Higher Education News

Second professor at University of Michigan declines to write recommendation letter for student to study in Israel

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 07:00

In the second such case this academic year, an instructor at the University of Michigan declined to write a recommendation letter for a student to study in Israel due to the instructor's support for the boycott of Israeli universities. And an associate professor who similarly refused to write a letter has been disciplined. 

The news of  the refusal and the sanction comes as Israel is facing scrutiny for detaining an American student and ordering her deportation for her alleged support of the boycott movement. An amendment to an Israeli law passed in 2017 bars foreign supporters of boycotts of Israel from entering the country. While Israel has previously applied the law to bar the entry of at least one American academic, this is the first publicized case of it blocking a student.

The two cases highlight how study abroad has become an expanded front in the academic boycott battles surrounding Israel. Some criticize the instructors for letting personal politics affect the decision of whether to write a letter in support of a student and suggest there could be something anti-Semitic in what they see as a singular focus on Israel as deserving of an academic boycott. Others argue that professors are right not to lend their support to study abroad in Israel, which they argue is not open to all U.S. students by virtue either of their ethnic background or their involvement in boycott-related activism.

Case No. 1: A Second Instructor Refuses to Write a Recommendation

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that a graduate teaching assistant, Lucy Peterson, declined to write a letter for Jake Seckler, a junior whom she’d taught in an introductory political theory course, after initially indicating she would be “delighted” to write a recommendation for him to study abroad.

The Post reported that after learning that Seckler planned to study at Tel Aviv University, Peterson replied, “I’m so sorry that I didn’t ask before agreeing to write your recommendation letter, but I regrettably will not be able to write on your behalf. Along with numerous other academics in the U.S. and elsewhere, I have pledged myself to a boycott of Israeli institutions as a way of showing solidarity with Palestine.”

“Please know that this decision is not about you as a student or a person, and I would be happy to write a recommendation for you if you end up applying to other programs,” Peterson wrote to Seckler. Seckler's father is Israeli, and Seckler has been to Israel five times.

Neither Seckler nor Peterson responded to requests for comment from Inside Higher Ed. The Post reported that after Peterson's refusal, Seckler met with an associate dean for the social sciences in Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts to discuss the matter. The associate dean reportedly offered to write him a recommendation herself.

This is the second such case reported case at Michigan this fall. In September, an associate professor in Michigan's American Culture department, John Cheney-Lippold, declined to write a letter for a student to study abroad in Israel because of his support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Michigan’s public affairs office declined to comment on the newest case Tuesday. "Based on the story in The Washington Post, this second instance involved a graduate student instructor and an undergraduate student. Since both a[re] students, the university is precluded from sharing information without written consent from the students," said a spokesman, Rick Fitzgerald.

As for the first case, Fitzgerald said the university was taking "appropriate steps" but that it does not "publicly discuss personnel matters." But The Detroit News reported late Tuesday night that Cheney-Lippold had been disciplined. Specifically, he will not get a merit raise during the 2018-19 academic year and will not be able to go on an upcoming sabbatical in January or on another sabbatical for two years.

In a statement published in Michigan's University Record email this morning, Mark S. Schlissel, Michigan's president, and Martin A. Philbert, the provost, had strong words.

"Withholding letters of recommendation based on personal views does not meet our university’s expectations for supporting the academic aspirations of our students. Conduct that violates this expectation and harms students will not be tolerated and will be addressed with serious consequences. Such actions interfere with our students’ opportunities, violate their academic freedom and betray our university’s educational mission," they wrote. 

The head of the Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday called on Michigan to “take immediate steps to ensure that students are not denied an opportunity to participate in an accredited overseas program because of their professors’ political views.”

“Boycotts such as these, refusing to recommend a worthy student solely because she intended to study in Israel, have a chilling effect on Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus, who may feel isolated and vulnerable when authority figures or campus groups express hostility or shun them based on their views and associations,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the CEO of the ADL, said in a statement.

“We are strong supporters of academic freedom. Certainly everyone, including professors, has a right to openly express their views of the policies of the elected Israeli government. But this should not be at the expense of students seeking to broaden their academic experiences.”

“These professors indicated they had no problem writing recommendations for students who might study in any other country in the world. Singling out Israel alone among all the nations of the world as worthy of boycott, according to the State Department working definition, potentially crosses the line from criticism of Israel to anti-Semitism,” Greenblatt said.

In an interview last month with Inside Higher Ed, Cheney-Lippold defended the appropriateness of professors allowing their own ethical and political stances to inform their choices of whether and when to write letters on their students’ behalf. He said that he refused to write a letter for one of his students to study in Israel because he stands against inequality, oppression and occupation, and apartheid.

“A professor should have a decision on how their words will be taken and where their words will go,” Cheney-Lippold said. He added, “I have extraordinary political and ethical conflict lending my name to helping that student go to that place.”

Cheney-Lippold did not respond to an email request for comment late Tuesday afternoon. He was criticized by many -- including implicitly by his university president -- for letting his personal politics affect his decision of whether to write a letter in support of a student’s academic goals. But his supporters defended his decision on the grounds that study abroad to Israel is discriminatory and not open to all students.

A statement of support for Cheney-Lippold from the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which advocates for boycotting study abroad in Israel, said, “Prof. Cheney-Lippold’s decision is grounded in significant evidence that Israel study abroad programs are not equally accessible to all students attending U.S. universities. Some students, specifically students of Palestinian, Middle Eastern, and Muslim background, who attempt to travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories may be denied visas to Israel or would be denied entry into the country by Israeli customs and immigrations officials as stated in the U.S. State Department travel advisory.

“In addition, the Israeli government has declared its intent to deny entry to members of pro-BDS organizations, such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. Many students on U.S. campuses are members of these organizations and would be barred from entering Israel. Consequently, study abroad programs in Israel exclude certain students on the grounds of national, ethnic or religious identity and political viewpoint, and are contrary to the basic principle of equality of educational opportunity.”

Case No. 2: An American Student Is Detained in Israel

Last week, Israel ordered the deportation of Lara Alqasem, an American student who received a student visa at the Israeli consulate in Miami to pursue a master’s degree at Hebrew University of Jerusalem -- but who was refused entry to Israel upon arrival at the airport in Tel Aviv nevertheless. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Alqasem, who has Palestinian grandparents, remained in detention as she appealed the order to deport her for her alleged support for the boycott movement. Israeli officials cited her role as the former chapter president of the University of Florida’s Students for Justice in Palestine group and said that during her tenure as president, the group advocated for a boycott of an Israeli brand of hummus, Sabra.

“Lara served as president of a chapter of one of the most extreme and hate-filled anti-Israel BDS groups in the U.S.,” Israel’s strategic affairs minister, Gilad Erdan, said, according to the Associated Press. Erdan suggested that he might reconsider the order to deport Alqasem if she apologized and renounced her support for BDS.

Malini Johar Schueller, a professor of English and the faculty adviser for the Students for Justice in Palestine group at Florida, said via email that she is “extremely bothered by the way SJP is being portrayed as a hate group. This is a legitimate student organization with chapters in many campuses across the country. Their website states that 'Students for Justice in Palestine is founded at the University of Florida to promote public awareness and activism for Palestinians under Israeli occupation.' Since when have historical awareness and activism become reprehensible?”

Schueller shared a statement signed by 27 faculty, including herself, calling for Alqasem to be immediately released and describing her detention as "a violation of her human rights, her academic freedom and freedom of movement. The detention clearly shows that Israel discriminates against Arab American students, who because of their cultural and familial connections to Palestine … are regularly turned back when they seek to enter Israel."

Hebrew University has joined Alqasem's appeal of her deportation, according to the Israeli publication Haaretz. The University Senate there on Monday passed a resolution describing the university as "a place that does not shy from disagreements and is pleased to hear multiple voices. The minister’s decision not to permit the student’s entry solely because of her views constitutes a threat to what the institution of the university represents." The resolution also said that Alqasem's decision to study in Israel "attests foremost to her reservations about the boycott. As does the testimony of researchers who know her. The minister’s move -- which raises questions about the independence that Israeli academia is given by government policy -- actually has the effect of bolstering any such boycott."

Haaretz also reported that the Association of University Heads of Israel sent a letter to the strategic affairs minister, Erdan, warning of the damage to Israeli academia of barring students like Alqasem and calling on the ministry to consult with host universities before issuing deportation orders.

"The damage caused to Israel and Israeli academia as a whole, to the Israeli universities and particularly to Israeli scientists and researchers abroad by decisions of this kind could well exceed the potential damage, if any, of permitting her to enter Israel," the association's head, Tel Aviv University president Joseph Klafter​, wrote in the letter.

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California students take on publishers legislatively to reduce textbook costs

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 07:00

Students in a political science class at California Polytechnic State University embarked on an unusual challenge last year. They drafted legislation to see if they could get it passed by the state Legislature.

The bill became law this past summer. In the process, the students learned how lawmaking works and got invaluable experience on using the political process to push for change -- even if it's only incremental change -- on a higher ed issue close to their hearts.

The students in the California Bill Project class set out to write a bill that would benefit fellow California students but not cost the state any money.

The undergraduate course was introduced at the San Luis Obispo campus in fall 2017 at the suggestion of former State Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, who was also a volunteer instructor and adviser to the class.

The students’ first idea was to write a bill compelling university administrators to disclose exactly how student fees are spent. But the class quickly established this idea wouldn’t work, said Chris Den Hartog, the professor who teaches the class.

“Staffers in the Assembly told me the Legislature is very wary of getting involved in the inner workings of universities,” he said.

Plan B was to tackle another issue -- the exorbitant cost of textbooks.

Although many universities have initiatives to reduce textbook costs -- either through inclusive-access programs, textbook rental programs or the development and adoption of open educational resources -- Cal Poly students still had some professors who assigned the latest edition of expensive textbooks for their classes.

Students can save money by buying older editions of textbooks. But Den Hartog said many of his students consider buying old editions risky.

“I had one student tell me they had almost failed a math class because they picked up an older version of a textbook. It was the same except that the problems at the end of the chapters had been reordered,” he said. “They did the wrong problems for an assignment.”

Initially, the students wanted to write legislation that would prevent publishers from publishing new editions of textbooks unless they genuinely contained new material. But their proposal would have been “controversial” and “difficult to pass,” said Den Hartog. Publishers would have used their considerable lobbying clout and fiercely opposed it, he said.

The class decided instead to draft a bill requiring publishers to specify the differences between textbook editions and to do so prominently on their websites. Their proposal would be an update to an existing bill that urges publishers to take steps to reduce costs for students.

After getting pushback from publishers and lawmakers, the class agreed to change the language of the bill so that it only urged, but did not compel, publishers to provide this information.

Jordan Cunningham, a Republican state assemblyman representing the 35th District -- covering San Luis Obispo County and portions of Santa Barbara County -- sponsored the measure and described it in a Facebook post as "an important bill to help make higher education more affordable."

Assembly Bill 2385 was unanimously approved by the State Legislature in early August and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on Aug. 27.

Den Hartog acknowledges the bill is weak because compliance is voluntary, but he said the process was “not all compromise.”

“The publishers were asking for amendments that would have watered the bill down even more,” he said.

His students pushed back. “They felt the amendments went too far; they would have made it completely meaningless.”

The goal of the class was not to pass a bill at any cost, but to give students hands-on experience in writing legislation. He's proud that his students were able to get state lawmakers to pass a bill.

“It’s hard to pass a bill -- there are so many ways for a bill to die. It’s never a sure thing that it’s going to get through,” he said. “There was a lot of pessimism from my contacts that we would be able to do it.”

Den Hartog thinks the impact of the bill will likely be small because there are no legal consequences for publishers if they don’t comply.

​“But it does lay out some best practices for publishers,” he noted. “There are many instances where they could do more.”

While some publishers already publicly share information about the differences between textbook editions, Den Hertog said the sectorwide picture “is a complete patchwork.”

He hopes the bill will at least nudge publishers toward greater transparency.

“There are millions of students in California, even if this only helps a tiny proportion of those students -- it’s still a large number of students,” he said.

Victoria Tonikian, a student who took the California Bill Project class in 2017 and graduated last December, said despite numerous revisions to the bill, she was happy with the final language.

"I think it was very representative of our original goal," she said.

James Curry, assistant professor of political science at the University of Utah, said more students need get hands-on legislative experiences like the California Bill Project. At Utah, Curry runs a course called the Capital Encounter Program, where students develop policy proposals and then go to Washington to advocate for them.

“This is the kind of class that teaches students how to be politically engaged and active citizens,” said Curry. “Given how low voter turnout is among young people, we should be doing more to help students learn how to become involved in political processes.”

Tonikian said prior to taking the class she had "a very vague understanding of what the California state legislative process looked like or how it worked." Now she understands "what our elected officials do on a daily basis."

"As a recent college graduate, having an experience such as this one on my résumé has been a great asset and conversation starter," she said. "I don't think many individuals, whether in college or beyond, can say that they've assisted in writing and passing a law."

It's still an open question whether publishers will start volunteering more information about textbook editions when the bill goes into effect in January 2019.

“We have not seen any indication from the publishers one way or another, though we hope they comply,” said Nick Mirman, chief of staff for Assemblyman Cunningham.

Scott Overland, director of media relations for Pearson, said the company's policy on highlighting changes between textbook editions meets the requirements of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which requires publishers to disclose the difference between textbook editions when marketing them to professors.

“As a matter of policy, we also outline updated content in the preface of new editions,” said Overland. He said Pearson would be reviewing the California bill.

Publishers Cengage and Wiley also issued statements saying that they are reviewing the bill and looking for ways to ensure students have easy access to information about textbook editions.

“We understand the students’ desire for this information and applaud them for championing this bill,” said Lauren Andrich, senior manager of global communications and media for Wiley.

