Higher Education News

Ithaca College president in the spotlight years after court case

Inside HigherEd - 11 hours 44 min ago

More than 16 years ago, Shirley M. Collado pleaded no contest to a count of misdemeanor sexual abuse in D.C. Superior Court.

She had been charged with allegedly touching in a sexual manner a therapy patient she was treating. The patient had also lived with Collado for a short time after she had been treated by Collado.

Today, Collado is the president of Ithaca College. She acknowledges inviting the patient into her home, and she has publicly confirmed pleading no contest in court. But she says she delivered the plea under extreme circumstances and did not commit the touching or other acts that were alleged. On the contrary, she was trying to help someone in need at a time when she herself was suffering her own intense emotional pain, she says.

The court case and surrounding allegations have been thrust into the limelight this week after student newspapers published detailed accounts of allegations and events said to have taken place when Collado was training as a trauma therapist at the Center at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington. The Ithacan published an extensive piece Tuesday. So did The Vanderbilt Hustler, which covers Vanderbilt University, where Collado is a member of the Board of Trust. Both publications wrote about the case after receiving anonymous packages in the mail containing court documents.

It is a harsh turn of events for a president who received attention for her exceptional personal history when she was hired last year. Collado, the daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, has been noted as the first college president who entered higher education through the Posse Foundation, which sends groups of disadvantaged students to enroll together at colleges.

In response to the new scrutiny of Collado’s past, Ithaca College’s Board of Trustees has voiced strong support for her. Trustees say they were well aware of the case when they hired Collado and that it was part of vetting that took place before she was publicly named Ithaca’s incoming president in February. Collado has posted her own lengthy statement denying any sexual impropriety and saying that she pleaded no contest at a time when she was pressed financially and emotionally.

The situation is notable because it comes at a time when allegations of sexual assault, harassment and impropriety -- some of them dating back many years -- have rocked numerous college campuses and leadership teams. But it also stands out because it offers an unexpected reflection at the top levels of higher ed of a criminal justice system some say is tilted against the poor. Unlike many college presidents, Collado comes from a background of limited means and says money played a factor in her plea at a time when her career was just starting many years ago. In addition, Collado’s and Ithaca’s willingness to address the situation head-on has caught the attention of many crisis communication professionals.

“This is not new news,” Collado said in a telephone interview with Inside Higher Ed. “This is a story that I shared very, very openly before I became president. It’s public record, highly visible.”

Publicly Discussing a Plea

Collado has publicly referenced the case virtually from the moment she was announced as Ithaca College’s incoming president in February. The college posted a Q&A with Collado on March 1 that explained some of the history. A former patient who “struggled with significant psychological disorders” sought Collado for help when she didn’t have anywhere to go, she said in the Q&A. Collado said she “went out of my way to help her” but that it backfired because she was not in a position to help. The incident took place shortly after Collado’s husband committed suicide about three years into their marriage, Collado wrote.

The former patient made “claims against me,” Collado said in the Q&A. She said she fought the claims for a while but did not have the resources or social capital to continue.

“I was in my 20s, and I had just tragically lost my husband, so I decided to take steps to end the legal action so that I could focus on taking care of myself and moving on with my life,” she said in the Q&A. “It was a very difficult decision, but it’s the kind of decision that young people face daily when they feel they have no options, no resources, and no outside support.”

The Ithacan included far more detail in the article it published this week. Collado pleaded nolo contendere, or no contest, in August 2001 to a single charge of placing a hand on a patient’s clothed breast with sexual intent, the student newspaper wrote. Collado was a 28-year-old recent graduate of Duke University and the patient’s therapist at the time the incident was alleged to have taken place.

The nolo contendere plea meant Collado was accepting conviction but not admitting guilt. After such a plea, a case continues as if a guilty plea was entered. Collado received a 30-day suspended sentence, 18 months of supervised probation, an order to complete 80 hours of community service and a $250 fine. She was ordered to stay away from the patient.

The student newspaper’s account also details allegations that the patient and Collado kissed and had other sexual encounters. Court documents from prosecutors show employees at the center believed the patient’s allegations, The Ithacan wrote.

Collado denied the allegations again in her interview with Inside Higher Ed. Her plea covered one situation: putting a hand on the body outside of clothing, she said. She pleaded no contest because of financial and emotional constraints but denies all allegations through and through. She did not have a sexual or romantic relationship with the patient -- and the patient was no longer her patient during the short time when they lived in the same home, she said.

Although she tried to help the patient by offering her a place to live, it became clear to Collado that she had not made a good choice, she said. A therapist allowing a former patient to live with her violates professional norms.

“I was going through my own grief and loss, and I needed to move on, and I did my very best to make that transition as smooth as possible,” Collado said. “Shortly after that, and only after that decision, this person got in touch with the Center and made allegations about behavior that had occurred on the unit, and I was floored.”

Scrutinizing a Presidential Candidate’s Past

Those most familiar with the search process that led to Collado’s hiring say they were aware of the case early on. It came up “in conjunction” with a background check, said Jim Nolan, a trustee who chaired the search committee and chairs the Ithaca Board of Trustees’ governance committee.

Nolan declined to describe in additional detail how the case was discovered -- if the then candidate for president brought it to the college’s attention or if it was discovered by the college in the due diligence process. But he said both the board and search committee had comprehensive discussions about the issue.

“There was a point in time we felt it was really important for Shirley to have the conversation with all the search committee members,” he said. “As board members, we had access to the court documents. And we talked to the on-campus members of the search committee about the pertinent details and made them aware.”

Some of the information was sensitive and needed to be put into context, Nolan said. Collado’s references were also fully checked.

Several faculty members who were on the search committee felt that the process was the right one to follow, given the sensitive and painful nature of the allegations and the time of Collado’s life in which they took place.

The committee needed to be told about the case, said Claire Gleitman, an English professor and president of the Faculty Senate for Ithaca’s School of Humanities and Sciences, who was on the search committee. Committee members were given an appropriate amount of information for making a recommendation, she said.

Seeing the new details does not change Gleitman’s belief that the process and recommendation to hire Collado were appropriate.

“These days, the past is never past,” Gleitman said. “The people I’ve heard from -- and I’ve heard from a fair handful -- have been expressing very strong support for President Collado and regret on her behalf.”

Asked whether a therapist living with a former patient was a lapse in judgment, Gleitman said it is clear in retrospect the action was a mistake. But it was made at a time when Collado had lost her husband and was trying to act out of compassion.

“I think it was an error of judgment that is both understandable and also, as far as I can tell, an entirely isolated incident,” Gleitman said. “I don’t think we see any evidence whatsoever of further errors in judgment that would lead us to think it was a character flaw. I think it’s really important to emphasize that this was an isolated event that happened in her past.”

A Way Forward?

College presidents are expected to set the agenda, inspire students, faculty and staff, and raise money from donors. Those are tasks that might be difficult given the unwelcome attention foisted upon Collado this week. Yet her backers do not think her ability to lead will be compromised.

The president is carrying on during a brief but intense period of scrutiny, Gleitman said. Nolan, the trustee and search committee chair, described the events from 2000 and 2001 as formative experiences for the president.

“I would say the life events that people experience form, over time, their judgment,” Nolan said. “It becomes part of the fabric of how people make decisions.”

Meanwhile, broader faculty reaction has been muted. Few have reached out to discuss the topic with Thomas Swensen, a professor and chair of Ithaca’s department of exercise and sport sciences who chairs the college’s Faculty Council and was also on the search committee that selected Collado.

“The lack of comments right now is maybe a statement,” he said. “I’m not quite sure how to interpret it.”

The attempts to share information and be open have likely helped the college in the public eye, according to crisis communication experts. In many ways, they have made moves that are right out of the playbook for handling potentially damaging information.

Leaders sometimes have an instinct to hide in similar situations, said Susan Jacobson, president of the Philadelphia-based public relations firm Jacobson Strategic Communications.

“It’s not a time to hide,” she said. “This is a time when she’s really got to show strength through adversity. People are really watching her.”

The student newspapers’ reporting has provoked strong reactions on social media from a range of commenters, some arguing in support of the president and some debating the way the situation adds to ongoing discussion about sexual abuse. Still others have been critical of Collado’s past actions.

Collado continues to be bothered by the fact that someone anonymously sent details about the case to student newspapers. She feels targeted, she said.

But she still thinks she can lead the college. Some of her closest colleagues in higher ed leadership have penned letters in support of her.

Nancy Cantor, the chancellor at Rutgers University Newark, wrote that Collado shared facts about her early career when she was executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer at Rutgers, the position she held before coming to Ithaca.

“Shirley remains a treasured colleague of profound integrity and compassion, admired by those who have had the privilege to work closely with her,” Cantor wrote. “We have every confidence in her and consider the Ithaca College community very fortunate to have her as its leader.”

Collado wanted to come to Ithaca and treat it as a place where she could lead and be herself, she said. She wants to draw strength from her past.

“Yes, many of us have narratives that are complicated and hard and challenging,” she said. “This was an experience, like college, that was formative for me. And it’s an experience I wish on no one.”

Collado came to Ithaca after the college’s former president, Tom Rochon, decided to leave following intense criticism of his handling of racial incidents on campus. Collado has also been executive vice president of the Posse Foundation.

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First-round faculty job interviews, which once took place at disciplinary meetings, are increasingly done by video

Inside HigherEd - 11 hours 44 min ago

Each year, graduate students and recent Ph.D.s brave crowds, weather, nerves and their bank accounts to travel to academic conferences for interviews. The experience is valuable in some respects -- especially if it leads to a job. But it’s also been described as a dehumanizing cattle call. At the very least, conference interviews are costly and potentially awkward. Do they have to be this way?

Departments increasingly are saying no. First-round interviews via Skype, Zoom or other videoconferencing services have been on the rise for some time, but they’ve become especially popular within the past several years. And they may have gotten an assist this month, with meetings of major disciplinary associations happening during the near-national deep freeze and accompanying storms.

Paula Krebs, executive director of the Modern Language Association, said she’s not sure exactly how many candidates or search committees didn’t make it to the MLA’s convention in New York during the first week of January. But the “bomb cyclone” could perhaps be what convinces search teams that it's better to conduct video interviews from campus and then to go to the MLA meeting to participate in sessions, "instead of shutting themselves in a hotel suite with two or three of their colleagues and a succession of job candidates," she said.

MLA is one the largest disciplinary associations, representing fields with some of the most competitive tenure-track job markets. As for graduate students, Krebs said the association would love to see them look forward to the annual meeting “as a place to hone their skills and hear the latest research in their field instead of a place to collect horror stories about the job-search process.”

Skype, Zoom and More

The American Historical Association also held its annual meeting this month in Washington. James Grossman, AHA’s director, said more departments are conducting preliminary interviews via video conference, with or without weather concerns. The last decade has seen two major drops in these interviews: between 2013, when there were 154 search committees at AHA, and 2014, when there were 95. The number dropped again between 2015 and 2016, from 89 to 52, respectively. There were 47 committees interviewing this year.

Edward Liebow, executive director of the American Anthropological Association, said his organization doesn’t have hard evidence of a trend one way or the other, but demand for on-site conference interviews at its annual meeting around Thanksgiving actually increased in 2017 over the year before. At the same time, he said, some academic screening interviews are conducted by videoconference -- something that’s been the norm for nonacademic employers for a while.

Lego Grad Student, an anonymous recent social sciences Ph.D. in California’s Bay Area who expresses the highs and lows of academic life in quirky Lego tableaux, said he’s only done one Skype interview, so far -- as a follow-up to a physical interview. In general, in his field, however, it’s become “slightly more common to also do preliminary interviews by Skype before narrowing down which people to fly out for a formal interview," he said.

“I see no issues with that,” he added, “since it helps reduce costs and gives more applicants a chance to have more face-to-face time, even if remotely, with a committee.”

Karen Kelsky, a former tenured professor and now an academic career coach at The Professor Is In, said she’s noticed departments holding more first-round interviews via video conference, across fields. Faculty members are simply more aware of the “ethical issues behind requiring candidates to pay $1,000 plus just to have a preliminary interview,” she said.

This year in particular, Kelsky said she was asked on Twitter what to do about a missed interview due to weather on the East Coast. Kelsky encouraged the candidate to follow up with the search committee about a proposed redo via Skype later, “so as not to fall off their radar.”

Beyond scheduling concerns, do graduate students who interview in person have a leg up on the remote competition? Kelsky said that some job seekers and even faculty members still tend to believe that’s the case. But that notion is increasingly in flux, she said, “with the technology becoming more and more accepted and normative.”

As of 2018, “I see the in-person and the Skype option as roughly equivalent both in numbers” and perceived “legitimacy,” she added. “And that's an excellent thing.”

The MLA has formally and informally encouraged departments to embrace videoconferencing, including via its “Guidelines for Search Committees and Job Seekers on Entry-Level Faculty Recruitment and Hiring.” The document says, in part, that “all candidates for a position should have the same conditions for the screening interview” and those who “interview remotely must not be held at a disadvantage.”

The AHA doesn’t endorse or discourage video interview formats. But Grossman said it’s discussing changing its relevant policy document to include guidelines on these interviews, “since they clearly are becoming more widespread.”

Krebs, of MLA, said that first-round interviews at MLA evolved to fill a need: leveling the playing field in what was still an “old boys’ network” in terms of hiring through the late 1960s. Now, she said, “technology has changed the landscape of the job search process, and it can offer ways to create yet more equitable conditions for candidates, as well as for the institutions doing the interviewing.”

If all institutions eventually opt to conduct every first-round interview via video, she said, “candidates who can afford to make the trip to the convention would no longer have an advantage” over those can’t.

The Academic Conference: Beyond Interviews

One byproduct of the decline of conference interviews is rebranding: If academic meetings aren’t all about interviews, what are they for?

Grossman said that AHA has had to reconsider “both the meeting and the marketing of it,” since it can “no longer depend on attendance driven by interviews.” In some ways, he said, it’s an opportunity to save a generation of scholars from negatively associating the meeting with pre-interview jitters.

Beyond that, Grossman said AHA has revamped the annual gathering as something more than a “research conference.” While research is still central to the experience, the meeting is equally concerned with teaching and such professional issues as employment landscapes, career paths and ethics.

AHA also has worked to attract more graduate students who attend out of “interest rather than a job search,” Grossman said, via a career fair and special events. Some 100 undergraduates also attended this year, with some participating in an undergraduate poster session.

“A decade ago some observers were predicting that digital communication would undermine academic conferences,” Grossman said. “We're finding that this is not necessarily the case.”

