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Professors have mixed reactions to Blackboard plan to offer tool for grading online participation

Tue, 2017-11-14 08:00

Blackboard is planning to introduce a new feature in its learning management system later this year to help instructors grade students’ participation in class discussions online. The feature, called the “discussion forum recommended grade,” will use computer algorithms to analyze students’ posts in class discussion forums.

John Whitmer, learning analytics and research director at Blackboard, said that instructors want to use discussion forums to judge students’ participation, but that doing so is time-consuming and difficult since the forums were designed for discussion rather than assessment. These discussion forums are often underused by students, said Whitmer, since there is often little incentive for students to engage.

By using this new Blackboard tool, instructors will be able to quickly see which students are participating online, said Whitmer. He stressed the tool is not an “autograder” but a “grading assistant” that will relieve instructors “of many tasks of evaluating the quantity of participation, so that they can focus their assessment on the deeper value and meaning in student work.”

The tool combines several assessment techniques, said Whitmer. These include the Flesch-Kincaid readability index, which measures the complexity of the students’ language by counting the number of syllables and number of words per sentence. The type-token ratio, which looks at how many times words are repeated, is also used. In addition, a “critical-thinking coefficient,” which “classifies words according to the degree of critical thinking represented” is used, as is a standard word count, said Whitmer. A weighted formula is then used to determine a grade, which faculty must review and approve before submitting.

The tool, due to be rolled out later this year, will be a core feature of Blackboard Learn Ultra, said Whitmer. It will be available to Ultra users at no additional fee. “Blackboard views these types of ‘embedded analytics’ (which we already provide in other assessment workflows) as a key part of the Blackboard Learn Ultra course experience,” said Whitmer.

The feature, still in the development phase, has not yet been tested, but a version of this feature is available within X-Ray Learning Analytics for Moodlerooms, the open-source-based LMS, said Whitmer. “Faculty have been very excited and interested in the tool,” said Whitmer, who added that the feature is “one tool in their toolbox to help determine grades.”

In interviews with faculty members who have spent time thinking about teaching writing, grading and technology, the reaction to Blackboard's proposal was mixed.

Patricia James, program consultant at the California Community Colleges’ Online Education Initiative, said that she thought the Blackboard feature was one that a lot of instructors would like to have, but she worried that it could discourage instructors from interacting with students in class discussion forums. She also suggested that Blackboard could redesign its grading platform to make it easier to view student comments, making the process less laborious. James noted she found it much easier to review student comments in Canvas than in Blackboard, as it allows instructors to see all of a student's comments in one screen and easily check responses in the context of the forum.

Kyle Bowen, director of education technology services at Penn State University, agreed that the assessment tool could be useful to some instructors, but not to all equally. “It’ll come down to that individual teacher’s approach to evaluating student writing,” he said. “If the number of words being used, or the readability of the writing, are essential pieces of assessment, then yes, having that information would be helpful. But if those aren’t critical factors then it will be less useful.”

Bowen said while most of the assessments mentioned by Whitmer sound like straightforward measurements, he would like to know more about how the critical-thinking coefficient is calculated, as well as the exact weighting of the formula used. While the technology is promising, Bowen said it he would prefer to see it being used to identify issues being discussed in class forums, which could then inform instructors’ teaching. Bowen also questioned how the tool would tell the difference between operational comments like “will this be on the final?” and posts that actually demonstrate students’ understanding of material.

Carolyn Penstein Rosé, a professor at the Language Technologies Institute and the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, said that she also had some reservations about Blackboard’s proposed feature.

One of the aims of the feature is to encourage more students to participate in class discussions online, but Rosé said that Blackboard’s approach “is likely to result in students gaming the system, rather than meaningfully engaging with their fellow students.”

Gaming the system has shown to be a problem with standardized writing assessment in the past, as was demonstrated by former MIT professor Les Perelman, who coached his students to write nonsensical but high-scoring SAT essays. Perelman, an outspoken critic of automated writing assessment, told Inside Higher Ed he thought the Blackboard tool “sounds like a Rube Goldberg machine” -- a fantastical and deliberately complex device designed to solve a simple problem.

Though Whitmer says that Blackboard will not be telling students how exactly their contributions will be assessed, Rosé said that students could quickly figure it out. The best way to motivate students to take part in class discussion forums, said Rosé, is to integrate them into the instructional activities of the course. For example, making online discussion a necessary part of working on an assignment, or highlighting good posts in lectures. Perelman agreed, saying he did not feel Blackboard’s approach would encourage genuine participation from students.

But Whitmer disagreed that gaming would be an issue. “Given the use of multiple factors in our model, it would be difficult for students to manipulate scoring in ways that weren’t obvious in faculty reviews of student forum grades, which, as mentioned before, are required before any grade is posted,” said Whitmer.

Rosé, who has conducted research into how discussion can be meaningfully assessed using automated techniques, said that she did not feel that the assessments mentioned by Whitmer were appropriate for determining the quality of students’ responses. Perelman agreed, saying, “The specific metrics that they’re using seem antithetical to the kind of writing that most teachers want students to do in discussion pages online. What teachers usually want people to do is to respond to other people’s ideas and to have arguments in an informal way. What this does is encourage pretentious prose.” Asked whether this kind of technology could ever meaningfully assess student writing, Perelman said that computers would first need to pass the Turing test -- a feat we are still “far away from,” he said.

Rosé took a more generous view, however, suggesting that automated assessment of class discussions could be done successfully if the assessment were tailored to the learning objectives of each course, but a one-size-fits-all approach is “misguided and potentially dangerous,” she said.

Jesse Stommel, executive director of the division of teaching and learning technologies at the University of Mary Washington, and founding director of the Hybrid Pedagogy journal, said that he found Blackboard’s proposal to evaluate student writing in this way to be alarming. “There is certainly space for technology to help us create dialogue in an online class, but using a technology to assess the success of a discussion, ultimately it reduces student engagement to a rote series of behaviors. ‘Write a comment of 60 words, citing two sources, responding to at least one of your classmates’ -- those kinds of behaviors do not make a discussion successful. They’re arbitrary markers.”

Whitmer stressed however that the tool is not meant to be comprehensive. “Our focus is to provide a tool to assist the human leading the class, not replace them,” he said. “Of course, there is some risk with any automation, but we believe that the benefits of increased feedback outweigh these risks.”

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Could GroupMe lead to cheating guilt by association?

Tue, 2017-11-14 08:00

News dropped this month that Ohio State University charged scores of students with cheating in a business course taken in the spring, saying that 83 students used the messaging app GroupMe for “unauthorized collaboration on graded assignments.”

“Students are welcome to use social media tools like GroupMe to communicate with classmates but must remember that the rules are the same for online and in-person interactions,” OSU spokesman Ben Johnson said in an email. “For example, in most cases, sharing the due date for a homework assignment is perfectly acceptable, but sharing the answers to a final exam is not. Students should not share anything online that is prohibited by the rules for the course.”

GroupMe is a messaging app that specializes in creating group chats in lieu of texting or emailing large numbers of people at a time. The app allows for the creation of multiple groups, meaning users could use the app to organize one chat for a course, another for a club or organization and another for co-workers, for example.

The specifics of the case remain unknown for now, but with the app’s prevalence on college campuses -- especially for legitimate purposes, such as to form study groups, organize group projects or disseminate information about the syllabus -- the accusations also lead to some questions about the safety of using the app. In a worst-case scenario, could students who used a GroupMe for legitimate purposes get in trouble when someone shares test answers? Could one post taint a whole group message and everyone involved in it?

There is no indication that scenario applies to OSU necessarily -- the university hasn’t released the details of the case, which would include confidential student information, and the students involved have not yet been found guilty or punished.

But posts on social media and forums throughout the years have expressed concern about students who claim they were caught up in a GroupMe discussion that spiraled into cheating, although they claim they didn’t personally participate in it. Additionally, the app’s settings allow users to disable its notifications -- useful when there are dozens or hundreds of users in a single chat, which might occur in a group made for a large lecture -- meaning that in theory, a student could be oblivious to any cheating going on.

How exactly OSU sorted out the number of students it charged, whether the GroupMe chat in question featured more than 83 students and under what pretense it was created are unclear. Regardless, though, the students have a right to defend themselves just like any other student accused of academic misconduct.

“Any form of academic misconduct is unacceptable and the university takes all allegations seriously,” Johnson said. “Students charged with academic misconduct violations may accept responsibility for the charges or request a hearing before [the Committee on Academic Misconduct] pursuant to the Code of Student Conduct.”

OSU isn’t the first university to say the lines between acceptable and unacceptable GroupMe behavior have been crossed.

In a post on Reddit two weeks ago, a user complained about a girlfriend being caught up in a cheating scandal for simply being a part of a GroupMe message that was organized for the class. Some students started passing along answers to an exam, although the woman apparently didn't participate.

"She was a member of the chat but only said one thing that was non-test related and took her exam at home by herself. Any advice on how she can fight this accusation or what she can do? She is trying to get into the nursing program and has never received a grade lower than an A before. She is absolutely devastated right now," the post read. The woman reportedly was later cleared by the unnamed university.

Representatives from GroupMe did not respond to a request for comment.

But where does this all leave students? Should they abandon the app altogether in an attempt to distance themselves from students who engage in cheating?

That was the conclusion some on the Reddit forum came to.

"She was part of the chat, even though she didn't say anything related to the test she still would have had access to the answers shared within the chat. By agreeing to be part of the chat and not instantly leaving it and reporting it when she realized what was going on, she willingly participated in academic dishonesty," one user wrote. "There's nothing really she can do to fight this accusation at this point, it's too late for her to do anything about it. She'll have to accept the consequences like an adult and learn from this experience."

Others said to avoid using GroupMe entirely in order to avoid the risk of being part of a group where cheating takes place.

Eric Stoller, an education consultant who also writes about tech and social media for Inside Higher Ed, said that instances where innocent students allegedly get caught up in GroupMe crackdowns might to show a lag between university policy and evolving technology.

“It seems to me that this is a case of university policy not keeping up with the times. My guess is that most of the students in these group chats had no intention to cheat and that they were using the GroupMe app (which is hugely popular) to connect with their classmates for the usual types of peer-to-peer student interaction: support, community and networking,” Stoller said via email.

"Again, I think this is a gray area within apps and digital communities. University academic honesty codes aren't usually structured in a way that keeps up with emerging technologies and evolving group communications."

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College administrators: no easy answers for controversial speakers

Tue, 2017-11-14 08:00

WASHINGTON -- Over the last year, college and university leaders have grappled with provocateurs who effectively shut down campuses with their appearances and tap deeply into the institutions’ pocketbooks.

Administrators have not yet figured out how to handle a speech by white supremacist Richard Spencer, for instance, and those like him, without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on security to monitor possible protests. Though not every controversial speaker will generate a crowd, some campus protests have turned bloody .

But academe is adapting, according to administrators speaking at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ annual meeting Monday. They offered tips on managing controversial speakers. Often, this is done facing a student body that does not fully embrace the First Amendment or its principles and would rather see someone like Spencer simply barred from the grounds, an option not available to public universities.

Universities must plan early and talk to and understand students -- which involves communicating in detail about an event and a visible declaration against racism and bigotry, the panel said.

“You have to realize people’s emotions -- they are hurt,” said Sarah Mangelsdorf, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “And you need to respond with the psychologist in you. Because if you start with your legal argument, then you’ve lost their hearts.”

Mangelsdorf floated the idea that students be taught about free expression early in their college experience, perhaps during orientation. She told a reporter after the panel that students often don’t grasp how free speech was key, for example, in the civil rights movement, and what the benefit of unpopular speech was during that time in the southern parts of the country.

High school students have often operated under a “speech code” and stringent antibullying campaigns and carry those ideals with them to universities, Mangelsdorf said, referencing a point made in the new book Free Speech on Campus (Yale University Press), authored by Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, and Howard Gillman, chancellor and professor of law, political science and history at UC Irvine.

Thus, establishing relationships with students to learn their backgrounds and motivations -- both those protesting the speakers and those intent on hosting firebrands on campus -- can help, said Robin Holmes-Sullivan, vice president for student affairs for the University of California’s Office of the President. Conservative students who feel comfortable might alert administrators before an event, in turn eliminating administrators' need to scramble together a security plan at the last minute, Holmes-Sullivan said.

Longer prep time for such speakers can lead to relative success, said Lee Tyner, general counsel at the University of Mississippi, pointing to the University of Florida’s handling of a talk by Spencer last month. The institution, though it dropped roughly $600,000 on police power and security measures, planned every detail so thoroughly that it avoided all but minor scuffles -- though three Spencer supporters were arrested for firing a gun at a small gathering of protesters (they missed).

Compare this to Berkeley, one of the earliest examples this year of a campus spurred to violence after a hot-button speaker, former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, was invited there in February. Destruction was widespread -- fires were set, and cops had rocks and fireworks thrown at them.

The University of Florida, before Spencer's scheduled appearance, set up a full question-and-answer webpage addressing everything from the open campus routes to class schedules.

Communication, both far in advance of a speech and the day of it, is essential, too, said Dana Topousis, a spokeswoman for UC Davis. Topousis described a nerve center of sorts during such events, with her working alongside both her provost and chief of police to combat false information in real time.

Breitbart would publish fake and inflammatory details, and Topousis would ask the provost and police chief for permission to respond with the facts, some of which big-time outlets such as The Washington Post would pick up on and report correctly, she said.

(Topousis did not refer to a specific event in her remarks. UC Davis canceled a January appearance by Yiannopoulos and former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli after consulting with the university police department.)

Communications staffers can also help craft a message that highlights campus values and can assuage some students' worries, Topousis said. She said students distrust silence, believing that it somehow reflects a tacit agreement with a viewpoint.

Some presidents have also been criticized for being too “sterile” in their statements by not directly referencing racism or white supremacy. This was particularly the case for Teresa Sullivan, the outgoing president of the University of Virginia, who did not name Spencer or his followers in the days leading up to their march on the campus in August. The next day was the fatal demonstration in the city of Charlottesville.

