Inside Higher Ed

Cleveland State University president criticized for lukewarm response to homophobic poster

Thu, 2017-10-19 07:00

When a poster urging gay, bisexual and transgender students to kill themselves appeared on the Cleveland State University campus, the president didn’t condemn or criticize the fliers, as has become usual for college administrators faced with blatantly hateful expression on their campuses.

Instead, he defended free speech.

“CSU remains fully committed to a campus community that respects all individuals, regardless of age, race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation and other historical bases for discrimination,” President Ronald M. Berkman said in a statement Monday. “CSU also is committed to upholding the First Amendment, even with regard to controversial issues where opinion is divided. We will continue to protect free speech to ensure all voices may be heard and to promote a civil discourse where educational growth is the desired result.”

Now, activists, alumni and students are infuriated. In interviews they expressed puzzlement and anger over Berkman’s reply, an unusual deviation from the typical response. University leaders are generally quick to take down and denounce hateful fliers. And many presidents of public institutions manage to do so even while noting the First Amendment issues that may prevent punishing the expression. As anger over his initial statement grew, Berkman backtracked and said he found the message of the fliers “reprehensible,” adding a caveat that the “legal framework” made blocking such posters difficult.

The flier, posted last week (the same day the institution opened a new center for LGBTQ students) shows someone hanging by a noose, and statistics on queer people who consider suicide.

The top of the poster reads “follow your fellow faggots.”

A spokesman indicated the poster would have been allowed to remain if the university’s procedures had been followed, igniting further backlash and leaving advocates to question the institution’s policies.

But Berkman was correct in that the poster was protected by the First Amendment, said Ari Cohn, a lawyer and director of the individual rights defense program with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, a free speech watch group.

“While the posters seemed to encourage individuals who identify as part of the LGBT community to commit suicide, that can't be proscribed any more than saying something like ‘go kill yourself’ in the context of a Twitter argument (which happens, often),” Cohn wrote in an email. “Regardless of how hateful and ugly the speech may be, it does not fall into an unprotected category of speech, and CSU is legally required to adhere to the First Amendment.”

Hateful fliers have appeared on a number of campuses in recent months, but almost all of them are racially prejudicial, not attacking the LGBTQ community.

Dear CSU community, please join me for an open meeting tomorrow to discuss a recent incident involving an anti-LGBTQ+ poster on campus.

— Ronald M. Berkman (@PresBerkman) October 17, 2017

The president issued another statement Tuesday after vehement public criticisms.

“I wanted to acknowledge that yesterday I failed to express my personal outrage over a recent incident involving an anti-LGBTQ+ poster that was recently posted on campus,” Berkman said. “While I find the message of this poster reprehensible, the current legal framework regarding free speech makes it difficult to prevent these messages from being disseminated.”

He also announced he would lead a forum yesterday to discuss the campus’s concerns. Spokesman William Dube, who did not respond to a request for an interview, instead emailed a statement confirming the poster’s existence. Another statement regarding Wednesday’s meeting is expected today.

Still, this did little to satisfy some students. One junior, Molly Stachnik, helped plan an event today in the campus courtyard in which students who are members of minority groups could share how the president’s response hurt them, she said in an interview.

Stachnik, who identifies as queer, said the campus and its administrators and professors are largely supportive and she has not dealt with homophobia there before. But she said in the current political climate that actions as simple as posting a hateful flier can snowball into much more serious events -- shootings fueled by discrimination, for instance.

“We want to make our voices heard,” Stachnik said. “We want to send a clear message to Berkman that we’re not going to stand for this, that this is not OK, we’re not going let this get swept under the rug.”

Both state and national organizations also said they were disappointed by Berkman's response.

Representatives from Equality Ohio, a policy-centric LGBTQ group, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks prejudice across the country, used the same word to describe the posters: “appalling.”

Alana Jochum, executive director of Equality Ohio, questioned why the posters did not violate the university’s antidiscrimination policy, which in part states that discrimination is “unwelcome verbal, nonverbal, graphic, physical, electronic or other conduct that subjects an individual to an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational or employment environment.”

She said a forceful condemnation of the posters is required, as the fliers advocate for bloodshed against LGBTQ people -- she noted that the figure in the poster appears to have their hands bound.

“It is violence, it’s targeting a specific population, and generally threats are not protected speech,” Jochum said.

Equality Ohio reached out to the president’s office directly offer assistance in helping repair the administration’s relationship with the campus, Jochum said. If the university’s policies allow for such a poster to be displayed, they should be re-evaluated, she said.

Lecia Brooks, outreach director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said this was not “a free speech issue.” She called the president’s response “wholly unacceptable” and advised LGBTQ allies to draw attention to this on campus.

“The response of taking a poster down because it doesn’t follow policy, or you have got to protect free speech before a condemnation of homophobia and the disgusting nature of the flier, is just missing the whole point,” she said.

Phyllis Harris, executive director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, said in a statement she appreciated Berkman's "clarification" to his initial message, but said that leaders should "boldly" use their power to condemn hate speech.

"The focus of this conversation should remain on the physical and psychological safety of Cleveland State’s LGBTQ community and not on the rights of those who wish them harm," Harris said.

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ lobbying group, also released a statement to Inside Higher Ed. “It’s disappointing that CSU President Ronald Berkman failed to initially grasp the seriousness of the despicable anti-LGBTQ fliers that appeared on his campus,” HRC’s legal director, Sarah Warbelow, said. “It is particularly heartbreaking that these fliers, which used anti-LGBTQ slurs and cruelly talked about LGBTQ people and suicide, surfaced on the day CSU opened its new LGBTQ center. Universities have an obligation to ensure that students aren’t being harassed and discriminated against. And while we appreciate that President Berkman followed up with a stronger message of personal outrage over the incident, it has never been more important for our leaders -- on campus and off -- to immediately recognize, condemn and take action when LGBTQ people and others in marginalized communities are viciously targeted.”

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Texts cast doubt on Kennesaw State president's statements

Thu, 2017-10-19 07:00

Newly unearthed text messages show the Cobb County, Ga., sheriff and another local Republican official bragging that they influenced the decision that led to Kennesaw State University’s cheerleaders being removed from the field during the national anthem.

On Sept. 30, five cheerleaders took a knee during the national anthem before a Kennesaw State football game. The university's original explanation was that -- despite public complaints about the cheerleaders from Sheriff Neil Warren and State Representative Earl Ehrhart, both Republicans -- the decision to keep cheerleaders off the field for subsequent games until after the anthem finished playing, which went into effect the week after the protest, was completely coincidental, not related to the protest and made by the institution’s athletic department.

But the text messages show the politicians boasting about how they maneuvered the change with the president.

“Thanks for always standing up too [sic] these liberal that hate the U.S.A.,” Warren texted Ehrhart.

Kennesaw State President Sam Olens “had to be dragged there but with you and I pushing he had no choice. Thanks for your patriotism my friend,” Ehrhart wrote back.

The texts were reported Tuesday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which obtained them via a public records request. On Wednesday, the University System of Georgia issued a statement saying it would conduct a "special review" of the allegations that the decision to remove the cheerleaders was a political one.

In a statement Wednesday, Olens -- a former attorney general -- said that the timeline of the events was being misconstrued. He said the decision to change the pregame activities had been made by the athletic department -- and he had been informed of that decision -- before he spoke to Warren.

"In hindsight, I regret how the events over the past two weeks have unfolded and admit that the circumstances could have been handled better," he said. "I believe that a university should be a marketplace of ideas, encouraging free expression and open dialogue. To that end, I welcome the opportunity to meet with the cheerleaders and any student who wishes to participate in a discussion about how we can work together to continue to make KSU a university of which we are all proud."

Olens previously told the Journal-Constitution that no outside pressure at influenced the decision to remove the cheerleaders from the field during the national anthem, and he stood by that narrative in his statement Wednesday.

“Decisions about game-day programming is [sic] the responsibility of KSU's Department of Athletics and they have been clear about their reasons for making the adjustment,” he told the Journal-Constitution last week.

Kennesaw spokeswoman Tammy DeMel laid out a similar story to Inside Higher Ed last week, saying a number of changes have been made to the pregame ceremonies "to refine and enhance the game-day atmosphere for our fans."

Olens’s appointment as president of Kennesaw State last year was controversial, scrutinized in part because of his lack of academic background and anti-gay stances he took during his political career. Olens was appointed without the formation of a formal search committee, prompting fears that his appointment was a political one.

In another text, Warren bragged that removing the cheerleaders from the field was his and Ehrhart’s idea.

“Not letting the cheerleaders come out on the field until after national anthem was one of the recommendations that Earl and I gave him!” he said.

The cheerleaders, as well as local activists, doubted Kennesaw State’s story before the text messages emerged, and Tuesday’s revelations only added to that doubt.

"We are deeply disheartened by the revelations revealed in these messages. We were exercising our First Amendment rights in the most American way possible," the cheerleaders, under the moniker The Kennesaw 5, said in a statement. "We took a knee for a purpose and we continue to kneel for this cause. These text messages only leave us with more questions on how the university handled this situation. We would hope the university would defend its students from political leaders. To this day, President Olens has not met or requested a meeting with us. We are owed a meeting and to have this matter addressed publicly."

Davante Lewis, the brother of one of the cheerleaders, said the University System of Georgia was obligated to investigate the decision behind removing the cheerleaders.

“The board has to answer to their decision” to pick Olens in the way that they did, Lewis told Inside Higher Ed. “They didn’t conduct a full national search, they did not present multiple candidates to the faculty, students and community, and they kind of bowed to what seems to be political pressure.”

Lewis said the narrative laid out in the text messages did not surprise him.

“It is what I expected to find,” he said. “This now deepens the power that faculty and students have been talking about for months since his appointment -- that he is not comfortable being an academic, but is comfortable being a politician -- and is answering and making decisions based on the politics of those choices.”

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Professors say Purdue president is trying to deflect attention from 'inaction' on white supremacy on campus

Thu, 2017-10-19 07:00

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels is facing criticism for his response to a request that he investigate a series of white supremacist messages on campus. In particular, a group of faculty members have accused Daniels of drawing a false equivalency between neo-Nazis and antifascist activists, and of personally attacking a professor who’s been critical of him in the past. The group says Daniels’s tone recalls President Trump’s initial comment that there was violence “on many sides” of the August protests in Charlottesville, Va., that left a woman protesting the assembled white supremacists dead.

Purdue declined comment on the professors’ specific accusations against Daniels but pointed to his past statements condemning racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and violence. Daniels also has said there is no evidence that anyone affiliated with Purdue was involved in placing white supremacist fliers that have appeared on campus in the past year.

In an op-ed in the local Journal & Courier this week, six professors said the campus branch of the Campus Antifascist Network -- a nascent national movement to fight white nationalist activity on college campuses -- reported to Daniels seven documented instances of Nazi propaganda at Purdue since November. In the first such instance, a person or people sympathetic to the white nationalist group American Vanguard posted fliers denouncing “white guilt” and “cultural Marxism” around campus. More recently, in September, desks in an Honors College classroom were reportedly arranged to resemble a swastika. The antifascist network also sent Daniels what it called “documented evidence of support by people at Purdue” for Identity Evropa, another anti-Semitic white supremacist group whose fliers have appeared on campus. The evidence in question is screen shots of texts from a supposed student expressing affiliation with the group.

At other colleges and universities, many white supremacist poster campaigns have been the work of off-campus groups. So Daniels's assertion that no one at Purdue is involved isn't necessarily odd. But many faculty members at Purdue have previously asked Daniels to more strongly condemn any suspected white supremacist activity on campus, and his standard response has been to denounce hate and bigotry while refusing to -- in his words -- give specific hate groups the attention they are seeking.

So instead of investigating any Purdue ties to Identity Evropa, the professors wrote in their op-ed, Daniels “chose to: (a) reassert the principle of ‘free speech’ for Nazis; and (b) target a faculty member with a long record of antiracist work in a polemic closely resembling that of the U.S. president when the latter blamed ‘both sides’ for the tragedy at Charlottesville.”

The professors were referring to an email exchange between Daniels and a leader of the Campus Antifascist Network, Bill Mullen, a professor of American studies who has previously been critical of the nontraditional president. The exchange began with the antifascist network's request earlier this month that Purdue investigate and issue a report on white supremacy on campus.

In a subsequent email to Mullen, which Purdue shared with Inside Higher Ed, Daniels cited the university’s free speech policy, approved in 2015, saying, “We may condemn but we don’t silence individuals in the university community, regardless how offensive or preposterous their remarks or writings may be.”

By contrast, Daniels said, “we distinguish between words and conduct and would act swiftly to expel from Purdue’s community anyone -- faculty, staff or student -- who resorts to physical intimidation or violence.”

In recent days, Daniels continued, “I have spent considerable time replying to multiple messages from citizens who find your various pronouncements abhorrent and unacceptable and demand that you be sanctioned or expelled from the university entirely. In particular, your defense of the so-called antifa organization, a group that has not only advocated but practiced violence, gave deep offense and embarrassment to many.”

For reference, the Campus Antifascist Network has said it does not advocate violence but would encourage self-defense against ethnonationalists, especially for the most vulnerable people on campus. While its name is clearly inspired by the antifascist movement, the national campus group is not part of antifa, a group that in some cases espouses violence to fight facism.

Daniels also said he’d previously defended Mullen’s own right to express views that were “widely interpreted as racist, in the form of that oldest of bigotries, anti-Semitism. On each occasion, I have given the simple answer I am giving to you. In an honest moment you know that Purdue is a community deeply committed to tolerance and inclusion.”

Describing Daniels’s stance as “deeply frightening,” the op-ed's signatories -- including Mullen’s wife, Tithi Bhattacharya, a professor of history -- said Daniels “has deliberately chosen to champion freedom, a precious value and right, in the most narrow and circumscribed way possible -- as free speech alone … What good is the right to free speech if it is severed from the right to work and exist freely without the threat of racist violence?”

They added, “We face a clear choice here at Purdue: resist the Nazis or allow their politics to flourish.”

Mullen said Wednesday that Daniels’s assertion that he’d defended antifa “is an attempt to deflect the discussion away from his inaction on white supremacy at Purdue.”

As for Daniels’s comment about anti-Semitism, Mullen called it an “undocumented smear.” Mullen said he is “an open advocate for Palestinian human rights” and a faculty adviser for Students for Justice in Palestine at Purdue, and that Daniels is trying to “stigmatize this work as anti-Semitic.”

