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Updated: 33 weeks 14 hours ago

Art exhibit at CUNY draws scrutiny from Pentagon

Tue, 2017-11-28 08:00

Is it art? Or government property? Or both?

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice is currently hosting an exhibit of art from eight current and former detainees at the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Earlier this month, however, the Department of Defense halted the export of artwork made by prisoners there, declaring that works made by the prisoners are property of the United States government.

The exhibit, “Ode to the Sea: Art From Guantá​namo,” went on display at the City University of New York campus Oct. 2, when Department of Defense policy still allowed detainees to export art from the island prison where the U.S. government currently detains 41 people. A total of 779 people, all men, have been detained at Guantá​namo Bay since the prison’s controversial opening in 2002.

“On the opening pages of Moby-Dick, [Herman] Melville writes about the ‘water-gazers’ of New York, office-dwellers who spent their free time looking at the rivers and sea that surround the city,” Erin Thompson, the exhibit’s co-curator and an assistant professor in John Jay's Department of Art and Music, wrote in an essay for The Paris Review when the exhibit debuted. “The detainee artists told me that they thought of the sea as a symbol of both hope and fear. They represented it in order to dream about escape and to escape as best they could. By immersing themselves so fully in making art, they could imagine that they were in a ship at sea -- until the work was finished.”

The New York Post characterized the exhibit as “controversial,” noting that some of the first responders who died in the Sept. 11 attacks had attended John Jay. (On the other hand, Thompson noted, only one of the current detainees whose work is on display has actually been charged with a crime.)

After going through an examination by prison authorities, art created through prison programming was allowed to be released and sent abroad. That policy was changed earlier this month.

“Items produced by detainees remain the property of the U.S. government,” Ben Sakrisson, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday, adding that the policy was in firmly in place and not under review, which previous reports had suggested was a possibility. Even if a detainee is eventually released, Sakrisson acknowledged that the policy implicitly states that any art made by the detainee would still be government property.

He said that media reports that mentioned that some of the artwork was being sold provided the impetus to "institute an appropriate policy, which effectively eliminated transfer of detainee-produced artwork from the detention facility." (Thompson said that only the artwork made by released detainees -- not those currently at Guantá​namo Bay -- was for sale.)

“My tenure approval came through this month, and then five days later news broke that I had pissed off the Pentagon,” Thompson told Inside Higher Ed. “That was good timing, rather than the other way around.”

Art programs will remain underway at Guantá​namo, Sakrisson said, and the Department of Defense is not moving to strip John Jay or any other institution or person of art produced in Guantá​namo.

The clarity of the directive was news to Thompson Monday, and she lamented that no one from the Department of Defense had reached out to her directly and that the policy had seemed unclear.

“My main moral responsibility at this point is to the detainees who are still at Guantá​namo. Because to them, making art is an incredibly important psychological measure,” she said.

Rumors have swirled since the policy was announced, and some detainees have told their lawyers that guards informed them their art might be burned if they are released, or that “excess” art in their possession would be confiscated.

Sakrisson said that there has been no directive on incineration from the Department of Defense.

A petition on, titled “Stop the Destruction of Art at Guantá​namo,” currently has about 500 signatures, and calls for a restoration of the previous policy.

The exhibit includes artwork from both former and current detainees. The current detainees, most of whom have never had charges filed against them, much less fair trials, would be drastically affected by this policy. Taking away their ability to find and create beauty and communicate with the outside world through their paintings, drawings and sculpture is both incredibly petty and incredibly cruel.

Help us send a message to the Pentagon by signing this petition. Let them know that burning art is something done by fascist and terrorist regimes -- but not by the American people.

Thompson said that her combination of holding a doctorate in art history as well as a law degree has been useful in navigating the curating of the exhibit from the beginning and through the more recent developments.

“My role, which has recently become much more relevant, has been to sort of translate between the art world and the law world and the academic world,” she said. “Which has not been an easy job.”

Despite the setback from the Pentagon, however, she expressed confidence in the exhibit’s strength going forward.

“It depends on your risk averseness,” she said. “A number of other institutions and curators have reached out and are interested in displaying this or other art. There’s a little bit of a come-at-me attitude, because people realize the importance of displaying this.”

(Update: The Pentagon elaborated on the reasoning behind changing its policy on detainee artwork on Tuesday.)

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Hampton's move to Big South and its impact on HBCU athletics

Tue, 2017-11-28 08:00

Hampton University’s decision to leave the historically black Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference has prompted questions about the ripple effect on the league, its institutions and HBCU athletics as a whole.

Last week, Hampton announced it would join the more visible and wealthier Big South Conference in July 2018, a change intended to raise the athletic profile of one of the most academically successful historically black colleges and universities. News reports indicated that the university has been in talks with the Big South for years, and Hampton's president, William Harvey, has been characterized as long wanting to advance the profile of Hampton athletics and the institution over all.

Hampton officials said the move would cut down on travel time and expenses for Hampton's athletics department and its players, citing the fact that Big South institutions are located in Virginia -- as is Hampton -- as well as North Carolina and South Carolina. The Mid-Eastern league spans the East Coast, from Delaware to Florida, but Big South members are also located in New Jersey and Georgia, too. 

With the shift, MEAC loses one of its most well-funded members -- Hampton’s athletics budget, $13.8 million in the 2015-16 academic year, more closely resembles those of potential rivals in the Big South. And Hampton has some of the better facilities in the MEAC.

Hampton also has established rivalries with Howard University and Norfolk State University that generate big revenue for the conference, said Jarrett Carter Sr., founder of HBCU Digest, a well-recognized news source on HBCUs.

But Hampton shouldn’t be treated as though it is absconding from MEAC, Carter said. Many institutions want to boost their profiles by transitioning to more prestigious leagues, and Hampton shouldn’t be criticized for doing the same.

“You owe it to your program, you owe it to your alumni, to position in such a way to grow the athletic brand,” Carter said.

Carter acknowledged that the MEAC would likely take a hit over losing Hampton, which he said jokingly is referred to as the Duke University of the league for the quality of its program and its status as a private institution.

But this allows MEAC to highlight some of its stars at other institutions and allow other rivalries to blossom, he said. Instead of relying on a couple of universities to carry the league, this change enables MEAC to become much more competitive among the remaining teams, Carter said.

“It’s not a cultural betrayal,” he said. “This is a great school that’s trying to grow, and every school should get a chance to do that.”

Alumni have been mixed over the move, Harry Minium, a sports columnist for The Virginian-Pilot, wrote in a recent article.

Some have cheered their alma mater’s move to a league with “better football and basketball and a better TV presence,” though Minium characterized it as only “a marginal step.”

Other fans have been miffed that Hampton departed an HBCU league. Tennessee State University is the only other National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I HBCU not in a historically black league. It’s a member of the Ohio Valley Conference.

“Some of the vibe synonymous with HBCU sports will be lost, especially come basketball tournament time,” Minium wrote. “The Big South and MEAC tournaments offer vastly different experiences. Personally, I prefer the bands, the cheerleaders, the energy in the MEAC to most other midmajor tournaments. And do HU officials really think basketball games with High Point, Winthrop and USC Upstate, or football games with Campbell, Monmouth and Kennesaw State, will jazz the home crowd? I think not.”

It will take several seasons for Hampton to develop the rivalries that existed before and generate hype about them, Carter said.

Bijan Bayne is a recognized sports author and a founder of the proposed Historical Basketball League, a league that could pay athletes and that would do away with the NCAA’s notion of amateurism. He said the contemporary NCAA system does not benefit historically black institutions. Prior to integration, HBCUs banded together in these conferences because they could attract blue-chip players. Now, the HBCU leagues have lost some of their clout because black players are recruited and in demand, Bayne said. More than half of the football players in the Power 5 conferences are black.

Hampton has long been a part of the MEAC, after moving from the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1995. MEAC will also lose Savannah State University, which will drop to NCAA Division II.

The vote to admit Hampton was unanimous, according to the Big South.

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Colleges start new academic programs

Tue, 2017-11-28 08:00
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Texas higher ed commissioner says outnumbered men feel uncomfortable on some campuses

Mon, 2017-11-27 08:00

Should outnumbered men feel uncomfortable on college campuses?

That’s a highly charged question hanging over Texas after remarks last week by the state’s commissioner of higher education. The commissioner, Raymund Paredes, commented before Thanksgiving on the fact that some campuses in Texas have student bodies that are 60 percent women and 40 percent men.

“We’ve been told by some presidents that we’re getting to the point where males feel uncomfortable on college campuses, on some college campuses,” Paredes said.

To many, the comments, made at a University of Houston Board of Regents meeting and first reported in the Houston Chronicle, came off as tone-deaf in light of the broader discussion currently taking place about gender, abuse and power dynamics in higher education and society. Within higher ed alone, recent headlines have centered on allegations that professors holding positions of power sexually harassed or preyed upon women. Some critics also point out that women are underrepresented in top jobs at universities and that they do not earn equal wages to men in the workplace. That's not to mention other aspects of campus atmosphere that hardly seem to indicate women holding all the power -- the fact that the higher education institution most revered by many in Texas is football, and that fraternities play a powerful role in the social life of many campuses.

Against that backdrop, it can be argued that women are the ones with cause to feel uncomfortable on college campuses -- not men.

Paredes says, however, that his comments have merit when taken in context. He had been speaking about the issue of enrolling and graduating male students from minority groups, an area where colleges and universities in the diverse -- and quickly further diversifying -- state of Texas have struggled. When Paredes spoke about men feeling uncomfortable, he had just said the state was behind in graduating African-American and Latino men. Texas has a lot of work ahead of it to bring up participation among economically disadvantaged groups, he said.

​Paredes declined during a telephone interview last week to share which college presidents have told him men are feeling uncomfortable on their campuses. But he reiterated that he was referring to groups of students that are financially at risk or less prepared for college than others.

“They are obviously going to feel uncomfortable if they don’t see many people like themselves on a university campus,” Paredes said. “I didn’t mean to suggest that we were at a crisis point, but I meant to suggest that a lot of people think we’re getting there.”

Asked more specifically about whether white men are also feeling uncomfortable, Paredes said that white male participation and completion rates are lower than rates for white women.

“We have a challenge in terms of the participation of males,” he said. “I think most of us want to have participation at levels that mirror their presence in the overall population, and I think most of us would be very concerned if any group -- African-American, Latino, white -- if their participation rates in any important societal function were much lower than their actual presence in the overall population.”

Yet experts question whether equal participation rates in higher education should be the goal in a world where men overwhelmingly hold top positions and earn more at work, on average, than women. Even accepting that goal, some questioned whether men’s comfort is the right focal point. Some pointed out that college campuses are places to challenge students -- places where, by definition, students should feel uncomfortable when confronted by issues like changing gender roles, economic prospects and patriarchy.

It’s important to note, though, that Paredes made the argument in Texas, where the state’s higher education strategic plan sets specific goals for degree completion by 2030. The top goal is to have at least 60 percent of young adults aged 25-34 holding a postsecondary credential of some sort by that year. But the plan also sets specific benchmarks for future certificate or degree completion among several groups of students: Hispanic students, African-American students, economically disadvantaged students -- and male students.

The plan describes the goal for men as a way to “monitor progress toward gender parity.”

Some retort that gender parity or gender equity can’t be measured solely by the number of students enrolled and the number of degrees granted.