“If you’re not out there with those students on social media, it looks like you’re not being responsive,” Topousis said. “As a communicator … bring us in early and keep us a part of those discussions.”

Social media platforms also allow administrators to tune in to chatter about rallies, the panelists said.

Some colleges have reworked their policies after appearances by divisive speakers, notably Texas A&M University, which decreed only affiliated student groups could invite outsiders to campus, a change from the open-door policy it once had.

Tyner of the University of Mississippi called this strategy “making yourself a smaller target” of such groups.

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed Monday, University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs said he was reluctant to impose such a rule like Texas A&M’s, pointing out space in Gainesville, site of the university, is limited. Fuchs said he does not want to keep out the high schools, which often rely on their facilities.

Michael O’Quinn, vice president for government relations at Texas A&M, during the panel called the new Texas A&M regulation “sad.” Administrators lamented the “abuse” that ultimately led to them restricting their facilities, he said.

But institutions can’t continue to shell out so much money for these speakers, Holmes-Sullivan said.

Berkley spent more than $800,000 on Yiannopoulos’s last appearance in October, and $600,000 on right-wing author Ben Shapiro's talk just a couple weeks prior.

The bulk of security costs can’t be levied to the speaker, Tyner said. On paper a policy that charges speakers might appear to be legally sound. But in practice, if the university ends up treating two groups differently -- a gospel choir, for instance, versus Spencer’s group -- then the policy wouldn’t survive a court challenge.

A policy that bases a security fee on crowd size, though, more likely would hold up to legal scrutiny, Tyner said.

He stressed, though, that a free speech argument should never dissuade a campus from protecting its students, and colleges can regulate conduct -- forcing attendees to remove masks or extinguish torches, and the most obvious being weapons shouldn’t be allowed onto campus. Tyner said universities can even limit access to certain buildings for particular purposes.

Over all, the situation on college campuses mirrors the growing hyperpartisan nature of the country, O’Quinn said. And it has captured the attention of the public and of legislators. O’Quinn said he would much rather be lobbying his state lawmakers on funding rather than having conversations about possible free speech bills. He also said politicians to the left and the right have urged Texas A&M to keep Spencer out.

In Wisconsin, amid worries that the state Legislature would pass a bill regulating campus free expression, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved a policy that prescribes punishments for students who disrupt speakers -- after a second strike, they are suspended, for a third, they are expelled.

Mangelsdorf, from Madison, said she believed the regents were “trying to do something,” but ultimately the policy they passed was “unnecessary,” she said, adding -- sarcastically -- that everyone knows how well mandatory sentencing guidelines work.

“We are living in interesting times,” she said.

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Minnesota State's transfer pathways debut with little controversy

Tue, 2017-11-14 08:00

After a few years of development, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system has unveiled four transfer pathways to better help students transition within any of the system’s 30 two-year institutions and seven public universities.

The four pathways -- in biology, business, theater and psychology -- are the beginning of an effort to establish 27 transfer pathways for the system’s more than 375,000 students.

“We’re really trying to make this happen across multiple relationships, and if we don’t have faculty, staff and students in the center of the conversations, this just won’t happen,” said Kim Lynch, senior system director of educational innovations for Minnesota State.

And so far, there’s been very little controversy over how the system is creating its pathways.

The project began after the state in 2015 mandated that the system create transfer pathways for students. According to state data from 2013, nearly 20,000 students transferred within the system and more than 13,200 students transferred into it.

Lynch said that instead of the system putting together pathways to please the Legislature, it brought faculty, students and administrators together to avoid creating a plan from the “top down.”

“Throughout the conversations, as transfer pathways were developing, we asked, ‘How do these prepare students adequately for a baccalaureate major?’” Lynch said, adding that the system created space in general education course work to give campuses and students more flexibility.

The system’s framework established a certain amount of required general education credits as well as number of elective credits, regardless of the specific pathways students choose, she said. However, there are some exceptions, particularly in the sciences, where faculty members didn’t necessarily want students to complete general education within the two-year institutions, but instead wanted those requirements stacked throughout the four-year degree plan.

“So, it was about giving some control to those working in the disciplines to make the general frameworks that make sense for specific programs,” she said.

Getting administrators and faculty members to agree on the content and size of general education requirements isn’t easy. Individual colleges tend to have their own general education requirements that have been developed over decades. A department that has a guaranteed course in general education is also guaranteed to get students enrolled in it, said Alexandra Logue, a research professor in the Center for Advanced Study in Education of the Graduate Center at the City University of New York.

“If you’re not prepared to make general education huge and make it for everyone, there will be a lot of upset people,” Logue said. “We got through it, but it was pretty awful, and there were multiple lawsuits.”

Logue was the chief academic officer in 2010 when CUNY began its controversial efforts to create transfer pathways across 25 campuses. Faculty groups in CUNY pushed back with votes of no confidence and lawsuits.

“Some of it is not self-serving, but just people who love their subject matter, which is a good thing, and they want all students to have their subject,” she said.

But Logue said few systems voluntarily create transfer pathways without state legislatures intervening, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

“I don’t think it’s good for the Legislature to get involved with what’s happening on college campuses, in terms of curriculum,” Logue said. “But the incentive systems are designed in such a way for these institutions that it’s close to impossible to change on their own, in regards to transfer.”

K. C. Deane, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, said state policy is rarely the tool that solves transfer problems.

“The biggest role state policy can do is really bring institutions together and say, ‘Here’s what we need to accomplish,’” she said.

More states and institutions are starting to embrace transfer pathways, especially when states include transfer in performance-based funding metrics, although Deane said there’s inconsistent evidence that performance funding itself changes institutional behavior. More states also are creating transferability matrices that evaluate which general education courses transfer across all institutions and are then challenging those institutions to bring people to the table and find solutions.

By allowing the four initial pathways to be in different subject areas, the Minnesota system is examining what works, what doesn’t and what happens when students don’t always follow the perfect pathway, Lynch said.

“So many times students get left out of transfer,” Deane said, adding that a department head at an institution can make a course change that alters what credits actually transfer for students already on the program path.

Any number of things can go wrong with transfer for students, Logue said, which is why institutions have to maintain communication even after the pathways are created.

“There’s so much potential to increase achievement rates and add opportunities through transfer,” Deane said. “It’s about time we started looking at this and improving it critically.”

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New presidents or provosts: Chattanooga Lincoln Mary Baldwin Pacific Union Portland SUNY ESF UBC Yosemite

Tue, 2017-11-14 08:00
  • Brenda A. Allen, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Winston-Salem State University, in North Carolina, has been appointed president of Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania.
  • Rebecca Ashford, vice president of student affairs at Pellissippi State Community College, in Tennessee, has been chosen as president of Chattanooga State Community College, also in Tennessee.
  • Ty F. Buckman, vice president for strategic initiatives at Wittenberg University, in Ohio, has been selected as provost and professor of English at Mary Baldwin University, in Virginia.
  • Robert A. Cushman Jr., vice president for academic administration at Walla Walla University, in Washington State, has been chosen as president of Pacific Union College, in California.
  • Nosa Egiebor, chief international officer and professor of chemical engineering at the University of Mississippi, has been selected as provost and executive vice president at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
  • Jonathan Holloway, dean of Yale College at Yale University, in Connecticut, has been appointed provost of Northwestern University, in Illinois.
  • Rahmat Shoureshi, interim president of the New York Institute of Technology, has been appointed president of Portland State University, in Oregon.
  • Andrew Szeri, vice provost for strategic academic and facilities planning at the University of California, Berkeley, has been named provost and vice president academic at the University of British Columbia.
  • Henry Chiong Vui Yong, president and chief executive officer at Evergreen Valley College, in California, has been appointed chancellor of Yosemite Community College District, also in California.
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Spate of recent college closures has some seeing long-predicted consolidation taking off

Mon, 2017-11-13 08:00

Those forecasting a wave of college closures find themselves with a glut of recent anecdotes to support their story.

It has not been a good fall for small, private liberal arts colleges. Last week, St. Gregory’s University in Oklahoma said it is closing at the end of the semester. The news came on the heels of a similar announcement by the Memphis College of Art in late October, an announcement that itself arrived just weeks after Grace University in Omaha, Neb., unveiled plans to shut down.

Flip back a little farther in the calendar, to when Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., decided in February to suspend academic operations at the end of the spring semester. Now, only 17 people work at the college as it tries to come up with plans for a future incarnation, even as it has been selling off its assets in hopes of raising funds to pay for those plans.

The spurt of closures would seem to support Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen’s recent doubling down on his infamous prediction that as many as half of the country’s colleges and universities will find themselves bankrupt or shuttered within 10 years. But it’s not just college closures that are pointing to signs of significant stress among small private colleges.

Wheelock College plans to merge into Boston University. Marygrove College in Detroit said in August that it will shut down undergraduate programs after this semester. Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia and Holy Cross College in Indiana both decided this spring to sell land in order to stave off financial crises. The University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Conn., announced in June that it will start admitting undergraduate men next year.

Perhaps the better prediction to reference is one from Moody’s Investors Service in 2015: that closures of small private colleges would be tripling and mergers would be doubling. Or maybe it’s just better to warn that more cuts and consolidations are likely coming.

Skeptics can still argue that each campus closed, merger explored or acre sold is the result of unique and extenuating circumstances. They can say that we’re examining unique data points that shouldn’t be connected.

Look at the three most recent closure announcements. St. Gregory’s is ending operations after a plan to receive a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture fell through. That’s different from the decision made by Grace in Nebraska, which abandoned plans to relocate after a small incoming freshman class shattered financial projections. It also differs somewhat from the story at the Memphis College of Art, which blamed declining enrollment and real estate debt for its closure.

But at some point, the individual data points become part of a larger trend line. For however unique those three colleges may be, they have much in common as well. All enroll well below 1,000 students and hold small endowments.

So if the doom and gloom really are coming to pass, which institutions, in particular, are in danger of succumbing? A quick look at recent announcements shows that many colleges closing or cutting back are Roman Catholic, and many are located in the middle of the country -- the Midwest and Appalachia.

Those aren’t necessarily independent variables, though. There is a large number of small Roman Catholic colleges in the country, and many are located in regions where demographics are shifting with declines in populations that have traditionally attended Catholic institutions. The Roman Catholic institutions are likely caught up in trends affecting higher education more broadly -- trends like enrollment challenges, tuition discounting and a lack of financial resources at small institutions.

“A lot of our national data really indicate that some of these small Catholic colleges, as well as small private colleges throughout the country, are really struggling because of their finances,” said Heather Gossart, director of executive mentoring and coaching and a senior consultant with the National Catholic Educational Association.

Families are increasingly worried about tuition rates at colleges and universities, Gossart said. Some seek alternatives, such as public colleges that they think will be less expensive than Roman Catholic institutions. Others may not even consider small colleges because they don’t think a college small in size can offer as much financial aid as a larger university -- regardless of whether that perception is true.

Many Roman Catholic colleges are doing very well, even if some are struggling, Gossart said. Yet she acknowledged a potentially grim future.

“I think unless every one of our Catholic institutions begins thinking outside the box and looking at new and creative ways to recruit student populations and to create affordable tuitions, I think we are going to see the demise of some of our smaller Catholic colleges,” she said. “And it’s tragic, because each one brings a charism from its founding congregation. It brings a measurable value to the community that it exists in. But the reality is that it comes to a point where some of these smaller institutions are no longer viable.”

There’s another possible explanation for what seems like a large number of Catholic colleges closing or making major changes. Their shared religious identity -- the connections between board members and specific perspectives fostered by their common faith -- might make them more likely to be early movers when it comes time to respond to pressures. If that’s the case, it could be an indication that other institutions are likely moving toward the brink but have yet to act.

“The history and the Catholic identity of many of our institutions gives them some tools to be more flexible in how they respond,” said Paula Moore, vice president for external affairs at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. “For instance, they have the ability to reach out to, perhaps, other geographically close institutions that share a founding order, and therefore they can look to those other institutions and perhaps try to identify some economies of scale.”

Such connections might be helpful even for financial transactions. Wheeling Jesuit sold its campus to the wealthy Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston to escape debt. Holy Cross College decided to sell 75 acres to the nearby University of Notre Dame to stabilize its finances shortly after speculation about its ability to stay open in the future.

Experts warned that property and asset sales can be an attempt at financial triage instead of a sign of a healthy recovery. They also pointed out that many colleges that were not Roman Catholic have merged or closed in recent decades.

No matter their religious affiliation, colleges under the most pressure tend to be saddled with a mix of problems like financial issues, academic programs that don’t stand out, declining enrollment and difficulty fund-raising, said James M. Hunter, who is the chief academic officer and senior vice president for business development at Emerge Education, a consulting group. Many are also located in rural areas.

“Typically, there isn't just one issue, and therefore never just one solution to remedy the plight of small, private colleges,” Hunter said in an email. “In fact, I believe it is the interaction of internal and external factors, over time and really since 2008-09, that have caused a number of small privates to close or merge.”

Signs point to the Midwest being under significantly more enrollment pressure than other parts of the country. Many Midwestern admissions officers, even at elite institutions, also reported struggling this year.

A Moody’s tuition survey released last week found that enrollment growth is projected at less than 1 percent across public and private universities nationwide in 2017. But 61 percent of institutions in the Midwest reported enrollment decreasing this fall. The portion projecting decreases in other parts of the country proved to be much lower, in the 40 percent range.

Nonetheless, higher education leaders resist viewing widespread consolidation as a fait accompli.

“We continue to believe -- and we think we’ve documented it pretty well -- that most small colleges have the capability to be resilient in the face of these challenges,” said Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges. “There are a small number of colleges that are in very serious trouble, but there are also a significant number of small colleges, 20 percent of them, that are just soaring. They’re doing very well.”

CIC earlier this year released a report showing colleges and universities have recovered significantly since the Great Recession. It also showed colleges with fewer than 1,000 students have performed worse financially than larger institutions.

