Inside Higher Ed

Former Ohio State doctor abused nearly 200 young men with no consequences for decades

Mon, 2019-05-20 07:00

A former physician, now dead, at Ohio State University sexually abused at least 177 male students, likely more, during his two decades at the institution and faced no consequences until he was briefly suspended and then retired with an honorary title.

Administrators, coaches and students were aware of Richard Strauss’s actions -- fondling athletes’ genitals, performing sex acts on them and making lewd comments during exams -- but failed to act, according to an investigative report released Friday. Even when students told officials about Strauss, who died by suicide in 2005, those reports went unheeded. Ohio State’s investigation, conducted by Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie, describes an environment in which Strauss’s misdeeds were an “open secret” and athletes considered the abuse a form of “hazing” or a “rite of passage.”

Many see parallels between this case and other sprawling sexual abuse scandals by doctors at other universities -- Larry Nassar at Michigan State University and George Tyndall at the University of Southern Carolina. Nassar’s victims numbered in the hundreds and Michigan State settled with them for $500 million -- the largest payout related to sexual assault at an institution of higher education.

In the Strauss case, all of his victims were all young men -- men who were reluctant to come forward during the investigation, fearing, in part, the stigma around male sexual assault survivors, the report indicated. (In a separate case, men at USC have come forward alleging another physician sexually abused them.)

Trauma experts told Inside Higher Ed that the public often doesn’t take sex abuse allegations by men as seriously as women’s -- that men are expected to be able to “fight off” their perpetrator. But this stereotype reinforces men’s unwillingness to report sexual assaults -- and in this case, contributed to Strauss getting away with abuse for nearly his entire tenure. The power of these stereotypes was particularly strong given the victims were athletes.

“There are major differences in the stereotypes and assumptions made about male victims,” said Christopher Anderson, a trauma expert and member of the Board of Directors of MaleSurvivor, a nonprofit supporting male sex assault victims. “Among these, perhaps the biggest difference is the perception that any man who was abused must be weak, vulnerable, less of a man. In addition if the perpetrator is male, then toxic prejudice and homophobia can be a major stigma leading many victims to stay silent.”

Strauss began at Ohio State in 1978 as an assistant professor of sports management and began volunteering in the athletics department within months of his hiring. He rose in the ranks and eventually worked both in athletics and the student health center. As early as 1979, athletics staffers and students knew of his misconduct -- mostly lengthy and unnecessary physical exams that involved him fondling men, forcing them to have an erection, the report states. But complaints weren’t elevated outside the athletics department until 1996, following a cluster of incidents in the late '90s.

University officials twice conducted “investigations” -- the word is deliberately in quotes in the report because the inquiries did not nearly uncover the extent of Strauss’s abuse. In one case, a fencing coach reported Strauss to another official, who was dismissive of the accusations and said they were based on “unfounded rumors.” After the second investigation in 1996, Strauss was stripped of his duties in athletics and the health center but retained his professorship until his retirement in 1998, when he was granted an emeritus title, even after the university was aware of the allegations against him. The university has said it will remove the title. (The report does not name any employees discussed who are still at the university, only those who have left or died.)

Strauss opened an off-campus clinic in 1997 after failing to appeal his punishments to administrators. Ohio State had never reported him to the state medical board. He claimed to specialize in sexually transmitted diseases and urological problems, but investigators found that he continued to abuse young men who came into the clinic. The report describes the operation almost as a “free clinic.” Strauss seemed not to charge the men who came in, and when he did, the cash was kept in a lockbox.

Investigators interviewed more than 500 individuals, mostly students who were abused and former Ohio State employees. They found that 22 coaches were aware of Strauss’s actions. The report also notes that 22 of the 177 victims did not believe they had been abused, but consulting with experts, the investigators said Strauss’s exams with them went far beyond appropriate medical conduct.

Strauss’s actions tended to escalate over time. His victims said in interviews that his most egregious violations did not occur in their first encounter with Strauss, which the report said is typical of sexual abusers.

A former student reported to investigators that in his first year, during a physical, Strauss spent more than five minutes inspecting his genitals. Strauss asked the student out to dinner, and the student declined. Strauss commonly took students out to dinner and paid, the report states. When the student saw Strauss again, Strauss touched him with the intent to try to make him ejaculate, the student told investigators. During another examination, when the student had a sore throat, Strauss fondled him again -- for no discernible medical reason. And in their final encounter, Strauss performed oral sex on the student and took off his pants, which the student believed was so the student could reciprocate.

The student never reported the behavior, noting that “student athletes were generally expected to be the ‘manliest of men,’” the report states.

Strauss would shower with players, sometimes for up to 45 minutes at a time, rubbing his genitals. No other athletics staffer did so, which made athletes uncomfortable, the report states.

When his behavior was reported, it seemed not to matter. When another former student injured himself during his sophomore year, the student told another physician treating him about a prolonged examination that involved Strauss touching his genitals. The physician asked the student to repeat the story to the head team physician, and the student told investigators both men looked concerned. But neither seemed to do much with the information. Strauss called the student later that night to check in on his injury but did not bring up the student talking to his colleagues. Strauss kept his job.

After multiple students reported Strauss had abused them in the late '90s, the university investigated the allegations and chose not to allow Strauss to work in athletics or in the health center.

Debra Warner, a professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, and an expert in sexual abuse, said reports likely took so long to surface because society shames men who are vulnerable. The public -- wrongly -- considers men as hunters, protectors, she said, and not those who can be the victims of sexual violence.

“To say that they have been assaulted and victimized in any way shape or form, they are afraid about what everyone will think about them, that it will impact their future and their survival,” Warner said.

Jessica Davidson, the director of End Rape on Campus, said that Ohio State now must show how it will never allow such abuse to fester or go unnoticed again.

The university’s president, Michael V. Drake, issued a letter to the campus Friday, writing that the findings were “shocking and painful to comprehend.”

“On behalf of the university, we offer our profound regret and sincere apologies to each person who endured Strauss’ abuse,” Drake wrote. “Our institution’s fundamental failure at the time to prevent this abuse was unacceptable -- as were the inadequate efforts to thoroughly investigate complaints raised by students and staff members. This independent investigation was completed because of the strength and courage of survivors. We thank each of them for their willingness to share their experiences."

Ohio State currently faces three lawsuits from abuse victims.

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Fighting gender bias in student evaluations of teaching, and tenure's effect on instruction

Mon, 2019-05-20 07:00

Student evaluations of teaching -- which have been shown again and again to be subject to student biases, especially gender bias -- remain as controversial as ever. And two new studies of these evaluations, or SETs, are more fuel for the fire.

The first paper suggests that relatively simple changes to the language used in SETs can make a positive impact in assessments of female professors. Yet the authors warn that if these changes were widely adopted, students (and their biases) might adjust to the new system -- and the positive effect for female professors might wear off.

A second study finds that professors are seen by students as better teachers before they earn tenure. The authors say that this is not a reason to do away tenure entirely, just that increased job security inside or outside academe may come with decreased "quality of output."

Mitigating Gender Bias

The bias paper, published in PLOS ONE, cities experimental research showing that gender bias accounts for a up a 0.5-point negative effect for women on a five-point scale. And yet, it says, “there are few effective evidence-based tools for mitigating these biases.”

What if students were made aware of their potential biases, the authors wondered? While long-term reductions in student biases are beyond a simple intervention, they wrote, it may be possible to limit the immediate problem of biases in SET by “cuing students to be aware of their biases, providing motivation to not rely on them, and suggesting alternatives to their stereotypes.”

To test their idea, the authors conducted an experiment in pairs of large introductory courses in biology and American politics at Iowa State University last spring. All four sections were taught by white professors, allowing the researchers to eliminate effects from confounding racial biases. One section in each field was taught by a man and the other by a woman.

SETs at Iowa State are conducted online, from a link in students’ email. For each course in the study, students received one of two evaluation formats: the standard department format or the “treatment” evaluation. Students were randomized within courses, not across courses, to receive different evaluation formats so that professors could be compared to themselves, not other professors who may actually be better teachers.

Unlike the standard evaluation, the treatment evaluation included the following language, which the researchers expected would mitigate gender biases:

Student evaluations of teaching play an important role in the review of faculty. Your opinions influence the review of instructors that takes place every year. Iowa State University recognizes that student evaluations of teaching are often influenced by students’ unconscious and unintentional biases about the race and gender of the instructor. Women and instructors of color are systematically rated lower in their teaching evaluations than white men, even when there are no actual differences in the instruction or in what students have learned.

As you fill out the course evaluation please keep this in mind and make an effort to resist stereotypes about professors. Focus on your opinions about the content of the course (the assignments, the textbook, the in-class material) and not unrelated matters (the instructor’s appearance).

Among other questions, every student involved in the study was asked the following about their instructor, on a five-point scale:

  • Your overall rating of this instructor is?
  • What is your overall rating of the instructor’s teaching effectiveness?
  • And your overall rating of this course is?

Students were also asked about their gender, as is standard for Iowa State evaluations, allowing the researchers to examine that, as well. The authors guessed, based on existing literature, that male students would be more biased against female instructors than female students would be. The authors controlled for students' expected grades in a course.

What happened? The language seemed to have a small but significant, positive effect for female faculty members on all three questions -- and no effect for men. The answers to the overall evaluation of teaching were 0.41 points higher in the treatment condition. The difference in the means for the teaching effectiveness question were 0.30 points. For the overall evaluation of the course, the treatment condition was 0.51 points higher than the control.

Regarding the student gender hypothesis, the researchers found that the intervention had no effect on women’s evaluations of female professors. There was some evidence of an effect for male students rating female professors on overall rating of the course and the instructor, but not teaching effectiveness. A more advanced analysis reduced this effect, however.

Across courses, the effects of the evaluation language were “substantial in magnitude; as much as half a point on a five-point scale,” the paper says. “This effect is comparable with the effect size due to gender bias found in the literature. There is no evidence of a similar effect on the evaluation of male instructors. Given the outsized role SET play in the evaluation, hiring and promotion of faculty, the possibility of mitigating this amount of possible bias in evaluations is striking.”

Source: Peterson, PLOS ONE

A note of caution, however. “The implication of these results is that universities should adopt some form of this language to mitigate the gender biases in SET,” the study says, yet “we are somewhat uncertain about the broad applicability of these results.” Why? The effects observed “may be magnified by the unusual nature of the situation for the students,” meaning it’s possible that if an institution saw “widespread adoption of bias language students would be less likely to notice the language and its effects would lessen.”

Further research is needed, therefore, “to determine the most effective way to mitigate gender bias in SET on a large scale.”

Teaching and Tenure

And what about tenure’s effect on teaching -- at least students’ perceptions of it? The working paper on that topic involves 250 professors granted tenure over 11 years at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Together, the professors taught more than 6,000 courses to undergraduates and graduate students, and their many SETs of course included proxies for teaching effectiveness -- namely overall ratings for course and instructor.

All such questions are subjective and self-reported by students, the paper notes. But the authors say they looked “within instructors,” pre- and posttenure, “not across instructors,” for consistency.

Results of the instructors’ pre- and posttenure ratings show what the authors call “a small but persistent decrease” in the instructor over all and course over all score, equivalent to up to a sixth of a standard deviation.

Source: Gourley

While the results seems to show an “in-class behavioral change” in instructors after tenure, the paper says, there exist alternative explanations.

