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University of Kansas removes art after governor finds it disrespectful. Was this about public safety or political sensibilities?

Vie, 13 Jul 2018 - 02:00

An art piece at the University of Kansas featuring a U.S. flag with illustrations on it is stirring up a decades-old debate: Should the flag get special protection under the First Amendment? The Supreme Court says no and has affirmed the right to burn the flag, but the Kansas dispute is one of many in which colleges have been questioned for uses of the flag to make art and/or political points.

"Untitled (Flag 2)" by German artist Josephine Meckseper was intended to serve as commentary on the deep divisions in the United States, according to a statement by the artist. Meckseper drip painted a rough illustration of the U.S. on the flag and a striped sock in the left-hand corner to symbolize children imprisoned on the border. Some are viewing the work as an affront to active military and veterans. Among them is Kansas governor Jeff Colyer, who called for the flag's removal in a statement Wednesday.

“The disrespectful display of a desecrated American flag on the KU campus is absolutely unacceptable,” the statement read. "I demand that it be taken down immediately."

After speaking with Colyer, the university's chancellor, Doug Girod, ordered the removal of the flag, and it is now awaiting a new home inside the Spencer Museum of Art.

The University of Kansas cited public safety concerns as the reason for the flag's removal, but some at Kansas are skeptical about the severity of any threats related to the art piece. In discussions on Twitter and Facebook, users mocked the safety concerns, with one commenter saying the university was "full of crap" about the rationale and another writing that the concerns were code for being "unable and unwilling to protect free speech." The university did not respond to requests to comment on the details of the threats or the flag's removal. According to the university police's daily crime log, an individual reported being harassed on the phone at the Spencer Art Museum around 1 p.m. Wednesday. It is unclear if the incident is related to the flag display.

Peter Bonilla, vice president of programs at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said public safety concerns are not uncommon excuses for censorship on campus.

"We’ve had enough experience of universities using the public safety justification to rationalize censorship, and in many of those cases, it turns out it wasn't an issue of public safety but a PR move," he said. "People are reasonable to be skeptical of those kinds of justifications until KU shows its work."

The University of Kansas College Republicans sparked the discussion that led to the governor's demands.

"We would like to know who approved and authorized this display of the flag," the group wrote in a Facebook post tagging the university. "Simply put, this is disgusting."

Of late, Republican politicians have generally portrayed themselves as champions of unabashed free speech on campus. But Bonilla said that many people have a few issues that they feel fall outside those principles.

"We see a lot of arguments of the ‘I’m all for free speech, but …’ variety," Bonilla said, the flag being the "but" in this case. "Clearly [the flag is] something that when it is used in a way that people find offensive, there’s a strong reaction," he said. "I think any of us could think of a way that the American flag could be appropriated that we would find offensive."

The University of Kansas isn't the first to face criticism for flag-related art. Broward College received pushback in February for an art piece that resembled the flag as a doormat, an art exhibit involving the flag at the University of Nevada at Reno (at right) was criticized in November and protests erupted at Valdosta State University back in 2015 after students repeatedly stepped on the flag at a demonstration.

Few people admit to favoring censorship, said Nadine Strossen, a law professor at New York Law School and former president of the American Civil Liberties Union. Instead they advocate protection and safety.

"I’m not aware of even the most adamant censor who agrees that the c-word applies to him to her," she said. "I think strategically, it makes sense not to be against something but to be for somebody -- 'I’m not against your message, but I’m for veterans.'"

When it comes to college campuses, Strossen believes that political pressure can dictate what's censored and what's not, instead of free speech commitments that she believes should always be paramount.

"Whatever message is the most unpopular on that campus, or by politicians around that campus, that’s what’s going to be censored," she said. ​

A recent report by FIRE chronicles a history of art censorship by colleges and universities. Meckseper's work is an example of how quickly an artist's intention can be lost in the noise of public reaction. Meckseper wrote about her work for Creative Time, the organization sponsoring her piece and 15 others as part of the "Pledges of Allegiance" collection.

"The flag is a collage of an American flag and one of my dripped paintings which resembles the contours of the United States. I divided the shape of the country in two for the flag design to reflect a deeply polarized country in which a president has openly bragged about harassing women and is withdrawing from the Kyoto protocol and UN Human Rights Council," Meckseper wrote.​

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University of Alabama faces federal investigation after unusual Title IX complaint

Vie, 13 Jul 2018 - 02:00

An unusual and complex sexual assault case has resulted in a federal investigation into the University of Alabama and is raising legal questions about attacks that occur off campus.

Blake Kitterman, a student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said he was sexually assaulted in his dormitory in November 2016. He had invited the alleged perpetrator, an Alabama student, to stay the night while the student traveled because they both worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Kitterman said he eventually reported the alleged assault to his institution, which in turn contacted Alabama. Officials at Alabama began investigating under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal gender anti-discrimination law that requires colleges to prevent and investigate sexual violence on campus.

Alabama twice found that the accused student had nonconsensual sex with Kitterman -- the second finding occurred when the student appealed, according to documents reviewed by Inside Higher Ed. The student was initially suspended from Alabama for about two years, but that was reduced to a one-year suspension on appeal.

The student appealed again, and this time a university official completely reversed the original decision, saying the student would not be punished. John Jones, Alabama’s vice president for student affairs, wrote to Kitterman and told him that its Title IX office didn’t have jurisdiction to investigate the case.

Alabama’s policies state that it will only take action for an off-campus sexual assault if it creates adverse effects or a hostile environment for someone on university property, which appeared not to be the case in Kitterman's assault.

An Alabama spokesman, Tyler Greer, declined to discuss the case, citing federal privacy laws.

In October, Kitterman filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which opened an investigation into Alabama in March over whether the university mishandled the case. Kitterman also alleged in that complaint that Alabama wouldn’t release a transcript of his Title IX hearing. He said this was in retaliation for him speaking to news media about his case. OCR acknowledged his complaint but doesn't comment on active cases.

Also complicating matters: Alabama revised its Title IX policies around the time Kitterman was allegedly assaulted. Its new sexual misconduct policy was approved in early November 2016 and took effect in late November, after the reported assault. An Alabama official told Kitterman that it was the new policy that prohibited the university from investigating.

Kitterman said in an interview he was frustrated and "didn't know how to react," since multiple people at the university found the student responsible.

"I think the more aggravating part was not that he got off, but that they knew what he had done," he said.

Experts said they were unclear how the case would be resolved. Institutions’ obligation under Title IX is to make sure that both programs and conduct on their campuses are not discriminatory. That means, in theory, if there’s a potential danger or risk to the campus, an institution can take steps -- for instance, kicking out an alleged assailant, even if no one connected to the campus is accusing that person of an assault.

Peter Lake, the director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University, called Kitterman’s case a “first-class quandary.”

An institution can face legal trouble for overstepping its jurisdiction, but it could also risk a lawsuit if it failed to act, Lake said.

Laura Dunn, a lawyer and founder of sexual assault survivor advocacy group SurvJustice, now with the Fierberg National Law Group, said she wouldn’t consider Alabama responsible under Title IX. She believes Tennessee in this case has the obligation -- but its powers are limited, considering the accused student isn’t enrolled there.

Tennessee can block the student from coming on campus, which it did, according to documents.

Alabama, meanwhile, likely could have pursued sanctions not under Title IX but under its own conduct code. Rules at most institutions say a student can be punished for certain off-campus activities, such as criminal acts.

“Whatever [Alabama] attorney [was] looking at this case should be fired,” Dunn said. “You can’t assume jurisdiction and then get rid of it later.”

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A woman university leader in Ecuador discusses struggle against sexism in Latin American academe

Vie, 13 Jul 2018 - 02:00

Cecilia Paredes’s first team meeting as a young researcher made her realize what academe in Latin America had been lacking.

Then a mechanical engineering academic at Ecuador’s Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL), Paredes watched as her new colleagues’ debate over funding difficulties quickly became heated, to the point where she “thought they might kill each other." But this was actually a positive.

“I quickly learned that’s what you should do in academia,” Paredes told Times Higher Education during the Universia 2018 Ibero-American university rectors’ conference in Spain. “But it hasn’t taken to Latin America yet because people [there] get offended more easily.”

“They were not rude, but incredibly ruthless,” she explained. “Then we had a coffee break and everyone was laughing again. The experience really changed me.”

The difference, she said, was that these researchers were tightly connected with universities in Belgium -- reflecting a culture of openness that was much less common in Ecuador. “Their attitude was a huge awakening to me -- we had a problem, we addressed it, we discussed it openly and moved on.”

In January, Paredes, at age 46, became ESPOL’s first ever female president -- challenging a number of leadership stereotypes found across the region -- and her first goal will be to push successful debating skills like those she witnessed into the curriculum.

Causing offense to traditional sensibilities is something that Paredes says she is unafraid of.

Time spent working and studying at Rutgers University also helped her to develop a businesslike approach to scholarly collaborations, she said. But a deeply entrenched machismo culture that prevails within Latin American universities will be one of her “biggest challenges” in maintaining the level of respect and authority needed for leadership.

“Unfortunately we do have an inequality problem,” she said. “I have professors who come to me now -- some of whom were once my own teachers -- and they refer to me as mi hijita [similar to ‘darling’]. It’s a term you’d usually call your daughter or your wife, and they call me that.”

“I don’t get upset because I know it’s an inherited culture, but I do realize more and more now that they do this. They wouldn’t do that to a male boss, absolutely not.”

Whether intentional or unintentional, such degrading treatment can be wearing, but Paredes said that she feels vindicated in the knowledge that she was brought into the role by those who wanted to see that culture change.

State-funded Ecuadorean universities such as ESPOL select their leaders through votes involving both staff and students at least every four years, as is common in Latin American countries, with professors given the majority of the weighting in making the choice.

After five years as vice rector of the university, Paredes won the rector role with 75 percent of the final vote -- an unusually large majority compared with previous years.

“In my previous roles, I made a lot of changes,” she said. “If the system doesn’t work, I find a way to go around it. So when I came to stand for rector, I was worried my provocativeness would stand against me. But winning made me reflect on what the professors really want -- which is a different perspective, a different view of the world because they realize we have to change.”

Paredes’s ambitions to improve the university’s courses run deeper than simply upgrading the student experience -- since 2008 she has been a member of the Ecuadorean educational council, a seven-person committee representing the country’s leading institutions.

The committee acts as a regulator for government education policy and could perhaps one day provide a gateway to even higher ambitions for Paredes -- although she simply says she wants “to improve the system from the inside.”

In the meantime, change is an increasingly important prospect for ESPOL -- and higher education across Ecuador more widely -- as the country grapples with a move toward a knowledge economy. Some degree programs had remained unchanged for years, but Paredes has sought to review her university’s teaching and learning approaches to bring the staff up to speed with student needs.

“We have to make changes; we cannot be afraid of them because otherwise we will disappear,” she said. “Even students who are coming in next year are being included in [planning ideas]. Even though I think I know what I want [to change], I have to involve them because they are of a different culture and time -- I accept my ideas are outdated compared to theirs.”

“Will this upset some people? Maybe,” Paredes said, “but I don’t have a problem when people say they don’t like me or they disagree with me -- it’s business. Mostly, I feel excited and I know I’m doing something right when I have female students coming up to me to say, ‘I’m inspired by you.’ It’s a very humbling feeling, and it’s very cool.”

