Higher Education News

Eight private high schools in Washington area are dropping out of AP program

Inside HigherEd - 13 hours 52 min ago

Eight elite private high schools in the Washington area this morning announced that they are dropping out of the Advanced Placement program.

In a joint statement, they said that they were responding to "the diminished utility of AP courses and the desirability of developing our own advanced courses that more effectively address our students’ needs and interests. Collectively, we believe a curriculum oriented toward collaborative, experiential, and interdisciplinary learning will not only better prepare our students for college and their professional futures, but also result in more engaging programs for both students and faculty. We expect this approach will appeal to students’ innate curiosity, increase their motivation, and fuel their love of learning."

The high schools making the announcement are institutions known for educating the children of the powerful of Washington. The schools are Georgetown Day, Holton-Arms, Landon, Maret, National Cathedral, Potomac, St. Albans and Sidwell Friends.

The joint statement says that the schools will phase out AP courses by 2022.

To be sure, these schools are not the first to criticize the AP program. Essays and studies have done that already. In addition, as more states have pushed for the expansion of AP programs in high schools, some have noted high failure rates in schools with limited resources, and have questioned whether high schools with serious education challenges should be focusing money and attention on AP. If educators at public high schools share the concerns of the Washington private schools, some are likely to note that they lack the resources to create the kinds of advanced courses that private schools can offer. Others at public high schools have said that the AP framework, whatever its flaws, encourages high schools to provide demanding courses for top students.

Despite various criticisms, students at competitive high schools flock to AP courses. A record 1.17 million students in the high school Class of 2017 took at least one AP course.

Does AP Really Work?

The AP program, the Washington private high schools say, was started with the goal of helping students finish college early, and yet few students do so.

Many high school students believe, the statement says, that they must take as many AP courses as possible in high school to be competitive for college admissions. So the high schools did a survey of 150 colleges and found that taking AP courses has become so popular that doing so is no longer "noteworthy." Further, "we have been assured by admissions officers that this change will have no adverse impact on our students. The real question for colleges is not whether applicants have taken AP courses, but whether they have availed themselves of their high schools’ most demanding classes."

Further, the high schools argue that they can -- by creating their own advanced courses -- provide a better education than by relying on AP.

"The perception that colleges demand AP courses leads many students, perhaps reluctantly, to pass up other classes they might find more intellectually transformative and rewarding," the statement says. "Concurrently, because AP tests loom so large, faculty teaching these courses often feel pressed to sacrifice in-depth inquiry in order to cover all the material likely to be included on the test. This runs counter to the fact that college courses demand critical thinking and rigorous analysis. AP courses, by contrast, often stress speed of assimilation and memorization. While we acknowledge the recent attempts to develop more skill-based AP tests, we are convinced that focusing on a timed standardized test does not promote inquiry or higher-level discussion among students. Moving away from AP courses will allow us to offer a wider variety of courses that are more rigorous and enriching, provide opportunities for authentic engagement with the world, and demonstrate respect for students’ intellectual curiosity and interests."

A spokesman for the College Board provided this statement on the schools' decision: “Over the past decade, the students at just these D.C.-area independent schools have earned more than 39,000 credit hours at the colleges to which they sent their AP scores. That equates to nearly $59 million in tuition savings at highly selective colleges, not to mention the head start these students received in their majors -- particularly in STEM disciplines. At a time when the placement, credit and admission benefits of AP have never been greater, it’s surprising that these schools would choose to deny their students these advantages.”

Susanna A. Jones, head of school at Holton-Arms, said via email that educators there "have been thinking about the efficacy of APs for almost 10 years."

She said that the college curricula at institutions her graduates attend have changed such that students need "courses that emphasize depth over breadth, critical thinking, research, and interdisciplinary and experiential approaches."

Jones said it was true that one or more of the high schools could have acted independently. But she said that "when we realized that we were all interested in taking this important step because we believe it is what will serve our students best, we immediately recognized the power of collective action. Together, our decision carries more weight as we add our voices to the national discussion of this issue; it also may assuage parental concerns about the impact of the change."

Holton-Arms and the other schools reached out to parents just prior to going public with the plan to drop AP. Jones said that school profiles to be sent to colleges "will include information about our advanced curricula and students’ transcripts will reflect the rigor of their coursework. We conducted our own survey of admissions offices and have been assured that this change will have no adverse impact on our students’ admissions prospects."

While many students have assumed AP is the best college preparation, Jones said that these schools are committed to providing a better educational experience. "As independent schools, we have the freedom to create our own curriculum," she said. "We aim to do much more than get students into college; we want them to thrive in college and find success thereafter."

Editorial Tags: AdmissionsBreaking NewsHigh schoolsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

Education Department delays disclosures under gainful employment while working to replace rule

Inside HigherEd - 21 hours 22 min ago

The federal government will not require colleges to publicly disclose data about their vocational programs' graduate employment rates or debt levels -- requirements under the Obama-era “gainful-employment” rule -- until after U.S. Department of Education can rewrite the regulation.

The department also announced in a filing Friday that it will postpone certain gainful-employment disclosure requirements, which had been scheduled to go into effect next month, until July 2019. It’s the second yearlong postponement for those requirements under Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, who also in January weakened the disclosures by dropping one on graduate earnings.

The Trump administration and congressional Republicans have sought to dismantle the rule, which is based on two debt-to-earnings metrics, saying it unfairly targets for-profit colleges.

"Once fully implemented, the current rules would unfairly and arbitrarily limit students’ ability to pursue certain types of higher education and career training programs,” DeVos said in a written statement last year.

Gainful employment applies to degrees and certificate programs offered by for-profit institutions and to vocational certificate programs at community colleges and other nonprofit institutions -- but not to degree programs on the nonprofit side.

Roughly one in 10 of covered programs would have failed under the rule, the department said in January 2017, just before the Trump administration took over. Fully 98 percent of failing programs were at for-profits.

Colleges must publish gainful employment information about covered programs on their websites, using a template the department tweaked in January to drop median earnings data or information about room and board. But the new delay means institutions will not need to distribute gainful employment data directly to prospective students or publish it in promotional materials until next year. (Note: This paragraph has been added to an earlier version of the article.)

The Obama administrations worked for years to enact the rule, arguing it would help prospective students make informed decisions about which career education programs are worth the investment and which ones “might leave them worse off than when they started,” as John B. King Jr., then Obama administration's Education Secretary, said in 2017.

A federal court threw out portions of the rule's first draft. But the final version withstood legal challenges, and the courts held that the federal government was within its rights to seek to hold career educational programs accountable with the rule.

DeVos announced the planned do-over for gainful employment one year ago, while also rolling back borrower-defense regulations, which for-profit college advocates and some representatives from historically black and other private colleges had criticized.

The department then appointed negotiators to hash out a revised gainful-employment rule. But the session ended in March without a consensus. So the Trump administration will release its own version to replace the rule by November.

The Education Department said Friday in the Federal Register that it was giving colleges the additional year while it works through the "utility" of requirements under gainful employment.

“As part of this rulemaking process, the department continues to evaluate the efficacy of these disclosures to students, including the manner in which the gainful employment regulations would require institutions make these disclosures, and the burden associated with the implementation of these requirements,” the department said.

Steve Gunderson, the president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, said his group, which represents for-profit colleges, supports the department's delay while it works on a new rule he anticipates will include "more meaningful and less onerous" disclosure requirements.

"Under the current rule, institutions are still required to provide students and consumers with important program-level data using the department’s approved disclosure template," Gunderson said in a written statement. "This delay simply acknowledges that the various methods for disseminating this information to students under the current rule are not useful for students and burdensome for institutions."

The department's justifications for the delays don't hold water, said Debbie Cochrane, vice president of the Institute for College Access and Success.

When it announced the last postponement, the department said it needed more time to evaluate the use of requirements. "Isn't a year long enough?" Cochrane said. And she noted that the department's inspector general found last year that the burden of the disclosure provisions would be negligible.

"This is simply another step in the department’s efforts to dismantle student protections," Cochrane said in a written statement. "What good are disclosures if you don’t have to show them to anyone? How are students supposed to decide between career education programs if they aren’t given basic information like how much a program costs and how many graduates get jobs?"

Not everyone involved with for-profit higher education will be happy with the latest disclosure delay, said Trace Urdan, an expert on for-profits and managing director at Tyton Partners, a consulting firm.

Urdan said investors want this information and that responsible colleges already are measuring it and managing against it.

"We are involved in a couple of school sales, and gainful-employment data is a core element of due diligence," he said via email. "It's true that the information is backward-looking and that there are some schools that have made responsible changes to programs where the disclosure could cause a repaired program to then fail in the marketplace, but anyone that expects the marketplace to be an effective screen for quality needs to advocate for more and better consumer information."

Editorial Tags: Career/Tech EducationFederal policyFor-profit collegesImage Caption: Education Secretary Betsy DeVosIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

AAUP votes to censure U of Nebraska for alleged violations of academic freedom in Courtney Lawton case

Inside HigherEd - 21 hours 22 min ago

The American Association of University Professors on Saturday voted to censure the University of Nebraska at Lincoln for alleged violations of academic freedom in a politically loaded case involving an adjunct lecturer.

A Symbolic Punishment

The voice vote, taken at AAUP’s annual meeting in Washington, was decisive and probably unsurprising: Nebraska’s censure seemed likely last month, when the AAUP issued an investigative report on the now locally infamous Courtney Lawton suspension. In that report, the association concluded that the university bowed to political pressure in removing Lawton, a former adjunct instructor of English and current graduate student, from the classroom after she flipped off an undergraduate student activist.

The August incident happened as the undergraduate was campaigning on campus for Turning Point USA, the self-described grassroots conservative organization behind the Professor Watchlist website, which many professors say distorts their views and threatens academic freedom.

In widely shared student video, Lawton calls the undergraduate a “neo-fascist Becky” who “wants to destroy public schools, public universities, hates DACA kids,” and puts up her middle finger.

At first, Nebraska removed Lawton from the classroom citing security concerns. But as Republican state lawmakers began to speak out against Lawton and demand “accountability” with regard to the campus political climate, Nebraska said she would not teach again.

Based on AAUP’s report, administrators now say that Lawton was permanently suspended from teaching because she physically blocked access to the student activist’s table. But Lawton and others who witnessed the incident deny that. Nebraska reportedly says it has a second security video that captures that part of the dispute, but it did not share that video with AAUP.

Stephen Ramsay, Susan J. Rosowski Associate Professor of English at Nebraska, attended the annual meeting and spoke in favor of censure prior to the vote. Identifying himself as the representative for the university’s AAUP advocacy chapter, Ramsay said that this year “has been a very difficult one for my institution.”

Yet he said he agreed with the “disquieting” conclusion of AAUP’s report, that there is "little doubt that political pressure played a significant role in the Lawton case; in one sense, it is at the very heart of it." He encouraged those presenting to vote for censure.

Nebraska has previously criticized AAUP’s report as inaccurate. Deb Fiddelke, a university spokesperson, said in a statement after the vote that AAUP erred in asserting at the meeting that Lawton was not afforded a hearing prior to her suspension.

“It’s shocking the AAUP would base its actions on such conflicting statements and glaring inaccuracies,” Fiddelke said.

AAUP’s report says that Lawton initially agreed to a suspension from teaching, but only because she believed it was for her own safety as her case began to attract attention.

Lifting Sanction and Censure

At its meeting, AAUP also lifted symbolic sanctions or censures from two other institutions.

The University of Iowa saw the removal of a sanction imposed in 2016, over concerns about a failure of shared governance in the presidential search that ended in the hiring of Bruce Harreld. AAUP found in 2015 that the Iowa Board of Regents disbanded a faculty committee involved in the search to gain control over it.

Faculty members at Iowa previously criticized the sanction, saying the campus shouldn’t be blamed for the board’s actions -- even if Harreld was unpopular.

The university referred requests for comment about the vote to Russell Ganim, a professor of world languages on campus and the current Faculty Senate president.

“We are delighted by the news of the sanction removal,” he said in a statement, describing a now-strong “partnership" between the senate, board and local AAUP chapter. “We believe to have established a model of collaboration that will benefit shared governance at [the university] not just now but in the future.”

With AAUP leaders saying they had addressed concerns that resulted in the censure of Stillman College’s administration, the association voted to take that institution off the censure list, too.

