Higher Education News

Looming White House executive actions on higher education may cover more than free speech

Inside Higher Ed - News - March 7, 2019 - 7:00pm

The White House is gearing up to introduce a promised executive order on free speech, perhaps timed to coincide with its proposed budget release next week. And the administration may tackle other higher education issues with its planned executive actions.

Several well-placed observers said the White House has for months been working to jointly release executive orders on risk sharing (requiring a financial stake for colleges based on students’ ability to repay loans) as well as on its plan for releasing program-level student outcomes data on a publicly available web tool like the College Scorecard.

It’s unclear if the Trump administration will be able to pull this off in a single budget-related public announcement. And sources couldn’t say what exactly might be included in the executive orders or if they would all be released together.

But despite the uncertainty, the White House apparently has been trying to bring the executive actions together for a joint announcement around the budget release.

President Trump last weekend vowed that an executive order linking the flow of federal research dollars to ensuring campus free speech was coming soon. And sources said Ivanka Trump, his daughter and a White House adviser, has been helping to develop the other potential executive orders. Ivanka Trump has been active on work-force development, including the administration’s efforts to create industry-recognized apprenticeships. And her office last year hired several staff members who have worked on issues related to the possible executive orders, sources said.

The White House declined to comment on the potential looming executive orders, referring to the president’s address last weekend to the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Trump was vague in the speech about how an executive order that would prod colleges to protect free speech might work and did not mention which government entity would enforce it.

"If they want our dollars, and we give them by the billions, they’ve got to allow people to speak," he said during his more than two-hour address.

However, conservatives in recent years have charted a path the White House might pursue.

An article National Affairs published last spring may have helped influence the administration’s interest in such an executive action.

The article’s co-authors were Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and Grant Addison, then program manager for education policy studies at AEI and now deputy editor of the Washington Examiner magazine. They also wrote about the issue this week in an opinion piece for Inside Higher Ed.

“Taxpayer funds should not be subsidizing research at higher education institutions where the conditions of free inquiry are compromised,” Hess and Addison wrote for National Affairs, adding that “unfettered inquiry is foundational to the legal regime that governs the research relationship between higher education and the federal government.”

An executive order seeking to preserve free inquiry should focus on explicit speech codes that are on the books at many colleges and universities, they argued.

“Higher education institutions with formal policies that restrict, chill or punish constitutionally protected speech should therefore be rendered ineligible for federal research funding,” said Hess and Addison.

The White House might not opt to follow this advice. But if it does, Hess and Addison said such an executive order would be on firm ground historically and statutorily, as well as long overdue. And they said campuses have machinery in place to help ensure adherence to free inquiry.

A wide range of higher education leaders and academics have criticized the idea of linking free speech to federal research fund eligibility.

Such an executive order would be a “solution in search of a problem,” Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said in an interview shortly after President Trump's Saturday speech. That’s because "free speech and academic freedom are core values of research universities," he said.

Program-Level Data and Risk Sharing

Even less information was available about where the Trump administration might go with possible executive orders on program-level student outcomes data or risk sharing.

Last year the U.S. Department of Education dropped the Obama administration’s so-called gainful-employment rule. Those regulations sought accountability for career education programs, mostly those offered by for-profit colleges, based on a measure of their graduates’ ability to repay federal loans.

Gainful employment came with a trove of program-level data. And while its sanctions didn’t come into effect before the Trump administration scuttled the regulation, many for-profits still dropped programs that were likely to fail the rule.

When it announced a planned overhaul for gainful employment last August, the department said it would give prospective students solid data they could use when considering college programs.

“The department plans to update the College Scorecard or a similar web-based tool to provide program-level outcomes including, at a minimum, median debt and median earnings for all higher education programs, at all Title IV participating institutions,” the feds said in a written statement. “The department believes that this will improve transparency by providing comparable information for all programs and helping students understand what earnings they might expect based on those of prior graduates.”

Getting such information won’t be easy. It would require data sources from multiple federal agencies. And adding those metrics to the College Scorecard poses technology challenges as well.

Yet department officials previously have promised that some program-level data, including on graduate earnings, will be publicly available this year.

Michael Itzkowitz, a senior fellow at Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank, worked on the Scorecard’s creation as a department official during the Obama administration. He has welcomed the promised addition of program-level data but has said the bulked-up data won’t make up for the department’s diminished focus on oversight and outcomes under the Trump administration.

“Adding program-level data to the College Scorecard is great,” he said on Twitter in November. “However, it's not an equal substitute for the elimination of protections for students who enroll in low-performing higher education programs.”

The concept of expanded risk sharing in higher education generally has received increasing bipartisan interest in recent years. The concept revolves around holding colleges more accountable for the risks students and taxpayers take on with federal loans -- giving colleges more “skin in the game.”

However, it’s unclear what an executive order could do in an area that’s largely covered by federal legislation rather than by regulation or executive actions.

Some ideas that the White House might be considering on risk sharing, sources said, include those described in a 2015 paper by Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who leads the Senate’s education committee.

One possibility, the paper said, would be for colleges to be required to assume financial liability based on a metric related to their graduates' ability to repay federal loans.

Higher education trade groups, led by the American Council on Education, in 2015 opposed the ideas Alexander described. "Far from incentivizing positive behaviors, this approach will instead penalize all students and institutions in an attempt to address the behaviors of a handful of bad actors," the groups wrote.

Sources said several federal agencies and Congress would need to be involved in creating a substantive executive order on risk sharing, even one that would be largely symbolic. They cited uncertainty around this possible order and possible ones covering program-level data and free speech, as well as the unpredictability of this administration, which previously has failed to make good on high-profile promises.

Yet several observers said the White House has long had plans for a broad suite of executive actions on higher education, beyond free speech. And they said next week’s budget release might be an ideal time for the administration to make those plans public.

-- Andrew Kreighbaum contributed to this article.

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Categories: Higher Education News

UT Knoxville blackface incident calls into question administrator commitment to diversity

Inside Higher Ed - News - March 7, 2019 - 7:00pm

When the National Anthem played at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville men’s basketball game on Tuesday, at first it seemed like everyone in the stands, most dressed in the bright orange of the institution, rose.

But there was contingent, dressed in all black, that did not.

Those students, roughly 40 to 50, according to local media reports, remained seated in protest. This was a display against administrators’ response to a social media posting of students in blackface that has circulated campus and inflamed race relations.

During the game, students chanted slogans: “Hey, hey, ho ho, racism has got to go” and “No justice, no peace, no racist UT.” Most of them left during the second half of the game, holding their right fists in the air in protest, a similar gesture to athletes, both college and professional, who have knelt during the anthem as a demonstration against racism.

The blackface episode stung all the more because it unfolded following the revelation that prominent Virginia politicians, the state’s governor and attorney general, both Democrats, wore blackface in college. (The governor, Ralph Northam, initially said he was pictured in his medical school yearbook in blackface, but he later walked back the admission.)

And the scandal with the Virginia officials has led other colleges to audit their yearbooks, sometimes unearthing the unscrupulous and prejudicial pasts of both university leaders and the institutions themselves -- so students engaging in blackface now seemed particularly egregious. Tennessee's governor, Bill Lee, for instance, was pictured in his college yearbook from Auburn University wearing a Confederate uniform.

Citing constitutional considerations, university officials have said that they are unlikely to expel anyone over blackface. Administrators said that the First Amendment prevents them from removing the students, but at least one, Ethan Feick, is no longer enrolled, the university said Wednesday. Federal privacy laws prohibit officials from sharing more, they said.

The incident raises a slew of issues for Knoxville, as it also comes amid accusations by President Trump that public universities do not protect free speech, particularly speech with a conservative bent. He vowed recently to sign an executive order that would deny federal research money to institutions that do not support free expression. Trump has also repeatedly called for everyone attending athletics events to stand for the National Anthem.

Administrators’ responses at Knoxville seem counter to Trump’s theory that public universities do not respect free speech. Despite the mounting pressure for them to act and kick the students out, they have not yet buckled to the demands, despite the expulsion of all the students seemingly being the option the public favors the most. The decision also leaves Knoxville officials in a tough position of wanting to support diversity -- and the minority students hurt by the situation who perceive that administrators are disregarding their concerns -- but not open themselves to a legal challenge.

I thought long and hard about posting this but it hit an emotional spot for me for people to think that i did not EARN what was given to me because of my race. pic.twitter.com/5ulc1X3jUC

— jas (@jxxsie_) February 28, 2019

In late February, a Knoxville student posted online an image from Snapchat. It was a picture of four students posing, two wearing black face masks (part of a skin-care routine) with a caption that read: “We for racial equality boys. Bout to get this free college now that I’m black let’s gooooo #blacklivesmatter.”

The post not only mocked the Black Lives Matter movement but also played into the harmful stereotype that black students are only admitted to college because of their race and not on their merits, said Julian Hayter, an associate professor of leadership studies at the University of Richmond.

Anger abounded as the photo went viral on Twitter (it’s been retweeted more than 3,500 times). A student created a Change.org petition pushing for the removal of the students in the image and asking Knoxville to enact a zero-tolerance policy against racism and hate speech. It has since been signed by more than 5,100 people.

“Blackface in the name of free speech is racism,” Shaun Harper, executive director of the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center, said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. “There is no other name for it. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this is an example of the free speech that Donald Trump wishes to protect. It is highly likely that he would [not] denounce this, which is shameful. College presidents and other leaders owe it to their black students and black employees to denounce and actively address this insidious form of racism.”

Knoxville’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People condemned the incident.

“Despite ongoing efforts within our university to enhance opportunities consisting of culture competency for staff and students regarding diversity, there is clearly more work to be done and we are not on the right track -- we cannot, and will not, stand by to watch these situations continuously occur on our campus,” a statement from the organization reads.

The university in a statement called the screen grab “repulsive” and “abhorrent” and organized a forum Monday to discuss race and the controversy with the campus.

At that meeting, Vince Carilli, vice chancellor for student life, told the crowd of about 200 people that the university would be “hard-pressed to expel a student for expressing their First Amendment rights,” a statement that drew the ire of the attendees, The Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

Carilli noted that no decision has yet been made on whether to discipline the offending students.  After Carilli’s remarks at the forum, one student, George Johnson, told the News Sentinel that he was “heartbroken” and that he could no longer take pride in UT Knoxville.

“You failed if you believe that the First Amendment is the equivalent of protecting someone from blackfacing,” Johnson said in an interview with the newspaper.

Tuesday was the protest at the basketball game, a home game against Mississippi State University. The protest was organized by the UT Diversity Matters Coalition, which was founded in 2016 after the Office of Diversity and Inclusion was potentially one of the targets of state legislation that would have cut funds for diversity in higher education.

Caitlin Lloyd, a junior at Knoxville and one of the student organizers, told Inside Higher Ed that the protest “was a necessity.”

Knoxville’s response was “reactionary,” Lloyd wrote during an interview with a reporter on Facebook.

“Our campus admin continues to address racism through releasing statements of condemnation, yet they never actively create change around these issues,” Lloyd wrote. “We are tired and we have had enough of just receiving emails. Our administration has to do better. It needs to.”