The authors were most concerned with the possibility that professors teach different courses after tenure. Yet the study’s most restrictive specification or step compared the same instructor pretenure and posttenure in the “exact same course, leaving few possible alternative explanations to a tenure mechanism.” The results are there are “qualitatively similar to the main set of results: instructors receive worse evaluations after tenure than they did prior.”

The researchers also found a statistically significant decrease in an instructor’s student-reported availability, instructor effectiveness and how much the student reported to have learned posttenure.

What Now?

David A. M. Peterson, professor of political science at Iowa State and lead author on the gender bias paper, said the biggest takeaway for higher ed is that a small, relatively easy-to-adopt intervention can produce “sizable changes” in evaluations of female faculty members.

At the same time, he said, “The concern we have is that the effects will be much smaller if the change is universally adopted.” More generally, “universities absolutely should not make this type of change and then assume that they have fixed the problem,” Peterson added.

Like many critics of student evaluations of teaching, Peterson also said SETs probably shouldn’t be used in high-stakes personnel decisions. They can be useful for “individual faculty members to get an assessment of their courses,” but are “quite problematic for comparing faculty to one another or to some abstract standard.”

Asked about possible other factors behind his findings, Patrick Gourley, assistant professor of economics at the University of New Haven, lead author of the posttenure paper, reiterated that the strength of his research design is that it’s not comparing scores across professors.

“We even take into account the possibility that professors may teach different courses after gaining tenure. Still, the negative impact exists,” he said, adding, “Why else would professors suddenly change their teaching six to eight years after starting a faculty position?”

Gourley said that it’s possible that professors have a first child or more children as soon as they get tenure and “have less time to devote to teaching.” But even that would be an indirect effect of tenure.

Tenure critics will certainly seize on this research as evidence that tenured professors are “deadwood” -- even if other research on other dimensions of faculty work contradict that.

Asked about how his findings should be interpreted, Gourley said he’s currently working toward tenure himself and that the tenure debate is “complex with many good arguments on both sides.” So his own findings should “should first be kept in context,” in that the “magnitude of our effect is small,” he said.

Gourley also noted that the finding is based on “observation of student-perceived teacher quality,” and not an “objective measure of how much a student is learning.” And while it seems likely that professors work harder on teaching while on the tenure track, given the “large benefit” of getting tenure, he said, “the effect we find represents a reversion to what would have happened had no tenure system existed in the first place.”

In other words, he explained, “perhaps the tenure system makes teachers better at the beginning of their career than they would have been otherwise.” Gourley also noted that service requirements typically increase significantly posttenure, partially counterbalancing the negative effect on teaching.

“Those caveats aside, this does need to be included as a possible cost of the tenure system, and should be viewed as one of many in the list of costs and benefits.”

Gourley found no evidence of gender bias in his study. But he said it wasn’t surprising with respect to this particular paper, in that it would imply that students “view the tenure-induced teaching change in professors to be larger in one gender than in the other.”

To the contrary, he said, most students aren’t aware of who’s tenured and who isn’t.

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Morehouse commencement speaker promises to repay debt of all graduates

Mon, 2019-05-20 07:00

Robert F. Smith, a billionaire who is the chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, stunned the 396 graduates he addressed at Morehouse College Sunday when he pledged to repay all their student debt.

The vast majority of Morehouse graduates borrow. While the historically black college has not figured out the exact amount that will be involved, Smith said he would pay up to $40 million to meet his pledge.

Graduates broke into cheers when Smith closed his graduation speech with the announcement. College officials standing behind Smith seemed surprised by the news.

Smith, in his speech, talked of the discrimination black people continue to face in the United States and urged the graduates to fight it -- pushing for political change and economic advancement. Smith said Morehouse graduates have an obligation to work on behalf of black people who do not have their advantages.

"You must become a community builder," he said. "You don't want to just be on the bus. You want to own it and drive it and pick up as many people as you can," he said.

He introduced the comments on his gift by saying that he was going "to put a little fuel in your bus."

Smith challenged Morehouse alumni to build on his gift. The Class of 2019 "is my class," he said. But other alumni need to help other alumni and students.

Only by doing so, he said, will the United States become a place where access to education is determined by "the fierceness of your intellect."

Earlier in his address, he urged students to work hard and to be deliberate. "Be intentional about the words you speak, how you define yourself, the people you spend time with," he said.

On social media, graduates and those with them at the time of the speech expressed joy.

Just spoke to 22-year-old @Morehouse finance major from Atlanta who had drawn up Excel spreadsheet to figure out how he would pay off $200,000 in student loans. He didn't believe it when @RFS_Vista said he would pay debt for him and his classmates. He cried at the news.

— Errin Haines Whack (@emarvelous) May 19, 2019

Many were writing that they had not known how they would repay their debt.

If the spending on repaying the debt hits $40 million, the gift would be the largest in Morehouse's history.

Politicians are also taking note, with some suggesting that this could provide a way to see what happens when talented African Americans are able to launch their careers without worrying about student loans.

Every Morehouse Class of 2019 student is getting their student debt load paid off by their commencement speaker.

This could be the start of what’s known in Econ as a ‘natural experiment.’ Follow these students & compare their life choices w their peers over the next 10-15 years.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 19, 2019

Smith's promise to Morehouse graduates is in some ways the flip side of the I Have a Dream program created by the late Eugene M. Lang in 1981. Speaking at the elementary school he had once attended, he promised to pay for college for everyone there that day, as long as they finished high school and applied to a college. The idea quickly caught on and spread. It may be a sign of the times -- with student debt worrying so many new graduates -- that Smith's promise to a class was as its members were finishing college but worried about repaying student loans.

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GOP tax law included surprise tax hike for college students

Mon, 2019-05-20 07:00

A provision in the Republican tax law passed in 2017 could actually mean a hike in the tax bill for many low-income families with a student receiving scholarships for college, a top higher ed group warned lawmakers this month.

Scholarships or grants for nontuition expenses like room and board have traditionally been subject to the same marginal tax rate paid by parents. So low-income students could expect to pay low taxes. But the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act applies the same high marginal tax rates for those scholarships as it does for trusts and estates.

“Now these students are being taxed at the same rates as wealthy individuals,” wrote Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, in a letter to key lawmakers.

The issue, which was first reported by The New York Times, only recently began to register with college groups as the filing deadline approached for the 2018 tax period, the first since the law took effect.

Lawmakers say they’re planning to take quick action on the issue. Representative Richard Neal, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, will introduce an amendment this week to restore the previous tax rates, a spokeswoman said. Neal plans to attach the amendment to a retirement savings bill being considered by the House that has bipartisan support. That fix would apply retroactively, the spokeswoman said.

The Senate finance committee did not respond to a request for comment. But a spokesman for Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the committee, told the Times that the Iowa Republican wanted to quickly reach an agreement to fix the issue.

In the run-up to the passage of the tax law in 2017, higher ed groups focused on stripping out provisions that explicitly targeted higher ed benefits. Early versions of the legislation, for example, would have eliminated tax deductions for graduate students and student borrowers.

The higher ed lobby also tried unsuccessfully to block the creation of an endowment tax hitting the wealthiest private institutions. ACE and private college leaders have backed legislation to repeal the tax on endowments.

But the change to taxes on student scholarships flew under the radar -- partly because it was so arcane.

“That’s what happens when you’re writing a very complicated bill and it gets passed very quickly,” said Steven Bloom, director of government and public affairs at ACE. “It’s inevitable that these technical problems are going to surface later.”

The tax hike for low-income families could be substantial, as Mitchell laid out in his letter to lawmakers. A two-parent household with an income of $50,000 could face an additional $1,200 tax on a full scholarship to a private university, he said. And the higher the amount of the scholarship, the larger the tax bill that would hit those families.

The changes to the so-called kiddie tax on need-based scholarships and grants don’t just affect low-income students. They also affect college athletes on full scholarship as well as Native American students receiving some tribal payments and “gold star” families receiving survivor benefits.

And the higher tax rates aren’t just a challenge for students on scholarship at private colleges. David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges, said students at two-year colleges would be taxed on the portion of their Pell Grants that helps meet living expenses.

Republicans, who controlled the House and Senate when the bill was passed in 2017, had argued the new law would achieve a long-held goal of simplifying the tax code, including the kiddie tax, which was originally created to prevent wealthy individuals from lowering their tax hit by steering income to their children.

But congressional GOP officials told the Times that higher tax rates on college scholarships were an unintended consequence.

Brian Flahaven, senior director of advocacy at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, said donors to scholarship programs expect that their contributions will go to students to actually afford college, not create bigger tax burdens for their families.

“There seems to be a recognition that, yeah, this is something that needs to be fixed,” he said.

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Another alleged case of censorship roils China studies

Mon, 2019-05-20 07:00

In yet another case of alleged censorship in the China studies field, a scholar says a journal editor censored his book review by requesting the deletion of an opening paragraph that contextualized the book in light of Chinese Communist Party policy toward members of the Uighur ethnic minority group in the region of Xinjiang. Human rights groups estimate that China has detained as many as one million Uighurs in camps as part of a mass “re-education” drive aimed at forcing the assimilation of Uighurs and other Muslim-majority groups.

The scholar, Timothy Grose, an assistant professor of China studies at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, says the requested deletions -- and the refusal over multiple months to publish the piece after he did not consent to them -- constitute an "open-and-shut" case of censorship, and he has noted that the editor in chief of the journal is on record defending Chinese government policy in Xinjiang.

The journal’s editor in chief, Han Xiaorong, a professor and head of the department of Chinese culture at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, says he did suggest the deletions but denies that his proposed edits constituted censorship. Han said the review was not published because miscommunications between him and the book review editor led to the commission of two reviews, including the review in question, that were not “directly relevant” to the journal’s theme.

The case of alleged censorship involves a new journal, China and Asia: A Journal in Historical Studies, published by Brill, a Dutch publisher of more than 270 journals. Grose said he was commissioned by the journal to write a review of the book Oil and Water: Being Han in Xinjiang (University of Chicago Press), an ethnographic study of members of the majority Han ethnic group who have settled in Xinjiang, written by the anthropologist Tom Cliff.

Grose opened his review of Cliff’s book with a paragraph discussing the detention of Uighurs in "concentration re-education centers" because, he wrote, he believed Cliff’s argument "afforded much-needed clarity to the confounding situation in the region." He submitted the review Nov. 7. The next day he received an email from the book review editor saying the editorial staff had suggested a "minor change": the deletion of the first paragraph, as well as two subsequent sentences (see image of the deletions above).

“I was more confused than upset,” Grose wrote in an account he published last week on the Los Angeles Review of Books’ website “I spent the evening and next morning trying to make sense of this editorial decision, before responding in an email asking for clarification and expressing my concerns over censorship. The book review editor forwarded my note to the editor in chief of the journal, Han Xiaorong.”

“After waiting over a month for the editor’s response, to no avail, I sent a follow-up email in mid-December. The book review editor responded within a week and expressed serious doubt over the possibility of publishing the piece. He did not offer specific reasons behind the decision.” After three more months of silence, Grose wrote, he took to Twitter on April 5 to offer the review to another outlet. The Asia Dialogue, an online magazine published by the University of Nottingham’s Asia Research Institute, published it three days later.

Any book review editors want my review praising @TMJCliff's Oil & Water? A @BrillPublishing journal refused to publish it because I would not agree to delete my remarks on the mass detention of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the region. DM me.

