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Report finds student loans make up growing share of severely delinquent debt

August 16, 2019 - 5:00pm

The New York Fed this week presented an unsettling picture of how student loans stack up to other household debt.

Defaulted student loans have surpassed all other types of household debt classified as "severely derogatory," including mortgage and credit card debt, according to a report from New York Fed researchers.

Fed researchers defined severely derogatory debt as any kind of delinquent loan combined with a repossession, foreclosure, or charge off. The proportion of debt falling into that category in U.S. households has stayed fairly consistent for the past four years. But defaulted student loans now make up 35 percent of that debt.

Auto loans are the only type of severely delinquent debt to see the same growth in recent years, but they trail student loans in the severely delinquent category.

That trend though is not entirely shocking, said Colleen Campbell, director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress.

"Student debt is fundamentally different from other types of debt," she said.

Because other types of household debt are underwritten -- meaning they assess the creditworthiness of borrowers before making a loan -- those markets have tightened since the Great Recession. But the federal government has continued to lend to student borrowers at roughly similar rates because student loans work like an entitlement benefit.

Other key differences separate student debt from other kinds of household debt. Homes and cars can be repossessed by lenders and the debt charged off. When a student loan borrower becomes delinquent, interest on their loan continues to accrue and their balances grow.

The surge in college enrollment during the Recession, when many people out of work sought new skills to boost their chances of employment, has also likely contributed to the growth in delinquent and defaulted loans in recent years, Campbell said.

"We're getting to a point now, several years out from the recession, where we're going to see peak defaulting by borrowers from that period," she said.

Other consumer advocates say student debt delinquencies have been exacerbated by the failures of actors like student loan servicers.

"My main reaction to this data is that it confirms what advocates in the student borrower advocacy community have been saying for a long time: that student debt has hit crisis levels in the U.S.," said Alexis Goldstein, senior policy analyst at Americans for Financial Reform.

Unlike mortgage lending, she said, there is no industry-wide framework at the federal level to regulate student loans. Goldstein said the findings of the New York Fed report underscored the need for state lawmakers to pass student borrower bill of rights legislation.

A growing number of states this year have passed legislation adding new oversight of student loan companies, although Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said only the federal government has the authority to regulate the student loan program and the industry says such measures don't address the fundamental challenges with student debt.

Sandy Baum, a nonresident senior fellow at the Urban Institute, said it's likely that many student borrowers hold other types of loans and that they would prioritize that debt.

"Until you really analyze who are those people who hold other debts, what they owe, what did they spend their money on, I don't think it makes a ton of sense to say 'oh my god, it's student debt that's the problem,'" she said.

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Legal questions raised over links to Sci-Hub

August 16, 2019 - 5:00pm

There is little dispute that Sci-Hub, the website that provides free access to millions of proprietary academic papers, is illegal. Yet, despite being successfully sued twice by major American academic publishers for massive copyright infringement, the site continues to operate.

Some academics talk openly about their use of the repository -- a small number even publicly thank Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan for her contribution to their research. Most academics who use the site, however, choose to do so discreetly, seemingly aware that drawing attention to their activities might be unwise.

Just how careful academics should be about using Sci-Hub has become a topic of concern in recent weeks, with many questioning whether sharing links to Sci-Hub could in itself be considered illegal.

1/12 So something not-fantastic happened yesterday.
I received an email from a lawyer at @twobirds, @moniquewadsted, on behalf of @ElsevierConnect regarding my blog post about where to download research papers and scientific articles for free. https://t.co/Bf3H19RZ14

-- Citationsy (@citationsy) July 31, 2019

The discussion started when the team behind Citationsy, a bibliography management tool based in Europe, tweeted that lawyers for Elsevier, a major publisher of academic journals, had threatened to pursue legal action if Citationsy did not remove a link to Sci-Hub from Citationsy's website. The link formed part of a blog post titled "Hacking Education: Download Research Papers and Scientific Articles for Free."

Citationsy's team removed the offending link. But they questioned whether the link was really illegal. They noted that there are plenty of links to Sci-Hub online, including on websites such as Wikipedia.

But does sharing information via links, as academics routinely do, really constitute complicity in Sci-Hub's flagrant disregard for the law?

Whether linking to materials that violate copyright law "is or is not a copyright violation" doesn't have a straightforward answer, said Martin Paul Eve, professor of literature, technology and publishing at Birkbeck, University of London.

"There are divergent legal views in different jurisdictions as to what constitutes infringement," he said.

Writing about the Citationsy news on his blog, Eve shared links to Sci-Hub he had found published within Elsevier's own journals.

"I would suggest that before throwing stones, Elsevier may wish to get its own glasshouse in order," he wrote.

Tom Reller, Elsevier's spokesman, said the links in question were in a very small number of articles.

"We've known about this for several months and had already started alerting authors to our efforts to change the links back to the version of record," he said. "We have implemented checks in our production process and are adding a few more to better prevent this."

Linking to infringing materials in the U.S. "is a bit of a gray area as far as specific case law is concerned," said Trotter Hardy, professor of law, emeritus, at the William and Mary School of Law in Virginia.

"It's pretty clear that linking to lawful, copyrighted material is not in itself an infringement," he said. "But it's less clear that linking to infringing material might itself be infringement."

It is usually considered unlawful for one person to support another's wrongdoing. In criminal law, this is known as "aiding and abetting," but these terms are not used in copyright law, said Hardy.

"We use 'contributory' and 'vicarious' infringement to mean more or less the same thing," he said.

Contributory infringement is found when a defendant "knows of the ultimate infringement (or should know) and does something that induces or materially contributes to that infringement," said Hardy. Vicarious infringement is found when a defendant "had the right and ability to supervise the ultimate infringer and stood to gain financially from the infringement."

In instances of academics linking to Sci-Hub, it is more likely to be a question of contributory infringement than vicarious infringement, said Hardy. So could linking to Sci-Hub be considered contributory infringement? Hardy thinks yes.

If a defendant knows that Sci-Hub, or material on it, is illegal, then they have the requisite knowledge. The question then becomes whether they "induced" or "materially contributed" to someone's infringement, said Hardy.

It's possible to argue that users would have found the infringing materials on their own. But linking to them does make it easier and quicker to find them -- something that Hardy would consider a "material" contribution to the infringement.

"Courts might differ regarding any of the above, of course, but that's my thinking."

Mitch Stoltz, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, sees the matter slightly differently. Laws in Europe, where Citationsy is based, are stricter than in the U.S. But here, it is "largely settled that linking to something is not copyright infringement," he said.

Links are the language of the internet, the way information is shared, and people shouldn't be punished for doing this, said Stoltz.

"If you're saying, 'Here's a site that lets you get a bunch of illegal, infringing materials for free, I really recommend you go here.' That's when you're encouraging people to infringe copyright," said Stoltz. "Providing the link in a way that doesn't show a preference is ok. And that's really important. The papers on Sci-Hub are not contraband. It's not like child pornography that is illegal to possess."

Kyle Courtney, copyright advisor at Harvard University, said he has received around 20 inquiries from colleagues about this issue in recent weeks. He said it had "not previously occurred" to him that linking to Sci-Hub might be considered illegal.

Courtney advises caution when dealing with the site in any capacity.

"Cracking down on links could be another way for publishers to try and trim the influence of Sci-Hub, which courts have generally agreed is illicit," he said.

Tomas Lipinski, dean of the school of information studies at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, said that academics sharing links to Sci-Hub, should "be aware that much of the material on the site is suspect."

But he noted that not all content on the site is infringing. "It all depends on the contract between the author and the publisher," he said.

"Don't be afraid to link to things," said Lipinski. "But if you have a reasonable suspicion that the material you are linking to is infringing copyright, look for an alternative resource. Do the gut test -- If something doesn't seem right, don't use it."

Lipinski said it's generally wise to heed a notice to take down a link. But he also believes there is a risk that academics, who "generally want to do the right thing and are risk-averse," might "err too much on the side of caution," by unnecessarily removing content. 

He and the other experts agree it's unlikely that publishers would pursue individuals for linking to Sci-Hub.

"Which publisher wants to be the one to sue a researcher for infringing?" asked Eve. "The optics of a multi-billion dollar company suing a researcher who gives them research material for free are terrible."

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Categories: Higher Education News

House bill pushes more transparency for student borrowers

August 16, 2019 - 5:00pm

Rep. Donna Shalala, a Florida Democrat and former university president, has spent much of her first year in Congress seeking tougher federal standards on for-profit colleges, an issue that has divided members of Congress along partisan lines.

Thursday, though, she released a bill along with one of President Trump's favorite lawmakers, Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz.

The bipartisan bill would push more regular disclosures to student borrowers during the lifetime of their loan, including when they are still in college. The legislation is the latest evidence that while Democrats and Republicans are split on many major higher ed issues, transparency still has broad bipartisan support.

The Shalala bill would require that students receive monthly notifications about projected payments after graduation as well as descriptions of costs like origination fees. It would also require that borrowers have the option to make payments toward their loans while in college.

"The goal is to give student borrowers the necessary tools and information they need to manage financial aid and personal finances while in school," Shalala, a former president of the University of Miami and of Hunter College and a former chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a statement.

Gaetz said more transparency on borrowers' loan debt "will improve financial literacy and will also help borrowers understand the financial commitments they are making."

The bill's co-sponsors include Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican; Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat; Rep. Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat; and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Washington Republican.

The Department of Education's Office of Federal Student Aid has undertaken its own student disclosure initiatives during the Trump administration. The FSA last year rolled out a student aid mobile app that would allow students to track their loan debt and see estimates of potential monthly payments after graduation. Students would also be able to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid on the app and compare financial aid offers from multiple colleges.

A. Wayne Johnson, FSA's chief strategy and transformation officer, has said the app would make financial aid tools more accessible to borrowers beginning when their award is disbursed.

Democratic and GOP lawmakers have also pushed legislation for more transparency on college outcomes. The College Transparency Act, which would create a federal student data system tracking measures like graduation rates and loan repayment at the college and program level, is likely to figure into an overhaul of the Higher Education Act.

Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, said in a letter to lawmakers that passage of the Shalala bill would be "an important step forward in addressing the student debt crisis" by helping borrowers understand the financial commitment of student loan debt.

Advocates for college students, though, said more disclosures alone won't move the needle for struggling borrowers seriously.

"It's obvious to pretty much everyone that borrowers are confused by their loans -- but unfortunately, monthly disclosures just aren't a cure for the larger disease here, which is a complex, unnavigable, Byzantine repayment system," said Clare McCann, deputy director for federal higher education policy at New America's higher education initiative and a former Education Department official.

Colleen Campbell, director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said it's critical for borrowers to have clear information about their debt, but disclosure won't solve the problems with the federal student loan system.

"We need fundamental changes to the structure of these programs," she said.

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Students and university-educated young people play central role in Hong Kong protests

August 16, 2019 - 5:00pm

Young, university-educated people are at the center of the unfolding struggle in Hong Kong, where protesters temporarily shut the airport earlier this week in the latest development in a summer of protests set off by widespread opposition to a bill that would allow extradition to mainland China.

A survey of participants at 12 different protest actions that garnered a total of 6,688 responses found that the majority of protesters are between the ages of 20 and 29 and have completed a higher education. Across the different protests, the proportion of university-educated participants ranged from 68.2 percent to more than 80 percent.

The survey, conducted by a group of academics based at four different Hong Kong universities, found that the two most important motivations of the protesters were "calling for the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill" (it was suspended, but not withdrawn, in June) and "expressing dissatisfaction with the police's handling of the protest."

Striving for democracy for Hong Kong -- a semiautonomous region of China with its own legal system under the "one country, two systems" principle -- emerged as a key motivation for protesters in July.

