Higher Education News

New book considers pedagogical implications of influx of Chinese students into U.S. higher ed

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 08:00

A new book on Chinese students and American higher education, Inventing the World Grant University: Chinese International Students’ Mobilities, Literacies & Identities (Utah State University Press), looks at the underground networks some students develop to navigate their classwork and the frictions at play as American universities seek, in the authors’ words, “to capitalize on international students while also policing them through policies of containment.”

Inventing the World Grant University was written by Steven Fraiberg and Xiqiao Wang, both assistant professors in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures at Michigan State University, and Xiaoye You, an associate professor of English and Asian studies at Pennsylvania State University. It is deeply grounded in theory, specifically theories of “mobile literacies,” an approach that the authors write “centers on how literacy affords and constrains movement of actors, identities and practices across geographical and social structures.” But readers who aren’t invested in the theoretical framework can still find much of interest in the authors’ analysis of how the recent and rapid growth in the number of Chinese students on American campuses raises questions about “who changes, how much and into what.”

At Michigan State's campus in Lansing, one of two research sites for the book along with a private summer program in China, the number of Chinese students grew from 600 students in fall 2006 to 4,527 in fall 2016. The authors write that universities like Michigan State have on the whole “been unequipped to absorb such a large contingent of students from a single region or to accommodate sometimes wide cultural and linguistic differences. Surrounding these matters are questions about how and whether or not educators should accommodate cultural and linguistic differences.”

Inventing the World Grant University considers what it means when a minority population becomes a majority in some classrooms: in a basic college writing course at Michigan State, for example, it is not uncommon for 80 to 90 percent of students to be from China. The book describes the tensions faced by faculty as they tried to adjust to the rapidly shifting student population, tensions, the authors write, that “were driven by the fact that many of the Chinese international students had not been socialized into a Western educational system and lacked the linguistic abilities to participate in discussion-style classrooms.”

Even those faculty members who come across in the book as especially thoughtful and culturally sensitive educators struggled. A physics instructor who participated in the authors’ research described the challenges he had in structuring group work in a 200-level class in which 27 of 30 students were Chinese (the instructor speculated that his class, which fulfilled a general-education requirement, attracted high numbers of Chinese students both because many had solid backgrounds in physics and because the class put fewer demands on their English skills than did other options).

“Say I have three Americans in my classroom, what do I do? Do I put one in each group of Chinese? Or do I let them [choose]? Typically I let them do the groups, and what happens is the three Americans sit together,” said the physics instructor, who is identified by the pseudonym Manuel Antonio.

“Automatically?” Fraiberg, one of the authors, asked.

“Automatically,” Antonio responded.

“They just self-select?”

“And actually the Chinese self-select, too, they sit together because they can speak their own language.”

Antonio made numerous adjustments. He hired Chinese-speaking “learning assistants” -- though the authors note that meant “that he himself was not always privy to the Chinese conversations between the assistants and lab groups.” He stopped using PowerPoint in class in favor of solving problems on an overhead projector after discovering that students had difficulty listening to his lecture while processing the written materials on the slides. Even so, he estimated that 10 to 20 percent of students struggled because of English proficiency issues.

"For example, one student did not know the term for the metal lead. In this scenario, while the instructor tried to imagine creative ways to explain it, the concept ultimately proved too fundamental. As a final resort, Antonio turned to a Chinese classmate to translate. Engaged in these types of large and small acts, the instructor continually sought out ways to balance an assortment of needs and bridge social and linguistic differences. While these adjustments were sound pedagogical practices standard in any well-managed classroom, they were distinct in Antonio's class because of the size and scale of the shifts," the authors write.

Inventing the World Grant University also provides a glimpse into the rich underground learning networks created by many Chinese students, in which weaker students -- so-called scumbags of learning, to use a term that was popularized by an internet meme -- seek help from fellow Chinese students whom they identify as "lords of learning." The authors write that the "prevalent invocation of this practice among Chinese students constructs a dynamic scene of collaborative learning that has both positive and negative implications. For example, it is typical for students to create and maintain course-themed, digitally mediated study groups on WeChat and QQ," two social media platforms popular in China.

"On these online platforms," the authors write, "students may discuss challenging concepts, prepare for quizzes and exams, and offer and receive help on homework. It might unfold in private tutorial sessions organized by students during which a lord unpacks course materials in accessible language to scumbags. Collaboration can also transgress into the realm of cheating, as students illegally acquire and trade answers to exam questions across sections and semesters."

One student known for his knack for economics, identified in the book by the pseudonym Lee, managed seven different tutorial groups in a single semester through the group chat function on WeChat. These groups ranged in size from seven to several hundred students.

Lee appreciated the ways in which teaching helped him to better master the material at hand: as he said, "If my explanation doesn't clarify the concepts, it is probably because my understanding was limited." He also understood that the opportunity to help fellow Chinese students with their economics classwork presented an opportunity to build social -- and material -- capital. “Helping my class friends will help me now and in the future,” he said. “For example, I get to build Renmai [a network of social relationship], as many Chinese students would say. Let me give you a very simple example. I need a car because I am staying here for the winter break, but I don’t have a car yet. I sent out a message in my friendship circle [on WeChat], and several people volunteered to lend me their cars. To me, that’s one way how Renmai works. Now I drive a BMW and a Jaguar in turn.”

Lee also saw broader benefits in helping other Chinese students succeed. “I'd love to see more high-achieving Chinese students in business school so that we can compete against the Americans,” he said. “Second, I am a firm believer that I will be able to improve myself by helping others. I'll be more successful if everybody else [Chinese] does well. I am idealistic in that way. We are the minority here, or I would even go so far to say we are a socially vulnerable group. We should really stick together to succeed.”

By contrast, another student, Yan (also a pseudonym), was drafted reluctantly into serving as an expert for a writing class, a role that for her was more of a burden than a boon. “To her, being bombarded with questions was not only annoying but confounding,” the book says. “What was really puzzling was that her classmates seemed to have no grasp of what was happening in the classroom.” Rather than read the assignments distributed by the instructor, “students resorted to Yan to provide explanations in a language they understood. These explanations ranged from basic questions about due dates, length requirements or submission guidelines to more complex issues with assignment completion,” the authors write.

In their conclusion, the authors consider the pedagogical implications of their research. “Broadly,” they write, “our study offers a framework to better understand the dynamics and complexities of teaching and learning in a space in which national identity, social class, culture and language are increasingly entangled. This framework provides key insights into a rich underground set of literacies and practices that remains invisible to educators.”

“Our study,” they write, “provides a glimpse into this population’s lifeworlds.”

In written answers to questions from Inside Higher Ed, the authors elaborated further on the implications of their research for pedagogy.

"We recommend what has been referred to as reciprocal pedagogy that is loosely summarized as engaging in genuine dialogue with international students and trying to learn about their backgrounds and histories. We see this as a two-way street in which both the teachers and students must shift their stances. Having noted our broader goals and aims, we did find some overall general trends and themes in the context of our research," the authors said.

“Central to working with Chinese international students is the importance of understanding the social, cultural and educational contexts in which many of them have been socialized. In part due to a highly structured educational system that revolves largely around a national entrance exam, many of the students are used to memorizing large bodies of information, deferring to teachers and authorities, and solving problems or questions with a single correct answer. As a result, many Chinese international students need more time and exposure to open-ended problem solving while learning to take positions and support opinions. They are also not generally accustomed to discussion-style courses with a stigma generally associated with losing face.”

“Students’ reluctance is often compounded by struggles with mastering the language. Though many of the students do learn English from an early age, they typically do so based on approaches that focus more on grammar or drill and skill as opposed to offering ample opportunities for practicing the language. Grounded in these contexts, we would therefore recommend constructing assignments with ample use of models, examples, and explicit aims or objectives. We would further encourage instruction that breaks down assignments into multiple stages with multiple opportunities for feedback. In the case of writing, this means employing multiple drafts that offer opportunities for practice and revision. Additionally important is recognizing and creating opportunities to unpack examples or concepts that are commonly taken for granted in U.S. contexts (e.g., frequent use of sports metaphors related to baseball or American football). A final key practice includes presenting classroom information in multiple modes or forms. One instructor in our study, for example, found that PowerPoint slides often contained too much information to absorb quickly when coupled with the talk, so began to write out notes and … solve mathematical problems on an overhead as he worked to make it easier for students to follow the course. In many ways, these recommendations reflect general best practices in university teaching and are not unique to Chinese international students.”

The authors continued, “Though such solutions are not perfect, we have seen that involving students in collaborative forms of learning can be useful, while also allowing Chinese speech and writing into the classroom. Indeed, central to our key findings is the significance of the collective or dense social networks of the Chinese international students that often influence their classroom practices and learning. While this has been addressed by other scholars and in popular media, we believe our findings add texture and a historical-social dimension to our understanding of how Chinese international students navigate the university. In some cases the students do segregate themselves or use their networks in a manner that is not always conducive or productive for deeper forms of study. But we also found many ways that the students’ informal networks were productive and a rich source of academic learning and socialization into the various disciplines. For example, we found many students take initiative in organizing their informal learning spaces to recruit each other as resources and unpack challenging course material. One key for instructors is to leverage these dispositions and design collaborative assignments that make everyone in the group accountable.”