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Colleges award tenure

Vie, 13 Jul 2018 - 02:00

Connecticut College

  • Nadav Assor, art
  • Waed Athamneh, classics/Arabic studies
  • Chris Barnard, art
  • David Chavanne, economics
  • Denis Ferhatovic, English
  • Priya Kohli, mathematics and statistics
  • Mónika López-Anuarbe, economics

Princeton University

  • Jordan Taylor, psychology
  • David Wentzlaff, electrical engineering
  • Ilana Witten, psychology

Tennessee Tech University

  • Joseph Asante, earth sciences
  • Paulina Bounds, English
  • Cynthia (Shelley) Brown, sociology and political science
  • Chris Burgin, counseling and psychology
  • Cecil (Clark) Carlton, sociology and political science
  • Ann Davis, accounting
  • Dennis Fennewald, agriculture
  • Sharon Holderman, Volpe Library
  • Shelia Hurley, nursing
  • Carla Hurt, biology
  • Mary Kidd, physics
  • Shawn Krosnick, biology
  • Damian Kubiak, mathematics
  • Queen Ogbomo, curriculum and instruction
  • Susan Piras, nursing
  • Robby Sanders, chemical engineering
  • Troy Smith, history
  • Jeanette Wolack, earth sciences
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Medieval studies groups say major conference is trying to limit diverse voices and topics

Jue, 12 Jul 2018 - 02:00

The culture wars have returned to academe with a vengeance -- if they ever left. Medieval studies, an interdisciplinary field rooted in European history but whose boundaries continue to expand, has seen its share of battles and this week again became the center of conflict.

This most recent dispute involves a proposed boycott of what is considered one of the historically white, male field’s most democratic gatherings. Critics are demanding that the annual International Congress on Medieval Studies, hosted by Western Michigan University’s Medieval Institute, approve more inclusive, self-critical sessions for the 2019 meeting. They also want the Congress Committee to become more transparent about how it selects the annual program.

“Now is an urgent, contested time in medieval studies and in the world at large,” reads an open letter of concern published Wednesday by the BABEL Working Group, a scholarly collective that supports the congress. “Responding to the field's evolution would mean acknowledging its heightened interest in the perspectives of scholars of color and creating space for these underrepresented voices."

BABEL’s letter echoes a similar personal statement from Seeta Chaganti, an associate professor of English at the University of California, Davis, which was shared by the Medievalists of Color group earlier this week. (Medievalists of Color also signed BABEL’s letter.)

“I can no longer participate in nor support the International Congress on Medieval Studies, [at] Kalamazoo,” Chaganti wrote. “While performing a seemingly virtuous commitment to academic freedom, the actions of this organization’s leadership not only silence marginalized voices but also enable racially-based harassment.”

Prompting such complaints is the recently released program for the next congress, set for spring in Kalamazoo, Mich. Chaganti wrote that while the Medievalists of Color’s proposed workshop on whiteness was approved, all four of the other sessions it sought to co-sponsor were rejected.

BABEL says that while it historically has been granted two sessions at the congress, one of its two 2019 proposals -- on the accessibility of public medieval studies -- was rejected.

Listing a series of other rejected sessions on globalism, anti-racism and anticolonialism, BABEL’s letter says that such topics’ “pervasiveness among proposals implies the urgency with which they currently occupy scholars in the field, and the voices addressing these topics should reflect a commitment to genuine inclusivity and even productive dissensus.”

The treatment of Medievalists of Color, in particular, “minimizes the intellectual guidance that scholars of color would provide at the conference, when these scholars are already severely underrepresented in the field,” the letter also says.

BABEL noted that some other scholarly groups had a much higher rate of accepted sessions.

‘Heart and Soul’ of Medieval Studies

Eileen Joy, a founder of BABEL and founding director of punctum books, an independent, open-access publisher, said in an interview that medieval studies is seeing a fight for its “heart and soul,” harkened by the election of President Trump.

“That’s made some of us sensitive to these issues, more sensitive and more angry than we usually are,” she said.

To the uninitiated, Trump and medieval studies probably seem worlds apart. And in many ways, of course, they are. But Joy and others in her field point out that white supremacists, many of whom support Trump, have misappropriated medieval symbols for their cause. Some of the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Va., last year carried shields recalling the Knights Templar and symbols of the Holy Roman Empire, for example.

The link between medievalism and white supremacy predates Trump and is not exclusive to the U.S. But Joy and other critics of the congress’s 2019 program say that more attention to these links -- and a more inclusive approach to medieval studies -- is needed now, in the current political environment.

Some of the disputes within medieval studies come down to personalities, as well. Last year Dorothy Kim, an assistant professor of medieval studies at Vassar College, called on her fellow medievalists to condemn white supremacy and thereby break cultural links between the period and white supremacy. In so doing, she found herself entangled with Rachel Fulton Brown, a professor of medieval studies at the University of Chicago.

Fulton Brown, a self-declared political conservative who blogs about her experiences navigating academe, criticized Kim’s call as unnecessary, saying that any real study of the Middle Ages dispels its mythical links to white supremacy. Her many followers agreed, and some targeted Kim online.

Chaganti’s statement says that she asked the congress to block someone involved in the Kim debate -- presumably Fulton Brown -- from a session she and Kim hosted on whiteness at the most recent meeting, in May. But the congress allegedly refused to exclude anyone, citing academic and intellectual freedom.

Fulton Brown, who has defended ex-Breitbart personality Milo Yiannopoulos, and who has written for Breitbart herself, is now accused of insinuating on her Facebook page that Joy is a pedophile. In fact, Joy posted what she called a “rant” about the congress on Facebook, sharing a meme of a feminist Japanese anime character.

In a discussion about Joy's comments on Fulton Brown’s page, one of Fulton Brown's friends suggested that the anime character looked like Pedobear, a internet symbol for pedophiles. Joy, who says that the bear is an example of how Fulton Brown uses tactics of far-right trolls, asked her to remove the reference, and she refused.

Fulton Brown reiterated Wednesday that she did not mention the bear herself, and said that no serious accusation was ever made against Joy. The discussion remains on her page.

Asked about why medieval studies is so prone to controversy, and where she stood on whether it should be defined by time alone or also by geography, Fulton Brown said she’s always been interested in non-European aspects of the field. One of the first courses she ever taught as an assistant professor was on medieval travel, for instance, she said.

Yet Fulton Brown, who studies Christianity, described her corner of medieval studies as primarily European. Attempting to approach it in some other way “is like taking the Renaissance and saying we’re going to study the Renaissance everywhere in the world.”

There are also issues of skill, she said. So scholars studying India in the medieval period would have to learn Sanskrit, or those studying the pre-Columbian Americas would presumably be engaged in fieldwork here.

Joy disagreed, saying that scholars have for decades been working to broaden the concept of medieval studies. "The Middle Ages were never just Christian, European and white," she said. "The only reason people were convinced of that is the way it was defined in the scholarship."

Western Michigan’s Medieval Institute referred requests for comment to the university. 

Paula M. Davis, university spokesperson, said the institute is aware of the letters online but that it will not respond until it formally receives them (BABEL plans to deliver the letters, with more signatures of support, next week). 

In in the interim, Davis said that the institute “encourages an inclusive and intellectually safe environment that welcomes diverse perspectives.” As a scholarly gathering, it has criteria for considering session proposals, she said, including the intellectual justifications offered, the balance of topics addressed, session format and apparent redundancies.

Davis also said that the institute has an anonymous review panel for the congress, to “provide a candid and forthright review while also ensuring collegiality among all scholars involved.”

Joy and others say that kind of review process has to change, to allow program participants to appeal to the committee directly when problems arise. BABEL's letter doesn't propose a full boycott of the congress, and notes that individual members may still attend. But it says that the group as a whole cannot continue to support the congress if things stay the same. In addition to committee transparency, it specifically requests that Medievalists of Color be afforded the opportunity to present two of the four co-sponsored sessions it proposed for 2019.

Chaganti, who said she will not return to the congress within its current structure either way, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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West Virginia University draws heat for new coordinating board connection

Jue, 12 Jul 2018 - 02:00

West Virginia’s public colleges and universities are reeling this week after the state’s Higher Education Policy Commission named a top West Virginia University administrator as its new chancellor, sparking fears that the flagship university and its president, E. Gordon Gee, are seizing influence.

The commission made Carolyn Long, the president of West Virginia University Institute of Technology, its interim chancellor Tuesday. It also suspended a previously announced search for a new chancellor. After commissioners voted on the move, the commission’s longtime lawyer resigned and walked out of the boardroom.

Long has been president at West Virginia Tech -- which is a divisional campus under West Virginia University -- since December 2011. Before that, she was a member of the West Virginia University Board of Governors, where she served as chair from 2008 to 2011. Her rise to commission chancellor sparked fear that she will act as a loyalist to the flagship university and not West Virginia’s other public institutions, which include Marshall University and a number of smaller regional institutions facing financial challenges.

West Virginia officials said concerns about it seizing power are assumptions without merit. Long described the idea of a power grab as silly and said she was disheartened by the idea that she should be denied work at the Higher Education Policy Commission because she worked for another institution of higher education. She called that idea scary.

Nonetheless, the commission does have legal requirements that it select chancellors who are free from institutional or regional biases. And criticism was fierce after Long’s appointment.

“We are witnessing -- much to our disbelief -- an unprecedented hostile takeover of the higher education governing body in West Virginia,” wrote the president of the regional Shepherd University, Mary J. C. Hendrix, in a letter circulated Wednesday. “On July 10, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission installed an interim chancellor who is a West Virginia University partisan and employee, hand-selected by the president of West Virginia University.”

Disagreements flare in many states over the management of public higher education, on issues including state funding decisions and state agencies holding power over higher education. Such situations can turn particularly contentious when a flagship university is viewed as having much more clout than other institutions. But even so, the letter Hendrix circulated stands out as remarkably sharp criticism.

Hendrix wrote that the Higher Education Policy Commission chancellorship was awarded to Long because the commission proposed funding formula changes earlier this year that the flagship West Virginia University did not like. The proposal would have given most regional institutions more money at the expense of West Virginia University, West Virginia Tech and Glenville State College.

“Shepherd University, the lowest funded state institution for over two decades, was to receive a much [needed] $3.4 million added to its budget through the new funding formula,” Hendrix wrote. “The big losers in the new funding model were WVU and WVU Tech, institutions that would lose $9.2 million and $3.2 million, respectively.”

Critics say the Tuesday appointment makes those funding changes far less likely to survive. They also say a recent decision by West Virginia governor Jim Justice to create a blue-ribbon commission to examine higher education gives the flagship WVU power, because the university is heavily represented on the commission.

A Denial From WVU

West Virginia University issued a statement denying that it is attempting to seize power.

“We have significant respect for our colleagues and institutions of higher education across the State,” the statement said. “We are disappointed and disagree with President Hendrix’s allegations and the sequence of events stated. Her assumptions do not have merit; and the university is not engaging in a hostile takeover of our education system.”

The university’s statement went on to say Hendrix declined to co-chair the governor’s blue-ribbon commission and pointed out that any changes to higher education in the state will have to be put in place by the legislators. President Gee of WVU is one of the co-chairs of the blue-ribbon commission, along with the presidents of Marshall and Concord Universities.

West Virginia University’s statement continued by acknowledging the flagship took issue with the proposed funding formula.

“We support additional appropriations for other institutions,” it said. “However, we do not believe that it should come from a decrease in the appropriations to WVU -- the flagship, land-grant, R1 institution in the state with the highest graduation rates and a presence in every county. We are not trying to prevent Shepherd University or any other institution from seeing an increase in appropriations nor are we trying to take over Shepherd or any other institution. We hope in the future to work with Shepherd and all of our colleagues across the state to increase funding for higher education and to increase graduation rates and improve the workforce for West Virginia.”

