Higher Education News

Ontario makes tuition cuts but no plan for the shortfall

University World News - February 15, 2019 - 4:10pm
In Ontario, Canada's most populous province, students and their families have been complaining about rising tuition costs for years. Numerous campaigns have ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Internal quality assurance - Key to maintaining quality

University World News - February 15, 2019 - 4:08pm
The establishment of an internal quality assurance system in a higher education institution is often regarded as the most critical element in creating a sustainable framework for maintaining quali ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Students are protesting - again. It needn't be this way

University World News - February 15, 2019 - 4:06pm
It's the beginning of South Africa's academic year and once again, campuses have been brought to a standstill by ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Harvard University and the fate of affirmative action

University World News - February 15, 2019 - 4:04pm
Ever since the United States Supreme Court's 1978 Regents of the University of California v Bakke decision, the appropriate role of race and ethnicity in admissions to highly selective Amer ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Decolonisation of higher education is not just a buzzword

University World News - February 15, 2019 - 4:02pm
Has the call for decolonisation of higher education that arose within South African universities several years ago become a transformative trend elsewhere? Is it more than a buzzword? It would see ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Students: the missing voices in internationalisation

University World News - February 15, 2019 - 4:00pm
Paradoxically, international student mobility is the most visible aspect of internationalisation while students' voices are the least heard in internationalisation-related discourses.

To put t ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Students want better education and employment opportunities

University World News - February 15, 2019 - 1:17am
Students from universities across India took to the streets in the capital New Delhi on 7 February to demand better education and employment opportunities in one of the largest youth demonstration ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Rise in foreign student numbers as employment route eased

University World News - February 15, 2019 - 12:06am
Japan is on course to reach its goal set almost a decade ago to attract some 300,0 ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Can universities be masters of their post-Brexit destiny?

University World News - February 14, 2019 - 2:12am
The post-March 2019 relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union is no clearer and the uncertainty has now affected all sectors of higher education activity. The resources spent ...
Categories: Higher Education News

International student enrolment set to exceed UK numbers

University World News - February 14, 2019 - 1:06am
For the first time this year, the number of foreign students attending Australian universities is likely to exceed those studying in higher education institutions in the United Kingdom.

This wi ...
Categories: Higher Education News

American Historical Association says letters of recommendation can wait until candidates pass a first look

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

The American Historical Association’s governing council recently approved changing the organization’s Guidelines for the Hiring Process to encourage hiring institutions to request reference letters only from candidates who have passed the initial screening, upon requesting additional materials or before video or conference interviews.

"Given the current academic job market, having applicants provide letters of recommendation only after the initial screening stage can reduce stress and unnecessary paperwork for candidates, letter-writers and hiring committees," the updated policy reads.

James Grossman, executive director of the AHA, said that students often have to pay their dossier system to have letters sent out, meaning they’re “shelling out money when the odds of being hired are long.” Graduate advisers and other references also write “a lot of letters for candidates who are eliminated quickly from a search,” and so are “better off spending more time on letters at a later stage, when the odds are higher,” he added.

Suzanne Marchand, Boyd Professor of History at Louisiana State University and a councilor for the AHA’s Professional Division, wrote about the problem in a column called “Letters of Rec: An Ancient Genre in Need of a Modern Update” for the association’s Perspectives on History in September. “Letters have grown so bathetic that in the last job searches I chaired, I confess, I hardly looked at the letters for the general pool of candidates (over 150 in each search, many of them, apparently, ‘our best student ever’),” she said.

Failing to read everything “was wrong of me,” Marchand wrote, “but I am quite certain that this is a general, if not universal, practice these days, especially with so many applicants who are fully worthy of obtaining a place in our ‘households.’ It is at least a trifle more democratic than one of the other regularly practiced alternatives: examining only the author’s letterhead.”

Marchand also lamented the complexity of submitting and accessing letters electronically, saying that if “the scale of searches, the length of letters, and the fear of damning with faint praise is making letters of rec less meaningful or valuable,” aren’t enough, committees also much “be experts not in history, but in data management and computing skills. Every letter seems to need to be submitted through some unique system, often with login and password protections; one has to convert, scan, download, upload.”

No one would want to return to typing letters one by one, she said, but the "very presumption that electronic systems make all of this simpler has perhaps actually enabled the world we have now, where everyone asks for and expects long letters, tailored to each occasion, sent yesterday.”

The Modern Language Association’s 2014 statement on letters of recommendation also cites concerns about costs to students and advises committees to consider whether they need “to see all letters for all applicants at the first stage of selection.” Some faculty readers of dossiers “don’t read letters of recommendation carefully, or at all, until the applicant is at the semifinalist or finalist stage,” it says. “Other faculty readers rely on recommendations in making initial decisions about candidates.”

The expected size of the applicant pool “could be one factor in your department’s decision about whether to request letters up front,” MLA’s statement continues, noting that reference letters are normally required only for the top four finalists in junior job searches in Britain and that that practice has been adopted by some U.S. institutions. Some American institutions no longer require letters of recommendation at all and instead call finalists’ references, it says.

Paula Krebs, executive director of the MLA, said, “My guess is that we’ll follow AHA’s lead on this.” Such a change would be “consistent with our recent recommendations to make the job search easier on the candidate, such as eliminating convention interviews, which are so costly for the candidates,” she added.

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Lindenwood president fired and reasons remain unclear

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

Michael D. Shonrock, president of Lindenwood University, a private, religiously affiliated institution west of St. Louis, lost his job last week for reasons that, four days later, remain a mystery.

Lindenwood’s Board of Trustees hand-delivered a letter to Shonrock on Feb. 5, telling him he was being placed on paid administrative leave. It was signed by Board of Trustees chairman J. Michael Conoyer, a retired St. Louis physician. Shonrock told a St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist, “He’s given me no reason why.” The letter, he said, “doesn’t describe any rationale at all.”