A Knoxville spokeswoman directed a reporter to a statement from the Office of the Chancellor posted Wednesday.

According to the statement, the university will immediately start requiring ongoing cultural competency, inclusion and bias training for employees. A student training will begin with orientation in the summer and extend through the first week back during the academic year.

The Faculty Senate approved new general education requirements earlier this week, too, that will include classes on global citizenship. A new committee has been formed of professors, staffers and students that will study the university’s policies.

Lloyd wrote that she believes the students in blackface should be expelled “or otherwise disciplined in a constructive manner.” She said that she thinks that the students violated the conduct code, specifically a section about causing harm to other students. Some of her peers have skipped class because they mentally didn’t feel they could attend, Lloyd wrote.

“We have all cried together, screamed together,” Lloyd wrote. “This has directly harmed our well-being … our welfare. This, hence, justifies our want to have these students expelled.”

Hayter, the professor from Richmond, said that Knoxville can’t continue to treat diversity as “a token issue.”

Hayter called the university’s handling of the incident “clumsy” and said that freedom of speech doesn’t protect the students from consequences -- even by the university. Knoxville’s conduct code does seem to forbid such actions, and punishing the students would send a strong message, Hayter said.

“I’m a proponent of college intellectual diversity and freedom of thought,” Hayter said. “But ultimately, what we’re talking about here is behavior and language that is chock-full of racial stereotypes that were intended to hurt. I think that has a profound influence then. If people want to hide behind the First Amendment, and unapologetically, they need to think long and hard [about the] kind of students they want on this campus.”

When other students have engaged in racist behavior, they have left their institutions, sometimes of their own accord and sometimes not.

Two former students at the University of Oklahoma withdrew from their institution after a video surfaced of them using a racial slur and in blackface. Officials at Oklahoma said the students voluntarily left but never clarified whether administrators encouraged them to do so.

A University of Alabama student, however, was apparently expelled after a racist rant she recorded went viral online. Constitutional scholars Inside Higher Ed interviewed said the student would have a strong case for a lawsuit.

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Categories: Higher Education News

AAUP finds that Maricopa colleges' governing board sought to destroy its campuswide faculty governing body for political purposes

Inside Higher Ed - News - March 7, 2019 - 7:00pm

Maricopa County Community College District’s governing board engaged in union busting, “deliberately mischaracterizing” its multi-campus faculty governance body as a collective bargaining agent to “destroy” it, according to a new investigative report from the American Association of University Professors. 

The board was further found to have repealed the entire faculty manual and restricted faculty involvement in institutional decision making in February of last year. It also voted to terminate a “meet-and-confer” process by which faculty members made recommendations to the board on salary and budgets -- allowing the board to make major decisions about faculty work and compensation without its input.

While the board’s actions plunged the district’s governance system into “chaos,” AAUP’s report says, Maricopa’s senior administration simultaneously “abdicated its appropriate leadership role” by “passively acquiescing in the board’s unwarranted actions.”

The association’s investigating committee wrote that it was unable to find any evidence suggesting that the board’s moves were in the district’s best interest. Instead, it wrote, “evidence strongly suggests that the board’s intervention was an engineered performance of political theater motivated by partisan ideology and political ambition.”

In January of last year, for example -- a month before the board slashed faculty governance -- then board chair Laurin Hendrix wrote district chancellor Maria Harper-Marinick an email saying, “State Republican convention was yesterday. This is election year. Republicans are impressed with the conservative direction of [the district].”

The email, obtained through public records requests, continued, “Let’s talk tomorrow but I’d like to 1) consider a letter from the board or district to the governor thanking him for considering bills but making clear that Maricopa does not need state funds at this time, 2) remove meet and confer immediately, 3) have a draft of a new faculty manual in 30 days with a goal of final approval in 60 days.” 

Hendrix, a one-time Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives, filed to again be a candidate in the Republican primary for the Arizona House days after he wrote that email, according to additional information obtained through public records requests. (He eventually declined to run.)

Campus governance presidents and representatives were also told to avoid any faculty governance-related work or conversations during business hours in the aftermath of the board vote. 

Maricopa's Faculty Association was incorporated as a union, but it has no collective bargaining rights, according to state law.

Last-minute amendments to the board’s 2018 resolution immediately eliminated any reassigned time for members of the district-wide Faculty Association’s Faculty Executive Committee and reiterated an Arizona statute that “prohibits employees of Maricopa County from engaging in fundraising activities for a political action committee while on duty.” 

The obvious intent of the resolution, according to AAUP, “was to eliminate not only the 40-year-old practice of meet-and-confer but also any governance structures and practices that supported it.”

Ideas in the board's resolution can be traced back to a 2017 white paper written by a campus administrative vice president, apparently at the behest of another board member who emailed him that the board was "going after" meet-and-confer. That white paper advocated converting tenured appointments to "at will" positions, eliminating a district shared governance clause, and creating a curriculum process in which the faculty participates but does not direct. 

Reversing Course

The good news, according to AAUP? That was last year. This January, the board -- flush with new members and a new president -- reversed some of the previous members’ actions, to a cheering standing ovation from faculty and staff members present. 

Still, AAUP says that whether the situation is fully resolved remains to be seen.

John Schampel, professor of biosciences at Phoenix College and president of the district’s Faculty Association, said AAUP’s report reveals “with startling clarity the governance and leadership failures” the district has experienced and “continues to experience.”

A major lingering concern for the faculty is the administration’s “deafening silence” and effective “complicity” regarding the board’s actions, Schampel said, quoting AAUP’s report. That’s especially true as Harper-Marinick remains district chancellor, he said. 

Of Harper-Marinick, the report says, “It was her responsibility to inform the board of the implications of its actions and, in particular, of how its actions would affect the district.” 

Given that board meetings are public forums, “it was her obligation to provide the public with her views regarding the board’s actions,” AAUP’s investigating committee added. “The most credible explanation for her inaction is that she feared that speaking out against the board would jeopardize her position.”

In response to AAUP’s report, the district in a statement underlined that the new board’s actions "immediately rescind" the controversial choices of its former members.

Going Forward

Typically, AAUP’s investigative reports set the stage for the body to vote to censure or sanction institutions for alleged violations of tenure of or shared governance, respectively, at its annual meeting every June. 

Sanctions for shared governance violations are rarer than censures for tenure violations. The last institutions to be sanctioned were Union County College and the University of Iowa, in 2016. Iowa’s sanction was removed last year, however.

Irene Mulvey, chair of math at Fairfield University and chair of the AAUP committee that investigated Maricopa, said she thought that a vote to sanction the district in June “would have been approved.”

But given the “very positive turn of events” described in the latter parts of the report, she said, AAUP will probably continue to monitor “very closely how things progress with the new governing board leadership” in Arizona. 

Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary of academic freedom, tenure and governance at the AAUP, said it’s the association’s understanding that there are “ongoing negotiations about the re-establishment of governance following the rescission of the resolution that have not yet been completed.” 

The AAUP continues to follow the matter closely, he said.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Schatz reintroduces debt-free college bill

Inside Higher Ed - News - March 7, 2019 - 7:00pm

Senator Brian Schatz and top progressive Democrats are looking to frame “debt-free” college as the solution to the growing cost of higher education.

Schatz on Wednesday announced he would reintroduce legislation first filed last year that aims to cover all costs associated with attending a public college without forcing students to take out loans. His bill, dubbed the Debt-Free College Act, and identical House legislation have support from 40 Democrats, including 2020 presidential contenders Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Putting a focus on debt-free college could have implications for the 2020 presidential primary as well as a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The approach offers a contrast with proposals from Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent and 2020 hopeful himself, whose call for tuition-free public college helped to define the last Democratic presidential primary campaign. Supporters of the Schatz bill say it is more comprehensive because it addresses college costs beyond tuition.

Schatz said at a press conference that any bill taking on student debt must address two key problems.

“First, we need to get states back into the game and get them to reinvest back into higher education. This not solely a federal responsibility,” he said. “Second, we have to deal with the whole cost of college. It is not just tuition.”

The bill would create a one-to-one federal match for state spending on higher education and use those funds to fill unmet need for students pursuing college degrees. Any college costs above a student’s expected family contribution would be covered -- with priority going to Pell Grant recipients.

The concept of a state-federal partnership to address college affordability got an endorsement last week from Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate education committee. In a speech laying out her priorities for updating the Higher Education Act, she said the idea should be included in a new higher ed law and argued that college affordability should be a top priority for lawmakers.

Representative Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a 90-plus-member bloc of left-leaning lawmakers, will sponsor a House version of the Debt-Free College Act. He called the bill the “most comprehensive and progressive legislation yet” to address student debt.

And Representative Barbara Lee, a California Democrat and emeritus chair of the CPC, said pursuing debt-free college would make a big difference for African American students who disproportionately struggle to pay back their student loans after leaving college.

Murray stopped short last week of saying a new HEA law would be the right vehicle to pursue debt-free college, saying the idea likely wouldn’t be achievable in a bipartisan deal. But Schatz said the CPC will push for incorporating the bill into the Higher Education Act in the House, where Democrats hold the majority.

As candidates have jumped into the Democratic presidential race, they’ve been pushed to take a position on how they would address college affordability. Only one, Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, has so far rejected calls for free college, saying instead that she would support free community college. Several others have backed legislation introduced by Sanders or Schatz.

Schatz said he hopes the bill will focus those debates on the entire cost of college.

“We benefit from a competition of ideas here,” he said. “I don’t object to Bernie’s proposal. I do think ours is more comprehensive.”

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Experts have doubts on Russia's plans to reform research efforts

Inside Higher Ed - News - March 7, 2019 - 7:00pm

A new multibillion-dollar strategy from the Russian government to boost the country’s global research standing is a welcome step but is unlikely to have a broad impact on its higher education system, experts have predicted.

The Russian government recently announced that a new National Science Project would be one of 13 initiatives aimed at boosting the country’s stagnating economy and placing Russia among the top five global economic powers.

President Vladimir Putin said that 300 billion Russian rubles (about $4.6 billion)) would be allocated for the project over six years.

The prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, said that the project would establish 15 “world-class science and education centers” throughout the country, provide more support to young researchers and upgrade at least half of all research equipment.

Its goals include making Russia one of the world’s top five countries for the number of academic publications, patents and researchers and for research and development output. The government hopes that the project will increase the attractiveness of Russian higher education among leading domestic and international academics alike and see growth in R&D expenditures overtake the growth rate of its gross domestic product.

The Ministry of Science and Higher Education has also promised to simplify bureaucracy in the research system and has proposed changing legislation to make defending a thesis obligatory for postgraduate students.

Igor Chirikov, senior researcher at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley, said that it was “a very positive sign” that science had been chosen as one of the project areas, but he described the ambitious goals as “unrealistic considering the amount of allocated funding.”

Russia’s R&D spending lags behind more than 25 countries, for instance, he said.