Liebow, of the anthropological association, said changes to U.S. visa policies led the association to experiment with remote presentations and distance participation on a limited scale. (He also noted that two of the association’s larger sections, the Society of Cultural Anthropology and the Society for Visual Anthropology, will stage a virtual meeting in April, with registration thus far proceeding at a rate comparable to face-to-face meetings.)

Krebs said MLA will continue to offer travel grants for graduate students to attend the convention, “as we think it's a crucial opportunity for professional development of many kinds.” This year offered sessions on everything from the job market to working at teaching-intensive institutions to writing book proposals to seeking professional jobs off campus.

Quoting a 2014 column by former MLA executive director Rosemary Feal, Krebs said the MLA convention was long seen as synonymous with the job market, but it's "time for that to change.”

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NCAA think tank will mull associationwide rule on athletes with ties to sexual assault

Inside HigherEd - 11 hours 44 min ago

INDIANAPOLIS -- As the country continues to be roiled by continued revelations of sexual assaults perpetrated (mostly) by powerful men, the National Collegiate Athletic Association will take initial steps toward considering a blanket rule on athletes with a history of such acts.

While individual colleges and an NCAA conference have created policies barring athletes who have been tied to sexual violence, so far the association has resisted adopting a broader decree.

At the NCAA’s annual convention Wednesday, a member of its Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence, Cindy Aron, told a crowd that select commission members would meet in Washington next week. They will discuss, she said, a prospective associationwide policy on athletes with a history of sexual assault. Nothing concrete has yet been developed.

This “think tank” will also involve higher education experts from across the country who work on sexual violence initiatives on campuses, Aron said.

Aron is not an NCAA representative but rather a social worker by trade. She said in an interview that the group wants to discuss next week how institutions can open communication between athletics departments and other college departments.

“Universities and athletics departments in particular tend to be siloed off,” Aron said. “So how can we work together to use resources that are already there and then build upon it with one another?”

Asked to confirm the topic of next week's meeting and the possible development of an associationwide policy, NCAA officials did not provide a response in time for publication.

Advocates for survivors of sexual assault applauded Indiana University at Bloomington last year for its new policy that suspends athletes, both first-year students and transfers, who have a history of sexual violence. Critics of the policy said it was discriminatory and disadvantaged the university.

Per the policy, Indiana students who have either been found guilty criminally or pleaded no contest to a felony sex crime, such as rape or domestic violence, are disqualified from participating in intercollegiate athletics-related financial aid, practice or competition.

If an athlete is accused of rape or a similar offense, then a university panel meets to decide whether to suspend the athlete from play -- but the athlete might not necessarily be removed from campus.

“You have to have these conversations,” Mattie White, senior associate athletic director for academic services at Indiana, said during a convention session on athletes’ health. “And they’re hard, right? When you’re recruiting someone, it’s not the first conversation you’ll have -- ‘have you done something really terrible and bad?’ But we want to make sure we are looking at their digital footprint, trying to figure out who these individuals are before we bring them to our campus.”

Colleges aren’t required to track sexual assault convictions or cases at other campuses. The NCAA hasn’t given any direction on this issue, either.

Indiana’s policy was inspired by a narrower Southeastern Conference rule that bans only transfer students with a record of sexual assault. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey told Inside Higher Ed that a group of athletics directors, college presidents and other administrators discussed expanding the prohibition, but so far the conference is satisfied with the policy approved in 2015. Sankey said at the time that first-year students sometimes have offenses that are “shielded” because they were minors.

On the NCAA leadership's part, the Board of Governors adopted a new policy last year on campus sexual violence saying athletics departments should know about campus policies on sexual assault and when a student is accused or found guilty of sexual violence.

Colleges' sexual assault processes and contact information for an institution’s Title IX coordinator (named for the federal anti-gender-discrimination law Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972) should be provided to athletes, the policy states. Coaches, athletes and sports administrators should receive prevention training, according to the policy. The NCAA also publicizes a tool kit for mitigating sexual violence.

At Grinnell College, an Iowa institution that competes in the NCAA's Division III, administrators encourage buy-in from students on sexual assault prevention campaigns, Jen Jacobsen, assistant dean of students and director of wellness and prevention, said during the health session.

Jacobsen said the college seeks out students with “social capital” on campus. And when recruits visit campus, some current athletes are encouraged to tell their coaches if they see those visitors doing “creepy things” or being “predatory.”

Often the athletes will observe behavior the coaches don’t, Jacobsen said.

“They know they can tell their coach, ‘This is not someone I want as part of our team,’” she said. “And our coach stops recruiting them. No matter how talented they are athletically. That’s a values piece that’s about student engagement.”

A Grinnell football player, Carson Dunn, told the audience at the convention that he leads sexual violence prevention initiatives among students -- to great success.

Grinnell has developed multiple groups, including Student Athletes Leading Change and Student Athlete Mentors, to fight the current culture, Dunn said. On one particular night, he said, another group of students marched around campus to talk about campus sexual assault and challenge students.

“We want you to step up and change something about your life to help this fight,” he said. “Whether it’s educating yourself on the topic, or … it’s when that person makes that uncomfortable rape joke, you step in and you stop that. It’s small things that really help change.”

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How academic blog 'Monkey Cage' became part of the mainstream media

Inside HigherEd - 11 hours 44 min ago

Just over a decade ago, a small group of academics started a political science blog called the “Monkey Cage.” In an inaugural post, the academics wrote that they were tired of political science research being overlooked by the media and policy makers, and set out on a mission to get more people interested in their research.

It worked. In the following years, the blog's pool of contributing authors grew substantially. It won awards. And in 2013, the blog attracted the interest of The Washington Post, resulting in a three-year hosting deal.

At the time, the reaction from “Monkey Cage” readers was mixed. Many were supportive, but others had concerns about how moving to the Post might affect the blog’s content, and some didn’t like that the content would be placed behind the Post’s paywall.

Speaking to Inside Higher Ed, John Sides, a co-founder of the blog and associate professor of political science at George Washington University, admitted the blog might have lost some of its original readers to the Post’s paywall, but he said the story of its move to the Post was ultimately one of “unprecedented growth.”

The blog now has “more contributors, more funding, more audience,” than ever before, Sides said. At the Post, “Monkey Cage” receives more views on a daily basis than even the most popular posts at the old blog did, including those written at the peak of the 2012 election. The blog signed a second two-year deal with the Post in 2016, and its creators hope to stay there.

The blog’s content has shifted over time. It's more layperson friendly, but it still maintains a solid research foundation, said Sides. “The Post didn’t want us to change our stripes,” he said. The articles are more reactive to the news cycle than they used to be, and the blog consciously tries to attract a large audience by posting articles that are timely. In the last week, the blog has featured analyses on the prospect of a U.S. war with North Korea, protests in Iran and “Why Trump administration officials try so hard to flatter him.”

Publishing under the umbrella of a mainstream media outlet “does force you to work and write and plan in particular ways,” said Sides. “You have to figure out how to use the medium to its fullest extent. No one reading the Post on their phone is going to want to spend 20 minutes thumbing through 6,000 words.” While the blog has mostly stuck to its political science roots, academics who contribute to the blog now come from all over the world and have expertise in a much broader range of subdisciplines. There have been over 2,839 contributors to the blog since it moved the Post, 958 of whom who have written multiple times.

The blog has substantially expanded its editorial team since it joined the Post. Some early contributors are now editors rather than writers, and the team is supported by some experienced nonacademic editors. “They spot things that I would miss,” said Sides. Particularly the inclusion of academic jargon. As the blog has an independent contract with the Post, it still maintains editorial control, but copy is checked by Post employees to ensure it meets house style.

E. J. Graff joined “Monkey Cage” as managing editor over two years ago as a result of its “exponential growth.” Though she has frequently worked with academics in her career as an intellectual journalist, she is not an academic herself. She described her role as “watching the planes and making sure they don’t all land at the same time.” A big part of Graff’s job is ensuring the blog’s content is accessible to nonacademics. “It’s not listicles about ‘Five things you didn’t know about Steve Bannon’ -- it is still very intellectual.”

The blog editors receive so many submissions that they rarely have to seek out content, but sometimes they solicit posts on newsworthy topics, said Sides. “Scholars are willing to write for us at the drop of a hat,” he said. In this sense, the blog has become more of a publishing platform for academics than a traditional blog.

“It’s a different animal now,” said Joshua Tucker, a “Monkey Cage” editor and professor of politics at New York University. Asked to reflect on what had changed at the blog, Tucker said he did miss some aspects of the old format -- the informality, the engagement in niche academic debate -- but what the blog does now is “incredibly valuable,” he says. “It’s become such a public good for the discipline.”

Tucker said the blog provided a “truly unique” opportunity to academics who “wake up and realize their work is relevant.” Tucker said he was particularly proud of the blog’s coverage of international elections, conflict in Ukraine and the Arab Spring. “In the past, if you had something to say, you might write an op-ed, and it would likely be rejected,” said Tucker.

In terms of impact, blog content has been cited in Supreme Court decisions and referenced in speeches from prominent politicians, though Sides said he would be reluctant to draw a straight line between content on the blog and policy decisions. For individual academics, the blog is a real opportunity to share their expertise with the public and get eyeballs on their research. Chris Gilson, the managing editor of the “American Politics and Policy” blog at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said that frequently academics are offered speaking engagements on the strength of blog posts they write, but that such activities might not be counted toward tenure.

Gilson, a long-term reader of “Monkey Cage,” said that he was a fan of the blog, but not of the paywall, as he felt it restricted access to what is often publicly funded research. Another academic blog hosted by The Washington Post, called “The Volokh Conspiracy,” recently left the Post to a paywall-free spot at Reason.com. Writing on the decision, founder Eugene Volokh said the blog, which covers legal and political issues from a libertarian perspective, had enjoyed four “mostly very happy years” at the Post, but was principally moving to “be freely available to the broadest range of readers.”

While academic political science blogs like Duck of Minerva and Crooked Timber have remained as stand-alone productions, others, like, “Mischiefs of Faction,” which is hosted by Vox, seem to sit happily at mainstream publications. With such a move, Gilson said that sometimes blogs were at risk of losing some of their identity. “I liked the orangutan, it was quirky,” said Gilson, referencing the original web design of “Monkey Cage.” That said, Gilson understands why the blog moved. “I’m not sure I would say no if the Post came knocking at my door,” he said.

Asked how much time he spends working on “Monkey Cage,” Sides said he didn't “want to add it up.” But despite the extra work the blog’s expansion demands, Sides said working with the Post had been a “great opportunity.” Asked if, on reflection, there was anything the blog should have done differently, Sides hinted perhaps he would have chosen “a less silly-sounding name.”

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Researcher proposes marriage in acknowledgments section of journal article

Inside HigherEd - 11 hours 44 min ago

Many a researcher will surely have thought about testing their loved ones as to whether or not they really did read their work -- but one statistician from China appears to have gone a step further by leaving a romantic message to his partner.

In his paper “Performance analysis for minimally nonlinear irreversible refrigerators at finite cooling power,” published in Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and Its Applications, Rui Long, a Ph.D. student in engineering at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, left a subtly placed marriage proposal to his partner, Panpan Mao.

Alongside an acknowledgment of funding support received for the research, the paper states, “Rui Long wants to thank, in particular, the patience, care and support from Panpan Mao over the passed [sic] years. Will you marry me?”

Highlighting the proposal on Twitter, Jess Wade, a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College London, said, “Romance is not dead, it’s just behind a paywall.”

Long is not the first to use academic publishing as a medium for popping the question. A paper published in Current Biology by Caleb Brown and Donald Henderson in 2015 includes a similar line hidden among details of a newly discovered horned dinosaur.

In “A new horned dinosaur reveals convergent evolution in cranial ornamentation in certopsidae,” the acknowledgments read, “CMB would specifically like to highlight the ongoing and unwavering support of Lorna O’Brien. Lorna, will you marry me?” (She said yes).

Long had a similar result, reporting, “Panpan said yes!”

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Investor's $75M gift to Hopkins philosophy department shows breadth and potential of fund-raising

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 08:00

At a time when the humanities have come under fire from critics alleging irrelevance in today’s economy, a well-known stock picker has given Johns Hopkins University tens of millions of dollars for its philosophy department.

William H. Miller III, an investor widely recognized for beating the Standard & Poor’s 500 index for 15 consecutive years, committed $75 million to the Johns Hopkins University Department of Philosophy, the university in Baltimore announced Tuesday. The department is being renamed for Miller and will grow substantially because of the money.

Although Hopkins has had well-chronicled success raising money from big-name donors, notably drawing $1.5 billion over the years from alumnus Michael Bloomberg, the $75 million toward philosophy represents a substantial fund-raising victory for the university. It is the largest gift Hopkins has ever received for a humanities department. Leaders also think it is the largest ever made to a university’s philosophy program.

Academics reacted to Miller’s donation with hope that it provides validation and a path forward for philosophy at universities. Philanthropy experts said it reflects a climate in which a diversifying pool of donors is willing to give to unexpected causes even as fund-raisers are challenging old assumptions about which donors are willing to give -- and for what.

Word of the donation comes as both public and private colleges and universities have ramped up their fund-raising efforts. But it runs against a public narrative that is often hostile toward the humanities. It also stands in contrast to financial and enrollment trends that have led some struggling colleges to consider the taboo idea of cuts to their philosophy departments.

With Miller’s gift, Hopkins will boost its philosophy department from 13 full-time faculty members to 22 within 10 years. The department is also starting an endowed professorship for its chair, along with eight additional endowed professorships and endowed support for junior faculty members. And the gift is pouring $10 million into endowed support for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. University leaders say they want the gift to power the philosophy department to new heights and spark collaboration between philosophers and other academics.

Miller doesn’t necessarily fit the profile of a big-name donor to philosophy at Hopkins. He studied economics and European history as an undergraduate at Washington and Lee University and has said he took only a single philosophy course in college.

But he also said he read philosophy while in the Army during the Vietnam War. Miller decided to apply to a Ph.D. program and subsequently studied in the Hopkins philosophy program in the mid-1970s. He withdrew before earning his degree, entering the business world.

Now, he is crediting a large portion of his success in business to his time at Hopkins. In a news release, he pointed to the “analytical training and habits of the mind” he developed as a graduate student. Philosophy influenced Miller’s investing decisions and his life outside business, he told The New York Times.