— Timothy Grose (@GroseTimothy) April 5, 2019

The editor in chief of the journal, Han, acknowledged in a written response to Grose’s article that he suggested the deletions, but he disputed that the suggestions constituted censorship.

“I did suggest the removal of the first paragraph as well as the first two sentences of the second paragraph of Tim’s review, because I believed the views expressed about the situation in Xinjiang were primarily of a political nature and were about a current event that was still developing,” Han wrote. “It is typical for an academic book review to start with the book rather than a political message. If censorship was my aim, I would have rejected the review immediately without revisions, because the book under review and the rest of the book review were also critical of China’s practices.”

Han also cited “miscommunications between our book review editor and me” in saying that the journal acquired two reviews for its inaugural issue “that were not directly relevant to our journal’s central theme, which is China’s historical relations with other Asian countries. This is why I did not include these two reviews in our first issue … My plan was to try to find more suitable journals for these two reviews, and, if that failed, we would consider publishing them in future issues.” Han apologized for what he said in hindsight was poor communication between Grose, the book review editor and him.

As Grose has noted, Han recently wrote an op-ed in which he defended Chinese Communist Party policies in Xinjiang on counterterrorism-related grounds. Han wrote that foreign media, government officials and scholars who criticize the Chinese government for its policies in Xinjiang “have never attempted to understand why Xinjiang is taking these unique anti-terrorism measures; they also almost never mention the positive outcomes brought about by these anti-terrorism measures.”

“In Xinjiang and all other regions under the threat of terrorism, the government and the people must face the difficult decision: whether the personal freedom of a few should be traded for everyone’s right to survive,” Han wrote (translated from Chinese). “The most basic human right is to live in an environment in which one does not have to fear for the life and safety of oneself and one’s family and friends. In order to protect this right, sometimes it is necessary to forfeit some secondary rights. In 2001, after Sept. 11, the United States immediately strengthened airport security check measures and established the Department of Homeland Security, which had the right to restrict the freedoms of certain people; this is a similar decision."

Han said via email the question of what his views on Xinjiang are and the question of whether he censored Grose are two separate issues -- and that "to make false connections between the two is a form of censorship in itself." He asked, "To trace meticulously what someone has written or spoken in order to prove that someone's guilt[y] is the worst form of censorship, isn't it?"

“My views on Xinjiang may differ from those of Tim,” Han wrote in his published response to Grose’s allegations, “but that does not mean the suggested revision of his book review and the delay of its publication were due to censorship.”

Grose said he thinks this is an "open-and shut case" of an editor deliberately censoring his review. “He [Han] incriminates himself in his response to my rendering of the events that transpired by saying, yes, initially I did delete the entire first paragraph and the first few sentences of the second paragraph because I thought they were political,” Grose said. “To me, that is the epitome of censorship when you find something political and you don’t agree with those politics and you decide not to let an individual express those ideas.”

“To me it wasn’t political at all,” Grose continued. “I’m not just a China scholar. My expertise is Xinjiang and Uighurs, and Tom Cliff’s argument is very, very relevant to what’s going on in Xinjiang. It’s about how the CCP formulates its policy, how it privileges the comforts of one group of people over the other and also how it forms Xinjiang’s relationship with the rest of China and how it continues to make this an ‘other’ place compared to the rest of China.”

Kevin Carrico, a senior lecturer in Chinese studies at Monash University, in Australia, said it seemed to him an “extremely clear-cut case of censorship … Han claims that the reference to Xinjiang’s concentration camps at the beginning of Grose’s review is 'political' and thus somehow inappropriate,” Carrico wrote in a Listserv post. “But as someone who writes a fair amount of book reviews, I’ve never encountered an editor who was resistant to linking a book review to pressing current affairs. This applies even to journals focused on history. Books are, after all, read in the context of the world as it is today, and I find it frankly impossible to read Cliff’s book without thinking about the ongoing tragedy in Xinjiang.”

Grose criticized the publisher, Brill, for the slowness of its response, and said the last communication he received from Brill prior to publication of his LA Review of Books piece last week was on April 22.

Jasmin Lange, chief of publishing at Brill, said the publisher had reached out to both Grose and Han for their views on the situation and would assess the information provided. "It was certainly not a matter of not taking this seriously; we simply had to gather all the information,” Lange said.

Lange said Brill first learned about the case on April 7 through Grose’s posting on social media and immediately contacted him. "One day later Timothy Grose published his book review elsewhere, which meant that we could not intervene in the publishing process anymore," she said over email. "During the last few weeks, we were in a process of gathering information. We have first received a report and copies of emails from Timothy. Yesterday [Thursday] we have also received a report from the editor as well as all email correspondence between him and the author. We will review this information and investigate whether our publication ethics have been breach[ed]. If our publication ethics have been breached, we will not hesitate to take any necessary action. Commercial considerations do not play a role in such an evaluation."

This is the second case involving a Brill journal and alleged censorship in the last month; in April Brill announced that it would end its partnership with a Beijing-based press after scholars reported that an entire article was removed from a Brill-affiliated journal at the request of Chinese censors. In 2017, Cambridge University Press briefly blocked access in mainland China to more than 1,000 journal articles in the prestigious journal The China Quarterly before reversing course and restoring access to the articles, which dealt with sensitive topics in China like the Cultural Revolution, Tibet, Tiananmen Square and the pro-democracy movement, and Xinjiang.

The German publisher Springer Nature has stood by its decision to block access to certain journal articles in China, saying it must comply with local rules and regulations in the countries in which it publishes. More recently it came to light that Chinese importers had stopped buying whole journals published by the English publisher Taylor & Francis due to content the government found objectionable.

Jonathan Sullivan, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham and editor of the Asia Dialogue, which ultimately published Grose's piece, said he has had his papers banned in China in the Cambridge University Press and Springer censorship incidents. "I regret that some of my work on China is not available in China, but I would be much more concerned if my work had (hypothetically) been rejected from these journals because a (hypothetical) publisher or editor deemed it to be politically expedient [with regard to] China to do so," Sullivan said.

"China is using subtle and not so subtle, direct and indirect methods to influence the information environment outside of China, but more insidious still is the intervention of actors making decisions for fear of upsetting China," Sullivan said via email. "This kind of self-censoring is a risk to the academic study of China, and there is survey evidence to show that it is emerging in China scholars’ thinking. Therefore, wherever we see attempts to curtail our freedom of inquiry and dissemination we need to push back, because we cannot allow modification of our work (by ourselves or by others) out of political expediency to become normalized."

Sullivan continued, "Tim was reviewing a book about Xinjiang and thus it made sense to provide contextualization in the opening paragraph. The unavoidable context for any contemporary piece of work about Xinjiang is the current government’s policy of systematically repressing Uighur Muslims. There is no room for doubt on this issue -- no one, not even those who seek to justify the policy on counterterror grounds, denies what is happening on the ground in Xinjiang. I have seen the (I think editor’s) argument that invoking the current situation was not relevant to the book review, given that the book does not itself deal centrally with the current policies.

"This is a spurious argument -- and especially untenable for a book review editor, because contextualization is part and parcel of reviewing. I don’t know the editor and don’t have any comment on their motivations. But when I heard about Tim’s experience, I had no qualms about publishing it on the Asia Dialogue digital platform at the University of Nottingham, which under my editorship routinely publishes pieces on issues the Chinese government deems ‘sensitive’ or unpalatable."

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Ohio State issues report on abuse of scores of former students by doctor

Fri, 2019-05-17 14:21

At least 177 former students at Ohio State University were abused by a doctor at the institution, an independent investigation commissioned by the university has concluded. The report was released Friday morning.

The abuse was by Richard Strauss, who was employed by the university as a doctor from 1978 to 1998. Strauss died in 2005.

Ohio State missed the chance to prevent much of the abuse, the report found. "University personnel at the time had knowledge of complaints and concerns about Strauss’ conduct as early as 1979 but failed to investigate or act meaningfully," said a statement from the university. "In 1996, Ohio State removed Strauss from his role as a physician in both the Department of Athletics and Student Health Services. His actions were reported to the State Medical Board of Ohio that same year. The report found that the university failed to report Strauss’ conduct to law enforcement. He was allowed to voluntarily retire in 1998 with emeritus status."

Ohio State currently faces three lawsuits from abuse victims.

The number of abuse victims and the failure of the university to prevent abuse are both consistent with long-term abuse by doctors at Michigan State University and the University of Southern California.

The abuse at Ohio State was all of male athletes. The executive summary of the investigation report says that Strauss's abuse ranged from "overt," such as "fondling to the point of erection and ejaculation," to more "subtle acts." The latter category includes requiring students to strip naked when there was no medical need to do so, or asking questions about students' sexual practices. Typically, the report found, the abuse "escalated over time." The university released the report with names redacted and a warning that the report contains explicit descriptions of sexual abuse.

Ohio State's president, Michael V. Drake, issued a letter to the campus Friday.

"The findings are shocking and painful to comprehend," Drake wrote. "On behalf of the university, we offer our profound regret and sincere apologies to each person who endured Strauss’ abuse. Our institution’s fundamental failure at the time to prevent this abuse was unacceptable -- as were the inadequate efforts to thoroughly investigate complaints raised by students and staff members. This independent investigation was completed because of the strength and courage of survivors. We thank each of them for their willingness to share their experiences."

Drake noted that the university has adopted many additional safeguards to prevent abuse in the years since Strauss was employed there.

"Issues of sexual misconduct and abuse challenge our society in real and important ways. We will continue to work to ensure that Ohio State is at the forefront of addressing these critical issues and enhancing the safety and well-being of our community," Drake said.

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Governing board at University of Mississippi debates professor's tweets

Fri, 2019-05-17 07:00

Governing boards typically rubber-stamp tenure bids for professors whose colleagues and administrators have already recommended them for promotion.

But the tenure bid of one University of Mississippi sociologist hung in the balance Thursday as the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning debated his record for two hours in a closed-door session. None of the other dozens of professors up for promotion triggered such a discussion.

James M. Thomas, the sociologist, was ultimately granted tenure -- with dissent, the board said in an announcement. The public notice didn’t refer to Thomas by name but made clear it was him in citing “recent concerns regarding certain statements by the professor on social media.”

In October, during the national debate over U.S. Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Thomas caught flak from Mississippi’s then president, Jeffrey Vitter, for tweeting, “Don’t just interrupt a senator’s meal, y’all.” At the time, several GOP figures -- including Texas senator Ted Cruz and White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders -- had been disrupted by public critics at restaurants, prompting discussions about whether that's acceptable.

Put “your whole damn fingers in their salads,” Thomas said. “Take their apps and distribute them to the other diners. Bring boxes, and take their food home with you on the way out. They don’t deserve your civility.”

Vitter soon appeared to criticize Thomas on his own Facebook page, writing that an unnamed professor’s social media post “did not reflect the values articulated by the university, such as respect for the dignity of each individual and civility and fairness.”

While “I passionately support free speech,” Vitter said, “I condemn statements that encourage acts of aggression.”

Thomas’s statement also received national media attention -- much of it negative. Mississippi state senator Chris McDaniel was among those who publicly urged Mississippi to punish Thomas, saying, “Another threat from another low-life liberal,” and, “It’s time for disciplinary action.”

Thomas, who’s said he received threats over his post, didn’t stop tweeting. He later said, “Run for office. Get elected. Pass legislation that harms large groups of people. And I will stick my whole foot in your lunch. Deal?”

