Higher Education News

Alaska president offers new plans following vote of financial exigency

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 23, 2019 - 5:00pm

Facing a massive and unprecedented 41 percent cut in state funding, the University of Alaska’s Board of Regents voted 10 to 1 to declare financial exigency, a move that will precede layoffs and program elimination.

The vote comes as a financial crisis looms over the state’s public higher education system -- the cut represents a loss of $135 million in funding. Moody’s Investor Service has already downgraded the credit rating of the system to BAA1 as a result of the cuts, citing a “high likelihood of a material reduction in the university's liquidity over the next year.” After the downgrade, the Board of Regents moved its meeting earlier, to Monday.

The cuts are a result of Governor Mike Dunleavy’s decision to veto parts of the proposed state budget affecting a number of public institutions in the state, in the hopes of moving more money to Alaska’s Permanent Fund, which provides a dividend to Alaskan citizens based on oil revenue. Many stakeholders in the Alaska system had hoped to lobby the state Legislature to override the veto, but their efforts were unsuccessful.

Additionally, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the university's accreditor, warned in a letter that due to the size and implications of the cuts, the university risked losing its accreditation status, a move “that could be felt for generations.”

Typically, financial exigency is used as a tool during times of extreme fiscal concern at universities to make reductions to faculty or programs at a faster rate. Financial exigency also traditionally allows colleges and universities to terminate long-standing or tenured faculty members.

“We are working diligently to move towards reduction,” University of Alaska at Anchorage chancellor Cathy Sandeen said at the board meeting.

Sandeen originally told Inside Higher Ed earlier this month that the estimates for how many faculty positions may have to be eliminated across the system “conservatively” came in at 700 positions.

Jim Johnsen, president of the Alaska system, also presented three possible structuring models for the university in the wake of the cuts -- which Johnsen wants the board to consider.

According to the presentation Johnsen presented to the regents, the first proposal would have one or more of the system's three campuses eliminated from the system. The benefit of this model outlined in the presentation was that the cuts would be contained and the other two campuses would remain largely unaffected. The downsides listed were that it denied access to many Alaskans, would have a large economic impact on the communities around the affected campus and that it would encourage “inter-university and regional conflict.”

Some of that inter-university conflict has already sparked up, ­with a Faculty Senate committee at the Anchorage campus authoring a report suggesting that the Fairbanks campus should absorb most of the financial pain.

The second option Johnsen submitted would proportionately divvy up the effects of the cuts to each university, asking all three campuses to reduce to its own unique “core.” Johnsen told Inside Higher Ed in an April interview that the system was unique in the sense that each campus within the system offered a distinct quality. The plan outlined the positives: it would be more equitable to each campus, could reduce duplicative programs and maintains some educational access for more Alaskans. However, the risks were that for each campus to endure such a large financial blow, each could risk accreditation and financial viability, as well as student choice.

The third choice was a recommendation for a “New UA,” which would include a single accreditation model with higher integration between programs, creating overarching colleges to extensively cover students in certain degree fields. For example, all three campuses have education colleges or schools, and the new model would create an overarching Alaska College of Education with a common statewide curriculum.

Johnsen listed the benefits of this approach -- again, duplicative programs would be eliminated, and it would decrease administrative bureaucracy and foster collaboration. However, the plan would require “substantive change in institutional accreditation and U.S. Department of Education approval, requiring time and significant effort.”

Toward the end of the meeting, some regents expressed concern at making such a large decision in a short span of time, but Johnsen said a proposal would have to be decided on soon in order to prepare properly. The board will meet again on July 30 to tentatively approve a plan to move forward.

“It’s a terrible situation we’re in, but I think we can move through it, and do it with speed,” Johnsen said.

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Categories: Higher Education News

New presidents or provosts: Arden Boise Christian Brothers Iowa Valley Lesley Orange Coast Pfeiffer Texas Lutheran W&M

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 23, 2019 - 5:00pm
  • Peggy Agouris, dean of the College of Science at George Mason University, in Virginia, has been appointed provost at the College of William & Mary, also in Virginia.
  • Scott Bullard, interim president, senior vice president and dean of the college at Judson College, in Alabama, has been selected as president of Pfeiffer College, in North Carolina.
  • Debbie Cottrell, vice president of academic affairs at Texas Lutheran University, has been named president there.
  • Kristie Fisher, senior director of national associations and market engagement at ACT. Inc., in Iowa, has been chosen as chancellor of the Iowa Valley Community College District.
  • Carl Lygo, professor of law and founding vice chancellor of BPP University, in Britain, has been appointed vice chancellor and CEO of Arden University, also in Britain.
  • Jack Shannon, head of the Office of Strategic Alliances, Economic Development and Civic Partnerships and former vice president for advancement at Montclair State University, in New Jersey, has been selected as president of Christian Brothers University, in Tennessee.
  • Janet L. Steinmayer, president of Mitchell College, in Connecticut, has been named president of Lesley University, in Massachusetts.
  • Angelica Suarez, vice president for student affairs at the Southwestern Community College District, in California, has been chosen as president of Orange Coast College, also in California.
  • Marlene Tromp, campus provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has been appointed president of Boise State University, in Idaho.
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Another gossip app hits college campuses. Will this one be better?

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 23, 2019 - 5:00pm

Despite their relatively short shelf life, the development of campus-based social media platforms isn't slowing down. Pop, the latest social media app to target students, is hoping to become the next big thing on college campuses.

Like other college social media apps before it, Pop takes elements of other social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Slack, and brings them together with the aim of creating a digital community.

The goal is to help students find each other, said Alex Kehr, the CEO of Pop. The app has only been launched on two college campuses so far, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Oregon. Kehr says his team picked the colleges at random.

Pop didn’t start out with the intention of becoming a social media platform for students. It was originally an online marketplace for emoji, animations and GIFs called Sticker Pop. Its name was changed to Pop last February, and a group chat function was added. A couple of months later, the app introduced new location-based public groups called communities. Students can still buy stickers through the app through monthly subscriptions, and while sticker sales will continue to provide a revenue stream, they will no longer be the focus of the app, said Kehr.

You don’t have to be a student to join the UCLA or the Oregon Pop community, but you do have to be on campus and have an iPhone, explained Kehr. Once you’ve joined a community, you can talk to anyone else in that community. People create profiles and groups and send each other direct messages. There is also a page called “the wall,” where anyone in the community can post anything, which is similar to Yik Yak, the controversial anonymous messaging app that launched in 2013 and shut down four years later, but without the built-in anonymity.

Around 3,000 students on each campus are using Pop, said Kehr. And there has been promising retention over the summer, when many other college apps such as Yik Yak, After School and Yeti saw their usage plummet.

Over the next few months, Pop will launch on several other campuses, though the exact locations are still to be determined, Kehr said. The biggest limitation in scaling up is staff, he said. Pop employees closely monitor what is said in groups and on the wall to ensure the conversations are civil and don't include the racist and misogynistic comments and other problematic content that became pervasive on Yik Yak.

“It’s been really interesting to see into the lives of students at two different colleges,” said Kehr. UCLA students are worrying much more about exams and finances, he said, whereas Oregon students are just making plans to hang out. 

Kehr said he doesn't read students' private messages to each other, though technically there is nothing stopping him from doing so. On Pop's Twitter feed you can see snapshots of messages students' public posts -- most funny, some flirtatious. The app has already served a serious purpose, said Kehr -- after the recent California earthquakes, use of the app spiked as students were using it to check in on each other, he said.

Ricardo Vazquez, associate director of media relations at UCLA, said in an email that no one at the student affairs office had yet heard of the app, despite Pop using UCLA in its marketing materials. He did not say whether staff would be monitoring the app going forward.

“New social media applications are launched every day,” said Vazquez. “Due to the proliferation and fluctuation of these applications, and the changing needs of our students, as well as the changing nature of the technology they use, it is a challenge to anticipate what will achieve mass-market adoption by our students.”

Students at UCLA frequently launch their own apps and ask the institution for support in spreading the word to other students, said Vazquez.

“We attempt to do this in structured ways at campus events such as maker fairs, hackathons, etc., but the institution wants to protect students from excessive pitching and ads.”

UCLA does engage with students when applications and innovations start to impact campus life, said Vazquez. Recent topics of discussion have included e-scooter use, digital citizenship and online harassment.

While student social media apps like Pop aim to connect students, they can quickly become forums for rumors, bullying and hate speech. Kehr said his team was mindful of this when developing Pop and built in ways for users to report unacceptable behavior. So far, there haven’t yet been any reports, he said.

“Students are being really nice to each other,” he said.

Kehr said he learned from Yik Yak’s mistake -- there is no anonymity in Pop that would allow users to say whatever they want without accountability. But students don’t have to use their real names or even prove that they're actual students.

Danial Jameel, founder and CEO of Ready Education, a company that creates custom campus apps for institutions, said it’s likely that more apps like Pop will be popping up on college campuses.

“When you’re a young entrepreneur, you’re looking to solve problems around you -- that’s why so many apps and companies start at colleges,” said Jameel. But very few of them ever become successful companies, he said.

“This demographic is very fickle -- they have low loyalty to any one platform.”

Facebook launched at Harvard University 15 years ago and is now a multibillion-dollar tech company. But Jameel thinks it would be difficult to replicate that success.

“Facebook was a different era," he said. "Applying that same formula today isn’t going to work. Students will naturally ask why they need yet another platform.”

Before Ready Education became Ready Education, it was called OOHLALA. In its early days, the app launched on college campuses, guerilla-style -- without the knowledge of campus administrators -- similar to Pop. But Jameel soon realized that if he worked with colleges, he could engage more students.

Ready Education is just one of many companies working with colleges to create social media platforms and tools. Handshake is another app that works with colleges to connect students with campus career services and potential employers. Many others are pivoting into this space, with a mission to boost student success, said Jameel.

While launching an app on a college campus without the college’s knowledge might irritate student affairs staff, Jameel said he wouldn’t want developers to be prevented from doing this. 

"I'm all for regulation, but not stifling innovation," he said. 

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Judge rules Quinnipiac University Title IX lawsuit can go to trial

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 23, 2019 - 5:00pm

A federal judge will allow a trial in a sex discrimination lawsuit against Quinnipiac University to move forward. The lawsuit is part of an unusual case that involves university officials destroying their notes on the institution’s own investigations.

U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton earlier this month declined to dismiss many of the claims made by an anonymous student, who was accused of verbally abusing and being physically violent toward two ex-girlfriends.

The student, referred to as John Doe in filings, alleged in his lawsuit that the university was biased against him when it investigated his purported behavior as a potential violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal sex antidiscrimination law. He also said the private university, which is located in Connecticut, adjudicated his case unfairly, by not providing him all of the evidence, among other alleged errors.

The judge’s order does not mean Doe will be successful in his lawsuit, only that his complaints will be evaluated by a trial court. But it reflects a growing trend of students accused of sexual violence winning legal cases while the federal rules around Title IX remain in flux. Almost two years ago, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos revoked guidance on Title IX from the Obama administration. Many credited the Obama-era approach with providing survivors of sex assault more protections, but the approach was unpopular among advocates for accused students. The Trump administration replaced the guidance with draft regulations that have not yet been approved.

Quinnipiac is alleged to have broken a contract around sexual violence -- in this case its own policies -- which could potentially infringe on state law. This is an emerging area of law: the idea of a conduct code being a contract between a student and his or her college or university, said S. Daniel Carter, president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, which consults with colleges and universities on Title IX.

“Universities need to think long and hard and be introspective about themselves and make sure they adhere to having good sound policy in advance,” Carter said.

In June 2016, Doe’s girlfriend at the time -- Jane Roe in court records -- reported to the university she had argued with Doe and that he ended their relationship. She said she had been “accidentally struck” while Doe attempted to grab her purse and kick her out of his apartment. Roe noted in her report that the relationship had been “rocky” and that Doe previously had been physically abusive. She also said his ex-girlfriend -- known as Jane Roe 2 -- had warned her about his misbehavior. Both women were students.

Two university investigators interviewed the women, and after interviewing Jane Roe 2 opened up an investigation on her behalf, even though she never filed a formal complaint.

Ultimately, investigators found that Doe likely had violated university policy and engaged in dating violence and assault, among other infractions. Doe met with the investigators and said he had been treated unfairly because Roe’s witnesses were interviewed before him and she had more time to prepare her statements.

Doe met with administrators for several more months, claiming the investigators or the officials who would participate in his upcoming Title IX hearing were biased. He said one administrator had given “lenient discipline” for another student who assaulted Doe.

When the university tried to schedule a hearing date in March 2017, Doe sued, asking for a temporary restraining order, which was eventually denied. A month later Doe was found responsible for dating violence and other accusations, but he was given a relatively light sentence: a deferred suspension, meaning he would be suspended if he broke the rules again. He also was allowed on campus only for classes and was prevented from attending university-sponsored events. Doe later appealed, but the decision was upheld.

Doe said in his lawsuit that two officials destroyed their notes from two investigations -- one that occurred leading up to the initial hearing and the other from Doe’s appeal. Doe claimed they destroyed the notes after he sued for the restraining order. One of the officials was an attorney and the other was a former state trooper who should have known to retain the documents given the legal issues, Doe said.

