Higher Education News

University graduates make up one-fourth of unemployed

University World News - April 20, 2019 - 1:12pm
A breakdown by education, according to figures released on 15 April by the Turkish Statistical Institute, shows that more than a fourth of the 4.7 million jobless people in Turkey hold higher educ ...
Categories: Higher Education News

University signs AU$100m China deal despite concerns

University World News - April 20, 2019 - 1:10pm
One of Australia's leading tertiary education institutions, Monash University, has signed a AU$100 million (US$71 million) deal with China, despite Australia's decision to tighten foreign investme ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Sultan's honorary degree revoked after anti-LGBT laws

University World News - April 20, 2019 - 1:08pm
An honorary degree awarded by Scotland's University of Aberdeen to the Sultan of Brunei has been revoked after his country made gay sex an offence punishable by death, reports BBC News.

Categories: Higher Education News

Military study at colleges to be reinforced - Ministry

University World News - April 20, 2019 - 1:04pm
The Ministry of Education announced recently that China's education and defence authorities had revised a set of guidelines on military courses for university students to improve their knowledge a ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Strategy on the cards to attract more foreign students

University World News - April 20, 2019 - 1:02pm
Canada plans to attract more international students by expanding its presence overseas in an effort to advance classroom diversity and boost economic benefits that already amount to billions per y ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Macron to propose abolition of elite government <I>ecole</I>

University World News - April 20, 2019 - 1:00pm
French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed abolishing the postgraduate school he attended - Ecole Nationale d'Administration or ENA, a famously highbrow institution that has been the training g ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Building platforms for scientific excellence

University World News - April 19, 2019 - 3:20pm
A focus on institution-building rather than individuals is key to growing the next generation of African scientists and ensuring the sustainability of scientific research, according to South Afric ...
Categories: Higher Education News

'Academic writers' set to lose lucrative global market

University World News - April 19, 2019 - 3:12pm
Recent measures taken by the United Kingdom government to stamp out the use of essay mills by its students come as a blow to thousands of Kenyan university students and graduates who rely on contr ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Measuring university impact - A rankings innovation

University World News - April 17, 2019 - 12:00am
The University Impact Rankings 2019 published by Times Higher Education is a novel initiative that has captured global attention because it aims to measure the extent to which universities ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Lecturer, administrators sacked over 'pants-for-pass' class

University World News - April 16, 2019 - 8:00pm
Egypt's Al-Azhar University, a state-run Islamic seminary, this week sacked three top administrators and a lecturer after the latter was seen in a video asking his male students to take off their ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Erasmus+ student and staff mobility problems loom for UK

University World News - April 15, 2019 - 5:30pm
As Britain heads for its still unknown Brexit destination, UK concern about the European Union programme Erasmus+ is growing. Erasmus, created in 1987 to fund mobility and exchange across Europe f ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Sweeping 'fake news' bill a risk for academic freedom

University World News - April 15, 2019 - 5:02pm
Academics from Singapore and around the world have expressed concern over Singapore's new bill against internet 'fake news', which they say could have unintended consequences for academic freedom ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Universities continue push for change in wake of coup

University World News - April 15, 2019 - 3:38pm
Sudanese universities and academics, having played a major role in the push for change in Sudan, last week rejected the military takeover of the country, vowing to continue their protest action un ...
Categories: Higher Education News

AAUP study finds small gains in faculty salaries, offset by inflation

Inside Higher Ed - News - April 10, 2019 - 5:00pm

Salaries for full-time faculty members are 2 percent higher this academic year than last, according to new data from the American Association of University Professors Faculty Compensation Survey.

Adjusted for 1.9 percent inflation, however, faculty salaries “barely budged,” AAUP says in a preliminary analysis of those data. That’s been the case for the last three years. Inside Higher Ed's database, at the above link, is searchable by institutions and years.

These findings are similar to those in a recent report from CUPA-HR saying that median faculty salaries rose about 1.7 percent this year over last, not adjusted for inflation.

CUPA-HR’s anonymized data concerned 847 institutions. AAUP collects data by college and university -- more than 950 of them this year. The new data cover more than 380,000 full-time professors, in addition to senior administrators and many part-time faculty members.

Part-Time Pay and the Gender Pay Gap

AAUP’s compensation report has included data on part-time faculty pay since 2015-16. This year, though, the association collected information on part-timers’ pay per course section taught (versus pay per adjunct, irrespective of teaching load). More than 330 colleges and universities provided data on part-time faculty pay in the 2017-18 academic year for this year’s survey, making it one of the most comprehensive sources on the topic.

Average per-course pay for an adjunct teaching a three-credit course was $3,984, but figures spanned a “huge range,” according to AAUP. The lowest average rates of pay were reported by religiously affiliated private baccalaureate colleges. Religiously affiliated private doctoral universities paid the most, at $5,858.

Gwendolyn Bradley, AAUP spokesperson, underscored how difficult it is to collect representative data on adjunct pay. But the idea behind the association’s new approach “is to make part-time pay more transparent, which will hopefully spur continued advocacy and improved working conditions,” she said.

Other key survey findings highlight academe’s persistent gender pay gap. On average, women will be paid 82 percent of men’s salaries during 2018-19. The AAUP mainly attributes this to an unequal distribution of employment between men and women in terms of institution type and faculty rank.