Stillman landed on the list in 2009 over concerns about the termination of Ekow O. Hayford, a longtime tenured professor of business. At the time, AAUP found that Hayford was fired without due process after he publicly criticized the president of the college, a historically black institution in Alabama. The college maintained that Hayford had violated a Faculty Handbook prohibition against spreading “malicious gossip.”

AAUP said Saturday that Stillman’s new administration had accepted its annual suggestions about bringing its faculty standards more into line with the norms of academic freedom.

Stillman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the vote.

Academic FreedomFacultyEditorial Tags: Academic freedomAdjunctsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: University of IowaUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln

Canadian Supreme Court upholds denial of accreditation to proposed Christian law school

Inside HigherEd - 21 hours 22 min ago

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled 7 to 2 Friday that a law society acted reasonably in denying accreditation to a proposed Christian law school because of its policy prohibiting students and faculty from “engaging in sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

A five-justice majority found that the decision by the Law Society of Upper Canada to deny accreditation to Trinity Western University’s proposed law school “represents a proportionate balance between the limitation on freedom of religion guaranteed” by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms “and the statutory objectives that the LSUC sought to pursue.”

"The LSUC’s enabling statute requires the Benchers [members of the governing board of the law society] to consider the overarching objective of protecting the public interest in determining whether a particular law school should be accredited. The LSUC was entitled to conclude that equal access to the legal profession, diversity within the bar, and preventing harm to LGBTQ law students were all within the scope of its duty to uphold the public interest. The LSUC has an overarching interest in protecting the values of equality and human rights in carrying out its functions," the majority wrote.

Two other justices upheld the LSUC’s decision to deny Trinity Western’s proposed law school accreditation, though they disagreed with some of the five-member majority’s reasoning.

The legal landscape in Canada differs from that of the U.S. However, the Trinity Western case addresses the same kinds of tensions between values of nondiscrimination and religious freedom that can be found at many Christian colleges in the U.S. that have similar codes of conduct prohibiting same-sex activity.

The LSUC, which recently changed its name to the Law Society of Ontario, celebrated the Supreme Court ruling as a vindication of its role in promoting equal access to legal education.

“We are particularly pleased that the court recognized that our statutory mandate to uphold the public interest includes promoting a diverse bar and ensuring that there are no inequitable barriers to those seeking access to the legal profession,” the law society’s treasurer, Paul Schabas, said in a written statement.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers also issued a statement welcoming the ruling. The association said in its statement that it had intervened in the appeals process to argue that the requirement that Trinity Western faculty subscribe to a statement of faith as a condition of employment violates academic freedom and inhibits the protection and promotion of diversity that should be expected in Canadian legal education.

“The majority of the Supreme Court accepted that there is a link between legal education and equality, diversity, and the competence of the legal profession,” said CAUT’s executive director, David Robinson. “This case underlines that it is vital that faculty and students not be constrained by any dogma or proscribed doctrine in any form, as this is the basis for promoting and protecting academic freedom.”

Trinity Western said in a statement it was disappointed in the ruling, which the university said “diminishes the value of pluralistic diversity in Canada.”

“In a very long complex ruling, with four sets of reasons, eight of nine judges agree that TWU’s religious freedom is violated but the majority still uphold the law societies' decision not to approve the law school,” the university said.

“The court ruling constrains TWU’s quest to establish a law school and offer 60 new law school seats to Canadian students.”

Trinity Western, which is located in British Columbia, first began attempting to establish a law school in 2012 but confronted opposition from the law societies in British Columbia and Ontario. The proposed law school was to offer a specialty program in charity law.

Two justices dissented in Friday's ruling, arguing that "the only proper purpose of an LSUC accreditation decision is to ensure that individual applicants are fit for licensing. Because there are no concerns relating to competence or conduct of prospective TWU graduates, the only defensible exercise of the LSUC's statutory discretion in this case would have been for it to approve TWU's proposed law school."

"Moreover, the decision not to accredit TWU's proposed law school is a profound interference with the TWU community's freedom of religion," the two dissenting justices wrote. "It interferes with that community's expression of religious belief through the practice of creating and adhering to a biblically grounded covenant. Even were the public interest to be understood broadly, accreditation of TWU's proposed law school would not be inconsistent with the LSUC's statutory mandate. In a liberal and pluralist society, the public interest is served, and not undermined, by the accommodation of difference."

DiversityLegal CasesInternational Higher EducationEditorial Tags: Sexual orientationCanadaReligious collegesInternational higher educationImage Caption: Trinity Western University president Bob Kuhn at Canada's Supreme CourtIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

Promising open-access anthropology journal moves to modified subscription service amid staff turmoil

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/15/2018 - 07:00

Open-access devotees in anthropology had high hopes for HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory upon its launch in 2011. The idea behind HAU -- named after the concept of "hau" described in Marcel Mauss's The Gift -- wasn't just to shake up academic publishing's subscription model but also to elevate ethnography within the field. Now, the free, independent "gift" of a publication is moving to a modified subscription model as part of an agreement with the University of Chicago Press.

While HAU’s Board of Trustees says the move is due to the publication’s growth, current and former journal staffers are blaming the broken free-access promise on what they describe as failed and even abusive leadership.

Editor-in-chief Giovanni Da Col, a research associate in anthropology and sociology at the University of London, has been named as the abuser and toxic personality. But others involved in the management of the journal have been named as his enablers.

“While working for HAU under Da Col, we have experienced income insecurity, including wage theft and a clear pattern of withholding pay,” along with “verbal harassment that far exceeded the boundaries of an irritable boss,” reads an open letter signed by four anonymous current and former journal employees, published online Thursday.

The letter accuses Da Col of bullying, intimidation and making legal and physical threats and constant inappropriate sexual comments. It further accuses him of mental manipulation and what “can only be described as gas-lighting. This has led at least four former staff members to undergo psychiatric therapy.”

An Editor Blamed

Beyond treating staff poorly, the letter accuses Da Col of “complete disregard for HAU’s stated open access policy." They say he required authors to pay article-processing charges out of pocket, removed articles if authors could not pay, misled institutions about the use of open-access funds and intentionally delayed review for authors at institutions without open-access funds.

The letters' authors say their positions within academe and publishing are too precarious to sign their names, but that they wanted to corroborate previous reports about Da Col’s alleged abuse. They referenced a letter written in late 2017 but only recently made public, from seven additional journal employees accusing Da Col of similar behavior.

Da Col “made it clear that staff were answerable to him and him alone and cut off all avenues of appeal,” those seven employees wrote in their own letter, which was initially circulated quietly to build support for Da Col's ouster. “We are all aware that [Da Col] physically assaulted an anthropology colleague back in 2014 and escaped without consequence … We mention it here because it reflects a pattern of personal misconduct, intimidation and abuse.”

The seven employees’ letter also accuses Da Col of financial misconduct, not only by withholding staffers’ pay as a form of punishment, but by “deliberately and systematically” overcharging authors and institutions and “inflating estimates of production costs in order to be awarded larger amounts from subvention funds at universities.” They note that Da Col fired a onetime treasurer and has single-handedly controlled the journal’s finances since. Da Col produces no financial reports, meaning that there is no financial transparency or accountability, the letter says.

Both of the employee letters cite a recent public apology from David Graeber, a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the journal’s editor at large through 2017, for not doing more sooner about Da Col. Graeber and other editorial board members were warned repeatedly and did little, one of the letters says. Others have taken to Twitter to defend Graeber, saying he tried to help. (Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that both letters accuse Graeber of failing to act.)

Enabling a Toxic Leader?

“Six years ago I helped initiate the HAU project,” Graeber wrote in that apology. “At the time I believed it to be a brilliant concept: an open-access journal, based on a radicalization of the grand tradition of ethnographically grounded anthropological theory. I still believe that.”

The “problem,” he continued, “was in its realization. From early on there were signs that something was amiss, that I realize now I should have noticed; these signs became more salient over time. After one incident of alleged physical violence at the end of 2016, some of HAU's patrons did try to intervene, to stop power from being concentrated and abused; but we did not act firmly or consistently enough.”

As a result, Graeber said, “workers and contributors appear to have been treated in shocking ways, the administration appears to have been grossly mishandled, due process undermined, potential supporters alienated, and the project of HAU as an open-access journal was not successful.” Graeber has since said on social media that he privately appealed to Da Col to resign last year and saw his name removed from the journal's masthead within hours. He said wrote his apology in part to open a dialogue about the issues at HAU.

The journal’s new board -- on which Da Col remains -- doesn't appear as concerned. In a statement that was widely criticized by anthropologists, the board said this week that it was “concerned by recent destabilizing efforts that have been made towards HAU. These actions seem to ignore the many positive outcomes of the original intellectual project and come at the precise moment when a team of scholars has been working hard and collaboratively to restructure and incorporate HAU.”

Changes for HAU

Da Col is a signatory to the letter and remains on the board. He and his fellow trustees provided additional details on the move to a subscription publication and other structural changes. Noting that the original journal project was followed by two book series in 2012, the formation of the Society for Ethnographic Theory in 2013 and HAU Books in 2015, the trustees said the HAU project that began “among like-minded intellectual friends, deeply dedicated to open access, outgrew the original informality of its workings. Its labor needed better compensation, its finances needed stabilizing, it required an infrastructure commensurate with its newly found scope.”

So the newly incorporated HAU-Society for Ethnographic Theory, publisher of the HAU journal and HAU Books, is now a nonprofit organization governed by the collective board and a group of guarantors. Editorial functions have been redistributed, with separate editorial committees running the books and journal sections. The latter will now be run by an editorial committee of Da Col and two deputy editors. 

The board described the new model as a “unique ‘free access’-cum-subscription" one that guarantees the long-term sustainability of the journal for the next 20 years. The model includes one month free access after each issue’s release and different levels of subscription access thereafter, with subsidized or free subscription for institutions in the global South. Independent scholars with no institutional affiliation also will have free access. HAU retains the rights to return to a full open-access model,"should a secure and sustainable source of funds become available in the future," the board said.

Too Little, Too Late

The letter from the four employees, which was published after the board’s message, says, “We understand (better than most) the massive obstacles to getting an open-access journal and publishing press off the ground in a small field. However, we strongly believe that any personal or professional struggles Da Col has faced do not justify his behavior towards us and others in the community.”

HAU “promised so much to anthropology, and to us, and returned very little,” it says. “The task of the discipline now -- and senior faculty in particular -- is not to squabble over the relative merits of Da Col and Graeber’s personalities and positionalities but to instead recognize that the abuses that characterize the ‘open secret’ of HAU’s mismanagement are easily identifiable throughout anthropology and the academy at large.” 

The letter also criticizes what it describes as anthropology’s perhaps ironic tendency to “allow prominent and privileged voices to drown out those directly affected -- in this case the graduate students and junior scholars who relied or continue to rely on HAU for financial stability and professional development.”

Da Col referred a request for comment to a second statement by the board, released late Thursday. Because an internal investigation was carried out by the previous board, it said, "we have been making efforts to find out what can and cannot be released from this investigation." Should anyone "ever feel they are being treated improperly, we ask that you please come to us immediately, and we pledge to be fully responsive and to do all we can to create a supportive environment," the board said. 

Garrett P. Kiely, director of the University of Chicago Press, said via email that he and colleagues were "deeply concerned" by the allegations made in recent days about the journal, which he emphasized is owned by the Society for Ethnographic Theory.

Despite claims in social media to the contrary, Kiely said, the society did not sell the journal to the University of Chicago Press. So the press does not have control over the content of the journal or its staff.

"We have a contract to perform services to publish the journal," he said. "Upon hearing the allegations that you’ve mentioned, we reached out to the society’s board to ensure that they are aware of this and we await any action or investigation that they initiate."

Editorial Tags: AnthropologyImage Caption: Logo of 'HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory'Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Anger Over a JournalTrending order: 2

Drawing the line between policy and personality on Twitter

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/15/2018 - 07:00

The University of British Columbia’s president, Santa Ono, is a social media star among college presidents.

On Ono’s Twitter feed, there are beautiful pictures of the UBC campus, details of upcoming events and celebrations of the achievements of students and staff.

When not promoting his institution on Twitter, Ono shares more personal posts: a recommendation for a local ramen bar, a quote from Pablo Picasso or the news that the Harry Potter play just won six Tony Awards.

