Higher Education News

Could Wayne State be paralyzed for a year?

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 15, 2019 - 7:00pm

Students cheered last month as the president of Wayne State University, M. Roy Wilson, alongside the mayor of Detroit and the governor of Michigan, announced a free tuition program for students who attend city high schools.

Coming off the heels of the university winning an award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and national praise for improving graduation rates, the event seemed to be another sign of its upward trajectory.

But, for some, it was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Members of the Board of Governors were upset because, save for the board chair, they all received notice of the announcement less than two hours before the public event, and they had no opportunity to discuss the financial implications of the program.

So, on Nov. 6, Michael Busuito, one of the eight board members, moved to fire Wilson or let him resign effective immediately. Four members voted in favor, but the other three refused to vote and walked out. (One board member wasn’t at the meeting.)

Now, Busuito is talking about Wilson’s time as president in the past tense, the four board members who support Wilson are calling the vote illegitimate and students and faculty members alike feel the university is effectively paralyzed.

Divisions and Awards

While divisions among board members have recently come to a head, tensions have been boiling up for months now, starting in December 2018 with the vote to extend Wilson’s contract, which some members felt was rushed.

Efforts to strike a deal between the university’s medical school and the Henry Ford Health System fell apart, the University Physician Group has declared bankruptcy, doctors are suing the university, and the university’s accrediting agency found that a board member was trying to operate the university behind the Wilson’s back -- and that's not even all of the issues.

Meanwhile, Wayne State has won a second award from the APLU. The university’s troubled graduation rates are improving faster than anyone else in the country, and its African American graduation rate has tripled.

Wilson, a medical doctor who has served as a deputy director at the National Institutes of Health and in several administrative positions at medical schools, was hired by Wayne State in 2013. He has been praised for turning the university around after a 2010 report from the Education Trust found that Wayne State had one of the largest racial achievement gaps in the country.

“I know that Roy personally has been deeply engaged” with improving outcomes, said Peter McPherson, president of the land-grant association.

McPherson, who worked with Wilson when he was chair of the association's Commission on Information, Measurement and Analysis and a member of the APLU board, described Wilson as “thoroughly prepared” and as someone who makes good judgments.

Community members, business leaders and former board members have come forward in support of Wilson, who is doubling down and refuses to resign. Wilson declined to be interviewed because “he’s working to bring the board together,” according to a spokeswoman for the university.

A Referendum on Wilson

The state attorney general's office received a complaint about the Nov. 6 vote and is reviewing what happened to determine whether there was a violation of the Open Meetings Act. If there was a violation, the office would make recommendations as to what should be done. There is no deadline for the review, according to a spokeswoman for the office.

In the meantime, after the board sat through two retreats that failed to resolve issues, the only solution seems to be to wait for the November 2020 election, according to Kim Trent, the board's chair.

Both Trent and Sandra Hughes O’Brien, the former chair, will be up for re-election. Trent has sided with Wilson, while O’Brien is one of the members pushing him to resign.

Because board members are elected by Michigan residents, it could turn into a “referendum on President Wilson,” Trent said.

“I think it will be a referendum on what the citizens of Michigan want,” she said. “I think it will be a referendum on whether or not the direction they think the university has been led under this administration is the direction they want to go in.”

But some don’t think that solution is best for the university.

“I think what this has been warped into is a trial of a person, when I don’t think that’s really a useful way to view this kind of problem,” said Stuart Baum, a senior at the university and president of the Student Senate.

Among students, Baum said, there isn’t a consensus on one side or the other. But there is a consensus that they want the fighting to stop.

“From our standpoint, we think the issues are worth looking at but the personal fighting doesn’t help,” he said. “It’s not like one side or another is wholly clean. We have institutional challenges that we need to face together.”

The standstill is also affecting Baum's work in student government. While the Senate isn’t taking sides and is trying to continue its job, there’s a “hesitance” from administrators to tackle larger issues, Baum said.

For example, a proposed amendment to the board’s code that would make student representation more consistent was stalled because the administration said it didn’t want to present more things to the board out of concern that it will lead to more fighting.

From Busuito’s perspective, Wilson is the one who has to go.

“This university can’t start healing until he’s out of Detroit,” he said, adding that it would be selfish for Wilson to continue working as president until the board makeup possibly changes next year.

According to Busuito, Wilson has told him and other board members upon their election who to trust and who not to trust on the board. Busuito says Wilson is the cause of the board’s division.

From the outside, the situation seems like “a couple of kids in the playground having a fight,” said James Finkelstein, a professor emeritus of public policy at George Mason University who researches university presidents.

The difference is what’s at stake: the reputation and future of the university, which affects faculty, staff and students.

“I can’t recall many situations where a board and a president have been more at odds with one another than what you’re seeing play out at Wayne State right now,” Finkelstein said.

Some question why Wilson would stay at the university through all of the scandals. It’s possible it’s financial, Finkelstein said.

If Wilson resigns, his compensation and benefits will end on the effective date, but if he’s fired with or without cause, he could get a severance package, according to his contract. If he’s fired for reasons other than “moral turpitude or malfeasance,” he would receive severance pay and the opportunity to stay on as a faculty member of the School of Medicine.

Either way, the situation now is “problematic,” said Charles Parrish, a professor of political science at the university and president of Wayne State's AAUP-AFT chapter.

“If you have a board that’s at loggerheads, you can’t get anything passed,” he said. “A year without anything getting passed is not good.”

‘A Lot at Stake’

Rich Novak, a senior fellow at the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, said it’s bad timing for the university to face a potentially damaged reputation.

“The comeback of Detroit mirrors the comeback of Wayne State, and I think this not only hurts the morale of the campus, but it’s got to also hurt the community,” Novak said. “My recommendation to the board is, there’s a lot at stake here.”

And the division likely won’t just go away with Wilson, he said. Over time, he suspects it will pop back up, no matter who is leading.

This could hurt the university’s ability to recruit quality leaders, he said, adding that while a strong personality might be able to handle a divided board, “I think a lot of people would just shy away from it.”

Novak, like some others following the discord, said it might be time for Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, to get involved.

“There’s some political risk for her to do that, but she is the governor,” he said, adding that she could just tell the board as a whole that they need to unite.

The governor’s office did not return requests for comment.

In the end, the board members need to “just think individually and collectively about why are they there,” he said, and set aside their differences.

As far as waiting for the next election goes, Novak said, “A year is a long time to waste.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Colleges determine how to protect students from opioid epidemic

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 15, 2019 - 7:00pm

The University of Southern California is investigating whether a spate of student deaths over the last month is related to drug overdoses. Although toxicology reports are still pending, university administrators are warning students about the dangers of opioids and recreational narcotics that could unknowingly be mixed with opioids.

“These losses have shaken our community and our sympathy goes out to the families and friends who are mourning loved ones,” Winston Crisp, the vice president of student affairs, along with the chiefs of public safety and health services, wrote in a letter to students. “We need you to be aware of the dangers posed by drug use. In particular, we want you to be informed about the dangers of abusing opioids.”​

University officials sent the letter in an email to students on Tuesday evening, one day after a student was found dead in an off-campus apartment on Nov. 11. Two other students were found dead on Nov. 8 and 9, and two others died in October. A university spokesperson and the Los Angeles County medical examiner could not confirm the students’ causes of death. ​

The investigation of the deaths was first reported by the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. The deaths have raised questions about whether USC and other colleges across the country should be implementing formal drug overdose prevention methods on campus, which until recently was not a major concern given the low overdose death rates among college-age people compared to other groups.

While college students are less likely to misuse opioids -- in prescription form or as illicit drugs like heroin -- there is increasing concern that pressed pills and white-powder narcotics sold illegally can be cross-contaminated with fentanyl, said Lucas Hill, the director and principal investigator for Operation Naloxone at the University of Texas at Austin. Opioids are the leading cause of overdose deaths in the United States, and fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Operation Naloxone is an overdose prevention effort at UT that began in 2016 to promote the distribution of naloxone, a life-saving overdose-reversal drug, on the Austin campus and throughout Texas. The program began after three UT students died over the winter break that year with little explanation. A local harm-reduction group brought the deaths to the university’s attention as possible overdoses, Hill said. UT’s resident assistants are now trained to administer naloxone. The university also offers training for anyone interested, and the on-campus pharmacy has a standing order to provide naloxone to people without requiring a prescription, he said.

But overdose-prevention strategies like these are typically implemented as a reaction to a high-profile overdose death or series of deaths, Hill said.

“For a lot of these programs or approaches, the emphasis is the overdose death that occurs on their campus, in their dorm or in the family of a campus administrator,” Hill said. “The power of those anecdotes is clear. We’re hoping that the power of our anecdotes will help other campuses embrace this, but we’re hearing that campus administrators are saying, ‘We don’t really have that problem here.’ ‘That hasn’t happened to us.’”

USC officials' proactive steps so far do not indicate denial. Department of Public Safety officers carry and are trained to administer naloxone, a university spokesperson wrote in an email.

An association of USC pharmacy students distributes naloxone kits and provides overdose-prevention information to homeless people in downtown Los Angeles, near the university’s health sciences campus, but they have not done this work in University Park, where undergraduate students live, wrote Brooke Pigneri, a doctor of pharmacy student and president-elect of USC’s chapter of the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists. The naloxone kits require a prescription, and the group partners with a homeless health-care organization to legally distribute them, she wrote in an email.

Universities are eligible under California law to distribute naloxone, but individuals cannot obtain it without a prescription, according to the Network for Public Health Law.

Still, the stigma of illegal drug use and substance abuse disorders remains strong, and college administrators often worry that parents, prospective students and alumni who hear of an overdose-prevention program on campus may assume the campus has a “drug problem,” Hill said.

This fear was discussed at a White House meeting on the opioid crisis on college campuses. The Office of National Drug Control Policy invited college and university officials and harm-reduction advocates from across the country to discuss how campuses are combating the opioid epidemic, according to Jim Carroll, the agency's director. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and other federal officials also attended.

“No one is immune,” Carroll said. “We’re doing prevention in grade schools, and we’re also doing it for people living in communities who are above college age. There is a real need to sit down with colleges and universities, whether they’re community colleges or on U.S. News and World [Report]’s Best Colleges list, educating them on what the issues really are and making sure they’re addressing it, but providing a forum for schools leading the way to share strategy.”

He said there is "an appetite" on college campuses to better educate officials and students on overdose prevention.

"This is an example of why we need to reach all ages, all populations, and make sure we’re doing everything in our power to prevent the loss of life," Carroll said of the deaths at USC.

Carroll said the ONDCP and the Department of Education may consider updating Obama administration guidance issued in 2011 for institutional drug and alcohol policy to include information on opioid education and prevention.

Hill, who attended the meeting and spoke on a panel about naloxone accessibility on campuses, said campuses that stock naloxone at the ready for student and staff member use “remain extremely rare.”

Operation Naloxone was one of the first programs of its kind in the nation, and Hill has only heard from 20 institutions asking for advice on how to start their own programs. It’s hard to know how many of those campuses followed through with implementation, he said.

Providing naloxone is the easiest way for universities to start their prevention strategy, said Devin Jopp, CEO of the American College Health Association. In a 2018 survey of 170 institutions in ACHA’s Connected College Health Network, 64 percent of institutions surveyed reported their campus police carry naloxone, 39 percent had it available in student health services, 7 percent said it was provided in “other areas” and 12 percent reported it was not available at all, Jopp said.

“I don’t know that we’ve seen increases necessarily in college campus overdoses, but I can understand the concern around it, and we would share trying to get in front of it rather than around it,” Jopp said. “There’s also the other side of it -- universities can also be drivers of change in communities and provide opportunities for the communities that surround our campuses to help recover from addictions or more.”

David Arnold, assistant vice president for health, safety and well-being initiatives at NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, said it’s important for leaders of institutional prevention efforts to understand how their geography impacts the prevalence of opioids on and around their campuses. Local data can be much more telling than national data, and college students, even if they're on a campus with little drug use, can still be affected by the level of drug use in the surrounding community.

“When we’re talking about opioids in particular and some of the CDC’s geography on this, there are certain areas that are more impacted,” Arnold said. “Southern California has been an emerging one, and the eastern Midwest is where we’re continuing to talk on these issues.”

USC’s warning notice students about possibly tainted street narcotics addressed its responsibility as a university to keep students safe, even though it’s still unclear what exactly caused the students’ deaths, Arnold said.

“It’s a huge tragedy,” Arnold said. “I think the way that USC is responding is showing dedication to student health and safety.”

At the University of Texas, Operation Naloxone has found that students or staff members at risk of overdosing, or bystanders who have naloxone on hand because the university gave it to them, are most likely to save lives, Hill said. Five overdoses have been reversed this way since 2016, he said.

