Higher Education News

New national survey finds generally positive views of higher education, but with weak points as well

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 07:00

In 2017, national surveys by Gallup and the Pew Research Center found significant public doubts -- more than in previous years -- about higher education and its role in American society. While the questions in the two polls were not identical, both polls pointed to doubts about how higher education is run. And the skepticism was greatest among Republicans (although there were also doubts among Democrats and Independents).

Today, WGBH (Boston's public radio station) is releasing a national survey of adults (conducted with ABT Associates) that generally finds a more positive outlook among the more than 1,000 people surveyed. But in key areas, such as the use of affirmative action, the public does not support the policies favored by most higher education leaders.

And the survey found doubts on how colleges respond to sexual assault and student mental health issues. The survey found the public thinks more highly of public than private institutions, and that Ivy graduates are seen as elitist. The public is split on the idea of taxing the endowments of wealthy private colleges.

In the Gallup and Pew surveys, partisan divides were evident in many of the key responses. WGBH released such data on some, but not all questions, in its survey, and not for some of the top-line questions.

Favorable Views

On a number of broad questions, the survey featured answers that may reassure educators. (Totals do not add to 100 percent as "don't know" and non-answer percentages are not included here.)

  • 41 percent of those surveyed said that they had a strongly favorable view of American colleges and universities, while 26 percent had a somewhat favorable view, 11 percent had a somewhat unfavorable view, and 11 percent had a strongly unfavorable view.
  • When the question was rephrased to be about "the college or university nearest to where you live," the percentage with a strongly favorable view went up to 46 percent.
  • 77 percent said that colleges and universities have a positive impact on society, compared to only 14 percent who see a negative impact.
  • 81 percent said that colleges and universities have a positive impact on their local community.
  • Asked whether, "considering the costs," college was worth attending, 43 percent said they agreed strongly, and another 25 percent agreed somewhat.

Despite those generally positive views, only a minority of those polled said that graduating from college was "necessary to get ahead in life." Forty-two percent agreed while 55 percent disagreed.

When it comes to attitudes about certain colleges, the public view is mixed. The public is more likely to have a favorable view (and any view) of public than of private higher education.

Public vs. Private Colleges

  Favorable View Unfavorable View No Answer/Don't Know Public 76% 16% 9% Private 59% 24% 17%

How Elitist Are College Graduates?

  Agree Disagree College graduates are elitist 31% 59% Ivy graduates are elitist 54% 34%

Public Funds for Higher Education (and Taxes)

The strong support for public higher education is matched by attitudes about state support for higher education, but only up to a point. And only among certain groups, the WGBH survey found.

More than three-fourths of those surveyed (78 percent) said they would be concerned if their state decided to reduce funding for public colleges. But asked about raising taxes to support public higher education, only 47 percent said they would be willing to pay more, while 49 percent were opposed.

Willingness to pay higher taxes varied by racial/ethnic group, with 56 percent of African Americans willing to pay more, and only 46 percent of white people saying that.

Support for raising taxes to avoid cuts to public higher education was strongest among liberals (70 percent) and people aged 18-29 (60 percent). Those most likely to be opposed were conservatives (69 percent), white evangelical Protestants (62 percent), and women without a college degree (58 percent),

Split Views on Endowment Tax

The tax bill adopted by Congress last year imposed a tax on the endowments of wealthy private colleges. While the exact details are not clear until pending regulations are issued, the tax has been seen as a major shift in federal policy, and has been opposed by most higher education associations.

A small majority of Americans (50 percent to 43 percent) oppose the tax, WGBH found.

But there were differences by party affiliation and other factors. While 46 percent of Republicans favor the tax, only 38 percent of Democrats do so.

Support for the endowment tax is stronger among those who are younger (18-29), among whom 54 percent support the tax, and among those without a college degree, among whom 47 percent favor the tax.

Opposition to Consideration of Race

The survey also included a series of questions about admissions policies and diversity. The results may concern higher education leaders, who overwhelmingly are backing Harvard University as it defends itself in a lawsuit charging that its affirmative action policies result in discrimination against Asian American applicants.

The survey found that the public supports the idea behind "holistic" admissions (although that term was not used in the survey). Only 27 percent of the public said that college admissions decisions should be based exclusively on high school grades and standardized test scores. Seventy percent said that admissions decisions should be based on a "variety of factors."

Further, 64 percent said that it was extremely or very important that colleges have racial diversity in their student bodies. Another 22 percent said it was somewhat important.

But the results were striking when members of the public were asked if it was appropriate for colleges to consider certain factors in admissions decisions:

  • 60 percent said that athletic talent should be considered.
  • 72 percent said that musical talent should be considered.
  • 73 percent said that leadership should be considered.
  • 83 percent said that "overcoming hardships such as poverty or health problems" should be considered.

But then came the question on race. "The Supreme Court has decided colleges can use race as one factor in deciding which applicants to admit. Do you agree or disagree with this ruling?" Twenty-four percent said they agreed while 72 percent disagreed.

While opposition to consideration of race was strong, there were some differences of opinion by educational attainment and party affiliation.

College graduates were more than twice as likely as non-college graduates (40 percent vs 17 percent) to agree with the Supreme Court that colleges should be allowed to consider race and ethnicity. The only group WGBH identified in which more supported than opposed the Supreme Court ruling was among those with graduate education, where support for the ruling outpaced opposition 49 percent to 45 percent.

Defenders of affirmative action have noted that certain words in questions in surveys tend to yield more opposition, but the phrasing of this survey did not use those phrases (notably those with the word "preferences").

The results are in some ways similar to the findings of a 2016 survey of the public by Gallup (with questions drafted by Inside Higher Ed, which works with Gallup on surveys, but played no role in the survey referenced at the top of this article). In that survey, 61 percent of the public said that family economic circumstances should be a factor in admissions, 55 percent said that athletic ability should be a factor, and only 36 percent said that race or ethnicity should be a factor.

Free Speech, Politics and Student Life

  • A solid majority (57 percent) of Americans believe that colleges should stand behind invitations to speakers whom some on campus find offensive. While support for this view is stronger among Republicans than Democrats, a plurality of Democrats also share this view. White people are more likely than non-white people (61 percent to 50 percent) to believe colleges should stick with such invitations.
  • Fifty-nine percent of the public in the WGBH poll said that colleges lean to one political view. Of those, more than three-fourths identified that view as a liberal one, and nearly half saw that as a problem.
  • Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said that colleges fail to do a good job of protecting students from sexual assault. Among women, the share with this view was 59 percent.
  • Half of those surveyed (50 percent) said that colleges are not doing a good job of meeting the mental health needs of students. Among women, the share with that view was 57 percent.
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Julie Schumacher resurrects Jason Fitger for a -- slightly -- more sentimental sequel to 'Dear Committee Members'

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 07:00

It's been four years since Julie Schumacher, professor of creative writing at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, went Office Space on academic work with her hit epistolary novel, Dear Committee Members. Well, four years for us, and just a summer for snarky protagonist Jason T. Fitger, professor of creative writing and English at the fictional Payne University -- as we quickly learn in Dear Committee Members' sequel, The Shakespeare Requirement (Doubleday).

Just a summer and yet Fitger, who is in his mid-50s, has grown up -- a bit. Acting on prior advice from his ex-wife, Janet, with whom he is still hopelessly in love, Fitger runs for department chair and suddenly finds himself not just critiquing the neoliberal university but trying to help run it. It's a thankless and virtually impossible job, but it reveals new contours in a Fitger's personality and, of course, lots of material.

Fitger's central task? Herding cats (of the English professor variety) into drafting the much-delayed, departmental vision statement on which their budget depends. And so much depends on that budget, since the Darth Vader of rival department chairs, Roland Gladwell, is seeking to absorb English's already scarce resources into his evil economics empire.

In discussing the vision statement, English faculty personalities, interests and punctuation preferences clash -- an "I've been there moment" for any academic, to be sure. But the real resistance comes, somewhat unexpectedly, from the department's creaky Shakespeare scholar, Dennis Cassovan, who uncompromisingly demands that English students spend a semester studying Shakespeare. (Wasn't a manga comic version of Macbeth in a class on the graphic novel enough Shakespeare, another colleague wonders?)

"We don't have a budget, Dennis," Fitger, who wants to envision now, and "tweak" later, tells Cassovan. "You might not appreciate the fact that I'm fighting here for the department's existence."

"Perhaps you should also fight for its soul," Cassovan retorts.

And so Fitger finds himself the villain in a campus fight between "Killing Will" and "Saving Our Shakespeare," as reported by the enterprising Campus Scribe: "To be or not to be: That is the question that Payne's department of English is debating in regard to the teaching of Shakespeare."

It's an interesting place for Fitger to be, since, in other arguments about the value of humanities, he and Cassovan would be on the same side. But this is academe, where a real debate rages as to the role of the canon in English. And, as the bard might say, "Hell is empty and all the devils are here."

If Fitger is facing professional hell (however topical it is), he's facing a personal version of it, too: Janet is dating an uppity dean, he's temporarily housebound while caring for the sick colleague for whom he is inexplicably an emergency contact, and he's plagued by various physical ailments of his own. There's the cracked molar, wasp stings (an occupational hazard) and prostate-induced insomnia, for example.

All the characters in The Shakespeare Requirement are in fact very … bodied, in a particularly middle-to-older-age kind of way: colleagues experience thinning hair, gastrointestinal issues, sensitive skin, tampon wrappers attached to their shoes and even (a very well written) death. There's a dog named Rogaine, to boot. It's all somewhat tickling, as it's easy to imagine that academics are all brains. But, like any good writer, Schumacher pulls the veil way back, revealing her subjects as -- surprise -- humans.

Asked about that recently, Schumacher told Inside Higher Ed that she liked thinking of the novel as a nod to middle age.

"Fitger in particular has reached the point in his life when he feels he needs to look holistically at what he has accomplished, both personally and professionally -- it's a moment of reckoning," she said. "I am roughly his age, and feel the same impulse."

Indeed, Schumacher said that of all her characters (and The Shakespeare Requirement has many), she most identified with Fitger.

"Creating him was like molding an evil little version of myself, who was able to say things I would never say, and behave in ways I would never behave," she said. That's one of the reasons Schumacher revisited Fitger for a sequel, which abandons the slim format of Dear Committee Members, told through letters of recommendation Fitger writes, for a more traditional, longer format.

Did Fitger's lack of filter, in either book, get her in trouble with her colleagues at Minnesota? Apparently not. Schumacher said they've been "wonderfully supportive," throwing her a "coloring party" after she published Doodling for Academics, a comedic adult coloring book, in between novels, and a reception when she won the Thurber Prize for American Humor in 2015.

Colleagues have even "cheered me on by offering ideas for another sequel," she said. "But I think I will leave Jason Fitger where he is."

That doesn't mean there's a dearth of material in Schumacher's everyday life -- or anyone's, if they know where to look for it, she said.

"It's a matter of learning to see it, and to appreciate that amid the seriousness and the challenges, comedy can often be found lurking."

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Congressional spending bill means increases for student aid, research

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 07:00

An appropriations deal reached by House and Senate negotiators last week largely reflects the priorities of the upper chamber, including higher spending on student aid, career and technical education, and university-based research.

The spending bill for fiscal year 2019, which begins October 1, would increase the Education Department's total budget to $71.5 billion -- a second year in a row Congress has boosted funding, despite calls for heavy cuts by the Trump administration.

The maximum Pell Grant would be raised by $100 to $6,195 in the agreement.

Perkins Career and Technical Education grants will get $1.26 billion -- a $70 million increase from the previous year.

Funding for an eligibility fix for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program was extended to the tune of $350 million. The money is targeted to borrowers whose qualifying payments were counted as ineligible because of errors by their loan servicers.

And the National Institutes of Health would get $39.1 billion, a number sought by Senate appropriators and a $2 billion increase over the previous year.

Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican and chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and related agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, said the agreement is a bipartisan effort to invest in the U.S. workforce and support students at each stage of their academic careers.

"I urge all of our colleagues to join us in getting this bill across the finish line," he said.

Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat and the ranking member on the Senate appropriations committee, cast the agreement as a rebuke to the Trump administration.

"The message of this bipartisan agreement couldn't be any clearer: Democrats and Republicans once again reject Secretary DeVos's extreme anti-public-education agenda and are fighting back against her attempts to undermine our students and public schools," she said.