It's “really ironic that [Daniels] ignores a request from a group of people protesting a swastika on campus in order to make spurious allegations against the protesters,” he added.

A spokesperson for Purdue highlighted an August statement from Daniels and Provost Jay Akridge saying, in part, that “racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and violence like that demonstrated in Charlottesville are the antithesis of [Purdue’s] values and have no place on our campus.”

More recently, Daniels released a statement saying there is “zero evidence that any member of the Purdue community is involved in these leaflets, and there is nothing new to say about the situation. We reiterate our past statements and our disinclination to do exactly what these despicable people want most, which is to give them attention their minuscule numbers and their abhorrent views do not merit.”

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MIT introduces digital diplomas

Thu, 2017-10-19 07:00

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is offering some students the option to be awarded tamper-free digital degree certificates when they graduate, in partnership with Learning Machine. Selected students can now choose to download a digital version of their degree certificate to their smartphones when they graduate, in addition to receiving a paper diploma.

Using a free, open-source app called Blockcerts Wallet, students can quickly access a digital diploma that can be shared on social media and verified by employers to ensure its authenticity. The digital credential is protected using block-chain technology. The block chain is a public ledger that offers a secure way of making and recording transactions, and is best known as the underlying technology of digital currency Bitcoin.

A news release Tuesday described how MIT has been thinking about using block-chain technology to secure digital credentials for the past two years. In 2015 Philipp Schmidt, the director of learning innovation at the MIT media lab, began issuing nonacademic digital credentials to his team, but he did not have a good way of managing these credentials digitally.

In collaboration with Learning Machine, Schmidt and his team began to develop an open-source tool kit, called Blockcerts, that any college can use to issue credentials using block-chain technology. With the addition of the Blockcerts Wallet app, this information can be encrypted, and students can prove ownership of their diploma through the generation of a unique numerical identifier.

The technology means that students can quickly share their virtual certificates with potential employers without involving an intermediary. Third parties can verify the legitimacy of the diploma by pasting the URL of the certificate into an MIT-hosted portal. This portal can instantly verify the legitimacy of the certificate, negating the notarization step often required in the verification of paper certificates.

Chris Jagers, CEO of Learning Machine, said that many of today's students expect to be able to just send digital copies of their academic credentials to employers and institutions, but that until now there wasn’t good technology to support this. “We heard of students trying to Snapchat their grades to admissions; they didn’t understand why they couldn’t just text a picture,” said Jagers. “It should be that easy to share records, and this generation of digital natives expects that. But before this technology came along, this wasn’t possible.”

Mary Callahan, university registrar and senior associate dean at MIT, said that a key motivation behind the pilot was to “empower” students to take greater ownership of their academic qualifications. She said the technology enables students to share their achievements with whomever they wish in a way that is secure, verifiable and efficient. “I think it’s got real potential,” said Callahan. “We wanted to lead the way, and we expect others to follow.”

The first cohort of 111 students who were able to take part in the pilot graduated this summer, with 43 choosing to take part. Callahan said that potentially all students graduating in February 2018 would be given the digital diploma option. Asked whether she thought this could one day replace paper, Callahan did not rule it out but said that the change would take time.

Aside from convenience for students, the technology also tackles another issue facing universities -- fake degrees. “There are a lot of people who pretend to graduate from MIT with fake diplomas,” said Jagers. “This provides a format that people can’t fake.”

Callahan confirmed that verifying authenticity was an important aspect of the technology for the university, which she said “definitely gets its fair share” of fraudsters.

While some students may struggle to understand the technology behind the app, understanding how the block chain works is not necessary to use it, said Jagers. He noted that there has been strong interest in the technology from dozens of academic institutions, as well as companies and governments. The University of Melbourne is already piloting digital diplomas with the app.

Though some companies are looking to sell their block chain-based products, Jagers said that keeping the Blockcerts app and tool kit free and open source is important. “If everyone is doing this in a proprietary way, then the records won’t be universally verifiable. The whole point is to create records that don’t have any dependence on an issuer or vendor.”

While MIT may be among the first institutions in the U.S. to use block-chain technology to award digital degree certificates, Thomas Black, assistant vice provost and university registrar at Johns Hopkins University, said that other institutions are experimenting. He noted that his institution was also looking to use block-chain technology to award degrees, but he would be taking a different approach than MIT.

Instead of working with third parties, Johns Hopkins is building its own system and creating a private ledger -- rather than using Bitcoin's public one, like MIT. “Universities are very protective of their authority to certify learning. I don’t know that we need to have this public ledger approach,” he said. “You can use block-chain technology very nicely by establishing a private ledger.”

Black noted that many institutions already use digital signing services to verify the authenticity of their PDF documents through Adobe. Companies such as Parchment and Paradigm also offer verified digital versions of diplomas, said Black. “The concept of digital signatures is nothing new,” he said. “But perhaps universities could start to replace Adobe and others in these roles.”

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Educators consider Macron's vision for a new type of European university

Thu, 2017-10-19 07:00

Setting out his grand vision to reinvigorate the European Union at the end of last month, Emmanuel Macron made clear he had big plans for the continent's universities.

By 2024, the French president said, Europe should have "at least 20" of what he called "European universities," offering students the chance to "study abroad and take classes in at least two different languages." These European universities will help to "create a sense of belonging" that will be the "strongest cement for Europe," a later press release argued.

Could Macron's dream of a "European university" really work? And what would it mean in practice?

The details may not be quite as grand as the rhetoric. These universities would not be new, a spokeswoman for the president clarified. They would be a "network of existing universities, but they will have to introduce important changes to work better together" and allow students a "change of country and university each year, within the network, with a common curriculum," she said. Despite Britain's vote to leave the E.U., English could still be one of the languages of teaching, she added.

These proposals are "nothing new," argued Kurt Deketelaere, secretary general of the League of European Research Universities. "We do all of that, in the sense that we have an exchange of students, Ph.D. students, staff … we have courses in all kinds of languages." The ideas are simply being thrown around to make Macron sound "pro-European," he said.

But in the Upper Rhine region, where the river flows out of Switzerland and heads north to divide France and Germany, a new institution free of any one nation-state emerged last year, and it may hold lessons for Macron's "European universities."

The European Campus -- a collaboration between the Universities of Basel, Freiburg, Haute-Alsace and Strasbourg and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology -- allows for the free circulation of students between institutions and seamless joint bidding for research money.

The aim is "to have an alliance that allows the universities to stay autonomous but to be more competitive on the European and international level," creating a "critical mass" of student numbers, research equipment and "ideas," explained its director, Janosch Nieden.

The European Campus is something called a European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC), a legal entity recognized by the E.U. that allows public authorities from different member states to team up and provide joint services more easily. There are about 50 across the E.U., explained Nieden, but "we are the first grouping … that has been set up solely by universities."

The main focus is on research. "There's a lot of funding on the European level that can be asked for by the entity," he explained. Many projects have been funded by Interreg, an E.U. body that spends on cross-border cooperation initiatives. It has also just put in a bid to Horizon 2020 (the E.U.'s research and innovation program) for a five-million-euro ($5.9 million) grant for a quantum sciences graduate academy. Bidding together through a cross-border legal entity "is the easiest and fastest way to foster cooperation between universities," Nieden said.

But joint bids to national research councils are a lot harder, he explained, and currently the campus is trying to convince German, Swiss and French agencies to accept applications.

Students can also take modules at any of the other universities in the alliance, free of fees. But language barriers have stymied this. "Young Germans don't learn French that much anymore," Nieden said.

German universities are hyperorganized, arranging specific lecture rooms many months in advance, whereas French universities, which cannot as easily control their student intake, create their timetables much later. This makes it hard for students of other universities to book courses in advance, according to Nieden.

As such, student mobility is "not easy to see," he added. Of the 115,000 students across the five universities, just 1,000 per semester exercise their right to study at a different campus.

The name is also something of a misnomer: the institution does not have its own physical site. And for now, the European Campus cannot grant degrees of its own, so students still receive qualifications from their respective national universities. Still, over the next five to 10 years, the campus may develop its own qualification, largely aimed at students from outside Europe who want to study at all of the universities, Nieden said.

"We were very happy about the speech of Macron," he added. Whether the French president gets his way depends on wider discussions about the future of the E.U. -- but regardless, the continent's universities are already experimenting with multinational forms.

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New study pushes back on decades of studies suggesting that scientific productivity peaks early and declines thereafter

Wed, 2017-10-18 07:00

Conventional wisdom on faculty research productivity, backed by decades of studies, says that it’s all downhill after tenure. A new paper challenges that paradigm, suggesting great variability in peak research activity among individual scientists -- even if their aggregate productivity curve still feeds the posttenure “dead weight” myth.

“Despite the persistent conventional narrative and expectations about productivity, individual people have incredibly diverse careers,” said Samuel Way, a postdoctoral research associate in computer science at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the paper’s lead author. “This is a cautionary tale to administrators and other people in power in the sciences as to why they shouldn’t expect everyone’s career trajectory to look the exact same way.”

The majority of academics who don’t fit the mold “aren't errors, they’re people,” he added.

Way said the finding has implications for hiring and funding decisions and tenure and retirement policies. If only a fraction of academics -- approximately 20 percent in the study -- peak in productivity early in their careers, faculty search committees might do well to look beyond younger, prolific candidates, for example. Institutions, meanwhile, might worry less about older professors delaying retirement.

“The Misleading Narrative of the Canonical Faculty Productivity Trajectory” was published online Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Way’s co-authors are Boulder computer science colleagues Allison C. Morgan, a Ph.D. candidate, and Aaron Clauset and Daniel B. Larremore, both assistant professors.

While past studies have “firmly established that the conventional academic productivity narrative is equally descriptive across fields and time, their analyses are based on averages over hundreds or thousands of individuals,” reads the paper. “This raises two crucial and previously unanswered questions: Is this average trajectory representative of individual faculty, and how much diversity is hidden by a focus on a central tendency over a population?”

The new analysis is unlike previous ones in its scope and detail, encompassing virtually all tenure-track and tenured professors of computer science in the U.S. and Canada over the last 40 years. To compile their data set, the authors matched 200,000 publications with publicly available hiring information on nearly 2,500 tenure-line faculty members from all 205 computer science Ph.D. programs in the two countries.

While the professors' average productivity curve peaked early and declined slowly over time, resembling those in so many studies before this one, the picture looked very different when the authors mapped individual data against it. Just 20 percent of professors fit the curve, while the other 80 percent were all over the map, staying steady or even peaking late in their careers. That's regardless of their departments' prestige.

Source: Samuel Way

While the most common productivity peak among professors in the sample was five years after hire, just half the senior professors studied reached their peak by that time in their careers.

The authors’ attempt to explain that diversity led them to a second, significant finding: departmental prestige predicts overall individual productivity and the timing of first (lead) author publications to last (senior) author publications. That is, "researchers who graduated from or were hired by top-ranked institutions are significantly more productive at the onset of their careers, and, furthermore, productivity of high-prestige faculty tends to grow at faster rates and achieve higher peaks than researchers employed by other institutions."

Researchers' productivity grew by a median of about two additional papers per year while working at elite institutions (the top 20 percent of programs) compared with the rest of their peers. Researchers who earned doctorates from elite institutions also exhibited faster early-career growth than their peers from lower-ranked programs.

Way said that scientists from top Ph.D. programs likely have access to resources that have allowed them to set up labs and execute research agendas with relative speed. One potential area for future study, he said, is what policies enable such early-career research success, and whether they can be replicated at less prestigious institutions.

Similar to others, Way’s study notes that scientists now publish about four times more papers per year than they did in 1970; that was established as a control early in the study to more accurately study professors working then and now as part of the same sample. About half the papers in the study were published by about 20 percent of the professors in the sample.

Women were also found to publish significantly less than men early in their careers, to the tune of about 0.5 fewer publications, regardless of where they trained or were hired; the authors suggest this discrepancy is an area for future study.

Way’s isn’t the first study to push back on the prevailing view on productivity. A 2016 paper published in Science, for example, argued that scientific impact, at least, is randomly distributed within the sequence of papers published by a scientist -- so it’s not age dependent.

Bruce Weinberg, a professor of economics at Ohio State University, co-wrote another paper published in PNAS earlier this year on the aging scientific work force; he found that the average age of employed scientists in the U.S. increased from 45 in 1993 to nearly 49 in 2010. While the study had potentially negative implications for the job market for younger scientists, Weinberg said at the time that older scientists doesn't mean less innovative science, and he called the prevailing wisdom on that front “at best an oversimplification and maybe wrong.”

The new study is, therefore, broadly consistent with Weinberg’s research, he said Tuesday. “There are many people who are more creative later in their careers, and the tendency to do the most or best work early in the career is actually less common today than it had been in the past.”

Weinberg said he's found that people whose work is more empirical or experimental tend to do their best work later in their careers, while people whose work is more “conceptual or theoretical or abstract tend to do their best work earlier in their careers.” As knowledge accumulates over time, he added, “it takes longer for people to get to the knowledge frontier, and people tend to do their best work later in their lives.”

That said, Weinberg noted that Way’s emphasis on computer science is particularly interesting because the field often emphasizes abstract conceptual reasoning, which would seem to lead to earlier peaks.

As to how the findings might inform institutional policies, tenure decisions and resource allocation, Weinberg said it’s important to recognize systematic individual variations “because not everyone is going to follow the archetypical pattern.”

While Way’s paper focuses on computer science professors, he said there’s no reason to think his findings won’t apply to other fields, even those outside the sciences. Indeed, he and his colleagues are interested in applying their analysis to other disciplines going forward.

Cassidy Sugimoto, an associate professor of informatics at Indiana University at Bloomington, co-wrote a paper finding that professors in sociology, economics and political science (on average) remain highly productive across the span of the career. While productivity increases steeply until promotion to associate professor, her paper says, it remains stable thereafter. Collaboration, meanwhile, increases with age.

That eventual stabilization isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Sugimoto said Tuesday, since “one could question whether the drive for hyperproductivity in the pretenure era produces the highest-quality research.” It would be useful, therefore, to see Way’s data matched to citation counts, she said.

Sugimoto said she did question whether the posttenure "dead weight" argument has become something of a straw man. First-time recipients of major grants from the National Institutes of Health are 42 years old, on average, she said, and resources are strongly concentrated around senior researchers.