“More schools should be doing it in some manner,” Hill said. “There might be a variety of ways to do that, depending on the size of the school and key stakeholders, but getting naloxone and getting it to students, staff and faculty is very important in some form. Schools that don’t do that, and those that have their doses of naloxone locked away in student health services, aren’t going to reap the benefits of that.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Mindfulness significantly benefits graduate students, says first study of its kind

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 15, 2019 - 7:00pm

Ph.D. students already have too much to do and a long list of challenges, from research setbacks to paying the bills on a meager salary. That’s not to mention the things that can really go wrong for a graduate student, such as having an abusive adviser. So the notion that a bit of mindfulness -- however popular it’s become -- can make a difference in a graduate student’s life may seem annoyingly quaint, or even offensive.

paper in the Journal of American College Health on the effects of mindfulness practice on doctoral candidates’ mental health acknowledges all that. At the same time, the authors can’t help believing in what they found in their randomized control trial -- the first such trial involving graduate students: compared to the control group, students who practiced mindfulness reported a statistically significant reduction in depression and increased self-efficacy, hope and resilience.

This was true even as students in the intervention group, on average, did many fewer practices over the eight-week study than the researchers recommended. Something like meditation but not quite the same thing, mindfulness is the state of being aware of the present moment and all one’s sensations and feelings, without judgment. A goal is to become more centered by creating distance between oneself and one's thoughts, so that they’re less overwhelming. The mindfulness “tool” in the study at hand was a 30-minute guided-practice audio CD. It coached students to focus on the sound of their breath going in and out, for instance. Students were supposed to listen to it daily, for a total of 56 times. In the end, the average number of times listened was 35.

“An even greater effect may be possible if students practiced more often,” the authors of the study said in a write-up on their study for The Conversation. “Alternatively, a daily practice may not be required in participants who are used to learning new complex skills so often. Or, shorter practices (such as 5-10 minutes) could be used with similar effect,” such as those available through various apps.

Source: Barry et al.

Some institutions are already using apps for this purpose. Carnegie Mellon University’s Student Affairs Wellness Initiatives, for instance, offers students, faculty and staff members a free subscription to Headspace, which includes a beginner’s meditation course and hundreds of hours of content. The university also has non-credit-bearing mindfulness courses and a mindfulness room for guided and drop-in meditation. Some other campuses have similar offerings. And the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Intramural Training and Education has mindfulness meditation groups, in addition to workshops on managing stress and becoming a resilient scientist.

A number of academic researchers also study mindfulness and its effects in various populations. Undergraduates and medical students have been involved in previous studies. But the newest paper is the first to consider graduate students in particular and guided practice. That’s significant because graduate students haven’t historically been at the center of health services planning, even though they display mental health problems at relatively high rates. One 2018 study found that graduate students were six times more likely to be depressed or anxious than the general population. A global survey in Nature, released this week, also found that 36 percent of graduate students experienced depression or anxiety related to their studies -- and those were just the ones who reached out for help.

The mindfulness study says that the practice is not a panacea for mental distress or, again, the trials of graduate school. Students were prescreened for the study, and those who showed severe levels of distress on standard tests for depression or anxiety were referred  for treatment -- and not accepted into the study. About 80 students at an Australian university participated on a volunteer basis. But co-author Karen Barry, a lead graduate research coordinator there at the University of Tasmania, said via email that the findings would likely apply in the U.S.

Anna O’Connell, a consultant on graduate training and mentoring who until recently ran the biomedical graduate program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said she's practiced mindfulness “inconsistently” for years. Even so, it's helped her navigate work and life and having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. O’Connell also helped introduce a mindfulness practice program within the UNC graduate program.

O'Connell said she acknowledged that idea of mindfulness may turn off students who “have reached the end of their ropes” with academe's many structural issues. But even if it’s a “small thing that can help,” she asked, “why not try everything?”

She added, “These wellness programs, as long as they’re not taking resources away from other issues, they’re a good thing to do. And I like seeing data to suggest that mindfulness improves all these dimensions of mental health -- optimism and self-efficacy. These are all good things.”

Daniel Aldrich, professor of political science at Northeastern University, starts every morning in a group prayer with fellow members of his Jewish faith. It’s not  mindfulness strictly defined, but the effect is the same, he said: gaining a feeling of perspective that lasts throughout the day. Aldrich also advises his graduate students to take up mindfulness, meditation or some sort of activity that creates space between oneself and one’s work.

Asked why graduate school is so trying, Aldrich blamed a sense of powerlessness and standing still, even as one’s peer group outside academe moves on. There is also often social isolation, and the work is never really done, he said.

“You’re just as underpaid and underappreciated in the fifth year of graduate school as you are in the first year,” Aldrich joked. “I tell my graduate students that at some point in your career, you’re going to feel like you really need to step back from the pressures and stress.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

New presidents or provosts: Bennett BAC Georgetown Montevallo Paterson St. John's St. Louis SRTC

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 15, 2019 - 7:00pm
  • Mary Beth Armstrong, interim vice president for academic affairs and professor and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Montevallo, in Alabama, has been promoted to provost and vice president for academic affairs there.
  • Mahesh Daas, dean of the School of Architecture and Design at the University of Kansas, has been chosen as president of Boston Architectural College, in Massachusetts.
  • Julie Fickas, interim president and chief academic officer at St. Louis Community College's Forest Park campus, in Missouri, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • James Glass, provost at Southern Regional Technical College, in Georgia, has been promoted to president there.
  • Simon Geir Møller, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at St. John's University, in New York, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • William A. Jones, president of Bethany College, in Kansas, has been selected as president of Georgetown College, in Kentucky.
  • Feleccia Moore-Davis, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Tallahassee Community College, in Florida, has been appointed president and chief academic officer of St. Louis Community College's Wildwood campus, in Missouri.
  • Joshua B. Powers, administrative fellow for the Vermont State Colleges System and former associate vice president for academic affairs at Indiana State University, has been chosen as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at William Paterson University, in New Jersey.
  • Suzanne Walsh, deputy director of postsecondary success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in Washington State, has been named president of Bennett College, in North Carolina.
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Categories: Higher Education News

Differences in college ROI vary by institution, type and time frame measured, report says

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 14, 2019 - 7:00pm

What kind of a return on investment can a student expect to get on his or her college education?

The answer depends on any number of factors. Cost of attendance, choice of college and type of degree attained are just a few of the major ones.

A new report released today by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce examines several of those factors and how they affect returns on students’ investment. The report uses data made available on the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard -- net price and median earnings -- in order to calculate the net present value of degrees and credentials from different colleges over short and long time frames. It ranks more than 4,500 public, private nonprofit and private for-profit colleges awarding bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees and certificates. It ranks the institutions as a whole but not their individual programs, although its authors hope to be able to analyze program-level return on investment in the near future.

Generally, community colleges and a large number of certificate programs posted the highest return on investment in the short term, defined as a 10-year period. Colleges that award mostly bachelor’s degrees did much better over the long run, a 40-year time frame.

Public colleges tended to return more on investment over 10 years than private nonprofit colleges did, but private nonprofit institutions returned more over 40 years.

Those findings are driven to various degrees by the fact that community colleges and certificate programs take less time to complete and tend to cost less than a bachelor’s degree. Students can finish credentials quickly and start earning.

At the other end of the spectrum, four-year degrees from private nonprofit colleges cost much more and take longer to earn, keeping many students from participating fully in the labor force for longer periods of time. But they tend to pay off as the years add up, because median annual earnings 10 years after enrollment are almost $8,000 higher for private nonprofit college graduates than they are for those who graduated from public colleges.

An average private college graduate can expect to see an economic gain of $838,000 over 40 years, the report says. Public college graduates can expect less, $765,000. For-profit college graduates can expect $551,000.

For all colleges measured, the median gain 10 years after enrollment was $107,000. It was $723,000 for all colleges at the 40-year marker.

The findings reinforce the idea that college is worth the investment, according to the report’s authors and several experts who reviewed it. But they also leave room for a large amount of nuance and exceptions, and some experts raised methodological questions.

Exceptions to the top-level takeaways include that some public institutions rank among the many private nonprofit colleges with the best long-term return on investment. A couple of four-year private nonprofit colleges posted top rankings in both the 10- and 40-year time frames.

A key nuanced point is that the middle of the pack is more muddled than might be expected. Look at the 50th percentile, institutions not rated as having particularly low or high returns on investment after 40 years, and you’ll find four-year colleges. But you’ll also find community colleges and some for-profit colleges, said Anthony Carnevale, a research professor at Georgetown and director of the university's Center on Education and the Workforce, who is an author of the report.

“In the middle of the distribution of the American postsecondary institutions, it’s a fair fight between four-year schools, two-year schools, for-profit schools, not-for-profit schools,” Carnevale said.

That suggests students and the counselors who guide them through college choices should look at individual institutions over institution type, Carnevale said. While many students and families may assume that elite private colleges outperform other types of institutions, the results for most individual students are mixed.

Net Present Value and Other Assumptions

The report approaches return on investment by using net present value, describing the concept by using the idiom that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

In other words, people generally value the things they currently possess more than the things they might gain in the future by taking a risk, the report says. To account for this fact, economists try to calculate the time value of money, increasingly discounting projected cash flows as they peer further into the future.

Authors applied that concept when examining data from the College Scorecard. They looked at institutions that reported net price and median earnings six, eight and 10 years after students’ initial college attendance. Earnings after 10 years were used as “a reasonable proxy for future earnings.” Some institutions were excluded for various reasons, including those that primarily awarded graduate degrees.

A total of 4,529 colleges ended up in the data set. Almost two-fifths, about 39 percent, were public institutions, 34 percent were private for-profit institutions, and 28 percent were private nonprofit institutions.

Median 10-year reported earnings among those working and not enrolled were $32,300. The report also looks at colleges’ median debt, excluding private loans and loans to parents, finding it to be $9,774 across the entire sample.

Experts who weren’t involved in the report questioned some of the assumptions baked into it. It does not take into account what a student could earn if he or she immediately entered the workforce straight out of high school, for example. Nor does it adjust for the fact that some institutions disproportionately enroll students with different characteristics that make them more or less likely to earn higher wages than their peers.

“The problem is that there is significant selection [bias] regarding who goes to each institution,” Phillip Levine, a professor of economics at Wellesley College, said in an email. “M.I.T. students are brilliant. If they didn't go to college at all, it is unlikely that they would make the minimum wage. What matters is how much is their wage relative to what it would have been had they not gone to college. If you ignore this point, you will get estimates suggesting the M.I.T. has a very high ROI. Maybe that's true, but it's hard to know.”

Think about it another way: if a college mostly trains preachers, it’s not likely to score highly in return on investment, because preachers don’t tend to make large amounts of money.

A college that only trains preachers raises another point: its graduates might not care as much about money as other college graduates. Measuring return on investment doesn’t recognize the possibility that colleges and students alike seek more than economic benefits from postsecondary education.

The report assumed a 2 percent interest rate when calculating net present value. That prompted some discussion among experts, because the lower the interest rate, the more money earned in the future would be worth today. A higher interest rate would be more in line with historical norms -- and would lower the expected return on investment for college.

Financial aid for low-income students could significantly change the return on investment they could expect to receive for earning a degree, Levine said. But the report’s net price data don’t capture the different prices students might pay.

“This report considerably understates the ROI for lower-income families,” Levine said. “A student whose parents make, say, $50,000 per year or less (with typical assets for that income level) may have an ROI of two or more times as great as the level stated because of the greater generosity of financial aid. Students from those families certainly need to understand the value of a college degree and, as a society, we need to find ways to enable them to receive one.”

Many other factors could be added into return-on-investment calculations.

“Given all the things that go into determining these numbers, and given the sort of lack of precision, publishing this list of individual institutions to me is questionable,” said Sandy Baum, a nonresident senior fellow at the Urban Institute. “There are so many factors that go into earnings, one being the characteristics of the incoming students.”

The report acknowledges many different caveats. They include not accounting for the way economic shocks can affect specific occupations, the way people living in different geographic regions have different earning potential and the way industry-specific shocks might affect certain groups. It also didn’t consider how earnings for the particular cohorts studied might differ from other groups of students -- an important point, considering that the students in the study entered college just before the Great Recession hit.

Also, different students at the very same institution have vastly different earning potentials based on what they study. Income differences by field are much more important to convey to students than which institution he or she attends, said Arthur M. Hauptman, a public policy consultant specializing in higher education finance.

“The best approach would be to use the overall data to see what fields are more remunerative, if that’s your primary goal,” Hauptman said. “Then look for schools that have good programs. If you know what field you want to go into, then choose the school based on the field. The Scorecard makes things worse to me, because it’s merging this issue of school and program.”

Carnevale has emphasized the need to look at program-level data many times in the past. He hopes to address return on investment at the program level in the future.