The judge's ruling largely backed Doe's account.

“Defendants offer no explanation as to why the apparent destruction of hearing and investigation notes by officials who knew of the litigation hold was not at minimum negligent,” Arterton wrote in her ruling.

At the same time, around February 2017, Doe tried to get the university to investigate what he said was harassment against him.

During the investigation, Doe said Roe’s friends approached him about the ongoing probe, which he said was a breach of confidentiality of the process and a violation of the order that none of the parties involved with the case contact each other. In April 2017, Doe said Roe initiated a conversation with him at a restaurant and said she “fucking hated” him. (The university declined to investigate the alleged harassment by Roe 2 because she was no longer a student.) Roe was eventually cleared of the accusations by Doe.

Quinnipiac declined to comment for this story.

Doe is suing for violations of Title IX and state statutes, among other claims. His lawsuit says the university promised to comply with Title IX in its student handbook and that it would respond to Title IX complaints “equitably,” which Doe said officials did not do.

He’s also suing for “reckless and wanton behavior,” which is a more severe charge that has never been tried before in a Title IX case. The university noted this in its response to Doe’s lawsuit, but Arterton wrote that despite such a claim being unprecedented, it can be judged in a trial.

“While the court agrees that only a plaintiff's testimony how defendants acted might not suffice to establish defendants’ recklessness,” Arterton wrote, “it does not preclude the jury from making that assessment.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

When a misleading op-ed in 'The Wall Street Journal' irks academics, it's time for a fact check on faculty work and pay

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 22, 2019 - 5:00pm

Hearing politicians mischaracterize and discredit faculty work is par for the course in academe. It’s much more surprising to hear someone with actual teaching experience do it. So professors shared a collective "WTF?" moment last week when Joseph Epstein, writer and emeritus lecturer of English at Northwestern University, published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal stating that it’s not uncommon to make $200,000 per year for “essentially a six-month job, and without ever having to put in an eight-hour day.”

The premise of Epstein’s piece is that “if government is going to pay for college, at least it ought to try to bring down the cost,” and that he knows where to start cutting because he taught for 30 years. He doesn’t just attack faculty work -- Epstein also suggests reducing the salaries of university presidents by 90 percent, curing administrative bloat and slashing athletic coaches’ pay. But “at the tonier universities,” he says, “professors in the humanities and social sciences might teach as few as three or four courses a year, the remainder of their time supposedly devoted to research.”

Quoting an unnamed former colleague, Epstein calls faculty work a "racket." He himself later calls it a "sweet racket."

What the actual F???https://t.co/XiWIzotjty pic.twitter.com/apfXXXaYUP

— AAUP (@AAUP) July 19, 2019

Under proposed free higher education plans, then, Epstein says, “perhaps it would make sense to pay university teachers by the hour, with raises in the wage awarded by seniority. Surely they could not complain.” After all, he continues, “the two most common comments (some would say the two biggest lies) about university teaching are, ‘I learn so much from my students’ and ‘It’s so inspiring, I’d do it for nothing.’ A strict hourly wage for teachers, as free university education may require, would nicely test the validity of that second proposition.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal/Joseph Epstein

Among other things, Epstein’s essay ignores the structural shifts that have occurred since he began teaching -- most significantly the transition to majority-non-tenure-track work force. This means that many professors don’t make a salary at all, but are paid on per-course basis. (In this sense, he’s closer to his “strict hourly wage” reality than he thinks. But adjuncts say that the $3,000 they often get to teach a course vastly undervalues the actual work they do to plan it, teach it and be available to students taking it while staying current in their fields. And that shift, in turn -- along with public funding cuts -- has led to a greater overall workload for tenured and tenure-track professors.)

The essay also ignores the fact that the vast majority of even full-time professors don’t teach at “tonier” colleges and universities. And while it’s true that college costs continue to outpace inflation, professors’ salaries have stayed relatively flat. Last year, for example, full-time faculty pay rose about 2 percent. But adjusted for 1.9 percent inflation, it “barely budged,” according to the American Association of University Professors Faculty Compensation Survey. CUPA-HR’s annual survey said essentially the same.

Fact Check

But then there are the facts about how much full-time professors are actually paid, and how much work they do. Epstein says it’s “not uncommon” for professors to make $200,000 per year, but a more accurate statement would be that it’s not uncommon for professors to make that much at private, independent doctoral institutions. On those research-intensive campuses, the average salary for full professors (not assistant or associate professors) last year was $196,000, according to the AAUP. Associate professors on such campuses made $119,000 on average. Assistant professors made $105,000.

At public doctoral institutions last year, the average full professor salary was $141,000. Associates made about $97,000. Assistants made $84,000. Full-time instructors made about $63,000, while lecturers made about $57,000.

At master’s degree-granting campuses, across institution types, full professors made, on average, about $104,000 last year. Across ranks, the average full-time faculty salary at master’s institutions was $81,000. The numbers are nearly the same for baccalaureate degree-granting institutions, and they’re less at associate’s degree-granting campuses. Inside Higher Ed exclusively holds the AAUP’s searchable survey data here.

How much do academics actually work? It varies. And it’s fair to say that academic life entails more flexibility than some other fields. But 50 to 60 hours a week is a good estimate. A small research project at Boise State University in 2014, in which faculty participants tracked their hours, for example, found that professors work 61 hours per week -- more than 50 percent over the traditional 40-hour workweek. About 35 percent of Monday-to-Friday work was spent on teaching, including grading and preparation. Three percent of the workweek day was spent on primary research and 2 percent on manuscript writing.

Professors in that study worked 10 hours per day Monday to Friday and about that much on Saturday and Sunday combined. Just because professors aren’t “at work” doesn’t mean they’re not working. But one finding of that Boise State study is that professors do spend a lot of time in meetings: 17 percent. Much time was spent on email and other administrative-type tasks.

The 60-hour workweek also got a boost last year during a Twitter debate about faculty work.

I tell my graduate students and post-docs that if they’re working 60 hours per week, they’re working less than the full professors, and less than their peers. https://t.co/mapWtvmBWp

— Nicholas A. Christakis (@NAChristakis) February 4, 2018

John Ziker, chair of anthropology at Boise State and a researcher on the faculty workload project, said the Epstein’s op-ed is “crazy,” citing median full professor salary figures of about $100,000 at doctoral institutions with high research activity (as opposed to the highest “very high” research activity).

Esther Morgan-Ellis, an associate professor of music history and world music who serves as the orchestra director and a scholarship and audition coordinator at the University of North Georgia, said she’s “very happy” with her institution, where she enjoys unwavering support in all that she pursues from colleagues and her administration. But Epstein’s essay “really pissed me off.”

To start, Morgan-Ellis is a tenured associate professor who has worked at her institution for six years. And she just signed a contract for about $60,000. She’s currently working on a passion project, in the form of a university system grant-funded textbook. She plans on putting in 50 more hours. But even if she didn’t do any more work on the book, she’d average about $6.80 per hour on it (she does not get faculty paychecks over the summer).

Adrianna Kezar, a professor of higher education at the University of Southern California who studies the faculty, said Epstein’s essay “is almost absurd in its lack of accuracy,” starting with the lack of actual full-time salary data. And "the idea of getting paid hourly just to get a fair wage definitely resonates with adjunct positions," she said. "They honestly would be paid better if they got an hourly wage rather than a lump sum of $3,000 on average to teach an entire class."

Other studies of faculty productivity and work hours point to an average of closer to 50 hours per week, with some institution types showing even more, Kezar added.

Does history account for Epstein’s lack of accuracy here? Kezar said that hours were “slightly less 40 years ago, but never under 40 hours a week.”

Over all, Kezar said, the “myth that faculty somehow are making a lot of money is very problematic. I think the idea is that other professionals, like doctors and lawyers, make a lot of money so there’s an assumption that professors must, as well. Whatever the source, the facts are clearly there to say the contrary.”

Hans-Joerg Tiede, a senior program officer at the AAUP who has written about its history, said that "there may well have been a time when the overall economic condition of the faculty was better than it is today." Certainly, he said, "there was a time when the tenure system functioned better than it does today." But "I think working conditions and salaries have always featured wide differences between institutional types."

The main reason that "myths about faculty workload persist is that news outlets like The Wall Street Journal perpetuate them," Tiede said. "It’s certainly well documented that the sort of circumstances that the author describes are not anywhere near the norm."

Epstein declined comment on these and other critiques, saying, “I’ve already had my say.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Incoming Hampshire president Edward Wingenbach lays out his vision for rebuilding

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 22, 2019 - 5:00pm

Edward Wingenbach is entering a high-profile, high-pressure situation when he takes over as president of Hampshire College next month.

Wingenbach, who was named the next president of the private liberal arts college in Amherst, Mass., last week, already faces a ticking clock. The New England Commission of Higher Education will decide in November whether to continue Hampshire’s accreditation after a tumultuous year.

How the new president navigates the next few months will be closely watched by many of those concerned about the future of small private colleges. Hampshire finds itself under many of the same pressures bearing down on liberal arts institutions across the country, and it has become a closely watched case since those pressures exploded in dramatic fashion earlier this year.

Hampshire’s previous administration announced in January that it was exploring merging the college into another institution. Alumni rejected that idea, leading in April to the ouster of former president Miriam E. Nelson and resignation of former board chair Gaye Hill. But before the leadership changes were put in place, Hampshire had already locked itself into not admitting a full freshman class for fall 2019.

That leaves the college expecting to enroll this fall just 15 new students who had previously signed up for early admission or deferred enrollment, far fewer than the 300 new students who normally would make up a new class. That’s exacerbating the same pressures that led its former leaders to explore a merger in the first place -- budget stress and enrollment challenges.

Wingenbach, who held leadership roles at Ripon College in Wisconsin since 2015, argues Hampshire can leverage its unique history as an educational experiment in order to recover as the higher education landscape changes. He spoke by telephone Friday about the college’s situations and his plans for its future.

The following exchange has been edited lightly for length and clarity.

Q: What do you see as priorities after you start in a couple of weeks?

A: Hampshire is the essential institution of American higher education. It’s the place that has as its mission innovating and experimenting in ways that invent the future of higher education.

Many of the things that are now aspirational, high-impact practices that all of our colleges and universities are trying to do in various successful and unsuccessful ways -- most of those were pioneered at Hampshire and perfected at Hampshire. And so the role of Hampshire College at some level is to continue to invent the future of higher education and the future of student-centered teaching.

What is a priority for me is that Hampshire needs to, in a sense, recommit itself to that entrepreneurial spirit. A little bit of what’s happened here is, as often happens at institutions, you start to do a bunch of things well, and then you get attached to continuing to do them well, and after a little while they are not quite as innovative and exciting as they were at the start.

Q: Where could you could push those innovations?

A: I’ve got a whole series of ideas, and I’ve had conversations with people here on campus who have interesting ideas. I’m a little leery about exploring, in public, what those ideas might look like.

The faculty, the staff, people who are invested in Hampshire College, the students here at the college -- we have to map out what those ideas for innovation are going to look like, what kind of curriculum we’re going to embed here.

We need to be able to tell students who want to come and their families who want to come what experiment they are doing, and we also need to be able to speak with NECHE about that. So there are going to be some substantive answers to that question pretty quickly here, and I’m just leery about predetermining that.

Q: Effectively, what you’re talking about is making everybody feel they have a part in shared governance and a shared community. Is there a tension between shared governance and your tight accreditation timeline?

A: There really are three competing values in shared governance. There is participation. There is speed of decision making. And then there is the workload -- the work it takes to make decisions. If you’re willing to focus the work and energy of the community primarily on participatory shared governance for a period of time, you can be both democratic and move quickly.

I think Hampshire is in a position right now where it has to prioritize, as an entire community, the shared work of figuring out what it means to be an experimenting college in the 21st century. We have to do that work. That has to be our priority.

Everything else for the next several months has to be put, kind of, off to the side. We did that when I came to Ripon College in 2015. I came into an institution that was needing to reinvent its core curriculum in order to do something exciting that would attract more students but also because it needed to fit a curriculum that was much too large to a faculty that was shrinking and needed to shrink further.

And we managed to invent that new curriculum, one that Inside Higher Ed has covered, in four months, start to finish. But that’s all we did that semester. We met as a full faculty every week and put all of our committees behind that.

You can sustain that kind of engagement for intensive periods of time when something is really important. We’re going to have to do that here.

Q: How does that fit with recruiting new students? The Boston Globe reported you have 15 new students coming in for the fall. Anyone in enrollment management will tell you, you can maybe survive one year like that. Going forward, you just can’t keep taking such hits. How does your process fit with the need to recruit new students?

A: The first thing that’s important to say about that is we only have 15 students because there was a decision made not to take students who wanted to come here. When that decision was made, there were approximately 70 early-action students who had deposited. And the admissions office was on track to bring in a class of over 300 -- a typical-size class.

In the two months that followed that decision, the admissions office spent a whole lot of time dealing with angry or disappointed students or parents who really wanted to come to Hampshire College.

Had we been willing to take a class here, there would have been 300-plus people here this fall. So I have no doubt that we can get a class of 300-plus for the coming fall [2020]. People are interested in the kind of education that only Hampshire delivers.

