuses and disciplines. Noting that graduate students’ work supports much of what faculty members do, Vanderford said Monday that the sustainability of higher education depends on a “vulnerable population.”
So “we must put into place mechanisms that support our students’ current and future career outcomes,” he said. And as a foundation for that, he added, “we should be providing much better mental health care resources -- including interventions that can help those who may not otherwise seek help.”
Over all, Vanderford said, his and his colleagues’ work points to a “fragility in higher education,” in that underlying high rates of mental health issues among graduate students also likely extend to faculty and other campus groups, based on previous research.
And so the question becomes, “At what cost do we allow this to occur?”
Frederik Anseel, a professor of organizational behavior and a vice dean for research at King’s College London who studied graduate student health in Belgium, said whether there is a “crisis” in graduate student mental health is a “very important question.”
Social media is “flooded” with stories and testimonials, and Anseel’s own related study in Research Policy made it to No. 2 on the Altimetric Top 100 of 2017, he said. So “clearly something is going on.” Yet Anseel said academics should resist the urge to divide themselves into “believers” and “nonbelievers” in any crisis and seek out the “the most compelling and robust data and evidence for the problem,” if there is one.
We’re not there yet, he said, noting that his own study of Belgian graduate students suffered from the same possible selection bias among respondents as Vanderford’s. (He also faulted the new study for asking students to directly comment on their PIs’ impact on their mental health, but praised it for its diverse pool of respondents from different countries, institutions and disciplines.) At the same time, Anseel said, “I’m not sure if we can wait to take action. Studies and especially intervention studies take years to conduct and to evaluate. In the meanwhile, people are suffering and are dropping out.”
Anseel said his reply to skeptics thus far has been, “Given that there are at least strong indications that a substantial group of people are suffering, wouldn’t it be worthwhile to at least examine in your own organization what the problem is, and make sure that you have policies in place to deal with problems if they arise?”
Skeptics aside, Anseel said he’s noticed a “change” and increased “openness” in recent months, evidenced by a constant stream of invitations to talk on campuses about his findings and to assist in developing monitoring and prevention practices.
“In all honesty, there’s no way we can keep this up,” Anseel said of meeting the demand. “We’re now looking for more external funding to set up a team to try to deal with all these requests in a more structural and systematic way.”FacultyEditorial Tags: Graduate educationGraduate studentsMental healthImage Source: iStockIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
Christina Hoff Sommers has for years been a critic of the women's movement -- and has in turn been criticized by many feminists. She has accused feminists of an ideology that hurts boys and men. Feminists accuse her of distorting their ideas.
She is known for pithy quotes that endear her to many critics of campus political movements but that advocates for women say oversimplify at best. Her lead quote on her Twitter feed is "Want to close wage gap? Step one: Change your major from feminist dance therapy to electrical engineering."
Of late, Sommers has spoken critically of the campus response to sexual assaults, questioning the concept of "rape culture." In a New York Times interview last year, she said that the push against sexual assault has "infantilized" women, and that "equity feminism," which she supports, has been replaced by "victim feminism" and "fainting couch feminism."
On Monday, Sommers spoke at the law school of Lewis & Clark College. Prior to her speech, a small group of protesters attempted to block access to the room, prompting the college to lead those who wanted to hear Sommers around to a back entrance. Then at the beginning of the speech and at various points throughout, protesters interrupted Sommers, although there were sustained periods when Sommers was able to talk.
At one point, the protesting students (a minority of those in attendance) sang, "Which side are you on, friends? Which side are you on? No platform for fascists, no platform at all. We will fight for justice until Christina's gone."March 5, 2018
At the beginning of the event, protesters prevented Sommers from talking by shouting, "Rape culture is not a myth," "Microaggressions are real," "The gender wage gap is real," "Trans lives matter," "Black lives matter" and other chants.
The students, some of whom had asked Lewis & Clark to rescind the invitation, accused the college and the law school of endorsing Sommers's views by giving her a platform to talk. Sommers was invited by the Federalist Society, a self-described conservative student group at Lewis & Clark.
The incident at Lewis & Clark comes at a time when higher education continues to discuss whether colleges are tolerant of all ideas and visiting speakers, and especially ideas voiced by those who go against the grain of widely shared views on campuses.
Janet Steverson, a law professor and dean of diversity and inclusion at the law school, said in an interview Monday night that the students who blocked the entrances to the auditorium and who interrupted Sommers violated college rules. She said that she anticipated "consequences" for those students but that she did not know what those would be.
Steverson stressed that it was only a minority of students who disrupted and that Sommers was given the opportunity to speak.
Sommers, on Twitter, criticized Steverson for asking her to cut short her remarks and move to the question period. Steverson said she did so to promote an orderly discussion. She said she was worried that Sommers was going on too long and that the question period would be minimal. Steverson said the argument she and others made to students not to disrupt was premised in part on the idea that students would be able to question Sommers.