“There is a certain effect of going to a certain kind of school,” he said. “But there is a second effect, which in many cases is much more powerful: the program you’re in.”

The Georgetown CEW expects the federal government to soon release program-level data that would allow similar ROI calculations to be performed for different majors or programs.

“There’s a second tier of information that in many cases is more important,” Carnevale said. “That’s program. That is field of study, and so forth. There is a whole substructure underneath this data, which will change this number a lot.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Ph.D. student poll finds mental health, bullying and career uncertainty are top concerns

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 14, 2019 - 7:00pm

More than a third of Ph.D. students have sought help for anxiety or depression caused by Ph.D. study, according to results of a global survey of 6,300 students from Nature.

Thirty-six percent is a very large share, considering that many students who suffer don’t reach out for help. Still, the figure parallels those found by other studies on the topic. A 2018 study of mostly Ph.D. students, for instance, found that 39 percent of respondents scored in the moderate-to-severe depression range. That’s compared to 6 percent of the general population measured with the same scale.

Nature’s survey of graduate students of different backgrounds and fields is its fifth in a decade. It asked about a range of issues, from planned career paths to work hours to overall program satisfaction. But the data on mental health, including a question asked of all respondents for the first time this year, are particularly alarming -- even as they add to our vital understanding of a serious problem. 

“Sadly, the findings are very in line with what we hear, and what we ourselves experience,” said Kaylynne M. Glover, director of legislative affairs at the National Association of Graduate and Professional Students, an advocacy organization.

Calling graduate education “systemically abusive,” Glover said it's “a problem that crosses cities and cultures, and it affects students from low-income and marginalized backgrounds the worst.”

According to Nature’s survey, of those who sought mental health treatment or assistance, 43 percent did so at their Ph.D. institutions. About 26 percent who did said it was helpful. Eighteen percent said they didn’t feel supported. Nine percent said they wanted to seek help but that there was none available on their campus.

Additional qualitative data revealed that mental health support was usually available at Ph.D. institutions, but students had to look for it -- meaning it wasn’t promoted around campus, including by advisers. When help was available, student reported long wait times and a lack of available, affordable counselors.

Satisfaction Linked to Adviser Relationships

Not all responses pointed to problems. Seventy-four percent of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with their decision to pursue a Ph.D. They were most likely to report enjoying the following aspects of the experience: intellectual challenge; working with smart, interesting people; the academic environment and creativity.

Similarly, 71 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with their time in their programs. Factors strongly correlating with overall satisfaction include number of publications, work-life balance and, especially, the adviser-advisee relationship.

As one student said in an open comment section, success in academe “highly depends on lab/supervisor. A good supervisor can either make you happy during your Ph.D. journey or destroy your life/career.”

Another said, “The academic system doesn't always help the position of the Ph.D. student. The Ph.D. student is very dependent on their supervisor(s) and this means that a good relationship with your supervisor is a necessity for an enjoyable Ph.D. experience. I’m lucky that I have a good relationship, however I’ve seen plenty examples where this isn't the case.”

Some 53 respondents who are dissatisfied over all with their Ph.D. experience are dissatisfied with that relationship. Half of students said they got less than an hour of one-on-one time with their advisers per week. Thirty-five percent got one to three hours, and 12 percent got more than three hours.

Nearly one-quarter of students said they’d change principal investigators (typically advisers) if they could. About 8 percent of students said they wouldn’t pursue the Ph.D. at all, if granted a do-over.

Bullying

Another big problem for students was what they considered bullying -- especially by supervisors. Twenty-one percent of respondents said they’d been bullied in their programs. Of those, 48 percent said their supervisor was the perpetrator.

Less commonly, but still in many instances, other students did the bullying.

Two recent cases illustrate how this can happen. At the University of Wisconsin at Madison, for instance, an engineering graduate student named John Brady died by suicide after seven years under the supervision of a professor who was found to have berated, demeaned and threatened students. And at Arizona State University, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating a female engineering student’s complaint that men in her lab turned against her after she reported their adviser for sexual harassment.

According to additional qualitative data from Nature, instances of bullying by advisers or supervisors included acting aggressively, asking students to do work unrelated to their programs or being overly critical. Over half of those bullied said they’d felt unable to speak out. Reasons included fear of repercussions and not having an anonymous mechanism for doing so.

Glover, of the national grad student association, described her own past experiences with a difficult adviser and how the typical single mentor-mentee power dynamic of graduate education makes students so vulnerable.

“Undergraduates aren't directly tied to a single faculty member who controls their lives, but we are,” she said. “We can't change majors or even transfer programs,” or just “change jobs.” Instead, she said, “We’re getting training on a specific skill in a specific area, and for many of us, there's only a handful of people in the country who we can work with. That means that we either put up with it or we drop out, and dropping out puts our financial future at serious risk.”

Twenty-one percent of students said they’d also been harassed or discriminated against in their programs. The reported discrimination, in order of prevalence, related to gender, race, age, sex (sexual harassment), religion, disability and LGBTQ status. The overwhelming majority of respondents who reported gender discrimination and sexual harassment were women. As Nature’s was a global survey, sexual harassment was most prevalent in North and Central America.

One student commented, “The academic system needs a drastic overhaul. It has become a corrupt and abusive system. I would like to see major reforms at every single level.”

What Ph.D. Students Worry About

Asked to rate their level of satisfaction with various factors, students said they were most pleased with their degree of independence, relationship with their supervisor and their ability to attend and present at meetings and conferences.

Students were least satisfied with career pathway guidance, number of publications, work-life balance, benefits and stipend amounts. Funding dissatisfaction was most common among those students 35 or older.

About 45 percent of students said their satisfaction level had decreased since the start of graduate school. Thirteen percent were neutral, and 42 percent said the level increased.

As for what they worried about, seventy-nine percent of respondents ranked uncertainty about job or career prospects among their top five concerns. A close second concern (making 78 percent of top-five worry lists) was difficulty maintaining work-life balance. A third worry (74 percent) was the inability to finish one’s studies in the initial time period. And a close fourth concern (70 percent) was the availability of faculty research jobs, beyond postdoctoral positions. Other main worries were financial, at least in part: difficulty of getting research funding and personal finances after the Ph.D.

Midlevel concerns were concern about mental health as a result of Ph.D. study, the large share of Ph.D.s who do multiple postdocs, uncertainty about the value of a doctorate, low recognition of parenting or eldercare responsibilities, and impact of a poor adviser-advisee relationship.

Of least concern to Ph.D.s, at least relatively, were imposter syndrome, politics and student debt during the Ph.D.

Careers Paths and Preparation

Over half of respondents reported that academe was their career destination, with men being more likely to say so than women. Interest in academic research was especially high. Twenty-eight percent said they preferred to work in industry, with European and U.S. respondents being most open to this path. Medical and nonprofit careers rated as least appealing careers. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said their Ph.D. will improve their job prospects either substantially or dramatically.

Sixty percent of students based their career plans on personal research, with far fewer doing so by observing or talking to their supervisors.

Even with their high hopes for finding work in academe, most Ph.D. students didn’t expect to find faculty jobs immediately. Asked which positions they anticipated taking immediately after the Ph.D., 46 percent said postdocs. Nine percent didn’t know. Just 6 percent said assistant professor. Still, 46 percent of students imagine finding a permanent position within one to two years.

About a third of respondents said they’d learned about nonacademic opportunities from people in their departments. And while half said that department members were open to them pursuing a career outside academe -- good news, given that this historically has been a problem -- just 29 percent said that they’ve been given useful advice in that respect.

In fact, when asked to list the most difficult things for Ph.D. students in their fields, 53 percent of respondents said learning what career possibilities exist. Other top difficulties were related: finding research careers within academe and finding nonresearch careers that use their skills.

Asked to rank various resources as particularly useful in establishing a career, students said grants to help them transition to permanent positions, better data and information on career opportunities, more jobs in academe, and more mentorship.

Around the world, students reported that finding a research job in academe was most challenging. But, again, they also had a lot to say, in write-in comments, about how academe needs a total overhaul.

“Broken from the top down,” one student wrote, for instance. “The pressure to publish to get grants and tenure has filtered down to the Ph.D. student. Faculty push to publish all work rather than support good work that may take more time.”

The student continued, “There is too much pride associated with the number of publications. That number determines which grants you will get and which positions you will get. For those students who do not have successful results in their first two to three years, they are seriously hurt by this.”

Students also tended to report that they were well prepared for careers in involving data analysis and collection, but not well prepared for other aspects of work -- namely managing people and large budgets and developing business plans. In fact, just one-quarter of students said their programs prepared them well for a nonscience, nonresearch career.

Work-Life Balance?

How much time do Ph.D.s spend on their studies and related work per week? Twenty-seven percent of respondents said 41 to 50 hours. One-quarter said 51 to 60 hours, with those under 35 being more likely to spend more time. Most respondents who spent more than 40 hours a week on their Ph.D.s said they were dissatisfied with that.

About half of respondents reported having a “long-hours culture” at their institutions, while 37 percent reported having a good work-life balance.

Nineteen percent of respondents said they had a job outside their programs. Half (53 percent) of those with jobs said they took them on to help make ends meet, while one-quarter said they wanted to develop additional skills. Other reasons included making oneself more attractive to potential employers and broadening one's contact base. Respondents over 35 years of age were significantly more like to have an outside job. Caregivers were also significantly more like to have one.

David Payne, manager editor at Nature, said in a statement that many people assume that being enrolled in a Ph.D. program equals being “set up for life,” but that “sometimes reality can be quite different.”

Surveys such as Nature’s, then, “allow us to understand the challenges students face and can be invaluable to institutions when they are considering the needs of their students.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Anthropologist discusses his new book on business schools

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 14, 2019 - 7:00pm

Andrew Orta, a professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, selected an unusual topic for his new book -- the “global M.B.A.” In Making Global MBAs: The Culture of Business and the Business of Culture (University of California Press), he discusses how they are made. He responded via email to questions about his book.

Q: Why did you decide to focus on M.B.A.s?

A: The origin of the book is in my observations of the rise of “global studies” on university campuses over the late ’90s and early 2000s. My background is in Latin American studies, and area studies had already been declared defunct, as an inheritance of colonial scholarship made further passé by forces of globalization that were erasing regional and national distinctions. The rise of global studies struck me as an interesting modification of this “flat-world” thesis of some models of globalization, since it recuperated a certain kind of regionalism marked by national and cultural differences, but -- much like official multiculturalisms of the time -- did so in ways entirely congenial to the neoliberal moment.

So, I was interested in this “area studies lite” and the way a world of differences was being embraced and packaged for relatively low-impact consumption. Looking around U.S. campuses, business schools were a high-prestige exemplar of this trend. M.B.A. programs, especially, were promoting themselves as “global.” If I wanted to understand how this renaissance of regionalism squared with neoliberal framings of global capitalism, I couldn’t find a better research site!

Q: What does global M.B.A. mean?

A: The book examines the “global M.B.A.” -- both the business school program and the person holding the credential -- as a claim about the character of contemporary capitalism asserted by institutions that are influential in its making. M.B.A. programs today all promise to train students to do business in a world in which all business is global. What they deliver, however, involves an interesting sleight of hand. Although based on the premise that the world is filled with different places, global M.B.A.s are trained to do business anywhere. They are business generalists able to, literally, manage differences. Some of this comes from what business schools think recruiters want: rather than an earlier model of someone from the home office posted long-term to another country, the ideal global M.B.A. is someone who can move through a variety of international postings and work as part of multinational and multicultural teams. One of the core arguments in the book turns around the ways that the global components of M.B.A. education are less about teaching M.B.A.s about other parts of the world and more about cultivating talents and facets of themselves as business leaders and entrepreneurs. For the global M.B.A. student, it is less about “them” or “there” and more about “me.”

Another component of the rise of the global M.B.A. has to do with the global market for the production of M.B.A.s. Business education in the U.S. saw a tremendous expansion of M.B.A. programs over the 1980s and 1990s. However, M.B.A. program capacity was soon well beyond any sort of sustainable domestic demand. International students have tended to take up the enrollment slack in the overbuilt infrastructure of U.S. M.B.A. programs.

As M.B.A. programs became increasingly focused on a version of global studies that recognized and packaged cultural differences in manageable ways, the high percentage of international students in many M.B.A. programs provided the perfect embodiment of manageable cultural difference. M.B.A. programs have marketed this to domestic M.B.A.s as part of the “global” flavor of their experience. The current enrollment declines in M.B.A. programs, leading to the shuttering of some in recent years, seem largely led by declining applications from international students. Some of that reflects concerns on the part of prospective international M.B.A.s about current visa and immigration policy and the political atmosphere in the U.S. But it is worth noting that these students also find themselves with a range of options for business education elsewhere in the world. It is a separate question whether this more globally distributed network of M.B.A. programs and enrollments create opportunities for a wider decentering of business training -- a more truly global M.B.A.