Gee did not respond to an emailed request for interview Wednesday afternoon.

Fears About Bias

Many of those expressing concern about the Higher Education Policy Commission chancellorship say they hold the new interim chancellor, Long, in high regard. But they also say they worry about whether she can act impartially, or they object to the process through which she was selected for the job.

“I certainly share some of the concerns that have been expressed by our regional presidents that the appointment of WVU Tech president Carolyn Long -- who I happen to have a great deal of personal regard for -- that her employment does raise questions about the ability for the HEPC to continue to act in an impartial manner on the higher education funding formula that the Legislature has directed the HEPC to prepare,” said Paul Espinosa, a Republican who chairs the state House of Delegates Education Committee.

The Legislature directed the Higher Education Policy Commission last year to propose a new higher education funding formula. Espinosa hoped it would create a more transparent and equitable funding formula than the one that exists today, which has “no rhyme nor reason,” he said.

Espinosa was pleased to find the commission approaching that task in a manner he considered impartial. He acknowledged that three institutions stood to lose funding if the commission’s initial proposal were to be implemented but said lawmakers would ultimately need to approve any new model.

Jenny Allen, a nonprofit executive who has headed a fund-raising campaign for Shepherd University, was the only Higher Education Policy Commission member to vote against Long’s appointment to commissioner. She did so after asking that her fellow commissioners be advised on legal requirements for choosing a new commissioner that include the candidate being free of institutional biases and holding no other higher education administrative position.

Some believe those requirements do not apply to interim chancellors like Long. That reasoning doesn’t necessarily reassure Allen.

“There was some debate about whether an interim candidate would necessarily need to have all of those qualities, but because there is an undetermined length of this interim period -- we don’t know how long it will last -- I felt it was important to look to the code for direction,” Allen said. “I also felt that the process lacked transparency, and I wish that we’d had more opportunity to learn more about her and to interview her and to discuss other candidates.”

Rumors About the Future

Rumors are flying fast about what’s next for public higher education in West Virginia. It’s not clear what the governor’s blue-ribbon commission will determine or what action the Legislature might take.

People can support the idea of reform and still believe the recent situation was not handled properly, Allen said. She also worries for the future of the Higher Education Policy Commission, which manages financial aid, seeks grant money and provides oversight.

“Every school wants more money and less oversight,” Allen said. “You can’t fault them for that, but the policy commission is in place partly to provide oversight of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.”

Asked whether the blue-ribbon commission and changes at the Higher Education Policy Commission are a consolidation of power by West Virginia University, Allen replied that “it does look like that.” Asked whether the flagship was seizing power, the lawmaker, Espinosa, said he supports an examination of the state’s higher education structure.

“I’ve certainly heard many of the same concerns that you’ve kind of highlighted, that the blue-ribbon commission does seem to have, based on backgrounds and so forth of some of the appointees so far, does seem to tilt fairly heavily toward West Virginia and some of the larger institutions,” Espinosa said. If recommendations from the groups are not considered fair and impartial, he would weigh them accordingly, he said.

Perception vs. Reality

Long, on the other hand, dismissed the idea that West Virginia University is working to consolidate power.

“I think that’s silly,” she said in a telephone interview. “I think that’s so blown out of proportion. That’s not happening. But again, perception is usually a problem more than reality.”

Long has resigned as president of West Virginia University Institute of Technology, effective Sunday, she said. The idea that she could not be impartial is “certainly not correct,” she continued.

“I’ve been in education for almost 40 years,” she said. “I’ve been a teacher, a principal and a superintendent of schools, all in the same county. No one ever accused me of being prejudiced, even for the same schools where I was a principal.”

Long wants to do her best for the entity where she is currently employed, not her past employers, she said.

“I just think the premise is kind of scary, because the premise is if you work for a college, you can’t go work for somebody else,” she said. “That bothers me.”

West Virginia University’s president, Gee, did not ask Long to take the chancellorship, but he supported her for the job if she wanted to do it, she said. Asked whether the chair of the Higher Education Policy Commission asked her to become chancellor, Long said she was not going to talk about which commissioners approached her. She did say she had previously been approached by a search firm seeking to fill the chancellorship on a permanent basis.

The Higher Education Policy Commission named a new interim chancellor instead of continuing its search for a full-time chancellor amid fears that the governor’s blue-ribbon commission had thrown the state’s higher education ecosystem into question, making it hard to recruit a new candidate for the permanent job. The Higher Education Policy Commission had been searching for a new chancellor because its current chancellor, Paul Hill, was retiring. But Hill was said to be willing to stay on because of the creation of the blue-ribbon panel. He has now been moved to a paid consultant role for six months.

The idea of Hill staying on as chancellor had won support from the leader of West Virginia’s Council of Presidents, which includes presidents of all of the state’s four-year institutions. That leader, Kendra Boggess, who is also president of the regional Concord University, wrote commissioners earlier this month asking that Hill be allowed to remain chancellor and raising concern about conflicts of interest should Long become chancellor.

Boggess still has concerns, she said in a telephone interview Wednesday. They include the proposed funding formula and the future of the Higher Education Policy Commission.

“In a lot of states when you have a commission that’s kind of a governing body, you’ve got really unhappy relationships between schools and the commission, and we’ve never had that,” Boggess said. “They’ve gone out of their way, I think, to help us and provide and develop the resources we need, particularly the regional schools. I know it’s different if you’re a flagship and you have 50 attorneys on staff, but they provide us with a lot of efficiencies. I worry about that not being available in the future.”

The skeptic may wonder why the outcry has been so strong about the Higher Education Policy Commission when a governor-appointed blue-ribbon commission was already created that could make the some of the commission’s work moot. But Hendrix, the Shepherd president who called Tuesday’s actions a “hostile takeover,” said she was worried about the way things came together.

“The concern is directed at the process -- or lack thereof,” she said in an email. “The regional presidents and legislators were simply informed about the appointment of the interim Chancellor, whose credentials in higher education are considered by many to be modest compared with Chancellor Hill. Certainly, the courtesy should have been extended to HEPC staff and the regional presidents to at least interview the interim candidate and/or suggest additional candidates. The last time I checked, we live in a democracy!”

She also expressed concerns about the blue-ribbon commission co-chaired by West Virginia University’s president, Gee. More than a third of members already appointed, 36 percent, are connected to West Virginia University.

Four of the state’s regional institutions each have 9 percent representation on the panel, Hendrix said. That equals West Virginia University’s 36 percent.

“But it is hard to imagine that their voices will be equal weighted,” Hendrix said in her email.

Others are trying to find a way to focus on policy in the midst of the palace intrigue. Jerome Gilbert, the president of Marshall University, is also co-chairing the blue-ribbon commission. He’s proposing taking about $10 million of a surplus the state is running and using it to provide additional funding to regional institutions. Doing so would address funding issues those institutions face without having to take money from other universities.

“You’ve got to throw some ideas out there,” Gilbert said. “That’s going to be one of the challenges. Which direction are we going to go if we’re going to solve the funding issue?”

Yet Gilbert acknowledged that the last few weeks have been tumultuous.

“I think all of our heads are kind of spinning, still,” he said.

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In new game show, graduates compete to pay down college loans

Jue, 12 Jul 2018 - 02:00

Actor Michael Torpey, known for his role as corrections officer Thomas Humphrey in Orange Is the New Black, kicked off his brand-new game show with a personal story: “My wife and I struggled with student debt and could only pay it off because, true story, I booked an underpants commercial,” he said.

But for the remaining 45 million Americans with student debt? “Sadly,” he said, “there just aren’t that many underpants commercials.”

That's where Paid Off comes in. The TruTV game show invites three college graduates, all saddled with debt, to compete for the chance to have it wiped out. Torpey, the show's host and creator, leads the contestants through rounds of questions about things they should have learned in and outside the classroom. Each right answer earns cash toward their loans, and even when the last-place player is eliminated, he or she gets to keep what's earned.

Tuesday's premiere episode featured categories like "Ology-ology," which required the players to guess a field of study based on its description, and a segment in which contestants had to guess the names of planets after insult comic Alan Jones dissed each one. Unlike on Jeopardy! or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, the questions were easy, which emphasized that the show's primary goal is not to stump players but to draw attention to the issue of student debt.

Its straightforward political message: Congress needs to do something about educational debt.

After Nico, an education major from William Peace College with $17,350 of debt, was eliminated, Torpey ushered him to the symbolic "direct to Congress" telephone. On the way to a commercial break, Nico dialed and said, "Hello, Congress? Your boy Nico here."

Jay, a graduate of St. John's River State College with $20,462 of debt, was eliminated after failing to distinguish which character names were from the movie Goodfellas or the children's television series Thomas and Friends. Before Jay left the stage, Torpey presented him with a card for Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, thanking her for her work on the student debt issue.

Madeleine, an anthropology major from Davidson College with $41,222 of debt, made it to the final round, telling Torpey, "Right now I live a tiny little loft apartment with my boyfriend and my dog, and I would love to marry my boyfriend and move into a home with a yard for that dog."

The host responded, "That's the real-life stuff debt can be holding people back from."

In order to have her debt paid off, Madeleine had to correctly answer eight trivia questions in 60 seconds, ranging from "What mile-high city legalized the purchase of marijuana?" to "An atom is composed of particles called protons, electrons and what?" She just missed the cut with seven correct answers and walked away with $24,462 -- more than half of her debt.

Throughout the show, Torpey worked in many calls to action -- at the end, he signed off by saying, "It doesn't have to be this way. Call your representatives right now and tell them we need a better solution than this game show."

But Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, doesn't think constituent calls will make anyone budge on student debt.

“I don’t think it’s going to change any hearts and minds in Congress,” he said. “If your representative is a Democrat, they’d probably already like to do something about student debt, and if they’re a Republican … they’ll talk about how much money the government already spends on higher education.”

While student debt can be burdensome, said Sandy Baum, a nonresident fellow at the Urban Institute, it's not the primary reason people like Madeleine aren't buying homes.

"The evidence that we have about the relationship between student debt and home purchases is really weak," she said.

Income is the biggest factor in later-in-life purchases, Baum said. "It’s really clear that if your income is not high enough, you’re not going to buy a house." For most people, wages are "significantly higher" when they go to college.

"We need for wages to go up, we need for the labor market to be strong, we need enough opportunities for people to make money,” she said.

As far as debt goes, Madeleine, Jay and Nico are all about average -- the typical graduating senior who takes out loans carries about $30,000 to $35,000 of student debt, according to Kelchen -- but it's not people like these three contestants who are hit hardest.

"Dropouts are the ones who default," he said. "Graduates by and large don’t default on their loans."

Baum was also wary about dramatizing the issue too much, since, for many, loans are necessary to pursue a degree.

"If we in any way communicate that student debt is always a bad thing, then that’s a problem, because many people who could benefit tremendously by going to college will only be able to go if they borrow some money," she said.

She'd also like to see a greater diversity of contestants in future episodes. "If they’re single mothers who went to for-profit institutions and got ripped off, that would be great."

Tuesday's 30-minute premiere caused a lot of buzz among 20- and 30-somethings hoping to be cast on the show.

"Trying to figure how to get on #PaidOff on @truTV with @TorpeyMichael," one user tweeted. "I've got some murdersome student debt I'd love to get rid of. Anyone have any tips?"