(The text of the legislation can be found here. And a detailed explanation of the agreement is here.)

The agreement, which is being packaged with a defense spending bill and other short-term funding legislation, averts the possibility of a government shutdown. Lawmakers have until September 30 to pass the bills and send them to the White House for the president's signature.

Unlike this past spring, when they passed a giant omnibus spending bill that drew the ire of President Trump, who complained about the legislation's size, Congressional leaders have been moving a series of smaller bills forward since earlier in the summer.

Student advocate groups had hoped to see larger Pell Grants that did more to cover the cost of paying for college. But they expressed optimism about the increase nonetheless and praised the inclusion of other items dealing with college access.

"This budget deal continues to invest in programs that remove barriers for students seeking higher education access. After years of declining or stagnant funding, this deal solidifies the investments we saw a bipartisan Congress approve earlier this year, expanding on-campus childcare and work opportunities for students," said Reid Setzer, government affairs director at Young Invincibles.

In addition to the PLSF funding, the bill would let student borrowers who are diagnosed with cancer defer payments during treatment without accruing interest.

Another provision would limit the Office of Federal Student Aid's plans to overhaul the student loan servicing system, directing that the so-called Next Gen servicing system include multiple servicers each managing a portfolio of student loans from disbursement to repayment.

And the deal also meets House priorities on spending for the TRIO program, bumping spending up to $1.06 billion for the college access program. Senate appropriators had sought $1.01 billion.

The new bill includes a $5 million appropriation for the creation and distribution of open educational resources, mimicking the initial $5 million pilot in the fiscal year 2018 budget. Proponents of open education have pushed for the renewal, arguing that the currently ongoing program is only a starting point toward achieving lofty goals for the proliferation of openly licensed course materials.

The bill delivers another win for proponents of career training just months after Congress passed an update to the Perkins Career and Technical Education law. Kermit Kaleba, director of federal policy at the National Skills Coalition, said the group was encouraged that the bill had rejected steep cuts proposed in the White House FY 2019 budget request.

"We hope that Congress will continue to build on the bipartisan support for education and workforce programs in FY 2020 and ensure that federal investments are brought in line with historic funding levels," Kaleba said.

Mark Lieberman contributed to this article.

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Husband of UW-Whitewater chancellor banned from events, removed from advisory position

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 07:00

Pete Hill, associate to the chancellor at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, was removed from his position after an internal investigation determined that sexual harassment allegations against him were credible. Hill is the husband of Beverly Kopper, university chancellor, and served alongside her in an unpaid, advisory role for the university. Kopper addressed his removal on Friday in a message to the campus.

"Although we typically do not discuss personnel issues publicly, I feel it is important to make this one exception and I have UW System's permission to do so," she wrote. Ray Cross, university system president, wrote Kopper to say that he had decided to end Hill's honorary appointment immediately and that Hill will be restricted from attending any UW-Whitewater events, including those held in his own home. Cross wrote that "the purpose of these restrictions is to make sure that Mr. Hill does not have contact with UW-Whitewater employees."

Kopper said that she supported the system's decision.

"As you can imagine, this is a challenging and unique set of circumstances for me as a wife, as a woman, and as your chancellor," she wrote. "As your chancellor, I have worked diligently to ensure each of you has the supportive environment you need and deserve in which to do your amazing work."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported the news after obtaining documents from the investigation. According to the Journal Sentinel, three women came forward with allegations against Hill. Hill was found not responsible after the first complaint, but directed to take a training course on how to avoid sexual harassment. An outside investigator heard the second and third complaints and determined that Hill's behavior was "unlikely" to change.

In one incident, an employee was seated between Hill and Kopper during a dinner, and Hill repeatedly put his hand on the employee's knee. That same employee did not report unwanted hugging or kissing incidents she said she experienced in 2015 for fear that she would lose her job. On another occasion, Hill put his hand on an employee's lower back and whispered a comment about her appearance.

A student worker who filed a complaint against Hill reported that he would rub students' shoulders and make comments about their appearance. The student co-worker first reported the problem to a supervisor who confronted Hill, but little changed as a result.

Hill denies any wrongdoing, according to the documents obtained by the Journal Sentinel.

UW-Whitewater did not respond to a request for comment.

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Campuses start to resume operations in wake of Hurricane Florence

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 07:00

Colleges in North and South Carolina are starting to resume operations that were shut down by Hurricane Florence.

East Carolina University said it would resume operations on Wednesday. Buildings management staff are currently working to get water off of rooftops (at right) and to deal with flooded areas of the campus (above).

At places like East Carolina, officials said that the threat now is from flooding on campus and of routes used by students and employees to reach the campus.

Other campuses announcing plans to re-open include Barton College (opening Wednesday), Charleston Southern University (opening Tuesday), Claflin University (business operations today and classes Tuesday), College of Charleston (opening Tuesday), Elizabeth City State University (campus opening today and classes starting up Tuesday), Fayetteville State University (hoping to open Wednesday), Trident Technical College (resuming classes today) and University of South Carolina (open today).

Many students from College of Charleston were briefly housed at South Carolina when their campus was evacuated. The University of Mount Olive announced on social media that campus damage has been more minimal than expected, but that there is no power on campus.

Our home is your home! Welcome to campus @CofC students! pic.twitter.com/U2WMmma6wz

-- UofSCStudentLife (@UofSCStuLife) September 12, 2018

For some campuses that were in the area more severely hit by Florence, no dates or more distant dates have been set for reopening classes. Craven Community College, which has a campus in New Bern, N.C., an area experiencing extreme flooding, announced that it will be closed this entire week.

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington, in an area with extensive flooding, announced that it has been unable to assess campus damage, and pledged to give ample notice before resuming operations. The university has also created a relief fund for students in need.

Many colleges in the region have also been reaching out to parents. As attached comments from the Davidson College Instagram account show, some parents have been appreciative as they can't necessarily count on timely information from other sources.

Below are some more photographs posted to Facebook by East Carolina University.

Inside Higher Ed wishes the best to all colleges hit by the hurricane and associated flooding, and invites campus officials to post updates in the comments on this article.

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Updates on college fund-raising campaigns

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 07:00

Starting Up:

  • St. John's College, in Maryland and New Mexico, has started a campaign to raise $300 million by 2023. The major purpose is to allow the college to substantially reduce tuition rates. So far, the college has raised $183 million.
  • University of Kentucky is starting a campaign to raise $2.1 billion. More than $1 billion has already been raised in the campaign, which does not have a set end date.

Increasing a Goal:

  • Northwestern University announced that it is raising the goal for its campaign to $5 billion by 2020. The campaign launched in 2014 with a goal of $3.75 billion and has already topped $4 billion.

Finishing Up:

  • Massachusetts College of Art and Design has finished a two-year campaign, raising $12.5 million to renovate two galleries. The original goal was $12 million.
  • Sterling College has raised $11.6 million in a campaign that had an original target of $9 million. The campaign, started in 2015, focused on the college's mission of environmental stewardship.
  • Washington University has raised $3.378 billion in a campaign that started in 2012 with a goal of $2.2 billion. More than $591 million was raised for scholarships.

Check out the status of college fund-raising campaigns in Inside Higher Ed's databases.

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Purdue blocks access to Netflix, Hulu, Steam in four lecture halls

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 07:00

Purdue University students who were hoping to sneak in an episode of Queer Eye during their economics lecture are out of luck. The university recently debuted a pilot program that restricts access to five popular streaming sites -- Netflix, Hulu, Steam, Apple Updates and iTunes -- during class time in four of its biggest lecture halls.

The new restrictions are an attempt to free up much-needed bandwidth in four lectures halls located in the Lilly Hall of Life Sciences, the Wetherill Laboratory of Chemistry, the Electrical Engineering Building and the Class of 1950 Lecture Hall.

"We're faced with rapid increases in traffic demands in our biggest classrooms," Gerry McCartney, executive vice president and chief information officer at Purdue, said. "These are rooms holding typically hundreds of students, and they're coming into class with multiple devices. When we look to see the sites those devices are going to, there are some sites without academic connection."

A 2016 study cited in the Journal and Courier of internet use in Lilly Hall of Life Sciences revealed that 4 percent of internet traffic went to "academic" sites, 34 percent went to sites that were "likely non-academic," such as Netflix, Steam and Hulu, and 64 percent went to "mixed" sites like Google, Apple and Amazon.

The pilot restrictions have been in place since the fall semester began in August and the wireless system has seen "immediate relief" since. Lawrence DeBoer, an agricultural economics professor who teaches in two of the affected lecture halls, appreciates the increased speed and bandwidth.

"I support the restrictions for practical reasons, that there is limited bandwidth and I use that bandwidth in class," he wrote in an email. "[Students] sign on to software called 'Hotseat,' which is a website that allows them to answer questions in class in real time. I know that some students follow along with the notes I post online as well. If the bandwidth is taken up with non-academic high-intensity uses, it interferes with the classroom software."

The university has received almost no criticism from faculty and students about the restrictions, save for one professor who "asked why her classroom wasn't included in the pilot," McCartney said.

He doesn't expect that to change, but if students do begin to complain, they're welcome to step out into the hall.

"[The restricted sites] are available in the corridor, and if you desperately want to play a Steam game, just go outside and do it," he said.

DeBoer also hasn't heard any complaints.

"What would they say to me," he wrote. 'I'm upset that I can't watch Big Bang Theory re-runs in your class?'"

Kelly Blanchard, an economics lecturer, also teaches in two of the lecture halls. She's heard mixed reviews from students.

"I've heard from both students who are for it and students who are against it. For students who were already attentive (or are at least trying to be attentive), it means there are fewer distractions, or it doesn't make much difference since they were already paying attention," she wrote in an email. "However, I understand students might not be happy about having the choice taken away from them."

Blanchard believes that the restrictions will have the biggest impact on students in classes with mandatory attendance.

"Students who are watching Netflix in class are likely students who wouldn't be coming to class if they didn't have to," she wrote.

The restrictions are limited to instructional hours, from about 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Every other access point on campus -- Purdue has nearly 9,500 of them -- are fair game for streaming. If professors need students to visit one of the blocked sites during class, they can do so. The university is able to open up a "pinhole" that allows temporary access.

Neither DeBoer nor Blanchard have noticed a difference in student attentiveness since the pilot began, but Blanchard hopes that results from an upcoming exam might show otherwise.

If the pilot remains successful, McCartney said that the university will likely expand it to other instructional spaces on campus. Residence halls will never be affected.

"When you're in the classroom, you're there to do classroom activities," he said. "When I was an undergraduate, you sometimes read newspapers or books or something, but now there are a lot more attractive nuisances, which are taking up resources."

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She spoke out against the termination of her campus's only mental health counselor. A student died, and she got canned.

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 07:00

An assistant professor of engineering at Florida Polytechnic University is suing the institution for alleged violations of the First Amendment, saying it failed to renew her contract because she publicly criticized its mental health services -- both before and after a student suicide.

Christina Drake's lawsuit, filed this week in a Tampa court, says that she has received positive performance reviews, teaching awards and grant funding at Florida Poly since she began teaching there in its inaugural year, 2014. But she says things changed this summer when she felt compelled to speak out against numerous staff terminations, including the university's sole librarian and -- crucial to her case -- the sole campus mental health counselor.

In June, Drake spoke at a meeting of the Board of Governors for the State University System of Florida, linking decreased on-campus mental health services to an increased risk of student suicides. While most campuses struggle to meet student mental health demands, Florida Poly presents particular challenges: it is a new, rural institution with relatively few opportunities for extracurricular activities on campus or off, and the entire male-dominated student body is pursuing demanding degrees in the sciences, technology, engineering and math.

"I pleaded with the board," Drake said in an interview Thursday. "This place is a pressure cooker. Mental health is not an area that we can afford not to make a priority."

Then, in August, a Florida Poly student fatally shot himself while sitting on a campus bench.

The Tampa Bay Times subsequently published a news story called "At Florida Poly, a Student Suicide and a Question: Could It Have Been Prevented?" The article quotes Casey Fox, the laid-off campus counselor, as saying she knew the late student, Kevin Masculine. (She said she could not disclose whether Masculine was a patient of hers.) "There's no way to tell if that student would have reached out," Fox told the Times. "There's no way to know because there was no one there. There was no one on campus to be that person."