“Finally,” the authors wrote, “one of the main findings is perhaps most relevant to business and engineering schools, but also we believe relevant to our understandings of student population as a whole. We found rich types of entrepreneurial activity on campus. Engaged in large- and small-scale enterprises, many of the students proved to be adept at problem solving, creative thinking and managing complex projects in their efforts to start their own student organizations and businesses that often stretched across transnational borders. In relation to students’ academic lives, the key is to tap into some of this creativity, ambition and drive that often goes below the radar or unnoticed in part because of language and cultural barriers. While this is to some extent dependent on the course or discipline, in a business class, for example, it might be useful to have students discuss the Chinese market or various marketing and business decisions based on the cultural context in China.”

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Colleges award tenure

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 08:00

Bucknell University

  • Marcellus Andrews, economics
  • Michelle Oswald Beiler, civil and environmental engineering
  • Paul Botelho, music
  • Claire Campbell, history
  • Kevin Gilmore, civil and environmental engineering
  • Will Kerber, chemistry
  • Khalil Saucier, Africana studies
  • Nate Siegel, mechanical engineering

Prairie State College, in Illinois

  • Brian Donovan, information technology
  • Joshua Green, communication
  • Jonathan Pierre, music production

Tennessee Tech University

  • Sean Alley, economics
  • Julie Baker, curriculum and instruction
  • Jason Beach, curriculum and instruction
  • Rabie Belkacemi, electrical and computer engineering
  • Janet Coonce, chemistry
  • Philip Davis, history
  • Kristen Deiter, English
  • Syed Hasan, electrical and computer engineering
  • Ann Hellmann, nursing
  • Martha Howard, curriculum and instruction
  • Janet Isbell, curriculum and instruction
  • Xiaohua Jiang, chemistry
  • Alfred Kalyanapu, civil and environmental engineering
  • Malinda Lloyd, curriculum and instruction
  • Charles Luke, counseling and psychology
  • Jacob Metz, communication
  • Justin Murdock, biology
  • Steven Seiler, sociology
  • Martin Sheehan, German
  • Cara Sisk, human ecology
  • Brian Williams, English
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Colby College's fund-raising campaign goes public quickly

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 12/05/2017 - 08:00

The co-chair of Colby College’s recently announced $750 million fund-raising campaign puts remarkably little emphasis on its end date.

“If you had picked up the phone and asked me, ‘Bob, what is the end date of the campaign?’ I would say, ‘I’m not sure,’” said Robert E. Diamond, a former chair of Colby’s Board of Trustees and current trustee who is co-chairing the campaign. “In all the discussions we had, I think that probably got less discussion than anything else.”

The college does have an end date in mind -- officials have been saying the campaign will last six more years, although they have yet to announce a specific closing date. Leaders of the campaign say they have focused on its ambitiousness and its goals instead of its deadline. When the campaign was announced in October, Colby noted it was the largest ever undertaken by a liberal arts college and listed the ways money raised will go toward academic programs, access and new facilities.

Such emphases aren’t unusual for major campaigns at colleges and universities. But Colby stands out for how little attention it has drawn to its campaign’s eventual ending. The college’s campaign stands out for another reason as well: it was only in a silent phase, the critical period in which officials court big-name donors to build momentum, for a year. It’s common for colleges to spend several years in quiet phases, raising large sums toward their total campaign goals.

Those points can be attributed in part to Colby’s unique history. However, they also reflect trends affecting higher education fund-raising more generally. Many institutions are careful in what they emphasize as they court different groups of donors and use their campaigns to meet an ever-widening variety of goals. Many are also currently having success securing pledges from their big-name donors thanks to flush times and years of grooming.

Colby, a 2,000-student college in Waterville, Me., that ranks among the country’s oldest private liberal arts institutions, had raised more than $380 million toward its $750 million goal when it officially launched the campaign Oct. 20. The college said it had received 32 contributions totaling at least $1 million each. Such large donations are an important part of meeting the lofty fund-raising goals that colleges and universities are frequently chasing.

The percentage of its goal Colby raised before going public isn’t unusual. Raising large sums before publicly launching a campaign allows institutions to decide where to set their final goals, line up the biggest patrons they’re likely to find, demonstrate some momentum and catch the attention of other prospective donors.

What is most unusual about Colby’s announcement is the single year spent in a silent phase. It was possible in part because strong stock market performance has put wealthy donors in a position to give and in part because the college had prepared for the campaign with a message that resonated.

“This is Colby’s moment, and the environment is conducive,” Diamond said.

Diamond chaired Colby’s Board of Trustees when its last campaign ended, in 2010. That campaign raised $376 million in a five-year effort, exceeding its goal by $6 million.

The college learned from its previous campaign, Diamond said. He also attributed the early fund-raising success this time around to ambitious work by Colby’s president, David A. Greene, who took over in 2014.

Greene has pushed for Colby to grow closer to Waterville and invest in the city, Diamond said. He has also shared a vision for operating Colby as one of the world’s top liberal arts institutions. A Colby goal is to use the campaign to “continue to redefine the liberal arts.”

Major gifts already announced will go toward residential and mixed-use space, a center for arts and innovation, an institute for American art, an athletic complex, and a new program to make internships, research opportunities or other global experiences a financial possibility for every student.

A number of pieces came together at the same time, Greene said.

“Our global programs were really starting to develop quickly, and then our revitalization of Waterville and our efforts to really be engaged in that in a deep way were moving at a pace that was faster than we had anticipated originally,” he said. “It was really starting to come to life in a way that it felt like the time was probably right to take this public.”

Taking the campaign public early was an opportunity to have more time to spread Colby’s message at a time when its academics and admissions are strong, Greene added.

“I thought having six years of that communication platform instead of five years would be better for us over all,” he said.

Other timing issues could play into early campaign launches, experts said. With the uncertainty of federal tax reform hanging over development offices and philanthropists, many may feel an incentive to give this year while the tax environment is still predictable. With stock markets continuing to rise, it’s time to strike while the iron is hot.

Experts also say that short silent phases can reflect colleges’ fund-raising operations becoming more advanced. Many colleges and universities have gotten much better at knowing which donations are in the pipeline and which donors are close to signing up for a big gift.

“We’ve seen people using their data,” Dena Schwartz, a senior analyst with the Advancement Forum at EAB. “They do a screening to figure out what their donor pool looks like. They do know who their big donors are.”

One fund-raising campaign can build momentum for another, Schwartz said. So well-run past campaigns can help new campaigns be successful more quickly in the future.

Colby’s wide range of ambitious goals is in character with many of today’s major fund-raising campaigns. In some cases, a wide range of goals is a reason institutions are de-emphasizing campaign end dates.

The goals aren’t always public facing. Sometimes they are about signing up new donors who have not previously given.

“We’re seeing more and more schools plan campaigns without publicizing that end date because they have lots of goals in mind that aren’t necessarily that dollar goal on paper,” Schwartz said. “They talk about engagement goals. They talk about young alumni donors. They need the flexibility to achieve that over time.”

For example, millennial donors aren’t necessarily motivated to give by a particular end date the way other generations have been, Schwartz said. She also noted that colleges and universities find themselves competing with many causes to win young donors’ money. The fund-raising environment today is more competitive than it has been in the past, so some institutions might need wiggle room to meet their goals.

Colby is attempting to re-engage a group of donors who may not have heard from the college recently, said Anne Clarke Wolff, a Colby trustee and vice chair of the campaign. She said the college has had difficulty engaging with donors who graduated in the 1970s and 1980s, around the time Colby was unsettled by its disbanding fraternities in 1984.

Many alumni from those generations are playing leading roles in this campaign, so she is hopeful that the efforts will prove successful.

“What we don’t know is the time it will take to re-engage that broader community with the campaign and, more importantly, what’s going on at Colby,” she said. “Maybe that education, re-engagement, cultivation, will take a little bit longer. Maybe it will be shorter.”

Since Colby launched the campaign in October, its total raised has climbed from $380 million to $387.9 million. The college will hold a New York City launch for the campaign Dec. 6.

Data sets on campaign end dates are relatively scarce, but Council for Aid to Education surveys indicate that institutions sometimes launch campaigns without determined end dates. Still, experts say a campaign launched without officials having any end date in mind would be uncommon. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education recommends comprehensive campaign periods not exceed eight years. Doing so helps to maximize the efforts of volunteers, donors and staff members, according to the organization’s reporting standards. It also keeps fund-raising campaigns aligned with institutions’ priorities.

Colby isn’t alone in not directly emphasizing a campaign end date. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute announced a $1 billion campaign in October. The university’s official announcement made no note of an end date, although President Shirley Ann Jackson had previously written about the coming campaign enabling a strategic plan called the Rensselaer Plan 2024.

The RPI campaign is planned to end in 2024, a spokeswoman said. The institute has not specifically chosen to de-emphasize the campaign end date, she said, but instead wants to focus on other elements of the effort.

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Book dissects research fraud from an organizational level

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 12/05/2017 - 08:00

When a researcher is busted for fraud, the exposure often trickles out from source to source. Whether it's exposed by an institution, professional association, journal or the media, word gets out.

Depending on how big a deal a case is, it might make international headlines. Other times, the fraud is dealt with quietly. But why does it occur, and why does it keep occurring? From an environmental and organizational level, what can be done to combat research fraud? Is there something to be learned by examining fraud at a level beyond just the case-by-case stories, sometimes packaged in shock journalism with explosive headlines?