Q: How do leading M.B.A. programs teach their students to think and act globally?

A: Beyond the international composition of M.B.A. cohorts and the infusion of global business themes in core M.B.A. courses, often through international case studies, the primary curricular component for teaching M.B.A.s to think and act globally is the short-term international trips that have become part of all of the leading M.B.A. programs over the past two decades. These brief overseas immersion experiences are designed to give M.B.A.s a glimpse of global cultural variety, and most of the M.B.A.s I’ve spoken with see them as résumé-building demonstrations of their capacities to work globally.

In all of this, M.B.A. students get both more and less than they bargained for. They get more because, despite the common refrain that M.B.A.s learn little in their two years, and that they are there mainly for the networking and the credential, M.B.A. programs systematically shape an orientation grounded in fast-paced decision making based on limited and often simplified knowledge about the world. They get less because when these habits are applied to international business contexts, they add up to a very narrow global vision.

The research revealed for me the ways business schools inculcate an orientation to the world deeply connected to ideas about business leadership. As an anthropologist, I’m struck by the relative narrowness of that view as M.B.A. programs preach an openness to a world of differences, but set up techniques of engagement that embrace differences in some of the least unsettling ways possible. I think an important insight of the book is that business schools are not simply doing a bad job of understanding a culturally complex world. They’re not struggling to make sense of inconvenient differences. In many ways, they’re committed to making a difference. The contemporary moment of capitalism (like others that preceded it) requires specific kinds of difference -- today these are the edges of emerging markets, untapped populations of consumers and an aura of newness, uncertainty and manageable risk that makes international business ventures potentially lucrative and requires the talents of M.B.A.s. In routinizing the ways global M.B.A.s approach the world, business programs are also routinizing the sorts of differences M.B.A.s find there.

Q: How does “M.B.A. culture” come into play? How do M.B.A. programs teach culture?

A: As an anthropological study of M.B.A. training, the book approaches M.B.A. programs and business practices not as eternal truths or natural facts, but as shaped by the various social, cultural, historical, political and economic contexts. The students seeking the M.B.A. degree, the faculty who teach them, the administrators who shape and market the programs … all are involved in the production and reproduction of the M.B.A. as a cultural ideal. The book documents M.B.A. programs as reflecting and instilling specific cultural values keyed to the current moment of capitalism.

M.B.A. programs shape specific sorts of sensibilities thought of as integral to the M.B.A., for whom technical business knowledge is only part of the business tool kit. They do this through the pace of the program and the cultivation of a sense of the M.B.A. experience as involving an overwhelming flow of information and deadlines. This underscores a core message: the world is always more complex than can ever be fully measured or known, and so part of successful business management requires a talent for quickly seizing on key facts, prudently ignoring irrelevant details and creatively filling in blanks to create a simulation of the world based on which effective decisions can be made. This is a theory about the nature of business (which is always too fast paced in this telling to allow for careful, thoughtful understanding) as well as about the nature of the successful M.B.A. leader, who must combine technical skills with talent, gut instinct and other ineffable qualities.

Along with detailing this culture of business education, the book discusses how M.B.A. programs talk about culture itself. They draw from a variety of work in the business literature attempting to quantify cultural difference as a measure of distance. This offers M.B.A.s what appear to be clear-cut ways of characterizing and strategizing for, say, how organizational hierarchy may be different in China than in the U.S. At the same time, very few people really believe this. Most recognize that culture always exceeds these sorts of efforts to quantify it. In fact, if the ideal M.B.A. combines nuts-and-bolts technical skills with more innate ineffable talents for managing the irreducible complexities of the real world, “culture” stands as a primary example of the need for M.B.A.s.

Q: What was it like as an anthropologist to study another part of the university?

A: I approached M.B.A. students and business school faculty and administrators as subjects of anthropological study. Much as I’ve done in other ethnographic work, I did my best to learn their language, and I spent time with them, doing what they do: attending class, working on team assignments and shadowing cohorts in a variety of programs. I also conducted interviews with dozens of M.B.A. students and faculty, but it was the time spent participating in the M.B.A. experience itself that was most important because, as anthropologists know, it’s usually what’s not said that turns out to be most illuminating. Business schools and anthropology departments tend to be separate worlds on most campuses, so I often felt out of place. But it was not very difficult to arrange approval for my research at most of the programs I studied, and many business faculty were interested in the project.

There is a long history of anthropologists telling economists and related theorists of capitalism that their assumptions about human nature and the models of the world that they inform are not borne out in the empirical world. This is the case for the non-Western settings of stereotypical anthropological research. It is equally true for business practices at the core of Western economies, where capitalism in the wild does not often look like the models and theories. This continues to be a good point for anthropologists to make, especially at a time when business logics infuse so many aspects of daily life, and the authority of business schools helps to naturalize that logic.

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United Nations moves into higher education

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 14, 2019 - 7:00pm

The United Nations is set to begin its most significant intervention in higher education with the approval of plans to establish a new global system of qualification recognition to help migrants and refugees.

The intergovernmental organization has historically not been involved in post-18 education, with its education arm -- the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) -- focusing instead on improving education outcomes at primary and secondary levels.

However, its decision to make “equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university” one of its targets for 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals framework adopted in 2016, has led the UN to engage with higher education.

This month, UNESCO was due to adopt a Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications of Higher Education at its general conference in Paris, attended by more than 100 higher education ministers.

The convention will help, UNESCO says, an “estimated eight million students and faculty pursuing academic work away from their countries of origin gain recognition for skills acquired and academic work accomplished in different countries.”

The new framework was necessary, in part, to address the difficulties faced by refugees who wanted to access higher education or who found that their qualifications were not recognized by employers, Stefania Giannini, UNESCO’s assistant director general for education, told Times Higher Education.

“Only about 3 percent of refugees are currently accessing higher education … It is our duty to respond to this problem,” said Giannini, a former senator and universities minister in Italy, who was speaking at the inaugural summit of the Social Sciences Universities Network, a group of institutions from 20 countries, which was held at LUISS Guido Carli University, in Rome, this month.

Asked if UNESCO was the most appropriate organization to lead this initiative, given its relative inexperience in higher education, Giannini, a former rector of the University for Foreigners Perugia, said she hoped the plan would provide “guidelines and advice that can inspire governments and institutions” to formally recognize qualifications from different territories.

“They will not be binding for governments, but they are important for paving the way for more qualification recognition [between countries],” Giannini said.

However, some internationalization experts have raised doubts about the scheme given the continuing problems of qualification recognition even within the European Union, which has had 20 years of the Bologna Process and its efforts to harmonize higher education processes.

Raimonda Markeviciene, head of international relations at Vilnius University, in Lithuania, said she welcomed efforts to integrate refugees and other vulnerable groups into society, but she was pessimistic about the convention’s chances of success.

“Many excellent initiatives are still stalling in Europe because of national interests, lack of understanding and … restricted national legislation” regarding degree recognition, said Markeviciene.

“I think we can do better than simply producing another paper that will find its way in the legal systems of the countries but will be treated according to the culture and mentality of that country,” continued Markeviciene. She added, “Where is universities’ voice in all this?”

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Colleges start fundraising campaigns

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 14, 2019 - 7:00pm

Starting Up:

  • Hamline University has started a campaign to raise $110 million by 2023. The university has already raised $55 million. Top priorities are financial aid and academic initiatives.
  • Missouri State University has started a campaign to raise $250 million. To date, the university has raised $150 million. Key goals for the campaign are scholarships and faculty support.
  • Robert Morris University has started a campaign to raise $100 million by 2021. Priorities are scholarships and faculty research. Already, $92 million has been raised.
  • Syracuse University has started a campaign to raise $1.5 billion. Thus far, the campaign has raised $770 million. Scholarships and program improvements are key goals.

Upping the Goal:

  • St. Mary's University, in Texas, has reached the $130 million goal of its campaign two years early. The university has raised $138 million and has set a new goal of $150 million. University goals include efforts to promote the university's Roman Catholic identity.

Track the success of colleges at fundraising on the Inside Higher Ed database.

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Supreme Court hears arguments on DACA

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 13, 2019 - 7:00pm

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in three cases challenging the Trump administration’s move to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. The program, established by President Obama in 2012, provides work authorization as well as protection against deportation to about 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, including many college students.

Court watchers differed in their assessment of the arguments. Amy Howe, writing for SCOTUSblog, wrote that “it wasn’t clear how the case is likely to turn out. Several justices appeared concerned that the Trump administration’s decision-making process had not adequately considered the effects of rescinding DACA, but on the other hand they weren’t necessarily convinced that sending the case back for a do-over would actually make much of a difference.”

The court reporter for The New York Times, Adam Liptak, concluded that the court’s five-member conservative block seem poised to accept the Trump administration’s case for ending DACA. The Washington Post’s court reporter, Robert Barnes, wrote, “In general, the court’s liberals seemed highly skeptical of the administration’s actions, while the conservatives seemed open to the idea that it had the power to terminate the program.”

Trump announced plans to wind down the DACA program in September 2017, arguing that the program was unlawful and represented an unconstitutional “end run” around Congress.

However, three different federal courts blocked the Trump administration from ending the DACA program, variously finding that its claim that the program was unlawful was either erroneous or inadequately explained. The lower courts held that the administration’s decision to end DACA was therefore arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.

Much of Tuesday’s hearing focused on the procedural question of whether the decision to end DACA was reviewable by the courts, with the government arguing that it wasn’t.

The government further argued that it reasonably concluded that DACA was unlawful, citing in support of its rationale a 2017 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit -- affirmed by an evenly divided eight-member Supreme Court -- striking down a related program known as DAPA and a proposed expansion of DACA.

“In the face of those decisions, the Department of Homeland Security reasonably determined that it no longer wished to retain the DACA policy based on its belief that the policy was illegal, its serious doubts about its illegality and its general opposition to broad nonenforcement policies,” the solicitor general, Noel. G. Francisco, argued on behalf of the government.

A lawyer for the challengers, Theodore B. Olson, framed DACA as an exercise of the Department of Homeland Security's congressionally mandated discretion in setting enforcement priorities.

Olson argued it was impermissible for the government to end the program "based on an unexplained, unsupported and erroneous legal conclusion that the policy that two administrations had enforced and implemented, had supported and implemented for five years, was unlawful and unconstitutional."​

Perhaps the sharpest moment in the hearing came when Sonia Sotomayor, a member of the court's liberal wing, questioned the government's legal arguments and asked where the government had articulated clearly what she characterized as a political decision. "That this is not about the law; this is about our choice to destroy lives," she said.

Higher education groups have joined the fight to keep DACA in place. The University of California system and Princeton University are among the plaintiffs in the three cases that were jointly argued before the Supreme Court Tuesday.

“One thing that I hope doesn't get lost in this case is the profound impact that the court’s ruling will have on 700,000 some-odd DACA recipients, some 1,700 of which are in the University of California," UC president Janet Napolitano said in a news conference. Napolitano was President Obama's secretary of homeland security at the time DACA was enacted.

"These are young people who have done all that has been asked of them," Napolitano said. "They have earned admission to the University of California. They are in our undergraduate student population, some are in our medical schools and our law schools, some have graduated and are now serving as nurses, as teachers, as business owners throughout the economy of California. To remove their DACA protection in the way that the Trump administration has attempted to do and to make them subject to eviction from the only country they know as home is not only not legally required, but it is inconsistent with good immigration policy and inconsistent with our values as a country."

The American Council on Education and 43 other higher education associations filed an amicus brief supporting continuation of the program, which the groups argue led to a dramatic expansion in college enrollment for DACA recipients. After the program’s enactment, DACA recipients found themselves able to legally work, access in-state tuition rates in some states, take out private loans, obtain driver’s licenses and gain professional licensure in their fields of choice.

“Rescinding DACA would also upset the lives of tens of thousands of DACA recipients who have relied on this program,” the groups wrote. “DACA recipients reordered their lives with the legitimate expectation that they would be able to live and work in this country legally. These young people came out of the shadows, enrolled in school, took out private student loans, worked hard to earn advanced degrees, started jobs, started families, and made countless other life decisions of tremendous import, all in reliance on DACA. The rescission would subvert all of that.”

Trump himself has struck very different tones on DACA at various points in his presidency.

In February 2017 -- seven months before his administration announced plans to rescind the program -- he described DACA “as one of the most difficult subjects I have. Because you have these incredible kids, in many cases, not in all cases. In some of the cases they’re having DACA and they’re gang members and they’re drug dealers, too. But you have some absolutely incredible kids, I would say mostly, they were brought here in such a way -- it’s a very, very tough subject. We are going to deal with DACA with heart.”