The board said in its announcement that it examined whether “those statements were in keeping with the requirements for tenure” set by university policy. Those include the examining the "candidate's effectiveness in interpersonal relationships, including professional ethics and cooperativeness, in making decisions regarding tenure," it said.

The board said it was also mindful of the university's Statement Concerning Academic Freedom, which says, in part, that “As a person of learning and an educational officer, he/she should remember that the public may judge his/her profession and his/her institution by his/her utterances.” So “he/she should strive at all times to be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, [and] should show respect for the opinions of others,” notes the statement, which is inspired by widely followed standards of the American Association of University Professors.

In the end, though, the university’s endorsement of Thomas’s tenure “carried the greatest weight in the majority of the board's decision” to grant him tenure, the trustees said.

Many on social media have praised Thomas's achievements as a scholar and teacher, while also saying that the board's actions at its meeting and even its announcement will chill free speech going forward. Thomas's tenure never should have been in question, they said.

"At the end of the day, the university's governance systems should have been respected," Jonathan Friedman, project director for campus speech at PEN America, said on Twitter, for example. "Remiss that we have yet another instance of a public board in higher ed taking actions that will chill the public speech of scholars."

Friedman said later Thursday that the trustees may have been concerned with "public uproar over granting tenure to a professor whose social media posts have received considerable scrutiny. But they made the right choice in the end, affirming the importance of defending speech even when it is unpopular in some corners. If a single tweet can be used by political appointees to nullify an entire academic career, then what message does that send junior professors?" 

He added via email, "I fear the potential chilling effects of these actions, how they send the message that academics risk their careers if they express the 'wrong' political opinions."

Thomas said via email that he's "thankful for the university administration's support of my tenure and promotion. I'm disappointed the [board] moved to consider me separately and outside of public view, and am concerned about the precedent they've now set going forward."

A board spokesperson did not immediately share the vote tally for Thomas's tenure.

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Board chair of two-year college posted Islamophobic and anti-immigrant memes on social media

Fri, 2019-05-17 07:00

David Heyen is facing calls for his resignation just one month into his two-year term as chairman of the governing board of Lewis and Clark Community College, which is located in Illinois.

Several recent social media posts featuring Islamophobic and anti-immigrant memes and comments under Heyen’s name surfaced last week. In one post, Heyen appeared to support a comment that blames the recent measles and mumps outbreak on undocumented immigrants. He appeared to back a statement calling Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, who is Muslim, a “snake" in another post.

Heyen, who joined the board in 2017, was elected as its chairman last month. During a board meeting Tuesday, Heyen said he was “relatively new to the concept of social media” and shared some posts as a way to create a conversation on his personal Facebook page. Heyen refused to resign and a board vote to request that he remove himself failed, according to several news reports.

Administrators at Lewis and Clark were notified about the posts earlier this month. A statement from the college said Heyen's social media posts don't reflect the open-access and welcoming culture that exists at the two-year institution.

“The college is looking into this issue just as we would review any alleged conduct of a student, employee, board member, visitor or contractor,” the statement said. “These comments and posts do not represent the culture of Lewis and Clark.”

Hate speech remains an issue on college campuses. But relatively few incidents are reported, or at least become public, at community colleges. Only 9 percent of community colleges reported that an incident occurred on their campus in the last 24 months, according to the results of a survey on campus incidents by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Fund for Leadership, Equity, Access and Diversity, which is part of the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity.

Lewis and Clark doesn’t track how many immigrants or Muslim students it enrolls. But 23 of the roughly 15,000 students at the college are from other countries, Lois Artis, its vice president of administration, said in an email.

“The college continues to welcome immigrant and Muslim students, employees and visitors to its campus,” Artis said. “The Facebook posts of one individual will not change the welcoming and inclusive culture that has been built and sustained for the past 50 years on the campus of Lewis and Clark.”

During the Tuesday board meeting, faculty members, students and others called for Heyen to resign. (See below video.)

"The views expressed by Lewis and Clark board chair David Heyen are abhorrent to the Lewis and Clark Faculty Association," Mike Lemons, president of the faculty association, said in a statement. "Ours is a culture of respect and inclusivity, and we reject completely and without reservation any rhetoric which would make any of our students feel unwelcome. We serve a diverse community and population."

Lemons said faculty members believe Heyen is incapable of functioning as an effective leader and want him to resign not just as chairman but from the board.

"While he has every right to his opinion, such views are in direct conflict with our values as faculty," he said. "We repudiate them entirely."

Faizan Syed, executive director of the Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the organization was contacted by students and faculty members about Heyen's posts. CAIR-Missouri also has called for Heyen's resignation.

"Students and faculty are not just concerned about him targeting Muslims and his support for the Confederacy," Syed said. "Right now at Lewis and Clark, David Heyen and three other people recently elected have created a voting bloc that is more alarming than the posts."

During the Tuesday meeting, Heyen and the newly elected trustees appeared to alter board policies without discussion, Syed said, despite opposition and calls for more time to review the policies by three veteran trustees.

CAIR will continue to call for Heyen's resignation, he said, and will "actively work to continue this discussion at the next board meeting and raise awareness about what the board is doing."

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Inspector general dings federal process for verifying student aid

Fri, 2019-05-17 07:00

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Education Department’s process for verifying the accuracy of student aid applications has no reasonable assurance of identifying errors, a Thursday report from the department's inspector general found.

The report is the inspector general's first look in several years at the process, which requires students to confirm the accuracy of their family’s financial information. But it backs up what financial aid administrators have reported recently about verification, which is widely seen as an obstacle for low-income students to get the assistance they need to attend college.

Colleges are supposed to use the verification process to make sure students are receiving the correct amount of federal aid. But additional bureaucratic hurdles can mean many students never complete the application process.

Among the issues identified by the inspector general: the Education Department hadn’t evaluated which income data it used to verify the accuracy of financial aid applications -- items like adjusted gross income, income taxes paid and the total number of family members in the household. But the department couldn't provide analysis showing that those data elements were most prone to introduce errors in a student aid award.

The department also hadn’t evaluated whether its target number of aid applications flagged for verification is appropriate. In each financial aid cycle, the Education Department seeks to verify 30 percent of all applications for federal student aid received. Federal officials identify those applications and task colleges with verifying students' family income. But the inspector general found that it hadn't evaluated whether that target was overly burdensome for colleges and students.

“It affirms what aid administrators have been reporting for years, which is that there’s a lack of robust analysis happening at the department to justify the verification gauntlet we put our least-advantaged students through,” said Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

A NASFAA survey of member institutions last year found that 84 percent of student aid applicants who went through verification saw either no change to their expected family contribution or a change so small it did not affect the size of their Pell Grants. At two-year colleges, which serve higher proportions of low-income students, 91 percent of aid applicants saw no change to their Pell award after verification.

The organization argued those survey results suggested verification rates were too high or that algorithms used by the Education Department to select aid applications were poorly targeted.

But the verification process has a significant impact on whether a student actually enrolls in college, according to surveys by aid administrators. The National College Access Network found that 25 percent of Pell-eligible students selected for verification in 2016-17 financial aid award cycle did not complete the process, derailing their applications for federal student aid, which the group calls "verification melt."

In the time period examined by the inspector general report, covering the 2015-16 and 2016-17 academic years, the verification rate actually spiked at many colleges. At some institutions, the number exceeded 70 percent.

Kim Cook, NCAN’s executive director, said it’s unclear why those spikes occurred. The process has often been opaque even to campus officials who work full-time on financial aid issues, she said.

“These are questions we’ve been asking and have really not had answers to,” Cook said. “Verification has been a black box.”

In responses submitted to the inspector general, the Office of Federal Student Aid said it had already made some significant improvements to the verification process. FSA chief operating officer Mark A. Brown said in an April 3 letter that the agency concurs with most of the findings but that its usefulness was limited because of changes made since the period reviewed.

FSA made two key changes during that time period, he said. Beginning in the fall of 2017, the agency expanded the number of statisticians who review verification models in real time.

The IG review also took place before the Education Department began using prior-prior-year income information for federal student aid applications, Brown wrote. That change boosted use of the IRS data retrieval tool, an online program that allows families to automatically import tax information already on file with the federal government into student aid applications. Use of the tool simplifies the verification process for many families, he wrote.

NASFAA’s Draeger, however, said that both the Education Department and Congress could take steps to improve verification requirements for students. The department should consult more closely with stakeholder groups on its verification process, he said. And legislation should allow more data sharing between federal agencies so students are not required to verify family income information themselves.

“We don’t have to keep asking low-income students to prove over and over again that they’re poor,” he said.

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George Washington University student files Clery Act complaint against institution

Fri, 2019-05-17 07:00

A George Washington University student has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, accusing the institution of violating the federal law that protects sexual assault survivors and requires colleges and universities to share information about sex-related crimes reported on their campuses.

The Washington-based law firm Fierberg National Law Group filed the complaint on behalf of Gillian Chandler in March. George Washington officials deemed a former student responsible for raping Chandler after she attended an off-campus party in 2015, blacked out and woke up as she was being sexually assaulted. Chandler said she believed she was drugged.

The complaint comes at a time when many of the federal rules around campus sexual assault are in flux. In 2017, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pulled back Obama-era policies around how colleges should investigate sexual violence. DeVos instead proposed regulations relating to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal anti-sex-discrimination law, that pundits said were far more lenient on those accused of rape. The proposed new Title IX rules, which were released last year, were met with scorn by survivor advocates and recently went through a public comment period -- the department has not yet approved them.

“Given that Title IX is being twisted to protect those accused rather than those victimized, many survivors are turning to the Clery Act Compliance Division, where campus safety is taken seriously,” said Laura Dunn, a lawyer with the Fierberg group.

Peter Lake, director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University, said that survivor advocates such as Dunn are likely testing DeVos’s resolve to enforce hard regulations. He said Congress may also ramp up its interest in how the department approaches its regulatory authority and uses it.

“I imagine DeVos will risk being critiqued for not investigating or enforcing regulatory mandates especially in the face of public utterances favoring regulations over mere guidance,” Lake said.

While Inside Higher Ed does not generally identify sexual assault survivors, Chandler has consented to have her name used publicly and has been vocal about her case. After the student she accused of assault sued the university last year, alleging that administrators were biased when they found him responsible, Chandler gave an interview to the student newspaper, The GW Hatchet, and shared her story on Facebook. The accused student, who has remained anonymous in court filings, also accused Chandler of lying during her campus hearing, a claim that was ultimately disproven.

Chandler’s new complaint, alleging that administrators infringed on the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, concerns whether they informed her of her attacker’s sanctions, as the law requires. She alleges that the university revoked his punishments and did not tell her.

A George Washington spokeswoman, Maralee Csellarm, said in a statement that “we take our obligations under the Clery Act and other related federal laws seriously. If we are contacted by the Department of Education about this complaint, we will respond accordingly.”

The Education Department has confirmed with Dunn it received the complaint.

Chandler said she was raped in 2015 after attending a party at an off-campus house where the men’s rugby team typically hosted parties. She said she was told later that the alcohol she had been drinking had been drugged. Chandler remembers only pieces of the night -- returning to campus in an Uber ride with her alleged attacker and waking up to him raping her.

She did not report the episode to the university until about two years later, in October 2017, after, she said, she was worn down by avoiding the student and seeing him enroll in her classes.