Drake, who was interviewed for the article, was quoted as saying, "We have a campus makeup that is a ticking time bomb" for mental health issues. The newspaper also noted Drake's previous warning to the board, which she paraphrased as, "You cannot put students in this high-stress situation and outsource it and say, 'Hey, call this number.'"

That was a reference to the university's new plan for mental health: outsource campus counseling to an off-campus, network service with scalable delivery hours and a maximum wait time, overseen by an on-campus case manager who works for the university.

"Our decision to shift to an on-campus case-manager and the BayCare Student Assistance Program is based on what is best for our students," a university spokesperson said via email. "The new model offers students access to face-to-face counseling care, no matter the day or time. This model also offers a broader scope of services and access to a much larger network of mental health professionals with diversity in experience. This is not possible with one counselor on staff. Students can also take advantage of phone-based care and self-guided wellness modules, none of which were possible when we only had a single campus counselor.

Florida Poly has attributed the recent layoffs to various organizational changes, such as the outsourcing of mental health -- which it says was not a cost-saving measure. But Drake, Fox and others have said that the university targeted employees who were involved in union activity. Drake is supported in her lawsuit by the National Education Association-affiliated United Faculty of Florida. In certain ways, her case resembles one at Georgia State University in 2012, in which the university outsourced mental health jobs; some former employees said that only happened after they complained about relevant policies they said hurt students.

Drake alleges that university administrators immediately expressed "anger" at her over the Times article. She told Inside Higher Ed that she was repeatedly encouraged in person by various supervisors to stop being so "negative" about the university.

Attributing some of that to gender discrimination, Drake also said it was "crazy" for her colleagues to suggest that speaking out about student mental health was "negative."

"We have this unique campus situation and we have to take mental health seriously," she said.

Days after the article appeared, Provost Terry Parker informed Drake that her contract would not be renewed for next academic year. That's despite the fact that annual contracts are automatically renewed for professors in good standing, Drake says.

"No one has sat down and told me why I was laid off."

Beyond losing her job, Drake said it's hard, as an "educator and a mother" to see a campus in crisis. She said students have cried in her office over Masculine's suicide and what they perceive as the institution's indifference to mental health.

"This is sad for multiple people, not just myself."

Numerous legal cases have demonstrated the limits of free speech for public employees, especially regarding comments that are pursuant to their official duties. Drake's lawsuit says that her interest in speaking out about mental health concerns and other campus issues "outweighs any legitimate interest that the university might have in suppressing free speech." She says that Florida Poly's retaliatory actions have damaged her reputation, and she's seeking compensatory and punitive damages and a trial by jury.

The university said in a statement that it is its policy not to comment on pending litigation, but that it had not yet been served a copy of the complaint. A spokesperson denied that Drake had been not renewed due to her public comments, but she did not provide a reason for non-renewal when asked.

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University of Maryland criticized for white support group flier

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 07:00

The counseling center at University of Maryland, College Park sponsors a group called "White Awake" -- it's a weekly meet-up for white students who want to better understand race and ask questions to be better "allies" for minorities.

But a flier advertising the group is earning criticism for being tone-deaf and vague. "Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable and confused before, during or after interactions with racial and ethnic minorities?" the flier asks.

The counseling center has decided to discontinue the ad -- though it is not shutting down the group.

"We agree with the feedback that the flier was not clear enough in conveying the fact that the purpose of this group is to promote anti-racism and becoming a better ally," the counseling center said in a statement to Inside Higher Ed. "We didn't choose the right words for the flier, and we are going to incorporate the feedback we have received into a revision of it."

It's unclear how long the group has been around or how it began -- a university spokeswoman attempted to arrange an interview with counseling center officials but was not immediately successful. The flier said the group offers a "safe space for White students to explore their experiences, questions, reactions, and feelings."

"Members will support and share feedback with each other as they learn more about themselves and how they can fit into a diverse world," the flier reads.

The counseling center called race relations "an incredibly difficult, nuanced issue, and that's the reason we need to discuss it." The group aims to help white students become more "culturally competent, so they can better participate in creating a more inclusive environment at the University of Maryland," according to the statement. "This group is based on research and best practices, and we believe in it."

But as the flier and the purpose of the group spread around Twitter, backlash was swift: "This cannot be real" one student tweeted.

Another student, Alysa Conway, tweeted that she was "ashamed" by the execution of the group.

"Why do they need to attend therapy sessions on how to be a decent human being in society? Why do they need to have these sessions to learn how to coexist?" Conway wrote.

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University of Florida will end tradition of calling graduates' names at university-wide commencement

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 07:00

In August, the University of Florida announced changes to its December graduation ceremony, but has yet to formally notify students. Instead of one ceremony in which students have their names called and personally receive a diploma, the celebrations will be split in two: a university-wide ceremony where degrees are conferred without student names, and a smaller college-specific ceremony where students will have their names called and walk across the stage.

"We have three commencement time frames. We have the summer, which is pretty small, only about 1,500 graduates," Stephanie McBride, director of commencements at the university, said. "In May, we have a significantly larger number of students, we have closer to a little over 7,000 students that are going to graduate in that timeframe. The model that we were using previously was just not sustainable."

Last spring, the university had scheduled 10 two-hour graduation ceremonies back-to-back over the course of four days where all students' names were called. During one of the fast-paced ceremonies, several black graduates were physically rushed across the stage by a faculty graduation marshal while they attempted to perform their fraternity's "stroll," a modified version of the organization's dance, while receiving their diploma. For many black fraternities and sororities, the stroll is tradition. Many black students said that white students were never treated that way when they celebrated their achievement.

Black University of Florida graduates were forcibly and physically rushed off stage while celebrating their graduation. Apparently, white students who celebrated in different ways were not treated in the same unfair fashion. https://t.co/joqgUQZNaS

— Lawyers' Committee (@LawyersComm) May 9, 2018

"That really unfortunate ceremony was a result of the reality that we were trying to do too much at our ceremonies … In May, we did 10 ceremonies in four days, back to back to back to back," McBride said. "Unfortunately, that May incident was a product of worrying too much about efficiency, and then that was misconstrued by a faculty member."

At the time, Kent Fuchs, university president, apologized for what happened and the faculty marshal was placed on administrative leave while university officials conduct a review of the incident. While many large universities follow a two-ceremony format, students say the change is the wrong response to what happened in May.

Anthony Rojas -- a University of Florida masters student who started a petition to reinstate the original graduation format that has garnered nearly 10,000 signatures -- didn't buy McBride's reasoning.

"In reality, it was the UF staff, university administration, and the university president that acted in a manner inconsistent with what this university stands for," Rojas wrote about the May incident. "UF officials were not properly trained on how to treat graduates of all backgrounds with respect, and as a result, they inappropriately handled graduates celebrating their hard-earned accomplishment."

The petition cites a number of additional reasons to keep the old graduation format, such as the added financial and scheduling stress put on families to accommodate two ceremonies, students' right to have their moment walking across the stage at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center, where graduation is typically held, and the fact that the university didn't solicit any student input for the change.

"Unfortunately there was never a survey done, student opinions were never asked," Rojas said. "One thing that angers us is them thinking they know what best. When it comes to celebrating students, students should have some input about what they want."

McBride confirmed that no students were involved in or consulted about the change.

Other petition-signers gave their own reasons for protesting the new format. One student signed "because I'm a first [generation] student who wants a real graduation ceremony" and a parent wrote "I'm signing so my son can experience a true Gator graduation ceremony."

Kristen Sandsted, a senior at the university, wrote an op-ed for the university's independent student newspaper to express her concerns.

"I think of the students who are the first in their families to receive a college education. The students who are the first to graduate college fully paid for by scholarships. The students who have fought and are still fighting to be seen and appreciated in this country. The students who have fought and are still fighting terrible battles with mental illness, not knowing if they'd make it up to that stage. The students whose families need nothing more than to see the glowing face of their graduate out in front of them, to ease the painful memories of the family members who could not be there beside them," she wrote. "For those students, it is so much more than a stage."

After the fall graduation ceremony in December, the university will review the new format and decide whether to use it again in the spring.

"The fall, the December ceremony, is sort of the wild card because it's somewhere in the middle, it's much bigger than August and much smaller than May," McBride said, making the ceremony a good test candidate.

She said she understood why students were upset, but thinks that soon two ceremonies will become the "new normal."

"Change is really hard, especially when you have something that you have had in your head, pictured what it's going to be. I think that's true for all of us, for a lot of things," she said. "In a year from now, two years from now, do I think that what we're doing will be the new normal? It will be the new normal."

Graduation dates on the website have been updated to include the second ceremonies, and the university published a press release in August about the changes. Students will be formally notified via email next week.

"I think once we get past this sort of fear of the change and the unknown and the newness, these students will be part of a new tradition at UF, and that's really exciting," McBride said.

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German universities pacifism is challenged by new government efforts

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 07:00

At the end of last month, Germany launched a new "cyber agency" to foster the technologies needed to keep the country safe in the digital sphere.

Likened to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (although with a fraction of the budget), the idea is that the body will work closely with universities and businesses, commissioning research in promising areas such as quantum computing encryption, for example. Overseen by the defense and interior ministries, once fully up and running, it should have an annual outlay of €40 million to €50 million ($46 million to $58 million).

But there's one problem.

In many countries, the military works hand in glove with universities -- the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's 75-acre Lincoln Lab, for example, works on everything from ballistic missile defense to laser weapons with a $1 billion annual budget.

Yet in Germany, many universities are sworn to avoid military research altogether.

About 60 have signed up to the "civil clause": a commitment not to do research for military purposes, according to Klaus Boehnke, a professor of social science methodology, psychology and methods at Jacobs University in Bremen, an expert on the clause and a self-described pacifist. Five of the country's 16 states have also embedded the civil clause into law.

The idea spread from Japan after World War II, Boehnke explained, as universities atoned for their role in helping aggressive militaries in the 1930s. "It is an expression of the sentiment: 'never again,'" he said. Some Danish institutions have also adopted it, he added.

The number of institutions adopting the civil clause has exploded in recent years: close to 50 signed up in the period 2011-15, according to Boehnke's research. This has been driven by a realization that funding from defense departments -- particularly in the U.S. -- for ostensibly civilian causes, actually has military applications.

In 2013, for example, there was an outcry when it emerged that German universities had taken more than $10 million from the U.S. Department of Defense since 2010. Even innocent-sounding projects can take on a military meaning; one study of desert locusts was ultimately intended to help the U.S. improve drone technology.

The upsurge in universities taking the civil clause has been driven by students' unions, not faculty, observers believe. Students have pushed through the clause as German foreign policy has changed and the army has begun once again to be deployed abroad in places such as Afghanistan and the Baltic states, said Carlo Masala, a professor of international politics at the Bundeswehr University Munich.

These clauses potentially cause problems for the country's new defense efforts. If there is a public fuss made by students' unions or other critics, universities' civil clauses could stop them working with bodies such as the new cyber agency, said Boehnke.

Masala agreed that the clauses could exclude certain university specialists from the agency's research. But much German research was conducted outside universities, he pointed out; organizations such as the applied-research Fraunhofer institutes would "take advantage of the situation and get the funding," he said.

Besides, the government had also invested heavily in alternatives. Last year, it founded an internet security center at Masala's university. "I like the civil clause because this means more money for my research," he joked. "My competitors are out."

Adding a further layer of complexity, the German military actually has its own, dedicated universities, founded in the 1970s: in addition to Masala's institution in Munich, there is the Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg, founded to make an officer career more attractive by providing a broader qualification that can be used outside the military.

A spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Defense stressed that the civil clause was the "exclusive responsibility of every single university. We respect this clause totally." Whether it would prevent researchers cooperating with the new agency was a matter for universities, the ministry said.

Ultimately, civil clauses are just another part of the wider, fraught debate over whether Germany, still intensely nervous of anything that could appear militaristic, should have a more "normal" relationship with its armed forces.

Masala saw the civil clause as being "absurd" in some cases -- even research into treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder to help soldiers, for example, would be blocked, he argued, as "students' unions would oppose this." The clauses reflect a "strange relationship between part of society and the armed forces," he said.

But, for Boehnke, the civil clauses are actually much flimsier than they might seem. Without external pressure to enforce them by calling out researchers taking defense money, they exist only "on paper," he said.