“In an increasingly collaborative age, scholars benefit by the size of their labs, which is associated with more senior scholars,” she said. “The tenure model certainly promotes high productivity in early years, but I have seen no strong data that demonstrates a general posttenure decline. Most of the conversation tends to revolve around isolated anecdotes.”

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Credential Engine seeks to create a database of public information on all credentials

Wed, 2017-10-18 07:00

One of the loudest complaints about higher education these days is that prospective students lack good information about the value of college credentials and, likewise, that employers too often are left in the dark about the knowledge and skills they can expect of credential holders.

A sprawling new project seeks to change that by creating a centralized database of information about postsecondary credentials -- all 250,000 or so of them in the U.S., ranging from Ph.D. to badge, professional license to apprenticeship and certificate.

The nonprofit Credential Engine, which is planning a formal launch in December, has tapped a broad range of advisers to develop a common language about credentials, with a focus on the “competencies” people should have after earning them.

Credential Engine’s web-based registry allows colleges, professional associations, unions, other credential issuers and state governments to post public-facing information about credentialing programs. The site also plans to feature information about how credential earners fare in the job market, including wage data from state and federal sources.

The overarching goal of the project is to increase transparency about credentials, said Scott Cheney, Credential Engine’s executive director.

He said the registry seeks to be a “neutral repository that reveals the marketplace.” That would be an improvement from the current situation, Cheney said, where “people are making big decisions because of whatever marketing material comes to them.”

So far, roughly 160 organizations have uploaded information about 1,264 credentials to the registry. Some colleges are among the early adopters, including Elon University, which has uploaded descriptions of all 97 of its offered degrees and other credentials.

“It’s a time-consuming process,” said Rodney Parks, the registrar at Elon. “It takes time to understand the language.”

Even so, he said, Credential Engine has tremendous potential and is worth the work.

“This will be the one-stop shop for credentials,” said Parks.

Indiana, Washington and New Jersey are among a handful of state governments that are at various stages of participation in the project.

For example, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education has begun posting information about health-care credentials, including descriptions of academic and job-training programs, what assessments and training occur in those programs, and how the issued credentials are viewed by accrediting agencies and licensing boards.

“We have every health program that’s offered by a public institution in the registry,” said Ken Sauer, senior associate commissioner and chief academic officer for the commission.

At least seven Indiana state agencies are participating in the project, as are K-12 schools, public and private colleges, representatives from the U.S. military, and several industry associations. If the project is successful, Indiana plans to follow up with information about credentials in other industries.

Sauer said the goal is to make the site useful for students, colleges and employers.

“This is a way to signal to educational institutions and providers what skill sets need to be developed in their programs in order to align with the skill sets that employers need,” he said.

What Comes Next?

The Lumina Foundation and JPMorgan Chase are funding Credential Engine, which grew out of the Credential Transparency Initiative. It relates to other Lumina-backed efforts, including Connecting Credentials, which is attempting to create a common language for comparing credentials.

Credential Engine’s backers face a long, uphill climb, as supporters of the project acknowledge.

When plans for the registry were announced last year, some were skeptical about the project's scope and whether it was achievable. But most agree that a central repository for better information about credentials is needed. And if it’s not Credential Engine, experts said, another organization eventually will figure out how do it.

“The time is right,” said Jonathan Finkelstein, the founder and CEO of Credly, a digital credentialing company.

While Finkelstein said Credential Engine is a “mighty undertaking” that will take a long time, the potential payoff makes it worthwhile. “It’s to everyone’s benefit that their credentials are discoverable.”

The effort has the backing of several powerful organizations on the employer side. The Business Roundtable helped promote the registry’s launch and is part of Credential Engine’s business advisory group. So are representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Manufacturing Institute and the National Retail Federation, among others.

Ryan Craig, co-founder and managing director of University Ventures, a higher education investment firm, also is an adviser. Craig said the credentialing site has the potential to become what he calls a “competency marketplace,” a skills-based meeting point for employers, students, job seekers, policy makers and college curriculum planners.

And the biggest upside for Credential Engine is what others might do with the credentialing information, he said.

“Ultimately the competency marketplace is going to work not because a bunch of human beings have cleverly developed a taxonomy,” said Craig, but “because we have algorithms that are doing a good job of interpreting the data.”

As a result, Craig described Credential Engine as a “prototype of what could be done, algorithmically, at a larger scale.”

Bringing Clarity to a ‘Chaotic Ecosystem’

An algorithmic future is part of the plan for Credential Engine.

The nonprofit is working to create an open applications marketplace, which will allow outside organizations to build customized web apps to use the registry’s data. For example, a technology company could create a searchable database about credentials for prospective college students. Or employers could create applications to tap registry information for their HR systems, to better understand the skills and competencies job applicants should have based on their credentials.

Many industries provide easily searchable information about what they sell, with airline fare aggregators being a commonly cited example of Web 3.0 commerce. Backers of Credential Engine hope the registry can bring a Kayak-style approach to data on postsecondary education and job training.

Cheney said the goal is to enable people to "search and compare credentials just like you would SUVs."

If successful, the site would help make sense of a “chaotic ecosystem,” said Holly Zanville, senior adviser for credentialing and work-force development at Lumina. “Why can’t we do that in credentialing?”

Information on student outcomes, including job placement and earnings, will come from the states. Cheney said Credential Engine also may draw data from a federal agency, such as the U.S. Census Bureau or the Internal Revenue Service.

The site will not collect or work with information on individual students and graduates, however, instead using sources of aggregate, nonidentifiable data. As a result, Cheney said, Credential Engine will not pose privacy risks.

“We will have no individual records about people,” he said.

The group also might partner with nongovernmental data-collection organizations to bolster the registry, said Cheney, with the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center as a possibility.

Washington State’s Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board collects information about the market value of postsecondary training programs in the state that receive public funding. The board has posted data on wages of graduates, completion rates and enrollment for roughly 3,500 programs on its Career Bridge site. The audience is students, parents and lawmakers.

The goal for Credential Engine is to produce similar public-facing information for the broader universe of credentials, said Eleni Papadakis, the board’s executive director.

“We believe that’s the new communication channel in work-force development and education,” she said.

In addition to better data, supporters of the Credential Engine project hope it will bring clarity to the credential discussion by helping to create a standardized infrastructure.

“Conversations often suffer from a common-language problem,” said Finkelstein, who added that Credential Engine “standardizes and digitizes the descriptions of credentials.”

But for that to happen, the group will need to get information from many colleges and others on the credentials they issue.

Papadakis urged colleges to be pioneers by participating in the project.

“If not, we’re never going to learn to do this better,” she said. “This all goes away if we don’t have the data owners putting things in.”

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University of Minnesota revises sexual harassment policies

Wed, 2017-10-18 07:00

The University of Minnesota -- site of a high-profile case in which football team members reportedly gang-raped a female student -- has reworked its sexual harassment policies and conduct code, a move many have applauded but that some victim advocates say could allow students who were complicit in a sexual assault to escape unpunished.

The change approved by the university’s Board of Regents Friday follows the Education Department's decision to withdraw guidance from the Obama administration on how colleges should investigate and adjudicate campus sexual assault. Though Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has given institutions more flexibility in sexual misconduct cases, none, including Minnesota, have publicly strayed from the Obama-era rules clarifying how colleges should interpret Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, the federal law barring gender discrimination.

By and large, the new policy out of Minnesota simply condenses the university’s many scattered procedures into a single document. This was a requirement of the agreement the institution made with the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights in fall 2015 after a Title IX complaint against it.

The policy adds new definitions, laying out, for instance, what “incapacitated” means. That’s an example of an internal definition used by the university's Title IX office that was previously not made public, said Tina Marisam, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action and Title IX coordinator.

But one inclusion to the student code of conduct has concerned some advocates for sexual assault survivors -- it’s the new definition of “assisting or abetting” in prohibited conduct (which doesn’t apply only to sexual misconduct).

A student or group “assists or abets” when they help another person engage in misconduct and “they intend the misconduct to occur” or know that “their actions are significantly likely to help the other person,” which some advocates say is too high a bar to implicate anyone under the new policy.

This new provision likely would have come into play in the recent case when the university suspended 10 football players for their role in an alleged gang rape of a female student in September 2016. Only five of the 10 were disciplined, either with an extended suspension or expulsion. The case received widespread media attention because other members of the football team declared a boycott unless the 10 suspended or expelled players were reinstated, but they backed down after some of the more sordid details of the encounter were published in the press. Initially, some alumni were sympathetic to the boycott, accusing the university of a lack of due process in the case.

Kristen Houlton Sukura, executive director of the nonprofit Sexual Violence Center in Minneapolis, called the “assist or abet” portion of the conduct code “ridiculous.”

She said that to a degree it alleviates the responsibility on bystanders to act if they witness circumstances that could lead to a sexual assault.

“Let’s say you see someone leading an incredibly intoxicated person to a bedroom,” Houlton Sukura said. “The burden is that you need to have wanted her to get raped? It’s an unreasonable standard. I find it extremely frustrating.”

The university at one point had released another draft of the policy that included different language, saying that a person who assisted or abetted was someone who “reasonably should know” misconduct would happen.

Marisam said the university received feedback that such a requirement would “capture more conduct than we intend to prohibit under this policy.”

Alyssa Peterson, representative of the national victim rights group Know Your IX, said she was unsure how such a standard could be enforced. She said she could not understand how a survivor could characterize the intent of bystanders -- whether or not the person intended the rape to happen or not.

“I’m not sure how this would even work,” Peterson said.

Others who work with victims, however, have lauded the university for its more detailed policy.

Katie Eichele, director of the campus’s Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education, which assists students affected by sex crimes and violence, said she was thankful that the regents passed a policy that outlines who should report sexual assaults, and when.

The regents thus far have only approved a broad-scope policy and the changes to the code of conduct. More comprehensive sexual harassment procedures, in a document more than 20 pages long, is still being reviewed by the public and the board intends to vote on it in December, Marisam said.

The chairman of the regents, David J. McMillan, did not respond to a request for comment.

Eichele said she was pleased that the new definitions both firmly hold students accountable if they don’t meet the new rules and help victims by clearly describing certain actions, such as sexual contact or consent.

The university is providing a fair process both for those accused of sexual assault and the victims, said Traci Thomas-Card, membership and advocacy services manager for the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

The policy isn’t a drastic departure from previous practices, Thomas-Card said.

“I think the university for the most part has done an extraordinary job in responding in a timely matter [to those] who have come forward,” she said.

Most of the advocates interviewed said they appreciated the university still using the standard of evidence required under the Obama guidance, even though DeVos has rescinded it. Obama’s department required “preponderance of evidence,” the standard used in civil cases, which means there’s a 50.1 percent chance that the accused is responsible. With the “clear and convincing” standard some have asked for, the threshold is closer to a 75 percent chance. New information from the Education Department now allows institutions to use either standard.

"In our perspective we have very strong policies now, and practices, that provide for a fair process and for robust procedural fairness protections," Marisam said. "We're not making our policy based on the new discretion that we have; we think it's wise to wait until the Office for Civil Rights issues its formal guidance and we'll reassess at that point."

All the changes approved so far take effect Jan. 1, as will Minnesota's lengthier sexual harassment policy if the regents approve it at their December meeting.

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Albright again offers spots on football team to players who were removed

Wed, 2017-10-18 07:00

Albright College has reversed its decision to kick a football player off the team after he knelt for the national anthem.

In a statement, President Jacquelyn Fetrow said that an “ongoing review of the details surrounding the game’s events has provided greater clarity.”

Gyree Durante, the quarterback, was dismissed from the team by John Marzka, the head coach, after he knelt during the national anthem before an Oct. 7 game. The team had agreed to take a knee during the coin toss and stand for the anthem as part of ongoing protests against police brutality and racism. Two students who “did not fully kneel” for the coin toss -- thus violating that part of the team's agreement -- were also kicked off the squad, although they have not been named. The students’ academic status and enrollment were not affected when they were dismissed from the team.

Fetrow expressed skepticism about the mechanics behind the team’s agreement to kneel for the coin toss and stand for the anthem, which she had previously defended.

“What we understood to be shared agreement among players, student leaders and coaches has not been adequately supported,” she said. “As a result, each of the students dismissed from the football team for failure to comply with the team’s shared agreement established for that day has been offered reinstatement to the team.”

It was a change in tone from the president's previous statement, which cast the agreement as being “supported by the coaching staff, was created as an expression of team unity and out of the mutual respect team members have for one another and the value they place on their differences.”

Kneeling during the national anthem has become a form of political protest over the last year, since Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, started kneeling during the anthem before National Football League games in an protest against racism and police brutality against African Americans. The movement has drawn supporters and opponents, with critics saying the protest disrespects the military or the flag.

Speaking to The Philadelphia Tribune over the weekend, Durante said he was looking to transfer from Albright following his dismissal from the team. It was not immediately clear whether he was still looking to transfer or had decided to return to Albright’s team.

“I understood the situation -- I knew it was a risk,” Durante told The Reading Eagle after being dismissed from the team. “I still have respect for the coach, for the program. But, at the end of the day, I had to do what I thought was right and I have no regrets.”

Professors at the Pennsylvania institution rallied around Durante, passing a resolution this month condemning his dismissal from the team.

“The assembled faculty of Albright College do not support the dismissal of Gyree Durante from the football team and believe that his dismissal is a threat to freedom of conscience and freedom of speech,” the resolution read.

Fetrow said she has asked the athletics department to work with Albright Student Affairs to “review policies and published practices, so that they are consistent, respect Albright’s core values and support all of our students.”

“I have been moved by the energy and commitment that this issue has demonstrated,” she said. “Our continued momentum will actively move us toward the community we aspire to be.”