Miller earned widespread fame for beating the S&P 500 from 1991 to the mid-2000s before struggling during the financial crisis. After spending more than three decades at the investment firm Legg Mason, in 2016 he bought two mutual funds he started at the company and now runs his own firm based in Baltimore, Miller Value Partners.

A Hopkins spokesman described Miller as a “longstanding friend of the philosophy department.” One of the university’s trustees, Heather Murren, helped to start the conversation about him giving a sizable gift.

Miller told The New York Times he wanted his donation to have a major effect.

“I wanted the gift to go to something where it would have a significant impact and change the trajectory,” he said. In a statement, he said he wants the department to become one of the best in the country, although he didn't say specifically how he wants that to be measured.

‘Philosophy Matters’

Meanwhile, his donation can also be read as an affirmation of the liberal arts at a time when many fear the public has soured on the disciplines. Hopkins officials certainly seem to interpret it that way. They issued statements emphasizing the value of philosophy and the liberal arts and said they have raised almost $250 million to support humanities and social sciences during the university's current campaign.

“Philosophy matters,” the university’s president, Ronald J. Daniels, said. “Philosophy defines what it is to be human, to lead lives that are meaningful and to create societies that are just and humane. The contemporary challenges of the genomics revolution, the rise of artificial intelligence, the growth in income inequality, social and political fragmentation, and our capacity for devastating war all invite philosophical perspective. Bill Miller’s unprecedented commitment to our Department of Philosophy underscores the continuing vitality and relevance of the humanities.”

The dean of Hopkins’s School of Arts and Sciences drew a line between Miller and the liberal arts.

“Bill Miller, like so many members of our Johns Hopkins family, greatly appreciates the extraordinary value of traditional liberal arts disciplines for our students, the university and the world,” said the dean, Beverly Wendland. “His dual perspective as a business leader and an intellectually curious lifelong student of philosophy is so important.”

News of Miller’s gift traveled quickly on Tuesday, provoking reactions from those in philosophy departments. Some expressed hope the gift will draw the attention of other philanthropists to the field.

The gift could also help public perception, according to Justin Weinberg, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina who runs the blog Daily Nous, which is focused on the philosophy profession.

“A highly successful investor has decided that philosophy is worth investing in,” he said via email. “That’s a strong signal to the public that there’s something of value in philosophy, and fits with an increasing number of testimonials from those in the business world about the advantages of studying philosophy. These employment-related benefits would not be the whole story of philosophy’s value, but it is good for the public -- including students and their parents -- to hear.”

Implications for Fund-Raising

Fund-raising experts believe Miller’s gift reflects several developments. Some buzz is building about donations for the humanities, they said. Donor pools are also diversifying by gender, cultural background and job background, they added.

Institutions should be careful about assuming a fertile donor pool is limited to graduates of a certain college or program, said Brian Gawor, vice president for research in consulting firm Ruffalo Noel Levitz’s fund-raising management division. Not everyone who gives to a particular department majored there, and the potential for finding a mega-donor can be unexpectedly wide.

That includes donors who may have studied one subject but made large sums of money in an entirely different field.

“They may have made their money doing things very differently than what they studied,” Gawor said. “But many people believe that their liberal arts background gives them the skill to do better than their peers.”

The number of major gift prospects is far greater than what most colleges and universities consider it to be, said Jeff Martin, a senior consultant at EAB’s Advancement Forum. So while some might believe the medical school or business school at a university is best positioned to draw major donations, Miller’s gift shows that the right donor can be willing to give to an unexpected cause.

“Our assumptions about which units on campus are best positioned to benefit from donors’ largesse may be incorrect,” Martin said. “That philosophy department may have quite a bit of untapped potential.”

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Study: College students don't have confidence they'll land a job

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 08:00

Few college students feel expressly confident that they have the skills and knowledge to find a job or succeed in a workplace, according to a new study.

The report from Gallup and Strada Education Network, a former loan guarantor that expanded its mission last year, represents one of the most comprehensive compilations of students opinions’ on this subject -- and the results are “disappointing,” representatives from the organizations say.

“Students are not nearly as prepared as they could or should be, and they actually know it while they’re in college,” said Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup’s higher education division.

More than 32,500 students from 43 randomly selected four-year institutions, both public and private, responded to the survey last year. About 34 percent of those students indicated they were confident that they would graduate with the know-how to succeed in the job market, and 36 percent said they believed they had the skills and knowledge to be successful in their careers.

A little more than half of students thought their major could lead to a “good job.”

Students who studied liberal arts were the least confident in their knowledge and skills and their job prospects. Only 28 percent of liberal arts students reported they were confident that their knowledge and skills could lead to success in the job market, per the study. Science, technology, mathematics and engineering majors expressed the most confidence that their major would lead to a job (62 percent). While the study categorized STEM as separate from liberal arts, it's also the case that some science and mathematics majors are considered liberal arts majors by many.

Also of note was that as students progressed through college, their confidence in their skills and possibly landing a job diminished. About 56 percent of first-year students were assured their major could result in a good job, but that dropped to 51 percent for senior students.

Many students reported they didn’t take advantage of the traditional services to help them in these areas, such as career centers. Nearly 40 percent of students never visited their college’s career center, according to the report. The report did not address why students didn't visit the career centers.

Students expressed more confidence when they had talked to an academic adviser or a faculty member about their careers, though. About 57 percent of the students who said a professor or another staff member started a conversation with them about a job felt confident in finding a job after graduation.

First-generation college students, students who aren’t white and students over the typical college age -- defined in the report as older than 24 -- all took advantage of their institutional resources more than others did, or reported that they were more helpful for them.

For instance, both black and Hispanic students reported more than white students that their academic advisers were helpful in selecting courses, choosing a major and identifying career opportunities.

About 39 percent of white students said their adviser was helpful in picking a major, versus 45 percent of black students and 40 percent of Hispanic students.

Colleges should invest in training for their faculty so they can discuss careers with students, said Busteed.

“These are not high-cost things that universities can do,” he said. “Educating faculty, telling faculty you can make a big difference.”

But colleges should not entirely move away from the formal channels of helping students, such as career centers, said Carol D’Amico, executive vice president of mission advancement and philanthropy at Strada, which focuses on underserved populations.

Many of these minority populations rely on advisers and the centers, as the data reveals, D’Amico said.

Asked how much responsibility the institutions have to remedy this issue, or if it is primarily student perception, Busteed said that data not included in the report showed that institutions vary vastly in how well they handle career help.

He declined to name which colleges had more success with their programs.

“The fact that there is a huge spread in performance, that there are some doing very well on these metrics -- meaning students reporting positive interactions with staff and faculty -- there are institutions that value and emphasize very intentionally moving the needles on these aspects,” Busteed said.

Other findings from the report:

  • Students 24 years old or older believed they had the skills to successfully navigate the job market (41 percent) more than did their younger counterparts (32 percent).
  • Only 44 percent of students younger than 24 said they would enroll in the institution they selected if they had to pick again.
  • About 53 percent of students younger than 24 would select the same major if they could have a redo.
  • A small number of students have visited their career center frequently -- about 7 percent have gone four to five times, and another 9 percent have dropped in more than five times.
  • About 18 percent of students said the career center was helpful in applying for a job for after graduation.
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Report: LGBTQ students enroll in long-term counseling services the most

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 08:00

Students struggling with their gender identity or sexual orientation have the longest-term counseling treatment while in college, according to a new report by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health. Students considering self-harm or suicide also participate in more counseling sessions -- and the number of students who reported they purposefully injured themselves or attempted suicide continues to rise. But far from a crisis, this represents more students seeking treatment, experts say.

The annual study draws data from nearly 150 colleges and universities and a little more than 161,000 students who sought mental health treatment at those institutions -- it is not a survey, but rather an analysis of more than 1.2 million clinical appointments during the 2016-17 academic year.

The center, housed at Penn State University, found that students who reported their primary concern was their gender identity participated in an average of 10.6 counseling sessions. Students who expressed anxiety over sexual orientation scheduled an average of 8.4 sessions. However, while these students did engage in the most long-term treatment, matters of gender and sexual orientation occupied little of counseling centers’ time -- 0.5 percent of sessions were devoted to talking about students’ gender identity, colleges reported, and 0.4 percent for sexual orientation.

About 0.6 percent of students in the study -- or about 620 people -- identified as transgender.

Most counseling centers focused on students’ reported depression and anxiety. Nearly 19 percent of sessions dived into matters of depression, and more than 23 percent focused on anxiety. Students who entered treatment for depression or anxiety participated in an average of 6.5 counseling sessions. While students can experience multiple mental health problems simultaneously, clinicians reported the students' top concern for this data set.

Because so much of counseling centers' resources are devoted to treating depression and anxiety, institutions should consider how best to intervene for a broader population of students, said Ben Locke, senior director of Penn State’s counseling and psychological services and executive director of the center. He said that colleges should help students recognize symptoms and learn ways to cope with the conditions to lighten the counseling centers' workload.

Students who indicated they had thoughts about hurting themselves participated in a little under eight sessions, on average, and students with suicidal thoughts had an average of about 7.5 sessions.

The number of students who reported injuring themselves without suicidal intent, such as cutting, has steadily risen every year since 2010. In the 2010-11 academic year, of those students in treatment, 21.8 percent indicated they had purposefully hurt themselves. That number has since jumped more than five percentage points to 27 percent.

The percentage of students who attempted suicide, and were in treatment, rose by two percentage points between 2010 and 2017 -- from 8 percent to 10 percent.

Locke characterized this as positive -- the college campaigns for students to seek help for suicide has succeeded, but it also strains counseling centers’ resources. He said that colleges should align with their priorities when trying to address mental health concerns.

"If we’re responding effectively, we need to recognize that some students may need longer-term care," he said. "Those experiencing suicidality may need longer-term care; someone who has been sexually assaulted, they may need longer-term care. This feels very important, that the resources invested in this area are matching decisions at the institutional level."

It is also worth noting that the number of participating institutions has also increased since the 2010-11 year -- from 97 colleges to 147, and thus the number of students on which the data set is based has nearly doubled, from 82,611 students to more than 161,000.

Last year’s report from the center found that colleges have devoted more time to more emergency-like services -- 28 percent more “rapid-access” hours in the 2015-16 year -- and 7.6 percent fewer hours to the more routine counseling, such as scheduled sessions.

In this year’s report, the center indicated that a vast majority of students attend between two and five appointments. Besides a single session, the largest number of students participated in four sessions -- a little more than 6,000 students.

“Colleges and universities are currently grappling with the question of how to respond effectively and efficiently to the rather sudden and dramatic increase in demand for mental health services nationwide,” Locke said. “The growing demand includes the full range of risk, need, diagnoses and many other factors that can make it difficult to define policies that work. Sometimes, the pressure to identify short-term solutions under pressure can result in overly simplified or rigid approaches that inhibit the potential positive effects that counseling center treatment has to offer.”

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Rhode Island hopes putting artificial intelligence lab in library will expand AI's reach

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 08:00

Artificial intelligence laboratories have been cropping up with increasing frequency on campuses in recent years. By and large, though, these labs have been located in computer science or electrical engineering buildings, providing a space for researchers and graduate students to develop computer algorithms that can learn or exhibit intelligent behavior.

The University of Rhode Island is taking a very different approach with its new AI lab, which may be the first in the U.S. to be located in a university library. For URI, the library location is key, as officials hope that by putting the lab in a shared central place, they can bring awareness of AI to a wider swath of the university's faculty and student body.

“When you have an AI lab in a specific college, the impression is that access is only for students of that college,” said Karim Boughida, dean of libraries at the University of Rhode Island. “Even if students are told they can use the space, there may be a percentage that may feel unwelcome, or that it is ‘not for me.’ In the library it will be different,” said Boughida.

Inclusivity in AI is important to Boughida. Recent media reports of racist chat bots, faulty facial recognition software and racist criminal profiling have already pointed to the kind of issues that can arise when you don’t have a diverse group of people working on the technology of tomorrow. Without explicit countermeasures, machine learning and AI could magnify existing patterns of inequality in our society, says Boughida.

The library, as an interdisciplinary space that values inclusivity, is the ideal place for people of all backgrounds to learn about AI, says Boughida. The University of Rhode Island’s AI Lab, due to open this fall, will be located in the Robert L. Carothers Library and Learning Commons on the university’s main campus in Kingston.

Unlike a typical AI lab focused on research, the URI AI Lab will offer students and instructors the chance to learn new computing skills, and also encourage them to deepen their understanding of AI and how it might affect their lives, through a series of talks and workshops.

The 600-square-foot AI lab will be located on the library’s first floor and will offer beginner- to advanced-level tutorials in areas such as robotics, natural language processing, smart cities, smart homes, the internet of things, and big data.

The lab will also provide a space for faculty members, students and the local community to discuss the social and ethical implications of these technology developments. Faculty may also use the space for teaching, and will be encouraged to incorporate AI topics into their syllabi, said Boughida.

The lab has received support across university departments and counts faculty members from engineering, computer science and philosophy backgrounds among its co-founders. The lab will be built with funding from the Champlin Foundation, donors and funds from the university’s engineering department. It will be staffed by instructors and grad students and be stocked with multiple high-powered computers and laptops, in addition to various robots and Amazon Echo, Google Home and IoT devices.

The desire to learn more about AI is high among students, Kunal Mankodiya, a co-founder of the AI Lab initiative and assistant professor in URI’s Department of Electrical, Computer and Biomedical Engineering, said in a press release. A contest run by the university’s enrollment department last year asked students to write about the issues they most wanted to study in college. “Artificial intelligence was at the top of the list,” said Mankodiya. “Our team came together to create a space for that.”

The Library's Changing Role

Could AI labs, like maker spaces before them, become the next hot library trend? Chris Bourg, director of MIT Libraries, said that she hopes that news of the AI lab at Rhode Island will inspire other libraries to offer spaces and resources to support exploration of AI. She said that the library was an ideal place to foster interdisciplinary conversations about AI, but noted that MIT already has a long history of interdisciplinary research at its AI labs, the earliest of which was founded in 1959 and is located in the Stata Center for Computer, Information and Intelligence Sciences.

“Within the MIT context, the role of the libraries in supporting AI and machine learning is less about providing the kind of exploratory lab that URI libraries are creating and more about reconceiving our collections as data that can be used to train machine-learning algorithms,” said Bourg.

Andromeda Yelton, a senior software engineer at MIT Libraries and president of the Library and Information Technology Association, intends to establish a machine-learning interest group at the association soon. Yelton is currently working on an application called Hamlet, which uses machine learning to explore MIT’s thesis collection, and said she had heard of several libraries working on interesting AI initiatives. While AI may not yet be a mainstream interest for all librarians, Yelton said that the number of librarians talking about AI has “skyrocketed” in recent years.