“We should be cheering that more women are completing higher education, but they are still being dealt a fairly unlevel playing field,” said Anne Hedgepeth, interim vice president of public policy and government relations at the American Association of University Women. “Look not just at student populations but also at who is teaching classes, who is in higher ed administration, who are the provosts and on the boards that control higher education. Who is in political power, governors especially?”

The governor of Texas and the state’s top legislative leaders are all men. So are 121 of 150 members of the state House of Representatives and 23 of 31 members of the state Senate. Men make up a significant majority on a list of public university leaders kept by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

That’s not the situation only in Texas. By and large, power structures with the most influence on colleges and universities remain predominantly male, Hedgepeth said.

AAUW has also found that women working full-time across the country earn only 80 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. In Texas, they only earn 79 cents on the dollar.

Men in Texas carry comparatively less debt then women upon graduating. Student loan debt as a percentage of first-year wages for students graduating with four-year degrees totaled 67 percent for men and 77 percent for women, according to the Texas Higher Education Almanac. For those graduating with two-year degrees, it totaled 34 percent for men and 42 percent for women.

Other statistics show men lagging when it comes to degree completion. Men are less likely than women to graduate from high school, enroll in higher education or receive a higher education degree.

Men are roughly half of the Texas population. But men were only 43.6 percent of the state’s 1.65 million students enrolled in higher education in 2016. They represent about 42 percent of the state’s degree completions.

The gender breakdown on Texas campuses varies significantly. Some campuses, including main campuses for Texas A&M and Texas Tech, enroll more male undergraduates than women. Others skew far in the other direction.

Even with that complex set of data, some worry about the nuanced views that could be lost in the rush for gender parity.

“I’m just concerned that some of the complexity is getting flattened out of the picture,” said Susan Heinzelman, director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. “It irks me so much, because I think of the university as a place where complexity is nourished and celebrated. If that’s getting flattened here, good luck with the rest of the culture.”

Heinzelman was one of several experts who agreed that the debate about men feeling comfortable on campus depends on which men are being discussed. Students from historically underrepresented populations who feel uncomfortable could be seeing many universities as white, elitist, unfriendly places. Men studying subjects like engineering, where they dominate in number, but feeling uncomfortable about the number of women on campus, would be a different question.

At some level, the issues involved should make students with advantages feel uncomfortable, Heinzelman said.

“I’m all in favor of making people uncomfortable,” she said. “Not threatened -- but calling attention to the world in which they live and have privilege.”

It’s also worth pointing out that male enrollment varies drastically between Texas universities and individual programs. Texas Tech University, with an undergraduate student body that is 55 percent men, has run a one-day conference intended to help young girls find careers in science, technology, engineering and math. UT Austin, with a 47 percent male undergraduate enrollment, has an initiative called Project MALES, which works with Latino and black men.

Project MALES has male and female college students serving as mentors for boys in Austin-area schools and middle schools, said its coordinator, Mike Gutierrez. About 60 undergraduates and 10 graduate students work with 120 middle school and high school students.

Many of the participants in the program feel cultural influences or pressure to earn money instead of attending college for several years, Gutierrez said. Gender gaps on campus can be noticeable for students enrolled in college when they are in class or walking around campus. But the program tries to provide a place for discussion about that issue and other issues, like sexual assault.

“We try to give a little bit of time and space for them to kind of describe any concerns they might have,” Gutierrez said. “A lot of times, we want to make sure these young men can talk about what it means to be a male student on campus.”

Other institutions in Texas have programs for some men as well. At Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Sam Houston Establishing Leadership In and Through Education attempts to boost academic, professional and personal development among Hispanic and African-American men. It works with about 160 students and wants to grow to at least 200, said Miguel Arellano Arriaga, program coordinator. The men who take part don’t necessarily feel outnumbered on campus, he said. But women would like access to a similar program.

“We do get a lot of women who ask why there isn’t a program like this for them,” he said.

Outside Texas, many found it hard to believe that men feel uncomfortable on campus. That was the initial reaction of Jerlando F. L. Jackson, director and chief research scientist at Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin Madison. But his thoughts changed as he considered the different populations of men and the ways young men might interpret the things they see unfolding on campus around them.

Men might feel uncomfortable if they see programs and initiatives for others but don’t think they have access to those programs, he said. They might feel uncomfortable if they think they need to overanalyze every move in their relationships with women.

“My thought over all changed in thinking through this,” Jackson said. “If we did unpack this current collegiate experience, there are probably many more topics, and matters that call males to question what their role is on a college campus.”

While many may believe the historical advantages or power dynamics men enjoy should be changed, the idea of special programs to help men navigate college is more controversial. After all, it can be argued that many of higher education’s existing power structures function as boys' clubs or support systems for men.

Jim Shelley is the manager of the Men’s Resource Center at Lakeland Community College in Ohio, one of only a few programs of its kind. He hears from students, administrators and faculty members across the country. Broadly speaking, he believes there is a lack of interest in helping men on college campuses.

“The typical attitude is men are the problem and need to be reprogrammed,” he said. “What we’re trying to do with the program is kind of rephrase that to state that men have problems, too.”

It’s a hard discussion for administrators to have without minimizing the challenges women face. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recognizes higher ed needs to address serious problems related to gender, Paredes said. He called for addressing those problems with data.

“We know we are not going to achieve our goals -- 60 percent of our youngest cohort of adults having some form of postsecondary credential by 2030 -- if we don’t have heavy levels of participation by all groups,” he said. “And that’s what the message is.”

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Guilty plea by former team doctor renews scrutiny of Michigan State

Mon, 2017-11-27 08:00

Larry Nassar pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges that he molested numerous girls as a doctor for the U.S. national gymnastics team. While he pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual assault, he admitted responsibility in many more cases, some of them involving girls who went on to become Olympic stars.

His guilty plea has renewed calls for more information about what Michigan State University knew about the accusations against Nassar, who was director of sports medicine at the university at the same time he worked for the U.S. gymnastics team. Some of the women who were Nassar's victims charge that Michigan State either covered up accusations against him or looked the other way, allowing his abuse of girls to go on longer than it might have otherwise.

Michigan State fired Nassar in September 2016, after a series of articles started to appear in The Indianapolis Star about the sexual abuse of young gymnasts on the U.S. national team. One article, published days before the university fired Nassar, said two longtime gymnasts had accused him of sexual abuse in which he took advantage of his role as doctor to the team. (As the article, since updated, notes, the number now making such accusations about him tops 150).

Since then, some have come forward to say they reported inappropriate conduct by Nassar to Michigan State in 2014. NBC News quoted a former athlete saying she told Michigan State that a physical exam became a sexual assault in 2014, but that the university cleared him, relying in part on backing of other Michigan State employees, one of whom was described as close friend of Nassar. Another former student was quoted as saying that Michigan State discouraged students from talking to reporters looking into the situation.

"I came forward … and I was silenced," said one student. reported that other athletes came forward much earlier, in 1999 or 2000, reporting similar sexual abuse and feeling that the university ignored them. Lawyers for some women suing Michigan State said the university heard complaints as early as 1997. The university has denied receiving such allegations prior to 2014, and said it investigated thoroughly at that time.

The pattern alleged at Michigan State -- a powerful figure in the athletics department engaging in abuse for years without anyone doing anything about it -- has drawn comparisons to the Sandusky scandal at Pennsylvania State University. "Where is the outrage by the MSU Board of Trustees over the alleged actions by Dr. Larry Nassar? How is this different from the Penn State scandal? Why have heads not rolled at MSU?" asked a letter to the editor of The State News, Michigan State's student newspaper.

Michigan State has faced lawsuits and considerable legal costs as the scandal has grown. While the university has condemned Nassar and has been doing so since he was fired, Michigan State is being accused of not being forthright about its responsibilities in the case.

The allegations of a cover-up have extended beyond Nassar. Michigan State in February announced the suspension of Kathie Klages, who was in her 27th year as women's gymnastics coach, and who subsequently retired. The university did not indicate the reason for the suspension, but it followed allegations that a woman on her team reported concerns about treatments by Nassar and that the coach dismissed the concerns as a likely misunderstanding.

Lawyers for the women whom Nassar abused held a press conference after Wednesday's court hearing in which they called on Michigan State to release various internal investigations of Nassar so that people could see what the university knew, and when. At the press conference, they said if Michigan State doesn't release these investigations, Lou Anna K. Simon should be urged to resign as president.

"MSU and its administrators could have prevented the Nassar scandal if they had simply followed Title IX and the mandatory reporting laws. They ignored complaints of his misconduct going back to 1997. When they finally conducted a Title IX investigation of Nassar in 2014, they botched it and allowed him to continue allegedly molesting dozens of women and girls for two more years, including Team U.S.A. gymnasts," said a statement from Stephen Drew, one of the women's lawyers.

The university issued a statement after the press conference in which it said, "Michigan State University continues to be shocked and appalled by Larry Nassar’s now-admitted criminal conduct. Any suggestion that the university covered up this conduct is simply false." The statement added that Michigan State has turned over internal investigations to authorities that have brought criminal charges against Nassar and that the university has cooperated fully with those authorities. "MSU has consistently promised if it were to find any employee knew of and acquiesced in Nassar’s misconduct, the university would immediately report it to law enforcement."

The lawyers representing Nassar's victims have repeatedly called on Michigan State to release findings from investigations done by two prominent law firms, Skadden Arps and Miller Canfield. And lawyers have said Michigan State's refusal to do so compares unfavorably with the way Penn State released the results of outside investigations it commissioned on the Sandusky scandal.

But Michigan State says the investigations are different. The university's investigations have been designed to keep university leaders and appropriate legal authorities informed, a spokesman said. There has never been an intent to produce a report, and the investigations have not led to such a report, he said, so there is nothing to release.

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Study of internal grant proposal review processes demonstrates major return on investment

Mon, 2017-11-27 08:00

The stakes for research grant applications are high in today’s competitive funding environment. Yet applications are often submitted to external funding agencies before they pass any kind of internal review process. A new study from Columbia University’s School of Nursing suggests that institutions benefit from helping researchers write better grants. Specifically, it found that pilot grant applications that underwent an internal review were twice as likely as nonreviewed applications to receive funding.

“Over a five-year time frame, our school’s intramural pilot grant program produced peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations and subsequent external grant funding that likely would not have otherwise been generated,” the study says. “Given the resources required to prepare grant applications, internal finding and reviews can enhance return on investment.”

The paper, now in press with Nursing Outlook, is based on outcome data on 14 intramural pilot grants and 88 external grant applications from 2012 to 2016. In all, researchers found that pilot grants produced 16 peer-reviewed articles, 33 presentations and 11 grants. Some 42 percent (20 out of 48) applications that saw any type of internal review received funding, compared to 20 percent of grants (eight out of 40) that were not reviewed internally prior to submission.

Columbia Nursing’s $127,000 investment in funding their review processes over five years led to $3 million in external funding. That doesn’t take into account the time and effort associated with such processes. However, the study says, “we believe it still represents a sound investment for the school and for launching the research careers of postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty.”

In 2012, to address what the study describes as a critical need for research infrastructure, Columbia Nursing launched an intramural pilot grant program open to postdoctoral fellows and faculty members, with a preference for funding junior professors and early-stage investigators. Three such grants are available each year, of up to $10,000 each; the idea is that they’ll fund preliminary data collection or scholarly preparation for bigger grant proposals. Pilot grant recipients are required to submit interim and final progress reports, make a formal presentation to faculty members and students on the results, and share their findings in a publishable manuscript, abstract or other conference presentation.