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New presidents or provosts: Bowie State Carteret Georgia Great Basin John Jay Muhlenberg Portland Rockland UTEP Warren Wilson

Wed, 2017-10-18 07:00
  • Michael A. Baston, acting provost and vice president for academic and student affairs at LaGuardia Community College, part of the City University of New York, has been appointed president of Rockland Community College, part of the State University of New York.
  • Aminta Hawkins Breaux, vice president for advancement at Millersville University, has been selected as president of Bowie State University, in Maryland.
  • Tristan Denley, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the Tennessee Board of Regents, has been chosen as chief academic officer and executive vice chancellor of academic affairs at the University System of Georgia.
  • Kathy Harring, interim provost and vice president and dean of institutional effectiveness and planning at Muhlenberg College, in Pennsylvania, has been selected as provost and vice president of academic affairs there.
  • John Hauser, vice president of applied career technologies and the Alleghany Center at Wilkes Community College, in North Carolina, has been named president of Carteret Community College, also in North Carolina.
  • Joyce Helens, president of St. Cloud Technical and Community College, in Minnesota, has been selected as president of Great Basin College, in Nevada.
  • Karol V. Mason, a former U.S. assistant attorney general in Washington, D.C., has been chosen as president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in New York.
  • Lynn M. Morton, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Queens College, in North Carolina, has been named president of Warren Wilson College, also in North Carolina.
  • Carol A. Parker, senior vice provost for academic affairs at the University of New Mexico, has been appointed provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas at El Paso.
  • Rahmat Shoureshi, interim president of New York Institute of Technology, has been chosen as president of Portland State University, in Oregon.
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Follow-up to study on misconduct at academic field sites says clear rules of conduct and enforcement are needed

Tue, 2017-10-17 07:00

Many academics regard fieldwork -- the chance to make discoveries and come face-to-face with what they’ve spent years studying -- as a career highlight. Beyond that, it’s a crucial to career development. So a 2014 study highlighting widespread sexual harassment at academic field sites struck a chord -- or rather, was so discordant with many scientists’ perceptions of what fieldwork should be that it’s still frequently cited.

Last week, for example, Science offered the grim finding of that 2014 study as background in a major story on Boston University investigating its chair of Earth and environment for alleged sexual harassment of trainees in Antarctica. Some 71 percent of 512 self-selecting female respondents reported being sexually harassed during fieldwork, the overwhelmingly majority of them trainees at the time, according to the study.

Now the authors of the “Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault,” originally published in PLOS ONE, have more to say. Having recently seen their early findings replicated in two separate studies, one of archaeologists and one of social work students, they’ve published “Signaling Safety: Characterizing Fieldwork Experiences and Their Implications for Career Trajectories” in American Anthropologist. The new paper goes beyond the questions of where and how often harassment occurs in the field to what happens after harassment, and how it can be prevented.

“Signaling Safety” is based on 26 semistructured interviews of original SAFE study participants. Through a qualitative analysis of respondents’ thoughts, two themes emerge: variability in clarity of appropriate professional behavior and rules at field sites, and access, or lack thereof, to professional resources when in the field. Some students’ experiences, including with harassment and assault, ultimately disrupted their careers.

To promote change, the authors propose a “traffic light” construct of red, yellow and green climates to illustrate the field site harassment phenomenon and its consequences. The goal for any field site is to have clearly articulated rules about professional conduct that are actually enforced.

As social and life scientists, “we apply an integrated awareness of the fundamental role of the local physical and cultural environment in individual and community outcomes,” the paper says. “This awareness must also be applied to the way we conduct research. Those workplaces that are tolerant of alienating or harassing behavior, consistent with ‘red’ and ‘yellow’ contexts as described here, silence those targeted, while those with rules, enforcement and leadership, as in ‘green’ contexts, are expected to enhance productivity and innovation.”

Digging Deeper

In interviews, the authors wanted to know how experiences with fieldwork -- good or bad -- shape perspectives on the research climate in the sciences, affect individual motivation and ability to continue in fieldwork-based disciplines, and ultimately impact career trajectories.

The original SAFE study involved 666 respondents. Follow-up interviewees were selected to obtain a diverse group of participants, in terms of experiences (negative field site experiences were overrepresented by design, however). Subjects were mostly anthropologists and archaeologists, and the group was overwhelmingly female. Questions included, “How would you characterize your field experiences?” “Are there any particular incidents, good or bad, that you would like to share?” and “What about the climate at your field site contributed to your experience?” Interviews were then coded based on emergent themes such as alienation, tests, gendered divisions of labor, harassment and assault.

Experiences varied widely. Yet the authors found that field experiences tended to differ in nature -- good or bad -- based on the presence or absence of rules and consequences for any violations of the rules. Clarity over the rules or lack thereof was key: respondents described either a clear understanding of or ambiguity regarding appropriate professional conduct and procedures for recourse, if necessary. Of the 54 field contexts included in the analysis, 36 contexts were described by 21 interviewees as having ambiguous or absent rules. Eighteen field contexts recounted by 12 interviewees were coded as having clear rules or expectations for individual behavior.

Sites described as having clear codes of conduct offered rules, and field directors and researchers had explicit conversations or training sessions to establish site-specific policies. Senior researchers tended to model these desired behaviors and made themselves available for discussion. Consequences for violating these rules also were observed: in one site example, sexual harassment of a peer resulted in the offender being asked to leave the field site.

Sites with ambiguous rules, meanwhile, sounded different. Interviewees described an absence of consequences for breaking rules and an inability to gain clarity on these rules for themselves. Multiple respondents described experiences during which a field site manager systemically harassed the junior researchers at the site.

“I feel like they just see this divide between the field and at home,” said one interviewee, recalling a field site manager. “What happens to you in the field, it’s just like a different world, so the way you behave can -- it’s just completely separated from your daily life.”

Examples of sexual harassment included unwanted flirtation or verbal sexual advances, field site managers insisting on conducting conversations while naked, propositions, and jokes about physical appearance or intelligence that were sexually motivated or gendered, according to the study.

Sexual assault included cases of unwanted physical contact, including physical intimidation, forced kissing, pressing genitalia on the respondent’ s body, attempted rape and rape.

In an interview, the study’s lead author, Robin Nelson, an assistant professor of anthropology at Santa Clara University, said that while reports of assault made headlines in relation to the 2014 paper, the new study sheds additional light on less severe but nevertheless damaging violations of professional conduct.

“There are more hidden kinds of discrimination, such as gender tests and men and women being assigned different kinds of jobs at field sites -- that kind of thing is discrimination, as well, and is quite ubiquitous,” Nelson said. “We’re trying to point out that this is a range or continuum of behaviors.”

Clarity -- and Enforcement -- of Conduct Codes Matter

The authors found a link between rules and behavior, in that sexual harassment was described more often in conjunction with field sites that lacked clarity in rules or standards for behavior.

“The head of the site would systematically prey on women,” one respondent said. “I was in my bed one time and he was with a married master’s student and she was basically just crying and she had to leave the site because he was seducing her and she couldn’t say no … I had to serve as a kind of bodyguard for some of these women and some of them would sleep on the floor because they were afraid he was gonna come into the room at night.”

The director was reportedly undeterred by women leaving the site or hiding. The same respondent said that favoritism for certain men at the site also was present, in ways that advanced their research.

Field site directors at sites with ambiguous or no codes of conduct were also described as not knowing how to deal with reports of harassment or assault. In one instance, in which a trainee was assaulted by a local, the director allegedly said, “In different cultures that’s not abnormal.” The onus of boundary keeping therefore fell on the trainee, who “knew that the attempted rape was outside of the boundaries of appropriate behavior” but was nevertheless “forced to rebuff her attacker’s advances for the duration of the field season,” according to the study.


Access or entree to professional opportunities also came up over and over again. Examples of related, “alienating” behavior include unnecessary tests of physical prowess and gendered divisions of labor. Twenty-four respondents recounted 31 experiences of feeling alienation, stemming from the sense that their expertise or contributions to a field project were underappreciated or devalued.

Gendered divisions of labor were characterized by women and men being tasked with different kinds of responsibilities that “often mapped onto societal prescriptions regarding women’s physical limitations or natural inclinations,” the study says. Such tasks included women being required to do the cooking and shopping in team settings. Again, such behaviors were more often described in contexts where rules were absent than in contexts where they were articulated and enforced.

Tests to establish what the researchers call “in-group/out-group” dynamics also were reported. Those included going on long hikes for nondisclosed periods of time, denying trainees food, water or bathroom breaks during data collection, and sharing pornographic images with a respondent to gauge their reaction.

One respondent described physical tests like this: “We would do these really, really long days but we wouldn’t be warned when they were coming, they would just happen and so I wouldn’t bring enough food … And I would try to vocalize, ‘am tired. I can’t go any further. I need to eat.’ … The second time I spoke up, there were the other two girls who were quick to say, ‘Yeah, we’ve been out a really long time, it’s 8:00 p.m., let’ s go eat.’ We started getting snide comments like, ‘Oh, well, the ladies are hungry so I guess we have to leave.’”

The interviews didn’t by design touch on consequences to one’s career, but such stories emerged anyway. Some respondents described their “productive, enjoyable field experiences as reasons to pursue academic work,” according to the study. But many recalled instances in the field being the beginning of persistent problems. Several respondents described having to endure repeated encounters with those who had made their field environments hostile, even after leaving the site. Some decided to alter their career paths. One respondent said her adviser forbade her from urinating while conducting fieldwork, criticized her weight and took food from her, questioned her intellect and threw objects while angry. She tried unsuccessfully to report the abuse back at her home institution but had no recourse other than to leave the department. The professor in question, meanwhile, received three new advisees.

Egalitarian Behaviors and Enforcement

Positive experiences in the field enhanced the career, research and leadership trajectories of respondents. Many respondents described positive field experiences that intensified their interest in their research. And notably, respondents who stayed in the academic pipeline despite negative experiences described adopting procedures and paradigms to improve their fieldwork climates for their trainees and junior collaborators.

Twelve of the 26 interviewees who reported positive field contexts described sites that were fair or egalitarian in execution, living and working conditions that were intentional and safe, and directors who anticipated problems and outlined reporting lines and had time for conversations. Having women in leadership roles at these sites also was important.

Nearly everyone with positive experiences also described having all scientists’ perspectives valued. One former trainee respondent said, for example, “I was treated the same as people with Ph.D.s … with the same consideration as people with Ph.D.s and asked for input and not talked down to.”

“Conscientious field site directors explicitly established the culture of the site,” the paper says. “Among favorable contexts, explicit anticipation of potential problems appears to be a successful strategy to prevent problems or ameliorate conflict.” One respondent compared laying out ground rules to “having the sex talk with your kids” in terms of awkwardness, but also in necessity.

“I think it’s worth getting it out of the way and having an honest conversation, and I think it makes for a better experience overall for both the people who are running those field programs but also the people that are a part of the team,” the respondent continued.

Leading the Way to Reform

“Signaling Safety” says that leaders, including principal investigators of major field sites and those in positions of power in professional societies, can effect culture change “by prioritizing equal opportunity and inclusion as explicit values for the field sciences.”

Nelson said that since publishing the first manuscript in 2014, she and her co-authors have been talking to researchers who are actively working to change the culture at their field sites, and communicated with professional organizations “that are tuning in to the effects of gendered discrimination,” considering best practices for the promotion of more equitable professional spaces.

“While we are optimistic because there is a larger discussion occurring regarding gendered discrimination in academia,” she added, “we recognize that there is much work to be done particularly at the intersections of race, ability, sexuality, gender identity and class.”

Ed Liebow, executive director of the American Anthropological Association, said the group remains committed to a “zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual harassment and behaviors that contribute to a hostile work climate.” Enforcement is notoriously tough for professional societies, who can’t, say, suspend a professor from work for misconduct. Further, the anthropological association doesn’t accredit field schools. But Liebow said that his association, through a variety of means, and consistent with its Statement of Professional Responsibilities, is increasing member awareness of responsibilities to intervene as observers or bystanders, and awareness of resources available to victims of unwanted behaviors.

Of the new paper, Liebow highlighted the finding that rules and consequences reduce the incidence of professional misconduct.

Nelson said she didn’t necessarily think that abuse is worse at field sites than it is in other academic contexts, but that physical isolation and variety of other factors make field sites ripe for misconduct where rules aren’t articulated and enforced. Moreover, she said, fieldwork is so important to young scientists’ careers that “walking away” is as hard professionally as it can be logistically.

Jane Willenbring, a professor of geology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, is among the women who recently reported the Boston professor, David Marchant, for alleged misconduct. She waited more than a decade to tell the university that he had pelted her with rocks while she was urinating the field, blew volcanic ash into her eyes on purpose, repeatedly called her names and pushed her to have sex with his brother during a trip to Antarctica, she said, because her fear of professional retaliation was so great. (Marchant has not publicly commented on the accusations, other than to say he is cooperating fully with the university's investigation; Science reported that some documents related to the case suggest Marchant has denied the allegations.)

Willenbring has said she switched her research to the Arctic as a direct result of working with Marchant in Antarctica. As to what contributes to misconduct in the field, Willenbring said she thought there’s a certain “what happens in the field stays in the field” mentality.

Many times, however, she said, “there also aren’t means of communication so you feel so isolated and there are only the voices of the perpetrators to listen to.” When a victim returns home, she said, it might seem easiest to “move on,” fueled by a sense of futility and fear of retribution.

Faculty members “very rarely get fired,” she added via email. “Institutions just 'pass the trash' to another university, and then the victims wonder what the point of it all was. The complainants ended up just being part of a faculty member’s move -- probably with a raise at the new institution -- to abuse students at a new place and likely take a hit to their own reputation."

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Colleges and universities set high targets in latest fund-raising campaigns

Tue, 2017-10-17 07:00

It’s a popular time to try to raise a few billion dollars.

Over the last few weeks, several public flagship research universities have announced multibillion-dollar fund-raising campaigns running into 2022. Another private research university said it is trying to raise $1 billion. Even some institutions without the size and reach to set targets in the billions of dollars are stretching their goals to record levels.

In the competitive world of higher education fund-raising, there is likely an element of one-upmanship at play in some of the cases. Often one university will try to raise at least a little bit more than its competitors did in their last campaigns, leading to an upward march in announced fund-raising goals. Plus, universities are always hungry for more money for a myriad of priorities.

But the recent spate of lofty announced goals is also likely being driven by other factors. Colleges and universities have gotten more serious about planning for major fund-raising campaigns over the years. Supply and demand have ratcheted up as well, with recent gains in the stock market leaving donors feeling flush and ready to give at the same time as many public universities are seeking ways to make up for stagnant or falling state support.

Combined, those factors have contributed to some eye-popping campaign targets.

The University of Florida on Friday launched the public phase of an effort to raise $3 billion by the fall of 2022. The same day, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign publicly kicked off its campaign to raise $2.25 billion by the end of the same year. Those two announcements came a week after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill revealed that it is attempting to raise $4.25 billion over the next four years. While private universities have long sought and achieved billion-dollar totals, such lofty ambitions have been much rarer in public higher education.