Based on the available institution-level data, Bradley said, "We can only say for certain that women are less well represented at the research universities that pay the highest salaries, and they also continue to be underrepresented at the full professor rank, which pays the highest salaries, outside of community colleges." (CUPA-HR also found that the pay gap narrowed among community college faculties, not just in terms of gender but also ethnicity.)

The AAUP has been tracking this gap since the mid-1970s, Bradley added, “and the progress toward equity has been exceedingly slow.”

Faculty Pay and Compensation Vary Widely

In general, full-time salaries vary by institution type and faculty rank. The average salary for a full professor at a private independent doctoral university is nearly $196,000, for example. Meanwhile, an assistant professor at a religiously affiliated baccalaureate institution will make about $61,000 this year, on average.

The yearly increase in overall average full-time salary was slightly higher at private colleges and universities (2.2 percent) than public institutions (1.8 percent), the AAUP also notes.

Bradley said there are “great disparities” in funding and pay across institutional profiles, and that research work “tends to be better remunerated than teaching.” She also noted that not all professors included in the full-time count are on the tenure track, so the comparison is not exact.

Administrator vs. Faculty Pay, and More to Come

AAUP also is interested in the disparities between professor and administrator pay. The association’s preliminary analysis says that salaries for college and university presidents “continue to outpace those for faculty,” with presidents paid three to four times more than even the most senior faculty members at their institutions, on average.

The median salary for a college president this year ranged from just over $200,000 at public community colleges to nearly $700,000 at private independent doctoral universities, AAUP found.

The association plans on a releasing a more detailed analysis of its data next month. Asked what to expect, Bradley said that the effects of the recession didn’t really impact faculty pay until the 2009-10 academic year. So the forthcoming report will examine changes over the last decade, comparing full-time faculty pay for 2008-09 with current 2018-19 data.

Other details to come include those on changes the composition of the full-time faculty, both in terms of tenure-track status and women’s representation, Bradley said. More analysis of the part-time faculty data is expected, too.

Who Earns Most, Where

Beyond the overall trends highlighted in AAUP’s analysis, readers each year are curious to know which institutions pay their professors the most. As always, location matters. Professors on both coasts are paid consistently more than their colleagues elsewhere.

By institution, the top 10 full professor salary list is similar to last year’s. Columbia and Stanford Universities retained the top two spots, but Princeton and Harvard Universities flip-flopped Nos. 3 and 4, respectively. Yale University moved up two spots, to No. 7, bumping the University of Pennsylvania down to No. 8.

Top Salaries for Full Professors at Private Universities, 2018-10 (Average)


Columbia University



Stanford University



Princeton University



Harvard University



University of Chicago



Massachusetts Institute of Technology



Yale University



University of Pennsylvania



New York University



Northwestern University


As in years past, the University of California system claimed many of the top 10 public institution spots for full professor salaries, with the Los Angeles and Berkeley campuses remaining Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. UC’s Santa Barbara campus surged from No. 6 to No. 3 this year over last, displacing the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The University of Texas at Austin entered the list at No. 9, effectively booting off the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Top Salaries for Full Professors at Public Universities, 2018-19 (Average)


University of California, Los Angeles



University of California, Berkeley



University of California, Santa Barbara



New Jersey Institute of Technology



Rutgers University at Newark



University of Virginia



University of California, San Diego



University of California, Irvine



University of Texas at Austin



University of Michigan at Ann Arbor


Liberal arts colleges that pay their full professors the most were almost unchanged year over year. Wellesley and Pomona Colleges switched places, as did Wesleyan and Swarthmore Colleges. Bowdoin College entered at No. 9.

Top Salaries for Full Professors at Liberal Arts Colleges, 2018-19 (Average)


Barnard College



Claremont McKenna College



Wellesley College



Pomona College



Wesleyan University



Swarthmore College



Amherst College



Colgate University



Bowdoin College



Williams College


Among top salaries for assistant professors, Stanford jumped to No. 1 this year, from No. 3, dethroning Harvard. Babson College dropped one spot, to No. 2. The California Institute of Technology also fell down the list, from No. 3 to No. 5 year over year. Bentley and Bryant Universities fell off the list, as Duke and Georgetown Universities entered at Nos. 9 and 10, respectively.

Top 10 Colleges With Six-Figure Salaries for Assistant Professors, 2018-19 (Average)


Stanford University



Harvard University



Babson College



University of Pennsylvania



California Institute of Technology



Massachusetts Institute of Technology



Columbia University



University of Chicago



Duke University



Georgetown University


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Categories: Higher Education News

Debate raging over Harvard's federal work-study program

Inside Higher Ed - News - April 10, 2019 - 5:00pm

A single tweet has launched a fiery debate over how Harvard University, one of the country’s wealthiest institutions, is using a federal subsidy -- taxpayer dollars that help low-income students get part-time jobs -- to pay for those students to clean dormitory rooms and toilets.

The online dispute has prompted questions whether Harvard, with its nearly $40 billion endowment, even deserves federal-work study dollars -- but also more generally, whether many institutions take advantage of the money by offering jobs that entail manual labor and not opportunities that are career focused.

Lawmakers have proposed changes to work-study funds, which cost the government a little less than $1 billion a year, funneling the money from institutions such as Harvard and other elites to colleges that serve more low-income populations.