Mixed in with these promotional and personal posts, however, is the occasional statement of university policy. And that, students say, is a big problem.

A recent editorial in the student newspaper, The Ubyssey, criticized Ono's approach to social media. The article described how Ono's tweets are sometimes at odds with information provided by the university, adding that it is “unclear what separates a random Twitter thought or a kind comment on Facebook from an official statement.”

This “blurring” of social media presence and office responsibility has opened Ono up to “blunders, intentional or not, that make the line between policy and post terribly ambiguous,” said the article.

Describing one such “blunder,” The Ubyssey editors said that when they reached out to UBC Public Affairs asking for a statement on the imprisonment of alumna and women’s rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul in Saudi Arabia, they received a phone call with the message that Ono “was about to tweet.”

“We were understandably confused,” wrote the editors. “Twitter is not usually the place to make policy statements -- at least, not for our president.”

The tweeted statement from Ono fell flat with faculty members, who described the response as “strange and tepid.”

The next day, seemingly in response to criticism that his social media statement was not sufficient, Ono penned a more formal and forceful statement that was published on the UBC website.

Describing another “blunder,” the Ubyssey editors said that earlier this year, Ono tweeted that UBC applicants who participated in protests would not be denied admission based on their activism. The UBC Public Affairs office then walked this back, saying that Ono “wasn’t making any statement on behalf of the university.”

Matthew Ramsey, director of strategic communications at UBC, said that Ono was not available to provide comment for this article (though characteristically, he did find some time to tweet). Ramsey explained that Ono uses his social media presence to “engage in informal conversations with students, faculty and staff” and to “disseminate UBC policy and institutional responses to pressing issues when required.”

Ramsey added that there are communications staffers in the president’s office who work with Ono to draft and schedule social media content that reflects UBC policy. Formal statements reflecting UBC policy are “always repeated on the president’s website to ensure clarity,” said Ramsey.

Dan Zaiontz, a higher ed and social media strategist, described Ono in his book #FollowTheLeader: Lessons in Social Media from #HigherEd CEOs (mStoner) as an “institutional champion.” As president of the University of Cincinnati from 2012 to 2016, Ono gained more than 70,000 followers and coined the university’s #HottestCollegeinAmerica slogan. Now tweeting as president of UBC from the Twitter handle @ubcprez, Ono has more than 17,000 followers and has tweeted more than 12,000 times since he created the account in June 2016.

Zaiontz said that Ono would be “the first person to acknowledge” that using social media carries risks and challenges. “When you wade into the social media space as the leader of a huge institution, you know that anything you put out there is going to be heavily scrutinized,” said Zaiontz.

Though Ono might not have handled the Al-Hathloul statement perfectly, Zaiontz said that he was quick to respond to criticism that Twitter was not the right medium for a statement. “Hindsight is 20/20,” said Zaiontz, adding that even if the initial approach wasn’t right, Ono’s team was “actively listening” and “monitoring what the community was saying.”

“Anyone who takes the time to reflect on how they communicate would probably find room for improvement,” said Zaiontz, “I don’t think Ono is immune to that.”

Both Zaiontz and Eric Stoller, a higher education consultant and blogger for Inside Higher Ed, said that Ono was a “leading voice” for presidents on social media. In addition to using Twitter, Ono has also been active on Facebook, Instagram and even YouTube. The use of social media is a topic he is so passionate about that he is writing a book on it.

Stoller said that Ono has been a “great example” of how a university leader can use social media. “The fact that he’s trying to engage in digital spaces in a way that is authentic and vulnerable cannot be an easy task due to his very public-facing university position.”

Ono has earned praise for his vulnerability online. In 2016, he revealed on Twitter that as a young man, he twice tried to end his own life. Ono said he shared the information to send a message that depression is treatable and to reduce the stigma around mental illness.

Erin Hennessy, vice president of TVP Communications, a public relations agency focused on higher education, said that Ono was one of the earliest and “most vigorous” adopters of social media among college presidents. Josie Ahlquist, a higher ed digital engagement and leadership consultant, agreed, saying that Ono had "humanized the presidency."

Hennessy said that there is a lot to be said for presidents engaging in social media to promote their institution and to show that they are engaged in conversations on the campuses they lead.

But there is a flip side to being hyperengaged, said Hennessy. “It’s one thing to misspeak in front of a room of 15 alumni; it’s quite another thing to do it in front of 17,000-plus followers,” said Hennessy. Being so engaged on Twitter could also take time away from presidential duties, said Hennessy -- a president who responds on social media to complaints about building maintenance issues, for example, sets a precedent to students that he or she is the right person to direct these complaints to.

Both Hennessy and Ahlquist agreed that whatever presidents do on social media, it should be done intentionally and strategically. When mistakes are made, presidents should admit to them quickly and listen to feedback on how to improve, said Ahlquist.

Mixing policy announcements with personal statements on social media is a “challenging” strategy for university presidents to pull off, said Hennessy. Rather than declaring a president's Twitter feed strictly personal or professional, Hennessy said she thinks that there is a "happy medium" to be found. For example, rather than making university policy statements via Twitter, presidents can use Twitter to promote official statements the university publishes on its website, said Hennessy.

While social media blurs lines, it also removes communication barriers, which generally is "a good thing," said Stoller. “However, when it comes to official university policy, it’s important that everyone is on the same page -- online and off-line. Otherwise you open yourself up to critiques -- valid or not, based on any type of disconnect that exists.”

Kevin Anselmo, founder of Experiential Communications, an agency that helps higher education institutions develop communication strategies, agreed that Ono and UBC Public Affairs "need to be totally aligned" on their messaging for important university statements. "There is probably no reason for a communications staff member to vet President Ono congratulating a new student on being admitted to the university," said Anselmo, but for thornier issues, where it is important that the institution sends a clear and united message, Anselmo thinks a vetting process is "imperative."

Anselmo said it would be a mistake for Ono to dramatically curtail his use of social media, but he said that Ono and his colleagues could "make some tweaks" to ensure that there is not a situation again where the university has to state that Ono's views are not representative of the institution.

Ono has always appeared "smart and savvy" with social media, said Anselmo. But sometimes being innovative "means that you make mistakes."

Editorial Tags: PresidentsSocial media/networkingIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

Report shows poor rates of grad student loan repayment at HBCUs, for-profits

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/15/2018 - 07:00

The Obama administration for years battled with the for-profit sector over a rule that would hold higher ed programs accountable for graduating students with debt they couldn't repay.

That rule, known as gainful employment, applied to all career education and certificate programs, and the first set of ratings last year found most failing programs clustered in the for-profit sector.

But among graduate and professional schools -- which had few programs outside of for-profits subject to the rule -- a new report finds historically black colleges and universities have the highest shares of student borrowers who haven’t paid down any of their loan principal within a few years of entering repayment.

The report by Jason Delisle, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, examines federal data on graduate students who entered repayment in 2009 and tracks their progress on student loans through 2014. Notably, private nonprofit and for-profit institutions were heavily represented among grad schools with poor performance on loan repayment when adjusting for total student loan debt.

The findings reveal that the type of sector of a higher ed institution -- public, private or for-profit -- doesn’t necessarily determine whether graduates will have success paying down loan debt after leaving.

The data reflect institutional results only, meaning they don’t show how particular programs perform. And they exclude institutions with fewer than 100 students entering repayment. But the report is the first examination of graduate student progress on student loans.

Delisle said it’s important to note that because the federal government has made little data available on graduate student loan repayment, the information would be new to many institutions themselves.

“If policy makers want better outcomes, they’ve got to get better information to the schools,” he said. “This is probably news to them.”

Delisle found that among alumni of all graduate and professional schools, the median share of borrowers who had made no progress paying down their loan principal was 20 percent.

Graduate schools with a high proportion of borrowers whose loan debt grew faster than they could repay it -- known as negative amortization -- could present a consumer risk to students, Delisle said. But graduate institutions with high dollar amounts of student loan debt not being paid down could present a bigger risk to taxpayers even if they perform well on the negative amortization metric, he argued.

Eleven institutions in the data had 50 percent or more of borrowers fail to reduce their loan principal; seven were public historically black institutions. Those institutions included Mississippi Valley State University (where 65 percent of borrowers hadn't reduced their loan principal by 2014), Southern University at New Orleans (62 percent) and Grambling State University (59 percent). Others with high shares of such borrowers included private for-profit Everest University (58 percent), nonprofit Metropolitan College of New York (53 percent) and the University of Texas at Brownsville (55 percent).

Harry L. Williams, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which represents public HBCUs, said those institutions have educated many students with significant financial need, including many first-generation college students. And he said the organization has taken steps such as supporting financial aid literacy education and building talent pipelines to employers so graduates can find well-paying jobs.

“The AEI report data is eye-opening and we support all efforts to make improvements in the lives of the nearly 300,000 students on our public HBCU campuses,” Williams said. “We will work with AEI and other partners to reduce all barriers to opportunity for success and financial independence so they can expeditiously pay back their loans and stay in the black.”

Among the institutions where the negative amortization rate outpaced the median for graduate schools and the 2009 graduate cohort’s debt was $100 million or more were private nonprofit New York University and for-profit Strayer University.

The report comes as the Department of Education prepares to issue a new gainful-employment rule after Secretary Betsy DeVos last year opted to overhaul the Obama regulation. The latest department proposal in a series of negotiated rule-making sessions would turn gainful employment -- a potentially high-stakes accountability metric before -- into a disclosure rule affecting all higher ed programs. But the proposal excluded graduate programs from disclosure requirements.

Delisle said the data in the report showed that’s a big mistake.

“Let’s get good, reliable information there,” he said. “That’s a great first step.”

But he said he was skeptical that accountability rules could effectively take account of risks to both students and the federal government.

Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said the report made clear that loan repayment for graduate students is not just a problem at for-profit institutions. But he said repayment outcomes won’t necessarily reflect the same underlying reasons for those outcomes.

“It could be that one group of students was ripped off and another was just weighed down by lack of resources for the undertaking,” he said.

He said the report showed the risk in choosing to exclude graduate programs from disclosure requirements.

Michael Itzkowitz, a former department official in the Obama administration and now a senior fellow at the think tank Third Way, said if the department expands gainful employment to cover more programs, graduate schools would be a good place to start.

“However, it's also important that we hold these programs accountable for their outcomes,” he said. “If a graduate program is leaving most of its students owing more on their original loan even years after entering repayment, it may be too risky of a bet for students and taxpayers, alike.”

Student Aid and LoansImage Source: Getty ImagesAd Keyword: Graduate educationIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

Discussions at AAUP meeting shows range of views

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/15/2018 - 07:00

CRYSTAL CITY, Va. -- "In the last five years, we’ve certainly have an increasing number of free speech confrontations on many campuses across the country," George Waldner, president emeritus of York College, said to a room full of nodding professors. "Halloween costumes at Yale, the 'Trump' chalkings at Emory University … There have probably been 30 or 40 of these [incidents] in the last five years."

Waldner was referring to the 2015 resignation of a Yale University lecturer who defended students' right to wear whatever Halloween costumes they wanted, and the controversy surrounding pro-Trump sidewalk chalk messages at Emory University in 2016. But more broadly, he was getting at issues of free speech. These controversies, and the freedom of speech questions that inevitably accompany them, were the focal point of numerous sessions at the American Association of University Professors 2018 conference. How do colleges accommodate diversity of thought while keeping their students safe? How do they protect against public relations crises without sacrificing freedom of speech? It was clear Thursday that the jury is still out.

Waldner argued that all colleges should have a written and legally reviewed policy that protects freedom of speech and outlines exactly what will happen if the policy is violated. Clear-cut guidelines can prevent such incidents from turning into reputation killers, or college presidents from losing their jobs, he said.

"If you’re the president of the institution and that institution has been damaged, what’s the easiest way for the Board of Trustees to resolve the issue? Fire the president," he said.

John Wilson, an editor of the AAUP's "Academe" blog, challenged Waldner's devotion to policy, arguing that it's administrators who commit the "overwhelming majority" of censorship on college campuses.

"There’s really never a connection between the expression of devotion to free expression, and actually free expression on a campus," he said. He continued to explain that the policies often contradict themselves, citing the University of Pennsylvania's responsibility of student citizenship clause in the Code of Student Conduct, which states that "responsible behavior includes but is not limited to the following obligations."