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Trump administration will use more expansive definition of anti-Semitism in ways that critics say limit free speech

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 07:00

The Trump administration has made free speech on college campuses a signature issue. Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned last year that college campuses were becoming echo chambers "of political correctness and homogenous thought."

But civil liberties groups have long warned that a new definition of anti-Semitism quietly adopted by the Education Department would stifle speech on campuses.

Kenneth Marcus, the department's assistant secretary for civil rights, wrote in a letter last month reopening a previously dismissed complaint of anti-Jewish discrimination that the Office for Civil Rights would begin using a more expansive definition of anti-Semitism supported by many pro-Israel groups. The New York Times first reported the letter Tuesday.

The definition is one that Marcus himself had advocated for before joining the department this year. It includes arguments against the existence of the Israeli state or double standards applied to Israel "not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation" as examples of potential anti-Semitism. Marcus also wrote that the term "Zionist" -- a political label denoting support for creation of the Jewish state -- could be used as code for anti-Semitic discrimination.

The new definition has been hailed by some Jewish organizations who support the state of Israel. But civil liberties organizations, Palestinian rights groups and liberal Jewish groups say it would lead to a suppression of free speech, in particular criticism of Israel or advocacy for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement.

Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the department, said the Office for Civil Rights examines the factual circumstances of each complaint to determine whether discrimination based on race, ethnicity or national origin occurred.

"OCR vigorously protects the Title VI rights of students who may be targeted for harassment based on their membership in groups that exhibit both ethnic and religious characteristics, including Jewish students, but OCR does not predetermine the nature of conduct or speech that might be the subject of a Title VI investigation," she said.

The new definition of anti-Semitism was already being used at the State Department. Some public colleges in recent years have considered adopting the standard for their own campuses. Lawmakers have also made several bipartisan attempts in recent years to have the Education Department "take into consideration" the State Department definition. At the same time, colleges and universities often host groups that advocate for the Israel boycott in ways that violate the State Department definition, and most legal experts have said that public colleges would be on shaky ground to bar such groups on their campuses.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has written that the new definition threatens First Amendment-protected speech on campus and has called the State Department definition "problematically vague."

"Synchronizing the Department of Education's review of alleged Title VI violations with this unbounded definition places campus speech rights at risk," wrote Will Creeley, FIRE's senior vice president of legal and public advocacy, earlier this year.

FIRE's survey of campus speech codes has been cited by Sessions, who attacked the free speech climate on college campuses in a speech at Georgetown Law Center last year.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said at a CPAC event earlier this year that the U.S. has "seen more and more examples on college campuses in recent years of shutting down free and open expression and debate around ideas."

But Dima Khalidi, the founder and director of Palestine Legal, said OCR has previously understood the distinction between First Amendment-protected speech and discrimination on college campuses. She said Marcus is destroying that distinction in favor of a pro-Israel agenda.

"This is where these debates are supposed to happen. This is where these conversations are supposed to happen. To have the government intervene or declare a whole range of political speech out of bounds is exactly what the First Amendment is designed to prevent," she said.

J-Street, a liberal Jewish group that opposes the BDS movement, said in a statement that the Trump administration is essentially equating criticism of Zionism with anti-Semitism and said the definition being adopted by the OCR was never intended to be applied on college campuses. Ken Stern, who authored the definition, opposed the Congressional legislation that would have codified the State Department definition into law.

Jason Stanley, a professor of philosophy at Yale University, on Wednesday spoke to those free speech concerns on Twitter.

If I were someone incensed by threats to free speech on campus, I would wake up this morning outraged by the Department of Ed's decision to make expressions of anti-Zionism into civil rights violations punishable by loss of federal funding.

-- Jason Stanley (@jasonintrator) September 12, 2018

The American Jewish Council praised the new definition adopted by the department and said it is an important tool in identifying anti-Semitism in its various forms.

"It informs (colleges) that you could have something that maybe at first glance looks like just a political action, but might be a mask for anti-Semitic action," said Andrew Baker, director of International Jewish Affairs at the American Jewish Committee. "I don't think you leave your reason and judgment at the door when you have this definition at hand. The whole idea is to help you, not hinder you."

Marcus outlined OCR's adoption of the new anti-Semitism definition in a letter notifying the Zionist Organization of America that it would reopen the group's 2011 civil rights complaint of anti-Jewish discrimination at Rutgers University. At issue in the complaint was an event at the university's Brunswick, New Jersey campus where an outside pro-Palestinian group charged a $5 fee after the event was initially advertised as free to the public.

The Zionist organization alleged the fee was applied selectively to Jewish and pro-Israel students. But the Obama administration closed the case in 2014 finding no evidence the fees were discriminatory or that the university mishandled the incident.

In a statement on its website, the Zionist Organization of America called the Marcus decision "groundbreaking."

"This definition accurately recognizes that anti-Israelism, extreme Israel bashing and anti-Zionism may well be a camouflage for anti-Semitism," the group said.

ZOA has accused J-Street of "siding with Israel's enemies." And J-Street in turn has referred to the organization, which hosted white nationalist Steve Bannon last year, as an "ultra-right group."

DeVos and the Trump administration have frequently criticized the Obama administration for not pursuing proper notice and comment before introducing sweeping guidelines on campus sexual misconduct.

But the change in Office for Civil Rights policy was made with no public notice other than the letter to ZOA. And the department did not say whether guidance would be forthcoming for colleges although DeVos has expressed a distaste for issuing federal guidance documents.

Peter McDonough, general counsel for the American Council on Education, said the new approach at OCR appeared inconsistent with many of the free speech concerns expressed by the department elsewhere.

"It's a curiosity as to why the current Department of Education that is concerned about chilling speech would reopen a case where it was found, after a pretty robust investigation, what was at issue was essentially speech and discordant expressions between students," he said. "It's a head scratcher to me as to why this OCR is taking issue with a finding after a pretty fulsome investigation by its own folks years ago."

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Clarks Summit University refuses to let gay student return

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 07:00

A man who dropped out of a Christian institution 15 years ago will not be allowed to return after officials found out he was gay, saying he did not "adhere to biblical truths."

Gary Campbell, 35, left Clarks Summit University in 2003. He'd enrolled in 2001, knowing he was gay but believing he could change his sexuality, he has said in previous interviews. In an attempt to save money, he dropped out just six credits shy of earning his bachelor's degree and instead tried to attend a two-year college. But Campbell never graduated. Instead he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, but struggled with alcoholism -- he said he was discharged after being caught driving drunk on a military base.

This fall, after 19 months of sobriety, he attempted to rejoin Clarks Summit, part of his plan to stay clean, according to news reports. The university, formerly known as Baptist Bible College, is located in northeastern Pennsylvania, about eight miles north of Scranton.

Campbell saved money for tuition and books. Friends and family donated $700 for expenses, The Scranton Times-Tribune reported. But the university contacted him in late August and told him that because he is gay, he is no longer eligible to attend. Campbell wrote to the university to appeal the decision, but was denied.

"I am done playing nice and I am done being respectful to a school that I have always given the benefit of the doubt to but for some reason I cannot get the same favor in return," Campbell wrote in a Facebook status last month.

Clarks Summit forbids same-sex romantic and sexual relationships as a part of its stance on "sexual purity," according to the university's student handbook.

"As a Christian college, we expect all students to act in a way that is consistent with our biblical belief system. We have always clearly stated those beliefs and have exercised the freedom to uphold our faith," the university said in a statement to Inside Higher Ed.

"To prepare students for worldwide service opportunities, CSU clearly affirms biblical sexuality. We clearly communicate to all prospective students that we adhere to biblical truths, and expect them to do the same. That is part of what has made CSU a successful educator for more than 80 years. We would be happy to assist any former or prospective student who does not choose to agree with those faith standards to find another school in order to finish a degree."

The university did not respond to a question about how administrators unearthed Campbell's sexuality. The statement said that officials do not discuss individual students' enrollment decisions.

His story has inspired a hashtag: #LetGaryGraduate, under which online commentators have urged the institution to let Campbell finish his degree.

While Clarks Summit does accept federal funding and has agreed to comply with the anti-discrimination law, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, many evangelical institutions seek exemptions to parts of Title IX under the premise that the law violates their religious convictions, mostly surrounding discrimination related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

A Clarks Summit official did not say whether the university has asked for or secured a Title IX exemption, saying it was "not a Title IX issue."

A university attorney provided the following statement:

"No Supreme Court, Third Circuit, or Middle District of Pennsylvania court has reinterpreted Title IX's ban on sex discrimination to reach sexual orientation.

Clarks Summit University is eligible for the religious exemption Congress created when it passed Title IX. The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, which enforces Title IX, has stated that "[a]n institution's exempt status is not dependent upon its submission of a written statement to OCR."

The U.S. Department of Education no longer publishes a list of institutions that have sought the exemption -- LGBTQ advocates have warned that not making the list public would encourage more discrimination against queer students. In February 2017, the Trump administration rescinded Title IX guidance related to discrimination of transgender students.

Neighboring Lackawanna College, a private college in Scranton, has reached out to Campbell to try to help him complete his degree there, the Times-Tribune reported. It wasn't immediately clear whether he had accepted the offer.

"We wish Mr. Campbell all the best. CSU values education and we are pleased that he has found a college to help him continue his educational pursuits," Clarks Summit said in a statement.

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Cornell MBA students vote for grade nondisclosure in recruitment

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 07:00

Students at Cornell University's Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management voted for grade nondisclosure, effectively immediately, after years of agitating for a policy similar to those in place at other highly selective M.B.A. programs.

Under the new policy, one-, two-year, and Johnson Cornell Tech M.B.A. students can't disclose their grades to recruiters until they've been offered a full-time job. That means grade-point averages, but also individual course, assignment and exam grades.

Exceptions include dual degree students, such as those enrolled in a joint law program, and those applying for jobs abroad or in nonprofits or government. Fellowship applicants also may disclose their grades.

Cornell has previously mulled grade nondisclosure, to no avail. The recent decision followed a year-long strategic study, initiated by the Johnson Student Council, of how grade nondisclosure might affect academics and recruitment. The committee charged with preparing the report recommended putting it to a student referendum. A vote was held this month.

"We pride ourselves on our academic rigor and on graduating students who excel on multiple dimensions," Vishal Gaur, associate dean for M.B.A. programs, said in an announcement. "So we worked closely with students to find ways to balance Johnson's learning goals with recruitment needs."

He added, "We hope that grade non-disclosure will encourage students to take more academic risks and think holistically about their education, personal development, leadership and the impact they want to have in the future."

Via email, Gaur declined to share the internal report. He said he couldn't disclose vote counts, either, only that 90 percent of students in the three affected programs participated in the referendum and showed "overwhelming" support for nondisclosure.

Cornell says that it's asked recruiters to "respect" the student vote and refrain from asking about grades, and that it doesn't expect recruiting to suffer. Indeed, businesses continue to pursue, early and often, M.B.A. students at Yale and Stanford Universities and the University of Pennsylvania, among other peer institutions whose business schools have adopted nondisclosure policies.

Pennsylvania's Wharton School was the first to adopt nondisclosure, in 1994, by an overwhelming student referendum in favor. Harvard University was next, in 1998, though it adopted a policy applying only to on-campus recruitment. The policy has since been reversed, to optional disclosure. By 2007, according to one study, five highly selective business schools had some sort of nondisclosure policy. Today, about a dozen such institutions have some such policy.

To that point, recruiters generally say that it's easy to find strong candidates based on other available details, such as interview performance, internships, business experience, extracurriculars and honors.

The original idea behind grade nondisclosure parallels the rationale behind pass-fail policies: exact grades aren't the be-all-and-end-all of success, and experience and experimentation matter. A particular concern in business programs is student competitiveness, which can hinder teamwork and therefore preparation for a field that relies on it.

Over all, the balance of these policies' use has now tipped, such that many students now say attending a rigorous institution without a nondisclosure policy puts them at a disadvantage in terms of recruiting.

Victoria Wilmarth, a recent Johnson M.B.A. who served on the policy study committee as a student, said she thought that nondisclosure would help encourage teamwork, collaborative learning and even academic risk-taking.

"This vote helps bring Johnson's academic experiences into alignment with the school's values," she said in a statement.

While academic risk-taking and increased collaboration are reasons that numerous institutions have adopted nondisclosure policies, these policies have their critics, too -- especially faculty members who say that nondisclosure encourages underperformance.