Chirikov added that although the project could help to boost fundamental research, which has been “chronically underfunded,” and to “create a few islands of research excellence,” it “won't be able to tackle existing problems of the research sector.”

Such issues include a brain drain of scholars, bureaucratic barriers in the organization of research and the low engagement of the university sector in research, which was historically concentrated in the institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS).

Margarita Balmaceda, professor of diplomacy and international relations at Seton Hall University and an expert on Russia, said that she was “concerned about a possible decrease in the autonomy of Russian higher education institutions” as a consequence of the project, noting that there has already been a “gradual but unequivocal” decline in the funding and power of the RAS.

Anatoly Oleksiyenko, associate professor in higher education at the University of Hong Kong and co-editor of a recent book on the Soviet legacy in Russian and Chinese universities, said that there were “too many governance challenges in the Russian higher education sector for good academic research to take place these days.”

“The Soviet legacy of mistrust, excessive oversight and data fabrication prevails across many institutions. Besides, the current political environment provides no good support to building trustworthy and sustainable partnerships with centers of excellence in the West, on which some successful projects of Russian universities depended during the previous two decades,” he said.

However, Isak Froumin, head of the Institute of Education at the Higher School of Economics, said that the project was a “very positive development” and that the “relatively small investments could initiate bigger changes in the culture of Russian higher education and research.”

“I believe the policy will lead to the creation of ‘islands’ of modern research culture, which could play an important role in the gradual transformation of the whole system,” he said.

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Major survey shows professors worry about discrimination but aren't prepared to deal with classroom conflicts over diversity

Inside Higher Ed - News - March 5, 2019 - 7:00pm

Discrimination is a source of stress for many faculty members, especially women and ethnic minorities. And most professors say they’re not prepared to deal with diversity-related conflict in their own classrooms. So finds a new report from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The institute publishes its survey of undergraduate teaching every three years, with this report covering 2016-17. The publication is a data trove on the faculty experience and includes additional information on professors' satisfaction with salary and benefits and mentoring students and other professors.

Teaching issues ground the survey. In response to a new set of questions this year, for example, most professors across disciplines said it is their responsibility to promote students’ ability to write effectively and to prepare them for future jobs and advanced education. But just about one-quarter of respondents said they strongly believe they should provide for students’ emotional development.

There’s additional information on faculty politics. And contrary to how they’re often portrayed in popular culture, professors aren’t all liberal. In fact, relatively fewer professors self-identified that way in this survey than in years past.

The institute weights professors' responses to most questions to get a nationally representative sample. Most results are based on responses from 20,771 full-time faculty members who teach undergraduates at 143 four-year colleges and universities. This includes tenured, tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty members.

Discrimination Concerns

Women were more likely than men to feel that workplace discrimination is at least somewhat a source of stress (36 percent versus 18 percent), with the largest gender gaps seen at public universities. At those institutions, 19 percent of men and 43 percent of women said they’re stressed about bias.

Also unsurprisingly, white faculty members were less likely to report this kind of stress -- some 22 percent of these respondents versus about half of black and Latino professors and 31 percent of Asians. Non-Asian and nonwhite men reported higher rates of bias-related stress than do white women. More than half of female professors of color considered discrimination a somewhat or extensive source of stress.

Source: Higher Education Research Institute

By field and institution type, women in the sciences, technology, engineering and math were most stressed over discrimination.

Asked about their perception of institutional priorities, including commitments to fostering positive climates, 65 percent of professors said their institutions valued development of community. Those at private institutions were most likely to believe that their campuses valued community engagement between students and faculty members.

Regarding recruitment and treatment of women and professors of color, half of respondents said that their institutions placed a high value on promoting gender diversity in the faculty and administration. Some 56 percent of respondents said their institutions prioritized promoting racial and ethnic diversity within the faculty and administration. Whites and Asians were more likely than their colleagues of different ethnicities to say this, however. Just 35 percent of Native Americans and 43 percent of black professors said this, for example.

Over all, some 77 percent of respondents said that women were treated fairly at their institutions. Men (84 percent) were much more likely than women (69 percent) to hold that view.

While 79 percent of respondents believed that faculty members of color were treated fairly at their institutions, just 59 percent of Latino and 61 percent of black professors thought so.

What about the playing field for scholarship? “The peer-review culture and pressure to achieve excellence in the areas of teaching, research and service can foster feelings of uncertainty and doubt among some faculty regarding the adequacy of their productivity,” reads the report. Those “who feel such uneasiness may feel as though they need to work even harder to keep up with their seemingly highly productive colleagues.”

And these feelings “are often exacerbated among faculty from historically marginalized or vulnerable groups, including faculty of color, women and those without the protections of tenure,” according to the institute.

While some 51 percent of respondents said they needed to work harder than their colleagues to be perceived as a “legitimate” scholar, this varied considerably by demographic.

Among women, 61 percent believed they needed to work harder than their colleagues, compared to 44 percent of men. By ethnicity, some 72 percent of black, 71 percent of Asian and Latino, and 67 percent of Native American professors said they needed to work harder than their peers to gain this legitimacy. Just 47 percent of white professors said this.

“Almost without exception, rates of agreement among faculty of color, regardless of race, exceed the proportion of white male and female faculty who felt they needed to work harder than their colleagues to gain legitimacy,” the study says, addressing the importance of intersectional analysis.

Job security also played a role here, as did lack of clarity regarding the tenure and promotion process. Faculty members who experienced uncertainty at work were much more likely than the overall sample to think they need to work harder than their colleagues to be perceived as a legitimate scholar: three out of four faculty members reporting “extensive” stress associated with job security also indicated having a sense they needed to work harder than their colleagues. Compared to peers who reported having a clear understanding of the criteria used in promotion and tenure decisions, faculty members who lacked clarity there were 1.5 times as likely to feel compelled to work harder than their colleagues.

“The discrepancies suggest that clearly communicated signals from the campus concerning expectations about faculty productivity could go a long way in alleviating anxiety and helping faculty better calibrate self-assessments of their contributions to the department, discipline and institution,” reads the report.

This matters, in part, because believing it is necessary to work harder than peers can also contribute to higher stress levels, according to the institute. Professors who agreed either “somewhat” or “strongly” that they needed to work harder than their colleagues to be perceived as a legitimate scholar also reported experiencing “extensive” stress at higher rates than their colleagues who did not feel this pressure.

Over all, about one-quarter of respondents reported “extensive” stress due to increased responsibilities at work. One-third of professors who believed they needed to work harder than their colleagues reported having fewer than five hours on average each week of “personal time,” compared to 23 percent of respondents who didn’t.

“Although colleges and universities have made progress toward greater gender and racial diversity among their faculty, these findings make clear that the academy has significant work to do regarding equity and inclusion,” Kevin Eagan, director of the institute and assistant professor in the university's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, said in a statement. “Any progress institutions have made with respect to enhancing the diversity of their faculty through hiring will be short-lived if women and faculty of color endure discriminatory departmental and institutional climates that serve as a major source of stress and potentially erode their ability to achieve work-life balance.”

As for pay, just 48 percent of faculty members in the survey were satisfied or very satisfied with the relative equity of their salary and job benefits. One-quarter were not satisfied. Professors at private institutions were most likely to be satisfied (60 percent). And faculty members whose principal activity is teaching were less likely to be satisfied than those whose principal activity is service to clients or patients, administration or research.

Satisfaction with relative equity of pay varied by demographics, as well. Some 44 percent of female professors were satisfied, compared to 52 percent of men. Multiracial (39 percent), Latino (40 percent), black and Asian (both 47 percent) professors were all less satisfied than their white peers (50 percent).

Looking at satisfaction by STEM affiliation, STEM faculty were more satisfied (53 percent) than their non-STEM peers (47 percent).

The survey includes questions about hours spent per week on different activities. Linking this to relative satisfaction with pay and benefits, researchers found that the level of satisfaction increased as the mean hours per week spent on teaching and preparing for teaching decreased. By contrast, as time spent on scholarly writing increased, so did the level of satisfaction with equity of pay and benefits.

Teaching, Mentoring and Conflicts in the Classroom

If discrimination and bias are major points of concern for many faculty members, most professors say they’re not prepared to deal with these kinds of conflicts in their classrooms.

In general, 27 percent of professors felt there was racial conflict at their institution, with women being more likely than men to agree. Some 43 percent of Latino and 39 percent of black professors agreed there was a lot of racial conflict on their campuses, however.

While 84 percent of professors said it was their role to enhance students’ knowledge of and appreciation for other racial and ethnic groups, less than half of professors felt they were prepared to deal with conflict over diversity issues in the classroom. More than two-thirds of Latino and 61 percent of black professors said that faculty members are unprepared for this kind of work.

Even so, 22 percent of professors reported using resources to integrate culturally competent practices in their teaching. Faculty members in engineering, math and agriculture were the least likely to consult these resources.

A survey module on mentoring was completed by 7,255 full-time professors at 56 institutions. In general, slightly more women and non-STEM professors scored higher on self-efficacy in mentoring, a composite measure of skills. Skills include providing mentees with constructive feedback, taking into account the biases and prejudices they bring to the mentor-mentee relationship, working effectively with mentees whose personal backgrounds differ from their own, and being an advocate for their mentees.

More than half of respondents said they’d participated in some type of training to be mentor, with STEM faculty (64 percent) being more likely to be trained than peers in other fields (55 percent). And training appeared to be effective, in that skills scores for those with training were significantly higher than for those without it.

Of the faculty who were currently mentoring undergraduate students, about one-fifth each mentor one or two students, three or four students, five to eight students, nine to 15 students, or 16 or more students. Professors in non-STEM fields reported mentoring more undergraduates, with 44 percent mentoring nine or more students, compared to 40 percent of STEM instructors.

Male and female faculty members reported mentoring about the same number of students. But women were more likely to rate the overall quality of their mentoring relationship with undergraduates as excellent (55 percent) compared to 50 percent of their male peers. At the same time, men were more likely to report that they engaged with their mentees weekly than were women. Beyond communication frequency, women were more likely than men to work on educational choices and strategies, explore career options, serve as role models, and convey empathy to their mentees.

Among graduate mentors, professors in non-STEM fields reported having more graduate student mentees than STEM professors did. Female faculty members in both STEM and non-STEM fields were slightly more likely to have more students than their male peers.

Some 33 percent of STEM women had at least five graduate student mentees, compared to 30 percent of STEM men. Some 44 percent of non-STEM women had at least five graduate mentees, compared to 38 percent of men.

In non-STEM fields, about 11 percent of men and 9 percent of women communicated with their graduate mentees daily. In STEM fields, about 20 of female professors and one-third of men communicated daily with their graduate mentees.

Male professors in STEM fields (67 percent) worked with their graduate mentees on their research projects and interests at higher rates than do female professors in STEM fields (50 percent).

Of the professors who completed the mentoring module, about one-third reported currently mentoring other faculty members. Some 46 percent reported having one faculty mentee, while 30 percent had two faculty mentees, 18 percent had three or four, and 6 percent had five or more.

Female professors were more likely than male faculty to have more than one faculty mentee (56 percent compared to 52 percent, respectively).