On Tuesday Trump struck a less sympathetic tone on Twitter, while still indicating he was interested in negotiating a deal with Democrats in Congress for the DACA beneficiaries: “Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels,’” he wrote. “Some are very tough, hardened criminals. President Obama said he had no legal right to sign order, but would anyway. If Supreme Court remedies with overturn, a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!”

Despite what the president said on Twitter, the DACA program excludes individuals with serious criminal backgrounds. In order to be eligible for DACA, individuals may not have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or three or more other misdemeanors. DACA recipients must either be in school or have earned a high school diploma or General Educational Development certificate, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or U.S. armed forces.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Federal officials document international threats to U.S. science security

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 13, 2019 - 7:00pm

SAN DIEGO -- Some of the university research administrators in the audience seemed loaded for bear, ready to scold the Trump administration officials in front of them for what many academics have perceived to be racial profiling of Chinese scientists in recent months.

Roger Wakimoto, vice president for research at the University of California, Los Angeles, didn't soft-pedal the issue as he introduced the session on science and security here Monday at the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

"We've been told repeatedly that this is a partnership," Wakimoto said of the effort to "protect U.S. science from undue foreign influence," as the session was titled. "If this is a partnership, stopping our faculty at the airport is not acceptable."

Over the course of the next hour, what might have been an uncomfortably confrontational situation took a different course.

It's not that the campus administrators in the room didn't express their displeasure about the treatment of some Chinese faculty members and graduate students. They did, sometimes eloquently.

But two things averted what might have been a train wreck. First, the officials from the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation (who noted that they were at the meeting on a federal holiday that would otherwise have been a day off, which won them some points) emphasized that -- despite the positions they hold and message they were delivering -- they were colleagues with those in the audience.

"The American university system is justifiably the envy of the world," said Chris Fall, director of the Energy Department's office of science. "I could talk all day about great things we’re doing with you, and I would prefer that. But we're here to talk about science security and about threats to our system of labs."

Fall and his federal colleagues -- Jodi Black, who directs the NIH's office of extramural research, and Rebecca Keiser, who heads the office of international science and engineering at NSF -- sought throughout to make clear that they understand how central openness and collaboration are to scientific work. And that the growing emphasis on trying to prevent intellectual property theft (and worse) is in direct tension with those traits.

"We recognize that addressing these [security] risks, these very real problems … must be weighed together with the openness and transparency and collaboration that has always characterized American science," Fall said.

Several people in the audience said they appreciated the federal officials' collaborative nature, which they said showed a marked change from the much more confrontational approach Trump administration officials took on this issue a year ago.

But it wasn't the officials' attitude that most changed the direction of the session: it was the information they presented, which, taken together, seemed to dispel any doubts anyone in the room harbored about whether there is a security threat to American science.

"When I came in [to science policy] in the '90s, we were dealing with nonproliferation issues at NASA, and the funding going to former Soviet weapon scientists," said Keiser of the NSF. "I'm here to tell you that the challenges we're facing today are different, in scope and complexity. As we peel back the onion, the layers just keep growing -- this is the most giant onion I've ever seen."

These being scientists, data and facts mattered more than words -- and the federal officials delivered those.

The presentation by Black of the NIH was especially jarring.

She acknowledged that she and some of her colleagues were themselves skeptical when federal law enforcement officials "came to NIH in 2016 and told us we had a serious problem. We told them to go away," she said.

But three years later, Black said, evidence is plentiful that foreign governments are engaged in organized efforts to co-opt discoveries and ideas from American universities -- in ways that divert proprietary information, undermine peer review and "distort our [science] funding model," by giving grants to scientists on the payrolls of other countries that could have gone to other deserving scientists.

Again, words. But Black had the rapt attention of the audience when she launched into a discussion of China's Thousand Talents Program (see Inside Higher Ed coverage here and here).

Her presentation was complete with slides (which she asked attendees not to share) containing documents showing that participants in the Chinese government's talent-recruitment program were openly told not to tell their U.S. university employers about the program, not to report their intellectual property to their U.S. institutions, and they were being paid in many cases for time commitments of six to 10 months -- arguably making it difficult if not impossible for them to do their U.S. jobs.

The endgame for these arrangements: to move their labs to China, in the meantime extracting information from the labs' work back to China.

Black said that NIH had identified "at least 120 scientists at 70 institutions" that had in some way failed to "fully disclose substantial contributions from other organizations, including foreign governments," failed to disclose financial conflicts of interest, diverted proprietary information or sent information gleaned by participating in the peer-review process to other countries.

"They were not all ethnically Chinese," she said, directly addressing Wakimoto's assertions that the intensified government scrutiny is, intentionally or not, singling out Chinese scholars -- many of whom are U.S. citizens. "We are not trying to racially profile anybody."

Profiling, Purposeful or Not?

One research administrator joined Wakimoto in pressing the federal officials directly on whether their efforts to clamp down on scientific security was resulting in unfair treatment of individuals -- and of a broader "chilling effect" on foreign scholars and graduate students, especially from China.

She recounted stories of one University of California, Berkeley, scientist who had been taken off a flight at Newark International Airport and made to feel "like a spy," and a Harvard University scholar who had been questioned aggressively upon return from China. (Both are American citizens of Chinese heritage.)

"Obviously there is a threat, that is clear," said the research administrator. But "how is this being communicated to the front-line people" at airports and other entry points?" she asked the federal officials. "Not everyone is a bad actor, but there could be some racial profiling happening."

Fall, of the Energy Department, said that there was "no connection" between the Department of Energy and agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection. "There is no excuse for people being treated inappropriately at the border, and it's troubling what you said."

But this isn't about racial profiling, he emphasized. "This is about an organized effort by states, including China, including Russia, to appropriate technology" and other innovations through their work at American universities.

Maybe so, said Wakimoto of UCLA, but other corners of the government are sending other messages -- like that "any Chinese student can be a spy."

"We've got to work on our messaging," he said.

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F&M athletes wore racist Halloween costumes

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 13, 2019 - 7:00pm

Students of color at Franklin & Marshall College are drawing the line on racism on campus.

They've held several high-profile protests to express their frustration with a troubling racial climate at the Pennsylvania college that they say has been tolerated for far too long. They've also sent a clear message to administrators: we're fed up and we're holding you accountable.

The students' concerns boiled over into protests and rallies last week after several athletes from the men’s basketball and soccer teams dressed up in racist and culturally insensitive costumes for Halloween, LancasterOnline reported. The costumes depicted Hispanic, Asian and African stereotypes. Some students wore thick black mustaches and sombreros and took photos, many of which were posted on social media, posing as mascots for José Cuervo, a popular brand of Mexican tequila. Another student dressed in a pointed hat with a ring of soy sauce packets around his neck, and one wore a dashiki, a traditional African garment. These types of costumes have cropped up regularly on Halloween at various college campuses across the country and are a constant source of controversy and anger.

The students who wore the offensive costumes have “expressed remorse for their actions and are in the process of identifying opportunities to teach others from their mistakes so there is broader cultural understanding and sensitivity," said a letter to the campus signed by President Barbara Altmann and other college administrators The college is now determining disciplinary measures as part of the student code of conduct process, the letter said. The athletes apologized during a college forum on Nov. 6 at which students of color gathered to express their frustration with the actions of their peers and the college’s handling of past racist incidents, said Trinity Tran Nguyen, a sophomore who is on the executive board of the Asian American Alliance, a student group.

“I felt that with the perpetrators coming in, it was them invading a safe space,” Nguyen said of the forum. “They did apologize, but I don’t think that’s enough. How many games are they going to be benched for? Benching them one game, is that enough? What are the coaches going to do; what is the athletic department going to do?”

The disciplinary measures that the college is pursuing are between the offending students, F&M and the college’s athletic department, said Peter Durantine, the college’s director of media relations.

“We don’t tolerate any racist actions or comments,” Durantine said. “When it’s brought to our attention, we address it.”

But the offended students view the incident as a reckoning for the college’s “lack of consequences for racist actions” in the past, groups that represent minority students on campus said in an open letter to the college earlier this week. The letter cited several other incidents of racism within the past three years.

The letter, which was published in F&M’s student newspaper, the College Reporter, noted that students wore racist Halloween costumes for four years in a row without consequence because the college failed to act. It was signed by 10 student organizations, including the Asian American Alliance, Mi Gente Latina and the African and Caribbean Association.

“It happened in 2016. In 2017. In 2018. And again in 2019,” the letter said. “Those are just the past few years. It should be noted, however, that students of color at F&M have dealt with racism on this campus since 1946. There were protests and sit-ins 50 years ago and there have been protests and sit-ins in the last three days.”

F&M’s current student population is 53.5 percent white, 4.7 percent Asian American, 6 percent African American and 10 percent Hispanic or Latino, Durantine said. More than 21 percent of students are international students, who are primarily from China, Nguyen said.

Students led a sit-in last Friday that disrupted the start of a men's basketball game. They occupied the court and forced officials to postpone the game, ABC27 reported. Nguyen, who was at the sit-in, said as soon as the national anthem concluded at the game, students took to the court and were booed and jeered at by spectators, some from the visiting York College.

“We remained silent because we didn’t want to cause any reactions that would cause harm,” Nguyen said. “We just sat there and said, 'we’re not going to get off this court until the game is canceled.' Parents were saying we should be ashamed of ourselves because of how long they drove to get there.”

Chelsea Reimann, director of the college's Alice Drum Women's Center and LGBTQ Student Life, joined the students as they sat on the court, Nguyen said.

“That was the first moment where we felt like the school listened to us.”

Todd Mealy, an adjunct history professor at Dickinson College​, said F&M has a deep history of racism on campus and students of color fighting against it dating back to the Black Power movement in the late 1960s. Mealy authored This Is the Rat Speaking, a book about the 1969 uprising of black students at F&M to end discrimination in the classroom and social spaces of the college.

Mealy believes it usually takes a significant event -- in this case the racist Halloween costumes -- to bring cultural and racial awareness to white students who have been taught throughout their lives to be “colorblind” by their parents, friends, the media and other authority figures. White students’ “willful ignorance” about racist behavior is especially prevalent at primarily white institutions and is strengthened when university and college administrators do not adequately discipline students for racism, he said.

“What the students at F&M are voicing now is that there’s a culture of dialectical racism that influences the actions of students to mock and intimidate students of color on campus,” Mealy said. “It sounds like the climate there among the student body is more like a colorblind body, where when informal race conflicts are found on campus, a conversation doesn’t take place.”

Mealy visited campus on Oct. 25 to discuss his book on the 1969 movement at F&M and said students shared stories about racist interactions with their white peers. The administration is aware of the climate at F&M and has paved a “sympathetic path” forward to address it following the Halloween costume incident, he said.

“As long as the students are heard, I think there’s going to be some positive outcomes that come from this,” Mealy said.

Administrators pledged in the letter to the campus that the college will hire a chief diversity officer to support students of color on campus and will create a bias reporting system where students can direct their concerns. The college is also planning to complete a campus climate survey by Nov. 15, which will help administrators “make informed choices” about how it addresses diversity and inclusion, according to statements from administrators. Forums on campus for students to express their ideas to administrators will continue, the letter said.

But the letter from students of color said there is much more left to be done. They demanded workshops on diversity and inclusion for new students during orientation, racial awareness training throughout all departments, a campaign specifically directed at stemming racism on athletic teams and Greek life organizations, and ongoing transparency from the Office of Student Life as it deals with reported incidents of racism.

“What we need to see are resources, not just all talk,” Nguyen said. “We want the school to be transparent. The campus culture is not going to be changed overnight, but there needs to be some consequences and written policy that they can point to and say ‘that’s wrong.’”

Altmann is expected to respond directly to the students' letter today, according to a message she send students on Sunday.

“Let me say up front that as Franklin & Marshall's president, I commit to you that the rally, protests and conversations will generate actions taken by the college to represent our best selves and our values as a community,” Altmann said. “I have heard your frustration and impatience for change. We will not miss this opportunity to cut through complacency, ignorance, insensitivity and racism. I firmly believe that the energy of this week will help to launch us to a better place.”

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FTC wins temporary restraining order against student debt relief company

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 13, 2019 - 7:00pm

The Federal Trade Commission has blocked the operations of a group of companies allegedly portraying themselves as being affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education, charging that they promoted student loan debt-relief services but did not follow through as promised.

Arete Financial Group and related companies violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule and FTC Act, the FTC said in a complaint filed under seal Nov. 4 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. A temporary restraining order was granted, halting operations falsely promising student loan debt relief, the FTC said in a news release Tuesday. The order temporarily prohibits certain business activities, including misrepresenting facts about loan services, freezes the defendants’ assets and appoints a temporary receiver authorized to take control of the defendant companies.

Those actions and "other equitable relief [are] in the public interest," said an order signed by U.S. District Judge James V. Selna.