Those are the types of questions that caught the attention of Nachman Ben-Yehuda and Amalya Oliver-Lumerman, professors in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem -- inspiring them to write their own catalog of the history and ramifications of research fraud in Fraud and Misconduct in Research: Detection, Investigation and Organizational Response (University of Michigan Press).

Based on an examination of 748 cases where there were public records or reports of fraud, in English, between 1880 and 2010, the book is not a comprehensive look at every case of research fraud that ever occurred, the authors acknowledge. (Most of the cases are clustered in the United States, for example.) But the book serves as a look at how fraud, and the response to it, has changed over the years, and how different stakeholders -- governments, institutions and journals, whose reputations rely on academic integrity and the clean use of research money -- have responded.

While the authors argue fraud “is not a major characteristic of science,” and that the research industry is healthy over all, they do say their analysis leads them to believe fraud is underreported. And new regulations, they write, need to consider the effects on day-to-day work: they should spur growth in research as much as they curb cheating.

Ben-Yehuda and Oliver-Lumerman answered questions jointly via email. The following exchange has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q: What made you interested in researching and writing on this topic?

A: We were involved (in our administrative roles at that time) in a case of suspected research fraud that exemplified how complex dealing with such issues can be. The case became a big ordeal for the department, the faculty and the university, and the relevant international scientific community. The entire affair, which lasted several months, made us very curious. It obviously raised interesting questions about the more general phenomena of fraud in research. It was thus this affair which propelled and motivated us to examine in depth issues of misconduct and fraud in research.

The numerous discussions we had about the event we had to deal with, as well as about other cases that came to our attention, led us to become even more curious about other cases: their characteristics, cultural differences, gender issues, and how they were dealt with by universities and other stakeholders. As a research team, we felt that the combination of a sociologist who studies deviance (Ben-Yehuda) who had already worked on the issue of fraud in science, and an organizational sociologist (Oliver-Lumerman), could offer alternative and refreshing theoretical foci to the phenomena we wanted to study. And so the idea of this book was born.

Q: What was your most important takeaway from the research that went into the book? Was there anything that surprised you along the way?

A: Among our most important takeaways is that an inquiry should not investigate fraud in research without examining the wider context. This includes the involvement of various stakeholders. The fact is that approaching fraud in research has changed over the years from a lenient treatment to a much more severe treatment (with even prison sentences in some later cases). Moreover, institutions which encountered cases of fraud in research have become increasingly transparent about the cases. Finally, it really takes the combination of a whistle-blower together with a serious organizational response to detect, expose and treat cases of research fraud.

A few things surprised us. Among them is our realization that fraud in research reflects a systemic problem and does not reflect only an individual level. Moreover, the relatively high frequency of cases detected in top institutions was quite surprising. Consequently, one of our conclusions is that fraud in research probably reflects an iceberg phenomenon (e.g., we know only of a small fraction of the cases) rather than a bad apple one (e.g., we know about most of the deviant cases). Furthermore, one of the things that really caught us by surprise is the fact that, quite frequently, when we told colleagues about our research project, again and again they tended to tell us about cases of research fraud that that they knew about yet [that] were not documented in any place we could reach.

Q: Who is your ideal audience for this book?

A: We strongly feel that this is an important and timely issue and is relevant to many. We thus wrote this book for a wide audience including scientists, university administrators, policy makers, funding agencies, students and the general public.

Q: Are there any limitations to your research are important for readers to consider?

A: Obviously, we suspect that we were able to detect only a fraction of research fraud cases and thus our study is bounded to the cases that we were able to track through various existing resources. Moreover, full case information was not always available.

Q: What new questions arose during your research that haven't been able to be answered yet?

A: There are a few such questions. For example: How do individual accounts by fraudster researchers explain the reasons for their deviances? Whether and to what degree do the new university and journals policies impact scientific integrity? Are there any global emerging patterns aiming to reduce research fraud? What forms of inter-institutional collaborations can increase norms of research integrity? What is being done to enhance research integrity norms among entry- and senior-level scientists?

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Cengage announces unlimited digital subscription

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 12/05/2017 - 08:00

Cengage, the publisher and technology company, is introducing a subscription service that will enable students to access Cengage’s entire digital portfolio for one set price, no matter how many products they use.

The new offer, called Cengage Unlimited, will give students access to more than 20,000 Cengage products across 70 disciplines and 675 course areas for $119.99 a semester. For 12 months’ access the price is $179.99, and for two years the price is $239.99. For students taking three or four courses a semester with assigned course materials from Cengage, the subscription could offer hundreds of dollars of savings a year, versus buying or renting the products individually.

Cengage described the introduction of the Netflix-style subscription service in a press release as a “bold move”; the company has set a strategic goal of being 90 percent digital by 2019. The new strategy is a notable departure from the traditional publishing sales model, which historically has relied on the sale of individual print textbooks. Print sales have been heavily disrupted, however, by the introduction of rental programs, piracy, the sale of secondhand books and the failure by some students to purchase textbooks at all due to prohibitively high costs.

In addition to access to Cengage ebooks, digital platforms and study guides, students will have the option to rent print versions of the course materials for free, excluding a $7.99 shipping fee.

Cengage already offers an extensive ebook and print rental program, but CEO Michael Hansen said in an interview that Cengage Unlimited would offer an alternative to the “traditional and costly approach of paying for each course’s materials individually.”

According to statistics from the National Association of College Stores, students spent an average of $579 on their required course materials during the 2016-17 academic year. The College Board estimates that the average annual cost of books and supplies for students at four-year-public colleges is much higher, at $1,298 -- though it is noted this figure could be lowered by buying used textbooks or renting. Hansen said that lowering the cost of course materials for students was a key factor driving the decision to introduce Cengage Unlimited.

“High costs are limiting too many students from being able to access and succeed in their learning,” said Hansen. “We are taking unprecedented action to break down the cost barriers and end the cycle of students having to choose between course materials they can afford and the results they want,” he said.

Starting in August 2018, students will be able to access a dashboard that offers unlimited access to the company's online library, once they have paid a subscription fee. The subscription includes use of digital learning platforms MindTap and WebAssign. After their subscription ends, students will continue to retain reference access to key course materials for one year. For those that don’t want to subscribe to Cengage Unlimited, students will still have the option to rent or buy individual titles. “We would expect that the majority of students would go for Cengage Unlimited, but we don’t want to predetermine that,” said Hansen.

Cengage’s digital catalog includes titles from authors such as economist Gregory Mankiw and the late mathematician James Stewart. Currently, a new hardcover print copy of Mankiw’s Principles of Economics, eighth edition, costs $249.95. There are also rental options starting at $99.49 for print for 60 days’ access, and $76.12 for six months’ digital access with MindTap.

For students who are taking multiple courses with Cengage course materials assigned, the Cengage Unlimited proposal offers significant savings, said Joseph Esposito, a digital media, software and publishing consultant. But if you only have one course that has Cengage materials assigned, then the offer is not so attractive, he said. Rick Anderson, associate dean for collections and scholarly communication in the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah, agreed.

Both Esposito and Anderson said it was clear that Cengage was looking to convince whole institutions, not just individual faculty members, to go all in on Cengage materials. This, they worried, could result in pressure being placed on faculty to assign Cengage materials, potentially impeding their academic freedom.

Hansen said he is aware that faculty may not be receptive to top-down suggestions from provosts to change their course materials, which is why in addition to selling Cengage Unlimited at an institutional level, Cengage will also be making the case to individual faculty members that Cengage Unlimited allows them to continue teaching with high-quality learning materials in addition to offering value to students.

Esposito said that the Cengage Unlimited model, which he described as “like Spotify for books,” was a shrewd move by Cengage to increase its market share, and that the strategy reminded him of telecom company MCI’s “friends and family” campaign, where MCI gained a large share of the market by offering discounted calls to fellow MCI customers. To leave the service and switch to another provider, customers would have to explain to their friends that it would now cost more to call them. This social pressure discouraged people from switching, even if better deals could be found elsewhere, explained Esposito.

Cengage describes Cengage Unlimited as a “first-of-its-kind” subscription offer, a description that is probably accurate, said Anderson, at least among higher education publishers in the U.S. But there is precedent for this kind of model, he said. Questia, for example, offers access to a large catalog of research books and journals for $99.95 a year but is marketed as more of a “personal research library” than Cengage Unlimited, said Anderson. Cengage is familiar with Questia, having acquired the company in 2010.

Phil Hill, the co-publisher of the blog e-Literate and a partner at MindWires Consulting, said that he was “impressed” by the Cengage announcement. “It’s like someone at Cengage woke up and decided to take this digital content transformation seriously,” he said. “If you combine Cengage Unlimited with the OpenNow announcement, both of them really represent a rethinking of Cengage’s business model.” While Cengage and other publishers have dipped their toes into digital-first models, Cengage is “taking the lead,” he said.

While Hansen said that the announcement of Cengage Unlimited was significant, he said he didn’t think it represented a big shift in strategy for the company. “I think our strategy has been very consistent for the last five years. In terms of leading with digital, we believe, and we know from the data, that digital is a better experience relative to print for most students,” he said. For those that still want access to print, Cengage Unlimited would give them that option, too.