"I could see the students getting antsy," Steverson said, explaining why she asked Sommers to move quickly to the question period.
Steverson said that, at another point when some were disrupting, she asked them to stop so that their classmates could ask questions. "I think it worked out as well as it could have."
Steverson said it was important to understand that some of those protesting Sommers viewed her as personally attacking those who have reported sexual assaults. "This is a very personal thing," she said
At the same time, Steverson said that while there are many grounds on which to criticize Sommers, she did not think it appropriate to call her a fascist, as the protesting students did repeatedly. "In the law school it is important to define the terms that you are using and apply the facts to support the allegations that you have made," she said.Editorial Tags: Academic freedomImage Caption: Christina Hoff Sommers at Lewis & ClarkIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
Few universities have closer ties to Silicon Valley and more love for technology than Stanford University. Walk around its beautiful campus and it's hard to find a student who isn't using or carrying a smartphone. But students there -- computer science majors, no less -- have started a protest movement urging Apple to help its customers put down their phones.
The student group, called Stanford Students Against Addictive Devices, recently held demonstrations outside Apple’s headquarters and its Palo Alto, Calif., store to draw attention to the issue of smartphone addiction.
The students held signs such as “Honk! If you’re addicted to your iPhone.”
Led by four computer science majors, the group said they were inspired to act after taking a mandatory course in ethical issues in computer science.
Though the class encouraged students to engage with the public, the students said they weren’t protesting for credit.
“We realized that we ourselves, and many of our friends, have issues with device dependence,” said Cameron Ramos, one of the students leading the group. “We thought that reaching out to Apple and engaging with consumers directly would be the best way to raise awareness about this issue.”
On the SSAAD website, the students point to research that shows excessive use of smartphones can have serious implications for people’s mental and physical health.
“It’s an important public health issue, and something that we think needs to be addressed,” said Ramos. “We want people to start talking about this in Silicon Valley and beyond.”
Divyahans Gupta, another SSAAD leader, said the issue was not unique to Apple but the group chose to target the company because where they lead, other companies will follow. He noted that the group’s intention is to be friendly rather than aggressive. They want to start a conversation. “We’re reaching out to Apple to say, ‘Hey, you could help on this,’” said Gupta.
Part of the group’s request to Apple is that the company make it easier for users to track how much they are using their phones. “We want Apple to include something like the Health App on every iPhone, except instead of counting steps, it could track how much time you spend on Snapchat or Facebook,” said Evan Sabri Eyuboglu, another group leader.
The group also wants to see the introduction of an “essential mode” that would limit phone use to just basic functions, and a way to give users more fine-grained control over their notifications.
Though the group is looking to Apple to help its users tackle excessive phone use, the students said there are steps that people can take on their own -- including tracking how long they spend on their phone and switching to view the phone in grayscale, so that the screen is less stimulating.
The students said that the reception to their demonstration outside Apple HQ was positive. Apple engineers were empathetic to their cause and took home their leaflets. Some even suggested the group come back with bigger signs. “It was great,” said Gupta. Apple officials did not respond to requests for comment for this article
Earlier this year, two of Apple’s largest shareholders wrote an open letter to the company urging it to take steps to curb how much time children and young people spend on devices.
This letter referenced research by Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of a book called iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy -- and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood. Twenge’s research has shown links between excessive smartphone use and anxiety and depression.
Twenge said that the students’ suggestions to Apple to help limit phone use were sensible, but her No. 1 suggestion would be to automatically shut phones down at night to encourage better sleep -- with exceptions such as permitting emergency calls.
Whether someone can truly be addicted to their smartphone is debated by academics, said Twenge. “In my view the negative effects of spending too much time on these devices are considerable, whether we call it addiction or overuse,” she said.
Apple, perhaps more than other cellphone manufacturers, is aware of the dangers of smartphone overuse and is working on solutions, said Twenge. But she notes that getting social media companies to engage on the issue will be a “tougher sell,” as their revenue model is dependent on keeping people on their apps.
“Hopefully, they’ll start to take action for the health of their users,” said Twenge.Editorial Tags: Student lifeIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
PHILADELPHIA -- College athletes who hear anti-gay insults or remarks won’t often call it out, even though it’s happening frequently.
At least, that’s according to research presented at the annual NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education conference, where issues of inclusion are particularly popular topics.
Gay athletes, once completely stigmatized in the realm of college sports, have emerged much more prominently, with a record-setting six out football players in the 2017 season across the three National Collegiate Athletic Association divisions.
Still, some of the old prejudices or discomfort around sexuality in athletics seem to linger.