The defendants have been operating “an unlawful debt relief scheme” since at least April of 2014, the FTC said in its complaint. The defendants promised to enroll consumers in student loan forgiveness, consolidation and repayment programs, promoting such programs as reducing or eliminating monthly loan payments and principal balances, the agency said.

Instead of providing the promised benefits, the companies typically contacted borrowers’ loan servicers to place their loans into forbearance or deferment -- without consumer knowledge or authorization, the FTC said. The companies allegedly charged consumers $500 to $1,800 in up-front fees, as well as monthly fees between $19 and $49, and collected at least $43 million in revenue since beginning the operation, the FTC’s complaint said.

“Arete Financial Group charged illegal upfront fees and made false promises to consumers struggling with student loan debt,” Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “To avoid scams like these, consumers should never pay an advance fee to a company promising to deliver debt relief.”

The companies pretended to be affiliated with the Education Department in telemarketing calls as well as radio, television and online advertisements, the FTC said.

Arete and its affiliates allegedly “induce consumers to sign a power of attorney form” when signing up for services, then changed consumers’ log-in names and passwords on the Federal Student Aid website. The companies also changed consumers' email addresses registered with loan servicers, according to the FTC complaint. The consumers would subsequently not receive correspondence and not have access to their own loan information.

“Consumers often discover that they have been scammed only after talking to their actual loan servicer and realizing that Defendants have been making no payments to the servicer, while pocketing consumers' payments for themselves,” the complaint said. “When consumers ask for their money back, Defendants often refuse to issue full refunds, and will only issue a partial refund or no refund at all.”

The defendants allegedly disclosed that they were not in fact affiliated with the Education Department in the middle of dense text in service agreements, the FTC complaint stated. Consumers were often unable to process the disclosure because they were rushed through the process of signing forms, it said.

Arete did not respond to a request for comment sent to its general email and legal department Tuesday afternoon.

The full list of corporate defendants is: American Financial Support Services Inc.; Arete Financial Group (also doing business as Arete Financial Freedom); Arete Financial Group LLC; CBC Conglomerate LLC (also doing business as 1file.org); Diamond Choice Inc. (also doing business as Interest Rate Solutions); J&L Enterprise LLC (also doing business as Premier Solutions Servicing); La Casa Bonita Investments Inc. (formerly known as La Casa Bonita Investments LLC, also doing business as Education Loan Network and Edunet); and US Financial Freedom Center Inc. Individual defendants are Carey Howe, Anna Howe, Shunmin “Mike” Hsu, Ruddy Palacios (also known as Ruddy Barahona), Oliver Pomazi and Jay Singh. The complaint also names MJ Wealth Solutions, LLC, as a relief defendant.

Tuesday’s temporary restraining order comes more than four years after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wrote to several search engine companies asking them to help prevent student debt-relief scams targeting borrowers. It comes about two years after the FTC and states started trying to crack down on student debt-relief schemes. The FTC has won settlements in its efforts, including a 2018 order approved by a judge that included an $11.7 million monetary judgment against Los Angeles-based Student Debt Relief Group. At the time, that company was said to not have funds to pay the bulk of the judgment and was expected to turn over almost all of its available assets, worth over $2.3 million.

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Students across the country faced voting barriers on Election Day

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 12, 2019 - 7:00pm

Sacred Heart University students were particularly motivated to vote on Election Day last week. For some students, it would be their first time voting. Others had been heavily involved in an on-campus voter registration drive and were eager to cast their ballots against a local politician.

The students knew they would be asked for identification to prove they were eligible to vote, but none were prepared for what happened when they showed up at a local polling place in Bridgeport, Conn., near the university's campus in Fairfield.

Poll workers openly mocked them, questioned them aggressively about their state residency and challenged their use of certain forms of identification.

“Shouldn’t you be in school?” Someone blurted out at one polling place. “Go back to your home state,” another person said. A few students said they were called “stupid.”

Student government leaders said they were insulted. University administrators saw this as a form of intimidation and an attempt to suppress the student vote.

“It was my first time voting,” said Olivia Chaponis, a 19-year-old from Massachusetts and the sophomore class president. “It was a very weird experience to not have your voice wanted to be heard. It’s not something that we’re told is normal.”

While such open hostility directed at young voters is not the norm at most polling places, tensions between college students and politicians and elections officials are more common across the country now that college students are an influential and contested voting bloc. Local and state politicians are increasingly trying either to court student voters or to limit their impact on election outcomes. Voting rights activists and election officials are butting heads every election season, as a result.

Things are not likely to change in the run-up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Americans are deeply politically divided, and partisanship is at an all-time high in Congress and in statehouses across the country. There are also clear generational divides between young voters, who tend to be politically liberal, and the politicians who are actively promoting and passing laws requiring college students to jump through more hoops to vote -- moves that voting-rights proponents allege are efforts to keep the students from voting.

"Young people are bigger than the boomers now," said Nancy Thomas, director of the Tufts University Institute of Democracy and Higher Education, which measures student voting at colleges and universities during major election years. "They’re a formidable bloc, and they are going to get targeted for suppression. The thing about college students is they are easy to locate."

Voter turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds went from 20 percent in 2014 to 36 percent in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The 79 percent jump was the largest percentage-point increase for any age group, the bureau said.

Student turnout for the midterm elections last year jumped from 29.6 percent in 2014 to 55 percent in 2018, according to the institute. Thomas said efforts to suppress the student vote are expected to ramp up in future elections.

"Republicans have been doing this for years for various groups, and I think they didn’t have to worry as much about college students," Thomas said. But now they're going after students because of their increased participation in electoral politics, she said.

Republican state lawmakers have said their intent is to reduce election fraud, but some of these politicians also take a dim view of colleges actively encouraging students to vote and consider such activities partisan in nature.

Student participation in politics was apparent in Kentucky, where a tight race for governor between Matt Bevin, the Republican incumbent, and Andy Beshear, a Democrat, touched on state funding of higher education and the affordability and accessibility of college. These issues piqued the interest of Northern Kentucky University students, said Mark Neikirk, executive director of the university's Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement.

Bevin and Beshear held their final debate on the campus of Northern Kentucky on Oct. 29, which further drew students’ attention to the election, Neikirk said. The university's active voter-registration efforts also contributed to increased political engagement by students, he said.

It was a “fairly visible election” compared to previous years, and the entire state, including students, showed strong interest and turnout, he said.

“Specific to Northern Kentucky, funding for higher education in the state is something students reference a lot,” Neikirk said. “They have a strong awareness right now that the pension crisis is impacting the state budget’s ability to invest in other areas … You wouldn’t normally get a 20-year-old talking about the pension crisis, but you will on this campus.”

Although demographic breakdowns of voters from last week's elections are not yet available, student voter turnout in 2019 is expected to remain high based on anecdotal reports from college campuses, ​said Michael Burns, national director of the Campus Vote Project for the Fair Elections Center, a legal advocacy group for voting rights.

Young Invincibles, a group that advocates for youth voter participation, monitored voting at college campuses in Virginia on Election Day and recorded a "pretty high voter turnout increase," said Clarissa Unger, the organization's director for civic engagement.

Burns said there was miscommunication between students and local elections officials in Virginia and Iowa about registration and identification requirements.

Iowa passed a voter-identification law that went into effect this year. The law now requires preregistered voters to show a state-issued voter identification card at the polls; voters who registered on Election Day could show proof of local residency, such as a bill showing a local address, and any state license. This discrepancy confused some out-of-state college students in Iowa, who thought proof of residency and a non-Iowa license would suffice if they were already registered, Burns said. It was not the first time that college students felt thwarted from voting by the state.

The Fair Elections Center also heard reports from Virginia students, who had changed their registration to vote near their colleges, Burns said. When they arrived at the polls, they learned their designated polling places were in locations not near their colleges.

"One student was positive that they were registered, voted in Richmond last year, but was told that they were registered under their home address,​" Burns said. "This isn't the first time that we’ve heard that students are being told that they aren’t residents and they shouldn’t vote locally … People believe students are there for only a short time, but we don’t make other folks sign a pledge that they’re going to live there for 10 years or more. Students are also stand-ins for future students who live there."

The students at Sacred Heart University seemed to run into this very situation when they were ridiculed and challenged by the local election workers. While long-simmering tensions between students that attend the Roman Catholic university and neighborhood residents, particularly in Bridgeport, were also a factor, it was clear that some people didn't think students who don't live there year-round should have a say in local elections, said Deb Noack, Sacred Heart’s director of communications.​

Carlos Ruiz, 20, a junior, experienced this firsthand when he went to vote at the same local elementary school in Bridgeport where poll workers name-called his classmates. Ruiz provided Sacred Heart's address instead of his address in Bridgeport when asked. “Of course you don’t know where you live,” a poll worker said. Students often use Sacred Heart’s official address for receiving mail, and some, including Ruiz, were called “stupid” for mistakenly recording it as their Bridgeport address, Noack said.

Some students were required to sign affidavits that stated their local addresses and sent home to get proof of registration, which was mailed to them. Out-of-state students were asked to show Connecticut driver's licenses, which they are not required to do under state law, Noack said.

Student Government president Denisse Rodriguez, who is from New York, said there were discrepancies in what students were asked to provide if they went to the same polling place in the morning or the afternoon. She was permitted to vote with her New York driver’s license, she said. Democratic Bridgeport registrar Sandi Ayala did not reply to multiple requests for comment.

In the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections, laws that violated students’ voting rights sparked intensified voter registration and turnout efforts, Unger said.

"Students, in particular, showed that they are a very powerful voting bloc," she said. "A number of groups in our coalition did a lot of work in 2018 to reverse some laws that discouraged putting early voting sites on campus.​"

Unger believes that Republicans and Democrats alike engage in suppression tactics directed at college students.

“This comes from both sides of the aisle,” she said. “It happens regardless of who is in power.”

The “borderline voter suppression” in Bridgeport, which is largely controlled by Democrats and has been for some time, is in line with how lawmakers and election officials elsewhere have attempted to thwart student voters.

"For a population that’s newer to elections, it’s very easy for them to get derailed if the local election official or poll worker has inaccurate information or is treating them poorly," Burns said.

It was a local issue that made the Sacred Heart students want to vote. A zoning ordinance proposed by several Bridgeport City Council members and Mayor Joseph Ganim in early October would limit the maximum number of people permitted to live in a single household from four to three. The measure seemed directed at the many college students renting homes in North End, a neighborhood known for noisy parties and not enough parking spaces to accommodate both students and locals.

When the ordinance was proposed, students took offense to how the mayor and other elected officials were stereotyping them, said Ruiz, who organized a student voter registration campaign at Sacred Heart called PioneerVote. The mayor described North End in a press release as “a college dormitory run amok” and said it once was a quiet neighborhood that is now overrun with students. PioneerVote had already registered 900 students before the mayor’s remarks, but his comments helped fuel the movement to get out the student vote.

“Students didn’t find that acceptable,” Ruiz said of the mayor's rhetoric. “Students tend to be the scapegoat of the issues of the town. I do recognize the concerns that the residents of North End in Bridgeport have, but that generalization of students helped get out the vote.”

Students showed up on Nov. 5 to vote against Councilwoman Michelle Lyons, who represents the 134th District, which encompasses North End, hoping to throw her out of office. But she won narrowly over rival AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia.

Lyons said she became the face of the housing ordinance and student outrage, even though the ordinance was never meant to target Sacred Heart. Its primary purpose was to improve living conditions for students and residents by enforcing the city's rent laws, she said. The ordinance would improve public safety and address the frequent complaints of her constituents, who, she said, have seen as many as nine students living in one house at a time.

“It was initiated [so] that they would have a voice due to an ordinance that we hadn’t even issued yet, and it took off,” Lyons said. “There was a sleeping bear here, and the sleeping bear got woken up, and it shook up some things."

As far as Sacred Heart students are concerned, the bear was never asleep in the first place. They believe their university is ranked 13th for student political awareness in the Princeton Review’s Best Colleges for good reason.

"Even though the result isn’t what was expected, it definitely got a lot of the local residents worried and concerned," Ruiz said. "The message was that students are not going to go anywhere … There was talk of a student presence, and we made that happen, we made that be felt."

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2017-18 academic year had largest state aid increase in decade

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 12, 2019 - 7:00pm

State investment in college students grew more last year than in the past decade, according to an annual study of grant and aid programs released Tuesday.

Undergraduate aid grew by 8.62 percent during the 2017-18 academic year compared to an annual growth rate of 1 to 6 percent, adjusted for inflation, since 2007-08, a new report by the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs outlines.

State financial aid programs in the U.S. reached $13.6 billion, compared to $12.8 billion dedicated to postsecondary students in 2016-17, says the report by NASSGAP, which represents agencies that administer state student financial aid.

NASSGAP’s 2017-18 analysis showed states confronting issues of college affordability and workforce shortages with an urgency not shown before.