Kaitlyn Vitez, director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s Campaign to Save Student Aid, praised the Cal Poly students for their work but said she would rather see more effort "put into developing more open and accessible course materials."

Mike Hale, vice president of education for North America at digital content provider VitalSource, said publishers did “compress” edition cycles in the past in order to boost print textbook sales.

But many publishers are shifting from print to digital business models and focusing more on digital subscription models and inclusive-access offers.

“The publishers don’t want to be wedded to an edition-based world. They want to keep pushing their digital business,” said Hale.

Still, he doesn't believe publishers will volunteer information that could potentially limit the sale of new textbook editions.

“I don’t think they’ll do it, unless there’s a downside to not doing it,” he said.

Editorial Tags: TextbooksImage Source: Justin Wellner, courtesy of Chris Den HartogImage Caption: Students pose in the State Capitol after taking part in a committee hearing. Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham can be seen in the center. On the far right is former Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, and next to him, Professor Chris Den Hartog.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

Updates on college fund-raising campaigns

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 07:00

Starting Out:

  • Macalester College has started a campaign to raise $100 million by 2019. The college has already raised $80 million, with financial aid being the top priority of the campaign.
  • Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology has started a campaign to raise $250 million by 2020. The top priority is financial aid. To date, $165 million has been raised.
  • University of Montana is starting a campaign to raise $400 million by 2020. The university has already raised $325 million. Top priorities are scholarships and endowed chairs.

Finishing Up:

  • Christendom College, in Virginia, has raised $45 million in a campaign that started in 2016 with a goal of raising $40 million. Major goals for the campaign included the chapel and the endowment.
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago has raised $55.2 million in a campaign that started in 2016 with a goal of $50 million. Student aid and faculty support were stressed in the campaign.

Check on the status of other fund-raising campaigns at Inside Higher Ed's fund-raising database.

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Gallup survey finds falling confidence in higher education

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 07:00

Just under half (48 percent) of American adults have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in higher education, according to an analysis being released today by Gallup.

That figure is down from 57 percent in 2015 and represents a larger than typical decline in confidence in an American institution in a relatively short time period, according to Gallup. (Note: Gallup conducts some surveys for Inside Higher Ed, but this publication played no role in the results being released today.)

The largest confidence drops were found among Republicans.

Percentage of Adults Confident in Higher Education

  2015 2018 All 57% 48% Republicans 56% 39% Independents 48% 44% Democrats 68% 62%

Gallup asks Americans about their confidence in a wide range of American institutions. And based on this year's responses, higher education enjoys more confidence than do many other institutions (including the presidency, Congress, newspapers and public schools). Only the military, small business and police enjoy more confidence than does higher education.

Gallup noted that no other institution has seen as large a decline in confidence from 2015 to 2018. The next largest drop was for organized religion, which saw a four-percentage-point decrease, compared to the nine-point drop for higher education. On average, the institutions tracked by Gallup saw a one-point gain in confidence in the years for which the comparison was made.

Jeff Jones, a Gallup analyst, said higher education leaders "probably should be worried," given that confidence levels can be reflected in decisions politicians or donors make about financial support for higher education. At the same time, he noted the underlying strength of higher education in that "going to college is going to advance people's careers."

Jones also noted that many people -- whatever their overall view of higher education -- "have a soft spot for their alma maters." And he said that many conservatives who are dubious of higher education base their views "on things that may be happening at some colleges, but not necessarily at all college campuses."

Among those expressing concern about the attitudes noted in the Gallup poll (but who commented before it was released) is Lawrence S. Bacow, the new president of Harvard University.

In his inaugural address Friday, Bacow said that declining public support for higher education is one of the major challenges facing academe.

"For the first time in my lifetime, people are actually questioning the value of sending a child to college," Bacow said. "For the first time in my lifetime, people are asking whether or not colleges and universities are worthy of public support. For the first time in my lifetime, people are expressing doubts about whether colleges and universities are even good for the nation. These questions force us to ask: What does higher education really contribute to the national life?"

He said that "more people than we would like to admit believe that universities are not nearly as open to ideas from across the political spectrum as we should be; that we are becoming unaffordable and inaccessible, out of touch with the rest of America; and that we care more about making our institutions great than about making the world better." While Bacow said that there may be "a kernel of truth" in such criticisms, he added that "if I believed that these criticisms fundamentally represented who we are, I would not be standing before you today. All of our institutions are striving to make wise choices amidst swirling economic, social and political currents that often make wisdom difficult to perceive."

Numerous Surveys With Somewhat Similar Results

The new Gallup analysis is the latest to point to weaknesses in the public image of higher education.

A poll released last month by WGBH found more appreciation of colleges than other surveys have. In some areas, however, including affirmative action, sexual assault and mental health, the public was not impressed.

A number of surveys have found gaps based on political leanings and attitudes about higher education.

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

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U of Maryland confirms officials were told about alleged football abuse two years ago

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 07:00

When the graphic accusations against the University of Maryland, College Park, football program emerged -- as ESPN reported, that players were berated and pushed to the point of vomiting or passing out -- Maryland's president, Wallace Loh, denied he knew anything about the allegations.

Pleading ignorance still didn’t cast the institution in a particularly positive light considering that offensive lineman Jordan McNair had just died of heatstroke (an investigation subsequently revealed College Park athletics staffers had failed to treat McNair properly at a practice in May -- a fatal error).

But new accounts reveal that institution officials were warned of the alleged ongoing abuse in the program nearly two years ago, and some commentators have questioned whether Loh and others can keep their jobs after this revelation.

The Washington Post first reported that the mother of a former player had an anonymous warning hand-delivered and emailed to Loh’s office, to then athletics director Kevin Anderson and others in December 2016, long before Maryland football made headlines.

The letter said that head football coach DJ Durkin was "orchestrating valorous suffering on the football athletes," the Post reported. The most recent allegations against the program include that players were frequently belittled and told they were a "waste of space" and that they were sometimes physically abused, with one coach shoving a player while he was vomiting.

University spokeswoman Katie Lawson said that the university had no record of a hand-delivered message. However, Loh did receive the emailed version of the warning, which he had a staff member forward to Anderson, according to a statement from College Park. Loh did not remember the email, the statement said.

Members of the president’s cabinet are expected to address such tips and information, and the university’s practice is not to respond to anonymous emails, according to the statement.

But what Anderson did with the information in the email remains unknown. Lawson deferred a question about how he handled the email to an independent commission set up to investigate the football program.

The University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents took control of that investigation away from College Park officials in August. It’s ongoing, led by an eight-person commission, and the results are expected to be released soon to the regents and to the public perhaps as early as the board's next meeting, Oct. 19. Durkin -- the once revered head coach brought in nearly three years ago and the subject of many of the abuse allegations -- remains on leave.

Whether certain administrators were aware of purported mistreatment could have significant bearing in any lawsuits later -- and whether Loh and others potentially would remain in their positions, depending on the outcome of the football probe.

“For the university system, for the Maryland taxpayer, for the public that is looking for how this athletic program is being run and supervised, this is just an incredible blow to the idea that Maryland is doing what they need to be doing,” said Dionne L. Koller, professor of law and director of the Center for Sport and the Law at the University of Baltimore.

The optics are particularly poor for Loh, and Koller questioned whether he and Durkin would keep their jobs -- she said she believes Durkin at least should be fired because as head coach, he sets the tone in the program that allowed an athlete to die.

Loh has already said the university has accepted full responsibility for the death of McNair, the football player who suffered a heatstroke. Another regent investigation found McNair was not given a cold-immersion bath, the standard treatment for heat-related illness, and that he was not transported to the hospital until nearly two hours after first suffering symptoms. His parents have indicated they will sue, tentatively for a total of $30 million in damages.

Koller said she believes the McNair case would never head to trial and that the institution has likely already accepted it will need to settle for a high-dollar amount. She said the email will probably drive up the value on an already all-but-certain settlement.

“There is a certain amount of leeway we give on tracking down every single gripe in higher education,” Koller said. “But we saw there was enough that was pointing to problems in this athletic department and in this program that I think it does call into question whether President Loh has done enough to investigate and get control over the athletic department.”

This would not be the first incident in which college officials have failed to act on warnings from parents and the public. Only after the 2011 hazing-related death of Robert Champion, the 26-year-old head drum major at Florida A&M University, did the university fire its marching band director, suspend the band and crack down on illicit activities in student clubs. But records obtained by the Associated Press reveal that even as early as 2007, parents were expressing concerns with top administrators about the program. A parent who spoke to the AP said then president James Ammons, who stepped down after the scandal, spoke with him over the phone in 2007 and reassured him that FAMU had taken a hard line against hazing. Police investigations into the band reached back at least to 2006.

As for Maryland, the Post article details horrific new allegations against Durkin and other coaching staff.

Players told the Post that in 2016, one athlete had worked out so hard he was vomiting into a trash can. Rick Court, a strength and conditioning coach, was speaking while the player was sick and grew angry he was being interrupted. He then slammed the player into a refrigerator, tossed the trash can across the room and forced the player to clean up the mess, the Post reported. Court resigned from College Park in August following the ESPN report.

Court also allegedly poured Rice Krispies treats and other snacks over a player who was on a weight-loss plan as a way of “fat-shaming him,” one player told the Post.

Court has not given media interviews and did not respond to the Post but released a statement when he resigned saying he wanted to allow the team "to heal."

Injured players were sometimes sequestered in an area called “the Pit,” a gravel area close to the practice fields, according to the Post. Durkin referred to those players as a “waste of life,” though there is some debate among players whether he was joking, the Post reported.

Players were also shown gory videos during meals and in the training room -- they would feature loud music and violent images, such as animals killing one another and pulling each other part, or zombies ripping out intestines, one athlete said.

In a statement, Maryland athletics director Damon Evans said if the new allegations are true, they are “unacceptable.” Evans noted in his statement that Durkin is on leave, as are several other athletic trainers, and that the department has launched a new “online platform” so athletes can report any concerns.

“We will not tolerate any behavior that is detrimental to the mental or physical well-being of our student-athletes. When the commission completes its charge, we will act decisively and take all actions necessary to ensure the safety of our student-athletes,” Evans’s statement reads in part.

In a statement, Loh encouraged anyone with information to contact the commission.

“I have committed as president that we will take the appropriate actions based on the conclusions of the investigation,” Loh said in his statement. “These allegations are upsetting and underline the importance of the independent review to ensure that all allegations are fully examined.”

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Coming soon to Ivy League campuses: free coffee, privacy not included

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 07:00

A small but growing café chain is strategically opening locations near Ivy League universities and other top campuses, offering an irresistible bargain or, depending on your point of view, an unconscionable one.

The cashless Shiru cafés give out handmade coffee and tea drinks for free. In exchange, students flash a university ID and, in the bargain, hand over a small cache of personal information: name, age, email address, interests, major and graduation year, among other details. They also agree to be contacted by Shiru’s corporate sponsors, who underwrite all those cappuccinos, matcha lattes and iced Americanos.

Customers may also provide a rundown of their IT skills, previous internships and an indication of the size of company they might be interested in working for.

Starbucks, meet LinkedIn … with extra foam.

The chain’s first U.S. location, near Brown University, is usually packed, junior Alexi Kim told Inside Higher Ed.

Kim (a daughter of Inside Higher Ed blogger Joshua Kim) said many Brown students believe that “Free stuff is just better,” adding, “I don’t get the feeling from my classmates that they’re trying to reduce their data footprint.”

Writing four months after the opening of the Providence café, The Boston Globe called Shiru “both a vendor of drinks and an intermediary connecting corporate recruiters to the youngest members of the American intelligentsia.”

Faculty and staff members also have access to the place, with $1 drinks.

Keith Maher, the chain's U.S. general manager, told Inside Higher Ed that Shiru cafés are "welcoming extensions of the university campus" that provide career information and opportunities to connect with their sponsors. They also "support each company's university recruiting strategies for internships and careers after graduation."

He said the chain "takes students' privacy very seriously and does not share this information with any third parties or directly with our sponsor companies." Sponsors, Maher said, receive "aggregate information about our customers such as the total number of daily visitors to the café or specifics on the number of students within a certain academic concentration."

The real exchange of personal information, he said, comes when students talk to recruiters or other executives in "face-to-face meet-ups" at the cafés.

So far, the Providence location "has exceeded our expectations," he said. Shiru estimates that more than 75 percent of Brown students will be registered with the café this semester. More than 600 customers pass through the café each day.

Shiru plans to launch locations this month near Yale University and Amherst College, with locations near Harvard and Princeton Universities coming later this fall -- and more to come after that, Maher said.

Founded in Kyoto in 2013, Shiru operates 17 cafés near Japanese universities and another four at universities in India, with three more in the works there.

The chain boasts more than 200 sponsors in Asia, Maher said, with negotiations for potential sponsors in the United States.

Amelia Vance, director of education privacy for the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington-based think tank focused on consumer privacy, said she was alarmed by Shiru’s business model. “It’s been a longtime discussion in the privacy community about whether privacy should be something that you have to pay for," she said. Shiru's model suggests that the chain sees no problem discriminating against students who can't afford that large hazelnut latte and would willingly pay for it with less privacy.

Not all students have been so happy to hand over personal information in exchange for a spot of tea or a shot of espresso. In May, two Brown students, noting that patrons in Shiru’s Japan locations comprised 40 percent of JP Morgan Japan’s new hires, urged classmates to boycott the café and reject its corporate sponsors, “whose principles are frequently at odds with those of our community.” They said JP Morgan “engaged in deceitful financial practices which likely contributed to the 2008 financial crisis and then became the only large financial institution to make a profit during the crisis.”

Maher said the chain has "a wide variety of companies and industries" represented in the cafés. "As we are currently beginning negotiations with potential sponsors here in the U.S., our goal is to make the best partnerships between the university community, the sponsors and Shiru Café."