"Current pediatric nurse. Student loans suck! How can I get the opportunity to be on your show?" another asked.

Others, like Massachusetts state senator Eric Lesser, weighed in on the political message: "Sign of the times. We NEED debt free college, universal community college, and actual solutions to the student debt crisis. Not game shows," Lesser wrote.

Torpey broke the news on Twitter that season one was already a wrap.

"Unfortunately we are all done shooting the first season," he wrote. "If you enjoy the show, tell @truTV to order more episodes. Then we'll be able to help more folks with their student loans."

Thanks to everyone asking to be part of #PaidOff Unfortunately we are all done shooting the first season. If you enjoy the show, tell @truTV to order more episodes. Then we'll be able to help more folks with their student loans. I hope you enjoy tonight's premiere! - Michael

— Michael Torpey (@TorpeyMichael) July 10, 2018 Image Source: TruTVImage Caption: Jay, Madeleine and Nico compete to have their student debt wiped out on TruTV's new game show "Paid Off."Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Davidson College

Enrollment, completion troubles for students in lower socioeconomic classes

Jue, 12 Jul 2018 - 02:00

While institutions have focused on enrolling more high school graduates and seeing them through to commencement, new federal data suggest that students from lower socioeconomic classes still have trouble with access to higher education.

According to a report released Thursday by the Center for American Progress, major gaps still exist in enrollment between students from wealthy, well-educated families and their more impoverished peers.

“I think it’s an important reminder that we still have a lot of work to do on college access,” said Ben Miller, the report’s author. “There’s been a lot of emphasis on getting students to complete college and that’s totally warranted, but who even gets in the door of a school is an important thing, too.”

Miller, a former Education Department official in the Obama administration, is CAP's senior director of postsecondary education.

The center looked at data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics -- it pulled from one of the department’s longitudinal studies that followed 23,000 students starting in 2009, when they were in ninth grade.

Students were divided into three groups that the department developed, a composite measure that includes income, as well as parental education and occupations.

About 70 percent of the students in the study had enrolled in some sort of college, either two- or four-year, by February 2016. But the differences among the socioeconomic classes were stark -- 90 percent of the students in the highest group had gone to college, compared to just 56 percent in the lowest.

The highest achievers in the lowest group weren’t enrolling in college at the same rate that their counterparts in the top group were.

Low-income students with the highest scores on math assessments enrolled in college at a rate 18 percentage points lower than those from the top group who earned similar scores.

And it was easier for the students in highest group who scored poorly on those same math tests to enroll in college. About 73 percent of students in the highest group who had earned low scores still went to college, compared to 41 percent of the bottom group who had earned low scores.

“There tends to be a lot of focus on high-achieving students from lesser means and how it’s unfair that they don’t go to college at higher rates,” Miller said. “And that’s undeniably true -- but what’s really striking in the data, where the higher education system is even more unfair, is how it extends to all kinds of students, and excludes opportunities for students from lesser means with middling academic results. I think that matters if you think about hitting broad national goals for college attainment.”

The students in the lowest group were disadvantaged in other ways, too. Only 36 percent of them attended a four-year institution, either public or private, compared to 80 percent of students in the highest group.

Black and Hispanic students, too, were far less likely to attend the more selective colleges and universities compared to their white peers.

About 19 percent of the white students in the study attended a highly selective college, versus 9 percent of Hispanic students and 7 percent of black students.

“These schools have greater sources on which to draw than do most other types of institutions, and they can put students on the path to particularly prestigious job opportunities that may not be as available to those who attend less selective institutions,” Miller wrote. “And these benefits are particularly important for underrepresented students.”

The disadvantages for minority students have been documented in other federal data.

Last year, the National Center for Education Statistics published a report on groups of students who took out loans and enrolled in college in 1995-96 and 2003-04. Almost half of the black borrowers in the 2004 group defaulted on at least one loan. That default rate was more than double that of white students' 20 percent; Asian students defaulted at a rate of 11 percent.

About 75 percent of black borrowers who failed to finish at a for-profit institution also ended up defaulting.

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Hendrix College offers new winter career training program

Mié, 11 Jul 2018 - 02:00

Hendrix College’s president, Bill Tsutsui, was sitting with his senior leadership team one day, figuring out how to make use of the empty Arkansas campus during winter breaks -- and a thought struck him: career preparation.

It was perhaps quite a relevant idea given the heaps of criticism that liberal arts institutions such as Hendrix endure about whether they are teaching their graduates the necessary skills to land a job.

Tsutsui’s career center staffers brainstormed a program of sorts years ago, it turns out, so in January the college rolled out the inaugural initiative for its sophomores, what it dubbed Career Term.

It works like this: for a couple of days during winter break, the college brought back almost 50 of its second-year students and gave them workshops on base-level career-search skills -- résumé writing and job interviewing, dressing professionally and finding an internship.

Officials brought in Hendrix alumni to talk with the attendees. Tsutsui himself taught a crash course in personal branding.

“I’m always surprised that across the board I meet plenty of folks whose résumé could still use some work,” Tsutsui said in an interview. “Or they don’t put themselves forward in the strongest possible way. Possibly it’s just the natural modesty of people, for some folks, that it’s too egotistical or too much bragging. But I just think that aspect of self-presentation, broadly defined, how you comport yourself in professional situations, on paper and electronically, people still have a lot to learn about it.”

Hendrix is touting Career Term as the first initiative in the country that uses the college winter break to coach students in job training. While only serving part of its sophomore class this year, the college intends to offer the program to the entire class by January 2020.

Some liberal arts institutions, in response to public perception that their traditional model isn’t viable or demanding, have broken away, creating programs far outside the liberal arts, around the sciences or technology.

Tsutsui said he doesn’t see a need to ravage a liberal arts curriculum or add majors such as cybersecurity. He maintains that there are many ways for liberal arts students to succeed, or even exceed their peers who are being trained in vocational programs.

Students outside the liberal arts likely will have their job training woven into their studies, Tsutsui said. “But there’s lots of ways to get to the same goal,” he said, such as Career Term, a separate program for these types of skills.

“I have a feeling in 30 years we’re going to look back and laugh at the boom in cybersecurity,” he said, adding that skills such as job interviewing won't disappear -- they're timeless for students.

The narrative that students steeped in the liberal arts can’t succeed is wrong, said Michelle Weise, senior vice president for workforce strategies at Strada Education Network.

Strada researches employment trends among college graduates. It has published studies suggesting students aren’t confident they’ll find a job after college, and that the students who take a position they’re overqualified for tend to remain “underemployed.”

Weise said liberal arts students simply need to show employers how their skills translate to the work force. A campaign such as Career Term can help identify early what they need -- whether that’s help communicating or a couple of extra classes outside their majors, she said.

Integrating the lessons early in a student’s college career -- the second year, which is neither too late nor too soon -- also benefits them, Weise said. Doing so their sophomore year could jump-start students’ interest in their career centers, which have struggled to attract student attention over the last several years, Weise said. According to one Strada report, 40 percent of students never visited their career centers.

“I don’t think a one-off is enough, but the students will get a good enough taste of it,” Weise said of Career Term. “Sustaining that with the career services office is important. Most younger students have no understanding of the opportunities available through their career services.”

Three years ago, Hendrix reviewed its career services after problems with student engagement, Tsutsui said, and found that large amounts of staff time were used on one-on-one meetings with students. Career Term is a way to disseminate the basics en masse and forge a connection with the career center and alumni, he said.

“The alumni piece is a really big one,” Tsutsui said. “If you can make that connection during Career Term, that can be golden.”

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Emotional support from families makes a difference for low-income students

Mié, 11 Jul 2018 - 02:00

Emotional support from family is essential to outcomes for low-income students, a new study shows.

“Low-income families have a particular resource that they have plenty of and that they invest in their children, and that’s emotional support,” said Josipa Roksa, a professor of sociology and education at the University of Virginia and the lead author on the study. “We shouldn’t underestimate that value and the importance of that resource.”

Roksa and her co-author, Peter Kinsley, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin Madison, surveyed 728 students in their first year at a two- or four-year institution and who had applied for financial aid in Wisconsin. Roksa asked each student about the financial and emotional support they received from their families and how engaged they were on campus and collected information about their academic success to determine how the three measures were related. The results were recently published in Research in Higher Education. The abstract is available here.

Students who reported receiving more emotional support from their families were 19 percent more likely to have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, 19 percent more likely to accumulate at least 24 credits during their first year and 24 percent more likely to finish a second year of college. Financial support from their families was unrelated to all three of those outcomes.

While the importance of emotional support was somewhat expected, Roksa was surprised to learn that it also impacted students’ feelings of inclusion and belonging on campus.

“Family support is related to how much kids study, how they engage with faculty, whether or not they belong,” Roksa said. “Those things that we hold dear in higher education as indications of academic and social engagement and that we usually try to address institutionally are actually related to parental support.”

She believes that low-income families are traditionally overlooked by higher education institutions because they’re perceived as having less to contribute, and that colleges shy away from family engagement in general.

“Higher education institutions have in some ways been resistant in engaging families because of stories about helicopter parents, but those are typically parents from more affluent backgrounds,” Roksa said. “The helicopter parents get a lot of attention, but that’s certainly not all parents, and certainly not the parents of lower-income students.”

She discussed how many colleges still view themselves as acting in loco parentis, or in place of parent, and worry that keeping families engaged may interfere with the integration of students onto their campuses. To better retain and support low-income students, Roksa believes colleges need to look beyond the financial and social standing of families. It is assumed that low-income families commit fewer financial resources to their child’s education, but in reality both affluent and low-income families contribute the same proportion of income to their child's education.

“The general assumption is that because [low-income] families don’t have social/cultural capital, they can’t contribute that much. We’re saying that’s wrong,” said Roksa.

Parent orientations and family visit weekends won’t cut it, Roksa said. Colleges need to engage families throughout the year.

It's important to note that the results are not necessarily generalizable to all students. The sample was restricted to students at colleges and universities in Wisconsin, was made up of students interested in STEM fields and was predominately white. Roksa thinks a more diverse sample might show even greater effects.

“We think that if we had a more diverse sample, the emotional support may even matter more, because students of color face challenges in higher ed like discrimination and harassment and microaggressions,” she said.

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China's Ministry of Education approves termination of more than 200 Chinese-foreign cooperative programs

Mié, 11 Jul 2018 - 02:00

China’s Ministry of Education recently approved the termination of more than 200 Sino-foreign cooperative education programs and jointly managed institutions in what the ministry framed as a move to improve quality and regulatory control. The program closures span a wide range of fields, including business, computer science, education, engineering and health care-related fields, and at least for the most part do not appear to be directly related to ideological imperatives on the part of the Chinese government.

Slightly more than two dozen partnerships involving U.S. universities are included in the list of cooperative programs that have been formally terminated, which is published on the ministry’s website in Chinese. A total of 229 cooperative undergraduate or master’s programs were terminated, plus an additional five jointly managed Sino-foreign educational institutes. The largest number of terminated cooperative programs involved universities in the United Kingdom, followed by Australia, Russia and then the U.S.

As of June there were about 1,090 active Chinese-foreign cooperative institutions and projects at the undergraduate level and above, according to China's Ministry of Education.

The ministry described the recent terminations as "an important achievement in the recent improvement and innovation of regulatory methods in Chinese-foreign cooperation in academic administration" and as a move to "replace the old with the new, optimized, and upgraded."