Other funding priorities include projects that enhance collaboration among nursing faculty members, particularly clinical and research scholars, and those that incorporate interdisciplinary and translational research, the paper notes.

At the same time, the school’s Office of Scholarship and Research Development began coordinating a two-part internal review process for grant applications: peer-to-peer meetings called Specific Objectives and Aims Review (SOAR), followed by a live mock review. The programs are optional but strongly encouraged for faculty members and mandatory for postdocs.

SOAR protocols are scheduled for two to three months prior to proposal submissions. “Because a SOAR is designed to be preparatory to writing the proposal, only the specific aims are distributed and discussed,” the study says. “The purpose of the SOAR is to assure, before development of the protocol, that the aims are clear, logical, important, well articulated, feasible and include a cogent and logical rationale.” Sessions are informal and dialogue based, taking approximately 30 minutes. Investigators are required to contact their peer reviewers via email following the meeting to share what changes they plan to make in their proposals.

As for mock reviews, the study says that even if an investigator “feels that the grant is as near ‘perfect’ as possible, fresh eyes can pick up ways to improve the flow, make the presentation more motivating or identify flaws not previously recognized.” Grant seekers submit their mock review requests several weeks in advance and identify a group of peer experts and nonexperts to participate. Ideally, investigators agree to let graduate students and other faculty members watch the mock review, which is moderated by a staff or faculty member.

Over the five years studied, 19 intramural pilot grant applications were submitted. Fourteen were funded, with five senior principal investigators, seven junior professors, one associate research scientist and one postdoctoral fellow (three were repeat recipients). Pilot grants averaged $9,100 per project. The grants provided data for 14 subsequent grant applications, 11 of which were funded externally (two are pending and one was not funded).

Of the 88 grant applications that underwent mock reviews, 72 were submitted to federal agencies and 16 were submitted to foundations. Seventy-five applications were submitted by faculty, 22 of which were funded. Six of the 13 applications submitted by postdocs or graduate students were funded. Twenty-seven underwent at least one type of internal review. Seven applications only had a SOAR review, two of which were funded. Twenty-three applications had only a mock review, of which 12 were funded. Eighteen applications had both a SOAR and a mock review, six of which were funded. Forty applications had both a SOAR and mock review, eight of which were funded.

For external grant applications that underwent any type of internal review, whether SOAR, mock review or both, compared with those that did not participate, 42 percent received funding as compared with 20 percent that did not participate.

‘Broadly Applicable’ Findings

Lead author Kristine M. Kulage, director of research and scholarly development in nursing at Columbia, said Tuesday that she thought the study’s findings were “broadly applicable” not just to other health-care fields but to those across the sciences. (Kulage co-wrote the study with Elaine L. Larson, associate dean for research at Columbia Nursing.)

“High-quality grant writing is essential for all scientific disciplines to secure research grants in this highly competitive funding environment,” Kulage said. “Grant applications must not only be scientifically significant, innovative and rigorous with a high potential to improve health outcomes, but must also be well written to ensure accuracy, clarity, organization and a logical flow of arguments.”

It’s “absolutely essential that sound infrastructure be in place to support scientific investigators in both their grant writing and research endeavors,” Kulage added. At Columbia Nursing, for example, even relatively small investments in critical infrastructure -- such as financial support for preliminary data collection for future grants -- make a difference.

Nathan L. Vanderford, an assistant professor of toxicology and cancer biology at the University of Kentucky and assistant director for research at the campus’s Markey Cancer Center, said it’s rare for researchers or professors to participate in internal vetting procedures when they lack a strong internal peer network or institutional support services.

“Some faculty within an institution work in a vacuum and they simply don’t connect with other faculty that could help them vet or pre-review grants and manuscripts,” he said. Possible reasons for not participating might be “pure stubbornness” or internal political issues, he added. Yet Vanderford said he’s seen researchers succeed when they tap in to an internal peer network or use institutional support services. The cancer center’s Research Communications Office, for example, offers help with grant writing. The cancer center also offers a “grant swap” mechanism, by which professors can have their grant applications reviewed by other professors with similar expertise, and an integrated pilot funding program. (The College of Medicine also has a National Institutes of Health primary grant consultation service.)

Vanderford said the pilot mechanisms have been successful: in the last five years, 19 funded projects have yielded 11 external grants totaling $6,583,106 -- a return of $13.86 per dollar invested -- and 12 peer-reviewed publications.

It’s “all about faculty engaging with their peers, being willing to obtain peer feedback and utilizing the services provided by an institution,” he said.

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Servicers and states seek answer from DeVos on whether feds pre-empt state regulations

Mon, 2017-11-27 08:00

The Department of Education’s announcement in May that it would rescind extensive requirements for loan servicers previously issued by the Obama administration was a red flag to skeptics who already doubted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's commitment to protecting student borrowers.

Those requirements pressed servicers to be more active guides for borrowers seeking to pay off their student loan debt. And they said servicers would be judged based on outcomes for borrowers as well as the effectiveness of communications to borrowers, including special outreach to those at risk of default.

Despite assurances to the contrary from DeVos, many state lawmakers and regulators over the past year have responded by strengthening their own oversight regimes -- in one case, by largely adopting the Obama requirements.

The drive for tougher oversight in many states has formed the backdrop to a dispute between servicers and regulators, with DeVos in the middle.

Now both sides are waiting for the secretary to weigh in one way or another -- to recognize that federal policy pre-empts state regulations or, if attorneys general have their way, to stay out of their oversight of the sector.

Unlike state laws governing campus policies, though, the new regulations of servicers affect entities operating across state lines, drawing complaints from entities that say they shouldn’t have to comply with a patchwork of federal and state regulations.

In the first in a volley of letters to DeVos over the summer, the Education Finance Council, which represents nonprofit and state-based servicers, called on the secretary to make clear that federal law takes precedence in the event of a conflict with state law.

"We support any federal or state law that is protecting borrowers and is helping borrowers -- that we agree with 100 percent. Our specific concern is in the event of a conflict between federal and state law, servicers will have difficulty determining which to comply with,” Debra Chromy, the president of EFC, said in an interview. “Additionally, we are concerned with a patchwork of 50 different state laws that not only servicers would have to comply with, but also that would require borrowers to figure out what their rights are from state to state, rather than having those rights clarified and encoded on a federal level.”

Chromy said if states have concerns about regulatory standards for servicers, they should address those concerns at the federal level.

The National Council of Higher Education Resources in a July letter to DeVos offered even more detailed complaints about specific state laws and regulatory activity by state law enforcement officers.

But last month, a group of 32 Democratic and Republican state attorneys general told DeVos that the Higher Education Act, which authorizes Title IV federal aid programs, does not give the feds the power to pre-empt state consumer protections.

Colleen Campbell, associate director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said it’s natural that state elected officials are taking a hard look at loan servicers. Student loans are one of the top higher education issues when it comes to voter interest, she said.

The perception that the Department of Education has backed off oversight in the first months of the Trump administration likely fuels the push for tougher oversight by the states, Campbell said.

“If you’re running for office and you’re not seen as being tough on companies profiting off the student loan space, or you don’t really have a stance on student loans, it’s not a good look,” she said.

Several Democratic AGs have partnered with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to bring lawsuits against servicers such as Navient. While the CFPB has been active in oversight of loan servicers, Campbell said many consumers are not aware of the resources it provides. And many issues at the state level, she said, won’t be broad, systemic problems that can trigger federal involvement.

“They’re kind of an easy boogeyman to go after,” she said. “At the same time, they’re probably not doing a great job. And we’re not compensating them in a way to incentivize them to do a better job. Servicing is a kind of new frontier to look to hold large entities accountable.”

Connecticut, California, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., have all added new requirements for servicers in the name of protecting student borrowers.

EFC said that the District of Columbia’s new emergency loan regulations created the most “heightened” sense of alarm because its fee schedule would mean servicers lose money by operating in the city.

Tanya Bryant, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, said the fee schedule was based on similar regulatory regimes in California and Connecticut.

She said the department has met with student loan servicers to discuss issues with that fee schedule and is reviewing concerns raised through the public comment process. DISB will address any concerns over fees in a forthcoming final rule making.

The loan servicing group also said Connecticut’s new servicing standards, issued in July, include requirements that would push servicers into loan counseling -- a much different activity than taking payments.

And NCHER complained to DeVos that Connecticut had largely adopted the servicing requirements of the “Mitchell memo” -- the Obama administration document issued by then Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell laying out new consumer requirements in the next federal servicing contract -- even though the department itself withdrew the document in May.

“This leads NCHER and its members to theorize that the ‘Mitchell memo’ is in effect, but just in certain states,” said NCHER President James Bergeron in the letter to DeVos.

A Connecticut law requiring that student loan servicers apply for licenses to operate in the state went into effect last year. In July, the state issued the new set of student loan servicing standards, drawing the ire of the servicers.

Matt Smith, director of government relations and consumer affairs at the Connecticut Department of Banking, said those standards were required by statute. And they were largely based on standards already in place for industries like mortgage servicers.

There is growing evidence that more action is needed from federal and state regulators to rectify poor performance by servicers, said Ben Barrett, a program associate with the education policy program at New America, who follows servicing issues.

“There definitely needs to be some coordination between states and between the states and the federal government to ensure there aren’t any hiccups,” he said. “But they’re trying to protect servicers against having to comply with myriad state regulations.”

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Institutions grapple with accreditor's changes to dual-credit instruction

Mon, 2017-11-27 08:00

Some states and colleges are scrambling to offer incentives and develop programs that help dual-enrollment instructors meet a change in accreditation guidelines for teaching the increasingly popular courses.

But concerns remain about whether colleges will have enough qualified dual-credit instructors by the time the accreditor’s deadline arrives.

The issue began about two years ago, when the Higher Learning Commission, the country’s largest regional accreditor, issued a policy clarification stating that high school teachers in dual-credit courses, along with all instructional college faculty, must have a master’s degree in the specialty they’re teaching, or they need at least 18 graduate-level credit hours within that specialty. Dual-credit or dual-enrollment courses allow high school students to take college courses and earn credits before graduation. The courses are frequently taught by high school teachers.

The issue affects thousands of dual-credit instructors across HLC’s 19-state jurisdiction -- which goes from Arizona to West Virginia and North Dakota to Arkansas -- who are more likely to have a master’s degree in education than in the specialty they’re teaching. Advanced Placement teachers, for instance, aren’t affected because they aren’t affiliated with colleges. The issue is a concern particularly in colleges and high schools that employ dual-credit instructors, but also some colleges that employ faculty members who don’t meet the new standard.

HLC originally gave colleges until September this year to meet the new standard, but later allowed institutions and states to apply for an extension that pushes the deadline to September 2022 for dual-credit instructors.

“Many programs still have anxiety about the transition to the new requirements,” said Adam Lowe, executive director of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment in Partnerships, in an email. “Dual-credit instructors tend to be veteran teachers and thus closer to retirement and less inclined to enroll in graduate course work. And even in places where the existing pool of instructors largely meet the new requirements, continuing to build a pipeline of teachers who have the right credentials is a challenge as veterans approach retirement.”