At the end of September, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee announced a $200 million goal for its fund-raising campaign. That’s twice the size of the goal for its last campaign, which aimed for $100 million but ultimately raised $125 million in 2008. The private Colorado College on Saturday launched a $435 million fund-raising campaign that will be the largest in its 143-year history.

Even some that aren’t shooting for record-setting fund-raising are still talking about numbers with plenty of zeros at the end. Another private research university, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York, kicked off a campaign on Friday that has a smaller goal than a $1.4 billion effort completed in 2008. Still, RPI is shooting for a gaudy $1 billion.

Experts warn against attributing the recent glut of big-dollar goals to current conditions.

“It’s hard to point to a causal factor,” said David Bass, senior director of research at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. “What you’re seeing with these announcements is the culmination of years, literally, of very careful planning, analysis and consensus building.”

That includes planning for a particular campaign, as colleges and universities spend years conducting market research, reaching out to wealthy donors and operating in silent phases before they ever publicly announce fund-raising campaigns. It also includes prior campaigns themselves.

A single public fund-raising campaign is not just about raising money immediately, Bass said. It is also about cultivating donors for future campaigns.

“What you’re seeing is not what’s going on right now but is the compounded returns of previous campaigns and sustained investment in fund-raising,” he said.

Even so, current conditions can have an impact on campaigns that are being announced. The wealthiest donors, those whose gifts are key to these campaigns, tend to be more willing to give when the stock market and the economy are strong. So if the last year’s stock market surge has helped donors forget the angst they felt in the years after the Great Recession, fund-raising is likely benefiting.

As a result, some colleges and universities might announce their campaigns earlier. Or they might be able to announce larger goals than they originally planned.

“Anecdotally, I’ve heard a lot about it, and it’s not surprising,” said Ann E. Kaplan, director of the Voluntary Support of Education Survey and data miner for the Council for Aid to Education. “Now that the stock market has not only recovered but has started performing quite well, it probably would speed you toward the end of your silent phase and toward announcing.”

The Council for Aid to Education tracks payments of gifts but not fund-raising campaign announcements. New batches of large gifts could indicate a departure from recent trends CAE has tracked -- it found a slowdown in the growth of charitable giving to colleges and universities in the fiscal year ending in June 2016. Giving to colleges and universities grew 1.7 percent, to $41 billion, that year, a much lower growth rate than 7.6 percent between 2014 and 2015. (The organization is still gathering data for the most recent fiscal year ending in June 2017.)

More recently, numerous examples of large gifts to both public and private institutions have surfaced. On the private side, the University of Chicago announced a $75 million gift to its Booth School of Business. Oglethorpe University in Atlanta announced a $50 million gift that is the largest in its history. Kenyon College in Ohio announced a $75 million gift, also the largest in its history. Boston University is receiving a $115 million gift for interdisciplinary research.

Among public institutions, the University of Hawaii recently received a cash and real-estate donation valued at $117 million, and the University of Maryland at College Park announced a $220 million gift from a foundation. The University of California, Irvine, announced a $200 million gift, although it has been criticized as giving sway to donors who advocate for junk science. (University officials have responded that the gift will fund evidence-based teaching and treatment.)

Announcements of large individual gifts aren’t the same thing as announcements of fund-raising campaign goals. But fund-raising campaign announcements often contain announcements of large gifts. And proliferating large gifts might reflect big-money donors becoming more comfortable opening their wallets.

Take the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s campaign as an example. The university started planning its campaign in 2012, according to Patricia Borger, vice chancellor for development and alumni relations. It changed its campaign based on economic conditions and prospective donor responses.

“We’d always thought about taking it public in 2017,” Borger said. “The big change for us is when we went public, we also could announce bigger goals.”

The university’s original working goal was $175 million, but it raised the goal to the announced $200 million. It is already 85 percent of the way to its goal, meaning it has raised about $170 million from more than 17,000 donors. Proceeds from the campaign will go to student success initiatives like scholarships, research efforts at an institution recently named a top-tier research university, and community engagement efforts.

A strong stock market can also help universities raise money because it means donors have a greater interest in avoiding taxes on stocks that have appreciated in value.

“They don’t have to pay capital gains that they would incur if they sold, and they would also get a charitable deduction to the extent permissible by law,” Borger said. “I just came from a donor meeting where somebody said, ‘My former company stock has done really well, and so we’ll be using that to make our gift.’”

Demographics could also be favoring higher ed philanthropy, said Tim Seiler, a fellow in philanthropic fund-raising at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and a former vice president of the Indiana University Foundation.

“On a general level, you’ve got a pretty big population of baby boomers who have reached the age where they have to do the required minimum distribution from their IRAs, and that is just a sweet way to make a charitable contribution,” Seiler said. Retirees can often receive a tax benefit by directly rolling over their IRA distributions as donations.

Meanwhile, many public universities are facing flat or declining state funding. All public universities need to try to move their financial model toward more private support, said the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s vice chancellor for university development, David Routh.

“Let me be very clear: we are one of the fortunate ones in that we get a substantial amount of state support,” Routh said. “That’s been very helpful, and we’re very grateful for that from the people of North Carolina. But it has been cut in the last several years.”

UNC is billing its $4.25 billion campaign as the largest in the Southeast and second-largest among public institutions in the country, behind a $5 billion University of Washington campaign. It’s substantially larger than the university’s last campaign, which wrapped up a decade ago, raising $2.38 billion from 194,000 donors.

No two campaigns are alike, according to Joe Mandernach, senior associate vice president and chief development officer at the University of Florida.

The university had its campaign launch date set well in advance of this weekend, Mandernach said in an email. But the timing turned out to be excellent.

“UF has benefited from strong public and private support in recent years,” he said. “We’re enjoying a strong, palpable sense of momentum on campus, one that our prospects and donors recognize. I sense our campaign is primarily about using private support to leverage public and other resources, to have gifts serve as a catalyst for UF’s continued national and international rise.”

The University of Florida’s $3 billion goal is nearly twice the $1.72 billion it raised during its last campaign ending in 2012. The new campaign raised $1.3 billion through 500,000 gifts during a three-year quiet phase, meaning it is about 43 percent of the way to its goal.

That’s about the same point the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had reached when it announced its campaign -- the university had raised $1.01 billion, or 45 percent, of its $2.25 billion goal. It is the fourth capital campaign in the University of Illinois System’s history but the first specific to a campus.

Colleges and universities want to announce campaigns after they have already raised a substantial sum of money toward their goals, said Brian Gawor, vice president for research at consulting firm Ruffalo Noel Levitz’s fund-raising management division. Then they can strike a balance between having more donors to curate but already receiving commitments from large, transformational donors.

“Campaigns are about reaching the right donors at the right time with the potential giving opportunity that is right for them,” he said. “In these billion-dollar campaigns, there will be hundreds of examples where that was done between the donor and the institution.”

Experts generally agreed that colleges and universities have been spending more time in silent phases before announcing their campaigns, and that campaigns have been growing longer and larger. Institutions are also relying heavily on wealthy donors as the country’s wealth distribution tilts more toward the top.

Not every campaign makes its goal on time, of course. About 38 percent of institutions reported extending their campaigns beyond their original end dates, according to a 2015 survey from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the most recent that is available.

In another notable fund-raising campaign development this year, the University of Southern California announced in February that it reached a massive $6 billion fund-raising goal nearly a year and a half ahead of schedule. USC said it would be extending the campaign for five additional years.

Editorial Tags: Development/fund-raisingImage Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignImage Caption: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign kicked off a capital campaign Friday with an event at the State Farm Center.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 

Author discusses how racism is perpetuated in elite colleges

Tue, 2017-10-17 07:00

Drawing on decades of social science research as well as original analyses of campus race relations, W. Carson Byrd, an assistant professor of pan-African studies at the University of Louisville, paints a bleak picture in his new book, Poison in the Ivy: Race Relations and the Reproduction of Inequality on Elite College Campuses (Rutgers University Press).

Diversity programs at colleges aren’t doing enough, Byrd argues. The stated aim of exposing college students to people of diverse backgrounds might not be doing enough to break down social and racial divisions that still plague American society.

Focusing on elite and selective colleges -- since students from those institutions often go on to have an outsize role and influence in shaping policy and the national discussion -- Byrd finds that mingling in elite social worlds, even diverse ones, can result in students downplaying the consideration of systemic and structural racism. Instead, being among “the best and the brightest,” or at least being under the impression that is the case, might result in students overattributing things like merit or hard work for people’s success and failure, to the point where institutional racism is pushed under the rug.

Before the book goes on sale in November, Byrd answered some questions sent via email. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What did you see while doing research for the book that was most striking to you?

A: As I started digging into the research and talking with colleagues, I found, on the one hand, a general narrative that supports the overall findings of intergroup-relations research that prolonged social interaction between members of two groups under certain conditions could reduce a person’s racial prejudice and even their anxiety to enter social interactions.

On the other hand, there were some findings that did not fully support this narrative, and I took a cue from researchers who suggested more work needs to uncover how social interactions may reduce prejudice in some instances, but not in others. This led me to search for a way to examine how different forms of social interactions such as friendships, romantic relationships, who people roomed with and who were in their student organizations during college influenced what people believed about race and inequality more broadly.

As students who attend some of the most selective institutions also have access to resources and opportunities that position them well to be in leadership roles after college, I wanted to examine how these students’ social interactions and the college context of those interactions could shed light on what current and future leaders may think about racial inequality and what should be done about it.

Q: You write that, since you were young, when you started witnessing people from your small Virginia town go off to college, you noticed the themes that your research in the book touches on. You write, “I was confused how people who were given many opportunities to learn about the world could begin narrowing their explanations about the inequalities and life experiences that surrounded them, even for their childhood friends.” How long have you noticed this trend, and what has changed as you’ve worked to make sense of it?

A: This trend grew more pronounced for me when people discussed life after high school. Some conversations revolved around deciding whether they were able to attend college, and if so where, while other aspects of these conversations focused on why some people may or may not “make something of themselves” later in life. The conversations people would have after many began college were a strange mix of individual blame, structural blindness and apathetic prospects for the future for some groups of the community, and in some cases, people would write off the town altogether.

As I worked to unpack how these views around race and inequality interconnect with the college experience, I came across an important point noted in the 1960s that researchers are elaborating on more in research today with their studies on college students’ interactions and ideologies (i.e., frameworks to rationalize circumstances in society such as racial inequality). Social psychologist Thomas Pettigrew noted at a conference in 1965, “I think one of the great fallacies we have had in the field of race relations for many, many decades has been to worry about attitudes rather than about conditions. It is a crude but, I think, generally correct statement to say that attitudes are more often a result than a cause of most of our race-relations situations.”

Studies of college students’ interactions and ideologies are including more contextual information about the college environment to provide a window into how students make sense of race and inequality, and how their interactions inform these views. Two prominent recent examples that come to mind are [University of Maryland, College Park, associate professor of education] Julie Park’s When Diversity Drops, and [Harvard associate professor of education] Natasha Warikoo’s The Diversity Bargain. From this work, we garner more information about how cross-racial interactions may not reduce prejudice or the belief that individual efforts are the key to overcoming racial inequality based on the structure of programs such as intergroup dialogues, for example.

Further, when you put my study in conversation with Park, Warikoo and other research, the findings suggest how difficult learning about the realities of race and racism is for students whether it is through conversations with friends, in the classroom or in specific college programming. The learning process is neither linear in progress nor comfortable as students, particularly white students who are least likely to have such in-depth conversations prior to college, must confront how they individually relate to racial inequality around them.

In a sense, what have changed in this area of research are the multiple angles scholars are taking to examine the context of everyday interactions on college campuses to understand why sometimes cross-racial interactions and particular programming may work to reduce certain beliefs about race and inequality, while in other circumstances they do not.

Q: If students at these elite institutions tend to overcompensate or believe in merit and individual effort, what are the factors that they’re missing? And what risk does missing those factors hold?

A: One result people may find confusing is that students were less likely to attribute racial inequality to individual actions when they graduated college, and this was less often the consequence of their social interactions than some would expect.

However, this is not to discount the importance of their continued beliefs in merit or individual efforts, nor is it to suggest that students believe structural barriers are more influential on racial inequality in society. When we step back to examine the position of these students within higher education, it becomes more of a question of how does one connect individual efforts to racial inequality rather than ask if they support an explicit view.

This is an important point I elaborate in relation to how social interactions connect to both students’ racial ideologies [and] also their identities. For students at these institutions, they embody a certain view of individualism and diversity that elite institutions often trumpet. Everyone is framed as bringing their own version of “diversity” and “merit” to campus, and because they are recognized as a diverse group of students in a prestigious space, they identify most (not all) of their classmates as highly talented individuals who achieved their positions based on their hard work and intelligence.

This hyperindividualism is how the belief in meritocracy and the importance of individual efforts becomes immersed not only in ideological beliefs about racial inequality, but in students’ identities as well. My analyses suggest that some students, particularly white students, were gravitating toward a more individualistic conception of their identity disconnected from racial or ethnic identities. A similar reliance on diversity as individuality is noted in Warikoo’s research as well as by sociologists in studies of young elites in boarding schools, as is the case with [Columbia sociology professor] Shamus Khan’s Privilege, and also of universities’ specific rhetoric and policies around diversity, as noted by [University of Toronto associate professor of sociology] Ellen Berrey in The Enigma of Diversity.

Students in these institutions frequently benefit from being around other privileged peers that can blind them to the structural inequalities limiting people’s access to the same educational spaces they seem to “naturally” fit in, and how inequality may manifest on these campuses as well to hinder the achievements of their peers. It is a complex puzzle of how students rationalize their position in elite spaces with colorblind conceptions of merit and individualism they hold dearly, and the prospects that racial inequality can often be the result of something other than a person’s efforts.

Ultimately, students are at risk of truncating their explanations for inequality in our complex social world to a short “elevator speech” among their co-workers when they leave college, and reify the inequalities they can simultaneously find abhorrent.

Q: Do students at elite colleges have this worldview more than students at nonelite colleges?

A: Research finds that relying on a specific worldview to explain racial inequality is not relegated to those in elite social circles, including students attending highly selective colleges. Across segments of society, people find the argument that a person rises or falls on their individual efforts enticing, and echoes beliefs in the American dream. It is often to what degree do they support these views, how do they relate to such individualistic views, how much do they believe structural barriers can influence a person’s position in society and what, if anything, do they think could be done to address racial inequality.