The university found him responsible for the rape in January 2018, suspending him through the rest of the calendar year and banning him from all university property through June 2019. The student also wasn’t allowed to contact Chandler -- the university had given him such an order shortly after she reported the assault.

After his appeal was denied, the student sued the university. In May 2018, he alleged Chandler had lied in her statements, which was proven false with phone records -- but the accusation still was reported by conservative news media.

“As likely intended … there was significant media coverage regarding the false claims brought … against Ms. Chandler, which exacerbated and contributed to the further loss of her privacy and ongoing harassment by strangers,” the complaint reads.

In October, Chandler tried to file another report against the student, saying he had contacted her on Facebook, but the university ultimately declined to investigate, saying she only had “circumstantial evidence.” The Clery complaint states that Chandler believed officials didn’t look into her accusation because of the pending lawsuit.

In March, a lawyer for George Washington told Chandler that the accused student’s lawsuit had been “resolved” but the outcome was confidential. The university’s lawyer declined to tell Chandler whether the original punishments were still in place. The lawyer told Chandler’s representatives that it was “the expectation” the student wouldn’t contact her, but declined to say whether the order for him not to trespass on the grounds had been lifted.

The complaint is multifold: that the university didn’t investigate Chandler’s second report, as well as a second, separate report of rape against the student because of his lawsuit, and that the university violated Clery by not telling Chandler if administrators rescinded or changed the student’s punishments.

“A year and a half after I reported the sexual violence to the Title IX Office, the case has settled, and I have been pushed aside during that process,” Chandler said in a statement included in the complaint. “This entire ordeal has left me feeling like GWU is not interested in protecting my safety and well-being on campus, but rather is refusing to acknowledge my rights ever since he filed suit against the institution. Now I have less than two months left at GWU before completing my degree. I am still afraid to walk around on campus and to speak with anyone within the administration after this situation.”

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New presidents or provosts: Central Oregon Colorado State Columbia Chicago Dallas James Sprunt Mansfield NCCCS Presidio Tougaloo Tufts

Fri, 2019-05-17 07:00
  • Nadine Aubry, dean of the College of Engineering and University Distinguished Professor at Northeastern University, in Massachusetts, has been selected as provost and senior vice president at Tufts University, also in Massachusetts.
  • Jay Carraway, vice president of continuing education at Lenoir Community College, in North Carolina, has been appointed president of James Sprunt Community College, also in North Carolina.
  • Laurie Chesley, provost and executive vice president for academic and student affairs at Grand Rapids Community College, in Michigan, has been named president of Central Oregon Community College.
  • Marcella David, vice president for academic affairs at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, has been named senior vice president and provost at Columbia College Chicago, in Illinois.
  • Kimberly Gold, president of Robeson Community College, in North Carolina, has been appointed senior vice president and chief academic officer of the North Carolina Community College System.
  • Thomas S. Hibbs, dean of the Honors College and distinguished professor of ethics and culture at Baylor University, in Texas, has been chosen as president of the University of Dallas, also in Texas.
  • Liz Maw, president of NetImpact, a leadership organization in California, has been named president of Presidio Graduate School, in California.
  • Joyce E. McConnell, provost and vice president for academic affairs at West Virginia University, has been selected as president of Colorado State University.
  • Charles E. Patterson, senior adviser for executive outreach in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid, in Washington, D.C., has been appointed president of Mansfield University of Pennsylvania.
  • Carmen J. Walters, executive vice president of enrollment management, student success and institutional relations at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, has been chosen as president of Tougaloo College, also in Mississippi.
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Gordon College eliminates 36 positions, announces cuts to many liberal arts majors

Thu, 2019-05-16 07:00

Gordon College, an evangelical Christian college outside Boston, announced that it will eliminate 36 faculty and staff positions and consolidate and cut a number of majors in a budget-cutting move. Among the changes, Gordon is eliminating stand-alone majors in chemistry; French; physics; middle school and secondary education; recreation, sport and wellness; Spanish; and social work, and it is merging political science, history and philosophy into a single department.

In detailing the changes, Gordon said it is creating new multidisciplinary or “integrated” majors: for example, in lieu of a chemistry major, future Gordon students can enroll in a new biochemistry and integrated science major. Students interested in physics can take a physics track within a new physics and applied science major. A new sociology and social practice major will combine sociology and social work. Within the combined history, philosophy and political science department, stand-alone majors in political science and international relations will continue to be offered, and potential dual majors such as history and philosophy and history and political science are under review.

Rick Sweeney, Gordon’s vice president for external relations, said Gordon is cutting 7 percent of its operating budget over the next two years. Eleven faculty members are being laid off and two more retiring faculty will not be replaced. In addition, six staff members are being laid off and an additional 17 vacant staff positions will not be filled.

In information posted on its website about the changes, Gordon said it wants to make its education more “affordable and adaptable” and encourage completion of undergraduate programs within three years. Gordon is also expanding its graduate and online offerings through a newly created School for Graduate, Professional and Extended Studies, and said that a $10 million gift announced on Friday would be used for this purpose.

“We are at an inflection point in the history of Gordon and both fortunate and grateful we are being proactive now rather than reactive farther down the road,” Gordon’s president, Michael Lindsay, said in prepared remarks shared with Inside Higher Ed.

“Not all schools our size are able to pursue new opportunities while balancing their budgets,” Lindsay said. “The gift received on our April day of giving was not only totally unexpected, but to our knowledge the largest single monetary donation made to Gordon at any one time. This gift of $10 million, restricted to the endowment, is able to provide funds immediately that will support our necessary investment in creating Gordon Global, our planned digital platform within the newly created School of Graduate, Professional and Extended Studies. These funds will assist the college in getting this new initiative off the ground with the first phase to be launched in 2020. Clearly this anonymous donor is someone willing to come alongside us as we strengthen our core liberal arts education as we develop new points of access and opportunities that will make Gordon more affordable and more adaptable in meeting the needs of current and future students and families.”

Many Christian colleges are known for their strong commitment to the liberal arts, and some lamented the cuts to traditional liberal arts majors at Gordon in favor of an expansion of professional programming.

John Fea, a professor of history at Messiah College and author of, among other books, Why Study History? (Baker Publishing Group, 2013) wrote on his blog that he was saddened by the loss of a stand-alone history major at Gordon. “The skills and ways of thinking that one learns from the study of history are not something that can happen in a few courses as part of an 'integrated major' like politics-philosophy-history,” Fea wrote. “In over two decades of teaching at Christian liberal arts institutions, I can attest to the fact that a historical way of seeing the world -- one informed by contextual thinking, the understanding of contingency, the complexity of the human experience, a grasp of causality and change over time -- is something that is cultivated through a deep dive into the discipline. You can’t come to an interdisciplinary or 'integrated' conversation without grounding in a discipline.”

In an interview Fea described Gordon as one of the "big five or six" institutions within Christian higher education. “Gordon College, I would say, historically has always been a flagship evangelical liberal arts college,” he said. “When a lot of other evangelical colleges have decided to move in a direction of more professional programs, continuing education, cash-cow graduate programs, Gordon and other schools like Wheaton College [in Illinois], for example, have always been seen as defenders of the liberal arts and have always celebrated that. Of all places for Gordon to start making these cuts to the humanities and liberal arts, it speaks volumes and [sends] shock waves, I would say, throughout the Christian college world.”

Inside Higher Ed reached out Wednesday to eight different Gordon faculty members, none of whom agreed to comment on the changes; one said that requests for interviews with faculty had to be approved by Gordon’s external relations office. The student newspaper, The Tartan, reported on a meeting with more than 100 students on Saturday about the changes. The paper said the tone of student questions at the meeting “suggested a clear frustration; students wonder how they will be able to finish their soon-to-be defunct or 'integrated' courses of study in light of significantly reduced faculty.”

On the college's Facebook page, some commenters defended Gordon for making tough decisions, while others criticized it for laying off faculty or for, in their view, moving away from its liberal arts tradition. Commenters also criticized the timing of the announcement, coming as it did after the May 1 deadline for incoming freshmen to give colleges their decisions. Gordon said in a Facebook comment that the college’s budget for the coming year was not finalized until mid-May.

“It’s the Stevens Point story but with the evangelical twist -- to be more specific, Stevens Point with an evangelical higher education marketing twist,” said Adam Laats, a professor of education at the State University of New York at Binghamton and author of Fundamentalist U, a book about evangelical Christian education (Oxford University Press, 2018). Stevens Point is a reference to the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point’s controversial 2018 plan (since abandoned) to cut 13 liberal arts majors.

"Schools like Gordon -- and not just Gordon, small evangelical and nonevangelical institutions -- are in the same boat. They can’t raise tuition, but they can’t keep going without raising tuition because they don’t have the funding. They don’t have the big endowments. They can’t afford expensive lab equipment for every chemistry faculty person," Laats said. "Forget about evangelical: this is a [broader] higher ed story. Small colleges are struggling, and they are trying to find a niche."

At the same time, Laats said that the “evangelical twist” is Gordon’s own awkward position vis-à-vis LGBTQ rights issues and its market of evangelical Christian parents and students.

“Gordon has been sort of pushed into this awkward position,” Laats said. “It’s in Massachusetts, it’s near Boston, it has traditionally for the last 70 years been seen as one of these academically elite, religiously relatively liberal schools, so that you have things like LGBTQ students who say, 'I’m evangelical, but if I’m going to go to an evangelical school, Gordon is relatively friendly to LGBTQ students.' In the past few years, though, the newish president, Michael Lindsay, he hasn’t quite moved the school to the political right, but he has gestured that way by signing a statement to President Obama, for example, affirming the school's LGBTQ policies. He didn’t change the policies. He just officially affirmed what the school officially had agreed to, which is there’s no LGBTQ practice, you could only have sex in a heterosexual marriage -- that had been the policy forever, but he signed this letter and affirmed it, and that led to a huge row within the Gordon community.”

In short, Laats continued, “Gordon has struggled for years in terms of trying to find the sweet spot in terms of evangelical marketing, and it has signaled a move to the political right, which I think has put it in a tough spot. It’s not the tradition at Gordon. If you’re trying to move to the evangelical right, you can’t move too far to the right to out-right some of the schools that are out there. Gordon can't get conservative enough to be more conservative than Liberty [University] -- it’s not going to -- but it also can’t be seen as too liberal, because families will stop coming.”

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Webster University is looking into how it handled harassment complaint against a game design instructor

Thu, 2019-05-16 07:00

Webster University hired an outside investigator to review how it handled a harassment complaint brought by a student against a professor, it said late Wednesday.

The move came days after the student -- now a graduate -- took her case public, saying that the university had ignored it for a year and promoted the professor in question during that time.

A second professor also resigned in protest of how the university handled the case, and he publicly urged Webster to do better. Students and faculty members have shared their own negative experiences with the game design program, in solidarity with the woman who brought the allegations.

“Webster definitely missed an opportunity here,” said Tamsen Reed, the original complainant and a game design major. Especially as “they boast about their diversity and inclusion to all prospective students.”

Rob M. Santos, the video game programming instructor who resigned in protest, said Webster a chance "to set the standard for addressing harassment and misconduct at this pivotal turning point in the games industry and for students who represent the next generation of game creatives.” Instead, through its “self-condemning silence or outright dismissal of student complaints, Webster chose to further institutionalize misogyny and abuse before these students have even begun their careers.” 