Most of the protests have been on the streets and -- save for two separate protest actions at the University of Hong Kong and Lingnan University -- campuses have been "rather quiet," said Samson Yuen, an assistant professor of political science at Lingnan and one of the academics who surveyed protest participants.

Yet Yuen said "student unions and societies have been deeply involved."

"Student activism before this protest was actually on the decline, after the 'dissolution' of the Hong Kong Federation of Students in 2016, when students from four universities respectively voted to quit the alliance. The anti-ELAB protests thus also saw a revival in student activism --- but in a more decentralized manner."

The character of student involvement contrasts somewhat with the 2014 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, when professors and students were among the most visible leaders of what became known as the Umbrella Movement. This summer's protests have been largely leaderless.

"During the Umbrella Movement in 2014, student organizations -- particularly the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism -- were truly at the forefront," said Denise Y. Ho, an assistant professor of history at Yale University and an expert on modern China. "Since then, student organizations have faced numerous challenges. The Hong Kong Federation of Students has been reduced after a number of universities chose to disaffiliate. Some of the professors and student leaders faced imprisonment, and others have moved on to other pursuits. On individual campuses, some university-level organizations have seen an increasing localist tendency, fracturing campus politics. It's important to understand this wider context when we consider this summer."

She continued: "Certainly, in the present moment students and young people are still at the forefront, but the center of gravity has changed. It is no longer the campus or traditional forms of association, like a student union. Instead, the movement has gone digital in ways that the aftermath of 2014 conditioned. That is, in order to protect participants and be more flexible, protesters are innovating new strategies and tactics. Thus we have something very new: on the one hand, protesters are more atomized and anonymous, but on the other hand, they are more committed and more united than ever before."

"There's been a self-conscious effort to make this less of a leader-focused movement, and one of the reasons for that is that after the Umbrella Movement the police went after the leading spokespeople for the movement," said Jeffrey Wasserstrom, the Chancellor's Professor and a historian at the University of California, Irvine, who studies protests in contemporary China.

Prominent student leaders of the Umbrella Movement, most notably Joshua Wong, served jail time. Two professors who played key organizing roles, Chan Kin-man, a retired associate professor of sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Benny Tai, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, were convicted in April on public nuisance charges related to the 2014 protests and sentenced to 16 months in jail.

Tai was released on bail on Thursday pending his appeal. Close to 500 scholars worldwide have signed an open letter to the University of Hong Kong calling on the university to protect Tai against "politically motivated dismissal or other disciplinary measures."

"As one of Hong Kong's most important centers of free thought and inquiry, HKU has long supported the values civil disobedience seeks to defend and promote," the open letter states. "Any move to dismiss an academic as a result of a conviction arising from peaceful advocacy could cause irreparable harm to the stature of the University as a champion of independent thought."

"There's a fear that I have that the university might reflect in microcosm what Hong Kong as a whole seems to be experiencing in macrocosm," said Terence C. Halliday, an organizer of the open letter and a legal scholar and research professor at the American Bar Foundation who also has affiliations with Australian National University and Northwestern University. "It seems over the last several years there has been a slow, bit-by-bit erosion of some of the fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong's society. Is the Hong Kong administration or indeed Beijing seeking to do with the university what it seems to be doing with Hong Kong as a whole?"

An HKU spokesperson said in a statement that the university "would like to thank all those who have signed the open letter for their concerns and interest in the University of Hong Kong. The University fully recognizes that teachers have good cause protection regarding their appointments, and we have every intention to uphold obligations and duties in such matters. In light of the Court's verdict and sentence in Mr. Benny Tai's case, the University is following up in accordance with the procedures stipulated in the University of Hong Kong Ordinance and Rules and Regulations.

"The University handles staff matters in a stringent and impartial manner in accordance with its due procedures. In view of the confidentiality of personal information involved and the need to ensure the integrity of the process, the University will not make further comments concerning the case."

Meanwhile, the tensions over the future of Hong Kong have spilled onto campuses in Australia and New Zealand, where students supporting the Chinese Communist Party have clashed -- sometimes violently -- with supporters of the Hong Kong protesters. According to The New York Times, about 300 Chinese nationalists interrupted pro-Hong Kong democracy rallies at the University of Queensland, and a video from the incident shows a student from Hong Kong being grabbed by the throat. Another video of a confrontation at the University of Auckland shows three Chinese men shouting down students from Hong Kong at a rally and pushing a young woman to the ground.

"Lennon Walls" containing messages of support for the Hong Kong protesters have been reported vandalized on a number of campuses. It remains to be seen how these tensions over the future of Hong Kong may play out on American campuses -- where Chinese students make up the single largest group of international students -- when the academic year starts.

Wasserstrom, the UC Irvine historian, said a notable feature of this summer's protests has been the organization of rallies for specific occupational and social groups -- protests for lawyers, for example, and for mothers. Still, he said, "the driving force of it is young people, many of them are students, who are particularly passionate about the future of the city they love. They're the people who are going to live longest in the city after 2047 when it's supposed to be fully integrated into the P.R.C.," under the terms of the 1997 handover agreement transferring control of Hong Kong, a former British colony, to the People's Republic of China.

"They have the most stake in this."

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Former Hofstra tennis coach accused of sexual harassment can sue, appeals court finds

August 16, 2019 - 5:00pm

A former Hofstra University tennis coach who was fired after being accused of sexually harassing a team athlete will be allowed to sue the university, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday.

The coach had alleged, in a lawsuit dismissed by a lower court, that he was fired in September 2016 because Hofstra was under public pressure to respond to sexual misconduct on campus, particularly by men. He sued the university in 2017. The ruling now allows the lawsuit to go forward.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found that the firing of coach Jeffrey Menaker could constitute sex discrimination and violate the federal employment law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, U.S. Circuit Court, Judge José A. Cabranes wrote in the ruling. The judge drew comparisons between Menaker's case and how universities were pressured to reduce campus sexual assaults after the Obama administration released new guidance in 2011 on how colleges should adjudicate assault cases under the federal law barring sex discrimination, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. At that time, the administration was intent on cracking down on sexual assaults, many of which were carried out by men. Universities that flouted the law or ignored the guidance by not investigating cases and sanctioning those determined to be involved in sexual misconduct, could lose their federal funding.

Judge Cabranes noted that the guidance "ushered in a more rigorous approach to campus sexual misconduct allegations."

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded the guidance nearly two years ago.

Hofstra, a private institution in New York, was already under investigation by the Obama administration's Education Department, prior to Menaker's firing, for potentially mishandling sexual misconduct claims and not responding forcefully to sexual violence on the campus. This may have given Hofstra the rationale to fire Menaker without following the university's formal processes for terminating employees, Cabranes indicated in the opinion.

The opinion means that the lawsuit will be heard by the lower district court.]

Michal Kaplan, a former player on the women's team, had told Menaker in April 2016 that his predecessor had promised Kaplan, then a first-year student, a full scholarship in her sophomore year. Only about half of her tuition was covered under her scholarship at the time.

Menaker said in the complaint that he could not find any record of this agreement, but told Kaplan she would be given a full scholarship in her junior and senior years. Menaker contends that he received a phone call the following month from Kaplan's irate father, who threatened that trouble would "come back to" Menaker if Kaplan didn't receive a full scholarship.

Kaplan's lawyers later sent a letter to the university accusing Menaker of "unwanted and unwarranted sexual harassment" and alleging that Menaker threatened to revoke Kaplan's scholarship and position on the team after she rejected his advances. The letter also accused Menaker of being obsessed with Kaplan's menstrual cycle and of instructing the tennis players to "dress nice" and "shave their legs."

Menaker denied all the allegations. He met with Hofstra administrators, who said they would investigate the letter's claims. Menaker gave university officials records of all his communication with Kaplan and recommended the names of other athletes he thought officials should interview. According to Menaker's complaint, one administrator allegedly told him that he believed the complaint against him was a ploy by Kaplan's parents.

The university did not follow up with the athletes Menaker suggested investigators interview, or follow its own policies for firing an employee, the lawsuit states.

The university successfully got the suit dismissed from district court, but Cabranes wrote that the lower court had misinterpreted a Title IX case on which Menaker based the arguments in his lawsuit. In that case, Doe v. Columbia University, a male student at Columbia accused of sexual assault alleged that his suspension was motivated by an "atmosphere of public pressure demanding that the university react more swiftly and severely to female complaints of sexual assault against males."

Cabranes wrote that the district court was too limiting in the application of that case. Just because Menaker is not a student, and the alleged misbehavior was sexual harassment and not sexual assault, doesn't mean the same principles in the case don't apply. Criticism of the university's response to sexual assault also doesn't have to reach a "crescendo" for officials to feel public pressure, Cabranes noted.

"We decline to adopt each of the District Court's proposed limitations on Doe v. Columbia," Cabranes wrote. "The logic of that precedent applies to both students and employees, to accusations of sexual harassment as well as sexual assault, and it does not rely on a particular quantum of criticism at a specific university."

Menaker also noted in his initial lawsuit that the university had failed to interview potential witnesses and that an official knew at least one allegation against him was false. He also never received a report that he said he was promised detailing the investigation.

Jill Rosenberg, Hofstra's legal counsel, provided a written statement on the university's behalf:

"The Second Circuit has ruled that the complaint should not be dismissed at this early stage of the case, but we are confident that Hofstra's actions and decisions will be upheld once the merits of this matter are considered in the lower court. We look forward to demonstrating there was no discrimination in the university's actions."

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As debate over short-term Pell unfolds, for-profits on the sidelines

August 15, 2019 - 5:00pm

Lawmakers pushing for a dramatic change to the federal Pell Grant program have for months sought to placate liberal critics by arguing that new money wouldn’t go to for-profit colleges.

Legislation dubbed the JOBS Act would expand eligibility for Pell money to programs as short as eight weeks that are designed to land students employment quickly, stirring a debate over whether the funding should be directed toward job training rather than traditional college programs.

Some for-profit colleges would likely take advantage of those funds, especially those geared toward skills training, if not for the prohibition in the bill. But despite rumblings about a potential fight, there’s been muted opposition from the sector so far.

The agreement to exclude for-profits from the bill shows there are exceptions to GOP lawmakers’ dedication to a common set of standards for all colleges. Republicans like Tennessee senator Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate education committee, have been staunch critics of regulations like gainful employment that apply only to for-profits and other career education programs. For the most part, they've argued that federal standards shouldn't single out any particular sector. The lack of activity from for-profits on the JOBS Act, meanwhile, suggests much of the sector may have bigger preoccupations as lawmakers negotiate a new landmark higher ed law, including a potential fight over the federal rule that limits the proportion of a for-profit college's revenue that can come from federal student aid.

Still, exclusion of for-profits could be a fraught issue for supporters of the bill, said David Baime, senior vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.

“That’s the reality that we’re dealing with,” he said. “Anything that could complicate passage of the JOBS Act, which is at the top of our priority list, would be a concern.”

Debate Over ‘Sector-Neutral’ Rules

Community college groups have been among the biggest advocates of the JOBS Act. The legislation has also received major backing from corporate leaders, including the Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs from major U.S. corporations. Roundtable board member Ginni Rometty, the chairman, president and CEO of IBM, told lawmakers in a letter in May that the JOBS Act would allow financial aid to "meet learners where they are." The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, hasn't endorsed the bill and a spokeswoman said the chamber has lobbied against the exclusion of for-profits from short-term Pell. 

Skeptics of the JOBS Act among consumer groups have questioned whether short-term training actually pays off in the long run for students from low-income backgrounds. They’ve also made hay over the potential for the proposal to create a bonanza for low-quality for-profit programs. The bill’s supporters have argued that the exclusion of for-profits in the latest version of the legislation addresses those concerns.