The board fired Shonrock Friday. A university spokesman referred a reporter to a statement issued by Conoyer that offered no explanation, but court filings by Lindenwood and Conoyer associated with Shonrock's firing allege that in the weeks leading up to Jan. 23, 2019, he “exhibited and/or engaged in certain conduct believed to warrant [Shonrock's] separation from employment,” St. Louis Business Journal reported.

Another filing in the case noted that the board’s executive committee, meeting on Jan. 23, voted unanimously to recommend to the full board that Shonrock be terminated.

Shonrock came to Lindenwood from Emporia State University in Kansas, where he’d been president for three years. He’d earlier spent 20 years at Texas Tech University.

His departure is only the most recent over the past few months. In November, Brett Barger, president of Lindenwood University-Belleville, was placed on administrative leave and later left the university, which offers classes at six other Missouri locations, two campuses in Illinois and via an online program.

During Shonrock’s short tenure, Lindenwood, based in St. Charles, Mo., expanded its presence in downtown St. Louis, the Post-Dispatch reported. But it also laid off 17 employees, or 1.5 percent of its work force, in May. The cuts were part of a strategic plan to “reallocate resources.”

Lindenwood calls itself “an independent institution firmly rooted in Judeo-Christian values” that include “belief in an ordered, purposeful universe, the dignity of work, the worth and integrity of the individual, the obligations and privileges of citizenship, and the primacy of truth.” It is historically associated with the Presbyterian Church.

Shonrock’s contract extended until June 2020. He told the Post-Dispatch, “I’m very proud of what we accomplished here. This is our family. We love these kids. We were very committed to being here.” He said he had done well enough since his arrival in June 2015 to be offered raises each year.

Neither Shonrock nor his lawyer, Jerome Dobson, responded to requests for comment, but Dobson last week told the Post-Dispatch that he didn’t know why Shonrock had been placed on leave. He said Lindenwood could be in legal jeopardy for firing a president without a stated reason. The chair of Lindenwood's faculty council also declined to comment.

Dobson said Conoyer, the board chairman, and Art Johnson, the vice chairman, were apparently trying to oust Shonrock without the full notice of the 22-member board, denying Shonrock the opportunity “to tell his side of the story.”

A university spokeswoman responded to a request for comment by offering a written message Conoyer sent to faculty, staff and students. It merely said Shonrock “is leaving his position” and that the board had appointed Johnson, the board vice chairman, as interim president.

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Categories: Higher Education News

A new frontier in college athletics -- video games

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

Pacing the stage recently at the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s annual convention, President Mark Emmert ended his address to thousands of delegates with a surprising topic du jour: video games.

Emmert asked rhetorically -- as many athletics pundits have -- should the NCAA should control collegiate esports? It was apparently a phenomenon dominating conference discussions, as esports have blossomed from brand-new to burgeoning on campuses in fewer than five years, when the first college program was created.

Lingering criticism that esports, often viewed as a sedentary activity, can’t be regarded as an athletic endeavor hasn’t halted its proliferation into athletics departments and student affairs offices in an astonishingly short period.

Esports (not just within colleges) are expected to be valued at $1.4 billion by next year. At least two colleges are planning degrees in esports. The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), the group that has seemingly emerged as the premiere governing body for “varsity”-level esports, has swelled to 128 members. It began in 2016 with six colleges and universities. The current slew of member colleges gave out just under $15 million in scholarships this academic year for students to strap on a headset, grab a mouse and keyboard, and enter the digital fray.

The esports allure for university executives is multifold but summed up succinctly for many institutions: enrollment boosts (although larger colleges and universities that are certainly not wanting for students also sponsor programs).

Granting scholarships to play video games, once perhaps just a Red Bull-fueled fantasy, attracts students -- especially men, who are in the minority in many undergraduate student bodies. And so officials have invested in pricey “arenas” for esports, spaces decked out with gigantic flat screens, slick computers and the best gaming accessories. One small private institution, New England College, with an enrollment of around 1,800 undergraduate students, and a prospective esports team of between 20 and 40 students, poured about $60,000 into its arena.

But esports’ newness on the college scene comes with a sense of unpredictability.

As one esports practitioner phrased it: “It’s a Wild West right now.”

How They Developed

The first known program to coax these games from the fringes of dormitory life and into the “varsity” mainstream was in 2014 with Robert Morris University-Illinois, an effort led at the time by Kurt Melcher, then the university’s associate athletics director. He unknowingly created the setup that many esports teams emulate today. Melcher still works part-time at Robert Morris but has since become the executive director of esports at Intersport, a sports consulting firm that the NCAA hired to research esports.

Robert Morris treated esports then just as it did traditional athletics, with a tough and often time-consuming practice schedule, uniforms and postgame meals -- all the hallmarks of a typical team. Universities with esports programs often hire coaches and other staffers, build their arenas, and develop aggressive recruitment strategies. Though universities’ picks of games vary, there are a couple cornerstones: Overwatch, a first-person shooter, and League of Legends, an arena-style game where you work with a team to try to destroy the opposition’s “base.”

The university offered scholarships for League of Legends, too, perhaps the biggest eyebrow-raiser among esports skeptics. But Melcher said in an interview he was adamant it should be elevated to the athletics department -- it was the difference in playing intramural basketball and an official university basketball team, giving esports more validity, he said.

In the summer of 2016 came NACE, promising “structure and legitimacy” for the esports universe, then just for its handful of members. NACE leaders designed a relatively minimalist constitution with basic academic standards and guidelines that students in the NACE membership needed to complete a degree within a five-year period.

Since that time, NACE has added more than 120 members. In interviews, esports enthusiasts attributed the growth to greater acceptance among administrators who grasped both the economic and entertainment benefits. Their popularity has spread outside higher education, too, with National Basketball Association franchises such as the Milwaukee Bucks fielding an esports team. About two years ago, the New York Yankees, the most lucrative team in professional baseball, invested in Vision Esports, the largest shareholder of three esports-related companies.

“This is dispelling the narrative of what a gamer is,” Melcher said.

An Unstructured Culture

Esports don’t have one accepted home on campuses.

Some institutions have established them in their student activities wing, similar to club sports, as 47 percent of the NACE members do, or through their athletics departments (40 percent of NACE universities). The remainder put their programs elsewhere, such as in academic departments.