“In recent years, there has been significant development in Chinese-foreign cooperation in academic administration, which has been effective in promoting reforms in educational systems and mechanisms, making innovations in training models, and serving major state strategies, in turn continuously increasing social approval for and international influence of such cooperation,” the ministry said in a July 4 statement about the terminations (translated from Chinese). “While development has accelerated, problems have appeared in certain institutions and projects, such as insufficient introduction of excellent educational resources, low instructional quality, weak specialized capabilities in academic departments, and lack of content-based development mechanisms. The problems have led to low student satisfaction and poor attractiveness of programs, making it difficult for academic administration to continue.”

"Strengthening withdrawal mechanisms is important for the thorough implementation of the central government’s regulatory powers over Chinese-foreign cooperation in academic administration both during and after their existence," the ministry said.

While the ministry statement stressed issues related to quality and regulatory control, the list of terminated programs from the ministry includes programs that ended for a variety of reasons.

At least some of the programs on the closed list were never implemented. For example, four joint master’s programs between New York University and East China Normal University are included on the terminated program list. NYU has a branch campus in Shanghai operated in partnership with East China Normal.

“During NYU Shanghai’s beginning stages in 2011, NYU and ECNU had also planned to open four joint master's programs, which were subsequently approved by the Chinese MOE,” Yu Lizhong, the chancellor of NYU Shanghai, said in a statement.

“However, these programs were never implemented as both sides were deeply invested in the establishment of NYU Shanghai, the first China-U.S. joint venture research university, in operation for now six years strong. As the umbrella of the successful ECNU-NYU partnership, NYU Shanghai now hosts its own graduate programs, including five joint master’s programs and one joint Ph.D. program, all approved by the MOE. To avoid public confusion, relevant parties agreed to cancel the four previous programs.”

Another program included on the ministry list is a master's in sports management between Ohio University and Beijing Sport University. A spokesman for the Ohio university, Jim Sabin, said such a program was never established. "The two universities did explore a partnership in 2006-2007 in which Ohio University's master's of sports administration degree would be available through Beijing Sport University, but it never came to fruition," Sabin said. He said the partnership between the universities was limited to a short-term series of guest lectures in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Another program on the list is a joint undergraduate program in English that the University of Indianapolis began operating with the Ningbo Institute of Technology in 2004. Indianapolis's associate provost for international engagement and shared governance, Jodie Ferise, said the university continues to run undergraduate programs with the Ningbo Institute in international business and finance, but that in renewing its agreement with Ningbo in 2016, it did not seek approval to continue offering the English program because of lower-than-expected enrollment.

"There was no formal notification that we would not be approved for one, and it was not terminated by active edict of the ministry," said Ferise, who described the decision to end the joint English program as being purely about enrollment. "We taught it all the way out to its conclusion.”

Two cooperative master's programs operated by Stevens Institute of Technology, in New Jersey, with the Beijing Institute of Technology -- one in telecommunications management and one in photonics and microelectronics -- were also on the ministry list of terminated programs. A spokeswoman for Stevens, Thania Benios, said via email that the university was "not aware that these programs were approved to be terminated and have not been formally notified of their termination, but it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with our relationship with BIT." Asked whether the university is still operating these programs or others with BIT, Benios said Tuesday she would have additional information on Wednesday, after Inside Higher Ed's deadline.

Michael Gow, a senior research fellow at the University of Nottingham's China Policy Institute who researches transnational higher education in China, said the list published by the Ministry of Education is a cumulative list of terminations, reflecting all program closures from 2006 to 2018.

“Since 2007, the MOE has been indicating its concern at the predatory market nature of many foreign university activities in China, including comments directed at official Sino-foreign collaborations,” Gow said in an email, adding that “125 programs were closed between 2006-2015, with a further 104 closed in 2016-18. The majority of these look like programs which were poorly conceived, hastily established. Many may never have become operational. Also, the majority were established 2001-2004.”

“It’s important to understand the mechanism for closing Sino-foreign programs,” Gow added. “They are granted licenses with an expiry date, for example 2015. If this is a 4-year [undergraduate] program, the last permitted intake will be in 2011, with license expiry set to allow any students to complete study and graduate. So all of these programs closed will have either (a) been terminated by mutual consent and only where all enrolled students are not affected by the closure or (b) will agree to close with time give[n] for a winding-up to ensure students are not affected.”

More broadly, Gow said, "it seems clear that tolerance of poorly run programs, established as de facto recruitment and pathway channels, are being eradicated from the Sino-foreign landscape. The authorities want genuinely collaborative programs that help Chinese universities develop teaching and internationalize their campus environments, alongside any accompanying research collaboration that might develop between partners. They are not willing to allow partnerships which foreign universities establish solely for the purposes of charging high fees and/or recruiting Chinese students on 2+2. Certainly, [the] trend since 2007/08 is that all [undergraduate] programs, with few exceptions, are for dual degree awards, which allows for greater oversight by the Chinese authorities on degree quality. So fewer foreign-only degrees and Chinese-only degrees (where foreign partners provide certificate or faculty for teaching), and none approved which specifically mention pathway conditions (i.e. 1+3 or 2+2).”

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Two accreditors are investigating whether Temple violated standards

Mié, 11 Jul 2018 - 02:00

Temple University revealed Monday that its business school lied for years on a range of statistics about its online M.B.A. program. The university gave false information to U.S. News & World Report about standardized testing, student debt, grade point averages of admitted students, student-faculty ratios and more. The dean of the Fox School of Business was ousted amid reports that he encouraged a culture that focused on rankings.

In releasing the details Monday, Temple tried to reassure current and prospective students with an FAQ. Here is one question and one answer: "Does this affect the Fox School’s accreditation? The Fox School remains accredited by AACSB, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, a distinction held by fewer than 5 percent of the world’s business schools and one that the Fox School has maintained continuously since 1934."

The statement is correct that AACSB accreditation stands, and it is rare for accreditors to revoke recognition. But AACSB is "actively investigating" Temple's business school and its compliance with requirements, according to a statement from Stephanie Bryant, AACSB's executive vice president and chief accreditation officer.

Bryant said that several criteria for accreditation would appear relevant to what was going on at Temple. One requirement is that a business school "must encourage and support ethical behavior by students, faculty, administrators, and professional staff." In part this is judged by whether "the school has appropriate systems, policies and procedures that reflect the school’s support for and importance of ethical behavior for students, faculty, administrators, and professional staff in their professional and personal actions." One problem identified at Temple was that the now former dean disbanded a faculty review panel that had previously assured the accuracy of data submitted for rankings.

Another standard that Bryant said may be relevant is a requirement that accredited business schools "represent degree and nondegree programs accurately, realistically and with integrity in all communications."

Business schools under investigation maintain accreditation during the inquiries, she said. Those found in violation face "sanctions range from consulting with the school to accelerating a peer-review visit (i.e., earlier than the normal five-year timetable) to revoking accreditation."

Brian Kirschner, director for communications and public relations of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which is Temple's primary institutional accreditor, said that Middle States "continues to monitor" the situation at Temple with regard to its business school. Middle States asked for (and received) a report in February, after the first word of irregularities came out. Middle States is now expecting further updates, he said.

Kirschner said that Temple's reported conduct raised questions about its compliance with two of the accreditor's standards. One of those standards, on ethical conduct, states that "ethics and integrity are central, indispensable, and defining hallmarks of effective higher education institutions. In all activities, whether internal or external, an institution must be faithful to its mission, honor its contracts and commitments, adhere to its policies, and represent itself truthfully." Another standard requires that accredited colleges and universities provide "accurate" information about a range of topics, including student debt.

After receiving the first reports in February, Middle States asked that it be kept informed of the situation so it could consider various issues.

A spokesman for Temple said that the university would be cooperating with all inquiries from accreditors.

U.S. News is also asking for more information from Temple. A letter sent to the university Tuesday noted that one line in the outside report prepared on the data falsehoods said the review found evidence that the problems may have extended beyond the online M.B.A. program. As a result U.S. News is asking Temple to verify the accuracy of data submitted for the magazine's rankings of undergraduate colleges and universities and graduate programs in business, education, engineering, law, medicine and nursing.

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Temple ousts business dean after report finds online M.B.A. program for years submitted false data for rankings

Mar, 10 Jul 2018 - 02:00

Temple University on Monday announced that its business school had submitted false data for years for rankings purposes. The university said that it had asked Moshe Porat, dean of the business school, to resign, saying that he had dismantled the business school's system for verifying the accuracy of data being submitted for rankings. An outside review found that the employee responsible for preparing the data said he did so at the dean's direction, although Porat denied this to the outside investigator.

The reports of falsehoods started in January, when U.S. News & World Report said that Temple's online M.B.A. program was being stripped of its rankings because it had reported that 100 percent of its online M.B.A. students had submitted standardized test scores, when in reality only 20 percent had done so. Score averages count for less in the U.S. News methodology when fewer than 75 percent of students have taken standardized tests. Then the website Poets & Quants noted that Temple had claimed 100 percent test taking for its online students for four years -- and been the top-rated online M.B.A. in each of those years. Because Temple's online M.B.A. does not require standardized tests of applicants, the 100 percent figure seemed unlikely to many. Temple promised an outside investigation and hired a prominent law firm, Jones Day, to conduct one.

Among the findings released Monday:

  • For ranking years 2015 through 2018 (typically with data coming from the prior year's new students), Temple's reports that all admitted applicants had taken the Graduate Management Admission Test were wrong. The actual number was "significantly lower" than the 100 percent figure given. U.S. News asks business schools to report both GMAT and Graduate Record Exam scores (as some business school applicants take the GRE). Temple just converted GRE scores (which were supposed to be provided with breakdowns on various parts of the exam) into GMAT scores, and said that no applicants took the GRE. The Jones Day report indicated that, at one point, U.S. News raised questions about the 100 percent test-taking applicants, but did not pursue the issue when Temple provided more false information.
  • For ranking years 2015 through 2018, undergraduate grade point averages were "inflated through use of various methods." One of those methods was to take GPAs listed as a 1/100 value and improving them to the "next highest" 1/10 value. As an example, the Jones Day report said that this would mean reporting 3.22 as 3.3. U.S. News asked business schools to report mean GPAs, but Temple sometimes gave the mean and sometimes reported the median (using the inflated statistics either way).
  • For ranking years 2017 and 2018, Temple underreported the number of admissions offers, implying that the program was more selective than was the case.
  • For ranking years 2016 through 2018, Temple provided false information about debt. U.S. News asks business schools for the average debt among graduates who borrow. Temple reported instead the average for all graduates, thus lowering the average debt level.
  • For ranking years 2016 through 2018, Temple counted both faculty members and "academic coaches" in a formula to determine student-faculty ratio.

Much of the blame in the report goes to an unidentified employee charged with preparing rankings material. That employee, the Jones Day report said, "knowingly misreported data" and "allegedly did so at the dean’s direction in the presence of another employee. The dean and the other employee deny that such direction was given."

Porat, the now former dean, did not respond to an email request for comment from Inside Higher Ed.

A Temple spokesman said that Porat, as a tenured faculty member, has the right to return to teaching at the business school. Porat had been dean since 1996. In 2001, the Academy of International Business selected him as the 2001 International Dean of the Year.

U.S. News officials also did not respond to requests for comment. In January, asked about the apparent problems with the Temple data, U.S. News released a statement that said, "U.S. News relies on schools to accurately report their data. In this case, the Fox School of Business submitted the data on its own during the summer and fall 2017 data collection period and also completed the data verification process, assuring U.S. News that the data were accurate."