"Those six words -- 'includes but is not limited to' -- essentially destroys what would be an otherwise great policy," Wilson said.

During another session, three professors discussed what they said was a dire need for freedom of speech protections on increasingly liberal campuses. The words "safe spaces" and "marginalized students" were nowhere to be found.

Aaron Kindsvatter, an associate professor at the University of Vermont, opened by saying that free speech incidents are partly caused by a social justice "orthodoxy" that colleges are beginning to enforce.

“The most common vice I see on campus is social justice. Great idea, compelling idea, but it has been taken to extremes,” he said. “Terms that fall under the umbrella of social justice -- like diversity, inclusion, intersectional feminism -- have all become part of an orthodoxy.”

Louisa Hulett, a professor of political science, took the discussion out of Kindsvatter's abstract and to Knox College, where she teaches international relations. Since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, Hulett said, she has watched her campus become more and more intolerant of conservative viewpoints.

"At Knox, there’s much less tolerance for my view on campus, for the conservative view. There’s the dismissal for the perspective," she said, noting that Knox, in Illinois, hadn't brought in a conservative commencement speaker since the 1980s.

An audience member asked about extreme cases, and whether institutions strapped for resources should be shelling out money for the security needed to bring in Nazi sympathizers or Holocaust deniers. Some public institutions have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on such expenses. For example, the University of California, Berkeley spent upward of $800,000 on additional police presence when former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos came to speak in 2017. The panel responded with a unanimous yes.

"I think that it’s important for a Holocaust denier to stand up and really say what they think," Kindsvatter said.

In yet another session, Lindsay Briggs, an associate professor of health education at California State University Chico, and Lindsie Trego, a dual-degree law student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, turned their attention to the student press and how the First Amendment can help or harm students. Briggs shared a personal story about standing up to protect queer students CSU Chico after the student-run newspaper, The Orion, published a series of inflammatory op-eds. Her criticisms of the op-eds resulted in a meeting with the college president, a Freedom of Information Act request for her university emails and death threats.

"I don’t think free speech is free for a lot of marginalized people. It comes at a substantial cost," Briggs said, urging the audience to think about why students should have to be subject to targeted, hateful speech.

"Unlimited tolerance is a paradox," she said. "We don’t have to tolerate the intolerant."

Editorial Tags: Academic freedomFacultyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

British academics worry about visa rules

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 06/15/2018 - 07:00

British university leaders are being urged to review their attitudes toward international staff and students, following fresh reports of visa holders being “unfairly monitored” and even threatened with home visits by nervous administrators.

Institutions say that efforts to record the whereabouts of international employees and students on sponsored visas are necessary to comply with Home Office regulations, but union representatives argue that the requirements are being misinterpreted and create a “hostile environment” for foreign workers.

One foreign academic employed by the University of Birmingham told Times Higher Education of becoming “confused and scared” after being told to report attendance weekly or “risk deportation.”

“I feel like I am not trusted, that I can’t do my job, that I’m assumed [to be] a criminal,” said the academic, who chose to remain anonymous. “Being constantly monitored in this way makes me feel like I don’t really want to be here … if I had an opportunity somewhere else, I would consider leaving the U.K.”

A letter issued by Birmingham’s human resources department to international staff and seen by Times Higher Education states that any individual who fails to report attendance as well as any time spent off campus on a weekly basis will have their “name passed to the U.K. Border Agency.”

Failure to comply may result in “disciplinary action and/or withdrawal of your certificate of sponsorship, and thereby your eligibility to remain in the U.K.”

Birmingham had to operate “within the requirements set out by the Home Office,” a university spokesman said. “Our priority is ensuring that we are supporting staff to remain in the U.K.”

Meanwhile, staff at the University of Sussex launched a petition last week calling on Vice Chancellor Adam Tickell to “end the hostile environment” found toward “migrants, people of color and Muslims” on campus, which they said had been made worse as a result of “immigration monitoring.”

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union said that managers at the institution had chosen to interpret Home Office guidelines in a needlessly stringent manner. “Staff and students are made aware that if they are not able to attest to their whereabouts for 80 percent of the semester, they risk having their [immigration] status withdrawn,” a spokesman said. “This is not necessary.”

Those on some categories of visas were at one stage told to “expect home visits” if they chose to work outside the office, but the university has since admitted that this approach is “not feasible,” the UCU spokesman added.

An email sent from one head of department informed Sussex staff they must have “complete records of their movements at any given time” recorded via “electronic calendars, so if auditors turn up at any given time we can point to it.”

“I found this procedure extraordinary,” said one academic, “and I am sure there would be revolt if this were imposed on everyone in the department.”

A University of Sussex spokeswoman said that Tickell was aware of the petition and had “already clarified with members of our community why and how the university needs to comply with statutory regulations.”

“Our policies and procedures are informed by U.K. and E.U. legislation, statutory regulations, and duties and best practice,” she added.

Separately, staff at University College London have written to the institution's president, Michael Arthur, expressing “serious concerns” over rules that require staff to have "physical check-ins" with international students every three weeks in order to monitor visa compliance.

The policy takes up staff time “in bureaucracy that is irrelevant,” “builds a culture of mistrust” and creates “added pressure … at a time when we have increasing evidence about risks to student well-being and mental health,” the letter says.

A Home Office spokeswoman said it remained “the responsibility of individual sponsors to develop their own systems to ensure they meet their reporting responsibilities.”

GlobalEditorial Tags: BritainTimes Higher EdIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

Critics say proposed rewrite of AP World History exam is too Eurocentric

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 07:00

The American Historical Association this week urged the College Board to rethink its plan to effectively begin the Advanced Placement World History curriculum in the year 1450. In so doing it joined a contentious debate over what world history means and who gets included.

Specifically, critics of the board’s decision say that beginning the AP World History exam -- and by extension AP World History courses -- in 1450 instead of earlier erases various world cultures prior to their interactions with white Europeans. The board and its defenders argue that the content covered in the current exam is too much, however, as it necessities teaching 10,000 years of world history in a single academic year.

“While recognizing the challenges of teaching the current course with its broad scope, the AHA believes that this particular revision is likely to reduce the teaching of precolonial histories at the high school level,” Mary Beth Norton, association president and Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History at Cornell University, and James Grossman, the association’s executive director, said in an open letter to Trevor Packer, senior vice president of AP and instruction at the College Board.

Risk of a ‘Western-Centric’ Perspective

The change “risks creating a Western-centric perspective at a time when history as a discipline and world history as a field have sought to restore as many voices as possible to the historical record and the classroom,” Norton and Grossman added, echoing the many critics of the board’s plan.

Last week, for example, Packer defended the new exam scope to a group of skeptical teachers at a forum in Utah. One former teacher, Amanda DoAmaral, told Packer that the debate is about historical context as well as “showing our black and brown and our Native students that their histories matter, their histories don’t start at slavery. Their histories don’t start at colonization. You’re just another person of authority telling my students that they don’t matter, and you need to take responsibility for that.”

Packer began to say, “I think you need to take responsibility for assigning me a position that is not accurate,” but his response was drowned out by boos. He followed up by saying that the world history content to be cut from the test is “so important” that it shouldn’t be “rushed over.”

To that point, the College Board has proposed that world history prior to 1450 be taught in a separate, full-length pre-AP course. That kind of two-course approach to world history mirrors the two-survey-course structure at most colleges and universities anyway, they say. But teachers argue that a pre-AP course doesn’t carry the same weight as a potentially credit-bearing AP course, and that poorer schools won’t pay the College Board for access to that second curriculum.

This is not AP History’s first brush with controversy. In 2015, the College Board adjusted the AP U.S. history framework to appease critics who charged that an earlier redesign was slanted too far to the political left. In some ways, the new world history debate echoes ongoing discussions on college and universities campuses about what to do with Western civilization-style courses. Reed College, for example, faced a yearlong student protest over its signature introductory humanities course. This spring, the college announced it was repackaging the course to address criticism that it was too Eurocentric, too male and too white. Just this month, Reed said it had received a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the new curriculum.

“The grant will allow Reed to hire an extra humanities professor, provide time and training for professors to immerse themselves in the new course material, and deepen the collections and resources” in the library, the college announced.

In their letter to Packer, who oversees the AP program, Norton and Grossman said that the College Board should consult “leading practitioners in the field before implementing such a significant change.” They offered to organize, under the auspices of the AHA, conversations between the board and historians teaching in different contexts. A session at the association’s annual meeting in January also will discuss the exam and “how to teach AP-level world history in a way that preserves its multivocal richness and chronological breadth,” they said.

Grossman said via email Tuesday that the U.S. history debate was partly about the “relationship between comprehensive coverage and historical thinking.” The board has since moved the U.S. history curriculum toward what is also an increasing emphasis in higher education, he said -- a "less rigid approach to comprehensive coverage and greater attention to historical thinking.”

That balance might also inform the world history coverage discussions, Grossman said. In any case, “all conversations about AP relate directly to higher education because an AP course is supposed to be a college-level course,” he added. So it’s not just a matter of the College Board “getting advice from professors as subject area experts. College professors who teach world history need to affirm that the AP exam assesses whether a student has learned the material expected of a college student.”

Depth Versus Breadth and the ‘Spirit’ of a Course

Richard Warner, the Jane and Frederic Hadley Chair in history at Wabash College, former president of the World History Association and a current member of the College Board’s AP World History test-development committee, said he’s currently working to address various concerns about the test. Under discussion is whether to recommend to the College Board to “back up the starting point a little, say to 1200, which should address some of the critiques of Eurocentrism that have been raised,” he said.

As for how the change might impact academe, Warner said it will vary by institution. At Wabash, for example, he said, students who earn AP credit for world history in high school get to choose which history survey course to apply it to: world history to 1500 or world history since 1500. If the College Board goes through with its current plan, he said, Wabash would likely only accept AP credit for the latter survey. Other institutions sometimes award more credit, for two courses, or “both halves,” he said. Some might decide to only award one course worth of credit, he said. But “given the competition that has emerged in relation to admissions, I doubt we will see many colleges pull out.”

Warner said he supports the proposed changes but understands the arguments of both advocates and critics. Starting the course at 1450 “does indeed present a challenge in terms of Eurocentrism, limiting the place of people of color and ordinary people, and a possible retrenchment to the idea of the rise of the West as a master narrative.” Warner said he faces that challenge each spring, when Wabash offers the course on world history since 1500.

“The problem needs to be interrogated in the teaching of the course, since most Americans come preloaded with this Western narrative,” whether they recognize it or not, he said. Another “compelling” objection is that “this course may well be the only time that a high school student will encounter ancient history.”

Arguments in favor of the world history redesign include that raw student test scores (before they’re translated into 1-5 marks) and teacher satisfaction are currently “very low,” Warner said. He called both findings “dispiriting” since, in his view, the current curriculum is “very thoughtful and has led the way in redesign” for the other AP history courses, U.S. and European.

The current AP World History course "has made excellent use of the significant world history scholarship that has emerged in the past generation,” Warner added. “That said, there is good data to show that students are not learning as much of it as we hope, and that teachers find the teaching of the course problematic.”

The College Board, of course, attributes part of that to current course breadth. Warner summed up the debate over all as one of breadth versus depth, saying it’s a choice between “continuing to put together a course that, for many students, ends up providing a cursory knowledge of the subject that hopefully they will return to in college or elsewhere,” or “limiting the historical breadth so that students will walk away with a more solid grasp of world history since 1450," or some other decided-upon date.

Warner said he's hopeful that changes will be made to "enhance student learning while maintaining the spirit of this great course.”  A final decision from the College Board is expected next year, to take effect in the 2019-20 academic year.

DiversityTeaching and LearningEditorial Tags: HistoryFacultyTeachingImage Source: Getty ImagesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, June 19, 2018Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: Dividing World HistoryMagazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Eurocentric View of World History?Trending order: 3

EdX introduces support fee for free online courses

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 07:00

Massive open online courses got a little less open with edX's recent announcement that it is introducing support fees for some of its MOOCs.

Midway through an innocuous-looking blog post, Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, said the nonprofit would be “moving away from our current model of offering virtually everything for free.”

On May 3, edX began testing the introduction of a “modest support fee” that will “enable edX and partners to continue to invest in our global learning platform.”

Adam Medros, edX COO and president, said in an interview that the support fee was just one option being explored to ensure the long-term sustainability of the MOOC provider.