Several colleges and universities have been closing every year for decades, Ekman said. Still, he acknowledged that there seems to be a slight uptick so far this year.

“I don’t know that it’s the beginning of a trend, but I certainly hope not,” he said.

The current spate of closings doesn’t necessarily mean more will follow faster, said Peter Stokes, managing director at Huron Consulting Group. But it should serve as a wake-up call telling colleges and universities they need to be smarter about facing mounting challenges.

There are likely ways for many to navigate those challenges. New types of student can be welcomed to classes, whether they be minority students who have traditionally been recruited in smaller numbers, adults or others who have historically been underserved. New donors can sometimes be found. Debt can often be managed better. Programs can be better tailored and colleges can carve out more unique identities instead of blending into the crowd.

A key question remains whether it’s too late for some colleges to successfully follow new strategies. Another is whether their leaders will tell themselves that their colleges have a unique story that couldn’t possibly end in closure -- until the many pressures build into a crisis and it’s too late.

“Everybody’s got their own history and story to tell about the poor decisions they’ve made,” Stokes said. “If you pan back and look at the big picture, they made those decisions in a particular context, and in the context of a particular business model -- and that business model is increasingly threatened.”

Look at all of the institutions that have closed or been forced to make painful changes, and a profile emerges. Their enrollment has tended to be measured in the hundreds, they have been dependent on tuition to fuel their operating budgets and they have been saddled with significant debts or deferred maintenance.

Time will tell if the recent burst of consolidations truly is the start of a wave, or the escalation of one that’s been building for some time. It is now becoming clear, however, that the early stages of a wave probably wouldn’t look like dozens of colleges shuttering at once. It would look like a significant handful of closures and painful changes dripping out over time.

It would look like the last several months.

Editorial Tags: College administrationImage Caption: Saint Joseph's College has been selling assets since it closed in the spring. Its website now includes art of campus.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: 

What's to be done about the numerous reports of faculty misconduct dating back years and even decades?

Mon, 2017-11-13 08:00

As more and more sexual harassment cases involving faculty members come to light, a significant share of them date back 10, 20 and even 30 years. The last few months have seen a series of high-profile cases in which the accused professors are now senior in age as well as status, retired or even deceased. While these so-called cold cases certainly pose practical challenges in terms of dwindling institutional memory and evidence, experts say institutions are often (if not always) eager to help right past wrongs -- and that they must.

“The deep question here is, ‘What is the purpose of making these allegations after so many years?’” said Michele Dauber, the Frederick I. Richman Professor of Law at Stanford University. “To a certain extent, it’s not unlike debates about Confederate memorials showing up in states that have never really been forced to come to terms with what they’ve done. It is wrong to say that people who were wronged by institutions in the past should simply let it go, with no acknowledgment of their suffering.”

Issues of moral responsibility are arguably more relevant and important in an educational setting, and indeed academic institutions have grappled with these parallel issues of legacy, Dauber said. “We really need to think about who we’re honoring … Seo-Young Chu is clearly owed an apology, at minimum.”

About a Stanford Legacy

Dauber was talking about harassment cold cases in general, but she referred in particular to one victim of harassment: Chu, an associate professor of English at Queens College of the City University of New York. Chu recently wrote a widely read essay saying that the late Jay Fliegelman, Coe Professor in American Literature at Stanford University, harassed and raped her when she was a new graduate student at Stanford, some 17 years ago. Stanford at the time investigated and disciplined the professor with a two-year unpaid leave, during which he was barred from the department. But Chu said she’d that she’d never received a formal apology from the institution and that she’d been dismayed to learn that the graduate caucus of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies had in 2009 named a graduate mentorship award after Fliegelman.

The society renamed the award shortly after Chu initially contacted leaders about it, in 2016. But until Chu’s essay, she said, there was no public record as to why. Chu’s essay prompted fellow academics to ask the society to publicly acknowledge why it changed the name of the award and to renounce such abuses of power -- which it did Friday.

The society’s executive board “unequivocally condemns all forms of harassment, discrimination and abuse, including mistreatment based on sex, race or status,” it said in a statement, thanking Chu for coming forward. “In the months ahead we will be developing policies for incorporation into our bylaws that make clear that harassment and discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated. This process will require the commitment of our entire membership to join together in a firm endorsement of our standards and values.”

Stanford has said that Fliegelman’s suspension was well-known on campus -- that the punishment was never quiet. Not addressed in Chu’s essay but worth noting, then, is that the Faculty Senate passed a resolution honoring him in 2008, upon his death from complications from liver disease and cancer. The resolution stated, in part, that Fliegelman’s “lasting legacy will be his mentoring of undergraduates and, especially, graduate students in their academic and research careers at and beyond Stanford.” According to meeting minutes, all present -- including the provost who would have overseen some if not all of Fliegelman’s disciplinary proceedings -- stood in silent tribute. The full Stanford Report version of the resolution notes that Stanford acquired Fliegelman's entire, highly valuable personal library -- including Thomas Jefferson's copy of Paradise Lost -- upon his death.

Dauber, a critic of some of her institution’s past responses to sexual misconduct, said she thought the Senate should now repeal the memorial resolution and pass one apologizing to Chu. “Surely we should not hold an institution charged with educating our future leaders to a lower standard than we hold Hollywood,” she added, referring to the professional fallout for Harvey Weinstein and others in the entertainment industry accused of sexual misconduct.

Chu told Inside Higher Ed that her essay “is not retaliatory,” but “meant to add another voice to the record.”

What’s Old Is New Again

Cold-case harassment reports are not new. Perhaps the most widely reported case of harassment in academe, that of Geoff Marcy, a former professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, broke in 2015 but involved reports of misconduct dating back years. Yet recent weeks have seen a new group of older allegations.

Jane Willenbring, now an associate professor of geology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, went public this fall with her claims of sexual harassment against David Marchant, who was until recently chair of earth and environment at Boston University (he remains a professor there). The allegations go back to 1999, when Marchant was supervising Willenbring as a doctoral student during a research trip to Antarctica; Willenbring says that Marchant pressured her to have sex with his brother, who was on the trip, pelted her with rocks while she was urinating outside, called her stupid and purposely blew volcanic ash in her eyes to agitate her ice blindness condition. Another formal doctoral student has made similar allegations. Boston is investigating Marchant, who has not commented publicly about the case.

Just last week, Kimberly Latta, a Pittsburgh-area psychotherapist, informed Stanford that Franco Moretti -- who now holds the Danily C. and Laura Louise Bell Professorship in the Humanities, Emeritus -- assaulted her decades ago when he was a visiting professor at Berkeley. Latta shared her email to Stanford on Facebook, saying she’d been inspired to speak out in the wake of the Weinstein news and the social media hashtag #MeToo, in which survivors of misconduct have shared their experiences.

“I am writing to report that when I was a graduate student at Berkeley in 1984-85, my then professor Franco Moretti sexually stalked, pressured and raped me,” Latta wrote. “He specifically said to me, ‘You Americans girls say no when you mean yes.’ He raped me in my apartment in Oakland. He also would frequently push me up against the wall in his office, right next to the window that looked out at the library, and push up my shirt and bra and forcibly kiss me, against my will.”

Latta said she reported the alleged misconduct to Berkeley at the time, but that the relevant official at the time was a friend of Moretti’s who discouraged her from filing a formal complaint. Instead, Latta said, the official said she should share only Moretti’s initials, in case of reports from other students. Moretti allegedly threatened Latta not to go public, saying he’d ruin her name. For that reason, she said, she remained silent for many years as she continued to work within academe.

“This man has certainly assaulted many other women over the course of his fabulously successful career,” Latta said. “It’s time that the truth came out about this predator. I will take any lie detector and make any affidavits necessary to assure that he is brought to justice.”

Stanford said Friday that Latta’s allegation was entirely new to officials, but that it had reached out to her. “We of course are concerned and will be reviewing the matter and whether there are any actions for Stanford to take,” said Lisa Lapin, university spokesperson, noting that Moretti was no longer on campus due to his retirement this year.

Moretti via email said that his relationship with Latta was consensual and that he never warned her to keep quiet, as he had little to no institutional status and no powerful contacts with which to threaten her at the time. While he and the misconduct officer are friends, he said, they were not yet so at the time Latta would have lodged a complaint.

“I did not rape her, and am horrified by the accusation,” he said in an emailed statement. “I was a visitor, with no prospect, back then, of ever being part of the American academy. Unfortunately, I fear this accusation will have an enormous impact on colleagues, friends and family, despite being utterly false.”

Latta did not respond to a request for comment about Moretti’s assertion. Berkeley officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the case.

Also last week, on Thursday, Arizona State University asked for and received the resignation of Jaime Lara, a former Roman Catholic priest and an esteemed professor of medieval and Renaissance studies who previously worked at Yale University. Earlier in the day, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn shared on its website that Lara had been defrocked 25 years ago for child sex abuse.

Ricardo Gonzalez, who received compensation from the church as a result of the case, told The New York Times that he called Lara’s institutions to tell his story as an adult. But he said he felt he was never believed. “I want everyone to know who he is,” Gonzalez said. “I want him to lose his job, I want him to not have a drink of water. He ruined the little belief that I have. He is a very, very horrible person.”

Lara did not respond to a request for comment via email.

Righting Long Overdue Wrongs

Gonzalez was not at Arizona State when Lara abused him, but the other cases pertain to former students.

Willenbring said Friday that she came forward once she earned tenure, and that she’s grateful for what seems like increased media attention to sexual misconduct cases in general because it’s “easy to sweep the issue under the rug without a spotlight.” Press attention can highlight a poor institutional decision following an investigation under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination in federally funded programs, for example.

Willenbring said that she wasn’t seeking justice in her Title IX case, however, “but to make sure it didn’t happen ever again” with Marchant and anyone else, and “also to shine a light on the dark aspects of academia.” She described the experience as anxiety ridden, in that there’s always a risk of professional consequences. She said she wonders, for example, if Marchant’s friends are reading her proposals or papers or, worse, those of her students. But writing the complaint has also been cathartic, and prompted others to come forward and possibly get their own sense of closure, she added.

The case isn’t yet closed, Willenbring said, but “I think that now I have achieved what I set out to do.” She's turning her focus toward the “scores of women who reached out to me after the publicity with their own horrifying stories of harassment, discrimination and even rape in earth science departments all over the country.”

Brett Sokolow, executive director of the Association for Title IX Administrators, said that many institutions lifted their reporting timelines following the Education Department’s 2011 missive to apply Title IX to sexual misconduct, enabling these more dated complaints. And as new complainants continue to come forward with older allegations, he said, institutions are generally willing to hear their stories.

Richard Anthony Baker, assistant vice president for equal opportunity services at the University of Houston, said that such timeline-free policies are considered to be “trauma informed” because they allow the accuser “to decide when they are ready to notify the institution or move forward with their allegations, without the pressure of doing so because of an institution’s deadline.” The downside to those policies, however, is that the evidence to support a finding may be “hard to collect or not available 10 or 20 years after the event.” Another concern is that the “may no longer be affiliated with -- and therefore no longer under the control of -- the institution” so many years later.

Sokolow agreed that evidence is harder to obtain with time and that discipline is of course harder to administer if the professor is gone or dead. But cold cases are nevertheless an important opportunity for institutions to make sure that the policies and procedures in place now would clearly discourage or prevent whatever happened in the past from happening again, he said.

Additionally, he said, institutions in his experience are eager to help students or former students whose studies have been somehow derailed by harassment regain their footing. That includes offering readmission, tuition credits, counseling or advocacy, or accepting transfer credits, for example. Indeed, a number of women who have come forward with harassment or assault claims report having dropped out of academe, switched fields or transferring institutions as a result of their experiences.

Sokolow was hesitant to say whether the recent group of cold cases represented any Weinstein-inspired trend. But in higher education and in other sectors, he said, “We’ll look back on this moment as a tectonic shift in the way we address women’s equality in the workplace.”

Erin Buzuvis, a professor of law at Western New England University and moderator of the Title IX Blog, also said she had no way to quantify whether there were more cold case reports now or whether they were just getting more publicity. Legally, there’s not a bright-line reporting deadline, she said, but she agreed that colleges and universities are increasingly limited in their options for responding as time passes. Regardless of timeline, though, she said, “What institutions should be doing is whatever is reasonable and necessary to do by way of making sure that everybody is safe and that the problem doesn’t reoccur.”

That means that even when a professor is gone and no disciplinary action may therefore be taken against a particular individual, institutions “might be able to examine their internal processes and procedures or whatever allowed that problem to happen in the past.” In doing so, Buzuvis said, “institutions might easily discover that in the intervening years that a lot has changed by way of culture, policies and practice.”

Pushing for a Culture Shift -- and Accountability

Katherine Franke, Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia University and director of its Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, said she thought academe was no different from any other industry in which prominent people -- meaning men -- “have the power to make or break your career. And some will exploit this kind of power for personal gratification.” She said she also wanted to avoid “fanning the flames of a kind of sex panic” that could arise from the newfound attention on faculty harassment cases. (Franke worried, too, that such attention could overshadow what she said was a bigger threat to students: misconduct from other students.)

All that said, Franke posited that when it comes to allegations now emerging about male professors who sexually harassed or assaulted their female students 20 or more years ago, “I am less concerned with opening up the statute of limitations and allowing a suit to be filed, than with a kind of reckoning on our campuses with institutional denial of the well-known fact of sexual harassment by faculty.” Campuses have to be more invested in rethinking their cultural norms than protecting their brands, she said, noting that institutions' failure to sufficiently address harassment is one symptom of the “neoliberalization” of higher education.

At least in the court of public opinion -- or public accountability -- harassment cases at private institutions, both new and cold, are harder to try. That’s because private institutions are not subject to the same public records laws as public institutions, ostensibly because they are not funded with taxpayer dollars. In other words, some terms of a Title IX investigation are considered a matter of public record at a public institution but not a private one. Yet private institutions are still subject to Title IX -- because federal funds nevertheless flow into them.