Cengage reports that currently more than 2,000 institutions in the U.S. are assigning Cengage products in more than 10 courses. Around 1,400 institutions are assigning Cengage materials in more than 20 courses. And some 600 institutions are assigning Cengage materials in more than 50 courses. Hansen said he hopes to expand adoption by attracting both students and faculty with Cengage Unlimited’s “very compelling price point.”

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Some question NFL gift to UNCF

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 12/05/2017 - 08:00

The National Football League -- beleaguered by protests from players during the national anthem and boycotts from fans who have taken offense -- reached a financial agreement last week with a group of activist players organized as the Players Coalition. Per an agreement with the group, the league will donate $89 million over the course of seven years to causes committed to social change for African-Americans.

The United Negro College Fund -- a group founded in 1944 to help fund scholarships for students attending private institutions among the nation’s historically black colleges and universities and a recipient of some of the earmarked money -- is receiving a fourth of the donation, and some are criticizing the UNCF's involvement.

The agreement, reached last week, does not stipulate a quid pro quo demanding players stop kneeling or protesting during the national anthem, a movement started last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. But some members of the Players Coalition, a group of 40 or so NFL players, have agreed to stop their protests as a result, while others have declared that the financial deal doesn’t address their actual grievances, but rather is intended to make the protest movement go away.

Peaceful in nature, the anthem protests have roiled NFL leadership and have become a part of American culture wars, with President Trump at one point calling to "change tax law!" to punish the league because of them. (The NFL gave up its tax-exempt status in 2015, though much of its revenue is still taxed anyway. The league and teams still benefit from various tax breaks, however.) Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem last year -- and others throughout the NFL and among college and high school football programs have joined the effort -- as a way to draw attention to police brutality against African-Americans. Critics have called it disrespectful to the flag and the military.

The UNCF is set to receive 25 percent of the NFL’s donation, and while those in favor of the NFL’s move say the money will go to a good cause, the deal’s detractors have characterized it as hush money to quell a black protest movement.

The UNCF declined to comment.

"This new program will supplement, and not replace, our other key social responsibility efforts, including Salute to Service, cancer awareness, domestic violence/sexual assault and youth programs,” Tod Leiweke, the NFL’s chief operating officer, told teams in a Friday memo.

Given the criticism by some of the players questioning the intentions behind the money, though, the UNCF’s acceptance of the funds is drawing parallels to when it accepted donations from Charles and David Koch's company and a Koch foundation in 2014.

Critics said the members of the organization “sold their souls to the devil” for accepting the funds from the conservative billionaires, who have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into conservative political causes -- including political groups that have pushed voter ID laws, which research has shown disproportionately disenfranchises minorities, even when they are legally entitled to vote -- over the years. There were also concerns about the Kochs’ influence in how the gift was used, since the agreement stipulated they would have two representatives on the five-person advisory board that doled out the scholarships.

But the reaction wasn’t all negative, with some praising the move. Indeed, the Koch brothers’ libertarian tendencies can sometimes overlap with progressive causes dedicated to racial justice, such as their recent $4.5 million grant to research drug policy reform at Ohio State University. (Research shows that current drug laws and policies stemming from the government’s “war on drugs” are enforced more often and more harshly on minorities than white people.)

Los Angeles Chargers tackle Russell Okung is among the players who took issue with the NFL’s donation.

“When you’re dealing with a certain group of people, this entity as a league -- you try to keep in mind, is this a reparation, or just $89 million?” Okung told the Los Angeles Times, arguing that the protesting players were calling for substantial changes to policy and society.

“Reparation extends beyond just dollars and cents, in real change in policy and lobbying. I think that should be more at the forefront of what we’re trying to accomplish here,” he said.

He’ll continue to raise his fist during the national anthem.

Malcolm Jenkins, of the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the key members of the Players Coalition’s negotiations with the NFL, has said he will no longer protest during the anthem. He and retired NFL receiver Anquan Boldin, another member of the coalition, posted a statement on Twitter pointing out that the agreement with the league doesn’t stipulate concessions from protesting players.

The dialogue between the Players Coalition and the league has “always been about the issues; strengthening the criminal justice system and fight for racial and social equality,” they said.

Marybeth Gasman, director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Minority-Serving Institutions, who has studied white philanthropy's influence at black colleges, said she saw parallels between the Koch gift and the NFL donation, in that the NFL might be using it as a way to quell what the team owners view as distractions, brought on by larger societal issues.

“The protest, taking a knee, is about police brutality against African-Americans. That’s what they’re protesting,” said Gasman. “I don’t think [the donation] lets [the NFL] off the hook from caring about police brutality toward African-Americans … It can’t just be money to say, ‘OK, so we threw money at that problem, so go away.’”

In 2014, Gasman wrote an essay for Inside Higher Ed arguing that the UNCF should return the Kochs’ money. She didn’t think the UNCF should return the NFL’s money, but said that the organization should use the opportunity to demand more from the NFL than just donations.

“This is about making sure that people know that this police brutality is happening, and who better to do it than the NFL? You have all those people watching, why not educate people when they’re watching football about police brutality against African-Americans?” she said.

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White supremacists pose at Southern Methodist's campus

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 12/05/2017 - 08:00

While it’s unsurprising now when racist, homophobic or anti-Semitic posters crop up on college campuses, a rarer event is the white nationalist culprits sticking around to pose for photos.

But such is the case at Southern Methodist University, where police are currently investigating banners and posters espousing white supremacy that were hung over the weekend. Experts say white supremacists intentionally mean to rattle college campuses by being photographed with their handiwork.

Members of Texas Vanguard, an offshoot of Vanguard America, the white nationalist group that has grown in prominence since the presidential election, on Twitter claimed credit for the signs at Southern Methodist, which read, “Reclaim America. No more tolerance, no more diversity” and “White men! Save your people! Reject the opioid beast!”

Another poster mocked gay pride, insinuating gay people are more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases and that they molest children.

In front of one banner, two members of the group gave the Nazi salute and posted a picture of it to Twitter, writing that they “had a great night.”

They were captured with skull masks covering their mouths, but campus police released images of five people, barefaced, who they believe posted the materials.

Such tactics -- white nationalists proving they visited campus -- can be used to scare minority students, said Carla Hill, an investigative researcher with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

While largely white supremacist movements started simply spreading their propaganda in the cloak of darkness, the contemporary political climate has buoyed them, Hill said. A common practice among Patriot Front -- another group closely aligned with the “alt-right,” characterized by fringe, right-wing and racist views -- is its members hanging large banners on overpasses and being photographed from a distance, so the public knows they were there, but their faces are unrecognizable.

In the bloody riots in Charlottesville, Va., in August, though, white nationalists felt emboldened enough to show their faces for a torch-lit march around the University of Virginia campus, which was followed by a riot the next day, where a woman was killed when a white supremacist drove his car into a group of counterprotesters.

When internet sleuths outed some of the men involved with the UVA demonstration and they lost their jobs, supporters of the white nationalist movement were galvanized to raise money for them so they continue their so-called activism, Hill said.

“It shows you’re more hard-core if you’re willing to show your face,” Hill said. “Typically, they get doxed, but they get a lot of support from the movement. You’re kind of a martyr when you get exposed and continue to be an activist.”

Since September 2016, the ADL has tracked 310 incidents of white nationalist propaganda on college campuses, with the numbers escalating -- 127 of those events occurred since September of this year, Hill said. Of the 310 incidents, 55 were based in Texas, which is where Southern Methodist is located.

Hill said she has not counted how many times white supremacists have posed with these posters.

President R. Gerald Turner released a statement that said anyone hanging “unauthorized” signs would be prosecuted.

“While SMU strongly supports freedom of speech and expression, the outside group featured on these signs promotes an abhorrent message that is opposite to SMU values,” Turner said in his statement. “Our university community is deeply committed to maintaining an educational environment that is welcoming and inclusive. As an institution dedicated to learning, we value respectful and civil discourse.”

Southern Methodist has encountered such fliers before. Posters listing the reasons why white women shouldn’t date black men were tacked around campus last semester, and a student was punished for hanging up fliers in response titled “why white women should date black men” that contained some clichés some might consider offensive. The student who posted the second round of fliers violated the institution’s conduct code and was given a deferred suspension.

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Republican bill would reshape how colleges are held accountable

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 12/04/2017 - 08:00

Education groups scrambled Friday to dissect a massive bill from Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to reauthorize the federal law that governs higher education, with proposals that have serious implications for how students pay for their degrees and how colleges are evaluated.

The bill also delivers on long-held GOP priorities to roll back regulations on the for-profit and online education sectors and steers new federal money to apprenticeships and career training.

Broad outlines of the 542-page proposal emerged earlier in the week. And well ahead of the bill’s release, it was clear that Representative Virginia Foxx, the North Carolina Republican who chairs the House education committee, would look to simplify the federal student aid program (partly by ending many loan repayment benefits), eliminate the gainful-employment rule and other regulations long opposed by for-profits, and more broadly seek to link federal aid eligibility to students' ability to repay loans.

The details in the full bill did not win much support from college lobbyists and student aid advocates. While most were still examining the full implications of the bill, groups said the legislation would increase the cost of college for students while doing significantly less to protect them from low-quality programs.

Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, said the group is “deeply concerned that the proposal would undermine decades of federal policy aimed at helping students at the undergraduate and graduate levels afford a high-quality higher education.”

Among the most significant developments in the bill is how it would reshape the way colleges and universities are held accountable for their students’ success graduating and repaying loans.

The bill eliminates an Obama administration rule designed to weed out career education programs that graduate too many students with debt they can’t repay. Another provision, meanwhile, adds new graduation benchmarks for minority-serving institutions seeking dedicated federal grant funding. And colleges across the board would be on the hook for student progress on loan repayment.

While Foxx didn’t get much support from higher education for the bill, the White House on Friday afternoon released a set of priorities for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act that broadly reflected the goals of the House proposal. And Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, issued a statement backing the framework, saying the “status quo” is not working for millions of students and that tinkering around the edges isn’t enough.

“I’m glad that Chairwoman Foxx has put forward a bill that addresses the many challenges with a holistic, reform-minded approach,” she said. “I look forward to working with Congress to help ensure students have access to lifelong learning opportunities that prepare them for success in the 21st century.”

The introduction of the House bill, which was crafted with virtually no input from Democrats, is the first act in a reauthorization saga that will likely span much of the next year -- if it doesn’t drag into 2019.

Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate education committee, has signaled that he hopes to pursue a bipartisan process to update the higher education law for the first time since 2008, meaning many of the most controversial provisions of the House bill likely won’t become law. But Foxx’s legislation provides a clear vision of GOP priorities in a higher education bill and shares much of Alexander’s own stated conception of a new law.

For-Profits See a Win

Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of the House Republican bill are for-profit colleges. The bill eliminates the gainful-employment rule -- among the Obama-era regulations most hated by the sector -- and bars the secretary from issuing a new rule.

The legislation also ends the so-called 90-10 rule, which prevents for-profits from getting more than 90 percent of their total revenue from federal student aid programs.

Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, said in a statement that the House proposal directly connects the higher education law with jobs and career training.

“This proposal offers important reforms that emphasize good jobs and quality careers for our nation’s students,” he said. “The Higher Education Act has become our nation’s work-force investment strategy. It is imperative to update in ways that produce future skilled workers enhancing U.S. competitiveness and, ultimately, our nation’s economy.”

Most observers expected the end of the existing gainful-employment rule when Republicans took the White House and both houses of Congress last fall. And the U.S. Department of Education this week is launching an overhaul of the regulation through the negotiated rule-making process. The House legislation would importantly end the separate definition of nonprofit and for-profit institutions under federal law that allowed the Obama administration to craft a gainful-employment rule targeting for-profits.

Kevin Kinser, a professor of education policy studies at Pennsylvania State University, said a single definition for all higher ed programs would be the best outcome for for-profits and, potentially, the worst for the rest of higher ed. 

"This is more than just saying don’t regulate gainful employment," he said. "It is saying there is no reason to look at for profits differently than the rest of higher ed. Combine this with opening up Title IV to alternative providers of higher education, and allowing full curricular partnerships with for-profit providers, and you’ve created a whole new competitive environment with enormous implications for the current system. Don’t expect institutions to take this lying down." 

​Student and consumer advocates, meanwhile, blasted the bill's assistance to for-profits. Debbie Cochrane, vice president of the Institute for College Access and Success, said students are losers under the House proposal, while for-profits are the clear winners.

"By gutting regulations designed to ensure that schools provide the education students have paid for, this bill would have the taxpayers write a blank check to colleges that overcharge and underdeliver," she said.

On top of those regulatory changes, she said the bill makes it harder for students who have been defrauded or misled by their college to seek and obtain discharge of their loans.

Performance-Based Funding

While the bill would loosen major restrictions on for-profits, it adds new accountability measures for colleges that receive $600 million in annual dedicated grants for minority-serving institutions. To qualify for those funds, colleges must meet a benchmark that they graduate or transfer at least 25 percent of students.

That’s a significant development at the federal level, where colleges have yet to see completion-oriented performance-based measures attached to funding, even after years of experimentation at the state level. The language drew criticism from advocates for college access who said the funds are intended to strengthen and develop historically black colleges and Hispanic-serving institutions that have traditionally gotten by with much less support.

Michelle Asha Cooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, said the bill singles out and threatens to undermine institutions that have historically given underrepresented student groups access to higher education.

“While policy makers’ efforts to enrich these institutions must be informed by reliable evidence, we must also remember that when serving underrepresented students -- which these institutions do -- more resources are needed, not less,” she said.

Introduction of similar performance-based measures has been trending at the state level for years -- as far back as 1979 in Tennessee. Research indicates those measures do have an impact on the behavior of colleges, said Rebecca Natow, an assistant professor of educational leadership at Hofstra University.

“It gets institutions’ attention and it does prompt changes in their campus programming with regard to students to get them more focused on completion,” she said.

But some colleges have seen unanticipated consequences, such as increasing standards for admissions or lowering academic standards, Natow said.

Critics of such measures in the past have complained that they reward institutions that are doing well while making it harder for colleges most in need of help to make strides on improving student success.

Marybeth Gasman, director of the Penn Center for Minority-Serving Institutions, said the provision doesn’t recognize the mission of those colleges or the challenges of their student populations.

"These are institutions that are doing a huge share of the work of educating low-income students," she said. "That also means they are not going to have consistent graduation rates."

Deborah Santiago, chief operating officer and vice president for policy at Excelencia in Education, said she doesn’t necessarily oppose setting a baseline for institutions that receive competitive federal grants. But she questioned whether graduation rates are the best metric to measure those colleges’ impact, even if they account for transfer students.

Many students attending minority-serving institutions attend part-time, stop out and return later, Santiago said. Those students are not included in the federal graduation rate as currently calculated.

“Graduation rates are wonderful metrics when you’ve got traditional students,” she said. “For a community college or an open-access institution, that’s more challenging.”

New Risk-Sharing Scheme

Experts said one of the most important proposals in the mammoth bill is the plan to elevate federal loan repayment rates as a "risk-sharing" metric for colleges.

The House GOP would drop the use of borrower cohort default rates at the institutional level, which most experts agree are a flawed measure, and replace them with programmatic repayment rates. Under the bill, any academic program where, for three consecutive years, more than 45 percent of borrowers are least 90 days delinquent in repaying their loans would be knocked out of the federal loan program (after a possible appeal process). And programs that exceed the 45 percent threshold for a year would be required to create a "repayment improvement task force" that the department would review.

The committee said in a fact sheet released Friday that the goal of the repayment-rate approach to risk sharing is to "target federal aid to only those programs where graduates have the ability to repay their student loans."

Julie Peller, executive director of Higher Learning Advocates, a recently formed group that focuses on policy, said she appreciated Foxx's effort to ensure that colleges have some "skin in the game" under the $150 billion annual federal aid program.

"However, the proposal’s definition of ‘positive repayment’ as any student who is less than 90 days delinquent is far too lax a standard for holding institutions accountable for the outcomes they produce," Peller said in a written statement. "Additionally, the PROSPER Act still leaves important questions unanswered, including how the measure will treat students who don’t neatly fit into any particular program of study and what role the ‘repayment improvement task force’ will have for helping low-performing institutions improve."

Community colleges could be hit hard if the feds adopt the repayment-rate metric, said David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges. Default rates are less of an issue for two-year colleges. That's because their tuition rates are relatively affordable and low-income students are less likely to cross the 270-day default threshold than a 90-day repayment one.

"It's clearly highly problematic for our institutions," he said, "simply because our students don't borrow much."

-- Paul Fain contributed to this article.

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HEA proposal allows campuses to delay reviews of sexual assaults

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 12/04/2017 - 08:00

The proposed update to the Higher Education Act introduced in the House Friday would allow colleges to refrain from investigating sexual assault allegations while a criminal inquiry is under way if police or prosecutors request such a delay.

Advocates for survivors of sexual assault say that proposal would undermine federal requirements that colleges thoroughly investigate sexual misconduct and lead to slower remedies for victims. But some observers say in practice the language would likely mean little change from current policy, which allows colleges to briefly hold off on investigations when police gather criminal evidence.

That provision is among several affecting campus policies handling sexual assault and harassment that angered advocates for survivors last week.

Some of those, like a mandate governing standards of evidence in campus proceedings, would enshrine into law recommendations from interim guidance issued by the Department of Education in September. Others provisions involve campus climate surveys to be conducted by colleges.

But advocates have focused in particular on language that appears to suggest colleges would face no penalty for holding off on pursuing campus sexual assault complaints at the request of law enforcement.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in September announced she was rescinding 2011 and 2014 federal guidance on campus sexual assault policies. She then introduced new interim guidance that will be in effect until the department writes a new federal regulation governing campus policies.

That interim guidance said colleges could choose to set either a preponderance of evidence standard for findings of campus-based proceedings or a clear and convincing standard that requires a higher burden of proof. Survivor advocates argue that the preponderance standard, which was backed by the Obama administration in its 2011 guidance, should be used for findings of civil rights violations like gender-based discrimination. But groups like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education argue that a higher standard of evidence should be used absent additional protections for students accused of misconduct.