Only a small percentage of athletes -- less than 10 percent -- reported not hearing slurs against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer people, according to a study of more than 150 heterosexual athletes conducted in part by Christi McGeorge, professor in the North Dakota State University department of human development and family science. She and Russ Toomey, an associate professor of family studies and human development at the University of Arizona, interviewed players at two NCAA Division I institutions. The survey was about remarks heard while participating in their chosen sports.
Students either didn’t feel the need to defend LGBTQ students, or they did but reported feeling unsure of how to speak up or were fearful they would be attacked for their views, McGeorge found.
In an interview after the NASPA session, a deep dive into some of the data collected on gay athletes, McGeorge said her research shows that it’s not enough that athletes recognize anti-LGBTQ slurs. Institutions must add training around intervening in these cases -- “active bystander” education, she said.
“We're seeing seven in 10 people say, 'I'm hearing anti-LGBT slurs,' but we're also hearing that they're not doing anything about it,” McGeorge said, adding that the problem is not just confined to athletics. Research shows that students across campus aren’t stopping LGBTQ bullying, she said, but the problems are unique and sometimes exacerbated on the playing field.
"Now we need to train them in action," McGeorge said.
McGeorge also asked a series of 75 or so questions to classify whether students were LGBTQ allies -- the students didn’t get to self-identify as supportive to their nonstraight peers. Through her criteria, McGeorge determined that 57 percent of the athletes surveyed were not truly LGBTQ allies -- another 36 percent of athletes were supportive but not visible with their views. Only 7 percent of college players demonstrated they were allies and also shared that view.
The NCAA has done some work on this front. It has sponsored Common Ground, a think tank of both administrators and students from institutions across the board to come up with ideas with improving the experience of LGBTQ athletes, and published “Champions of Respect,” a lengthy report on gay athletes in all divisions.
A fall 2017 survey of NCAA Division III institutions was more optimistic than McGeorge’s data, though attendees noted that administrators and students filled out a survey instead of participating in a study like McGeorge’s. Thus, the results could skew more favorable.
About 80 percent of the administrators and two-thirds of the student athletes in that survey identified as allies of LGBTQ people and 75 percent believed their department or athletics conference was completely free from LGBTQ discrimination.
McGeorge’s presentation also listed several ways to promote an LGBTQ-inclusive athletics department. Among them were having a specific nondiscrimination policy in the athletics department and holding yearly, mandatory training for staffers and on codes of conduct.Editorial Tags: AthleticsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
New presidents or provosts: Cincinnati Columbus Eastern Idaho Hong Kong John Carroll Kirkwood Lake County Limestone OSU-OKC
- Rick Aman, interim president of the College of Eastern Idaho, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
- Deborah Bordelon, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Governors State University, in Illinois, has been chosen as provost and executive vice president of Columbus State University, in Georgia.
- Michael D. Johnson, provost of Babson College, in Massachusetts, has been appointed president of John Carroll University, in Ohio.
- Kristi A. Nelson, interim provost at the University of Cincinnati, has been appointed senior vice president for academic affairs and provost there.
- Darrell Franklin Parker, dean and professor of economics at Western Carolina University, in North Carolina, has been selected as president of Limestone College, in South Carolina.
- Lori M. Suddick, vice president of learning and chief academic officer at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, has been appointed president of College of Lake County.
- Lori Sundberg, president of Carl Sandburg College, in Illinois, has been chosen as president of Kirkwood Community College, in Iowa.
- Brad Williams, vice president of student services at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City, has been promoted to president there.
- Xiang Zhang, Ernest Kuh Endowed Chair Professor and director of the Nano Scale Science and Engineering Center at the University of California, Berkeley, has been named president and vice chancellor of the University of Hong Kong.
Academe’s Me Too movement has thus far focused on professors harassing students, or senior professors harassing junior professors. And that makes sense, given the obvious power differential between those groups: in many cases, students depend on faculty members for not only grades but mentorship, recommendations and professional opportunities. Much the same can be said for the dynamic between junior and senior faculty members. Yet a recent case highlights the fact that professors, too, may be vulnerable to abuse by students.
Last week, a judge issued a temporary restraining order against a student at Florida SouthWestern State College accused of harassing and stalking a faculty member. The history instructor, Matthew Vivyan, asked the court for the order after his college issued the student a no-contact order, which she allegedly violated multiple times via email.
According to Vivyan’s petition to the court, Sofia Diaz was a student of his in the fall. Starting in January, he says, “she began making inappropriate comments to me when she would stop by my office,” sometimes with “sexual overtones.” Diaz allegedly began sending Vivyan emails about her clairvoyant visions, some of which were threatening or hostile, such as “The rest of your life awaits you. I’m waiting, idiot.” Vivyan says other emails referred to his personal life, one of which mentioned his sister by name but confused her with someone Diaz believed to be his ex-girlfriend. Another said he has a baby with a woman and demanded that he take a paternity test, but Vivyan says that relationship is imagined. Yet another emailed accused Vivyan’s parents of abusing him.