Dauber, at Stanford, said accountability will remain a problem at private institutions in particular until public records laws are amended to include an exemption for sexual harassment and assault.

“There is no public benefit and only public detriment” to the current transparency laws for private campuses, she said.

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U.S. universities report declines in enrollments of new international students; study abroad participation increases

Mon, 2017-11-13 08:00

After years of growth, enrollments of international students at American universities started to flatten in fall 2016, and a downward trend in new enrollments appears to be accelerating this academic year, with nearly half of universities surveyed (45 percent) reporting a drop in new international students this fall.

Those are the headline findings of two international enrollment surveys released today: "Open Doors," a comprehensive annual survey of more than 2,000 colleges and universities that reports international enrollment numbers on a one-year delay, and a “snapshot” survey of about 500 institutions that reported on their international enrollment numbers for the current semester. The institutions that responded to the snapshot survey reported an average decline in new international students this fall of 7 percent.

While there are lots of variables that affect international enrollments, the drop in new students comes at a time when many in international education have expressed fears that the rhetoric and policies of President Trump could discourage some international students from enrolling at U.S. institutions. Among institutions that responded to the survey, 68 percent cited the visa application process or visa denials and delays as a reason for declining new enrollments, up 35 percentage points from last year, and 57 percent cited the social and political environment in the U.S., up 41 percentage points from last year. Other factors cited included the cost of tuition and fees (57 percent of respondents also cited this) and competition from universities in other countries (54 percent).

However, despite the 7 percent drop in new international students, the overall picture for this fall is mixed and suggests a divergence of trends depending on the selectivity, type and geographic location of a given university.

While 45 percent of institutions responding to the snapshot survey reported declines in new international students, 31 percent reported increases and 24 percent reported no change. Of those reporting decreases in new international students, the average decrease was 20 percent. Of those reporting increases, the average increase was 5 percent.

The most selective universities -- those that admit less than a quarter of applicants -- continued to report growth in new international student enrollments. The steepest declines in new international enrollments were reported by master’s-level institutions, where new international enrollments are down by 20 percent, and at associate-level institutions, where they're down 19 percent. Institutions in the middle of the country -- including the West South Central region, which includes Texas -- saw steeper declines in new enrollments than did institutions on the East and West coasts (see map below).

Total international enrollments have not fallen, buoyed up as they are by students already in the U.S. higher education pipeline. But the declines in new international enrollments will likely be cause for concern for many universities that have counted on growth in international students -- and the tuition revenue they bring -- to help balance their budgets.

The "Open Doors" survey also reports on the number of American students studying abroad. In that arena, universities continue to report steady growth. In 2015-16, 325,339 American students studied abroad for academic credit, an increase of 3.8 percent over the previous academic year.

"Open Doors" on International Enrollments

The "Open Doors" data, which reflect enrollments for the last academic year, not this one, show a 3.4 percent increase in total international student enrollments at American colleges and universities in 2016-17 compared to the year before, bringing the total number of international college students in the U.S. to 1,078,822.

Though a slowdown compared to the growth rates seen in the six years prior, 3.4 percent is still growth. However, what will be worrisome for many colleges is the fact that the number of new international students decreased for the first time in the six years that Open Doors has been reporting new enrollments, falling by 3.3 percent compared to the previous year.

Drilling down by academic level helps to explain the top-level trends. In 2016-17 the number of international students increased by a modest 2.7 percent and 1.9 percent at the undergraduate and graduate levels, respectively, and fell by 14.2 percent at the nondegree level -- a category that includes intensive English programs, which many students enroll in prior to entering degree-granting programs.

The fastest rate of growth by far was in the number of students who are participating in optional practical training (OPT), a number that grew by 19.1 percent in 2016-17 compared to the prior year.

While individuals on OPT are classified as students for visa purposes, and remain on their university’s sponsorship, they are not really students at all in the traditional sense, as they have already graduated from their degree programs and are now pursuing employment. Under an extension of the OPT program that went into effect in May 2016, students with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields can now spend up to three years working in the U.S. on OPT after they graduate (students with degrees in non-STEM fields are eligible for a one-year OPT term).

“What we’re really seeing is this sort of bulge in the system. A lot of students who began their studies in the U.S. have remained under the sponsorship of their institutions for longer because of the OPT extension, while at the same time the numbers of enrolled students haven’t increased at the same pace,” said Rajika Bhandari, head of research, policy and practice at the Institute of International Education, which publishes the annual "Open Doors" survey with funding from the U.S. State Department.

“Then when you add to this the finding on the drop in new enrollments, all of that put together really points to the fact that the numbers of international students coming to the U.S. are beginning to flatten. I would interpret this as by no means a crisis, but really more of a wake-up call where this is the beginning of a flattening trend and there’s a lot that institutions and others can be doing to still turn this around," Bhandari said.

In 2016-17, U.S. universities reported increases in the number of students from China (up 6.8 percent) and India (up 12.3 percent) -- two countries that collectively account for about half of all international students in the U.S. However, the number of students from two other key source countries, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, dropped. The 14.2 percent decline in the number of students from Saudi Arabia was especially notable and is likely attributable to moves to scale back and retool the Saudi government’s foreign scholarship program, which has sent massive numbers of students to U.S. universities in recent years. The number of students from Brazil also declined by 32.4 percent, following an 18.2 percent decline the year before, reflecting the wind-down of another large foreign scholarship program sponsored by the Brazilian government.

Top 15 Countries of Origin for International Students in the U.S.

Country of Origin Number of Students in 2016-17 Percent Change From 2015-16 1. China 350,755 +6.8% 2. India 186,267 +12.3% 3. South Korea 58,663 -3.8% 4. Saudi Arabia 52,611 -14.2% 5. Canada 27,065 +0.3% 6. Vietnam 22,438 +4.8% 7. Taiwan 21,516 +1.8% 8. Japan 18,780 -1.5% 9. Mexico 16,835 +0.6% 10. Brazil 13,089 -32.4% 11. Iran 12,643 +3% 12. Nigeria 11,710 +9.7% 13. Nepal 11,607 +20.1% 14. United Kingdom 11,489 -0.9% 15. Turkey 10,586 -1%

The top three fields of study for international students in the U.S. in 2016-17 were engineering -- students in engineering fields accounted for 21.4 percent of all international students in the U.S. -- business and management (18.6 percent) and math and computer science (15.5 percent). The most notable change according to field of study was the big drop in intensive English enrollments, down 25.9 percent.

Note, all the numbers in the charts directly above and below are for the 2016-17 academic year. For more numbers from this fall, read on to the next subhead.

International Students in the U.S. by Field of Study

Field of Study Number of International Students, 2016-17 Percent Change From 2015-16 1. Engineering 230,711 +6.4% 2. Business and management 200,754 +0.2% 3. Math and computer science 167,180 +18% 4. Social sciences 83,046 +2.1% 5. Physical and life sciences 76,838 +1.9% 6. Fine and applied arts 61,506 +3% 7. Health professions 34,395 +1.3% 8. Intensive English 30,309 -25.9% 9. Communications and journalism 21,913 +3.6% 10. Education 17,993 -7.6% 11. Humanities 17,561 -0.6% 12. Legal studies and law enforcement 15,306 +1.5% 13. Agriculture 12,602 +2.3%

Fall Snapshot Data

Simultaneous with the release of "Open Doors," IIE released the results of the “snapshot" survey it conducted in partnership with nine other higher education groups on this fall’s international enrollments. Once again, the universities that responded to the survey reported an average drop of 7 percent in new international enrollments, but their total international enrollments remained flat as existing students stayed in the pipeline, including on OPT.

The survey does not disaggregate the enrollment changes by country of origin, but 71 percent of institutions said they were concerned about recruiting students from China for next fall and 68 percent said the same about India. Seventy-six percent of institutions said they are concerned about enrolling international students from the Middle East and North Africa, a finding that IIE says is likely due to concerns about the reductions in the Saudi scholarship program and travel restrictions for the region. A third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban, currently halted by the courts, would bar all travel from North Korea and Syria and impose varying restrictions or higher vetting standards for travelers coming from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen (it would also bar certain Venezuelan government officials and their families from coming on business and tourist visas).

New enrollments of international students started to decline last fall prior to the election of President Trump. But some college administrators are worried that the current political and social climate may contribute to keeping some students away. Hundreds of universities have joined a campaign aimed toward prospective international students called "#YouAreWelcomeHere" to counter concerns about xenophobia and perceptions about personal safety in the U.S.

Fifty-two percent of universities responding to the snapshot survey said that international students have cited the U.S. social and political climate as a potential deterrent to studying in the U.S. However, only 20 percent of institutions said that international students have expressed a desire to leave or have left the U.S. as a result of this climate. Eight percent reported an incident on campus or in the community that targeted international students in a negative manner.

Study Abroad

The number of American students studying abroad has trended steadily upward. The 3.4 percent growth rate in the number of American students studying abroad in 2015-16 follows a growth rate of 2.9 percent the year before that and 5.2 percent the year before that. IIE estimates that about 15.5 percent of bachelor’s students, and 10.4 percent of all undergraduate students (including those earning associate degrees), now participate in a study abroad experience during their degree program.

“While it’s not a huge increase, I think any increase is very positive,” Bhandari said. “It’s a slow but steady growth, and I think it’s really encouraging considering in the past year or so we’ve seen so many global concerns around security and health issues and political stability and concerns around destinations like France and Brazil and Turkey. And despite all that, we have seen not only a growth, but a slightly higher rate of growth.”

Notable changes in terms of student destinations include a 5.4 percent decline in the number of American students going to France, which is perhaps attributable to the Nov. 15, 2015, terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people -- and that could well have dissuaded some students from enrolling in programs in France the following spring or summer. Though Turkey was never a top destination like France, the number of American students studying in the country, which has experienced a series of terror attacks since 2015 as well as a failed coup attempt in July 2016, also dropped, by a dramatic 62.7 percent.

The number of students going to Brazil, which was at the center of the Zika epidemic that started in 2015, declined by 11.4 percent.

The number of Americans studying in China also decreased by 8.6 percent, marking the fourth straight year of decreases in the number of American students studying there. "What we’ve mostly heard from institutions is that it’s simply been a matter of refocusing their study abroad programs and looking at other countries," Bhandari said. "Where they’ve already focused on China for quite a few years, they’re now diversifying some of the other countries where they would like to send their students."

On the plus side, the number of students going to Japan climbed by 18.1 percent. And the number of students studying in Cuba jumped dramatically, increasing by 58.6 percent, from 2,384 students in 2014-15 to 3,782 students in 2015-16. The U.S. under President Obama took various steps to ease rules for academic travel to Cuba and re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015. It seems questionable, however, whether the surge in U.S. students going to Cuba will be sustained. The Trump administration last week issued new, somewhat tighter rules on travel to Cuba -- though various forms of educational travel continue to be permitted -- and the State Department in September warned Americans against travel to Cuba, citing "specific attacks" on diplomatic personnel there.

Top 20 Destinations for American Students Studying Abroad

Country Total Number of Students, 2015-16 Percent Change From 2014-15 1. United Kingdom 39,146 +2.5% 2. Italy 34,898 +3.3% 3. Spain 29,980 +5.8% 4. France 17,215 -5.4% 5. Germany 11,902 +8.1% 6. China 11,689 -8.6% 7. Ireland 11,071 +8.2% 8. Australia 9,536 +8.2% 9. Costa Rica 9,234 -0.8% 10. Japan 7,146 +18.1% 11. South Africa 5,782 +10.2% 12. Mexico 5,179 +9.9% 13. Denmark 4,632 +14.8% 14. Czech Republic 4,610 +12.6% 15. India 4,182 -5.8% 16. Argentina 3,847 +3.7% 17. New Zealand 3,807 +14.5% 18. Cuba 3,782 +58.6% 19. Ecuador 3,751 +0.1% 20. South Korea 3,622 +2.9%

The top five destinations for American students were all in Western Europe: the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and Germany. A little more than half of Americans studying abroad (54.4 percent) go to Europe. The next most popular regional destinations, in descending order, were Latin America and the Caribbean (16.3 percent of Americans studying abroad go there), Asia (11.1 percent), Oceania (4.2 percent), Sub-Saharan Africa (3.9 percent), the Middle East and North Africa (1.9 percent), and elsewhere in North America (0.5 percent). ("Open Doors" classifies Mexico as being part of Latin America, not North America.) Another 7.6 percent of students go to multiple destinations.

Sixty-three percent of students studying abroad in 2015-16 did so on short-term programs -- summer programs or those of eight weeks or fewer -- a percentage that did not budge much from the previous year. White women are disproportionally represented among study abroad participants, but participation has steadily grown more diverse in terms of students' race and ethnicity, a trend that continued this year. The proportion of women to men barely budged from the year before: about two-thirds (66.5 percent) of study abroad participants in 2015-16 were women and one-third (33.5 percent) men.

Proportion of Study Abroad Students According to Race/Ethnicity

Race/Ethnicity 2005-6 2015-16 White 83% 71.6% Hispanic or Latino(a) 5.4% 9.7% Asian or Pacific Islander 6.3% 8.4% Black or African-American 3.5% 5.9% Multiracial 1.2% 3.9% American Indian or Alaska Native 0.6% 0.5%

Students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields made up the largest percentage of students studying abroad -- accounting for about a quarter (25.2 percent) of the total. Another 20.9 percent of study abroad students in 2015-16 studied business, 17.1 percent the social sciences, 7.4 percent foreign languages and international studies, and 6.9 percent fine and applied arts.

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Judith Butler discusses being burned in effigy and protested in Brazil

Mon, 2017-11-13 08:00

Judith Butler is no stranger to controversy. Her books and speeches about philosophy, literature and gender have won her both critics and fans. In philosophy and gender studies, she is among the leading academics in the United States today. Her lectures at scholarly conferences are standing room only.