This year’s general survey asked some more specific questions than years past about faculty members’ ideas about their role in undergraduate learning. Some 73 percent of faculty strongly agreed that it is their responsibility to promote students’ ability to write effectively, but only about a quarter (27 percent) strongly believed they should provide for students’ emotional development.

Faculty members were also more likely to strongly agree that they should prepare students for employment after college (70 percent) and for graduate or advanced education (61 percent) than to encourage students to become agents of social change (37 percent) or develop students’ personal values (also 37 percent) and moral character (40 percent).

On diversity, 58 percent of faculty members strongly agree that it is their role to teach students tolerance and respect for different beliefs. Some 44 percent strongly agree that they should enhance students’ knowledge of and appreciation for other racial or ethnic groups.

Assistant professors tended to agree more with these diversity- and character-related goals than their tenured colleagues. Non-STEM faculty members were more likely to agree than their STEM peers that that they play a role in all these goals, except for preparing students for employment and advanced education.

Interestingly, and perhaps significant in an era of “fake news,” larger proportions of faculty reported increases in frequency on three items relating to habits of mind than in past iterations of the institute’s survey.

Seventy percent of faculty over all reported frequently encouraging students to evaluate the quality or reliability of information that they receive. Three years earlier, this was 59 percent.

About 73 percent of professors now frequently encourage students to seek solutions to problems and explain them to others, up five percentage points from the previous survey. And 56 percent of professors reported frequently encouraging students to recognize biases that affect their thinking, an increase of three percentage points from 2013-14.

What about underprepared students? Seventy-one percent of faculty members over all agreed somewhat or strongly that their institution takes responsibility for educating underprepared students. But faculty members at private universities and nonsectarian four-year colleges were slightly less likely to agree with this idea. Faculty members at public four-year colleges and Roman Catholic and other religious institutions were the most likely to agree.

Faculty members who were teaching remedial or developmental courses at survey time were more likely to agree that their institution takes responsibility for educating underprepared students. About 5 percent of professors over all were teaching remedial work, and they were more likely to say that students in theses classes lacked the basic skills for college-level work. Lecturers or instructors, not tenure-track respondents, were mostly likely to teach these classes. Math and other “technical” professors were more likely than their peers in other fields to be teaching these courses.

Outside the Classroom

On professional development, 69 percent of respondents said that there was adequate professional development for them. And, surprisingly, instructors were most likely to say this -- not their tenure-line peers. But just about half of professors participated in professional development within the previous year. Of those, 50 percent participated in teaching development. And one-quarter of those said they received incentives to develop new courses. Others received incentives for integrating technology into the classroom.

Other faculty members participated in professional development for research funding, including research skills development, grant-writing activities and writing internal grants.

Regarding their political views, less than 1 percent of faculty members identified as far right, 12 percent as conservative, 28 percent as “middle of the road” and 12 percent as far left. The biggest share -- 48 percent -- identified as liberal. That’s just about the share (49 percent) of faculty members who said this in 2013-14. And it’s actually less than the peak share -- 50 percent -- of faculty members who said they were liberal, in the 2010-11 administration of the survey.

Kiernan Mathews, executive director of the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, said the institute’s triennial monograph is always a “welcome arrival,” since its one of the few large-scale data sets about faculty available to researchers. The collaborative surveys faculty members, too, but the National Survey of Postsecondary Faculty hasn’t been funded by Congress since 2004, he noted.

To that point, Mathews said that survey research projects like the institute’s collect “so much data, it becomes an important editorial choice to decide what to highlight.” The choices this time have several effects, he added. Some bring “long-hidden issues into the sunlight, like the potential effects of training mentors, and some raise critical questions about faculty blind spots, like the low proportions of white faculty who are aware of racial conflict on campus.”

"I hope that white faculty, in particular, take a hard look at these results and ask why their perceptions and experiences as faculty differ so much from those of their racially minoritized peers," Mathews said.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Southern Vermont College says it will shut its doors

Inside Higher Ed - News - March 5, 2019 - 7:00pm

Southern Vermont College on Monday became the latest small New England college to announce that it is closing its doors.

President David Rees Evans said the decision came after the New England Commission of Higher Education in January caught college officials off guard with the news that it was considering withdrawing accreditation based on the college's finances. The college has spent years bouncing back from a pair of financial setbacks and has worked to trim a deficit that recently totaled $2 million.

The accreditation announcement prompted college officials to halt the search for new students “in the heart of recruitment season,” Evans said. While putting the brakes on recruitment was “the right thing to do,” he said, “What that did was effectively doom us.”

At its Jan. 25 meeting, NECHE voted to ask Southern Vermont to show cause why it shouldn’t be placed on probation or have its accreditation withdrawn. NECHE also said it would take up the matter at its Feb. 28 meeting, noting that the college risked not meeting its standard for institutional resources.

Evans said NECHE’s announcement forced the college to lower enrollment projections by 90 students, from 365 to 275. Southern Vermont currently enrolls 332 students, down from a peak of about 500 in 2012.

He said trustees, faculty members and other advisers, meeting on Feb. 22, decided that without a larger freshman class, they didn’t see “a financial way forward with the college,” the Bennington Banner reported. In a letter to campus, Evans said the board on Friday voted “with sincere regret” to close the college at the end of the spring semester. On Saturday, he said, the college received word that NECHE had indeed voted to withdraw its accreditation effective Aug. 31.

In an interview, Evans said the move to halt recruiting came out of fear that if Southern Vermont closed, it risked lawsuits from stranded and prospective students, much like Mount Ida College in Massachusetts, which closed suddenly last April and is the subject of a lawsuit, filed in November, by former students who alleged that college officials misrepresented how dire the college's finances were.

While NECHE officials had visited in October, Evans said, they postponed action on accreditation. Then, in January, officials said NECHE was considering action on Southern Vermont’s accreditation. “That was the first time they said anything about the possibility of withdrawing accreditation, which is to say the leadership team were pretty surprised by that, frankly,” he said.

Barbara Brittingham, NECHE’s president, said that while “individual actions” in the case may have caught Southern Vermont officials off guard, “the fact that the commission would be very concerned would not necessarily be a surprise.”

Evans said that in the wake of the Mount Ida closure, “I do think that the standard of scrutiny is changed.” Accreditors like NECHE are feeling pressure from states to raise an alarm before colleges’ finances reach a critical stage. “I think NECHE is frankly squeezed between [states] and the schools that they’re accrediting.”

For her part, Brittingham agreed. “I think there are higher expectations than in the past, and I think the commission feels that,” she said.

Susan Stitely, president of the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges, said accreditors like NECHE “do seem to be looking more closely at institutions, and it is kind of a catch-22 -- it raises alarm bells about the institution,” which can hasten its demise. Accreditors “have to do their job, but it creates problems for the institutions.”

She noted that another small Vermont college, the College of St. Joseph, faces a tight NECHE deadline to improve its finances or risk losing accreditation. Such arrangements may hold colleges accountable, but they can also hasten their closure.

“I understand they have to protect the students,” Stitely said of NECHE, “but it also causes some harm in advance, because people are more skeptical” of colleges once they're on call. “It’s a double-edged sword.”

‘New England Is in a Bad Way’

Evans on Monday said the feeling on the Southern Vermont campus was “a combination of anger and grief” over the closure news. “There was a lot of sorrow in the faculty and staff meeting,” he said. “Of the places where I’ve worked, this is by far the most mission-driven institution I’ve been part of.”

He said a 2012 accreditation dispute in the college’s nursing program saw enrollment decline by about 80 full-time students. Two years later, the program earned a new accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the Banner reported.

“I would stand by the quality of our nursing program now, which I think is exceptionally good,” Evans said. “That has all been fixed in the last six or seven years.”

But enrollment has taken longer to recover. “Because of the reputational issues, that sticks around,” he said.

Perhaps worse was the 2013 death by suicide of James Beckwith, the college's chief financial officer, who ended his life after federal authorities accused him of embezzling $850,000. He had served as interim president while then president Karen Gross was on leave. Evans has said the college ultimately lost as much as $1 million in the episode, despite an insurance settlement and restitution from Beckwith's estate.

But more broadly, the college, like most in New England, is suffering from a demographic dip that is seeing fewer students graduate from high school. “New England is in a bad way -- especially the rural parts of New England,” Evans said. Vermont’s high school population, which typically supplies about one-third of Southern Vermont's students, is “plummeting -- and we haven’t even hit the 2026 'baby bust' from the recession.”

While Southern Vermont has made efforts to broaden its recruitment area, bringing in athletes from California and Texas, for instance, “It hasn’t been enough to kind of fill in the gap.”

Those students are also harder to retain, for several reasons -- one of which is cold weather. “They come here and they encounter the New England winter, which lasts and lasts and lasts,” he said.

In addition to Mount Ida, several other regional colleges have announced that they’ll close or are facing financial crises.

Green Mountain College in nearby Poultney, Vt., announced in January that it will close at the end of the spring semester. Goddard College, also in Vermont, is in the process of shoring up its finances as part of a probation arrangement with NECHE.

Newbury College in Brookline, Mass., announced in December that it would close at the end of this academic year, after 56 years in the Boston area. Atlantic Union College, northwest of Boston, announced that it would close later this year. The college, affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, lost accreditation in 2011 and stopped operations for a time but reopened in 2015.

Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., said last month that it won’t admit a freshman class this fall -- it’s looking for a strategic partner to continue operating but has also announced layoffs.

Evans said Southern Vermont will work with students who need only a few classes or other requirements to graduate. He said the college has created a teach-out agreement with the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and is working with other transfer partners, including Norwich University and Castleton University.

But Gross, who served as the college’s president from 2006 to 2014, said flatly, “I think it’s too early to have a funeral for Southern Vermont College. As Yogi Berra said, ‘It ain’t over till it’s over.’ And I think there are options and opportunities out there to save the college. And I appreciate that that sentiment may run counter to what’s being shared on campus -- and in fact I do not know what’s being shared on campus -- but from my perspective, it is too early to close the curtain, and I would encourage a swift effort to explore a myriad of opportunities that may exist.”

Gross, now a Washington-based author and educator, said episodes like the nursing accreditation and the 2013 embezzlement took their toll but should not have brought the college down. “They have long tails, but I am surprised, stunned and saddened by the quick demise of the college,” she said.

The sudden closure, she said, “is very sad for faculty and staff -- this is very sad for alums. This is very sad for donors. But the people that I care about most are the college’s students, many of whom are first-generation, Pell-eligible students who truly found an academic home -- those are the students I care about. Those are the students we need to protect, and those are the ones that are hurt when colleges like this close.”

She urged Southern Vermont “not to give up hope.”

NECHE’s Brittingham isn’t so sure. “Is there something that could come along and keep Southern Vermont College going?” she said. “It’s hard to think that’s a realistic possibility at this point.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

University private jets may be practical, but are they worth the optics?

Inside Higher Ed - News - March 5, 2019 - 7:00pm

As public university budgets come under increasing scrutiny, a handful of institutions are giving new meaning to the term "flying coach."