Medros described the testing of the support fee as “complicated” with multiple implementation experiments running concurrently for different subsets of users.

Previously edX users were able to take most of its courses at no cost, an option that edX calls “auditing” a course. Those who want a certificate to show they have completed a course typically pay between $50 and $300. Some options, such as edX’s MicroMasters programs, cost over $1,000.

Now some users will be asked to pay a support fee, “from $9 up to some portion of the certification cost,” said Medros. The price of the support fee “will be aligned to the value and experience” that a course gives to a learner, said Medros, suggesting that the best courses will also be the most expensive.

By introducing a support fee, Medros said, there is a possibility that completion rates may go up. “There is a lot of evidence showing that having some ‘skin in the game’ is beneficial in online learning,” said Medros.

Medros did not say how many courses the support fee would be applied to, but he said it was edX’s intention that “some portion” of its content “will always be free.” He said edX had not decided which content will remain free and what proportion of the total catalog it will represent.

As a nonprofit, edX is not introducing the fee to meet the demands of shareholders, said Medros. He said that every dollar generated in excess of costs would be invested into creating new programs and providing financial assistance to support prospective students who don’t have the money to pay for courses. 

The support fee would only be applied to courses provided by edX’s institutional partners on edx.org, said Medros. These institutional partners will share the revenue generated by the support fee with edX. The support fee will not be applied to courses that universities run on the Open edX software. Universities providing courses using the open-source software will continue to be able to set their own prices and can continue to offer courses free if they wish.

Writing about the introduction of the fee, Dhawal Shah, founder and CEO of Class Central, a review site for online courses, said the announcement was the latest in a phenomenon he termed “the shrinking of free.” Regardless of MOOC provider -- be it edX, Coursera, Udacity or FutureLearn -- “all have cut back on what was originally free in MOOCs.”

Phil Hill, co-founder of Mindwires Consulting and an author of the e-Literate blog, agreed that the edX announcement was not surprising. Early MOOC providers like edX thought they would be able to “get really big for free,” said Hill. “Magic didn’t happen, and now they’re facing reality.”

Some providers, like Coursera, have moved into the online program management space as their primary source of revenue. But edX doesn’t seem to have gone “all in” on the OPM route, said Hill, despite its successful partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Hill doesn’t think edX will have a problem finding students to pay the support fee. He pointed to providers such as Pluralsight that have built a good business charging moderate prices for online courses. Hill thinks the problem edX will run into is around its messaging.

“They touted so strongly early on that their content was free, I think that will be the most difficult thing to get over,” said Hill.

Though edX said it is trying to be transparent about the changes, Hill said that the MOOC provider is “not doing a good job of sending a new message” due to a lack of detail about the changes and failure to publicize them on the main site.

“It’s like they feel guilty that they have to do it,” said Hill.

Digital LearningTechnologyEditorial Tags: MOOCsOnline learningIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Paying for MOOCsTrending order: 2

Conference for scholars on Asia turns into dispute over academic freedom

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 07:00

An academic conference for scholars on Asia scheduled to be held in India next month has turned into a vocal and growing imbroglio over academic freedom after the Indian government banned the attendance of Pakistanis and people of Pakistani descent.

The turn of events has become a public relations disaster for the U.S.-based Association for Asian Studies, which began planning the conference in 2014 but apparently made no contingency plans for geopolitical hurdles such as the long-standing tensions between India and Pakistan.

As a result, some 600 scholars from major colleges and universities in the United States, Asia and elsewhere across the globe have signed a letter to AAS-in-Asia organizers and its Board of Directors, protesting the organization’s “failures and negligence” on a number of points outlined in the letter. Another letter, anonymous and unsigned, titled “Boycott of AAS Meeting in Delhi: FAQs,” also began circulating Tuesday, making a detailed case for withdrawing from the conference scheduled for July 5-8 in New Delhi.

Some 829 delegates from 429 institutions in 44 countries were expected to attend, according to the association, which claims 7,000 members worldwide and says it’s “the largest society of its kind.” It’s now unclear if the number of registered attendees has changed or will change, given the calls for a boycott.

“We, the following signatories and scholars of Asia, are deeply disappointed that AAS-in-Asia failed to express a collective ethical and political commitment to academic freedom in Asia by canceling this conference,” the letter signed by hundreds of academics states. “We urge the committee and Board of Directors to re-evaluate their mission statement and their 'statement on the denial of visas' in light of critical global events that threaten to erode the legitimacy, political value, free expression and dissemination of academic work.

“As scholars invested in challenging and not just studying the dominant configurations of Asia, we expect AAS to be accountable to its own mission and its membership.”

James C. Scott, Sterling Professor of Political Science and Anthropology at Yale University and a past president of AAS, was the first signer of the letter. Scott, whose research subjects include Southeast Asia, is the scheduled keynote speaker for the conference. He could not be reached for comment but said last week that he still plans to attend.

“I think it’s really, really unfortunate that we as scholars are getting caught in the middle of this cross fire,” said Farhat Haq, president of the American Institute of Pakistani Studies and chair of the political science department at Monmouth College. “I think it’s extremely wrong of any government to issue a blanket ban like this.”

Haq said she was speaking for herself and not for the institute. She wasn’t planning on going to the conference but said the ban essentially denied her the choice if she had wanted to attend. 

“When the whole idea of creating the AAS-in-Asia conference was to create more regional and local networks for scholarship, it sort of goes against the very intent of this sort of enterprise,” she said. “I’m just really sad and upset about the fact that there are scholars trying to so hard to create bridges between different sides and different studies. Our whole enterprise as scholars is to try to create these bridges, but obviously if you’re banning a whole group of people, we have to stand up to that. We cannot be neutral.”

Teresa Chi-Ching Sun, an AAS member and expert in Chinese cultural history and higher education, agreed.

“I feel strongly that this is against academic freedom,” she said. “People from any country should be allowed to come to a conference that is for scholars. Academic freedom should be above political issues, and AAS should be above international conflicts.”

Sun, a semiretired professor who taught at California State University, Whittier College and the University of California, Irvine, now teaches at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at California State University Long Beach. She was not planning on attending the conference.

She said the association should have taken a stand on the ban earlier or at least had a plan in place for how to handle it.

“In the future, if the conference is going to be held in China, will scholars from Taiwan be able to attend if they are representing papers on controversial topics that the host country may not like? What about Iran? They may not want people from the U.S. to attend. Today India rejects Pakistanis; tomorrow another country will reject someone else. This can keep happening. I don’t know if AAS has thought about this. I really think the organization has opened itself up to a big problem. The board should give serious consideration to international policies and develop a policy.”

AAS representatives, including the executive director, Michael Paschal, and the conference manager, did not return calls or emails seeking comment. A person who answered the organization’s phone said Paschal would not be commenting beyond a written statement posted on its website last week.

However, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based organization issued a longer and more detailed statement this week further explaining itself after the first statement was widely panned for being tepid and “anodyne,” among other criticisms, and the boycott letter began circulating.

AAS’s second statement was far from a mea culpa.

“We acknowledge and understand those who question how AAS has handled the situation, and we respect their views as to how we should deal with it now,” the statement, signed by officers of the association, said in part. “For those aware of the history between India and Pakistan, the fact that the MEA [Ministry of External Affairs] has denied visas to Pakistani scholars is, however reprehensible, not unexpected, given the tensions, border skirmishes and three full wars between the two countries over the past 70 years. Knowing that there was even a possibility that the Indian government would deny visas, should AAS never have agreed to work with an Indian university to hold AAS-in-Asia in India? Further, knowing that there are political complications involved in virtually every country in Asia, should the AAS-in-Asia experiment be terminated?”

The statement, which also addressed the financial costs of canceling a conference for which reservations were made a year in advance, posed a broader question.

“Is there merit in working with Asian institutions in the hope of helping to strengthen academic freedoms and civil society, recognizing the contexts of current limitations? We might also go further to ask if scholars should refuse to participate in international conferences held in any country with problematic government policies. This would include the U.S., which has a blanket ban on potential participants from seven countries.”

The officers said they agreed “with those among our members who urge us to oppose restrictions on scholarly exchange across borders and to challenge such restrictions wherever possible. At the same time, we recognize the complex political climates in which many of our colleagues function. We believe that fostering intellectual exchange is often the best means of support, even though in many instances this will involve compromises rather than stances of absolute moral purity.”

It’s not clear if the second statement helped or did more harm, but as the boycott letter continued to circulate, the conference’s organizing committee reached out to AAS members by email to do more damage control and encourage people who registered for the conference to attend.

“We are looking forward to welcoming you in Delhi,” said the lengthy email, which also reminded would-be attendees that the conference “is the largest of its kind in India and promises to be a memorable platform for scholars from around the world to exchange ideas.”

The email stated, “We are writing to a) give you the full facts of the matter and b) assure you that AAS & Ashoka remain fully committed to universal participation and to free scholarly exchange across all national boundaries.”

The email explained that its conference co-sponsor, Ashoka University, a self-described leading liberal arts institution in India, was pursuing several channels to have the ban on Pakistanis reversed even as the university was in discussions with AAS leadership about the ban.

Because of time constraints, “we decided to resolve the issue for the time being by giving Pakistani scholars the opportunity to participate via Skype. But we continued, and are still continuing, to make efforts to secure visas for our Pakistani colleagues.”

The email went into deep detail, and included a timeline of events, to explain what happened.

“Unfortunately, all over the world scholarly exchange is held hostage to geopolitics,” the email states. “India is not unique in this respect. We would also like to make it clear that AAS and Ashoka do not in any way endorse the denial of visas to scholars. But we would like our participants to understand that granting visas is not within our power … we are still working to have this decision reversed even at the last minute. We regret a state of affairs where scholars from particular countries find it difficult to secure visas. But correcting this state of affairs will require us to all collectively work towards a world where visas do not restrict movement of scholars, in any part of the world. It is even more important therefore that we continue to meet as scholars even as we try and overcome these barriers that so many governments across the world still put in the path of scholarly exchange. We look forward to seeing you.”

The three-page boycott letter takes issue with much of AAS’s stance.

“Rather than take a strong stand against this blatantly exclusionary, anti-intellectual government position, the organizers have confirmed the right of governments to use visa regimes to deny the principle of academic freedom,” it states. “They go on to claim that there are pragmatic reasons why they cannot cancel or scale back this conference, and that they had, in March 2018, informed the academics affected by the government’s decision. This action, and the fact that they are attempting to use Skype to allow some academics to participate from a distance, in no way exculpates them from what was clearly a decision to keep these inconvenient facts from the other participants in the conference, and from the public at large.

"As concerned academics, members and non-members of the AAS, we find this situation reprehensible and unacceptable. Given the intransigence of the Indian government, the only responsible path open for the AAS would have been to refuse to host this conference in India; it is all the more objectionable that the organizers were willing to go ahead when scholars from the very region the association is meant to study cannot attend. There is much more at stake than the inconvenience of cancelled bookings and refunded conference fees; to go along with the partisan and punitive actions of governments who wish to blunt critical thought and scholarly exchange is to be complicit with policies that a great many of us have contested in our research and writing. There are many moments in which we are called upon to stand up for our ideas; this is a particularly important moment to do just that.”

Haq, of the American Institute of Pakistani Studies, said the organization has not yet taken a position on the boycott and will be meeting soon to decide on a public statement. The institute did withdraw as a sponsor of the conference last week, however.

“What is frustrating is that we are left with these kinds of no good choices,” she said. “If we boycott, it only hurts the scholars and the enterprise of building bridges. But on the other hand, what else can we do? It is really, really frustrating to be put in this no-win situation.”

She said she empathized with AAS because it takes years to organize such conferences.

“And while I can understand calls for the boycott -- and morally that’s where I stand -- it’s also going to take us further away from a greater understanding of each other.”

GlobalEditorial Tags: IndiaIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

States struggle to close degree-attainment gaps with black, Latino students

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 07:00

Most states have set goals for the proportion of their residents that should have a college degree or certificate in the next few years.

But many of those states will not reach those goals if they don't close gaps between black and white and Latino and white adult students, according to a set of reports released today by the Education Trust.

Nationally, 30.8 percent of black adults and 22.6 percent of Latino adults have earned an associate degree or more, compared to 47.1 percent of white adults between the ages 25 and 64, according to the reports.