In Brazil last week, where she helped organize a conference at SESC, a research organization in São Paulo, she faced an ugly protest at which she was called a witch and accused of trying to destroy people's gender identities and trying to undercut the values of the country. Those protesting were largely critical of ideas in Butler's famous work Gender Trouble (Routledge), which many of those protesting seemed to think would be the topic of a Butler lecture.

In fact the conference was about democracy, and Butler didn't give and hadn't planned to give a lecture, but was one of the organizers. Butler was burned in effigy as police kept groups of protesters -- for and against Butler -- apart. A pink bra was attached to the figure that was burned. People held signs with her photo and phrases like "Go to hell" (and far worse). Others held crosses and Brazilian flags in the air. The event took place as scheduled, and the protests were widely covered in the Brazilian press.

Local news reports said that far-right Christian groups organized the protest and a petition that urged Butler to stay away from Brazil (she didn't).

As word circulated about the incident in recent days, humanities scholars have voiced support for Butler and drawn attention to the attacks she has had to face. Francois Soyer, a medieval historian at the University of Southampton, in Britain, wrote on Twitter, "How can you know if your research is having an impact? When a mob holding Bibles and crucifixes burns an effigy of you outside your seminar."

Via email, Butler discussed what happened. Butler is the Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. She is also the lead investigator on an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant for a series of conferences, including last week's event, on the state of democracy. The event in Brazil was on the theme of "the ends of democracy."

In advance of her arrival in Brazil, Butler said that a "petition called for the cancellation of my lecture, and assumed that I would be speaking on gender since the allegation is that I am the founder of 'the ideology of gender.' That ideology, which is called 'diabolical' by these opponents, is considered to be a threat to the family. There does not seem to be any evidence that those who mobilized on this occasion had any familiarity with my text Gender Trouble, published in late 1989. But they took that text to be promoting the idea that one can become any gender one wants, that there are not natural laws or natural differences, and that both the biblical and scientific basis for establishing the differences between the sexes would be, or already is, destroyed by the theory attributed to me."

Not only were the protesters talking about a topic that wasn't on the agenda of the conference, Butler said, but they didn't understand her work or portray it even close to accurately.

"Of course, gender studies, and gender theory, turns out in actuality to be a much more complex field, and I don't know of anyone within that field who holds the kind of position that has been attributed to me or to 'the theory.' Indeed, the theory is not singular," Butler said. "The performative theory of gender that I proposed then accepted that we are all born into social norms and conventions that define our genders, but that we can also craft our genders within that scene of constraint.

"The aim of the theory was to offer more language and recognition to those who found themselves ostracized because they did not confirm to restrictive ideas of what it means to be a man or a woman. But that theory never denied the existence of constraints, and as I developed it in later years, I sought to show how it served the moral purpose of creating a more livable life for all people who span the gender spectrum."

Butler said that the conference itself featured the kind of good discussions she had hoped for, attracting an engaged, international audience. But she said that the nature of the protests were upsetting. "It was of concern to see so many people driven by ignorance, opposing a theory that in no way resembles the caricature, and engaging in effigy burning, recalling the hideous tradition of burning dissidents as 'witches.' I understand that the puppet/poster representing me included both a witch's hat and a bright pink bra, signifying gay or trans life in some way. I am not sure they thought about what it meant to accuse me of being both a witch and trans. If I am trans, then I would presumably be a man, but if I am a witch, I am presumably a woman. It seems they were engaged in a bit of gender trouble of their own."

As to what the protesters are really after, Butler said, "My sense is that the group who engaged this frenzy of effigy burning, stalking and harassment want to defend 'Brazil' as a place where LGBTQ people are not welcome, where the family remains heterosexual (so no gay marriage), where abortion is illegal and reproductive freedom does not exist. They want boys to be boys, and girls to be girls, and for there to be no complexity in questions such as these. The effort is antifeminist, antitrans, homophobic and nationalist, using social media to stage and disseminate their events. In this way, they resemble the forms of neo-fascism that we see emerging in different parts of the world. Indeed, they reminded us at the conference why we were right to worry about the state of democracy."

The protesters also turned up at the airport when she left the country. "On the morning that I was leaving São Paulo, my partner, Wendy Brown, and I were in the airport and we were accosted by a group of about 20 people, holdings signs with a blown-up picture of me (doctored) with banners telling me to go home or go to hell," Butler said.

"They were screaming at me to leave Brazil, where I was not wanted. And there seemed to be some mention of pedophilia (which I strongly and absolutely oppose, as would any feminist scholar and activist). There were physical fights between the protesters and some bystanders who intervened physically to stop them from harassing us, but neither one of us were hurt. As I entered the security area, one of them yelled out in English that 'Trump will take care of you!'"

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Senate tax plan would add new taxes on college royalties

Mon, 2017-11-13 08:00

Senate Republicans' tax reform proposal has added a new worry for many colleges watching the progress of legislation in Congress: taxes on income unrelated to their core academic mission, including licensing royalties, which are significant at many institutions.

The proposal broadens the unrelated business income tax -- a tax on the activities of an exempt entity unrelated to its charitable mission -- to apply to a broader range of activities by colleges.

The Senate plan makes two key changes to the tax, known as UBIT, that are serious concerns for colleges. It would apply the tax to royalties generated from a university's name or logo, income that is currently exempt. And the Senate bill would require colleges with more than one business activity unrelated to their core academic mission to count them separately for tax purposes, a change with serious repercussions for those institutions, higher ed groups say. Those activities could include rental of lab facilities to users not connected to the university, athletic events, use of golf courses or rec centers by alumni, and sales from special events for the general public.

Under current law, both corporations and tax-exempt entities like colleges can use a loss in one business activity to cancel out a gain in another area and avoid paying taxes. General Motors, for example, could use losses on sales of Chevrolet vehicles to offset taxes paid on gains in its Cadillac division.

But the Senate proposal would require tax-exempt organizations to calculate losses and gains for each economic activity for the purposes of paying taxes -- a change referred to as a "basketing" proposal that higher ed groups say would make colleges' tax bills shoot up as they could no longer use losses from one activity to offset gains in another for tax purposes.

Liz Clark, director of federal affairs for the National Association of College and University Business Officers, said colleges and universities should pay taxes on business activities under federal law but said reporting guidelines shouldn't be made overly burdensome via tax reform.

"Any changes to such guidelines should not result in disparate treatment for nonprofit organizations by holding them to standards and rules not applicable to corporations," she said.

Accounting for various business activities under the new rules would also add a substantial regulatory burden for colleges, higher ed groups say. While the tax reform plan has been advertised by GOP leaders as simplifying and streamlining how individuals, families and corporations pay taxes, those higher regulatory costs could take money away from services to students, higher ed groups said.

Businesses like college bookstores would suddenly pose challenges for colleges keeping track of which items sold in a store would be subject to the UBIT and which wouldn't, according to the groups -- a coffee mug with a university logo, for instance, versus a textbook. And colleges that frequently make campus arenas available for wider community purposes could see negative incentives for doing so.

“They are creating, unfortunately, unintended consequences,” said Steven Bloom, director of government relations at the American Council on Education. “One is the increased cost to universities that ultimately is going to harm students.”

Although the UBIT wasn't part of the House tax overhaul plan released this month, it has been part of tax reform proposals going back to at least 2014.

Higher ed groups on Friday had just begun the work of calculating the cost to colleges and universities of the proposal. The Joint Committee on Taxation projected that the basketing requirement for tax-exempt organizations would generate $3.2 billion over 10 years. The committee projected that the licensing provision of the proposal would generate $2 billion over 10 years. While many nonprofits would be subject to the basketing proposal, colleges' projected tax payments would likely make up a significant chunk of revenue from the licensing tax.

The tax on royalties from licensing will have a larger impact at those colleges with large athletic programs and big alumni networks. But it will affect all universities that license their name or logo to third parties, including any trademark or copyright related to that name or logo, said Jessica Sebeok, associate vice president and counsel for policy at the Association of American Universities. ​University trademark licensing goes well beyond athletics and includes use of colleges' names and logos on products such as apparel, novelty items, collectibles, stationery products and affinity programs.

Sebeok said taxing licensing income would unquestionably have an adverse effect on financial aid and other academic spending.

Many of the biggest college brands have policies dictating that licensing income go directly to academic services. At Harvard University, for example, all royalties from licensing programs are required to support student financial aid initiatives. And at Ohio State University, a policy states that royalties from licensing of university trademarks directly benefit a variety of scholarship and financial aid programs.

"Licensing activity provides nonprofit universities with a source of revenue that unlike, say, donations that come with donor-directed restrictions, can be applied to the institution’s most pressing needs -- including scholarships, student activities, athletics programs, renovating out-of-date campus facilities and even scientific research," Sebeok said. "In fact, a typical university licensing policy requires that that all royalties accrue to the institution’s overall educational and operational budget, in furtherance of that institution’s charitable mission."

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California mulls three options for new online community college

Mon, 2017-11-13 08:00

More than two million Californians have attended college but don’t have a degree, which is a problem the state’s two-year system is trying to help solve with a new statewide, online-only college. Today the system will submit three options for the college to its Board of Governors.

“What we’re trying to do is provide access to a population we’re not serving,” said Jose Fierro, president of Cerritos College and co-chair of the group that developed the three online options. “We’re trying to look to the future to provide as many options for upward mobility given the changes in the economy and population in the state.”

The proposed online college would seek not to compete with the system’s 114 brick-and-mortar campuses or their online offerings, officials said, but instead would be an option for people who can’t go to the traditional campuses or didn’t transition to college in a typical way. The plan, dubbed Project FLOW (Flex Learning Options for Workers), includes a focus on work-force credentials and nondegree certifications.

It’s aimed at the 2.5 million Californians with some college and no degree, 48 percent of whom are from Spanish-speaking homes.

“Now they’re in the work force and may be underemployed and have problems with social mobility,” Fierro said. “Our current system may not be the best choice for them to access education, so for constituents across the state we developed three different options to provide this particular group of students an alternative to access higher education.”

However, some critics said that despite the focus by the system and the governor’s office, students and residents are not asking for the online college.

“The idea that students are breaking down the barricade to have this is a fallacy,” said Jim Miller, an English professor at San Diego City College and a member of the California Federation of Teachers, a faculty union. “It would be one thing if we had no online options, but we already have it.”

The two-year system’s Online Education Initiative, which debuted last year, allows students to register and participate in online courses across multiple degree programs. The initiative also provides online counseling and allows students to find and take online courses that may be overbooked on their home campus. There’s also the California Virtual Campus, which works alongside OEI, to help students transfer to California State University.

The intention isn’t to compete with currently available online options, said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, the system’s chancellor.

In order to reach a different population of students, particularly working adults who are looking to quickly gain skills and have economic mobility, “we have to give them a different option than what we’re offering at the brick and mortars,” he said.

Option 1

The first possibility described would create a separate online college that serves students statewide but is housed at an existing community college.

That college would be responsible for employing or contracting with instructional designers and faculty members to develop the online academic programs. The existing college’s staff also would provide student support services and would be tasked with building additional employer relationships outside their own institution’s region.

Option 2

The second option would create a consortium of colleges to collaborate and create the statewide online college. Institutions would volunteer to be a part of the consortium and decide together how the online college should serve students and deliver content, Fierro said.

The consortium would be responsible for employing faculty and instructional designers to handle the curriculum and for developing support services.

Option 3

The final option would create the system’s 115th college with operations support coming from the chancellor’s office, Fierro said, adding that the chancellor and board would hire a president to lead the online institution.

“The idea of developing these online college plans is not to compete for students currently in the system,” he said, adding that the online institution is expected to grow to about 45,000 students in the first seven years of operation and to provide instruction in English and Spanish.

The chancellor’s office isn’t recommending any one option to the board or the governor, but will meet with the governor’s office to talk through the advantages and challenges of each option, Oakley said, including a discussion of possible regulatory obstacles to implementing the proposals.

As for the cost of each proposal, the governor’s finance department is working with the system to evaluate each option and to develop a cost estimate, he said.

Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has been encouraging the state’s public education systems to come up with solutions that increase college access for students and lead to better outcomes, Oakley said. It was Brown who urged the system to come up with the three options that -- once approved by the board -- will be presented to him.

“The governor expressed to us a sense of urgency,” Oakley said. “We know that our colleges have been doing a wonderful job of improving their ability to reach the population of students we have. Students accessing and taking online education have increased, but we also see total enrollment staying the same. We’re doing a better job of reaching students where they’re at and giving them options to learn, but the type and number of students we’re reaching is the same.”

The system serves about 2.4 million students. Ten years ago enrollment was nearly three million.

There are concerns, however, about attempting to create a brand-new institution that would specifically address the needs of working adults.

A Brookings Institution study from earlier this year indicated that students who are the least prepared for traditional college don’t do well in online courses.

“I don’t think the idea of entirely online serves community colleges well,” Miller said. “It’ll be sold in terms of access and serving students, but the great irony of that is if I go out and talk to my students and ask would they want their difficult statistics class face-to-face or online, the vast majority will say face-to-face. They say it’s much more trouble taking them online, and these are students who have taken them and did well.”

Miller connects this push for a statewide online college to the similar rush a few years ago to bring massive open online courses, or MOOCs, to community college students in California.

“This is probably well intended,” he said. “But in a time when we might get hit, in terms of the tax plan, in education funding from the federal level, spending resources to invent something that is unnecessary is a bad idea.”

Oakley said the system understands the adult student population is difficult to serve and they will have to do more than just reach those students.

The system is also looking at other online models at places like Arizona State University and Western Governors University, particularly at how to develop advising and student supports that can be delivered through technology.

“It’s very challenging to reach the population we’re trying to reach,” Fierro said. “But it’s important to establish steps to get students to the level of comfort that is required in order to learn. Yes, they may not be proficient initially in an online platform, but that essentially means we have to work with experts, instructional designers and faculty to help students.”

Jim Mayer, president of California Forward, a bipartisan public interest organization, said a completely online college would not only benefit those people who are already working and can’t afford to attend a traditional community college, but also small employers that can’t afford to create the infrastructure needed to provide training for their employees.