A 2011 study of nondisclosure policies published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, for example, found that self-reported levels of academic effort had dropped in relation to disclosure, and that that challenged the idea that students were using it as an opportunity to challenge themselves. A Wharton dean also reported that time spent on coursework had dropped 22 percent in a four-year period after nondisclosure was adopted, based on student surveys, according to the study.

The NBER paper also questioned why only elite programs adopted these policies, since distinguishing oneself at the top of one's class was still important at lower-tier programs. Of course, recruiters tend to look at highly selective program completion as a qualifier in and of itself.

Reached Wednesday, several Johnson faculty members who were not involved in the study said that they had no strong feelings about the change, good or bad.

Stijn M.J. van Osselaer, S.C. Johnson Professor of Marketing and associate dean for academic affairs, said he had "no strong opinion" about the change, which he also experienced as a professor at his prior institution, the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business.

"Didn't seem to make much of a difference for me as a professor either way," he said.

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St. John's College reduces tuition to increase students' access

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 07:00

When St. John's College became the latest higher ed institution to announce a tuition reset this week, it may have seemed to be simply joining the fray of private liberal arts colleges ostensibly reducing the costs of attendance.

Rather than joining the trend that some critics dismiss as a misleading pricing gimmick, however, St. John's administrators insisted they were bucking the trend by making the college more affordable and accessible -- not in theory, but in actual practice.

They say the price cut to $35,000 from $52,000 will result in a hefty loss of revenue that the college -- which has campuses in Santa Fe, N.M., and Annapolis, Md. -- plans to make up with a $300 million fund-raising campaign. Unlike many colleges that have reset their tuition, significant numbers of St. John's students will actually see a meaningful reduction in what they pay, with donations designed to fill the resulting gap in revenue.

"Yes, there will be a loss in revenue from student-derived revenue," said Mark Roosevelt, college-wide president of St. John's College and president of the Santa Fe campus. He added that the college received approximately 70 percent of its budget from student-derived revenue in the past but by 2017 the percentage had fallen to less than 40 percent from student-derived revenue.

"We believe the days when students and families could pay exorbitant tuition prices are gone and they aren’t coming back—nor should they—and we are placing philanthropy at the center of our financial model rather than student-derived revenue to ensure we remain strong financially as a college," he said. 

Roosevelt said they are moving the college away from a so-called "prestige pricing and a tuition-centered model" and adopting a new "philanthropy-centered model" that will reduce annual tuition for undergraduate students beginning in the 2019-20 academic year. College officials say the true cost of providing a St. John's education would require a $60,000 tuition.

"This got to a tipping point," said Roosevelt. "Private colleges have increased their tuition 157 percent in the past two decades, which is three times the rate of inflation. So you think are we going to go to $60,000, then $70,000, then $80,000? It just didn't feel right for it to keep growing. You've got to find balance. I don't know if we found it but it just felt right. We still recognize that $35,000 is still a lot of money and if that's too much for some families we have generous, need-based scholarships. But we hope that people see the space between $35,000 and $52,000 as a very big space."

He said even St. John's alumni think the college is expensive. A recent survey of alumni found that 73 percent said the college's tuition was "too high" and 77 percent said they could not afford to send their child there at the current price of $52,000, he said.

Roosevelt also hopes the college sets an example for other institutions considering tuition resets by adding "a little oomph to the question of prestige pricing and creating a little more momentum for other colleges considering making changes."

He noted recent announcements of new pricing models by Wells College, in New York. and Oglethorpe University, in Georgia.

"I think it's the beginning of some movement," he said.

Some education pricing experts are skeptical of tuition resets and say they generally don't work because most institutions use them to attract more students to raise the overall amount of tuition they collect, not to cut the net price of what students and their families typically pay after colleges lower the sticker price by offering grants and scholarships. The impact of resets on actual tuition bills is blunted by corresponding reductions in financial aid offered by the colleges; few students are typically paying anywhere near the listed price.

At St. John's, 99 percent of the freshmen class are receiving either merit scholarships or need-based financial aid from the college, according to data provided by the college. Seventy-seven percent of them are receiving need-based financial aid from the college. In all, the 2018 freshman class received $8,058,553 in scholarships and 89 percent of it was need-based aid. What’s more, 69 percent of incoming freshman in the 2018-2019 academic year received a tuition discount and 24 percent of incoming freshman were recipients of Pell Grants, a need-based subsidy provided by the federal government. 

The new funding model being used by St. John's, the third oldest college in the country and a unique and prestigious institution with small classes, no-frills campuses, and a curriculum focused exclusively on the so-called "Great Books," is different. Administrators say it places "extended philanthropy at the center of the model."

St. John's capital campaign, which has already raised $183 million in commitments, is expected to double the college's endowment by 2023 and help it better meet the needs of future students, according to the announcement.

Bill Hall, founder and president of Applied Policy Research Inc., an enrollment and pricing advising firm, said he was impressed by St. John's decision.

"The important thing here is the outright price cut," he said. "If you don't make the explicit assumption that you're going to other sources than tuition, I don't think you're being realistic. It's a solid commitment that is going to shift the responsibility from families to the donors."

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New data on gender gaps in benefits of nondegree credentials

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 07:00

New America has released an analysis of federal data on nondegree credentials to get a better sense of gender gaps in the labor-market returns for certificates, industry certifications and occupational licenses. The results add new evidence that men reap most of the benefits from these increasingly popular forms of credentials.

The U.S. Department of Education in 2016 began collecting nationally representative data on work-experience programs and nondegree credentials, including apprenticeships and internships.

The survey's final results, released last February, show that 27 percent of adults held at least one certificate, certification or license. And these nondegree credentials generally tend to pay off in the job market.

However, the analysis from New America found that "these top-level findings mask significant differences in the value of nondegree credentials when broken out by gender and occupational area," particularly for people who do not hold a bachelor's degree.

Men with nondegree credentials are more likely to be employed and earn substantially more than women who hold the same type of credential, the think tank found. Men also are much more likely to earn the credentials that pay best and to have their employer foot the bill for the training and education.

"Women appear to pay more for -- and get less from -- nondegree credentials, particularly if they do not have a bachelor's degree," the report said.

For example, almost half (46 percent) of women who held a nondegree credential but no four-year degree made less than $30,000, according to the analysis, compared to a quarter of men. And 17 percent of men with a nondegree credential but no bachelor's earned more than $75,000, compared to 5 percent of women.

Gender segregation and wide variation in pay across career and vocational fields (where nondegree credentials are most relevant) are key drivers of the problem.

Previous research has found severe gender gaps in some fields. Women hold only 29 percent of IT jobs with annual pay of at least $35,000, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, and 7 percent of those in advanced manufacturing, as well as just 3 percent in construction.

The analysis from New America helps fill in that picture.

Men hold most of the jobs in occupations involving computers, construction, repair, science, architecture and engineering. Women, however, are more likely to work in education, at libraries, in administrative support or in health care.

The report drilled down on data in the 10 fields just mentioned, which employ 41 percent of adults. Jobs where men tend to congregate pay much better, according to the data.

"The earnings associated with all types of nondegree credentials were substantially higher for individuals in male-dominated than female-dominated occupations," according to the report. "The data also suggest that male-dominated professions require fewer qualifications for entry or advancement."

For example, 24 percent of workers in computer occupations who hold a certificate but not a bachelor's made more than $75,000 per year, New America said, compared to 5 percent of workers in healthcare occupations and 2 percent in administrative support occupations. Likewise, 78 percent of workers in education and library occupations with a certificate but no bachelor's earned less than $30,000, compared to 4 percent of certificate holders without a bachelor's in science, architecture and engineering.

Similar results emerged for certifications and licenses.

For example, twice as many people with one of those nondegree credentials but no bachelor's who work in computer occupations earned more than $75,000 a year compared to workers in healthcare (36 percent and 18 percent, respectively).

Men also are less likely to take on debt to pay for their nondegree credentials.

"More than two-thirds (69 percent) of women at the sub-baccalaureate level prepared for their most important nondegree credential by enrolling in a college, technical school or trade school program -- all potentially costly methods of preparation," New America said. "In contrast, more than half of men at the sub-baccalaureate level had access to classes or training from a company, association, union or private instructor to prepare for their most important nondegree credential."

The report cites federal data showing that, among people who earned a certificate program in 2016 and did not already have a bachelor's degree, 73 percent of women took on student loans to pay for their credentials, compared to 56 percent of men.

State-mandated licenses or certifications could be reinforcing labor-market inequality, according to the analysis, which also calls for more and better data collection on nondegree credentials and student outcomes.

The findings are relevant to current federal policy discussions, New America said. They suggest that women are more likely to shell out money for risky credentials as the Trump administration has dropped program-level regulations aimed at career preparation programs -- the so-called gainful employment rule.

New America also said the federal government should proceed with caution as it mulls whether to deregulate sub-degree and alternative postsecondary education programs while also potentially directing more Pell Grant money to them in the form of short-term grants.

"As policy makers consider whether to extend eligibility for federal student financial aid (grants and loans) to short-term certificate programs, they should consider whether they can adequately protect students from providers of certificates that have little or no labor market value," the report said.

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Administrators, students and activists take stock three years after 2015 Missouri protests

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 07:00

Kelsie Wilkins was a freshman at the University of Missouri at Columbia in the fall of 2015, when protests about the racial climate on campus vaulted the state flagship into the national spotlight.

Several times that fall, black students reported having racial slurs hurled at them. They criticized what they believed to be administrators’ inadequate response to those incidents. In October, protesters from a group called Concerned Student 1950 -- a reference to the year the university admitted its first black student -- blocked a car carrying the University of Missouri System’s president, Tim Wolfe, during a homecoming parade. Wolfe did not get out of the car to speak to protesters, and he later issued an apology for the way he handled the incident. He would continue to struggle to communicate with protesters.

Concerned Student 1950 issued a list of demands including Wolfe’s removal as president. A graduate student, Jonathan Butler, started a hunger strike in early November. Days later, black players on the university’s football team said they would stop taking part in activities until Wolfe was removed. Protesters camped out on campus, infamously leading to clashes with members of the media. On Nov. 9, Wolfe and the Columbia campus’s chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin, resigned.

Soon after the leaders stepped down, several threats swept across the campus. Wilkins remembers one in particular, a posting to the anonymous social media platform Yik Yak threatening to “shoot every black person I see.” Police arrested a man who would eventually plead guilty to making a terroristic threat, but tensions were still high on campus.

Wilkins recalls attending a sociology class two days afterward, an 8 a.m. lecture normally attended by about 200 students. Roughly 50 students were in class that day, all sitting in the first few rows. The professor looked up every time someone walked into the room.

In the middle of class, the professor stopped to say he was struggling with the situation. No one should stop students from getting an education, Wilkins remembers him saying. But since he was a black professor, he worried he was putting students in harm's way. He asked students to let him know how they were feeling in the upcoming weeks.

As a first-year student, Wilkins was thinking about how much longer she had on campus -- weeks until winter break, and then three and a half years after that. But having a class with that professor helped.

“Being in a class with a professor who looked like me, I could relate,” she said. “My friends could go in and talk to him and be like, ‘This is crazy. What is this?’”

Wilkins, a journalism major, went on to become the president of the Legion of Black Collegians at Missouri. She agreed to revisit that charged time and to review the changes that have taken place since, but said that she was speaking strictly as a student and not as the president of the organization.

“We are the last bulk of students that truly understand what it was like to either be a part of the movement, be allies of the movement, activists, advocates or just people who watched it occur,” Wilkins said. “I think these are things that we, especially students of color on this campus, grapple with on the daily. What has changed? What hasn’t changed? What do we want to change?”

On one hand, it's easy to list the ways the university and system have been revamped. New leaders are in place at the system office and on the Columbia campus. The university system hired its first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer in 2016. Intense outreach efforts have started to try to rebuild relationships with constituencies across the state of Missouri.

It's also simple to list the ways the university has struggled from a financial, enrollment and public relations perspective. Both university and system slogged through rounds of cost-cutting. Total enrollment at Columbia fell by almost 13 percent, or 4,500 students, between the fall of 2015 and the fall of 2017. The institution continues to draw criticism both from those who believe it mishandled the events of 2015 by giving protesters too much leeway and from others who feel it could do more to change in the protests’ wake.