Despite the boycott attempt, Shiru seems to have established itself as a popular place to socialize and study. Kim, the Brown junior, said she didn’t set foot in the new café when it first opened, thinking it seemed a bit dystopian and “a little too good to be true.”

She eventually warmed up to it, persuaded that she was handing over information that was already in the public domain. But she admits that she lied on the application, not quite sure “what I was buying into at the time.”

A political science major, Kim told Shiru she was studying agriculture. A few classmates who study computer science, and are perhaps most susceptible to corporate recruiting, did the same thing, she said. Suddenly, it seemed, Brown had an abundance of future agronomists.

She’s not a coffee drinker, so Kim doesn’t spend much time at the place. But it’s usually packed, she said -- a few friends go three times a day. And none has been questioned about the accuracy of personal details they provided.

“If they really wanted that information, they could go on LinkedIn,” she said.

Vance, the privacy advocate, said Shiru's seemingly benign data collection may not be so benign. She noted a 2009 study in which Carnegie Mellon researchers found that providing two simple bits of information -- one's birthday and birth state -- was enough to guess the subject's Social Security number "with great accuracy."

“Very sensitive information can be gleaned out of what seems to be very innocuous information,” she said.

As an experiment, Vance registered her old college email address on Shiru's site. It quickly asked her what coding languages she knew. That, she said, suggests that café​ patrons could be ripe for solicitations from coding boot camps, whose offerings can be expensive, even as their completion rates in many cases are low.

The strategy of extracting personal information directly from students is not accidental, she said. It bypasses what could be legal restrictions on asking for similar information from colleges and universities.

Vance also cautioned that the café's sponsorships may not always be limited to job recruiters. Previous research, she said, has found that LinkedIn profiles can predict personality traits, including whether a user is likely to challenge the price of a product such as a new car. Match that with a major that doesn't prioritize negotiation -- let's say, agronomy -- and the end product could be “predatory advertising targeted at people who are least likely to make smart decisions in response to those ads,” she said.

Kim said she and her friends so far haven't been approached by recruiters. Nor have café staff inquired about their career plans or presented other offers.

But she has also studied cybersecurity and said she’s reluctant to use the Providence café's free Wi-Fi. It isn’t all that powerful, for one thing, so few patrons use it while in the café. But she added, “If they wanted to do something, and if they wanted more data, that’s how they’d do it."

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Author discusses new book on classics and misogyny

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 07:00

An explosion of online discussion of classics might seem a good thing for those who value the study of ancient Greece and Rome. But a dominant theme in much of that discussion (by people who are not scholars) is misogyny.

Donna Zuckerberg, editor-in-chief of Eidolon, a classics magazine, explores this phenomenon in her new book, Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age (Harvard University Press). She responded via email to questions about the book.

Q: When did the current trend of using classics to promote misogyny start? What prompted this?

A: If we're talking about misogyny as Kate Manne defines it -- as "the system that operates within a patriarchal social order to police and enforce women’s subordination and to uphold male dominance" -- then the use of classics to support misogyny is as old as classics itself. In far-right online spaces, classical content began to proliferate in late 2014 and 2015, but really picked up steam in 2016, in part because the Red Pill community expanded so much during the presidential election.

Q: What are some of the trends you see in how classical thought is being used in this way?

A: The trends I talk about in my book are the larger and subtler ones -- the Red Pill interest in Stoicism and how it's used to support a culture of white male self-improvement as the highest good, and how ancient ideas about women and sex are used in the manosphere more generally to provide an intellectual underpinning for ideas about consent and female autonomy.

But recently scholars have also been working to unpack how ancient symbols are being appropriated. Pharos and Sarah Bond both published pieces about the far-right use of the Roman slogan SPQR (senatus populusque Romanus, the Senate and people of Rome), and Professor Bond also wrote an article on Eidolon about the far-right romance with Sparta and the phrase “molon labe.” One of my favorite examples, though, is an article we published about "fashwave" music and classical art. But the biggest and most insidious trend, and the most important, is the use of "Western civilization" as a dog whistle for white supremacy.

Q: How does this trend affect those who do legitimate work in the classics?

A: I wouldn't frame the issue as one of legitimate versus illegitimate work in the classics. Although some Red Pill readings of classical literature and history are highly tendentious or just inaccurate, often they're responding to or picking up on themes and tropes that are absolutely present in the ancient material. In fact, much of the time the ancient material is a lot more congenial to misogynist readings than feminist ones. That's why I try not to use the word "misappropriation" to describe this kind of reception -- why is Red Pill classics "misappropriation" whereas a feminist adaptation of Euripides' Trojan Women is creative adaptation?

The problem is that, going back to the German origins of the study of classics as a discipline and how classical learning was adopted in elite British schools, classics has traditionally been tied very closely to conservatism, elitism and nationalism (and, later, fascism). So doing classics in a progressive, inclusive way can be an uphill battle, because many people feel intuitively (although completely wrongly) that the cultural capital of the classical world belongs to white men, and anything else is swimming against the tide. I don't think that's true at all, but the rise of far-right classical content online perpetuates this harmful idea and makes the work of progressive classicists more difficult.

Q: Are there good examples from the classics that promote the idea of equity for women?

A: No and yes. If you want to find examples, you can cherry-pick them from various sources -- for example, some female characters in Greek tragedy and comedy express ideas that seem proto-feminist, and some schools of ancient philosophy argue for radical gender equality. But if you zoom out just a little bit and look at the broader context, it almost never supports a truly feminist interpretation. Euripides' Medea says that she'd rather fight in a battle three times than give birth once, but I don't think anyone would claim that Medea is a feminist text. It's absolutely possible to adapt or use Medea in a feminist way, but doing so usually requires some resistant reading.

Q: Classicists of course want people to read and engage with the classics. How can they combat the trends you discuss in your book without closing off classics to nonscholars?

A: I don't think there's any conflict at all between combating white supremacist/misogynist classical appropriation and making classics accessible to nonspecialists. Red Pill types claim that people like me are closing off classics, or being gatekeepers, or making a claim that classics "belong" to us, but that's a projection. Really the opposite is true -- they're the ones claiming ownership on the grounds of a shared identity and claiming that “feminist classics” is a contradiction in terms. Scholars who are critiquing those appropriations are the ones making classics more open -- by going out and engaging with broad audiences, analyzing popular culture and showing how ancient literature and history can be meaningful to people from a broad range of backgrounds.

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 07:00
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Professors question big donation at Saint Louis University because of conditions attached

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 07:00

Saint Louis University administrators and faculty where thrilled when a wealthy local couple -- Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield -- donated $50 million to the institution. The gift would allow university leaders to pursue bold and ambitious goals for the next decade and "accelerate SLU’s rise as a world-class research university."

Faculty and administrators alike agreed the infusion of cash could draw attention to the region and recognition of it as an emerging research hub. They also believed it would lure more scholars and students to the university.

The mutual excitement by the administration and the professors fostered a spirit of optimism and collaboration on campus, and a sense of shared aspirations. But the honeymoon ended almost as soon as it had begun after faculty members learned that the generous gift came with questionable and, to many, troubling strings attached: specific stipulations about faculty hiring and research funding that faculty leaders say violate university policies and academic integrity and freedom.

The donation, the largest in the Roman Catholic institution’s 200-year history, was announced in August, but university leaders had been in discussions about it with the Sinquefields for a year. The money will fund a new research institute that university officials say "will serve as the focal point for SLU’s strategic goal of growing the scale and eminence of its research and scholarship," and a new Sinquefield Center for Applied Economic Research on the Missouri campus. It also will also provide annual funding for the university’s chess team, which happens to be located in America’s chess capital.

The agreement stipulates that Rex Sinquefield, a Saint Louis alumnus and trustee, and Mark Higgins, dean of the business school, would select the director of the new economic research center. The director, a professor at the University of Missouri, was named and given the title of Sinquefield Professor of Economics without any prior notice to faculty, and without the input of a faculty-led hiring committee, as required under policies outlined in the faculty manual. The agreement also allows for research grants from the institute to be determined by a four-member committee that includes the Sinquefields.

There is a long tradition in academe of donors stipulating what they want to support -- a given department, building or program, for instance -- but hiring and awarding grants are viewed as academic decisions that should be handled by faculty members and administrators.

“The bottom line issue being confronted across the country is what level of control or influence should a donor have over the operation or various operations based on them giving a gift,” said Douglas Rush, president of the university’s Faculty Senate and an associate professor of higher education administration. “Where do you draw the line between donor participation, donor influence and donor control over university matters?”

“Donors should be able to participate in every aspect of university life, but the issue is one of control -- they should have no control over any aspect of academics. They can participate as long as the control rests with the faculty.”

Fund-raising experts say donations with strings attached -- both visible and invisible -- will likely become more common as state and federal higher ed funding stagnates. Megamillionaires and billionaires are increasingly stepping up to replace those shrinking public funds and, in the process, they are rewriting the rules of higher ed philanthropy, or at least aggressively trying to do so.

If the situation at Saint Louis's seems familiar, it’s because these controversial agreements, once unheard-of in higher ed, are becoming more common. Donations from the Charles Koch Foundation -- and the power that agreements have given the foundation -- have been the source of controversies at Florida State University, West Virginia University, Clemson University, Utah State University and Chapman University. A decades-old agreement between George Mason University and the foundation is the subject of ongoing litigation.

While Koch Foundation gifts to universities and colleges are relatively modest, gifts from wealthy individuals tend to be very generous. In fact, they're getting larger.

According to the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, a relatively small group of donors accounted for large portions of contributions to college fund-raising campaigns. For instance, the top 1 percent of donors to campaigns accounted for 79 percent of the total funds received through June 30, 2015, according to CASE. During that same time frame, the top 10 percent of donors accounted for 92 percent of the funds received.

No longer content to have buildings named for them -- never mind small-potato departments or endowed chairs -- some of these benefactors are demanding more say in the creation of new academic departments, programs or research centers. They want input on the hiring of the directors and faculty who will populate these departments and centers. They want to dictate the subjects that can be studied or taught, the political bent of the research pursued, and the selection of the scholars that will do the research. (Still, many other donors give generously without making any demands for involvement in academic decisions.)

As the amounts of money donated skyrocket, so too do the demands of the donor.

“It can become a slippery slope,” says James Finkelstein, professor emeritus of public policy at George Mason and an expert on development and advancement issues. “It becomes even more treacherous when donors personally are involved.”

He says agreements such as the one approved by Saint Louis University “step on academic freedom and violate the role of the faculty in determining curriculum. They make faculty hires difficult.”

Saint Louis administrators and faculty are still working through their differences over the terms of the donation from the Sinquefields. (He co-founded the investment firm Dimensional Fund Advisors, which has more than $525 billion in global assets.) After professors told university administrators that hiring the director of the research center violated faculty hiring policy, administrators acknowledged making a mistake and removed “professor” from the director’s title and replaced it with “executive director.” They also reclassified his position from “faculty to staff.” But they preserved the filled position, as the donor agreement dictated.

Faculty members were not impressed or appeased.

“I asked the dean if there was a pool of candidates and he said no, the donor recommended someone who is qualified,” Bonnie Wilson, an associate professor of economics, said of the naming of the director.

Wilson and another economics professor, David Rapach, are leading the opposition to the agreement.

“I don’t think the donors should be able to pick the person who will both conduct and direct the research at the center,” Wilson said. “The position hasn’t been posted as far as we know, so we don’t know how it conforms to EEO laws and the university’s own commitment to diversity and equality.”

She said the hiring of the director should have been handled by a faculty search committee “with expertise in an area of work that this employee is going to be asked to conduct.”

University administrators say critics of the donor agreement overlook the overriding benefits of $50 million in new funding that will allow the university to significantly expand its research footprint and enhance its academic standing.

“This is our first gift of this magnitude,” said Ken Olliff, vice president for research. “There’s some growing pains among our faculty on how contemporary philanthropy works.”

He said there were safeguards in place to protect the integrity of the research that the donation will fund, including a research council made of up of the chairpersons of the science and engineering, applied health, scholarship research, and other large departments across the university.

The research council will evaluate applications and send them to the research growth committee, which will then send them to the nonprofit board the donors set up. The board includes four people -- the Sinquefields, Olliff and a retired professor of economics.

“They made no specifications about what kind of research we could do,” Olliff said. “They said we trust you, it’s more about 'how do we help you move the institute forward?’ Let us provide the resources.

“We have goals, visions and metrics, but they are our goals, our vision and our metrics. The donors said that we needed to lay out what our goal and metrics were, so we laid that out and will hold ourselves accountable. The donors want us to move forward with our vision. It becomes a partnership. In my mind this is exactly how philanthropy should work."

Michael Lewis, the acting associate provost for faculty affairs and development, and an associate professor of chemistry, said he, Olliff and Dean Higgins “are working hard to get everybody in the same place with regard to the gift.”

He noted that 165 faculty members signed a statement expressing their gratitude to the Sinquefields.

“The response from the majority of the faculty has been largely very positive by a long shot,” he said. “ They’re very excited about how it’s going to transform the university and transform their research agendas.”

In a statement for this article, Rex Sinquefield said, "Our only motivation in making this gift is to help SLU pursue excellence and grow in prestige. That not only benefits SLU and its students, but also the whole St. Louis region, which is a wonderful place to do research that can transform people’s lives."

Said Wilson, “I would agree with the statement that many, perhaps most faculty, are grateful for gifts from donors. But it’s not at all clear to me that there is support for the donor being involved with hiring … or support for donors to have a role in granting of funds for individual projects by faculty.”

She noted that many faculty members also signed a resolution by the Faculty Senate expressing concern about the agreement flouting the principle of academic freedom. The resolution was distributed by word of mouth and was not shared with junior faculty and still got 70 signatories, she said. "Many people signed both statements," she said.