Part of what we need to do is not just show people that we’re still here. We are a unique institution where, as a student, you can do things you can’t do anywhere else.

Q: The previous administration had what I’ll call a pessimistic outlook for the market and for the college’s prospects as an independent institution. It was set against a background where a lot of experts say it is not going to be a good decade for New England colleges. Are there steps you need to take to shore up finances or show folks that you’re going to be financially viable going forward?

A: Of course. One of the things we have to do is continue to fund-raise at the rate that we have been this year.

After the announcement by the previous administration that they were looking for a partner and not going to take a class, there was this just massive outpouring of support from alums and parents and people who just care about Hampshire College and didn’t attend here. There have been over $9 million in cash and pledges raised just since February, which is more than a year’s worth of normal fund-raising at Hampshire College. So we have to maintain that momentum and external fund-raising.

We also, though, have to adjust our cost structure. The problem that Hampshire College is facing isn’t and wasn’t that there aren’t enough students interested in attending Hampshire College. The problem that Hampshire was facing was an inability to imagine how to function within the means that they have.

There are a lot of places where the challenge is they can’t find enough students who want to come. And they can’t find students who have the means to attend. That is not Hampshire’s challenge.

Hampshire’s challenge is matching our expenses to the very stable level of student interest and revenue that is available to the college.

The short-term challenge is because we didn’t take a class this fall. That’s going to take four years to flow through. But four years from now, I have no doubt that Hampshire College will have more than 1,000 students and we’ll have a whole lot more external funding to support the work we’re doing.

Q: When you talk about aligning costs structures, does that mean faculty cuts or cuts elsewhere?

A: We have to build a budget based on our realistic expectations for tuition, room and board revenue, and other sources of revenue. And then work backwards from that to prioritize where we can spend our money.

Here is the size of college that we can consistently afford to be. How do we meet our mission within that? How do we prioritize together? How do we make those decisions? It’s like the innovation. I don’t want to get ahead of myself on that.

Q: Can you offer any sense of what size enterprise the college is likely to become?

A: I think the long-term goal here is a college that is somewhere around 1,200 students and maybe larger than that if there are enough students who are qualified and interested in the kind of experience we offer.

I think that student body needs to demonstrate the kind of diversity that is essential to Hampshire’s identity, and that needs to include socioeconomic diversity. We need to think about how we maintain access for students, particularly students who are potentially most likely to benefit from designing their own course of study being measured by faculty.

A lot of that depends on fund-raising, and so I think the goals that have been set publicly here, which include raising something like $100 million over the next five years and returning to a student size of about 1,200 -- I think those are reasonable goals, and we should strive to accomplish them.

Q: Did you examine any case studies of other colleges, or are you planning to call anyone up and ask how they navigated a similar situation to Hampshire’s?

A: There are places that are wrestling with these questions, including the institution that I’m coming from. In fact, I think there are more residential liberal arts colleges that are addressing and dealing with some version of the challenge Hampshire faces than aren’t.

What is distinctive about the situation at Hampshire and one of the things that I’m really excited about -- part of the reason I was willing to just jump into this -- what most small colleges who are facing financial challenges want and don’t have is something unique to offer to parents and students.

You hear a lot about value propositions and return on investment and standing out in a crowded marketplace and all of that kind of language. Hampshire doesn’t have to invent that. People know who we are. We know who we are. Nobody does anything like what we do. There’s a lot of excitement that can be harnessed around that, and so that’s a big advantage in trying to return to health, particularly when the drop in enrollment was self-imposed.

Q: Do you have any other thoughts on the broader market in the Northeast or nationwide? I talk to a lot of enrollment managers and consultants who are very concerned about what it looks like going forward.

A: It would be delusional not to be concerned about the marketplace, not just in the Northeast. Following 2026 there is a decline in 18-year-olds across the country. That’s acute in the Northeast.

Yes, it’s clearly a challenge. I think the thing about a place like Hampshire College is that in order to be a healthy and thriving institution, we only need to find 400 or 500 students a year across the country who want this incredibly unique opportunity. I think there are a lot more than 400 or 500 high school seniors who want to design their own course of study, ask their own sets of questions, engage in cooperative problem solving to deal with the big challenges of the world, in a place like Amherst, Mass., which is a great place for young people to spend four years.

Hampshire has all of the advantages to survive and thrive in that declining market.

Q: You have the Five College Consortium. Have you had discussions with any of its members?

A: Here’s another advantage that we have, apart from being an exciting place that has lots of colleges. That collaboration with the five colleges is really strong.

This fall, we’ve got a significant portion of our faculty who have taken visiting positions around the other four of the five colleges. And so we’ve been able, for the fall, to reduce the number of faculty that are full-time on the Hampshire College campus to a number that’s close to what we need to educate the 700 or so students that will be here this fall.

Mount Holyoke and Smith and Amherst and UMass Amherst have been really generous in finding full-time homes for many of our faculty who will still be available to our students to advise many of their independent projects and mentor them.

Q: Do you know how many faculty are doing that?

A: There are 19 right now that are full-time appointments across the other four colleges, which is a lot of people.

Q: What is Hampshire’s total faculty count?

A: Including the ones that are on leave, it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 100.

Q: Is the idea that they’ll come back to Hampshire?

A: That’s the model. These are faculty who have taken leaves of absence from Hampshire to take visiting positions at the other colleges while we restructure our curriculum and recover our student body size.

There is another piece. A chunk of our faculty who are at Hampshire have taken reduced loads, as well, during the coming year -- voluntarily. They volunteered to take reduced loads for this coming year and therefore, the reduced load reduced their compensation.

There was a lot of cooperative work done here by the faculty to try to make the finances manageable through this period. It shows a level of commitment that was really impressive.

Q: Did you want to mention anything else?

A: Hampshire will continue to be the place that is trying to invent the next thing in higher ed, and I think we’re going to come up with some really interesting ideas that we, unlike almost anybody else in America, can make real. We have the ability to innovate and experiment based on our mission.

Literally, the mission of Hampshire College is to be an experimental college to transform higher education, and I am really confident that we’re going to be doing really very exciting things that other people are going to be simulating five years, 10 years from now.

And Hampshire will go on to the next thing it can invent.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Many point to highly politicized process in selecting new South Carolina president

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 22, 2019 - 5:00pm

The University of South Carolina has a new president -- marking the end to a long and controversial selection process with little consensus or agreement. However, there's one thing all sides of the debate seem to agree on: politics was at the heart of the process.

Lieutenant General Robert Caslen, a former West Point superintendent, will be the next president of the University of South Carolina after a split vote of the Board of Trustees -- a rare thing in a board’s selection of a new president -- with 11 voting yes, 8 voting no and one abstention.

It was a bumpy road for the president-elect to arrive in his new office. But on Friday, the trustees voted, with some exchanging long speeches over whether the scheduled vote should occur at all. Trustee Richard Jones Jr. spoke at length about his fear that if the board didn’t vote now on Caslen, they may never have an opportunity.

“One of my concerns is this man, this great man, will be gone if we do not offer him immediately,” Jones said. “To some, maybe that’s no big deal. But I think we would be losing an excellent, excellent leader.”

Along the way, Caslen was originally one of four finalists presented publicly by the board, and he became a clear favorite. However, faculty and students expressed their disapproval of Caslen for a variety of reasons, including comments he made blaming sexual assault on binge drinking, a lack of a research background, and for being one of the top choices to be President Trump’s national security adviser.

“This is the saddest day I can ever remember at the University of South Carolina,” one trustee, Charles Williams, said during a speech at the board meeting. “The damage is done. It’s just a matter of how much more damage there’s going to be.”

The board opened a new search while Caslen remained a top choice of the divided board. However, the Faculty Senate recently held a vote of no confidence against Caslen. Now, Caslen will have to build trust in his position as he prepares to take office, finding a way to work with the suspicious constituencies within the university.

“Just to see a blatant disregard of all that has happened,” statistics professor Bethany Bell said of the search process. “Thousands of people have signed petitions; 600 emails were sent in five days. It was eye-opening for me about how deeply political this is and was and how it goes beyond our Board of Trustees.”

Politics in the Process

One of Caslen’s most fervent supporters on his path to the presidency has been the state's Republican governor, Henry McMaster. It’s been reported McMaster called trustees throughout the process to lobby in favor of Caslen’s candidacy -- lending a polarizing aspect to the search that concerned many.

An ABC affiliate in South Carolina reported that Darla Moore, a billionaire and top donor to the university, sent a note to the chair of the board before the vote asking he “reject the rank political influence in selecting the next president.”

A “hot mic” incident also recorded a member of the board saying that students protesting the meeting were “from out of town.” Trustee Egerton Burroughs claimed in a statement that he had made the comments.

“I've heard some of that Kamala Harris crowd is there,” Burroughs was caught saying. “They got this thing all tied into the Democratic primary.”

Even Jones, one of Caslen’s staunchest supporters at the board meeting, pointed to politics playing a large role in the process.

“A lot has been said about this process being political,” Jones said. “It was political long before [the governor’s involvement]. There was a politicization of this issue when the first opportunity we had to vote came up. People were giving their opinions, as well you should.”

Christian Anderson, a South Carolina higher education professor, said board proceedings are not always this political.

“It’s unfortunate,” Anderson said. “We’d have to hit the archives to find a time the governor of South Carolina even attended a Board of Trustees meeting -- and suddenly Governor McMaster intervenes in this way? Greater political interference certainly seems to be happening with alarming frequency around the country, even if not always in the same way.”

Both Bell and Anderson said it would be difficult to build trust with faculty members after so many issues with the process.

“With the faculty the No. 1 thing he’s going to have to do is hire a great provost with the maximum possible input and participation from faculty,” Anderson said. “And then he’s going to have to let that person run the academic side of the house with a promise to safeguard academic freedom and let the provost and faculty work out issues related to curriculum and research.”

Caslen said in a Twitter post after his appointment that he understood the challenges the board faced in his selection.

“I will work tirelessly to listen to all of our students, faculty, staff, board members, and all our constituents to understand their concerns and issues, and I will actively seek their advice,” Caslen said in the tweet.

According to the South Carolina website, Caslen will officially take office later this summer. Caslen will be the 29th president of the university, replacing retiring president Harris Pastides.

“I hope you know that all of us … [the trustees], whether we’ve been pro or con or in the middle, we’ve tried to do the right thing,” Jones said. “It’s not easy.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Authors discuss sexual consent on college campuses in upcoming book

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 22, 2019 - 5:00pm

Colleges and universities have taken major steps during the last decade to try to reduce sexual assaults. Part of this effort is teaching students about the concept of consent through campaigns and events. But most administrators don't have a holistic understanding of consent, say two Miami University professors, Theresa A. Kulbaga, an associate professor of English, and Leland G. Spencer, an assistant professor of interdisciplinary and communication studies.

In their upcoming book, Campuses of Consent: Sexual and Social Justice in Higher Education (University of Massachusetts Press), which is scheduled to be released in October, the duo critique campus policies on consent and discuss federal efforts on sexual misconduct (including the sex antidiscrimination law Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972).

The authors responded to questions via email.

Q: What do college and university administrators get wrong about the concept of consent on their campuses?

A: Most administrators take a narrow, legalistic and individualistic view of consent. This is partly the result of federal laws, partly the result of problematic cultural norms and partly the result of administrators’ tendency to prioritize minimum compliance and public relations over students and survivors. Most universities consider consent (and violence) in an individualist framework: as something that someone “gives” or “receives” in a moment. By contrast, we argue that consent is inseparable from the larger contexts of power and oppression that characterize rape culture in the U.S. and on college campuses. Moreover, many university administrators are, unfortunately, susceptible to misinformation about consent and violence when they (for example) use victim-blaming language to communicate with the university community or when they purchase a one-time online training program that is full of stereotypes about gender and sexuality or that erases the experiences of trans and gender-nonconforming students. These are all problems we discuss in our book.

We see consent as a central component of sexual and social justice. In the book, we examine how the concept of consent can illuminate not only sexual violence and inequalities, but also intellectual and emotional violence and inequalities.

Q: How can institutions improve training around consent?

A: One of our primary recommendations is to move away from a training model (with its troubling corporate entailments) and toward thinking about consent education as education. Best practices for teaching students about consent engage students in the topic relationally over the course of time and provide numerous opportunities for analysis, reflection and growth. Isolated, one-hour online trainings have limited utility, practically or politically. We also argue that consent education should specifically include the experiences of marginalized students. For instance, a number of consent programs segregate by sex and thus exclude nonbinary students and alienate many other transgender and queer students. Consent education should also resist victim blaming, gender stereotypes (such as the sexually passive woman) and other damaging myths about sexual violence.

Q: What degree of understanding do college students have around consent?

A: In both our research for this book and our everyday work with students, we feel encouraged about students’ level of interest in, and commitment to, consent. Students are often savvy when they analyze and reflect on personal experiences and cultural frameworks. On many campuses, student activism leads to more awareness and better practices around issues of consent and institutional responses to sexual violence. Student organizations dedicated to peer education offer some of the most robust and effective learning opportunities about consent.