A Culture Focused on Rankings

Regardless of whether Porat authorized the fabrications, Temple and the Jones Day report hold him responsible for what happened.

"It was the dean’s initiative to disband a longstanding committee charged with ensuring the accuracy of rankings data," said a campuswide email sent by Richard M. Englert, the president. "This absence of checks and balances, together with an undue focus on rankings, enabled such misreporting. While we are committed to determining the nature and extent of possible incorrect data reporting regarding other academic programs at Fox, one thing is clear: This is contrary to the fundamental value of integrity that is at the heart of our academic mission."

Beyond the removal of the checks and balances, the Jones Day report also described an environment of ratings focus at the Fox School of Business, which offers both undergraduate and M.B.A. programs. The rankings falsehoods were found in the online M.B.A. program.

"The investigation revealed that (i) the dean and other Fox personnel made clear that improving or maintaining Fox’s position in rankings was a key priority; (ii) Fox had in place a concerted, rankings-focused strategy including detailed analyses of U.S. News’s rankings methodology and strategies tied to specific U.S. News data metrics, which strategy was promoted internally by the dean and other Fox personnel; and (iii) the environment fostered by the school’s emphasis on rankings contributed to the reporting of inaccurate information to U.S. News," the report said. "Moreover, the dean’s focus on rankings, coupled with his personal management style, caused Fox personnel who interacted with the dean on ranking-related matters to feel pressure to perform in this regard."

"For example, Fox touted the [online M.B.A.] program’s fourth straight #1 U.S. News ranking in an email on January 22, 2018, notwithstanding that its leadership had learned more than ten days before that the survey response included inaccurate data," the report said. "Praise for such achievements was also given at the individual employee level. Most significantly, in annual performance reviews and otherwise, the employee principally responsible for rankings surveys received very favorable assessments of the employee’s rankings-related work, and was even given credit not just for compiling and organizing information for submission to rankings agencies, but also for improvements in Fox’s rankings positions."

Other Rankings Errors

U.S. News regularly announces updates to its rankings when it receives reports -- many times from colleges themselves -- that they have submitted inaccurate information. Many times, colleges blame human error. The Temple situation would appear to be the largest scandal in recent years involving rankings of various types.

Here are some of the other notable cases.

  • In 2011, the American Bar Association imposed public censure on the law school of Villanova University over its past practice of reporting inaccurate grades and Law School Admission Test scores of incoming students in an apparent bid to improve its standing in the rankings.
  • In 2013, Tulane University admitted to sending U.S. News inaccurate information about the number of applicants and test scores of applicants to its business school.
  • In 2012, Claremont McKenna College admitted that it had been submitting inaccurate class ranks and SAT scores on its students to U.S. News. The motive wasn't purely about rankings. Officials disagreed with a college strategy to focus on rankings by admitting only students with top scores and grades. To admit a broader range of students, the admissions office submitted incorrect data so that it could meet the college's goals while also admitting students without perfect grades and test scores.
  • In 2013, Bucknell University admitted that it had misreported SAT averages from 2006 through 2012, and ACT averages during some of those years.
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Stephen F. Austin optimizes course schedule to add faculty lines that paid for themselves

Mar, 10 Jul 2018 - 02:00

Faculty members often fear administrative efforts to “optimize” academic operations. That’s because some such efforts result in the elimination or shrinkage of programs deemed to be unsuccessful by key metrics, but worthwhile in harder-to-measure ones: the program with low numbers of majors but that delivers a large share of general education credits, for example, or that rounds out the liberal arts curriculum.

Sometimes, though, optimization efforts can actually help academic departments. Case in point: Stephen F. Austin State University, which used the services of Ad Astra Information Systems to close holes in its scheduling system -- and then used newfound funds from expected higher course enrollments to approve 19 additional full-time, non-tenure-track faculty lines.

Ad Astra is not, of course, the only scheduling software company that serves higher education. Others include EMS and CollegeNET. What is significant is that Stephen F. Austin invested its anticipated savings from course schedule optimization in full-time faculty hires, all in a period of financial challenges.

Fifteen lines were eventually filled. More than 1,250 students were able to get the courses they needed in Fall 2017 as a result of scheduling optimization. 

The new faculty members generated some 5,600 student credit hours, a 3,000-hour increase within the general education control group from the previous fall. In so doing, they generated their annual salaries plus $213,000 in revenue that semester and about $1.3 million in revenue in the spring.

Mark Barringer, chair of history at Stephen F. Austin, said the move allowed him to hire two “amazing faculty members who our students love.” That’s in addition to hiring one current adjunct into a third full-time slot. It seems the optimization data gave his administration “the confidence to let me add faculty knowing that the bottom line would justify the additions,” he said.

‘I Couldn’t Get the Class I Needed’

John Calahan, coordinator for space utilization and scheduling at Stephen F. Austin, said that prior to fall 2017, “we heard the anecdotal stories -- and talking to many colleges you’ll get these stories -- ‘I couldn’t get the class I needed,’ or, ‘I’m going to have to hang around for another year or semester to get this course I need to graduate,’” particularly with regard to general education courses. So Calahan met with department chairs, deans and other administrators to see what the university could do to help professors assist students in moving through their academic plans faster.

Sometimes the answer was access to larger rooms to increase section size, or another relatively simple fix. But more often, the answer was “We need to get more faculty.” And because the small East Texas city of Nacogdoches isn’t teeming with qualified adjunct instructors, the faculty slots needed to be full-time, to lure candidates into moving there. That's on top of the student success-driven reasons for hiring full-time instructors, whose teaching has been shown to benefit from their relative job stability and institutional support, of course.

Unfortunately for Stephen F. Austin, such discussions coincided with a state funding cut of $2.7 million -- not the kind of fiscal environment that lends itself to faculty hiring. Decreased head count and student credit hour generation, due in part to course-access issues, also had a negative impact on formula funding.

Calahan and his colleagues eventually looked to Ad Astra, a Kansas data-based higher education consultancy, for help. They’d used some of Ad Astra's services for several years already. But this time they wanted to know how changes to their scheduling system might allow more students to pick up more credits more quickly, helping them graduate and -- crucially, at the same time -- increasing revenue for the institution.

Bringing Balance

John Barnshaw, associate vice president for research and statistics at Ad Astra, had recently moved there from his previous post managing faculty salary and other data at the American Association of University Professors. To help Stephen F. Austin, he used Ad Astra software called Platinum Analytics to help build an efficient course schedule that would provide more seats for the courses students wanted and needed, namely general education courses in the desirable, “prime-time” midday hours.

The overall idea was to bring balance to section enrollments. According to Ad Astra’s Higher Education Scheduling Index, "overloaded" or overfull courses are those with 95 percent enrollment or higher, and they make up about 23 percent of all courses at all institutions in the database. "Balanced" courses, meanwhile, are about 70 to 95 percent full, with a target goal of about 85 percent -- about 32 percent of all courses. And “underutilized” courses are less than 70 percent full, at 44 percent of all courses in the database.

Barnshaw saw that he could provide more seats in in-demand courses by moving Stephen F. Austin’s schedule onto a grid, eliminating overlapping course and nonstandard course schedules that sometimes keep students from being able to take as many courses as they need and want to.

“On a traditional schedule, when I taught, classes were mostly Monday-Wednesday-Friday, for 50 minutes, beginning on the hour,” Barnshaw said. “But if I have a course that’s at 10:30 in the morning, it’s off the grid by an hour.” Moving courses to a grid, therefore, reduces “waste,” Barnshaw said, and increases opportunities for revenue.

Course Schedules as Retention and Revenue Tools

“A course schedule is not just a planning tool, it can be a retention tool and it can be a revenue tool,” Barnshaw said.

In chemistry, for example, the projected fall enrollment was 688 for general education classes, more than the number of seats typically offered. Barnshaw's analysis indicated that the university could add three new sections to the on-grid schedule to meet demand, and 115 new students enrolled in the course. The new seats’ gross tuition revenue of about $111,000 paid for the cost of the new lecturer that semester ($32,250) and generated an additional $79,000 for the university.

In all, some 52 new sections were added across six disciplines. Administrators worked with faculty members to make sure that departmental guidelines about course caps were being followed, too. Most significantly, taking a big gamble that was approved by the university’s governing board, the university used the funds they anticipated they’d see from increased course enrollments to offer departments more faculty lines, some 19 in all.

Barnshaw said Ad Astra provides "solid data," but that the university “deserves a lot of credit for taking it on faith” that it would unlock enough new seats and generate enough funds to pay for the hires.

Hiring on Faith

By discipline, there were four full-time, non-tenure-track faculty approved lines in English, three in math, one in chemistry, four in history, four in communication studies, one in philosophy and two in political science. To the optimization skeptics: these are not the typical "job-ready" fields that benefit from other kinds of academic prioritization efforts. And yet the resultant searches ended up in the hiring of 15 full-time, non-tenure-track instructors.

“We probably could have hired more,” Calahan said. Yet Stephen F. Austin didn’t want to force faculty searches on departments with what Calahan called "healthy skepticism" about the numbers.

“There were questions, like, ‘Is this software going to tell us how to run our department?’” Calahan said. “And the answer is, ‘No. It’s providing data.’” One department was approved for four hires but only advertised for three, thinking that the data were inaccurate, for instance, Calahan said. But it ended up filling up 95 percent of its projected enrollment.

“This is an iterative process,” he said. “We’ve been doing things a certain way for a long time. This isn’t being forced on anyone. But this was really our first proof of concept, and it paid off.”

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Ohio State closes sexual assault unit after complaints of mismanagement, poor reporting

Mar, 10 Jul 2018 - 02:00

Ohio State University has dissolved its sexual assault unit amid complaints that employees there told survivors they were lying about reports of sexual misconduct and that they suffered from mental illness or were “delusional.” The institution indicated, too, that the center failed to document and report sexual assaults in a timely way, despite university policy that dictates all employees do so.

These centers consolidate resources for survivors of sexual assault, and some have existed for decades, though others are new and continue to crop up at institutions around the country. But experts question their effectiveness, saying they are often are staffed with people who haven’t been trained to properly and sensitively help victims of assault through their trauma.

Ohio State started its program, the Sexual Civility and Empowerment unit, or SCE, about three years ago. It was meant to be a campus one-stop shop of sorts for students, a place where victims could find support and where programs around sexual assault could be developed. Campus officials heralded the model and called the university a “national leader” in dealing with these issues.

The university hasn’t disclosed exact details about why the center closed. Though it hired auditors to review the unit, university officials have refused to make the report from the investigation public, saying it could breach student privacy. An Ohio State spokesman refused to provide Inside Higher Ed with the report, citing federal privacy laws and attorney-client privilege.

But employee records and other documents Ohio State released, about 200 pages’ worth, provide some idea of the alleged mismanagement at SCE. They include stories of a staffer exaggerating her credentials, refusing to use established and successful precedents for working with victims, and bullying among employees -- a narrative that fits with the pattern that survivor advocates say they have seen at these centers.

“I’ve seen too many bad instances to feel confident in them,” Carly Mee, the interim executive director of SurvJustice, a legal advocacy group for sexual assault survivors, said about the centers. “There’s so many alleged instances of them not meeting their responsibilities and just letting things go from there. Employees might not have proper training or the university isn’t monitoring them. I just think it’s a way for schools to shirk their obligations and just let them run on their own.”