A motion was subsequently approved by the members, stating, "Donors should not participate in employment matters of the university, nor should they play a role in determining the curriculum or in the direction of funding to particular students, faculty, or individual research projects."

Lewis said the faculty concerns are being heard. He insists the donors will not be involved in employment, curriculum and research matters.

"I hear those concerns at Faculty Senate meetings," he said. "We've said that won't happen. I don’t know how else to address that. Faculty control curriculum and the hiring process; it’s in the faculty manual and will continue to be the case. I can’t make it any more clear than that."

Rapach said simply reclassifying the director’s title from “faculty” to “staff” without changing his duties reflects “many word games being played.”

“The administration has emphasized that they viewed the director and the researchers as staff positions and not faculty. But the director still would direct and conduct scholarly research,” he noted. “The fact that the person is a scholar engaged in work similar to faculty compromises and violates the spirit and intent of the faculty manual.”

What’s more, donors having say even over staff positions “is a clear violation of academic norms,” he said. “We’re talking about donor influence, inappropriate donor influence.”

Rapach said the terms of the agreement lack transparency and risk the university’s reputation as an independent research institution.

“They violated accepted norms of academic integrity and independence,” he said. “I’m very concerned about my academic reputation, and I’m worried about the reputation of the university more broadly. Entering into these types of arrangements and granting these special privileges to donors will have implications to the university’s reputation and its scholars. It’s almost as if we're inviting negative scrutiny.”

University administrators tried to reassure faculty members at a Faculty Senate meeting last month by telling them that Rex Sinquefield will have no say in hiring or firing faculty and that he and his wife also would have no role in directing or drafting research proposals. The administrators did not, however, change the role they had agreed to, allowing him to help select grant recipients.

Not everyone was convinced these steps would create a permanent and impenetrable wall between the donors and the administration of the research institute or the economic center.

Finkelstein said demands by big donors are likely to increase as more college and universities acquiesce to them.

“What’s happening in universities today is that presidents are looking for these eight- and even nine-figure donors,” he said. “That’s how they keep score and show their fund-raising abilities. Finding these donors and keeping these donors is also important to keeping your job as president. So, when you have someone able to write a $50 million check, you want to make sure you can keep them happy.”

And keeping donors happy is being prioritized over keeping faculty happy, he said.

“The distance between how to advance a president’s career is very far and very different from how faculty advance their careers, which is with research and scholarship,” he said. “Today what advances a president’s career almost more than anything else is fund-raising. They’re paying less and less attention to faculty in terms of these matters. They think if I can get a $50 million gift but it gets me grief from faculty, that’s OK, because the board isn’t going to fire me.”

Finkelstein noted that 70 percent of a typical college president’s time is spent soliciting outside funding.

“They’re increasingly divorced from the inner workings of the faculty,” he said. “That responsibility is increasingly being turned over to the provosts and dean.”

This is the case at Saint Louis, where the dean and acting provost are leading the meetings and discussions with faculty about the Sinquefield donation and trying to assure them that everything is aboveboard.

Rapach, who has taught at the university since 2003, is dismayed by the state of affairs.

“To the extent that academia moves in this direction, it compromises the ability of higher ed institutions to serve society,” he said. “These norms and standards that we have are precisely what makes academic research valuable to society … When these rules aren’t adhered [to], it compromises our ability to best serve society and ends up undermining the very research that the donors are supporting.”

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Cornell arts and sciences decides to keep three-course-sequence foreign language requirement, even as other institutions shrink language requirements

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 07:00

Cornell University is “planting a flag for foreign language and international relations.” That’s how Tom Pepinsky, associate professor of government and chair of College of Arts and Sciences’ curriculum committee, described its plan to maintain a stringent foreign language requirement: 11 credits, or typically three semesters’ worth of classes in one language for those who don't already have some language proficiency. (Those who do have some proficiency may take one intermediate-level course instead.)

The decision means that Cornell will not adopt a decidedly controversial committee proposal to decrease the 11-credit requirement to six credits, or two courses in most languages.

“I think it’s an exciting time for the College of Arts and Sciences,” Pepinsky said. “Faculty are engaged in identifying the kind of education students need for the 21st century, that reflects to some degree the demands of those students.”

Student demand is what led the curriculum committee to rethink its foreign language requirement during an overhaul of the hefty, 15-year-old required college curriculum. Currently, in addition to the language requirement, students must take four approved courses in the natural sciences and math, along with five approved courses in the arts, social sciences and humanities. All those courses must fulfill certain distribution categories, such as cultural analysis and quantitative reasoning.

“My sense is that students across the board at Cornell feel a lot of pressure,” Pepinsky said, disagreeing with some faculty perceptions that just premed students were pushing the two-course proposal. “Students are under a lot of pressure here.”

However popular it might have been with overwhelmed students, the proposal met with opposition from the general arts and sciences faculty. Many professors, mainly those in the humanities and social sciences, and those in language departments, in particular, thought dropping the requirement would be a mistake -- and a failure to make good on Cornell’s global ambitions.

“It just seemed crazy to a lot of us, at a world-class university that claims to be forming global citizens,” Mitchell Greenberg, chair of romance languages, said of the six-credit proposal. “You can’t be a global citizen if you’re monolingual … It’s incredibly narrow-minded to think that everybody’s going to speak English.”

Some faculty members also worried that cutting the requirement to six credits would encourage students to pursue languages that are deemed easier, or least involve fewer credit hours; currently students taking some Asian languages fulfill the language 11-credit requirement in one year, as these introductory courses are six credits, instead of four, as in other languages.

Cornell’s student newspaper, The Cornell Daily Sun, also ran an editorial urging the faculty not to “gut” the language requirement, showing that it has at least some student support.

“The committee (on which no language professors sit) notes that students often find the current requirements burdensome; many students aim to take a single intermediate-level semester of a language they studied in high school, and some even transfer out of the college to avoid those courses,” reads the editorial. “While this may be true, the response to such apathy should not be to lessen what is expected of undergraduates. If students have issues with foreign language classes at Cornell, those issues should be addressed, not swept under the rug by lowering the requirements altogether.” If students aren't interested in taking these classes, the editorial suggests, perhaps the classes need to be more interesting.

After months of what Greenberg called “heated debate,” the college faculty developed a compromise: keep the language requirement as is and consider more flexibility in the curriculum committee’s proposed set of distribution requirements.

The curriculum committee’s general set of recommendations says that students may take one course each in 10 categories, including ethics and the mind and statistics and data science. But college professors are soon set to vote on maintaining the language requirement while letting two of the 10 distribution requirement courses “double-count." So instead of 10 required general education courses, students would technically only have to take eight.

One of the distribution requirements is global citizenship. But the three language courses can’t fulfill that.

Pepinsky said he sensed general interest in the compromise and believed it would pass. That does help alleviate some pressure on students, he said. Yet the challenge in any curricular revision is to reflect not only “faculty interests and desires,” but also student ones, he said.

In sticking with its requirements, Cornell is flouting a national trend away from required foreign language study. While the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Commission on Language Learning has called for more investment in language learning, data from the Modern Language Association show that the percentage of four-year colleges and universities that require foreign language study fell 17 percentage points between 1995 and 2010, to about half of all institutions. The MLA has attributed that change to a shift toward distribution requirements instead of required courses.

Significantly, though, more institutions expect students to matriculate with foreign language experience. Twenty-one percent of colleges and universities required high school study in 1995, compared to 25 percent in 2010, according to the MLA.

Among other institutions to recently have considered upping their language requirements is Princeton University. It is still mulling a plan to require that all students -- even those with the highest Advanced Placement exam grades -- study a foreign language to graduate.

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Williams College storytelling group shuts down to consider diversity issues

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 07:00

Every Sunday night, for many years, Williams College students cozy up with snacks around an armchair in the student union for Storytime, what has become an institutional tradition. A group of students known as the Storyboard picks people at the college to tell their stories for a small crowd. A childhood anecdote. A professional success. A moment that shaped their lives. It’s a moment that highlights the intimacy of the small college and the simple joy of sharing both life’s pain and pleasures.

But in September, Storytime stopped.

The student organizers want to pause while they figure out whether Storytime needs to be reworked -- to figure out whether the practice best reflects “the needs and diversity of a community.” In other words, they want to know whether the current format is properly highlighting the voices of underrepresented or minority groups -- even though those students appear well represented in Storytime and promoting diversity was even part of its original mission.

Storyboard hasn’t decided how long the break will last.

“The abundance of campus conversations surrounding identity and privilege, inclusion and equity, along with individuals expressing their discomfort with Storytime instilled our conversations with greater urgency,” the Storyboard members wrote in a recent essay in the student newspaper, The Williams Record.

“This prompted us to think more critically about the ways in which Storytime might feel like a space for consuming other people’s pain rather than a space to affirm people’s cypher, narrative or spoken word. As we examined how Storytime further perpetuates these issues, our conversations generated many more questions than answers, and we reached a point at which we were so unclear about our mission that we felt to continue to organize weekly Storytimes would be irresponsible.”

In February, the college had put on a play called the Underground Railroad Game, a racially focused comedy, which prompted conversations among minority students on their representation at the institution, said Bilal W. Ansari, the group's adviser and assistant director of the Davis Center, the campus multicultural center. This also led to the Storyboard group re-evaluating its event.

"Williams and other colleges and universities across our nation are all struggling to create more meaningfully diverse, equitable and inclusive learning environments," Ansari wrote in an email. "I see the student leaders of Storytime struggling similarly and I tell them often I am so proud to be working with them on this very important issue."

Storyboard did not respond to further request for comment, but according to the Storytime Facebook page, the ritual was established in 2005. The Facebook page also features photos of students laughing, slung over chairs and on the floor, always gathered around a focal point -- the storyteller in a chair.

According to the college's profile of Storytime's founder, Pei-Ru Ko, she wanted to transfer from Williams during her first year there. Over a cup of coffee with an administrator, Ko expressed frustration that the institution talked a lot about diversity in a general sense, but that never seemed to advance to more in-depth conversations.

The administrator, Steve Klass, now vice president of campus life, told Ko, “If you think those deeper stories are out there, why don’t you create a space where they are encouraged?”

Ko did. She convinced a handful of students to hear out a student on the second floor of the Paresky Center, the student union -- and since then Storytime has become a “cherished tradition,” the college wrote in its profile.

Storyboard feels now that the weekly assembly has become “too insular,” the members wrote to the Record. They contacted Ansari to help advise them on how to change the Storytime format.

The students are considering how they should pick the storyteller of the week and whether they should give priority to students with an “underrepresented experience” or “marginalized identity.” Storyboard wants to avoid making these minority students out to be the sole representative of their group and “tokenizing” their stories. Storyboard’s members have also published a survey asking students for feedback.

The Record’s editorial board commended Storyboard for taking a break to revamp the system.

The editors suggested that Storyboard change the question-and-answer format of the night so the speakers feel like they have more “control of their narratives” -- instead of attendees just asking questions, the board recommended they be written down so the teller could pick which ones he or she wants to answer. They also advocated for more transparency in picking the speakers, because those who are familiar with Storyboard process are more likely to be selected.

“As Storytime enters this new chapter, we would like to remind the college community that Storyboard does not bear the ultimate responsibility for the viewpoints or interpretations of its audience members. It is on the listeners to keep an open mind and acknowledge any role they may have in the tokenization of a speaker,” the editorial board wrote.

A Williams spokesman, Greg Shook, said Storytime is completely organized and run by students, so the college has no role.

Ansari, the adviser, said that the group has only received praise for pausing the event.

"Many of us long for the chance to hear the as-yet untold stories that can make our campus a richer and more grace-filled place," he said. "But our student leaders are being praised for showing deep empathy and cultural humility in their efforts to better represent all student voices on Williams' campus."

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Changes to College Scorecard anger veterans' groups

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 07:00

As they push forward with a plans to drop the accountability rule known as gainful employment, Education Department officials have talked up plans to expand consumer information as an alternative to the hotly debated regulations.

Even groups that backed the department’s proposal to drop gainful employment, however, are angry over a decision to drop national comparison measures from the College Scorecard, the tool that’s supposed to help students navigate their higher ed options.

“This is a step in the wrong direction. It's absolutely ridiculous,” said Daniel Elkins, legislative director of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS).

Because veterans earn education benefits, they've often been targeted by unscrupulous education providers. So veterans' organizations have been strong advocates for consumer protections and information.

The Obama administration issued the gainful-employment rule in 2014 to hold career education programs and for-profit colleges accountable for graduating students with debt they couldn’t repay. But Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in August said she would look to repeal the rule, saying her department would empower students “instead of targeting schools simply by their tax status.” Part of that plan is adding data on program-level outcomes for institutions -- students would be able to see what the typical liberal arts student at a college earns, for example, compared to the typical engineering student.

Unlike many other veterans' groups, EANGUS supported the decision to drop gainful employment. But the group said it was mystified last week by the department’s decision to drop data showing how individual colleges compared to the national median on measures like net price, graduation rate, typical earnings and loan repayment rates.

“Without knowing what the national median is, having this outcome data isn't helpful because there’s nothing to compare it to,” Elkins said.

The Education Department said it dropped the national median outcomes data -- as well as a measure showing what share of a college’s students earned more than high school graduates -- because officials thought those benchmarks were misleading to students.

Diane Auer Jones, the principal deputy under secretary of education, also said last month that the department sees most students as choosing between a handful of college options in their area rather than picking among options across the country.

Nate Bailey, a spokesman for the department, said it is still releasing data on national median outcomes for those who think it's relevant, just not as part of the Scorecard consumer tool. 