They're actually flying coaches, coaching staffs and sometimes coaches' families around the nation in taxpayer-subsidized airplanes. In other cases, the luxury seats are filled by top university officials on fund-raising trips that, universities say, more than pay for the flights.

Facing the need to cut $20 million from its budget, the University of Kansas is considering a plan to end direct public funding for its jet.

KU’s faculty has long sought the sale of the private Cessna Citation CJ4, a gift to the university and its athletic department.

The university calls the jet “an efficiency tool with a clear return on investment,” but from Kansas to South Carolina to Florida, Indiana and Ohio, the use of university-owned jets and other private aircraft -- often bestowed by wealthy donors -- proves a sore spot between university officials and budget-trimming lawmakers.

The plan to transfer KU’s jet to a “private entity,” first reported by the Lawrence Journal-World, would make it usable only on a fee-for-use basis, without a university subsidy -- much like a privately operated restaurant, university parking garage or apartment building. If KU officials want to use it, they’d need to pay via department funds.

But KU's proposed move could actually make the university's travel arrangements less transparent: when the Associated Press in 2017 asked the University of South Florida to release flight logs, spokeswoman Lara Wade declined, saying the logs didn't have to be released because USF's plane is owned by an outside company.

In an interview, KU Faculty Senate president Kirk McClure said the jet, which was donated to the university and Kansas Athletics Inc., “has been a matter of some difficulty for quite a while,” with taxpayers underwriting flights for university officials, most of them athletic coaches and their families on recruiting “junkets.”

The optics look bad, he said, with legislators publicly asking, “If you’re so damned poor, why do you have this luxurious jet?”

McClure noted that the athletic department, which enjoys gross revenues of $100 million per year, is one of the biggest users of the taxpayer-supported flights. “I don’t think it’s wise for us to be seen in that light,” he said.

Faculty have pushed the university to sell the jet “and get out of the aviation business,” he said, but since KU owns only part of it -- the athletic department owns the rest -- the university can’t sell it outright.

In a statement, KU said staff “make every effort to fly commercial -- and do most of the time. But as a research university with national interests, a Division I athletics program and a mission to serve all corners of Kansas, commercial flight is often inefficient or impossible. In these cases, private aviation is necessary. We monitor this resource closely, and we use it because it is an efficiency tool with a clear return on investment.”

KU said the plane is actually a moneymaker, with its $1.4 million annual public outlay “more than offset” by donations it facilitates. Last year, KU said, donors -- 40 percent of whom live outside Kansas -- gave $155 million. It didn't specify which donations were the result of flights in the Cessna.

The jet also "enhances our ability to partner with federal lawmakers, funding agency administrators and national groups like the Association of American Universities," KU said. "These partnerships are crucial to KU’s efforts to elevate our status as a research university and win research grants," totaling $230 million last year. It also supports KU’s Big 12 Conference membership, which is worth “millions of dollars.”

The university noted that all Big 12 universities -- and many public flagship universities in rural states -- have similar arrangements, either owning planes or chartering flights.

‘Drive -- Like the Rest of Us’

Efficiency tool or not, a private jet provides troublesome optics as universities like KU face tight budgets and are forced to shift a larger burden of costs onto families.

The Lawrence Journal-World, using open-records requests, reported that from 2010 to 2014, taxpayers spent $3.5 million flying coaches, administrators and others on some 641 trips, mostly on university-owned aircraft. The trips’ purpose: to recruit “top-notch professors, athletes, students and researchers,” as well to attend sports and academic meetings, funerals and donor events, both “in Kansas and nationwide.” Flights by KU coaches and athletic administrators accounted for $2.4 million, or about two-thirds of the total sum subsidized by taxpayers, the newspaper reported. The flights were largely for recruitment.

The flights typically cost significantly more than similar flights on commercial aircraft, but KU officials defended them as a smart use of public funds, since they allow more flexibility and efficiency. For example, then KU chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little flew on the KU jet from Lawrence, Kans., to Salina, Kans., in April 2014 for a speaking engagement. The cost: $3,714. The 138-mile drive would have taken just over two hours each way, but then spokesman Tim Caboni told the newspaper it didn’t make sense for the chancellor to be “driving down the turnpike for hours at a time.” He added, “I would imagine some folks would see that as wasteful. Anything that we can do to deploy her time effectively is a good thing.”

Similar questions have played out elsewhere. The AP in 2017 found that at least 20 public universities own or share ownership of planes for official business. Flight logs showed that the aircraft are also used for unrelated and sometimes personal business. AP found, for instance, that Ohio State University football coach Urban Meyer took 11 personal trips with his family in one academic year, including a vacation in Florida, a weekend getaway to Cape Cod and a spring break trip to South Carolina. The university picked up the total $120,000 tab.

AP also noted that Purdue University in 2016 sent a plane from Indianapolis to Providence, R.I., to fetch former NFL lineman Matt Light, an alumnus, for an athletics meeting. It flew him back as well, at a total cost of $15,000. A round-trip commercial flight would have cost less than $400.

At Iowa State University in 2016, then president Steven Leath, a pilot who finished his training while at the university, acknowledged that he used a small university-owned Cirrus SR22 for trips that mixed personal and university business. The arrangement came under public scrutiny after he damaged the plane during a hard landing. Leath later repaid Iowa State more than $36,000 for the damage and for the cost of the trips, The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette reported. The university, which bought the plane for $470,000 in 2014, sold it in 2017 for a $20,000 loss.

The Greenville News last June found that the University of South Carolina often counts on a prop-driven Beechcraft to ferry top officials around the region, a practice that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, more than the university would spend on commercial travel or other means for similar trips. The flights are paid for by student tuition and fees.

In one instance, the newspaper found, five university officials took a trip from Columbia, S.C., to Aiken, S.C., that lasted just 12 minutes -- 30 minutes shorter than driving -- but cost taxpayers $400, 11 times the cost of driving. The university said the plane costs $2,033.38 per hour to operate, including the costs of hangar rentals, parking fees, insurance, two pilots' combined $146,720 annual salaries, pilot training and maintenance.

In another instance, President Harris Pastides flew from Columbia to Kingstree, S.C., in February 2018. The 18-minute flight saved Pastides about an hour compared to driving the 80 mile one-way trip, but it cost $610. Driving would have cost just $51, the newspaper estimated.

An Inside Higher Ed analysis of USC flight logs found that university officials relied upon private flights 57 times during a three-month period last summer -- in August alone, the university logged 25 flights.

A USC spokesman has called the Beechcraft “the most efficient use of staff time,” but State Representative Kirkman Finlay, who sits on the panel that funds higher education, told the Greenville News that relying on a private airplane makes it hard for the university to make the case that students should take on debt to attend. Finlay suggested that university leaders “Drive -- like the rest of us.”

A university spokesman didn't respond to requests for comment but has said publicly that the plane pays for itself, since it allows officials to efficiently secure millions in funding.

Larry Evans, who pilots the university's second plane, dedicated solely to athletics-related travel, told the Greenville News, "It's a huge time-saver." Invoking the Columbia-to-Aiken interstate highway, he added, “Look at I-20. It's a mess.”

The second plane is paid for through the athletics budget, not from student tuition or fees.

University guidelines suggest that the student-funded plane is first and foremost a fund-raising tool. South Carolina’s faculty website encourages departments to use the plane “when traveling on official University of South Carolina business.” Their department won’t be charged for flights if they’re in search of research funding, development or other “fund-raising sources.”

Employees conducting university business that isn’t fund-raising, such as research or conference attendance, can also ride along at no cost -- but only if at least three of the eight seats are occupied by those chasing donations. “Additional representatives are strongly preferred,” the guidelines state, “each with a separate major gift or grant-related appointment.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Author explores the history of dormitories in forthcoming book

Inside Higher Ed - News - March 5, 2019 - 7:00pm

Beyond classrooms and laboratories, dormitories are where college students spend most of their time, and not just when they're sleeping. These spaces have a history that many overlook. Enter Carla Yanni, a professor of art history at Rutgers University, and her upcoming book Living on Campus: An Architectural History of the American Dormitory (University of Minnesota Press), in which she explores these dwellings as places crucial to the student experience and the development of campus architecture.

Yanni answered some questions about her book by email.

Q: You cite many examples of how dormitories were intentionally planned to exclude certain students. Can you give examples of when that occurred, and does this practice translate today? What lingering effects of that exclusion are present in contemporary designs?

A: One of the main questions for Living on Campus is a simple one: Why do American educators construct purpose-built structures that we call dormitories? Why have we believed for so long that housing students is essential to educating them? It is worth pointing out that the ancient universities of Europe did not house their students. (Oxford and Cambridge were the exception, not the rule.) Americans, on the other hand, think of college as a time to socialize -- to make friends and create a network that will reach long into the students’ futures.

Creating a network means including some people at the expense of others. Today we tend to think of the residence hall is a laboratory for diversity. We often imagine the dormitory is the place where students learn how to get along with all different kinds of people. A student’s college network can lead to jobs after college; that network can offer leverage for social mobility; it can affect who gets to participate in the American dream. In the past, sadly, diversity was the furthest thing from the minds of college officials. In fact, dorms introduced young men to other men like themselves. In the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, housing policies openly enabled discrimination according to class and race.

Historians have learned so much about the troubled racial history of colonial colleges from Craig Steven Wilder’s Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery and the Troubled History of America's Universities (2013). At Rutgers, the book Scarlet and Black: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History (edited by Marisa Fuentes and Deborah Gray White, with contributions from a team of history graduate students and others) reveals the extent to which Rutgers could only come into existence because of the work of enslaved and disenfranchised persons. Many colleges have done soul-searching work in this arena. What I’ve done in Living on Campus is add a spatial dimension to those new and important histories.

The dormitory is an intimate space, and so it is no surprise that residence halls were segregated by gender, but that intimacy is also why dorms were segregated by race. For example, although the classrooms at the University of Chicago were integrated from the college’s founding, in 1907, the university president forced a black Ph.D. student to move out of a women’s dorm. The deans of women defended her right to stay, but the president insisted she move off campus.

Another example of exclusivity is the all-female Martha Cook Building at the University of Michigan, a stunning English medieval revival building with a copy of the Venus de Milo gracing the hallway and a sculpture of the Shakespearean heroine Portia in the niche above the door. It was without a doubt the nicest dormitory at the University of Michigan, and one writer in Australia said it was the best example of a women’s dormitory in the world. However, it was not commissioned in order to further the educational advancement of the women who lived there. The donor stated that he did not want too many “A” students (he called them “bluestockings”) and he specifically objected to “the Orientals.” As he said, “It’s not the League of Nations.” His vision was to house only the “choicest American girls,” even if they were weak students. The Martha Cooke Building offered refinement for the already well-heeled. The donor even said it would civilize brutish young men with its architectural amenities.