While some of the states under HLC’s jurisdiction, like Arkansas, are already in compliance, others, like Minnesota and Indiana, applied for extensions to help their institutions bring instructors up to par.

The community colleges that offer most of the dual-credit instruction to high school students are partnering with universities to help their teachers get the credentials. John Newby, assistant vice president of K-12 initiatives for Ivy Tech Community College, said they’re finding institutions that are able to put together programming for the instructors who need it, and a lot of that is just beginning now.

Ivy Tech, which is Indiana’s statewide two-year college system, has about 3,000 dual-credit teachers for high school students, and of that group, about 1,000 will have to complete some level of graduate course work to meet HLC’s standard, Newby said.

“Some need as little as three credit hours, and for others, there is a much larger inventory they need to complete,” he said.

While Ivy Tech does have dual-credit instructors in career and technical education, the certifications those instructors have already meet HLC requirements, Newby said, adding that the need is to get the graduate credit requirements for those instructors in the liberal arts.

Newby said it’s still too early to tell whether or not the dual-credit instructors for Ivy Tech have flocked to graduate programs.

Indiana, for example, is awarding grant money to universities to help dual-credit teachers with the credentialing. The STEM Teach initiative, as it is known, is typically offered to encourage high school teachers to enter science, technology, engineering and math fields, but the grant can also provide tuition-free graduate courses to dual-enrollment instructors.

And there are other ways Indiana has responded to the need.

“We’re seeing more school districts across the state incorporate into their teaching contracts incentives for teachers to get the course work,” Newby said. “One way they’re helping them is with the tuition themselves or compensating them to a greater level if they become dual-credit credentialed under these new standards.”

Some universities, like those in the Indiana University System, are offering teachers tuition-free graduate course work, as long as they continue teaching dual-credit courses through the universities, Newby said.

“We developed new online master’s programs for this cohort and also new online certificate programs,” said Mike Beam, senior assistant vice provost for undergraduate education at Indiana University, adding that the university didn’t create new degrees for the instructors but is making the programs available online and crafted toward the instructors' needs. “If they have a master’s degree in education and need 18 hours in content areas … we’re developing 18- and 20-hour certificates in this space. The courses really make sense for dual-credit-course teaching.”

The most affected IU dual-credit high school programs were math, biology, chemistry, history, political science, English and public speaking. The university works with up to 600 dual-credit instructors a year, of which about 400 were affected by the HLC change, Beam said.

So, for instance, if an instructor needs graduate credit hours to teach dual-credit history, the master’s program at the university wouldn’t include European or East Asian history, because most dual-credit history courses in the high schools focus on U.S. history, he said.

“We just rolled this out this fall, and we had an outstanding response from teachers interested in taking courses,” Beam said. “We want to make sure we have the capacity for enrollment, but we’re letting teachers know how many credits they need compared to HLC requirements.”

The courses for dual-credit instructors are expected to begin next year, he said.

Farther north, the Minnesota State system of 37 colleges and universities received a systemwide extension to 2022 as well. Although system officials don’t know how many teachers have enrolled in graduate courses to meet HLC requirements, 33 of the system’s institutions offer dual-credit programs, said Doug Anderson, director of communications and media for the system, in an email.

At the University of Minnesota, officials are still collecting information on dual-credit instructors to evaluate who needs the additional courses, but the institution works with about 500 dual-enrollment teachers, said Julie Williams, director of College in the Schools for the university. The University of Minnesota is not part of the Minnesota State system.

“It has not been an easy job to evaluate where all of our instructors are in regard to what HLC has required,” Williams said, adding that the university has spent most of its time working with faculty departments to determine what degrees and graduate work they will recognize in order to offer the credit.

There was also the issue of equivalent test experience and what faculty at the university would be willing to accept for graduate credit, she said, adding that some dual-credit instructors have a significant amount of professional development that was hosted by the university.

The university also hasn’t approved or considered the possibility of reduced or free tuition for the instructors, she said.

“I imagine we’ll lose some instructors,” Williams said. “But I don’t think we’ll lose many.”

Williams said the instructors signed on to teach University of Minnesota work, even as a high school course, and that implies they’re willing to put in the time to continue teaching the youth courses and getting the graduate credit.

At Southwest Minnesota State University, the response from teachers has varied.

“We’ve had teachers say, ‘It’s not possible for my lifestyle and where I’m at with my family and teaching,’ and other teachers saying, ‘Point me where I need to go,’” said Kimberly Guenther, director of concurrent enrollment for SMSU. “We’ve seen all of it.”

SMSU is pointing instructors to a new online program hosted by Minnesota State University Moorhead called 18 Online, which was started specifically for the dual-credit high school teachers. The university has about 325 high school teachers in dual-credit courses, with about 80 percent not meeting HLC’s credentialing standard, Guenther said.

MSU-Moorhead created 18 Online in response to the HLC requirements. The program, which received $3 million from the Legislature, helps the dual-enrollment instructors reach their 18 graduate credits in content areas.

The program is not only tuition-free to the high school teachers, but there is no charge for textbooks and they can move up in salary at their high schools for participating. Those teachers already at the top of their salary schedules can receive a $1,500 stipend, said Boyd Bradbury, 18 Online liaison at MSU Moorhead.

So far, since starting earlier this year, 356 teachers have enrolled in 18 Online, he said.

“It’s growing -- it just takes a while to get this off the ground,” Bradbury said. “We started with math, communications and English … we’ve expanded to eight disciplines and [are] hoping to push that up to 12 in the very near future.”

But expanding courses hasn’t been easy, particularly because the university has had to navigate the collective bargaining system in order to incentivize university faculty to develop and administer the online graduate courses, he said.

“Faculty members proved to be the most challenging aspect of accomplishing this,” he said, adding that as part of the money from the state, the university included incentives for faculty members to participate. “And quite frankly there are faculty members who don’t believe in college in high school for credit and those who feel what is happening is a loss of faculty members at the postsecondary level.”

They also negotiated with faculty to have some kind of quality control for the courses, and thus 18 Online also meets the Quality Matters framework. Quality Matters is a nonprofit that conducts quality assurance in online education.

“We did respond very quickly to this, and for those who know the higher education world, this was lightning speed for anything to happen at the university level,” Bradbury said. “But to tell you this wasn’t contentious at the campus level would be less than truthful … but our math department led the way with this, and those individuals were willing to spend time for the greater good of kids and for the university.”

Teachers in the northwest region of the state, which includes about 90 school districts, can enroll in the program first, if they’ve received permission from their districts, ahead of other instructors across the state. For instance, SMSU is out of the main service area for 18 Online, so instructors at that institution would have to wait until after northwestern teachers applied to participate.

“Because of 18 Online, SMSU is trying to figure out and offer the courses that make sense. The university is offering special programming for dual-credit instructors in English and math graduate courses, and this spring the university will also offer chemistry courses for the instructors, Guenther said.

“There is absolutely a concern that not all 100 percent of teachers will make it,” Guenther said. “In the past two years, we’ve seen quite a few jump on board and take our math and English credits to meet credentialing, and I think over the course of the next five years we’ll see quite a few more meet that requirement on their own, but that’s a reality not all of them will be able to meet.”

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University faces uproar over recording showing how teaching assistant was questioned over video debate on pronouns

Wed, 2017-11-22 08:00

A recording of the way professors at Wilfrid Laurier University questioned a teaching assistant about her use of a debate video in class has set off a major dispute about academic freedom in Canada.

The teaching assistant had shown her class a recording in which two professors -- one of them of late a polarizing figure in Canadian academe -- debated the use of nontraditional pronouns for transgender people. The course was in communications, and the video was part of a discussion on the significance of grammar and language generally. Lindsay Shepherd, the teaching assistant, did not endorse a position in the debate, but told students that this was a subject being discussed in society today.

The recording now getting attention is one made by Shepherd as she was grilled days later by academics at the university who received a complaint about Shepherd showing the video.

In the audio recording, Shepherd's superiors are heard asking her repeatedly why she showed the video and why she didn't condemn the professor in the video who opposes nontraditional pronouns. Shepherd was told that her actions were hurtful and "transphobic," and she was told that her actions were the equivalent of refusing to take a stand against Hitler or white supremacists. She was also told that she might have violated Canada's antibias laws.

Shepherd tried to defend herself.

"I don't see how someone would rationally think it was threatening," she said of the class. Students might be challenged in their thinking, she said, "but for me that's the spirit of the university."

Shepherd asked those questioning her to show her the complaint so she could learn how she offended someone, and she asked to know the number of students who had complained, saying, "Was it one?" After being told that confidentiality requirements made it impossible to share the complaint, she asked whether confidentiality would be violated by her being told how many students complained. She was told that it would, and that the complaint came from one or more students.

As the discussion went on, Shepherd said that she did not agree with the person who argued against the use of the pronouns many transgender people prefer. But she said her obligation to her students was to show them ideas that are in the world. "Can you shield people from those ideas? Am I supposed to comfort them?" Of her students, she said, "when they leave the university, they are going to be exposed to these ideas."

Shepherd apologized for crying during her questioning but said that she couldn't believe she was being asked these questions at a university.

Those who questioned her included two faculty members (one of whom supervised her work as a teaching assistant) and the university's equity officer.

As Canadian press outlets covered the recording in the last 48 hours, many academics and others have demanded to know how Shepherd could have been treated as she was.

Apology From the President

On Tuesday, Deborah MacLatchy, the president of the university, issued an apology to Shepherd.

"After listening to this recording, an apology is in order. The conversation I heard does not reflect the values and practices to which Laurier aspires. I am sorry it occurred in the way that it did and I regret the impact it had on Lindsay Shepherd," MacLatchy wrote.

She vowed that an independent review would be conducted into what happened. Further, she said that freedom of expression is essential in higher education.

"Let me be clear by stating that Laurier is committed to the abiding principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression," she said. "Giving life to these principles while respecting fundamentally important human rights and our institutional values of diversity and inclusion, is not a simple matter. The intense media interest points to a highly polarizing and very complicated set of issues that is affecting universities across the democratic world. The polarizing nature of the current debate does not do justice to the complexity of issues."

David Robinson, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said in an interview that Shepherd had been "treated very badly" by the administration. While Shepherd was questioned by faculty members and an administrator, Robinson said that the administrator should have seen that the discussion was going off track and that any suggestion that Shepherd violated the law couldn't be true.

Robinson noted that the video she shared in class came from Canadian public television, and so had arguably been produced by the government. He also said that Shepherd outlined a sound pedagogy that should not have been doubted.

The Jordan Peterson Impact

Robinson said that, generally, the culture wars that are a major force in American higher education have not been as present in Canadian higher education. But he said a few figures have been "quite polarizing," and that one of them is Jordan Peterson, who was the debate participant who opposed the use of alternative pronouns. Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, has said that his position isn't so much against the pronouns, but against efforts to persuade people to use them even if they don't want to.

In March, protesters shouted down a talk of his at McMaster University, in Ontario.

Then this month, Peterson announced a plan to create a website to list courses nationwide containing “postmodern neo-Marxist course content,” in an effort to decrease enrollment in those courses. Amid criticism, he abandoned the plan.

"These kinds of issues seem to come up daily in the U.S., but they are still rare in Canada," Robinson said of the controversies surrounding Peterson.

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Punishments for shouting down college speakers run the gamut

Wed, 2017-11-22 08:00

One member of a student group that disrupted the University of Oregon president’s State of the University address last month has been punished.

The student -- Charlie Landeros -- has been assigned an essay.

Landeros, who prefers the pronouns they and them, also has had a letter reprimanding them added to their record.

But those consequences pale compared to those levied on students found guilty of the same offense one state over, at California's Claremont McKenna College. There, five students were suspended -- three of them for a year -- for shouting down the controversial conservative figure Heather Mac Donald.

The penalties for students who interrupt speakers vary drastically among institutions, in part because each case is so specific, but also because campus leaders remain reluctant and a little unsure of how hard to come down on these protesters, experts say.

Campus officials prefer to educate rather than punish students, especially when the students are engaging in a fundamental and long-standing tradition of higher education -- exercising free speech, albeit in an imprudent way. Administrators increasingly must respond to lawmakers and other outside forces to more harshly discipline these students.

“I don’t think campuses are anxious to adjudicate student protesters, but they’re feeling under the gun to create environments where speech can occur,” said Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Early examples of protests gone awry demonstrate institutions’ unfamiliarity with handling such events. Notably, at Middlebury College in early March, a visit by the divisive scholar Charles Murray devolved from a shouting down into violence -- a total of 74 students were punished. Even then, most received probation and none were suspended, as at Claremont McKenna.

Middlebury, whose representatives did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this article, have refused to disclose details about the penalties, which it labeled “official college discipline.” An earlier statement from the college said the more serious “college discipline” was a notice placed in students' records that they are sometimes required to disclose to potential graduate programs and employers.

Administrators have been disinclined to discipline students for shutting down speakers, though in interviews experts characterized this hesitancy in different ways.

Ari Cohn, from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said that administrators recognized that penalizing students was an “unpopular political move,” but that that tendency showed students they could escape punishments. Cohn is director of the individual rights defense program at FIRE, a civil rights watchdog group.

Now, college leaders are “flailing” as they try to clamp down on a problem they helped create, Cohn said. Students across the country have tuned in to social media and can observe campus protests, which will spawn others, he said.

But such demonstrations are cyclical and not nascent on college campuses, said Jill Creighton, president of the Association for Student Conduct Administration. While higher education hasn’t often grappled with speakers being shouted down in the last decade, 30 years ago it did, she said.

Conduct officials never approach cases with a punitive lens, but rather they try to “repair” behavior, Creighton said -- so colleges punish only as a last resort.

“We’ve really seen civil rights concerns as a part of our profession since the beginning; it’s iterative -- it comes around in different forms,” she said.

At the University of Oregon, which failed to provide a comment for this article, students were initially extended a deal in which their student conduct violations could be wiped away simply by meeting with administrators.

Members of one student group, the University of Oregon Student Collective, which organized the protest against the president, refused. The Student Collective, described by Landeros in an interview, has called for the administration to make the institution more accessible to and safe for marginalized students. Landeros cited a proliferation of white nationalist propaganda on campus, which they said can lead to violence.

Landeros, a founding member of the Student Collective, met behind closed doors with an administrator recently and argued that the group did not disrupt the university environment. The university can’t function without students and thus the collective’s protest was more “university business” than the president’s speech, Landeros argued.

“A speech by an executive administrator is not essential to a school,” they said.

The university also told Landeros that the group had ignored an order to end the protest. Landeros did not dispute that in the interview, but said that the members were being told to be “less effective” in their protest, rendering the demand to stop as unreasonable.

They intend to appeal the punishment. The Student Collective also introduced a resolution to the University of Oregon Senate asking the Senate to call for dropping the conduct violations against the protesters.

President Michael H. Schill, in an opinion piece in The New York Times, likened the language used by one protester to fascism, which the students had accused him of promoting. Schill said the use of the term to describe him and the institution offended him, because members of his extended family were thrown into concentration campus and murdered in the Holocaust.

Schill wrote that he respected the right to protest, but not the silencing of others.

“From what I can tell, much of what students are protesting, both at the University of Oregon and elsewhere, is the expression of viewpoints or ideologies that offend them and make them feel marginalized. They are fed up with what they see as a blanket protection of free speech that, at its extreme, permits the expression of views by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. I am opposed to all these groups stand for, but offensive speech can never be the sole criterion for shutting down a speaker.”

Officials do not want to “criminalize” this behavior, but they do want to prevent free speech from being restricted, said Kruger of NASPA. He described a scenario: What if right-wing speakers, the kind college students have typically tried to block, were excluded from campus? That could lead to someone discussing sexual or reproductive health also being drowned out, simply because someone in the audience was insulted.

Lawmakers and university systems have stepped in to address this, either legislatively or through policy, sometimes to the chagrin of campus officials. Alumni and the “greater community” of these colleges also pressure the institutions to act, Kruger said.

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, for instance, approved a policy last month mandating that students who disrupt protests be suspended if they do it twice, and after three times, expelled. Legislation had been floated in Wisconsin that would have forced similar punishments.

Both NASPA and FIRE oppose such minimum sentencing, because it does not permit officials to consider context.

“This has always been the purview of colleges and universities to manage their own disciplinary matters,” Kruger said. “This doesn’t account for nuance at individual institutions.”

Also among the more recent incidents were students at the College of William & Mary associated with the Black Lives Matter movement interrupting the speech of Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Virginia chapter.

The protesters accused the ACLU of protecting white supremacists, linked to the ACLU's backing a white nationalist's lawsuit against the city of Charlottesville, Va., related to their right to hold a protest in August, which ultimately turned violent.

Those students violated the William & Mary conduct code, the institution confirmed, but it would not disclose if the students would face consequences. Spokesman Brian Whitson, citing federal privacy laws, again refused to discuss possible sanctions for this article.

Whitson said via email that the institution intends to work more closely with event organizers in advance of an event that might be protested. The college had practices for large and high-profile events before, but Whitson said it is formalizing this planning process for all events.

"Candidly, we were not expecting a protest like we had during the student event on Sept. 27, and we want to do everything we can to prevent that from happening again," Whitson wrote in his email.

William & Mary President Taylor Reveley published a statement in October that touched on the First Amendment and the student protest of ACLU.

"This is my 20th year at William & Mary. Along the way I have come to know our magnificent institution very well. Among its myriad virtues, one that I've especially cherished is the civility and mutual respect with which we wage our disagreements, even when they are passionately felt. This way of living and working together has served us well. Let's not lose it."

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Inside a failed race against the clock at SUNY Buffalo

Wed, 2017-11-22 08:00

When a vote to censure the dean of the School of Architecture and Planning failed to pass the Faculty Senate this month at the University at Buffalo, of the State University of New York system, it was only the latest development in a dispute that has been brewing for more than a year. And while the dean avoided censure, and his decision not to renew a professor’s contract -- which was the impetus for the dispute -- still stands, some faculty and union representatives say they’re just getting started in seeking more policy changes.

What was a simple nonrenewal of a contract in 2016 has turned into a winding dispute, leaving the professor in question with a life-threatening illness and now -- after failed back-channel negotiations between faculty members and administrators -- no health-insurance support from SUNY Buffalo. The consequences are likely to go beyond the professor, as well, as faculty and union leaders lead a charge to prevent a similar situation from happening again.

In 2014, a professor was offered a tenure-track position -- with a six-year probationary period and an opportunity for renewal at three years -- at SUNY Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning. Since she was let go in August 2017, her name hasn’t been released by the university, which cited privacy policies regarding personnel. But when the faculty member accepted the position, her understanding was that faculty input would help decide whether her three-year contract for the first half of her pre-tenure-vote employment would be renewed.

While that might be the typical procedure for SUNY Buffalo faculty members, however, it’s not in their contract. In June 2016, the professor was told that after finishing her contract in August 2017, she would no longer be employed by the university. A reasoning has not been announced -- nor is a reason required by the faculty contract.

The decision was made June 15, 2016, and came from Robert Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, as well as the interim department chair, Despina Stratigakos, and the department chair, Omar Khan, who was on sabbatical at the time. It was signed off by Provost Charles Zukoski.

A report from the professor’s mentoring committee -- composed of her colleagues -- wouldn’t arrive until a week later.

When outlining the narrative, Philip Glick, chair of the Faculty Senate, expressed frustration with what he said was a lack of support for pretenure faculty members, whose dismissal could come without reason, and -- as this case showed -- without adequate faculty input.

“Her process was violated,” Glick said. “It was very clear from all the information that was presented to us … in the future we need some sort of independent ombudsman, where disputes between the administration and the faculty can be resolved.”

Paul Zarembka, grievance officer for SUNY Buffalo's union, the United University Professionals North Campus chapter, said the process under which the professor was dismissed wasn't in violation of union standards, but it exposed a bad policy.

"The report itself did not in any way suggest she be dismissed or anything like that," Zarembka said. "But whatever it was, it didn't even arrive to the dean's office until the next week."

In May 2016, Glick said, the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate formed an ad hoc grievance committee to look into the dismissal of the professor. They called her to testify, as well as Shibley, the chairs of the mentoring committee and the department, and the interim chairs of both the mentoring committee and the department.

The only one who showed up was the professor.

Speaking on behalf of Stratigakos and himself, Khan said via email that a draft of the mentoring report was used in "part of our deliberation" regarding the professor, and contested the characterization that any due process was breached. In a letter to the Faculty Senate ahead of the censure vote, he criticized the ad hoc grievance committee for making a decision without all the evidence, but at the same time admitted that he declined to testify to the committee, citing the privacy policy surrounding personnel matters.

Khan said it was not uncommon to use a draft of a report rather than the report itself if the report had been delayed. He did not answer a follow-up question as to whether or not this report was delayed.

SUNY Buffalo contends that the committee was out of line in investigating the dismissal, since the contract was never breached.

“Within this context, the dean of a school or college, the provost and the president have the clear authority to make these judgments,” that is, dismissing a professor, university spokesman John Della Contrada said in a statement to Inside Higher Ed. “The Faculty Senate, as an inseparable and vital part of [SUNY Buffalo], has no role in individual faculty personnel actions.”

The Faculty Senate, Della Contrada said, had “no standing” in the matter, per the union contract. Others agreed, writing in support of Shibley when the Faculty Senate eventually moved to censure him for his role in the dismissal in November 2017.

“The nonrenewal was based upon the recommendation of the Department of Architecture and then of the school,” Shibley wrote in a letter to the Faculty Senate shortly before the vote to censure him. “This action by [Faculty Senate chair] Glick is an unprecedented intrusion into the ability of the department to chart its destiny and review its colleagues on term appointments with recommendations to the provost in accordance with [the union], Employee Relations and [SUNY] Board of Trustees policies and procedures.”

Since the university didn’t violate the professor’s contract, Zarembka, the union's grievance officer, told Inside Higher Ed the professor wasn’t able to file a complaint with the union. He lamented the circumstances under which she was dismissed, and that the dismissal was allowed to occur the way it did. That’s why the Faculty Senate stepped in, Glick said, to carry out its duty to look into grievances, although he had his detractors in the Executive Committee as well, especially after the membership of the Executive Committee changed in August.

“She had every right to come to the Faculty Senate,” Glick said.

Illness and Negotiations

During the time that the ad hoc grievance committee was investigating the professor’s dismissal, the professor developed a life-threatening illness, Glick said. And come Aug. 15, she would be removed from SUNY Buffalo’s health insurance.