“Diaz has made my life miserable,” the petition says. “I am fearful for my safety, I dread opening my emails and I fear my professional future due to her threats.”
Vivyan did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Diaz told the local News-Press, which has been covering the case, that she hadn’t “been convicted of anything, and I already have people looking at me different.”
The allegations are “affecting my job,” she added. “It's really sad how people will believe things, and they don't even know if they are true or not.”
Florida SouthWestern State issued Diaz a trespass warning last week, according to the News-Press. Vivyan’s petition says that Diaz is suspended, but the college did not confirm that.
Statistically speaking, the most common kind of sexual misconduct on college and university campuses is student-on-student harassment or assault. And again, students are more vulnerable to abuse from professors than professors are to abuse from students. But student-on-faculty harassment -- what’s known as academic contra-power harassment -- exists.
There is relatively little recent research on the topic, at least as compared to quid pro quo harassment in academe, in which someone with institutionally conferred power hints at or demands sexual favors in exchange for professional ones. But a 2012 study of 524 professors in the NASPA Journal About Women in Higher Education found that 91 percent reported at least one act of student incivility or bullying and 25 percent experienced at least one “sexual behavior” from a student. Women, racial minorities, younger faculty members and those with less experience and credentials reported more such instances, and more women than men reported a “serious incident” of student incivility, bullying, aggression or sexual attention during their careers.
A related 2016 study found that female professors reported significantly more negative outcomes as a result of contra-power harassment, such as anxiety, stress-related illness, difficulty concentrating or wanting to quit, than their male peers. Male professors were more likely to highlight experiences with sexual harassment in particular than were women, who recalled more disrespectful or disruptive student behaviors.
Claudia Lampman, interim vice provost for student success and a professor of psychology at the University of Alaska at Anchorage, wrote the 2012 study and co-wrote the 2016 one. She said via email that there are “many different types of power” and that contra-power harassment sometimes stems from sociocultural imbalances. So women and minority professors “are more likely to be threatened and challenged by students -- usually white males,” she said.
“When men faculty are sexually harassed, it usually takes the form of a request -- an exchange of sex for grades, for example. In this case, the student doing it is using their sexual capital,” she added. So it’s not about power as much as it is about “desperation.”
Brett Sokolow, executive director of the Association of Title IX Administrators, said that allegations from faculty members of sexual harassment by students have “ticked up,” of late, “given the overall sensitivities to misconduct within academia.” But they remain rare, he said, making up approximately 2 percent of the harassment allegations his organization sees.
Beyond it being relatively unusual, Sokolow said that many faculty members also still hesitate to report contra-power harassment, out of concern that doing so will “make them look like ineffective classroom managers.” But an increasing number of male professors are coming forward to pre-emptively report “awkward” interactions with students, he said, “or making sure we are aware of sexual come-ons from students, and that they turned the student down.”
Sokolow said these faculty members may be fearful that a “refusal” will be turned against them, and so wish to go on record with their institutions’ Title IX offices.
William Kidder, interim associate vice president for Title IX and strategic initiatives at Sonoma State University, has studied harassment in academe. His research has focused on faculty or administrators harassing students, as the disparity in power “accentuates the risks and vulnerabilities around sexual harassment,” he said. Yet he’s seen contra-power harassment multiple times over his career as an administrator, against teaching assistants as well as professors.
As for consequences, Kidder said that most public and private institutions will hold students accountable for contra-power harassment, since student codes generally cover misconduct directed at anyone affiliated with the college or university.
Enforcement of such codes can be difficult where student-on-faculty harassment involves anonymity, however, he said -- such as when students write inappropriate or harassing comments in their evaluations of professors’ teaching. When that happens, junior and midcareer female professors are disproportionately targeted, Kidder said, echoing other research on biases in student evaluations (though he noted male professors are targeted in this way, too).
Sokolow said that students “may wield some power” in some instances, but not the institutional power “at the heart” of a quid pro quo claim. So faculty reports of harassment by students much more typically get classified as hostile environment claims.
Title IX coordinators take such claims as seriously as they would student-on-student claims, Sokolow said. And frequently, the same standards, policies and procedures will apply to “any harassment by a student, regardless of whether they have targeted another student, faculty member or other employee.”
Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary for academic freedom, tenure and governance at the American Association of University Professors, said his organization can aid professors harassed by students, but that it isn’t often asked to do so.
As for whether the same standards of conduct that apply to professors should apply to students, Tiede said yes -- generally. Sexual harassment “should not be tolerated by members of either group,” he said, and both accused professors and students should receive appropriate due process following a complaint.
Not all complaints get the same kind of institutional attention, however. Last year, for example, an adjunct at a public university wrote anonymously for Inside Higher Ed’s “Conditionally Accepted” blog, recounting being harassed by a male student at a former campus.