While that debate has played out, for-profit colleges themselves haven’t been very engaged on the legislation. That could change soon. Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, said his group opposes any attempt to apply different regulations to certain sectors, and he plans to raise the issue with lawmakers.

“We’re in the business of workforce preparation, but we’re not allowed to use the short-term Pell Grant in this bill,” he said.

CECU was taken by surprise by the JOBS Act’s exclusion of for-profits -- a provision of the bill that flew under the radar for many until recently. Previous versions of the legislation hadn’t based eligibility on a program’s tax status.

“There’s a way to serve students and protect taxpayers,” Gunderson said. “No. 1 is transparency and No. 2 is universal outcome metrics for all schools.”

Other players in the for-profit sector, though -- CECU mostly represents smaller colleges -- haven’t made the legislation a top concern. The two chief co-authors of the bill, Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, and Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, haven’t been lobbied on the for-profit ban, aides said.

A Portman staffer said leaving for-profits out of the proposed short-term Pell expansion allowed the bill to address the top concerns of Republicans and Democrats alike.

"The major concern on the Republican side was the cost of Pell expansion," the aide said. "The major concern on the Democratic side was the quality of the programs and making sure we were not opening the space up to bad actors."

Congressional Budget Office scores show the bill would cost about $423 million less over 10 years by dropping for-profits, the aide said.

The Portman aide said the Ohio Republican had no philosophical objection to for-profits receiving short-term Pell funds but wanted to start with programs at community colleges already active in providing short-term skills training. Portman's staff also noted that four other Senate Republicans back the bill, even with the provision.

JOBS Act Tied to HEA Reauthorization

While CECU has promised to push back on the for-profit ban in the JOBS Act, many larger proprietary institutions have focused their attention elsewhere as talks over a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act unfold. One reason is that the biggest players in for-profit education aren't necessarily heavily involved in short-term training. Another is that the JOBS Act is only one potential piece of an overhaul to the landmark federal higher ed law being negotiated by lawmakers. Another involves the federal 90-10 rule -- a much bigger concern for those colleges. That rule caps the proportion of total revenue proprietary colleges can receive from federal financial aid at 90 percent.

Student veteran groups have made tightening 90-10 a top priority for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Veterans’ and military education benefits aren't counted toward the rule, and those groups argue that veterans are targeted by for-profit colleges for enrollment as a result. Veterans’ organizations were also among the most vocal opponents of the PROSPER Act, a 2017 GOP proposal to reauthorize HEA that would have done away with 90-10 entirely. A Democratic HEA proposal released last year would have changed the standard to an 85-15 formula, further limiting the proportion of revenue for-profits could take in from federal sources.

The most polarizing debates around for-profits could involve potential changes to that standard.

Whether the JOBS Act moves forward at all will likely have a lot to do with whether lawmakers reach a broader agreement to reauthorize the Higher Education Act in the coming months. That’s both because the costs attached to Pell expansion would be offset by other legislative changes in an HEA deal and because Congress rarely moves stand-alone bills forward that aren’t part of a more comprehensive deal.

“It would be really hard to imagine big changes like that happening to Pell absent a full HEA reauthorization,” said Lexi Barrett, associate vice president for state and federal policy at Jobs for the Future. “That doesn’t mean it’s impossible.”

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Colleges use small grants to develop new programs and expand their study abroad capacity

August 15, 2019 - 5:00pm

Windward Community College administrators had long wanted to establish study abroad programs for students. But the small two-year college in Hawaii didn't have the infrastructure set up for it.

Things changed three years ago after the college applied for and received a $50,000 grant from the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to create two short-term, faculty-led study abroad programs -- Footholds Abroad -- in England and New Zealand. The college also used the grant -- which could not be used to directly fund student travel -- to help create a study abroad center and website where students could get information about the study abroad opportunities available to them, including programs run by the University of Hawaii system, of which Windward is a part.

Windward had not consistently run its own study abroad programs before 2016. But the college has since offered the England program three times and the New Zealand program twice. It has also offered faculty-led programs in Costa Rica and the Czech Republic. Plans are in the works for new programs in Ireland and Taiwan next year and a second program in England.

Sarah Hadmack, an associate professor of religion and director of study abroad at Windward, said the funding helped the college "create a model" it could use for creating additional faculty-led programs.

"It was just what we needed to really get the ball rolling," she said.

Nationally, about 11 percent of undergraduate students study abroad at some point in their degree programs, but the percentages who study abroad vary dramatically across some institutions. Some private liberal arts colleges boast 100 percent participation, or very close to it, while other institutions send very small numbers of students overseas.

Students at community colleges and minority-serving institutions, or MSIs, tend to study abroad at lower rates: less than 1 percent of students at community colleges study abroad during their degree program, while 5 percent of students at minority-serving institutions study abroad, according to data from the Institute of International Education, which conducts an annual survey of study abroad participation rates. But those numbers may soon grow; there is intense interest at many MSIs and community colleges in expanding study abroad opportunities for their students.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, or ECA, has provided more than $10 million in small grants to 90 higher education institutions since 2009 to help expand study abroad opportunities. Of the 90 colleges that have received grants, 29 are minority-serving institutions and 18 are two-year institutions (some fall into both categories). The grants fund projects that build capacity to expand or diversify the student populations that study abroad or the destinations where they study -- more than 70 percent of students who study abroad are white, and more than 50 percent study in Western Europe.

Some of the grant recipients send much larger proportions of their students abroad than others. Sul Ross State University, a Hispanic-serving institution in West Texas, sends less than 0.1 percent of its undergraduates abroad each year. Sul Ross has a high proportion of students with financial need: 64 percent of undergraduates receive federal Pell Grants.

“We also have a very high percentage of students who are first-generation college students,” said Esther Rumsey, the director of international studies and a professor of communication at Sul Ross. “Trying to do a whole semester abroad is not something that’s financially viable for the majority of our students.”

Sul Ross is using a newly awarded $35,000 State Department grant to develop study abroad programs -- one- to two-week trips -- that are embedded into core curriculum classes.

“It offers a travel opportunity for students early in their college career, like second semester freshmen year, or sophomore year,” Rumsey said.

She's hoping that a short-term study abroad experience will lead students to consider doing a full semester abroad or exploring other international study opportunities such as a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, a State Department program that provides scholarships for study abroad and international internships for Pell Grant recipients.

“But I think the first step is to get them a passport and get them out of the country once so they see that it is something that is not just for elites -- a broad variety of people can go,” Rumsey said.

Other institutions are using grant funding for more targeted outreach. Augustana University, in South Dakota, sends about 200 students abroad a year, mostly on short-term programs during the January term. About half of its students study abroad over the course of their undergraduate career. The university is using an approximately $21,000 grant to fund faculty travel to develop a new study abroad site in Kenya and to fund a part-time, one-year position to analyze the college’s study abroad participation data.

“This research position is giving somebody 20 hours a week to dig into all this data that we have about the students that have gone abroad -- the faculty who have led, and what courses -- and compare that to our student body,” said Erin Kane, the assistant director of international studies at Augustana. “What we really want to see is who isn’t going and why not and be able to offer specific courses that are going to target these students because of interest or major or location or whatnot.”

Some colleges have used the grants for building up their administrative infrastructure for study abroad. Shepherd University, in West Virginia, used a 2016 grant of roughly $50,000 to help establish a study abroad office. Yin Star, who was appointed to be Shepherd's first full-time study abroad director, used part of the grant to get professional certification from the Forum on Education Abroad so she could set the office up in line with best practices in the field.

"It allowed seed money for me to be able to come to Shepherd and do the job," Star said. "It allowed me to form a study abroad club, it allowed me to get the study abroad photo contest going, it allowed me to really take charge of putting the word out there for students to think about study abroad, and it allowed me to build my website."

Other colleges have used the State Department grants to fund development of specific programs. Santa Fe College, a community college in Florida, used a 2017 grant to develop a new biotechnology internship program in partnership with the State University of São Paulo, in Brazil. Four students participated in the inaugural year, and another iteration of the program is planned for next summer.

“As an institution that serves a high percentage of economically disadvantaged youth and a high percentage of minority students -- most of our students are working, some of them full-time, and they have busy, active lives -- people dream about study abroad, but they see it as something that’s not possible,” said Vilma Fuentes, the assistant vice president of academic affairs at Santa Fe College. “Being able to have a grant-funded project that shows the viability of this and to be able to tie it directly to an academic program … to say, ‘This can be the pinnacle of your bachelor’s,’ it was a very powerful project, I think.” (Santa Fe College, like other community colleges in Florida, offers a number of bachelor's degree programs.)

Gallaudet University, a college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, is using a newly awarded grant to develop resources to support access for deaf students to study abroad.

Becca AbuRakia-Einhorn, Gallaudet’s coordinator of education abroad, said study abroad provider organizations have a "wide spectrum" of practices when it comes to accommodating deaf students. “Generally, a lot of these study abroad organizations will say, ‘We will do our best,’ and the problem is that we end up reinventing the wheel every time we’re trying to work with them,” she said.

“I get calls and emails multiple times per week from people from other universities who say, ‘I have a deaf student who walks into my office; she wants to go to Semester at Sea -- what do I do?’ Someone wrote to me and asked, ‘What’s the standard way to pay an interpreter?’ There is no standard.”

AbuRakia-Einhorn hopes to publish case study information on how colleges and study abroad providers have handled accommodations for deaf students. Another goal is to highlight the work of deaf travel bloggers. "The goal at the end is to collect a lot of different resources that will help advisers work with students who are deaf, that will help students who are deaf feel empowered to navigate the study abroad process, and lastly to help study abroad providers make their programs more accessible," she said.

The study abroad capacity-building grants are not especially large -- in 2019 the largest grant available was $35,000 -- but the projects point to various ways in which institutions of varying types and study abroad participation levels are thinking about expanding opportunities and diversifying participation.

“Our evaluations of the program show that the capacity-building program is helping U.S. higher education institutions sustainably build their study abroad capacity,” Caroline Casagrande, the deputy assistant secretary for academic programs at the State Department, said via email. “For example, we recently finished a multiyear evaluation of the 17 grants we funded in 2016 and found that more than 700 U.S. students -- nearly half from groups underrepresented in study abroad -- participated in programs supported by our small grants that year. Grantee institutions established 71 new global partnerships, formalized 47 new memorandums of understanding and strengthened 33 existing MoUs that they will use to increase their study abroad programs and numbers for years to come."

At Windward, one of the programs established with the help of the State Department grant, a two-week theater program in England, just completed its third run. Nicolas Logue, an assistant professor of theater who co-directs the program, said the college has obtained grant funding and support from a number of institutions, including a grant from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, to bring the cost down to a nominal amount for students. The students who participated in the program this summer paid only for their airfare in addition to the regular cost of tuition for a three-credit course, he said. They spent a week in London at the East 15 Acting School and a week in Shakespeare’s birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon.

“It’s led to such amazing training and career opportunities for students,” Hadmack, the study abroad director, said of the program. Two Windward students have successfully auditioned for East 15 while they were there (one deferred to pursue professional acting opportunities, according to Logue).

“The cool thing is that trip has led to a deeper partnership with both Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and East 15 Acting School,” Logue said. “We’re exploring more and more exciting things with them, not just sending them a cohort of students every year, though we’ll still continue to do that.”

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Colleges hosting more orientation programs just for parents

August 15, 2019 - 5:00pm

The horror stories of so-called helicopter parents are well-known among college admissions administrators and orientation directors. Moms and dads who cling to their young adult children, follow them around during orientation programs and call them constantly from home are ubiquitous on college campuses around this time of year as incoming first-year students take part in programs designed to help them get acclimated.