While institutions can still compete with one another regardless of how their esports are structured, placing them within athletic departments has spurred concerns about the federal law that protects against gender discrimination, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. About 90 percent of students on NACE teams are men.

Title IX does apply to student clubs, too, but athletic teams have particular requirements related to designating some teams as being for men and others for women. One way to be Title IX compliant is for an institution to match its proportion of male and female athletes to the ratio of its overall undergraduate enrollment -- and an esports team in an athletics department would be included in this calculation. Universities can also show a history of continuing program expansion, or that they have fully met the interests and abilities of both genders to meet Title IX.

Because of these complications, esports should be clearly defined as either sports or entertainment, said Ellen Staurowsky, a professor of sports management at Drexel University and a Title IX expert.

The law could also be triggered by some of the games’ content, Staurowsky theorized. As Emmert mentioned in his speech, video games carry a reputation of being violent or misogynistic in material (women in scantily clad armor, a trait not shared by men’s garb) -- but so can the players. Either the gaming content or players' behavior could create a hostile educational environment, Staurowsky said.

The esports group at Stephens College, a women’s college in Columbia, Mo., doesn’t publicize the full names of its players to shield them from harassment in a gaming community of mostly men, said Michael Brooks, the executive director of NACE.

Brooks doesn’t think the esports world is rife with this behavior. Coaches and officials can monitor discussions both among the players and between teams. Communication is generally restricted to minimalist lingo, acronyms among gamers: “GL” as in “good luck” and “GG” -- “good game,” he said.

Still, Brooks acknowledged the need to appeal and recruit women and students of color.

Victoria Jackson, a sports historian and lecturer at Arizona State University, drafted a white paper summarizing the barriers for those populations in esports. In an interview, she suggested that the institutional teams contact other campus groups that represent minorities, such as the National Society of Black Engineers, to gauge their interest.

“Honestly, I think presenting this as an opportunity for women and other students, and assuring female students that this is a safe space to play, can work,” Jackson said. “Oftentimes these leaders will be pretty passive, and even if you have women show up, sometimes they’ll drop out. The return rate isn’t there. Having a leader with a specific role of embracing them, and assuring them that this is their home, [that] they belong, is important.”

Who Should Make the Rules?

While industry representatives agree that a regulatory body will inevitably materialize, no one is clear how it will actually come about. NACE seems to dominate the market among colleges, with 94 percent of programs in the country signing on.

But Ohio State University, a major player in NCAA athletics, announced in October it would compete in a league commissioned by the Electronic Gaming Federation, which is separate from NACE. Ohio State also introduced undergraduate and graduate degrees in esports. Its team is not housed under athletics.

And so despite NACE, a subsidiary of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, no universally recognized entity exists to enforce rules or make sure programs are consistent across the country. For all the criticism heaped on the NCAA, it tries to ensure fairness in the collegiate athletics system with certain policies -- limits on numbers of practices, for example. There is no equivalent watchdog for esports.

Whether the NCAA will step in to remedy these inconsistencies remains unknown. Contorting the NCAA model and its stringent amateurism rules to fit esports makes it an unlikely, if not unachievable possibility. For instance: the NCAA maintains a hard line that athletes can’t be paid for their sports skills, but college esports players often participate in tournaments where they can rake in thousands of dollars in prize money. They are often paid for broadcasts on Twitch, an Amazon-owned service for live-streaming.

Also complicating matters: the games are owned by publishers -- Riot Games for League of Legends and Activision Blizzard for Overwatch -- that exercise a great deal of control over their products. The NCAA would likely need to negotiate with these companies for any sort of league event such as March Madness, from which the association earns a bulk of its revenue. In the 2016-17 academic year, the NCAA topped $1 billion in revenue, and $761 million of that came from the 2017 basketball tournament.

Staurowsky urged universities not to box esports into the NCAA’s ideals, but to be entrepreneurial. Universities are engrossed in esports so feverishly in part because of the marketing angle for them, she said. Officials can advertise their esports players in a way that the NCAA does not allow, she said. If those students were instead considered university employees, then the Title IX athletics requirements wouldn’t even apply.

The NCAA hasn’t stayed entirely hands-off, but its efforts have been slow -- and have collapsed. The Pacific 12 conference tried to create an esports league in 2016, with officials even drafting agreements with Riot and another corporation, Electronic Arts. Commissioner Larry Scott heralded it as a “natural fit for many of our universities located in the technology and media hubs of the country.” But university presidents’ concerns about amateurism and Title IX killed the project in 2017.

Emmert didn’t hint in his speech about the NCAA’s direction. Melcher said that his research with the NCAA and Intersport is ongoing.

An NCAA spokeswoman provided a statement to Inside Higher Ed: “Given the rapid and global growth of esports, the NCAA Board of Governors continues to examine the collegiate esports landscape. The board is exploring the proper role, if any, of the NCAA’s involvement in esports.”

Recently, NACE has started to shift to a more severe set of rules that appear more in line with the prescriptions of the NCAA.

NACE member officials will vote on a policy around transferring, for instance. If a NACE university is wooing a current player, then his or her institution would be notified about it. Brooks called this a “transparency issue” for institutions -- if a student would transfer out just a week before classes start, “it’s logistically terrifying,” he said.

Today's Programs

It is generally the curiosity of one professor, or the president or chancellor, which leads to the leap into esports.

Such as was the case with Marquette University, which is touting its esports team as the first to be built into a major NCAA Division I athletics department. The interest of President Michael Lovell was piqued, and the university spent nearly two years investigating the possibility of a team until announcing it in January. The athletics director, Bill Scholl, said that the university hasn’t yet started the process of hiring a coach or building its “state-of-the-art” esports facility, which will be paid for by corporate partners and donors. Scholl said that while the university hasn’t made much progress yet, he hopes the NCAA would regulate esports in the future -- it seems to be equipped to do so.

Ohio State, another Division I institution, will offer esports degrees. So too will Shenandoah University, a smaller institution, based off an idea from Joey Gawrysiak, formerly only a professor and now the university’s esports director.