Ed Trust graded states in two areas: overall attainment for black and Latino adults and the gains states made for those adults since 2000, said Andrew Nichols, the group's senior director of higher education research and data analytics, who co-wrote the reports. But the organization also rated states on whether their gaps were larger or smaller than the average gap across all states.

Take West Virginia, for instance. Education Trust gave the state an F for its 24 percent black adult degree attainment and a C for increasing the attainment of black adults by 7.3 percentage points since 2000. But the state is rated as "below average" for its small gap between white and black students.

"For black folks in West Virginia, they have extremely low attainment, but white folks in West Virginia also have low attainment," Nichols said. "That's not something we want to applaud."

Forty-two states have set attainment goals in the footsteps of Lumina Foundation, which set a national goal of 60 percent of Americans holding a degree or credential by 2025. In 2009 President Barack Obama set a similar goal for 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds to have earned an associate or bachelor's degree by 2020.

"We certainly think equity and racial and ethnic equity has to become much more of a focus of attainment goals in order for us to make the progress we need as a country," said Danette Howard, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Lumina. "Unless more states focus on closing these pervasive and long-standing gaps in attainment that exist by race and ethnicity, we will not meet the outcomes we would like to see."

An analysis last year by the Educational Testing Service found that under the current rate of degree production and with existing achievement gaps, the federal government's target would be achieved by 2041, Lumina's goal could be met by 2056 and black, Hispanic and Native American populations wouldn't reach the federal goal until 2060.

Nichols defined the problem as an economic crisis. For both black and Latino adults, current degree-attainment levels are lower than the attainment level of white adults were in 1990, according to the Ed Trust report.

"A college degree is essential in a modern economy and folks need it to achieve an American dream," he said. "We want states to be transparent about the gaps, make them their own and take responsibility for educational and broader policies to improve attainment."

For Latino adults, immigration has played a significant role in their overall attainment rate. Native-born Latinos, for instance, are more likely to hold some form of a college degree, with a 29.8 percent attainment rate. The attainment rate for Latinos born outside the United States is 17.2 percent. However, even among native-born Latinos, the attainment rate is 20 percentage points lower than the rate for white adults.

The report also points out that degree attainment is lower among Mexican-Americans, at 17.4 percent, than for Puerto Ricans (30 percent) and Cuban-Americans (40 percent). This ethnic diversity among Latinos means that a state like Florida, with a high population of Cuban-Americans, received an A-plus in Latino attainment and an A in the attainment change since 2000 from Ed Trust. But states like California, Texas and Arizona, with high populations of Mexican-Americans, each received a D for their Latino attainment rates.

"The Latino adult population has increased 72 percent since 2000," said J. Oliver Schak, a senior policy and research associate for higher education at Ed Trust, who co-wrote the reports. "The white population has remained flat and the black population has grown about 25 percent, so it is increasingly critical for institutions and states to focus on the success of students of color and first generation."

The gaps differ by degree level. For instance, the gap between black and white adults at the associate-degree level is one percentage point and between Latino and white students is 3.4 percentage points. However, the discrepancy is larger at the bachelor's degree level, where 14 percent of black adults and 11 percent of Latinos have a bachelor's degree compared to 23.7 percent of white adults.

"What we have in this country is a stratified education system and stratified social system," Nichols said. "You see a lot of black and brown and low-income families iced out of four-year educational opportunities and pushed toward community colleges."

Certificates and two-year degrees can help increase employment options, Nichols said.

But "we have concerns to some extent that black and brown students will essentially be pushed toward a community college degree due to systemic inequalities in this country. We understand states are including certificates in attainment goals, and that's fine, but we want to ask states to improve so that certificates aren't the only opportunities for black and brown students," he said.

Ed Trust recognizes that those discussions on the state level may be politically uncomfortable, but they shouldn't shy away from focusing on race in reforms like guided pathways or developmental instruction, said Tiffany Jones, director of higher education policy at Ed Trust.

States will often attempt to capture black and Latino students by using terms like "at-risk" or "low-income" in policy decisions, but ultimately, they may end up losing those students because the policies are too broad, she said.

"We have to make sure race is at the center of student-success strategies," Jones said. "If states want to see outcomes, they need to rethink their investment strategy … about how to emphasize and focus on outcomes, incentives and rewards for students of color."

Howard said there are states that have recognized the importance of centering race in policy discussions to increase attainment rates. She points to efforts in Colorado, for instance, where state officials are closing equity gaps.

"Colorado made equity the centerpiece of the attainment agenda," she said. "They went institution by institution and developed specific plans to help learners at those institutions meet specific attainment goals. And they worked with faculty to make sure they were prepared to teach a much more diverse student body."

Colorado has a 37.1 percent attainment rate for black adults and 22.2 percent for Latinos. However, the state was ranked "above average" by Ed Trust for its large Hispanic-white and black-white attainment gaps.

"In no state did we see black or Latino degree attainment surpass that of the white population, so the work is not done," Nichols said. "The conversation often tends to be focused mostly on income or economic status, but there is a significant amount of research that shows socioeconomic mobility and gaps cannot be explained by just income. Race is a factor."

DiversityEditorial Tags: DiversityFoundationsResearchIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

No movement on PROSPER Act after GOP vote count

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 07:00

House leaders were mum on plans for the PROSPER Act after reportedly taking the temperature on members’ support for the bill earlier this week.

College groups, student organizations and veterans' representatives meanwhile renewed pressure on lawmakers to withhold support for the GOP plan to overhaul the Higher Education Act.

No observers were ready to officially declare the bill dead without details from Republican leaders on support within the caucus. But as Congress enters the summer months without any sign of a floor vote, the chances of the legislation moving forward this year appear increasingly unlikely.

Politico reported this week that the office of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, would conduct a whip check to determine if the bill had the support to move forward. There hasn’t been any movement on PROSPER since December, when the education committee advanced the bill on a party-line vote.

A spokesman for Scalise’s office said Wednesday that it doesn’t comment on whip counts.

Representative Virginia Foxx, the North Carolina Republican who chairs the House education committee, continues to have “positive conversations with other members about the bill,” said Marty Boughton, a committee spokeswoman.

But the committee deferred questions about support for the bill and a vote schedule to offices of Scalise and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said it’s relatively unusual for a committee to report out a major piece of legislation and not bring it to the floor for six months. But with Democrats, who were shut out of the drafting of the bill, withholding support, Foxx has had to secure at least 218 GOP votes.

“I think that’s the issue at this point,” Hartle said. “When they’re sure they have the votes, they’ll go to the floor, but not before.”

While Republican leaders gauged support for the bill this week, vocal opposition to PROSPER heated up once again as critics sought to dissuade members of both parties from backing the bill.

Groups like ACE and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities called on members to register their opposition with lawmakers. And on Monday, California’s top public higher ed officials in a joint letter said the legislation undermined efforts in the state to make college more affordable and accessible for students.

“HEA reauthorization provides an opportunity to develop federal education policies that promote these goals,” they wrote in a letter to members of Congress. “Unfortunately, we have significant concerns with many of the changes proposed in the PROSPER Act, which we believe would undermine our efforts and increase college costs for California’s students and families.”

The next day, the student body presidents of the Big Ten universities wrote to House leaders to say the legislation would be detrimental to prospective and current undergraduates. Like the California higher ed leaders, the group pointed to the proposed elimination of subsidized student loans, Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grants and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

A coalition of veterans' groups, meanwhile, met individually with lawmakers this week to outline their opposition to the bill. Those groups have focused in particular on PROSPER’s elimination of PSLF and the removal of consumer protection rules.

Foxx and supporters are looking to cobble together support for the legislation after Republican leaders in the House saw an embarrassing failure for the farm bill after bringing it up for a vote last month.

Senate leaders have indicated there likely won’t be higher ed legislation coming out of that chamber this year. Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate education committee, said last month that he doesn’t expect the committee to craft a proposal for HEA reauthorization. Earlier this year, he had said he wanted to mark up a bill by April -- a timeline that observers said was extremely ambitious even then.

Hartle said Alexander’s statement may further complicate the work of Foxx to win additional support.

“Right now, you would be voting on PROSPER knowing it’s not going to go anywhere,” he said.

Ad Keyword: Higher Education Act Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

New presidents or provosts: Ball State Hampshire Lake Superior Long Beach Maine Mesa Michigan Tech Northern Colorado Owens Phoenix Seminole State Thompson Rivers

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 07:00
  • Brett Fairbairn, professor in the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan, has been chosen as president and vice chancellor of Thompson Rivers University, in British Columbia.
  • Andrew Hale Feinstein, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at San Jose State University, in California, has been appointed president of the University of Northern Colorado.
  • Joan Ferrini-Mundy, chief operating officer of the National Science Foundation, in Virginia, has been selected as president of the University of Maine and the University of Maine at Machias.
  • Lynn G. Gillette, provost and vice president for academic affairs and special assistant to the president at Nicholls State University, in Louisiana, has been appointed provost at Lake Superior State University, in Michigan.
  • Richard Haney, interim president of the College of Lake County, in Illinois, has been selected as president of Mesa Community College, in Arizona.
  • Larry Johnson Jr., provost and chief academic officer at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park, in Missouri, has been appointed president of Phoenix College, in Arizona.
  • Richard J. Koubek, executive vice president and provost of Louisiana State University, has been named president of Michigan Technological University.
  • Georgia Lorenz, vice president of academic affairs at Santa Monica College, in California, has been chosen as president of Seminole State College of Florida.
  • Miriam E. Nelson, deputy director of the Sustainability Institute at the University of New Hampshire, has been appointed president of Hampshire College, in Massachusetts.
  • Susana Rivera-Mills, vice provost for academic programs and learning innovation at Oregon State University, has been selected as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Ball State University, in Indiana.
  • Steve Robinson, interim president of Owens Community College, in Ohio, has been named president and chief executive officer there.
  • Kathleen J. Scott, acting vice president of academic affairs at Long Beach Community College, in California, has been promoted to the job on a permanent basis.
Editorial Tags: College administrationNew presidentsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Ball State UniversityMichigan Technological UniversityUniversity of MaineUniversity of Maine at Machias

National Academies report: sexual harassment is costly to science, compliance-based approaches don't work

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 07:00

Reports of sexual harassment in academe may be on the rise, but there’s no evidence to suggest that harassment itself is declining. To effect real change, colleges, universities and research centers must move beyond treating harassment like a legal problem and treat it like a cultural one -- one with major implications for institutional and scientific excellence.

So said a group of science leaders Tuesday during a news briefing on a highly anticipated report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The report pertains to those fields in particular, but its conclusions resonate more broadly in the midst of the Me Too movement -- a fact of which the report’s authors were keenly aware.

Frazier Benya, program officer with the academies’ Committee on Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine and study director, said she and her colleagues knew that the scientific community would be watching when they began their work two years ago. “What we didn’t know," she continued, "is that the eyes of the nation would also be upon this study, as a result of so many things that have transpired since."

Benya said she hoped the study, now concluded, would help lead to "necessary change," in academe and beyond.

Indeed, if enacted on a broad scale, some of the recommendations included in the report could make academic science -- a place where women historically have been unwelcome -- a national leader in curbing harassment.

Recommendations include treating sexual misconduct as seriously as research misconduct in its effect on research, welcoming women to all stations of campus leadership and diffusing power hierarchies. The latter might be accomplished by moving away from a single adviser-advisee model to one in which students are advised by a group of mentors, and in which graduate students' funding is tied to the department instead of a single faculty member, the study says. In many cases, graduate students who have eventually reported harassment said they felt strong pressure not to compromise a relationship with a key adviser or a principal investigator whose grants provided them funding, even when the relationship was abusive.

To be effective, antiharassment training must focus on changing behaviors, not attitudes, the report says. It must also reflect what sexual harassment actually looks like. Contrary to popular assumptions, it is not most commonly quid pro quo sexual harassment or sexual coercion, or unwanted sexual advances -- although both phenomena are harassment and sometimes rise to the level of criminal sexual assault.

Rather, the most typical kind of harassment in academe is gender-based harassment, or disparagement on the basis of sex -- comments such as “Women don’t belong in science.” And because most harassment does not get reported, colleges and universities should offer targets of harassment multiple avenues to share their concerns and seek support, the report says. It suggests that institutions have a private ombudsperson to counsel those who have been harassed, apart from offices that comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination.