Nearly two weeks ago, Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy at Temple University and a prominent academic on Twitter, posted a Hechinger Report article about students who take on debt at elite universities, highlighting an anecdote about a Harvard program called Dorm Crew:

“Low-income students at HARVARD working 20 hours a week in their first year of college cleaning goddamn dorms?? And we keep giving this wealthy place our public dollars why exactly?”

Low-income students at HARVARD working 20 hours a week in their first year of college cleaning goddamn dorms?? And we keep giving this wealthy place our public dollars why exactly? #RealCollege #DormCrew #STOP https://t.co/vJnK4LBLhP

— Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab (@saragoldrickrab) March 30, 2019

Dorm Club, which was founded in 1951, works like this: low-income Harvard students can be hired to clean dormitories for at least two hours every week, though even that minimum isn’t strictly enforced. The average time worked last semester, out of the 250 Dorm Crew employees, was 1.5 hours weekly. As part of a major cleaning prior to the fall semester, and during a spring cleanup, students might work 20 hours in a week. The job can be attractive for students because it pays the most out of any on campus at job, starting at $16.25 an hour, with flexible scheduling.

Goldrick-Rab said in an interview that, given her research into disenfranchised students, she wanted to raise a question about how wealthy universities such as Harvard benefit unnecessarily from federal work-study.

Why, she said in the interview, does the university, instead of using low-income students and paying them with federal money, not draw from its coffers to hire professional, unionized workers?

Answer: it’s cheaper not to, according to pundits.

And Harvard has put the students in a “challenging position,” Goldrick-Rab said, where they are made to feel grateful for the opportunity to earn a little cash and look ungrateful if they question it.

“That was not going to be given a voice,” Goldrick-Rab said. “As somebody who has become one of those people who is a defender of [the] impoverished and scholar of their struggles, it was time for somebody to say something.”

While she said some students vociferously defend the program -- and they did, both online and in interviews with Inside Higher Ed -- they do not understand that some of their peers aren’t entering it with much choice.

And, Goldrick-Rab said, there’s incentive for students to “stay in the club” and not publicly criticize a program that the university and its alumni support. Goldrick-Rab said an online commentator referred to this as a kind of “Stockholm syndrome.”

Harvard declined to comment.

Goldrick-Rab provided screenshots of online conversations she had with students whom she requested remain anonymous. One student called the program “coercive,” and another complained that Harvard made the Dorm Crew employees choose between earning money with the cleaning before the academic year and attending another, more fun pre-orientation program.

Other students involved with Dorm Crew, however, said Goldrick-Rab had mischaracterized the program, and said she demeaned some of the workers and Dorm Crew. In some tweets, Goldrick-Rab scornfully shared emails she had received from the program’s cheerleaders -- in one case, she publicly identified one worker and linked to his bio on the Dorm Crew website.

Charis Garman was one student who did not agree with Goldrick-Rab’s critiques. Garman, a sophomore, joined Dorm Crew her first year at Harvard and said “everyone was so friendly and encouraging” that she continued on with it, applying to be a captain within the program.

Garman pointed out that Goldrick-Rab had tweeted out a photo of a student lovingly hugging a vacuum cleaner with the caption “ooh they made her hug the cleaning supplies” -- when the image was part of a commentary by the student of how much she enjoyed Dorm Crew.

“I really like the option of having work crew in federal financial work-study,” Garman said, adding she receives significant financial aid. “It’s a much more physical job. Like, in high school, I worked at my family’s restaurant, and that was such a welcome change from sitting at school all day. It’s the same sort of thing with Dorm Crew -- there’s a real sense of accomplishment.”

Westley Cook, another Dorm Crew worker, said the job was “draining” but ultimately rewarding. He said other programs before the academic year cost students money, but instead this one paid him and enabled him to move on to campus early.

“There’s some validity in some students being financially hamstrung … but no one is forced to work Dorm Crew. There’s a number of different jobs available within Dorm Crew, too, and there are a lot of options for on-campus work,” Cook said. He added that the university could do more to improve the image of Dorm Crew, showing how it can help form relationships for students.

Rodney Agyare-May, another Dorm Crew worker and supporter, agreed that the program was beneficial, citing similar reasons to his classmates -- early introduction to campus, decent pay.

But he questioned why an institution as wealthy as Harvard was not paying for the program and instead relying on federal work-study. The benefits for poor students are sometimes not as helpful as they appear -- Agyare-May said that low-income students are given some of the university’s currency, Crimson Cash, over spring break, but that it only applied to certain campus coffee houses or bakeries, so students would be forced to eat pastries for every meal on the entire break.

“Harvard should devote resources to more low-income students,” Agyare-May said.

But the entire kerfuffle around Dorm Crew misses the bigger picture on federal work-study, said Anthony Abraham Jack, an assistant professor of education at Harvard and author of The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Poor Students (Harvard University Press).

In his book, which Goldrick-Rab liberally quoted on Twitter in the Dorm Crew debate, a passage references a cleaning program at an unnamed institution, similar to Dorm Crew. Jack interviewed a student who worked for this program, called Community Detail -- the student said cleaning people’s bathrooms was emotionally painful. His mother “was doing the same thing back home” and she “never wanted” him to do it when he was older.