About four years ago, Gawrysiak taught a class in video games that eventually morphed into to a group of students advocating for an esports team, which launched last year.

Around when this happened, Gawrysiak was brainstorming with members of the Faculty Senate on ideas for new academic programs and he (half joking) floated an esports degree.

“Why not?” was the answer he got back. So he chatted with Blizzard and Riot representatives about their ideas on how to get students “practical experience” and started the process of writing a curriculum and approving the degree, which will start in fall 2019 with an estimated 35 students.

The credential doesn’t mean a student will play professionally. Much like Ohio University did when it sponsored the first-ever program in sports administration decades ago, Shenandoah will focus on how to run and plan esports events, Gawrysiak said, adding that while he thinks it will be an enrollment driver, that wasn’t his intention.

“It’s a project of passion,” he said. “I used to play Halo -- the original Halo game -- and I knew the community that is esports. It’s such a strong community.”

The president of Shenandoah, Tracy Fitzsimmons, was one top executive who required some convincing. She said she is the mother of twin boys, age 12, who constantly have to be shepherded off their video game systems. But the faculty convinced her that the degree would essentially be a sibling to sports management and marketing programs, which the university already offered.

“They mapped out how the academic program could be rigorous and there would be jobs available for students upon graduation,” Fitzsimmons wrote in an email. “We have also found that adding esports has created a welcome opportunity for new partnerships with technology companies and sports management venues. This program straddles Shenandoah’s strengths in business, performing arts and athletics.”

New England College, the small New Hampshire institution that just opened its arena, seems to be using esports as a way to pick up new students. The program is being led by Tyrelle Appleton, a new hire who recently graduated with his master’s degree from the College of St. Joseph in Vermont. Appleton, a former soccer and basketball star at St. Joseph’s, also played esports as an undergraduate there -- and built up their team. He missed his first basketball game for an esports tournament.

Appleton, as a gamer, can navigate that landscape and capitalize on that for recruitment. He has dived into Discord, a text and voice communication platform specifically for gamers, and used it to seek out members for the new team. Through his efforts, he has pulled in fledging players from Texas and Canada and gotten them to commit to New England -- 12 total students have put down deposits for the college because of their interest in esports. And the institution is proffering esports scholarships -- which can be around $20,000 per academic year. The sticker price at New England is about $36,750 per year, not counting other fees or room and board.

Tryouts happened just recently (the college anticipates 100 hopefuls, with 20 to 40 making the team), and Appleton, who is black, said he is eager to find diverse students for his team.

He said that he’s weaving in a fitness component to his regiment.

His players will need to not only practice their clicking on a mouse and keyboard, but yoga and cardio.

“Forget the stereotype of being lazy or sitting on the couch,” Appleton said. “We’re going to rewrite that.”

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AAUP report says that Nunez CC fired a longtime professor of English when he asked too many questions about how it would meet reaccreditation requirements on assessment

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

Nunez Community College in Louisiana terminated a longtime professor over the phone with no due process, in apparent retaliation for speaking out on accreditation issues, says an investigative report by the American Association of University Professors.

The report sets the stage for the association to vote to censure Nunez for violations of academic freedom at its annual meeting later this year.

AAUP’s report concerns Richard Schmitt, a former associate professor of English at Nunez who taught there for 22 years. Schmitt didn’t have tenure because Nunez hasn’t offered it since 1999. But widely followed AAUP standards stipulate that full-time professors who have served their institutions well for seven years, or the typical tenure probationary period, should be afforded the due process protections that come with tenure -- even if the professor isn’t tenured.

Nunez did not respond to AAUP’s draft report when it received it, according to the association. The Louisiana Community and Technical College System, of which Nunez is part, declined comment on the circumstances surrounding Schmitt’s termination this week.

More generally, Quentin Taylor, system spokesperson, said, "We support anybody’s right to academic freedom and to express themselves however they see fit."

Taylor added, "We are moving forward with a new chancellor, and she decided to take the college in a different direction."

Schmitt’s troubles with his administration began last year when he served as program manager for general studies, around the same time that Tina Tinney became Nunez’s chancellor. In his new role, Schmitt was responsible for preparing reports on student learning outcomes for the college’s regional accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. This was especially significant because the commission determined that Nunez had failed to properly document student success rates and initiatives during reaccreditation the year prior, and imposed additional reporting measures on the college.

In January of last year, Schmitt reportedly received a newly designed form from the college on which to report “program student learning outcomes.” He says that he argued with another administrator involved in reaccreditation when she offered “suggestions” on how to alter a previous form, and that he told her he wouldn’t “fabricate” information.

The next month, Schmitt says, he sent an email to Tinney and other administrators complaining that documents he’d prepared for the commission’s monitoring report had been excluded from the package.

“I am left to conclude that either my work was so unsatisfactory that it did not merit a review or that there’s more going on behind these curtains than I am given access to, such that what I am producing with honesty and integrity does not suit our aims,” he wrote. “Can we garner a consistent view about what we want the [general studies] forms to read like? Does anything regarding what we want smack of unethical production? Am I the best person to perform this task, or am I a name to put on the forms?”

Tinney reportedly responded by saying she’d never asked anyone to fabricate data or otherwise endorsed dishonesty.

“I find this question offensive,” she reportedly wrote. “I have asked for commitment and dedication to the task but at no point suggested ‘unethical production,’ nor would [I] condone that approach.”

She concluded by accepting Schmitt’s earlier offer to resign as program manager, citing his “level of frustration with the process” and his “repeated erroneous interpretation” of the administration’s actions, according to the report.

Three weeks later, Schmitt says, he discovered that his name was still included in the report to the accreditation commission, with information he didn’t agree to include. He asked for his name to be removed, writing in an email to administrators that sought “neither credit nor accountability for reports that bear only [a] vague resemblance to the documents” he drafted.

Schmitt’s request was denied, he says. Then, in May, Tinney reportedly informed him in a conference call that his faculty appointment would not be renewed for the fall, citing a poor “fit.”