On the other hand, we feel troubled by understandings of consent that mirror administrators’ individualistic framing. Anyone -- student, faculty or staff -- who understands consent as a binary in which one person “gives” and another “receives” consent has adopted an inaccurate understanding. Our book points toward the hope and possibility … [of] conceptualizing consent more broadly as a community commitment to respecting a spectrum of physical, intellectual and emotional boundaries. Individualist definitions of consent can easily reproduce rhetorics of blame for targets of sexual violence and inappropriately paternalistic expectations for bystanders.

Q: How does consent play into the recently proposed changes to Title IX? Are these new draft regulations a positive or negative step for the Education Department?

A: We are deeply concerned about Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s announcement in September 2017 that universities are no longer required to follow a preponderance of the evidence standard in adjudicating suspected cases of sexual assault and can now use a much more difficult to prove clear and convincing evidence standard. This announcement, like DeVos’s statements about gender-based violence on campus more generally, was accompanied by familiar arguments about how the futures of accused young men are ruined by overzealous Title IX staff, feminist faculty and regretful or revengeful women students. This focus on the bright futures of accused students -- along with the accompanying rhetoric about due process that has supposedly been eroded by antiviolence efforts -- is regressive, misogynist and against proven best practices. Therefore, we see the Education Department’s revisions to Title IX to be a negative step -- no question.

At the same time, however, the current administration’s efforts to take us backward are not new or unique. Historically, antiviolence activism -- which has been led by women of color, queer and trans people, and feminist movements -- has met with resistance and entrenchment of regressive views. For example, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, which we critique in Chapter 1 of the book, was passed in 1993 as part of a conservative wave of paternalistic laws that attempted to “protect” young college women by requiring universities to report crime to their parents. The Clery Act has had decades of negative impact on higher education’s response to sexual violence.

Q: If you could wave a magic wand, what practice or myth would you want to eliminate about consent on campuses? Why is this so important?

A: We would wave our wand to eliminate victim blaming on college campuses, especially the overzealous focus on whether a student was drinking when they were assaulted. You might think that victim blaming only happened in the past, but our research found it everywhere. Colleges and universities, parents and guardians, and even training programs designed to educate students about consent focus on drinking -- especially underage drinking -- as a supposed “cause” (or “risk factor”) of sexual violence. No! Drinking does not cause violence. A sense of entitlement and disrespect of another person is what causes violence. And being of legal age makes absolutely no difference at all in incidents of assault.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Faculty group at Alaska's Anchorage campus says Fairbanks should bear brunt of state cuts

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 19, 2019 - 5:00pm

The gloves have already come off in the wake of massive cuts planned for the University of Alaska system, with the Faculty Senate at the university’s largest campus in Anchorage issuing a report detailing why the smaller research campus in Fairbanks should bear the brunt of the financial reduction.

Fairbanks officials were none too pleased.

In late June, Governor Mike Dunleavy vetoed portions of the Alaska Legislature’s state budget -- causing an unprecedented 41 percent cut to the University of Alaska system. Last week, legislators failed to override the governor’s veto. Now, as major financial issues loom closer, infighting has already begun between institutions within the system -- as is often the case in higher education when money gets tighter.

The Anchorage campus's Faculty Senate committee on governance and funding reform released a report last week detailing opinions on how the system should handle the cuts -- and it asserts that the University of Alaska Fairbanks should absorb much of the pain.

Among several recommendations within the report, the committee calls on the university system to apportion funds based on the number of full-time-equivalent students at each campus. The committee said that at Anchorage and University of Alaska Southeast, the smallest of the three campuses, this would mean funding continuing at the previous year's level despite the cuts. However, Fairbanks would receive a significant reduction. The report said that 70 to 80 percent of students in the Alaska system would be able to continue their education as a result of this recommendation.

“Admittedly, UAF would bear the brunt of the cuts,” the committee wrote. “Probably, it will be necessary to declare a state of financial exigency at UAF or for some units that are a part of UAF.”

The report acknowledges that its recommendations would result in "financial vulnerability for the Fairbanks campus" -- but suggests that the susceptibility would result from what it calls "historically unequal" funding that has benefited the Fairbanks campus. According to the report, the Fairbanks campus was funded at a rate of $34,845 per student while Anchorage was funded at a rate of $11,540 per student. The report defines this financial vulnerability through a comparison to UA Anchorage -- pointing to the fact that Anchorage has had to adapt to funding cuts while Fairbanks has not.

“These disparate allocations have encouraged inefficiency in the one institution and efficiency in the other,” the committee wrote.

Tension Has Built

The committee’s report seemed to reveal further animosity between the two campuses, including that cuts in recent years have been generally levied at Anchorage rather than Fairbanks.

Among the other recommendations made in the report, the committee expressed the belief that the Alaska university system should decentralize, blowing up the system office in favor of independent universities with separate governing boards, which the committee said would lead to better financial health at each institution.

Forrest Nabors, an Anchorage political science professor and chair of the committee that created the report, said it was a "false assumption" that the two campuses weren't competing already. Decentralization would lead to healthier competition, he argued.

"Our belief is that when we become independent institutions, our competition will be healthy, and that each of us will be more responsive to the market and will each concentrate on our strengths," Nabors said. "We will be more complementary. UAF and UAA each has unique strengths, and I see no reason why we cannot thrive and collaborate as independent institutions."

Nabors said that no ill will drove the creation of the report, and that recognizing problems was necessary in a time like this.

"I cannot emphasize enough that we do not wish ill to anybody. Faculty, staff and students at UAF are our colleagues, fellow citizens and fellow Alaskans," Nabors said. "We want the best for all of us. We sympathize with them. We have reached out to them to work in common towards a better future for our system. Our dependence on state aid and this abrupt and deep cut to our state aid is the cause of this division. To remove ourselves from this dependency, we must reform. That has been the sentiment of our faculty for years."

Anchorage chancellor Cathy Sandeen said in an emailed statement that the opinions expressed in the report are representative of the committee’s opinion and not necessarily the university’s. Sandeen's statement avoided a direct question about whether Anchorage administrators supported the report or not.

"Under our model of shared governance, faculty, staff and students have the right to come together, form committees and make recommendations on any number of topics or issues. We are committed to an inclusive process and welcome diversity of thoughts and opinions -- especially in this time of budget uncertainty and reinvention,” Sandeen said in the email. “The UAA Faculty Senate took time to provide an analysis based on publicly available data. The opinions and recommendations are their own. It is up to the UA Board of Regents and state elected officials to decide on a path forward based on all the various reports and recommendations they receive.”

In an emailed statement, Fairbanks Chancellor Dan White didn't respond directly to the report but instead simply said those considering UA Fairbanks budget to work with the Fairbanks campus officials to make sure the proposals are "well informed."

"There are many different opinions on how to meet the budget deficit facing UA," White said. "We would encourage those writing proposals about UAF's budget to work directly with us so that the proposals are well informed to the greatest extent possible. At UAF we support our faculty to work across the system in a collaborative and constructive manner."

Response From Fairbanks

Sine Anahita, a UA Fairbanks professor of sociology and president of the Fairbanks Faculty Senate, said his group chose not to respond by releasing a similar report but instead to email the UA Board of Regents to share opinions about the UA Anchorage committee report.

“It is true that the budget crisis has set people on edge across the system. There is deep anxiety, as we are facing massive layoffs and program closures. Some of our colleagues have reacted to the stress by striking out at others,” Anahita said. “But the leadership at UAF -- both governance leaders and administrative leaders -- believe deeply in the power of solidarity, unity and community. While we will correct misinformation as needed, and we will promote UAF's interest, we will not do so at the expense of other campuses.”

In an April interview with Inside Higher Ed, Alaska system president Jim Johnsen pointed to the fact that the different campuses in the Alaska system were distinctive within the state. This could often lead to tension, as Fairbanks is the system’s main research university -- terrain that officials at the Anchorage campus have often expressed desire to expand into.

“My philosophy has always been stay in your lane and do more,” Johnsen said of the two universities. “Let’s educate more nurses; let’s educate more engineers and accountants. Our state needs you for that. We already have one research university, and our board has supported that, generally speaking. There are really interesting research programs that the federal government funds that do ask us to reach out and partner with the other universities.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

The divide over scholarly debate over gender identity rages on

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 19, 2019 - 5:00pm

Scholars are coming to the defense of a graduate student instructor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who is under scrutiny for her critical perspective on trans women. At the same time, other trans scholars and allies say they’re increasingly targeted for their own views and identities.

These events, among others, suggest that the so-called TERF wars -- in reference to the derogatory term “trans-exclusionary radical feminist” -- aren’t slowing down.

Philosophers recently reacted to an anonymous open letter to them on Medium, titled, “I Am Leaving Academic Philosophy Because of Its Transphobia Problem.” The writer identified herself as graduate student and a trans woman who was been adversely impacted by “TERFs,” or “so-called ‘gender-critical feminists’” and “those who amplify their voices. I am writing this letter because I want people to know that there are real, concrete, macro-level consequences to allowing hate speech to proliferate in philosophy under the guise of academic discussion. In sharing my pain and anger at being forced out of a career that I once loved, I hope to stir some of you to greater action.”

Through philosophy discussions on social and other media, “the knowledge that there is once again trans discourse in philosophy has itself become stressful. In the past year, I have been driven off social media because of feelings of stress, vulnerability, anger and pain that surface whenever there is new trans-related philosophical news," she said. And the cost of not engaging on social media is lost career opportunities.

Moreover, “I do not feel safe or comfortable in professional settings any longer,” the student wrote. Whereas hurtful comments or questions about being trans aren’t tolerated in other work environments, the same is not true in academe. “How can I be expected to attend professional events where people deny and question such an integral part of my identity and act like that is tolerable or normal?” My gender “is not up for debate. I am a woman. Any trans discourse that does not proceed from this initial assumption -- that trans people are the gender that they say they are -- is oppressive, regressive and harmful.”

The student identified Kathleen Stock, professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex and a well known gender-critical feminist, in particular, as someone toxic, and asked why she’d been asked to speak on sexual orientation at the then upcoming Aristotelian Society meeting in Britain. In so doing the student cited some of Stock's statements on Twitter, including, "Transwomen are male. Most have penises. Many fancy females. These too are facts. There are documented cases of transwomen harming females. If we legally allow transwomen into female-only spaces, SOME females will be hurt by SOME transwomen. It's utterly predictable."

Stock responded to the letter in her own Medium post, saying that the writer appeared to be blaming her for her own actions. “Adults make their own decisions, and clearly, a job in philosophy doesn’t suit everyone,” Stock wrote. “Readers might also bear in mind that at least one of my supposedly terrible views, that subjective ‘gender identity’ doesn’t determine womanhood or manhood, is very clearly entailed by the work of some well-known contemporary feminist philosophers on gender, whether or not they would recant it now.”

Stock’s June talk at the society still proved controversial, with Minorities and Philosophy UK and Minorities and Philosophy International saying in a joint statement that the “right to promote hateful ideas is not covered under the right to free speech. Thus, we resist the charge that this is simply an attempt to silence and stifle philosophical debate.”

Not “every item of personal and ideological obsession is worthy of philosophical debate,” the joint statement continues. Skepticism about the rights of marginalized groups and individuals, “where issues of life and death are at stake, are not up for debate. The existence and validity of transgender and nonbinary people, and the right of trans and nonbinary people to identify their own genders and sexualities, fall within the range of such indisputable topics.”

Elsewhere online, there have been discussions about whether it’s acceptable for professors to publicly criticize graduate students about their trans advocacy statements and tactics.

At Santa Barbara, students have reported and are encouraging other students to report an outspoken gender-critical Ph.D. candidate in feminist studies for gender discrimination. A campus protest was organized against her, as were student petitions. One such petition signed by some fellow graduate students doesn't mention Tanner by name but asks the faculty in her department for "transparency" in how the matter is being addressed. It also demands that "specific steps be taken to ensure that those espousing openly racist, anti-sex work and transphobic beliefs do not continue to teach or TA" for the department.

"While we appreciate being referred to Title IX, EthicsPoint, and other institutional entities and resources," the petition reads, "we also recognize that these institutional entities often further marginalize vulnerable students and we ask that the feminist studies department respond publicly to the concerns being raised by undergraduate students, graduate students and alumni in a timely manner."

Stock has come to the graduate student’s defense, publicly calling the campaign against her a “witch hunt.”

The complaints against the student, Laura Tanner, relate, at least in part, to her statements on social media. Tanner’s Twitter profile says “Woman: noun; adult human female. My views are my own, I will not be silenced.” Many of her posts relate to concerns about transing minors; she retweeted a post critical of young trans men getting “top surgery,” or their breast tissue removed, for example.

Tanner, who declined an interview request, on her webpage describes her research interests as “resisting the discursive erasure of women and girls, particularly in health and gender discourse; attempts to disassociate the female body from womanhood; the mistaken idea that biological sex is socially constructed or possible to change, the loss of women and girls' civil rights through changes to laws that remove sex protections and define gender as a feeling; and the abusive and dangerously experimental practices of medically ‘transing’ children and young adults.”

Shelly Leachman, university spokesperson, declined to comment on the case, citing privacy policies and laws governing employees and students.