As people who work with data and information daily, it is essential that librarians start to take note of AI, Boughida said. “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

TechnologyEditorial Tags: EngineeringInformation TechnologyTechnologyImage Caption: The University of Rhode Island's provost and members of the AI Lab team gather at the lab's entrance inside the Robert L. Carothers Library and Learning Commons. Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

New presidents or provosts: Castleton Columbia Basin IUPUFW MTSU Mississippi Nipissing Saint Mary's UCSD UVA WGU-Texas

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 08:00
  • Mark Byrnes, interim provost at Middle Tennessee State University, has been appointed provost and chief academic officer there.
  • Ronald Elsenbaumer, special adviser to the president at the University of Texas at Arlington, has been selected as chancellor of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
  • Steven E. Johnson, senior vice president and chief operating officer at the Texas Association of Community Colleges, has been chosen as chancellor of WGU Texas.
  • Nancy Nekvasil, interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Saint Mary's College, in Indiana, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • James Ryan, dean of the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, in Massachusetts, has been appointed president of the University of Virginia.
  • Karen Scolforo, president of Central Penn College, in Pennsylvania, has been chosen as president of Castleton University, in Vermont.
  • Elizabeth H. Simmons, associate provost for faculty and academic staff development and dean of Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State University, has been selected as executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of California, San Diego.
  • Arja Vainio-Mattila, dean of the School of Arts and Social Sciences and professor of political science at Cape Breton University, in Nova Scotia, has been appointed as provost and vice president academic and research at Nipissing University, in Ontario.
  • Noel E. Wilkin, interim provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Mississippi, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Rebekah Woods, provost at Jackson College, in Michigan, has been chosen as president of Columbia Basin College, in Washington.
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ABA letters on accreditation reflect contracting market for law schools

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 08:00

When the American Bar Association posted a letter on its website in November saying Western Michigan University's Thomas M. Cooley Law School was not in compliance with a standard about admissions, the school slapped its accreditor with a lawsuit.

Cooley argued the ABA had acted illegally in publishing the letter, which said the law school was not in compliance with accreditation standard 501(b). That standard says law schools should only admit students who appear capable of completing legal education programs and passing the bar.

The letter to Cooley was one of more than a dozen the ABA posted about different law schools in the last 18 months, almost all citing the issue of admitting students who were not likely to succeed. Some of the other law schools promised to address the ABA’s concerns while still pointing out that their accreditation remained intact. Cooley proved more bellicose, asking a federal judge to force the accreditor to pull the letter in question from its website and withdraw copies sent to the U.S. secretary of education, the Higher Learning Commission and state regulators in Michigan and in Florida, where Cooley also has a campus.

Cooley was clearly harmed, it argued in filings made in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The ABA harmed Cooley's finances and reputation, the law school said.

Most sharply, though, the law school seemed to fear the reaction of students.

“WMU-Cooley also will face a loss of applications and matriculations, which are almost incalculable and certainly irreparable,” it said in court filings.

Cooley Law School’s case stands as a microcosm of developments that have been battering nonelite legal education for years. After enjoying an enrollment surge in the first decade of the new century, many law schools have more recently struggled mightily amid a dearth of jobs for young lawyers, dwindling student interest, worries schools were encouraging students to take on high debts they would struggle to repay, and intense criticism that many schools had been admitting students who never had the academic chops necessary to become practicing lawyers. At the same time, the accreditation world has been grinding toward greater transparency, placing some institutions under an unwelcome harsh light.

Resulting developments epitomize the fallout from an admissions bubble. Some schools have resisted changes in the legal education market and regulatory world. Others have moved to shrink in size or exit the market entirely. Observers worry that the most vulnerable students and minority students, who have been taken advantage of in the past, are now being shut out of law schools as the market contracts.

It all comes together in a pressure cooker, because success in legal education and the legal field is so closely tied to students passing the bar examination.

“You start with an exam that I would say is flawed,” said Deborah Jones Merritt, a professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. “And then, does it make sense any sense to tie accreditation to that exam? As much as I don’t like the exam, I think it does, because most people who go to law school want to become lawyers.”

A Contracting Market

The friction is spilling out into the public eye at a particularly ironic time -- student interest in attending law schools has started rising in recent years after half a decade of brutal declines, according to Law School Admission Test data. But far fewer students take LSATs today than did several years ago. In 2016-17, a total of 109,354 LSATs were administered. In 2009-10, the number was 171,514.

Recently, several institutions have moved to get out of the law school business. Whittier College announced in April that it would close its law school. Valparaiso University said in November that its law school would stop admitting new students as it seeks to merge or move. The for-profit Charlotte School of Law shut down last year after it was placed on probation by the ABA, lost access to federal Title IV funding and lost its license to operate in North Carolina.

The ABA has approved new law schools as recently as 2017, but signs point to future contraction driven by market forces. Experts predict the contraction will come not among the largest, most prestigious institutions, but among small, private law schools that are already struggling to enroll enough students who can pass the bar.

To understand why, start with the fact that the legal education market is driven in many ways by prestige and competition. Admitted students’ scores on the LSAT are considered extremely important, in part because of a fixation on rankings and in part because LSAT advocates consider scores on the test to be the best indicator of whether students can pass the bar after graduation.

Add in a heightened focus on student outcomes -- which in the law field largely hinge on whether schools’ graduates pass the bar. Add in also changes in the types of jobs available for lawyers as technology and other developments change the labor market so that more legal work can be completed by nonlawyers. Then remember the drop in the number of students taking the LSAT.

It all boils down to a smaller applicant pool and a market in which top law schools suck up a greater share of the best students.

“There are no surprises here,” said Robert Zemsky, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the founder of its Institute for Research on Higher Education.

“The rich schools are spending all the money on student aid,” Zemsky said. “The very top of the market just said, ‘We are going to preserve the status quo, and if it costs us money, so be it.’”

Such a development can have significant impacts farther down in the market. Small, less prestigious law schools have complained that their best students transfer out after a year, chasing a diploma emblazoned with a more prestigious school’s name. Some schools find themselves facing the unsavory choice of admitting more students who might not be able to pass the bar or not admitting enough tuition-paying students to keep the doors open.

For those who believe in a direct correlation between the LSAT and bar passage rates, the decline in LSAT takers seems to have translated into a higher number of students attending law school who were subsequently unable to pass the bar. A greater portion of students started struggling to pass the bar a few years ago.

Nationwide, between 67 percent and 71 percent of individuals taking the bar each year used to pass, according to data from the National Conference of Bar Examiners. Pass rates started slipping several years ago, though -- right around the time when students admitted in years with sharply fewer LSAT takers would have been graduating and passing the bar. In 2014, 64 percent of those taking the bar passed. In 2015, only 59 percent passed. In 2016, just 58 percent did.

Schools Slimming Down

A group of law schools run by the for-profit InfiLaw System received perhaps the most negative press of any institutions for admitting too many students who arguably hadn’t demonstrated the academic ability to graduate and pass the bar -- and then hiring those same students, allegedly to prop up postgraduation employment statistics. Putting aside the issue of past behavior, the actions of those schools more recently provides insight into the law school market’s reaction to past difficulties.

In 2011, the Florida Coastal School of Law, an InfiLaw institution, offered admission to 3,493 students, or 66 percent of its applicants, according to the ABA. Of those admitted, 671 matriculated. Their median LSAT score was 147. By almost any measure, this was a low score. Approximately two-thirds of those taking the LSAT in recent years have scored higher than 147. Only seven ABA-accredited law schools enrolled classes with lower median LSAT scores that year. Students enrolling in elite law schools post much higher scores -- Yale Law School's median LSAT score was 173 in 2011. Nonelite public law schools also tended to enroll classes with median LSAT scores above 150 -- the University of North Dakota's was 151, and the University of Pittsburgh's was 159.

Six years later, Florida Coastal was receiving about a quarter of the applicants as it had in 2011. But it was admitting a smaller portion -- 46 percent. Only 97 enrolled. The median LSAT score, which had dropped below 2011 levels in recent years, rebounded to 148 in 2017.

The school has been focused on increasing the enrollment credentials of its incoming classes, according to its dean, Scott DeVito. He has argued that the college raised its bottom-quartile LSAT score from 141 in 2016 to 145 in 2017, pushing the indicator above scores posted by 22 other law schools in 2016. He also said he believes Florida Coastal is fully compliant with ABA standards.

“Our approach has been to single-mindedly focus on increasing incoming credentials, recognizing that it will decrease our overall enrollment,” he wrote in an email. “This has been extremely painful for faculty and staff who have been asked to leave the school, and, because they have always put the students first, those faculty and staff have been extraordinarily professional and supportive of the changes despite the impact it has had on their professional lives.”

Florida Coastal shares the strategy with its sister InfiLaw institution, Arizona Summit Law School. In 2011, Arizona Summit -- which was then called Phoenix School of Law -- offered admission to 1,677 students, or 73 percent of its applicants. A total of 450 matriculated. Its median LSAT score was 148.

In 2017, Arizona Summit received just 24 percent of the applications it had six years before. It admitted fewer, 47 percent. Just 49 enrolled, although their median LSAT score matched that of 2011 at 148.

Arizona Summit has become more risk averse when admitting students, said Donald Lively, president of the law school. Certain bar outcomes are largely preordained for students at some LSAT scores, he said. So when a law school becomes risk averse, it stops admitting students on the fringes academically.

“You have to modulate your efforts to bring in people who, if you give them the support, the program, the attention they need, you know they can be successful,” he said.

To some of InfiLaw’s most outspoken critics, these might sound like necessary changes after the schools allegedly spent years collecting tuition from students who had little chance of passing the bar. Still, incoming classes’ undergraduate grade point averages have eroded, even as LSAT scores have recovered. Arizona Summit’s first-year class posted a median undergraduate GPA of 2.81 in 2017, down from 3.05 in 2011. Florida Coastal’s was 2.83 in 2017, down from 3.08. These are relatively low GPAs for incoming classes at law schools -- only a dozen ABA-accredited law schools that enrolled new classes in 2017 reported classes with a median undergraduate GPA below 3.0.

At some points in the past, Arizona Summit made decisions that weren’t geared toward helping its enrolled students pass the bar, Lively said. Several years ago, it decided to make upper-division bar test courses nonmandatory so that students would have the opportunity to take more courses intended to develop practical skills. It wasn’t that the law school had bad intentions, Lively said. It wanted its students to be practice ready as soon as possible.

“There were times when, to be candid, our academic support systems were not functional at the level they needed to be to enable people to achieve the level of success they were capable of,” he said.

The InfiLaw System isn’t just a leading example of law schools shrinking. It’s an example of them closing, attempting to merge, and being hit with accreditation decisions.

Arizona Summit announced plans earlier this year to affiliate with Bethune-Cookman University. That idea has since been scrapped, but the law school's leaders have signed a memorandum of understanding for a deal that would have Arizona Summit becoming a part of another yet-to-be-disclosed nonprofit institution, Lively said. Florida Coastal, meanwhile, has been exploring affiliations with nonprofit universities or a change to nonprofit status for at least three years, according to its dean, DeVito.

The third InfiLaw school is the Charlotte School of Law, which shut down earlier this year. The immediate chain of events that led to its closure started when the ABA placed the school on probation in 2016, citing standards on preparing students for admission to the bar and participation in the legal field, sound admissions policies, and admitting only applicants who appeared able to pass the bar.

Arizona Summit was placed on probation earlier this year because of some of the same standards on academic rigor and admissions, along with standards relating to academics and support. In December the ABA also found it out of compliance with a standard about adequate finances. Florida Coastal has been notified that it was not in compliance with standards on rigor, academic support and admissions as well, but it was not placed on probation. The ABA posted letters on its website about all three.

An Active ABA

The InfiLaw schools are not alone in being publicly scrutinized by the ABA. Between June 2016 and December 2017, the accreditor notified 11 law schools that they had been censured, placed on probation, found to be out of compliance with standards or that they needed to take remedial action. Since then, it has notified one more. It has publicly posted letters about the findings starting in August 2016.

The schools are Ave Maria School of Law, Valparaiso University School of Law, Appalachian School of Law, the State University of New York University at Buffalo School of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School, Cooley School of Law, North Carolina Central University School of Law and the InfiLaw schools. Standards involving admissions were invoked in nearly every case, although some schools were also cited for standards relating to academic rigor, finances, furnishing information and, in the case of Texas Southern, fostering opportunity without discrimination. The ABA did not point to admissions standards in a letter to SUNY Buffalo, instead citing standards related to financial resources and record keeping.

With only a few exceptions, the law schools are still accredited and should have the chance to bring themselves into compliance. Now-closed Charlotte is one exception. Another is Valparaiso, but not because it still faces accreditation issues. The ABA found Valparaiso in compliance with standards this year after censuring it for admissions practices in 2016.

In many cases, institutions the ABA has named in accreditation activity have sent letters to students or responded publicly that they expect to remain open and show that they fully comply with standards.

For instance, Thomas Jefferson School of Law put out a statement from Dean Joan Bullock saying the law school had been accused of no misconduct and that it would remain accredited. The ABA posted notice in November that Thomas Jefferson was being placed on probation over standards related to finances, academics and admissions.

“While we are disappointed with the council’s decision, we are addressing the ABA’s concerns,” Bullock’s letter said. “Thomas Jefferson School of Law will continue its unwavering commitment to providing our students with the knowledge and skills to excel as law students, pass the bar, and succeed in their professional careers. As it has over the past few years, we will continue to steadily improve our financial stability to best serve our students.”

The ABA hasn’t necessarily been enforcing accreditation standards more stringently in the last 18 months. Data maintained by the Department of Education on accreditation suggest that the ABA had previously placed law schools on show-cause status without publicly posting the decisions on its website. The department listed several institutions as being placed on or removed from show-cause status in 2016 and early 2017, but the webpages where the ABA has been posting letters recently did not reference those cases.

Now, the ABA is publicly posting about its actions in cases where it may not have in the past.

“The public postings are, basically, what follows under our rules when schools get to a certain step in the enforcement process,” said Barry Currier, managing director of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, in an email.

“The U.S. Department of Education has also modified its directives about what needs to be publicly reported, and at what point in the process that needs to happen,” he said. “We are following its requirements, as we must.”