"The Scorecard enables students to compare outcomes among the institutions of interest to them and available to them, which is what matters for decision making.We are exploring ways to compare institutions that serve similar students, have similar levels of selectivity, and share other characteristics. In the meantime, what matters most to students is the ability to compare among their choices," he said. "For most students, choice is far more narrowly defined than a national average represents."

(Note: This story was updated to include comments from the Education Department.) 

Veterans' groups have been among the most vocal proponents of data on higher ed outcomes like earnings and loan repayment. Most supported keeping the gainful-employment rule. Dropping national data from the Scorecard undermines the government’s own justification for repealing the rule, they said.

“It’s the basis of being an informed consumer,” said John Kamin, assistant director of veterans' employment and education at the American Legion.

The Scorecard data is also the basis for several consumer tools operated by other federal agencies. The Department of Veterans Affairs runs the GI Bill Comparison Tool, which lets students see how far their benefits will go at various institutions. And the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau operates a personalized disclosure site called the Electronic Financial Impact Platform that it has required colleges charged with misrepresentation to make available to prospective students. As of last week, the VA tool also no longer displayed the data on national median outcomes.

Those tools are important because they get information to students with a variety of circumstances, said Michael Itzkowitz, a senior fellow at the think tank Third Way and the former director of the College Scorecard.

“Generally, with students in a college search process, you don’t want to have them clicking on multiple websites if possible to find the information they’re looking for,” he said. “You want to make it as easy as possible.”

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Unsolved murder of black student at Humboldt State raises many questions

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 10/05/2018 - 07:00

It’s been 17 months since David Josiah Lawson, a black student at Humboldt State University, was killed at an off-campus party in the mostly white town of Arcata in Northern California. Since then, local police have arrested and released one suspect. The investigation has stalled. Press attention, which was minimal outside of Arcata to begin with, has languished. Lawson’s mother, Charmaine Lawson, continues to push the Arcata Police Department and the university to solve her son’s murder, but she’s fighting an uphill battle.

“I say I’m living a parent’s worst nightmare, to receive a call in the early hours telling me that my son has been stabbed and taken to the hospital,” Charmaine Lawson said. “There’s still so many unanswered questions -- 17 months and still no justice for my son, and it’s frustrating.”

When Mollie Tibbetts, a student at the University of Iowa, disappeared in July, the public and police response was swift and thorough. National media broadcast the tragedy far and wide. A multistate investigation led police to Cristhian Bahena Rivera, who confessed to her killing and was charged with first-degree murder in August. Fox News and other conservative news outlets covered Tibbetts's case with a renewed vigor after it was revealed that Rivera was an undocumented immigrant.

The circumstances of their deaths were different, and every murder of a college student is a tragedy, but the lack of public attention led some to wonder if Josiah Lawson's case was ignored because he was black.

"If it were a white kid, I think we would probably know what happened in this case," said Michael Harriot, a staff writer for The Root, an Afrocentric online magazine. "I think that the local outcry and more of a national outcry would put more pressure on the local authorities to look into this case."

The murder has “opened up a can of worms,” as Charmaine Lawson puts it, at Humboldt State. She wonders why the university would recruit black students to an unsafe city. Students of color wonder if it could have been them.

Lawson, who went by his middle name, wasn’t murdered on campus but in the surrounding town, and university officials say they’re doing everything they can to help the police investigation. But to some, it’s not enough.

No one can agree on exactly what happened the night Josiah Lawson was killed. Archived police scanner audio revealed that police responded to reports of a “large, aggressive crowd” around 3 a.m. on April 15, 2017, at an off-campus house party. When they arrived at the scene, Josiah Lawson had been stabbed, and his friend and fellow student Elijah Chandler was performing CPR.

A police report notes that officers "immediately began lifesaving efforts" when they arrived, but Chandler disputes that. He told a crowd of Humboldt faculty, students and staff during a prayer service that he administered CPR to Josiah Lawson for 15 minutes before an ambulance arrived and told the Mad River Union, a local Arcata newspaper, that EMTs and officers at the scene were hesitant and passive.

Rick Ehle, the interim Arcata police chief, who joined the department in June, denied these allegations and noted that in times of distress, the response time of emergency medical services can feel longer than it actually is.

Chandler also told the Union that he overheard two white women wishing for Josiah Lawson’s death.

“They were saying, ‘I really wish that [N-word] does die. I really hope that [N-word] dies.’ They just kept repeating it, and I heard this as I am giving Josiah compressions to fight for his life,” Chandler told the Union.

Lawson was transferred to Mad River Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Kyle Zoellner, a 24-year-old man from Mckinleyville, a city just five miles north of Arcata, was arrested as the primary suspect. A knife was found at the scene but had no usable fingerprints.

A Stale Investigation

A preliminary hearing was conducted in May 2017. Zoellner admitted to fighting with Lawson but denied stabbing him. After five days of testimony, Dale Reinholtsen, Humboldt County Superior Court judge, ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence for Zoellner to stand trial for murder.

Lisa Rossbacher, Humboldt State University president, said she and other university officials were present for all five days of the hearing. After Reinholtsen’s decision, the university issued a statement expressing its disappointment.

“It is difficult to be patient, but sometimes necessary in the pursuit of justice,” the statement read. “This is not over. The investigation is continuing, and the university will continue providing assistance to local law enforcement.”

One university police officer from Humboldt State's 15-member force, Sergeant Chance Carpenter, has been assigned to work with the Arcata police on Lawson’s case, and Rossbacher said she’s had a number of private conversations with city officials about continuing the investigation.

“One way in which the university has been involved in [the case] is encouraging the city to continue to invest resources in the case, which they have done recently. They’ve significantly increased the number of investigators on the case,” Rossbacher said. “It’s their investigation, and it would be inappropriate and perhaps damaging to the outcome if we were to insert ourselves more in that process.”

Charmaine Lawson organized regular public forums and vigils in the months following her son’s death to update students on the case. The updates quickly became fewer and farther between.

“Students were so angry, because they were hearing the same thing about Josiah’s case, which was no real updates,” said Tina Sampay, a Humboldt State graduate who has been in close contact with Charmaine Lawson and has written about the case on her news blog, Slauson Girl.

Rossbacher said she attended several of the public forums but “by no means all of them.” After a while, the forums ended.

“There was nothing new to report, and this is my theory: the reaction to having nothing new to report was so negative that the process of continuing the updates when there was nothing new to report was more disruptive than it was helpful,” Rossbacher said.

Students didn’t think that was the right call, Sampay said. She called the university’s decision “chess moves” and felt officials were ignoring student input.

“They’re not really understanding what the hell [we’re angry about]. They’re looking at it like it’s just students yelling,” she said.

She also noticed that Humboldt State faculty remained silent on the matter.

“There was no support from the faculty at HSU,” Sampay said. “The way I saw it, there was a lot of theory without practice. All of the teachers who taught me this stuff, the reason that I’m out here being able to pinpoint institutional racism, they were nowhere to be found.”

Stephanie Burkhalter, general faculty president at Humboldt State, wrote in an email that faculty were "deeply affected" by Josiah Lawson's murder.

"While I am not aware of a formally organized response by faculty to the murder and to the issues that persist in the criminal case, individual faculty members have been active in different ways," she wrote. "For example, immediately after the murder I encouraged students in my classes to provide the police with any information they had about what happened, explaining to the students that information and witness testimony were critical to the early stages of a criminal case. I regularly follow news about the case, and I belong to the Justice for Josiah Facebook group. I have attended rallies on campus to show my support for the movement, and I have spoken with the Arcata mayor about what the city can do to facilitate a successful investigation."

Police officers have made little progress on the investigation since Zoellner’s release. Tom Parker, a former FBI agent who was consulting on the case pro bono, terminated his contract with the city due to a “lack of cooperation.” Karen Diemer, Arcata city manager, told the North Coast Journal that Chapman was "unaware" of Parker's final decision when he announced his own resignation. Ehle, interim chief, said he has pushed hard to move the investigation forward.

“We’re optimistic, we’re getting there,” Ehle said. “We’re still waiting on evidence and we’ve been collecting additional evidence. Most of what we’re doing is elimination. We’re reaching out to everybody by last name, first name and nickname.”

He hopes to have a resolution in six to eight weeks.

A Divided Path Forward

What Humboldt State should do next is contested. Student activists are calling for greater accountability on behalf of the university. So is Charmaine Lawson.

She discounts officials' references to the murder occurring off campus. “So what? It happened in the same city where he was attending school,” she said. “I think they’re just trying to not be held accountable, and for me, I hold them accountable. They knew the type of environment where my son was going to school, and yet they recruited him. They recruited many students of color knowing that Arcata isn’t a safe town.”

After serving as president for four years, Rossbacher announced her retirement Monday, effective on June 30, 2019.

Addressing Charmaine Lawson's recruitment concerns, Frank Whitlatch, a spokesman for Humboldt State, said the university is working to better address student safety and life in the local community.

“We know that HSU and the North Coast need to do more to support equity and inclusion,” he wrote in an email. “As a country, we struggle with a history of racism and racial inequality on the national and local levels, and we need to find ways to make a positive difference. We take very seriously our recent affirmation of accreditation letter from [WASC Senior College and University Commission]. One of the commendations was ‘Student recruitment efforts, particularly in the Los Angeles region, are an appropriate response to the increasing diversity in California.’”

After watching the public forums fall by the wayside, Sampay is worried about keeping Josiah Lawson’s memory alive.

“Josiah’s name doesn’t really come up anymore,” she said. “It’s like a forbidden word.”

Her concerns aren’t for nothing. Until Lawson’s death, she had never heard about Corey Clark, a black student at Humboldt State who was shot and killed in 2001.

"How could I come to this school eight years later, and there’s no trace of it?” she said.

Clark's case was never solved. Cheryl Johnson, executive director for diversity, equity and inclusion, said that she’s been trying to keep Clark’s name in the discussions about potential memorials on campus.

“In different contexts and meetings -- because there was talk of the university creating a memorial grove with a plaque for Josiah and other students we’ve lost -- I said don’t forget Corey. I just want to keep his name in the discussion,” she said.

Much of Humboldt State’s efforts are directed toward Equity Arcata, a joint initiative with the city. Johnson serves as point person for the project.

“Complex social problems cannot be solved by one institution -- it has to be a collective effort,” Johnson said. Equity Arcata’s efforts are divided into seven subgroups focused on police and student safety, communication, housing equity, creating welcoming businesses, training and learning, the development of a bias reporting tool, and community building. 

Charmaine Lawson has also been urging the California State University Board of Trustees to get involved in her son’s case. She spoke first at the July meeting and again in September accompanied by supportive members of the California Faculty Association. She has yet to receive a formal response from the board but does plan to accompany Adam Day, board chair, to Humboldt State during his first visit this year. (Note: This article has been updated from an earlier version to eliminate language about what happened at the board meeting.)

“I’m going to continue even after my son’s case is solved and the person who took his life is held accountable for his death,” Charmaine Lawson said. “I want to continue reaching out to the trustees and reaching out to the university and to the parents … Changes have to be made. If it starts with me, then it starts with me."

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Colgate offers statement on campus speech, arguing that it's not just what you say, it's how you say it

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 10/05/2018 - 07:00

When it comes to campus speech, can a middle ground between freedom of expression and inclusion really be reached? Colgate University thinks it has struck such a balance in a report from its Task Force on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression. The document already has been endorsed by Colgate’s faculty, student government and Board of Trustees, and it’s being released for general consideration today.

Those involved in the project describe it as both a reiteration of and counterpoint to the University of Chicago’s much-cited statement on free expression, published in 2015 to the delight of free speech purists.

While both the Chicago and new Colgate statements offer “a strong defense of the free exchange of ideas, and of its necessity,” said Colgate president Brian W. Casey, Colgate’s report also speaks to “the values of humility and empathy, and the practice of careful listening. It calls for members of the community to exercise their rights to free speech in full awareness of context.”

Those ideals are essential tenets of a liberal arts education, Casey said, and thinking about their interplay in “difficult discussions” should help serve to “reinforce an atmosphere of inquiry on the campus.”

Casey added, “If Colgate is to contribute to and to shape the national discourse, we must create an atmosphere on this campus that relies on rigorous inquiry and respectful debate. This is an essential thing we must instill in all of our students.”

Not In Opposition

Some have long argued that rigorous inquiry and respectful debate do not stand in opposition. Indeed, the American Council on Education, backed by survey data, has stressed the importance of not “pitting” inclusion and speech against each other. Yet many if not most conversations about campus speech still revolve around two poles: absolute freedom of expression and the importance of creating an inclusive environment.

Seeking input on how Colgate might balance and even make complementary these notions, not just for its campus but as a possible model for others, Casey last summer charged a task force with what he described at the time as “reviewing the history of academic freedom and freedom of expression policies and developments at Colgate and drafting a statement on academic freedom and the freedom of expression as it relates to all sectors of the university’s community.”

The 13-member task force included faculty members from across disciplines, a science librarian, trustees who are also alumni and an associate dean. Members met regularly for a year in a process that was careful and -- by all accounts -- at times contentious. Ultimately, they concluded that Colgate “should affirm its commitment to the principles of freedom of expression and academic freedom as essential to fulfilling its mission and goals.”

But to that end, they wrote, Colgate -- as a liberal arts institution -- should support “the rights of all community members to voice their views, even if unpopular, while helping them to likewise cultivate the habits of mind and skills necessary to respond effectively to views that they may find wrong or offensive.”

Colgate should endeavor to establish and maintain a “culture and community that will inspire its members to pursue knowledge with rigor and curiosity, speak and listen with care, and work so that even the quietest or most underrepresented voices among us are heard,” the committee wrote. And the university should educate all its members about its goals and values, in addition to “the importance of exercising our right of freedom of expression in a manner” that furthers those goals and values, “remembering that the exercise of intellectual freedom without consideration of these other values may cause needless harm to our community.”