The most recent increase is “by far the largest,” Frank Ballmann, director of NASSGAP, has seen since he began leading the Washington office of the organization in 2010, he said.

Ballmann said the total increase of need-based and non-need-based aid combined has typically been $200 to $300 million over that time frame. This year, it’s over $900 million.

"It’s a bipartisan issue in the states because there are seven million vacant jobs across the country. Those are going to go overseas if we don’t make that investment," he said.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported on Nov. 5 that there were more than seven million job openings by the end of September, according to its most recent Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey. The department found 25,000 new job openings in the information sector and decreases in demand for workers in the health and social services industries.

Ballmann said these millions of jobs are going unfilled because Americans lack the education and 21st-century work skills to fill them. The worker shortage has put pressure on governors to set postsecondary education goals for their states and implement widespread college aid programs, he said. One major example is Tennessee’s Drive to 55 initiative, which aims to have 55 percent of the state population college educated by 2025.

There are currently 15 to 17 states with their own version of free college programs, which are categorized differently in the NASSGAP report based on each program’s income and eligibility requirements, Ballmann said. The Tennessee Promise gives all high school graduates in the state access to tuition-free two-year community or technical college and is classified as a “conditional grant,” he said. Conditional grants require students to meet a work or service requirement in exchange for tuition waivers -- Tennessee Promise students must complete eight hours of community service per term they are enrolled.

New York introduced the Excelsior Scholarship program during the 2017-18 academic year. It allows low- to middle-income residents to attend any institution in the state or New York City university systems for free, according to the state’s website. The scholarship is also categorized in the NASSGAP report as a conditional grant; any applicant with an annual income of less than $125,000 is eligible. New York spent $69.3 million on conditional grants in 2017-18, compared to about $3 million in 2016-17, before the scholarship was in effect.

Statewide grant programs such as Tennessee’s and New York’s are part of the total $1.7 billion in nongrant student aid states provided nationally to students in 2017-18. The figure also includes loans, state loan assumptions, work-study grants and tuition waivers, NASSGAP reported. Tennessee was among the leaders in grant aid awarded over all, while New York was a leader in contributions to need-based undergraduate grants, according to the report.

Florida had the largest increases by far among all other states for both need-based and non-need-based grants, dedicating 79 and 76.9 percent more funding, respectively, to low-income and high-performing students in 2017-18 than in the previous year, according to the report. Florida’s then governor, Rick Scott, signed the merit-based Bright Futures scholarship program into law in 2018, and also increased the state’s investment in need-based aid, Ballmann said.

“Scott recognized that workforce demands in Florida are growing,” Ballmann said. “You go there to retire, but there are quite a few families raising kids there … he wanted to attract a broader base of jobs in Florida in the tech industry.”

Over all, undergraduate need-based grants increased from $8.4 billion in 2016-17 to $8.9 billion in 2017-18, with the majority coming from California, New York, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Virginia and Washington, the report states. Georgia and New Hampshire continue to have no need-based aid programs.

The increased investment in all financial aid programs represents states' recognition of how unaffordable higher education has become, NASSGAP president Elizabeth McDuffie said in a statement. Of all the state aid provided during 2017-18, 75 percent was classified as need-based and 25 percent was not, which is about the same as 2016-17, NASSGAP reported.

“The rising cost of education, even when tuition is held constant or is covered by federal Pell Grants, denies opportunities to students without the financial means to pay for college; they need support from their states,” McDuffie said. “Many states are recognizing that need-based grants are investments in their residents and enable students who would not otherwise be able to enroll in postsecondary education programs to earn credentials that provide a net return to those individuals, their families and communities through higher earnings and community involvement.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Author discusses her new book on teaching about race and racism

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 12, 2019 - 7:00pm

Teaching about race challenges many American professors. They may get questioned or ridiculed -- in class or on social media. A new book -- Teaching About Race and Racism in the College Classroom: Notes From a White Professor (West Virginia University Press) -- offers help. The author is Cyndi Kernahan, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin River Falls, where she is also the assistant dean for teaching and learning in the College of Arts and Sciences.

She responded via email to questions about the book.

Q: You note in your book that you are a white woman teaching at an overwhelmingly white university. How do these facts shape your perspective?

A: Even though most of the United States is quite segregated by race, and most white people, especially, have limited interactions with people of color, my students are especially unlikely to have had much experience with diversity. This means I need to work harder to help them think about how their perspectives may be limited and also how we got to the particular environment we inhabit. We spend a fair bit of time in my courses looking at how segregation happened and keeps happening (the policies that created and perpetuate it). I try to help them think critically about why our town and part of the country looks like it does. There is a tendency to think that these things “just are” or are all about personal choices, but personal choices are really constrained by the situation and the society we live in, and so I look for lots of ways to share that and bring it up in discussion.

The whiteness of my campus and classes also means that I want to be especially thoughtful about the experiences of students of color in my courses. I typically email students that I can identify as being students of color early in the semester to assure them that they do not need to feel as though they are representing their racial group and that they can share or not share their experiences however they choose. I also tell them that while I may know a lot, in a scholarly way, about race and racism, I do not have the lived experience that they may have. I like to acknowledge that difference and make it clear that I respect their experiences.

Q: You stress the importance of understanding that professors differ from students. How is this a factor in teaching about race and racism?

A: Because race and racism are not taught a lot or even particularly well in K-12 settings, it is often the case that students have very little knowledge of our racial history or the policies (past and present) that shape our lives and institutions. In addition, most white parents do not talk to their children about race and racism, leaving a lot of blank space and some anxiety around discussing the topic. For me what this means is that I need to fill in those gaps and also work to make sure students know that they are not alone in not knowing a lot about race and racism. One of the most common responses in my courses is “no one ever told me that” or “why didn’t I know this?” I like to use a lot of discussion in teaching, partly because it helps students to see that they are not alone in their lack of understanding, thus creating a nice camaraderie and openness to learning.

This gap between our students and ourselves also means it is important to try and gently establish my credibility, being clear about how I know what I know and how my training has informed my work. In many other content areas, this is often a given (students trust that their instructors are trained to teach the content), but race and racism are so politicized that there can be an assumption it is all just opinion rather than a scholarly field.

One important difficulty here is for instructors of color, especially women. Research shows that instructors of color are much more likely to be challenged on their credibility and subjected to critiques and disrespect in the classroom. This makes establishing credibility even more difficult and even more important.

Q: You talk about the backlash that some professors receive for teaching about race. What is your advice for dealing with that backlash?

A: The best scenario for this is to ensure that your department and administration are supportive and willing to understand the difficulties in teaching this content. Departmental colleagues, chairs, deans and provosts all need to understand how teaching about race can lower student teaching evaluations so that they can take this into account when evaluating their colleagues (especially colleagues of color).

More holistic evaluations of all teaching are important, but especially for these kinds of courses. We often discuss how someone teaching math or statistics or chemistry may have lowered teaching evaluations, but we forget to extend this same understanding to courses that are emotionally challenging for students.

Q: What is a "secure teaching identity" and why is it important to have one?

A: What I mean by this phrase is that when we teach about race, it is easy to feel really vulnerable for a variety of reasons (emotionally challenging content, resistant students, concern about teaching evaluations, etc.) and so we should do all we can to take care of ourselves and put ourselves in the best possible place for doing this work. Specifically, I think this means being clear with yourself about how hard it is to do this work, taking steps to protect your emotional energy so that you have more space for your students and just generally practicing good self-care (sleep, setting boundaries, eating well, etc.).

As a concrete example, I try to avoid reading really upsetting news items or comments sections when I know that I also need to read my students’ comments in reaction to course material. If I know that some students are likely to respond in ways that are challenging (uninformed, resistant), I do not want to use up my patience and energy on those other things (news, etc.). I want to be as available and patient as possible for my students so that I can respond in smart ways and in ways that help them think more critically. I cannot do that if I am already upset.

Q: Some commentators describe teaching about race and racism as a political tactic by the left. How would you respond?

A: I do not teach as a way to advance any political agenda, but rather to illuminate how we work as people and how we can do things that are both terrible (slavery) and wonderful (overcoming prejudice to work together). If we truly want students to be open to a variety of difficult ideas (a talking point that seems to be very much in the news these days), then learning about race and racism seems like an excellent venue for that. I believe in the use of strong evidence in teaching, and I always welcome new viewpoints based on strong evidence as a way to learn more. This is something I try to model for students as I teach.

I also think that truly understanding American racial history and how racism works psychologically can ultimately make students more excited about a variety of things that many Americans say they care about: more civic engagement, greater patriotism, greater understanding across racial lines.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Colleges start new programs

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 12, 2019 - 7:00pm
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Scholars of religion and biblical literature object to having conference badges coded and scanned

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 11, 2019 - 7:00pm

Being scanned in to scholarly meetings? Religious studies and biblical literature scholars said a loud, quick no to the idea last week upon learning via email that name badges for their upcoming annual meeting would include QR codes.

The American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature, which will gather at the end of the month in San Diego, responded to the criticism quickly, saying Friday that they would distribute badges with no codes instead. In so doing, meeting planners said they had been trying to encourage “fair use” of conference badges.

But scholars have lingering questions as to why and how the QR code plan took shape in the first place.

Common concerns include those about surveillance and tracking, and the disparate impact that enforcing a badge policy might have on racial, ethnic and sexual minorities. Elsewhere, policing of scholarly meeting attendance -- sometimes by hotel or conference hall staff members -- has led to instances of apparent racial profiling.

Beyond those worries, other scholars have suggested that those who can’t afford a conference fee upward of $100 shouldn’t be blocked from attendance. Other conferences, of course, have name badges. But the fear is that checking them will be much more formal with QR codes.

Kelly J. Baker, writer and independent scholar of religious studies, said Saturday, “Is there an epidemic of pirated badges? I doubt it. And if grad students or underemployed scholars are pirating a badge to get into the book exhibit or to be able to network, does this harm the AAR? No, not really.”

With QR codes, Baker said, the academy and the society “claimed that they could scan the badges to make sure folks belonged at the conference. Essentially, they could be tracking us. It would be surveillance, and they only announced this rollout two weeks before the conference rather than letting us know when we registered, which is not acceptable.”

More than that, “What really worries me about the QR codes and the checks for fake badges is how it would affect already vulnerable scholars in the AAR," Baker continued. "I feared that scholars of color could be stopped more frequently for badge checks than others.”

Policing, Profiling and Pirating

Similarly, a petition signed by more than 100 scholars from both organizations says that, “Whatever the intention behind QR codes, the impact is undeniable: the mere idea -- the very threat -- of surveillance tactics at AAR/SBL has caused harm to minoritized members of the AAR, as evidenced by the outpouring of responses. The oversights that allowed for this possibility are as much a problem as the QR coding itself.”

The petition further requests that the academy and society address the incident at the upcoming meeting and commit to a name badge process “that cannot be used to surveil your constituents and work with qualified constituents to resolve the tensions informing this proposal.”

Some scholars of religion have spoken out individually, as well. Anthea Butler, associate professor of religious studies and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote on Twitter that she might talk about the role of social media in what's been called “QRgate" during her plenary at the meeting.

Hussein Rashid, independent scholar of religion, also tweeted that he’d seen nothing in his conference registration documents to suggest QR codes were a possibility. The society was therefore retroactively changing its terms of attendance, he said, raising the possibility that someone could refuse to be scanned, be denied entry and later challenge the academy legally.

Shaily Patel, an assistant professor of early Christianity at Virginia Tech, said in an open letter to the society that “Many of my graduate student and contingent faculty friends attended SBLAAR by sleeping on floors, packing granola bars to eat, and yes, sneaking in to sessions. For those whose wages fall far below the national poverty line and who have no institutional support, $100 [registration fee] is the difference between buying groceries or not.” And while both the academy and society have previously advocated for scholars in precarious positions, “the anti-piracy QR codes on registrants’ name tags undermine these efforts to address the hardships faced by so many of our members. Policing those of our colleagues who would most benefit from attendance and who are most burdened by the cost is a betrayal of the societal principles we aim to uphold.”

Patel asked what share of the meeting’s thousands of annual attendees “have ‘stolen’ their registration, do you think? How detrimental is this type of ‘thievery’ to SBL as an organization? My guess is that the survival of the society is not on the line here.”

Code Reversal

Alice Hunt, executive director of the academy of religion, on Friday shared a statement -- later shared with members -- saying that the academy and the biblical society had decided to try “a one-year pilot program of placing QR codes on attendee name badges, as a number of other associations do.”

The pilot’s “sole aim” was to promote “fair use of name badges,” not “tracking individuals, holding on to personal data, or policing -- which would go directly against our values and philosophy. We deeply regret the unintended messages the pilot idea triggered and have immediately withdrawn it.”

Still, per the petition and other public comments, members want more assurances that the idea will never take root again. Baker said that that while the organizations responded quickly, their actions still don’t “reckon with the consequences of what could have happened with all the badge checks.”