The House bill backs the additional flexibility for campuses that the department included in its interim guidance. Nothing in the subsection, the language states,

may be construed to prohibit an institution of higher education from delaying the initiation of, or suspending, an investigation or institutional disciplinary proceeding involving an allegation of sexual assault in response to a request from a law enforcement agency or a prosecutor to delay the initiation of, or suspend, the investigation or proceeding, and any delay or suspension of such an investigation or proceeding in response to such a request may not serve as the grounds for any sanction or audit finding against the institution or for the suspension or termination of the institution’s participation in any program under this title.

Survivor advocates say the proposal goes even further by granting campuses the ability to delay proceedings at the request of law enforcement agencies.

And they say it potentially sets up a dilemma for survivors between reporting an assault to the police and getting full remedies from their campus.

Alyssa Peterson, an organizer with Know Your IX, said the current state of play on campuses recognizes that victims of assault have a need for remedies from both the criminal justice system and their campus system. But language in the Republican proposal for updating the higher ed law suggests that colleges would face no penalty for delaying campus proceedings at the request of law enforcement for any reason.

“It basically imposes no safeguards on the process,” Peterson said. “It would allow schools to do nothing at the expense of survivors.”

That could create a disincentive for survivors to involve police at all, she said, if they sense their college might use law enforcement as a reason for making slow progress on addressing an allegation. Potential remedies go beyond a finding of misconduct and include interim steps like making sure a complainant doesn’t have to stay in the same dorm or attend the same class sections as the alleged assaulter, Peterson said.

Scott Schneider, a lawyer who specializes in higher education law at the firm Fisher Phillips, said that he expected in practice delays citing law enforcement requests would be extremely infrequent.

"At least in my experience, it is exceptionally rare for a prosecutor or a police department to say, 'stop, do not do any investigation until we are done with the prosecution of the case,'" he said.

Schneider said if it came to that, a campus could choose to suspend an accused student in the interim.

Brett Sokolow, president of the Association of Title IX Administrators, said the language of the House bill potentially represents a significant change in the requirements on campuses when a law enforcement investigation is open.

“While the bill does not specify how long the delay may be, a short delay would be consistent with current law,” he said via email. “However, longer delays would be a big change and could result in a decreased emphasis on the campus resolution process, especially if prosecutors decide they want to use this provision to keep the campus response in limbo.”

The Republican proposal also calls for annual campus climate surveys, but observers say they would have limited value. Because colleges would be allowed to choose appropriate questions, the surveys would be meaningless for any comparisons, said Laura Dunn, the executive director and founder of SurvJustice.

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Woman who grabbed papers of controversial UConn speaker is administrator at community college

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 12/04/2017 - 08:00

An incident at the University of Connecticut last week became the latest case to attract considerable attention over issues of campus free speech and the environment for minority students. The event ended up in chaos, with students in the audience shouting at the speaker and the speaker arrested over an altercation with an audience member who took his notes. The speaker, the conservative pundit Lucian Wintrich, was trying to speak on the topic "It's OK to Be White," which is widely seen by minority students and others as a way to mock efforts to draw attention to the bigotry faced by minority individuals in the United States.

Wintrich was arrested after he had an altercation with a woman who took his notes from the podium at which he was speaking. That woman -- whom Wintrich and his supporters have blamed for the altercation -- was widely assumed to be one of the students protesting the event. But a community college administrator has come forward to say she was the one who took the notes.

The woman is Catherine Gregory, associate director of career services and advising at Quinebaug Valley Community College. Her decision to come forward has set off a new round of debate about the incident.

Wintrich is calling for Gregory to be arrested for stealing his property (the notes), and for UConn's police department to drop the charges against him. The police department is continuing to investigate the incident and has not dropped any charges. Gregory's lawyer said he has heard reports that her conduct is under investigation, but that no charges have been brought.

Criticism of Gregory has come from many besides Wintrich, and from some who say his message is hateful but that taking his notes was not appropriate. An editorial in The Hartford Courant, which previously said that Wintrich shouldn't have been invited to campus and that he "was spewing ignorant, and hateful, baloney," nonetheless found fault with Gregory.

The editorial said Gregory was "ill suited" to be advising college students, given her conduct at the speech. "There are time-honored ways to practice nonviolent civil disobedience at speeches: signs, walkouts, audience members turning their backs on a speaker. But grabbing his speech off the podium isn't one of them," the editorial said.

Wintrich has said in a series of tweets that UConn should be more outraged by what Gregory did than his action to seek to reclaim his notes, which he said was entirely justified.

We live in a culture of toxic liberal supremacy, where if you’re a well-meaning young conservative just attempting to give a speech to eager students the violent left matriarchy will shout you out, steal your belongings, and then the police will charge YOU.

— Lucian B. Wintrich (@lucianwintrich) November 30, 2017

Carlee Drummer, president of Quinebaug Valley Community College, issued a statement about the incident, without naming Gregory, suggesting that the incident had no relevance to Gregory's college role.

"Quinebaug Valley Community College confirms that one of its employees attended a speech given by Mr. Wintrich at the University of Connecticut," the statement said. "The employee attended on her personal time and QVCC learned about the incident when reported in the media. The college does not condone the behavior and encourages peaceful discourse and compassionate debate. The employee attended the event as a private citizen."

Gregory did not respond to an email request for comment, but her lawyer, Jon Schoenhorn, did talk to Inside Higher Ed about her view of what happened and why her actions were justified.

He said that Wintrich grabbed Gregory around her neck in a threatening way after she took his notes, and that police were correct to arrest him.

As to Gregory's actions, he said that Wintrich engages in "hate speech" that is designed to inflame audiences where he appears. He said that Wintrich's actions "are beyond the First Amendment" in their insults of black and Latino and other students.

Schoenhorn said it was incorrect to say, as Wintrich and many others have, that Gregory stole his papers. Schoenhorn said that Gregory never intended to keep the speech but was trying in a "mild and measured way" to calm the situation. "What Ms. Gregory did was the equivalent of unplugging a microphone," he said. "It was not to stop a speech."

On Friday, about 200 students at UConn marched on campus to protest the university's decision to allow Wintrich to speak on campus. Susan Herbst, president of the university, has said repeatedly that she finds Wintrich's rhetoric to be hateful, but also that he has a right -- protected by the First Amendment -- to speak, and that students should protest him in ways other than shouting him down.

A letter to the editor in The Daily Campus, the student newspaper, criticized Herbst for defending Wintrich's rights without having attended the event and seeing the pain it produced. "When your students were faced with the words of a man intending to incite anger, deny the reality of oppression and ultimately physically assault someone over A PIECE OF PAPER you were not there," wrote a student, Emily Steck. "What about this event made your administration believe that freedom of speech should be prioritized over hate speech?"

Check out our photos from today's March for Action. https://t.co/p0OuRqgL1o pic.twitter.com/PUBnj2h0Sd

— The Daily Campus (@the_dailycampus) December 1, 2017

On Saturday, Herbst published a column in the Courant in which she suggested that student groups should exercise judgment on whom they invite to speak on campus. "Students should be thoughtful in their invitations and are responsible for them. Having the right to invite a speaker does not necessarily mean it is a good idea," Herbst wrote.

At the same time, she wrote, students have the right to invite to campus people of all views, and speakers have a right to be heard. "It is never the role of a university to shield our campuses from speech that is disagreeable, purposely provocative or even outright hateful, such as Wintrich's. These characterizations are in the eye of the beholder, and so it is unwise for us to attempt to draw lines in the sand about what is or is not protected speech," Herbst wrote. "Our Constitution and courts have already broadly defined free speech. Universities should not attempt to create our own narrower interpretation, which would never withstand a challenge."

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Police chief gets involved in faculty love triangle he’s supposed to investigate

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 12/04/2017 - 08:00

Two’s company and three’s a crowd. Four, apparently, is grounds for resignation, especially when it’s accompanied with 171 text messages and 11 phone calls over a 36-day period.

That’s the number of times that Anthony Carter, chief of police at the University of Cincinnati Police Division, contacted a female faculty member during and after an investigation into threats her estranged husband, also a faculty member, made after discovering a photo that allegedly showed her in a compromising position with another male faculty member. Carter “unnecessarily and without precedent” inserted himself into the investigation, according to a report by an outside firm, commissioned by the university and obtained via public records request by The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Carter has since stepped down from his role as chief of police and is now working as a researcher at the UC Institute of Crime Science in a position slated to run until September 2018. His new assignment was announced shortly after his resignation in late November.

The faculty members involved in the investigation were not named in the report, but the basic rundown of the scenario -- which also includes a cameo by the Westboro Baptist Church -- looked like this: the husband discovered a photo of his wife and a co-worker in a “sexual setting” and commented to a university dean that he would kill the male faculty member.

The comment was reported on Sept. 1 to the director of public safety, who then told Carter to follow up on the matter. One of his detectives interviewed both the married faculty members.

The husband admitted making that statement but said it was made in the heat of the moment and under duress, and he had no plans on following through. The wife said she was not romantically involved with the other faculty member, and that her husband wasn’t a threat to them. The wife later indicated to the detective that she hadn’t been truthful about her entire account, and the detective tried to set up another interview, although the wife didn’t respond to the request.

Carter entered the scene when he and the female faculty member met in a “purely happenstance” manner, according to the report, when the Westboro Baptist Church staged a demonstration on campus. Carter was there to oversee the safety of the protests and counterprotests, and the wife among many at the university who were there observing. He asked the woman to speak to him regarding the case involving her husband, and later followed up with an email.