“At one point, he locked me in my own office and tried to proposition me,” the adjunct wrote. “In the aftermath, I experienced firsthand how little the administration at my institution seemed to know about sexual assault and harassment, as well as how few concrete procedures were in place to help me and others in my position to deal with being assaulted or harassed.”
Advice From a Fellow Professor
The institution's webpage had little information on what to do, the adjunct wrote, and “when I reached out to my colleagues in the administration and on the faculty, for the most part, they also turned a blind eye to my situation. Meanwhile, the harassment did not stop. I felt alone, scared and unprotected.”
The adjunct didn’t give up, however, and said the institution changed its related polices and procedures as a result. Among other tips, the adjunct advised fellow professors who are harassed by students to search out campus Title IX procedures and to make sure that all communication with the student is in writing via email, to serve as permanent date and time stamps.
“Remember that you do not have to allow yourself to be revictimized. You do not have to continue to sit in meetings telling your story over and over again,” the adjunct wrote. “You do have the right to legal counsel. File a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office in your state if you feel your case has not been handled appropriately by your employer.”
Lampman said campuses should aim to build cultures of respect, in which students are told there doesn't have to be "a power differential for sexual harassment to occur. It is not ok even if your professor ostensibly has more power."Editorial Tags: FacultyMisconductImage Source: Getty ImagesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
Today was supposed to be a last-ditch deadline for Congress to act if it wanted to keep the protections provided by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in place. Two nationwide court injunctions blocking the Trump administration from ending DACA are temporarily keeping much of the program alive, but with no legislative solution in sight, uncertainty about the long-term prospects for the hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers who have benefited from the program continues.
To recap: DACA, established by former president Obama in 2012, offers temporary protection against deportation and also provides work authorization to a subset of young undocumented immigrants, including many current or former college students, who were brought to the U.S. as children. In September, the Trump administration announced plans to gradually end the program, arguing that the establishment of DACA represented an unconstitutional overreach of Obama’s executive power, a conclusion many legal scholars disagree with.
While it would not terminate existing grants of DACA status, which is valid for two years, the Trump administration said in September it would not accept renewal requests for individuals whose benefits were set to expire after March 5 -- today -- meaning that an ever-increasing number of DACA recipients would start to lose their protections and work authorization as early as tomorrow. Trump at the time said that Congress had six months to act to, in his words, “legalize DACA.”
It has not yet done so. Democrats in Congress forced two brief government shutdowns over the issue, but Congress subsequently passed a two-year budget bill that included many Democratic priorities, but no solution on Dreamers. The Senate subsequently voted on three different bills to codify protections for Dreamers. All of the bills failed.
President Trump’s own stance has also shifted. After initially indicating that he would sign whatever bill Congress brought him, Trump began to insist that legislation to protect Dreamers include concessions anathema to many Democrats in Congress, those being: $25 billion for a southern border wall, the elimination of the diversity visa lottery program and new restrictions on family-based immigration.
All of that brings us to today and the question of what colleges can do to assist students with DACA status during this prolonged period of uncertainty. Many college presidents and higher education groups have been active in lobbying for a path to permanent residency or citizenship for these students, and concerns about the possible deportations of Dreamers in the months immediately following Trump's election spurred many colleges to declare themselves "sanctuary campuses" or otherwise articulate commitments that they or their police forces would not voluntarily cooperate with immigration enforcement (while leaving open the possibility that they could be compelled to do so).
“I think we need to look in two different directions,” said Dorothy Leland, chancellor of the University of California, Merced, which she said enrolls about 600 undocumented students, most of whom have DACA protections. “We need to continue to advocate and lobby for a permanent legislative solution, but we also need to think ahead about how can we best protect our students if that doesn’t happen.”
“The most important thing is if they lose their right to work, to find ways to supplement their financial aid packages without the use of state or federal dollars, so through private sources,” Leland said. DACA recipients are not eligible for federal financial aid, and their eligibility for state aid varies.
“We’ve been looking for people who are willing to support our undocumented students. The limbo that our students are in also affects our potential donors in that they don’t know what’s going to happen or if the dollars will be needed. But I know that I have some folks ready to go should there not be a permanent legislative solution and the courts’ decisions don’t go our way,” Leland said.
If it comes to deportations, Leland added that colleges will have "several other things to think about. First, funding for legal defense funds for our students and, secondly, how we may help them to complete their education in the country that they are now in … Many colleges and universities have student exchange relationships [with institutions in other countries]. So in those countries where our students end up, in the worst-case scenario if they were deported, how can we leverage those already existing relationships to help them complete their degrees?"
The Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, for which Leland sits on the steering committee, noted in a memo it sent to its members last week that the March 5 deadline still has real consequences for DACA recipients whose status was set to expire after today’s date and who were unable to apply for renewal until after the first of the two court injunctions ordered in January. “That means that every day after March 5th, large numbers of DACA recipients whose status expires will no longer have protections against deportation and will lose their work authorizations unless or until their renewals are approved and they receive new documents,” the memo states.
“In pragmatic, real terms, there are going to be numerous DACA recipients who are going to experience gaps in their work authorization, in knowing that they are protected from deportations,” said Miriam Feldblum, the founding executive director of the alliance. In its recent memo, the alliance recommends that colleges consider a number of actions to support their students with DACA protections, including locating funds to help them pay the $495 fee to renew their DACA status, connecting them with legal resources and “sharing information regarding what happens if their work authorization lapses, including reviewing both the rights of employees and the responsibilities of the institution, and opportunities for non-employment based fellowship funding or other kinds of financial assistance on campus.”
“I do think continuing support services around mental health, peer support, ally training, education for people on campus about what this means is all very important, too,” said Feldblum, who’s on sabbatical from her position as vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Pomona College. “But we don’t want to forget that there are some new needs that are coming up around applying for DACA, around really thinking even more so than in the past about legal resources, making sure that your campus is ready to understand what it means when a student or others have a gap in their work authorization.”
Feldblum acknowledged that there are limitations to what a college can do, and that it will vary across institutions. “What I hear from students often is, ‘what we want to know is what you can do; just share with us that information. So is there some financial assistance and if so what does that look like what do we need to do?’ And I think students also well understand when colleges and universities can’t do more. So what I think what colleges and universities can do is try to be as clear with information as possible with their impacted populations.”
Catie McCorry-Andalis, the associate vice president and dean of students at the University of Texas at El Paso, which is located on the U.S.-Mexico border, leads that university’s DACA response team. She said the advice they’re giving to DACA recipients is threefold. “First and foremost, continue going to school. There’s no reason for them not to continue to go to school. They can absolutely still do that, and they are.”
“Second of all, take advantage of the resources we have on campus,” like the counseling center, McCorry-Andalis said. “Three, the other part of it is understanding their rights and continuing to know that there are services to support them, not only here on campus but in our community.” She added that UTEP has a lot of resources in place to assist students who are struggling financially, including a food pantry. The academic advising office also employs social workers who help students with financial issues. Though these services are not specific to students with DACA status, they’re ones they can take advantage of.
“As far as options if they can’t work, we’re still trying to sort that out,” McCorry-Andalis said. “I know some campuses have had conversations about additional scholarships to offset that. We’re working through all of that, but there’s so many unknowns it’s hard to even come up with a plan.”
“Right now the best that we can do is [tell students], ‘you currently have DACA status, it hasn’t been rescinded yet, do all you can to complete your studies,’” said Lenore P. Rodicio, the executive vice president and provost of Miami Dade College, which has about 400 DACA students enrolled, about 100 of whom are projected to graduate this spring. “On our end we’ve been doing a lot of advocacy with our legislators to open their eyes into supporting the students and finding a permanent solution for them.”
“If, heaven forbid, the program is terminated, then at that point we would work with the students to help connect them with resources to help resolve their individual situations. We’ll do what we can to help support them in that transition, but hopefully our legislators will find a permanent solution to help these students,” Rodicio said.
Boe Mendewala, a fourth-year Ph.D. student studying physics at Merced, recently traveled to Washington with Leland to lobby for a permanent solution for DACA recipients such as herself.
“There was a lot of support in D.C. for a solution, but it seems to be just not going through. Everyone we talked to seems to support it, but it’s just not getting done for whatever reason,” she said. “It’s frustrating and it’s scary for a lot of people, especially people whose DACA is set to expire soon.”
Mendewala, who came to the U.S. from India when she was 5 years old, said her DACA status is set to expire in April 2019. Her goal is to graduate next spring and find a job in a national lab or in industry. She studies properties of materials used in solar energy technologies.
“With an April expiration date on my DACA, if I’m not able to renew that or if I have no way to continue with a work permit, then I may not be able to finish the program, and even if I do finish the program, I’ll have a Ph.D. and I won’t be able to use it for any kind of job, because I won’t have a work permit,” she said.
Asked what colleges can do, Mendewala said, “I’m really lucky to be at a school that is very supportive of its DACA population, but obviously not every school is like that. I guess what I would want other universities to do is to follow the example of University of California, Merced, and to take the time to listen to these students because they feel like they’re not being heard anywhere else, especially by the government and their communities. Listen to their concerns and, if you can, give them assurances that the campus will be a safe place where they don’t have to worry about deportation, that the campus will be supportive either financially if they lose their status or work permit or will provide legal services or psychological services, the kinds of services that students who are living in these really tough, uncertain times will need.”Editorial Tags: Trump administrationImmigrationImage Source: Getty ImagesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
President Trump nominated Jon Parrish Peede Friday to become chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Peede has worked at the NEH since April 2017, serving as senior deputy chairman. Since William D. Adams, an appointee of President Obama, stepped down as chairman in May, Peede has been the senior person at the NEH.