On the other hand, there were radical attempts to be inclusive, such as the Adams and Tripp Halls at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The deans who promoted them argued that dorms should be direct alternatives to the fraternities that dominated the social scene at UW. These quadrangles tried to bridge class differences. The completely enclosed square courtyard created an outdoor room. The quads were divided into small houses so that the boys would form family-like bonds. The publicity surrounding the opening of the halls suggested, “The son of the banker and the son of the farmer will find mutual understanding” in the warm glow of the lounge’s fireplace.

Q: Has the purpose of dormitories fundamentally changed since they were first introduced? How so and how many of these shifts have we seen?

A: Students have changed a lot, but residence halls not so much. In the 17th and 18th centuries, students were boys who needed moral guidance. For Victorian college presidents, architects and deans, the purpose of college was to impose morality on young people. Character counted as much as mathematics or classical literature. So the defining purpose of the American college was a moral one. In the late 19th century, women began attending college in large numbers. They were seen as vulnerable and in need of protection. As the psychological concept of the adolescent emerged around 1900, male college kids were encouraged to delay adulthood. In the 1950s, a lot of students were GIs eager to re-enter society. In the 1960s, students were members of a youth culture that administrators almost feared. Obviously, this mad dash through the centuries is overly simplified, but, to me, it is remarkable that although today’s students bear little resemblance to previous generations, the residence hall still thrives.

Q: What are a couple examples of dormitory experiment gone awry?

A: Personally, I like modernist architecture and I like skyscrapers, but even I think the Morrill and Lincoln Towers at the Ohio State University are confusing and disorienting. The architects and student deans were outspoken in their opposition to the long corridor, which was seen as institutional and dehumanizing. Together with the architects, they came up with a plan based on the hexagons of a honeycomb. They turned to a beehive for something more human.

Q: In your opinion, has the design of dormitories become more or less important when wooing students? Dormitories were designed with socialization in mind, as you show, but with curbside appeal being so important to students and their families, how much of a factor is this?

A: Residence halls are definitely more important today. Many prospective students have no idea what they want to major in, or they have only a generic idea about majoring in business or pre-med. For them, the comfort and convenience of their daily lives will guide their choice of college. I suppose if a young person wants to major in something very specific, like bowling industry management or nautical archaeology, he or she won’t be put off by masonry block dormitories, but most students care more about where they will live than what they will study. I was teaching a seminar on the history of higher education when the subject of recruitment came up. I asked my students, “How did you make sense of the recruitment materials from various colleges?” And a very bright honors student, a business major, answered, “You choose based on football and team spirit and the dorms, because, you know, the academics are all pretty much all the same.” At first, that was discouraging to hear, but at the same time his comment went right to heart of what Living on Campus is all about.

Q: What are some of your favorite examples of dormitories you unearthed in your research, both past and present?

A: I would not say it was my favorite, but a fraternity (now demolished) at Cornell from around 1900 was the most unexpected. Its plan closely resembled the phallic “House of Sexual Instruction,” an unbuilt project drawn by the French Revolution-era architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux.

As for real favorites, the Harriet Tubman Quadrangle, a women’s dormitory, at Howard University, designed by leading African American architect Albert Cassell, is a gem. The dean of women, Lucy Diggs Slowe, carefully considered every aspect of the place and published essays on her theories. It is an excellent example of the 1920s quadrangle form. The ground floor included rooms for gracious entertaining -- a music room, a dining hall, comfortable lounges. Although it was a women’s dormitory, the downstairs was the social hub for the entire university. The upper floors included hallways with double rooms -- doubles not only saved money compared to singles, but also increased each individual student’s potential for making friends. You don’t have to take my word for it -- this was such a strong interpretation of the type that the national organization of deans of women (almost all of them white) visited the building shortly after it opened.

I know that many Yalies will disagree, but I think the massive and monumental Morse and Stiles College at Yale University by Eero Saarinen is a fantastically original take on the residential college. Instead of the traditional square quadrangle, Saarinen used an irregular street plan based on medieval towns, with richly textured concrete surfaces and a jagged silhouette. The interiors were originally too dark, but after a recent renovation by Philadelphia firm KieranTimberlake, it maintains its raw power.

I recently consulted with Princeton University about two new residential colleges, and their goals are much the same as the visionaries who put in place the colleges at Yale (and houses at Harvard) back in the 1920s. The residential college provides a sense of community within the larger university, it offers casual spaces (lounges and recreation rooms) for relaxation, it gives students a place to eat together, it makes it possible for a student to encounter faculty in an informal setting. As is typically the case in architectural history, a design does not cause any particular outcome; design only makes certain outcomes more or less likely. I can’t wait to see how these projects turn out. It’s always gratifying when my research (although deeply historical) is useful for practitioners today.

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Colleges announce commencement speakers

Inside Higher Ed - News - March 5, 2019 - 7:00pm
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President Trump vows to issue executive order barring research funds to colleges that don't support free speech

Inside Higher Ed - News - March 4, 2019 - 7:00pm

President Trump vowed Saturday to "soon" issue an executive order that would deny federal research funds to colleges and universities that do not support free speech.

"If they want our dollars and we give them by the billions, they’ve got to allow people to speak," said Trump in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

He did not describe how the executive order would work, or who would judge whether a college or university was not protecting free speech.

During his speech, President Trump brought on stage and praised Hayden Williams, who was punched last week when he was at the University of California, Berkeley, seeking support for the president and conservative causes and criticizing Jussie Smollett, the actor who is facing charges of false reporting to the police in a hate crime he claimed to have experienced.

Of Williams, President Trump said that he should sue Berkeley "and maybe sue the state." To loud applause, Trump said, "He took a hard punch in the face for all of us. We can never allow that to happen." And he added that after Williams sues Berkeley, "he's going to be a very wealthy man." The crowd at the meeting chanted "USA" as Trump made these statements.

Video has widely circulated showing Williams being punched.

Trump did not note that Berkeley arrested a man, Zachary Greenberg, for assaulting Williams. Neither Williams nor Greenberg are students at Berkeley. The university had permitted Williams to be on campus expressing his views.

Late Saturday, Berkeley released a new summary of what had happened, reiterating that the university had in this incident not wavered in its commitment to free speech or its willingness to take action in response to the attack on Williams. The statement said that events at the university have been "willfully distorted and inaccurately reported."

This is not the first time President Trump has used an incident at Berkeley to suggest that federal research dollars should be cut off over alleged denial of free speech rights.

In 2017, violent protesters (believed by university officials to be from off campus) set fires and damaged property at the university just before a scheduled appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos. President Trump tweeted:

If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017

What he didn't note at that time was that Berkeley officials had allowed Yiannopoulos to speak, calling off the event only amid the violence. Berkeley had defended his right to appear on campus (and he has appeared since), citing principles of free speech even as some on campus said he should be kept away because of views many find offensive.

Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, in an interview shortly after President Trump's Saturday speech, called the proposed executive order "a solution in search of a problem." He said that is because "free speech and academic freedom are core values of research universities."

While "controversies do arise," Hartle said that the norm is for universities to err on the side of promoting free speech. He asked how some federal agency in the future would try to enforce the executive order by determining whether a college had done enough to promote free speech. He predicted that an executive order would lead people to try to create free speech incidents just to stir up controversy.

And Hartle said that federal law gives religious institutions broad discretion about campus activities. "Would religious institutions be required to have speakers whose views were antithetical to the college?" Hartle asked. "Would Yeshiva University be required to host a Holocaust denier?"

Hartle also noted the lack of consistency of the Trump administration about free speech.

"As always in the current environment, irony does come into play. This is an administration that stifles the views of its own research scientists if they are counter to the political views of the administration, such as on climate change. And the president vigorously attacks people like Colin Kaepernick who exercise their free speech rights."

Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said via email, “Public research universities have a First Amendment constitutional obligation to protect free speech. It is an obligation they take very seriously and work hard to protect. Our campuses serve as important forums for the debate of diverse ideas. An executive order is unnecessary, as public research universities are already bound by the First Amendment, which they deeply respect and honor. It is core to their academic mission.”

The Trump Administration Record

Before he was president, Trump called for the National Endowment for the Arts to stop supporting, and for museums to stop displaying art he considers to be "gross, degenerate stuff." And while he has been president, his staff has taken actions -- such as blocking critics from the Trump Twitter feed -- that have led to the administration being sued over First Amendment concerns.

Trump's first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, gave several speeches denouncing the squelching of speech on college campuses. But Sessions was silent about (and declined to answer questions on) squelching that was done at the behest of Republican politicians, such as when the University of Kansas took down an artwork featuring the American flag after GOP leaders in the state demanded that it come down.

The Trump administration's officials talk regularly about Berkeley. The administration has been silent as Republican legislators in Tennessee have for years tried to kill a student-organized "Sex Week" at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville -- an event that does not use state funds.

Views of Groups That Focus on Free Expression

Among organizations that promote free expression on campus, the response to President Trump's Saturday speech was tepid.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education released a statement that said in part, "While we are glad that this important national issue has the president’s attention, we do not currently have any more information on the details of the executive order. We are looking forward to learning more about this initiative in the coming days."

Jonathan Friedman, project director for campus free speech at PEN America, said via email, "We need to see the text. On the surface the government reaffirming the importance of free speech on campus is appropriate and essential, particularly at a time of serious threats to open discourse. In practice, new and proposed measures ostensibly intended to protect speech can yield unintended negative consequences for speech, which we've documented in our work. While we at PEN America reserve judgment until a draft of the order is released, we believe that any government action on this issue should be approached in a thoughtful, nonpartisan manner, upholding the universal principles of free speech and academic freedom."

Debra Mashek, executive director of Heterodox Academy, said via email that "we need diversity and dialogue, not decrees."

Added Mashek, “Heterodox Academy encourages individual colleges and universities to advance common-sense policies and practices that promote teaching, learning and discovery. Higher ed would not benefit from a blunt, top-down, partisan decree that politicizes the academy’s core values of open inquiry and academic freedom. Governments cannot legislate campus cultures. In order to create classrooms and campuses that welcome diverse people with diverse viewpoints and that equip learners with the habits of heart and mind to engage that diversity in open inquiry and constructive disagreement, colleges and universities must harness their own values, histories and capacities.”

Could Solomon Amendment Be a Model?

Many in higher education questioned how the executive order might work. Two proponents of the measure, however, say that the Solomon Amendment provides a model.

In an article in National Affairs last year, Frederick M. Hess and Grant Addison, both of the American Enterprise Institute, called for federal funds to be cut off to American colleges that do not support free expression on campus. They said that the precedent for this could be the Solomon Amendment, the 1996 law that barred federal funds from going to colleges and universities that did not permit military recruiting or Reserve Officer Training Corps programs on campus. The law came at a time when some colleges were barring the military from campus, citing its policies (since lifted) of discriminating against gay people. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2006 upheld the constitutionality of the amendment, which was challenged by law schools.

While there was no dispute that some colleges barred the military, in the case of free expression, some institutions (such as Berkeley) denounced by President Trump can point to evidence that they in fact support free expression.