Santa Barbara “has a process for reporting bias incidents on campus, and procedures for addressing these issues when they arise,” Leachman said. It “also has strong policies related to protecting academic freedom and freedom of expression. Campus community members are encouraged to report violations of these policies and of misconduct in all of these areas.”

Looking Backward, and Ahead

These battles aren’t exclusive to academe, and have been waged for some time in the U.S. and abroad -- particularly in the United Kingdom, where proposed updates to the Gender Recognition Act centering on gender self-identification have proven divisive.

But the issue flared in U.S. academe in 2017, when Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy published an article comparing being transgender to being transracial. The journal’s editors and associate editors disagreed about how to handle the intense criticism the piece prompted, and about whether it should have ever been published. The journal’s Board of Directors eventually stepped in to limit the associate editors’ authority and announce a restructuring of Hypatia’s editorial process.

There have been trans discourse-related controversies in fields beyond philosophy and gender studies. In one instance last summer, both Brown University and PLOS ONE distanced themselves from a descriptive study based on a survey of parents of teens and young adults who’d experienced “rapid-onset gender dysphoria.” In response to criticism about the study’s premise and methodology, the study’s author, Lisa Littman, an assistant professor of the practice of behavioral and social sciences at Brown, said at the time, “like all descriptive studies, there are limitations, which are acknowledged. And although descriptive studies may be one of the less robust study designs, they play an important role in the scientific literature primarily because they are a first description of a new condition or population and they make it possible to conduct additional, more rigorous research.”  An updated version of the study, which included a separate formal comment from social psychologist Angelo Brandelli Costa was published in March.

Is what it means to be trans a legitimate line of inquiry? If so, where is the line between scholarship and discrimination? Paisley Currah, professor of political science and women’s and gender studies at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and founding co-editor of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, said that in general, “If one doesn’t think trans women are women, fine, don’t invite them to your private, women-only spaces. But it’s an entirely different matter to decide gender for someone else and to try to exclude them from gender-segregated public spaces.”

Still, Currah said he disagreed with using offices responsible for following Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender-based discrimination, to settle scholarly trans issues.

“No matter how much I agree with the content of the objections to ‘research’ that dehumanizes trans people, I would think long and hard about giving university administrations power to adjudicate speech and the legitimacy of research questions,” he said via email. “Using Title IX in this way may seem like a solution, but in the long term that strategy expands university administrations' policing power over all of us.”

Susan Stryker, professor of gender and women's studies at the University of Arizona and Currah’s founding co-editor at the journal, offered an analogy between how the trans discourse debate and the debate over immigration.

If womanhood is a “a restricted country,” Stryker said, citing the writer Joan Nestle, “Who says what those restrictions shall be? Who is womanhood for? How does one become its citizen?”

It’s “legitimate to ask all such questions,” Stryker continued. “There should be no bounds on academic inquiry.” Yet “what I see in the TERF wars is not disinterested academic inquiry,” she added. “It's more akin to white supremacists wanting to propagandize other whites about foreigners, where the position of foreigners in the conversation has been deemed illegitimate in advance.”

And when trans people “speak out, asserting their presence, and grasp for any lever to address the asymmetries of power that characterize their circumstances,” such as Title IX, she said, “they are all too often seen as being disruptive, provocateurs, aggressors, troublemakers, entitled, uppity, demanding, ungrateful” and more. 

How did the issue become so divisive? Stock said Thursday that in gender studies, queer theory and mainstream feminist philosophy, “the position that trans women are literally women is now an article of faith, disagreement with which is seen as a sign of moral degeneracy, rather than a matter over which reasonable people with different theories can disagree.”

This wouldn’t be so bad, she continued, “except that the article of faith is now being accepted as intellectually defensible by policy makers, who are rewriting laws and policies internationally to grant trans women, with or without legal sex changes or any medical alteration” access to women-only public spaces, resources and activities.

“Many people, both in and outside the academy, and on both left and right of the political spectrum, rightly have questions about how all this affects the original occupants of the category ‘women’ (i.e. females, especially those who can’t ‘identify out’ of poverty or vulnerability), but they are being vilified for raising such questions,” she added via email. Stock noted that since she started speaking out, she’s faced defamation from colleagues, threats and complaints.

Going forward, the anonymous student who is leaving philosophy suggested that journal editors and referees reject “transphobic” articles or those that otherwise question the legitimacy and rights of trans people. Transphobic conference speakers and submissions also should be rejected.

“Do not provide a platform for transphobes in philosophy,” she wrote in her letter. “Do not give them an opportunity to publicly express their bigotry.” Don't share their work on social media. “Finally, if you do see transphobia in philosophy, speak out. Do not remain silent.”

Responding on his blog, Daily Nous, Justin Weinberg, associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina, said that banning “trans-exclusionary works simply because they are trans-exclusionary” is “not a good idea.” At the same time, he said, “I’ve urged that we take seriously just how difficult existing discourse about transgender issues can be for our trans colleagues (and students, I should add).”

This involves “not just attending to what happens in academia, but also appreciating the broader discriminatory culture they inhabit and the role that abuse-friendly forms of social media play in our professional lives," Weinberg wrote. Specific examples include providing “explicit statements of support for trans persons in venues in which trans-exclusionary work appears” and balancing scholarship space for trans-exclusionary and trans authors.

Avoid hostility and talk of “sides," he said. And ensure that, “when possible, works you write, host or publish that argue for a trans-exclusionary view engage or otherwise demonstrate familiarity with the relevant scholarly work by trans or trans-inclusive scholars.”

Of the latter point, Weinberg wrote, “This is just basic research ethics: know about what you are writing about.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

States pass flurry of bills targeting loan servicers

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 19, 2019 - 5:00pm

Before the legislative session that began in January, consumer groups in Colorado had twice sought to work with state lawmakers to pass a bill establishing a student borrower bill of rights, coming up short both times. But with Democrats in control of both state houses in 2019 and a new attorney general focused on consumer protections, the measure passed in May with days left in the legislative session.

Charley Olena, the advocacy director at New Era Colorado, a progressive group that backed the bill, said student debt had come to be a prominent concern for voters in midterm elections in a way it hadn’t before.

“Debt wasn’t necessarily an issue rising to the top before,” she said. “There were a lot more people in the legislature willing to engage with us on it this time.”

Lawmakers in a growing number of states have sought to tackle student debt as a consumer protection problem. Over the first half of 2019, legislatures have enacted a flurry of bills taking aim at the companies that process and handle payments on the roughly $1.5 trillion in outstanding federal student loan debt.

Loan servicers have come under increased scrutiny from consumer advocates in recent years. And the Trump administration’s decision to dial back federal oversight of the industry appears to have prompted several states to act themselves, often at the urging of consumer groups.

New state regulations are testing arguments by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration that only the federal government, and not the states, has the authority to police loan servicers. Recent court rulings, though, appear to have only strengthened the hand of states seeking to wield more oversight powers.

Seven states so far this year have passed laws requiring loan servicers to meet consumer protection requirements. And a bill that may be the most far-reaching in the country could be headed for passage in the California Senate.

Most of the new laws require loan companies to be licensed through the state and ban deceptive practices. They also will lead states to create several new ombudsman offices to which borrowers can turn with complaints or unanswered questions about student loans.

Critics of servicers say state consumer protections are finally catching up to the scale of the problem. But the industry argues it’s taking the blame for deeper problems with the structure of the federal student loan system. And loan companies say the new laws could create a patchwork of regulatory regimes that drive up costs without real benefits for borrowers.

Only a handful of states and the District of Columbia had sought to regulate loan servicers before this year. The new laws will test the impact of state regulation on a scale not seen before, covering millions more borrowers across the country.

Filling Gaps in Oversight

Under the Obama administration, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau put the spotlight on the servicing sector. The agency began collecting thousands of complaints from student borrowers -- many of them involving issues like faulty information from servicers or errors in processing payments. It began publishing statistics on those complaints in annual reports. In January 2017, the consumer bureau (along with the attorneys general for Illinois and Washington State) filed a lawsuit against the servicer Navient that helped paint the Delaware-based company as a poster child for misconduct by student loan companies.

The company has denied wrongdoing in response to the lawsuit and argued witnesses failed to confirm the allegations by CFPB.

In recent years, DeVos has made an aggressive shift in its oversight of loan servicers. In 2017, she killed an information-sharing agreement between the Education Department and CFPB allowing the agency to track consumer complaints. Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, also shuttered a special CFPB unit dedicated to student loan issues last year.

And after pressure from loan servicers facing new state regulatory regimes, DeVos declared last year that states don’t have the authority to regulate federal student loans. That hasn’t deterred state legislators. While several of those laws emerged from new Democratic trifecta states, a bill adding oversight of loan servicers was also signed into law by Republican governor Larry Hogan in Maryland this year.

“What you’re seeing now is an effort by elected officials across the country -- most of which are being done in bipartisan fashion -- to ensure people who take on student loan debt, when they get ripped off, can get some justice,” said Seth Frotman, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center.

Frotman was the student loans ombudsman at CFPB before publicly resigning last year in a letter that rebuked the Trump administration’s higher ed policies. He’s also played a big role in pushing for new legislation targeting loan servicers at the state level.

His group hailed the California State Assembly's passage in May of the loan servicing legislation, which is currently in committee in the Senate. The bill would go further than most other new state laws by requiring that board members of servicing companies pass background checks. Consumer complaints found to be valid under the bill could also result in monetary damages being assessed against the companies.

Scott Buchanan, executive director of the Student Loan Servicing Alliance, the industry trade group representing servicers, said those companies are taking the blame for issues outside their control. Many complaints from borrowers, he said, are related to loan repayment or forgiveness options that were made complicated by Congress. The new state requirements, Buchanan said, “don’t move the needle for borrowers who are really struggling.”

SLSA opposed legislation in California and other states. Buchanan warned that the requirements could drive up compliance costs and force companies to spend money defending themselves from lawsuits.

“Our interests are already pretty well aligned with those of borrowers,” he said. “Our incentives financially are to keep a borrower in repayment, not to become delinquent or default.”

A New Playing Field for Loan Companies

The industry has argued for years that states don’t have the authority to regulate federal contractors -- ever since the first student borrower protections passed in states like Connecticut and Illinois. But a recent federal court ruling undercut that position.

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that a student borrower in Illinois could sue her loan servicer, Great Lakes Education Loan Services, for violations of the state’s consumer protection laws. The borrower, Nicole Nelson, argued that the company steered borrowers away from options like income-driven repayment toward inferior options like forbearance.

The court ruled that while the Higher Education Act states that loan servicers are not subject to state disclosure requirements, the company could be sued for affirmative misrepresentations -- in this case, statements that representatives offer expert help or that they work on behalf of borrowers, not the company.

“The biggest impact of the decision is that it clarifies that loan servicers are not effectively immune from state consumer protection law,” said Dan Zibel, vice president and chief legal counsel at the Student Legal Defense Network. “The argument they’ve been making fundamentally is that the Higher Education Act pre-empts state law.”

Colleen Campbell, director of postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said it’s likely that more borrowers will bring lawsuits against their loan servicers as a result of new state regulations.

“The inclination of folks now is to handle as much as possible in the courts,” she said. “I worry that doesn’t address the root cause of these issues.”

Campbell, who studies how loan servicing can be improved, said Congress crafted federal student loan laws in a restrictive manner so that programs like loan forgiveness are difficult to access and repayment plans are difficult to navigate.

States are often on the front lines of dealing with resulting consumer issues and can push those problems onto the national level, she said. But Campbell said ultimately there is no replacement for federal accountability.

“We want borrowers to be treated the same across the country. I don’t want their treatment to be dependent on their servicer or the state that they live in,” she said. “And unless the Department of Education wants to hire thousands of new employees, we need the loan servicers.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Ellucian Banner security flaw highlighted by Education Department

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 19, 2019 - 5:00pm

The U.S. Department of Education has warned of “active and ongoing exploitation” of a security flaw in Ellucian’s Banner system that may have given hackers access to student data such as grades, financial information and Social Security numbers.

A security alert, published Wednesday by the department’s Office of Federal Student Aid, said 62 colleges and universities using Banner had already been targeted. The alert indicates that criminals have been “scanning the internet looking for institutions to victimize” and drawing up lists of colleges to target.

Institutions that have transitioned to Banner 9, the latest version of Ellucian’s enterprise resource planning system, are not thought to be affected. But users using older versions of two Banner modules called Web Tailor and Enterprise Identity Services could be vulnerable.

According to Ellucian’s website, more than 1,400 institutions worldwide use Banner to manage student grades, staff payrolls, course schedules, admissions and student financial aid, among other tasks. Web Tailor and Enterprise Identity Services can be used by system administrators to get access to sensitive data protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

The student aid office encouraged institutions that have not recently upgraded Web Tailor or Enterprise Identity Services to do so and to contact the FSA incident team to determine whether there has been a data breach. Ellucian published a patch on May 14 that fixed the security flaw but has not shared how many institutions have installed it.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology described the Banner security flaw as an “improper authentication vulnerability” that enabled attackers to take over users' sessions when they attempted to log in. Depending on the administrative privileges of the user, and the way data are organized by individual institutions, attackers could use this access to move laterally through administrative systems and access sensitive information. Attackers could also potentially manipulate this information, perhaps changing personal information or grades, dropping students from their courses or denying them student financial aid. 