In his first two budget proposals, Trump proposed eliminating the NEH, but Congress has rebuffed him.
Peede has experience in the humanities publishing world and in government. He has served as publisher of Virginia Quarterly Review, at the University of Virginia; literature grants director at the National Endowment for the Arts; director of communications at Millsaps College; and an editor at Mercer University Press.
Presidential nominees typically do not give interviews about their thoughts on the agencies they have been selected to lead. But the National Humanities Alliance published an interview with Peede in October in which he discussed the humanities and his career.
He spoke of growing up in a small town in Mississippi and of the importance of literature and the arts in helping people understand their worlds. "We often live in a bifurcated society with those who are engaged in their communities and the world and those who are not, and humanities are a path toward that engagement," he said.
Perhaps reflecting his background in small-town America, Peede said it was important for the NEH to have peer-review panelists "from all 50 states." He believes that when these peer reviewers finish with their panels, they end up encouraging more people in their regions to apply to the NEH for grants.
Peede said he counted among his most important mentors William R. Ferris, who led the NEH during President Clinton's second term in office. Peede earned a master's degree at the University of Mississippi in the Southern studies program Ferris led.
He said he worries about the trend of people earning Ph.D.s in humanities fields and then having difficulty finding good jobs in academe.
"We produce these doctoral students and then we say there are no tenure-track jobs," he said. The answer to the problem may be in careers built -- as his has been -- on master's degrees. Humanities programs need "to create a path" for people to work in humanities-related fields, in publishing, museums, nonprofit groups, he said.
Peede said when he's asked about various M.F.A. programs, he suggests that they look at programs with internships or experiences that prepare people for jobs outside academe.
People who make careers outside academe may also support important work in the humanities, he said. Peede likes reading literature and scholarship "free of jargon," which he called "important for those of us who spend our careers outside the tenure track." Peede described himself as a "generalist" with a strong interest in Southern fiction. He is the co-editor of Inside the Church of Flannery O'Connor: Sacrament, Sacramental, and the Sacred in Her Fiction (Mercer University Press).
With regard to the NEH, Peede said it should be "a catalytic funder" that can encourage "institutional buy-in." He added that in looking at grants, "I don't want to look at anything and only see federal dollars" in a project.
When it comes to examining grants that are awarded, Peede said the NEH has tended to ask for reports on the activities supported by grants, but that he would like to see more information collected on the outcomes of projects.
Asked what he would do if the NEH suddenly had much more money, Peede said he wasn't focused on such questions. He believes it is very important for the endowment to maintain the rigor that is reflected in its grants. He said NEH fellowships, because of their strong reputation, "transform" careers, and he worries that if the NEH expanded the number of fellowships in a significant way, that reputation might be eroded.Editorial Tags: HumanitiesNEHImage Caption: Jon Parrish PeedeIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
In October, Doug Brigham called Jim Everett to talk about the College of Idaho's presidential search.
Brigham is the former president of a title and escrow company and the college's former board chair. He had applied for the College of Idaho presidency, but he did not know if Everett, former CEO of the region's YMCA, had also thrown his hat into the ring for the job.
Everett told Brigham he had in fact applied. And Brigham pitched the idea of a co-presidency.
“I said, ‘I’ll tell you what, I have a crazy idea,’” Brigham recalled. “‘If you tell me you don't like it and want to continue to go solo, I'm going to step out of the process.’”
As Brigham tells it, Everett replied that he liked the idea but would need to think about it some more. Ultimately, he agreed, and the College of Idaho, a 960-student private liberal arts college in Western Idaho, announced Feb. 24 that it was hiring both of them.
They will start as co-presidents in April, testing a largely new dynamic at the college presidential level. Although co-presidencies have taken place in business, experts strained to think of a precedent in higher education.
University systems operate with campus presidents, of course. Similar setups exist at a few private colleges, such as St. John’s College having different presidents at its campuses in Annapolis, Md., and Santa Fe, N.M. But two executive types don't always last for very long on a single campus, as evidenced by J. Keith Motley stepping down from the University of Massachusetts at Boston chancellorship last year just months after Bowdoin College's former president, Barry Mills, was brought on as deputy chancellor and chief operating officer.
College of Idaho leaders are well aware the structure is highly unusual. It was one of the major drawbacks the college's search committee and Board of Trustees evaluated, according to Laura Turner, who chairs the board. Trustees discussed whether they could carve out different roles like a CEO and a president or some sort of special assistant's role instead of hiring co-presidents.