Jack questioned in an interview why colleges in their federal-work study programs emphasize manual labor instead of opportunities to work with professors or something that could lead to an internship. Cleaning is not a derogatory task, but it is not as helpful as work that would service students’ careers, Jack said.

This is not something the federal government needs to fix, but if federal officials came in, he said, it would be like “using a machete when a scalpel is needed.”

“You cannot simply isolate Harvard when a significant number of schools hire students for manual labor while in college, and to me, it’s both analytically and professionally suspect if you don’t talk about it,” Jack said.

Iris Palmer, a senior policy analyst with New America, said that Harvard should not have access to federal work-study dollars at all. Harvard should use its massive endowment to pay for all low-income students’ needs, she said, and better align part-time jobs to academics and possible career paths.

“But they need to use their own money,” Palmer said.

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Economist: Colleges should take time, care with tuition resets

Inside Higher Ed - News - April 10, 2019 - 5:00pm

Private colleges that fret about affordability are increasingly turning to a new strategy: cutting sticker prices steeply while also trimming financial aid. So-called tuition resets are being deployed mostly at small institutions, both as a way to show that they’re responsive to market pressures and as a way to grab students’ attention.

A new analysis by economist Lucie Lapovsky finds that tuition resets can actually boost enrollment if done carefully and deliberately -- and with enough time to develop an institutionwide plan.

Lapovsky, a former president of Mercy College and onetime vice president for finance at Goucher College, looked at data from 24 private colleges that lowered their published tuition price between fall 2010 and fall 2016. Then she looked at IPEDS data for each one.

The size of the resets varied, from 10 percent or less at Alfred University, Brewton-Parker College, Grace College and Theological Seminary and others to more than 40 percent at Converse, Utica and Rosemont Colleges.

Judging their overall success as a strategy is difficult to determine, she said. For one thing, resets are never true pricing experiments, since colleges can’t openly charge different groups different prices simultaneously. Researchers can’t ask “What if?” because there’s basically no control group.

That said, Lapovsky found that if colleges are seeking larger freshman classes and more transfer students, the data are “positive although not overwhelmingly so.”

Half of colleges and universities she studied had freshman enrollment increases in the year in which the reset was initiated, as compared with the previous year. Only 43 percent had freshman enrollment increases one year later, compared with the year before the reset, while fully two-thirds had a larger freshmen class two years later.

Resets may hold more promise for transfers, with larger transfer classes at more than half of colleges the year of the reset and at 60 percent in both of the two years after the reset.

Lapovsky said colleges that successfully reset tuition do it openly and deliberately -- they should settle on the price change at least 18 months before the first target class enrolls. That allows time to educate trustees “so they understand the rationale for the price change and are in favor of it when it comes up for a vote,” she wrote.

Colleges should publicly announce the reset tuition at least 11 months before it goes into effect and plan a “significant” marketing campaign around the change, educating not just admissions and financial aid staff but high school counselors at feeder schools.

For currently enrolled students, she recommends sending a personal note to each student and his or her parents, explaining the reset and its impact on their bottom line.

In the end, though, a simple reset, on its own, may not be successful, she said. Along with a lower advertised tuition, Lapovsky, said, colleges must work to get financial aid and admissions personnel to understand the new realities of reset tuition. “I think that you need a lot of practice in focusing students on the net price, rather than the size of the award,” she said in an interview.

Psychologically, she said, students and families react powerfully to “the bragging rights” of higher tuition accompanied by a large financial aid award. So she recommends that colleges using resets offer students as many “nonpecuniary” benefits as possible to make an admission offer feel more prestigious: honors lectures and dinners at the president's house, for instance. “Things that cost little or nothing,” she said, “but that give parents bragging beyond the size of the award.”

Colleges may also need to change recruitment strategies, going after students who are more focused on price than their current applicant pool -- that typically means recruiting students who aren’t just looking at private colleges but at their high-performing public competitors as well.

It may take a year or two to break through to this new demographic, Lapovsky said -- actually, she noted, this may explain why enrollment growth seems to lag in the first year or so.

College officials have noted that families of late are becoming “much more strategic and much savvier” about college pricing. That could have an effect on resets, since parents who research net prices, financial aid and discount rates won’t necessarily be impressed by lower, newly reset tuition rates.

“As much as they may find it glamorous to have the big award,” Lapovsky said, “you go to the $50,000 school and they give you $25,000 -- or you go to the $30,000 school and they give you $5,000. Which do you choose?”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Colleges announce commencement speakers

Inside Higher Ed - News - April 10, 2019 - 5:00pm
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Per-student public spending recovers halfway since recession: study

Inside Higher Ed - News - April 9, 2019 - 5:00pm

A decade after the 2008 recession, fewer than one in five states has fully recovered when it comes to per-student appropriations for higher education.

A new study finds that just nine states have bounced back from pre-recession funding levels, and another nine have yet to increase per-student funding to even the low point of the recession.

In the middle: 32 states that have higher per-student appropriations than at their low point in 2012 or 2013, but which now fund postsecondary education at a lower level than their pre-recession high of 2007 or 2008.

The findings suggest that even as many state higher education systems have marked several years of annual funding increases, recovery has been highly uneven and has largely failed to keep up with expanding enrollments over the decade.

The findings are part of the annual "State Higher Education Finance" report, published by the State Higher Education Executive Officers association. The report examines the state of state of higher education financing in the most recent fiscal year (2017-18), and this year -- a decade out from the Great Recession -- also explores how public colleges have and have not recovered from that transformative event.

The nine states that have recovered in per-student funding over that decade: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Wisconsin and Wyoming. And even among these nine, caveats apply: in Oregon, for instance, local funding made a difference in what was otherwise flat state-level funding. In two others -- Illinois and North Dakota -- per-student appropriations never declined during the recession. In Illinois, that was due to the state’s efforts to backfill an underfunded pension system, while in North Dakota state appropriations in 2012 were actually higher than in 2008.

As in last year's study, researchers found that public higher education systems now rely more than ever on funding from students and families. More than half of states last year looked to tuition to a greater extent than they did taxpayer-supported appropriations.

In all, 27 states are now rely on tuition for more than 50 percent of their public college revenue, down from 28 last year, according to the new report.

The phenomenon took hold recently and hadn’t been seen before the recession, said Sophia Laderman, a senior policy analyst with SHEEO. The degree to which states rely on tuition changes drastically state to state: it’s just 17.5 percent of total educational revenue in Wyoming, but in Vermont, net tuition represents 87 percent of total revenue.

The new findings focus on the 2018 fiscal year, which for most states ran from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018.

On average, states reduced appropriations by $2,000 per student during the recession. They’ve since raised them by about $1,000, on average. “We’ve halfway made up those cuts,” Laderman said.

As for net tuition, across the U.S. it now represents 46.6 percent of total educational revenue across public systems, essentially unchanged from 2017. Robert E. Anderson, SHEEO’s president, called it a “new norm” for state higher education funding.

During the recession, tuition as a share of revenue “kind of skyrocketed, increasing 10 percentage points in just a few years,” said Laderman. “This has historically been what states do when there’s a recession.” While state higher education appropriations are now slowly rising, she said reliance on tuition doesn’t bode well for the near future. “We’re concerned about what will happen during the next recession.”

The phenomenon also undercuts efforts to make college more affordable and accessible, said Kim Hunter Reed, Louisiana’s commissioner of higher education. “At a time that we have said that it [higher education] is a necessity, not a luxury, we are pricing education as a luxury.”

Net tuition revenue was actually flat in 2018, likely due to factors such as lower international enrollment, smaller tuition rate increases and increases in state public financial aid, the report found.

Enrollment declined in 35 states and the District of Columbia -- enrollment is 6 percent below the high in 2011 -- but the annual rate of enrollment decline in most states has slowed in each year since 2015. Nationally, 2018 saw a small (0.3 percent) decrease in full-time enrollment from 2017, but enrollment remains 7.1 percent above what it was before the recession.

In New Mexico, which has seen some of the nation’s largest declines in enrollment, Kate O’Neill, secretary of the New Mexico Higher Education Department, said part of the downturn -- especially in community colleges -- is attributable to an improving employment landscape.

Between 2016 and 2018, enrollment declined by 10.3 percent, or nearly 10,000 students. In the same period, the state saw a two-percentage-point drop in unemployment.

The state is now pushing to get most 3- and 4-year olds into prekindergarten, which translates into a need for public colleges to produce an estimated 350 new pre-K teachers over two or three years.

“We’re looking at scaling up every education program in the state,” O’Neill said.

In Louisiana, which had one of the largest declines in funding since the recession, Reed, the state higher ed commissioner, said several years of “stable funding” haven’t made up for “one of the worst disinvestments in the nation” during the recession.

“We’re concerned that we’re working against our goal of making sure that education is as affordable and equitable and accessible for all of our students,” she said.

Reed, who on Monday was preparing to begin the state’s new legislative session, said Laderman’s fears about the next recession are real to Louisiana families. “We can’t price ourselves out” of consideration for most families, she said. “We feel like we are at that point already.”

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Video of American University student using racial slur goes viral

Inside Higher Ed - News - April 9, 2019 - 5:00pm

This article contains explicit and potentially offensive terms that are essential to reporting on this situation.

A video of a white American University student using a racial slur has gone viral on the campus, prompting outrage from a student body that has already experienced a series of racist incidents in recent years.

A first-year student, Aise O’Neil, was filmed by one of his peers saying “nigger” in a campus dormitory lounge. The 15-second clip shows O’Neil explaining that he feels it’s acceptable to use any word. The university, which not respond to a request for comment, said later that O'Neil used the term in a discussion among students about language and freedom of expression.

The university specifically did not respond to question about whether O'Neil would be punished. O'Neil did not respond to request for comment.

Some students said the video was particularly upsetting because of the university's history with racially charged episodes. In 2015, the university came under fire for racist language used in the now-defunct mobile application Yik Yak, which enabled its users to post anything anonymously. University leaders sharply criticized the platform, but at the time, students still felt they needed a more direct response to the bigotry. And in 2017, bananas were found on campus hanging in the shape of nooses. Sketched onto the fruit was “AKA,” or Alpha Kappa Alpha, referring to the sorority for African American women, and “Harambe bait,” referring to the gorilla killed at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden in 2016. They were discovered the same day a black woman started her tenure as the student government president.

The student who posted the new video to Twitter tagged university president Sylvia Burwell, with the caption “this is why I don’t feel welcomed at American University.” It has been viewed almost 80,000 times as of Monday evening.

AU does not condone the use of a racist term associated with discrimination and violence. We recognize the harm this can cause in our community. We will work with all concerned to understand what happened and to recognize that freedom of expression comes with responsibility.

— American University (@AmericanU) April 7, 2019

In a statement posted a statement on Sunday, the university said it “does not condone the use of a racist term associated with discrimination and violence.”

“We recognize the harm this can cause in our community,” the statement reads. “We will work with all concerned to understand what happened and to recognize that freedom of expression comes with responsibility.”

In a follow-up message, Fanta Aw, vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence, said that it is vital that the campus recognize “the historical context” of language.

“A slur that has been used in the context of racism, bigotry, discrimination and violence does harm when it is used without understanding its context and painful impact on members of our community,” Aw said.

She added that the university “would be guided by” its student code of conduct. Aw specifically referenced two sections of the conduct code that laid out definitions of misconduct and possible sanctions. Students can be punished a for a "bias incident," which is an act targeting these protected classes: "race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy or parenting, age, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, personal appearance, gender identity and expression, family responsibilities, political affiliation, source of income, veteran status, an individual’s genetic information."

Possible punishments range from a warning to a service project to a dismissal.

The university's public statements did little to assuage some students and professors.

“Then do something,” one Twitter user wrote in response to the university’s first statement. Nickolaus Mack, an editor for the student newspaper The Eagle, in an editorial called the statement a 45-word “failure.”

“From the onset, some students are informed that their success at AU can be achieved through the feigning of ignorance and the mere replication of our values rather than an embodiment of them,” Mack wrote. “Others, often having already lived and overcome numerous social and economic obstacles, are told that they are not quite ready for the AU experience.”

“But, what is that experience if not the valuing of privilege over lived experiences? What is that experience if not another way in which AU places the burden of fighting racism on black students?”

Valentina Fernández, president of American University Student Government, posted on Twitter that the campus must “do better.”

“Learn about the historically racist and dehumanizing purpose of this word and don’t accept this from those around you,” Fernández tweeted. “We have such a long way to go until AU can pride itself in its ‘inclusive excellence.’”

The American University Residence Hall Association, which represents those who live on the campus, wrote a lengthy response on Facebook, pledging to fill its executive board with those who “represent and speak to experiences we cannot.”

“Racism does not begin and end with [the] N-word, and our efforts to stop it can’t either,” the association wrote. “Every day, students are left feeling everything from annoyed to depressed, scared to frustrated, and uncomfortable to unwelcome by language and actions from students, faculty, and staff alike.”

Some commentators online called for harsher action. Ibram X. Kendi, an American professor and director of the university’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, wrote on Twitter that his institution should use a “zero-tolerance” policy for racism -- “Who and what do we want to feel welcome on our campuses?” he asked his followers.

American, as a private university, can adopt policies that restrict speech that is viewed as hateful. The Faculty Senate also adopted a resolution on free expression that states:

Freedom of speech -- protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution -- undergirds the cherished principle of academic freedom. As limits, either subtle or explicit, are increasingly placed on intellectual freedom in venues of public discourse, the academy is committed to the full expression of ideas. American University is committed to protecting and championing the right to freely communicate ideas -- without censorship -- and to study material as it is written, produced, or stated, even material that some members of our community may find disturbing or that provokes uncomfortable feelings.

Other colleges -- public universities -- have sanctioned students for using racial slurs before. In 2015, David Boren, the former University of Oklahoma president, indicated he would kick out fraternity members who were caught singing a racist chant -- “There will never be a nigger at SAE,” sung to the tune of “If You're Happy and You Know It.”

This year, Oklahoma faced another similar controversy when a recording of two students in blackface went viral -- the university said those women left voluntarily.

A University of Alabama student was expelled last year after a racist diatribe went public. She ranted in the video, “I love how I act like I love black people, because I fucking hate niggers.” At the time, free speech experts told Inside Higher Ed the ex-Alabama student would have a good case for suing the institution.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Henry Reichman discusses his new book on the future of academic freedom

Inside Higher Ed - News - April 9, 2019 - 5:00pm

Does academic freedom have a future? Nobody has a crystal ball. But as vice president of the American Association of University Professors and chair of its committee on academic freedom and tenure, Henry Reichman is particularly well suited to ponder the question. Reichman, professor emeritus of history at California State University at East Bay, spends 275 pages doing so in his new book, The Future of Academic Freedom (Johns Hopkins University Press).

The highly digestible book includes 10 essays on topics from social media to outside donor influence on colleges and universities, from unions to recent student protests over campus speech. (Spoiler: Reichman believes that the critical reaction to these protests is overblown.) Each section could stand alone. But Reichman says he hopes that they “convey a basic unified argument: that academic freedom is threatened today from multiple directions and that challenges to it are central to the present crisis in higher education.”

These issues merit faculty attention, Reichman argues, and the “time for engagement is now.” Still, The Future of Academic Freedom -- whether read in parts or as a whole -- eschews the doomsday mood of some similar books. Reichman’s tone is somehow hopeful, as if he’s arming advocates with the history, knowledge and tools they need to fight the good fight -- not just for the future of academic freedom but for higher education in general.

Reichman recently answered a series of questions about his book via email.

Q: You ask if academic freedom has a future and ultimately answer, "It is up to us." What do you mean by that?

A: While academic freedom is one of the foundations of greatness in the American higher education system, it has always been -- and always will be -- contested and vulnerable. My account of academic freedom's future is not especially optimistic. There are powerful forces in our society that would not only restrict the faculty’s academic freedom but also seek to transform our institutions of higher education into engines of profit instead of sources of enlightenment. Yet these forces pale before the challenge of the faculty’s own apathy and indifference. Nonetheless, as Sheila Slaughter has put it, “The difficulty of protecting academic freedom … should not cause us to abandon it.” And if there is a silver lining to recent assaults on academic freedom and higher education generally, it is that more faculty members have grown more alert to the dangers they face, and many are organizing to respond. Hence practical education about the importance of academic freedom is of the highest priority. To adequately defend it, we need to better understand its meaning, the nature of the hazards it faces and its relation to freedom of expression more generally.

When the AAUP issued the 1915 “Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure,” it can be argued that its claims were unrealistic, even utopian; the tenure system was then virtually nonexistent and the power of autocratic university presidents and corporate boards enormous. Yet these principles gradually gained widespread support and helped build what became the largest and most successful system of higher education in the world.

Q: How can academic freedom be justified or explained to those who don't value it?

A: Academic freedom cannot be defended without understanding that it is essential to fulfilling the mission of colleges and universities to advance intellectual inquiry and knowledge. That mission, in turn, can be justified only as a commitment to the common good. Without academic freedom colleges and universities will not be able to explore new ideas, advance science and the professions, and promote the arts and humanities to the benefit of all. Hence, I argue, that if we understand academic freedom too narrowly as simply the privilege of an elite guild, we will lose public support and indeed stifle innovation. At the same time, however, if we justify academic freedom as simply a subcategory of a broader freedom of expression, we will lose sight of the special role of higher education in producing expert disciplinary knowledge. Academic freedom is a kind of public trust, in which scholars and teachers are granted freedom to regulate their work because that work is essential to advancing the common good, to which the faculty must be dedicated.

Q: You ask if faculty can speak freely as citizens. Can they? And what is the difference between academic freedom and freedom of speech? When do they overlap?

A: The principles of academic freedom as they have been proclaimed by the AAUP since 1915 include the freedom to speak or write freely as "citizens, members of a learned profession and officers of an educational institution" on matters of public or institutional concern, to use the words of the 1940 “Joint Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure” issued by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges (now the Association of American Colleges and Universities). Since at least the 1960s, the AAUP has understood that freedom to be limited only to the extent that such commentary calls into question a faculty member’s "fitness" for her position and that such expression rarely bears directly on fitness for service. Hence, this principle provides quite broad protection -- or should provide broad protection -- for most extramural expression, including expression that many, including most professors, might find offensive. For example, an engineering professor should be able as a citizen to advocate Holocaust denial -- and here I have at least two actual examples in mind -- without fear of institutional discipline. However, were an historian of 20th-century Europe to so advocate, this undeniably could reflect on that professor's fitness. (This isn't just theoretical, as illustrated by the Arthur Butz case at Northwestern University.)

Freedom of speech, which is a democratic value to which all citizens are entitled, may overlap with academic freedom, but the two are not the same. Academic freedom must be earned by way of disciplinary training and expertise. Research and teaching are not like the "free market of ideas." Citizens are free to reject the theory of evolution; biologists are not. So, for instance, a provocateur like Milo Yiannopoulos has, in a sense, greater rights to spew vitriol on campus than faculty members do to speak their minds in the classroom. Nevertheless, an institution that fails to protect the expression of its faculty members as citizens and the freedom of speech of its students and community members is unlikely adequately to protect the faculty's academic freedom in the classroom, the laboratory and the library.

Q: You cover a host of academic freedom cases involving Twitter. What is it about this particular medium that gets so many professors in trouble? And would you kill Twitter if you could?

A: My book includes a chapter entitled "Can I Tweet That?" I've often thought that someone (not me) should write a companion piece entitled "Should I Tweet That?" Social media like Twitter have extended the ability of faculty members -- and not only faculty members, of course -- to speak as citizens, which is in many ways a welcome and wonderful development, but also makes such expression more hazardous. A faculty member who in the past might write a controversial op-ed piece in a local newspaper could risk blowback from a rather limited community. Today, one who tweets a controversial statement may unwittingly incite an online mob. Hence, while academic freedom must protect the rights of faculty members on all social media, those teachers who wish to engage these media should be aware of the potential consequences and gird themselves. In any event, it is the responsibility of college and university administrations to forcefully defend the right of their faculty members to tweet without fear of disciplinary consequences and not simply to dissociate their institutions from tweets or posts that attract negative publicity.

Many faculty members are used to employing arguments with nuance and subtlety. Twitter may not be the best medium for that, although at the same time many find it useful for honing one's main points and sharpening positions. And despite the proliferation of cases where Twitter has endangered faculty members, there are also many examples of professors who have skillfully employed this medium to bring their disciplinary expertise into the public arena, which is precisely what academic freedom should and must encourage. I'm thinking here of historians like Princeton's Kevin Kruse, for just one example. So I would not advocate "killing" Twitter, although I don't doubt there are many ways it could be improved, as several prominent scholars of media have suggested.

Q: To what extent do outside donors threaten academic freedom, and do those threats come from both conservative and liberal donors?

A: Academic institutions should not relinquish autonomy and the primary authority of their faculty over the curriculum when they accept outside donations. On the issue of outside interference in the university -- whether from government or private interests -- my view is essentially that espoused in a concurring opinion in the 1957 case of Sweezy v. New Hampshire by U.S. Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter. He identified “four essential freedoms of a university -- to determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught and who may be admitted to study.” Donors have every right to request that their donations be used for goals they support. It is the responsibility of the institution, however, to ensure that their donations do not violate these basic principles.

While at present a massively coordinated effort by right-wing foundations to reshape higher education may pose a special danger, in principle it would be foolish to assume that only such money could be corrupting. “Shouldn’t we be concerned about anyone who is funding any academic research centers on political and social subjects, no matter their ideological direction?” one journalist recently asked. The real issue is not so much politics but whether funding agreements conform to the criteria outlined by Justice Frankfurter. And the massive defunding and privatization of public higher education, which Christopher Newfield has appropriately called "the great mistake," intensifies the danger. As AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum put it, “The public defunding of higher education has already generated a host of terrible consequences. If politically motivated donors pick up the slack, things will only get worse. Higher education can’t function properly when it is beholden to special interests. That bodes ill not just for colleges themselves. It bodes ill for our democracy.”

Q: Many academics say that students threaten free expression nowadays, in that they are intolerant of and seek to censor anything they deem to be intolerant. But you say that student demonstrators of today "may well be doing more to advance the cause of free expression than their occasionally intolerant demands may now and then hinder it." How did you arrive at that conclusion? And do students have academic freedom?

A: When it comes to allegations of student intolerance, I like to quote the libertarian political theorist Jacob Levy: "It turns out that 18-year-olds seized of the conviction of their own righteousness are prone to immoderation and simplistic views. (Who knew?)" Do students sometimes threaten free expression? Yes, they sometimes do. But let me situate the quote you mention in the full context in which it appears in my book (and in an earlier version of that essay, which appeared on Inside Higher Ed). I write, "By challenging campus administrations through organized protest, the student demonstrators of today may well be doing more to advance the cause of free expression than their occasionally intolerant demands may now and then hinder it. It’s necessary to credit their courage and determination in addressing the sometimes unconscious but nonetheless real and persistent racism and misogyny that infect our society and our campuses. In doing so, they have made and will again make mistakes. They will offend others even as they respond to deeper offenses against their own dignity. They may demonstrate indifference to the rights of others, as protesters everywhere always have. But, in doing so, they will learn. And that, it seems to me, is the essential point. Student academic freedom, in the final analysis, is about the freedom to learn. And learning is impossible without error."

Q: Should the Yiannopouloses and Richard Spencers of the world really be granted a platform on college campuses, even if they're invited by someone, somewhere?

A: I don't think there is any reason to grant such speakers a platform without an invitation -- unless a campus has foolishly (in my opinion) offered its venues to all comers, perhaps in an ill-advised search for revenue. However, if a legitimate campus group has invited such a speaker, they should be granted a platform. For a public institution this is a matter of law; the First Amendment compels it. But I think the principle should apply to private institutions as well. That said, however, I believe colleges and universities have a duty to educate the campus about ideas that run fundamentally counter to the mission and intellectual values of the institution. It is higher education's role to confront irrationality with reason. Silencing irrational and hateful arguments that run counter to genuine intellectual inquiry only allow those arguments to fester. I therefore agree with Phi Beta Kappa CEO Frederick Lawrence, who wrote, "We bind ourselves to an impoverished choice set if we believe that we can either punish speech or validate it. In the face of hate speech, the call for more speech is not merely an option; it is a professional or even moral obligation."

Q: What should faculty, staff and students know and do about academic freedom under what you call the "Trump regime"?

A: In the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump's election, the AAUP issued a statement, which I will now acknowledge I largely authored, that acknowledged how "the problems facing higher education today and the growing assault on the professionalism and freedoms of faculty members over the past several decades can hardly be attributed to the results of a single election. Many of these problems stem from ill-conceived policies developed and implemented on a bipartisan basis." Nevertheless, it would be foolish not to recognize that the Trump regime has over the past two years exacerbated these problems, in good measure because it has dramatically intensified the ongoing assault on the common good more broadly. In this context, I would return to my response to your first question. Faculty, staff and students need to learn about the principles of academic freedom, tenure and shared governance that built our contemporary system of higher education, and they must organize to defend them. This is essentially why I wrote the essays in this book.

So let me conclude here, as I conclude the book, by quoting from remarks delivered to the annual conference of the AAUP in 2010 by Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University. McGuire acknowledged that “the biggest threat to our academic freedom and health of our enterprise is our own tendency to self-censorship.” We can, she added, “either cower under our desks to escape the noise, hoping no one calls us out, resolving to remain silent … Or, we can do our jobs, with responsibility, with integrity and with audacity … Academic freedom rarely dies in one egregious event; academic freedom erodes in a thousand small concessions … But we lose everything when we refuse the engagement, when we sit back and hope that this wave will just pass over us, naïvely thinking that our freedom will remain intact even as the ebb tide washes it away.”

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Categories: Higher Education News