Glick’s solution was to ask the provost to reappoint her temporarily and have faculty members donate their sick pay so she could continue to receive a paycheck and benefits for six months, with the thinking that she would then transition to state disability services.

The university, however, found that would constitute an illegal use of public funds. The union countered with a legal opinion that the arrangement could have been legal.

The back-and-forth, however, never amounted to any sort of agreement. The professor was let go in August as scheduled and lost her health insurance.

A Vote to Censure

With the ad hoc grievance committee’s efforts to challenge the nonrenewal unsuccessful, the Executive Committee moved to introduce a resolution that would censure Shibley. While the censure of Shibley would be approved as a matter of public record, there would be no actual consequences.

By then, however, the makeup of the Executive Committee had changed. Although the resolution was approved, so was another resolution, which, if passed by the full Senate, would have the original censure be rescinded if it were to pass.

In the two months before the vote, Glick said he continued to press Zukoski, the provost, to reinstate the professor who was let go, in order to get her benefits back. He pledged to try to lobby the Faculty Senate to vote against the censure of Shibley as part of his bargain, he said.

No deal was reached. And after more than an hour of debate, the motion to censure Shibley failed anyway, by close to a three-to-one margin.

“The dean is a wonderful man; he’s done great things for the community and the university. But he was the person responsible,” Glick said. “And he didn’t really care whether policies and procedures were followed.”

The provost applauded the vote.

“I am pleased that the Faculty Senate voted overwhelmingly to support the dean and to recognize the established governing policies and procedures of the university and the SUNY Board of Trustees,” he said in a statement to Inside Higher Ed.

‘Just Getting Started’

Glick said he learned valuable lessons from his unsuccessful campaign, and, with his position on the SUNY-wide Faculty Senate, he hopes to implement changes to prevent a similar situation from happening in the future.

Glick hopes to guarantee legal representation for faculty senates in the SUNY system, he said, so that when administrations get legal representation, the faculty is entitled to similar counsel. While the union was able to assist in this case, he said, that doesn’t mean they can always be there, especially at smaller institutions.

Another change he’s seeking has to do with the actual contract, and the ability of the university to dismiss professors without giving cause.

“It seems ludicrous to me that in a higher education environment, where we’re dealing with really smart people … that pretenure and nonpermanent faculty can be dismissed without any reason or cause,” he said. The changes he’s seeking, he said, wouldn’t undercut the university’s authority to dismiss those professors, but would at least give them notice for why that decision was made.

In pushing back on the motion to censure Shibley, the university took issue with how much attention was being paid to that part of the contract, which falls under Article 32.

“If the Senate leadership’s goal was to pursue the prospects of amending Article 32 and other proposals, it should have done so in a more transparent and straightforward manner rather than the ill-advised censure resolution,” Della Contrada said. “This would have been more consistent with the values of the university and its faculty, and far more thoughtful than the attempt to discredit colleagues by censuring them for their compliance with existing policies.”

Glick, however, “has no trouble going to bed at night,” and hopes that he can continue fighting for what he says is more justice and representation for nontenured and nonpermanent faculty.

“The access to legal representation is just getting started, the Article 32 adjustments are just getting started, helping pretenure faculty is just getting started,” he said.

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A university gets personal with its students about cybersecurity

Wed, 2017-11-22 08:00

Today’s students may be digital natives, but that doesn't mean institutions can count on them to protect themselves from cyberattacks.

A recent survey by the technology firm CDW-G found that the No. 1 cybersecurity challenge facing IT professionals on campus is educating users about security policies and practices. Among students surveyed, just 25 percent dubbed the cybersecurity training or education efforts on their campus as very effective.

One institution, however, may have found a way to reach students -- by making them, and their pets, the stars of a cybersecurity-awareness campaign.

Speaking at the annual meeting of Educause in Philadelphia this month, representatives from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst shared how they leveraged students’ love of social media and personalized content to encourage them to up their cybersecurity game.

“There was a recognition that we needed to do something different, something fun,” said Iris Chelaru, web communications manager at UMass. While previous awareness campaigns had been informative, they failed to connect with students on a personal level, said Chelaru. Cybersecurity awareness is a bit like public health awareness, she said -- “things that we have to do but that we don’t want to.”

As students are both creators and curators of content online, who better than them to advise and help design an awareness campaign, Chelaru said. She and her team worked with the student government and other campus organizations to design an approach that was both informative and “warm and fuzzy,” said Chelaru.

Rather than presenting information on multiple security risks, as the university had previously, UMass officials decided to pick just one issue -- weak passwords -- as the center of their campaign. Pet names emerged as something that students regularly use as passwords, but that can be easily guessed, said Chelaru. With this in mind, the team created a website where students can create posters with pictures of their pets, underneath the tagline “My name is not a good password.”

“We were thinking about things that are familiar to students and that they know, maybe something from home that they miss,” said Chelaru. The posters, which could be easily shared on social media, saw much more engagement from students than previous campaigns did, said Matthew Dalton, chief information security officer at UMass Amherst.

Though the campaign started with posters of student pets, it quickly broadened, said Dalton. To make the campaign even more interactive, the team created giant photo frames that students could pose with in real life, under the same “My name is not a good password” banner. The team set up tables in areas with high student traffic at lunchtimes in October as part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month and offered prizes to encourage engagement. Soon the football team's mascot, Sam the Minuteman, and the university administration were in on the campaign.

While Dalton and colleagues hailed the campaign as a success, evaluating its impact has been tricky, he acknowledged. They have seen a decrease in student account breaches, but Dalton said he can’t be sure this campaign is responsible, as opposed to other security work the team has done. It would be difficult to track whether the campaign had actually resulted in behavior change without cracking student passwords to check if they contain pet names, said Dalton. But he is planning to look at whether password change activity has risen, he said.

Dalton said that the password campaign, now entering its third year, continues to have an impact because it doesn’t overload students with information. Where previously students might have been referred to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s guidelines on how to create a good password (make them complicated, change them regularly, include numbers and special characters, etc.), now students are just being made to think about what makes a bad password. The details come later, when the students actually log in to change their passwords, said Dalton.

Though the impact on student behavior is not yet known, the institution views the campaign as a success for other reasons, said Dalton. First, all the posters and photos shared on social media had strong institutional branding. Second, the campaign had support and engagement from the university administration, including backing from the vice chancellor for information services. Third, students were able to take ownership of the campaign. “People were willing to become part of the message,” said Dalton. “With any participation event, that’s key -- especially with security awareness.”

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Election victors in Czech Republic seek shift in priorities in higher education

Wed, 2017-11-22 08:00

The antiestablishment political party that swept to victory in the Czech Republic’s recent elections is likely to want the country’s universities to redirect teaching and research towards the needs of the economy, observers say.

ANO, led by the billionaire Andrej Babiš, won almost 30 percent of the vote in elections last month, limiting the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats -- who normally dominate government -- to single figures. Negotiations are underway to form a new government.

Tomas Dumbrovsky, assistant professor of law at Charles University in Prague, who has written on Czech higher education, said that the party’s approach was “market oriented, which might fit natural science and technical [subjects] … but hardly takes into account the needs of humanities and social science.”

ANO’s program commits to increase the stability of university funding so that institutions can supply “qualified experts in line with strategic decisions of the state.”

It also wants more “practical experience” in university education, as well as a system of “quality evaluation” to make sure that graduates meet “labor market needs.”

ANO also believes that Czech research spending is not achieving results and thinks that it should be focused more toward helping to deliver economic growth, Dumbrovsky added.

The party also wants more international involvement in Czech universities. Institutional assessments should be based on peer review by researchers, preferably international ones, and students should have to take a course either in English or abroad, the program says.

Michal Lošťák, vice rector for international relations at the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, said that ANO also pledged not to introduce tuition on the basis that “the education of young people will be beneficial for all of us.”

However, tuition has become a political issue in another way: Babiš recently criticized the former Czech government for waiving the fees of 10 Nigerian medical students whose home country funding had been cut off, arguing that “they should work as any other student to get the needed sum,” Lošťák explained.

ANO’s program in part echoes some of the utilitarian themes seen elsewhere in Central Europe, such as Hungary, where the ruling Fidesz Party has reduced the number of university places and said that higher education should serve the labor market.

But whether it will be carried out is another matter. “ANO’s focus on … university education is minimal in reality,” Dumbrovsky said. Its program is “modern and appealing,” and it has “nice phrases,” he said, but it lacks “any real plan how to achieve the pledged state of things.”

Declaring that “ANO’s electorate has little interest in the area” of higher education, he predicted that the same would be true of an ANO government.

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New presidents or provosts: Cedarville Colgate Heritage Huntingdon Kansas McNeese Missouri Nottingham St. Thomas Scott UAB

Wed, 2017-11-22 08:00
  • Pam Benoit, executive vice president and provost at Ohio University, has been chosen as senior vice president of academic affairs and provost at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
  • Daryl Burckel, professor of accounting at McNeese State University, in Louisiana, has been named president there.
  • Alexander Cartwright, provost and vice president of the State University of New York System, has been appointed chancellor of the University of Missouri at Columbia.
  • Lyn Brodersen Cochran, assistant vice president for organizational development at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, has been selected as president of Scott Community College, in Iowa.
  • Douglas A. Girod, executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center, has been chosen as chancellor of the University of Kansas.
  • Tracey Hucks, James D. Vail III Professor at Davidson College, in North Carolina, has been selected as provost and dean of the faculty at Colgate University, in New York.
  • Richard L. Ludwick, president of Independent Colleges of Indiana, has been appointed president of the University of St. Thomas, in Texas.
  • Thomas Mach, assistant vice president for academics at Cedarville University, in Ohio, has been promoted to vice president for academics there.
  • Anna McEwan, dean of the College of Education at the University of Montevallo, in Alabama, has been chosen as provost and dean of the college at Huntingdon College, also in Alabama.
  • Andrew C. Sund, president of St. Augustine College, in Illinois, has been selected as president of Heritage University, in Washington.
  • Shearer West, professor of art history and provost and deputy vice chancellor at the University of Sheffield, in Britain, has appointed as president and vice chancellor of the University of Nottingham, also in Britain.
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At Middle East studies conference, panelists consider how Israeli-Palestinian conflict plays out in classroom

Tue, 2017-11-21 08:00

WASHINGTON -- At the Middle East Studies Association’s annual meeting, several panels focused on the tensions scholars of the region are navigating in the classroom in these intensely polarized times, with perhaps few issues as contentious as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A roundtable session Monday afternoon focused on navigating Jewish campus and community debates on Israel. Speakers at the session raised a number of issues, ranging from the ways in which the Jewish campus organization Hillel International has defined the terms of debate to the influence of external groups that promote a certain view about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the growth of donor-funded Israel studies chairs on U.S. campuses and the uneasy relationship between Israel studies and the broader field of Middle East studies.

Also on Monday, MESA’s board approved a resolution condemning what it described as “intimidation of students and faculty” by groups like the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Canary Mission, organizations that have coordinated poster or social media campaigns that single out individual students and scholars who are identified by the groups as being anti-Israel or supportive of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The David Horowitz Freedom Center is behind poster campaigns on campuses that link faculty or students involved in Palestinian activism to Hamas and terrorism. Canary Mission’s website, which includes profiles and photos of individual students who are affiliated with groups like Students for Justice in Palestine as well as professors, has a stated aim of exposing “those who promote lies and attacks on Israel and the Jewish people.”