“The community colleges, by building this platform, can help the smaller employers, who are the fuel of our economy, to have the work force they need,” he said, adding that the partnerships created for the college would help ensure that its student employees are trained for future work-force needs.

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Senate tax bill has some but not all provisions that alarmed higher education leaders in House bill

Fri, 2017-11-10 08:44

The Senate tax reform proposal released late Thursday night includes an excise tax on large private college endowments that has been strongly opposed by higher ed groups.

The tax is similar to one in the House of Representatives bill. Private college leaders say the tax would effectively punish colleges that have built up endowments that support student aid, research and other functions of higher education. And while the tax would be applied only to the wealthiest colleges, many fear a precedent in which the assets of colleges -- traditionally exempt from tax -- are taxed.

The Senate plan would also eliminate the deduction on state and local taxes, in a measure that is similar but not identical to the House plan. Public higher education leaders are very concerned about any change in that deduction, which effectively encourages states to invest in public colleges and other state institutions. Eliminating the deduction could increase pressure to cut state spending.

But the Senate proposal appears to largely leave untouched many education tax credits and tax exemptions eliminated in the House GOP tax bill.

The House plan released last week eliminated several deductions that benefit both undergraduate and graduate students. Eliminating one of those deductions would mean tuition waived for graduate students is taxed as income. That prompted a campaign by graduate students on social media to push back against the provision.

The Senate bill does include some provisions that could be of concern to colleges. The proposal, for example, would treat any licensing of a college or university logo as an unrelated business tax. Many colleges and universities earn significant revenue through licensing of their logos.

Craig Lindwarm, director of congressional and governmental affairs at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said some of the most concerning provisions from the House bill were not referenced in the Senate proposal.

“However, colleges, universities and students should take nothing for granted,” he said. “The legislative process is just beginning, and some of the most concerning provisions can be added throughout this process.”

Lindwarm said it is critical that colleges and universities remain vigilant in advocating that harmful provisions of the House bill are not added later to the Senate proposal.

“A number of provisions that would seemingly be included would drive up the cost to universities to engage in our education, research and engagement mission. Ultimately, this would have significantly negative consequences on students through the services they receive and the tuition they pay,” he said.

Some advocates saw evidence that the Senate proposal showed members have heard many of the criticisms of the House tax reform plan.

“Although existing higher ed tax benefits could stand to be streamlined, simplified and better targeted, members of the Senate seem to have heard loud and clear how important these benefits have become for students, as well as for colleges and employers, and that gutting them to pay for corporate tax cuts while college costs and debt continue to rise makes no sense at all,” said Jessica Thompson, policy and research director of the Institute for College Access and Success.

Sam Leitermann, president and CEO of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, said the group was happy that the Senate version of tax reform does not include any provisions negatively affecting graduate education. 

"It's early so things can change on the Senate side, so we’ll keep pushing both the House and Senate to protect us," he said. 

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Knox College calls off Brecht play after complaints of racial insensitivity

Fri, 2017-11-10 08:00

Knox College in Illinois this week canceled a planned production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan, based on student protests that it is racially insensitive. But unlike some faculty members involved in parallel controversies elsewhere, theater professors at Knox blame themselves for not properly framing the play for students, rather than students for being unwilling to deal with uncomfortable speech and ideas.

‘The Teaching Moment Was Lost’

“Given the level of emotion at the moment, we felt that the teaching moment was lost, and that we’d move toward creating a teaching envelope around these kinds of issues,” said Elizabeth Carlin-Metz, Smith V. Brand Endowed Chair in Theater Arts at Knox. “How do you prepare the students to engage with difficult texts, and basically lay the groundwork for addressing a play that is from a time when there were other standards -- standards which today we would find sexist or racist or any of those things. And how do we not eliminate our history?”

Brecht, an antifascist, anticapitalist German, fled his country upon the rise of Adolf Hitler and finished Szechwan while in exile in the U.S., in 1941. Rather than a study of China -- of which Brecht knew very little -- the play uses the country as an otherworldly backdrop against which to explore issues including morality, greed, commodification and love. The story itself follows Shen Te, a young prostitute who is treated so poorly by fellow townspeople that she invents a male alter ego to protect herself. Can a person be good in a world that isn’t, the play ultimately demands -- even a group of god figures want to know.

Brecht is considered a major figure in 20th-century literature, and this and other plays of his are regularly taught at colleges and universities.

Opposition to Brecht’s play -- first from theater students and then from others -- began months ago, when the theater department announced its decision to stage it during the winter term. Some had previously read Szechwan in a theater class and remained uncomfortable with its portrayal of Asians and Asian women in particular; the play is by design indifferent to its own setting, the characters all have stereotypical-sounding names and the main character is a prostitute.

A number of students also said they worried that a preliminary plan to adjust the setting of the play to Europe was a way to get around finding people of color to fill East Asian roles on a heavily white campus. (The play’s director, Neil Blackadder, professor of theater, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the controversy or why he’d considered changing the setting to Europe.)

Those concerns peaked during a student-faculty forum on the matter earlier this month. Knox's student newspaper backed the protesters in an editorial published on the same day as the forum. The editorial board said, in part, that “The theater department is a very white department -- like many departments at Knox -- and it needs to acknowledge that they are coming from a place of privilege and prejudice. They need to listen to their students when they voice their concerns about not only the plays the department produces, but interactions with insensitive faculty and problematic syllabi.” (The editorial noted that the theater department in 2015 had staged another “outdated” play, Pierre de Marivaux’s The Island of Slaves. Written in 1725, the one-act comedy depicts what happens to a small group of slave owners and slaves after a shipwreck -- namely that roles become reversed, and then reversed again.)

Beyond more communication and sensitivity, the editorial board suggested that theater and other departments at Knox “need to engage in planned periods and workshops of interactive dialogues with their students.”

Carlin-Metz, the theater chair, said the department plans to have those kinds of discussions with students and that it’s confident it will eventually be able to stage Szechwan. But the department decided -- with no external pressure -- that now isn’t the right time, she said.

Asked if there were any hard feelings, Carlin-Metz said, “Did we have moments of defensiveness? Sure. But that’s not going to get us anywhere … I’m old enough to have been around in the ’60s and ’70s, when I was equally unwilling to listen to grown-ups with their heads up a particular nether region.”

‘I Might Have Learned Something’

Some on campus haven’t been quite as understanding. Emily Anderson, an associate professor of English, wrote an op-ed in the student newspaper disagreeing with its position on Szechwan.

“Becoming thoughtful citizens of the world requires that we confront sexist, racist, classist and colonialist texts,” Anderson wrote. “It also requires that we confront the texts that upend our sexism, racism, classism and colonialism … If I, as a person identified as white, cannot rightfully teach Edward Said’s Orientalism because I am not Palestinian and did not suffer the cultural oppression that Said suffered, I cannot explain how his theory of orientalism undoes the arguments put forth by the white, imperialist critics who preceded him. Worse, my students can’t talk about it.”

Anderson noted that Szechwan literally acknowledges its own shortcomings, asking in an epilogue, “Ladies and gentlemen, don’t be angry! Please! / We know the play is still in need of mending.” And then, “We’re disappointed too … / In your opinion, then, what’s to be done? / Change human nature or -- the world? Well: Which?”

She added, “There is plenty to criticize in Brecht’s plays, but we can’t criticize them if we haven’t seen them. There may have been plenty to criticize in this production of Szechwan, but as it will not be produced, we will be unable to criticize it. This is a pity, as I might have learned something.”

The Diversity Committee of the Student Senate responded to Knox in another op-ed, saying, "The operation of racism, sexism and colonialism within the arts does not merely exist in the past -- nonwhite writers, actors, artists continue to be pushed out today. This was also the context from which the students were protesting The Good Person -- it was not only a protest against this specific play, but the past and ongoing practices of racist casting and productions within the Knox theater department as well as the theater world beyond." Theater, the committee wrote, "is an embodied art -- it takes real people playing 'orientalist' roles within the setting of the problematic Orient. Would it really have been worth the emotional distress of students and the perpetuation of Asian stereotypes to put on a play so that it might be criticized?"

Carlin-Metz reiterated that the play and others like it will be staged, lest “We never read anything written before yesterday. And obviously that’s not going to happen.” Moreover, she said, “The dominant culture is afraid to talk about race. And we can't be afraid, because if we don’t talk about race we can’t fix anything.”

The key will be finding the right way to do so, she said, adding that the “landscape is changing every day.”

Knox said in a statement that it’s “proud of the open dialogue between our students and faculty, which addressed important issues and concerns that frame our faculty's teaching.” As a college that values inclusion and equity, it said, “we welcome disagreement, dialogue and debate among our community members. It is essential to our mission as a liberal arts college.”

Not the Only One

Szechwan wasn’t the only play canceled this week; Brandeis University also called off a play about the comedian Lenny Bruce, written by Michael Weller, a well-known playwright and alumnus. On that campus, however, both students and faculty members expressed concern about the play’s treatment of race. Brandeis said in a statement that “After receiving a draft script of Buyer Beware in early July, theater faculty members considered the challenging issues it raised. They felt that more time was needed to produce the play appropriately, and that its performance on campus should go hand in hand with robust educational programming.” Weller, citing concerns about the "creative environment," decided to stage the place at an off-campus professional venue.

Carlin-Metz noted the development with some irony, saying, “You don't get more left-wing than Lenny Bruce.”

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Study suggests it's not just students who have difficulty understanding free expression

Fri, 2017-11-10 08:00

Numerous incidents on campuses, along with national surveys of students, have led to complaints that college students don't value free expression. Pundits and politicians complain that students are so sensitive that they refuse to engage with ideas that make them uncomfortable. Many of the comments lament what is seen as a problem with the current generation of college students.

But a new survey suggests that the general public may be as conflicted and inconsistent about free expression on campus as students are.

The Bucknell University Institute for Public Policy commissioned YouGov to conduct a survey of the public about campus speech, and responses were analyzed from a nationally representative sample of 1,200. The results were very similar to studies of students: broad support for the idea of free speech on campus, but also willingness to curtail some kinds of protected speech. The results were the same for Democrats and Republicans, but those of differing political views would permit speech on different topics to be restricted.

When asked a general question about free speech, 78 percent agreed that “in order to promote intellectual engagement, colleges should never prohibit speech for any reason.”

But when asked about specific scenarios, that absolute commitment to free speech gets a lot less absolute.

Asked if colleges should be able to restrict speech that is sexist, 55 percent of Democrats agreed, while 35 percent of Republicans and independents agreed. Asked about speech that is "offensive to racial minorities," 62 percent of Democrats agreed, while 31 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of independents agreed.

But asked if colleges should be able to restrict "the teaching of radical ideas," 65 percent of Republicans agreed, while only 41 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of independents agreed.

Chris Ellis, associate professor of political science at Bucknell, was the lead author on the research, which he described on the blog “Monkey Cage.”

In an interview, Ellis said the data suggest that it's unfair to imply that a lack of appreciation of free expression is unique to current college students. "Students are grappling with the complexity of this just as everyone else is," he said. Those who are concerned about support for free expression should consider the entire population, not just students, he said.

Notably, however, Ellis said that older Americans -- those who would have attended colleges in the ’60s -- were slightly more consistent in supporting free speech than were other adults.

Ellis said he hoped the study would lead to more "nuance" in discussions of free speech issues, and talking about real areas of concern without simply bashing the current generation of students.

Even though polls of students have shown their ambivalence about some matters of free speech on campus, Ellis said he thought it was unfair to imply that an entire generation supports things like disrupting speakers when students disagree with them.

Of those who disrupt, he said that "it's a small and loud group of students, but most students are much more willing to engage in different perspectives."

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Judge issues long-awaited ruling on black colleges in Maryland

Fri, 2017-11-10 08:00

A federal judge will appoint a third party to address segregation imposed upon Maryland’s public historically black universities, issuing a middle-of-the-road decision that does not completely fulfill the requests of either side in a bitter and long-running court case.

Judge Catherine C. Blake on Wednesday ordered the appointment of a “special master” who will create a remedial plan and monitor its implementation under court supervision. The plan is to create a new set of unique or high-demand programs that build on the strength of Maryland’s four public historically black colleges. It will also include a yet-to-be-determined amount of funding for marketing, student recruitment, financial aid and other initiatives over the next decade.

But the plan will not be allowed to include a proposal that had proven highly controversial among Maryland’s public higher education institutions -- transferring programs from some traditionally white state institutions to its historically black universities.

The judge’s ruling could prove to be the culmination of a lawsuit stretching back to 2006, when a group of historically black college and university supporters called the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education sued the state for violations of the Civil Rights Act and the Constitution’s equal protection clause. At the heart of the suit was whether the state had effectively caused segregation at its historically black universities by allowing traditionally white universities to duplicate historically black institutions’ programs -- preventing the historically black universities from drawing a diverse set of students with successful programs.

In 2013, the court ruled unnecessary program duplication in the state’s higher education system has effects of segregation that the state could not justify. The parties subsequently went through mediation but could not agree on a path forward, and they submitted competing proposals to remedy the situation in 2015.

The case continued in court until Blake’s ruling Wednesday. She wrote that none of the proposed remedies were proper.

“The court finds that neither party’s remedy, as currently proposed, is practicable, educationally sound and sufficient to address the segregative harms of program duplication at HBIs,” the judge wrote. “At least in part, this results from parties’ failure or inability to consult with the other side in crafting their proposals.”

Nonetheless, advocates of the state’s historically black universities supported the judge’s decision. They welcomed the judge’s plan as one that should end harmful program duplication, provide historically black institutions with more resources and help those institutions stand out by creating in-demand clusters of programs.

“She’s putting an end to program duplication going forward, and so that’s a win,” said David Wilson, president of Morgan State University, a public historically black institution in Baltimore. “I think it’s a win for the state, I think it’s a win for Morgan and it’s a win for taxpayers, because you don’t necessarily have to now pay two or three times over for programs that were being offered at Morgan.”