Above all, institutions should try to promote cultures of respect so that harassment is less likely to occur in the first place, the study urges. 

Legal remedies such as investigations under Title IX, should be "a floor, not the ceiling for what universities should do,” said committee member Lilia Cortina, professor of psychology, women’s studies and management and organizations at the University of Michigan.

Defining the Problem

Before making those suggestions, however, the report seeks to define what harassment actually is, the scope of the problem and its effects. It says that sexual harassment is common in academic science, engineering and medicine, with women in academic medicine reporting the highest rates of abuse.

While there is a relative dearth of national data about the exact prevalence of the problem, some 150 institutions already are using a scientifically backed survey tool called the Administrator-Researcher Campus Climate Collaborative Survey, or ARC3. The academies’ report considered data from two large university systems that were willing to share it: the University of Texas and Pennsylvania State University.

The Texas system data, which pertain to recent graduate and undergraduate students, suggest that faculty or staff members have harassed about 20 percent of female science students, more than one-quarter of female engineering students and more than 40 percent of female medicine students. Across Penn State, 33 percent of female undergraduates and 43 percent of female graduate students in all disciplines experienced this kind of harassment. More than 50 percent of female medical students did.

Existing data also suggest that approximately 58 percent of women faculty and staff members across disciplines have experienced sexual harassment. Additional research demonstrates that women of color and/or sexual minority women and gender-nonconforming women experience what Cortina called a “double whammy” of harassment.

What predicts harassment? Beyond male-dominated environments, both Cortina and the report say organizational climate is the single most important factor. Potential harassers will act out more in cultures or climates they see as permissive, and academe has a reputation as such a permissive place. Moreover, the report says, when gender harassment is pervasive, both unwanted sexual advances and sexual coercion are more likely to occur. And again -- perhaps contrary to popular belief -- the least common response to sexual harassment is to formally report it. That’s due to what the report describes a reasonable fear of retaliation. More common reactions to harassment include ignoring or appeasing the harasser and seeking social support.

However women deal with harassment, it affects them. Based in part on data gleaned from interviews with women who had experienced harassment within the last five years, the committee found that misconduct undermines women’s professional and educational attainment and their mental and physical health. Workplace harassment can result in lowered job satisfaction, performance or productivity; increases in stress; or withdrawal from the organization. Students who experience sexual harassment may miss or drop classes, earn lower grades or even drop out. Cortina stressed that witnesses, both men and women -- not just the direct targets of harassment -- feel these effects, as well.

All that amounts to a significant and costly loss to institutions and science over all, committee members said.

“If you care about advancing science, engineering and medicine, you must care about the impact of sexual harassment,” said report co-chair Sheila E. Widnall, Institute Professor and professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "To succeed in making these changes, all members of campuses -- students, faculty, staff and administrators -- will be need to promote an inclusive and respectful environment."

In addition to the report, the committee released a video about its findings and recommendations, available here.

The Work Ahead

Perhaps most importantly, the report says that systems in which there are clear prohibitions against unacceptable behaviors and harassers are held accountable have lower rates of sexual harassment. Policies should be clearly stated and correspond to the severity and frequency of the harassment, the report says. Somewhat controversially, given the thorniness of collegiality as a criterion for tenure and promotion in academe, and the notion of academic freedom, the report also suggests that “cooperation” become a formal part of academic evaluation and reward structures.

Beyond institutions, committee member Billy M. Williams, vice president for ethics, diversity and inclusion at the American Geophysical Union, said professional societies must play a role in ending harassment. The report urges professional societies to “use their influence,” such as taking into account misconduct findings when considering professional awards and establishing codes of conduct for meetings and membership in general.

Responding to a question about enforcement, Bruce Darling, executive officer of the academies, said his more than 100-year-old organization’s bylaws don’t address sexual misconduct. Changing them would entail a two-year process, he said, but the academies are now in talks about establishing some kind of code of conduct. That could include expelling members for certain violations.

The report also urges lawmakers to consider how confidentiality surrounding harassment cases can shield proven harassers from career harm. That’s similar to what U.S. Representative Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, proposed in 2016. Specifically, she asked fellow representatives to pass a law that would require institutions to inform professors’ future workplaces about Title IX findings against them.

Committee member Timothy R. B. Johnson, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and chair of obstetrics and gynecology and Bates Professor of the Diseases of Women and Children at Michigan, said that while the report is done, the science advocates’ real work lies ahead.

“Our work just begins now,” he said.

The academies’ report is notable in its scope and recommendations, but it’s bolstered by other recent efforts by scientists to end harassment and its deleterious effect on research. The National Science Foundation, for instance, announced in February that institutions will now have to disclose when a principal investigator, co-PI or any other grant “personnel” are found to have committed sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind -- or when the allegations against a PI or co-PI are severe enough to warrant suspension during a campus investigation.

FacultyEditorial Tags: Sciences/Tech/Engineering/MathFacultyMisconductImage Source: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and MedicineIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Pervasive HarassmentTrending order: 1

Minority-serving colleges top peers in economic mobility, report finds

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 07:00

Lower-income students who attend minority-serving colleges are more likely to see a jump in their economic status than are those who attend other colleges.

That’s the bottom-line finding from a new report by the American Council on Education, which crunched numbers from the Equality of Opportunity Project, the highly cited data project released last year by Raj Chetty, a Stanford University economist, and several other researchers.

The new paper, which ACE says is the first of its kind, found that income-mobility rates tend to be two to three times higher at minority-serving institutions than at non-minority-serving ones. The higher rates occur despite the fact that minority-serving colleges are educating the “country’s most vulnerable students,” the study notes, often with relatively limited budgets.

“These findings fulfill a long-held belief by those close to these institutions that MSIs are poised to meet the widespread demand for higher education by lower-income students and students of color,” Lorelle Espinosa, assistant vice president for policy research and strategy at ACE and the report’s lead author, said in a written statement.

Several categories of colleges meet the federal definition of minority serving, including historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions (with at least 25 percent of undergraduate enrollment being Hispanic students), tribal colleges and universities, and Asian-American and Native American/Pacific Islander-serving institutions, among others.

The nation’s roughly 700 minority-serving institutions in 2015 together enrolled 4.8 million students, or 28 percent of all U.S. undergraduates. These numbers are expected to grow, the study said, as nearly all projected college enrollment growth between now and 2025 will be fueled by students from racial and ethnic minorities -- a group that will make up nearly half of postsecondary students within a decade.

The report looked at data for slightly more than half (359) of the nation’s minority-serving colleges, excluding tribal colleges and others based on sample size and other factors, comparing them to more than 1,500 non-minority-serving institutions.

From that sample, one in five students who were enrolled at four-year Hispanic-serving institutions and nearly one in four students enrolled at four-year predominantly black institutions and HBCUs were from families in the lowest-income quintile. Those rates were more than three times the rates at non-minority-serving institutions.

In addition, roughly half of students at four-year, minority-serving institutions covered by the report were first-generation college students.

Higher Rates, Across the Board

Using the Chetty data, the report’s authors looked at a cohort of students who were born between 1983 and 1985 and who began college sometime around the 2002-03 academic year. The data set captured the earnings of these students’ parents when the students first enrolled in college. Then it measured the income of the students themselves when they turned 30 years old.

Across all U.S. colleges, the average rate at which individual institutions move students from the lowest quintile of parental income at first enrollment to the top quintile is 1.9 percent. The ACE report found that the average of all types of four-year, minority-serving institutions top the 1.5 percent national average for non-minority-serving colleges.

Hispanic-serving institutions did particularly well, with a 4.3 percent mobility rate. Predominantly black institutions had a rate of 3.5 percent, while the HBCU rate was 2.8 percent. The rate for Asian-American and Native American/Pacific Islander-serving institutions was 3.3 percent.

ACE also used the data set to do a comparison of “extended mobility rates,” looking at the rate of students who come from the bottom two income quintiles and move to the top two income quintiles.

The average non-minority-serving college’s rate under this metric was 9.4 percent. Minority-serving institutions also topped that rate. Hispanic-serving and predominantly black institutions both had a rate of 20.8 percent, with HBCUs at 19.3 percent and Asian-American and Native American/Pacific Islander-serving institutions at 12.1 percent.

The report singled out several institutions with particularly high extended mobility rates.

The City University of New York’s Lehman College, a Hispanic-serving institution under the federal definition, had a rate of 35.5 percent. The rate for Texas A&M International University, also an HSI, was 34.1 percent.

Several CUNY institutions that are predominantly black did well on extended mobility -- CUNY New York Technical College had a rate of 31.1 percent. And the University of West Alabama, a predominantly black university, had a rate of 18 percent.

Minority-serving institutions in the two-year sector also topped their peers across the board on both mobility and extended mobility rates, the report found.

Hispanic-serving community colleges, for example, had an average mobility rate of 3.2 percent (compared to 1.5 percent for non-minority-serving community colleges) and an extended rate of 17.2 percent (compared to 10.9 percent).

It’s not surprising that minority-serving colleges would outperform their peers in social mobility, ACE and other experts said, in part because they enroll far larger percentages of low-income students. But that doesn’t make the findings insignificant, said Tiffany Jones, director of higher education policy at Education Trust.

“This data helps make the case for strategic investment in these institutions,” Jones said. “They are doing really important work with the resources they have.”

Minority-serving colleges generally cannot charge high tuition rates, given the populations they serve. And to qualify for federal grants, they must also keep their expenditures in check.

Jones said research has identified several factors for minority-serving colleges’ comparative strength on social mobility, including the sense of belonging their student populations create and the positive impact students get from interacting with relatively large numbers of faculty members who are themselves members of minority groups -- what Jones called the “importance of having a critical mass.”

As policy makers develop accountability metrics at the state and federal levels, they tend to focus on metrics of student completion, debt and repayment rates. Jones said she hopes economic mobility gets more of a look as these policies are developed.

“We have to talk about outcomes beyond that,” she said, “and include metrics like social mobility.”

DiversityEditorial Tags: Race and ethnicityFinancial aidImage Caption: Students at a CUNY Lehman College commencement ceremonyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

Harvard president issues defense of affirmative action as lawsuit proceeds

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 07:00

A federal lawsuit challenging Harvard University's affirmative action policies is about to go to trial, with the Justice Department backing claims of plaintiffs who say the university is discriminating against Asian-American applicants.

At one level, the case is only about Harvard, but the university's policies are similar to those of many other institutions with competitive admissions -- so a defeat for the university could set legal precedents far beyond Cambridge.

Against that backdrop, Drew Faust, in her last month as Harvard's president, on Tuesday sent the campus a message pledging that the university would vigorously defend its policies. (Lawrence Bacow, who will succeed Faust, has also pledged to defend the university's diversity efforts.)

Faust's message didn't break new legal ground in laying out Harvard's argument. But it suggested concerns that some of the data the plaintiffs will present may raise questions about the university's policies in people's minds. The plaintiffs have repeatedly cited the high SAT scores and grades of Asian-American applicants who are rejected to suggest that they must be victims of discrimination.

Those who oppose the consideration of race in admissions have picked up this theme, noting that elite universities that do not consider race in admissions end up with larger Asian-American shares of their classes than do institutions such as Harvard, at which 22.7 percent of incoming students last year were Asian. (At the University of California, Berkeley, last fall, 39 percent of new students were Asian-American.)

In her message to the campus, Faust warned the following of the plaintiffs' arguments: "These claims will rely on misleading, selectively presented data taken out of context. Their intent is to question the integrity of the undergraduate admissions process and to advance a divisive agenda."

While Harvard and other universities sometimes avoid comments on ongoing legal battles, Faust indicated that would not be the case with this trial.

"As this case generates widespread attention and comment, Harvard will react swiftly and thoughtfully to defend diversity as the source of our strength and our excellence -- and to affirm the integrity of our admissions process. A diverse student body enables us to enrich, to educate, and to challenge one another," she wrote.

"As a university community, we are bound across differences by a shared commitment to learning, to pursuing truth, and to embracing the rigor and respect of argument and evidence. We never give up on the promise of a world made better by an assumption revisited, an understanding expanded, or a truth questioned -- again and again and again."

In her message, Faust pointed to a Harvard website with more information about the university's defense of its practices. Harvard maintains that it considers race and ethnicity, among many other factors, in building a class, but that it does so without quotas.

The Harvard website suggests that the university's defense may be similar to that used by Princeton University when it was investigated on similar charges -- and in 2015 cleared of discrimination -- by the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights.