Yet a significant number of the 205 ABA-approved law schools have been found out of compliance with standards, censured or placed on probation in the last 18 months. Asked to interpret that fact, Currier pointed to a market that has challenged law schools even as they attempt to adapt and create new programming. The council and accreditation committee are simply doing their jobs and enforcing current standards, he said.

This is where Cooley Law School’s court case was important. After Cooley argued that the ABA harmed it by publicly posting letters about accreditation noncompliance, the ABA replied, in part, that it had no choice but to do so under Department of Education guidance. In court filings, it cited a November 2016 letter from then Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell.

That letter spelled out the cases in which accreditors are expected to notify the Department of Education, state licensing agencies and the public of actions they take.

Last month, Senior U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow denied the law school’s request for an injunction that would have forced the ABA to take down the letter. Cooley can continue to litigate its claim, he ruled. But the law school failed to meet the burden needed to win an injunction, which would harm the ABA’s accreditation process and hurt students.

“An order requiring the ABA to retract truthful information from the public will harm prospective law students who are in the midst of the application process,” Tarnow wrote. “Withdrawing the letter may also mislead prospective students into believing that the ABA has found Cooley in compliance with all of its Standards.”

Tarnow also wrote that Cooley’s decision to bring the lawsuit -- which was covered extensively in the legal press -- was the primary cause of any harm to its reputation. Students had already drawn conclusions about the law school because of the suit, Tarnow added.

An ABA spokesman said the accreditor is pleased with the decision but declined further comment. Cooley’s general counsel and associate dean of external affairs, James D. Robb, noted that the court said the law school is able to continue pursuing the litigation. It intends to do so.

Robb had spoken to Inside Higher Ed before the judge’s decision, speaking at length about changes in the market for legal education and the tensions they expose.

Extinguishing Dreams?

Cooley counts its mission as providing access to and opportunity for legal education. It’s similar to the ideals many small and independent law schools espouse: they may enroll students who don’t get top marks on the LSAT, but in doing so, they give students from groups who traditionally have not attended law school a chance to become lawyers.

Effectively, that means diversifying a profession that critics point out is largely white and male. For example, Cooley’s most recent data show 42 percent of its students identify as students of color, 57 percent are women, and they range in age from 21 to 71, Robb said. That makes Cooley significantly more diverse than the average law school. In the fall of 2016, the average law school's matriculating class was about a third minority students, according to ABA data. About 51 percent were women.

“I think a lot of schools say they want diverse student bodies, and that’s wonderful, but I’m not sure they’re admitting a diverse student body,” Robb said. “We take a lot of criticism for who we admit. We don’t take a lot of criticism for what we do with the students once they get here.”

Cooley, remember, was cited for ABA standard 501(b) -- that law schools should only admit applicants who appear capable of satisfactorily completing legal education programs and passing the bar.

The law school’s first-year classes have generally posted a median LSAT score in the mid- to low 140s in recent years, according to ABA reports. Their median undergraduate GPA has been about 3.0.

Statistics on the Michigan Bar Examination show a smaller percentage of Cooley students pass than the state average. But Cooley’s first-time test takers tend to come close to the state average pass rate on bar exams administered in February.

In the February 2017 Michigan Bar Examination, 65 percent of Cooley’s first-time test takers passed, compared to 67 percent of all first-time applicants statewide. Just 39 percent of all Cooley test takers passed, compared to 49 percent of everyone in the state. In July 2017, 53 percent of Cooley’s first-time test takers passed, compared to 78 percent of all first-time test takers in Michigan. Only 50 percent of all of Cooley test takers passed, versus 73 percent of total applicants.

In August, Cooley’s president and dean, Don LeDuc, wrote in a public letter that the law school has always favored those who dream.

“Should we adopt the paternalistic approach to protect these students from themselves, denying them the opportunity to prove themselves?” he wrote. “Should we allow the results of one brief test to determine a student’s destiny? Should we extinguish a dream based on a single factor, like an LSAT score?”

Regardless of lofty goals, ABA statistics make it clear that Cooley has diminished in size in recent years. In 2011, it offered admission to 80 percent of 4,032 applicants, with 1,161 matriculating. In 2017 it offered admission to 86 percent of 1,295 applicants. Only 424 enrolled.

Critics still argue there are too many law schools struggling financially that have made a practice of admitting students who appear unable to pass the bar. An important question is whether it’s reasonable to expect schools to shrink, close or take other drastic action instead of following ethically gray admissions practices. Another is whether accreditors should do more to prevent schools from utilizing those questionable practices -- or should have done more in the past.

And would the benefits to students outweigh the expected negative effects on access?

“Policy making is about trade-offs,” said Kyle McEntee, co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit group Law School Transparency. “The question is not, ‘Does the school do any good?’ Because it does. All schools do some good. The question is whether they do more good than harm.”

McEntee also suggested another solution to the access problem. High-end law schools -- those with the most resources that could theoretically best support students on the edge -- could take on more risk. They could admit more first-generation students, minority students, nontraditional students and students with marginal test scores.

Of course, legal education doesn’t only serve students. It also serves employers who need lawyers and people who need to access legal services. So the equation about how many lawyers schools should turn out, whom they should admit and how they should train them is complex. So is the way it is distilled at the accreditor level.

“Is this system set up in a way that does the most for justice and access for the profession?” McEntee said. “I just don’t think it is, and that’s why we’re willing to break it up a little bit at the bottom rungs, to say we can do better than this.”

Some would say the system is working.

“The accreditation committee and the council have taken appropriate steps to require schools that have been operating out of compliance with the standards to come into compliance, or to face sanctions if they do not,” wrote Currier, of the ABA. “The council is considering changes to allow the accreditation process to move with more dispatch. But, in general, the first step the council has taken when it has concerns about a school is providing the school with an opportunity to bring itself back into compliance. That seems an appropriate step to take.”

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Utah Valley University thrives by being both community college and university

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 08:00

Matthew Holland was on sabbatical at the University of Oxford last summer when he was asked to speak to members of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster about how to bridge the divide between vocational education and the traditional four-year degree.

It’s a hot issue on both sides of the pond, as policy makers push apprenticeships and other alternatives to college degrees amid worries about a dearth of skilled workers. But Holland, as president of Utah Valley University since 2009, knows vocational and liberal educations can coexist.

The fast-growing Utah Valley, which enrolls 37,000 students, became a university a decade ago, having previously been a technical and community college. It began issuing four-year degrees in 1993 and master’s degrees in 2008, a year before Holland became the university’s president.

Such conversions often are accompanied by worries about “credential creep,” where the ambition of an institution’s leaders outpaces demand for advanced degrees and leads to neglect of technical programs.

“There’s a lot of Harvard envy out there,” said Holland.

Some critics of the move by an increasing number of states to allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees argue that the two-year institutions will neglect their missions and end up competing with nearby universities for the same students.

When UVU became a university, some faculty and staff members wanted the new president to keep moving toward research university status. Many institutions over the years have worked their way up the degree and prestige ladder, from community college to four-year university, teacher's college to comprehensive university or regional undergraduate-focused university to national research institution. Instead, UVU has doubled down on two-year degrees and certificates.

“We’re going to keep our community college role,” Holland said. “We’re not going to go the Ph.D. route.”

To preserve its open-door admissions policy, UVU has a “structured enrollment” approach in which underprepared students are placed in one-year certificate programs, where they are backed by various student success resources from the university, such as regular meetings with academic counselors. After completing a certificate, they can move up to an associate-degree program and, eventually, to a bachelor's.

"The certificates and degrees stack on top of each other, thus all credits move up with the student. For example, all of the certificate classes are required in the associate’s degree, and all of the associate classes are required in the bachelor's degree," a university spokesman said via email. "If the student doesn't do well in the certificate track, university counselors will circle back to try to find a better fit."

The university’s commitment to vocational education has paid off in many ways.

Perhaps most importantly, it allows students to pursue credentials at the community-college level and then move over to the university side without having to transfer or lose credits. A growing body of research has identified leaky transfer pathways between community colleges and four-year institutions as primary barriers to increasing student completion rates.

At UVU, students can enroll in 84 bachelor’s, 62 associate and eight master’s degree programs, as well as 44 certificate programs. Tuition prices are the same for all undergraduate degrees ($5,652 per semester for in-state students). And credit transfer is truly seamless for students on the community college side, who earn associate degrees and certificates that come with the “imprimatur of a university,” Holland said.

In addition, he said, the “cultural validation” of vocational education cuts both ways. Students who enroll in bachelor’s degree programs get more socioeconomic diversity and access to the practical learning of community college-style courses, which in turn helps make technical education more relevant at the university.

A ‘New Beast’

UVU has some advantages in pursuing its dual-role mission that other institutions do not. It’s a teaching university in one of the nation’s fastest-growing states, with strong support from Utah’s Legislature.

But experts said both community colleges and public universities could learn from UVU’s successful model. This is particularly true as some states, including Wisconsin and Georgia, have begun consolidating community colleges and four-year institutions.

Josh Wyner, founder and executive director of the College Excellence Program at the Aspen Institute, called UVU’s dual-role approach exciting, particularly because it doesn’t treat two-year students as an afterthought. And Wyner, who lately has been focused on transfer problems, said there can be benefits to offering both associate and bachelor’s degrees at one campus.

“The big problem with transfer is that students enter one institution seeking a degree that only another institution can offer,” he said.

It’s rare that faculty members, administrators and state lawmakers agree on the mission for a “new beast” like UVU, said Joe Garcia, president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and a Democratic former lieutenant governor of Colorado. But he praised the model.

“This is the next step in the evolution,” he said. “The results speak for themselves. They’ve been able to do both.”

And given the demographic pressure of flat or declining numbers of high school graduates in many states, where lawmakers are focused on work-force demands and not on four-year degrees, Garcia said the combined mission is worth a look.

“We’re going to see more states looking at mergers,” he said.

Equity and Prestige

Utah has the opposite problem of most states, with one of the fastest-growing populations of college students. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center identified an increase of 4.2 percent in college enrollments last year for the state, with a 7.2 percent jump the previous year.

At UVU, which is already one of the nation's largest open-admissions universities, enrollment is projected to grow to more than 46,000 students by 2025. Almost 30 percent are older than 25, while 27 percent work more than 31 hours per week. Fully 38 percent are first-generation college students.

“A relentless part of my job is staying ahead of that growth,” said Holland.

For example, three years ago the university bought a former steel-manufacturing site to expand its campus footprint. It also is offering more online and hybrid courses.

The growth also means UVU can be selective as it adds new academic programs. The university draws job-market data from Burning Glass and the U.S. Department of Labor when looking at additions, while also working closely with its many industry partners and advisory boards. The focus, Holland said, is making sure every new program offers its graduates a solid return on investment.

“An institution is only young once,” he said. “We’re not going to approve every program. We say no to a lot of proposals.”

When community colleges seek to add four-year degrees, they typically are responding to market demand, said Mike Hansen, president of the Michigan Community College Association and of the Community College Baccalaureate Association. A common example is when employers in health fields require more advanced credentials.

“It’s the best of both worlds if it can work,” Hansen said of the dual-role institution, though he added, “it has to be right for the situation.”

UVU so far has been able to resist the call of becoming selective at the expense of its community college operations. But it hasn’t always been easy.

“If you were only worried about image, you wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing,” said Holland.

Even so, the siren call of prestige in higher education increasingly appears to be somewhat mitigated by the nation’s focus on work-force development and equity, particularly in helping more lower-income students and those from underrepresented minority groups earn credentials that help them get to the middle class.

Wyner said good equity numbers are becoming more of a badge of honor for colleges. “The societal value of serving more students and serving them well is providing a counterweight” to prestige, he said.

That interest was evident during Holland’s discussion last year at Westminster.

Baroness Emma Nicholson, a member of the United Kingdom’s Parliament, said in a written statement that Holland had helped tackle this “whole great problem” of the “gulf between vocational and academic education.”

Holland, a political scientist who took the sabbatical to reconnect with his academic roots and is stepping down this year to become mission president for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he was glad to be able to share what he’s learned as UVU’s president.

“We’re on the front end of something of a movement,” he said.

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Margaret Atwood column revives debate about an accused and fired professor

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 08:00

Margaret Atwood is a feminist icon, best known for writing The Handmaid's Tale, which is attracting a new generation of fans through the recent television series.

Last week, she published an essay in The Globe and Mail asking, "Am I a Bad Feminist?" The idea that Atwood could be a bad feminist might stun many of her American fans, but she has been subject to considerable criticism from some women's advocates in her home country of Canada because of a stance she has taken on the case of Steven Galloway, an acclaimed novelist who was until 2015 a tenured professor and chair of the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia. He was first suspended and then fired by the university.

The university announced his departure but has never detailed allegations against him or released findings of an investigation it commissioned. Through lawyers, Galloway said he was accused of sexual assault and cleared of that charge. Galloway has acknowledged that he had a two-year affair with a student, in violation of university rules.

“Mr. Galloway profoundly regrets his conduct and wishes to apologize for the harm that it has caused,” his lawyer said in a 2016 statement. (For background, an article about the case, including numerous quotes from both defenders and critics of Galloway's conduct, may be found on the website The Walrus.)

The reason Atwood has come under fire is that she signed an open letter in 2016, called UBC Accountable, that called on the university to provide Galloway with due process. The letter faults the university for publicizing the investigation of Galloway before he had a chance to respond (a criticism faculty leaders also made), and for refusing to make public the university's findings -- including findings that have been widely reported to clear Galloway of the most serious charges against him.

The university also, the letter said, required Galloway to remain largely silent about the charges against him through a confidentiality agreement it pressured him to sign. "The university’s conduct in this matter is of great concern," the letter says. "We, the undersigned, respect the principle of protection for individuals who wish to bring complaints. We also respect the right of an accused to fair treatment. There is growing evidence that the university acted irresponsibly in Professor Galloway’s case. Because the case has received a great deal of public attention, the situation requires public clarification."

The letter immediately prompted a counterletter that criticized UBC Accountable's statement for focusing on Galloway and not on the harm that may have been done to those who accused him of wrongdoing. That in turn prompted Atwood to issue a statement stressing that she was supportive of those who bring charges of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

"We’re sorry we hurt any survivor people out there by seeming lacking in empathy for your experiences. Our letter was not intended to wound you, but it seems to have done, and for that we apologize. We do not intend to discourage anyone from speaking up in future, and hope the university will put in place a workable support system. To survivors of abuse, we were, are and will be your allies," said Atwood's subsequent statement.

The initial debates over the Galloway case and the various letters on it predated the current #MeToo movement, which has become a force in Canadian academic and literary circles much like it has in the United States.