According to FSA, affected institutions reported that attackers used the security flaw to manipulate admissions and enrollment systems and create thousands of fake student accounts over the space of a few days. “Some of these accounts appear to be leveraged almost immediately for criminal activity,” the office said.

Josh Sosnin, chief information security officer at Ellucian, said in an emailed statement that there is no connection between the security flaw and the generation of the fake student accounts. “Ellucian has confirmed internally that the two issues outlined in the Department of Education report are separate, unrelated issues,” he said. “There is no connection between these two issues and Ellucian has communicated this to the Department of Education.”

If your campus uses Banner/Ellucian as a SIS, I hope you install updates in a timely manner. So far 62 campuses have reported they were affected by exploitation of a vulnerability in the product by "criminal elements." Patch was released May 14. #emchat https://t.co/SwIkZvdZaN

— Dr. Liz Gross (@lizgross144) July 18, 2019

Institutions being targeted by bots that submit fraudulent admissions applications are “an industry issue and not specific to Ellucian or Banner,” said Sosnin. He added that Ellucian’s customer service employees are “standing by to help” customers with questions about patches or updates.

Why the FSA office is reporting on the Banner security flaw two months after it was patched by Ellucian is unclear. It is also not clear how the flaw was discovered, though the NIST advisory links to a document suggesting that it may have been identified as early as December 2018 by Joshua Mulliken, a member of IT staff at the University of South Carolina.

In a GitHub post, Mulliken outlines a “disclosure timeline” indicating that Ellucian took several months to address his concerns. Mulliken said via email that he was the first person to identify the security flaw. 

"Ellucian has not been proactive in ensuring that its customers understand the seriousness of CVE-2019-8978," said Mulliken. "Several institutions have reached out to me today and informed me that the had deferred updating for some time. The official messaging was not able to convey the urgency required, which more than likely contributed to the current situation." 

Scott Shackelford, professor of law and cybersecurity program chair at Indiana University at Bloomington, said it is not uncommon for organizations to take several months to release patches addressing security issues, particularly if they “don’t think it’s particularly troublesome.”

Moving forward, Shackelford encouraged colleges and universities to pay attention when companies release updates and install them “as quickly as possible.”

“This really boils down to basic cyberhygiene,” he said. He encouraged institutions to limit the number of users with administrative privileges for Banner and other enterprise resource planning software. 

Both Shackelford and Emory Roane, privacy counsel at Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit organization that tracks data breach disclosures and advocates for consumer data protection, said it could take weeks before more information about the data breach is made public.

Depending on where institutions are located and what type of data were affected, there are different reporting requirements for disclosing breaches, said Shackelford. In Georgia, for example, there is no state-enforced timeline for reporting data breaches, he said. Roane would like to see that change -- he thinks the U.S. should move closer to Europe’s 72-hour disclosure requirement under the General Data Protection Regulation.

Without disclosures, it is difficult to determine how serious the Banner data breaches are, said Shackelford.

Charlie Moran, senior partner and CEO of Moran Technology Consulting, described the breach as “bad, but only for a small number of schools.”

Most of the 1,400 institutions using Banner have already made the transition to Banner 9 modules, said Moran. “Most schools moved to Banner 9 this past year in a forced march because of a major software change that Ellucian was forced to make, so there are not a lot of schools running this old software,” he said.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Colleges award tenure

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 19, 2019 - 5:00pm

Centre College

  • Leonard Demoranville, chemistry
  • Jonathon Earle, history
  • Ellen Goldey, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college
  • John Harney, history
  • Danielle La Londe, classical studies
  • Matthew Pierce, medieval Islamic history
  • Ellen Swanson, mathematics
  • Karin Young, chemistry

Frostburg State University

  • Tianna Bogart, geography
  • Kevin Knott, English
  • Oleg Kucher, economics
  • Haiyun Ma, history
  • Jason Speights, physics and engineering
  • Nazanin Tootoonchi, mathematics

Hamilton College

  • Katherine Brown, physics
  • Courtney Gibbons, mathematics
  • Gbemende Johnson, government
  • Alexandra List, psychology
  • Max Majireck, chemistry
  • Seth Schermerhorn, religious studies
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Categories: Higher Education News

Florida governor signs tough new hazing law

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 18, 2019 - 5:00pm

Florida’s governor has signed one of the country’s most intricate antihazing laws, an attempt to stem the sometimes deadly rituals by expanding those who could be criminally liable and offering protections for those who help an ailing victim.

Historians and experts say the law is among the “most cutting-edge” in the nation. That’s largely because of the unique provisions that ensure Good Samaritans can’t be prosecuted if they see a hazing victim needs medical attention and they’re the first to contact 911 or campus security. In order to escape criminal charges, the person making the phone call would need to remain on the scene until help arrived, according to the law. Such a measure may reduce hazing-related deaths if students don’t fear being punished for contacting authorities. Under the law, a person could also be immune from charges if he or she administered medical aid.

Even those who orchestrated the hazing can take advantage of these exemptions.

“In a few remote possible cases, a true perpetrator of hazing may escape prosecution, but it is far more important that lives do not get extinguished while perps cower in fear and do nothing to save their friends,” said Hank Nuwer, a journalism professor at Franklin College in Indiana who has written extensively about hazing.

Under the new law, those who weren’t physically present during a hazing event, but who helped plan it, can now be prosecuted. This would likely affect a fraternity or sorority leader, but Peter Lake, director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University, said he could envision a legal scenario in which administrators could also be held liable.

Sometimes officials must sign off on a Greek life event, and Lake said the law will likely test whether they would be immune from criminal charges or a civil case.

“This is definitely a new frontier for hazing prevention,” Lake said.

Nuwer said that chapter members have tended to skate by when a prosecutor brings charges only to the most “active” perpetrators and chapter officers.

“Finally it is recognized that individuals in the entire chapter bear some responsibility in a death when they knew, planned and abated actions by the most fervent zealots in the group who took things to a dangerous and fatal level,” Nuwer said.

Andrew’s Law, which the governor approved last month, is named for Andrew Coffey, a Florida State University pledge who died in November 2017 after he drank an entire fifth of Wild Turkey bourbon at an off-campus party.

Coffey, 20, was participating in a “big brother” night where the initiates were expected to finish the bottle of alcohol presented to them by their “big.” Coffey did -- he then fell unconscious and was carried to a couch and ignored until the early morning. His “big” had gone home. Coffey was found without a pulse. His autopsy found he died of alcohol poisoning -- his blood alcohol level was 0.447, nearly six times the legal driving limit.

His death upended Greek life at Florida State. The president, John E. Thrasher, shut down all fraternity and sorority activities that November, proclaiming the entire network of 50-some chapters needed to be reworked. Florida State did not respond to request for comment for this piece.

A couple of months later, Thrasher partially lifted the ban, adding new requirements for Greek life, requiring fraternities and sororities to use a third-party vendor to supply their booze and shortening the recruitment “rush” period, when many of these incidents occur.

But antihazing advocates, among them Coffey’s parents, were not fully satisfied. They lobbied the Florida Legislature to amp up the state’s law, which was already one of the stricter in the United States.

In 2005, Florida politicians made hazing a first-degree misdemeanor and a third-degree felony if a victim was seriously injured or died -- they named the law the Chad Meredith Act, for a University of Miami student who drowned in a hazing death in 2001. Then-governor Jeb Bush signed the law.

David Bianchi, one of the lawyers who helped write the Chad Meredith Act, also worked on Andrew's Law.

Bianchi, who represented the Coffey family, said prior to the bill’s passage that the law needed some improvements. He referenced a hazing case last year, also at Florida State. During a hazing game, Nicholas Mauricio was hit so hard in the face he fractured his skull and was left unconscious. He lived, but police said at the time there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the fraternity members for hazing (Mauricio was already a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity but was not yet registered as a Florida State student).

The new law closes that loophole -- under the legislation, current members of a group can also be considered hazing victims.

The bill sailed through the legislative process, being unanimously approved at every step. It was bipartisan, being sponsored chiefly by both a Democrat and Republican. Lake said lawmakers were likely confident in passing the legislation after a Florida Supreme Court ruling in December that flatly rejected a challenge to the Chad Meredith Act as potentially unconstitutional.

On the federal side, two U.S. representatives, Marcia Fudge, a Democrat from Ohio, and G. T. Thompson, a Pennsylvania Republican, last month introduced the End All Hazing Act, an amendment to the Higher Education Act.

It would require institutions to maintain a website that would publicize information about student organizations that had been disciplined for hazing. Colleges and university officials would also need to report allegations of potentially deadly hazing within 72 hours to campus police or other law enforcement.

The End All Hazing Act has been endorsed by the National Panhellenic Conference and the North-American Interfraternity Conference, which represents many sororities and fraternities nationally. Both groups created the Anti-Hazing Coalition, along with parents of students who died from hazing.

Andrea Benek, a spokeswoman with the North-American Interfraternity Conference, provided a statement on the new Florida law to Inside Higher Ed:

“The North-American Interfraternity Conference is deeply committed to eradicating hazing by advocating for stronger laws throughout the country. We support comprehensive hazing prevention measures -- proactive education, transparency and accountability around standards -- enacted through federal and state legislation. We work in partnership with the Anti-Hazing Coalition to make lasting cultural change in student organizations and on university campuses.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

UT Arlington takes new approach to career training within arts disciplines

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 18, 2019 - 5:00pm

As anxieties grow in higher education over the decline of liberal arts in favor of increased vocational and career-centric training, one university is employing a new strategy to highlight the relevance of arts and humanities disciplines in career preparation.

Administrators at the University of Texas at Arlington have begun supporting new methods and concentrations within areas such as art and music designed to better prepare students for tangible employment immediately after graduation. While other universities have chosen to cut arts programs, pointing to declining enrollment numbers in the arts, UT Arlington has responded in a very different way to the changing landscape of arts education.

Vistasp Karbhari, UT Arlington's president, pointed to two examples of this new approach. In the art and art history department, the university offers specific courses and concentrations in the field of designing packaging -- a major industry in Texas that Karbhari said is looking for more professionally trained employees. In the music department, Arlington now offers students the opportunity to gain the traditional education in music performance while also taking classes within the music department and college of business to gain skills in musician management -- a degree called music business.

“If you look at the U.S. Department of Labor, the amount of musicians and singers in Texas is expected to grow by about 17 percent in the next eight years or so,” Karbhari said. “A lot of that growth comes from things like agents and business managers of music. The challenge within the industry is that most of the people who do this come out from the business major side or from communications -- it's not that they have a true understanding of music. And therefore musicians often feel that these people don’t quite understand what they’re trying to do.”

This is the theme of Karbhari’s strategies in these fields: to apply analysis of the job market to identify trends that promote an avenue for gainful employment postgraduation in fields where students may be apprehensive to enter due to work-force anxieties. Karbhari said he doesn’t believe the arts need any special treatment -- he simply wants to showcase the value that may not be so easily seen in an arts education. Karbhari said these changes came from faculty members within the departments -- and that the administration ran with them as they fell in line with the goals of the university.

“I’d hate for anyone to think we’re doing this because we feel the liberal arts need special support. The arts, humanities and social sciences are disciplines that have tremendous value not only academically but in daily life,” Karbhari said. “The challenge that we have across the board is trying to show relevance. I think this is sometimes where universities don’t do the best job. What our faculty have done a very good job of is not reinventing the wheel but actually working to show the relevance of that discipline is in today’s world.”

Karbhari said one of the things that makes UT Arlington unique is its many nontraditional students, with 56 percent of all students being transfer students. These students often have a greater focus on postgraduate career success.

When it comes to art, the university has partnered with groups with knowledge of the packaging industry. Karbhari said the concentration has grown to over 100 students taking art department classes related specifically to packaging. Dallas and north Texas are home to a number of companies with broad demand for packaging designers.

Robert Hower, department chair for the art and art history department at UT Arlington, said the goal is to allow students with a passion for a traditional education in the arts to do so with the ability to consider different avenues for building postgraduate careers.

“We’re making sure the past is considered, the future is considered and that there’s a blend that creates a lifelong educated individual,” Hower said.

Hower said the packaging courses have been thriving and have grown significantly since the department started offering them in 2012. Karbhari said numerous students have gone on to jobs in the industry after connecting through internships during their undergraduate years.

“The general question that many parents ask and [people] across academia often ask is can a student who [majors in art] get a good-paying job when they graduate four years later,” Karbhari said. “I can imagine a student saying they’d love to do that but that they have to balance their passion for some things with my needs that I make sure that I can have a good life and make life better for my family.”

In the music department, the music management concentration has continued to grow as well, with 30 students majoring in the program now. Karbhari expects that to grow to as many 100 in the next year.

Dan Cavanagh, chair of UT Arlington's music department, said that anxieties over postgraduate careers are looming over every field. But since these anxieties always followed the arts, the arts are more suited to adapt to them.