The court’s order requires Maryland to end the segregation-era policy, said the lawyer leading the case against the state, Michael D. Jones, in a statement.

“The most important area of inferiority was to deny the black schools exclusive, unique, well-funded programs,” said Jones, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. “With this order, Judge Blake brings that era to a close.”

In other statements, backers did not reference the fact that they had proposed transferring programs from other institutions to historically black universities. Instead, they focused on what the judge had decided.

“We are especially pleased that the judge’s order requires the development of several new and unique high-demand programs at each HBI and that those programs are to be funded by the state rather than the HBIs,” said David Burton, president of the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education. “That was one of our primary objectives in bringing this lawsuit.”

A spokesman for the University System of Maryland declined comment. A spokeswoman for the state’s Higher Education Commission did not respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.

The coalition bringing the suit had proposed creating programmatic niches at each historically black institution, along with academic enhancements like additional funding at each institution, as well as reforms to the state process for new academic program approval. Niches would have been made by creating new programs at historically black institutions or transferring programs from traditionally white institutions to historically black institutions.

The idea was that niches would create unique institutional identities outside racial identities at historically black institutions, helping them attract students of different races. Some new programs would have been created from scratch, and others would have been moved from one institution to another.

At Morgan State, for example, the proposal would have created three programs: business and management; urban environment, health and sustainability; and engineering. That would have been done in part by transferring programs from traditionally white institutions.

The state first proposed creating a fund for collaborative academic programs, which would have taken the form of a six-year program to develop new programs between historically black and traditionally white institutions. It would have distributed $10 million in grants. The state also proposed summer academies for high school students at each historically black institution that would receive between $500,000 and $1 million per institution each year for four years.

But the state later replaced its proposal with one that would have provided $50 million over five years to the four historically black institutions. They could have used the money for enrollment management, student aid, campus inclusion efforts or summer academies.

The judge found the state’s remedial proposals were “neither adequate nor sufficiently specific.” She called the plaintiff’s proposal, which would have created areas of program concentration with new and high-demand offerings, promising but in need of more thorough discussion. She has also rejected an idea to have Morgan State University take over the University of Baltimore, a traditionally white institution.

The case, the judge wrote, is not about particular institutions. It is about students’ constitutional right to attend any public college or university without having to accept racial segregation. Maryland’s traditionally white institutions meet that requirement, the judge found. Its historically black institutions don’t, so a remedial plan needs to encourage students who are not black to attend historically black institutions.

Such a plan wouldn’t be sound educationally if it hurt students at integrated institutions, the judge wrote.

“Crafting such a plan is a daunting task requiring the good-faith collaboration of the coalition and the state,” the judge wrote.

The plaintiff’s proposal raised cost issues, accreditation complications and issues with the state’s process for approving academic programs, the judge wrote. She also pointed out that the state did not consult with numerous presidents at both historically black and traditionally white institutions when drafting proposals -- and that the plaintiff’s experts weren’t able to consult with presidents at historically black institutions when drafting theirs.

Testimony in the case revealed schisms within Maryland public higher education. Some presidents testified that creating new programs would increase the number of students in higher education. Others worried the state would take money from some institutions and give it to others in order to fund new programs.

Wilson had told the court that a viable remedy had to start with transferring programs. But presidents at traditionally white institutions said doing so would seriously harm their institutions. Kurt Schmoke, president of the University of Baltimore, said proposed transfers could force the university to close its business school.

Schmoke's position indicates just how complicated the situation has become, both legally and politically. He was the first African-American elected mayor of Baltimore, in 1987. Today he is not alone as an African-American leader at one of Maryland's non-historically black universities. Institutions like the University of Baltimore and the University of Maryland Baltimore County have strong records of enrolling and retaining black students, meaning that harming those institutions would likely also harm black students.

Presidents at the traditionally white institutions testified that transferring programs would harm their colleges and universities by hurting their reputations -- and their ability to attract students and faculty members -- by harming partnerships they had with other institutions and by hurting the state’s ability to meet its work-force needs. Faculty members had already voiced opposition to moving, some said.

The judge concluded that creating new unique and high-demand programs at historically black institutions will mitigate, to the greatest degree possible, the effects of segregation from program duplication between institutions.

Program transfers do not need to be a part of the final remedy unless affected institutions agree to them, the judge decided. She cited the difficulty of the transfer process, its potential to hurt institutions losing programs and the possibility that transferring programs could hurt students at traditionally white institutions.

The state’s process for approving new programs is adequate, the judge decided. But she is still requiring consultation with the special master before future programs are approved, a measure backers of the historically black universities supported.

The state and coalition will be able to submit suggestions for filling the special master role.

DiversityEditorial Tags: Historically black collegesMarylandImage Source: Morgan State UniversityIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, November 14, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: Ending Segregation Through DuplicationMagazine treatment: 

Head of higher ed research group calls out dominance of 'white power'

Fri, 2017-11-10 08:00

HOUSTON -- Shaun R. Harper has not been shy in recent months about calling out racism where he sees it in the academy. In August he told faculty at the University of Virginia that the white supremacists who had marched on the campus and in the city of Charlottesville with tiki torches days earlier were not the only ones in town. “Many more work and attend school here,” he said.

And in September he told a group of admissions officers that it “would be nice if a mostly white professional association and its members more powerfully, more responsibly and more loudly advocated for racial justice on behalf of those who don't have the resources that they deserve in high schools across our nation.”

Harper, a professor at the University of Southern California's school of education and executive director for the university's Race and Equity Center, turned it up a few notches Thursday in his presidential address at the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education.

Taking the stage as Kanye West's "Power" pulsed in the background, Harper said he felt obliged -- to relatives in the impoverished rural Georgia town where he grew up, among other people -- to use his platform as a highly visible scholar and president of the association to "try to ignite a paradigmatic shift in the study of higher education" and to identify white power "in academia and even, yes, in the study of higher education."

Harper dispassionately documented the ways in which he believes American higher education was historically and continues to be dominated by "white power" -- architecturally, compositionally, curricularly and editorially.

It was “racist and exclusive from the start,” he said, conceived when African-Americans were enslaved and Native Americans were being slaughtered. “White people determined what a university is, what its culture will be, how it will be arranged.”

Compositionally, it “remains an overwhelmingly white profession,” and given that reality, “it is white people who get to determine who gains access, how many of us are let in. It is white people who determine the metrics of deservingness to have a seat at the table.”

Curricularly, white supremacy is evident in fact that white people "determine what is worthy of being taught and learned," and "whose voices are legitimized."

And "the leading journals in our field are led and edited by white people," Harper said. "They work hard, and they are good citizens of our field. They are also really powerful. They have the power to determine relevance and rigor in what is published."

The Kanye West song contains the line “no one man should have all that power.” “No one racial group should have this much power and this much of a stronghold on an enterprise,” Harper said.

The implications of that concentration of power are significant because of the ways those in power acculturate and socialize those who enter the profession.

The mostly white faculty "pass on certain norms and expectations and patterns" to the graduate students they train, and the socialization norms, Harper argued, "have a hypnotizing effect on people of color," discouraging them from being too "flashy" or "loud," from writing about topics they perceive as being "too narrow" or from using their scholarship to advocate for underrepresented or disadvantaged groups.

With the world "on fire" now, Harper said, citing mass shootings, sexual harassment and attacks on immigrants, this is not a time when scholars can or should sit back and "write stupid, pointless, unimportant papers," Harper said.

"I have too much power to do that," he said. Researchers like those in the audience need to "do a better job for the people, upholding our commitment to the statement of purpose that brought us to the study of higher education … The world needs us to ask better questions."

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For-profit medical schools are now operating in U.S.

Fri, 2017-11-10 08:00

If medical school students at Ross University were expecting to study on the beach, their plans changed in September when Hurricane Maria slammed into Dominica, the Caribbean country that hosts the for-profit institution.

Currently, students find themselves studying on a cruise ship. Their next stop? Knoxville, Tenn.

The university is relocating more than 1,400 students, faculty and staff to Lincoln Memorial University, a private, nonprofit institution, after the fall semester aboard the cruise ship wraps up. Regulatory approvals are still being finalized, Ross spokeswoman Nicole Pride said via email, and although Ross will being using Lincoln Memorial's space and anatomy lab, it will continue teaching its own curriculum.

Autry O. V. DeBusk, chairman of the LMU Board of Trustees, said that the Ross students would be on campus for approximately a year and that getting them a temporary space was the right thing to do in the wake of a disaster.

“It is the right thing to do to help these students, and we are confident that the people of Knoxville will welcome them with open arms,” he said in an email.

The arrangement makes for an odd pairing -- a nonprofit and a for-profit medical school teaching side by side -- but it’s indicative of for-profit medical schools’ expanding presence onto the U.S. mainland after a long practice of accrediting regulations exiling them to foreign shores, often in the Caribbean.

Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine’s 2007 opening in Colorado is credited as the first for-profit medical school established in the U.S. in modern times, reversing a century-long drought of the institutions. Ross’s relocation -- though temporary -- is the latest.

Since 2007, a handful of for-profit medical schools -- both ones that grant doctor of osteopathic medicine degrees and others that grant traditional doctor of medicine degrees -- have popped up in the U.S. Critics have shunned their corporate structures, academic rigor and debt loads that graduates sometimes incur. Advocates, on the other hand, say they provide a market need where others don’t -- or won’t -- invest, especially in rural areas that are facing physician shortages. Colorado Northstate University School of Medicine and Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine, in New Mexico, are two such examples.

The trickle of for-profit medical schools was made possible because of a 1996 legal ruling against the American Bar Association opened up the possibility of accreditation for for-profit law schools. With that legal precedent looking like it might favor for-profit medical schools as well, medical school accreditors soon abandoned similar policies that previously made forming a for-profit medical school a nonstarter.

Still, the number of for-profit medical schools launching in the U.S. has looked like a trickle since the 1996 ruling, rather than an opening of the floodgates. Some of this is due to stigma and some of it is due to the investment risk, said Eli Adashi, a professor of medical science at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, who along with two co-authors wrote about the resurgence of for-profit programs earlier this year in Journal of the American Medical Association.

“The stigma [surrounding for-profit medical schools] exists, this is true,” he said. “Whether it’s warranted or not is another question.”

Adashi said many of the stigmas surrounding for-profit medical schools are based on institutions that operated in the U.S. more than a century ago. Additionally, he said, an institution being organized as a nonprofit doesn’t guarantee success or rigor by itself.

More importantly, though, having medical schools -- which have small classes and need expensive equipment -- rely solely on tuition can be a risky business bet, which makes starting new ones in the U.S. difficult, Adashi said. Most nonprofit medical schools have major research operations, landing grants that help finance the institutions.

“Not everybody sees this as a tremendous investment opportunity,” he said.

Still, he thinks it’s possible for for-profit institutions to find a place in the medical school market. For-profit medical schools, he said, are often similar to nonprofit schools that aren’t affiliated with large universities.

“The Harvards of the world can do a whole lot more. And for some people, that would be important, and a preferable route,” he said. “There is room for both.”

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Black faculty members will soon outnumber white professors at South Africa's universities

Fri, 2017-11-10 08:00

Black academics will outnumber their white colleagues in South African universities within the next decade as thousands of older white lecturers retire, research shows.

At present, some 49 percent of academics in South Africa are white, compared with the 35 percent who are black, while another 10 percent are of Indian descent, says a new demographic profile of the country’s 25 universities.

However, the gap between black and white academics has closed substantially since 2005, when 60 percent of academics were white and just 26 percent were black, according to the paper, “The Changing Demography of Academic Staff at Higher Education Institutions in South Africa,” published in Higher Education.

That “upwards trajectory of black African academics” and a “concomitant downward trajectory of white academics” between 2005 and 2015 is likely to continue and possibly accelerate in coming years, say the paper’s authors, Gregory Breetzke, from the University of Pretoria, and David Hedding, from the University of South Africa.

That is because the “age trends of black African academics are the direct opposite of white academics,” with black African academics having a mean age of 40 and “becoming younger,” whereas white academics were on average 47 and “becoming older,” the two geographers state.

With more than 4,000 largely white academics -- about 27 percent of the total -- set to retire over the coming decade, this will create opportunities for a growing cohort of younger black academics to enter more senior positions, they add.

In fact, black academics are set to outnumber white scholars in South African universities at some point between 2020 and 2025, Breetzke told Times Higher Education.

“Regardless of the exact date, this will be a major milestone,” he said. However, there is “still a long way to go when you consider that over 80 percent of the population in South Africa is black African,” he added.

The paper stresses that the “true transformation of academic staff is not a numbers game” and raw numbers alone may hide major racial imbalances in the country’s academy.

For instance, while 64 percent of academics at historically black universities are black, up from 55 percent in 2005, just 20 percent of staff at historically white universities are black, up from 14 percent in 2005. And while 15 percent of professors are black -- compared with 75 percent who are white -- half of all black professors are located at three historically black institutions, the Universities of South Africa and Limpopo, as well as Walter Sisulu University.

“Transformation across all ranks, but particularly at the level of professor, will be crucial going forward,” Breetzke told Times Higher Education, adding that “traditionally white universities should continue with transformation initiatives and investigate mechanisms to recruit and retain promising black African academics.”

One of the “primary” hurdles to the career progression of black African academics was the low rate of Ph.D.s among staff, with only 34 percent of black academics holding a doctorate.

The government was “starting to address [this] through programs, [but] such is the demand for highly qualified black African professionals in the private sector, that universities often struggle to compete financially to attract and retain black African academics once they obtain Ph.D.s,” Breetzke added.

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Essay about being raped by professor sparks call for public acknowledgment from Stanford and disciplinary society

Thu, 2017-11-09 08:00

It was a simple phone call from an undergraduate seeking donations from alumni. But the words “I’m calling from Stanford to ask about your experience while you were here” were enough. Enough to send Seo-Young Chu reeling, back nearly two decades to when she says a former faculty mentor -- now dead -- harassed and ultimately raped her.