Of late, some of those who signed the UBC Accountable letter have been asking that it be taken down or that their names be removed from it. They charge that the letter is having the impact -- even if not intended -- of discouraging women from coming forward with complaints about how they have been treated inappropriately by men with power over them.

Mitchell Parry, a poet, told The Globe and Mail that "over the past year, the letter that I had signed had turned into something entirely different."

Atwood has drawn particular criticism on social media for suggesting that there is similarity in the way Galloway has been treated and the Salem witch trials.

Atwood is inciting fear mongering adding to the systematic oppression of our legal system by demanding we trust this is the path of the righteous. Adding that If you don't believe all women you will be a "bad feminist"or if you listen it is equal to the Salem witch hunts.

— Doc (@shadow645) January 14, 2018

In her essay last week, Atwood defends the comparison.

"There are, at present, three kinds of 'witch' language," Atwood writes. "1) Calling someone a witch, as applied lavishly to Hillary Clinton during the recent election. 2) 'Witchhunt,' used to imply that someone is looking for something that doesn't exist. 3) The structure of the Salem witchcraft trials, in which you were guilty because accused. I was talking about the third use. This structure -- guilty because accused -- has applied in many more episodes in human history than Salem.

"It tends to kick in during the 'Terror and Virtue' phase of revolutions -- something has gone wrong, and there must be a purge, as in the French Revolution, Stalin's purges in the USSR, the Red Guard period in China, the reign of the Generals in Argentina and the early days of the Iranian Revolution. The list is long and Left and Right have both indulged. Before 'Terror and Virtue' is over, a great many have fallen by the wayside. Note that I am not saying that there are no traitors or whatever the target group may be; simply that in such times, the usual rules of evidence are bypassed."

Relating the issue to the #MeToo movement, Atwood writes, "The #MeToo moment is a symptom of a broken legal system. All too frequently, women and other sexual-abuse complainants couldn't get a fair hearing through institutions -- including corporate structures -- so they used a new tool: the internet. Stars fell from the skies. This has been very effective, and has been seen as a massive wake-up call. But what next? The legal system can be fixed, or our society could dispose of it. Institutions, corporations and workplaces can houseclean, or they can expect more stars to fall, and also a lot of asteroids."

Atwood writes that she signed the open letter about Galloway "as a matter of principle" because she was convinced he was being denied due process. While not saying he did nothing wrong, Atwood writes that the university (which did not respond to a request for comment for this article) clearly used flawed procedures that denied Galloway his rights.

Ultimately, she adds, women's rights depend on rights for all. "I believe that in order to have civil and human rights for women there have to be civil and human rights, period, including the right to fundamental justice, just as for women to have the vote, there has to be a vote," Atwood writes. "Do Good Feminists believe that only women should have such rights? Surely not. That would be to flip the coin on the old state of affairs in which only men had such rights."

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UT Austin rejects funding from Chinese government-linked foundation

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 08:00

The University of Texas at Austin will not accept potential funding from a Hong Kong-based foundation after concerns were raised about the foundation’s links to the Chinese Communist Party and its alleged foreign influence activities.

The decision followed a debate among faculty members over whether to accept funding from the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF) for UT Austin’s recently established China Public Policy Center. The foundation is chaired by Tung Chee Hwa, the vice chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a government advisory body, and the first chief executive of Hong Kong following the handover from Britain to China. The foundation is registered as a foreign principal representing China under the terms of the U.S. Federal Agents Registration Act.

“We weren’t all unanimous, but I think most of us, myself included, felt that it would be inappropriate to take core funding from the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation,” said Robert Hutchings, the Walt and Elspeth Rostow Chair in National Security and professor of public affairs at UT Austin and a former U.S. ambassador-at-large for Eastern Europe in the early 1990s. “I’m not a specialist on China, but I dealt with the U.S.S.R. for a lot of my career, and the same logic applies. There’s nothing wrong with collaborating with a center like that on individual projects -- they go in 50 percent, we go in 50 percent -- but the idea of taking core center funding from an organization like that or really any other organization that is controlled by another government would be contrary to the independence you want to have.”

Hutchings described this as a story of “an academic enterprise at a university wanting to maintain its independence and academic integrity and not accept money from a source that might be trying to use the center for its own agenda. That’s what we wanted to avoid.”

The Washington Post first reported that UT Austin would not accept funding from CUSEF in an opinion piece Sunday evening. As part of that piece the Post published a Jan. 2 letter from Senator Ted Cruz to UT Austin President Greg Fenves in which Cruz expressed his concerns that the university’s China Public Policy Center was considering a partnership with the foundation "given its affiliation with the People's Republic of China's (PRC) United Front system and its registration as an agent of a foreign principal." The letter from Cruz notes Tung's vice chairmanship of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, "an organization," Cruz wrote, "which works closely with the United Front, the structure the CCP utilizes to manage foreign influence operations."

“Given reports that the Center is considering a partnership with CUSEF, an affiliate of the PRC, I express concern over the potential for Chinese governmental access to UT-Austin’s education system, which may lead to undue foreign influence and exploitation,” wrote Cruz, a Republican from Texas.

Fenves responded to Cruz in a Jan. 12 letter, saying that he shared the senator’s concerns and has “been reviewing them since the center and the LBJ School for Public Affairs first approached me about potential funding from CUSEF. In the past two months, I have spoken with U.S. intelligence officials, talked with faculty experts on U.S.-China relations and American national security, and read the media coverage and policy research reports about CUSEF.”

“Based on that review, I had decided prior to receiving your letter that the university will not accept programmatic funding from CUSEF,” Fenves wrote. “Neither will we accept any funds for travel, student exchanges or other initiatives from the organization.”

Fenves wrote that external funding is crucial to the university’s work. “We must, however, also ensure that the receipt of outside funding does not create potential conflicts of interest or place limits on academic freedom and the robust exchange of ideas. I am concerned about this if we were to accept funding from CUSEF.”

Cruz praised the university’s decision on Twitter.

With this decision, UT has exemplified the mindset America’s academic institutions must adopt to counter the PRC’s influence operations.

— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) January 15, 2018

The director of UT Austin’s China Public Policy Center, David J. Firestein, referred questions about the matter to UT Austin's spokesman.

The “programs” section of CUSEF’s website includes information about the foundation's activities funding policy research, “high-level dialogues,” exchange programs and educational activities, many of these things in partnership with American universities or think tanks. In November Foreign Policy published an article examining CUSEF's ties to the Chinese Communist Party and the United Front in relation to the foundation's recent gift to the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. SAIS accepted CUSEF funding for an endowed professorship in China studies and for a new research project called the Pacific Community Initiative. (The head of SAIS’s China studies program, David Lampton, told Foreign Policy there were no strings attached to the funding: “There are absolutely no conditions or limitations imposed upon the Pacific Community Initiative or our faculty members by reason of a gift or otherwise,” Lampton was quoted as saying. “We have full confidence in the academic integrity and independence of these endeavors.”)

The person who answered CUSEF’s phone number Monday evening said the organization has “no comment for now.” That person declined to give his name. The foundation did not respond to email inquiries.  

However, a spokesperson for the organization told Foreign Policy it does not have “any connections” to the United Front. “We do not aim to promote or support the policies of any one government,” the spokesperson is quoted as saying.

The Post cited a spokesperson for CUSEF saying that it is not a Chinese government agent and that it is supported by donors who think a positive relationship between the U.S. and China "is essential for global well-being."

CUSEF's website describes its mission as "facilitating open and constructive exchange among policymakers, business leaders, academics, think tanks, cultural figures, and educators from the United States and China."

The decision by UT Austin not to accept CUSEF’s money comes amid increasing concerns about the Chinese Communist Party's crackdown on academic freedom at home and its efforts to exert influence over teaching and research done outside its borders.

Jonathan Sullivan, the director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, said he thinks UT Austin made "the right decision, given the nature of the center the money was intended to fund."

“The connections that this organization has to the Chinese government and the United Front apparatus make it an inappropriate funder of academic and policy work in the area of Chinese public policy,” Sullivan said via email.

“The United Front is responsible for establishing influence overseas -- it has a broad and explicit mandate to cultivate relationships, influence narratives, co-opt individuals, establish leverage wherever it can. The United Front apparatus is extensive, subtle and insidious. But crucially it operates in a long timeframe. The cultivation of particular views, getting people to come around to your way of thinking etc. takes careful nurturing. Thus I don’t think there is any question that UT (or SAIS at JHU, which did take CUSEF money if I recall) would have suddenly started pumping out CCP propaganda. But in the long run the idea is to create a more friendly environment for China’s positions,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan added that he would “make a distinction between funding that can be traced back to United Front organs and 'normal' Chinese scientific funding. There is nothing wrong with Chinese funding for a cure for cancer. But in the area of public policy, international relations and other areas that are vulnerable to political proclivities, receiving funding from a source that you know has strong preferences and a remit to use funding to inculcate support for those preferences, is inappropriate in my view.”

"The main issue isn’t whether your campus is going to be influenced, necessarily. It's what is the general source of this money and if it’s far enough away from the PRC, which is a known bad actor with regard to academic freedom," said James A. Millward, a professor of history at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a China specialist. "Is Tung Chee Hwa's foundation far enough away from that that you can feel good about taking his money to study China?"

"Tung Chee Hwa is not just a rich guy giving away his money," Millward said. "He's a former chief executive of Hong Kong; he’s currently vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which is one of China's two rubber-stamp assemblies, so he is currently holding the second of two very high-ranking positions in the Chinese political sphere. He’s largely said to have close contact with Beijing; he’s rumored in the Hong Kong press to be a kingmaker for chief executives of Hong Kong after him, including the current one."

“I guess what I would say to universities that are tempted by this is, is there really no way we can fund Chinese studies in the United States without having the Chinese Communist Party fund it?” Millward asked. “We’re not exactly in a situation analogous to the Cold War with the Soviet Union, but we did not fund the study of Russian language and the Soviet Union for all of those decades with grants from the Soviet Union.”

Gary Susswein, a spokesman for UT Austin, said the university remains committed to finding other sources of funding for the China Public Policy Center, which formally opened in August.

"Our decision not to take the funding from CUSEF does not mean that we are shying away from the study of issues surrounding China," Susswein said. "The policy center is up and running and we’re exploring other funding for it. It’s a university commitment to study issues related to China."

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College presidents building relationships with campus conservatives

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 08:00

By their own account, some conservative students at the University of California, Berkeley, deliberately test their institution’s support of free expression. At the college where the Free Speech Movement was birthed, the College Republicans have invited two political provocateurs -- former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos and author Ann Coulter -- in an attempt to inflame the campus. And it worked. The first time Yiannopoulos visited, the event devolved into a riot with the grounds set ablaze and Molotov cocktails thrown at police (the university said outsiders were mostly to blame for the violence).

Administrators said right-wing students inviting inflammatory speakers unlikely to generate real discussion generally reflect their mistrust of colleges and their leadership, thinking their views are squashed on left-minded campuses, and mirroring the larger trend that most Republicans don’t think higher education positively impacts society.

The remedy for some college presidents: meet with their conservative population. Talk to them. Even such a simple step could rebuild some faith among conservatives and avoid the disastrous results Berkeley faced early on after Yiannopoulos. These presidents said in interviews they don’t want their colleges to be echo chambers of one set of political ideals.

“It’s OK for us to disagree; it doesn’t mean we don’t have to respect each other,” said Claire E. Sterk, president of Emory University. “For me it really comes down to listening, independent thinking and value on inclusion.”

When Sterk first met with the Emory Republican group, she sensed some tension in the room. In Sterk’s view, the members had already gauged her political beliefs both through her academic writing and her campaign donations, which are public, and decided they didn’t align with their own.

As the meeting progressed, though, the animosity waned as Sterk started with pretty standard icebreakers -- asking questions about the students’ lives and their interactions on campus. She wanted to know what they felt was important to discuss, she said in an interview. Some reported to her that they felt afraid to speak up in classrooms for fear of being berated. So they talked strategies on how best to deal with having a conflict point in a debate, Sterk said.

Sterk noted she didn’t prescribe to the students what to say or do, but rather provided them with the encouragement to engage in class.

“I think it’s more than listening,” Sterk said. “This also means for me to be aware of what diversity of opinion is out there, and encouraging people to not label each other accordingly. And just because you have a difference in one domain, doesn’t mean you can't connect. It’s really stimulating, that kind of engagement.”

She said she’s had similar meetings with conservative faculty members -- that the importance of political diversity isn’t just relevant to students.

At Occidental College, President Jonathan Veitch said he taught the right-wing group the concept of conservatism.

When Veitch sat down with the members in fall 2016, at a meeting he brokered, and listened to some of their views, he interpreted that they favored a libertarian approach with more of a stress on a free market than true conservatism, based in tradition with individualism being a minor point.

So he gave them some required reading.

It was The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, by Russell Kirk, which would walk them through the work of some of the most recognizable conservative figures, including John Henry Newman and William F. Buckley Jr.

Veitch would read the book alongside them and then they would talk it over, which he said did generate some goodwill among the group. Conservative students at Occidental and Emory were contacted for this piece but did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Veitch would question ask, why would you want to bring to campus the Ann Coulters of the world, whom he considers “not very smart, and intolerant to boot,” when they could track down an expert on health care, someone who could start a real debate on something that truly matters?

“My impulse is to work with conservative students and find really smart conservatives to come to campus,” Veitch said.

Indeed, the college did launch a speaker series named after alumnus Jack Kemp, a prominent Republican, former congressman and official in the first Bush administration. Last year, the college brought to campus Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state and provost of Stanford University (her appearance was protested, but nothing to the level of Berkeley or Charles Murray at Middlebury College).

Veitch said he wants to continue courting speakers like Rice.

Both Occidental and Emory have tried other ways to push civic engagement and free speech on campus.

Veitch has read The New York Times with a group of students every week, he said.

And Emory developed a new free expression policy -- a point of pride for Sterk -- which was also blessed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a civil liberties watchdog group that rates institutions’ speech codes. It received the highest marks possible from FIRE.

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Former Obama administration officials are being named college presidents

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 08:00

When Agnes Scott College announced last week that Leocadia I. Zak would become its next president, the women’s college in Georgia did not insistently trumpet her experience with the federal government.

The college’s announcement first noted Zak’s roots as a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and her law degree from Northeastern University. It also described her as someone with an “extensive background in international economic development and international project finance.”

Only after those descriptions did the announcement detail the seven years Zak spent as director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency during President Obama’s years in office.