What makes the case of elite college students important is the continual power and leadership opportunities acquired by graduates of many of these institutions, and how these beliefs can be enacted later in life. Graduates of these institutions enter policy forums wherein their beliefs about why racial inequality exists and how they, themselves, landed in the positions they are in can influence what solutions they identify as viable to alleviate these circumstances, or if these inequalities are fixable at all. These are relatively closed-off conversations among people with similar backgrounds, personally and educationally, that affect millions of people not able to participate in the conversations.

Q: You write that your findings throw a wrench in the notion that cross-racial interactions on their own can be an antidote to racism. How can cross-racial interactions be more effective? What needs to change, both at colleges and in society at large? What do you want a college president to take away from this book?

A: Too often people refer to racism as something in someone’s mind. That is, it is simply a matter of challenging the biases a person holds toward another group that will overcome racism in society. However, such a perspective puts too much of the onus on individual-level changes for institutional problems. Although individual change is important, both cultural and structural changes are warranted as well to make cross-racial interactions more effective among college students.

We must address inadequate curricula, policies and programs on our campuses to work beyond diversity toward conceptions of inclusion, which is much more difficult and requires a level of sustained, ongoing effort some institutions may be uncomfortable with, particularly as many face financial constraints that pose a false dichotomy of “diversity and inclusion” versus “educational quality and outcomes.” The straightforward answer is you need both, and [to] hold yourselves accountable for ensuring that beyond your rhetoric you provide each and every student on campus the needed support as they pursue their education.

Yet we cannot expect to identify a singular, universal solution to address what ails our campuses, because that solution may be effective for only one campus community, but not our own. Nor should we look for a 30-second sound bite for a 30-year conversation. The recent protests and demands issued around the nation reflect the need for sustained efforts on college campuses to tackle racially hostile environments for students and faculty of color. Increasing and sustaining conversations about historical connections to current realities is pertinent to prepare students for understanding how racial inequality persists after historical markers from the civil rights movement and the election of Barack Obama as president to our discussions of racial tension on and off campus under the current administration.

Not just college presidents, but everyone in positions of power and leadership on campus must avoid what is possibly occurring among many of our students and become apathetic, viewing racism and inequality as too big, too endemic to address. Although these conversations may vary in form and implementation, they should be based on self-reflection to identify what issues exist, who they impact and what resources are not available to address them. We must be frank with each other about what we are not doing to combat racism and inequality on our campuses rather than point to what we are doing. If our efforts were that successful, we would not need to ask ourselves why we are continuing to have these conversations as new students continue to enter our institutions year after year.

New Books About Higher EducationDiversityEditorial Tags: BooksIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 3Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, October 17, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: ‘Poison in the Ivy’

Half of black student loan borrowers default, new federal data show

Tue, 2017-10-17 07:00

Two analyses of newly released federal data on student loans reveal serious default problems for African-American borrowers.

Earlier this month the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics published a report on patterns of student loan repayment for two groups of borrowers who first enrolled in college in 1995-1996 and in 2003-2004.

Historically the department has not collected much data on student debt that can be broken out by the race or ethnic background of borrowers. The new report, however, included tools that researchers can use to compare how various groups are faring.

Two resulting analyses found a troubling picture for black students who take out loans.

Nearly half (49 percent) of all black borrowers in the 2004 group defaulted on at least one loan within 12 years, wrote Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University. That default rate was more than twice that of white students (20 percent) and more than four times the rate of Asian students (11 percent).

“The differentials are still present across sector, with more than one-third of black students defaulting across all sectors while a relatively small percentage of Asian students defaulted across all nonprofit sectors,” Kelchen said. “Default rates at for-profit colleges are high for all racial/ethnic groups, with almost half of white students defaulting alongside nearly two-thirds of black students.”

The Center for American Progress on Monday released a report on the new numbers.

The federal data show that the typical black student who enrolled in 2004 and took on debt for an undergraduate education owed more on their student loans after 12 years than the amount originally borrowed, found Ben Miller, the senior director for postsecondary education at the center and a former department official during the Obama administration.

Likewise, 75 percent of black borrowers who failed to complete at a for-profit institution ended up defaulting, Miller said. And he said that disturbing figure could be even worse for black students who enrolled at for-profits during the sector’s peak, which was in the recession’s wake.

Default rates for students who dropped out before completing generally are high. But black students fared worse than their peers.

Miller’s analysis shows that 50 percent of white students who enrolled at for-profits but dropped out later defaulted, compared to 39 percent of white noncompleters who began at a public four-year institution. But 64 percent of black students who failed to complete at a public university ended up defaulting, compared to 50 percent of Hispanic or Latino borrowers.

Likewise, even black students who earned a bachelor’s degree were substantially more likely to default. Just 9 percent of all borrowers who earned a bachelor’s defaulted, on average, Miller said. Yet almost one-quarter (23 percent) of black bachelor’s-degree earners defaulted.

The default rates for black borrowers were worse than those for Pell Grant recipients over all, which Miller said means the results for black students cannot be attributed solely to lower average income levels.

Black students also were more likely to borrow, according to the new data. For example, Miller said 62 percent of black students who attended a community college took out a federal loan, compared to 46 percent of white students and 40 percent of Hispanic or Latino students.

“Seeing even African-American students who earned a bachelor’s degree struggle also reinforces that we cannot pretend the federal student loan program exists in a vacuum,” Miller wrote. “The median African-American household has just $1,700 in accumulated wealth. Racial discrimination in hiring has not improved over the past quarter century.”

Part of the solution to the serious, complex problem of default among black student loan borrowers is for the department to start collecting data on the race and ethnicity of borrowers, he said, adding that the feds should review completion, repayment and default rates to identify colleges with sizable gaps.

Likewise, he said states and colleges should consider if their policies might be driving more black students to borrow. One possible example could be well-meaning admissions practices that divert black students to colleges with less money to pay for grant aid.

“Perhaps it’s too much to expect student loans and postsecondary education to solve these structural problems,” wrote Miller, “but sending African-American students into an inequitable adulthood with large debts from college can put them even further behind than they already start.”

Editorial Tags: Race and ethnicityFinancial aidImage Source: Getty ImagesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 1Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, October 17, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: Default Crisis for Black Student Borrowers

Legislators crank up interest in community college completion

Tue, 2017-10-17 07:00

Community college systems are finding they're under more scrutiny than ever before, especially when it comes to whether their students complete programs and graduate.

Take, for instance, a recent report out of Virginia that criticized the state's 23 community colleges for failing to get students associate degrees and certificates. The legislative report criticized the community college system, saying that only 39 percent of the state's community college students earned a degree or credential within seven years, and also expressed concerns about a lack of consistent dual-enrollment courses and a difficult transfer process.

The study found that the Virginia colleges’ completion rates were on par with the national rate. Thirty-nine percent of community college students nationally earn a credential or degree within six years, however, in other states, the rate exceeds 50 percent, according to the report. The report also found that the colleges are struggling to meet employers’ demands. For instance, there is a demand for employees in finance-related fields, but 13 of the colleges don't offer relevant programs. Ten colleges reported being unable to provide all of the work-force programs and credentials that can lead to employment in high-demand occupations such as certified nursing assistants, emergency medical technicians, pipe fitters and welders.

The report also outlined that the colleges don't have enough academic advisers to sufficiently help students, with 21 colleges reporting difficulties in providing academic advising because of an insufficient number of advisers and large caseloads. The report also pointed out that Virginia's community college students earned "a semester's worth of excess credits" by the time they earned a bachelor's degree. Across five types of credentials students could earn through the community colleges, 75 percent of students earned more than the typical number of credits required.

"People inside and out of the system want to see more people graduate," said Jeffrey Krause, assistant vice chancellor for strategic communications at the Virginia Community College System. "They want to see completions and see people acquire skills and credentials to succeed in the workplace."

"In many places, we are seeing state legislatures getting more involved with decisions that might normally be expected to be made by campuses or even the state systems," said David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis for the American Association of Community Colleges, via email. Baime points to performance-based funding legislation, new tuition-free initiatives and remediation reforms as examples of policy makers weighing in on colleges' performance.

If state lawmakers are focusing their attention on completion, it could be because they see quickly approaching attainment goals on the horizon, said Lexi Anderson, a policy analyst with Education Commission for the States. While some states have created their own attainment goals, the Obama administration established 2020 as the goal for reaching 60 percent degree attainment for the country, while the Lumina Foundation established 2025 as the goal for 60 percent of working-age adults possessing a "high-quality" credential.

"The closer we get to those goals, the higher importance states and policy makers put on completing degrees and credentials," Anderson said, adding that two-year institutions may feel the pressure more intensely since they have an open-access mission and educate high numbers of "nontraditional" students.

But in addition to wanting to increase college attainment, state lawmakers have drawn a link between community colleges, work-force development and economic growth, she said, adding that legislators in states like Tennessee -- with its Drive to 55 initiative -- Indiana and Ohio have gone "all in" on pushing for reforms to increase the number of degrees as a way of increasing economic growth.

Scott Jenkins, a strategy director at the Lumina Foundation, said it isn't just attainment goals that are driving lawmakers.

"For the last 20 to 30 years, state legislatures have been underwhelmed when you look at the traditional completion metrics of enrollment, persistence and graduation at community colleges," he said. "What is new is that you have a lot of states that are investing in community colleges as a primary strategy around preparing people for the work force, and community colleges are more receptive to a small amount of dollars because they're much nimbler."

Jenkins said it's true that, if looking purely at general appropriations to community colleges, state funding to the institutions has decreased as a share of operating costs.

But instead, state lawmakers are pushing for tuition-free programs, which can drive enrollment growth, which in turn brings in more funding per student, he said.

But Krause said the focus by the Legislature on Virginia's completion, transfer and dual enrollment isn't unusual. This type of legislative review of the colleges was due to happen, and the General Assembly is "holding the colleges accountable to taxpayers," he said, adding that the last legislative review of the colleges occurred in 1991. Each year the Legislature makes a decision about which agencies will be reviewed.

In a blog post about the report, VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois said he was glad the Legislature evaluated the system.

"I think our colleges are well run, but it can be helpful to see ourselves as outsiders do and find things that we can do better," he said.

DuBois said that none of the Legislature's 21 recommendations were surprising and many of them reflected the system's own six-year strategic plan, known as Complete 2021.

"We agree with the report's conclusions that dual enrollment and college transfer can work better for students and families," he said. "But improving them requires working with our respective partners in K-12 school districts and universities."

The report also means the system will look to the Legislature to help implement some of these recommendations, by, for instance, making financial changes that allow the colleges to add more academic advisers.

"Accountability and scrutiny are the only tools in a Legislature's toolbox, and there is a heightened need and necessity for community colleges to be really good at serving the populations they have," Jenkins said. "Sometimes that comes across as being hard on a community college … from a positive side, it does reflect that everyone recognizes the absolute fundamental need of our community colleges to improve and serve students as quickly as possible."

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College presidents and provosts gather to consider issues of free speech

Mon, 2017-10-16 07:00

If college leaders had any hope that speaker disruptions and free speech disputes would be last semester's news, they have seen otherwise in the early weeks of this academic year.

Just last week, students shouted down talks at Columbia University and the University of Michigan. Those doing the shouting down were generally students aligned with the political left, but supporters of President Trump also shut down a talk at Whittier College by California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, shouting "America First" and "build that wall" to prevent him from answering questions. And those events followed the interruption of speakers (sometimes preventing events from taking place at all) at the College of William & Mary, Texas Southern University, the University of Oregon and Virginia Tech.

With these events becoming increasingly common, the University of Chicago invited presidents and provosts from a range of institutions to come to campus this weekend for a closed-door discussion of how higher education should respond. The University of Chicago has stated in a series of statements from its leaders and monographs on its history that free expression must be respected on campuses, no matter how controversial the idea being expressed.

While the meeting at Chicago was closed to the press, organizers arranged for a group of presidents and provosts to discuss what happened and the ideas that had engaged the college leaders. Daniel Diermeier, Chicago's provost, said that the university wanted a group large enough to have different kinds of institutions represented, but small enough for intense interaction among participants. Sixty-six presidents and provosts were there.

Diermeier and other participants said the presidents were in strong agreement with principles of free speech, without exceptions. "Those principles apply irrespective of the ideological perspective of the speakers," he said.

But at the same time, some participants said that they wanted to work (and hope to have future meetings along these lines) on such issues as educating students on the First Amendment and also trying to change the narrative popular in the press that today's students are uniquely unable, compared to past generations, to deal with ideas that make them uncomfortable.

“One point that we’re not all in agreement on, but that I feel strongly about, is that [pundits and politicians have] tainted a group of students as being less resilient, as snowflakes," said Ana Mari Cauce, president of the University of Washington. "The student of today traverses a more diverse environment, with more perspectives, than a Yale student of the '20s who went to school with a valet and didn't have to confront real difference."

At the same time, Cauce said, colleges need to focus more on education of their students on the values of free expression, especially in light of the experiences today's students have had with the First Amendment.

"Many of us thought there is a need for more education of our student body, for them to have a better understanding of why the First Amendment is so important," she said. "They have seen the First Amendment used to defend racism, sexism, etc. They don’t have the real understanding that the First Amendment has been used to defend minority views."

Likewise, she said it was important to recognize that some of those claiming to be First Amendment defenders may not be.

When far-right speakers regularly engage in doxing -- sharing private information about some scholars with the public in ways that encourage harassment of those scholars -- they are trying to shut down speech, Cauce said. Of talks with more insults than ideas, Cauce said that "they are not attempting to engage in real debate."

At the University of Washington, Cauce defended the right of Milo Yiannopoulos to appear, citing principles of free expression, even as many asked her to call off the event. But she also made a point in her statements of questioning not only his views, but whether he was engaged in true discourse. A statement she made at the time said of Yiannopoulos, "He is not someone I would ever invite to speak here, not because I don’t value a robust or difficult discussion about a range of policies or social issues -- such conversations are necessary and college campuses are ideal places to have them -- but because this is clearly not the kind of conversation he is seeking. He generates heat, not light, and his manner of engagement is anything but civil, respectful or conducive to true dialogue across differences, of which we need more, not less."