Many of the allegations about the center’s flaws come from a report by a former employee, Jill Davis, who quit the unit in 2016 to work for a regional crisis and prevention network outside the university.

Davis said that one staff member lied about being trained by the OhioHealth Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO), where Davis left to go work. The staff member refused to cooperate with SARNCO and other campus professionals, instead relying on her own, invented methods for helping survivors, Davis said. She would brag about being contracted to work with Ivy League institutions on their sexual misconduct policies, which was untrue, Davis said.

That employee also was one of several Ohio State officials sued in federal court by a former student who alleged due process violations after being accused of sexual assault.

At least four employees at the center were fired after it was shut down last month. There is no mention in the records obtained by Inside Higher Ed of the employee Davis referenced being disciplined. Her reviews were glowing, though Davis said the employee was adamantly defended by another campus director, who conducted the reviews. A different employee was put on paid leave in February after the university received “reporting concerns” in the unit. That same month, the university “suspended” the center.

According to survivor reports to SARNCO, which often works with the university, those who came to the center were sometimes told they had “an active imagination” or that they wouldn’t receive campus services because they refused to disclose the identity of the person who assaulted them. These reports were included in records that Ohio State released.

Staffers at Ohio State’s center also told some survivors that they needed to exaggerate their stories because their experiences weren’t “serious enough” to get justice or receive legal protection, according to the documents.

A ‘Rapidly Evolving Landscape’

Alison Kiss, director of Clery Center, a group that helps institutions comply with the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, told The Columbus Dispatch that she had never seen this type of center close before.

Advocates said in interviews that the usefulness of these offices varies. But with the quickly evolving changes to the federal gender antidiscrimination law Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, institutions have struggled to keep up, said S. Daniel Carter, president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, which consults on Title IX with colleges and universities.

In 2011, the Obama administration attempted to strengthen protections for survivors on campus by revamping the Title IX guidance in the form of a Dear Colleague letter. Though supporters of rape victims credited the Obama rules as a step forward for survivors, Obama’s critics have said that the guidelines were unfairly slanted against accused students.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has since rescinded these rules and put in an interim version with more flexibility for institutions. This had led to some confusion among institutions nationwide and shifting of their Title IX policies.

“Just speaking generally, these are the challenges that universities are facing -- a rapidly evolving landscape with pre-existing resources not always set up and well fitted to the changes in the field,” Carter said. Finding the right personnel to staff these centers and who can keep up with shifts has proved challenging. If institutions haven’t set up their Title IX policies correctly, good employees can get frustrated. Carter recalled one high-ranking Title IX investigator at another Ohio institution who left after his suggestions were continually blocked.

Mee, of SurvJustice, said these offices too often fail to put students first. Understandably, she said, they must follow their institution’s policies and cater to them, meaning a survivor might not want their rape reported but may find that higher administrators are informed anyway. It’s confusing for students whether the centers are independent -- overwhelmingly, they are not, Mee said.

Ohio State has brought in a Philadelphia-based law firm, Cozen O’Connor, to help develop a “redesigned, best-in-class model” for helping sexual assault survivors and to review its Title IX program.

The campus’s current sexual misconduct initiative, Buckeyes ACT, was born after a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights ended in 2014. That investigation was related to a sexual harassment scandal involving Ohio State’s marching band -- new members were given humiliating, sexually tinged nicknames and forced to mime sex acts. The university agreed to change a number of its Title IX policies as part of an agreement with the department.

“Our campuses must be safe places for all members of our community to learn, work and grow. We remain steadfastly and unwaveringly committed to this goal,” President Michael V. Drake said in a statement last month.

Carter said what campuses should do in re-evaluating their programs is to first survey the campus -- get an idea of the barriers students face in reporting sexual assaults, and design around those responses. Ohio State published its third campus climate survey in September.

“There is no cookie-cutter response,” he said. “All institutions should do this. There are certain basic things to do to comply with Title IX and the Clery Act, but those are compliance. It’s the foundation. And not the solution, which goes beyond compliance.”

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Authors discuss new book on how colleges can diversify their faculties

Mar, 10 Jul 2018 - 02:00

Many college leaders profess that they are committed to diversifying their faculties. But results are decidedly mixed. A new book, An Inclusive Academy: Achieving Diversity and Excellence (MIT Press), suggests that colleges need to be doing much more than they are now if they are to succeed. The authors are Abigail J. Stewart, the Sandra Schwartz Tangri Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan, and Virginia Valian, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Linguistics and Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Via email, they responded to questions about their book.

Q: These days so many colleges say they are deeply committed to diversifying the faculty. Your book suggests otherwise. Why do you think colleges aren't matching their statements with actual actions?

A: We think that, by and large, colleges are sincere in their commitment to diversifying the faculty. Several factors stand in the way of their following through on that commitment. We highlight only a few here.

First, people genuinely aren't sure what to do; they especially aren't sure where to start. They tend to start with actions like developing mentoring programs. Mentoring is useful, and we describe what we think are effective programs in our book, but mentoring doesn’t get to the heart of institutional procedures that make diversifying the faculty difficult. Second, there is a belief in the essential goodness of the institutions and their procedures, which can lead to anxiety that changing them will risk their good qualities. Third, individuals don't realize how their own actions and features of everyday institutional life can create an environment that is more or less inclusive. Fourth, it takes a continual effort on multiple fronts to change institutions. There's no single action one can take once and for all that fixes the problem. So often people get discouraged before they see that the actions they are taking are having good effects!

Q: Some colleges have much more success in some disciplines (education and some humanities fields). Your book suggests that these efforts must be across the board. Why is that important?

A: There are two different issues to think about in your question. Can we learn from successes in some fields how to diversify others? The answer to this is yes, but only a little. For one thing, very few fields have racial-ethnic diversity that reflects our population; the successes are mainly in gender diversity. So virtually all fields need to be more inclusive. In addition, there are likely different factors at work in different fields, and they need to be evaluated carefully. Which brings us to the second question: Are some of the problems beyond the disciplines? We think the answer is yes; institutions of higher education share some common practices and procedures that we believe hamper efforts toward greater inclusion in all fields. It makes sense to look for institution-level solutions for those.

Q: Search committees have tremendous power in hiring faculty members. How can colleges make sure their search committees are casting a wide net for talent?

A: Start by considering how you define your position; we recommend a broad description. We recommend that because you will get a broader range of talent and you will learn what new areas -- areas that you might not have considered -- are developing. Search committees also should be deliberate about using criteria that they debate and agree on in advance of reviewing any candidates, and should adopt procedures that ensure that they assess all the candidates in terms of all of those criteria. And they should be careful to avoid substituting proxies for excellence (such as judgment of the prestige of their adviser) for evaluations of excellence (their own review of the candidate’s work).

Q: How do you answer those who say "we just can't find qualified" candidates of certain groups?

A: Indeed! This is the most common response we hear. Our easy answer is look harder -- women and people of color are there. Our more complicated answer is to learn what the potential applicant pool looks like so that you can at least match the pool's percentages. We are very data oriented. We provide a sample form that the University of Michigan supplies departments with; it has information about the pool. Then you have to figure out how to encourage applications from groups that might be skeptical about your sincerity, following up with phone calls.

Q: Are there efforts you have noted at any colleges that have made a real impact? Can you describe what made a difference?

A: Different efforts will work in different places. The University of Michigan has had great success with its STRIDE program, where two or three well-respected faculty who know the literature, despite coming from many disciplines, present cross-departmental workshops to those who are searching and bring them up to speed. Another successful practice is short list review: deans at some institutions have turned down requests to interview candidates when departments have not shown a wide range of potential candidates. Deans have also offered extra funds to departments to bring in more candidates so that the short list will be more diverse.

Q: Nationally, and not just in higher education, we seem to be in a period of increased tensions over race, with national leaders using decidedly noninclusive rhetoric, and campuses regularly facing racial incidents. Is the work to diversify the faculty more difficult in this environment?

A: We would turn this question around. Faculty have the opportunity right now to use questions about race, ethnicity and gender as a way to educate themselves and their students. Above all, faculty are committed to the ideas of fairness and merit. Yet they do not necessarily know how to make fair and impartial evaluations. Ironically, faculty believe so much in their own fairness that they do not see where their judgments are in error. In our book, we review data on evaluations that show what kinds of mistakes are likely.

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When digital humanities meets activism

Lun, 09 Jul 2018 - 02:00

As stories of immigrant children separated from their parents after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border dominated headlines last month, one question came up repeatedly: Where are the children being held?

Immigrant rights advocates, civil liberties groups, federal lawmakers and state governors all demanded answers and tried to get the information in their own individual ways. But a team of scholars set out to find out definitively by mapping the locations of federal and private juvenile detention facilities across the country over a six-day period.

Their data mapping project, Torn Apart/Separados, quickly captured the imagination of academics and gained national media attention. Efforts to expand the project and have it peer reviewed are ongoing, and the organizers are seeking volunteers to help.

Roopika Risam, a member of the mapping team and an assistant professor of English at Salem State University, said she anticipated a strong reaction to the project because of the “timely, political and heartbreaking” subject matter. But what Risam did not expect was the strong reaction the project received from other digital humanities scholars and the sense of vindication and validation of the value of their work.

"I was blown away by the overwhelming sense from digital humanities scholars that the project and the Wired article [that ran about the project] has made an important statement about why digital humanities has significant value as a humanistic approach,” she said.

The Wired article described the team behind Torn Apart as "part of a growing vanguard" of interdisciplinary researchers combining "21st-century technical skills and classical research practices to do a new kind of cultural interpretation -- and sometimes activism."

The Torn Apart team themselves are also making the case for the importance of their work, describing it as revealing "a shadowy network of government facilities, subcontractors from the prison-industrial complex, 'non-profit' administrators paid over half a million dollars a year, and religious organizations across the country, that, together, prop up the immigrant detention machine."

The reception to the project is a welcome and unexpected shift; digital humanities scholars are more accustomed to their field being criticized. For example, in a recent article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, literary and legal scholar Stanley Fish described the field as “anti-humanistic” and poor value for money.

“When the considerable machinery of the digital humanities is cranked up, the product it generates is interpretively inert,” wrote Fish.

Risam said other digital humanities scholars now talk about Torn Apart as a response to “hit pieces” on their field. Dhanashree Thorat, a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Kansas, described the project in a tweet as “timely, activist and engaged” and “everything that I would like digital humanities to be.”

Bharat Vankat, assistant professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Oregon, tweeted that he had "often had doubts about digital humanities" but that this project had "put them to rest."

Torn Apart is not the first project with a social justice mission that the team has worked on. Columbia University’s Group for Experimental Methods in the Humanities, known as XPMethod, led efforts to map areas of Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Maria, and to teach coding to inmates at Rikers Island correctional facility, among other projects.

Manan Ahmed, associate professor of history at Columbia, said that he and colleagues Alex Gil and Dennis Tenen founded XPMethod in part in response to “standard critiques” of digital humanities in the academy.

“We think there are better ways of being and doing digital history, digital humanities, activism and scholarship,” said Ahmed.

A focus of XPMethod is “rapid prototyping and deployment,” said Ahmed. Collective research efforts, which involve academics from other institutions as well as artists and activists, are organized into "researchathons" or "mapathons." The group exists on volunteer labor and doesn’t have any formal funding, but it does meet once a week in a space provided by Columbia University Libraries.

Producing results fast is important because many in the group have other academic responsibilities, said Ahmed.

“Speed, minimal computing and collaborative work are things we admire and can find time to do,” he said.