Over the next 36 days, their communication became “oddly personal,” according to the woman, and Carter asked her three separate times to meet with him in a social setting -- whether or not these invitations were intended as dates is disputed -- including a Cincinnati Bengals football game. The woman said no to each request.

Carter’s lawyer told the Enquirer that he disagreed with the report’s findings and said his remaining in contact with the woman after the initial investigation into the threats was closed was a professional courtesy. Any notions of a romantic gesture were "misinterpreted," and Carter’s gestures were merely “friendly.” He also said that the female faculty member was the only one who mentioned the concept of a “date” or “romantic relationship,” and that Carter corrected those notions.

The report, the university and campus advocates for victims of sexual harassment, however, disagreed with Carter’s interpretation and said that his extensive communication had the consequences of overstating his authority on the case and making the woman feel more unsafe than she should have felt.

The report’s findings were as follows:

  • That Carter did not take the immediate steps necessary to determine if a credible, bona fide threat of physical harm to faculty or students really existed.
  • That Carter unnecessarily and without precedent, injected himself into nonsupervisory aspects of the investigation bypassing traditional command and control, heightening his participation only after meeting Wife face-to-face.
  • That Carter unnecessarily and inappropriately maintained extended and extensive contact with Wife, well beyond any investigative imperative.
  • That Carter, whether intentionally or unintentionally, led Wife to believe that he was acting on behalf of the university in assessing the professional standing of both her and Husband.
  • That Cater unnecessarily put wife in fear for her safety, whether intentionally or unintentionally, by overstating any danger to her.
  • That Carter failed to officially document his interactions with Wife as would typically be required of an investigating officer dealing with a witness or complainant.
  • That Carter failed to inform … his subordinate [detective] working on the case, of all of his contacts with the witness, notwithstanding that there was potentially relevant safety information contained in those conversations.
  • That on three separate occasions, Carter inappropriate asked Wife to attend a social activity with him. While Carter denied that any of these requests constituted a “date,” irrespective of its characterization, the conduct constituted inappropriate interaction between Carter, acting as an investigating officer, and a vulnerable witness in the investigation he was conducting.

The chain of events that set off the report occurred later in September when the husband allegedly made another threatening comment about the other male faculty member, which was reported to authorities but denied by the husband. Afterward, though, the female faculty member told him of Carter asking her out after the husband complained that Carter had treated him unfairly in the follow-up interview about the alleged second threat. The husband then told the university that Carter had asked out his wife, and while the university was sorting out that information, Carter asked the wife to see a play with him.

On Oct. 24, about a month after the university was informed of Carter’s communications with the wife, Exiger, an outside consulting firm, was asked to look into the matter. The university asked Carter to resign on Nov. 22, two days after the report was completed, and Carter appealed before ultimately turning in a resignation. University lawyers had found that his actions were inappropriate but did not warrant his dismissal, according to more documents obtained by the Enquirer.

A day after his resignation was accepted -- Nov. 27 -- the university announced his research position. Carter has been positively credited, according to his personnel file, with helping rewrite the department's mission statement and increasing diversity.

“In sum, we find that while Carter may have been concerned about the overall well-being of Wife, he engaged in inappropriate conduct, which was motivated, at least in part, by a desire to further his own personal interests,” the report read. Carter’s combination of actions and inactions “leads to the conclusion that the threats were not his primary interest or concern if any real concern at all.”

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University of Mississippi hit with 2018 bowl ban

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 12/04/2017 - 08:00

The University of Mississippi’s third major incident involving violations by football boosters has led the National Collegiate Athletic Association to take the unusual step of barring the Rebels program from postseason play in 2018 -- a penalty the university said it would “vigorously appeal.”

The verdict comes after the NCAA’s Division I Committee on Infractions found that six football staffers and a dozen boosters had helped funnel $37,000 in cash payments to recruits and provide access to free lodging, cars, meals and apparel. The university lacked institutional control over its football program, the committee concluded, a finding the NCAA has used with decreasing frequency in recent years.

In addition to the 2018 bowl ban, the Rebels face scholarship reductions and several of its former or current coaches or administrators were given show-cause orders, meaning they are likely to be limited from athletics-related positions for a certain number of years.

Mississippi must also pay $5,000 in addition to the roughly $180,000 fine it chose to pay and vacate games in which ineligible players were involved.

Former head coach Hugh Freeze, who resigned in July amid revelations that he had called an escort service from his work phone, will be suspended for two games in the 2018 season should any other NCAA institution hire him.

But the 2018 bowl ban remains the harshest punishment, in part because NCAA rules stipulate senior players can now transfer without penalty, potentially weakening Mississippi’s position in the Southeastern Conference.

Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter released a statement saying the university intended to fight the 2018 ban. It had already taken itself out of postseason play for the 2017 season.

“The additional postseason ban is excessive and does not take into account the corrective actions that we have made in personnel, structure, policies and processes to address the issues,” Vitter said in a statement.

The university faced “strikingly similar” cases in both 1986 and 1994, said Greg Christopher, the NCAA’s chief hearing officer and athletics director at Xavier University, in a call with reporters Friday.

“This is now the third case over three decades that has involved the boosters and football program,” the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions wrote in its decision. “Even the head coach acknowledged that upon coming to Mississippi, he was surprised by the ‘craziness’ of boosters trying to insert themselves into his program.”

While some expected much stronger sanctions against Freeze, Christopher said Friday that the coach had promoted an “atmosphere of compliance” but simply failed to exercise oversight over his staff. Freeze also cooperated throughout the investigation, Christopher said.

In what could be described as an old-school athletics caper, an assistant athletics director arranged for cash payouts facilitated by boosters to some prospects, between $13,000 and $15,600, and then lied about it in an interview with NCAA investigators, the Committee on Infractions said.

Two staffers forged ACT scores for the recruits and organized for a booster to provide five recruits with housing and transportation while they completed academic work to be eligible.

One particularly interesting aspect of the case was the involvement of one Mississippi State University football star, Leo Lewis, who had been wooed by multiple SEC programs, including Ole Miss.

SBNation reported in depth on the deal the NCAA struck with Lewis: it would offer him limited immunity from punishments if he would share details of the cash and perks institutions had showered him with.

Lewis’s statements to the NCAA helped bury the University of Mississippi but also placed him as a co-defendant in a civil lawsuit that could cost him big money if he is found liable, SBNation reported. The plaintiff is the suit is Rebel Rag, an apparel shop that is alleging defamation against Lewis.

In a highly unusual move, Lewis was brought in to testify to the Committee on Infractions.

Christopher said that the NCAA had offered this partial immunity to six individuals in the course of the investigation. He also criticized the leaks to press, saying they degraded the integrity of the investigation.

“We don’t stress confidentiality to be secretive or to not be transparent about our process,” he said.

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Tax bill with key implications for colleges clears Senate

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 12/04/2017 - 08:00

The U.S. Senate early Saturday morning narrowly approved major tax legislation roundly opposed by higher education leaders and student groups. The bill, like the House of Representatives' tax plan passed last month, got no public hearings and senators themselves complained they had no opportunity to read the legislation even as last-minute amendments were offered affecting issues like private college endowments and education savings plans.

The 51-to-49 Senate vote sets up negotiations with House leaders over substantial differences between the two bills. Most in higher education view the House version as substantially more harmful for students and colleges than the Senate bill, but many also have major concerns about the Senate legislation.

Both bills would create significant potential new tax burdens for higher education institutions and would, college leaders predict, adversely affect charitable giving and state budgets that support public colleges and universities.

Senate lawmakers approved multiple amendments Friday to provisions that would affect higher education. One allows taxpayers to deduct only up to $10,000 for state and local property taxes. Previous language eliminated state and local deductions entirely. Even with that change, however, higher education leaders say the cap could put strains on state budgets. The fear is that wealthy taxpayers in states that invest substantially in public colleges and other services will push to cut spending generally, since they will no longer receive a tax break on their state and local payments.

Like the House bill, the Senate legislation imposes a new 1.4 percent excise tax on the largest endowments held by private colleges. But thanks to an amendment offered Friday, the tax will apply only to endowments valued at $500,000 per full-time student. Previously, that provision would have applied to endowments valued at $250,000 per student. But although the tax will apply to only the wealthiest private institutions, higher education leaders call it a flawed idea that sets a worrying precedent.

Another amendment blocked by senators Friday would have specifically exempted from the endowment tax Hillsdale College, a private institution in Michigan with ties to Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education, and an institution praised by many conservatives.

Also like the House legislation, the Senate tax plan doubles the standard deduction for tax filers, a change that charitable groups say would hurt incentives for donating to tax-exempt entities like colleges. (See a complete breakdown of provisions in both bills ahead of Friday's amendments here.)

But the Senate plan does not include provisions to strip many tax benefits for students pursuing a college or graduate degree or paying off their loans, making it a significant improvement over the House bill, said Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, in a written statement. Student and faculty groups staged protests across the country this week against the elimination of the student tax benefits. The protests focused in particular on a provision of the House bill that would tax graduate student tuition waivers as income -- a change those groups say would make graduate education unattainable for many students.

"We are especially pleased that the Senate recognizes the importance of education benefits that help millions of middle- and lower-income students and families finance a college education," Mitchell said. "We hope that any final legislation will leave these critically important benefits in place."