“We urge academic administrations to repudiate and condemn in no uncertain terms these efforts to defame, intimidate and silence members of their communities,” MESA’s board said in a statement. “We also call upon administrators to reaffirm unequivocal support for the principles of academic freedom and free speech, and to take prompt action to fulfill their responsibility for establishing and maintaining a safe, inclusive and diverse campus environment.”

David Horowitz said the activists identified by his group should stand behind their beliefs. “What these people don’t want is to be held accountable,” he said. “What is the big deal about identifying people who are standing up for terrorists?”

“The MESA statement is the height of hypocrisy,” Horowitz added. Referring to tactics by Palestinian activists to establish mock checkpoints or “apartheid walls” on campuses or distribute mock eviction notices meant to draw attention to the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes, Horowitz asked, “Posters are 'intimidation' but checkpoints and apartheid walls and eviction notices and chants of 'Zionists off campus' are not?”

Panelists at the Monday afternoon MESA session on navigating campus debates on Israel described an increasing polarization, and ways in which what happens outside the classroom can affect what goes on inside the classroom.

Benjamin Schreier, a literary scholar who directs the Jewish studies program at Pennsylvania State University, argued that Hillel International, the largest student group that supports Jewish student life, seeks to simplify the discourse on Israel, with opinions being divided into two spheres, those that are more or less critical of Israeli policies and those that are more or less supportive -- and to overlay onto this difference of opinion a characterization of being anti-Israel or Israel friendly. “A difference of opinion becomes a difference of what kind of person you are,” Schreier said.

As Schreier wrote in the abstract for the presentation, “Claims of position are increasingly legible as -- and only as -- claims of identity. It’s getting too easy to see in a scene of discursive antagonism conflicting kinds of irreconcilable people rather than conflicting sets of arguable claims.”

Hillel did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon. The organization, which has been criticized for its policies that preclude partnering with groups that support BDS, says on its website that it "welcomes a diversity of student perspectives on Israel" and that its “goal is to inspire every Jewish college student to develop a meaningful and enduring relationship to Israel and to Israelis.”

Another panelist at the session, a professor of history and Jewish studies at Vassar College, Joshua Schreier, described the pressure on the college that came from a group of pro-Israel alumni who alleged a lack of balance in campus discussions of the topic. He suggested that outside groups are using professors' publicly stated political opinions as proof that Jewish students are being cowed without having knowledge of what goes on inside the classroom.

As such, Joshua Schreier raised the question of how faculty members can take positions on contentious political issues while at the same time making “it very clear to students from a wide variety of groups that we’re their professor too. There’s not one group of students that claims a particular monopoly on us. What I’ve been thinking about is how we present ourselves as professors to everyone but [also] very clearly as people of conscience who are not afraid to speak out.”

Much of the session focused on the growth of positions in Israel studies funded by donors and the relationship of positions funded by Israel advocacy groups to the broader Middle East Studies field. One audience member spoke of a case at Case Western Reserve University where a local Jewish community organization was represented on the search committee. (The case was recently covered by The Chronicle of Higher Education.)

“There’s been some pretty insidious activity on some of our campuses with regard to donor intervention,” said Shira Robinson, a panelist and an associate professor of history and international affairs at George Washington University. "In other institutions, and I’m not naming names here, where there were failed searches [for Israel studies chairs], not only have the searches failed once, the searches have failed multiple times because of either donor intervention or the refusal of the faculty to accept the candidates that the donors wanted."

Robinson, who teaches on the modern Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, also discussed a trend after the establishment of an Israel studies chair at her university for Jewish students to migrate toward courses under the Israel studies umbrella, while other students who see themselves in solidarity with Palestinians migrate to her classes. Robinson described this as a kind of "Balkanization" that she thinks is very unfortunate.

The discussion was at times quite contentious, as when panelists clashed with an audience member who represented an external organization that promotes U.S.-Israeli cooperation and funds visiting faculty and graduate students over who it funds and whether they’re expected to hold certain views on Israel.

Ilan Troen, an Israel studies professor at Brandeis University, said there is a great demand for Israel studies and for the study of subjects other than the conflict and that the influence of donors was much exaggerated. "The good universities, the Jewish donors might try and shove and push, but they’re not on promotion committees," Troen said from the audience.

“Efforts to constrain searches ideologically come from the right and the left across campus. They come from a dozen or more different disciplines; they really are an equal opportunity effort to bias search procedures,” Cary Nelson, an emeritus professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who has written extensively opposing the BDS campaign, said, also from the audience. "You put yourself at risk if you assume that you are always and only the better angel of our nature, that you are interested in objective critique and that there are other folks out there who are ideologically motivated." He suggested there was "no lack of ideological motivation" to go around.

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Full-time jobs in English and languages reach new low, MLA report finds

Tue, 2017-11-21 08:00

Job ads published with the Modern Language Association declined for a fifth straight year in 2016-17, reaching another new low, according to a preliminary report from the MLA.

The association’s Job Information List -- a proxy for the tenure-track (or otherwise full-time) job market in English and foreign languages -- included 851 jobs last year in English, 11 percent (102 jobs) fewer than the year before. The foreign language edition list included 808 jobs, or 12 percent (110 jobs) fewer than the year before.

The declines of the past five years bring the number of total jobs advertised to another new low, according to MLA, below the dip seen between 2007-08 and 2009-10.

Source: Modern Language Association

MLA notes that the share of all job ads in English that are tenure-line has fallen to under 65 percent, from about 75 percent in 2008-09.

In foreign languages, the share of all jobs ads that are tenure-line has fallen from about 60 percent to just over 45 percent over the same period.

A more detailed report from the MLA is expected later this year. In the interim, the association shared a breakdown of jobs ads for positions in languages other than English. The number of ads for jobs in Arabic, Chinese, French, Germanic and Scandinavian languages, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish continued their multiyear declines.

Available positions in Russian and Slavic languages increased year over year, from 31 in 2015-16 to 40 in 2016-17.

Robert Townsend, director of the Washington office of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, said MLA’s data seem “quite consistent” with other data on jobs in the humanities, such as a recent, sobering jobs report from the American Historical Association and a jobs snapshot from the academy.

The academy report, for example, says that the number of jobs advertised with disciplinary associations in the humanities linger “substantially below pre-recession levels.”

As to precisely what’s driving the continued decline of available full-time positions, Townsend said he thought it was still “an open question.” Possible factors include changes in the ways jobs are advertised, a decline in faculty retirements, a drop in enrollments or a shift toward more adjunct instructors.

“Unfortunately, we lack the data we need to really tease out the underlying variables at work here,” he said. “There is still more work to be done there.”

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Q&A with author of book on the unequal higher ed landscape

Tue, 2017-11-21 08:00

Although university leaders speak frequently about college as a driver of social mobility, opining on the need to expand access to poor and underserved populations, inequality permeates American higher education.

A new book attempts to quantify just how different top colleges are from their less selective peers -- and how institutions’ fortunes have changed since the 1970s. That book, Unequal Colleges in the Age of Disparity (Harvard University Press), by economist Charles Clotfelter, shows American undergraduate education is less equal today than it was half a century ago. It also explores the many forces contributing to that change.

Clotfelter, a professor of public policy studies at Duke University, examines higher education as an industry, setting aside idealized portraits in lieu of economic terminology in order to demystify the market and scrutinize it in depth. He argues that no one who works at a top institution like Duke sets out to create an increasingly unequal higher education landscape. Yet a competitive market and rising income inequality have contributed to top universities growing even more powerful and elite than they were in the past, even as many of their smaller and lesser-known peers struggle.

“When we examine the market for baccalaureate education in the United States, we behold a scene of spectacular disparities,” Clotfelter writes. “They reveal themselves as differences across colleges in tangible resources, academic qualifications of entering students, and outcomes for graduates.”

Clotfelter answered questions by email about his new book. The following exchange has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q: You pick out three themes in the book: diversity, competition and inequality. Were you surprised at what you found?

A: Regarding inequality, the surprise was in the extent, not the existence of it. Comparing the less selective half of public colleges and universities (so classified in 1970) with the most selective private ones, for example, the difference in assets per student by 2013 was astounding: $29,000 for the former group of colleges, compared to $1.2 million for the latter group. Another aspect where inequality showed up was in qualifications of students, and these disparities grew larger over time. In 1972, for example, the percentage of students whose average grades in high school were A or A-plus was 7 percent in the less selective public colleges, compared to 39 percent in the most selective private ones, for a gap of 32 percentage points. By 2010 that large gap had grown even bigger, to 43 points.

The extent of the diversity in colleges’ missions is also striking. Colleges differ from each other, sometimes radically, along a host of dimensions, most noticeably by age, location, architecture and size. Going beneath the easily observed, they differ in elusive but more significant ways -- religious mission, research intensity and emphasis on practical skills, to name a few. But there is a connection back to inequality, since the extent to which a college’s courses teach “useful” skills is often a good predictor of where the college resides along the elusive dimension of prestige. Prestige in turn is correlated with the average SAT scores of students and the difficulty of gaining admission.

Most of these differences have roots in history. For example, many if not most private colleges were founded by religious bodies or for religious reasons. Although for many colleges these religious ties have weakened over time, as the society at large has become more secular, the vestiges of these religious origins remain. Historical roots are evident as well in the most secular of colleges, the country’s public universities, including the great land-grant institutions established by the Morrill Acts of the 19th century. They are evident as well in the historically black colleges and universities, originally designed to serve black students in the states where Jim Crow segregation was the law. Other dimensions of diversity can be seen in universities that began as colleges for women or for Native Americans, or as urban commuter colleges, or two-year colleges. And if you really want to see diversity in mission, just look at the military academies.

One final reason for diversity is that every student’s college experience is different. Unlike many goods and services that require little from the purchaser except money, the service being bought and sold in the college marketplace requires as one indispensable “input” attention and exertion by the student herself. Like any paying customer who visits the supermarket or joins a gym, the college student must also be a partner in the production process. What students get out of college depends on the effort they expend. Owing to the marvelous variety among students and the multitude of classes and activities available at most colleges, the ultimate product -- a baccalaureate education -- is by its nature an idiosyncratic thing.

Q: How do you go about analyzing such a range of institutions?

A: To reflect this diversity, I adopted an approach to the empirical analysis that would accentuate differences across various types of colleges. I divided colleges into 17 categories. I first separated public and private HBCUs from the rest, owing to their unique history. I divided the remaining colleges between public and private and according to the average SATs of their students in 1970. Once a college had been classified, it remained in the same category over time and in each of three waves of data from the Freshman Survey, 1972, 1989-90, and 2008-09. This permanent assignment facilitated the objective of making apples-to-apples comparisons over time. For every one of my calculations of changes over time, the categories I compare contain exactly the same colleges or students from exactly the same colleges.

Q: How much do the choices made by the handful of elite, highly desirable colleges drive all of this?

A: In a very real sense these elite colleges are the “industry leaders.” Historians of higher education have demonstrated the myriad ways in which colleges across the land have attempted to emulate Harvard and the rest of this handful of institutions. For the developments I document, however, the importance of the choices made by the elite colleges lies not in their effect on other colleges, but rather on their own situations.