Joyce Holl, executive director of NODA, the Association for Orientation, Transition and Retention in Higher Education, has seen it all.

She recalled the mother who channeled her inner James Bond and surveyed her offspring while hiding behind the bushes during orientation, clandestinely stalking the freshman until she was caught.

Fortunately for mortified students and exasperated orientation staff, the gas is being taken out of the engines of many helicopter parents. Orientation programs designed to assuage nervous parents' fears and inform them about the institutions their children have chosen to attend are becoming more common, Holl said. More importantly, they're helping make the process smoother for all concerned -- and reducing the separation anxiety experienced by overprotective parents.

Now, as new students go through orientation, their parents go through their own orientation programs, too.

"Our institutions are doing good job of helping both parents and their students acclimate," Holl said.

Some parents still have trouble letting go, however, Holl said. And some parents feel they shouldn't have to, especially since they're bankrolling their children's education. With college tuition and fees skyrocketing across the board -- and particularly at four-year institutions, where these parent orientations are mostly held -- some parents want to make sure they're getting their money's worth.

At Murray State University, a regional public institution in Kentucky with an enrollment of about 10,000 students, parents often ask during orientation about career opportunities once students graduate, said Shawn Smee, director of the university’s student recruitment office. They want to know how often students go on to enroll in graduate school or if they’re finding jobs easily, he said. Murray State has hosted a parent orientation program since the late 1980s after launching its student orientation program in the 1970s, he said.

About 1,800 first-year and transfer students took part in orientation at Murray State in the last academic year. Smee said he's seen an influx of helicopter parents in the last few years. As a result, the university set up a panel of parents of current students to answer questions and provide helpful information to the parents of incoming freshmen. But worried parents will still show up for orientation, sometimes even without their children, and want to go through the orientation process for them.

“We say, ‘This is great, but we have to see the student,’” he said.

Parents tend to fret most about campus safety issues. Reports of sexual assaults are often far more visible than when the parents attended college. They also worry about binge and underage drinking on campus. Orientation program staff spend a lot of their time addressing such concerns, Holl said. They not only tell parents about the police presence on campus, they also tell them how to access resources, such as financial aid, for their children.

“Anecdotally, it’s really helped bridge the gap with what's happening with that student and parents letting go, especially if it’s their first one,” Holl said.

Orientation has been a staple on college campuses for decades. NODA, once named the National Orientation Directors Association, was chartered in 1976. Orientation programs that once lasted a few weeks now can sometimes go on for months, Holl said. And institutions are also now promoting orientation for transfer students and, in some cases, for sophomores as well. A second year of orientation helps retain these students, Holl said.

Colleges began offering orientation for parents in the 1990s, but the trend exploded in the last several years, Holl said. About 83 percent of institutions have some sort of parent, family or guest orientation program, according to a 2017 survey NODA conducted of 229 campuses. About 21 percent of the institutions said they communicate with students and their families in face-to-face workshops.

The parent orientations tend to last a half or full day, but occasionally universities will offer up a dormitory for parents to spend the night in. James Madison University, in Virginia, was allowing parents to do sleepovers on campus as early as 1995, according to The New York Times.

Orientation has become part of colleges’ curbside appeal, which is particularly important in college selection. Parents whose children still have not decided which college they will attend will on rare occasions go to orientations at multiple institutions and urge their children to select a college based on the orientation program.

“It’s mind-boggling,” Holl said.

The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, has a robust orientation program and has sponsored a session for parents since at least 1999, said Lisa Gruszka, the director of orientation programs.

Minnesota offers a nearly two-day orientation program for students that allows parental participation on one of the days. Because so many parents drive from the outskirts of the largely rural state, or from Wisconsin or Iowa, the university offers them overnight housing either in a residence hall or at a local hotel, Gruszka said. The college also arranges a trolley ride around campus for students and parents; students can get discounts at local restaurants with university identification.

The parents’ orientation lasts almost a full day, from the early morning until about 5:30 p.m. University administrators decided to shift the program in 2003 to loosely mimic Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a psychological theory. Officials first address student health, finances and safety and work their way up to other university programs, Gruszka said. The university worked with a little more than 6,000 students over two days of orientation last academic year.

Students and parents are required to be apart for most of this presentation, Gruszka said. They may jointly, but briefly, attend a session about academic standards, but for the most part, university administrators want the students to start feeling a “sense of belonging,” she said.

The orientation officials want to coach and be partners with parents, Gruszka said. They would prefer parents not call the university if their children have questions and not otherwise be overly involved in running their children's lives on campus.

Students talk to their parents a lot more now than they did several decades ago, Gruszka said. When she attended college in the 1980s, she called her family maybe once a week with a long-distance calling card. Now, parents are a text away for all of their children’s needs.

“We want to make sure our families understand the basic business but not have their children feel the need to call home or call home multiple times a day,” she said.

These programs are often successful at alleviating the worries of anxious parents, said Roger H. Martin, former president of Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. He wrote Off to College: A Guide for Parents (University of Chicago Press), a book about students’ first time separating from parents and how families should handle the transition.

College administrators often discourage students from going home every weekend or when they’re homesick, and they ask parents to reinforce that guidance, Martin said. Holl said NODA tells member institutions that students shouldn’t visit home at all in the first month.

This “helps them see the need for their children to be independent,” Martin said. “Part of college is learning how to become an adult, and if you’re constantly calling your kid up or trying to do things for them, that doesn’t happen.”

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Dutch academics fear language rule would hinder foreign recruitment

August 15, 2019 - 5:00pm

Universities in the Netherlands fear the government may force international students to do part of their degrees in Dutch, potentially decimating recruitment from outside the country.

Several sources have told Times Higher Education that this is one of the ideas being considered by the country’s Ministry of Education, Culture and Science ahead of a policy announcement expected next month.

This would be the most drastic option to curb perceived problems arising from the growth of foreign student numbers, blamed for precipitating a switch to English language instruction at the expense of Dutch, crowding out local students and putting pressures on housing.

Other possibilities thought to be on the table include making Dutch lessons compulsory, forcing universities to justify teaching in English and drawing up tailored plans with universities to increase a focus on Dutch.

Whatever the ministry decides to do, some critics see the overall policy direction as a major reversal. “I’m deeply disturbed by the developments in the Netherlands because they are putting the clock backwards,” said Jo Ritzen, a former minister of education, culture and science for the Labor Party. The move grew out of “nationalistic” sentiments and a “lack of long-term thinking," he said.

Concerns about English pushing out Dutch have existed for years in the Netherlands, where three-quarters of master’s programs at research universities are in English only. At bachelor’s level, the proportion is about a quarter.

Campaigners against this trend worry that it weakens Dutch culture if local students no longer use their mother tongue at university. They also have concerns about lecturers using poor English.

“To some extent, universities have brought it on themselves” by failing to think through the consequences of the switch to English, said Ritzen, now a professorial fellow at Maastricht University. There was “some truth” to the accusation that they had swapped language simply to attract more students, he said.

But the Dutch system is “the only one [in continental Europe] that is competitive with the U.S., Australia and U.K. in terms of attracting foreign students from outside Europe,” Ritzen pointed out. It had achieved this “by accepting that English is the language of instruction,” and if this was reversed, “it will be a loss for Europe,” he added.

The ministry has already announced cuts effective from 2021 to Nuffic, a body that runs a 10-strong global network of offices which helps to recruit students to Dutch universities. The cuts will mean that the organization has to “scale back … activities drastically,” it warned last month.

Last year, in response to concerns about the declining use of Dutch, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands asked the government for more powers to cap non-European Union student numbers to help deal with the inflow.

But universities fear that instead of number caps, the ministry favors some form of compulsory Dutch. “Some element of Dutch will be part of the curriculum, but we don’t know how big it will be,” said Jos Beelen, professor of global learning at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

Foreign students might be required to learn a “tokenistic” level -- like how to order things in shops -- or be forced to gain at least an intermediate proficiency, which may put off all but German students, he said.

Dutch universities have struggled to achieve a “balanced classroom,” he said, where foreign students come from a range of countries, not just Germany or China, for example.

“Language policy is used to control numbers, but it still doesn’t give you any control over the composition of the classroom,” Beelen warned.

Robert-Jan Smits, president of Eindhoven University of Technology, where all courses are in English, said that the language allowed the university to attract the best students globally and meant that Dutch graduates were better placed to pursue an international career.

But the university aimed to have at most one-third of its students from abroad, he said, and wanted to avoid “the situation which I have seen at several U.K. universities, where mostly for budgetary reasons, in certain departments, 90 percent of the students are Chinese. These universities are no longer British or international -- they are Chinese.”

This is not the only area in which the Netherlands is moving against trends that once seemed inevitable in global higher education. It is looking to replace some grant funding for academics with direct payments to universities -- as competition for money is seen as having gone too far -- and to rely less on citation metrics when judging researchers’ work. Plans are also afoot to make admissions more selective, chipping away at a long-standing taboo.

The ministry, which declined to comment, would have to win approval for any language-related proposals from Dutch lawmakers.

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Colleges award tenure

August 15, 2019 - 5:00pm

DePaul University

  • Mary Bridget, physics
  • Sydney Dillard, communication
  • Sheena Erete, design
  • Timothy French, chemistry
  • Megan Greeson, psychology
  • Kyle Grice, chemistry
  • Barbara Harris, nursing
  • Bradley Hoot, modern languages
  • Juan Hu, mathematics
  • Jessica Jerome, health sciences
  • Jason Kalin, writing, rhetoric and discourse
  • Chris Kalis, cinematic arts
  • Caroline M. Kisiel, literary history, play and creativity, adult learning
  • Christie Klimas, environmental science
  • Jessica Larva, art, media and design
  • Joseph Mello, political science
  • Rebecca Michel, counseling and special education
  • Denise Nacu, design
  • Timothy Peternel, cinematic arts
  • Brian Phelan, economics
  • Matthew Quinn, cinematic arts
  • Anuradha Rana, cinematic arts
  • Stephen Socki, cinematic arts
  • Fanny Soderback, philosophy
  • Paul Vadola, chemistry
  • Tawei (David) Wang, accountancy
  • Jaime Waters, Catholic studies
  • Jessica Westbrook, design
  • Charles Wurtzebach, real estate

Kutztown University

  • Mario Cardozo, geography
  • Alexander Hernandez, biology
  • Michael Johnston, cinema, television and media production
  • Ann Lemon, communication design
  • Lauren Moss, counselor education and student affairs
  • Nicole Romanski, art education
  • Cynthia Stunkard, special education
  • Patrick Walters, English
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Alaska's governor and university reach compromise to nearly halve budget cut

August 14, 2019 - 5:00pm

Alaska's governor and officials of the University of Alaska system announced an agreement Tuesday that will blunt -- but not avert -- a budget crisis that had in recent weeks become a national symbol of the defunding of public higher education.

Under the agreement, the university system will see its state allocation for the 2020 fiscal year that began July 1 cut by $25 million, with another $45 million total sliced from the state allocation over the two years that follow.

While $70 million over three years is a large excision from operating budget support totaling $327 million, it looked like a net positive to Jim Johnsen, the university system's president, given the $135 million cut that Governor Michael J. Dunleavy had imposed with a swipe of his veto pen in late June.

“This agreement, worked out following a number of budget discussions by the Board of Regents, provides a clear, gradual multiyear funding glide path,” John Davies, chair of the university's Board of Regents, said in a prepared statement. “Most importantly, the supplemental operating budget provides much more certainty and confidence for our students, staff, faculty and the communities we serve.”

“As an educator, a father and a graduate of the University of Alaska, I believe in a strong university,” Dunleavy said in the same statement. “I also believe we must balance state support for the UA system with the very serious fiscal situation we face today. This agreement, which comes after extensive conversations and work with the university, is an honest attempt at balancing both realities. By choosing a multiyear, step-down approach, we provide our communities, campuses and students the certainty they’ve been asking for, while also taking on the serious challenge of reforming the university into a more efficient system.”

The threat of a 41 percent cut in state support spurred warnings from the university system's accreditor about its future, a declaration of financial exigency by the university's president and intense debate about whether the university should combine its three campuses into a single institution for accreditation purposes.

While the $70 million cut over three years -- $25 million for the first two, and $20 million in the last -- is hardly a pittance, it represents a "pivot to the positive," Johnsen said during a news conference announcing the agreement.

In a written message to the university late Tuesday, Johnsen said administrators planned to proceed with the move to consolidate into one accredited institution. "While this agreement gives us more time, future budget reductions compel us to move forward with planning efforts," he said.

The president said that furloughs would no longer be needed, but that travel restrictions and some administrative restructuring -- starting with a consolidation of the various institutions' human resources functions -- would proceed.

 

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Ph.D. students resent expectation that they bring food and drinks to their thesis defenses

August 14, 2019 - 5:00pm

It’s a common tradition within graduate programs: students bring food and drinks to meetings with their thesis committees, especially to their final defenses. And for many years, the psychology department at the University of California, Los Angeles, was no exception.

No more. The department’s faculty Executive Committee recently voted to end the unofficial practice, citing the added stress -- financial and otherwise -- it puts on students.

"We would like to move away from the expectation that oral exams be catered," reads a notice sent to UCLA's psychology professors and graduate students. "The Executive Committee has approved the addition of a simple rule to our Grad Handbook, stating that students are not allowed to provide food or drink for prelims/final oral exam."

Anna Lau, professor of psychology and vice chair of graduate studies, who wrote the notice, said Tuesday that there was "never an explicit statement that students must bring food." Rather, it was "a tradition that was transmitted and maintained through social norms."

In any case, she said, "my sense from students is that many are grateful that this is no longer an obligation."

Kate Wassum, an associate professor in the department, said that faculty members are “in positions of authority and need to be open to students’ concerns, and what we can do to correct them.” There’s always more to do, she said, but “this was one small, easy thing.”

Not every faculty member in the department expected students to bring refreshments to their meetings. Wassum didn't, for example. She first told students that they weren't expected to, and when that didn't work, she arranged to have food and drinks there herself. But there remained a general expectation in psychology that students would bring something like coffee and snacks, depending on the time of day, when they met with their faculty committees for their preliminary and final oral examinations. And while some students may not have minded, others found it distracting to think about buying, making and, perhaps especially, paying for food. Preliminary meetings typically include four or five committee faculty members, but final defenses can include audience members, as well.

Discussions about ending student-catered meetings accelerated following the publication of an opinion piece in Science last month called “Committee Members Shouldn’t Expect Ph.D. Students to Serve Coffee and Pastries.” Kate Bredbenner, a graduate fellow at Rockefeller University, wrote that she “never thought I would spend so much of my time and money setting up still-life-worthy displays of flaky croissants and shiny fruit for people who are judging my science, and that of my colleagues.”

Yet at her university and many others, she said, “students bring food to our thesis committee meetings and defenses, adding to the already sky-high pressure.” Bredbenner’s “first taste of it came five years ago, for my first committee meeting. I prepared furiously. I meticulously proofread my written proposal and aligned all the figures. My slides all used the same font. I had even prepared some extra slides to address possible questions my judges might ask.”

Even so, she said, “I was sure the meeting was doomed -- because I didn’t know how to make coffee.”

The solution to the problem, Bredbenner said, “is easy: Committees shouldn’t expect students to provide lavish spreads, or anything at all. We shouldn’t have to spend our money buying overpriced fruit salad or know how to make coffee to be considered successful graduate students. Our research should be enough.”

The piece sparked immediate conversations, not just at UCLA. A graduate student in Toronto who runs several social media accounts under the name Ph.D. Diaries, in part to critique the culture of graduate school, said on Twitter that she’d forgotten to bring coffee to her most recent committee meeting and was called out for it.

This move was inspired by conversations happening on Twitter.

A few things:

1 - I don't even drink coffee

2 - I brought everything else to this meeting (the presentation, the report, the paperwork)

3 - I'm the only one at this table who makes less than a living wage.

— PhD Diaries (@thoughtsofaphd) July 29, 2019

Some faculty members responded positively, at least online. One professor said she’d never thought about the “inequity” of the matter, and that she’d bring it up at her home institution. “You can’t underestimate how dense faculty are, even the well-meaning ones,” that professor wrote to Ph.D. Diaries.

Noel Brewer, professor of health behavior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, responded that his department already “forbids doctoral students from bringing food and beverages to proposals and defenses. We train scientists, not caterers.” Brewer said he also pays for “trainees’ meals when we go out at conferences. And [he takes] them for a celebratory meal after the defense. Students should not pay.”

Brewer said this week that a colleague launched the policy seven years ago, as dissertation defense meetings "were becoming increasingly elaborate with tablecloths, refreshments and heavy hors d’oeuvres. We found it strange to have scientists turn into caterers."

The department also found it "inappropriate to set up expectations that put undue burden on people with limited means," Brewer said. "Many of us were just embarrassed to make such implied demands of students, given that many of us have a policy of always paying for trainees when we invite them to meals or drinks."

Ph.D. Diaries (who would like to remain anonymous) also said this week that she typically brings a carton of coffee to her meetings and intentionally didn’t bring it to the meeting she wrote about, to see what would happen.

“I think the general notion is absolutely ridiculous,” she said of student catering. “We are the only people at that table who do not make a living wage. I should not be expected to fund coffee.”

When her adviser told her she forgot the coffee, she said she responded like this: “But I didn't forget to bring everything else we need for this meeting -- the presentation, laptop, report, etc.”

At UCLA, a few professors questioned the change initially. Wassum said that in some instances, professors didn’t really know how students felt about bringing food. It is, of course, an awkward thing to bring up.

The department will now provide coffee and water at oral defenses, following a planned move.

However divisive the custom might be, it’s not meant to be punitive or stressful. Wassum said that the general mood at a thesis defense is celebratory. It’s a big moment in a student’s life. And to many, food and drink signal that. Defenses also tend to happen at a busy time of year, when people might need pick-me-ups.

“I myself find it totally unnecessary. If I need coffee, I can get coffee,” Wassum said. Still, “these things can be nice to have around, but students don’t need to be the ones to provide them.”

Lau wrote in her notice to students and faculty members that "one lovely aspect of this custom was that students often made agreements to support each other by providing refreshments for each other’s oral exams. We hope that students establish new 'buddy' traditions for supporting one another during these major hurdle steps (e.g., happy hour celebrations, being in the hallway for support during committee deliberations)."

The department also will restart the tradition of having a staff member take a photo of the candidate with their committee after the final orals, Lau said.

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American Bar Association tables new definition of consent in criminal sex assault cases

August 14, 2019 - 5:00pm

Many colleges and universities across the country have promoted the concept of “affirmative consent” on their campuses for several years now. These institutions openly encourage their students to receive a clearly articulated “yes” response, in words or actions, before proceeding with sexual activity.

The American Bar Association, the influential group representing the legal profession, this week was due to vote on a resolution that would urge state governments and court systems to adopt the same definition of consent in criminal sexual assault cases. After months of discussion and consideration among members, it appeared that the organization, which endorses policies and positions on legal matters, would actually do so. But the ABA changed course late Monday during its annual meeting and decided to table the resolution.

Mark Schickman, chairman of the ABA’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence, believed that passing the resolution would be easy. He had already agreed to postpone a vote on it earlier this year in order to hear the concerns of other ABA members. He had secured co-sponsorship of the resolution from the ABA’s Criminal Justice Section, made up of criminal defense lawyers, prosecutors, academics and others invested in criminal justice issues. The resolution drew praise from advocacy organizations for sexual assault survivors.

And despite some dissent among Criminal Justice Section members who opposed endorsing the resolution, Schickman said he didn’t anticipate resistance to it once it came to a vote by the ABA’s House of Delegates, which approves final policy for the association.

He was wrong. The Criminal Justice Section’s governing board, a group of 40 individuals representing the 16,000 or so members of the section, unanimously withdrew its support from the resolution and instead decided to speak out against it during the House of Delegates’ floor vote.

"The topics were clouded so much that, walking into the vote, the word was nobody would vote for this resolution," Schickman said.

Neal Sonnett, a past chairman of the Criminal Justice Section, told the House of Delegates that the group had agreed to work with the commission but did not immediately realize the "far-reaching implications of this resolution," according to the ABA Journal.

“This is a new paradigm,” he said. “This changes the law entirely with respect to sexual behavior.”

After an hour of heated argument, the House of Delegates ultimately decided to table the resolution indefinitely. The delegates tried to take a voice vote, but it appeared too close to call. They then stood to be counted. The vote was 256 to 165 in favor of tabling the resolution.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers had also instigated a contentious campaign against the resolution, and due process advocates embraced the opposition and helped spread the word online. The advocates have been vocal in pointing out perceived flaws in university administrators’ methods of adjudicating campus sexual assault cases.

As a result, what started out as an under-the-radar move by the ABA has turned into a heavily politicized debate on Twitter.

Mark Schickman, Chair ABA Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence, has issued an outrageous and disingenuous screed in defense of Resolution 114.

This isn't over yet. https://t.co/8BzNPUeuuT

— Scott Greenfield (@ScottGreenfield) August 11, 2019

The due process proponents largely emerged after the Obama administration in 2011 released guidance on how institutions should adjudicate cases under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law barring sex discrimination and sexual violence on campus. While sexual assault prevention activists heralded the rules as providing survivors new protections, critics said they were slanted unfairly against those accused of sexual violence and denied them the right to due process.

The opposition’s main argument about the ABA resolution is that the definition of consent the commission sought no longer presumed innocence for the accused and instead shifted the burden of proof that a sexual encounter was consensual to the accused person in criminal sexual assault cases. The accused would be required to prove they had asked for consent rather than a prosecutor needing to prove a sexual encounter was not consensual. Critics said the change would be unconstitutional and violate the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments that, respectively, protect individuals' right not to incriminate themselves in a criminal prosecution and grant them equal protections under the law.

“The idea that we’re essentially taking what colleges define as consent and try to import it into criminal court is not appropriate,” said Lara Bazelon, a member of the Criminal Justice Section’s governing board, and a professor of law and director of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Law Clinic and Racial Justice Law Clinic at the University of San Francisco.

Said Schickman, "Of course no one wants to change the presumption of innocence or the burden of proof. That's not what we're changing."

The prospect of changing the consent definition was first raised in fall 2018 and brought up for a potential vote at the ABA’s meeting in January. During that meeting, the organization's House of Representatives approved a resolution stating that the association opposed placing a legal burden on survivors to prove they had tried to resist a sexual assault for it to be classified as a rape.

Schickman said he wanted to continue the momentum from the passage of the first resolution but delayed a vote on the consent definition for six months until the ABA’s meeting this month to allow members time to study the issues. He filed the resolution’s language in mid-May, the required deadline for resolutions to be presented at this month’s meeting. Along with the resolution, he presented members with studies documenting that sexual assault victims sometimes freeze up and don't fight back or resist their attackers during an assault.

Schickman, who is also a lawyer with the San Francisco-based firm Freeland Cooper & Foreman LLP, said he heard no complaints from members at that time.

But then the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers published a four-page rebuttal to the resolution in July arguing that it “offends fundamental and well-established notions of justice.” The criminal defense lawyers discounted the research Schickman cited and wrote that criminal law “is an incorrect vehicle to impose novel social legislation designed to dictate social mores.”

Soon after, state and local groups representing defense lawyers started posting similar arguments online opposing the resolution, Schickman said.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a civil liberties watchdog in academe, wrote in a blog post that the ABA should “reject this resolution as a grave threat to the due process.”

“Affirmative consent standards are already common in campus disciplinary proceedings,” wrote Samantha Harris, vice president for procedural advocacy at FIRE. “As high as the stakes are on campus -- where students found responsible face the loss of educational and job opportunities as well as permanent stigma -- they are higher still in the criminal context, where those found guilty face imprisonment.”

The American Law Institute, another elite group of lawyers, judges and law professors, weighed in saying that it had voted down an attempt to add an affirmative consent definition into its Model Penal Code in 2016. It noted that the sexual violence commission, in an attempt to justify the change in consent definition, had misrepresented the history of that vote.

With a growing chorus of critics, Schickman and the commission revised the resolution’s language right before the vote, changing it to explicitly state that nothing in the resolution "changes the constitutionally guaranteed presumption of innocence, or the burden of proof."

Harris wrote in an email to Inside Higher Ed that the amended version of the resolution, while improved, still “changes the operative definition of consent in a way that invites arbitrary and selective enforcement.”

With so much misinformation and hesitation about the resolution being expressed, Schickman said it likely would not have passed. He said that the statements made by the defense lawyers’ association were an attempt to preserve a legal defense in sexual assault cases -- that survivors who do not fight back were not raped -- that the resolution would have weakened.

Terri Poore, policy director of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, said the group was disappointed that the resolution had not been approved. Few sexual assault cases make it into courts and fewer succeed, particularly among college students. The resolution would have helped remedy this, she said.

“We hope that the Criminal Law Section will continue its discussion, look at the research and find something they can support,” Poore said.

Where the resolution stands now is unclear. Bazelon said the current version is dead, but the House of Representatives posted on Twitter that it is likely to come back up at the association’s meeting in February 2020.

"We think the future is on our side," Schickman said. "When we talk to young lawyers and law students, this is the notion of getting consent from people that they believe in."

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Categories: Higher Education News

Author discusses highly critical book about American colleges

August 13, 2019 - 5:00pm

Anthony Kronman is no fan of current thinking in American higher education. Affirmative action? Renaming of buildings that honored those who embraced slavery? Political correctness, according to Kronman. And in case you didn't guess, he doesn't much like political correctness, either.

Kronman addresses these and other policies he finds fault with in The Assault on American Excellence (Simon & Schuster). He is a professor at Yale University's law school and was its dean from 1994 to 2004.

He responded to questions about his new book via email.

Q: You note the dangers of affirmative action. How are they evident at Yale?

A: My quarrel is not with affirmative action. That is, or was, a straightforward reparative program. It seeks, or sought, to extend the field of fair opportunity. What is disturbing, in my view, is the conversion of this political or social ideal into an academic and intellectual one, under the rubric of diversity.

The conversion was compelled by the decision in Bakke v. University of California, which denied colleges and universities the freedom to pursue programs of affirmative action more directly. When this happened, the identification of race and ethnicity with perspective or point of view was reinforced. It has today become an unchallenged maxim in higher education generally.

This means that the extraordinarily talented young people, of every complexion and ethnic origin, who arrive on Yale’s campus each fall, are encouraged, even before they have begun to get their bearings, to think of themselves as members of a group, first, and individuals second. They are steered, by the culture of the school, toward the affinity groups that today define the balkanized terrain of college life. As a result, the value of the very opportunity that programs of affirmative action were originally meant to enhance is lost or reduced.

Q: In your book, you note differences between a speakers' corner and a seminar room where students are gathered to study something on which there are varying opinions. What is the significance for those trying to understand American higher education?

A: Some who defend freedom of speech on campus do so in classical libertarian terms. They say speech should be as free on campus as off -- as it is at speakers’ corner. Others contend that a college or university is a special sort of community, whose members must be protected against hurtful and demeaning words.

Both sides get it wrong.

The faculty and students on campus do form a special community. But it is a community devoted to the shared pursuit of the truth, not mutual reassurance or support. This is a demanding goal. It is inconsistent with the restrictions on speech some would adopt to prevent what they call "dignitary" harms. But by the same token, it entails a greater responsibility than exists at speakers’ corner. It requires the participants to explain themselves to one another. They cannot just state their views and walk away, as those at speakers’ corner are free to do. Those on campus are trying to have a conversation. This requires even more speech, and speech of a more searching kind, than the libertarian notion a “marketplace of ideas” implies. A college seminar exemplifies this conversational ideal in practice.

Q: In American colleges, there is a third space for speech -- the invited lecture. What rules should govern who may appear?

A: Some campus speakers come at the invitation of the school itself. They are presumably chosen with an eye to the general interests of the faculty and students as a whole. Other speakers (the majority, perhaps) are invited by groups or organizations whose interests are narrower and more controversial.

This is a good thing. It promotes discussion and debate. On occasion, of course, a speaker will arouse fierce opposition. Sometimes, a speaker is chosen just to stir the pot. The choice may be unwise. It may reflect a less than generous attitude on the part of the sponsoring group. But to give the school a veto over who may speak and who may not, even in egregious cases, is a remedy worse than the disease. The right response is to provide an organized forum for criticism and competing views. Indeed, these are especially precious teaching moments: the more disturbing the speaker, the greater the opportunity to affirm the ideal of a conversational exchange. This is difficult and can be expensive. But no ideal is more closely tied to the very existence of the special way of life that a college or university embodies. The cost is always worth it.

Q: You note the expense at Yale and elsewhere of diversity offices. What's wrong with them?

A: Yale’s diversity offices are mostly staffed by administrators. They have a built-in incentive to find that the university is not doing enough to promote diversity on campus. The result is an increasingly complicated set of rules and regulations, some mandatory and others merely suggestive but influential nonetheless, requiring the faculty to give racial, ethnic and gender diversity an ever-greater weight in all aspects of academic life. Faculty judgments regarding excellence of achievement are subordinated to the moral imperative of greater diversity, as defined by a nonacademic corps of bureaucrats whose involvement in the work of teaching and learning is peripheral at best.

Q: You describe in several places in the book the way Yale renamed Calhoun College. What was wrong with that action?

A: We should live with our history, not erase it. The first is the harder task but essential in an academic institution that prides itself on its devotion to the truth and the cultivation of a capacity for living with moral complexity.

When Calhoun College was named in 1931, it was intended to honor the man. This represented an act of forgetfulness. Calhoun’s role in defending the South and slavery was conveniently forgotten.

A decision in 2016 to keep the name of the college could not conceivably have been interpreted as a similarly positive judgment on the man. It would have been understood as a way of honoring not John Calhoun himself, but Yale’s fitful and still imperfect effort to come to terms with its own past and that of the nation. That was something worth remembering. Renaming the college covered Yale’s disquieting past with a soothing blanket of moral righteousness instead. It represented a second act of forgetfulness -- one inconsistent with Yale’s responsibility to live in the full light of the truth, however painful that might be.

How much better it would have been to keep the name of the college and simultaneously endow a new center at Yale for the study of antebellum America, housed in an expanded Calhoun complex but named for Edward Bouchet, the first African American to earn a doctorate from any university in the country (Yale, Ph.D.,1876). If Yale had sought to raise $50 million for such a center, it would have had the money in a week.

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George Mason professor's op-ed raises ethical questions

August 13, 2019 - 5:00pm

Stephen Fuller, professor of public policy and regional development at George Mason University in Virginia, is frequently quoted by The Washington Post as an expert on the economy of the Washington region. But Fuller said he’ll think twice about picking up the phone the next time the newspaper's reporters call him.

Fuller’s relationship with tech giant Amazon was called into question by the paper's reporters in an Aug. 9 article after they obtained emails through a Freedom of Information request showing correspondence between Fuller and an Amazon representative. Fuller wrote a positive opinion piece about the company’s move into Northern Virginia at the suggestion of the Amazon official, who wanted to boost public support for the project ahead of a vote by the Arlington County Board to approve a $23 million incentive package.

The op-ed, published in the Washington Business Journal in March after the vote had taken place, was not paid for by Amazon, nor did Amazon play any role in writing it, said Fuller. But emails shared by Fuller show that Jill Shatzen Kerr, Amazon’s policy communications manager, did suggest that Fuller write the article after meeting him at a university event. And Fuller let Kerr review and suggest changes to the article before it went to print. Fuller noted that he did not agree with, or make, any of the suggested changes.

Fuller says he did nothing wrong or unethical. It never occurred to him that he should share where the idea for his op-ed came from.

“If they had asked me, I would, of course, have been forthcoming,” he said.

Fuller said he showed the text of his op-ed to Kerr “as a courtesy” and to check whether the company disputed any of the data he cited.

The incident has nonetheless raised questions among academics and ethicists about whether Fuller was acting independently and transparently when he published the op-ed, according to The Washington Post. Michelle Mason Bizri, a University of Minnesota professor of philosophy, was quoted as saying that Fuller had “invited questioning of his credibility” by failing to disclose that Amazon solicited and reviewed the op-ed.

But Fuller’s colleagues at George Mason are standing by him. S. David Wu, provost and executive vice president of the university, said George Mason encourages faculty to speak publicly on matters of local, national and global importance and noted that Fuller has “consistently made the observation that the Washington region is in great need to diversify its economic base, and the arrival of Amazon HQ2 fits this narrative well.”

He described Fuller as “a prominent and respected voice on regional economic development” and added that “in the handling of this op-ed for the Washington Business Journal, we have no evidence that he violated any stated policy of the university.”

Robert Deitz, a professor of public policy at George Mason, also doesn't see a problem with what Fuller did.

“People tend to use the phrase 'conflict of interest' in a rather loose way. But one must always ask, what is the conflict?” Deitz said. “I don’t see an issue here. As I understand the facts -- and facts are always crucial for conflict analyses -- Professor Fuller was asked to do an op-ed on the impact of Amazon’s move to Northern Virginia. He did so. Amazon had no editorial control over the piece. Where is the conflict?”

Bethany Letiecq, an associate professor in human development and family at George Mason and president of the local advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said she would like to see more discussion among faculty about transparency and disclosure when communicating their research and opinions to the public. She contends that whether or not there is a conflict of interest, the perception that one exists can be damaging to the reputation of an academic and their institution and should be avoided.

“We don’t have clear guidelines on these issues,” she said.

Vandana Sinha, editor in chief of the Washington Business Journal, wrote a column on Aug. 9 addressing the controversy over the op-ed.

“By definition, these op-eds are meant to offer a biased take on a topic, so our requirements for them are different than with news stories. In fact, we purposefully ask business leaders to choose a distinct side, that the stronger the opinion, the stronger the piece,” wrote Sinha.

“But in this case, Amazon’s involvement, however limited, should have been disclosed to the WBJ,” she said. “Fuller has a large following and his byline suggests an independent economic assessment of HQ2’s arrival. Readers should have known the corporate giant got to suggest the piece and peek at it before publication. And for anyone proposing an opinion piece to us in the future, don’t be surprised when I now ask if any third party spurred, influenced or funded the submission.”

Paul Fletcher, publisher and editor in chief of Virginia Lawyers Weekly and former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists, said this case would “make a great hypothetical for a media ethics class.”

“Should Fuller have told the WBJ he consulted with Amazon on the article? Probably. I’ve looked through the SPJ Code of Ethics, and it’s hard to find any particular tenet of the code that he breached, but he wasn’t acting as a journalist or reporter. He was writing an opinion column, one that the WBJ accepted and published.”

“Transparency is important, even for an unpaid opinion piece. Providing as much information about an op-ed as possible lets the members of the audience weigh its value on their own terms,” said Fletcher.

Fuller, who is the director of the Stephen S. Fuller Institute for Research on the Washington Region's Economic Future, said he was disappointed that the Washington Post reporters "found the story worthy of all this ink." He said reporters there had been looking into the finances of his institute for months but have not found anything worth reporting.

"It's like they're bending over backward to find something negative to report on Amazon," he said.

The Fuller Institute published a report in November on the economic and fiscal impact of Amazon picking Northern Virginia as the location of its second headquarters. The report was funded and commissioned by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the agency that led the state's Amazon bid.

Fuller said that he had no relationship with Amazon prior to meeting Kerr at the event and exchanging a few emails with her. He said he has a responsibility as a researcher not be corrupted and to share his findings with the public.

"I hope others won't be discouraged from sharing their opinions because of this," he said.

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Categories: Higher Education News

New public charge rule has implications for higher education and students

August 13, 2019 - 5:00pm

The Trump administration published a final rule Monday making it harder for immigrants who have received certain public benefits such as food stamps, most forms of Medicaid and housing assistance to obtain permanent resident status. The rules outline criteria the Department of Homeland Security will use in denying applications for admission to the United States or adjustments of immigration status to for individuals who are already living here and are deemed “likely to become a public charge” in the future.

Opponents of the rule say it constitutes an attempt to circumvent Congress to reduce legal immigration levels by providing expansive new grounds on which DHS and consular officials at the Department of State can deny applications for immigration petitions and visas, respectively. Higher ed experts and college administrators say the rule could have a chilling effect on immigrant students accessing benefits for which they're eligible and could deter foreign students from coming to study here.

The Trump administration argues that the new rule will enforce a law that’s long been on the books, specifically, a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act deeming immigrants inadmissible if they are likely to become a “public charge.”

In the past, officials have defined “public charge” narrowly to apply to individuals who are “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.”

The new rule expands the types of government benefits that are taken into consideration to include certain noncash benefits. It also identifies a series of factors -- including age, health, household size, income, assets, debts and education and skill levels -- officials will use in making forward-looking judgments about whether would-be immigrants are likely to need public assistance in the future.

“Through the public charge rule, President Trump’s administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America,” Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said at a news conference Monday. “Our rule generally prevents aliens who are likely to be a public charge from coming to the United States or remaining here and getting a green card.” (By "green card" he was referring to the official identification card that denotes an immigrant as a legal permanent resident. Older versions of the card used to be green in color.)

The effects of the rule -- which is scheduled to go into effect Oct. 15 -- will stretch far beyond higher education, but advocates for immigrant students say they will be among those affected.

"By the targeting of the public benefits, especially SNAP [the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] and housing assistance, it’s going directly at benefits that help support student success," said Miriam Feldblum, the executive director of the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.

The rule does not include Pell Grants and other forms of educational assistance among the types of benefits that immigrants will be penalized for receiving. But higher education groups previously expressed concern that confusion over the question of what benefits would and would not count against them would discourage some immigrant students from applying for Pell or other federal financial aid.

Higher education groups have also expressed concerns about the implications for international students and scholars on nonimmigrant visas. International students already have to demonstrate that they have funds to pay for tuition and living costs as part of their visa applications.

"At the time of the application for a nonimmigrant visa, the alien must demonstrate to [the Department of State] that he or she is not likely at any time in the future to become a public charge," DHS said in its answer to a public comment on the topic of international students. "Similarly, at the time a nonimmigrant applies for admission, he or she must demonstrate to [Customs and Border Protection] that he or she is not likely at any time in the future to become a public charge."

The agency's response further says that nonimmigrant applicants will not need to demonstrate that they are not likely to become a public charge "when seeking an extension of stay or change of status as a nonimmigrant student or nonimmigrant exchange visitor … However, the alien will need to demonstrate that he or she has sufficient funds to pay tuition and related costs as part of the application for extension of stay or change of status to a nonimmigrant. Further, the alien must demonstrate that he or she has not received, since obtaining the nonimmigrant status he or she seeks to extend or change and through the time of filing and adjudication, one or more public benefits as defined in the rule, for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period."

"It's setting up a whole new set of hurdles," said Doug Rand, who worked on immigration policy as the assistant director of entrepreneurship in the Obama White House and is now the co-founder of Boundless Immigration, a company that helps immigrants apply for green cards or U.S. citizenship. "Will students be disproportionately affected relative to other groups? Maybe not: it's probably going to be easier for young students to clear these hurdles than elderly non-English-speaking parents of U.S. citizens, for example, but I wouldn’t get smug about that if I were higher ed. The clear intent of this policy is to make it harder for people to come here, and this administration backs that up with policies and rhetoric that have already depressed international student enrollment."

"Imagine what’s going to happen if this rule goes into effect and we are truly setting the welcome mat on fire to legal immigrants, and saying we’re unleashing the State Department to deny you a student visa based on some arbitrary prediction of whether you’ll ever need public benefits," Rand added. (Although the new rule was promulgated by DHS and does not directly change State Department policies, a footnote states that "DHS is working with DOS to ensure that the Foreign Affairs Manual" -- a compendium of State Department policies and procedures -- "appropriately reflects the standards in this rule.")

Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California system and a former DHS secretary under President Obama, also said that the rule change would have a negative impact on the perceptions of potential foreign students considering studying here.

"Today’s decision by the Trump administration to expand the definition of ‘public charge’ sends a detrimental message internationally -- that the United States does not want other countries to send their best and brightest here to study and add to the intellectual exchange at our universities, to conduct important research and to contribute substantially to our economy, among other things," she said in a statement.

"This rule also means that a number of UC students and other California residents, out of an abundance of caution, may be reluctant to seek available assistance such as preventative health care, housing opportunities and nutrition education and benefits," Napolitano continued.

"The bottom line: the decision today penalizes and chills much-needed access to vital benefits for which lawful immigrants or mixed-status families are eligible, and not only leads to harmful, unintended consequences but also raises questions about the true intent behind the federal government’s unnecessary and misguided action."

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University of Queensland signs controversial $50 million agreement to fund undergraduate programs in Western civilization

August 13, 2019 - 5:00pm

A second Australian university has signed an agreement worth 50 million Australian dollars ($33.8 million) with a politically conservative foundation to offer programs in Western civilization, providing a rare infusion of money for the humanities but raising concerns among many faculty members and students about academic freedom, undue donor influence and what some describe as the retrograde nature of a curriculum that places the West in the center.

The agreement between the University of Queensland -- one of Australia’s elite Group of Eight universities -- and the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation will fund the hiring of 10 full-time academic staff and 150 scholarships for students who enroll in one of two undergraduate programs in Western civilization. The agreement is for a fixed term of eight years and calls for a panel of not more than four academics -- made up of a Ramsay Centre representative, a UQ representative and two other academics chosen jointly by Ramsay and UQ -- to review the program in its fourth year.

A Ramsay Centre representative will be entitled to sit on hiring committees, though the memorandum of understanding emphasizes that appointments “will be chaired by a member of UQ’s senior management; the chair has the ultimate authority over the outcome of the selection process.”

“As has been made clear since negotiations with the Ramsay Centre began, UQ will maintain autonomy over all key governance arrangements including course content, teaching standards, student admissions, selection of scholarship applicants, staff appointments and academic and intellectual freedom,” Peter Høj, Queensland’s president and vice chancellor, said in a statement.

Høj said the gift offers the “opportunity to offer a rigorous sequence of study focused on small-group discussion, a study abroad program and student-centered learning.” Classes in the program will generally be capped at 10 students, according to the MOU.

“This level of investment in the humanities at UQ comes at a time when opportunities to maintain these foundational disciplines are diminishing,” Høj said. “What we have ahead of us is a transformational opportunity for talented future students who will be able to pursue a liberal arts education that will be both challenging and rewarding and will equip students with the collaborative and persuasive skills to bring about meaningful change.”

Many Queensland professors and students have raised concerns about the agreement with Ramsay, and it was opposed by the UQ branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (the NTEU). The debates are somewhat analogous to debates in the U.S. about universities accepting Charles Koch Foundation money for academic programs and faculty hires.

“Our concerns have largely been about academic freedom with the problem of fixed-term funding by a politicized private foundation, which means that essentially they can pull the funding if they think it’s not serving their political and ideological interests,” said Andrew Bonnell, the president of Queensland’s NTEU branch and an associate professor of history.

“There are concerns about university independence and autonomy around the center representatives sitting on the selection committees for staff appointments, and even though the university insists they’re maintaining independence, they’re still allowing an outside body to essentially purchase seats on selection committees,” Bonnell said. He added, “If there's someone at the table who holds the purse strings, I can't see that that is not going to exercise an influence.”

Bonnell also said that a lot of NTEU members view as "retrograde" the attempt to revive the concept of Western civilization as an organizing curricular principle decades after many universities have moved on to more comparative approaches. "It fits in with the political agenda of some of the backers of putting a more positive face on the history of colonialism in Australia," he said.

Queensland students overwhelmingly registered their opposition to the Ramsay Centre program at a general meeting that about 500 students attended in May. "The political agenda that is being pursued by Ramsay is a hard-right agenda pursued by two of the most notorious right-wing prime ministers who want to institute a degree on a campus that whitewashes the crimes of the West,” said Oula Shihan, an undergraduate student involved in the Keep Ramsay Out of UQ campaign.

The Ramsay Centre counts among its Board of Directors two conservative former Australian prime ministers, John Howard and Tony Abbott. In a 2018 article in the Australian magazine Quadrant, Abbott laid out a vision for the Ramsay Centre as one that would promote a positive view of the study of Western civilization.

“The key to understanding the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation is that it’s not merely about Western civilization but in favor of it,” Abbott wrote. “The fact that it is ‘for’ the cultural inheritance of countries such as ours, rather than just interested in it, makes it distinctive. The fact that respect for our heritage has largely been absent for at least a generation in our premier teaching and academic institutions makes the Ramsay Centre not just timely but necessary.”

The planned curriculum for the Western civilization program at Queensland is based on a great books/objects approach and includes classes titled Perspectives in Humanities; Cross-Cultural Humanities; The Classical World; Jewish and Christian Works; European Enlightenment; Empire and Its Critics; Icons of Western Art; Shakespeare, Art and the Modern; Western Political Thought; The Rule of Law; Women and Gender: Historical and Contemporary Writings; and Constructing the West.

The Board of Studies of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) at Queensland twice rejected the proposed curriculum, but it was advanced for consideration anyway and ultimately approved by the universitywide Academic Board, whose membership is comprised of a mix of administrators, faculty and students. A Queensland spokeswoman, Kim Lyell, described the HASS board as serving as an advisory body to HASS’s executive dean, Heather Zwicker, as opposed to it being an approving body.

“In reaching the decision to endorse the Western civilization curriculum, the executive dean carefully considered the feedback from the Board of Studies before putting the revised curriculum to Academic Board. The executive dean believes the curriculum is more balanced as a result of the board’s feedback," Lyell said.

“The revised curriculum has completed UQ’s standard course and program approval process including careful deliberations and subsequent recommendation by Academic Board that this program go ahead.”

The Ramsay Centre previously signed another agreement worth 50 million Australian dollars with the University of Wollongong. A spokeswoman for the center, Sarah Switzer, said it is currently in negotiations with the University of Sydney, another Group of Eight university, and a number of other institutions. Switzer said the organization has funding for an agreement with one more Australian university for an undergraduate program and related scholarships.

Australian National University withdrew from negotiations with the Ramsay Centre in 2018, citing what university leaders described as “irreconcilable differences over the governance of the proposed program.” Gareth Evans, ANU’s chancellor, and Brian Schmidt, the vice chancellor, wrote in a June 2018 message that the Ramsay Centre “insisted on a partnership management committee to oversee every aspect of the curriculum and its implementation -- with equal numbers from both the Ramsay Centre and ANU, meaning an effective Ramsay veto.”

“While acknowledging that any curriculum would have to be endorsed by the ANU Academic Board, it has made clear that to be acceptable to the Ramsay Centre it would have to find favor with the joint management committee -- with its representatives being able to sit in the classes that we teach and undertake ‘health checks’ on the courses and the teachers,” they wrote.

Ramsay's CEO, Simon Haines, denied that the Ramsay Centre sought a veto or controlling influence or veto over appointments or the curriculum in an op-ed in The Australian.

“As a general comment, we would reiterate that with all agreements that we have negotiated, academic freedom has been at the core of everything agreed to within them,” said Switzer, the Ramsay Centre spokeswoman. “The center is absolutely committed to academic freedom and university autonomy, a fundamental bastion of Western civilization itself. Curriculum development and hiring decisions rest with the universities, and to ensure this is understood, without any doubt, an expressed commitment to academic freedom by both parties is now included in all agreements with universities that we partner with.”

On its website, the Ramsay Centre says its endowment "represents an unprecedented world-scale opportunity to reinvigorate the humanities and liberal arts in Australia, at a time when funding in this sector is under pressure and it has been hard to sustain integrated degree structures."

"We believe generations of young Australians will eventually benefit from this unique opportunity, and learn to value their own civilizational heritage, at no cost to the taxpayer."

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Categories: Higher Education News

Colleges start new programs

August 13, 2019 - 5:00pm
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Johns Hopkins fires professor over clash with student protesters, but he says he has no remorse

August 12, 2019 - 5:00pm

Johns Hopkins University terminated a nontenured associate research professor of speech and language processing who broke into a student sit-in earlier this year with bolt cutters. He says his counterprotest was supposed to be nonviolent and that he wanted to access servers in the occupied building. But protesters accused him of attacking them, and the university says that whatever happened, he put students in danger.

The professor, Daniel Povey, shared his notice letter on his website last week -- along with the news that he’s leaving Baltimore for a job in industry and is definitely not sorry.

“I am aware that some people are trying to ‘cancel’ me and get me fired from my next job. See if I care!” he said in a lengthy post. “I’ll tell you this, though: whatever happens, I will never apologize and I will never back down.”

The “normal script is that I am supposed to get down on my knees and say ‘Please accept me back into your midst, liberal America! I accept that I was wrong,’” he said, adding, “No way. Fuck you.”

Povey further accused student and local protesters of lying about what actually happened inside Garland Hall at Hopkins on day 35 of the overall protest, about a week after they forced a shutdown of Hopkins's main administrative building and chained themselves to walls, railings and staircases. In reality, Povey wrote, he was attacked -- not the other way around.

In response to Povey’s statement, the JHU Sit-In group posted video of the incident. (Povey has since said it is misleadingly captioned. The video itself is grainy and a collection of short clips, so it's difficult to discern what actually happened. It shows Povey using bolt cutters to break through to protesters and, later, someone getting punched.) An accompanying statement from the group says, “We are pleased Professor Povey is no longer welcome on campus, as he has negatively affected students and the community.” However, it says, “we are disappointed that Povey continues to defend his actions, shows no remorse, and disparages students based on his perceptions of their identities.”

The group noted that Povey did not say “anything racially motivated during the actual attack.” It also alleges that the university was manipulating the cooling and heating systems inside the occupied administrative building, and that they may have damaged a server Povey was using.

JHU Sit-In is dedicated to resisting what it calls campus militarization, including a proposal for an armed, private police force; ending the university’s dealing with Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and justice for Tyrone West, a black Baltimore resident who was killed by city police during a traffic stop in 2013.

According to Povey’s termination letter, he was suspended and banned from campus in May over allegations that he “engaged in violent and aggressive behavior when attempting forcibly to enter Garland Hall,” and his conduct “was motivated by racially discriminatory animus and created a hostile environment.”

Povey has admitted leading a group of people to the campus building around midnight on May 8, carrying bolt cutters. “You believed the group of nonaffiliates you brought with you could become violent,” the termination letter also says. As a faculty member, “you created a dangerous situation that could have ended in serious harm to our students, yourself and others in the community.”

Povey was repeatedly told not enter Garland Hall prior to the exchange, despite his requests to enter the building to access computer servers there, according to the letter.

“These actions by a member of our faculty are entirely unacceptable. The safety, security and protection of our students and others are of paramount importance to the university,” wrote Andrew S. Douglas, vice dean for faculty. While the university will continue its investigation until it reaches its conclusion, “your own account of events based on your oral and written statements provides more than sufficient grounds for immediate termination, and we are hereby terminating your appointment with the university.”

Povey’s termination is effective Aug. 31, so that he may help his graduate student advisees transition in the coming weeks.

In the post to his personal website, Povey said he was leaving to take a job in industry in Seattle, starting next week. He’ll still be working with students and collaborators remotely, he said.

Regarding the incident, Povey said that he was “frustrated [by] the prospect of a long siege at Garland where our computer servers live,” and “organized a group of what I called ‘counterprotesters’ to try to regain control of the building from the students.”

A “scuffle” ensued, he said, “and I was carried out of the building by the protesters.” The university “seems not to have been able to substantiate the allegations that I attacked the protesters,” he said, but Johns Hopkins “leadership still decided that I still needed to be fired.”

While the termination letter says he put students in danger, Povey wrote, he actually told the university that his associates were under “strict instructions to not retaliate if attacked.” He did shrug when he was later asked whether he was confident that they would have been able to follow those instructions no matter what happened, though, he said.

“So essentially I am being fired for what might have happened, while the students are getting off scot free for things that actually did happen. They actually made false allegations against me, both in public (on Twitter) and to the university authorities. They actually attacked me and hurt me; many of you saw the big scratches on my back. They also threw a lot of punches at the people with me, who showed admirable restraint, although I understand one punch was thrown by a person in my group. They actually shut down Garland and inconvenienced thousands of people, requiring the fire department to cut open the doors to get them out. But they suffer no consequences. Am I sensing just a liiiitle bit of a double standard?”

What accounts for that, beyond Povey’s faculty status, he asked? “My feeling is that this mostly has to do with underrepresented minorities, specifically black people (and trans people). There seems to be nothing that Americans, or American institutions, fear more than being accused of racism (or similar isms), which leads to ridiculous spectacles like what we're seeing here, where such a huge organization can be paralyzed by a handful of deluded kids.”

If Povey had known in advance “that everyone inside the building was black (that was what I saw; although from media coverage it seems that there may have been a white trans person in the core group) -- I wouldn't have gone ahead with the counterprotest,” he said. “I’m not an idiot; I know that as a person who demographically ticks all the 'oppressor boxes,' I would have to be severely punished for opposing such a group.”

White men in “this environment seem to be expected to constantly atone for their existence by telegraphing their exclusive concern for every demographic group but their own, like a neutered puppy dog or some Justin Trudeau man child,” he said. “It's pathetic, in my opinion, and I don't accept it at all. I am not prepared to apologize for being who I am. I don't think that empathy should preclude critical thinking or basic self-respect.”

Povey goes on to criticize critiques of “toxic masculinity,” compare current discourses on gender and race to Animal Farm and Nazism, discusses animus toward market-dominant minorities, and ends with some Bob Dylan: “I ain't sorry for nothing I've done/I'm glad I fought, I only wish we'd won.” He at one point uses the word -- widely considered a slur -- "retarded."

In its response, JHU Sit-In wrote that Povey’s words are “alarmingly reminiscent of those written to justify abhorrent acts of violence, including the recent mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso.” The university “must take a definitive stance against discrimination and violence” and JHU Sit-In looks “forward to seeing the additional measures JHU takes to address the campus culture that fostered these actions.”

Johns Hopkins has said that it can’t comment on private personnel matters, but that the "safety, security and protection of our students and others are of paramount importance to the university." A "troubling incident in early May prompted an investigation," it said, and, based on the "undisputed facts of the case, the university took interim and now permanent action to ensure the safety and well-being of the community."

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Categories: Higher Education News

College presidents prioritizing mental health more than in previous years, new study finds

August 12, 2019 - 5:00pm

With college students reporting problems with anxiety and depression more than ever before, and suicides now a big problem on campuses, university presidents are responding accordingly.

More than 80 percent of top university executives say that mental health is more of a priority on campus than it was three years ago, according to a new report released today by the American Council on Education.

"Student mental health concerns have escalated over the last 10 years," the report states. "We wanted to know how presidents were responding to this increase. To assess short-term changes, we asked presidents to reflect on the last three years on their campus and whether they have observed an increase, decrease, or no change in how they prioritize mental health."

ACE, which represents more than 1,700 college and university presidents, surveyed more than 400 college and university leaders from two- and four-year public and private institutions. About 78 percent of those surveyed were at four-year universities, and the remainder led two-year institutions.

The association found 29 percent of all the presidents surveyed received reports of students with mental health issues once a week or more. About 42 percent of the presidents reported hearing about these problems at least a few times every month. As a result, presidents have allocated more funding to addressing student mental health problems -- 72 percent of the presidents indicated they had spent more money on mental health initiatives than they did three years ago. One unnamed president even reported spending $15 million on a new “comprehensive student well-being building.”

Hollie Chessman, a research fellow with ACE who helped draft the report, said the association wanted to assess how presidents were navigating the student mental health “crisis” and the types sorts of resources they were devoting to mitigate it. A recent study by the American Psychiatric Association found that in 2017 about 34 percent of students were being treated for some sort of mental health issue, compared to 19 percent of students in 2007.

Presidents surveyed by ACE said they heard about students’ problems with anxiety and depression the most. About 75 percent of presidents reported hearing about anxiety and depression the most frequently among mental health issues, with 23 percent of presidents saying suicide was one of the top problems on the campus. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

“We know that poor mental health hinders student academic success,” Chessman said. “I think it’s important that mental health and well-being be a campuswide priority, and it is for a lot of college presidents.”

The presidents also said they relied mostly on their top student affairs professional -- the vice president of student affairs or a person in an equivalent position -- to handle student mental health matters.

Roughly 92 percent of presidents said they depended the most on their vice president for student affairs and about 85 percent of presidents said they relied on student affairs executives.

“This wasn’t a surprise,” Chessman said. “It definitely speaks to the pressure that student affairs professionals are under.”

Some of the presidents’ choices as the go-to person on campus for mental health matters were surprising -- about 32 percent indicated that they relied on their campus police chief, and 27 percent said they relied on legal counsel.

Professors also spent more time dealing with mental health problems among students than they had three years ago, according to the presidents. About 82 percent of presidents said they agreed or strongly agreed that faculty devoted more time to student mental health than in previous years.

“The issues facing students have become more complex and time-consuming for faculty and staff to address,” one president said in the report. “It also involves multiple staff (student services, counseling, security, external resources, safety, legal) to develop a comprehensive plan to address.”

About 58 percent of presidents said they would add more staff to address mental health concerns, particularly in the campus counseling centers, if they had unlimited financial resources.

Across the country, these centers often report being overburdened as more students feel comfortable taking advantage of the mental health services provided, Chessman said. She noted that the increased use of these centers is a sign that perhaps the stigma about seeking help for mental health problems is lessening.

Chessman said she would like to see follow-up research on mental health programs and “best practices around these issues” in higher ed. For example, while writing the survey report, she found one institution that required all students, professors and staff at the university to receive “mental health first aid” training on how to handle mental health problems and crises on campus.

“It’s really important to know what all institutions are doing to address these issues,” she said.

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Categories: Higher Education News