Nonetheless, Zak’s background in government means she stands at the convergence of several trends affecting who becomes a college president. The pathways to the presidency are remarkably unsettled right now, with the traditional talent pipeline of tenured faculty members who have risen through the administrative ranks narrowing, a large number of longtime presidents expected to retire and boards of trustees increasingly searching for so-called nontraditional presidential candidates from outside academe. At the same time, faculty members and search committees still value familiarity with the complex and often slow-moving world of higher education.

Obama-era officials have done fairly well in the midst of those trends. In addition to Zak, several others have become college presidents or chancellors. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the former health and human services secretary and Office of Management and Budget director, became president of American University last year. Rebecca Blank, acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce from 2012 to 2013, became chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison in July 2013. That same year, the University of California system presidency was awarded to Janet Napolitano, a former Arizona governor who at the time was secretary of homeland security.

That’s not to count some other lower-ranking Obama administration officials who became college presidents. Karol Mason, a former assistant attorney general, became president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York in 2017, and Mark Mitsui, a deputy assistant secretary within the Department of Education, became president of Portland Community College in 2016.

No one can say for sure whether the Obama regime will finish with a better track record of producing college presidents than past administrations -- or even how such a track record should be measured. Those who served under Obama and other past U.S. presidents have faced some high-profile challenges when leading higher education institutions, so measuring numbers without quality would be folly. What can be said is that as colleges and universities seek new sources of presidential talent today, they’re finding appealing qualities in those who have experience leading federal agencies.

“Boards are willing to look broadly at people who demonstrate leadership skills,” said Jan Greenwood, an executive search consultant who is co-owner and partner at Greenwood/Asher & Associates in Miramar Beach, Fla. (Greenwood did not work on any of the searches referenced in this article.) “Are you looking for a president or chancellor who has held the title of president, or are you more open to people who have demonstrated the skill set needed for the leadership position?”

Looking for certain skill sets tends to broaden the candidate pool to include those who have held positions in the federal government, state government and business, Greenwood said. Such candidates have demonstrated skills in a vastly different setting from higher ed, however, so cultural fit is a key consideration.

Prospective candidates from outside higher ed often say the decision-making process at colleges and universities is too slow, Greenwood said. So an ideal candidate has a proven track record in a higher ed setting, even if he or she isn’t working at a college or university at the moment of a presidential search.

It’s easy to see how a federal administrator might be a fit. They are used to interacting with different constituencies and dealing with the often-grinding pace of change in the government.

Yet search committees can be wary of candidates from the federal government, state governments and even the military, Greenwood said. Committee members worry such candidates will be overly bureaucratic or autocratic.

“Candidates have to be in apposition to convince search committees and boards that they’re not bureaucratic or autocratic, that they do understand the culture and respect the culture,” Greenwood said.

Blank’s hiring as UW Madison chancellor provides an example of how that process plays out. The search committee looked at her candidacy from two angles: her professional qualifications and her academic credentials.

On the professional side, the fact that she did government work was not as important as the type of work she was doing, said David McDonald, a history professor at UW Madison who chaired the search committee in Blank’s hiring. Blank was given a complex portfolio during her time at the Department of Commerce, which includes branches dealing with both trade and scientific matters. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration falls under the Department of Commerce, McDonald noted.

“It was a directorship of a very large and complex organization, which is what any modern research university is,” McDonald said.

At the same time, Blank’s academic chops were well recognized. Her background includes serving on the faculties at Northwestern and Princeton Universities. She was a dean and professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan, where she built several programs.

“It had to be somebody who could earn tenure in one of our tenure-granting departments,” McDonald said. “For us it was key, that tenure ability, because it showed professional commitment to our endeavor and showed that the person takes it seriously.”

The search leading to Napolitano becoming UC system president hit on some of the same themes. Napolitano’s success was less about her being a cabinet member in the Obama administration than it was about her experience running a large, complex public enterprise with a diverse staff and many different constituencies, according to a UC spokeswoman. Her background at the Department of Homeland Security played a part, but Napolitano’s time as the governor of Arizona was perhaps more important, because she was well regarded for her work with education.

Of course, both Blank and Napolitano have had to deal with controversies during their tenures at their respective institutions. UW Madison’s business school dean in December announced her resignation after just one semester, because her vision for the school was not aligned with Blank’s. Blank has also had to navigate struggles over budgets and tenure in Wisconsin. In California, Napolitano ran into a rocky time of late, taking flak from regents in November following accusations her office sought to tamper with a state audit in an incident that led to the resignation of two of her top aides.

Still, Blank and Napolitano’s challenges pale in comparison to those that ultimately consumed another former president’s high-level appointee who went on to become a university president. Kenneth Starr was solicitor general under President George H. W. Bush (and, as independent counsel, famously investigated President Clinton). He went on to become the president of Baylor University for six years before resigning in 2016 amid uproar over the way the university handled sexual assaults.

Clearly, former federal officials are not guaranteed success in their college or university presidencies.

But the latest to try, Zak at Agnes Scott, thinks the pathway from U.S. presidential administration to college president can work in cases where the fit is right. Agnes Scott has become known for its signature SUMMIT program, which attempts to blend the liberal arts with leadership development and a global emphasis. Zak points out she focused on global economic development as U.S. Trade and Development Agency director. Her degree from Mount Holyoke, a women’s college, is also important.

“It allows me, from the beginning, to have an understanding of the environment,” she said. “Of course, every college is different, but it really allows me to have a view toward the culture, a view toward some goals and aspirations.”

SUMMIT has been successful at Agnes Scott, helping it draw some of the largest first-year classes in its history. But Zak will have to deal with challenges. Women’s colleges face an uphill climb as they attempt to attract students at a time when single-sex education has dwindled in popularity. Many small liberal arts colleges are struggling with enrollment and finances. Agnes Scott’s financial situation has improved of late, but it has yet to completely close budget deficits or reach long-term enrollment goals.

Zak believes her history prepares her to face the challenges.

“What I came from as a background is very much an environment where, not only did I have to lead an organization and be the thought leader, but also be the businessperson who had to ensure we came in on time and on budget, and with excellence,” she said.

Zak also shared her thoughts on why former Obama officials are taking the helm of colleges.

“I do think it is a matter of culture and values,” she said. “Individuals that were attracted to the administration have those views and values, and as a result have been attracted to education.”

Collectively, Zak, Burwell, Blank and Napolitano’s holding higher ed positions stands out because they are all women. Mason’s leadership of John Jay stands out because she is an African-American woman, and Mitsui, at Portland Community College, is one of a small percentage of Asian and Asian-American college presidents.

Nontraditional presidents are less likely to be women than men, research from the dean of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business has found -- raising questions about whether boards of trustees stick to a dated image of the white male college president when they consider hires from unorthodox backgrounds. Less than a third of all college presidents were women in 2016, according to the latest version of the American College President Study from the American Council on Education. About 8 percent of presidents were African-American, but only a third of African-American presidents were women, and about 2 percent were Asian or Asian-American.

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Court rejects First Amendment suit by professor fired over her use of profanity

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 08:00

Louisiana State University was within its rights in terminating Teresa Buchanan for cursing at students and talking about sex in the classroom, a federal judge said law week in dismissing the former education professor’s lawsuit against the institution.

Buchanan, a longtime tenured professor who was terminated in 2015, sued Louisiana State for First Amendment and due process violations, and for having what she described as overly broad, subjective and therefore unconstitutional sexual harassment policies. But U.S. District Court Judge Shelly D. Dick threw out all three claims with prejudice.

Buchanan’s “profanity and discussions regarding her own sex life and the sex lives of her students in the classroom do not constitute First Amendment protected speech, are not matters of public concern, and are not, as claimed by plaintiff, part of her overall pedagogical strategy for teaching preschool and elementary education to students,” Dick wrote in a 79-page summary judgment in favor of the Louisiana State administrators named in the complaint, including President F. King Alexander.

Rather, Dick said, the legal record suggests that Buchanan’s “behavior and speech interfered with the educational opportunities of her students both in the classroom and in the student teacher or field setting.”

LSU’s harassment policies, “read together, are not unconstitutionally broad or vague,” Dick also noted, since they cite a common “reasonable person” standard for assessing the severity of offensive speech. Buchanan had opportunities to defend her behavior before she was dismissed, and failed to provide any evidence that that process was biased against her, the judge added.

Academic freedom advocates have rallied around Buchanan’s case, criticizing a research institution for ousting a professor over what’s been described as “salty” language. They point out a five-person LSU faculty committee unanimously voted against Buchanan’s dismissal before administrators terminated her anyway. Buchanan's faculty peers said that while her language was crude, it wasn’t “systematically directed at any particular individual.”

But the court over all found that the university’s interests in protecting students outweighed Buchanan’s free speech interests.

Among other things, Buchanan is accused of using the word “pussy” while visiting a local elementary school (but not to children), belittling one of her own students during an assessment meeting and offering another student condoms while warning her that her grades would suffer if she chose to become a mother. Enjoy sex “while the sex is good,” Buchanan is alleged to have told the student in front of her classmates. “Just wait until you’re married five years.”

Administrators testified that Buchanan was the subject of numerous student complaints alleging excessive use of profanity in the classroom and talk of sex. They also said local elementary schools requested that she not visit student teachers there. Buchanan argued in court that her teaching style was aimed at loosening students up and preparing them for the kind of language they’d hear from their students’ parents.

But Dick found that rationale “spurious,” saying Buchanan had failed to provide any evidence of a “connection between the use of the vulgarities and unwelcome prying into students’ sex lives with the teaching of pre-K-3 education or supervising student-teachers at elementary school campuses.”

Buchanan, who was an otherwise high-performing faculty member on her way to promotion to full professor before her termination, was seeking reinstatement to her position. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which sponsored her lawsuit as part of its Stand Up for Speech litigation project, said in a statement that it was “deeply disappointed by the district court’s ruling” and believes the case was “wrongly decided.” FIRE is reviewing all its legal options, it said.

Alexander, the president, said in a statement that the university is “resolute in supporting academic freedom, which is the cornerstone of university teaching and research.” However, he said, “this case was not about the rights of tenured professors or academic freedom. We had documented evidence of a history of inappropriate behavior that included verbal abuse, intimidation and harassment of our students, and we are pleased that the court agreed with the university’s actions.”

The American Association of University Professors censured LSU in 2011 over concerns about academic freedom there. It published a supplemental report on academic freedom at LSU in in 2015, in relation to the Buchanan case. Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary for academic freedom, tenure and governance at AAUP, said that the recent legal development affects nothing in terms of LSU’s ongoing censure.

A case getting dismissed in court doesn’t affect “our judgment that a particular termination of a faculty appointment was at odds with our principles,” Tiede said.

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A corporation strives to democratize access to research funding data

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 08:00

Recent months have brought much agitation among academic researchers over the role of for-profit companies in the scholarly workflow. There is growing mistrust of how scholarly networking sites Academia.edu and ResearchGate are handling researchers’ data.

And major companies such as Elsevier have expanded their footprint into all stages of the research process, raising questions over whether it is wise for researchers and institutions to become reliant on one company’s services amid fears of future fee hikes.

Today, another major for-profit player in the research management space, Digital Science, is relaunching its research-tracking tool Dimensions in a way that will make reams of data about research funding, publications and citations available to individual researchers at no cost. An enhanced version of the tool will also be offered to institutions at a much more affordable rate than what many are currently paying to review publication data they use to assess their research impact.

Originally designed for science funders to track funding trends, the Dimensions tool has been expanded to include a large abstract and citation database -- making freely available data many companies charge for access to. Dimensions also includes information linking grants and associated publications to patents, clinical trials and policy documents.

The tool does not offer a search option for open funding opportunities for researchers looking for grants to apply to. ​But by linking grant data with publication data, as well as incorporating impact metrics from Altmetric, one of Digital Science's portfolio companies, Dimensions will enable users to follow research through its whole life cycle -- from successful grant allocation to publication, citations and beyond, Digital Science officials say.

Sara Rouhi, director of engagement and advocacy for Dimensions and Altmetric, said Digital Science is offering so much data for free because it wants to “democratize” this information. “Smaller institutions are majorly disadvantaged by siloed data sets with expensive paywalls, so we don’t make that data paid,” said Rouhi. She said the company is able to offer the data at no cost to individuals because “our value-add is on top of the publications and citations data.”

The decision to offer a free abstract and indexing database was made because the company wants to "spur innovation in the space by making that data a commodity," said Rouhi. Digital Science wants to "transform the ecosystem" by encouraging institutions, solutions providers, researchers, competitors and others to innovate and create their own research management tools with the data -- "something we would all benefit from."

But there are other strategic reasons for making the data free.

Digital Science is eager to position itself as a "good guy," in a space where there is much wariness of research technology companies. By offering its publication and citation data for free, the company is able to "showcase our commitment to free and sustainably priced solutions" that are "the best in the market," said Rouhi.

It's not entirely charitable, of course. Introducing researchers to free Digital Science tools that help "facilitate a more efficient researcher workflow experience" will "hopefully keep them using Digital Science products," said Rouhi.

Added Stephen Leicht, chief operating officer of Digital Science's discovery and analytics group, "We do believe that by doing that, this should enhance all of our different business assets."

With the free version, users will be able to search the abstract and citation database and view open-access papers with one click. They will also be able to access basic metrics for these publications and associated grants. The company envisions that this will primarily be used by academics to discover research.

A paid version of the tool called Dimensions Plus is designed for institutions, with a “sustainable” price point determined by the institution’s research output. Digital Science and some university administrators familiar with the tool said the institutional price was substantially lower than what many institutions currently pay to access scholarly literature indexes such as Elsevier’s Scopus or Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science. With the paid version, institutions will be able to access more detailed metrics and data, as well as incorporate institutional logins so that academics can easily access research behind a paywall.

Roger Schonfeld, director of Ithaka S&R’s libraries and scholarly communications program, said he thought Digital Science’s strategy of layering paid-for services and tools on top of free data was an interesting move from the company. He added that by pulling in numerous data sets and functions, Digital Science seemed to have created “an entire new category of product.”

Schonfeld has previously written with some concern about the way in which a small number of companies such as Clarivate Analytics, Digital Science and Elsevier are working to provide solutions for researchers’ entire workflow. Though Schonfeld feels that Digital Science has created a useful product, he said he would encourage researchers and institutions to think about how to engage with such tools in an “increasingly strategic way.”

He added that he would be interested to see how Digital Science’s competitors respond but felt that few would be surprised that Digital Science had decided to expand with an abstract and citation database.