Far more difficult is saying whether the university and system will ever be healed after some of the most divisive issues facing American society were laid bare on its campus. There can be little doubt that it has become a focal point in the political arguments, media narratives and institutional policy questions playing out across the country -- during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign Russian bots sought to spread false information about what happened at Mizzou in 2015, according to researchers. Politicians, including then candidate Donald Trump, have piled on to the university. Last year, a former faculty member and lecturer at the university penned a column saying no real change will be possible until the university stops viewing the issues at hand through the lens of damage control.

“There is a contest over the narrative in higher education more generally that folks used our story to move,” said Ben Trachtenberg, an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Law who chaired its Faculty Council on University Policy from 2015 to 2017. Mizzou is now being used as an example of a national debate over whether universities are hostile to free speech or open to a broad diversity of unpopular views, he said.

It isn't the only way Mizzou in 2015 became a focal point for broader societal tensions.

“Public universities have a mission that makes them particularly susceptible to this tension,” Trachtenberg said. “You have completely legitimate demands for greater racial inclusion and racial justice and the potential for backlash from taxpayers who fund the university.”

The university's administration broke under the weight of those racial tensions, student protests and leaders who struggled and stumbled as they tried to respond. Today, as new leaders try to put the pieces back together, their successes and failures remain under a large, public microscope.

A Breakdown in Leadership

Trachtenberg published a paper this summer evaluating the details surrounding the 2015 protests and the ways the university mishandled the situation. In the paper, which is forthcoming in the Kentucky Law Journal, he argued that the University of Missouri isn’t unique among U.S. higher education institutions in struggling with race relations but that a set of leadership failures combined to make bad results unavoidable. He also argued other universities can learn from Missouri’s mistakes.

The problems Trachtenberg identified began with acrimony between the system’s former president, Wolfe, and the former chancellor at Columbia, Loftin, as well as deans who disliked Loftin. When Wolfe and Loftin should have been coordinating their response to student protesters and creating a strategy for diversity and inclusion, the system president was instead considering whether to fire the chancellor, Trachtenberg wrote. While students protested on the quad and complained of being ignored by university leaders, deans in Columbia were “in open revolt against their boss.”

Although the situation required quick action, the university and its leaders moved slowly, Trachtenberg wrote. Top leaders did not speak with a unified voice on important matters, while members of the Board of Curators and the system president’s office did not make use of resources and information at hand. For example, Wolfe did not have administrators in place who could communicate informally with protesters, and he had discouraged curators from speaking with employees on campuses, cutting off important lines of communication.

Trachtenberg’s paper serves as an effort to dispel what he sees as myths about the 2015 protests, an attempt to offer advice to student protesters and a set of lessons for university leaders. In the future, campus leaders will be expected to provide enough progress on racial justice to avoid the sort of events that rocked Missouri in 2015, he wrote.

“Minority students must maintain the ability to credibly threaten costly unrest, even if they -- like workers who know the strike fund has precious little money -- generally have no desire to occupy lawns, boycott games, or otherwise miss out on their normal college experiences,” Trachtenberg concluded. “Meanwhile, university leaders must have the backbone needed to say no to unreasonable demands, and even to say ‘not now’ to some perfectly reasonable demands that cannot be satisfied in this year’s budget. Yet administrators must also strive to say yes when they can, even when it seems hard and when other priorities intrude. They can tell student activists to ‘wait’ only for so long.”

Not everyone agrees with Trachtenberg’s takeaways, or his characterizations of officials’ actions. Loftin says his administration engaged students on the issue of racism soon after a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who shot and killed teenager Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.

During a public forum after that decision, Loftin was surprised to hear students talking not about Ferguson or Michael Brown, he said during a recent telephone interview. They talked instead about their own experiences at the University of Missouri, their own anxiety and their own fear.

“One after the other, it was incredible,” he said. “I sat there and listened, and I took copious notes on my iPad during the meeting because I just couldn’t digest all of this. It was such an incredible outpouring of emotion from these students. It really opened my eyes for the first time. I’d been blinded.”

Administrators went on to hold town halls and smaller meetings through 2015 with students, including those who organized protests, according to Loftin. He tried to make clear to students that administrators shared most of their goals, he said. In October 2015, the university announced that all entering freshmen would be required to take part in online diversity training.

But students were not happy with the speed at which changes could take place, according to Loftin. Concerned Student 1950 wanted black faculty and staff members to make up 10 percent of Missouri’s employees by 2017-18. That kind of hiring doesn’t happen overnight, said the former chancellor.

Students didn’t feel Loftin took their concerns seriously, according to Maxwell Little, a founding member of Concerned Student 1950 who was a graduate student in 2015 and went on to earn his master’s degree in educational leadership and policy analysis from the university.

“We just kept having meetings after meetings and forums, and nothing was happening,” Little said. “At the end of the day, they were all just talk.”

The faculty was not prepared for the escalating concerns about race and racism, according to Craig Roberts, a professor in the university’s division of plant sciences who chaired the Faculty Council from 2013 to 2015. Faculty members were majority white and did not have a good grip on racism or racial discrimination, he said.

In retrospect, Roberts would do things differently.

“When you see students who are starting to express group anxieties and even pain, that has got to be moved to the top of the list and addressed quickly,” he said. “Timing is important.”

Loftin called for continued reflection and for leaders to learn from the events. Today, he remains a professor in Missouri’s physics and astronomy department.

“I do care about this university,” Loftin said. “I think it needs to continue to examine itself. I think there are still serious issues here if you dig down beneath the surface.”

‘We are Addressing the Issues’

The University of Missouri’s Board of Curators appointed Mun Choi as the system’s president in late 2016. Choi, who had been provost and executive vice president at the University of Connecticut, officially started on March 1, 2017. Then in August of that year, Alexander Cartwright became chancellor at the University of Missouri at Columbia. He had been provost and executive vice chancellor at the State University of New York.

In contrast to accounts of the broken relationship between Loftin and Wolfe, the new leaders at the university system and its flagship campus say they’ve prioritized open lines of communication with one another.

Listening to Missouri residents’ concerns, changing perceptions about the university and getting enrollment back on track have also been key priorities, Choi said.

Parents who visited the Columbia campus were saying they were surprised how nice it looked given the violence that occurred in 2015. But the protests were peaceful, and no violence took place. University leaders theorize people saw scenes of violence breaking out in Ferguson around the same time as tensions started escalating in Columbia and may have conflated the two sites, even though they are more than 100 miles away from each other.

“That was a perception that we had to address,” Choi said. “There was no violence on the campus and there was no property damage.”

Meanwhile, state lawmakers and alumni told administrators that the university no longer represented their values or the values predominant in the state of Missouri. Many felt leaders hadn’t been engaged enough with students and hadn’t taken action to prevent the protests from taking place, Choi said.

To rebuild trust throughout the state, the system turned to the University of Missouri Extension, a partnership of the university system's different campuses and the historically black public land-grant Lincoln University. In 2016, Marshall Stewart joined the extension as vice chancellor. He was formerly director of college leadership and strategy at the North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Since then, he has visited over 100 of Missouri’s 114 counties, he said. He’s listening and working to make sure residents feel comfortable sending their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, nieces and nephews to the university. Part of that outreach is letting state residents know the university wants to respond to challenges they face in their communities. It wants their ideas for agricultural research, development projects or other community priorities.

After polarizing racial protests, some might guess black and white Missourians would have different feelings about the university. But Stewart has heard a common narrative of frustration and uncertainty whether he is visiting a predominantly white part of the state or regions with larger African American populations, or large Latinx populations. Residents want the university to focus on issues such as growing the economy, work-force preparation and raising educational attainment, he said.

“You have to give some space for people to vent that information,” Stewart said. “Don’t get into a back-and-forth. I had, probably, a license to do that because I wasn’t here in 2015, so they gave me a little bit of a chance, and I’m very appreciative for that.”

Even if constituencies off campus may want the university to focus on work-force development, some on campus remain concerned about the racial climate. It is a priority, too, leaders say. They point to the creation of a program called Citizenship@Mizzou in 2016. It’s a two-part interactive program for incoming undergraduate students at Columbia designed to prepare them to think critically about a campus filled with people from diverse backgrounds.

“We continue to think about how we can expand a lot of those activities,” Cartwright said. “One of the compacts that we have is inclusive excellence. And we talk a lot about the need to diversify faculty and staff.”

Also in 2016, the university system hired Kevin McDonald as its first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer.

Discussions with students of color and activists have been important since many felt they hadn’t been engaged on campus in the past, McDonald said. Yet he was careful that the administration not be seen as controlling the conversation. Today, he says, he stays in touch with several members of Concerned Student 1950.

McDonald is frank about saying he was unsure about taking the job. But when he interviewed, he felt the community was committed to moving forward.

“I feel much better today than I did in June of 2016,” he said. “I think we have a tremendously engaged campus.”

Setting aside talk of engagement and changing perceptions, data show uneven demographic change at the Columbia campus. From 2015 to 2017, the portion of white faculty members declined from 74.8 percent to 72 percent. But the population of black and African American faculty members over all only inched up from 2.8 percent to 3.3 percent. Just 65 of the university’s 1,969 tenured, tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty were identified as black or African American in 2017 in a university data set.

About 22 percent of black faculty had tenure, and 42 percent were on tenure track. In comparison, about 44 percent of all faculty members had tenure, and 14 percent were on tenure track.

Meanwhile, African American students have fallen as a percentage of the Columbia campus’s total student population. African American students made up 7.2 percent of enrollment in 2015 but just 6.7 percent in 2017. Black or African American residents were about 11.8 percent of Missouri’s population in 2017, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

The university lost thousands of students overall in the years following the protests. In the fall of 2015, just over 27,800 undergraduates enrolled. Freshmen attending college for the first time numbered 6,191. Total enrollment counting graduate and professional students was just above 35,400.

In the fall of 2017, the campus enrolled about 23,800 undergraduates and 4,134 freshmen attending college for the first time. Total enrollment had dropped to 30,870 -- a decline of about 13 percent.

Early indicators show some enrollment markers creeping back up this year. The freshman class numbered nearly 4,700 students as of August, up 13 percent year over year.

Nonetheless, the recent enrollment declines have been particularly problematic because the university had been adding more students in order to help balance budgets in the face of declining state funding. In June of 2017, Choi laid out a series of budget cuts, employment eliminations and reallocations across the system. A year later, Cartwright announced the elimination of 185 positions and $45 million in costs as the University of Missouri sought to close a $49 million gap in the 2019 fiscal year’s budget.

Officials said this summer’s cuts were driven in large part by investing in such things as scholarships and graduate student support. But criticism still poured in, with a particularly scathing editorial in The Wall Street Journal arguing that “indulging protestors can be expensive,” and that “apparently fewer parents want to send their kids to a school where activism eclipses academics.”

That prompted the chair of the university system’s Board of Curators, David Steelman, to respond via a letter saying that the Journal was “perpetuating a narrative that erodes higher education.”

“Were mistakes made?” Steelman wrote. “Yes. Are the individuals responsible still leading MU? No. And obviously, the institution paid a price for those mistakes. But we have new leadership and have affirmed our commitment to free speech.”

Protests will happen at “any great university,” Steelman said in a recent telephone interview. But he said the national perception of the 2015 protests was inaccurate because much of the press coverage got it wrong.

“Almost all of the articles were written with an agenda or perspective in mind,” he said. “Either it was written by those individuals who wanted to write an article that Missouri had particular racial problems, or, on the other side of the philosophical fence, from a perspective that the University of Missouri was a leftist bastion that was run by the students.”

Steelman believes trust needs to be rebuilt between administrators and faculty, between different departments and between different colleges.

“My goal as board chairman is that when my tenure is done, I hope we have a faster, more nimble way of decision making, and I hope we have deeper trust throughout the university, internally and externally,” he said.

Students and activists, however, say not every change since 2015 has been positive. In 2017 the Columbia campus put in place revised protest policies that some saw as targeting tactics protesters used in 2015. Notably, the policy said camping was not permitted on university grounds except in certain circumstances.

“Really explore the protest policy,” said Little, a founding member of Concerned Student 1950. “What does that do to freedom of speech in higher education? What does that do to students’ right to assemble and to assemble effectively and to create change?”

Little said he would like to see the university come out with an antiracist policy or an anti-hate speech policy.

A university spokesman replied that the system affirmed its commitment to freedom of expression in 2017. He pointed to a statement saying in part that the university may restrict expression “that violates the law, falsely defames a specific individual, constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the university.”