Tinney’s later letter confirming the decision reads, “As an ‘at-will’ employee who is an unclassified nontenured faculty employee, your contract is subject to renewal on an annual basis.” The letter does not include a reason for the decision.

Schmitt appealed, saying that the non-reappointment was about accreditation issues.

Tinney responded that Schmitt was an at-will employee who was not guaranteed reappointment.

“Serving as chancellor of Nunez makes it my responsibility to access [sic] all needs of the college when making decisions,” she reportedly wrote in her email to Schmitt. “That evaluative process resulted in my discretionary, unpleasant decision not to renew your contract for the 2018-2019 year. Non-reappointment is not a reflection of your work record or behavior. Nor does it diminish the past contributions you have made to the college. Your time and service to the college is appreciated.”

Schmitt filed a complaint with the accreditation commission about the material Nunez submitted, as well. But it responded that he’d provided “insufficient actionable evidence.”

The AAUP wrote to Tinney on behalf of Schmitt, who is now teaching at Prairie View A&M University. She responded that Schmitt always was an “at-will employee” and that there was “never any type of tenure, actual or implied, associated with his employment. As an at-will employee, he was totally free, as was the college as his employer, to end the employer-employee relationship at any time with or without cause.”

The AAUP responded, in turn, that “although the administration’s action may have accorded with the employee handbook, it did not accord with normative academic standards.”

It investigated the case in the New Orleans area in October, after the college said it was not under any obligation to participate in the association’s review. Just one additional, unidentified colleague agreed to meet with the AAUP committee.

Still, the investigating committee, chaired by Nicholas A. Fleisher, associate professor of linguistics at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, determined that it had enough evidence to finish its report -- and find that Nunez had “very plausibly” violated Schmitt’s academic freedom.

Tenure -- at least de facto tenure -- is also at issue in the case, according to the report, which says that the administration’s “abrupt termination of Schmitt’s appointment, without stated cause, after more than 20 years of service, was effected with gross disregard for the protections of academic due process to which he was entitled based on the length of his service.”

As for Nunez’s insistence that Schmitt was always an at-will employee, the AAUP’s report notes that the college’s own policies state that a “determination to reappoint, or not to reappoint, should be based upon a review by the dean of the division, and/or the vice chancellor for academic affairs, and/or the chancellor of the college of the specific conditions relating to the position.” Faculty members also should be given notice of “in advance of the expiration of the appointment.”

While it’s possible that Nunez did review Schmitt in this manner, he had no knowledge of it, the report notes.

Taylor, the college system’s spokesperson, said the accreditation commission’s own finding on Schmitt’s complaint “speaks for itself.” The commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment about this case.

What does Schmitt allege, exactly? The report says that he was responsible for providing student learning outcome data from certain years and that, “in many cases, the relevant outcomes apparently had not been tracked, with the result that the requisite data were missing.” And at “the heart of Schmitt’s dispute with the administration was his refusal to reconstruct those data from student academic performance in a manner that he perceived as tantamount to fabrication.”

Circumstantial evidence that the administration may have tried to “reconstruct the relevant data” comes from Schmitt, who says he saw a dean removing boxes of files from his office without his permission. That was after Schmitt fell out with the reaccreditation committee. But Schmitt said it “felt like breaking and entering.”

Whatever really happened with the data, AAUP’s report says, “In exercising his right to speak out critically on institutional matters with which he was directly involved, Schmitt appears to have incurred the displeasure of his administrative superiors.”

Fleisher, the investigating committee chair, said Monday that the U.S. professoriate is “increasingly contingent and off the tenure track, and this case shows one of the many problems that can arise as a result.”

Due process exists “not only to guarantee academic freedom and protect faculty from reprisal, but to protect institutions from the unwise decisions that administrators can make in its absence,” he added.

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Survey asks community college students to detail their challenges

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

Most community colleges are aware of the challenges students face if they are working, raising children or struggling to afford textbooks. But a newly released survey digs into the nuances of those challenges so colleges can pinpoint ways to lift barriers to college completion and prevent students from dropping out.

Researchers at North Carolina State University designed and encouraged students to participate in the Revealing Institutional Strengths and Challenges survey. The survey found that working and paying for expenses were the top two challenges community college students said impeded their academic success. The researchers surveyed nearly 6,000 two-year college students from 10 community colleges in California, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming in fall 2017 and 2018.

About 2,100 students said work was the largest challenge they faced, with 61 percent saying the number of hours they worked didn’t leave them enough time to study. About 50 percent of students reported their wages didn’t cover their expenses. Students also reported difficulty paying for living expenses, textbooks, tuition and childcare. Thirty percent of students reported difficulty balancing familial responsibilities with college, dealing with family members' and friends' health problems, and finding childcare. Among those who cited these personal problems, 11 percent said their family did not support them going to college.

“We’ve moved beyond the notion of satisfaction and engagement, which most student surveys tap into,” said Paul Umbach, a higher education professor at NC State and a co-author of the report. “We wanted to help campuses identify areas where they can move the needle on student success.”

Umbach and Steve Porter, also a professor of higher education at the university, said they noticed a dearth of surveys that asked students about the barriers they face to completing college and wanted to provide a tool that colleges could use to eliminate those barriers and boost graduation rates. The national survey is based on smaller surveys the community colleges used to glean information specific to students on their individual campuses. Each college receives the same survey but has the option to add 10 of its own questions for an additional fee. Umbach and Porter are hopeful more colleges will be interested in purchasing individualized surveys.

"We saw a gap among the surveys out there," Umbach said. "None are asking students directly about the challenges they face and the different strengths their colleges have related to student success."

The most well-known student survey is produced annually by the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. CCCSE's survey addresses student engagement, which can be an indication of whether students are learning.

But the CCCSE survey is much more than a student engagement tool; it has detailed information about the many barriers to college completion that students face. Those barriers include financial problems, being required to take costly and time-consuming non-credit-bearing remedial education courses, or only being able to attend part-time. These obstacles can discourage students from finishing college and prompt them to drop out, CCCSE executive director Evelyn Waiwaiole said.