Faculty, administrators, staff and students also should be encouraged to “model the civic behavior that forms the basis for the exercise of freedom of expression” within Colgate’s community. Consistent with the emphasis on free expression, the report doesn't call for those who lack in civility or respect to be punished.

The task force wrote that it kept three broad goals for Colgate in mind as it worked: growing in knowledge, becoming effective communicators and learning from multiple and diverse perspectives.

Considered separately, the goals are admirable, the report says. Considered together, “they aggregate to form a much loftier ambition: to share knowledge and foster understanding within a complex, rapidly changing and diverse world.”

Such an ambition requires a commitment to both a set of community values and principles of academic expression and academic freedom, the task force wrote. Supporting pillars include “shared values” of the Colgate community, such as empathy, curiosity, warmth of spirit, concern for others and pride in community. Another value is diversity, not just out of basic respect but also because “we recognize how much we need one another in order to consider new perspectives and extend the limits of our understanding.”

Colgate’s mission “requires an open mind and a spirit of toleration, even for positions we might abhor,” the committee wrote. “It likewise requires the courage to question what many might think unquestionable, to insist on clarity and rigor of thought, to seek out the strongest arguments on all sides of an issue, and to recognize that such arguments might be found in the quietest or most marginalized of voices.”

Another pillar, as articulated by the task force, is “commitment to freedom of expression and academic freedom.” Such freedom is not only a “crucial means for the pursuit of knowledge, but a constitutive part of it; propositions learned by rote, protected from challenge, do not further our pursuit of knowledge or our attainment of understanding,” the report says. Accordingly, the university should support a “climate of debate and deliberation that is open and robust, and must not suppress ideas because some consider them wrong, immoral or offensive.”

Not Without Boundaries

At the same time, freedom of expression and academic freedom are “not without boundaries,” the committee wrote. “There are certain forms of expression that stand outside the law, constitute no part of the search for truth and, accordingly, find no shelter here.” Such expressions include defamation, real threats of harassment, substantial invasions of privacy or inciting “lawless action.”

To promote and protect the free exchange of ideas, Colgate may adopt “content-neutral rules concerning time, manner and place of expression,” according to the committee. But such rules “must never be used as a pretext for the university to suppress disfavored opinions or compromise the principle of intellectual freedom.”

Crucially, the report urges Colgate to “be guided by the principles of the First Amendment and, within reason, to err on the side of permitting expression and inquiry without concern of punishment.”

Under the pillar of “flourishing” free inquiry, the task force wrote that the university’s commitment to freedom of expression and inquiry may occasionally come into conflict with certain shared values. And when that happens, freedom of expression should not be stifled in service of other values, the committee wrote. Still, these other values should be cultivated by example.

Another pillar, “consideration of exclusionary behavior, privilege and historical perspective,” says that Colgate, like broader society, has in the past practiced exclusion. But its commitment to freedom of expression provides “an important means of mitigating the negative impacts of exclusionary practices by giving voice to marginalized views,” the report says.

Spencer Kelly, task force chair and a professor of psychological and brain sciences, said that both Colgate’s and Chicago’s statements affirm academic freedom and freedom of expression as “foundational” for achieving the educational mission.

The key difference between the two documents, Kelly continued, is that “we recognize that while these principles are essential, they are not sufficient by themselves. They need help.”

A “healthy educational community” embraces the values of humility, good listening, empathy, curiosity and tolerance, Kelly said. And “we believe these values encourage speakers to think critically about what they say -- and how they say it -- in a way that ultimately encourages a more robust, insightful and productive discourse.”

Kelly said the following became something of a “mantra” to the task force: “With the freedom to express comes the responsibility to listen.”

The most effective communicators “don’t just open their mouths and haphazardly spill out whatever is on their minds,” he added. “They carefully listen to, or do their best to imagine, where their audience is coming from before they start speaking.”

Kelly said that “extra effort” actually benefits the speaker in that the speech better “hits its mark.” And the long-term community benefit is that in developing the habits of listening and perspective taking, “people would gradually all become more receptive to what others say.”

Casey said that the report “ultimately makes a statement about the behavior that is expected of those who live in an academic community.” Citing actual language in the report, he said it's “a model of civic behavior.”

In Our Time

“Needless to say,” he added, “this is desperately needed in our time.”

Nancy Ries, a professor of anthropology and peace and conflict studies and Russia expert who worked on the report with Kelly, said the broader political moment lent a “sharpness, an urgency and a realness” to their task. That’s even though committee members’ political positions and “diagnoses” varied widely, she said.

The timing “helped us to realize that freedom of expression is not a dusty nicety, it is our essential atmosphere -- it is the oxygen that can sustain us in our roles as thinkers, scholars, teachers, citizens,” she said. “My sense is we all knew that going into our meeting rooms, but the urgency and importance of our work helped to keep us going even when we got very mad at each other, which happened.”

Regarding the group’s own diversity, politically and otherwise, Ries said it provided an opportunity to consider what is “legally essential” to free speech and academic freedom -- namely, the First Amendment and various professional standards and statements -- but also “how discourse, conversation and public speech are profoundly social activities, processes through which communities of all kinds are both constituted and injured.”

The “strange thing,” Ries said, is that the task force recognized its “grounding and commitment” by observing “the hurt we could cause each other during pitched arguments in our meetings.” Members realized, gradually over the year, that they needed to be not just “clearheaded, outspoken, honest and brave” in their analyses and arguments, but also “watchful, aware, informed and compassionate” in their communication.

In the end, she said, the group recognized that it would wed “the uncompromising force” of a Chicago-style statement “with a projection of values we discovered ourselves to share, even across stark differences and diverse perspectives.”

Asked about process, Kelly was blunt, calling it “very slow and arduous.” Members approached the topic from “every possible perspective,” he said, resulting in disagreements and vigorous debate.

However, the "shared values" of humility, good listening, empathy, tolerance and curiosity articulated in the statement were agreed upon relatively earn on. Having that “foundation of trust,” and keeping the university’s mission in mind, helped the group move through challenges, he said.

Kelly added, “We believe that if 13 people with such strong and diverse views can come to consensus on such a difficult issue, there is hope that it can happen with our entire university community.”

In the Classroom

As to how the statement might impact Kelly’s teaching, he said the document captures what teachers do naturally: “carefully consider their audience before they speak” and “always try to meet students where they are.”

Yet the document will encourage Kelly to continue to re-evaluate how he attempts to engage students, he said.

Not so long ago, “I would try to get students’ attention by occasionally saying things that were intentionally a bit controversial or edgy.” Now, Kelly said, he’s much more careful, as he’d already noticed that the pedagogical practice worked well for some students but not for others.

Kelly’s “learning to pay more attention to where all students are coming from” and then trying to “say things more effectively to reach a wider range of them. It’s a lot harder to teach this way but, in the end, it's worth it.”

Derek Baker, the lone student on the task force, said the report emphasizes "listening as an essential component of free speech," which he described as "a compelling argument rarely discussed when the topic of freedom of speech is addressed."

Echoing his collaborators, Baker said, "Never before has the need for listeners been more necessary than it is today. This document reflects this growing need, giving ample recognition to both who is listening and who is speaking during civil discourse." That should resonate "with all student voices desiring to be heard," he said.

On Balance

Geoffrey Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at Chicago, chaired the committee that wrote the Chicago statement. He said this week that his initial read of the Colgate statement was that it is “quite consistent” with his own institution’s. Colgate’s “spends more time discussing the need for civility and mutual respect,” he granted, but he pointed out that the Chicago statement addresses those values, too.

For reference, the Chicago statement says, in part, that the university “greatly values civility” and that “all members of the university community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect.” Yet it asserts that “concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.”

On balance, Stone said, “I see it as essentially adopting the core principles of the Chicago statement, with just a bit more discussion of civility and mutual respect as important values -- but as values that cannot justify the restriction of speech.”

Kelly reiterated that the statements are similar in their embrace of freedom of expression. But he noted that his committee intentionally avoided references to civility because the word is “often used by majority groups to suppress marginalized voices.” It instead outlined “community values,” to promote civility “organically, from the bottom up,” he said. Free speech is not just a market of competing ideas, but also “a way for a community to act cooperatively to accomplish shared goals.”

Colgate’s task force also acknowledged the “dangers of unfettered free speech,” Kelly said, in that historically marginalized groups may not have equal access to it, and “speech that harms is different than speech that offends.”

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Auburn professor sues, alleging retaliation after he revealed athletics scandal

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 10/05/2018 - 07:00

An Auburn University economics professor is suing his institution, accusing officials of removing him as a department chair and limiting his raises after he helped reveal that the institution’s public administration major was overwhelmingly stacked with athletes.

Tensions between administrators and Michael Stern, who was removed as economics department chair in May, extend back to 2008, when he served as a source for a local news report about the university’s ties to the Charles Koch Foundation, as detailed in his lawsuit filed last month. Stern is suing for violations of his First Amendment rights. He is demanding that officials reinstate him as chair and provide him back pay he sacrificed after being dismissed from the position.

The bad blood came to the fore in 2014, when Stern first started to question the composition of the public administration program. In the years following, Stern continually clashed with officials, he said. They gave him smaller raises than his colleagues and confronted him when he publicly pointed out the athletics department’s interference with the major. In one case, Stern said in the complaint, an administrator stopped him in a parking lot and screamed in his face about speaking with reporters.

In a statement, Auburn spokesman Mike Clardy said the university “consistently demonstrates its support of the free speech rights of its students, faculty, and staff. There is more to this story than has been made public to this point, and each of Dr. Stern’s allegations will be addressed in the appropriate forum, which is the court. Auburn will vigorously defend this matter.”

The larger conflict over the public administration program began when a faculty committee recommended the major be cut because of falling enrollment and questions over whether it benefited students. But athletics officials lobbied hard to keep the program alive, even offering to subsidize it at one point -- and ultimately top administrators ignored the committee’s proposal. Public administration was saved.

The decision may have gone unchallenged if not for Stern, who began pressing officials about the major in 2014 at a University Senate meeting, where an athletics representative was making a presentation. He asked about the saturation of football players in the program. The next day, Joseph Aistrup, then the College of Liberal Arts dean, emailed Stern, chastised him for a lack of diplomacy and pressed him to apologize to public administration faculty.

Aistrup allegedly suggested the next month that Stern step aside as chairman, which Stern refused to do. In December 2014, John Urschel, a former professional football player, mathematician and blogger, published an analysis of the majors football players had selected -- he found that 23 of the 48 upperclassmen players picked public administration, though only 88 of more than 11,400 upperclassmen in the entire university were enrolled in the program. Over all, that represents 48 percent of upperclassmen on the football team, but just 0.8 percent of all upperclassmen.

Stern used public records he had obtained and worked with The Wall Street Journal to eventually publish an article in August 2015 that made public the faculty committee’s recommendation to discontinue public administration and athletics’ attempts to save it. Stern said that despite later positive performance reviews, he received only a 1 percent salary bump and 1 percent merit bonus, which he viewed as retaliatory for being a source for the Wall Street Journal report. Comparatively small raises were also given to him in 2016, he alleges.

Stern met with the former president Jay Gogue in 2017 to share his concerns, and while he and the now retired president developed a plan to shift the economics department out of the College of Liberal Arts, leaving Stern to report to less hostile administrators, he said the move never happened.

Still frustrated, Stern contacted The Chronicle of Higher Education in late 2017 about the athletics department and public administration major, which in February led to another expansive piece that revealed administrators’ attempts to rescue the major -- the enrollment of which eventually plummeted -- and the extent of Stern’s whistle-blowing.

In May, Stern presented to the Faculty Senate about how the public administration scandal may have affected the academic performance of athletes -- to the chagrin of the new athletics representative, the lawsuit states. Weeks later, Stern was kicked out as chairman, locked out of his office and kicked off the computer system, he alleges.

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Stern said administrators have left him undisturbed since filing his lawsuit last month. He continues to teach.

“There’s been no direct contact,” Stern said. “But there’s obviously a problem here.”

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Colleges turn to wellness app to address student mental health

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 10/05/2018 - 07:00

There are students who struggle with issues such as anxiety and depression on every college campus.

Some students will seek help on their own and find a mental health counselor or other health-care professional.

But reaching students who are reluctant to come forward, or who don't realize they need help, is another story. This is a challenge that Colorado State University and many other colleges are trying to address while balancing increasing demand from students who already use mental health services.

Three years ago, Colorado State approached a company called Grit Digital Health about working together to build a technology to reach those students who might never speak out – particularly those at risk of harming themselves or others. The campus had experienced a handful of student suicides and was looking for new ways to reach students who might need help.

The college and the tech company developed YOU at College, a platform that gives students information on how to recognize mental health issues and access resources on campus that might help them. The platform doesn’t put mental health front and center, however, and it's not marketed to students as a “mental health” tool. Instead, the platform addresses mental health as just one part of academic success and well-being.

“It’s kind of like hiding the vegetables,” said Janelle Patrias, manager of mental health initiatives at Colorado State.

Students might not visit the platform thinking they have a mental health issue, said Patrias. They might just be having trouble sleeping, for example. But by searching for advice on how to get better sleep, users will find information about stress and anxiety and be directed to resources on campus that can help.

YOU at College Overview Video from Grit Digital Health on Vimeo.

Since YOU at College was launched at Colorado State, 20 other U.S. universities have launched the platform, and five more are planning to launch soon, said Nathaan Demers, vice president and director of clinical programs for YOU at College. Each platform is tailored so that students see information relevant to their own campus. The cost to institutions ranges from $0.75 to $3.00 per student per year, depending on campus enrollment and the level of customization they require, said Demers.

Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, said many colleges are thinking more intentionally about how to promote wellness on campus and are encouraging students to eat right, sleep well and exercise regularly, as happy and healthy students are more likely to graduate.