“When I went to college, I was double majoring and music and math, and I switched to just music and my dad said, ‘Oh God, you’re going to live with us for the rest of your life,’” Cavanagh said with a laugh. “We want to really showcase that there are a ton of opportunities in music, and it doesn’t need to be a hobby. We think music is really important as a humanity, and this is another way to support that importance for our culture.”

Karbhari said that as trends continue to change in regards to liberal arts, he hopes to continue to show the value of a degree when put in the right economic context.

“The liberal arts are of tremendous value. We just haven’t been able to enunciate what the value is, and these programs do exactly that,” Karbhari said. “They show that you can follow your passion and yet be almost guaranteed a wonderful job at the end of that -- you can marry both things.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Author discusses new book on "breakout moves" to community college teaching

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 18, 2019 - 5:00pm

Success rates for community college students lag those at other institutions. Why? Many factors are at work. Many community college students come from high schools where they received lousy teaching. A new book, Teachin' It: Breakout Moves That Break Down Barriers for Community College Students (Teachers College Press), argues that instructors make an enormous difference to community college students.

The author, Felicia Darling, a college skills instructor at Santa Rosa Junior College, responded via email to questions about her book.

Q: Graduation rates are much lower at community colleges than at most four-year institutions. What do you consider a good graduation rate for a community college? How should we judge community colleges on completion?

A: Community colleges have lower graduation rates because they have a different mission and serve a more diverse student body. Therefore, three factors should be considered when discussing “good graduation rates.” First, the majority of students attending four-year universities seek to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. In contrast, while many community college students do seek to graduate with an associate’s degree, there is a wide variety of other aspirations represented. These include transferring to a four-year college, obtaining a certification, completing industry-specific training, exploring career options and taking recreational courses. All of these can be attained without actually “graduating” (i.e. completing an associate’s degree).

Second, unlike four-year universities with entrance criteria that funnel in students with high levels of academic preparation, the open-access nature of community colleges means that some students attend even without a high school diploma or GED. Therefore students enter community college with a broader range of academic skill development and preparation. Third, due to their mission, community colleges serve more students who are underrepresented among those who possess four-year degrees. These include students of color, first-generation college students, students with disabilities, students from the LGBTQ+ community, students from low-income households and first-generation college students. While underrepresented students may be more resilient and motivated, they are also more likely to face obstacles to graduating. These include navigating a system that is discriminatory, experiencing food and housing insecurity, reintegrating into society after being incarcerated, balancing work and school, and supporting families.

That being said, community colleges should aim for a 90 percent graduation rate within three years for those students attending full-time who declare the goal of attaining an associate’s degree. I would say 100 percent, but I recall, with a heavy heart, students like Lisette, a 19-year-old who began the semester with a promising A and wanted to be a nurse. She stopped coming to class after the ninth week, because she had to care for her mentally ill mother and seven younger siblings, who all lived in a homeless shelter.

Q: What are the major problems you see with traditional instruction methods as applied at community colleges?

A: The major issue with traditional approaches like the teaching is telling and the primarily lecture model is that they miss opportunities to unleash the full learning potential of the maximum number of students in the classroom. In particular, there are two reasons why traditional approaches fall short. First, community college students come from diverse cultural backgrounds and embrace a wide range of identities. Consequently, they bring a wealth of cultural knowledge to the classroom. Unfortunately, the traditional, direct-instruction approach, where the instructor is the authority, overwrites these students’ funds of knowledge.

When instructors draw from students’ wealth of cultural assets during instruction, they communicate that they value students’ identities. Using a more egalitarian, inclusive approach like complex instruction can help illuminate students’ assets. This means doing more inquiry-based, group learning where all students’ contributions are taken up equally and all students are held to the same high standard.

The second reason why the traditional lecture-style approach is so problematic is that community colleges are open-access institutions, so students enter with a range of academic skill preparation and a variety of gaps in content knowledge. When instructors shift their role from lecturer to facilitator of inquiry-based learning in groups, it redresses gaps in knowledge and skills. When students work in groups with carefully crafted tasks, they can approach learning from their strength areas by drawing from their prior knowledge. In addition, they can build on the knowledge of their peers by engaging in scaffolded discussions where they negotiate meaning and co-construct new knowledge. Education psychology theory and cognition research demonstrate that students learn better in groups. This means giving more low-floor, high-ceiling tasks with multiple entry points to give the broadest access to students. Facilitating discussions around group-worthy activities allows all students to build on their prior knowledge and skills and to communicate their unique reasoning and perspectives. In addition, this approach makes student understanding of the content explicit, so instructors can refine instruction to meet the needs of more students.

Q: At many community colleges, a majority of students need some remediation. Are there approaches to remedial teaching that could help many students?

A: While the majority of students entering community college place into remedial courses, there is a growing trend toward placing students directly into transfer-level courses with corequisite support courses instead. The goal is to increase transfer and completion rates of students -- especially underrepresented students. The following three instructional strategies are useful for students placed into either remedial or transfer-level courses. First, it is important to foster a growth mind-set classroom. Community college students frequently have experienced failures when learning in the past, and they may have internalized negative mind-sets around schooling and their identities as learners.

Second, doing “inreach” is a powerful instructional move. This means using instructional time or course materials to connect students with campus resources like financial aid, tutoring, mental health services, academic counseling, mentoring or student clubs. Underrepresented students make up a disproportionately large number of students placed into remedial classes at community colleges. Research indicates that completion rates improve when community college instructors connect entering students to institutional resources. The third approach is that instructors should seamlessly layer college skills into the curriculum in ways that dignify students’ lived experiences. Examples of college skills are: using professional academic language when communicating with professors, knowing how to study for and take different types of tests, navigating financial aid, taking effective notes, knowing how and when to get a mentor, or code-shifting. For first-generation college students, instructors may be the only one they know with a college degree.

Q: You have extensive experience in teaching math, and math is a major stumbling point for many community college students. Would you please offer an example or two of making math instruction have more impact on your students?

A: On the first day of class, students do an activity called “Finding Your Growth Mind-Set.” Students draw a picture of something they are now good at, something they got better at over time by expending great effort. This is an area where they have a growth mind-set. They draw themselves playing soccer, baking, playing guitar, speaking in public, fishing or writing, etc. Afterward, in pairs they discuss strategies they used when they made mistakes or when things got challenging in this one area where they have a growth mind-set. I scribe their strategies on the whiteboard, then we discuss how these can be applied to learning math. We circle back to their drawings and this class list of strategies as the math content grows increasingly complex and cognitively demanding. This launch activity not only reinforces a growth mind-set but also acts as a springboard for co-developing norms with students around doing the inquiry-based group work that is foundational to the course.

The second activity involves applied problem solving in groups. When I introduce the topic of adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing with positive and negative integers, I do not begin with the typical lecture on the rules followed by having students complete 20-40 problems on a worksheet. Instead, I introduce the topic by having students explore real-life, culturally informed problems that previous students gave me or ones that I created from my Yucatán study. Students work in groups of four and use visuals to solve these problems in their own ways. Then, each group explains their assumptions, reasoning and solution to their problem to the entire class. After two days of solving and presenting, students derive their own rules for using the four operations (+, -, x, ÷) with integers -- and write them in their own words. For homework, students create and solve their own real-life word problems, and these are graded with a rubric. A student from Jordan created a problem to find the distance traveled if one was to travel from the top of Mount Nebo to the bottom of the north end of the Dead Sea. Another student wrote a word problem in Spanish that she developed with her mother about business accounting.

Q: Your book talks about the importance of mind-set -- for students and instructors. Would you explain what you mean by that?

A: The research is clear. Beliefs and attitudes of both instructors and learners impact student outcomes. Many students enter college with unproductive attitudes about school and learning from their prior experiences in elementary or secondary school, with the media or society at large. For example, “Girls do not do well in math”; “People who look like me are not college material” or “People who are good at music are born that way.” For community college students seeking to transfer to four-year colleges, their first course lays the groundwork for achieving that goal. Therefore, it is important for instructors to foster a growth mind-set classroom where all students recognize that experimenting, making mistakes, taking risks and expending great effort are all a natural part of being a competent and powerful lifelong learner. Furthermore, recent research indicates that when educators possess growth mind-sets, then their students achieve at higher levels, so it is important for educators to nurture their own growth mind-sets about learning, as well.

In addition to fostering their own growth mind-sets, it is also important for educators to cultivate an equity mind-set. We know that when educators have differential expectations for different students based on their ethnic/racial, linguistic or socioeconomic background, then the achievement gap widens. Therefore, educators need to frame their instructional moves with an equity lens. This may mean exploring their own implicit bias, writing a positionality statement or educating themselves about the cultural backgrounds and histories of their students. This work to cultivate an equity mind-set is particularly important when teaching students who are subjected to discrimination on a daily basis, like students of color, students from the LGBTQ+ community and students from low-income households. By cultivating an equity mind-set, instructors ensure that classroom instruction does not perpetuate these unfair systems but instead disrupts these larger systemic inequities at the classroom level. All students should feel invited to communicate their unique perspectives in the classroom as part of their journey to develop their identities as powerful learners.

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New calls for Europe-wide stance in defense of academic freedom

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 18, 2019 - 5:00pm

European governments must protest “loudly and clearly” against abuses of academic freedom in Hungary or risk other authoritarian states constricting the independence of scholarly institutions, university leaders and researchers have warned in response to the Orbán government’s latest moves.

Earlier this month, János Áder, the president of Hungary, signed a law giving the government control over the network of research institutes that formerly belonged to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences -- a move that has been widely criticized as endangering academic freedom.

Meanwhile, the Budapest-based Central European University has made further steps toward moving to a new campus in Vienna, after being driven out of Hungary by Viktor Orbán’s government. On Saturday, CEU announced that the institution and six of its degree programs had received Austrian accreditation.

Michael Ignatieff, president of CEU, told Times Higher Education that hundreds of universities and academic institutions across the world have voiced solidarity with CEU and the Academy of Sciences, “but it was all to no avail,” in part because “governments themselves have done little or nothing.”

“That’s a sobering lesson that the international academic community has stood up for itself, but these governments are ignoring what they’re being told,” he said.

“The British government, the American government, the French government, the Dutch government -- all of whom have free institutions inside [their nations] -- are not saying loudly and clearly enough to these authoritarian regimes: ‘If you want to stay in Europe, Europe means free institutions. If you don’t defend and support and sustain free institutions, you don’t belong to the club.’

“No one is saying that clearly enough or making the costs of doing what they’ve done to the Academy of Sciences and to us … prohibitive. Until the costs are prohibitive, governments like Orbán’s will keep on doing what they’re doing.”

Ignatieff added that the Orbán government is “very dependent” on the structural subsidies along with the political and diplomatic support and protection that it receives from its E.U. membership and it is “therefore susceptible to a firm talking-to from European governments.”

However, he said that E.U. member states “fear that if they apply pressure to Hungary it may one day be applied to them” and so they “risk some of the values on which Europe depends.”

While the European Parliament last year voted to pursue disciplinary action against Hungary under Article 7 of the E.U. treaty -- in response to the Hungarian government’s attacks on the media, minorities and the rule of law -- the procedure has made little progress.

Ignatieff added that the language of European treaties “does not contain a very strong or robust definition of academic freedom” and there is “no specific requirement that European states respect and protect the academic freedom of their scientific institutions,” allowing “authoritarian regimes pretty well free rein to do what they want.”

“I think that’s an area where Europe needs to learn a lesson from these episodes and change the law,” he said. “If respect for academic freedom had been made a condition of continued membership in the E.U., we would still be in Budapest. It’s that simple.”

When asked whether the inaction by European governments may embolden other authoritarian or populist states to restrict academic freedom, Ignatieff said, “I can’t say for sure. But this is what globalization means. Everybody learns from everybody else and sometimes they learn very bad lessons … Universities are very much on the front line as authoritarian regimes consolidate their rule.”

On the changes to the Academy of Sciences, he added that “other countries -- Poland, the Czech Republic -- may be tempted to do the same.”

Earlier this year, János Kertész, head of the department of network and data science at CEU, wrote an open letter to Manfred Weber, the German European Parliament member who leads the European People’s Party -- the center-right group of parties that is the European Parliament’s largest group -- calling for him to put pressure on Orbán to withdraw the new Academy of Sciences legislation. The letter received 1,460 signatures but “didn’t help,” he said.

György Bazsa, professor emeritus of the University of Debrecen, one of the signatories, said he hoped that the new leadership of the E.U. “will take steps to force rules of democracy.”

Hungary’s treatment of CEU and the Academy of Sciences “should result in stopping Hungarian participation in European committees,” he suggested. “There are definitely possibilities in the hand of the European Union. It should want to use them.”

He added that there is “a danger” that Central and Eastern European countries with “similar antidemocratic” tendencies will make comparable steps to constrict university autonomy.

Anne Corbett, a senior associate at LSE Consulting and an expert on higher education and the E.U., said it was significant that Eastern European countries managed to block the choice of Frans Timmermans, the Dutch center-left politician who had “tried to act against Orbán,” as the new president of the European Commission.

Other than continuing Timmermans’s approach of trying to mobilize Article 7 of the treaty, “there’s very little that the E.U. can do,” said Corbett, “unless it gets general support.”