The RISC survey isn't the first to ask such detailed questions of students. The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University has been encouraging students to identify their housing, food, transportation and financial insecurities, she said.

"I welcome any survey that is providing data to help colleges get better," Waiwaiole said. "We are about institutional improvement."

Kay McClenney, a senior adviser to the American Association of Community Colleges and former director of CCCSE, said the RISC survey identifies issues on a national scale that colleges have attempted to find on their own locally.

She said the work and financial challenges cited by students could be useful for colleges considering initiatives -- such as a plan to encourage more part-time students to attend full-time -- to help students succeed. A growing number of states have been experimenting with different types of financial incentives to encourage students to take more credits, which increases their likelihood of graduating.

“The practice of sharing with every student a full-time financial aid package and allowing them to make a more informed decision between whether to attend full-time or work at McDonald’s may make a difference,” she said.

Of the students surveyed, about 60 percent attend college full-time and 40 percent part-time. Nationally about 64 percent of community college students attend part-time.

Colleges and states should view the results as evidence that financial aid and social service policies don't necessarily help community college students succeed, said Katharine Broton, an assistant professor at the University of Iowa and a faculty affiliate with the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple.

“It’s clear that paying for college, juggling work and family responsibilities are academic issues critical to student success,” she said.

There are teaching and learning areas that could be improved, too, but equally important is ensuring students’ basic needs are met, Broton said

Porter and Umbach expected students to cite work responsibilities and finances as major barriers, but they were surprised by other challenges students identified.

“The biggest surprise we had was parking,” Porter said. “This is a big issue for them because of personal schedules or work schedules.”

He said many students don't have the luxury of being able to arrive on campus an hour early to look for available parking spaces, only to end up late for class or for exams.

Nearly 1,300 students identified parking as a challenge, with 86 percent reporting they have a difficult time finding parking near or on their college campuses. Only 10 percent said parking near their campus is too expensive.

Another surprise was the 1,300 students who identified online classes as a challenge. Fifty-three percent of them reported difficulties with learning online, and 44 percent said the lack of interaction with faculty is a problem. Nearly 40 percent of students said they had problems keeping up because their online courses didn’t have regular class times.

“Throwing courses online with no real interaction is a recipe for disaster,” Phil Hill, an education technology consultant and co-founder of Mindwires Consulting, said in an email. “Not providing online community college students with proactive advising and support services is also a big problem.”

Hill said the California Community College System's Online Education Initiative, which he worked on as a consultant, is a good example of a well-designed online learning system. It helped close the gap between the rate of students successfully completing traditional courses and online classes from 17 percent in 2006 to 4 percent in 2016.

“Online education can work for community college students and is an important part of student access, but there are no silver bullets,” Hill said.

Despite the challenges cited by the students surveyed, they had positive opinions about their colleges that indicated that two-year institutions are doing well over all. Ninety-five percent of students reported they would recommend their college to a friend. About 50 percent of students said their college is worth more than what they're paying, and 48 percent reported their institution had a fair value.

“They do see a better life for themselves, and they have an overriding optimism about the potential of college,” said Lauren Walizer, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Law and Social Policy, adding that the survey confirmed much of the work CLASP has done in identifying challenges two-year college students face. She noted, however, that optimism is not always enough to carry students to the finish line.

State funding of community colleges is another contributing factor to students' academic outcomes. State governments often underfund community colleges, which limits the resources and support services they can offer students, Umbach said.

A report released last year by the Century Foundation found that states spend less on community colleges, which enroll high numbers of disadvantaged students, than on public four-year institutions. Educational spending per public four-year college student increased by 16 percent between 2003 and 2013, while per-student community college funding increased by just 4 percent, according to the report.

“Community colleges are already underfunded, and they are limited in many ways and don’t have the resources to do more,” Walizer said. “Inadequate funding at public institutions is generally a big problem. But with more funding, they could offer more classes at more times and have the resources to pay professors.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Science output grows fiftyfold but quality questionable

University World News - February 12, 2019 - 5:34pm
Iran's annual rate of publication in scientific journals has surged fiftyfold over the past two decades - outpacing the global expansion of scientific publication, which increased threefold over t ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Top US research universities freeze ties with Huawei

University World News - February 11, 2019 - 11:41pm
Top research universities in the United States have been reviewing their research ties with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei after repeated warnings from the United States administration about allege ...
Categories: Higher Education News

Linfield College is moving forward with a plan to cut its faculty -- apparently with or without professors' input

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

Linfield College is planning to cut faculty members as it rethinks how it does business in a time of declining enrollment.

But some faculty members at the Oregon institution worry the process and timeline for the initiative thus far suggest disaster.

“There is a financial crisis in the sense that the budget is unbalanced. But it is going to be balanced by sending 25 tenured and tenure-track faculty to the chopping block?” said a professor of humanities who did not want to be named, for fear of losing his job. “Are there lots of other measures that could be taken to make up the deficit? Yes.”

Linfield maintains that it has not yet decided how many faculty members have to go, even though the Faculty Executive Committee reported that that figure was mentioned during a private meeting with President Miles K. Davis. But the college recently confirmed that it will cut faculty positions through an academic prioritization process. The college has relatively few non-tenure-line positions, so it's likely that those cut will be tenured or tenure track.

The announcement comes as the faculty resist participating in a culling process -- one faculty leaders have said they were initially asked to complete within a week. 

Linfield also says that it already has done all it can to shave costs, except for laying off professors.

“This is a pivotal time in our history, as in higher education overall,” Davis wrote in a campus memo explaining that Linfield is 92 percent tuition- and fee-dependent and that enrollment has fallen from 1,600 students to 1,240 in recent years. Over the past four years in particular, he said, Linfield has eliminated administrative and staff positions, frozen hiring, kept general salaries flat, reduced retirement benefits and capital spending, offered early retirements, and increased tuition. 

“Unfortunately,” said Davis, a former business dean who started at Linfield in July, such steps “do not fully address the underlying shift in enrollment patterns at Linfield College. We now find ourselves at a point where we must both meet present challenges and position Linfield for growth.”