Via email Sunday, John Kutsko, executive director of the biblical literature group, said that QR codes were added to “underline the expectation that people register to attend the annual meeting and to provide a level of security since our meetings are held in public and open spaces. But no, QR codes do not surveil or track people.”

Kutsko also said that the meeting faced a bomb threat at a previous meeting in Atlanta. "As you can imagine, we are an international organization of religion scholars, representing many traditions. Some members wear identifiable religious clothing and have faced ugly experiences from the public. Knowing who is a member and who is not, based on the name badge, helps security prevent these incidents and for us to report them."

QR technology also offers opportunities for member benefits, such as networking and book giveaways, “which we were exploring,” he added. “To be clear, we weren’t going to scan them wherever people went. Among other things, it was an additional feature to ensure the authenticity of the badge.”

Other Fields -- and a Silver Lining?

Kutsko also noted that he was, at present, attending the National Humanities Conference in Hawaii, where, “ironically,” his name badge had a QR code. Asked if he’d been asked to scan in anywhere, he answered, “Only some events, such as a reception in a public space.”

Still, QR codes for conferences are a new idea that remains unpalatable and decidedly unnecessary to many groups. The American Historical Association, for example, doesn't have QR codes and “doesn't worry about fair use of badges,” said James Grossman, executive director, as it’s “confident in the honesty and goodwill of our constituencies.”

As for the general public, the AHA provides free registration to local public school teachers.

Interestingly, the QR incident did achieve one thing: bringing together scholars of religion and biblical studies. By some accounts, they meet as one group each year but don’t generally commingle.

“This hashtag nonsense seemed to be one thing that many of us could agree on,” Nyasha Junior, an associate professor of religion at Temple University, told Inside Higher Ed.

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Wichita State's Faculty Senate thinks less is more when it comes to gen ed

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 11, 2019 - 7:00pm

Facing internal and external pressures to streamline the general education curriculum, Wichita State University’s Faculty Senate approved an amended proposal to trim the institution’s program from 42 to 36 credits. The original proposal was 33 credits -- just shy of the Higher Learning Commission’s 30-credit minimum (with some qualifications) for gen ed programs.

Wichita State’s entire faculty will vote on the 36-credit proposal today. If it’s approved, the university will be part of a cluster of institutions that have revised -- and in so doing, pruned -- their gen ed curricula in recent years.

Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, which advocates for liberal education, said institutions are facing mandates from states and other policy makers to get students through their degree programs and into jobs faster. And a common perception among those policy makers is that jobs require technical training from within the major, rather than the broad-based, cross-cutting skills for which AAC&U advocates -- and which gen ed programs generally attempt to instill.

But that doesn’t mean that cutting a gen ed program’s number of required credits is necessarily a bad thing, Pasquerella said. In fact, the AAC&U has no recommended minimum number of credit hours for gen ed. Instead, it encourages institutions to emphasize competencies such as oral communication, moral imagination, working with diverse groups and critical thinking throughout gen ed programs, whatever their size. Beyond gen ed, she said, institutions should incorporate these values into course work for majors, as well.

“That kind of preparation is important now more than ever.”

Even as colleges and universities are trimming their gen ed programs, data from AAC&U indicate that they are simultaneously paying much more attention to gen ed features such as common intellectual experiences, thematic courses, learning communities and active learning.

Aleksander Sternfeld-Dunn, director of Wichita State’s School of Music and a member of the Senate’s ad hoc committee on the gen ed revision, said, “I don’t really think that credit hours should have anything to do with what gen ed does. That’s an artificial measuring stick.” At the same, he said, the original 33-credit proposal was something that everyone on the committee -- from those who wanted 30 credits to those who wanted 42 -- could agree on.

A faculty survey reviewed by the committee also revealed a sense that less was more. Just 17 percent of 305 survey respondents said they wanted to keep a 42-credit, or 14-course, program. The biggest share of respondents, some 38 percent, said they wanted just 30 credits, or 10 courses. Still, the Senate voted to narrowly to make the gen ed program 36 credits ahead of the full faculty vote.

Reasons for Change

The impetus for Wichita State’s revision was a 2017 directive by the Kansas State Board of Regents that all degree programs be capped at 120 credit hours, in keeping with “best practices for on-time completion,” with case-by-case exceptions. This was not a problem in many majors. But in engineering and a number of arts programs accredited by outside disciplinary bodies, it was. A degree in biomedical engineering, for example, runs at 128 or 129 credits, after general education and discipline-specific requirements. A bachelor of music degree in vocal performance entails 86 credit hours, including several non-credit-bearing recital requirements. Add in 42 credits of gen ed, and that’s 128 credit hours.

To make things fit, some programs had to cut credit hours without cutting content (hence the zero-credit requirements) or cut content, to the detriment of the major.

Kamran Rokhsaz, professor of aerodynamics and another member of the ad hoc committee, said that over time, in engineering and the fine arts, “every cut in the size [of] the curriculum came at the cost of cutting the technical content.”

So giving students some or more flexibility to explore intellectually became another goal of the revision.

Another reason to rethink Wichita State’s gen ed program? It’s old. Whereas many institutions revise their curricula every 10 to 15 years (about the time its seems to take the current faculty to start wondering who made these decisions in the first place, and why) Wichita State’s has been in place for since at least the 1980s.

One last reason for the revision: Wichita State’s program is relatively complicated, with three “tiers” of requirements, by type and course level. By contrast, many of Wichita State’s peer and aspirational institutions have slimmer curricula that are much easier for students to understand. Kansas State University, for example, has the K-State 8, delineating eight disciplinary areas and perspectives students must sample. The University of Kansas has the KU Core, made up of six distribution areas, such as critical thinking, quantitative literacy and social responsibility and ethics. Wichita State also has a large share of transfer students -- half of all undergraduates -- highlighting the need for an easy-to-navigate program.

Decisions, Decisions

The ad hoc gen ed committee’s first decision was whether to scrap the campus’s existing curriculum and start from scratch, or to adjust it to meet student needs and the state board mandate. The group spent considerable time debating the pros and cons of each course of action. It eventually decided that it was in the institution’s best interest to work within the existing framework and meet the state mandate sooner rather than later, said Jeffrey Jarman, director of the Elliott School of Communication and chair of the ad hoc committee.

“We voted to maintain the goals of our system,” he said. “So the rest of the time we were talking about, ‘How can we balance the value of gen ed that we want all of our students to have with the needs of some of our programs?’”

Wichita State’s outcomes for general education are a blend of traditional distribution requirements and advanced outcomes. They are, and will remain: have acquired knowledge in the arts, humanities and natural and social sciences; think critically and independently; write and speak effectively; and employ analytical reasoning and problem-solving techniques.

The 42-credit program requires 12 credit hours of “Foundation” courses -- including six hours of English composition, three hours of public speaking and three hours of college-level math -- along with one fine arts introductory course, one intro course in two different humanities fields, and one intro course in two different social and behavioral sciences.

Also required are one intro course in two different math and natural sciences fields (one must be in biology, chemistry, geology or physics), and a total of three advanced study courses. The program classifies intro courses as Tier 2 and advanced study and issues and perspective courses as Tier 3.

New Plan

The proposal up for a vote today includes still include four “Foundation” courses. But distribution-style requirements are cut to one course each from the fine arts, humanities, social sciences and math or natural sciences, from two in some. The plan also combines what are currently labeled Tier 2 and Tier 3 courses, so that any course approved from general education would count.

There are four additional electives in the proposal, from at least two divisions. One must be a first-year seminar (this is already required for most students, but the previous, 36-credit proposal counted it differently).

One course in the major can count toward general education, and at least nine credit hours must be at the 300 level.

Sternfeld-Dunn said that conversations about gen ed curricula always involve the depth of study versus breadth of study question. And whereas the current system is “more depth focused, which has some benefits, but some downsides, the proposal we have has some electives built into it but allows for some exploration. The compromise we reached as a committee is this would allow students to choose -- do they want breadth or depth?”

Will the plan be approved? Jarman said the proposal passed by a clear majority at the Faculty Senate, so it stands a good chance.

Or, as Rokhsaz said via email, “we as a university had a problem with the unwieldy size of our general education program and it was time to review/revise it.”

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University of Miami professor left Bolivia after the press (falsely, she says) called her a U.S. agent

Inside Higher Ed - News - November 11, 2019 - 7:00pm

A political science professor conducting research in Bolivia said she had to leave the country for her safety after local media outlets ran articles falsely claiming she was a U.S. agent and was organizing protests.

Fieldwork has gotten more challenging and less safe in many parts of the world -- in particular many parts of the Middle East -- but Calla Hummel, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Miami, said she never expected something like this to happen in Bolivia. She has traveled to Bolivia most years since 2006 and has been doing research there since 2009.

Hummel was spending a sabbatical in the Bolivian city of La Paz finishing research for her book on where and how informal workers interact with the state. She had timed her trip to Bolivia to coincide with the Oct. 20 presidential election. The incumbent president, Evo Morales, declared his fourth consecutive victory in the election, but opponents alleged that the results were marred by fraud, leading to the breakout of what the Associated Press describes as the biggest protests Bolivia has seen in decades. (Morales resigned Sunday.)

Hummel’s apartment was right in the center of the action. She started posting on Facebook and Twitter about her observations of the protests.

“As a political scientist who’s interested in popular mobilization, I was taking pictures of the protests and filming them and posting on Facebook and Twitter, just what I’m seeing.”

For example: “Here’s a video of people setting fires in the street, or here’s a video of the police launching tear gas in the crowd.”

“It was very intentionally observations about what was happening and not my personal political views about what was going on in Bolivia,” Hummel said, “because at the end of the day I’m not Bolivian. I’m not a Bolivian voter. I have opinions, but that’s not the first thing that I want to put out.”

On Oct. 29 Hummel learned of a piece published in a Bolivian digital news source, Primera Línea, titled (translated from the Spanish) “U.S. Agent Who Participated in Brazilian Coup Operates in Bolivia.”

The article, citing no evidence, linked Hummel to demonstrations against the impeached former president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff (Hummel has also lived and conducted research in Brazil). The article alleged she was now organizing protests in Bolivia, citing a Facebook post of Hummel's in which she described a protest in a La Paz neighborhood.

Hummel said she had not organized any protests in either Bolivia or Brazil, for many reasons. In the Facebook post cited in the article, she said she was describing witnessing a specific a type of protest -- the cacerolazo, in which protesters make noise by banging on pots and pans -- for the first time.

“I’m not a spy or agent in any way, shape or form," she said.

Hummel learned of the Primera Línea article via social media. "I was a little bit shaken up by this, because it was being circulated on Facebook. There weren’t a lot of threatening comments, but there were a number of threatening comments," she said.

She emailed contacts at the University of Miami, and a dean recommended she leave Bolivia. Heeding the advice, she returned to Miami. The U.S. embassy in La Paz also advised that she leave, though she did not receive the message until after she was safely home.

The news source that published the account, Primera Línea, did not respond to an emailed request from Inside Higher Ed for comment. Cambio, a state-controlled publication that also published the allegations, issued a retraction -- albeit a weak one -- in which it quoted a letter from Hummel stating that she is not a U.S. agent. The retraction notice also printed Hummel's university address.

Linda Farthing, an independent scholar and journalist in Bolivia who was named as an associate of Hummel in the Primera Línea article, said the article frightened Hummel, which is understandable. “I don’t think Calla was under any kind of immediate threat, but it is a very tense situation and it’s a very polarized situation,” said Farthing, who remains in Bolivia.

“We have asked collectively to have that story removed,” Farthing said. “What can I say? It comes with the territory and is, I think, seriously exaggerated by the accessibility that we all have now on social media. It’s very easy to attack people on social media in whatever form without ever really having to prove or explain or say anything about who they are and why you’re making this claim that this person is whatever that you’re claiming. That’s always true -- I’m sure that was true in a village in the 18th century that somebody whispered in somebody’s ear that somebody was doing whatever -- but we’re so able to reach around the world and do that now, and the person doing it can hide in ways you couldn’t in a small village.”

Asked to comment on the situation, a University of Miami spokeswoman said, “The safety of our faculty, students and staff is of paramount concern to the university.”

On Twitter, Hummel said she was relieved to have followed the instructions of her institutional review board to protect her sources. “I am thankful I was following IRB confidentiality and security protocols. No one I directly work with was named. I did not have pictures with people I work with that these outlets could use and interview data had layers of protection,” she wrote.

“This is not something that just happened to me,” Hummel stressed in an interview. “I’ve heard a lot of stories of this happening to researchers in other parts of the world. A number of people commented on these posts saying something similar happened to them. While it may be something that’s relatively rare in Bolivia or may not take this exact form, it’s something that a lot of researchers deal with.”

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