Corbett said that “the hope lies with universities themselves,” specifically cross-border networks of universities, which can “put pressure on national rectors’ organizations to lobby governments collectively.”

“I don’t think anything will happen unless there is a wide university front saying that this is not just an issue for Hungary, it’s really an issue for Europe,” she said.

“It’s universities themselves saying they’re not just interested in European funding, but they’re interested in seeing the E.U. standing up for these values.”

However, academics in Hungary said E.U. action against the country could have unintended consequences.

Such a move “may damage the reputation of the government, but it will also damage our research and that’s not what we want,” said Gergely Bohm, head of the international department at the Academy of Sciences.

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 18, 2019 - 5:00pm
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Debate over proposed expansion of Pell Grants to short-term job training

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 8, 2019 - 12:30pm

Democratic presidential candidates are spending another election cycle debating the merits of free college. But in Washington, a fight is brewing over whether federal student aid should be available to people who pursue short-term training to land better jobs.

Students currently can use Pell Grants, the primary vehicle for federal need-based aid, for college degrees as well as certificate programs that last as little as 15 weeks.

Bipartisan legislation backed by community college and business groups would make certificate programs -- even non-credit-bearing courses -- as short as eight weeks eligible for Pell Grants. Supporters of the bill, dubbed the JOBS Act, say it would make an overdue change to better tailor the design of the federal aid system to the demands of adult students. It would also exclude for-profit institutions, which have been some of the biggest targets of criticism aimed at the short-term credential sector.

But the bill also would be a significant reorientation of the Pell program from largely supporting low-income students who are pursuing a college degree to backing job training as well. Some scholars and policy advocates are questioning the wisdom of that change, without more clear findings of the potential payoff for short-term credentials. They also worry what such a shift will mean for the strength of the Pell program in the future as it is stretched to serve more purposes.

As backers build a drumbeat of support for expanding Pell Grant eligibility, skeptics are starting to raise concerns in op-eds and meetings with lawmakers, setting up another key debate over the direction of postsecondary education as negotiators try to advance the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

“This is a significant shift in the nature of the program,” said Mary Alice McCarthy, director of the Center on Education and Skills at New America. “It means now it would both be helping people pay for college and also doubling as probably as our largest fund for job training. That’s a tectonic shift.”

Proponents of expanding Pell Grant eligibility to short-term programs say training in high-demand industries will help students land better jobs soon, not after several semesters or a years-long commitment to earning a college degree. It’s an argument that matches many of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s statements about the importance of alternatives to a four-year degree.

Prominent business groups have named Pell Grants for short-term programs as a top priority for the Higher Education Act. The Trump administration also has thrown its support behind the proposal. In Congress, the bill has attracted support from both sides of the aisle.

Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat and a co-sponsor of the JOBS Act legislation, said in a written statement that students at community colleges in his state, especially adults with families, are increasingly signing up for shorter-term career and educational training.

“We need to broaden our definition of higher education to include quality career and technical programs, and we have to make sure that federal policy supports this kind of learning, too,” Kaine said in a statement. “So the idea behind the JOBS Act is to be more flexible with Pell Grants and allow students to use them for high-quality career and technical classes if they want to.”

Some higher ed policy advocates, however, say whether skills are in demand and whether they lead to well-paid jobs are different questions.

“Just because a job is in demand doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good job with a living wage,” said Lanae Erickson, senior vice president for social policy and politics at the think tank Third Way.

While the group hasn’t taken a position on the JOBS Act, Erickson said Third Way is supportive of the concept of short-term Pell. But it wants to see protections included that would ensure students get a return on their investment.

Kaine said his bill would do that by requiring that credentials are recognized by employers and meet the needs of industry in state and local economies. It would also require approval of programs from state work-force boards and the U.S. Department of Education. And the legislation excludes for-profit institutions from accessing the grants.

For-profits have a significant footprint among institutions that offer certificate programs, although much of the sector has been in a years-long tailspin. Those institutions also made up the bulk of programs that failed the Obama administration’s gainful-employment rule in data released in 2017. (DeVos repealed the rule last week in a move criticized by consumer advocates.) But Erickson noted that many colleges outside the for-profit sector also have posted lackluster results on metrics like graduation rates and student loan repayment.

“Many nonprofit and public schools have had pretty bad outcomes as well,” Erickson said. “We’re putting a lot of faith in the public and nonprofit sectors to do a lot of this right when we know they haven’t always up till now.”

Payoff for Short-Term Credentials

Students who enroll in short-term training programs are for the most part the same kind of students who enroll in career education programs that were subject to the gainful-employment rule -- typically older, less affluent and more likely to be from minority groups than students who enroll at four-year colleges.

McCarthy said the U.S. higher ed system already has serious issues with stratification. Opening Pell Grant eligibility to short-term programs could worsen the problem, she said, by encouraging colleges to offer more short-term programs with little connection to real college degree pathways.

“This could really have the potential to exacerbate some of our equity problems,” she said.

Kermit Kaleba, managing director of policy at the National Skills Coalition, which has made short-term Pell a priority, said the students served by those programs -- usually older, working adults -- currently have low participation rates in traditional higher ed. The federal government should be just as willing to invest in a student who wants to get a welding or health certification as a four-year degree, he said.

“We are leaving out a lot of lower-skill, low-wage workers for whom moving from $10 an hour to $15 an hour makes a real life difference,” Kaleba said. “There are a lot of folks particularly at the lower end of the wage scale for whom incremental wage gains are significant.”

Proponents and skeptics of short-term Pell reach remarkably different conclusions from a handful of studies on the value of short-term credentials.

Davis Jenkins, a senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College, said short-term certificates always have had minimal value for students, especially if they’re entering the work force without experience. And since the Great Recession, he said, the labor market return on even longer-term certificates has declined relative to degrees.

“The problem is the jobs you can get with those short-term certificates don’t pay enough in wages and benefits to make it worth the public’s investment,” Jenkins said.

Supporters of the bill have cited a Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce study that found strong payoffs for some certificate programs. Kaine’s office said data from Virginia show students who got short-term credentials at community colleges have seen annual wage increases of 20 to 50 percent.

McCarthy said the Virginia Fast Forward program, which connects students to employment quickly through short-term training, is to some extent the best-case scenario for such an approach. Many of the program’s graduates enter fields like welding or truck driving.

Those jobs tend to have very high turnover rates, McCarthy said, in part because they’re physically demanding.

“They’re all hard jobs to move up from,” she said.

The JOBS Act requires that colleges create clear pathways so students can accumulate short-term credentials on their way to eventually earning a degree. Ideally, students get a better-paying job after one eight-week program, then return to the college as their campus allows them to continue progress toward a degree by “stacking” their credentials. And supporters of the legislation say exposing students to college for the first time can lead them to return when they see real benefits.

But Jenkins said research suggests few students who get certificates go on to get degrees.

“It turns out students don’t stack,” he said. “Skills training is not integrated into degree programs.”

Big Bet on Community Colleges

If the JOBS Act is placing a large wager on the value of short-term credentials, it’s also betting big on the ability of community colleges to build programs that will lead students to employment quickly, and allow them to return and continue accumulating credits toward a degree.

David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges, said many community colleges already offer the kinds of short-term programs that would be eligible for Pell funds under the JOBS Act.

“The colleges are legitimately trying to respond to the needs of local employers and, to some extent, broader regional trends,” he said.

Almost all of those programs, Baime said, have advisory panels for specific industries, and most have to go through an approval process at the state level. The JOBS Act would apply standards that will be a challenge for many programs to meet, he said.

“This is not a proposal that was whipped up in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “This is a program that comes from our field, our member presidents and work-force teams who emphasize the fact that we are offering more programs to get people into the work force quickly and that the financial burdens are acute for many of them.”

But at some campuses, trepidation about the quality of credential comes along with excitement about new potential funding for job training. Pam Eddinger, president of Bunker Hill Community College, said about three-quarters of the students at her college work. If they can get a job in their field of interest, she said, it eases the financial burden of attending classes.

But Eddinger said that covering significant material in eight weeks is a challenge. And that time frame leaves little opportunity for general education in everything from writing to quantitative skills. Many students are academically behind when they arrive on campus. And the critical thinking skills that longer-term academic programs would provide are valuable to workers, she said.

Eddinger also worried about short-term credentials being offered as a “silver bullet” for good-paying jobs.

“You want that immediate alleviation for low-skill, low-wage workers and to open opportunities for students looking for good jobs,” she said. “But we’ve got to plan farther than eight weeks. It can’t be the end-all and be-all.”

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California private college adjuncts could all move to time-card system -- unless legislative fix is successful

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 8, 2019 - 12:30pm

It’s not every day that colleges and universities and their adjuncts wholeheartedly agree on something. But legislation in California regarding the exempt status of adjunct workers has the backing of both the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities and the Service Employees International Union.

If successful, the legislation will prevent a number of private institutions from asking adjuncts to fill out time cards to avoid violating labor law on overtime.

In recent years, a number of colleges and universities have settled faculty overtime violation lawsuits filed by the same California law firm -- lawsuits that even many adjuncts say are frivolous. Stanford University, for example, last year settled for nearly $900,000 in a class-action suit regarding instructors in its continuing studies program. Attorney’s fees accounted for one-third of the settlement, so adjuncts involved were each entitled to a partially taxable $1,417. Kaplan University also settled, according to public documents. Other suits have been settled more quietly. Public institutions in California, whose adjuncts are generally unionized, have not been affected.

Private colleges and universities have responded to the ongoing legal threat by either making or planning to make their adjuncts document all of their working hours on time cards. But faculty groups say that time cards simply don’t work for what they do, for the same reasons that time cards don’t work for many professions. How should answering students’ emails late at night or grading papers early in the morning be counted, for example? What about preparing for courses or completing professional development?

There are also concerns that asking adjuncts -- many of whom have terminal degrees and long-standing qualms about their treatment throughout academe -- to complete hourly labor-style time cards is wrong.

“People who are angry about their working conditions are barking up the wrong tree,” said Rali Christo, a lecturer in classical languages at St. Mary’s College of California. “Time cards are very inconvenient and very humiliating for many of my colleagues."

AB-1466, as the bill is known, seeks to clarify when an adjunct at an independent institution qualifies as an exempt professional under wage and hour laws.

Existing California law requires any work over eight hours in one day and any work over 40 hours in one week to be compensated as overtime, at no less than 1.5 times the regular rate of pay for an employee. For reference, California’s current minimum wage is $12 per hour but over the next few years it will be incrementally raised to $15.

Adjuncts know that the work they do to teach a class extends beyond the hours they’re actually teaching. So adjuncts who technically only work part-time could be working more than eight hours per day or 40 hours per week and therefore entitled to overtime -- hence the lawsuits. That’s even though faculty work is widely understood to be professional and therefore exempt from overtime law.

The bill, then, explicitly classifies employees working in education as exempt if they provide credit-bearing instruction at an independent college or university, they meet an existing legal test about whether their work involves advanced knowledge (yes), and they’re paid on a salary basis -- and receive either a monthly salary equivalent to no less than two times the state minimum wage at full-time employment, or no less than two times the state minimum wage times the hours of service.

AB-1466 also defines hours of service as all classroom time plus 3.5 hours for each teaching hour to account for class preparation and grading. That’s more generous than the approximately 1.25 hours-per-classroom-hour standard to establish eligibility for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

“These requirements are fundamentally protective: the duties’ test ensures that only employees who have responsibilities that cannot be easily encapsulated in an eight-hour day are removed from overtime protections, and only after that employee receives a salary of no less than twice the state minimum wage ($46,080),” reads a California Senate analysis of the bill. “Taken together, this both limits the number of employees who can reach the professional exemption, and also requires that employers provide appropriate compensation for an exempt professional.”

Nato Green, an organizer with SEIU, said that with California’s new hourly wage target of $15, this bill could mean that many adjuncts see a significant boost in their pay.

The Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, a bill sponsor, has argued in its favor that it “provides statutory consistency for adjunct faculty wages" and "provides a baseline compensation for adjunct faculty and allows our institutions to continue treating adjunct faculty as exempt employees.”

While adjunct faculty are regularly treated as exempt employees, the association said, “recently several of our institutions have been forced to convert adjunct faculty to hourly, nonexempt employees in response to litigation stemming from ambiguity in the Labor Code. Conversion to hourly, nonexempt classification is not the preferred action of either the institutions or the faculty. However, lacking the change proposed in this legislation, this is the only means by which institutions can comply with Labor Code and prevent additional lawsuits, which are resulting in six- or seven-figure financial losses.”

Natasha Baker, an attorney for several California private colleges, said that the bill allows for institutions to treat their adjuncts like the professionals they are. Overtime rules work best for retail-style employees, who must take certain amount of break time during the day, for example, she said.

“It’s not really a model that works at these institutions, and adjuncts were being treated in a way that’s different than their full-time colleagues -- and that’s really a huge concern.”

The bill recently passed California’s Senate Committee on Labor, Public Employment and Retirement with no opposition. It’s now before the Senate appropriations committee, and its supporters believe it will pass.

Christo, the St. Mary’s adjunct, said the bill is a strong example of what adjuncts can do when they “lobby for a legislative fix, instead of just venting about a bad situation we have.”

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