Digital Science said it had expanded the Dimensions tool in response to customer requests for a new research data platform, and that response to the product so far has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

Keith Webster, dean of libraries at Carnegie Mellon University, said that one of the advantages of the revamped Dimensions tool, which he has tried out as a development partner, is that it pulls together data that previously would have been found using several tools into one convenient spot. Anne Maglia, associate vice chancellor for research administration and institutional compliance at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and another development partner, agreed.

“The new product makes it easier to quickly find information to support our faculty and administrators,” said Maglia. “Having multiple types of data aggregated in one place, with a straightforward interface, simplifies our data-searching process. As a result we are using data for many more applications than we had the time or ability to previously.” She added that her institution planned to use the product for strategic planning and to improve the competitiveness of its research enterprise.

Both Carnegie Mellon and UMass were among 100 developmental partners that Digital Science worked with to develop the Dimensions 2.0 in the last 12 months. Both Webster and Maglia said that their institutions already subscribe to Digital Science products and will continue to do so.

Webster said he hopes the new version of Dimensions will integrate well with the other Digital Science tools the university is already using, and he wishes to create “a holistic campus research information system.” Previously his colleagues used Dimensions only sporadically to find potential collaboration partners or new hires, he said, as well as to better understand the international funding landscape.

Maglia said she feels the Dimensions product is a “very good value” for the time it saves and the data it provides, but Webster said he is not certain that the product is yet a complete replacement for products offered by Digital Science’s competitors.

He explained that institutions that value, for example, Clarivate Analytics’ Impact Factor, or Elsevier’s Snowball Metrics may not be ready to drop their subscriptions to these services just yet.

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Independent investigation into sexual harassment at Rochester provides little closure

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 08:00

If the University of Rochester was seeking healing from an independent investigation into a harassment case that’s cleaved its previously esteemed brain and cognitive sciences department, the institution won’t get it.

“The department is dead,” founding department member Elissa Newport, now a professor of neurology at Georgetown University and a complainant in federal cases against Rochester, said during a news conference Thursday. “It is not acceptable to say that people have behaved offensively and inappropriately to our students, but nobody did anything wrong. It is not an acceptable conclusion to arrive at. Shame on you.”

Rochester’s highly anticipated report, released Thursday by a Manhattan legal firm, largely exonerates university administrators who have been accused, legally and otherwise, of siding with an alleged faculty harasser.

The report also exonerates the professor, T. Florian Jaeger, who is now on leave, of violating contemporaneous university policies, and challenges some of the specific allegations against him. It says that he's received enthusiastic support from many of his students, especially in recent years. It further suggests that a group of his colleagues who are now complainants in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case and related lawsuit organized to force his departure outside of formal procedures.

Legal Conclusions, Not Moral Ones

At the same time, the report describes Jaeger’s conduct, especially early in his career at Rochester, as highly inappropriate and unprofessional -- including consensual but questionable relationships with three graduate students and a previously undisclosed relationship with a former undergraduate in the department, in 2008. It found that Jaeger was “flirtatious” with students and blurred boundaries between the professional and personal, such as by renting a room to a female graduate student, making sexual comments or innuendos and regularly socializing with students. Numerous students told investigators they had avoided Jaeger due to his behavior prior to 2014.

Investigators found Rochester made other, serious mistakes in the case that likely deepened on-campus rifts -- including monitoring and sharing some department members’ emails about the case with their chair without their knowledge, ostensibly to help him understand their concerns about Jaeger. Those professors, most of whom are leaving or have left the department, continue to argue that the move amounted to illegal retaliation for reporting their colleague.

Concerns about campus climate reached new highs in November, when hundreds of professors from around the world signed an open letter saying they wouldn't advise their students to study or work at Rochester.

Debevoise and Plimpton, the independent firm, investigated Jaeger and Rochester's actions as part of a special inquiry into the case that’s made headlines, at the request of the university’s Board of Trustees. Partner Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney, said Thursday during an on-campus news conference that students suffered under Jaeger. Yet, she said, her firm’s conclusions are legal, not “moral” ones.

“There is no evidence of which we are aware that Jaeger ever engaged in so-called quid pro quo sexual harassment or ever had any nonconsensual sexual contact with any person,” she said. “Although we find Jaeger’s behavior inappropriate, unprofessional and offensive, the governing severe or pervasive legal standard for hostile environment harassment is a very demanding one and we do not believe, from the evidence available to us, that that standard was met.”

The report recommends a series of policy changes for Rochester, including moving to prohibit all student-faculty relationships within departments -- changes that investigators said would put the institution ahead of its peers on that issue. Currently, Rochester bans intimate faculty relationships with undergraduates and those graduate students and employees whom professors supervise in any way. Prior to 2014 it merely discouraged those relationships. But the report doesn’t recommend what to do about Jaeger, and his fate remains unclear.

Professor Responds

On Friday morning, Jaeger's lawyer released a statement from him in which he said that the report marked the third time that an investigation found "that I did not sexually harass any students, I did not retaliate against anyone, and I did not violate the policies of the university." Jaeger's statement noted that the relationships noted in the report were consensual (as confirmed by the investigation). He also said that "[m]ost of my students appreciated that their lab included a social aspect and thrived in this environment, building close connections with their fellow students and me."

At the same time, he acknowledged "shortcomings" in his behavior at the beginning of his career at Rochester.

"This report does not exonerate me, but neither does it give merit to many of the worst accusations made against me," he said. "Although I disagree with some aspects of the report, I agree that I could have shown more maturity when I arrived as a 31-year-old faculty member in 2007. Over time I have addressed many of these shortcomings. I never intended to cause harm to students. I deeply regret that my former behavior made some students uncomfortable and may have discouraged them from working with me."

A President Resigns

Instead, Thursday brought another, unexpected announcement: President Joel Seligman (right) will resign, effective Feb. 28. Seligman was widely criticized in relation to the Jaeger case, in part for signing off on Jaeger’s promotion to full professor, even as an internal disciplinary case was pending. He also prompted campus protests for initially comparing the allegations against Jaeger to those of rape made against the University of Virginia and one of its fraternities in a now-discredited Rolling Stone article. (He later apologized.)

Seligman said in a statement that his 12 years as president have been his life's greatest honor, "motivated by a single overriding criterion: What is in the best interest of the University of Rochester?" Now, he said, "It is clear to me that the best interests of the university are best served with new leadership, and a fresh perspective to focus on healing our campus and moving us forward in a spirit of cooperation and unity."

In a statement, Rochester’s trustees praised Seligman and said he notified them of his resignation before they -- or anyone else -- had received the independent investigators’ report.

“As we as a community begin to consider this report, we trustees express our heartfelt apology to anyone who was hurt by the actions of any university employee, or who felt intimidated, excluded or harassed,” they said.

The days ahead will involve careful review of the facts and findings and “serious decisions,” they said, “guided by our commitment to ensuring that Rochester is a place of unity where all of our students, faculty, employees and visitors feel safe, respected, secure and empowered to achieve their highest potential.”

The report praised former graduate student Keturah Bixby for coming forward to report Jaeger to her department chair in 2013 (a separate report was brought by faculty members in 2016, resulting in an internal investigation that cleared Jaeger of serious misconduct). But Bixby, one of nine complainants in the federal lawsuit, called that praise empty during their news conference. The report brought no closure or justice, she said.

What's Ahead

Richard N. Aslin, a fellow complainant and former professor in the department who now works at Haskins Laboratories, said that the report criticizes him and his colleagues for taking things “into our own hands” while simultaneously admitting that Rochester’s internal investigation was incomplete. Seligman’s departure is only further “confirmation that our actions were justified," he said. Aslin and his fellow complainants did not participate in White’s investigation due to the pending legal case.

Aslin said that the independent investigation, which cost Rochester $4.5 million, is little more than an attempt to “minimize the legal damage, which we will vigorously contest in federal court next month.”

Seth Pollak, a distinguished professor of psychology and professor of anthropology, pediatrics, psychiatry and public affairs at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who signed the open letter against advising students to work or study at Rochester, said Thursday that he hoped Seligman’s resignation was a step in the right direction for the campus. But the report itself was unsatisfying, he said, as Jaeger was found not to have harassed women to a “pervasive” or “severe” degree, even though multiple women testified about harassment. 

“How many cases does it take to meet a threshold of pervasive?” he asked. 

Pollak also said he felt that White missed the point in saying that professors involved in the federal complaints were not retaliated against because their careers progressed. In academe, he said, "one can be promoted and still be treated badly in one's department.” 

Of all White’s recommendations for moving forward, Pollak said several stood out: having sexual harassment claims handled by an office and investigator apart from university counsel and providing claimants and the accused different advisers. Universities tend to have the same person or people investigating harassment cases for all parties involved, creating an inherent conflict of interest, he said. Looking ahead, it would be "much better to have independent people looking out for the accuser, the accused and the university's interests."

  GenderFacultyEditorial Tags: FacultyGraduate educationGraduate studentsSexual assaultImage Caption: T. Florian JaegerIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 5Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, January 16, 2018Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: No Closure at RochesterMagazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: University of Rochester FalloutTrending order: 1

Talks of restoring earmarks promises a renewed debate within higher ed

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 08:00

House Republicans and President Trump have signaled an interest in evaluating whether congressional earmarks could be restored for the first year since 2011. That discussion has rekindled a long-running debate in higher ed about the appropriations tool and whether colleges should pursue earmarks at all.

That’s been a moot point since 2011, when Congress, led by conservative Republicans, banned earmarks. The spending provisions are essentially any language included in legislation by an individual lawmaker directing spending to a particular project. And they make up just a tiny fraction of overall federal discretionary spending. But many earmarks were substantial -- well over $10 million in many cases -- and the projects were never reviewed on their scientific or educational merits.

Further, earmarks got a bad name due to some notorious and high-profile spending projects with little apparent benefit to the public.

Higher ed may be less well-known for examples of individual “pork-barrel” projects that attracted public backlash. But colleges and universities were big recipients of earmarks. An Inside Higher Ed analysis found that in the 2010 fiscal year, higher ed institutions received close to $2 billion in grants from individual members of Congress.

Most of that money went toward academic research, including the construction of new research facilities, but higher education leaders have been split about whether earmarks are an appropriate way to fund that activity. Some colleges lobbied actively -- and effectively -- for the earmarks when they were still allowed.

“Both Democratic-leaning states and Republican-leaning states received earmarks. Both Republican and Democratic members of Congress sought earmarks,” said Chris Marsicano, a doctoral student in leadership and policy studies at Vanderbilt University who focuses on lobbying by universities.

Conservative leaders and members of the Tea Party may have led the charge in ending the practice, he said, but they also didn’t turn the money away for their own districts.

Some elite research institutions have frowned upon the use of earmarks, though, or at least the active pursuit of those grant funds. The Association of American Universities, which represents more than 60 top research universities, at one point publicly backed a ban on earmarks.

Since 2005, its position has been that exceptions to merit-based funding shouldn’t be used by member institutions as license to pursue earmarks. AAU’s gripe has been that earmarks threaten merit-based federal support of scientific research -- the competitive funding that its members excel at winning.

Other lower-tier research institutions have argued that the funds give them a shot at competing with elite institutions with serious advantages in applying for federal grants. And other supporters in higher ed say lawmakers who know the needs of their states and districts are better positioned than the staffs of federal agencies to make certain funding decisions.

Some of the biggest beneficiaries of earmarks among higher ed institutions have of course been colleges and universities represented by influential lawmakers on key committees. Campuses in states like Alabama, Hawaii, Mississippi and West Virginia ranked among the top recipients of academic earmarks before the 2011 ban. Lawmakers often directed funds to colleges and universities back home even when they were unsought or when campuses weren’t already doing the kind of research supported by the grant.

Despite AAU’s stance as a group against earmarking, some members have supported their return. The University of Kansas, an AAU member, has welcomed discussions of restoring earmarks. Jack Cline, the director of federal relations at the university, said students and citizens expect public universities to keep up with developments in technology and infrastructure that many private universities have had in place for years.

“This requires significant economic investment that, unfortunately, often isn’t supported by state legislatures,” he said.

Cline said appropriations and spending are part of the responsibilities of members of Congress. And he added that lawmakers are uniquely qualified to work with state and local officials to decide where economic investments are made.

House Committee on the Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, plans to hold a hearing next week on the earmark issue.

Among the backers of restoring earmarks is Representative John Culberson, a Texas Republican. Culberson called the spending requests “good public policy” and said they would allow Congress to more quickly direct federal agencies to respond to events like Hurricane Harvey, which led to flooding in much of his district.

“I’m proposing that we restore the ability of members of Congress to direct money toward flood control or highway projects when we receive a request from a local or state unit of government,” he said in a statement. “We would submit the request at the subcommittee level, and the request would then go through the entire legislative process, out in the open, so that the public can see it and debate it. Most importantly, these projects would not increase spending.”

The suggestion has already received an endorsement from President Trump, whose statement in support of earmarks as a way to break legislative stalemates has drawn rebukes from conservative commentators. Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonprofit which has long opposed earmarking, released a statement this week blasting the president's endorsement.

“Earmarks are a lazy, unfair and corrupt way to circumvent the authorization and appropriations process,” the group said. “They have been roundly excoriated by the conservative movement upon which Republicans depend for their political lives.”

A 2007 paper reported that a number of studies had found research supported by earmarks was of a lower quality and did little to advance the academic ranking of institutions that received those funds. Brian Silverman, a co-author of the paper and an associate dean at the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management, said he didn't see how the earmarking process could be improved to better support high-quality research.

"It is unreasonable to expect either congressional representatives or their staff to be sufficiently knowledgeable about the frontiers of academic research that they can make informed decisions about projects," he said in an email.

But institutions that support their return say earmarks have supported infrastructure on campus that allows them to better compete for peer-reviewed grants awarded by federal agencies.

One measure that’s been unaffected by the ban is overall spending on lobbying by higher ed. In fact, Marsicano said, colleges have actually increased the amount they spend on in-house lobbying while spending the same amount as before on lobbying by outside firms.

“The earmark ban didn’t stop the lobbying spending,” he said. “It did the exact opposite.”

One reason, he said, was that many institutions have had to hire specialists who focus more on the executive branch.

Glynda Becker, director of federal relations at Washington State University, said after the 2011 ban the university’s faculty and staff members became more strategic in making requests for federal appropriations. That will continue if Congress does vote to restore earmarking, she said.

“The onus is on the institution to be able to defend their research,” she said. “If we are going to go in and ask for earmarks, we’re going to be able to defend what we’re doing.”

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