Chu, now an associate professor of English at Queens College of the City University of New York, wrote about that time in an essay published this month by Entropy magazine. The piece, as well written as its story is enraging, has many of Chu’s fellow academics reeling, in turn. Some have responded by asking the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies to publicly explain why it last year renamed a faculty mentorship award that previously honored the late Jay Fliegelman, Coe Professor in American Literature at Stanford University -- and the man Chu says raped her.

Demands for public acknowledgment have been directed at Stanford as well. The university points out that Fliegelman was suspended without pay and banned from the department for two years as a result of the incident. But those sanctions were not publicly linked to Chu's accusations until now.

‘The Story Tumbles Out’

“The story tumbles out” to the unwitting undergraduate, Chu wrote in her essay. It “begins with my suicide attempt at age 21 and ends with Stanford’s own punishment of the professor in 2001: two years of suspension without pay … I have never sued the rapist, the department or the school -- despite the time I’ve lost and the fortune I’ve spent as a consequence of the harmful culture at Stanford that enabled the professor to injure me as well as others.”

Chu describes how Fliegelman groomed her for abuse, inviting her to a group dinner that turned out to be a one-on-one and telling her, “I’m lonely. I’m needy. I need to feel desirable. I need you to desire me.” A new graduate student who was already recovering from a suicide attempt and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, Chu didn’t know how to respond, other than by promising to work hard. The harassment and abuse of power only escalated, as they too often do, by Chu’s telling, with Fliegelman alleged asking about Chu’s sexual history and other intimate topics. He allegedly told her all men -- even her father -- have rape fantasies, showed up at her dorm room uninvited and relied on her as an outlet for his own emotions. Then there was the alleged rape.

Chu says that she never personally reported the assault to Stanford but that one of her confidants did, on her behalf. The university investigated, she says, but Fliegelman was not terminated. Instead, he faced two years of unpaid administrative leave with no public record as to why. She remains haunted -- literally, in a way, and figuratively -- by his ghost.

‘Especially Gifted as a Teacher’

Fliegelman died in 2007, at 58, from complications from liver disease and cancer. A Stanford announcement from the time described him as an “especially gifted” who received the Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching, the Associated Students of Stanford University Award for Outstanding Teaching and a University Summer Fellowship in recognition of his teaching.

The American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies in 2009 also named a mentorship award after Fliegelman -- which is what prompted Chu to name her rapist, initially to the group’s executive director. (Chu said Tuesday that she’d previously identified herself publicly as a rape survivor, in solidarity with Brock Turner’s accuser, in a high-profile rape case involving two students, also at Stanford.)

“Recently I learned that there is a graduate mentoring award named after (I’m just going to force myself to spell out his name) Jay Fliegelman,” Chu wrote to the society in mid-2016, upon hearing of Fliegelman’s namesake graduate mentoring award. “This man was supposed to be my dissertation adviser. I say ‘supposed to be,’ because he spent more time sexually harassing and stalking me than he did advising me academically … Surely there are better examples in whose honor this award might be renamed.”

The society renamed the award approximately two months later. But until now it’s been unclear why. So upon reading Chu’s essay, society members circulated a draft letter to the group's executive board this week, urging it to “publicly acknowledge the reason for rescinding his name from the award and to apologize for the shatteringly specific violence enacted, however unwittingly, in naming this award after this person in the first place.”

They further called on the board “to state in no uncertain terms that the society will no longer tolerate such patterns of abusive behavior nor their normalization as part of our professional culture.”

Lisa Berglund, executive director of the society and a professor of English at Buffalo State College of the State University of New York, said in an email Wednesday that the board, at Chu’s urging, removed “the name of her rapist from the Graduate Mentorship Award.” Now that Chu has shared her story, Berglund said, “we can begin making the circumstances of that removal public. And we will respond to the other concerns raised by our members as soon as possible.”

Seeking Acknowledgment

Eugenia Zuroski, an associate professor of English at McMaster University in Canada who helped organize the letter to the association, responded to a request for comment with a group statement from her and five other signatories: Tita Chico, associate professor of English at the University of Maryland at College Park; Mansuhag Powell, associate professor of English at Purdue University; Emily West, visiting assistant professor of English at the University of Windsor in Canada; Kathleen Lubey, an associate professor of English at St. John’s University in New York; and Kirsten Saxton, professor of English at Mills College. They said their letter calls “for an acknowledgment of and attempts to rectify the structures of inequity and complicity that have allowed such abusive and harassing behaviors to remain possible. Jay Fliegelman may be dead, but this pattern of behavior, so destructive to the academic culture we want to cultivate, persists.”

Instead of “blaming,” they said they call for “steps forward to protect and mentor our members, especially the most vulnerable among us. We hope the end result of Professor Chu’s publication and our collective response is an explicit position by ASECS on providing conditions of equity, security and productivity for its members of all sexes, genders, races, abilities and academic ranks.”

Chu said in an email to Inside Higher Ed that her writing “is not retaliatory. It is meant to add another voice to the record. It is meant to correct, or try to correct, any misinformation about the case. It is meant to explain my own experience as a survivor of sexual violence in academia.” Having tenure, she added, “is what encouraged me -- gave me the courage -- to write candidly about what happened to me at Stanford.”

Efforts to reach Fliegelman's widow were not successful.

Lisa Lapin, a spokesperson for Stanford, said both California employment law and federal student privacy laws “restricted what we could say at the time about the details, though it was well known throughout the campus that the faculty member was suspended and banned from the department and its building for two years.”

While Stanford remains constrained by privacy laws and can’t speak about this specific case, she said, “we take concerns of this nature extremely seriously, conduct thorough investigations and inform both parties of the outcome of those investigations. Most often, people in situations like this do not want details discussed.” Lapin added, “These are very difficult cases and the university does its best to make sure the right thing is done.  We could not speculate about what would happen today in terms of notifications; the privacy provisions are all still in place.”

Stanford noted that it’s been working to refine its sexual harassment policies since the early 2000s, expanding and adding more support service for survivors of sexual misconduct. According to state law, it said, all faculty members and supervisors complete mandatory sexual misconduct training every two years.

Even if Fliegelman's colleagues knew about the circumstances of his suspension, it's unclear how many of his students or peers off campus did. It was the graduate caucus of the literary society that voted, unanimously, to name the mentorship award after him.

As more and more harassment experiences come to light, Fliegelman probably won’t be the last deceased professor named. He’s not the first, either. Earlier this year, for example, St. Olaf College scrubbed from a campus arts building the name of Reidar Dittmann, a longtime professor there who died in 2010. In doing so, the college cited reports of Dittmann’s sexual misconduct against students -- now alumni -- that had recently come to light. Dittmann’s family disagreed with the action, saying in a statement that they were devastated by the “impossibility of due process for the person we knew and loved.”

Fliegelman’s case differs, of course, in that he was granted due process during his lifetime and punished by his university, although in ways some see as insufficiently serious. But Chu and her supporters seem to be demanding more than that -- namely some public record of that process.

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State higher ed leaders call for better coordination on tuition

Thu, 2017-11-09 08:00

Setting tuition at public colleges and universities is no simple task.

Governors and lawmakers approve different levels of state funding to subsidize higher education from year to year. Those same politicians are frequently unhappy with rising college costs, and they sometimes move to freeze tuition or cap its rate of increase.

But flat tuition, if not accompanied by an increase in appropriations, can result in fewer sections and longer times to graduation, which is expensive for students and families. And because of the way many state aid programs are structured, public tuition rates can directly affect the amount of financial aid students receive.

In other words, setting public tuition is an exceedingly complex process involving numerous power centers. It’s a process with numerous possible unintended consequences for students’ ability to pay for college. Yet it’s a process that’s not even close to being standardized from state to state.

Most states don’t even have a single strategy for addressing affordability, according to a new report out today from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. SHEEO found that 68 percent of higher education agencies it surveyed had no unified affordability strategy taking tuition, fees and financial aid into account.

That lack of strategy comes even as four out of five states have put in place attainment goals for increasing the percentage of their residents with postsecondary credentials. As a result, SHEEO is calling for states to bring together governors, lawmakers, higher ed governing boards and college presidents in order to set tuition and fees in ways that line up with attainment goals.

“We have to find mechanisms to provide greater transparency and predictability to students and their families,” said Rob Anderson, SHEEO president. “One way to do this is to set out conversations between all the players that take part in the tuition- and fee-setting process. Instead of looking short term, let’s begin to think long term as far as what this relationship is going to look like between a governor, a Legislature, a higher ed office within a state as well as campus presidents and their administration.”

Although SHEEO is pushing broadly for a balance to be found between the cost students pay and colleges’ revenue needs, it didn’t issue its new report to examine actual tuition costs in depth. Instead, it looked at the different ways states set tuition, fees and student aid by conducting a survey that received responses from 54 higher education agencies in 49 states.

It found wide variations in the philosophies driving tuition setting. Keeping college affordable for students was the most common principle underpinning tuition rates, SHEEO found. But many also factored in budgetary needs and changes in state funding levels.

Philosophy is one thing. The factors actually driving tuition setting are another. The amount of money states budget for higher education is more important than affordability when setting tuition rates, SHEEO found.

States have pursued several different tuition-affordability strategies in recent years. Free community college programs like the Tennessee Promise were the most likely to have been discussed, with three states adopting promise programs, four states putting them in place on a limited or pilot basis, and another nine states not implementing them. But tuition guarantee programs, which have students paying the same rate of tuition over the course of their enrollment, were more broadly implemented. A total of 11 respondents said their states had implemented tuition guarantee programs.

SHEEO also asked respondents whether their states had put in place prepaid tuition plans, tuition rollbacks, pay-it-forward models and debt-free college. Prepaid tuition plans are college savings accounts, like 529 plans. Tuition rollbacks have institutions cutting their rates of tuition in exchange for more public funding. Pay-it-forward programs have students paying no tuition while they are in college but having a portion of their wages garnished after they graduate in order to pay for their education. Debt-free college uses a combination of financial aid mechanisms to help students graduate without any debt.

Of those other strategies, tuition rollbacks were most widely implemented.

The survey went on to ask whether a tuition freeze or other limit had been placed on residential undergraduate students in the last three fiscal years. Twenty-four respondents said neither restriction had been placed on their tuition. Twenty said a tuition freeze had been adopted, six said a tuition limit had been put in place and three said both a freeze and tuition limit had been enacted.

The question of who, exactly, sets tuition is sometimes murky. About three-quarters of states have tuition-setting authority laid out by legislative statute. Another 15 percent codify tuition-setting authority by board rule or policy, and 11 percent do not have the authority formalized at the state level.

Various parties can propose tuition rates before they are formally adopted. The actors setting rates vary significantly from state to state -- and there are often multiple players involved. Governing boards were most frequently primarily responsible for proposing tuition rates in SHEEO’s survey, followed closely by boards of individual institutions. But governors and legislatures often played an informal or consultative role.

A dozen respondents said multiple authorities could arguably be said to have tuition-setting authority in their state. Even outside those states, the process of setting tuition and fees is complex and involves multiple entities with sometimes-competing interests, according to SHEEO.

Restrictions on tuition rates can push colleges or universities that need to raise more revenue to increase fees. Many institutions have also turned to differential tuition in the face of pressure on tuition revenue. A total of 49 respondents told SHEEO they had implemented differential tuition between in-state and out-of-state resident undergraduate students. And 29 said they had implemented differential tuition for certain majors.

Changes to tuition can also put more pressure on financial aid programs. Minnesota, for example, awards the Minnesota State Grant for students from low- or moderate-income families based on the gap between the cost of attending college and a family’s expected contribution -- and the state automatically spends more on financial aid to moderate the effects of tuition rate increases.

Yet only 21 survey respondents said they strongly agreed or agreed with the statement that policy makers should consider the impact on financial aid programs when they considered tuition rates. Another 10 disagreed with the statement, and 18 were neutral.

It’s possible for state aid programs to offer students less money, or to offer fewer students money, if tuition rises at public institutions but state appropriations do not increase in lockstep, said Andy Carlson, SHEEO principal policy analyst.

“If a financial aid program is designed to cover tuition at a median institution in a state, and institutions raise tuition with little control from the Legislature, that’s just going to reduce the number of students who are able to access the grants, unless the appropriation keeps up,” Carlson said.

That’s one of the reasons SHEEO is pushing for the different players in tuition policy to get together to talk strategy. Otherwise, they might be pulling in different directions, minimizing the effects of financial aid programs and otherwise hurting their chances of reaching larger goals.

“If a state or governing board is implementing an affordability strategy and they’re not considering tuition rate policies’ impact on that, the program probably won’t be as effective as it could be,” Carlson said.

Specifically, SHEEO is calling for policy makers to incorporate tuition policy into broader affordability and attainment strategies. Institutional revenue sources like state appropriations, financial aid and tuition should be coordinated, and more transparency should be established around institutional expenditures, the organization says. It also called for a multiyear approach to tuition policy -- one that would not necessarily lock in specific tuition rates over a set number of years but would create a range of allowable increases over three to five years, allowing institutions, students and families to plan better.

There are still skeptics about the effectiveness of those strategies. Andrew Gillen, an independent higher education analyst who has criticized SHEEO’s assumptions in other studies, said increased coordination between policy makers could be worthwhile for some reasons. But he doesn’t think it will lead to a lower cost of delivering education or encourage third parties to shoulder more of the cost.

“The bottom line is that increased coordination doesn’t have much potential to reduce or reallocate costs,” he said via email. “And even if it did, it is unlikely students would see any of the benefit.”

There is also no guarantee that bringing different parties together would result in better coordination. Many players with power would be hesitant to give up the ability to set tuition, said Joseph Rallo, Louisiana’s commissioner of higher education. Different institutions also face vastly different situations.

“I’m not saying you don’t want to be able to come to the table,” he said. “When it comes to tuition and fees, it is really is so variable and singular it would be hard to go beyond conversing.”

Rallo was more optimistic about the idea of coordinating financial aid. Putting together state aid, institutional grants and federal aid could benefit students and provide more clarity for families, he said.

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