“The uniqueness of the structure caused a lot of concern,” Turner said. “Doug and Jim felt strongly that, in any of those other structures, you'd have the No. 1 and No. 2 guy. They wanted to do it as co-presidents because they felt that diminishing one of their roles wasn't useful.”
Trustees were reassured because both Brigham and Everett had served on the college's board -- Brigham until 2017 and Everett about a decade before, Turner said. They've also known each other for decades, crossing paths while holding prominent positions in the region. Brigham served on committees at the Treasure Valley YMCA while Everett was CEO there.
Still, the search committee and trustees wanted to explore the idea in more depth. They formed a subcommittee of the search committee and did a two-month deep dive into how the structure would work.
“The responsibilities and accountability for the organization are clearly defined,” Turner said. “There is a matrix of who in the senior cabinet reports to Doug and who reports to Jim.”
Generally, Brigham will focus more on finance, academic affairs and student affairs, and the directors in those areas are expected to report to him. Enrollment will be shared. Everett will have athletics and college relations reporting to him and is expected to be heavily involved in fund-raising. At the same time, ultimate responsibility for the institution will lie with both presidents. Crossover is likely to take place, particularly when it comes to fund-raising. What college president wouldn't like to have a second version of him or herself to go on donor visits?
The delegation of authority will be key to whether the arrangement can succeed, college leadership and search experts predicted.
“It would be inefficient if the co-presidents had to come to a unified decision about every issue before them,” Susan Resneck Pierce, president emerita of the University of Puget Sound and a consultant for colleges and presidents, said via email. “There of course would be a problem if the co-presidents disagreed about decisions which had implications for both of their areas of responsibility.”
All parties are optimistic that the two presidents' long-standing relationship will allow them to resolve any major disagreements. But in the event of an unsolvable dispute, the plan is for the presidents to bring the issue before the board for settlement.
Such a process comes with the risk of breaking down the traditional firewall between presidential and board responsibilities.
“Having the board chair adjudicate in such circumstances invites another problem: involving the chair in operations rather than strategy and policy,” Pierce said. “Then too the co-presidents will have to guard against a phenomenon that every co-parent will recognize: the end run to the other parent for a more favorable response.”
The mere fact of disagreement could undermine confidence in any resolution. A key attribute leaders must bring to the table is confidence in any decisions, said Dennis Barden, senior partner at the search firm Witt/Kieffer.
A co-presidency isn't necessarily without merits, however. Pierce said the concept might work at the College of Idaho because of what appears to be a long friendship between Brigham and Everett. Barden could see advantages to a leader having a co-president, because presidents often struggle to find others who share their experiences and can offer sound advice.
“Presidents don't have many people they can turn to and get candid, direct, thoughtful and often constructive advice,” Barden said. “That is a real problem. If this partnership is everything they say it is, that will be a very significant benefit.”
Backers and detractors of the co-president idea emerged even before the College of Idaho announced it was trying the idea. In February, Karen Gross wrote a piece for the Aspen Institute arguing for some colleges to consider co-presidents to fill what has become a nearly impossible job for one person. But Inside Higher Ed blogger Matt Reed responded with a list of reasons he prefers single presidents.
While many of the drawbacks to co-presidencies are abstract, revolving around the pitfalls of multiple sources of power or potential conflicts, one appears very real: pay. It will likely be more expensive for colleges to pay two presidents instead of one. That would seem to make the model hard to follow for small or struggling colleges.
The College of Idaho's co-presidents have proposed sharing "one presidential compensation package,” according to the release announcing their hiring. But college officials declined to provide additional information about what their pay would be or whether the cost of benefits is expected to be higher for two presidents than for one.
Former president Marvin Henberg received $290,516 in total compensation in the year ending in June 2015, according to the college's IRS form 990 filed for that year. Its last permanent president, Charlotte Borst, left in 2017 after just two years. Her salary does not appear on the college's tax form for the year ending in June 2016, and more recent forms are not yet available.
Brigham says the co-presidents' priorities once they take over will be enrollment, fund-raising and managing expenses.
Data provided by the college show an enrollment decline in recent years.
Brigham didn't get too far into any specific strategies, because he wants to start the new co-presidency with a listening tour to hear from faculty and staff. So far, though, the increased bandwidth that comes from hiring two presidents has helped with at least one thing -- Everett was on the road in Georgia Friday and was not available for an interview with Inside Higher Ed. But Brigham was.
Time will tell whether the model is successful in other ways.
“Hopefully, like most things, the proof's in the pudding,” Brigham said. “We're not taking any victory laps by any means at this point. We haven't started yet, and we have a lot of work to do.”Editorial Tags: College administrationGovernanceImage Source: The College of IdahoImage Caption: Newly hired College of Idaho co-presidents Jim Everett (left) and Doug Brigham (right).Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: