Higher Education News

Controversy over a paper in favor of colonialism sparks calls for retraction

Inside HigherEd - 13 hours 29 min ago

Denounced by some as “clickbait” and others as poor scholarship, a new article on the supposed benefits of Western colonialism has prompted calls for retraction. And while detractors are plentiful and pointed in their criticism, the debate and others like it has some wondering if retraction threatens to replace rebuttal as the standard academic response to unpopular research.

“The offending article has brought widespread condemnation from scholars around the globe,” begins a petition submitted Monday to the editor of Third World Quarterly and its publisher, Taylor & Francis, demanding the retraction of “The Case for Colonialism.” The petition says that the paper, written by Bruce Gilley, an associate professor of political science at Portland State University and published earlier this month as a “Viewpoints” essay, “lacks empirical evidence, contains historical inaccuracies and includes spiteful fallacies. There is also an utter lack of rigor or engaging with existing scholarship on the issue.”

With more than 10,000 signatures -- many from faculty members -- as of Monday, the petition continues, “We do not call for the curtailing of the writer's freedom of speech … Our goal is to raise academic publishing standards and integrity. We thereby call on the editorial team to retract the article and also to apologize for further brutalizing those who have suffered under colonialism.”

By its very title, Gilley’s article was bound to raise eyebrows, since academic scholarship across fields is brimming with cases against colonialism. And the article itself is indeed provocative: Gilley argues that “it’s high time to re-evaluate [the] pejorative meaning” of colonialism, since, by his accounting, “countries that embraced their colonial inheritance, by and large, did better than those that spurned it.”

Since World War II, in particular, he wrote, “Anticolonialism ravaged countries as nationalist elites mobilized illiterate populations with appeals to destroy the market economies, pluralistic and constitutional polities, and rational policy processes of European colonizers.” In our “age of apology” for atrocities, he added, “one of the many conspicuous silences has been an apology for the many atrocities visited upon Third World peoples by anticolonial advocates.”

Gilley supports his arguments through various examples, including that of Guinea-Bissau and its guerrilla war against Portuguese rule, led by Amílcar Cabral. The resulting war killed 15,000 combatants out of a population of 600,000 and at least as many civilians, Gilley says, and displaced another 150,000.

Once “‘liberation’ was achieved in 1974, a second human tragedy unfolded, costing at least 10,000 further lives as a direct result of conflict,” he says. “By 1980, rice production had fallen by more than 50 percent to 80,000 tons (from a peak of 182,000 tons under the Portuguese). ...Cabral’s half brother, who became president, unleashed the secret police on the tiny opposition -- 500 bodies were found in three mass graves for dissidents in 1981. A tenth of the remaining population upped stakes for Senegal. The Cabralian one-party state expanded to 15,000 employees, 10 times as big as the Portuguese administration at its peak.

“Confused Marxist scholars blamed the legacies of colonialism or the weather or Israel,” Gilley continues, and things have only “gotten worse … What might have become a prosperous and humane Macau or Goa of Africa is today a cesspool of human suffering. Western and African anticolonial scholars continue to extol Cabral’s ‘national liberation’ ideas. But actually existing Guineans may be asking: When are the Portuguese coming back?”

If Guinea-Bissau seems like an extreme case, Gilley says, it’s not. “Of the 80 countries that threw off the colonial ‘yoke’ after World War II, at least half experienced similar trauma, while most of the rest limped on. For 60 years, Third World despots have raised the specter of recolonization to discredit democratic oppositions and ruin their economies.”

Gilley’s prescribed remedy is to resurrect colonial governance in part by reclaiming the “colonial trajectory abandoned at independence.” Similar to the antisocialist “good governance” agenda in that it includes economic liberalization, political pluralism and administrative streamlining, Gilley says, colonial governance differs in that it “explicitly affirms and borrows from a country’s colonial past” and considers a state’s actual capacity to uphold the rule of law and deliver essential services.

Beyond seeking inspiration from a colonial past, Gilley proposes the idea of recolonization in some cases. Drawing again on the example of Guinea-Bissau, he imagined that its government could lease back to Portugal the small uninhabited Galinhas Island. Mainlanders could come to live under Portuguese-style institutions by choice for, say, 99 years, and a “small European state would grow up on the African coast.”

At 60 square miles, Gilley says, “Galinhas could, over time, easily accommodate the entire population of Guinea-Bissau. If successful, it would attract talent, trade and capital. The mainland parts of Guinea-Bissau would benefit from living next to an economic dynamo and learning to emulate its success, while symbolically escaping from the half-century anticolonial nightmare of Amílcar Cabral. The same idea could be tried all over the coastlines of Africa and the Middle East if successful. Colonialism could be resurrected without the usual cries of oppression, occupation and exploitation.”

The Case Against Gilley

It doesn’t take much looking to find holes in Gilley’s arguments, and a number of thinkers quickly offered critiques. The editor of Current Affairs, for example, wrote “A Quick Reminder of Why Colonialism Was Bad,” in which he called the downplaying of colonial-era atrocities “not only unscholarly” but “morally tantamount” to Holocaust denial.

“I suppose to those unfamiliar with the history, Gilley’s argument could appear superficially persuasive,” reads the Current Affairs piece. “But a moment’s examination of the record reveals why the case he makes is abhorrent. Gilley says he is simply asking for an unbiased assessment of the facts, that he just wants us to take off our ideological blinders and examine colonialism from an empirical perspective. But this is not what he has done. Instead, in his presentation of colonialism’s record, Gilley has deliberately excluded mention of every single atrocity committed by a colonial power. Instead of evaluating the colonial record empirically, he has distorted that record, concealing evidence of gross crimes against humanity.”

Farhana Sultana, an associate professor of geography at Syracuse University who helped organize the petition for retraction, said in a public Facebook post that she was personally offended by Gilley’s work and considered it “a ‘faux’ shock piece” published to attract clicks. “But personal reflections or moral outrage aside,” she wrote, “the article is utterly a shoddy piece of writing lacking any academic merit, based on which it should have been rejected by the journal. The article is historically inaccurate, lacking in empirical evidence, not engaging with the abundance academic scholarship on the topic, poorly written, conceptually weak, cherry-picks issues/topics, mischaracterizes scholarly work, poor cited and reproduces falsehoods.”

Engaging with this piece “does not advance our knowledge of colonialism or anything else, and thus does not serve any purpose, as there are plenty of excellent pieces that discuss issues of colonialism, imperialism, racism, etc., far better than this one,” Sultana added. “Any direct engagement with this piece only amplifies and emboldens horrific ideologies and practices that persist in academia and beyond. The journal should never have published such poor-quality work at all, as it undermines its own standards and reputation.”

Vijay Prashad, the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and a professor of international studies at Trinity College in Connecticut, and a member of the journal’s editorial board, spoke out against the paper on social media, saying that its publication violated Third World Quarterly's postcolonial legacy. Seeking to protect that legacy does not amount to censorship, he said. Some critics also have called for the Committee on Publication Ethics, a group that provides leadership on ethics across journals, to open an inquiry into the matter.

9. Had the editorial board been consulted about the essay, I'd have recommended it be sent to myriad mainstream journals for consideration.

— Vijay Prashad (@vijayprashad) September 13, 2017

Criticism vs. Censorship

The isn’t the first time scholars have called on a journal retract a controversial article in recent months. In philosophy, division over calls for the journal Hypatia to retract a paper comparing transgenderism to transracialism led to the resignations of top editors and the suspension of the associate editorial board. More recently, the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology re-reviewed, on ethical grounds, a previously accepted study on training a computer to recognize gay and straight faces.

In neither case was the article retracted (and in the latter case, it was mostly outside groups -- not academics -- that wanted the paper retracted). But are calls for retraction, not forceful rebuttals, becoming the new normal when it comes to disfavored research?

Justin Weinberg, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina and editor of Daily Nous, a popular philosophy blog, recently wrote that he wasn't an expert in Gilley's case or field, but that “our default reaction to cases like this should not be ‘retract!’ but rather, ‘rebut!’”

As academics, he wrote, “we should try as much as possible to rely on the exchange of evidence and arguments, not (directly) on the numbers of people who agree with us, or the strength of their agreement.” Supposing that Gilley’s article was peer reviewed but that arguments against it are largely correct, Weinberg asked, “How should those academics in a position to know these things respond? Is it by saying something tweetable that will convince lots of nonexperts to help them try to erase the article from history? That seems to be making use of inappropriate means towards an undesirable end. The history of academia is a history of mistakes -- and learning from them. If Gilley’s article is full of mistakes, then the job of the experts is to point this out and help us learn from them, so people are less likely to make them again.”

Sultana said Monday that while rebuttal is the standard practice in academe, it’s “only merited with items that are worthy of debate and solid pieces [that] offer up something intellectually sound and well researched to debate with at all.” Moreover, Sultana said, to offer rebuttals would only play into the metrics game that she and others suspect motivated Third World Quarterly to publish the piece in the first place (think: controversy equals clicks).

By publishing “The Case for Colonialism,” she added, the journal “threw into question the entire integrity of the academic publishing process as well as rigor in scholarship.”

Shahid Qadir, editor of Third World Quarterly, said in a statement Monday that Gilley’s piece had been published as a “Viewpoints” essay after “rigorous double-blind peer review.”

Speaking for the journal’s academic editorial team, Qadir said that by publishing the article “we are not endorsing its pro-colonial views.” Rather, he said, the team is “presenting it to be debated within the field and academy, which this justifiably has been. We will now continue this debate by publishing contradicting anticolonial ‘Viewpoints,’ to firmly challenge this opinion in the very best academic tradition.”

Alice Dreger, a former professor of medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University who resigned in 2015 after the university censored a controversial article in a faculty-produced journal, and who has written about intellectual freedom, said she saw a pattern in the recent calls for retraction. But unlike in her case, she said, it’s not administrators but faculty members leading the call for retraction. In addition to the other recent cases, she noted that Annals of Surgery in July retracted a paper, originally written in Polish, for using all male pronouns to reference to surgeons, according to Retraction Watch. It was likely a translation error, but the journal apologized profusely and pulled the paper until further notice.

“I don’t know what these people on the academic left are thinking, and as you know, I’m on the left,” Dreger said. Quoting the petition against Gilley’s piece, she continued, “You’re not calling for the curtailing of the writer’s freedom of speech? Really? So you just want a piece that’s been published retracted and presumably taken off-line? How is that not curtailing someone’s freedom of speech?”

Dreger said she had “no problem taking journals to task for shitty peer reviewing, or asking, ‘What the hell is wrong with peer review for letting this thing go through?’ or ‘How can you have piece that missed this whole area of scholarship or messed up the data?’ But calls for retraction because you don’t like the political message, which is exactly what this petition is saying? No.”

Raising a point that Weinberg offered in his post, Dreger also questioned the language in the petition -- namely that Gilley’s essay further “brutalizes” those who have suffered under colonialism. Describing it as hyperbole, she said it fuels political attacks against higher education from the right.

“They’re not just using the tools of the master, they’re building tools for the master,” she said.

Gilley did not respond to requests for comment. But he’s previously expressed disdain for what he sees as a lack of viewpoint diversity in academe, including in an August essay for Minding the Campus called “Why I’m Leaving the [American] Political Science Association.”

For the “looniest end of the left-wing academy, even the theory is hostile to viewpoint diversity,” he wrote. “They view the academy as a special zone of (left-wing) Truth that must be protected against (right-wing) Falsehoods of the real world. Genuine pluralism, from this vantage, is a cover for privilege and oppression … Why stick your neck out to accept a panel on political diversity at a political science conference when, to cite another of this year’s [APSA meeting] offerings, one can win kudos for accepting a panel entitled ‘Pussies Grab Back: Feminism in the Wake of Trump’?”

Margaret Everett, Portland State’s interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, appeared to back Gilley in a statement, saying academic freedom is “critical to the open debate and free exchange of knowledge and argument.” The university acknowledges “the right of all our faculty to explore scholarship and to speak, write and publish a variety of viewpoints and conclusions,” she added, and “respects the rights of others to express counterviews and to engage in vigorous and constructive debate about the faculty's work.”

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One professor's critique of another divides medieval studies

Inside HigherEd - 13 hours 29 min ago

No one -- besides fellow racists, perhaps -- is pleased that white supremacists have been using imagery from the Middle Ages to further their cause. However, as two professors disagreed about what was to be done about that trend, the dispute was laid out for the public to see, resulting in calls for civility from medieval studies organizations, and Facebook posts tagging far-right personality Milo Yiannopoulos.

Dorothy Kim, an assistant professor of English at Vassar College, called on fellow professors who teach about the medieval period to overtly condemn white supremacy in their classrooms. Kim, who is Asian, wrote in a blog post for medieval studies blog In the Middle that unless white supremacy was explicitly condemned by the overwhelmingly white population of professors who teach on the subject, it would continue to be used by white supremacists, especially those who are young and college aged.

“If the medieval past (globally) is being weaponized for the aims of extreme, violent supremacist groups, what are you doing, medievalists, in your classrooms?” she wrote. “Because you are the authorities teaching medieval subjects in the classroom, you are, in fact, ideological arms dealers.”

“Neutrality is not optional.”

Kim’s viewpoint is not in isolation. In an interview, Jeffrey J. Cohen, an English professor at George Washington University who is part of the cohort of professors who run In the Middle, said that there is a small but stubborn minority of professors who insist white supremacy doesn’t have any connections to the medieval period. Another position is that if there is a connection, both sides ought to be listened to instead of having one side -- white supremacy -- driven out.

“We often hear this is not happening,” he said. “One of the reasons we hosted Dorothy Kim’s guest post is to get out there the way the Middle Ages are being deployed by white supremacists.”

Rachel Fulton Brown, an associate professor at the University of Chicago, doesn’t deny that white supremacists use medieval imagery in their protests or in attempts to invoke a mythical, purely white medieval Europe. However, she disagreed with Kim’s assertion that white professors needed to do more to call out white supremacy in the classroom.

“Richard Spencer and company that are making arguments bringing back a particular vision of Europe, they’re bringing back a fantasy that is their own making, and [that is] instantly punctured if you actually study the history of the Middle Ages,” she said. “We are creating a fear that is unnecessary.”

For Kim, however, that isn't enough.

"Medievalists need to take explicitly antiracist positions, and act in explicitly antiracist ways, in how they conduct themselves in the field," she said in an email. "To do so is the only way to work against white supremacy. Protesting that you yourself are not a racist is useless and ignorant."

Fulton Brown took issue with Kim’s post, writing on her own blog a post titled “How to Signal You Are Not a White Supremacist,” which challenged Kim’s blog post. Fulton Brown went on to say Kim’s post -- although it didn’t mention her -- was the latest in a series of public and private disagreements between the two, citing screen grabs of comments, allegedly from Kim, that were posted in a follow-up post titled “Why Dorothy Kim Hates Me.”

The very public -- and very direct -- argument wasn’t just contained to the niche world of medieval studies. Fulton Brown, who has written for far-right news site Breitbart, tagged Yiannopoulos in one of her Facebook posts about the ordeal, and subsequently an article was written -- “Lady With a Sword Beats Down Fake Scholar With Facts and Fury” -- about Fulton Brown and Kim’s exchanges. (Fulton Brown would be the lady with a sword.)

"Her post is not a discussion, it is not even clear why she thinks I am speaking about her. Instead it is an incitement of harassment and violence to me and my family," Kim said, adding that she has received hate mail since Fulton Brown's posts went up last week. "The problem is not that it played publicly. Scholars write public pieces; often other scholars reply in a debate. The problem is that she crossed so many lines. She did not debate; it was, as some have called it, an 'ad feminam' attack on me that does not address the piece I wrote with clear arguments, evidence and analysis. Then she decided to make it something for [Yiannopoulos’s] platform and 2.3 million readers to focus on."

Kim’s supporters have called out the violent imagery on Yiannopoulos’s site, as well as Fulton Brown’s decision to bring in Yiannopoulos and to use a picture of Kim in her post. They’ve also said Fulton Brown’s post was racially insensitive.

“It becomes an issue at the moment when she focuses not just her attention, and public attention, and potentially the attention of her right-leaning followers on an untenured scholar of color, in a way that is unprofessional and unacceptable,” Cohen, of George Washington University, said. “Everything I’ve tried to do is to make sure Dorothy Kim receives the support she deserves.”

Fulton Brown, who is tenured, said she was confident in Yiannopoulos -- whom she has said she considers a friend -- and his supporters.

“They’re trying to write in a livelier style,” she said. “I trust Milo and his team, and I trust my Facebook followers.”

She has also defended herself from comments and blog posts that have drawn criticism as the conflict has increasingly -- and publicly -- played out. Her conclusion to “How to Signal You Are Not a White Supremacist” said that, in contrast to Kim’s post, the best way to signal that antagonism for white supremacy is to “learn some f*cking [sic] medieval western European history, including the history of our field.”

“If you teach the history, everybody basically learns that it’s a very complicated story, and there’s nothing to support the white supremacist argument in it, which is why I used the phrase that I did at the end of the blog post,” she said in an interview. “And I meant to say that because, in fact, in our field, we have been utterly open to that kind of complication of understanding what the Middle Ages were like.”

Fulton Brown also wrote a blog post in 2015 titled “Three Cheers for White Men.” She said her blog has a certain nonacademic voice that shouldn’t be taken the same way an academic one is -- but at the same time, that post was written before the violence last month in Charlottesville, Va., and supported her argument that Western civilization supports women’s rights.

Her comments -- and the way they’ve publicly played out -- haven’t come without their detractors, however, namely from medieval studies groups.

“We, the undersigned members and friends of the International Piers Plowman Society, express our support for Vassar College assistant professor of English and medievalist Dorothy Kim, who became the target of a racially inflammatory blog post by medievalist Rachel Fulton Brown of the University of Chicago,” one petition to the University of Chicago read. Many are urging their colleagues to write to both Vassar and the University of Chicago in support of Kim and opposition to Fulton Brown.

Other statements -- which didn’t name either professor specifically -- called for civility among medievalists, including releases from the Medieval Academy of America and the New Chaucer Society.

“This is not harmless, this discourse is not harmless,” Cohen said. “Especially when it’s aimed at a vulnerable person.”

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After shooting, Georgia Tech's decision to withhold Tasers questioned

Inside HigherEd - 13 hours 29 min ago

As he answered questions from reporters, disbelief and anger rang in the voice of the father whose child, a Georgia Institute of Technology student, was shot dead by a campus police officer Saturday.

“Why did you have to shoot? That’s the question. I mean, that’s the only question that matters right now,” Bill Schultz said at a news conference Monday, as if he were addressing the cop who killed Scout Schultz, 21. Immediately after Schultz posed the question, he said that the university should equip its police with Tasers -- which it does not.

Though law enforcement experts in interviews cautioned against critiquing the officer’s actions based on the limited information made public and the brief video clips capturing the shooting, most agreed that equipping police officers with Tasers in most cases ensures they're prepared for any scenario -- and reduces the possibility of death.

Officers confronted the younger Schultz outside a Georgia Tech dormitory late Saturday, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which has begun a review of the incident. Schultz wielded what the bureau called a knife, but what the Schultz family’s lawyer described instead as a multitool -- and no blade was unsheathed.

Police told Schultz to drop the weapon -- Schultz did not do so. Video posted online shows Schultz screaming, “Shoot me.” (Video footage, available here, may be disturbing to some viewers.) Schultz continued to ignore the police officers’ instructions, and eventually moved slowly toward a group of officers, with someone shouting, “Drop it.” After a gunshot, the student screamed and fell.

Schultz, the president of the campus group Pride Alliance, which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students, died Sunday in an Atlanta hospital. Schultz identified as bisexual, nonbinary and intersex and preferred “they” and “them” as pronouns -- the Georgia bureau refers to Schultz as “Scott Shultz.” In interviews with local media, the student’s parents said their child battled depression and had attempted suicide before.

The bureau said Monday that three suicide notes were found in Schultz’s room and that Schultz had called 911 to report a possible campus intruder with a knife and gun.

In a Facebook statement, the Pride Alliance said Schultz's leadership prompted change on campus and across Atlanta.

Largely because of the continuing investigation, the university has released limited information.

University police officers do not carry stun guns, only pepper spray, a Georgia Tech spokesman, Lance Wallace, confirmed. He declined to discuss the university’s decision to not provide Tasers.

The Schultzes' lawyer, L. Chris Stewart, blasted the institution at the news conference Monday. Stewart said the family intends to file a civil suit against Georgia Tech. Wallace refused to comment on the prospect of a lawsuit.

“You’re on a college campus, you’re going to be dealing with kids that may be drinking, may be belligerent, may be not listening, may be having a mental breakdown,” Stewart said, questioning why officers don’t have stun guns.

The prevailing wisdom in law enforcement advises furnishing officers with as many tools as possible, including Tasers, said Sue Riseling, the executive director of International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. When Riseling was police chief at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, she found it useful to give her officers stun guns. Should one be deployed correctly, she said, it allows officers precious seconds to possibly grab a subject while the stun gun freezes the muscles. The Taser also gives more range than does pepper spray, which is can be affected by the wind, she said.

Riseling outlined ways officers can try to soothe a subject -- this can be complicated, depending on if the person will listen and speak with a police officer, which is sometimes the most successful way to de-escalate a situation.

Analyzing the Georgia Tech shooting off a video may seem easy, but it shows just a single perspective, said Riseling, adding that waiting for the results of the investigation is vital. She said officers are generally trained to back away from an advancing subject, even someone with a weapon, but at some time police need to “make a judgment call.”

Certain drugs, like PCP, for instance, increase strength in certain people, or make them unpredictable, Riseling said.

“At some point this comes to a head … and you may have to go with a lethal alternative,” she said. “That’s gut-wrenching, but that’s sometimes where it goes.”

Her organization offers reviews of police procedures should an institution request it. Wallace would not provide Georgia Tech policy documents that defined under what circumstances an officer should fire a weapon, directing a reporter to file a public records request.

Georgia Tech’s police force is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Riseling said, which she described as “the gold standard” for all police agencies, not just campus ones. She said the question will be whether the officer met those standards.

The fatal shooting appeared not to be justified in this case, said Hyeyoung Lim, an associate professor in the department of criminal justice at University of Alabama at Birmingham. She noted that in the video officers arrived with backup and some were larger than Schultz. She questioned, though, the appropriateness of a Taser because it could be uncontrolled.

Tasers are generally shot from a distance of at least 15 feet, and the Schultz family's lawyer said officers were standing 20 feet from Scout -- the recommended distance between police and a suspect.

But Tasers are neither foolproof nor immune to abuse. In 2006, the University of California, Los Angeles, needed to re-evaluate its policies on Tasers after an officer shocked an Iranian-American student with one multiple times for failing to produce identification. The Police Assessment Resource Center in an independent review recommended that Tasers only be used on aggressive subjects, and that the institution carefully define different levels of violence to warrant use of a stun gun.

Tasters can also be lethal -- a high school graduate on the University of Cincinnati campus died in 2011 after police fired a Taser at him, eventually leading to a $2 million settlement for his family.

Min-Seok Pang, an assistant professor in the department of management information systems at Temple University, has studied police body cameras and technology with his colleague Paul Pavlou, a senior associate dean at Temple.

In an email, he called it “concerning” that the Georgia Tech officers were not given Tasers.

“This incident also illustrates a point for a campus police that cameras are ubiquitous in a college campus,” Pang wrote. “Every action by a police officer will be recorded by the students, most of whom are very well versed with using smartphones.”

This incident will serve as a learning experience for the entire country, said Tod Burke, a professor of criminal justice at Radford University. Police entities will likely re-evaluate how they can minimize these types of deaths, he said.

Burke, a former police officer in Maryland, said he favors equipping officers with Tasers. Institutions will need to weigh the optics, though, of an officer roaming campus with a full utility belt -- a Taser, baton and gun could intimidate some students. He also pointed out that costs for this equipment extend far beyond the purchase of initial hardware -- training is also involved.

He said he would advocate for more training among officers, particularly in dealing with subjects with mental-health problems. A quick checklist could be developed, he said, that could determine whether force was acceptable, though he said everything hinges on the specific circumstances.

“They have to play the role of a psychologist, a social worker, a health-care worker, and wear all these hats simultaneously while making a split-second decisions that will last weeks, months and years, and be judged both civilly and criminally and administratively. This is not going to be set aside,” Burke said of the Georgia Tech shooting. “This will be a teachable moment, but at what expense?”

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Lipscomb president apologizes again after menu choices at dinners for African-American and Latino students come under scrutiny

Inside HigherEd - 13 hours 29 min ago

Lipscomb University President Randy Lowry apologized again Monday after discussion over a dinner he hosted for African-American students last week grew beyond centerpieces that held stalks of cotton to encompass a menu including greens, corn bread and macaroni and cheese.

“We have many, many events at our house, and we’re in Nashville, Tenn., so you know, kind of Southern comfort food is served a lot at the university, at most restaurants in Nashville, and we serve it in our home,” Lowry said in an interview. “We actually had the very same caterer and the very same dinner a week before for my mother-in-law’s birthday. So it’s hard with students, because some want their comfort food and some want something completely different from their comfort food, and so when dealing, again, with a very diverse student body, it’s hard to please everyone.

“But frankly, we rotate lots of menus, as does our cafeteria, as we do with special events on campus,” he said. “And I’m very sorry if anyone was offended by that, but there was absolutely no intention to set up a menu that would in any way make a statement. It was just one of the options for a good dinner.”

Lowry issued his initial apology to the campus via email Friday, writing that African-American students attending a dinner the night to discuss their experience at Lipscomb had shared concerns about centerpieces containing stalks of cotton. He apologized for causing discomfort, anger and disappointment and asked for forgiveness. But his note made no mention of the menu.

The university posted his apology to Facebook, and images of the centerpieces circulated on social media and news websites. Some commenters argued that it is currently common to decorate with cotton in the South and that the centerpieces were likely not intended as a reference to enslaved people picking the cash crop. But others soon questioned menu choices in addition to the cotton.

The menu for the Thursday dinner for African-American students included turnip greens, macaroni and cheese, and corn bread, foods closely associated with African-Americans. The night before, the president hosted a dinner for Latino students at which the menu included flank steak, fajita chicken, salsa, street corn and Spanish rice.

Lowry did not hear any concerns about the menu choices during the events, he said. Those issues were only raised later.

Pressed on whether the menu choices at the two dinners were happenstance, Lowry pointed out that the menu consisted of more than just the items in question.

“It wasn’t exactly corn bread and mac and cheese,” he said. “It was two or three different meats, and it was cookies and brownies. It was a lot of different things. It was a very generous buffet, but we just kind of rotate.”

Lipscomb provided the full menus for each night. They were as follows.

Wednesday, Sept. 13

  • Flank steak with peppers and onions
  • Fajita chicken with peppers and onions
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Cheese
  • Onions
  • Salsa
  • Sour cream
  • Street corn
  • Pinto beans
  • Chips and queso
  • Spanish rice

Thursday, Sept. 14

  • Pulled smoked pork BBQ with Dr Pepper BBQ sauce
  • BBQ sliced chicken breasts
  • Danish ribs
  • Turnip greens
  • Mac and cheese
  • Corn bread
  • Cookies and brownies tray

As for the cotton in the centerpieces, Lowry said the same centerpieces were to be placed at the dinner with Latino students Sept. 13, but the outdoor area where they were set up could not be used because of rain. He had earlier suggested that a worker find a way to represent the fall season in the centerpieces. They were subsequently made of grains like barley and wheat, along with sunflowers and cotton. They were dried so that they could be used multiple times.

“I don’t want to make light of the interpretation of that,” Lowry said. “Those students that were concerned were sincerely and deeply concerned, and I was sincere and deeply apologetic that we had offended them.”

When Lowry started at Lipscomb in 2005, its minority population was 4 percent, he said. This year, it was 23 percent. That’s up 1 percent from last year, the university reported in a fact sheet. The figure includes undergraduate students and graduate students reported as coming from different countries, races and ethnicities.