The statement also says that freedom of expression does not “create a privilege to engage in discrimination.” It also says the university “may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not significantly disrupt the university’s ordinary activities.”

Speech policies and administrators’ actions in the wake of the protests remain a major point of concern for Little.

“I don’t think they reacted, necessarily, to move in a progressive manner to address issues of racial intolerance,” Little said. “I think the university is just trying to move forward without actually addressing the core issues that were brought up.”

Asked whether some parts of the institution were making good-faith efforts on initiatives such as hiring faculty members of color, Little declined to comment because he was not familiar with recent data. But Little said he knows McDonald has been working to recruit and retain faculty members of color throughout the university and that McDonald has worked on initiatives with St. Louis public schools to bring students of color to the University of Missouri.

“There are some great things going on,” Little said. “I just think they are not getting publicized.”

Choi maintains the university is taking the challenges head-on.

“We are addressing the issues,” he said. “We are not going to let up on our commitment to make sure that students, faculty and staff feel valued and included.”

So where, exactly, does that leave the University of Missouri in 2018? Even with new leaders, it remains a public lightning rod. Even after a slate of policy changes and new attention paid to student concerns, some still wonder how much has truly changed -- how much it is turning the page versus papering over issues.

Some university leaders are genuinely trying to put improvements in place, said Wilkins, the senior who remembered the protests in her freshman year. But students aren’t in the room for every decision, and earning student trust is hard.

No one party will ever be able to say with full authority whether the university has recovered or progressed enough. Students graduate. Administrators and board members turn over. Faculty members come and go, too, or move in and out of various leadership positions.

None of those parties has a monopoly on perceptions of the place, on the narrative.

“It’s always difficult to get the entire story of a movement because there are very few people who are there from the start to the finish,” Wilkins said.

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Wilson Center releases study on China's 'influence and interference' in U.S. higher ed

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 07:00

Concerns about Chinese government interference in American higher education seem to have become ubiquitous over the past year.

Lawmakers have lambasted universities for hosting Confucius Institutes, Chinese-government funded centers for Chinese language and culture education that they characterize as outposts for Chinese Communist Party propaganda or intelligence collection, and their complaints have prompted several of the institutes to close.

Congressional committees have held hearings about foreign espionage efforts to infiltrate U.S. higher education, with a focus on alleged efforts by China. The Trump administration in June moved to restrict the duration of visas for Chinese graduate students studying certain sensitive fields. Trump himself reportedly told a group of CEOs in August that “almost every student” from China in the U.S. is a spy.

Western scholarly publishers have blocked access to journal articles within mainland China to comply with government censors. And two new reports -- one a scholarly paper based on a survey, the other journalistic -- found that self-censorship is perceived to be a widespread problem in the China studies field, though the reasons cited for this vary.

It’s in this context that the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars released its report “A Preliminary Study of PRC Political Influence and Interference Activities in American Higher Education” (throughout the report the author uses the acronym for the People's Republic of China in favor of the adjective "Chinese"). The study, which is based largely on interviews of more than 180 people, including more than 100 professors, documents alleged attempts to infringe on academic freedom at U.S. universities on the part of both Chinese embassy officials and “a small number” of individual Chinese students over the past two decades.

The study, authored by Anastasya Lloyd-Damnjanovic, a Schwarzman Associate at the Wilson Center for 2017-18, concludes that "over the past two decades, PRC diplomats stationed in the United States have infringed on the academic freedom of American university faculty, students, administrators, and staff by: complaining to universities about invited speakers and events; pressuring and/or offering inducements to faculty whose work involves content deemed sensitive by the PRC authorities … and retaliating against American universities’ cooperative initiatives with PRC partner institutions."

Individual Chinese students, meanwhile, have -- according to the report -- in various cases infringed on academic freedom by “demanding the removal of research, promotional and decorative materials involving sensitive content from university spaces”; “demanding faculty alter their language or teaching materials involving sensitive content on political rather than evidence-based grounds”; “interrupting and heckling other members of the university community who engage in critical discussion of China”; and “pressuring universities to cancel academic activities involving sensitive content.”

In addition, the report documents cases in which Chinese students have “acted in ways that concerned or intimidated faculty, staff, and other students at American universities,” such as by “monitoring people and activities on campus involving sensitive content”; “probing faculty for information in a suspicious manner”; and “engaging in intimidation, abusive conduct, or harassment of other members of the university community.”

Lloyd-Damnjanovic goes out of her way to stress that the cases of students discussed in the study “likely represent a tiny proportion of the more than 350,000 PRC nationals currently studying in the United States.”

“Countermeasures should neither vilify PRC students as a group nor lose sight of the fact that these students, along with faculty members of Chinese descent, are often the victims of influence and interference activities perpetrated by PRC diplomats and nationalistic peers,” she wrote.

The highly sensitive nature of the subject comes across in Lloyd-Damnjanovic’s methodology section, in which she writes that many potential respondents did not return her emails, or sent back what she described as "curt remarks alleging that the premise of the study was political, alarmist, or racist."

To such responses Lloyd-Damnjanovic countered, “It is essential that studies of PRC influence be conducted in an objective, balanced and responsible fashion. Broad brushes, generalizations and policy in the absence of a substantial empirical foundation are problematic. But to dismiss concerns about PRC influence and interference without even considering whether there is evidence is tantamount to burying one’s head in the sand.”

Over all, she concluded, the evidence from her interviews "suggests a worrisome trend but does not in the author’s judgment rise to the level of a PRC-orchestrated wave."

The Chinese embassy in Washington condemned the report's conclusions Monday, saying, "This allegation of the report you mentioned is totally groundless, full of prejudice, discrimination and hostility."

"China is always committed to developing friendly relations and seeking win-win outcomes with other countries based on the principles of mutual respect and non-interference in other countries' internal affairs," an embassy spokesperson said in an email. "We never do such things as 'interference.' That is definitely not Chinese style. We hope that certain people could take off their tinted glasses and take off their 'insulation clothes,' the sooner the better, and view the development of China and the world in an objective way."

The following are a few of the specific cases and issues highlighted in the Wilson Center report.

Hosting of speakers and events. The report states that "PRC diplomats have since at least the early 1990s made official expressions of displeasure to American universities for hosting certain speakers and events." In the cases discussed, which mostly happened at major research universities, Lloyd-Damnjanovic wrote that these requests were seen as "propagandistic" and duly if politely rebuffed. But she raised the question of whether smaller institutions more reliant on Chinese students and cooperative initiatives with Chinese universities for revenue would disregard the complaints of embassy officials so easily.

Retaliation and the Dalai Lama. The report describes alleged retaliation against universities that play host to speakers the Chinese government doesn’t like. Richard Daly, who formerly headed the Maryland China Initiative at the University of Maryland and now works at the Wilson Center -- he wrote the foreword to the report -- said that groups of municipal- and provincial-level PRC officials stopped attending the university’s executive training programs for a period of time after the Dalai Lama gave a speech at Maryland's College Park campus in 2013.

The report also says that executive training programs organized through Maryland’s Office of China Affairs -- a successor office to the Maryland China Initiative -- have “experienced disruptions” since 2017 when a Chinese student, Yang Shuping, gave a controversial commencement speech praising the “fresh air of free speech” in the U.S. Maryland's media relations office declined to comment.

The report further describes alleged retaliation against the University of California, San Diego, after it invited the Dalai Lama to give a commencement speech in 2017. The report cites unnamed faculty members who say they heard from their colleagues at Chinese partner institutions that universities were ordered by a government entity -- believed to be the Ministry of Education -- not to collaborate with UCSD. Among other alleged retaliatory actions, a faculty member told Lloyd-Damnjanovic that the ministry blocked funding of a joint research center operated by the University of California's 10 campuses and Fudan University. UCSD's media relations office did not comment on the report.

Pressures on faculty. The report also describes alleged attempts by embassy officials to pressure or induce U.S.-based faculty who study topics the Chinese government deems sensitive in order to influence their research. As one example, the report cites the case of a City University of New York professor, Ming Xia, who said he received a call from an official at China’s New York consulate in 2009 demanding he withdraw from a project to create a documentary about the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. “‘We know this movie may give you financial rewards but we can give you much more,’” Xia recalled the official as saying, according to the account in the report, which he confirmed for Inside Higher Ed. “He also told me that I would pay the price if I went ahead with the movie and emphasized that [they] are going to do everything [they can] to stop this film.” Xia rejected the officials' request.

Chinese students' reluctance to speak. The report details concerns by some professors that some of their Chinese students feel unable to speak freely about sensitive topics in an American classroom.

Lloyd-Damnjanovic summarized an interview she conducted with Jason McGrath, an associate professor of Asian languages and literatures at the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus. McGrath described being “met with silence” when he attempted to facilitate a discussion about a film about corruption in China. "Frustrated," Lloyd-Damnjanovic wrote, "McGrath gently scolded the class until a student from the PRC who normally participated spoke up. ‘We’re uncomfortable talking about that because we don’t know who might be listening to us,’ the student said. For McGrath, ‘that was the first time that I sort of suddenly had the realization that the students in my class, some of them at least are very aware -- if it’s a large class with a lot of Chinese nationals and they don’t know them all -- that they might be self-censoring what they say because they’re worried about who else in the class might be listening, and who they might be talking to.’”

McGrath confirmed via email this account was accurate. However, he added that he responded no to "the vast majority of [Lloyd-Damnjanovic's] questions about whether I'd seen evidence of censorship or discursive coercion in the American academy by the Chinese government or its supporters, and in general I am skeptical about much of the alarmist hype about Confucius Institutes and so on."

Perceived monitoring. Lloyd-Damnjanovic wrote that "numerous faculty and students reported experiences in which they felt they were being monitored by students or campus actors who appeared to be from the PRC while engaging in sensitive academic activities." For example, she wrote of a case at Harvard University where a faculty member said that two of her colleagues, both visiting scholars from China, "confided in her that they had caught another visiting PRC scholar searching their offices after hours and heard him openly discuss writing periodic reports to the government during the 2016-17 academic year.

The faculty member’s colleagues said they thought the reports pertained to the political views and activities of ethnically Chinese faculty, visiting scholars and students at Harvard. "They warned the faculty member to refrain from discussing sensitive political issues in front of unfamiliar ethnic Chinese," Lloyd-Damnjanovic wrote.

Potential abuse by Chinese students. Some of Lloyd-Damnjanovic's interviewees also described experiencing what they perceived as harassing or abusive behavior on the part of individuals they believed to be Chinese students. In one example, an ethnically Chinese professor identified only by his former affiliation at Indiana University described his experience after speaking on a 2008 panel organized by a student organization, Campaign for Free Tibet.

Lloyd-Damnjanovic wrote, "After the event, the faculty member noticed that he and his background had become a topic of discussion among members of the [Chinese Students and Scholars Association] email Listserv. A week later, the faculty member was walking in the park with his children when someone of student age who appeared to be a PRC national approached, pointed, and called him a 'dog' in Chinese. During a trip to the local farmer’s market several days later, the faculty member noticed someone of student age who appeared to be ethnically Chinese approached with a camera and took a close-up photograph of his son’s face. The faculty member said that the photographic activity made him fear for the safety of his son, a toddler at the time, and for his family."

“It is intimidating,” the faculty member told Lloyd-Damnjanovic. “You can never be 100 percent sure it is related to the [Tibet] speaking event, but it happened right after.”

Self-censorship. Lloyd-Damnjanovic also asked her faculty interviewees about the issue of self-censorship. Varying reasons they gave for self-censorship include concerns about being denied a visa to enter China and the effects that would have on their career and concerns about the safety of their research subjects. Some scholars who are Chinese citizens or of ethnic Chinese heritage said they self-censored out of concern for family and friends in China.

The Wilson Center study came out several days after two professors published a paper based on their survey of more than 500 China studies scholars. About 68 percent of respondents to that survey identified self-censorship as a problem in the field.

The survey, conducted by Sheena Chestnut Greitens, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri, and Rory Truex, an assistant professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, also documented the real risks China scholars can face in conducting research. Greitens and Truex found that about 9 percent of China scholars reported having been “taken for tea” by Chinese government authorities to be interviewed or warned about their research, 26 percent of scholars who conduct archival research reported being denied access and 5 percent reported difficulties obtaining a visa. In addition, 2.5 percent -- 14 individual scholars -- reported experiencing temporary detention by police or physical intimidation

Greg Distelhorst, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, said the new study from the Wilson Center is valuable. But he is concerned that it will affect perceptions of Chinese students in the U.S. and encourage stereotyping.