The college has even made one-time transactions, such as the sale of property, Davis added. But Davis’s letter does not note that Linfield purchased a 20-acre new campus in Portland for its nursing program in the fall for $14.5 million. The University of Western States, the property’s former owner, plans to lease back the campus until 2020 as it looks for a new location.

Linfield’s most popular major is nursing, and the 72-seat-per-semester program is full in its current home at Portland’s Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center.

But faculty members say that the college’s financial rhetoric doesn’t square with such a big purchase. They also point out that Linfield’s nursing reputation -- at least for majors who begin their undergraduate studies at Linfield -- is grounded in strong general academics for the first two years. Nursing applicants must have taken at least eight semester credits of lab science courses, for example, and the program markets itself as rich in both skills- and values-based training. For many professors, the values part of the equation speaks to the liberal arts.

“This is not the sign of a campus moving toward financial exigency,” said Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt, professor of English. Noting that the college’s Board of Trustees also recently approved an extra $5 million annual expenditure for growth, Dutt-Ballerstadt asked, “Why don’t we enhance the programs we already have?”

That November board resolution recommends preserving Linfield’s “core strengths, including the heart of its liberal arts education,” and focusing “available resources on those programs and disciplines that are most likely to be able to grow in enrollment.”

Linfield’s endowment was about $114 million in 2017. Its operating budget was $62.5 million in 2017-18.

Professors also point out that the nursing campus transaction was made without talking to the faculty. That’s not unusual for an institution buying real estate -- especially as Davis called the deal a “once-in-a-century opportunity.” But the lack of consultation fits into what professors see as a larger abandonment of shared governance.

Members of the Faculty Executive Committee, for example, wrote in a December email to professors that they had met with Davis and been told 20 to 25 faculty positions would be eliminated to reduce the budget deficit by about $2.8 million, accounting for most of the approximately $3 million projected deficit. Davis said he was open to closing entire departments or laying off individual professors, according to the faculty account of the meeting. And he allegedly said on Dec. 7 that the cuts would need to be made by Dec. 15 to satisfy Faculty Handbook requirements about reappointment notifications.

“That was the first we had ever heard of this deadline,” the faculty email said. “Faculty were asked two main questions: 1. Do the faculty want to participate in choosing the 20-25 positions to be eliminated? 2. Do the faculty want an extension on helping make these decisions until January? Note that faculty would have to request this extension, violating the language of our handbook.”

The faculty representatives said that they were given an afternoon to decide and voted to extend the deadline. Davis called off the Dec. 15 timeline and said that a committee would be formed within a week.

“We now have a choice if we want to populate the committee, participate in the process, and thereby violate our own handbook … or simply refuse to participate until further budgetary options have been considered,” the faculty leaders said. “It is clear that if faculty do not participate in this process, decisions on cuts will be made unilaterally by the administration.”

The executive committee chair did not respond to requests for comment.

But other professors said that the faculty has decided it won’t participate in a retrenchment committee. The faculty is planning an on-campus retreat for later this month to discuss the challenges facing small colleges and what other institutions have done to address them.

Susan Agre-Kippenhan, provost, has urged faculty participation and said that the institution is being as transparent as possible. She said in a December interview that “we’d love to have a faculty that can be part of discussions about restructuring. Our hope is that faculty will share really good ideas about what that means.”

Asked about faculty concerns about the future of the liberal arts, Agre-Kippenhan said the comprehensive institution is “committed at heart.”

Davis said in his most recent email to the faculty that Linfield would proceed with faculty cuts through an academic prioritization process. On faculty participation, he said, “We seek to involve the faculty not only because it is the fair and ethical thing to do, but because it would produce better decisions with us working together.”

At minimum, Davis added, “shared governance requires the involvement of faculty in matters that impact the curriculum. I would extend that to include the idea that shared governance comes with shared responsibility and accountability when tough decisions have to be made regarding academic programs.”

Sharon Bailey Glasco, associate professor of history and president of Linfield’s American Association of University Professors advocacy chapter, did not respond to a request for comment. But she and the chapter’s vice president wrote in open letter last week that as Linfield “navigates its current enrollment challenges, we believe that it is critical to prioritize students. Our goal should be to continue to offer them an excellent education provided by the highest quality faculty members. For this to happen, we need to abide by the principles of shared governance, protect academic freedom and tenure, and defend our liberal arts core.”

Going forward, the letter says, “we encourage everyone in our community to continue to ask questions, seek facts, and listen to diverse perspectives. Seek evidence for claims made, and be careful to not buy into divisive rhetoric. We all need to work together to solve our current challenges and build an even brighter future for Linfield.”

The faculty member who did not want to be named said Linfield’s moves so far remind him of the College of St. Rose’s in 2015. The administration there eliminated 23 tenured and tenure-track faculty members outside its shared governance channels and without declaring financial exigency and was censured by the national AAUP.

According to widely followed AAUP standards that are included in Linfield's Faculty Handbook, tenured faculty members in good standing only may be terminated due to true financial exigency or faculty-backed curricular changes. At Linfield, those changes would have to be approved by the Faculty Assembly's Curriculum Committee.

A petition of support for Linfield's faculty has been signed by scores of professors on other campuses.

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Scandals over Virginia politicians have come to involve academics and institutions beyond the state

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

The scandals involving Virginia's political leaders are attracting the involvement and attention of academics nationwide and setting off new debates over racist histories, sexual assault and more.

The furor started over the admission by Virginia governor Ralph Northam that he had worn blackface in the past. But as more reports of blackface and racist photographs linked to politicians' college days surface, so have allegations that Virginia's lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, committed sexual assault. One of his accusers is a professor at Scripps College, currently on a fellowship at Stanford University, who has been a prominent figure in academic discussions of sexual violence. A second woman has now come forward, saying that Fairfax raped her when they were both students at Duke University and that a Duke official did nothing when she reported this at the time.

Meanwhile, more colleges are confronting images of blackface and other forms of bigotry in yearbooks, many of them after colleges theoretically started to welcome black students.