The most selective private colleges, already seemingly secure, left no stone unturned in their efforts to improve the quality of their programs, to recruit the very best faculty, to admit the brightest possible entering classes and, of course, to raise the maximum amount of donations and grants. The venerable law enunciated by Howard Bowen several decades ago remains true: colleges raise all the money they can and spend all the money they raise. To be sure, it is not spending for spending’s sake, but spending for the aim of being the best, of coming out ahead of one’s rivals.

This meant raising tuition at rates consistently above the rate of inflation. It meant gathering as many dollars of donations into their endowments and seeking out financial expertise that would achieve above-average rates of return. It also meant continuing the age-old practice of giving preferential consideration to the sons and daughters of alumni.

To offset the rather obvious class bias wrapped up in such as policy, the top colleges also maintained or enhanced their financial aid to low-income students. But at the end of the day, very few of these elite colleges enroll all that many students from the bottom one-fifth of the income distribution.

Q: What built-in advantages allowed those elite colleges to expand their resources in a time of increasing competition?

A: This is an industry where history’s hand is very heavy, and the advantages of a great faculty combine with the advantages of fame, reputation and architecture to produce barriers to entry of awesome proportions. But this advantage bestowed by inertia was enhanced by the increasing inequality in incomes throughout the economy, having the ironic effect of enriching the very institutions that needed help the least.

I call this the inequality dividend. In a perfect illustration of the enigmatic Matthew effect (the tendency for the rich to get richer, so named by the sociologist Robert Merton for a New Testament parable), the rising incomes of the most affluent households in the country led to large jumps in donations to higher education. Because donors tended to give to their own alma maters, much of this new giving gravitated to the very institutions that were already well-off.

Q: How has growing inequality affected faculty members?

A: No resource is more important to a college’s teaching and research missions than the faculty. Thanks to annual surveys carried out by the American Association of University Professors, it is not hard to trace the pay of faculty by college. Among the 17 categories of colleges I followed over time, the most selective private colleges increased the pay for their faculty members by the most. Pay differences that were significant in 1970 became bigger over time.

The difference in average faculty compensation between the least selective public colleges and the most selective private ones was some 37 percent in 1972. By 2012, the inflation-corrected difference had reached 44 percent.

These disparities have taken on an ominous public-private dimension, due in part to lagging state appropriations for public higher education. A recent study compared average salaries at public and private research universities. In 1971, it showed, the average salary in the public universities was 5 percent less than the average in the private ones. By 2015, that gap had reached 24 percent. Given the importance of public research universities to the growth and well-being of the American economy, this trend is a troubling one.

Q: What does it mean for students?

A: If you combine these findings with those related to the larger question of resources, what you come up with is a picture of a well-financed, highly efficient set of colleges at one end and a large number of struggling colleges at the other. Combined with other information I present in the book, which shows that students enrolling in the most selective colleges, in comparison to those who enrolled in less selective colleges, spent more time in high school studying and with other research showing a general decline in study time among college students, these indications of a bifurcation in college quality are disquieting.

Q: What choices do colleges face now?

A: The richer the college, the more choices it has. The richest and most exclusive, which have the luxury of choosing among scores of talented applicants, have the power to increase or decrease the share of their students who come from modest backgrounds. If colleges, singly or as a whole, want to reduce the degree of economic stratification that exists across the spectrum of colleges, they must act accordingly.

There is no shortage of possible remedies. As economists Caroline Hoxby and Sarah Turner have demonstrated, there are hundreds of low-income, highly able high school seniors across the country, many of them outside metropolitan areas, who are there to be contacted and informed that colleges want them and that financial aid is available. To identify some of these students, colleges’ admissions offices could redirect a few of their visits each year from affluent suburbs to nontraditional recruitment areas. In evaluating applications, they could do more to neutralize the advantages of affluence, such as by giving less weight to experiences, like unpaid internships, that are more accessible to affluent applicants. And, in making financial aid offers, they could take steps to lessen or eliminate the debt burden on the neediest students.

Lastly, they could reduce the preference they give to legacies. That most of the selective colleges continue to favor legacies reveals that “excellence” must not be the sole institutional objective.

If any college wishes to take steps to increase its share of low-income students, it will require a willingness to sacrifice other objectives. It might mean scrimping on renovations, professors’ salaries or additions to the endowment, or it might mean turning in less impressive statistics to U.S. News.

It is unreasonable, however, to expect colleges to do much redistribution beyond what is in their own private best interest. This would require concerted action by selective colleges as a group, but this approach will inevitably raise antitrust concerns.

Q: Do you have hope that the trajectory of American higher education can change?

A: At the moment, all the trajectories seem locked in place. The incentives of colleges to engage in practices that enhance their financial strength and competitive position do not show signs of changing. Public policies designed to open opportunities to lower-income students, such as an enhancement of Pell Grants, do not appear politically likely. More grandly, policies that might slow the seemingly unstoppable increase in inequality do not appear likely. About the only policy proposal I have seen that would have the effect of reducing the inequality of colleges is the proposal, contained in the current House tax bill, that would tax large university endowments and pay to top employees over $1 million.

In a word, no.

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Jury awards more than $1 million to trans academic who sued over tenure denial

Tue, 2017-11-21 08:00

A federal jury on Monday found that Southeastern Oklahoma State University discriminated against Rachel Tudor in denying her tenure, and ordered the university to pay her $1.165 million.

The case has become a pivotal one in the area of transgender rights. Tudor, who is transgender, sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars gender discrimination, among other forms of bias, in employment. Tudor and her supporters argued that the discrimination she faced as a transgender woman was a form of discrimination barred by Title VII. In a move that was hailed at the time by advocates for transgender people, the Obama administration backed her claim in 2015 and said that she had been a victim of bias under Title VII. But the Trump administration has reversed that policy and stated that discrimination against trans people is not covered by Title VII.

The Justice Department under Obama said that the case demonstrated clear evidence of anti-transgender bias. Among the facts stated by the Justice Department at the time:

  • Tudor was hired in 2004, at the time identifying as male. In 2007, she started to present herself as a woman. And it was in 2007 and later that she experienced discrimination.
  • A vice president of the university asked a human resources employee whether Tudor could be fired because her gender identity offended his religious beliefs. (The human resources official answered in the negative, but the vice president played a role in Tudor's tenure review.)
  • A dean, in a meeting with Tudor about her tenure bid, repeatedly used the wrong pronouns to refer to Tudor, despite being told of her status and despite her being in the room.
  • A tenure review committee in her department (English) and her chair recommended her for tenure and found she met all the university's criteria.
  • The dean and vice president referenced above reversed that decision without offering an explanation.
  • Both the dean and the vice president refused to meet with Tudor to discuss her case so she could appeal to the president for tenure. In refusing to meet her, they broke with practice at the university of holding such meetings, which have resulted in cisgender people winning tenure.

Sean Burrage, president of Southeastern Oklahoma State, issued a statement Monday that made no reference to whether discrimination had taken place. "Southeastern Oklahoma State University places great trust in the judicial system and respects the verdict rendered today by the jury. It has been our position throughout this process that the legal system would handle this matter, while the university continues to focus its time and energy on educating students," said the statement.

Jillian Weiss, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, said via email that the case was significant for transgender professors. "This ruling is very important for the rights of transgender professors because it shows that protection is granted under federal law, and it does not matter where in the country you are located," Weiss said. "A fair-minded jury in Oklahoma found that the actions of the university were impermissible under federal law."

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Counterprotesters at North Florida outnumber those supporting white nationalist

Tue, 2017-11-21 08:00

Ken Parker was suspended from the University of North Florida Nov. 14, but the swastika-tattooed former KKK leader was back on campus Monday to appeal the institution’s decision, bringing with him fears of protesters rallying around his cause.

Only four protesters showed up, outnumbered by some 50 to 80 counterprotesters, as estimated by the university and local media.

Parker, 37, is a student at UNF. He posted a photo of himself on social media last week, holding a gun, expressing in the caption that if anyone from the left-wing Students for a Democratic Society chapter aimed to challenge him, he would “shut them down.” Many white supremacists attending public institutions have had the expression of their views protected under the First Amendment, though UNF officials said that the combination of the gun and the caption constituted a threat, which was why Parker was suspended.

He also made comments against the Black Lives Matter movement on social media, writing, "It's OK to be white!" and "WHITE and PROUD."

Although the university expressed confidence last week that the number of protesters would be small, the appeal hearing was moved to a building farther from the center of campus as a precaution, and announced it was cooperating with the Jacksonville sheriff’s office for increased security.

There was talk of canceling classes for the day, but it was ultimately decided that they would continue as previously scheduled.

“The University Police Department did a terrific job in coordinating with the Jacksonville sheriff’s office in a display of police presence, including police patrols in the core of campus,” President John Delaney said in a statement Monday. “I would like to thank both departments for their professionalism.”

The appeal hearing was held Monday morning, though a decision on whether Parker would remain suspended did not come about by that evening. A decision is expected sometime today.

In a statement issued Friday, Delaney sympathized with students and faculty who found the situation upsetting.

“I understand the situation is upsetting and frightening to many students, faculty, staff and parents,” he said. “In fact, all of the vice presidents and I have been responding to students, parents, staff and faculty, and the pain as well as the fear is palpable and actually emotionally draining to witness. I wish I had a magic wand that could address all of that and could solve the historic problems of racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, etc. I really wish that we could take away the pain and fear.”

Delaney echoed that law enforcement asked him to request that there wouldn’t be a counterprotest -- a strategy that many colleges have tried, though not always successfully, in an effort to keep students safe and avoid physical altercations -- though he acknowledged that there were plans underway for just that. The counterprotests Monday were peaceful.

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New presidents or provosts: Arkansas State Barnard Bloomsburg Carroll Emory Holy Cross Pierce Raritan San Diego Shippensburg UALR

Tue, 2017-11-21 08:00
  • Sian Leah Beilock, executive vice provost of the University of Chicago, will become the eighth president of Barnard College.
  • Velmer Burton Jr., dean of the University of Mississippi School of Applied Sciences, has been chosen as executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
  • Laurie A. Carter, executive vice president and university counsel for Eastern Kentucky University, has been chosen as president of Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.
  • Kelly Damphousse, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oklahoma, has been selected as chancellor of Arkansas State University.
  • James DuMond Jr., dean of the School of Science at Marist College, in New York, has been appointed provost and vice president for academic affairs at Franklin Pierce University, in New Hampshire.
  • Cindy Gnadinger, executive consultant for Bellarmine University, in Kentucky, has been named president of Carroll University, in Wisconsin.
  • Bashar W. Hanna, professor of biology and former vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty at Delaware Valley University, in Pennsylvania, has been appointed president of Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.
  • Dwight A. McBride, dean of the graduate school and associate provost for graduate education and Daniel Hale Williams Professor of African-American Studies, English and Performance Studies at Northwestern University, has been selected as provost and executive vice president of academic affairs at Emory University, in Georgia.
  • Deborah E. Preston, dean for visual, performing and media arts at Montgomery College, in Maryland, has been chosen as provost and vice president of academic affairs at Raritan Valley Community College, in New Jersey.
  • Ricky Shabazz, vice president of student services at San Bernardino Valley College, in California, has been appointed president of San Diego City College, also in California.
  • Justin Watson, vice president for academic affairs at Holy Cross College, in Indiana, has been promoted to provost there.
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