"New federal guidance in this area has a chance to make free inquiry and free speech relevant to the broader scientific research community in a fashion that it has not been previously," says the article. "The slumbering, silent middle on campus may awaken when accomplished researchers bringing in millions in 'indirect' costs suddenly recognize that the ideological crusades of their colleagues may imperil their laboratories and research projects. Campus leaders who have found it easy to virtue signal by indulging students and faculty demanding constraints on speech will now have a fairer fight on their hands, and they will need to be worried about their biochemistry and engineering faculty departing for institutions eligible for federal funds."

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New video shows exactly what was said during heated discussion at the annual gathering of classicists in January. Does it change anything?

Inside Higher Ed - News - March 4, 2019 - 7:00pm

A video recording of a widely talked-about incident at the annual meeting of the Society for Classical Studies differs somewhat from firsthand accounts that prompted the organization to ban a member from the January gathering in San Diego.

But the classics society is standing by its initial response to Mary Frances Williams, an independent scholar who was accused of making a racist statement to Dan-el Padilla Peralta, an assistant professor of classics at Princeton University.

Numerous society members present at a January session on the future of classics reported at the time that Williams, an audience member, told Peralta, a panelist, that he got his faculty job because he is black. In response to these reports, Mary T. Boatwright, society president, announced that Williams was told she should no longer participate in the meeting. The society’s Board of Directors also released a statement decrying racist acts and speech, which was prompted in part by a separate incident of alleged racial profiling of scholars at the conference hotel.

Recently released video of the exchange between Williams and Peralta shows that Williams didn’t say Peralta got his job because he is black, however. Rather, she said, “You may have got your job because you’re black, but I would prefer to think you got your job because of merit.”

Still, the society said in a new statement that despite the “factual correction,” its leaders stand by their initial response, which was reviewed by its Professional Ethics Committee.

“We repeat here that the future of classical studies depends on expansion, inclusion and focused attention on and action to remedy the underrepresentation of people of color in classics,” it said.

Williams referred a request for comment about the video to a piece she published on Quillette called, “How I Was Kicked Out of the Society for Classical Studies Annual Meeting.”

Williams wrote that she’d attended the panel because it seemed like an “opportunity to raise some questions and obtain some answers about what was happening in the field.”

Saying that she disagreed with speakers' ideas about how to diversify the field, Williams wrote that she was “under stress and did not express myself as clearly as I might have done.” What she’d hoped to convey, in response to Peralta’s idea that white male authors should take a “back seat” in terms of publishing to allow for more diverse voices, was that “the principle he was advocating clearly didn’t apply to hiring decisions -- and nor should it -- because he had got his job on merit, not because he’s black,” she said.

Williams also said that she was banned from the rest of the meeting without being given an opportunity to defend herself. She sees her transgression as merely disagreeing with Peralta and other panelists.

In many ways, the debate echoes others that have roiled classics and other humanities fields in recent years. Williams represents the classical approach to classics -- teach it the way it's long been taught, inspired by Western ideals. Others, including Peralta, want to radically change the field to encourage new voices and, arguably, save it from extinction. This debate represents a real philosophical divide. But sometimes those on either side of it talk past each other, falsely assuming that to teach classics in new ways means not teaching the canon, or vice versa.

Peralta has previously written about the incident, arguing that he indeed should have been hired because he is black, as his personal experiences lend particular insights and value to his historically white field. He said via email over the weekend that the video “doesn't change anything: racist insinuation is still (you guessed it) racist insinuation.”

He called William’s “apologia” on Quillette “unimaginative” and said that he’d received messages from Williams’s supporters that are “textbook demonstrations of white supremacy's capacity to turn people into ghouls.” He also said that Williams continued to wrongly assume that panelists didn't teach some of the classic texts she was interested in preserving.

The apparent “desire to cling anxiously to classics as a staging ground for their whiteness is not one that I have any interest in accommodating,” Peralta added. “I want classics to become a renewable resource for the cultivation and furtherance of a radically inclusive and equitable future, not a sclerotic exercise in the dysfunctional erotics of a ‘white’ past.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Purdue University extends streaming website ban

Inside Higher Ed - News - March 4, 2019 - 7:00pm

Purdue University students planning to use university Wi-Fi to watch videos, play games or listen to music will soon have to find a new way to stay awake during class.

When students return from spring break on March 18, they will find access to Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Steam, iTunes and Pandora blocked in all academic spaces on campus. System updates to Apple devices will also be barred.

Purdue tested blocking access to five streaming sites in four lecture halls at the beginning of fall semester 2018. The pilot program has run continuously since then and has been extended to more spaces on campus. The list of streaming sites that are banned has also grown.

Access to streaming sites over Wi-Fi in lecture halls, classrooms and labs across campus will now be restricted from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Residence halls, hallways and other areas where students congregate will not be affected. Access to streaming services via computers with wired internet access also will not be affected. Students will continue to be able to access the streaming sites in lecture halls or anywhere on campus using their cellular data.

Mark Sonstein, executive director of IT infrastructure at Purdue, said the ban was not driven by a desire to get students to pay more attention in class, although some professors said they hoped this would be an added benefit. Rather, the move was taken to prevent students from hogging bandwidth that others need to do their work.

In some lecture halls, professors were finding that it was not possible for students to participate in online class activities because a few people were streaming videos, music or games in class, Sonstein said.

In an analysis conducted in 2016, the IT department determined that just 4 percent of internet traffic over the Wi-Fi network in the university's life science building was from academic sites such as Blackboard, the learning management system. Sonstein said before the streaming site ban was applied, Blackboard was 79th on the list of websites being most used over the lecture hall's Wi-Fi -- now it's in the top 10.

“We expected that we were going to get a massive amount of pushback, but that never came to fruition,” he said. “Students really didn’t seem to care. They know that they’re in a classroom to learn.”

Faculty feedback to the pilot has been positive, said Sonstein. “The only complaint we had was, ‘Why isn’t it in my classroom yet?’”

The limited bandwidth in lecture halls is not a symptom of budget issues; Sonstein said the university is currently undergoing a major refresh of its wireless network. There are 55,000 devices using the university’s wireless network at any one time, but only so many access points can be put in one location.

Putting an access point for every student in a lecture hall wouldn’t work, as the signals would start to cancel each other out, said Sonstein. Updating the Wi-Fi network from its current 2.4 Ghz frequency band to a faster 5 Ghz band would help to alleviate this issue, but around 20 percent of devices used on campus are not 5 Ghz band compatible. So the campus is sticking with the 2.4 Ghz band for now.

Steven Beaudoin, professor of chemical engineering and academic director of teaching and learning technology, said he was pleased to see the ban being extended across campus.

“Wi-Fi access hasn’t been a problem in any of my classes, but I know there are professors who’ve felt very frustrated when they’ve tried to pull up a resource and can’t access it.”

Beaudoin said he hasn’t noticed a significant change in his classes since the ban was introduced in his building last November. “I do a lot of active learning, so it’s hard to be in my class and not be involved in what’s happening,” he said.

He also hasn’t heard any complaints from students. He says they probably know it would be “difficult to win” an argument for having Netflix in class.

Sonstein knows there are many “smart students” at Purdue who may find workarounds to the ban, but he says there shouldn't be any problems as long as the majority of students stay off streaming sites. He noted there are legitimate academic reasons why students might need access to streaming services in class and the ban can be temporarily lifted on request by professors.

Kelly Blanchard, an economics lecturer at Purdue, said the ban has helped some students focus and pay more attention in class because they're no longer being distracted by classmates watching movies or playing games.

Such distractions are a key reason why some professors have decided to ban laptops in their classrooms altogether -- a subject of heated debate among academics.

Trevon Logan, a professor of economics at Ohio State University, decided to ban all electronics from his classroom last year and saw students' midterm grades improve significantly as a result. He said the ban also helped students focus and take better notes.

Logan was inspired to implement the ban after reading a New York Times op-ed by Susan Dynarski, professor of public policy, education and economics at the University of Michigan. Dynarski, who banned laptops from her classes, wrote that a "growing body of evidence shows that overall, college students learn less when they use computers or tablets during lectures."

Blanchard said she would not support banning laptops in her classroom altogether. Laptops enable her students to take "excellent notes," she said, and Purdue's streaming ban means students pay attention without losing their devices.

From the front of a large lecture hall, it's difficult to tell whether students are focused on what she's saying or teaching, said Blanchard. Students who are determined to watch movies in class could still do so -- just not over the lecture room Wi-Fi, she said.

Some of Blanchard's students have grumbled that it would be "nice to have the option" to access streaming services in class, she said. But no one has been particularly upset.

Blanchard did initially worry that the ban might have some effect on class attendance, but that has not been the case so far.

“I was somewhat concerned that if students couldn’t watch videos in class, they might just stay home and watch them there instead," she said.

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Missouri professor who's accused of forcing graduate students to work at his home now accused of stealing a grad student's work

Inside Higher Ed - News - March 4, 2019 - 7:00pm

The University of Missouri System’s Board of Curators is suing a former professor of pharmacy at the Kansas City campus and his wife for allegedly stealing intellectual property and making $1.5 million off of it to date through therapeutics companies.

The former professor, Ashim Mitra, is further accused of concealing his work with industry from the university and then lying about it during recent internal investigation.

Mitra already tendered his resignation, effective later this month, amid a university investigation into separate claims that he coerced foreign graduate students from India into doing yard work, taking care of his dog and other tasks.

Mitra has denied the claims against him. One of the companies named alongside him as a defendant in the IP case said the university’s complaint has “no merit” regarding its interests -- specifically a dry-eye drug.

As is increasingly common among universities, Missouri says that it owns the inventions of faculty and staff members made within the general scope of their employment (but not necessarily all profits). That’s despite the American Association of University Professors’ and other faculty advocates’ insistence that inventions are owned initially by their inventors.

These faculty advocates say that the ownership principle is clearly established in the Constitution and federal patent law, including a major 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a researcher at Stanford University working on HIV diagnostic tests.

Still, ownership of patent rights is a separate issue: those may be transferred in writing to another party. The AAUP does not oppose cost-sharing agreements when patents are commercialized. Missouri, like many institutions, offers such agreements.

There’s another issue in the Mitra suit besides employee versus university IP ownership: research theft. According to the new federal lawsuit, Mitra oversaw the work of a graduate student who formulated a new, highly effective way of delivering drugs to the eye, around 2011.

Mitra allegedly sold the graduate student’s research and related inventions to the pharmaceutical company Auven Therapeutics. Mitra and the company are then said to have patented the delivery formulation without crediting the graduate student and without notifying or involving the university.

Auven then allegedly sold the research rights for $40 million to the international conglomerate Sun Pharma. Based on “the groundbreaking nature” of the work, Sun Pharma used the inventions described in the related patents to successfully obtain federal approval to sell the formulation in a dry-eye drug, Cequa, with a promising and potentially lucrative corner on the dry-eye market.

Missouri is seeking to restore its “rightful ownership interest in” and “fair share of the proceeds” from this work. It wants the graduate student’s -- not Mitra’s -- name on all the IP paperwork, and a clear declaration that it is the de facto owner of it all as the student’s employer.

It also wants damages from Mitra and his wife, Ranjana Mitra, who also worked at the university, and their outside consulting service.

Auven, too, owes Missouri compensation for the "improper theft, use and commercialization of its valuable intellectual property, without its authorization," according to the lawsuit.

The university and its lawyers declined to comment.

The graduate student, Kishore Cholkar, previously told The Kansas City Star that Mitra refused to put his name on the patent, even though Mitra delayed Cholkar’s graduation so that he could finish the work.

“He says, ‘Do you want to graduate or do you want a patent?’” Cholkar said of Mitra, describing the statement as a threat to stop complaining.

Mitra did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But he told the Star that Cholkar wrote a paper on “other aspects” of the relevant formulation after his patent was submitted.

“It is clear to see that both him and [Missouri] are now trying to reap the benefits of the tireless work myself and others have put in to make this a success,” he said.

Auven knew that Mitra was a professor using university resources for his work and proceeded with their agreement anyway, according to the lawsuit. Its general counsel allegedly contacted Mitra in late 2011 seeking assurances that the “university permits this outside work and has no rights in IP created.”

Mitra allegedly replied that the project was part of his consulting company and signed a binding letter, generated by Auven, waiving the university’s rights to any IP. And Mitra simply placed the draft agreement on university letterhead and signed it, without consulting the university, Missouri says.

“Mitra did not have authority to sign the letter, to bind the university, or to otherwise waive the university’s rights to IP,” reads the lawsuit. Auven “knew that the letter presented a conflict of interest” because Mitra stood to gain financially.

Mitra is poised to collect millions more dollars from the deal. The university recently said that it will pursue a profit-sharing agreeing with Cholkar if its case succeeds, the Star reported.

A spokesperson for Auven said via email that the company “regards universities doing basic and clinical research as valued partners.”

There is “no merit” to Missouri’s complaints as they relate to Auven and its commercial partner on the dry-eye Cequa product, she said. “The university reached out to us in regard to this matter, and we look forward to engaging constructively with them.”

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Argosy students lose out as millions of dollars in federal aid goes missing

Inside Higher Ed - News - March 4, 2019 - 7:00pm

Argosy University has failed to distribute nearly $16.3 million in federal aid to thousands of its students.

And chances are the students won’t get the money, according to financial aid and education experts.

The unusual problem escalated last week, when the U.S. Department of Education suspended Argosy and some Art Institutes campuses, which are owned by the nonprofit Dream Center Education Holdings, from receiving federal aid. The department also denied Argosy’s request to change its tax status to nonprofit.

“I am a third-year law student and should be worrying about studying for the California bar exam instead of worrying about financial woes like this,” Demis Camacho, a student attending Western State College of Law at Argosy University, said in an email to Inside Higher Ed. “Students are growing more worried as another day passes without financial aid.”

Camacho, like many of his peers, relies on financial aid stipends or refunds to help pay for his rent, food, transportation to class and other basic needs.

“The frustration with students keeps growing each day,” Camacho said. “More and more students are skipping class, and being on campus is a constant reminder of this difficult situation because all people talk about is what is going on. I do not think there is a single student that can fully concentrate on their studies -- even more, the bar.”

He said students also are largely in the dark about what to do if the law school closes midsemester and before the California bar exam in July.

In the letter explaining why it was cutting off federal funds to Dream Center, the Education Department said Argosy has failed to meet its financial responsibility to students.

“Not only did Argosy fail to pay credit balances prior to submitting its request for payment from the department, even after Argosy received the funds, it still failed to pay those credit balances,” the department said.

Dream Center filed for a court-appointed receiver in January, because the missionary organization was facing insolvency and wanted to sell its campuses to keep them open.

Argosy received nearly $13 million from the department in federal financial aid between January and Feb. 5. Instead of ensuring credit balances were paid to students, the institution paid nearly $4.3 million to its staff and about $2.2 million to vendors and used roughly $1.8 million for payroll expenses. Another $3.8 million was maintained in the receivership account.

“Significant funds were released by the department since mid-January, including after the receiver was appointed,” the Education Department said.

The nonprofit purchased Argosy, Art Institutes and South University campuses from the for-profit Education Management Corporation in 2017 amid criticism about a lack of transparency and concerns over whether Dream Center could successfully operate the campuses. However, the department held off on officially approving the transaction.

The receivership status triggered the department to place cash management sanctions on Argosy, especially after it received numerous complaints that the institution had failed to pay students and parents their federal aid refunds. The sanctions, known as heightened cash monitoring, which are designed to protect federal funds and students, required Dream Center and the receiver to disburse aid to Argosy students before seeking reimbursement from the department.

“We are disappointed at the decision by the Department of Education to deny Argosy University’s request for change of ownership,” Mark Dottore, the receiver, said in a written statement. “We are working to determine the best path forward at this time.”

Dream Center has until March 11 to present new evidence to dispute the department’s findings.

Missing Money

Financial aid experts said while the department’s moves with Argosy are reminiscent of Corinthian Colleges' collapse in 2015, denying students’ their financial aid refunds is unique.

“This is a very unusual situation,” said Justin Draeger, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. “I’ve never seen this sort of thing where funds are moving around in a school with no explanation of where they are, and they haven’t been accounted for correctly.”

Also unusual are the department’s actions in its attempt to prevent Argosy from shutting down the way Corinthian did.

“A lot of things here just don’t make sense,” said Mark Kantrowitz, an expert on student aid. “The U.S. Department of Education should really know if an institution is financially viable and what kind of pressure can be put on an institution before it shuts down.”

The department released “significant funds” to Argosy even after it entered receivership, according to the letter. But the decision to pull Argosy's access to federal student aid is often a "death knell" for colleges, he said.

“I would’ve thought the department learned its lesson after Corinthian that before you put an institution on heightened cash monitoring, you do some analysis of the institution’s cash flow so you understand what the consequences are,” Kantrowitz said.

Kantrowitz and Beth Stein, vice president of the Institute for College Access and Success, said it also is odd that the department never required a letter of credit from Argosy. That action is designed to protect students and taxpayers and is used as collateral if a company or college does not pay the department back.

“It’s unlikely the students will ever see the money,” Stein said. “Could the department make students whole? Yes. Will they? Well, that is a different question.”

Since the department never formally approved of Dream Center's acquisition of the campuses from EDMC, there is a legitimate question about whether students enrolled since Dream Center took over the campuses in 2017 should be entitled to closed-school discharges, she said. The discharges would ensure Argosy students aren’t left on the hook for federal loans.

If students transfer to other institutions, they won’t be eligible for a closed-school loan discharge. But Stein said it may be difficult to find colleges that will accept Argosy’s credits.

“Students have a long road ahead of them, and it’s disappointing to us that there has been so little outreach from the department,” Stein said.

Some students, who are desperate to learn more about what happened to their aid payments, have reached out to Dottore and his team. But they have been frustrated by a lack of answers.

"So there is no money to pay us? How are we expected to pay our bills?" Lee Moore, an Argosy student, said in an email to a Dottore Companies representative. "It's unfortunate how the true victims get lost and trampled on in the crossfire of the blame game."

Unsure Fate for Other Dream Center Campuses

It's not clear what effect cutting off Argosy from federal aid will have on other Dream Center campuses.

The department’s decision only affects Argosy, Western State, the Art Institute of California in Hollywood and the Art Institute of California in San Diego.

Institutions Losing Aid Eligibility

  • Argosy University, Phoenix
  • Argosy University, Phoenix ATS Chandler
  • Argosy University, San Francisco Bay Area
  • Western State University College of Law at Argosy University
  • Art Institute of California, Hollywood
  • Art Institute of California, San Diego
  • Argosy University campuses in Arlington, Va.; Atlanta; Chicago; Clay National Guard Center in Marietta, Ga.; Dallas; Draper, Utah; Eagan, Minn.; Hilo, Honolulu and Wailuku, Hawaii; Los Angeles and Orange, Calif.; Seattle; Tampa, Fla.; and Utah National Guard Base.

Campuses That Remain Eligible

  • Art Institute of Seattle
  • Art Institute of Las Vegas
  • Art Institute of Pittsburgh

Campuses Acquired by Education Principle Foundation

  • South University campuses in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia
  • Art Institutes campuses in Atlanta; Austin, Tex.; Dallas; Houston; Miami; San Antonio; Tampa, Fla.; Virginia Beach, Va.

Some Art Institute campuses were acquired in January by Education Principle Foundation, which until Dec. 31 was known as the Colbeck Foundation. The foundation is owned by Colbeck Capital Management, a private investment firm. The organization now controls Art Institutes in Atlanta; Austin, Tex.; Dallas; Houston; Miami; San Antonio; Tampa, Fla.; and Virginia Beach. It also acquired South campuses in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. However, accreditors and the department will have to approve the deal. And it’s unclear if the situation with Argosy’s ownership will affect the outcome, although the department has shown support for the move, according to court documents.

Education Principle Foundation did not buy the Art Institutes of Seattle, Las Vegas and Pittsburgh. So those campuses were not affected by the department’s decision to cut off federal aid to Argosy. The Pittsburgh location is scheduled to close March 31. The Las Vegas campus also was scheduled to close at the end of the month but is remaining open, according to a February letter Roger Hosn, the campus president, sent students.

As for the Seattle campus, the Washington Student Achievement Council, which oversees colleges and universities in the state, emailed students Tuesday that the institution was at risk of imminent closure. Emily Pesky, a spokeswoman for the council, said it received notice from the Education Department that Dottore told the feds that the Seattle campus had limited funds and would not be able to meet its financial obligations for the rest of the term. The Seattle campus enrolls about 650 students.

Lawsuit to Recoup Funds

Dottore asked a federal court last month to force Studio Enterprise Manager, a for-profit education management services company, to return about $6 million Dream Center paid the company to provide nonacademic services, such as enrollment management and marketing, to the eight Art Institutes and South University campuses.

Dottore, in a Feb. 7 letter to the department, said the “dire cash situation” is due to a series of agreements made in January. Studio Enterprise Manager is an affiliate of Colbeck Capital Management.

Studio disputes that assessment. The company said in court filings that the receivership has hurt the campuses.

Despite what happens in court, financial aid experts said students ultimately will lose out as the former EDMC campuses try to remain afloat.

A regional accreditor is warning students that the only options for the Art Institute of Seattle are closure or finding a new buyer. Camacho, the Western State law student, said students have heard the same thing at his California institution.

“Not only do students not have their refunds, so they're going to struggle to figure out how to make rent … if they want to continue their education, they’re probably starting from zero,” Kantrowitz said. “Their aspirations, their dreams, are derailed. They’ll apply for a closed-school discharge and their loans will be gotten rid of, but it isn’t instantaneous.”

Camacho said he and his classmates want to petition the State Bar of California to allow them to sit for the exam even if they don’t receive their degrees. Another option is to transfer to a different law school and risk losing the credits they have earned from Argosy.

“If the school does not close midsemester and we still do not receive our financial aid, we are either going to borrow money to be able to complete our studies and pay the bar fees or take a leave of absence,” he said.

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