“The context of all of this is that there has been a year-on-year increase in the number of students who present with mental health issues,” said Kruger. He said over the last seven years, colleges have been increasing mental health staff, “But there’s an acknowledgment that you can’t hire enough counselors. That’s why there’s interest in taking a sort of public health approach -- looking at what you can do to proactively address wellness issues in a broader way.”

There are a number of digital tools that explicitly address mental health issues, such as Talkspace, SAM, PTSD coach, CBT-I Coach, Operation Reach Out and Optimism. However, Amy Galley, director of well-being and accessibility at Western Wyoming Community College, said that the YOU at College platform was different because it takes a holistic approach to students’ overall health and academic success. She also “loved the ease and look” of the platform, which was partially inspired by Pinterest -- a popular virtual pin board for saving and sharing links and images.

YOU at College contains a wide variety of short articles, fact sheets and tips covering three broad areas – academic success, personal growth and overall physical and mental well-being. The platform encourages users to take surveys called “Reality Checks” in each of these three areas to determine where they might have room for improvement. The results of these surveys can be used as a benchmark for students to set goals.

When students log into the platform using their institutional ID, they see a lineup of content that is personalized to them based on the results of their Reality Checks. The content can also be tailored based on personal demographic information that students provide (if they choose to) such as gender, age, ethnicity and other details such as whether or not they have served in the military.

Although students log in to the platform with their institutional IDs, all their activities on the platform are anonymized to protect their privacy. Students wouldn't likely use the platform if they knew they were being surveilled by administrators, said Demers. Institutions can see pooled data such as the most popular topics students are viewing.

Though YOU is designed with students in mind, it can be used by anyone on campus -- including faculty and staff, said Demers. Patrias sees YOU as a hub for campus information. The platform links students to resources on campus such as career advising and mental health services, as well as to student clubs and support groups that might be of interest to them. Although inspired by social media, the platform doesn’t contain any messaging function.

Patrias said that YOU@CSU has been “really positive for our campus” and “a good way to deliver information” to students, particularly about mental health. She was pleased to see that many Colorado State students are looking at the platform before they even arrive on campus -- proactively reading about how to succeed academically and manage stress, as well as checking out what clubs and social activities are available on campus. More than 5,000 new students registered to use the platform this summer, she said.

Patrias has a student staff member working with her 15 hours a week to make sure the content, all of which she personally reviews, is relevant to students. Colorado State and Grit Digital Health recently won an award from the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies for their work on YOU at College. The WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) Awards recognize initiatives that apply innovative technology-based solutions to problems facing students.

Colorado State has seen good student engagement with the platform, said Patrias. Between February 2016 and September 2018, YOU@CSU had over 56,000 users. Around 20 percent of users used the platform more than once. Colorado State’s total student enrollment is around 33,000.

More than 10,000 students have completed the Reality Check screenings in the platform, said Patrias. Survey results found that 75 percent of students said using the portal helped them better manage their stress. Among first-year students, 98 percent said they learned new skills to support their academic success through YOU@CSU.

“This isn’t the kind of resource students need every day,” said Patrias. “We want it to be the place they go to look first when they have an issue.”

In a recent promotional video created by Colorado State and Grit Digital Health, Colorado State students said they liked that the platform was accessible at any time and described how they used it to look up study tips and articles on mindfulness during final exams.

Kiera Butler is an applied psychology student at CSU, and vice-president of the campus chapter of Active Minds – a national non-profit organization that ends to help end the stigma surrounding mental health and connect students to resources. She thinks YOU at College is effective because it’s “applicable to everyone and anyone.”

“Even if you don’t believe you need to change in a certain area, YOU can provide articles or resources that can spark an interest and expand that person’s knowledge,” she said.  

Mental health counselors at Colorado State have seen increased demand since YOU@CSU was introduced, but it’s difficult to know whether this is because more students have become aware of counseling services through the platform, said Patrias. Colorado State and Grit Digital Health are planning to conduct more research to determine the impact of the platform on student success.

“We don’t really have anything to benchmark the efficacy of this with,” said Patrias. “But we feel encouraged to see engagement grow from year to year.” She noted that the platform is “still pretty early in its development” but has “so much potential to reach students in different ways.”

At Western Wyoming Community College, initial engagement numbers are promising, said Galley. The college has a total enrollment of around 3,600 students, and 600 students signed up over the summer before classes started. Galley hopes that three-quarters of full-time students will register over time. She is excited about what the institution can learn from the analytics the platform collects (example dashboard pictured below); the articles that students read could guide what initiatives the college launches.

Western Wyoming previously sent students an e-magazine addressing wellness issues called Student Health 101, but it has discontinued this subscription in favor of YOU at College.

“We liked the content in the newsletter,” said Galley. But YOU at College felt “fresher, offered easier access and is more campus orientated.”

She said the platform is costly but college administrators believe it's worth it for students to have a “place to go to 24-7 to get information about the campus, wellness and mental health, plus emergency contacts and all of those things.”

Connecticut College also rolled out the YOU at College platform this year but doesn't yet have any data on engagement. Sarah Cardwell, associate dean, said she looked into the platform after hearing about Colorado's success with it. The platform fit in well with Connecticut's strategic plan to “educate students on the relationship between health, well-being and success,” she said.

“What particularly struck a note with us is that the platform is designed to meet students where they’re at, which is online,” said Cardwell.

Tina Hardy, disability services coordinator at Illinois Valley Community College, said she applied for a grant to bring YOU at College to her institution last year, and the college budgeted money this year to keep the platform going.

“Engagement has been excellent since the inception,” said Hardy. “To date, we’ve had almost 900 student account registrations and 80 faculty staff registrations.” The college has a total enrollment of around 3,700 students.

Users are spending seven minutes on average on the platform and are most frequently searching for information about anxiety, study skills, prioritizing their time and how to connect with clubs and activities, she said.

“We are using this information to build opportunities and resources for students in the areas we know they need help with,” said Hardy. “I would say that IVCC has found YOU to be worthwhile.”

Still, the anonymity of the platform comes with a big drawback. College administrators aren't alerted when a student indicates they are at risk of hurting themselves or others. Whether keeping students anonymous under these circumstances is advisable is “something we wrestled with,” said Demers.

The company built in features that will enable students to get immediate access to support when they need it -- with pop-ups advising students on whom to contact on campus in a crisis, and referrals to outside services such as suicide prevention hotlines with 24-7 messaging services.

Janelle Johnson, senior mental health counselor at Santa Fe Community College and president of the American College Counseling Association, believes there should be some way to contact students “if it is clear they are in danger of suicide or harming others.”

Apps and platforms can help students access information, but they “don’t replace the human connection” many students need, she said. “Assessments of mental health concerns must still be done by trained professionals.”

“I think that colleges see the use of tech as a way for students to explore and communicate about difficulties they may be experiencing, and to normalize the student experience,” said Johnson. But apps and other technology “cannot replace services provided by licensed counselors and mental health professionals.”

“While these apps have become more prevalent, we also see more colleges coming up with additional funding to increase staffing in their counseling centers,” said Johnson.

Santa Fe Community College does not offer YOU at College, but it did offer an app that “students never really adopted,” said Johnson. “Oftentimes it seems that the technology of the apps is not impressive to students who are very tech savvy,” she said.

Lynn Linde, senior director of the Center for Counseling Practice, Policy and Research at the American Counseling Association, said while investing in student well-being is a good thing, platforms such as YOU at College and a growing number of other platforms and apps for college counseling -- including chat bots powered by artificial intelligence -- should be seen as a supplement, not a replacement for in-person counseling services.

“This is a huge market,” she said. “Institutions need to make sure that companies have the best interests of students in mind. We need to ask questions about who is developing these products.”

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Questions raised about role of Roman Catholic Church in study of abusers in Germany

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 10/05/2018 - 07:00

It took four years and a trawl of more than 38,000 documents dating back to 1946. And the results of a huge research project into sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the German Roman Catholic church, conducted by a consortium of psychiatrists and criminologists from four universities and research institutes, were truly shocking.

Close to one in 20 clergy between 1946 and 2014 were suspected to have committed sexual abuse, with the researchers finding evidence of 1,670 potential abusers and nearly 4,000 victims. The findings have led to outpourings of contrition from the German bishops who commissioned the study, and rekindled the debate on celibacy within the Catholic church.

Yet the results have also sparked a parallel debate in Germany about how the study should have been conducted in the first place. For some critics, the church took too much control of the process, leaving many questions about the scale of abuse and the responsibility of individual bishops unanswered.

The results have only revealed “the tip of the iceberg” in terms of abuse, acknowledged Hans-Joachim Salize, part of the consortium of researchers and a professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Central Institute of Mental Health, in Mannheim.

In order to comb through the career records of clergy for signs of abuse -- complaints from parents, or unexplained actions, for example -- the researchers had to recruit teams of four to five people for each of Germany’s 27 dioceses. If they found “hints” of sexual abuse, they fed these findings back to the researchers through anonymous questionnaires.

Controversially, these teams were made up of employees of the dioceses themselves, headed by a judge or someone with a legal background.

“This is a source of bias, of course,” said Salize. “There were dioceses that were eager by themselves to find out what had happened, and there were some dioceses that were more reluctant.”

Others have been more blunt. Using church employees to scour their own records is a “joke,” said Christian Pfeiffer, a prominent criminologist and Saxony’s former justice minister, because it allows the accused “to produce the data.”

Pfeiffer has been outspoken in the German media about the constraints imposed by the church on the study. However, he was at pains to stress that he was not criticizing the researchers involved and thought that the project was still worth proceeding with despite the limitations.

He was originally in talks to lead the inquiry, which he said would have employed its own record checkers, but he pulled out after he alleged that the church tried to ensure that it would be able to impose “censorship” on any final report. He also complained that the final study only reports national-level data, making it impossible to identify bishops who failed to punish abusive priests or compensate victims.

“We do not cover up these limitations,” said Harald Dressing, the consortium leader, and a forensic psychiatrist, also based at the Central Institute of Mental Health. “This is one of the first sentences in our report. Is a glass of water half-full, or half-empty?”

The study’s aim was never -- by itself -- to bring individual clergy to justice. “The research project did not pursue a legal or criminalistic approach, but a retrospective-descriptive and epidemiological one,” it says.

Also complicating the investigation were strict German legal protections of the data of the “95 percent” of priests who are innocent, Dressing said.

The church could easily have blocked even this anonymous investigation under data-protection laws, but it was forced to buckle under public pressure, he said.

If the researchers made one mistake, it was not using public pressure to force the church into a more open stance, said Pfeiffer.

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After probe of president, Boston architecture college personnel wonder: What next?

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 10/04/2018 - 07:00

Professors and other employees at a small private architectural and design college in Boston say they are bewildered -- and in a few cases angered -- by the mystery surrounding a recent investigation of their president.

Glen S. LeRoy (at right), president of Boston Architectural College, remains on the job despite being investigated over the summer at the direction of the college’s Board of Trustees. Several sources familiar with the investigation said it concerned allegations of gender discrimination, workplace retaliation and racist, sexist or homophobic language. In a subsequent message to college employees, the board’s chairman, Richard Martini, said the college would “redouble our efforts” to train personnel in “communication, respect, diversity, discrimination, and sexual harassment.”

On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination said an employee in BAC's advancement office had filed a complaint against the college. A commission spokesman confirmed that Andrew Putnam, an executive assistant in the college's Office of Institutional Advancement, filed the complaint Sept. 19. Putnam on Wednesday said he did not want to comment, and neither Martini nor LeRoy immediately responded to requests for comment.

If the commission finds that discrimination took place, it can assess damages and mandate training; if applicable, it can also mandate job reinstatement or back pay, among other remedies.

The college's investigation -- and the board’s reaction to it -- may also have led two board members to resign last month, one source said. Neither Martini nor the board members responded to repeated requests for comment, but the college this week has removed from its website the names and photos of Felice Silverman of Silverman Trykowski Associates, a Boston architecture and interior design studio, and Steven F. McDonald, president of Erland Construction Inc., a Burlington, Mass., firm.

In an interview last month, Martini told Inside Higher Ed that parents of BAC students should not be concerned about the allegations addressed by the investigation. “There is nothing regarding the education, the safety or the well-being of anyone at the college,” he said, noting that the set of accusations leveled against LeRoy “doesn’t have the merit to be a story.”

An anonymous letter sent last summer to college trustees triggered the outside investigation, several sources said.

Martini said its results are confidential, but the findings did not merit dismissing LeRoy, who spent several days off campus during the investigation. He has not faced dismissal, according to Martini, who said the investigation has “been completed and the president is working.”

He said the board met twice in executive session to discuss the findings. The board “considers the investigation related to these complaints closed,” he said. Martini this week would not say whether the investigation had definitively cleared LeRoy.

In the interview last month, Martini said the board “feels very comfortable that we did our due diligence. And honestly we believe it’s mainly a personnel matter. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to make changes in the normal course of business.”

College officials did not respond to several requests for comment on the investigation, but in a Sept. 17 all-staff email, a copy of which was obtained by Inside Higher Ed, Martini said that as a result of the investigation, BAC will expand training and education covering, among other topics, “communication, respect, diversity, discrimination, and sexual harassment. Most of those areas are covered by policies that the BAC has in place, but we need to redouble our efforts to ensure they are followed by every member of the BAC community,” he wrote.

Martini wrote that the board is working with LeRoy and his staff “to ensure the BAC continues to have a solid financial footing, has adequate and appropriate enrollment growth, and that we all fulfill our roles and responsibilities in educating the next generation of design and community leaders.”

He also asked staffers not to talk to the media. “This is nobody’s business other than the individuals directly involved. Reputations and careers can be irreparably harmed based solely on rumors or perceptions, rather than facts.”