The idea that presidents need to do more than just lecture about the First Amendment was a common theme among the presidents, who said that they need to show empathy with those who feel betrayed by having certain speakers appear. Presidents and provosts stressed that they could (and should) simultaneously talk about why these speakers are so offensive, while also defending their right to appear.

"We also talked through a series of scenarios where we find it logical that many students might find a particular speaker highly offensive. And we want to let them know we understand that feeling," said Todd A. Diacon, provost of Kent State University.

Security Costs

At the Yiannopoulos event at the University of Washington, a man was shot. A Yiannopoulos event at the University of California, Berkeley, attracted anarchist protesters who vandalized the campus. Controlling the event at the University of Washington involved 124 police officers, a mix of those from the university and from Seattle. Berkeley spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on security last month for appearances by conservative speakers (and announced appearances by speakers who didn't show up).

The University of Florida is estimating that an appearance by white supremacist Richard Spencer will cost $500,000 in security expenses.

Several presidents said that the issue of security is one that needs to be addressed. Cauce noted that many of those protesting -- sometimes in illegal ways -- are not students or otherwise connected to the university. As a result, she said it was appropriate that local police forces share responsibility, as happened at her campus.

Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University, said he was concerned about the ability of speakers like Spencer to return to the same campus -- citing First Amendment principles -- time after time, potentially forcing a campus to spend millions of dollars.

Kimbrough himself has paid for security to defend principles of free expression. Dillard, a historically black institution in New Orleans, agreed to hold a debate between candidates for a U.S. Senate seat last year. When David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, qualified for the debate at Dillard, many urged Kimbrough to call off the event. But Kimbrough kept the commitment, even as protesters tried to gain entry to disrupt the event. Kimbrough said doing so had nothing to do with Duke's views, but with a university's commitment to providing a forum for a debate.

Many of the free speech conflicts attracting the most attention in the last year -- those involving Charles Murray, who was shouted down at Middlebury College, and the various speeches or attempted speeches by Spencer, Yiannopoulos and others -- have involved liberal and/or minority students, or off-campus anarchist groups opposing the speakers. Kimbrough noted that he first became interested in the issue of controversial speakers when black students were criticized in the 1990s for hosting (or trying to host) speakers such as Khalid Abdul Muhammad, a black activist who was criticized by many for anti-Semitic remarks.

Kimbrough believes in bringing speakers to campus who challenge students' views, and he has no doubts about standing by his decision to host the debate with Duke or bringing someone like Ann Coulter to his prior campus, Philander Smith College, also a historically black institution.

Kimbrough said he has been wondering whether the politicians and others concerned for the free speech rights of Murray and Yiannopoulos will be as devoted to free speech if the next controversial speaker on campus is someone like Muhammad.

“What happens when the next Khalid Muhammad comes along? Will that be handled the same way?” Kimbrough asked. "Or are we going to deal with that person differently?”

The Middlebury Perspective

Among the presidents at the Chicago meeting was Laurie L. Patton of Middlebury College. The shouting down of Murray at her college, and physical attacks on a professor who was with Murray (for the purpose of asking him questions, not supporting him), stunned many nationally and focused attention on Middlebury. The college ended up punishing a total of 67 students for their (varying) roles in the events of the night. But local police, investigating the attack on the professor, were never able to bring charges in that part of the incident.

While not minimizing what happened at the Murray event, Patton said it was important for presidents to remind the public that events at which controversial views are aired take place on campuses every day, without incident. Most recently, Middlebury hosted a debate between John Sununu, former governor of New Hampshire, and Barney Frank, a former member of Congress, on economic policy under President Trump. The two speakers have very different economic and political views, but the discussion among the participants and students was entirely civil, Patton said.

Ten days after Charles Murray was on campus, students organized a discussion of what had happened. Again, there was strong disagreement, but the discussion was civil, Patton said.

Students, she said, are looking for ways to support free expression while also making sure "that everyone has a seat at the table," and a range of views are respected.

Patton said that college leaders need to work to promote free expression and also to tell the story of what's really happening on campuses. “All of the vibrant things that happen on campus, where free speech is exercised in many ways, gets eclipsed," Patton said. "That is sad. There is a lot of amazing stuff that goes on on all of our campuses."

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Ohio State, University of Cincinnati diverge on how to answer Richard Spencer

Mon, 2017-10-16 07:00

Two public institutions, two hours away from each other, announced on Friday two different responses to speaking requests from Richard Spencer.

The University of Cincinnati decided to let outspoken white supremacist Spencer rent a space and speak at the public institution, like anyone else wishing to hold an event there.

In a letter dated the same day, Christopher Culley, Ohio State University's senior vice president and general counsel, wrote to Spencer’s lawyer, Kyle J. Bristow, saying that the university determined the proposed event -- a speaking event at the student union -- cannot be held safely, and the university is “considering other alternatives” to the request:

The university has reviewed this request and has determined that this request cannot be accommodated without substantial risk to public safety. However, the university is currently considering other alternatives for Mr. Padgett’s request and expects to be in touch by the end of next week regarding whether there may be viable alternatives for Mr. Padgett’s consideration.

Cameron Padgett, referenced in the letter, is a graduate student at Georgia State University who has been helping Spencer book college tours across the country.

What precisely Ohio State determined to be a risk, and how it came to those determinations, is not exactly clear, as a spokesman declined to comment beyond the letter. But over the past few months, the response from public universities to Spencer's speaking requests has not exactly been uniform.

Navigating Murky Waters

As Inside Higher Ed previously reported, events in Charlottesville, Va., in August, rocked the boat for the viability of Richard Spencer’s speaking engagements.

In mid-August, a conglomeration of white supremacists and far-right activists converged in Charlottesville for a “Unite the Right” rally. Marching through the University of Virginia’s campus on a Friday night, protesters carried torches and shouted chants aimed at minorities, including “You will not replace us,” and “Jews will not replace us.”

The next day, as protests continued, a “Unite the Right” protester rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, injuring about 20 people and killing one woman.

Spencer’s involvement and appearance at the rallies held that weekend gave many public colleges slated for his tour concrete public safety concerns, especially considering language promoting one of the college events that directly linked Charlottesville and the college events.

“Today Charlottesville, tomorrow Texas A&M,” read one of the fliers promoting a “White Lives Matter” rally, which Texas A&M canceled.

“Linking the tragedy of Charlottesville with the Texas A&M event creates a major security risk on our campus. Additionally, the daylong event would provide disruption to our class schedules and to student, faculty and staff movement (both bus system and pedestrian),” a statement from Texas A&M read at the time. In 2016, Texas A&M had allowed Spencer to speak at the university.

But how long, or how well, Texas A&M’s move will set a precedent is not clear.

The University of Florida also canceled an event that Spencer was supposed to hold on campus, citing security concerns. Earlier this month, however, the institution changed course, announcing that Spencer would be allowed to speak. The university engaged with local law enforcement to craft a security plan -- similar to other security plans that, across the country, as more and more fringe and radical speakers draw protesters, are becoming financially draining for universities. Florida’s plan is slated to cost roughly $500,000.

Legal Threats, Institutional Changes

As Spencer has been rebuffed -- sometimes successfully, sometimes not -- there isn’t clear legal precedent for how much public safety concerns can deter his speaking events. Although his lawyer has made legal threats against Ohio State and the University of Cincinnati, citing First Amendment grounds, formal legal action hasn’t taken place, leaving the post-Charlottesville public safety concerns untested before a court.

Additionally, it isn’t clear at this point what the final outcome of the Ohio State decision will be.

In April, before Charlottesville, Auburn University tried to block Spencer from speaking on campus, citing safety concerns. A federal judge ruled that Spencer was allowed to speak, however, and the event took place.

Several universities, after the Auburn decision went through, changed their policies for renting out space on campus. Auburn’s policy allowed outsiders to rent space at the public institution, and since Spencer spoke, some colleges have limited who can rent space, only making it available to students and associated groups.

University of Cincinnati President Neville Pinto said in a statement that no one affiliated with the institution invited Spencer to speak. The letter from Ohio State’s general counsel references Padgett, the Georgia State student, rather than an Ohio State student group.

“Countless members of our community have courageously pointed out that his ideology of hate and exclusion is antithetical to the core values of a civil society and an academic community,” Pinto said. “I stand with you in condemning dehumanizing views and racist practices.”

A Cincinnati pastor, Damon Lynch III, and local activists told reporters that they would protest Spencer's appearance with a "message of love" to counter his message of hate.

The University of Virginia issued an institutional review after the Charlottesville protests, launched to analyze how the university was so caught off guard, and what it could have done better.

Among the shortcomings highlighted in the review were the lack of enforcement of certain campus and state regulations, which the review acknowledged were not necessarily common knowledge. According to the report, university police should have had authority to cancel the nighttime march through campus based on the use of torches -- per a campus policy against open flames -- but the police were “not sufficiently aware of its authority to enforce this policy.” There is also a Virginia state law that outlaws “with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons, [burning] an object on a highway or other public place in a manner having a direct tendency to place another person in reasonable fear or apprehension of death or bodily injury.”

In addition for calling for the enforcement of those policies in the future, the report suggested adopting constitutionally permissible regulations for the use of campus for organized marches, which would give the university more of a heads-up.

Ultimately, the latter regulations were not adopted by the university.

As for the University of Cincinnati, the date of the speech is still being finalized. The final result of Spencer and Ohio State’s current gridlock remains to be seen.

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New simulation study says peer review is better at assuring quality than random publication choices, but that some systems of review are better than others

Mon, 2017-10-16 07:00

Is it peer reviewed? A yes generally means that some experts, somewhere, think a given piece of research represents the best in its field. But a new study of peer-review processes within political science found that the majority of accepted papers will be evaluated by the average reader as below a journal’s publication standards.

The study, which looked at multiple systems of peer review using computational simulation, also found that all such systems allow random chance to play a strong role in acceptance decisions. A peer-review system in which an active editor has discretion over publication decisions (and does not rely solely on reviewer votes) can mitigate some of those effects, however.

“Does Peer Review Identify the Best Papers? A Simulation Study of Editors, Reviewers and the Scientific Publication Process” was written by Justin Esarey, an associate professor of political science at Rice University, and published this month by PS: Political Science and Politics (yes, it was peer reviewed). Esarey doesn’t allege that peer review is broken, but lists some of its documented shortcomings: it can miss major errors in submitted papers, leaves room for luck or chance in publication decisions, and is subject to confirmation bias among peer reviewers. Given those factors, he says, it’s “natural to inquire whether the structure of the process influences its outcomes.”

Since journal editors can choose the number of reviews they solicit, which reviewers they choose, how they convert reviews into decisions, and other aspects of the process, Esarey continues, “Do these choices matter, and if so, how?” It would be helpful for editors and authors in political science to know which practices -- if any -- improve a journal’s quality, the study says; it defines quality of a single publication therein as the average reader holistic ranking relative to the distribution of other papers.

Esarey relies on some assumptions, including that an editor solicits three blind reviews for each paper. He further assumes that editors assign papers to reviewers at random, conditional on expertise, and that potential reviewers' refusal has nothing to do with a paper’s quality. His computer model explicitly includes multiple reviewers with different but correlated opinions on paper quality and an editor who actively makes independent decisions using review advice, or an editor who merely follows the up-or-down votes of reviewers.

System of Peer Review

The study looks at four peer-review systems for acceptance to a journal: unanimity among votes (in which all three reviewers have to approve of a paper for publication); majority approval among reviewers; majority approval with editor’s participation as a fourth voter; and unilateral editorial decision-making based on reviewers’ substantive reports -- ignoring their votes.

Esarey began his analysis by looking at how each system corresponds with journal acceptance rates, based on a simulation involving 2,000 papers. He found that the probability of a manuscript being accepted is always considerably less than any individual reviewer’s probability of submitting a positive review.

Source: Justin Esarey

Esarey next wanted to know whether peer review would accept the best papers, based on disciplinary standards, despite mixed opinions from reviewers. He conducted a simulation similar to the first, but with a much bigger population of 50,000 papers and 500 readers, with a journal acceptance rate of about 10 percent. He then computed the average reader rating for all papers that were accepted for publication, and plotted the distribution of these values.

He ran the simulation twice, once for every review system as described and again under a system when the editor rejects half of all submitted papers before sending them out for review; the editor in the simulation rejected any paper deemed worse than the median paper in the population.

All systems produced distributions of published papers centered on a mean reader evaluation near 0.8, or the 80th percentile. So under every peer review system, a majority of papers were perceived by readers as being below that 10 percent threshold. A significant share of the published papers also had “surprisingly” low mean reader evaluations under every system, according to the study: approximately 12 percent of papers published under the majority voting system without desk rejection had reader evaluations of less than 0.65. That means that the average reader believes that such a paper is worse than 35 percent of other papers submitted.

That result is "surprisingly consistent with what political scientists actually report about the American Political Science Review, a highly selective journal with a very heterogeneous readership," Esarey says.

The best-performing system in the study was the unilateral editor decision system without desk rejection, meaning all papers were read by reviewers but the editor had final say about publication: just 6 percent of papers published under that system had reader evaluations under 0.65 (meaning that just 6 percent of papers were believed to be worse than 35 percent of other papers in the simulation population). If editors desk rejected 50 percent of papers under the unilateral editor system, that share fell to 1 percent.

Esarey notes that this system is similar to ones in which reviewers provide a qualitative written evaluation of a paper, but no up-down vote is taken (or where such a vote is ignored by an editor).

Room for Improvement

Simulated peer-review systems tended to accept papers that were better (on average) than rejected papers, meaning that peer review remains a filter through which the best papers are most likely to pass.

However, Esarey found that luck still plays a strong role in determining which papers are published under any system. In all systems, the highest-quality papers are the most likely to be published, but a paper that the average reader evaluates as being near the 80th percentage of quality (or 85th percentile in a system with desk rejection) has a chance of being accepted similar to a coin flip.

Esarey also found that journals' readership and review pools affected publication decisions: journals with a more homogenous readership, such as subfield-specific journals, tend to publish more consistently high-quality papers than journals with a heterogeneous readership. Examples of the latter include general-interest journals, some of which are highly ranked.​

“When readers and reviewers have heterogeneous standards for scientific importance and quality, as one might expect for a general-interest journal serving an entire discipline like the American Political Science Review or American Journal of Political Science, chance will strongly determine publication outcomes, and even highly selective journals will not necessarily publish the work that its readership perceives to be the best in the field," Esarey says.