Jacqueline Wernimont, assistant professor of English at Arizona State University and director of Nexus Lab, a digital research co-op that brings together scholars, artists and activists, said that rapid-response style projects like the “amazing and much needed” Torn Apart project are unusual because university systems “aren’t designed to support nimble scholarship” or respond in near real time to human rights crises.

There are, however, a number of “exemplary” digital humanities projects currently underway that, like Torn Apart, are “responding to our contemporary moment,” albeit over longer time scales, she said. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, concerned about what might happen to public climate change data under the Trump administration, set out to copy and store it as part of a project called Data Refuge.

Other projects such as the Latino Pacific Archive and Black Quotidian are responding to the rise of white nationalism by “documenting the long history of everyday contributions by people of color and immigrants here in the U.S.,” said Wernimont.

“There is real depth of work in these areas that I think much of the popular discussion of digital humanities misses,” said Wernimont. “These are all scholars doing innovative digital work, some of it historical and some contemporary, but all in the service of responding to a 21st-century issue or need.”

Wernimont noted that there has always been a social justice element within digital humanities.

“Some of the oldest and most well-known projects like The Orlando Project and the Women Writers Project have always been engaged,” she said. “They are more historically oriented but also addressing a need.”

Maria Cecire, assistant professor of literature at Bard College and founding director of the Center for Experimental Humanities, also works at the intersection of digital humanities and activism. She sees digital humanities as a way of “breaking down boundaries” and engaging with communities that aren’t often heard.

Like Wernimont, Cecire doesn’t consider socially engaged work as something on the fringe of the digital humanities. “A lot of scholars are focusing their work on how to be part of a better world,” she said.

She cites the work of her colleague Susan Merriam as an example. Merriam has been driving around New York State in a "mobile history van" collecting stories from often ignored members of rural and urban communities near Bard's campus. Collection of these “microhistories” isn’t timely in the way that Torn Apart was, but is “timelessly important,” said Cecire, as it recognizes “that people outside the academy are important stakeholders with much to contribute to our humanistic conversations.”

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After rebuke from Congress, Education Department suspends reshuffling of defaulted student loans

Lun, 09 Jul 2018 - 02:00

The Department of Education planned this month to begin reshaping the role of private debt collection firms in handling student loans by pulling defaulted borrower accounts from a handful of large private contractors.

Lawmakers who control the department’s budget had other ideas.

After a recent Senate spending package warned the department against dropping the debt collectors, the plan is on hold. And it’s not clear how those companies will figure into the Trump administration’s proposed overhaul of student loan servicing.

Private loan servicers handle payments from borrowers on their student loans and provide information on payment plan options. When borrowers go more than 270 days without making a payment on their loans, they are considered to be in default. Those companies are tasked with collecting on more than $84 billion in defaulted student loan debt.

The tactics and performance of debt collectors have come under attack from Democrats and consumer advocates. And the Education Department has been involved in a years-long legal dispute over contract awards for the collectors. But the Trump administration, in a resolution of that legal fight, in May said it planned to cancel the entire debt collection solicitation. (A separate contract award for "small business" firms was not affected.)

Those five firms last month received notice from the department that it planned to start withdrawing tens of thousands of existing borrower accounts beginning July 3. The accounts would be reassigned to 11 companies designated as “small business” firms with a contract that lasted two additional years.

Observers in the industry warned the sudden transfer of accounts would disrupt relationships with borrowers looking to rehabilitate loans and make progress fixing their credit. And they said it could mean thousands of job losses at the companies losing those accounts.

Members of Congress, who have already expressed concerns about aspects of the department’s so-called NextGen loan servicing system, warned in separate appropriations bills against the move. A spending bill approved by the Senate appropriations committee included language directing the department not to pull accounts from debt collectors. And it encourages the department to extend current debt collection contracts set to expire next year.

The week after Senate appropriators voted the bill out of committee, and just before it planned to start reassigning borrower accounts, the department notified collections firms it was postponing that step.

The Senate legislation isn’t close to being signed into law. But Colleen Campbell, associate director of the postsecondary education program at the Center for American Progress, said its plans were likely affected by the language from lawmakers.

“If we have appropriations language that they feel contradicts what they planned on doing, I think that definitely is something that could be motivating their behavior here,” she said.

Campbell, who has called for the federal government to remove private debt collectors from the student loan system, said the Trump administration’s notice that it would reassign borrower accounts shows what could be expected from the NextGen system.

The department’s May notice that it would cancel all debt collection contracts said it would increase outreach to borrowers who become delinquent on their loans and that it expects those changes to reduce the overall number of borrowers in default.

It did not make any officials available from the Office of Federal Student Aid, which oversees debt collectors, to discuss those plans or the withdrawal of defaulted borrower accounts. An FSA spokeswoman said the office couldn’t offer details on the process or comment on whether lawmakers’ concerns led the department to hit pause on the reassignment of borrower accounts.

“The recall of accounts from the [private collection agencies] is temporarily postponed to ensure an efficient transition,” the spokeswoman said.

Similar scrutiny from Capitol Hill earlier this year led the department to delay the rollout of a pilot program for a debit card to disburse federal aid money.

Student advocates who have been critical of debt collectors had their own concerns about what the sudden transfer of accounts would mean for student borrowers whose loans are in default. Persis Yu, director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project at the National Consumer Law Center, said the opacity of the process is itself concerning.

“I absolutely applaud the department for recognizing this is a model that doesn’t work and saying we need something different,” she said. “I am very concerned about the lack of transparency and with figuring out what that something different is.”

Yu said serious disruption for borrowers occurred when Direct Loan Servicing Center lost a contract to handle federal direct loans to a handful of loan servicers, including FedLoan Servicing, Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Nelnet and Navient.

“They need strong oversight. The department hasn’t historically been great at that,” she said. “Will borrowers be lost in the shuffle? I think that’s a big possibility.”

The department has said it plans to reduce defaults in the future partly by undertaking more engagement of student borrowers when they become delinquent on their loans.

The removal of the debt collectors would also mean the loss of institutional knowledge of that loan market, said Tim Fitzgibbon, a former senior vice president of the National Council for Higher Education Resources, who led the group’s default and debt management efforts.

“They really are regulated by multiple parties. They're very attuned to what the consumer protections are. These are time-proven experts in their professions,” he said. “I would encourage the department to take advantage of private sector expertise that's built up over the last 30 years instead of opting for a one-size-fits-all approach.”

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San Francisco State finds evidence that ethnic studies students do better

Lun, 09 Jul 2018 - 02:00

Racial tensions and culture wars on many college campuses have often led some to propose that colleges add ethnic studies, while others have challenged the existence of these courses. Meanwhile, the data show that students in these classes at one university have improved or better outcomes than their peers.

New data from an evaluation of San Francisco State University's ethnic studies courses found that by passing just one class, students improved their overall performance across the campus.

The data compiled by the college's Division of Institutional Analytics found that ethnic studies majors in general graduate at a rate about 20 percentage points higher than non-ethnic studies majors. In 2010, ethnic studies majors had a six-year graduation rate of 77.3 percent, compared to a rate of 52.3 percent for nonmajors. SF State is unique in having the country's first and only freestanding college in ethnic studies.

The study also showed that students who enrolled in at least one ethnic studies class graduated at a higher rate than students who took no ethnic studies classes.

Ken Monteiro, the acting director of the César Chávez Institute at the university and former dean of the ethnic studies college, said the data point in one direction: "We would suggest more ethnic studies classes."

There are several reasons why this effect in improved outcomes happens in ethnic studies over other majors, he said.

"Ethnic studies faculty members spend more time on advising and supplemental education than faculty in other areas," Monteiro said. "We partner and try to offer wraparound services. We teach them information that directly relates to them and then teach [students] how to relate the information to them even if it's not literally related. And third, we teach critical thinking strategies to show them they can look at things from a different perspective."

Many of the ethnic studies students are also in SF State's Metro Academies College Success Program, which has seen its own success in increasing completion rates. The Metro program combines student services with a curriculum that emphasizes social justice. At SF State, Metro students have a 60 percent six-year graduation rate compared to 53 percent for the university.

But Matt Malkan, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a member of the California Association of Scholars, which is skeptical of some ethnic studies programs, said correlation shouldn't be confused for causation. Majoring in ethnic studies is easier than other majors like physics, he said in an email.

"One would have to control for the relative difficulty of the major programs chosen by these students to make any serious evaluation of this," said John Ellis, a chair of the California Association of Scholars and professor emeritus of German literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Malkan said he also questions the effects reported at San Francisco State when completing an ethnic studies course is required to graduate. For example, students can satisfy U.S. history requirements for graduation by passing one of a number of courses offered from within the College of Ethnic Studies.

"Any graduation requirement is a clear signpost of progress toward degree completion," he said. "Students who complete that requirement are also showing themselves more likely to finish college, and in a shorter time, compared with those who have still not yet managed to get around to getting that requirement done successfully."

But Monteiro said ethnic studies also works to protect students from the emotional distress they may feel even within the classroom.

"They see our classes as an oasis where they're not attacked or harmed, and it's easier to learn when you're not feeling under attack," he said, adding that those attacks -- also known as stereotype or identity threat -- can happen in physics or calculus courses where one may assume identity doesn't play a role.

The idea is that if you're a historically underrepresented person in an education setting, then you experience anxiety in that academic setting. So a woman in an all-male high-level math course may underperform if she senses gender bias, even if that bias isn't overt or malicious, said Thomas Dee, a professor and director of Stanford University's Center for Education Policy Analysis.

SF State is a diverse campus where about 30 percent of undergraduates identify as Latino, 27 percent as Asian, 19 percent as white and 5 percent as black. But in a paper published last year, SF State professors found stereotype threat affected black students in psychology courses, where they were in the minority, as opposed to those black students who were enrolled in Africana studies, where they were the majority.

A similar effect of ethnic studies courses improving outcomes for students was found at the high school level two years ago by Dee and other researchers at Stanford's Graduate School of Education. The study examined an ethnic studies pilot program in San Francisco high schools and found students' attendance, grades and number of course credits for graduation increased and improved.

"There is an extensive literature base demonstrating the effects of ethnic studies in K-12 and higher education that goes back a couple of decades," said Nolan Cabrera, an associate professor in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona. "Ethnic studies definitely need to expand. We're still exploring the underlying mechanisms, but the more students see themselves in the curriculum, the better they'll do. The more they see the relevance to their everyday lives, the more engaged they'll be, and that's what makes [ethnic studies] unique."

Despite the multiple studies that show the improvement students make when they take an ethnic studies course, the field continues to be under attack. Cabrera, for instance, has presented evidence defending the efficacy of Mexican-American studies in Arizona high schools, which led to a federal judge ruling that the law banning the courses was created and enforced with anti-Mexican-American hostility.

And two years ago the ethnic studies college at SF State was fighting to survive budget cuts.

"Either it doesn't exist or there are legislators trying to kill it and this data is not changing their minds," Monteiro said. "We say we're a fact-based society and evidence-based society, but we're trained to ignore facts if they don't help our agenda."

Dee said some of these same interventions used in ethnic studies, such as limiting stereotype threat and offering student support services, could apply in other fields to help students.

"This isn't just culture wars or identity politics," he said. "There's a sound theoretical foundation for why culturally relevant pedagogy can be effective."

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New presidents or provosts: Bentley Broward LSU-Alexandria Marshall Missouri State Ohio Saint Mary's Salisbury Spokane Tuskegee

Lun, 09 Jul 2018 - 02:00
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