Backing in Academe for Fairfax’s First Accuser

Recent days have seen hundreds of political scientists rally behind Vanessa Tyson, the Scripps professor who first came forward with a public accusation about Fairfax. She says that he assaulted her in 2004, when they both were in Boston at the Democratic National Convention. (Fairfax has repeatedly denied this accusation.)

Hundreds of professors have signed a statement drafted by the Women's Caucus for Political Science and #MeTooPoliSci.

Tyson "is known throughout the discipline for her willingness to stand up on behalf of the vulnerable, including early-career women, LGBTQ scholars, and scholars of color, and she has spent many years advocating for survivors of sexual violence," the statement says.

The statement added that "we write as political scientists to remind those listening that the status quo favors power and privilege. In addition to being political scientists, many of us are also scholars of the politics of race, gender, and sexuality, and as such, we recognize the all-too-familiar tropes that are being deployed to try to shame, silence, and delegitimize Dr. Tyson."

The statement also said, "As scholars we also know that decades of empirical evidence make clear that problems with reporting sexual violence are ones of under-reporting, not of fabrication, and that rates of reporting are particularly low for women of color. This evidence makes clear as well that people who report sexual assault stand to gain nothing and, in fact, risk a great deal. Vanessa has fought hard to carve out a career as a woman of color in academia. She has been incredibly successful, not only in terms of her external successes -- as a tenured faculty member and the author of an important book -- but more importantly, on her own terms. She has served as a mentor to many junior scholars and made a name for herself as what Representative Shirley Chisholm described so evocatively as an 'unbought and unbossed' person. Such a woman would not risk her career and reputation for anything less than a grave injustice. We therefore trust her when she says that a grave injustice has been committed."

Allegations About Incidents at Duke

Then on Friday, another woman, Meredith Watson, came forward with a statement saying that Fairfax raped her in 2000 when they were both undergraduates at Duke. She said she came forward in part because of the way Fairfax was questioning the account of Tyson. Watson said that she saw similarities in what Tyson described and the way Fairfax treated her. (Fairfax has denied this allegation as well.)

Further, Watson issued a second statement in which she said that Fairfax had revealed that she had been a rape victim, separate and apart from her accusation about what Fairfax did to her.

In the second statement, Watson's lawyer said in part, "We have heard from numerous press sources that in response to Meredith Watson revealing that Justin Fairfax raped her when she was a student at Duke, Mr. Fairfax has chosen to attack his victim again, now smearing her with the typical 'she’s nuts' defense. He revealed that Ms. Watson was the victim of a prior rape. That is true. Ms. Watson was raped by a basketball player during her sophomore year at Duke. She went to the dean, who provided no help and discouraged her from pursuing the claim further. Ms. Watson also told friends, including Justin Fairfax. Mr. Fairfax then used this prior assault against Ms. Watson, as he explained to her during the only encounter she had with him after the rape. She left a campus party when he arrived, and he followed her out. She turned and asked: 'Why did you do it?' Mr. Fairfax answered: 'I knew that because of what happened to you last year, you’d be too afraid to say anything.' Mr. Fairfax actually used the prior rape of his 'friend' against her when he chose to rape her in a premeditated way. Like he is smearing Dr. Vanessa Tyson, Mr. Fairfax is now smearing Ms. Watson."

The statement did not identify the basketball player or the dean to whom Watson said she reported that she had been raped.

A Duke spokesman, via email, said, "We first learned of these allegations last night. The university is looking into the matter and will have no further comment at this time."

Until recently, Fairfax served on the Board of Visitors of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke. He no longer appears on the website listing members of that body.

Judith Kelley, dean at Sanford, sent out an email to those affiliated with the school that said, "I am writing to let you know that Justin Fairfax will be asked to step down from the Sanford School Board of Visitors pending the resolution of the serious and deeply distressing allegations that have been made against him. Sexual assault is abhorrent and unfortunately can occur right around us. I urge everyone to take survivors of sexual assault seriously, and to help build an environment that is safe and supportive for everyone."

More Blackface in More Yearbooks

The scandals in Virginia started with the news that Governor Northam's medical school yearbook featured a photograph (on his page) of one person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe. Northam initially acknowledged being one of the two (he did not say which one). He then denied being in the photograph, but admitted to having worn blackface on another occasion.

Students following the Virginia controversies have been looking at yearbooks at their institutions, and many are reporting that they are finding blackface and other racist images.

One of the institutions confronting these reports is the University of Maryland at College Park:

Found this in a UMD yearbook a few years ago pic.twitter.com/otUIjt66H5

— Benjamin Bryer (@bbryer18) February 8, 2019

Wallace Loh, president of the university, responded to the students posting the images with a tweet that said, "The images of blackface found in past UMD yearbooks are profoundly hurtful and distressing. Traditions like this reflect a history of racial prejudice and do not convey what we seek to embody today."

Other universities facing reports about blackface images include George Washington University and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Wake Forest University announced that a review of old issues of The Howler, the yearbook there, found lynching references, racial slurs and photographs of students in blackface.

Nathan O. Hatch, the president, said in a statement that, as a historian, he was disheartened but not surprised by what was found. “Wearing blackface is racist and offensive -- then and now,” Hatch said. “The behavior in these images does not represent the inclusive university we aspire to be.”

While some educators and politicians have been unequivocal in condemning the use of blackface, past or present, others have not been.

In Mississippi, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves (a likely gubernatorial candidate) has been asked about photographs of a 1994 Kappa Alpha party at Millsaps College. He was a member of the fraternity at the time, and photographs as well as reports about the party indicate students were wearing Afro wigs and appearing in blackface.

Reeves declined to talk to The Clarion Ledger about the photographs, but a spokeswoman released this statement: "As a quick Google search will show, Lieut. Gov. Reeves was a member of Kappa Alpha Order. Like every other college student, he did attend costume formals and other parties, and across America, Kappa Alpha’s costume formal is traditionally called Old South in honor of the Civil War veteran who founded the fraternity in the 1800s."

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Categories: Higher Education News