Princeton never denied, nor has Harvard, denying admissions to numerous highly qualified Asian-American applicants with stellar credentials. Princeton's argument was that it rejects so many people of all ethnic backgrounds that there was no evidence of bias. An OCR report suggested that the argument was convincing to government investigators.

"The university told OCR that 82 percent of the valedictorians in the applicant pool for the Class of 2010 were not admitted, and over 50 percent of applicants with perfect SAT I scores of 2,400 were not admitted," the OCR report said. "The university added that for the Class of 2010 -- for which the university admitted only 1,790 students -- there were more than 6,300 applicants who had SAT scores of 750 or higher on the math portion of the test, and there were more than 4,800 applicants that year who scored 750 or higher on the verbal portion of the SAT. More than 5,600 applicants for the Class of 2010 alone had GPAs of 4.0 or higher."

On its website, Harvard is releasing similar statistics about its own admissions practices. Specifically, the university is saying that "perfect" test scores and grades don't assure anyone of admission.

"In a recent admissions cycle (in which fewer than 2,000 applicants out of approximately 40,000 were admitted), over 8,000 domestic applicants had perfect GPAs, over 3,400 applicants had perfect SAT math scores [and] over 2,700 applicants had perfect SAT verbal scores," the university says.

Edward Blum, chief strategist for those suing Harvard, declined to comment on Faust's statements, saying that the plaintiffs would release their responses in court filings.

DiversityEditorial Tags: Affirmative action/racial preferencesImage Caption: Drew FaustIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Defending Affirmative ActionTrending order: 2

Education Department staff down 13 percent since Trump administration began

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 07:00

In an interview last month with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the TV personality John Stossel described the Education Department headquarters as huge -- the size of seven football fields -- but noted as he walked the halls with DeVos that many desks sat empty. That wasn’t happenstance.

“If you’re going to make a case to hire more people, you better have a really good reason,” DeVos told Stossel.

A little more than a year into the secretary’s tenure at the department, that stringent approach to new hires looks to have had an impact on staffing levels. DeVos now oversees a significantly smaller agency than the one she took over last year.

Between the start of the Trump administration and April of this year, the department has shed more than 550 workers and reduced its overall size by 13 percent, an Inside Higher Ed analysis of recent employee data found.

Those staff losses have occurred as DeVos is in the midst of a spree of deregulation, which requires heavy staff hours to review and negotiate new rules. And the agency has made do with fewer civil rights workers even as it says it’s looking to reduce a large backlog of federal complaints.

Department officials attribute those reductions to attrition and voluntary early retirement, not any policy decisions.

But former staffers at the agency say the Trump administration has made a choice to simply not fill empty slots after months of steady departures, making it more difficult for remaining workers who are increasingly stretched thin.

The biggest losses were at two key units within the department: the Office of Federal Student Aid, which oversees all federal support for college students, and the Office for Civil Rights. FSA is making do with more than 100 fewer employees compared to beginning of the Trump administration, or a 7 percent total reduction. OCR, which has been under the microscope for policy changes involving investigations of civil rights complaints, has lost nearly 70 staffers overall, or about 11 percent of its work force, since last year. Those numbers are trending in the opposite direction of what members of Congress, who recently appropriated more money for the office, hope to see for support of the agency’s civil rights work.

“There are natural fluctuations in staff during the transition to a new administration,” said Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the department, in an email. “The department continues to assess its staffing needs and will backfill positions or will hire for newly created positions based on those needs.”

The head of each unit has the power to ask for additional staff as needed, Hill said.

Former department officials said the agency was already understaffed before the new administration. And a prolonged period with fewer staff means workers are stretched more thinly and that the department’s investigative and oversight functions suffer, they said.

Catherine Lhamon, the former head of the Office for Civil Rights under the Obama administration and now chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, said the effects on investigative work are clear from the department’s own projections. In the Trump administration’s most recent budget proposal for fiscal year 2019, it projected that civil rights staff would carry 38 cases per person. In the 2017 fiscal year, civil rights staff managed 34 cases per person, compared to 40 the previous year.

“OCR staff already work under a crushing caseload,” she said. “The need is enormous to increase staff, not to decrease it.”

Lhamon said when civil rights staff have unmanageable caseloads, that creates a powerful incentive to not open and not investigate those cases.

While it has never cited a shortage of investigative staff, the Trump administration has taken steps in recent months to change how it processes civil rights complaints in order to address a huge backlog of cases at the department. Many cases have been dismissed outright if they don’t meet new standards issued for civil rights investigators. Under DeVos, the department has stopped automatically conducting systemic reviews of institutional practices when civil rights complaints are filed. And a new case-processing manual issued in March directs that complaints be dismissed under some circumstances, including when they are similar to complaints filed against other institutions. So far the department has dismissed hundreds of complaints filed by one disability rights advocate who believes many institutions’ websites are not accessible to those with impaired vision or hearing.

Advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers have criticized many of those policy changes. In March, an omnibus spending package passed by Congress included an $8.5 million boost for OCR -- and language directing the department to add to the office’s investigative capacity.

Democratic officials have pressed DeVos on details about further hiring at the office, with few answers so far.

Hill, the department spokeswoman, said OCR has implemented a hiring plan that will add to the office’s investigative capacity in accordance with the congressional appropriations language. But she did not offer further details.

The office with the most losses was also the agency’s largest, Federal Student Aid. As the entity that handles all Title IV federal funds, it doesn’t just disburse aid money to colleges and universities, it also monitors whether the money is being used properly. But FSA has always been stretched thin in its ability to adequately enforce laws and regulations involving higher ed programs, said Clare McCann, a senior policy adviser at the department during the Obama administration who is now deputy director for federal policy at New America's higher education initiative.

“They’re meant to be protecting taxpayer dollars and also making sure schools are complying with all the rules designed to protect students,” she said. “When you’re losing a large number of staff, you have fewer people who can be out in the field doing those things.”

And several factors may mean even more departures from the agency soon.

Top officials recently said they would change telework policies to allow employees to work remotely just one day a week. McCann said that would have big implications for workers who don’t live in the immediate vicinity of the department’s D.C. headquarters or regional offices.

“Obviously this is all part of the plan to reduce the size of the bureaucracy. I think there are consequences to that,” she said. “We have some significant problems in higher education that require more, not less, attention.”

The department has gone without filling many staff posts even as it embarks on an ambitious and time-consuming deregulatory agenda. Over the past year, while DeVos overhauled separate higher ed regulations issued by the Obama administration, the Office of Postsecondary Education, which plays a heavy role in that process, has lost about 9 percent of its work force.

The reductions were even larger at the Office of the Under Secretary, a unit that during the Obama administration oversaw much of the key policy decisions involving higher ed. According to the department’s data, that office maintains only about a quarter of its 2017 staff levels. Only 16 officials were listed at OUS as of April.

The Office of the Under Secretary is not a congressionally mandated unit. And compared with other offices within the Education Department, it’s filled mostly with political appointees, making it even more subject to fluctuations during a change in administrations. But to the extent that positions there have gone unfilled, it likely indicates DeVos’s long-term plans for the office.

In a department restructuring plan, the secretary called for eliminating OUS. But Hill said that proposal is based on the assumption Congress authorizes the consolidation of the Office of Postsecondary Education and a separate office overseeing career and technical education.

After struggling to fill top political posts at the department for much of its first year, the Trump administration has won a string of recent confirmations of top education officials. The Senate in the past two months has approved the nominations of Deputy Education Secretary Mick Zais, General Counsel Carlos Muñiz, and Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth Marcus.

But the larger picture of the department work force provided by the employee data points to heavier burdens for those answering to them, former officials said. David Bergeron, a former senior official at the department and now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said having the agency properly staffed is not a progressive or conservative issue but a good-government issue.

If the Trump administration is committed to changing the rules governing higher ed programs run by the department, offices like the Office of Postsecondary Education, the Office of General Counsel, the Office of the Secretary and the Office of the Under Secretary need more resources, he said. That’s especially true given the substantial negotiation, analyses and review of public comment that go into creating new regulations, Bergeron said.

The risk, he said, is that the department without enough workers won't do those things well.

“When that happens, the department ends up in court and that’s bad for everyone involved,” Bergeron said. “The uncertainty about what the rules are is worse than any rule -- bad or good -- because institutions don’t know what rules to follow and students feel unprotected.”

Editorial Tags: Education DepartmentFinancial aidAd Keyword: Education Department Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

Survey finds student support for due process on campus

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 07:00

College students support due process rights in campus disciplinary hearings, but they are less supportive when it comes to matters of sexual misconduct, according to survey results from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education released today.

Working in conjunction with YouGov, a global public opinion and data company, FIRE surveyed 2,225 undergraduates at two- and four-year institutions about students' rights to due process protections, such as the presumption of innocence or the right to have an adviser present during hearings. Participating students were asked whether or not they supported each protection while considering one of three scenarios: breaking a campus rule, underage drinking or sexual misconduct.

Ninety-eight percent of students said they believe the right to due process in college was “very important” or “important.” For every protection except one -- the right of the accused to make copies of evidence in a sexual misconduct case -- a majority of students supported the protections. Despite that majority, the sexual misconduct scenario yielded lower student support in almost all categories. When considering a sexual misconduct case:

  • 80 percent support the presumption of innocence, compared to an average of 85 percent of respondents across all three scenarios.
  • 48 percent support the right to make copies of evidence, compared to 60 percent over all.
  • 68 percent support cross-examination, compared to 75 percent over all.
  • 72 percent support a unanimous decision required for expulsion, compared to 78 percent over all.

As to why this might be, Samantha Harris, vice president of policy research at FIRE, said that a student's ability -- or inability -- to walk in the accused student's shoes could play a role in shaping their opinion.

“We all tend to support rights more or understand the need for critical rights more when we can put ourselves in a situation where we might need those rights,” Harris said. “Generally speaking, it might be easier to put oneself in the situation of being accused of breaking a rule, something general like that, than of a specific and heinous type of misconduct.”

Scott Lewis, a partner with the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, and co-founder of the Association for Title IX Administrators, said recent events may also affect student support.

"Given the context of recent events like the Me Too movement and Times Up movement and the increase of reporting of sexual assault in particular, students are interested in more accountability," Lewis said.

Support for due process in sexual misconduct cases also varied by gender. Eighty-one percent of male students supported the right to cross-examine witnesses, compared to 64 percent of female students. Approximately 59 percent of male students supported the right to view or make copies of evidence, compared to 39 percent of female students.

"People tend to be much more supportive of rights in the abstract, but when the situation is the person whose rights are being violated is someone you disagree with, or in the case of sexual misconduct, you’re the person who is more likely to be the accuser … the support for those rights is lower," Harris said about the gender differences.

Lewis emphasized the danger of providing less protections for due process as a justification for more accountability.

"Historically, those who brought sexual assault cases forward were not given the appropriate attention," Lewis said. "Conversely, if you swing the pendulum too far the other way and you deny rights to those accused of harassment or assault, the overcorrection could result in yet another overcorrection the other way."

FIRE also examined the survey responses in relation to students' political leanings.

"When it came to attitudes towards accessing evidence, very liberal students favored a right to access evidence more than very conservative students in the instance when somebody had been accused of breaking a campus rule or drinking alcohol, and it was the opposite for engaging in sexual misconduct," Harris said. She cited the politicization of campus sexual misconduct issues as a possible cause of the differences.

The survey is particularly significant considering a 2017 study from FIRE that showed very few colleges and universities in U.S. News & World Report's top 50 institutions have any due process procedures in place at all. Of the 53 universities studied, 39 presume that a student is innocent until proven guilty, less than half require fact finders to be impartial and only one -- Johns Hopkins University -- requires a unanimous panel decision for expulsion.

Ryan C. Holmes, past president of the Association for Student Conduct Administration, noted that colleges are only responsible for carrying out the student conduct process that students agree to upon enrollment -- they do not serve as a court of law.

"Colleges and universities do not have the same authority as a criminal system, such as evidentiary or subpoena procedures," Holmes wrote in an email. "Additionally, the ultimate authority of the campus is to determine if an individual can remain a student at that institution and, if so, the best way to amend negative behaviors going forward."

Editorial Tags: Sexual assaultImage Source: Wild Pixel / iStockIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 
Syndicate content