Martini told staffers that LeRoy “fully cooperated” with the investigation, conducted by a Boston law firm.

But several sources who hold or who have held significant roles at the college said they were mystified by the lack of transparency surrounding the investigation, which began in July and ended a few weeks later, sources said, when Martini briefly addressed the college with a short statement. One source, a college employee, said nearly a dozen people, including several top college officials, came forward to speak to investigators in the closely guarded probe.

All of the sources asked to remain anonymous for fear of being fired or retaliated against for speaking out. One source, another college employee, said LeRoy’s comments, witnessed in a few cases by faculty and staff, were “some of the most disturbing jokes that you’ve ever heard regarding females, regarding LGBT people, regarding people of different national origins. It’s just so disturbing.”

Asked to comment on this report, both the board chair and the college declined to do so.

Another source, a midlevel college employee, told Inside Higher Ed that LeRoy had been under investigation for “harassment, discrimination and creating a hostile work environment.”

“Staff have been treated horribly by the president. Faculty have been treated horribly by the president,” the source said.

A “significant portion” of employees had left the college because of LeRoy’s alleged behavior, the source said -- perhaps 20 to 30 in each of the three years LeRoy had been on the job. A few left to find higher-paying and more prestigious positions, but “a really large chunk of them” left because of mistreatment, the source said.

Martini did not respond to a request to confirm the departures, but the college's latest IRS filings show that between the 2015 and 2017 fiscal years, BAC reported that it had reduced its number of employees from 715 to 593, or by 17 percent.

Opened in 1889 in Boston’s Back Bay area, the nonprofit college enrolls about 600, nearly equally divided between graduate and undergraduate students. It has the capacity for about twice as many but has seen declining enrollment in recent years. The open-enrollment college has always prioritized diversity, sources said -- its students hail from more than 40 countries.

“People love the school,” one source said. “They love what we do and what we stand for.” But this person said BAC had become a hostile work environment.

The institution, which relies heavily on part-time adjuncts, is so small that it has no Faculty Senate, which might play a meaningful role in shared governance.

Employees are also afraid of coming forward with formal complaints, several people at the college said. “I think everyone is too scared to put their pen to paper,” one source said. “We don’t know what to do because we don’t want to lose our jobs.”

The source was present at an incident in which LeRoy appeared to publicly offend then provost Diana Ramirez-Jasso at an event last spring: he asked her why she was late in arriving and Ramirez-Jasso responded that she was meeting with students from Mexico, to which, according to the source, LeRoy responded, “What did the students have to do to get there, climb over a wall?”

The source said the joke upset staff as well as students. “We literally cringe, because he says very uncomfortable things.”

Ramirez-Jasso left the provost's job in June and moved back into teaching and academic research. She did not respond to several requests for comment.

In another instance, the source was present when LeRoy told staff about a small enrollment drop and said he wanted them to know that the college was not at risk of closing, unlike nearby Mount Ida College, which announced in April that it would close, its campus becoming part of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

LeRoy took the opportunity to take a jab at the doomed college, the source said: “He basically was like, ‘I wonder if the Mount Ida staff are getting the same information I’m giving you? Oh, they don’t have a job.’ If he talks about other colleges like this, what does he say about us when we’re not in the room?”

The source added that BAC employees “breathe a sigh of relief” when LeRoy leaves campus. “The moment he’s back on campus, everything tenses up.”

Two sources said LeRoy had recently handed out bonuses to most staff, but that the dozen or so employees who spoke to investigators or who complained to human resources about LeRoy and other officials got smaller bonuses.

Another source, a midlevel employee, said that in the past 18 to 20 months, as many as 35 people had left the college. As a result, most departments are understaffed and morale is low. This person knew of as many as 10 colleagues who are actively seeking jobs elsewhere.

The investigation, the source said, has been “the icing on the cake.”

Last week, in a notice sent to the college, a copy of which was obtained by Inside Higher Ed, LeRoy announced that he was conducting “small group Listening Sessions” among faculty, staff and students. “The goal is to increase communication, develop a shared understanding of opportunities and potential constraints, and seek ideas about the future of the college.”

LeRoy also said he would immediately begin scheduling Monday and Thursday afternoon office hours to enable employees to “drop in and give an opinion, raise an issue, or express a concern.”

LeRoy arrived at BAC from the College of Architecture and Design at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Mich., where he was dean for 10 years, according to his biography. He was previously a principal at the architectural and design firm Gould Evans Associates.

The college’s latest IRS filings noted that LeRoy earned $253,148 in base salary, an average sum for the leader of a small college.

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Education Department misses deadline for its overhaul of student loan rules

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 10/04/2018 - 07:00

The U.S. Department of Education will blow a key deadline next month in its bid to overhaul two Obama-era student loan rules.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is seeking to issue a more restrictive version of a loan-forgiveness rule known as borrower defense and to entirely repeal an accountability rule for career education programs, known as gainful employment. Rolling back both regulations has been the Trump administration’s top higher education priority.

The missed deadline means the earliest date for either outcome is now July 2020 -- a year later than the department had planned.

Bloomberg Government first reported the development, which throws into doubt whether the administration will be able to continue to delay enforcement of either rule for another 21 months.

A federal district court is currently weighing whether the 2016 Obama borrower-defense rule should take effect after it ruled that DeVos last year illegally delayed the regulation.

Consumer groups that are suing the administration have argued that key provisions from the rule -- banning mandatory arbitration in enrollment agreements and allowing for automatic group discharge -- should go into effect immediately. The government had argued that sudden implementation of the rule would be a logistical nightmare.

Student advocates called the department's admission of missing the deadline a win for borrowers and the public.

"Betsy DeVos’ proposed rule would gut protections for borrowers and leave taxpayers footing the bill for predatory schools’ risky conduct,” Julie Murray, a lawyer with Public Citizen, said in a written statement. “It’s high time for the secretary to stop making excuses and put the Obama-era rule in place, as it should have been for more than a year now.”

The lobby group representing for-profit colleges also took the department to task for failing to finish the rules by Nov. 1.

“This is simply unacceptable! This delay will only invite more litigation, more legal confrontation, and more uncertainty and chaos in the operation of our schools,” said Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, in a written statement.

Bureaucratic Hurdles

In a court filing Tuesday, the Education Department cited as a reason for the delay the large number of public comments -- more than 38,000 -- it was required to consider before issuing a final rule. But Gunderson noted the Obama administration also reviewed thousands of comments before issuing a final rule in 2016. He said the failure was directly related to understaffing at the department.

“This is a classic example of being penny-wise and pound foolish,” Gunderson said. “They pride themselves in not fully staffing the department. Unfortunately, as a result of understaffing, students and career schools suffer.”

An Inside Higher Ed analysis found that by April, the overall staffing at the department was down by 13 percent since the beginning of the Trump administration. And Gunderson noted the department was understaffed in key offices involved in rule making, such as the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development and the Office of the Under Secretary.

Clare McCann, deputy director for federal higher education policy at New America and a former department official in the Obama administration, said the Trump administration appeared to have bitten off more than it could chew by rewriting both rules with many key positions unfilled.

“They need manpower if they’re going to try to do something that’s this ambitious,” she said.

Nate Bailey, a spokesman for the department, said the goal is to have strong regulations that treat students and taxpayers fairly, rather than meeting a deadline.

"We are thoughtfully addressing all of the comments received, including the responses to the directed questions we posed, which provided useful feedback," he said. "The department will publish final regulations when they are completed."

Both the borrower-defense and gainful-employment rules had been opposed for years by the for-profit sector and congressional Republicans. The borrower-defense rule was written to provide a single federal standard for loan forgiveness claims by defrauded students after the collapse of Corinthian Colleges. Gainful employment was crafted to try to ensure that career education and for-profit programs aren’t producing graduates with more debt than they can repay.

Months into her tenure, DeVos announced that she would block the borrower-defense rule from going into effect and would undertake a rewrite of both regulations through a process known as negotiated rule making, to better take into account the concerns of institutions. On borrower defense, colleges have complained the Obama borrower-defense rule in particular would substantially broaden instances of misrepresentation that could be the subject of loan-relief claims.

The department in July released a new proposed borrower-defense rule that would make loan forgiveness more restrictive. And in August it proposed repealing gainful employment entirely. That left little time to review tens of thousands of public comments it received on both rules before issuing final orders. Many of the comments were basically form letters. But others raised serious technical questions about the department’s actions -- the kind that could arise in a lawsuit.

Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat and the ranking member on the Senate education committee, in a statement credited students and their families with stopping DeVos and President Trump from “ramming through their harmful plans to deny debt relief for cheated student loan borrowers and roll back student protections against predatory career training programs.”

But Dennis Cariello, a former department official and lawyer, said delays clearing the rule at the Office of Management and Budget were partly to blame for the department missing the November deadline. And he argued that the Trump administration had pursued a thoughtful course-negotiating process for crafting new student loan rules that incorporated a range of different opinions.

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Conservative professor under fire for comparing -- facetiously, he says -- Judge Brett Kavanaugh's alleged actions to "spin the bottle"

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 10/04/2018 - 07:00

Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor of business at City University of New York’s Brooklyn College with a self-professed “taste for controversy,” has long raged against what he sees as the liberal academic machine. But when he raged against the opposition to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination by comparing what Kavanaugh is accused of to “spin the bottle,” Langbert got more than taste of blowback.

Students and other observers are calling for Langbert’s termination, online and on campus, and they’ve organized a protest against him set for later today at the college.

Late last week, following Christine Blasey Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s appearances before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Langbert wrote a short post on his personal blog saying that if “someone did not commit sexual assault in high school, then he is not a member of the male sex.”

Democrats “have discovered that 15-year-olds play spin-the-bottle and they have jumped on a series of supposed spin-the-bottle crimes during Kavanaugh's minority, which they characterize as rape,” he wrote, “although no one complained or reported any crime for 40 years.”

Langbert continued: “Democrats have become a party of tutu-wearing pansies, totalitarian sissies who lack virility, a sense of decency, or the masculine judgment that has characterized the greatest civilizations: classical Athens, republican Rome, 18th century Britain and the 19th century U.S. They use anonymity and defamation in their tireless search for coercive power.”

Calling the Kavanaugh hearing a “travesty,” Langbert concluded that if congressional Republicans are going to allow “the sissy party” to use it to stop conservatism, “then it is time found [sic] a new political party.” He added that “having committed sexual assault in high school ought to be a prerequisite for all appointments, judicial and political.”

Students have spoken out against Langbert's words as irresponsible and even dangerous.

“His statements are genuinely dangerous," Corrinne Greene, a college senior and leader of the campus Young Progressives of America chapter, told The New York Post. "They clearly advocate for participating in violent crimes, and generally in discrimination against women, who are already in serious danger, statistically, on college campuses and in broader society."

Langbert said this week that his blog typically gets about 20 hits per week. So he didn’t expect this post to get much attention -- until it did. Emailed physical threats and harassment ensued, he said, and he’s since added to his blog what he said shouldn’t have been necessary: a disclaimer that the post was a satire, in the tradition of Jonathan Swift’s "A Modest Proposal." The classic piece calls for poor Irish people to sell their children for food.

“I was surprised to learn that some readers took me literally, claiming that I advocate rape,” Langbert wrote in his updated post. “Given that it is unclear that Kavanaugh did a thing, the defamation that he has suffered at the hands of the media is a disgrace. Intolerance of and defamation of anyone who does not toe the big government line are ongoing threats to freedom. The humiliation that Judge Kavanaugh has suffered is a disgrace.”

He added, “Perhaps more time should be spent on Horace and Swift, and less time on political indoctrination in college.”

Again raising the specter of political indoctrination, Langbert told Inside Higher Ed that it’s ironic how certain words today -- in this case, his -- are deemed violent but that actual physical threats against him are somehow acceptable. That argument is not original. Many conservatives had levied it against students and more liberal faculty members in the era of trigger warnings and campus protests. But asked how that notion squared with the fact that the allegations against Kavanaugh involve violence -- specifically that he pinned Blasey Ford to a bed and covered her mouth, making her worry he'd accidentally smother her -- Langbert said in an interview that he hadn't been following the case as closely as some.

“I’ll admit that it probably wasn’t all that well written,” he said of his original post. “But what I’m getting at here, first of all, is that the accusations against Kavanaugh are, in my opinion, not true. And I think that there are certain words in the English language that have been misused … There’s an acceleration of this, in how terms like ‘sexual assault’ take on a life of their own.”

As to whether he thought Blasey Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh were false, or if they simply didn’t qualify as assault, Langbert said, “If he forced her to do something, that’s wrong. But if he tried to touch or kiss her, while it’s wrong, it’s not something that is of any consequence to a Supreme Court nomination. As to what the facts are, I don’t think anyone knows.”

Langbert added that his initial reaction Blasey Ford’s decades-old claims is that they were “a put-up job by the Democrats.”

The college referred a request for comment to an all-campus memo from Anne Lopes, provost, which says that an unnamed faculty member “blogged a gender-biased and homophobic post that advocates sexual assault.”

Lopes said the post was “offensive, obviously abhorrent and contravening the fundamental values and practices of our community.” Yet the First Amendment “protects even speech that many experience as offensive,” she said.

The college hopes that students and others “will respond to abhorrent speech with persuasion and join in the conversation” via a reflection submission link, Lopes said. Details about a related forum are forthcoming.

Langbert denied that his post was homophobic or advocated assault. But he said that he appreciated the implication that his speech was protected.

Asked if he had faith that the college would continue to hold his speech as protected, Langbert said he’d already retained a lawyer. “I really don’t know what they’ll do.”

Editorial Tags: Academic freedomFacultyImage Caption: Mitchell LangbertIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, October 9, 2018Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: An Immodest ProposalMagazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Anger Over Professor's CommentsTrending order: 3College: CUNY Brooklyn College
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