"I believe it is very important to document influence activities of governments on institutions of higher learning and research," Distelhorst said via email. "The Communist Party of China would be happy to continue expanding its censorship and monitoring regimes overseas. As demonstrated by the ongoing acceptance of political censorship by major academic publishers such as Springer Nature, the party will find some organizations are willing to trade their integrity for market access.

"On the other hand, an anthology of horror stories that focuses on a single group of foreign students is sure to encourage stereotyping. This is especially dangerous in a period of renewed American xenophobia. I appreciate that the report cautions against this, but nonetheless I am concerned about its impacts. There are hundreds of thousands of Chinese students studying in the U.S., and the huge majority are uninvolved in these cases. Professors and university administrators need to keep this in mind -- and keep students at the center -- when thinking about how to respond to foreign government influence activities."

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Professor discusses his new book on reading classic novels with people with autism

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 07:00

The idea of reading great literature with people with autism may surprise some, but not Ralph James Savarese. The father of a son with autism, and a professor of English at Grinnell College, Savarese has been doing so for years. And he reports gaining insights into literature and humanity in the process. Savarese describes his experiences in See It Feelingly: Classic Novels, Autistic Readers, and the Schooling of a No-Good English Professor (Duke University Press). He responded via email to questions about his new book.

Q: What has been the prevailing view about literature and people with autism? Was the prevailing view based on any evidence?

A: The prevailing view was that autism’s “triad of impairments” (in communication, imagination and social interaction) made literature, especially fiction, too difficult to understand. Too difficult to understand and too alien to relate to or invest in. There was plenty of scientific evidence of said impairments, and from these impairments literature was assumed to be beyond the reach of autistic people. Literature, after all, depended on things like figurative language and complex theory of mind -- things that autistics were said to be bad at. With the rise of the neurodiversity movement, however, and a new emphasis on difference, not pathology, old truths have fallen away, and a new portrait of autism has emerged. For example, contrary to what scientists thought, many autistics have no trouble with metaphor, and those who do can be taught.

Another example: whereas scientists used to claim that autistics lack empathy altogether, they now claim that they struggle with cognitive and motor, but not emotional, empathy. The latter, of course, is that well of animal feeling we have for people -- we draw on such feeling when reading fiction. Impairments in cognitive empathy, if they are present, can be accommodated by something as simple as giving autistic people more time to discern the mental states of others. In fact, reading fiction may offer practice in this endeavor and, just as important, a more hospitable setting and time scale for figuring things out. But this is true for many nonautistic people, too! The autistic readers in See It Feelingly were exemplary.

Q: How did your son change your view of how literature could be important to people with autism?

A: In June of 1998, I adopted my son, DJ, from foster care. He was a badly abused, nonspeaking 6-year-old with autism. Doctors said that he was “profoundly retarded.” In May of 2017, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Oberlin College with a double major in anthropology and creative writing. He lived in the dorms with an aide, and he used a text-to-voice synthesizer to communicate with his teachers, classmates and friends.

This past April, Deej, the documentary that he stars in, wrote and co-produced, won a prestigious Peabody Award. The film includes four of DJ’s poems, beautifully set to the live-action, oil-paint animation of Em Cooper. (She and the film are currently up for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Graphic Design and Art Direction.) All of this is to say that 1) we have no idea what autistic people can do and 2) creative writing has been a part of DJ’s life since he came to live with my wife and me.

He didn’t so much change my view about literature and autism as organically reveal his interest in, and talent for, the former. One of the first things that he typed on his computer was “very great sound, very great sound.” I had been reading Dylan Thomas’s poem “Fern Hill” aloud to my wife. Our house was awash in poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, and DJ took note. He loves patterned sound. Even everyday utterances by him have a poetic quality. Take, for example, this gem from a visit to see my mother in Washington, D.C. We had gotten lost on the Beltway, and my wife and I had squabbled. When my mother asked him about the trip, he typed, “Yes, yes. Mom and Dad. Long time very married.” As DJ began to write poems and essays and as I began to acquaint myself with the medical literature on autism, I saw a profound disconnect. I then saw this disconnect with so many other autistic people. The medical literature, with its list of deficits, just didn’t describe them -- what they can do.

Q: How is it different to lead a discussion of literature with students with autism than those without?

A: The readers in See It Feelingly come from across the spectrum. Two of them -- my son and Tito Mukhopadhyay -- are nonspeaking, so discussions with them required a pacing adjustment. I would orally present a question or a comment, and they would type, with one finger, a response. I would have to wait patiently for that response. DJ and I were in the same room. With Tito and three others, I used Skype. Jamie Burke, who learned to speak at age 13, used the sidebar to prime his voice, first typing his answers and then reading them aloud. Dora Raymaker would switch from speaking to typing when she became anxious or overstimulated. Speech -- both finding and making words -- often proved difficult; by conserving resources, she could focus on the question.

Eugenie Belkin, who is autistic and deaf, communicated strictly by typing but with the picture function on Skype turned off. She felt completely fluent, even eloquent, when typing, and she didn’t want the distraction of visual input. Temple Grandin, who travels all over the world and couldn’t manage Skype in an airport, wanted to talk by phone. In this way, conducting discussions -- hospitable discussions -- with autistic readers is different. Or maybe I should say that it looks different at the outset. The discussions themselves -- their intensity, the illumination they offered -- were like the very best classes I have taught at Grinnell. Accommodate, I say, don’t worry about conventional comportment or appearance, eschew stereotypes. In sum, make room for difference. Adapt what you do as a nonautistic person, then assess the abilities of autistic people.

Q: What insights did you gain on Moby-Dick and other classics from readers with autism?

A: With each of my readers, I discussed a different book. With DJ, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; with Tito, Moby-Dick; with Jamie, Ceremony; with Dora, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; with Eugenie, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter; and with Temple, two short stories from Among Animals: The Lives of Animals and Humans in Contemporary Short Fiction. Tito and I made our way through Melville’s tome two chapters a week for 17 months.

As Ahab ruled the Pequod, so Melville’s novel ruled our ship of days. So many things stand out from this experience, but I’ll mention just one. It concerns Tito’s identification with the phantom cetelogical presence in Moby-Dick. Encountering Ahab, he compared the captain’s obsession with killing the great leviathan to our culture’s obsession with vanquishing autism. Just as Ahab believes that the white whale maliciously took his leg, so people believe that autism maliciously takes their children. The words of the megalomaniacal Ahab -- “To the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at three” -- could just as easily be uttered by an autism parent, Tito said.

As a nonspeaking person, he relished Ishmael’s alternative understanding of the whale’s lack of speech: “Seldom have I known any profound being that had anything to say to this world, unless forced to stammer out something by way of getting a living.” Ahab, in contrast, rails against the creature’s silence. Approaching the severed head of a sperm whale, he issues a deeply sarcastic command: “Speak thou vast and venerable head …; speak … and tell us the secret thing that is in thee.” Precisely because speech is considered the quintessential mark of the human, Tito has despaired of his own inability to speak. In a poem titled “Harpoons,” written as part of his weekly response to Moby-Dick, he mapped the slaughter of whales onto a typical scene with a “severely” autistic child, ghoulishly suggesting that violent death might be a form of speech therapy:

With harpoons they queried -- they lacked finesse.
He voiced no response except some noisy breaths,

Excavating sound from deep in his chest.

What pointed questions! They injured his head!
He breathed to explain how he talks with that head:

Great blubbery words that rise from his chest.

Is there a mind, they wondered, inside that head?
The sound of his answers? Those cumbersome breaths.

Let blood uproot what’s locked in his chest.

Reading Moby-Dick with Tito, I was invited, as never before, to consider the issue of animal intelligence and the speech privilege that lies at the heart of human arrogance. Tito also affirmed a central tenet of reader response theory: that particular readers bring particular things to particular texts. I now can’t imagine teaching Moby-Dick without the input of a nonspeaking person.

Q: What does your experience show about the ability of people with autism to have a more advanced education than has been the norm?

A: I believe that autistic people across the spectrum deserve a chance at an advanced education. But we must be prepared to support them. My son, for example, needed an aide in the classroom and in the dorm; he needed all sorts of accommodations. For example, so as not to take up too much time with his typing, he asked for discussion questions in advance. That way he’d be ready to go when called on. He needed a friendly, difference-appreciating environment; otherwise, his anxiety might get the best of him. (Oberlin shined in this respect.) We have to want to have autistic people on our campuses; we can’t begrudgingly accept and include them. Every one of the book’s readers has experienced debilitating stigma. What I hope for See It Feelingly is that it shows how much autistic people have to offer. And in an area where they were thought to be incapable! I remain astonished by what these readers contributed to my knowledge and enjoyment of classic American fiction.

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For-profit chain will close dozens of campuses

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 07:00

Education Corporation of America, a for-profit higher education provider with locations across the country, plans to close 26 campuses -- a third of its current total -- by early 2020. The closures would affect almost every chain of colleges operated by ECA, including Brightwood Career Institute, Brightwood College, Ecotech Institute, Golf Academy of America and Virginia College. The company said it is ending enrollment of new students at those campuses immediately because of insufficient demand.

The closures come just a few years after ECA acquired 38 campuses owned by Kaplan College, another for-profit operator. They’re the latest evidence of restructuring in a sector rocked by regulatory crackdowns, negative publicity and falling enrollment as the economy continues to improve.

The closures are concentrated mostly in Southern states, with a handful in Arizona, California, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Texas. The colleges will begin a teach-out process -- the formal planning for students to continue their programs elsewhere -- and cease operations entirely between June 2019 and April 2020. Students who can’t complete their program of study before a campus closes can either transfer their credits or request a tuition refund.

Campus Closures

Brightwood College: Arlington and Beaumont, Tex.; Bakersfield, Fresno, Palm Springs and Sacramento, Calif.; Dayton, Ohio

Brightwood Career Institute: Pittsburgh

Ecotech Institute: Aurora, Colo.

Golf Academy of America: Phoenix

Virginia College: Austin, Tex.; Baton Rouge and Shreveport, La.; Biloxi and Jackson, Miss.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Columbus and Macon, Ga.; Fort Pierce and Pensacola, Fla.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery, Ala.

“The decision to discontinue enrollment and teach-out our programs was made because of insufficient enrollment demand for our programs in these markets,” said Diane Worthington, a spokeswoman for ECA. “The vast majority of currently enrolled students will have the opportunity to complete their course work and earn their certificates/diplomas or degrees as planned. As always, we continue to focus on helping our students graduate and assisting them with getting jobs in their fields of study.”

The Ecotech Institute in Aurora, Colo., billed itself as the first and only college training graduates to work in the renewable energy field. Virginia College, which offered associate degrees and certificates in a variety of professional fields, will close more than half its campuses.

The closure announcement follows more bad news for Virginia College from a prospective accreditor. The Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training late last month rejected the college’s appeal of a previous decision to deny recognition in May.

Virginia College, along with most other ECA programs, remains accredited through the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools -- an organization awaiting a final decision on its status from the Education Department after it narrowly avoided getting axed by the Obama administration. If the Trump administration does not extend federal recognition of ACICS, the colleges it accredits will eventually have to seek recognition elsewhere to keep access to Title IV federal student aid money.

Kevin Kinser, a professor of education at Pennsylvania State University who studies the for-profit sector, said the closures are further evidence that an expansive physical presence is not viable in the current higher ed environment.

“I’m sure the economy and negative publicity have something to do with it, but there are also the changes made to for-profit recruitment practices in response to significant critiques and the uncertain policy environment,” he said. “For-profits are being more careful now in how they recruit and who they recruit, and changed programs to ensure that the cost to students reflects the potential labor market outcomes.”

Douglas Webber, an associate professor of economics at Temple University, said changes in the economy are likely driving enrollment patterns more than any other factor. He noted that many nonprofit colleges have also seen recent declines in enrollment, and an uptick in closures of small private nonprofits could be in store.

“For-profits, by the nature of the type of students they enroll (e.g., older students) are going to be even more exposed to the whims of the labor market than nonprofits, which enroll relatively more students just out of high school,” he said.

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