The accused professor and those who “enabled” him “perfectly mirror the cancer of games industry toxicity,” Santos said.

Gaming doesn’t have a good reputation for gender equity. Women regularly report being harassed or threatened for merely venturing into that world. And of course academe has a checkered history of welcoming women into its ranks and taking seriously their complaints of misconduct.

Reed said she waited until just two days before graduation to go public with her case, as, in her experience, “Webster doesn’t have the most transparent administration.”

And “given the power the harasser had over my degree,” she added, “I felt if I came forward, my graduation status might’ve been in jeopardy.”

According to accounts she shared on social media, the professor, Joshua Yates, talked about her in a sexual manner with multiple other students. Those students later told Reed that Yates had said she was “coming on to,” “flirting with” and possibly even trying to “seduce” him.

Yates, head of the game design program within the electronic and photographic media department, previously served as a visiting professor and was promoted last year to a tenure-track position. He allegedly also talked to the other students about Reed’s manner of dress, calling it “revealing.”

Reed said she filed a formal harassment complaint last spring, before Yates was promoted to assistant professor. In response, she said she was taken off of his class roster for an upcoming, second class with him that she needed to take to graduate, and moved to one taught by Santos, the professor who publicly resigned in protest.

I am resigning from @websteru to join students/faculty in protesting sexual harassment and predatory academic misconduct in the #gamedev program. Please share our stories which can be found at @websterpres these students deserved better. It’s not too late.

— RobMSantos (@RobMSantos) May 11, 2019

Reed has publicly praised Santos as a teacher. But women’s advocates have long criticized the practice of removing a complainant from the situation in which she’s being harassed, rather than punishing the harasser. That’s because such moves can derail the woman’s studies or career and, on their own, do nothing to prevent the harasser from continuing the behavior with someone else.

Beyond that, however, Reed says she has not heard from the university about her complaint and that her emails about it have gone unanswered.

Santos said that "fair investigations" should be "thorough, swift, as well as transparently tied to meaningful consequences," with student protections "enforced decisively in the meantime." 

He's publicly encouraged others to contribute their stories of working within the department. About a dozen students and faculty members already have done so. Some students corroborate Reed's report about Yates's comments. Others allege incompetence on Yates’s part as a teacher and scholar.

In addition to questioning Yates’s work ethic and expertise, Lisa Brunette, a game designer and former visiting professor in the department, wrote in a public statement that at Webster, “I never felt adequate respect was paid to my substantial experience as a writer, game designer and teacher, and I often felt like I was battling the [electronic and photographic media] boys’ network. Without me, the department is comprised of 10 men and only two women.”

Yates did not respond to a request for comment.

Reed said she hasn’t heard anything from Webster since she aired her concerns last week, other than a private invitation to meet with the office that handles harassment complaints. She said she hasn’t spoken to Yates since last year but that he “glares” at her in the halls.

Webster said in a statement that it’s “committed to respecting the privacy, integrity and safety of its students, faculty and staff and all members of the extended community,” and that it must treat complaints and investigations with “strict confidentiality.” The relevant office operates “autonomously and with the independence it deserves to investigate all complaints of sexual misconduct.”

In response to “recent inquiries” about the conduct of that office, Webster “swiftly engaged an independent third-party investigator to examine” whether the office adhered to protocol. Pending the results of the independent investigation, Webster said, it will take swift and appropriate action.

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Gates and state-college group co-chair postsecondary value commission

Thu, 2019-05-16 07:00

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is backing a new panel to scrutinize the value of postsecondary credentials, a move coming as college prices and returns are under intense scrutiny but that is seen by some as playing catch-up to the current political moment.

A 30-member panel of higher education leaders, business representatives and foundation experts will look at the value of degrees and post-high school certificates. It will examine ways to measure economic outcomes for students earning certificates and degrees -- outcomes that could include postcollegiate earnings and the ability to repay debt, earnings premiums for degree earners or certificate earners, and economic mobility after college.

The new panel comes as families and policy makers around the country turn their attention to the return on investment in higher education, and as the federal government moves to give consumers more data to evaluate that equation. The White House is pushing toward releasing program-level earnings data, and reauthorization of the Higher Education Act has been percolating on Capitol Hill.

Gates CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann is co-chairing the group, called the Commission on the Value of Postsecondary Education, or the Postsecondary Value Commission. Its other co-chair is Mildred García, president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

The commission's members:

  • Brian Bridges, UNCF Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute
  • Anthony Carnevale, Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce
  • Michelle Asha Cooper, Institute for Higher Education Policy
  • José Luis Cruz, Lehman College, City University of New York
  • Sue Desmond-Hellmann, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Zakiya Smith Ellis, State of New Jersey
  • Ivelisse Estrada, communications and social impact strategist
  • Nichole Francis Reynolds, Mastercard
  • John Friedman, Brown University
  • Mildred García, American Association of State Colleges and Universities
  • Paul Glastris, The Washington Monthly
  • Jillian Klein, Strategic Education Inc.
  • Janice Lachance, American Geophysical Union
  • Teresa Lubbers, Indiana Commission for Higher Education
  • Elisabeth Mason, Stanford Technology, Opportunity and Poverty Lab
  • Sean McGarvey, North America’s Building Trades Unions
  • Ted Mitchell, American Council on Education
  • Sahar Mohammadzadeh, Harvard University/Prichard Committee on Student Excellence
  • Marc Morial, National Urban League
  • Gloria Nemerowicz, Yes We Must Coalition
  • Eloy Ortiz Oakley, California Community Colleges
  • Cheryl Oldham, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Laura Perna, University of Pennsylvania
  • Mark Schneider, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences
  • Michele Siqueiros, Campaign for College Opportunity
  • Margaret Spellings, Texas 2036
  • Luis Talavera, Arkansas State University
  • Ivory Toldson, Howard University
  • Andy Van Kleunen, National Skills Coalition
  • Belle Wheelan, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

“We definitely are hoping that it will affect the higher ed reauthorization act, and look at the way we’re looking at things like Pell, and federal and state match,” García said during a recent conference call to discuss the effort. “We are hoping that this commission can continue its work over the year and at the same time inform the policy makers of what our findings are.”

Commission leaders say they won’t be solely focused on money. They’ll also acknowledge noneconomic returns to higher education like creative and critical thinking skills, as well as greater civic participation.

But the commission’s primary charges are tied to economic value.

Its task is to propose a definition of postsecondary value that institutions can use and to create a framework for measuring how programs at colleges and universities create value for different students. It will also make recommendations for furthering the understanding of value within and outside postsecondary education.

In other words, the commission is supposed to help colleges and universities examine how well they are improving students’ economic opportunity while also aiding policy makers who are trying to measure the returns on public investments in higher education. In addition, it’s supposed to help students and families evaluate where and what to study after high school.

“Our goal is to uncomplicate the connection between higher education and economic opportunity,” Desmond-Hellmann said. “People are talking about jobs in this country, so we want to get everybody involved, from students, families, schools, policy makers, so that people who are making life choices can make choices that are best for them.”

The commission held its first meeting in April. It’s scheduled to meet several more times and finish its work by the middle of next year.

Members of the panel include college and university leaders, researchers, business leaders, community leaders, policy makers, and students. Michelle Asha Cooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, is its managing partner.

“We want to bring together data on outcomes like employment, earnings and economic mobility,” she said. “Secondly, we want to show how those data play out across race and income and gender, which has not been done before in a comprehensive way. That’s how it’s going to be different than some of the things that you’ve already seen.”

At least one member of the commission sees it as Gates incorporating the latest policy developments and the current political focus.

“The basic story here is that Gates is playing catch-up,” said Anthony Carnevale, research professor and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Carnevale has argued that President Trump’s executive order on program-level data fits into a bipartisan move toward examining earnings data instead of just focusing on degree completion. Gates has traditionally looked under the hood of colleges and universities, working directly with institutions to change their practices, he said. But Carnevale doesn’t believe higher education is going to change without outside pressure.

That outside pressure has arrived as lawmakers, governors and reformers have stopped focusing as heavily on completion and paid more attention to outcomes and earnings.

“That’s another conversation that takes you outside of both K-12 institutions and higher education institutions,” Carnevale said. “The real action in education reform now is connecting the dots, say, middle school through high school and into higher ed, and connecting with the labor market.”

Gates declined to comment on the idea that the foundation was playing catch-up. It could easily have argued that it's traditionally addressed many of the individual areas Carnevale was discussing. But one of Carnevale's points was that foundations generally are having to break down silos between different areas.

Desmond-Hellmann did address the question of why Gates is undertaking this work when she spoke during the conference call to announce the commission. More than any time she can remember, students and families are now asking if college is worthwhile, she said. But Gates has a "fundamental belief" that opportunities and financial security are linked to higher education.

"That means for Americans today, education after high school is not a luxury, it’s a necessity," she said. "Our foundation’s learned a lot in the last 10 years about getting more students to and through college, especially low-income students and first-generation students, students of color, and working adults. But we still don’t know enough about the benefits that education beyond high school brings."

Other members of the commission pointed out that its work comes at a time when the public is increasingly questioning the value of a postsecondary education and that many consider enrolling in higher education institutions through the lens of the economic opportunities they are likely to create.

“People throw the term around a lot, ‘credential of value,’” said Cheryl Oldham, vice president of education policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Depending on who it is, you can press them, and it’s like, ‘Oh, what are you talking about when you said that?’ It is hard. And I do think a lot of the assumptions are being questioned. Is the four-year degree the gold standard? Can we get to a place where it’s not about the piece of paper but it’s about what you know and are able to do?”

It is important that the panel has representatives from the business community, she added.

Previously, Oldham served in the U.S. Department of Education during President George W. Bush’s administration, when Margaret Spellings was secretary of education. Spellings is also a member of the Postsecondary Value Commission.

“What we owe our consumers is more ability to vote with their feet, and that means we need more information,” said Spellings, who recently stepped down as president of the University of North Carolina system and is now a senior consultant with Texas 2036, a group focused on public policy. “The data is coming.”

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Malaysia considers the future of race-based admissions programs

Thu, 2019-05-16 07:00

Moves by the Malaysian government to continue with a controversial affirmative action policy for its preuniversity program have reignited a debate over the fairest ways of admitting students to higher education.

The education minister, Maszlee Malik, announced last month that the number of places on the government matriculation, or preuniversity, program would increase by 60 percent to 40,000, but 90 percent of these places would still be reserved for bumiputeras, or the indigenous Malay population. The remaining 10 percent of places are open to non-bumiputeras, predominantly Chinese and Indian minorities, who tend to perform better academically.

The matriculation program was introduced in 1998 to create more opportunities for the Malay majority to enter higher education. The race-based quota was launched in 2003.

However, there have long been calls for the government to abolish the policy, with critics highlighting that it is discriminatory and does not target the most disadvantaged students.

Students are able to take an alternative national preuniversity program, known as the Malaysian Higher School Certificate (STPM), which is open to all Malaysians. However, the matriculation program is an easier and faster route to university. Meanwhile, preuniversity programs at private colleges are expensive.

There are concerns that the recent government announcement will reduce STPM graduates’ chances of entering higher education if the total number of places in public universities remains the same.

Peter Chang Thiam Chai, deputy vice chancellor (research and innovation) at the University of Malaya, said that while “Malay representation must be protected, the 90-10 formula has had serious fallout.”