However, he adds, “we may expect a system with greater editorial involvement and discretion to publish papers that are better regarded and more consistent compared to other peer-review systems.” In particular, the study found that the system in which editors accept papers based on the quality reports of reviewers -- but not their up-or-down judgment -- after an initial round of desk rejection tends to produce fewer low-quality published papers compared to other systems examined.

"Our finding suggests that reviewers should focus on providing informative, high-quality reports to editors that they can use to make a judgment about final publication (and not focus on their vote to accept or reject the paper)," the paper says. "When a journal does solicit up-or-down recommendations, a reviewer should typically recommend [revision] or acceptance for a substantially greater proportion of papers than the journal’s overall acceptance target in order to actually meet that target."

Beyond process, Esarey says the strong relationship between reader and reviewer heterogeneity and journal quality "suggests that political scientists may want to reconsider their attitudes about the prestige and importance of general-interest journal publications relative to those in topically and/or methodologically specialized journals." While it would be premature to "radically reconsider" judgments about journal prestige and the tenure and promotion decisions they inform, he added, "perhaps one study is enough to begin asking whether our judgments are truly consistent with our scholarly and scientific standards."

While Esarey used his simulation to talk about political science, he told Inside Higher Ed that there's no reason it wouldn't apply to other fields. That is, the analysis itself is "totally agnostic" with respect to discipline, he said. Still, Esarey said that his findings imply that more heterogenous fields without a settled paradigm -- namely political science -- will have a peer review system that is "less efficient that more homogenous fields that do have a settled paradigm, like chemistry."



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A professor's lesson wasn't actually about pomegranates

Mon, 2017-10-16 07:00

Outsiders might think students at Des Moines Area Community College can be sure of one thing when they take a class with psychology professor Jane Martino: don’t bring pomegranates to class.

“No pomegranates,” she screamed at the class, repeatedly, in a video that has gone viral on Twitter and Reddit.

“Say it -- ‘No pomegranates.’ No, no, no, no, no pomegranates,” she yells, jumping up and down.

Martino’s tirade in the video, however, isn’t related to an actual classroom rule. It’s a lesson in negative reinforcement, and the over-the-top antics, she said, were all part of the lesson. Of course, that part of her class wasn't videotaped and shared.

“If you only tell kids what not to do, all you’re doing is filling their heads with garbage. Instead, if you say, ‘Hey how about a kiwi, shouldn’t we have a kiwi now,’ the kid might go, ‘OK.’ If you tell them what not to do, then that’s what’s going in,” Martino told a local NBC affiliate.

The video, however, doesn’t convey the underlying psychological principles of the exercise. Cut up and posted on the internet, it's a perfect mix for going viral, being both bizarre and seemingly inexplicable.

Far-right news site Breitbart ran an article on the video -- titled "Iowa Professor Goes on Bizarre Rant About Pomegranates" -- where commenters pounced on the notion of a screaming liberal professor.

“In my personal experience, psychology professors are all nuts,” the top comment reads. “Sociology professors hate society, and psychology professors hate themselves.”

In a later reply, a commenter calls social workers “left-wing nuts” and labels psychology “a joke.”

Those who have actually taken Martino’s classes, on the other hand, had positive things to say, telling the NBC affiliate that she treats them like family.

“Don’t judge someone by a little 20-second video. Just be sure to know the full details, and then after that you can actually judge them and see what you think is right and wrong," said Bernardo Pantoja, one of Martino's students.

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Breaking: NCAA finds no academic fraud by UNC

Mon, 2017-10-16 07:00

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sponsored fake classes for nearly two decades, giving students, many of them athletes, credit for courses never taught by instructors. But the university will escape all punishment by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The ruling the association announced Friday has been publicly panned as going light in response to one of the worst academic scandals in college sports history, adding to what some observers say is mounting evidence of the NCAA’s continuing weakness in controlling and punishing its member institutions.

After a three-and-half-year investigation, and despite the institution even agreeing that it had engaged in academic fraud, the NCAA said it couldn’t definitively conclude that the “paper courses” in the department of African and Afro-American studies had been designed and offered as an effort to benefit athletes alone. Thus, according to the NCAA's Committee on Infractions, which adjudicates allegations of wrongdoing, the courses did not violate the group's rules.

The university aggressively fought the NCAA's efforts to assert its authority in this case, spending roughly $18 million on legal and other fees. The NCAA's enforcement division, which essentially acts as the prosecutor in infractions cases, had charged North Carolina with "lack of institutional control" and "failure to monitor" its athletes' academic courses, among the most serious charges in the associations' rule book. But the infractions committee said it could not reach those findings because it did not have evidence to prove the underlying charges of awarding "extra benefits" to athletes.

Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference and leader of infractions panel, said in a statement that his panel was "troubled by the university's shifting positions about whether academic fraud occurred on its campus."

“However, NCAA policy is clear. The NCAA defers to its member schools to determine whether academic fraud occurred and, ultimately, the panel is bound to making decisions within the rules set by the membership," his statement said.

In a conference call with reporters, Sankey acknowledged that “more likely than not” the classes had been set up to keep athletes eligible, but he also said that the evidence put before the committee did not prove so definitively.

“I think it’s important to understand the panel is in no way supporting what happened,” Sankey said.

Instead, the NCAA will forward its decision to the university's accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges, which can address academic inconsistencies. Previously, the body had placed the university on a yearlong probation in 2015, ending in 2016, for violating seven accreditation standards, one of them being academic integrity. It was the strongest punishment the accreditor could deliver besides revoking accreditation entirely.

A Complex and Confounding Case

At its core, the NCAA was examining whether UNC had violated the association's restrictions on “extra benefits,” which refers to certain advantages, such as financial payments or academic assistance, that are offered to athletes but not the wider student body.

A law firm's 2014 report commissioned by the university did find that nonathletes also benefited from the classes. That report, which cited a “woeful lack of oversight” and a culture that confused academic freedom with lack of accountability, concluded that more than 3,100 UNC students enrolled in the courses. About half of those in the 188 faux classes were athletes. Investigators concluded that university employees were aware of the fraud and actively steered athletes and other struggling students to those courses.

The report details a plan by Deborah Crowder, a former manager in the African and Afro-American studies department, who was sympathetic to struggling students ("particularly athletes"), to help them. Julius Nyang’oro, former chairman of the department, delegated her significant responsibilities, enabling Crowder to set up classes that required only a single research paper, which she graded without much regard to their quality.

"Crowder felt a strong affinity for student athletes in particular, and she gave them ready access to these watered-down classes to help them manage their competing athletic and academic time demands," the report states.

The Committee on Infractions report reads like it was written while its members were biting their collective tongues. It acknowledges that athletes clearly benefited from the longstanding arrangement, presenting evidence that "the classes disproportionately favored student-athlete enrollments, the courses had a recognizable positive impact on [athletes'] GPAs" and the officials in the university's academic advising unit for athletes "colluded with" the Afro-American studies department chair and department secretary "to benefit student athletes."

The report also criticizes UNC officials for shifting their views about whether what occurred there was academic fraud, noting that the university acknowledged that misconduct had occurred upon release of the law firm's 2014 report (and said as much to the accrediting agency), but then argued to the contrary during the NCAA's infractions process, when such a concession might have opened it to significant penalties. Among other things, the panel notes that the university contended that its use of the phrase "academic fraud" was a typographical error.

"The panel is troubled by UNC's shifting positions … depending on the audience," the report states.

The report goes on to state that its members generally believe that UNC athletes benefited from the wrongdoing in a way that the NCAA would normally seek to punish. "It is more likely than not that student athletes received fraudulent credit by the common understanding of what that term means. It is also more likely than not that UNC personnel used the courses to purposely obtain and maintain student athletes' eligibility" -- exactly the type of behavior that NCAA rules are designed to prevent and punish.

The panel notes that it considered adding an allegation of academic fraud against UNC -- as the committee has the authority to do -- even though the association's enforcement staff had not made that charge against the university. (The infractions committee's report implicitly criticizes the enforcement division for framing the UNC wrongdoing exclusively as an "extra benefits" case.) But UNC's vehement (recent) assertions that the courses did not violate UNC policy at the time and that the grades awarded would continue to count toward degrees left the panel with no choice, its members said, not to bring an academic fraud charge.

Punishments and Not

Crowder and Nyang'oro were punished by the infractions panel for unethical conduct and failure to cooperate, and the former department chair received a relatively meaningless five-year show-cause order from the NCAA, meaning the now retired academic will find it difficult to secure a job in college athletics.

Asked by a reporter what the NCAA would consider a breach of the “extra benefits” rule -- whether the UNC case would have qualified if significantly more athletes than nonathletes had enrolled in the classes -- Sankey, head of the infractions panel, didn’t answer directly, saying he wanted to avoid hypotheticals.

Another reporter questioned the availability of the courses; while nonathletes enrolled, interviews the reporter conducted suggested that the classes weren't widely known or advertised.

In a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon, Mark Merritt, UNC's vice chancellor and general counsel, characterized the classes not as fraudulent, but rather lacking professorial oversight with easy grading -- akin to an independent study model, he said.

The university was not proud of the behavior, Merritt said during the call, but argued that it did not violate NCAA bylaws.

"The university does not minimize the extent of the academic irregularities it experienced, even as it emphasizes that those matters are beyond the NCAA’s purview," UNC's lawyers stated in a letter to the NCAA last year in which it strongly disputed the NCAA's charges. "These matters concern fundamental institutional, not athletic, integrity, and they are not the proper subject of an NCAA enforcement action."

UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol L. Folt in the afternoon call said she “expected” this outcome after the NCAA had reviewed the case, despite intense clashing between the association and the university.

When asked by a reporter whether Folt would support prospective NCAA legislation to make shadow courses like UNC’s a punishable offensive, she refused to answer, saying that the college accreditors were well equipped to handle academic fraud.

Folt said in an earlier statement Friday, “Carolina long ago publicly accepted responsibility for what happened in the past. One of the highest priorities of this administration has been to resolve this issue by following the facts, understanding what occurred and taking every opportunity to make our university stronger.”

Despite NCAA assertions that it was bound by its bylaws, it stepped in and levied harsh sanctions in one infamous case in which the institution didn’t violate one clear rule: Pennsylvania State University. In 2012, when the child molestation scandal involving the former coach Jerry Sandusky was at its peak, the NCAA circumvented its usual process of an independent panel assigning punishment, and its executive committee instead slammed the university with $60 million in fines -- then considered about a year’s worth of football revenue -- and vacated wins from 1998 onward.

At the time, athletics experts said they believed the move could launch a new era of NCAA enforcement, though back then, the association’s president, Mark Emmert, denied that it was “opening Pandora’s box.”

Reactions From the Experts

Josephine R. Potuto, the Richard H. Larson Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and a former member of the Division I infractions committee, said that the infractions committee's report was filled with the sort of language the panel uses when it is unhappy with the choices before it.

"They did what a hearing body is supposed to do: evaluating the evidence it received according to the laws that the legislative body [the NCAA's members] have given you," Potuto said. But the panel's report managed to make pretty clear, she added, that its members were concerned about UNC's behavior, "how the case was charged by the enforcement division" and "whether where the member institutions have drawn the line is the right place to draw the line" in defining academic misconduct.

Last year, the NCAA's members for the first time in three decades altered the association's rules governing academic fraud, which essentially make colleges accountable for holding athletes to the same academic integrity policies that apply to all of their students, but put the onus on the institutions themselves (rather than the association) to gauge when such misconduct occurs.

There is a "really solid argument for where that line is drawn," Potuto said, given that the NCAA is primarily an athletics body and colleges (and their faculties) tend to want autonomy over academic matters.

But such an approach essentially leaves the association without recourse if an institution judges academic fraud not to have occurred by its own policies, Potuto said -- which the following language in the infractions panel's report pretty clearly suggests may have happened in this case:

"The membership trusts academic entities to hold themselves accountable and report academic fraud to the NCAA and has chosen to constrain who decides what constitutes academic fraud. Because of this limitation, UNC's decision to support the courses as legitimate combined with a stale and incomplete record that does not allow the panel to drill down to the course and assignment level -- even if the panel had wanted to second-guess the courses -- it cannot conclude academic fraud occurred."

“What they’re saying is, ‘Here’s what we’re bound to, by the bylaws that were adopted and the evidence that was given to us,’” Potuto said.

She said she suspected the UNC case might prompt the NCAA's members to reassess where they have drawn the line on academic misconduct.

Marc Edelman, professor of law at Baruch College and a sports law specialist, said that the NCAA errs on the side of stricter sanctions when it wants to. Because the Penn State case received such an avalanche of negative press, the NCAA perceived it was politically prudent to act. If the association had cracked down in this case, it likely would have opened the possibility of investigations into similar practices -- which are almost certainly happening -- at other big-name institutions, Edelman said.

In this case, Edelman said, UNC probably benefited from the recent scandal in the college basketball world, in which federal prosecutors last month announced bribery and corruption charges against four assistant or associate coaches at top-tier institutions, and a bevy of Adidas executives and others affiliated with the company. The FBI is continuing its investigation in the case, with hints that the fraud is much more widespread. Edelman said the association doesn't want to be engaging in pricey legal battles with multiple of its members.

Dave Ridpath, president of the athletics ethics watchdog Drake Group, called the NCAA and its ruling "shameful," and said that it demonstrates institutions can get away with academic fraud and game the system.

Ridpath said according to athletics directors and former members of the NCAA's Division I Committee on Infractions he spoke with, this was a clear and atrocious example of academic fraud. But ultimately, Ridpath said, he wasn't surprised.

"I don't think that the NCAA enforcement committee ever would have the guts to punish North Carolina," he said.

Because of the severity of the scandal, Ridpath said UNC would be eligible for the NCAA's harshest sanction, the "death penalty," which would mean shutting down the institution's athletics for at least one season. Such a punishment hasn't been levied since the 1980s, when it was used against Southern Methodist University, however, making a death penalty in this case unlikely.

The NCAA back then "felt like" harshly punishing the next institution to break the rules, Edelman said.

"People have to remember NCAA is a private trade association that is run and operated by its members," he said. "Despite what the NCAA proclaims on paper, the primary objective of this association for upwards of the past 30 years is to keep the revenues from college sports in the hand of its own voting members -- coaches and athletics directors … One would like to believe the NCAA is primarily concerned about the education of athletes, but that seems to take a secondary role."

Doug Lederman contributed to this article.

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