Last fall, 7 percent of Lipscomb’s undergraduate students were black or African-American, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Another 6 percent were Hispanic or Latino, 3 percent were Asian, and 76 percent were white. The private university, affiliated with the Churches of Christ, enrolled nearly 3,000 undergraduates and more than 1,600 graduate students.

The university fact sheet also highlighted programs and initiatives intended to educate students about diversity. They included an initiative based on a call in the Bible to love one’s “neighbor as yourself,” a new 10-day summer event for high school students based on a civil rights tour and a presidentially appointed committee to help build a “culture centered on respect.”

Going forward, Lowry does not worry that the recent events have damaged his relationship with students. Some students will need to be able to communicate their concerns, and he wants them to know he will talk to them as soon as it can be arranged, he said.

“When we go forward, we will continue to try to be concerned,” he said. “We missed on this one, and I thought the appropriate thing to do was apologize for that miss, and I hope forgiveness can be granted and we, frankly, can get everybody focused on some of the much more profound things -- and that’s taking hundreds of young people who may not have had a chance for an education and absolutely changing their futures.”

The events at Lipscomb appear to be a failed attempt at cultural inclusivity, said Shaun R. Harper, a professor at the University of Southern California's school of education and executive director of the university's Race and Equity Center, who recently delivered a much-discussed speech on racism at the National Association for College Admission Counseling's national conference. Over the years, many college presidents have tried to demonstrate that they appreciate aspects of the cultures that students of color bring to campus, he said.

But they do not get needed advice -- either because they do not have a diverse leadership team to give that advice or because a particular set of advisers are not conscious of issues of race.

“I think a good adviser would say to someone that just because you’re having Latino students over doesn’t mean you have to have things dressed in salsa, or just because you have black students over you have to serve them what the president is calling comfort food but what is thought of as soul food,” Harper said.

The larger issue at play is what actually makes students of color feel as if their president respects them and wants to build a culture of inclusion, Harper said.

“It’s not food,” he said. “It is policy and it is things that college presidents do to hold their faculties and other administrators accountable for creating a racially inclusive campus environment.”

As for apologizing after events like those at Lipscomb, simple is usually best, Harper said.

“Oftentimes an apology is much more helpful than an explanation, because explanations oftentimes are experienced as defensiveness or defensive justifications.” he said. “Just say, ‘You know, I recognize that this was a huge misstep and I deeply apologize to our students.’ That’s it. Just say that.”

Editorial Tags: College administrationDiscriminationDiversity MattersImage Caption: Lipscomb University President Randy LowryIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 3Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, September 19, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: More Than Cotton

White House goes with nontraditional pick to lead HBCU Initiative

Inside HigherEd - 13 hours 29 min ago

President Trump's pick to lead the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities fits the mold of many of the administration's key appointments.

Like many administration officials, Johnathan Holifield, a speaker and consultant named executive director of the HBCU Initiative Monday, has a track record in the private sector but practically no experience in government or with the institutions he'd be working to advance. Organizations representing historically black colleges offered tentative praise of the pick. But commentators on issues affecting minority institutions were quick to note Holifield's lack of experience working with HBCUs.

Holifield has spoken frequently on how to make innovative areas of the economy more inclusive. Speaking after his introduction at the White House Summit on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, he said HBCUs are "entrepreneurial institutions."

"I'm excited to contribute the whole of my being to this effort," he said.

Holifield's appointment ended months of waiting following Trump's signing of an executive order in February that moved the initiative from the Department of Education to the White House. Although Trump had promised historically black colleges would be "an absolute priority," no previous administration had made it to August without naming a leader of the initiative. Stakeholder groups offered muted praise for the pick.

In a statement, Johnny C. Taylor Jr., president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, applauded the decision to name an executive director. He also noted Holifield's 20 years of "multidisciplinary" experience in business and government.

"TMCF looks forward to continuing our productive working relationship with the White House," Taylor said.

Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, said in a statement that the group looked forward to meeting with Holifield.

“As we have done since the start of the new administration, UNCF will seek every opportunity to present Mr. Holifield with our federal policy proposals and enlist his essential support of investments in HBCUs and, most importantly, our students," he said.

Holifield co-founded ScaleUp Partners, a consulting firm that has worked with businesses as well as colleges and universities. He's also held positions at economic development firms and served as CEO of the Urban League of Greater Cleveland. Outside of a stint as an assistant prosecutor, his work experience has been in the private and nonprofit sectors.

He has a master of education and a law degree from the University of Cincinnati, and he played football for West Virginia University and later the Cincinnati Bengals in the National Football League.

Skepticism About Appointment

Reactions among some observers of HBCU institutions verged on befuddlement.

Marybeth Gasman, director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, said entrepreneurship and innovation are important objectives for institutions to pursue. But she also said it was important for anyone in the office to have a deep familiarity with historically black colleges and their needs.

Gasman said she was skeptical, however, that any executive director would accomplish much in this administration.

"I don’t see Trump caring about HBCUs, as he has demonstrated this lack of care," she said. "I hope that Holifield does well, but I don’t see anyone working with the Trump administration having autonomy or being able to make substantial important changes."

Julianne Malveaux, an author and former president of Bennett College in North Carolina, said Holifield has tremendous business acumen. But she noted that many other individuals with entrepreneurial experience have also been more engaged with historically black colleges.

"The 45th president has done little to earn the trust of the HBCU community; this appointment does not engender trust, but instead suggests a 'wait, see and hope for the best' attitude," Malveaux said.

Trump entered office with historically low approval ratings among African-Americans. His administration reached out quickly to historically black colleges, though, and consulted often with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund in particular. TMCF itself coordinated with congressional Republicans to arrange a summit of more than 100 HBCU leaders in February that culminated with the signing of the executive order -- and an oft-circulated Oval Office photo op with Trump.

But for months after that executive order, leaders of historically black institutions saw little follow-through from the administration on that early promise. And last month, negative attitudes toward the president were further enflamed by his reaction to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. After a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of antiracist protesters, killing one woman and injuring several others, Trump made comments suggesting "both sides" were to blame.

Groups including UNCF and TMCF last month called for a delay of the annual White House HBCU Week Conference, scheduled for this week, citing the administration's slow progress naming an executive director for the initiative or advancing any other priorities of black colleges. At the same time, some college presidents quietly indicated they wouldn't attend after Trump's comments on Charlottesville. The administration eventually agreed to a delay and turned the three-day conference into one day of meetings, including the announcement of Holifield's appointment.

The announcement did get the stamp of approval from a former leader of the HBCU initiative. Leonard Haynes, who filled that role under President George W. Bush, said Holifield has the skill set, temperament and competitive spirit to do the job well.

"We need an energetic, fresh approach," Haynes said. "His focus on economic competitiveness is basically what HBCUs need."

And while Haynes might not have significant experience working with historically black colleges, Haynes said, those institutions have sometimes hired nontraditional leaders themselves.

Representative Alma Adams, a North Carolina Democrat and co-chair of the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus, said the appointment was a "first step" in the administration's attempts to repair relationships with HBCU leaders and congressional lawmakers.

There is little measure of an executive director's success other than translating the president's support into tangible funding, said former Morehouse College President John S. Wilson, a leader of the HBCU initiative under President Obama.

"The new executive director has but one mission -- to fulfill his promise to essentially break all previous records in support of HBCUs," he said. "I wish Mr. Holifield the best in his work for HBCUs."

Editorial Tags: Federal policyEducation DepartmentHistorically black collegesImage Caption: Johnathan Holifield Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 

Incidents at Harvard and Catholic Universities run counter to narrative about campus speaker controversies

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 07:00

Last week, the University of California, Berkeley, spent $600,000 on security to assure that Ben Shapiro, a conservative writer, could speak on the campus without being disrupted. Also this month, Charles Murray, whose research is blasted by many as racist, appeared at Harvard University. Security was tight there, and some protested outside, but Murray spoke without incident.

In both cases, the universities rejected requests by some that the appearances be called off. In both cases, the speakers praised the universities for the way they handled the events.

The appearances don't quite fit the narrative -- widely in play after Murray was shouted down at Middlebury College in the spring -- that it's impossible for controversial conservative speakers to appear on campuses these days, and that colleges won't protect the right of free speech. Indeed, since the Murray incident at Middlebury, he has given speeches at several institutions -- such as Columbia and Indiana Universities -- with protests outside and heavy security but no disruptions. And when some students tried to disrupt his talk at Villanova University, campus police intervened, removed those disrupting, and the talk went on.

Berkeley -- while bickering with organizers of events that will bring a who's who of far-right speakers in the coming weeks over details on logistics for two of the 12 events -- is defending the right of speakers to appear and holding forums on the value of free speech.

So who is getting blocked from speaking on campus this month?

First there is Chelsea Manning (right), who served seven years in military prison for sharing classified documents with Wikileaks before President Obama commuted her sentence. Harvard on Friday morning rescinded her invitation to be a visiting fellow at its Institute of Politics. (While "visiting fellow" sounds like a visiting professorship, it is actually an extended speaking gig in which participants from the world of politics spend about a week interacting with Harvard students and faculty members.)

Then came news that the seminary affiliated with Catholic University of America had revoked an invitation to the Reverend James Martin (left) to speak on the campus. Father Martin is the author of several books and, most recently, of Building a Bridge, which argues that the Roman Catholic Church can find positive ways to interact with gay and lesbian Catholics. The book has been much praised by many church leaders, including by bishops. But some conservative Catholic groups have attacked the book.

In both the cases of Manning and of Father Martin, the decisions to revoke invitations followed outrage over the invitations being extended in the first place. Some Republican politicians went so far as to suggest that Harvard should lose all public funding for a decision to invite Manning.

.@Harvard names convicted spy/traitor Chelsea Manning visiting fellow. All money they receive from U.S. govt should be cut off. Now.

— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) September 14, 2017

In the case of Father Martin, websites such as Church Militant accused him of being "a liar leading these precious people to perdition."

In statements announcing the decisions to revoke the invitations, both Harvard and Catholic's seminary cited the reactions to the invitations. Douglas W. Elmendorf, dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, said in a statement revoking the invitation to Manning that "I see more clearly now that many people view a visiting fellow title as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations."

The seminary explained its revoked invitation by saying that it "has experienced increasing negative feedback from various social media sites regarding the seminary’s invitation."

Many of the Republican politicians and conservative pundits who have spoken out against withdrawn invitations or efforts to shout down speakers, by or at the behest of the left, have been silent.

Some groups have been consistent in speaking out against efforts to block speakers on campus. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, for example, published a blog post Friday noting that many view Manning as a whistle-blower deserving of praise. Further, while critics of the invitation to her said that Harvard should never invite someone who may have violated the law, the blog post noted that this may not be a precedent Harvard wants to set.

"Honors are often bestowed by universities, including Harvard, on controversial people -- including people whose decisions and actions are seen as having caused the deaths of others around the world," FIRE wrote. "Berkeley counts among its professors John C. Yoo, whose 2002 memorandum was seen by many as authorizing the United States to torture detainees. Many view Henry Kissinger -- a former member of Harvard’s faculty who has spoken at the university repeatedly -- as a war criminal who should not be afforded a 'platform' at Harvard."

The FIRE analysis went on to say, "Hearing from controversial speakers of diverse views is a social good, and universities must not bow to public pressure in granting their students the ability to hear from -- and challenge -- speakers whose decisions and actions have shaped the world, for better or for worse. This is how students learn from history and how to criticize newsworthy figures."

John K. Wilson, one of the editors of the American Association of University Professors' "Academe" blog, regularly criticizes any attempts to block speech on campus. He said via email that it is frustrating that so many observers characterize this issue as one that is a problem only with the left.

"I want to write a book titled 'Snowflakes Fall Everywhere,'" he said. "There are plenty of people, on the left and the right, who want to silence free speech. So why does almost all of the media attention focus on the small number of leftist censors?"

Added Wilson, "Too often, people excuse or ignore censorship when it’s coming from people they support. I find it very common to have my allies in academic freedom battles radically shift all the time. When I defend Steven Salaita [who lost a job at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign], all of the leftists join in and the conservatives bend over backwards to find some excuse for why academic freedom doesn’t apply. When I defend John McAdams [who is fighting to keep a job at Marquette University], the conservatives discover academic freedom and the liberals search for every reason to justify the administration's repression. The greatest threat to free speech on campus is hypocrisy, when defenders of free expression with good intentions fail to vigorously apply their own principles to people they despise. That divides what should be a united front for free speech and makes it possible for censorship to thrive."

Perhaps the most striking comment on how the withdrawn invitations last week aren't consistent with what many have been saying about campus speech came from John Garvey, president of Catholic University. His statement noted that Father Martin spoke at the university last year, and said that the university officials "regret the implication that Catholic University supported yesterday’s decision."

“The campaigns by various groups to paint Father Martin’s talk as controversial reflect the same pressure being applied by the left for universities to withdraw speaker invitations,” said Garvey. “Universities and their related entities should be places for the free, civil exchange of ideas. Our culture is increasingly hostile to this idea. It is problematic that individuals and groups within our church demonstrate this same inability to make distinctions and to exercise charity.”

Editorial Tags: Academic freedomImage Source: iStockIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 

Arizona State emerges as backing fee-for-honors model, pointing to recent growth

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 07:00

Fast food isn’t the most common point of comparison for honors colleges.

But Mark Jacobs, vice provost and dean of Arizona State University’s honors college -- called Barrett, The Honors College -- used it anyway.

“If I were Kentucky Fried Chicken, I guess we’d want to franchise Barrett and make tons of money,” Jacobs said in a recent interview. “But when you’re an educational institution, the best you can talk about in terms of the effect outside your own institution is hoping that good ideas you have might be copied and used by other people, or translated to fit their context.”

Jacobs was discussing the future of the model Arizona State has used to build its honors college, which has positioned itself as a liberal arts college nestled within a public university. The honors college boasts its own gated corner of Arizona State’s Tempe campus, complete with residence halls, classrooms, a gym and other amenities. Those amenities include a dining center with some very non-fast food touches, like a refectory modeled after a British university dining hall.

The honors college has its own dedicated faculty and staff so that students can take many courses in small classes instead of lecture halls filled with hundreds of students. It boasts of master teachers who dedicate all of their time to students. And it has grown rapidly in the last dozen-plus years.

To fuel its growth, the honors college has utilized a powerful but controversial mechanism: a substantial program fee. The fee has grown from $250 per semester when it was approved a decade ago to $750 per semester today.

Program fees or differential tuition rates for high-cost programs have become increasingly common at colleges and universities in recent years. Backers of the charges see them as important new funding streams, particularly for public institutions trying to compensate for limited state funding.

Still, the practice is generally considered more common among professionally geared programs like engineering than it is at honors colleges. Its detractors characterize it as a way to attract wealthy students who are most likely to qualify for honors programs -- and as a way to wring more money out of those students. They also argue high fees and differential tuition can dissuade poor students from enrolling in honors colleges.

In light of that debate, Arizona State and Jacobs stand out for their unabashed salesmanship of the practice. Jacobs contrasts Arizona State’s roughly $25,000 per year estimated cost of attendance for an in-state student to the $65,000 or more quoted by many liberal arts colleges in the northeast. In light of those figures, Arizona State’s honors college fee is a “smoking deal” and “absolutely a steal,” he said.

Public institutions across the country are taking note of the growth of Arizona State’s honors college or incorporating parts of its model, Jacobs continued. They include the University of Kentucky, which is turning an honors program into an honors college, and Portland State University, he said.

“I do think we are affecting the whole nation, or at least the U.S.’s public universities, and becoming a model of what a public can do for their most academically engaged students,” Jacobs said in a follow-up email.

Evidence and experts seem to support that assertion. The idea of honors college fees is being explored and implemented by institutions across the country. Many expect fees or differential tuition structures to grow in the future as administrators struggle to build programs that attract students and to find new sources of revenue.

Arizona State’s Story

Jacobs has led Arizona State’s honors college since 2003, when he was one of President Michael Crow’s early administrative hires. He had chaired the biology department at Swarthmore College and was associate provost there.

Arizona State already had a long-established honors college, but Jacobs soon faced a series of questions about the future. He had to decide whether to move the college to a new campus in Paradise Valley, away from Arizona State’s main Tempe campus. He decided against it, and Barrett was instead located on nine acres in a corner of the Tempe campus.

The idea was that students could walk off the honors college grounds and tap into the resources of the larger university, then walk back to the honors college and get the same level of attention and support they would get at a private liberal arts college like Swarthmore or Amherst.

But the college was also growing and facing financial pressures. In the mid-2000s, leaders asked the Arizona Board of Regents for permission to charge new honors college students a fee of $250 per semester and existing students a fee of $125 per semester.

The fee revenue would be used to fund more honors seminars, more support for senior theses, internship advising and summer study abroad scholarships, according to board documents. Fee revenue would further be used to establish a new honors section of an English course and new lectures.

One argument for the fee was that it wouldn’t just benefit honors students -- it would improve the entire university’s academic reputation.

Regents rejected the fee in 2005 but approved it the next year, in 2006. It has increased twice since its approval, Jacobs said, first to $500 per semester and then to the current $750 per semester.

The honors college has grown substantially. In 2003-04, before the fee was put in place, its annual budget totaled about $2.3 million. It had nine faculty members, 16 staff members and 2,696 students. Today, the honors college’s budget has grown to about $11 million. It employs 44 faculty members and 80 staff members. It also enrolls 7,200 students.

The fee radically revamped the construction of the honors college’s budget. In 2003, it drew 76 percent of its revenue from general operations, a budget line including state support and tuition charges. The other 24 percent of its budget came from endowment income.

In 2017, the college draws 36 percent of its budget from general operations and 4 percent from endowment income. A whopping 60 percent of the budget comes from the fee.

It has been a critical mechanism at a time when state support for higher education has not kept pace with demand, according to Jacobs. Arizona's Legislature has pulled back from funding higher education, even cutting all state funding for two large community colleges in the state in recent years.

“We charge a fee, but colleges at ASU charging fees at all is sort of connected to the whole story out here with the Arizona Legislature,” Jacobs said. “Originally, charging a fee from some of the colleges was a way to keep them operating with funds that they could use for good new programs.”

Meanwhile, Arizona State emphasized the honors college’s physical presence. It totaled just under 200,000 square feet in 2003-04. Today it is almost 600,000 square feet. Jacobs touts a nine-acre, $140 million complex designed around a central dining area. He likens the idea to the University of Oxford.

American Campus Communities, a private developer and manager of student housing, invested in the campus, which opened in 2009. Arizona State describes it as “the country’s first comprehensive four-year residential honors college campus in a top-tier research 1 university.”

About 83 percent of the honors college’s students are at its Tempe campus. The others are spread across three other campuses that administrators hope to grow in the future. The focus in Tempe going forward will be programmatic improvements.

Many public universities had honors colleges 14 years ago when Jacobs came to Arizona State, he said. But most weren’t developed.

He argued that dedicating energy and resources to building an honors college represents a substantial change from past practices. Arizona State is building its honors college to provide an education that is as good as one provided by private colleges, but at a cheaper price, Jacobs said.

“It wasn’t the idea of an honors college,” he said. “It was the idea of a changed one, an enhanced one, one that paid attention to ideas that work at private colleges to engage the smart kids at those places. That was the change.”

Fees Criticized

It can be argued that an honors college fee amounting to $1,500 per year is relatively small in comparison to the total cost of attending Arizona State. The university estimates total cost of attendance at $28,491 for in-state undergraduates attending its Tempe campus in 2017-18, including books, supplies, housing, meals and travel costs. It estimates total cost of attendance at $45,071 for nonresident students at Tempe and $49,286 for international students there. Those estimates do not account for different program fees or financial aid.

Yet some balk at the idea of charging high-achieving students more money so that they can study in an honors setting. They worry it discourages poor students from enrolling in honors, even if they are highly qualified.

Bette Bottoms is a professor of psychology and dean emerita of the honors college at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has always been against the idea of a fee-for-service model in an honors setting, she said in an email. It makes the playing field less level for students of low and moderate socioeconomic status, she said.

“Now, if you tell me that Arizona [State] has some way of waiving the fee for lower-income students, that makes the model more palatable, but I still don’t agree with it,” she said. “Do incoming students know this? We never charged a fee, and I found that prospective students and their families often expected it anyway -- I’m sure this kept some students from even considering applying.”

Arizona State must set aside 17 percent of its honors college fees for financial aid, according to Jacobs. Barrett students can receive need-based and non-need-based aid from the university’s central financial aid office. Students can also receive aid from the honors college in the event their financial aid packages are not enough to allow them to pay the fee for being honors students, he added.

Bottoms was not swayed. If a university values honors, then it should support honors colleges and programs with specific allocations of funds instead of extra fees, she argued.

The Arizona Board of Regents has at times struggled with the idea of fees as well. When Arizona State asked to implement an honors college fee in 2005, it was rebuffed by regents who voted down a number of undergraduate fees, including new architecture and engineering fees at the University of Arizona. The board did not approve the university’s request even though Arizona State had cut its honors fee proposal from $500 per semester to $250 per semester because of student and parent feedback.

“We would be remiss if we didn’t recognize that we as educational leaders have created a climate for the students where they believe fees are necessary,” Regent Ernest Calderón said, the Arizona Daily Star reported at the time. “I’m not sure that’s consistent with the Arizona Constitution.”

Arizona’s Constitution requires public higher education be “as nearly free as possible.”

Regents approved the fee in 2006 along with numerous other fee and differential tuition changes. Calderón likened the fee situation to a “user tax” where users pay their own freight as they travel through the education system, according to meeting minutes. He said he hoped it was a symptom of lacking education funding instead of a symptom of lacking self-restraint.

Growth Projections

Despite the practice’s controversial nature, higher education leaders and other experts agreed that program fees and differential tuition have been spreading -- and that they’re likely to proliferate further. Their predictions applied to both honors colleges and other programs.

A small but significant portion of honors colleges already charge students separate fees. An even 17 percent of honors colleges at four-year institutions charge a separate fee, according to a 2016 survey from the National Collegiate Honors Council. The average fee among those that charged one was $552.10 per year.

Honors colleges were much more likely than honors programs to charge a fee. Only 4.6 percent of honors programs charged a fee, averaging $74.30.

The National Collegiate Honors Council does not have any data on whether fees are growing among honors colleges. Its 2016 survey was the first asking about the practice. The organization has found, though, that honors colleges have been established at a faster clip in recent years than they were in the past.

Anecdotally, institutions are increasingly interested in building their honors colleges in ways that look similar to Arizona State’s model of a liberal arts college within a public university. And they are often funding their efforts with student fees or differential tuition.

The University of Kentucky, for example, is turning its honors program into the Lewis Honors College after receiving a $23 million gift in 2015. This summer the college hired its first dean, Christian Brady, who spent 10 years at Pennsylvania State University’s well-known Schreyer Honors College.

Some of the Kentucky honors college’s framework echoes what Arizona State is doing, Brady said. It will have a dozen lecturers, most of whom will be teaching a foundations course. The honors college has a $500 annual fee associated with it to support staffing and special programming.

Kentucky is entering a capital campaign, and Brady has the goal of raising money so the honors fee does not have to increase. Students who are eligible for federal Pell Grants can have the fee waived, and the college will develop grants so it can waive the fee for others, he said.

Kentucky is aiming for its honors college to have roughly 2,200 students, or about 10 percent of the university’s undergraduate student body. The university is not replicating everything Arizona State is doing, Brady said.

“I know President Crow and Mark have really gone for sort of a more cloistered and separated approach,” Brady said. “That was not my approach to honors, particularly within a land-grant university.”

Some students don’t prefer the Arizona State honors college’s separate feel. In an April opinion piece for the University of Arizona’s student newspaper, The Daily Wildcat, one student critiqued a proposed honors complex at Arizona by saying it would create a similar facility to Arizona State’s.

Toni Marcheva, who decided to attend Arizona over Arizona State in part because of the differences in honors facilities, wrote that Arizona State’s honors college was “pretty off-putting.” She felt isolated once she stepped through its gates, and she heard students at Arizona State’s honors college were not part of the larger university community, she wrote.

“The separation did not make sense to me,” she wrote. “The real world does not separate the ‘good test takers’ from everyone else. In the real world, students categorized as honors students are integrated with everyone else.”

More broadly, a fundamental tension exists between how resources are collected and spent within public universities and honors colleges.

Many see a public honors college as having the mission of providing a high-quality education to a state’s top students in order to prevent the brain drain of those students leaving for Ivy League and other highly selective institutions. Worries persist, though, that some honors colleges will be tempted to offer more amenities than substance, particularly as private institutions set up their own honors colleges to compete.

The question is not just whether honors students should pay more for their experience. It’s also why a particular amenity or experience is appropriate for honors students but not the larger student body.

“On some level, everything we’re doing with honors is what, ideally, we would do for all of our student body,” said Brady at Kentucky. “But there’s a reason why honors colleges are found predominantly in large state universities. It’s because some things just aren’t scalable. And honors is always a more expensive proposition, whether fees are being charged directly or not.”

Yet models can vary significantly even among those institutions charging honors fees. Portland State University’s honors college charges $7 per honors credit hour. Its approximately 800 students typically take four honors credit hours every quarter.

The college has a specific mission of providing educational access to working-class and middle-class students, said its director, Brenda Glascott. So it has kept its fees low. But it can be difficult to balance low fees against the need to raise money for co-curricular experiences and study abroad programs.

“Because we’re so interested in making sure that honors education is accessible for all high-achieving students at Portland State, we don’t want to create a situation where there’s a paywall,” Glascott said. “Our point is to build those bridges for students to graduate and professional schools -- to open those doors to them.”

The trade-off is that Portland State’s honors college is not as well resourced or robustly built as some others. It has six core faculty members. But it doesn’t own its own dormitory.

Public universities are fighting to put forward a value proposition that is strong enough to win quality students, said Donald Norris, president of Strategic Initiatives Inc., a management consulting firm. Doing so in a financially sustainable way is difficult when state appropriations lag, he said. Legislatures can push back on differential tuition and fees.

Institutions have sometimes been reluctant to introduce differential pricing because it is difficult to put in place and opens the door to criticism, Norris continued. Yet it can be a way to gain a competitive edge if they have improved the value proposition to students and parents.

“If you have an honors college that is offering a differential experience with different student-to-faculty ratios, no large lecture sessions, no large amphitheaters for students, then I think it’s probably pretty justifiable,” Norris said.

“I think that differential tuition for differential value is something that’s going to have to be on the table more and more,” Norris said. “I don’t know what the end point is.”

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John Jay College puts adjunct on leave over tweet about teaching 'future dead cops'

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 07:00

The tweet was a few weeks old by the time it was spotted by critics at the end of last week.

Michael Isaacson, an adjunct at John Jay College of City University of New York, is active in the "antifa" movement, and he was commenting on teaching economics at John Jay, known for its criminal justice programs, many of which educate current or future police officers. He tweeted that it was an honor to teach "future dead cops."

As word of the tweet spread, numerous groups -- especially police organizations and politicians -- demanded that Isaacson be fired. And Isaacson received threats, some of which he shared online:

Fuckin Yoda over here with the death threats pic.twitter.com/dRn1Fnyzju

— Mike Isaacson (@VulgarEconomics) September 14, 2017

Then on Friday night, John Jay's president, Karol Mason, released a statement announcing that Isaacson had been placed on leave.

The statement did not name Isaacson. But Mason said that "I want to state clearly that I was shocked by these statements. They are abhorrent. This adjunct expressed personal views that are not consistent with our college’s well known and firm values and principles and my own personal standards and principles. I am appalled that anyone associated with John Jay, with our proud history of supporting law enforcement authorities, would suggest that violence against police is ever acceptable,"

Mason went on to express support for free expression.

"We recognize that the open exchange of diverse, even opposing ideas and perspectives gives strength to our institution and enriches the educational experience of our students," her statement said. "Indeed, to fulfill our mission, it is vital that we support our students, faculty and staff in engaging in robust, civil, and vigorous debate about the issues of the day. While respecting free speech and academic freedom are deeply held values, expressions of hate or intimidation are not welcome in that civil discourse, nor is anything that can be perceived as an incitement to violence."

And then Mason cited safety issues to support a decision to place Isaacson on leave. "The safety of our students, faculty and staff is our top priority. Today, members of the John Jay faculty received threats, and our students expressed concerns for their safety in the classroom," Mason said. "Out of concern for the safety of our students, faculty and staff, we are immediately placing the adjunct on administrative leave as we continue to review this matter."

Early signs are that the leave will not satisfy police groups.

The New York City police union has reiterated its demand that Isaacson be fired.

And even liberal politicians -- such as New York City's major, Bill DeBlasio, have suggested the same.

New York City won't stand for the vile anti-police rhetoric of Michael Isaacson and neither should John Jay College.

— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) September 15, 2017

The faculty union at CUNY, the Professional Staff Congress, also condemned Isaacson's tweet. A statement from the union said the following:

"The Professional Staff Congress/CUNY rejects the statement by Michael Isaacson about imagining his students dead. Isaacson’s statement in no way represents the position of the PSC as a union or the tens of thousands of CUNY faculty -- both full-time faculty and adjuncts -- who choose to work at CUNY because of a profound commitment to the diverse and largely working-class students we are privileged to teach. But the right of free speech protects even repugnant speech, and the PSC will vigorously defend the due-process rights of every CUNY employee -- both full time and part-time -- we represent.

New York tabloids have also joined in the debate, highly critical of Isaacson.

Via email, Isaacson said that he was trying to teach his students and be honest with them -- and that his tweet reflected his approach.

"It is an undeniable fact that, by virtue of teaching at a college where a good chunk of the students intend to be cops, I am teaching future dead cops," Isaacson said. "Policing is an institution that operates in the interest of increasingly unrepresentative governments. Insofar as police enforce a regime that would serve the interests of prison and weapons lobbyists as well as governments increasingly reliant on criminalizing the public to balance their budget, I am against law enforcement. Being that police officers are put into this situation with largely no control over how they deploy enforcement (lest they be fired), I seek to teach my students the economic reality of policing as a system and their ultimate role should they choose to enter that field."

He said that there are legitimate security concerns facing John Jay College, given the threats against him.

Isaacson said that in terms of academic freedom, he is particularly concerned by Mayor DeBlasio's comments. He said that DeBlasio had effectively called for "my termination" and that "such public remarks are, to my mind, no less than a threat to the administrative autonomy of John Jay College and CUNY and the academic freedom that comes with such autonomy."


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Yale strikes 'freshman,' 'upperclassman' from official publications

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 07:00

Yale University will discontinue the terms “freshman” and “upperclassman” in its official documents, joining a widespread trend among institutions.

Yale publications and communications will instead refer to “first-year” and “upper-level” students, according to university representatives, with the intent to phase out the older terminology by the 2018-19 academic year.

University representatives did not respond to follow up questions about the impetus for the change.

“Because the term ‘freshman’ is so ingrained in our everyday language, the college expects its use to continue,” spokesman Tom Conroy wrote in an email.

Generally, the purpose of exchanging “freshman” and “upperclassman” has roots in the idea of being more inclusive, said Jennifer Keup, director of the National Resource Center for the First Year-Experience and Students in Transition.

She said that those two words in particular are gendered, but the shift also is a piece of a larger movement to reflect the diversity of college campuses.

Women tend to comprise the majority of college campuses, but transfer populations are also steadily increasing and in the two-year college sector, more students are attending multiple institutions, Keup.

But this isn’t a new trend – Keup said her organization, founded in 1986, changed its name to the “National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience” from the “National Resource Center for the Freshman Experience” in 1998.

“This is now the lexicon of the industry,” Keup said.

“I think the idea of students being able to see themselves in the institution and how they are referred to, to build the community, language is a big piece of that.”

Keup said she couldn’t give examples of specific institutions who have retired the terms, because “it’s the standard.”

News reports of such changes have enraged conservatives in the past. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill struck the “freshman” language in 2009, but it went unnoticed in 2012, when a number of right-wing websites reported the move, prompting national ire in conservative circles.


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Session takes an early look at results from FAFSA filing changes

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 07:00

BOSTON -- Changes made last year to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid led to new behaviors both intended and unintended by students and colleges and universities, according to survey results and other data presented at a Friday session during the National Association for College Admission Counseling's national conference.

Students filed FAFSAs earlier and colleges and universities mailed award letters earlier, changes praised for giving students and families more time to evaluate their financial aid offers. But some colleges and universities also moved up their FAFSA filing deadlines, a move criticized for denying students the intended increase in flexibility.

In last year's admission cycle, students were able to fill out the FAFSA starting Oct. 1, three months earlier than in previous years. Students and families were also able to fill out the FAFSA with income information from two years earlier, a practice dubbed "prior-prior year" (as in, from two years prior).

Enrollment administrators from the University of Tampa and Marquette University presented survey results on prior-prior effects Friday. A total of 115 colleges and universities participated in a survey collected electronically from the middle of June to the middle of July. Most respondents, 88 percent, were four-year private institutions. Another 9 percent were four-year public institutions, 2 percent were two-year public institutions and 1 percent were two-year private institutions.

Of those surveyed, 80 percent reported mailing awards letters earlier. Meanwhile, 11 percent said they made no changes to their timelines.

In a few cases, institutions made financial aid awards before their boards had set their tuition and instead used estimated tuition -- a risky proposition.

“Then the actual rates ended up being higher,” said John Baworowsky, vice provost for enrollment management at Marquette. “Surely that creates disappointment in the minds of students. It kind of goes against what the Department of Ed hoped to accomplish with prior-prior.”

Two-thirds of respondents said their boards would set tuition earlier in the future.

Just over a third of respondents, 34 percent, said they could not make awards earlier because tuition rates were set too late. The same percentage said they could not make awards earlier because of technology or staffing issues.

Marquette could not shift to earlier awards last year because it had a December application deadline, Baworowsky said. The university has moved to a rolling admission deadline this year, however. Prior-prior is considered most likely to affect students applying to institutions with rolling admission.

A split emerged between what colleges expect others to do and what they plan to do themselves. More than half expect other institutions to send award letters earlier next year. Yet more than half also said they don't plan to mail awards earlier themselves.

Three-quarters of respondents said they plan to analyze 2017 FAFSA data before making any changes. Baworowsky theorized that colleges and universities treated last year as a test year and that they would be making bigger changes in the future.

Looking back at last year, 40 percent of colleges and universities said earlier awards drove earlier deposits -- but 39 percent said more students attempted to negotiate their financial aid packages. Slightly less than a third, 31 percent, said prior-prior year encouraged students to commit earlier. Just 24 percent said prior-prior generated more deposits, and only 13 percent felt more confident about the size of their first-year classes because of prior-prior.

“Schools were expecting these bumper crops of students that didn't materialize,” Baworowsky said.

While 88 percent of respondents encouraged students to file FAFSAs earlier, half did not change their own deadlines. Among those that did change their own deadlines, moving up the deadline by two months was the most common action.

Brent Benner, director of enrollment management at the University of Tampa, criticized the practice of universities moving up their FAFSA deadlines, calling it negative and disingenuous.

“You don't have to move up these FAFSA filing deadlines,” he said. “This is putting more of a burden on families and not giving them the window to take advantage.”

Benner also shared aggregate data collected from 14 members of the Private Colleges and Universities of Florida. Those 14 institutions packaged their awards admissions cycle on dates ranging from Oct. 2 to Feb. 1. The average date packaged was Dec. 2 -- months earlier than the average date packaged previously, which was March 21.

Prior-prior seems to have led to a higher yield of admitted students sending deposits, Benner said. It also appears to have lowered the rate of canceled deposits. Those points indicate it is helping students and families plan, he said. Benner predicted prior-prior will reduce summer melt for colleges packaging early and improve retention and graduation rates by giving families more time for financial planning after they have their awards in hand.

The University of Tampa saw many more students filing FAFSAs. In 2017, 67 percent of its admitted students filed FAFSAs, up from 56 percent in 2016. But more high-income students than low-income students took advantage of prior-prior.

That's consistent with an existing criticism of prior-prior: the new rules have boosted FAFSA filing, but wealthy students are the ones seemingly most likely to take advantage of them. Still, Benner argued that wealthy students discussing early filing in high school settings will, over time, push other students to file early as well.

The session ended with suggestions for further financial aid reform. Those suggestions included that universities put accurate net price calculators in place instead of the current crop of often-inaccurate calculators that can mislead students. They also included more clarity in financial aid packages, more closely consulting with students about their financial aid offers and offering estimated award letters for high school juniors.

On the topic of future federal reform, recommendations included requiring FAFSA filing once every four years, saving students, colleges and universities time and energy at little cost because family incomes do not tend to change drastically over such short periods. They also included a 2 percent interest rate for federal student loans, determining Pell Grant eligibility once every four years and creating a comprehensive federal college savings plan.

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Colleges award tenure

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 07:00

Bemidji State University

  • Bill Joyce, accountancy
  • Elizabeth Kujava, criminal justice
  • Jeanine McDermott, nursing
  • Cory Renbarger, music
  • Jill Stackhouse, geography
  • Misty Wilkie, nursing

DePaul University

  • Monu Bedi, law
  • Doug Bruce, health sciences
  • Jason Bystriansky, biological sciences
  • Joseph Chen, School for New Learning
  • Blair Davis, communication
  • Lisa Dush, writing, rhetoric and discourse
  • Bill Johnson González, English
  • Verena Graupmann, psychology
  • Max Helveston, law
  • Christopher Jones, music
  • Caitlin Karver, chemistry
  • Sara Kimble, School for New Learning
  • Julie Lawton, law
  • Grace Lemmon, management
  • Michael Lewanski, music
  • Jason Martin, communication
  • Daniel Morales, law
  • Sanjukta Mukherjee, women’s and gender studies
  • Savvas Paritsis, cinematic arts
  • Lisa Poirier, religious studies
  • Doris Rusch, design
  • Brian Schrank, design
  • Frédéric Seyler, philosophy
  • Cary Martin Shelby, law
  • Gretchen Wilbur, School for New Learning

Elizabethtown College

  • Andrew Dunlap, social work
  • Shannon Haley-Mize, education

Francis Marion University

  • Erik Lowry, education
  • William Bolt, history
  • Julian Buck, mathematics
  • Jeanne Gunther, education
  • Julia Mixon, art
  • Regina Yanson, management

Frostburg State University

  • Natalia Buta, kinesiology and recreation
  • Rebecca Chory, management
  • Matthew Crawford, chemistry
  • Stefanie Hay, nursing
  • Theresa Mastrodonato, librarian
  • Mary Beth McCloud, nursing
  • Jamison Odone, visual arts
  • Xunyu Pan, computer science and information technologies
  • Jennifer Rankin, educational professions
  • John Raucci, English and foreign languages
  • Sheri Whalen, communication

New York Institute of Technology

  • Melanie Austin-McCain, occupational therapy
  • Kiran Balagani, computer science
  • Sheldon Fields, health professions
  • Farzana Gandhi, architecture
  • Jaime Martinez, interdisciplinary studies
  • Eleni Nikitopoulos, life sciences
  • Christian Pongratz, interdisciplinary studies
  • Emily Restivo, behavioral sciences
  • Jason Van Nest, architecture

Pennsylvania Highlands Community College

  • Dennis Miller, criminal justice
  • Sherri Slavick, physical sciences

University of Dallas

  • Janette Boazman, education
  • Kelly Gibson, history
  • Jenny Gu, finance
  • Richard Miller, business
  • Aida Ramos, economics
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Harvard rescinds Chelsea Manning's fellowship

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 08:31

To some, she’s a hero. To others, she’s a traitor. To Harvard University, Chelsea Manning is a scholar -- or was, briefly. The institution announced this week that Manning, who served seven years in military prison for sharing classified documents with Wikileaks before seeing her sentence commuted by President Obama, was to be one of four new visiting fellows at its Institute of Politics. Manning is now a network security expert and would have been Harvard’s first transgender fellow.

But following major backlash over the announcement -- including the resignation of senior institute fellow Michael Morrell, former acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency -- Harvard rescinded the appointment early Friday.

“I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a visiting fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility,” Douglas W. Elmendorf, dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, said in a statement. “I see more clearly now that many people view a visiting fellow title as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations … Any determination should start with the presumption that more speech is better than less. In retrospect, though, I think my assessment of that balance for Chelsea Manning was wrong.”

Elmendorf said that Harvard withdrew Manning’s invitation to serve as a visiting fellow, “and the perceived honor it implies to some,” while maintaining its invitation for her to spend a day at the Kennedy School and speak there this academic year.

“I apologize to her and to the many concerned people from whom I have heard today for not recognizing up front the full implications of our original invitation,” Elmendorf said. “This decision now is not intended as a compromise between competing interest groups but as the correct way for the Kennedy School to emphasize its longstanding approach to visiting speakers while recognizing that the title of visiting fellow implies a certain recognition.”

In a letter sent and shared on social media Thursday, Morrell told Elmendorf he was stepping down because Manning’s appointment would assist her in her “longstanding effort to legitimize the criminal path that she took to prominence, an attempt that may encourage others to leak classified information as well.”

He added, “I have an obligation to my conscience -- and I believe to the country -- to stand up against any efforts to justify leaks of sensitive national security information.”

Mike Pompeo, CIA director, also criticized Harvard in a letter Thursday and backed out of a planned talk there, saying making Manning a fellow gives students the wrong idea, and that it’s “shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions.”

On Twitter, Manning responded to the news, writing: "honored to be 1st disinvited trans woman visiting @harvard fellow … they chill marginalized voices under @cia pressure."

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Atmospheric scientist at Illinois is on leave after refusing to provide lecture slides to student with disabilities

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 07:00

A dispute over electronic lecture slides and accommodations for a learning-disabled student may have ended the teaching career of Michael Schlesinger, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Schlesinger said Thursday that he's learned from his lawyer that he is on paid administrative leave over the matter, pending a hearing. He said he has not resigned, despite previously having indicated otherwise to students.

“Although you have a doctorate, I doubt that you teach. Although you have a doctorate, I doubt that you do research,” Schlesinger wrote to a disabilities services specialist at the university, announcing his departure last week. He accused the staff member of writing him “coercive emails” about the accommodation and copied his entire class on climate and global change on the exchange.

“Yet,” he continued, “it is you who have pressured me, who has taught and researched for 41 years in university and is a Nobel Prize recipient, to do that which I will not do, advantage a single [Disability Resources and Educational Services] student over the 100-plus non-DRES students in my course by providing that student with my lectures electronically.” (Note: This article has been updated from an earlier version to clarify Schlesinger's Nobel connections. He was one of many contributors to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.)

Schlesinger continued, “I think the university needs to rethink having people such as you. Nonetheless, I look forward to spending the remainder of my life in Kona, Hawaii.”

Parts of the email exchange have been posted online by students, and Schlesinger confirmed their authenticity to Inside Higher Ed. The messages say that Schlesinger offered to pay for someone to take notes for the student in question, so the professor’s main contention was sharing his slides with the student to supplement the notes.

Schlesinger told Inside Higher Ed that when he sent the email about leaving for Hawaii, he thought he'd already been terminated. 

"I have not resigned and do not tend to resign," he said via email. "Rather, I intend to fight for a more balanced approach to assisting disabled students, an approach that does not disadvantage non-disabled students."

Robin Kaler, a university spokesperson, said she couldn’t comment on a personnel matter, and one with implications for student privacy, other than to say that Schlesinger is not currently teaching. But Illinois, she said, “has always been an international leader in disability resources and support, and we take very seriously our responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations to students who are living with disabilities.” (Kaler has co-authored opinion pieces for Inside Higher Ed in the past.)

In online discussion forums, some students have suggested that lecture slides may have been of use to someone using the note-taking software Sonocent. The program records lectures and students can then add notes to the lecture slides -- if professors provide them. Advocates of such technology say it's not an easy way out, though -- just a way of better organizing notes. And of accommodations in general, scholars of special education say they level the playing field instead of giving anyone an advantage.

Schlesinger declined an immediate interview request, saying he was “too bruised emotionally” to talk about the case, or rather about how he’s been treated. But he forwarded an email he wrote to Robert Rauber, chair of the department of atmospheric sciences, explaining this decision. That's after Rauber wrote him an email saying his duties had been "removed pending further review of your recent actions. ... I also want to reiterate that you are to have no further contact with students or teaching assistants until further notice."

After teaching the climate and global change class 16 times and accommodating various students with disabilities, Schlesinger wrote, he was for the first time this year asked to provide electronic copies of his slides before each lecture.

While he gave all of his students hard copies of his lecture notes before class, he said, he didn’t provide electronic copies because “based on my experience of providing all my students my lecture slides after each lecture for most if not all of the 16 times I have taught this course, I knew that one-third of my class would cease coming to my lectures if I provided them my lecture slides electronically. And their ceasing to attend my lectures would lower their course grades.”

For some reason, he said, “this was deemed unacceptable by DRES. The person at DRES responsible for this decision was concerned about only one student in my class of 108 students.”

The emails on which the class was copied did not contain the name of the student who required accommodation. 

James Basham, an associate professor of special education at the University of Kansas, said he was familiar with Sonocent, which he called “a nice program for supporting students with disabilities, but could really be useful for supporting all learners.”

Basham explained that the tool supports instructional alignment to the Universal Design for Learning framework, which is designed to make digital postsecondary content accessible to people with disabilities. That has been identified as among the top five instructional issues facing higher education.

“While I don’t know the details of this case, it would seem that this professor is holding on to traditional instructional practices that have nearly Luddite-type tendencies,” Basham said. “If the professor has such strong beliefs about sharing slides with an individual student, he should simply share with all of his students.”

Many professors have been sharing their slides with students -- those who require accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act and those who don’t -- for years, he said, encouraging his colleagues to “reflect on how we might be more learner-centered.” That includes providing access to the learning environment, whether "physical or cognitive."

The written word was once considered disruptive to the learning process; now perhaps it’s technology such as Sonocent and in the future it could be something else, Basham said. “Rather than fight progress, it is necessary for us to continually view the process of learning from the perspective of the learners.”

Of course, not all professors have such deep insight into pedagogy, and some prefer to focus on their research areas instead of changing their teaching styles. And sometimes meeting learners where they’re at can mean extra work for faculty members.

Kaler said that at Illinois, a professor is responsible for providing electronic notes to students who need them. For an accommodation that is beyond the capability of the instructor, such as one that requires special technology, she said, DRES provides support.

Schlesinger wrote an email addressed to his former students in the class Thursday, mourning the planned destruction of the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, which had been in Saturn’s orbit since 2004 and whose mission dates back to the 1980s. He shared it with reporters and administrators at Illinois.

“Although the university has forbidden me to communicate with you, on pain of ???, I am,” he wrote, saying that Cassini is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. “We puny human beings have learned incredible things from Cassini … It is important for you to understand the past, the present and the future. It is you who will decide the future of our planet, this island Earth, as I have taught you. Learn well.”

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Speaker implores NACAC attendees to change practices he believes are racist

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 07:00

BOSTON -- College admissions officers and high school guidance counselors regularly engage in racism, keynote speaker Shaun R. Harper told thousands of attendees at the National Association for College Admission Counseling's national conference Thursday, imploring them to change their ways.

“Your profession is 80 percent white,” said Harper, a professor at the University of Southern California's school of education and executive director for the university's Race and Equity Center. “It's even whiter when we get to those who are at the top levels. It sure would be nice if a mostly white professional association and its members more powerfully, more responsibly and more loudly advocated for racial justice on behalf of those who don't have the resources that they deserve in high schools across our nation.”

Harper's keynote comes weeks after white nationalists shocked the country by marching through Charlottesville, Va., the home of the University of Virginia. Days after the Virginia events, Harper addressed that university's faculty and staff members, arguing that the university is complicit in maintaining white supremacy in society and asking them to change. He wrote about the experience in an essay on Inside Higher Ed.

His NACAC speech in Boston made some similar points. Harper asked conference attendees to raise their hands if they were disgusted by the racism displayed in Virginia. Then he argued against being “selectively horrified and disgusted” by racism and its manifestations. Those manifestations include those in the college admissions process, he said.

“Racism isn't just tiki torch-carrying white nationalists,” he said. “It's not just the things Donald Trump says. It's also the things that happen in high schools and in college admissions offices.”

Harper listed numerous areas where he sees structural racism in the admissions process, drawing upon his own research visiting colleges and universities across the country to determine how young black men navigated higher education.

His list started with valuing “black lives differently” in counseling -- guidance counselors not investing as much time or energy for black students who are applying to college as they do for white students. It continued with “undermatching,” or telling students that they should not try to enroll in top colleges or universities because “kids from here don't get into schools like those,” even if those students were top performers and in all likelihood would be admitted to the country's top institutions.

Harper also spoke against telling students that historically black colleges and universities are of poor quality and against recruiting black students from only a select handful of cities and high schools. He argued that “curricular racelessness” in programs producing professionals who work in higher education is racist because it allows graduates to enter the field with implicit biases that were never challenged.

He added that racial stratification in college admissions offices is racism as well, saying top administrators are usually white while those at the bottom of the organizational chart are more likely to be people of color.

Some of his most withering criticism was targeted at the idea that colleges can't find enough college-ready, highly qualified black applicants.

“You can find them when you want them to play on the football team and the men's basketball team,” he said. “You can find them easily when you want them to earn millions of dollars for your universities. You will go to the ends of the earth to find them.”

Harper drew his presentation to a close by showing a picture of the torch-bearing marchers in Charlottesville.

The events in Charlottesville led to a loss of life, he said, referencing the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed when an Ohio man drove his car into demonstrators protesting white nationalists in Charlottesville.

But lives are also ruined when guidance counselors and admissions officers misdirect students, Harper said. Students are locked out of opportunities. They are negatively affected by counselors who say they are not smart enough.

An association as large as NACAC should be able to do something about issues like the low number of counselors serving primarily minority students in low-income communities, Harper said.

“This isn't just a one-time occurrence on a bad night in Charlottesville,” he said. “This is something that happens every day in high schools and on college campuses around the country.

“Please, do better.”

The View From Inside

The keynote came after NACAC President Nancy T. Beane laid out a host of issues in her opening remarks. The admissions profession faces challenges related to degree completion, economic disparity, student debt, mental health and systemic inequalities in the college admission process, she said.

Meanwhile, NACAC has had to weigh in after President Trump's administration took new positions on highly charged issues, such as when it moved to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and introduced an immigration ban targeting nationals of six Muslim-majority countries. NACAC is attempting to draw a line between addressing those issues and taking political stances.

“We have taken strong positions and issued statements,” said Beane, associate director of college counseling at the Westminster Schools in Georgia. “I hope you understand this: they are honestly not political but are rather aimed at protecting students, just as we always have done since NACAC was established.”

This is not the first time the issue of race has been prominent at a NACAC conference. Last year, the outgoing president, Phillip Trout, faced sharp criticism after saying “all lives matter” during the conference's opening general session.

His statement upset many who felt saying “all lives matter” amounted to minimizing the Black Lives Matter movement and its message against police killings of black men and women. Trout apologized.

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Accreditor denies Arizona community college's bid to expand online

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 07:00

A regional accreditor recently denied an Arizona community college’s bid to increase its online degree offerings, with a decision that highlights challenges colleges may face when seeking to expand their online presence.

Scottsdale Community College had sought to add 48 new online certificate and degree programs. The college, which is a part of the Maricopa Community College District, had proposed gradually beginning to offer the degrees, beginning this fall and continuing through 2020.

After conducting a review, the Higher Learning Commission gave the college an acceptable rating in each category for online course delivery. However, the accreditor also identified several problems, mostly revolving around inconsistency in the way Scottsdale offered its existing online programs to students. As a result, it rejected the college’s request to add the new credentials.

In a peer review report, which Inside Higher Ed obtained, HLC’s reviewers described “strong foundational components critical to online delivery and a clear passion for such delivery. At the same time, there were clear areas for improvement, including a limited amount of standardization across individual courses.”

In particular, the reviewers found a lack of required training for online instruction.

“SCC’s contract with the faculty was cited as the reason training could not be mandated. Further authority for reviewing and overseeing online delivery was pushed down to the department level. This decentralization in review and oversight authority led to variability between the 10 online courses reviewed by the team that, in the opinion of the team, made the courses more faculty- than student-centered,” the report said. “The lack of consistency may be a contributing factor in the online student success rate, which was 10 percent lower than either face-to-face or hybrid delivery modalities.”

Success rates in Scottsdale’s face-to-face courses stood at 75.2 percent compared to 65.4 percent in online courses last fall.

HLC also cited concerns about Scottsdale’s use of multiple learning management systems and about inconsistencies in course navigation and the deployment of student help facilities in courses.

The college pointed to faculty contracts as one reason why instructor training couldn’t be mandated. It also cited “the inability of the institution to control the content of online courses, ceding all course-related decisions to faculty members” as a reason for the inconsistencies in delivery, according to the report.

“The HLC review team was fair in its assessment of SCC’s embedded change application,” said Nancy Neff, executive director of institutional advancement and community engagement at Scottsdale, in an email. “The team was very positive in its response and offered valuable constructive feedback for moving forward. We have evaluated the HLC feedback and are developing a plan to address concerns. We hope to implement later this year.”

Neff said Scottsdale is also working with faculty to implement and mandate training for faculty members who teach online.

Russell Poulin, director of policy and analysis at the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, applauded HLC for setting a higher standard for online programs. But he said the push for standardization raises questions about academic freedom.

“It’s been kind of a problem distance education has had to deal with for quite a while, the idea in some places that you can’t require the training,” Poulin said. “The academic freedom issue finds itself in the contracts … when you’re doing it face-to-face, it’s a little less of a problem.”

With online learning, he said, academic freedom can become an issue because instructors are asked to run the technology themselves and initiate engaging and meaningful interactions with students they may never see.

“We’re still in a place where a lot of students are still uncomfortable with distance learning. And if you have a faculty person that is uncomfortable because they don’t have the proper preparation to succeed, is it surprising pass rates are going down?” Poulin said.

Poulin said Quality Matters, which conducts quality assurance in online courses, has tried to combat many of these issues through a peer-to-peer mentoring system.

Scottsdale uses Quality Matters as a model, which HLC noted. However, the peer-review team was concerned that just 10 of 174 faculty members at the college had formally completed the Quality Matters training and only 20 percent of courses were certified by the group.

“Using a recognized model such as Quality Matters is effective, but only to the extent that it is consistently applied and deployed,” the review said.

“We have 1,090 academic institutions that are members using Quality Matters and 1,090 different ways they do it,” said Deb Adair, executive director of Quality Matters, which is a nonprofit organization. “They’ve got different missions, different cultures, different resources -- and not just monetarily -- so they have to have the flexibility of being able to adapt the tools to their needs.”

Adair said the group is aware of resource constraints at institutions that can make consistent delivery of its training and review processes difficult.

“If you want to show you’re doing something, you have to have a consistent, rigorous process and you need to really take that next step up and develop a quality-assurance process rather than just using standards,” she said. “We’re trying to describe what that looks like at institutions. So, you do have to start mandating certain things and maybe requiring every course in a program be reviewed, maybe not certified, but reviewed every five years and provide some criteria for faculty.”

Scottsdale will reapply to its accreditior in the future for approval of the 48 online certificates and degrees, Neff said, once it has addressed HLC’s concerns and documented their success with the programs.

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Dutch academics protest selection of new leader for university group

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 07:00

Academics in the Netherlands are in revolt over the selection of a politician who called for the investigation of potential anti-conservative bias in higher education as the president of the association that represents Dutch universities.

Critics also see Pieter Duisenberg, who has stepped down as an member of parliament for the center-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) to take up the post at the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), as heralding a move toward a higher-tuition-fee, “market-driven” system.

Guy Geltner, a professor of medieval history at the University of Amsterdam, said he thought the appointment was "bizarre" and has set up an online petition to demand his resignation, which has so far garnered more than 3,500 signatures.

Earlier this year, Duisenberg proposed a motion in the Dutch parliament that asks the government "to request advice and consideration from the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences" about "whether self-censorship and limitation of diversity of perspectives" is common in universities, after being approached by conservative academics with claims of discrimination.

Geltner said the proposal to investigate the political affiliations of Dutch academics "sounds awful" and "brings us back to a very dark period in recent history."

“Even the suggestion is an intimidation,” he said. The plan was “lifted from the playbook” of “the Trumpists,” he argued, and was an attempt to paint academics as a “fifth column.”

Geltner also feared that Duisenberg wanted to make Dutch higher education “market driven,” with high student debt and university leaders commanding the salaries of “corporate executives,” ideas that were “not [for] the Netherlands,” he said.

But some believe Duisenberg's position on academics' political affiliations have been misconstrued and admire his engagement with higher education as an MP since 2012. Jo Ritzen, a former minister of education for the Labor Party, which has served in coalition with the VVD, said that Duisenberg was not calling for "government screening of academics before they are appointed."

Instead, Duisenberg was "ill at ease" with academics using their positions to express "ideological points of view," Ritzen said -- although he added that Duisenberg should make it more explicitly clear that he does not want some people excluded from academia for their views. Duisenberg has previously said that he is not advocating "quotas on political views" in Dutch universities.

His appointment nonetheless marked a "very important change" for the VSNU's approach to policy, Ritzen added, although he did not think it would pave the way for increased tuition fees in the Netherlands, which are currently around 2,000 euros ($2,400) a year for European Union students.

Instead, he would likely steer universities toward improving the employability of their students, and researching topics that "satisfy the curiosity" of ordinary people.

There is also controversy over how and why Duisenberg, who will take over as president in October, was appointed. Geltner said there was a "widely shared perception" that his appointment was part of political "horse trading" as the VVD and other parties try to hammer out a coalition deal following March's election.

But a spokesman for the VSNU said there had been no political involvement in the decision, which had been unanimously approved by the university presidents who make up the association's board. He declined to say who had put forward Duisenberg as a candidate. VSNU policy positions would also have to be agreed on by the entire board, he added.

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Pulse podcast features discussion of the road map for Blackboard Learn

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 07:00

This month’s edition of the Pulse podcast features an interview with Jim Chalex, vice president of product management at Blackboard.

In the conversation with host Rodney B. Murray, Chalex discusses the company’s plans for Blackboard Learn and its learning platform, amid other topics.

The Pulse is Inside Higher Ed’s monthly technology podcast. Murray is executive director of the office of academic technology at University of the Sciences.

Find out more, and listen to past Pulse podcasts, here.

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Students waiting on borrower-defense claims face challenges with credit, obstacles to education

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 07:00

Dawn Thompson got an email in January with welcome news from the Department of Education. The federal government would clear $70,000 in federal graduate student loans she took out to attend an Everest University online M.B.A. program -- just a chunk of her total student loan debt, but a relief nonetheless.

Eight months later, however, Thompson’s still waiting.

“They keep saying give it more time,” she said. “How much more time do you actually need?”

For students who attended programs operated by for-profit institutions like Corinthian Colleges -- which operated Everest -- and ITT, the wait to have their claims for student loan forgiveness reviewed and processed has been a protracted ordeal. That’s true even or students like Thompson who have already had their applications -- known as borrower-defense claims -- approved by the federal government.

Student and consumer advocates have taken Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to task over her decision to block or water down regulations issued by the Obama administration to add student protections -- including a new borrower-defense rule written to clarify and expand students’ ability to clear loans taken out to attend fraudulent institutions. As of this summer, though, tens of thousands of claims were still pending from students who had filed to discharge their loans under existing statute but have yet to receive a ruling from the department.

A Department of Education official told members of Congress in July that the Trump administration had made no new reviews of claims since coming into office. A department spokeswoman said that remains the case as staff members develop a new system to adjudicate pending claims.

For borrowers still waiting on resolution of their claims months into the administration, the delay has had significant effects on financial decisions large and small. It’s also limited the ability of those borrowers to restart or continue their education at legitimate colleges. And advocates for students say the situation has placed in limbo exactly the kinds of low-income and minority students targeted by predatory institutions.

Challenges for Borrowers

Thompson, 52, attended undergraduate and graduate online programs through Everest from 2003 to 2014 -- she graduated from the bachelor’s program but dropped out of the master’s program as rumors swirled about investigations of programs operated by Corinthian. Less than a year of her leaving the graduate program, Corinthian had shut its doors. But Thompson was still stuck with more than $250,000 in private and federal student loans she said she was pushed to take out by advisers at Everest.

While she was enrolled as an undergraduate, financial aid advisers from the school would tell her she was capped out on federal student loans, which come with protections such as eligibility for borrower defense, and encourage her to take out additional private loans, Thompson said. She said she was naïve about following the guidance of advisers and "trusted them too much."

Thompson chose to attend an online program in large part because she was a single mother caring for a son with a rare immune-system disorder and couldn't sit in a physical classroom after work. But she said she found out after studying to be a paralegal for her undergraduate program that her degree was worthless in the job market, prompting her to go back to grad school and take out even more loans before leaving the program. Thompson hopes that having the $70,000 in federal loans discharged by the government will bolster an argument in court that her private loans should be forgiven, too.

She received a scholarship from Southern New Hampshire University to finish the last three courses required for her M.B.A. and is currently enrolled to finish the degree.

But she doesn’t believe she’ll ever pay all of her student loans off without debt forgiveness. She's not able to make major purchases. Both of her children are "petrified" of the cost of college. And Thompson said she fears her credit situation could block her from passing a background check on potential job opportunities.

“My credit is destroyed. Thank God I have a house and a job right now,” she said. “It’s totally destroyed my life. Trying to do something to better survive has made it 10 times worse than it ever was.”

The Obama administration crafted the borrower-defense rule in response to a flood of claims from students like Thompson who attended Corinthian programs before the chain shut down. The vast majority of the more than 65,000 pending claims were filed by former students of institutions operated by Corinthian and ITT Tech. Others, though, have filed claims arguing they should receive discharge for loans taken out to attend programs still operating.

Jarrod Thoma attended DeVry University from 2010 to 2015, originally in Columbus, Ohio, and later in Westminster, Colo., outside Denver. He received a bachelor's degree in electronics engineering technology but said the program misled students about the quality of materials and equipment used for instruction and about job placements.

DeVry promised that students would train with the latest industry-standard equipment, but Thoma, 34, said the quality of equipment was subpar and simulations from online instruction often didn't match hardware on site. Thoma said he is technically working in his field but could only find work in the Denver area as a lab technician -- for which he receives a salary half that of an engineer.

“I firmly believe the institution my degree is from is a huge barrier to being able to find and secure an engineering position,” he said.

Thoma, a former U.S. Army corporal, used up his GI Bill benefits and took out about $52,000 in loans in the course of completing his degree. He filed a borrower-defense claim in the fall of 2015 and has waited on resolution from the Department of Education since then. (The following year, DeVry reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over misleading use of employment statistics in advertising.)

While his loans have been placed in forbearance, they’ve still become a financial obstacle. Thoma and his wife have looked at buying a house in the area, but his ratio of debt to income has become a red flag in securing a mortgage.

“When the lending institutions look at that, they say, ‘What is this?’” he said. “I may be responsible for that, because there’s no guarantee my borrower-defense claim will be validated. It’s just huge. It definitely affects my ability to buy a home.”

Jennifer Wang, director of the Washington office of the Institute for College Access and Success, said the high volume of loan debt carried by many of the students filing borrower-defense claims can have negative consequences for their credit in numerous ways.

“It’s becoming increasingly hard to find a job that doesn’t require a credit check or to get an apartment that doesn’t require a credit check,” she said. “You can’t buy a car and get to work if you’ve ruined your credit.”

And even when students have their loans placed in forbearance, interest continues to accrue. In the event that the department doesn’t approve a borrower’s claim, that increases the total debt they owe, Wang said.

Student borrowers who spoke with Inside Higher Ed also said the slow process of getting a borrower-defense claim approved has dampened hopes of restarting their higher education.

Pauline Lucero grew up in Salinas, Calif., located in one of the state’s top agricultural regions. She said she was excited about the opportunity to enroll in an agriculture business program at Heald College’s Salinas campus in 2007. But two semesters into the program, Lucero said, she was told it would be discontinued because of low enrollment.

Lucero said she was pressured by campus officials into picking another Heald program offered at the campus -- she chose business administration with an emphasis on criminal justice -- and wasn’t informed of all of her options when the college ended her original program, including receiving a full refund.

Lucero, 35, eventually graduated with an associate degree but was only able to find work with a staffing and recruitment agency. One of those jobs eventually turned into a permanent position -- but not one she would have needed an associate degree to qualify for. She said she has contemplated going back to school to complete her bachelor’s degree.

But her experience at Heald and the loan debt she continues to pay off have made her less eager to pursue those options. Lucero holds about $25,000 in student loan debt she took out to attend a program she said hasn’t helped her find employment. She filed a borrower-defense claim in September 2015. Without approval, she’s not sure she can afford to complete a four-year degree.

“I’m apprehensive about it because of the bad experience I had with Heald,” Lucero said.

Big Impact for Borrowers Who Get Relief

For the small fraction of borrowers who have had borrower-defense claims approved and seen their loan discharge actually go through, the financial and emotional impact is significant.

Danielle Ramos attended the Framingham, Mass., campus of American Career Institute from 2011 to 2012. In January, the Obama administration announced that it would grant automatic borrower-defense claims to students who took out federal loans to attend ACI, which was the target of a complaint by the state's attorney general for a range of deceptive practices. It was the first time the Department of Education had granted loan forgiveness to all students who attended an institution.

Even after she was told that ACI students would receive a loan discharge, Ramos said she didn’t think it would happen until they were actually cleared by the loan servicer. Ramos, 30, received an email over the July 4 weekend from her loan servicer, Navient, saying that her loans were paid in full.

“I don’t have to stress as much,” she said. “And I can also continue my education, which is important to me.”

Ramos had filed her borrower-defense claim in January 2013 after leaving ACI with a certificate but struggling to find work in the medical field that she couldn’t have secured without higher education.

A single parent, she said she struggled to repay the $12,000 in loans she took out to attend ACI and eventually defaulted on that debt. Ramos later enrolled in a public community college in the area to pursue an associate degree because she couldn’t see a way to pay off those student loans without increasing her earning power. That meant moving back in with her father and applying for numerous scholarships to pay for her education.

“If a school is accredited, that means the government is saying this school is good and you’re getting money from the government to pay for this said school,” she said. “When it doesn’t turn out that it is good, they weren’t going to give me that money back.”

Ramos said her associate degree helped her to find gainful employment. With the remaining loans she took out to attend ACI cleared and a check for the amount she’d already paid, Ramos said she can actually imagine completing a bachelor’s degree.

It’s not clear how many of the borrowers with pending claims have already defaulted on their student loans, as Ramos did. But student advocates say the number is not negligible. Borrowers have defaulted even with options like income-driven repayment, they say, because a small payment can still be burdensome when other unexpected expenses -- car repairs, medical bills, other emergency costs -- pop up.

“If it’s a choice between keeping the lights on or making a student loan payment, which are you going to do?” said Ashley Harrington, a lawyer with the Center for Responsible Lending.

Defaulting on student loans can wreck a borrower’s credit. It also makes them ineligible to take out additional federal student loans. But the wait for resolution of borrower-defense claims limits those borrowers’ access to additional aid in other ways. If they haven’t defaulted but have maxed out their lifetime student loan eligibility, their options for pursuing a degree at a legitimate college or university are limited.

And others say their experience taking out student loans to attend institutions that left them worse off has made them hesitant about taking on additional loan debt before their borrower-defense claims are reviewed. Those roadblocks to further higher education primarily affect students from low-income communities and communities of color, Harrington said -- the demographic targeted by fraudulent for-profit chains for enrollment.

“It’s definitely an equity issue,” she said. “These are traditionally the people who have not had access to higher education in this country. Now we’re putting them in this period of limbo.”

Consumer advocates like Harrington say they want to see concrete actions from the Department of Education on remaining borrower-defense claims, including communicating steps they are currently taking and a timeline for resolving the backlog.

Elected officials at the state and federal level have spent much of the past year seeking updates on borrower-defense claims from the Trump administration.

Earlier this year, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey made multiple attempts to get an update from DeVos -- with no response -- about the slow discharge of claims already approved for ACI students. Healey's office continues to work with students submitting claims for other institutions. And other state attorneys general, in addition to Healey, are still reaching out to student borrowers who likely qualify for loan discharge but have not yet filed claims. That means that the number of pending claims will likely continue to grow. (Language included in a spending package approved by the Senate appropriations committee directs the department to identify and contact borrowers who may be eligible for loan relief via borrower defense.)

Before the Obama administration left office, it received heavy pressure from activists and some lawmakers to grant broader relief to those who attended programs operated by Corinthian, ITT and other for-profit chains. Advocates for stronger assistance for borrowers pushed for group discharge for ACI students. And they won the release of an attestation form that allowed expedited loan forgiveness for students who attended certain Corinthian programs, including Everest, between 2010 and 2014. But department officials at the time insisted that they did not have the authority to grant broad discharge without an application to students who took out loans to attend any Corinthian or ITT program.

Under the Trump administration, review of claims has slowed to a complete halt. A July 5 letter from Acting Under Secretary James Manning to Senator Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, revealed that the department hadn’t made any new reviews of claims since January; Democrats haven’t received further updates. In a court filing last week, Manning said it could take up to six months to resolve pending borrower-defense claims.

The department says it is re-evaluating for review claims of borrower defense applications while it is still clearing already approved claims for loan discharge.

“The department is committed to adjudicating pending and new claims under the current borrower defense to repayment regulations,” said spokeswoman Liz Hill. “At this time, no new claims have been approved. As a reminder, most borrowers with pending [borrower-defense] applications are eligible to be placed in forbearance and would not be expected to make payments while their application is pending.”

Elected Democrats are anxious to see more information and more progress from the department. In a statement, Durbin said nearly 4,000 borrowers in Illinois who were defrauded by Corinthian, ITT, Westwood and other for-profits have claims pending with the department. That number will only continue to grow, he said.

“These borrowers deal every day with the emotional and financial ruin brought on by their for-profit college experiences,” Durbin said. “They wait anxiously to receive word from the Department of Education on their claim, but thus far they have been ignored by the Trump administration and Betsy DeVos. It is shameful. The department should immediately begin processing these claims and completing the discharge of those that have already been approved.”

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Kentucky's governor says universities should think about cutting programs with poor job prospects

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 07:00

Already a polarizing figure among academics, Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky touched another one of higher education’s third rails Tuesday, saying public universities should consider cutting programs that don’t graduate students who are able to fill high-paying and in-demand jobs.

The remarks come as Bevin, a Republican, has laid out a vision for making Kentucky a center of engineering and manufacturing in the country. He has emphasized apprenticeships and training people for jobs that exist.

“Find entire parts of your campus … that don’t need to be there,” Bevin said in a speech at the Governor’s Conference on Postsecondary Education Trusteeship in Louisville, Ky., the Associated Press reported. “Either physically as programs, degrees that you’re offering, buildings that … shouldn’t be there because you’re maintaining something that’s not an asset of any value, that’s not helping to produce that 21st-century educated work force.”

The remarks set off unhappy chatter among professors at Kentucky’s state universities, who fear the governor is attempting to micromanage higher education institutions while ignoring faculty members’ traditional role over academic decisions. Several worried that the fast-changing job market makes it difficult or impossible to accurately predict which programs will train students for prosperous careers in the future. They argued that diverse program offerings at universities stand the best chance of producing graduates who are able to lead fulfilling lives while bringing flexible skill sets to the workplace.

Bevin’s remarks came as experts debate the severity of the skills gap in the United States. They also come against the backdrop of a Kentucky government that is on track for a $200 million shortfall at the end of its fiscal year in the middle of 2018. His suggestion, the Associated Press reported, was that with the state budget under pressure, some academic programs on college campuses have outlived their need.

Educators should stop supporting the idea that merely going to college is sufficient, Bevin argued. College degrees are not enough for students who are not studying “the right things,” he said. He also delivered a shot at dancers that stoked memories of remarks he made in early 2016, when he said taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize the study of French literature.

“If you’re studying interpretive dance, God bless you, but there’s not a lot of jobs right now in America looking for people with that as a skill set,” he said Tuesday.

Kentucky has cut state funding for higher education by more than $200 million since 2008.

Several faculty members found it ironic Wednesday that Bevin was taking aim at specific programs. The governor received his bachelor of arts degree in East Asian studies from Washington and Lee University, they pointed out.

“I think the comments are shortsighted and a bit naïve,” said Lee Blonder, a professor in the University of Kentucky’s college of medicine and one of two faculty members elected to the university’s Board of Trustees. “I think they show a lack of understanding of how innovation, creativity and productivity are nurtured by faculty in an institute of higher education. Not everybody wants to go into a STEM field or engineering.”

Some students have talents in other areas, and they should be able to pursue their passions, Blonder said. Being exposed to liberal education and a wealth of ideas can create unexpected value, she added, pointing to how Steve Jobs drew inspiration for Apple products from a calligraphy class he took at Reed College in Portland, Ore.

Faculty members also want students to lead fulfilling lives, Blonder said. She mentioned a student she taught several years ago who majored in biology and minored in dance. While biology might have opened the door to lucrative career choices, dance helped the student stay fit and was an important part of her life.

Blonder also pushed back against outside forces, even administrators or boards, exercising too much control over curriculum.

“I think the faculty are responsible for the curriculum, and it’s the faculty that need to guide this,” she said. “We have committees that evaluate courses, that evaluate programs. We have a career center.”

Still, in a world of limited resources, there are courses and programs that might qualify as low-hanging fruit for cutting. And entities other than the faculty do exert some control. In public higher education systems across the country, councils or coordinating agencies are constantly reviewing programs.

States also attempt to influence program decisions through funding mechanisms. Take, for instance, Florida, which has built factors like postgraduation employment and programs of strategic emphasis based on economic and work-force needs into its performance-based funding model. This year Kentucky passed its own performance-based funding model, which will tie the amount of money public colleges and universities receive to certain metrics, including how many science, technology, engineering, math and health degrees they award.

Incentivizing some programs is not the same as eliminating programs, however. Cutting a program at a university can be similar to shutting down a military base, said John Thelin, a professor at the University of Kentucky who researches the history of higher education and public policy. It is extremely difficult to do politically, and once a program is closed, a university is unlikely to ever get it back, at least with comparable strength.

Evaluating a program’s effectiveness is no simple task. Giving graduates skills that will help them later in their careers is like hitting a moving target. Someone who received a computer science degree in 1988 but has not updated their skills may not be well-suited for today’s market, Thelin said.

There are other factors to consider. Which undergraduate programs best prepare students to study for an M.B.A. or law degree? Should a program be considered effective if it raises graduates’ earning potential -- even their earnings won’t approach those of an engineer? What programs prepare students for jobs in rural areas versus urban areas?

In light of the complexity, any program review would need to be done well, Thelin said.

“Do it fairly,” Thelin said. “I think there may be some surprises in which you find programs that are effective for the job or labor market and some that aren’t.”

Another key question is whom a program is benefiting financially. Bevin’s track record of comments indicates he sees some liberal arts programs as a financial drain on state coffers. But language programs tend to be less expensive for universities to run than engineering or other science programs, which often require pricey equipment and faculty members drawing high wages.

“I’m not sure the governor’s political point is consistent with the budget reality,” said Nate Johnson, who consults on education policy, affordability, student success and finance and owns Postsecondary Analytics. “The kinds of programs he’s pointing to -- engineering programs, other programs that tend to lead to high-paying jobs in health sciences -- also tend to be more expensive to offer. And so the philosophy major or the French literature major probably isn’t costing the state.”

Some states provide performance funding for STEM programs in large part because they cost more, Johnson said. Some institutions charge higher tuition for expensive programs for the same reason.

That’s not to say Bevin’s argument about considering program closures was without merit, however.

“It is reasonable to ask universities and community colleges to be more thoughtful than sometimes they are about when it’s time to downsize or close programs,” Johnson said. “It’s very easy to open programs and to respond to things that are happening in culture or technology, but they don’t tend to get shut down over time.”

Still, faculty members are leery of the possibility of Bevin micromanaging higher education decisions. Many believe the governor has overstepped his authority in the past, particularly when he overhauled the University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees and engineered the departure of its then president, James Ramsey, last year.

Kentucky’s attorney general has brought Bevin to court over several of his higher ed-related moves, including the Louisville board overhaul and a unilateral decision in 2016 to slash university funding. Kentucky’s Supreme Court ruled that Bevin overstepped his authority on the budget cuts. The state Legislature passed a law this year supporting board changes at Louisville, but the court case in the matter has continued, with oral arguments taking place before the state’s Supreme Court last month.

Bevin has also effectively shifted a free community college scholarship program in Kentucky that would have paid for up to two years of college for high school graduates. Bevin vetoed legislation for the program, then issued an executive order defining scholarship limits. The scholarships are limited to students seeking certificates in areas with worker shortages: health care, advanced manufacturing, transportation and logistics, business services and internet technology, and construction.

That history has faculty feeling skittish. It is important that universities consider whether their graduates are getting good jobs, said Avery Kolers, a professor of philosophy at Louisville and former president of its chapter of the American Association of University Professors. But that isn’t the only consideration, he said.

“Universities produce public goods both for the students and for the broader community,” Kolers said. “Bevin seems to want to turn universities into training arms for the corporations. Corporations have a duty to train their employees as well, and they have been underinvesting in that for a generation or more.”

Kolers also wondered what would happen if the state’s universities drastically increased the number of engineering graduates hitting the job market. Would more companies flood the state, creating more good-paying jobs? Or would an oversupply of engineers depress wages?

Leaders at Kentucky’s most prominent public universities responded to Bevin’s comments by saying they are boosting the number of students they graduate in high-demand fields. Louisville’s interim president, Greg Postel, told the Associated Press the institution’s engineering program has been growing. But looking for academic programs to cut requires “an awful lot of thought,” he said.

Jay Blanton, a University of Kentucky spokesman, said in a statement that the university has increased its number of graduates in health, science, technology, engineering and math by 22 percent over the last six years. The university continually reviews courses and programs to make sure it positions students with the skills they need to succeed, he said.

“Employers also tell us they need graduates who communicate well, think critically and work well in teams,” Blanton said. “These soft skills are exactly what students learn in majors and classes in English, history, the humanities and fine arts, among others.”

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Reports highlight woes faced by the one-third of all college students who transfer

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 07:00

More than a third of all college students move from one college to another at least once in their academic careers, and more institutions -- public and private alike -- count on transfer students to fill their classes. Which makes it all the more perplexing, and problematic for colleges and students alike, that the path students must follow to move from one institution to another is riddled with potholes and roadblocks that stop many of them in their tracks.

A trio of new reports from different sources illustrate just how vexing the transfer process is. A Government Accountability Office study released Wednesday provides baseline data both about the number of students who change colleges (one in three) and about the cost to those students and to taxpayers when those students lose roughly four in 10 of the credits they accumulated at their first institution.

The National Student Clearinghouse's “Tracking Transfer” report broadens the lens to show that while community college students who transfer to a four-year institution are far likelier than all two-year-college students to earn a bachelor's degree (42 percent to 13 percent), those from low-income backgrounds who transfer to nonselective or rural four-year institutions are at a severe disadvantage.

And a report from the Campaign for College Opportunity calls the much-traversed transfer route in California a "complex and costly maze" that forces those who navigate it successfully to spend tens of thousands of dollars more to earn a bachelor's degree than do students who start out at one of the state's (more expensive) four-year universities.

"The confluence of these studies confirms that this is a problem, and that transfer students are one of most abused [groups of] students," said Davis Jenkins, a senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College. "They haven't been well served by most institutions, two-year and four-year alike."

The Transfer Landscape

Students change colleges for lots of reasons: shifts in their educational needs or goal, dissatisfaction with the original institution, changes in life situations, and the like. And for perhaps the largest chunk of transferring students -- those who enroll at community colleges with the goal of eventually attaining a four-year degree -- changing institutions is a central, purposeful objective.

As the GAO study shows, a significant number of students -- 35 percent of all students who started college in the 2003-04 academic year, according to the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study -- make such a change. The vast majority of those, roughly 75 percent, started at a public institution, and about two-thirds transferred from one public to another.

On the whole, public institutions within a state are thought to have the best records on transfer of credit, since they are presumably more likely to work in concert with one another, to have common goals or to have either voluntary cooperative agreements or statewide policies requiring cooperation. And in fact, the GAO estimates, students transferring between two public institutions do on average lose fewer academic credits in the process than do those crossing sector lines, as seen in the graphic below.

But the average transfer student lost a full 43 percent of their credits, roughly 13 credits, or a semester’s worth, the GAO estimates. The reasons why credits do not transfer vary: mismatches in the curricula of the different institutions, too many of the courses do not apply to a major, snobbery on the part of the receiving institutions, poor choices by students (sometimes based on inferior advising).

The costs are significant, and not just to the students who may have to repeat course work. Given that half of the students who transferred in the sample the GAO studied had received Pell Grants, and nearly two-thirds received federal loans, "credits lost in a transfer also can result in additional costs for the federal government in providing student aid," GAO wrote. "The government’s costs may increase if transfer students who receive financial aid take longer to complete a degree as a result of retaking lost credits."

The California study offers a look at how the issues play out in one state (but a mammoth one). It reaches a similar finding -- that 38 percent of community college students transfer within six years -- and estimates that those who transfer spend an estimated $36,000 to $38,000 more to get their bachelor's degrees than do students who start out at a California public institution.

It spreads the blame for the problem widely, citing:

  • "A broken remedial education system that traps students in non-credit-bearing courses."
  • Campus-level faculty autonomy that allows a "lack of curricular alignment with other campuses," often within the same system.
  • A "decentralized higher education system" in which the state's three major systems "operate as distinctive entities with no mandate for cooperation."
  • "Too many choices in general education with inaccessible information for students to make informed decisions."
  • State budget cuts that have restricted the availability of courses at community colleges, causing delays in the time to transfer.
  • A ratio of 615 students for every community college adviser or counselor, resulting in "students guiding themselves or receiving inconsistent guidance."

“Students are caught in the middle of battles between the systems, colleges and faculty, and the costs are high," said Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity. "Every day spent fighting over educational turfs, we fail to clear up the transfer maze and we lose the talented students we urgently need for our work force and economic stability.”

The third report, from the National Student Clearinghouse, provides not just data about the national picture for transfer students but a framework by which individual states and institutions (two-year and four-year) can judge their own success -- and be judged.

The clearinghouse study, which follows a 2016 study that laid out the framework, provides data on how successfully students transfer out of community colleges and into four-year institutions.

For instance, it finds that while 33.6 percent of all transfer students leave community colleges having earned a certificate or associate degree, those numbers are slightly higher at two-year colleges that are primarily occupational (35.8 percent) than primarily academic (32 percent). And while 42.2 percent of all students who transferred from a community college ultimately earned a bachelor's degree, only 35.8 percent of those from the lower socioeconomic quintiles did so, compared to 44.7 percent of those from the upper two quintiles. (Students who were enrolled full-time in a community college, unsurprisingly, earned bachelor's degrees at a rate of 61.4 percent, compared to 8.3 percent of those who studied exclusively part-time.)

The clearinghouse report assessed four-year institutions on similar grounds; 54.5 percent of students who transferred to very selective institutions completed bachelor's degrees, compared to 21.1 percent of those at nonselective colleges, and transfers to suburban institutions were likelier to graduate (38.3 percent) than those at urban (35.4 percent) or rural institutions (29.3 percent).

The days when only a small number of institutions might have worried about transfer students are gone, said Jenkins, of the Community College Research Center. "When we talk to students who've tried to transfer, it makes me want to cry, and when we talk to legislators, people are pissed off," he said.

And with many if not most regional public universities and private nonprofit colleges struggling with enrollments, "colleges are missing a huge business opportunity to invest" in making sure they are clearing pathways for transfer students, he said.

"They're failing to recognize who their students are," Jenkins said. "A lot more of them are getting most of their students through transfer, and they have to do a better job" of working with community colleges to smooth out impediments. "They should work with their suppliers like any other business that’s supplier dependent."

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