“It has severely alienated the minorities and adversely impacted Malaysia’s public university academic standards,” he said.

“The need for affirmative action, and the delicate balancing act required, was vulnerable to the vicissitudes of Malaysia’s racialized politics, and the new Harapan government has not found of a way out of this dilemma.”

Koh Sin Yee, senior lecturer in global studies at Monash University Malaysia, said that the quota meant that the matriculation program “doesn’t offer the same degree of opportunity to all who … are underprivileged,” adding that the policy “does not seem to be clearly needs based nor merit based.”

“Increasing the placement numbers but keeping the 90-10 quota could result in a larger number of bumiputera students opting for matriculation rather than STPM,” she said.

“In the long run, this could result in two issues: first, higher numbers of bumiputera matriculation graduates who may not be sufficiently equipped or prepared for university education, and second, higher numbers of bumiputeras entering the work force at least a year earlier than their non-bumiputera counterparts. There seem to be compounded issues further down the line that have not been addressed.”

Lee Hwok-Aun, senior fellow and coordinator of the Malaysia Studies Program at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, said that “the rigor, breadth and quality of matriculation programs must be raised” and that the system must eventually “settle on one common entry qualification, in place of the current unequal alternatives.”

“The stark and complicated reality is that bumiputeras depend on the matriculation system, and any abrupt change to the quota, or even dismantling of this parallel preuniversity channel, is untenable socially and politically,” he said.

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Historian at U Minnesota 'celebrates' tenure with critiques of governing board's recent actions in renaming debate

Wed, 2019-05-15 07:00

Katharine Gerbner has tenure now -- and she’s not afraid to use it.

The historian of religion at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities “celebrated” her new status on Twitter with a 27-tweet thread about what she called the “history of racism and anti-Semitism” at her institution.

“I felt it wasn't wise to share my thoughts until my tenure was approved by the Board of Regents,” she wrote. Why? The same board recently voted down a plan to rename several campus buildings with controversial namesakes, after “silencing” faculty experts who had documented those individuals' racism and anti-Semitism, Gerbner said.

Like many universities, Minnesota is “starting to reckon with its own discriminatory history,” Gerbner explained. She noted that some of that history was displayed two years ago in an exhibit called “A Campus Divided: Progressives, Anticommunists, Racism and Antisemitism at the University of Minnesota, 1930-1942.” And following that exhibit, President Eric W. Kaler formed a task force to further examine racism in the university’s history.

2/ Like many Universities, the U. of Minnesota is starting to reckon with its own discriminatory history. This history was displayed in a brilliant exhibit two years ago, called “A Campus Divided.”

— Katharine Gerbner (@ktgerbs) May 9, 2019

Gerbner said that her own history colleagues involved in the review spent countless hours on it, searching the university’s archives and poring over evidence.

Among other charges, the task force was asked to consider the histories of four campus buildings named after administrators with questionable records on inclusion: Coffman Memorial Union, Nicholson Hall, Middlebrook Hall and Coffey Hall.

Based on its findings, the task force ultimately recommended that each building should be renamed, and that a permanent exhibit exploring the “legacy of the named individuals, including their positive accomplishments and the research detailed” in the report be installed. (The task force also recommended that the “A Campus Divided” exhibit be permanently moved into the student union.)

Coffman Memorial Union at the Twin Cities campus, for example, was posthumously named in 1939 for Lotus Delta Coffman, university president from 1920 to 1938. The task force report says that Coffman is remembered most frequently for having expanded the university in a number of ways.

“Coffman also saw throughout his term increasing demands for equity and inclusion of student populations who were subject to various forms of discrimination,” the report says. “Rather than working to redress these inequities and promote integration, however, Coffman used his authority to exclude African American students from university facilities, most evidently in housing, some medical training programs and athletics.”

Coffman sometimes said he was acting in the best interests of excluded students, according to the report, “but archived correspondence shows that Coffman and other members of his administration regarded exclusion as the presumptive norm, particularly with respect to student housing.”

As to how they measured the administrators’ records and came to their decisions, members of the task force wrote that while it’s “reasonable for today’s values to guide what we wish to honor with the distinction of a naming, we also believe and understand that individuals need to be assessed within the context of their own time and what was then imaginable and possible.”

In an example of anti-Semitism documented in the report, the task force found that Nicholson Hall’s namesake, Edward E. Nicholson, who served as the university’s first dean of student affairs from 1917 to 1941, targeted Jewish students as “communists.” He was found to have targeted black students in the same way and also to have censored campus political speech and surveilled student activists.

Gerbner noted that Kaler, the university president, agreed with the task force’s findings and forwarded the report to the 12-member Board of Regents.

Things got ugly during the regents’ first public discussion of the report, in March, Gerbner said, when several board members accused the task force of taking archival evidence out of context and misleading its audience.

With the board citing time constraints, task force members weren’t allowed to respond to those assertions at that meeting. But some regents continued their criticism after the meeting. Michael Hsu, for example, told the Star Tribune, “Our faculty obviously have tried to bypass the truth.” The report is “completely not credible” and the task force’s “motives are in question,” he also said.

Of Coffman, Hsu said that university regents during his presidency supported segregation in a student residence hall, and that “if you're trying to understand somebody's motivations, you have to understand what they are being told to do by their bosses, by people who have control over them.”

Faculty experts involved in the report in turn accused some regents of selectively reading and citing their work.

Then, on April 28, Gerbner said, the regents convened a last-minute meeting to vote on the renaming issue. She attended the meeting and said it was “disturbing” that no task force members were allowed to speak or clear up the regents’ concerns about the report. The board was effectively “silencing” her colleagues about their own work, she said.

“The acting president of the board referred to everyone in the room as the ‘audience’ -- we were only to listen,” Gerbner wrote on Twitter. “I watched in both horror and fascination as the tyranny of ‘process’ made me and my colleagues first into ‘hecklers,’ who were accused of ‘disrespect’ and then into a riotous crowd, who were threatened with arrest.”

18/ After an audience revolt, the Board allowed Prof. John Wright, a 37-year member of the faculty & founder of the African American Studies dept, to speak. Wright, a 4th-gen. black Minnesotan, described his family’s struggles under Coffman.

— Katharine Gerbner (@ktgerbs) May 9, 2019

After what Gerbner called an “audience revolt,” the board finally allowed John Wright, a professor of African American studies, to speak. Wright, a fourth-generation Minnesotan, said his own family had struggled under Coffman, and he highlighted the importance of the black press in the historical record.

Wright’s comments changed the tenor of the conversation, but it was too late -- the board already had voted against renaming the buildings, Gerbner said. She added that the whole matter highlights the “importance of tenure, particularly for those who are researching politically sensitive topics. It was the right move for President Kaler to ask only tenured professors to be on the task force.”

Moreover, she said, “discrimination at the University of Minnesota is a history that is close to us today.” And unlike universities that are uncovering complicity in slavery, she said, the conversation in Minnesota is about “a more recent form of racism and discrimination.”

The closer “we get to our present day, the harder it becomes for many people to name and recognize racism or anti-Semitism,” Gerbner said. “But these are the conversations that are the most crucial for changing present practice.”

The board approved a resolution at its meeting saying, in part, that the "public policy issues before us have the board focused on a broader inquiry addressing the social, legal and governance context of the time. Some questions are not answered easily; the lens of history sometimes leaves some issues unresolvable in hindsight. It is important, however, that this university take steps to acknowledge and atone for its past discriminatory practices.

"All agree that we cannot erase that history; we must learn from it," the board said. "Perhaps the reason why we struggle with naming issues is that we recognize that prejudice persists and our shortcomings often leave us ill equipped to judge others."

Gerbner said Tuesday that she’s received “supportive responses” about her tweets from students, faculty members and administrators at the university -- and nothing at all from the board.

While Gerbner wasn’t on the task force, she said she stands by the report her colleagues wrote and hopes more people will read it.

“I also hope that more people will turn their attention to the individuals who were harmed by the university’s discriminatory practices, rather than focusing solely on the administrators,” she said. The task force worked “very hard to find the stories of people who were affected by the racist and anti-Semitic policies of former university administrators,” and “we should be listening to their stories if we are serious about equity and justice." And while the recent board meetings were "disheartening," she said, "change will come as long as we center the voices" of people like Wright. (Wright did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

As for tenure, Gerbner said that "moments like these" are what it's for. 

"Tenured faculty should put their privileged position to use and work tirelessly to create more tenured positions," she added. "Job security is the key academic freedom issue."

A Minnesota spokesperson said that neither the university nor the board had anything to add to the public record.

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Oklahoma president announces he will step down after less than a year in office

Mon, 2019-05-13 07:12

The president of the University of Oklahoma, James L. Gallogly on Sunday announced that he is stepping down, after less than a year in office.

The news follows a series of controversies over the university's finances, leadership and racial climate.

While new university presidents make many personnel and organizational changes, those set by Gallogly were stunning to many in their speed and breadth.

Six top administrators were laid off or retired on Gallogly's first day on the job as president. The university also announced a reorganization cutting the number of administrators reporting directly to the president from 25 to 17.

Gallogly cited deficits as part of the reason for the reorganization at the time, and his announcement that he is leaving also cited severe financial problems he found at Oklahoma. His announcement also said that these and other efforts had been successful.

"It became obvious that the Norman campus had been operating at significant losses for the last couple of years, had grown its debt, and had limited cash reserves," he wrote. "We later discovered that gifts and alumni support statistics were significantly over-stated in various filings (though not at our foundation), and that a couple of new housing projects on campus had low occupancy rates and were struggling.  Despite these challenges, we have been able to stabilize our financial position."

Gallogly has a non-traditional background for a university president. He was an executive with oil and petrochemical companies such as LyondellBasell, ConocoPhillips, Chevron Phillips Chemical  and Phillips Petroleum.

The campus also saw turmoil in January when video surfaced in which a woman in blackface says, "I am a nigger." While Gallogly condemned the use of the slur, many students and faculty members said that the administration (and prior OU leaders) had failed to do enough to deal with a hostile environment experiences by many black and other minority students. In 2015, a video of fraternity members singing a song with the same slur roiled the university.

Adding to the tensions on campus has been an investigation into allegations that David Boren, who was president from 1994 until 2018, sexually harassed male aides.

In March, the news website NonDoc published a detailed article in which an Oklahoma graduate described being offered alcohol by Boren as a prelude to Boren touching him and making advances. The graduate is quoted by name, and friends of his confirm that he spoke to them about the allegations years ago when they happened. The graduate also alleges one incident involving Tripp Hall, a former vice president for university development. Boren continues to deny wrongdoing, and Hall does so as well.

When the story first broke in February, the university confirmed only that it had hired a law firm to investigate misconduct, and did not specify the type of misconduct. After the new article appeared, the university released a new statement, which says (in full), "In November 2018, OU received a report of alleged sexual misconduct. The report triggered an immediate external investigation by the university. The goal of this investigation since the beginning has been to proceed with the highest degrees of professionalism, confidentiality and sincere concern for all parties involved particularly potential victims. This is our duty. While individuals may share their own personal accounting, it is critical that the university proceed deliberately, objectively and with respect for all the individuals involved. The investigation is not complete and comment on specifics at this time would be inappropriate."

Supporters of Boren have accused Gallogly of using the investigation to tarnish Boren's reputation, The Oklahoman reported. And more broadly, Boren supporters have questioned many of the new president's actions and his declarations that he found a financial crisis when he took office.

“A false narrative has been created that the explanation of the university’s financial condition, the disclosures of improper gift reporting, and changes to various people serving in the administration were somehow intended to diminish the legacy of our past president,” Gallogly told The Oklahoman. “That false narrative is now also being used to question the motives and propriety of the ongoing investigation of alleged misconduct by person(s) yet to be disclosed by the university.”

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A professor accused of misconduct admits to it and resigns

Mon, 2019-05-13 07:00

In an unusual move that’s drawn praise and criticism, legal scholar and alleged sexual harasser Ian Samuel publicly resigned from his faculty job at Indiana University at Bloomington Friday. He shared his resignation letter on Twitter, in it writing that the case against him forced him to examine his life -- ultimately for the better.

“The truth is that the university’s investigation, in addition to doing justice, probably had the side effect of saving my life,” he wrote. “I was becoming an ugly man, and I needed nothing so much as a clean mirror and someone brave enough to make me look at it.”

Samuel, who has been on leave since late fall, said that he “hurt people, and it’s pretty damned hard to imagine those people feeling the slightest bit better just because I wish it hadn’t happened. No. Accepting responsibility means actually doing something [emphasis Samuel’s], if you can, to spare the people you hurt from any more harm.”

The idea that those involved in the case would prefer not “worrying about crossing paths” with Samuel again “makes so much sense to me that I can’t see any honest basis for prolonging this process any further,” he said.

"For the reasons I’ll explain in this letter, I hereby resign my appointment as an associate professor, effective at the close of business today."

— Ian Samuel (@isamuel) May 10, 2019

Samuel hasn’t been on campus since November, when he was relieved of teaching duties and told to stay away. The details of the case aren’t public, beyond rumor, and Samuel declined to share any of them this weekend in a private Twitter conversation, citing the confidentiality of the university’s process.

His letter, too, is light on details. It refers to the “night in question” and reads, “I don’t think I’m breaching any confidences by saying that the allegations in this case describe me drinking to excess in a public place I shouldn’t have been, in company I shouldn’t have kept, and treating the people present in ways they didn’t deserve.”

The university said in a statement that earlier this academic year, it received multiple reports of Samuel engaging in potential violations of Title IX of Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination, “during the course of an evening after a law school event.”

Chuck Carney, university spokesperson, said the university’s Title IX investigation concluded May 1, but he declined to share the findings, saying that it was a personnel matter.

The university’s statement says that Samuel resigned, effective Friday, and is no longer a faculty member. The campus “appreciates Professor Samuel’s cooperation and acknowledgement of his misconduct,” it reads.

Samuel, former host of the now-on-hiatus First Mondays podcast about the U.S. Supreme Court, describes himself on Twitter as a “Catholic American socialist.” He concluded his public letter by saying that in addition to “confession and contrition, in other words, sin requires punishment. Part of mine is that I’ll no longer be on the faculty at Indiana University, and I cannot call that result unjust.”

What comes next? “I don’t know,” he wrote.

Samuel’s letter was the subject of buzz among legal scholars over the weekend on social media. Several contacted for comment declined to speak on the record and requested that their public posts not be quoted -- an indication of how controversial Samuel has become.

Many commenters said Samuel’s letter, however contrite, still managed to minimize the allegations against him, whatever they are, with language such as “treating people in ways they didn’t deserve” and “hurting” people. Others defended Samuel’s attempt at acknowledging fault, within the constraints of a confidential process.

In any case, Samuel’s coming forward is rare in harassment cases. Many times, professors appeal findings of misconduct. And even when they accept Title IX findings against them, they tend to take the punishment -- or leave the institution altogether -- quietly. Samuel’s letter ensures that Indiana couldn’t “pass the harasser” onto another unknowing institution, even if it wanted to (and there’s no indication that it does).

Asked about some of the blowback from his letter, Samuel said that it wouldn’t be in “the right spirit for me to get into a back-and-forth with critics. I’m quite content to let readers evaluate the letter, and the criticisms of it, and decide what they think for themselves.”

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Harvard will end deanship of professor who is defending Harvey Weinstein

Mon, 2019-05-13 07:00

Harvard University on Saturday announced that it will not renew the dean position of a law professor, Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., who has (with his wife) been leading one of the university's residential colleges.

Sullivan has been widely praised in his career for his work on behalf of people who have been unfairly incarcerated. And the professor and his wife are the first African Americans to lead one of Harvard's residential colleges. But students have been demanding Sullivan's ouster since he joined the legal team defending Harvey Weinstein, the film executive who is facing sexual assault charges and has become for many the personification of the abuses revealed by the Me Too movement.

The nonrenewal of the college deanship does not affect Sullivan's faculty position in the law school, where he is the Jesse Climenko Clinical Professor of Law and director of the Criminal Justice Institute. The position of dean of a residential college was previously called a "house master" position, and is considered an honor, one with key out-of-the-classroom educational functions. The calls for Sullivan to be removed have raised questions of academic freedom and of whether undergraduates respect the idea that everyone accused of crimes is entitled to a legal defense.

Rakesh Khurana, dean of Harvard College, announced that he would not renew the deanship of Sullivan and his wife, Stephanie Robinson, in an email message to students in Winthrop College, where Sullivan and Robinson have been deans.

The email suggested that the decision was made for reasons not having to do with Sullivan's work defending Weinstein.

"My decision not to renew the faculty deans was informed by a number of considerations. Over the last few weeks, students and staff have continued to communicate concerns about the climate in Winthrop House to the college," Khurana wrote. "The concerns expressed have been serious and numerous. The actions that have been taken to improve the climate have been ineffective, and the noticeable lack of faculty dean presence during critical moments has further deteriorated the climate in the house. I have concluded that the situation in the house is untenable."

He added, however, "This is a regrettable situation and a very hard decision to make. I have long admired your faculty deans’ commitment to justice and civic engagement, as well as the good work they have done in support of diversity in their house community. I know that some of you are also proud of these efforts. I also know that some of you have been greatly helped and supported by your faculty deans in difficult situations. This decision in no way lessens my gratitude to them for their contributions to the college."

In a joint statement, Sullivan and Robinson criticized the decision.

"We are surprised and dismayed by the action Harvard announced today. We believed the discussions we were having with high-level university representatives were progressing in a positive manner, but Harvard unilaterally ended those talks," they said. "We will now take some time to process Harvard’s actions and consider our options. We are sorry that Harvard’s actions and the controversy surrounding us has contributed to the stress on Winthrop students at this already stressful time."

Much of Sullivan's career has been spent fighting for those many Harvard students would want their professors helping. He represented the family of Michael Brown in reaching a settlement with the city of Ferguson, Mo., on a wrongful death claim, for example.

Sullivan has been credited with securing the release of thousands of wrongfully imprisoned people through his work with various criminal justice agencies.

A 2017 column in The Huffington Post called him an "unsung hero" and "the man who dealt the biggest blow to mass Incarceration."

A petition calling for Sullivan's removal as dean says that while Weinstein has a right to a lawyer, Sullivan's work on the case makes it impossible for him to effectively be a college dean.

"For victims of sexual assault and rape on this campus who already feel disempowered by the sheer lack of activity in reprimanding such behavior, the developments of Dean Sullivan's professional work are not only upsetting, but deeply trauma inducing," the petition says.

"To be perfectly explicit: I am not saying Dean Sullivan should not be defending Weinstein," adds the petition. "I am saying that in his role as a house dean, his defense of such a figure induces a great amount of fear and hurt in victims of the crimes that Weinstein is accused of, and although anyone facing the law is innocent until proven guilty, the scope of the Weinstein case still literally shakes people on this campus to this day. His role on Weinstein's team, and position as a community leader, are not mutually exclusive and the former has incredibly harmful implications for the latter."

An editorial by student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, said that Sullivan could no longer offer support to women in the house who have issues related to sexual assault. "Sullivan has made himself available to his students through holding office hours to address students’ concerns. Even so, when a mentor and authority figure makes a decision to defend an individual facing allegations of sexual misconduct, he has in effect closed his doors to any student who might look to him for support or solace regarding these issues," said the editorial.

Samantha Harris, writing about the controversy over Sullivan on the website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, before the university opted not to renew his deanship, said that the "evils" of which Weinstein are accused do not justify "dispensing with our society’s fundamental belief that even the worst criminals are innocent until proven guilty and are entitled to a robust defense."

Harris said Harvard should have been strongly defending Sullivan. "Certainly, those calling for Ronald Sullivan’s removal from his faculty dean position are not arguing that he shouldn’t be permitted to defend Harvey Weinstein," Harris wrote. "But making pariahs of people who defend the accused sends the dangerous message that those who choose to do that work -- work that is foundational to our system of justice -- do so at their own peril."

In an email Saturday, after Harvard's announcement, Harris said, "It is difficult to see Dean Khurana's decision to remove Prof. Sullivan and his wife from their positions at Winthrop House as anything but a shameful capitulation to the pressure to drop Sullivan over his decision to represent Harvey Weinstein. While the university is suddenly pointing to older concerns about the climate at Winthrop House, the timing of Dean Khurana's announcement -- in the midst of student protests over Sullivan's representation of Weinstein, and just days after he personally attended an anti-Sullivan sit-in -- speaks for itself."

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Portland State president, under fire, quits

Mon, 2019-05-13 07:00

After less than two years in office, and months of criticism of his performance, Portland State University president Rahmat Shoureshi on Friday announced that he would step down Dec. 14. He will be on paid administrative leave until then, Portland State's board announced.

His announcement listed various accomplishments, such as the launch of a fund-raising campaign and new academic centers, and made no mention of the various controversies he has faced. As to why he is leaving, Shoureshi said only that "the time has come for me to focus on my family first." The board's statement also did not reference the controversies.

The extent of the concerns about Shoureshi first became public in March, when The Oregonian published a long, detailed article about them. The article reported that:

  • Portland State has seen "an exodus" of administrators, many of them women. Many of those who left said that Shoureshi was not just demanding, but engaged in -- in the words of one complaint -- " “bullying and degrading" treatment of employees.
  • Shoureshi had demanded and received an increase in his monthly housing stipend from $6,000 to $9,200 a month. His total compensation topped $720,000, which struck many as high and tone-deaf at a time of tight budgets at the university and in public higher education in Oregon.
  • In 18 months on the job, he went through four provosts.
  • A memo from the board chair to Shoureshi in November 2017 expressed serious concerns about his leadership and said he needed to either improve or leave.

Shoureshi stayed. He gave a statement to The Oregonian at the time of its article saying, “As part of my annual review, the board gave me feedback on my first year as president with direction and goals going forward. I believe that focusing on the specifics we had during that confidential review is between the board and myself.”

In April, The Oregonian revealed that Shoureshi had been destroying hundreds of his email messages -- in violation of Oregon law.

He clashed with students last summer after campus police officers shot and killed a Navy veteran in a campus sports bar. Many students said that the shooting demonstrated the dangers of having armed campus police. Shoureshi defended the practice.

On Saturday, The Oregonian reported that Shoureshi agreed to leave after days of negotiations with board members who had lost confidence in his ability to lead the university. He was offered "a big severance package to convince him to go," the newspaper reported. His contract specified that he would receive $800,000 if fired "without cause."

Before arriving at Portland State, Shoureshi had been provost and interim president of New York Institute of Technology.

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