In addition, the final Senate bill dropped a proposal to add consequential new costs for business activities unrelated to a college's core academic mission -- everything from the rental of laboratory facilities to income from special events. It also did not include taxes on royalty income generated from licensing of a college's name and logo. Those activities by colleges have little apparent connection to academics, but higher education groups said costs from those taxes would have an effect on colleges' ability to pay for student support.

And Mitchell said changes to the standard deduction and new caps on state and local tax deductions were problematic provisions of the Senate bill.

"As a result, we are deeply concerned that at a time when postsecondary degrees and credentials have never been more important to individuals, the economy and our society, the tax reform proposal approved by the Senate could make college more expensive and undermine the financial stability of higher education institutions," he said. "This is simply wrongheaded."

  House Plan Senate Plan Education Tax Benefits     American Opportunity Tax Credit Consolidates AOTC and Lifetime Learning Credit and adds a fifth year with half the benefits. Repeal of Lifetime Learning Credit would mean no tax credit for part-time students. No changes to AOTC Discharge of student debt Discharge of student debt from death or disability would be excluded from taxable income. No change Student Loan Interest Deduction Repeals tax deduction for interest paid on federal student loans. Under current law, borrowers can deduct up to $2,500. Not included Graduate student tuition Eliminates Section 117(d)5 of tax code, which allows institutions to waive or reduce tuition costs for graduate students without tax implications. No change College employee dependent benefits Would no longer exclude tuition benefits for college employees' spouses or children from taxable income. No change Employer-provided education assistance Would no longer exclude employer-provided education assistance from taxable income. Tax-exempt benefits are currently capped at $5,250 per year for undergraduate and graduate course work. No change Endowment Tax Applies a 1.4 percent excise tax to private college endowments valued at $250,000 per full-time student. Provision included in final Senate legislation applied excise tax to private college endowments valued at $500,000 per full-time student. Charitable Contributions     Charitable deductions Increases standard deduction from $12,700 to $24,000 for joint filers and from $6,350 to $12,000 for individuals. Charitable groups say the change will reduce the incentive for charitable giving to entities like colleges. Increases standard deduction to $24,400 for joint filers and $12,200 for individuals. College athletic seating rights Eliminates rule providing for charitable deduction of 80 percent of amount paid to purchase tickets to athletic events. Same as House plan Unrelated Business Income Tax     Research income Tax-exempt organizations could exclude from unrelated business tax only income from research that is available to the public. Not included Name and logo royalties Not included Would tax royalties a college derives from licensing its name or logo. But provision was dropped from final legislation passed by Senate. Business income taxed separately Not included Requires that unrelated business income be counted separately for tax purposes, meaning colleges could no longer use losses in one business area to offset tax liability for gains in another. Tax-Exempt Bonds     Termination of private activity bonds Effectively eliminates tax-exempt private activity bonds that lower the cost of building for colleges. Not included Termination of advanced refunding bonds Interest on newly issued advance refunding bonds would become taxable. Same as the House plan State and Local Tax Deductions Deductions for state and local property taxes would be capped at $10,000. Higher ed advocates say limiting the deductions will mean less support for taxes that support community colleges and public universities. Final Senate legislation would allow taxpayers to deduct up to $10,000 in state and local taxes. Editorial Tags: Federal policyAd Keyword: Tax ReformIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: 

Avalanche of football-related concussion lawsuits against NCAA and conferences could lead to changes

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 08:00

Zack Langston, 26, shot himself in the chest so his brain could be studied.

The former Pittsburg State University football star ended his life nearly four years ago, convinced the repeated collisions he endured at practices and games had resulted in memory loss, paranoia and his suicidal tendencies. Langston's story is detailed in court filings, part of a lawsuit by his family against the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the athletic conference that Pittsburg belongs to, the Division II Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA).

Langston turned out to be right -- posthumously, he was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a brain disease often found in athletes who have experienced frequent blows to the head. One study of professional football players’ brains found nearly all of them suffered from CTE -- 110 out of the 111 former National Football League players’ brains studied exhibited the disease.

Many others besides Langston's family have similarly sued the NCAA, seeking damages for former players and alleging they still bear the effects of concussions.

Last year, the Associated Press reported that the NCAA faced 43 lawsuits filed by Edelson PC, the firm representing Langton’s case. Subsequently more than 100 plaintiffs have joined the lawsuits against the association and sometimes against conferences or individual institutions. The legal challenge is part of a broader effort to pursue a class-action suit against the NCAA and to force it to pay for medical expenses for treating brain injuries. Four sample cases have been selected.

The case still needs to be classified as a class-action suit and remains in its early stages.

Academics and experts have pondered whether the pressure will eventually lead the NCAA to endorse major reforms.

In 2010 the NCAA forced all its member institutions to develop concussion management plans, with a stricter set of standards for colleges to use in evaluating and treating concussions. Prior to that the rules were inconsistent, said Scott Anderson, the president of the College Athletic Trainers Society and head athletics trainer at the University of Oklahoma.

Anderson said conversations about concussions and the need to address them shifted in the early 2000s, following NCAA-funded research from Kevin Guskiewicz, director of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center, and Michael McCrea, director of brain injury research at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Their study, published in 2003, served as a launch point for other research, the NCAA said, though the federal court filings note many other studies prior to Guskiewicz and McCrea’s.

Langston’s lawsuit calls the NCAA concussion-management practice “flawed” in that it requires athletes to self-diagnose a concussion and give consent to continue playing when they may be unable to competently make that decision.

Such litigation may prod the NCAA to tweak concussion rules, said Michael McCann, associate dean for academic affairs at the University of New Hampshire School of Law and director of its Sports and Entertainment Law Institute.

McCann pointed to the six-year, $1 billion settlement by the NFL to former players who were proven to have lingering problems from concussions. The league introduced harsher rules following the settlement, with teams facing fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars if they don’t remove players from games after they are concussed.

The NCAA in 2014 paid $75 million to settle a concussion-related class-action suit -- $70 million of which will be used for a 50-year medical monitoring service for athletes and another $5 million for research and treatment of concussions. But this money is meant only to identify symptoms associated with concussions or brain injuries for athletes -- it's not for treatment.

The federal judge in that case declined to exempt the NCAA from future class-action suits, leading to the continued filings against the association and its conferences, though the colleges aren’t generally named as plaintiffs because of the complex liability issues associated with suing a public institution.

Representatives from the MIAA, named as a plaintiff in Langston's lawsuit, declined to comment, as did the college president who leads its advisory board, Bob Vartabedian, president of Missouri Western State University.

Risk for Conferences

Also at issue is the expense of these lawsuits.

While insurance policies can front the payouts on concussions, should universities prove to be a continual risk, carriers could decline to cover them, said Christian Dennie, a lawyer and partner at Barlow Garsek and Simon, who specializes in sports law cases.

Not every conference has the NCAA's deep pockets, either. Per its federal 990 tax form for 2015, the MIAA has about $687,000 in assets.

“The more lawsuits that are filed, we’re going to start seeing exclusions in insurance policies, and that would create problems,” Dennie said.

While suing the NCAA could result in better funding for protective gear during games -- many experts cite improved helmets and technology as possibilities -- McCann said lawsuits can’t eliminate the dangers of football.

“I think we have to be inherently realistic that the game of football is dangerous,” he said. “I think that’s the sobering part of the story. There isn’t a solution to the health issues that have come up.”

Many researchers liken the hits football players take to being subjected to repeated car accidents.

Driving a car into a wall at 25 miles per hour without a seatbelt would result in about 100 g’s -- one g is equal to the force exerted by gravity on a body at rest -- to a person's head as it hit the windshield, according to Guskiewicz’s research.

Almost all of the football-related hits to the head exceed 20 g’s, and per Guskiewicz, if a player took two hits of more than 80 g’s in a practice, they would have experienced the equivalent of two car crashes.

Much more expansive research on concussions remains ongoing in an unusual $30 million partnership between the NCAA and the U.S. Department of Defense -- the reason for the collaboration being that the military grapples with many of the same injuries, said Steve Brogilo, who helps lead the NCAA and the Defense Department’s CARE Consortium, which stands for Concussion Research, Assessment and Education.

Brogilo is also an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Michigan and director of its Neurotrauma Research Laboratory.

Speaking last month at the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics meeting, Brogilo said 50 percent of concussions occur before a season begins. Thus far, the consortium has studied about 2,500 concussive injuries, he said.

“Banning the game is absurd,” Brogilo said. “Practices are the No. 1 place to focus. You can change practice rules easily -- changing game rules becomes much more complex.”

Banning Football?

Challenges to the institution of football, however, are a small but growing force.

Three professors at the University of San Diego recently introduced a resolution in their department for the college to ban football.

It was voted down, 50 to 26, with 30 abstentions. Had it passed, the measure would have moved to the full faculty of the university for consideration.

Ken Serbin, a professor of history who helped draft the resolution, said his interest in concussions stemmed from his work with Huntington’s disease, a genetic brain disorder that his mother died from and for which he carries the genes.

He has thrown galas to raise money to research and combat Huntington’s, and one of his donors was the Chargers, the NFL team now based in Los Angeles. When he learned about the effects of CTE on the players, to Serbin it seemed like a contradiction that a team would raise money to ending one brain disease while simultaneously overlooking another.

During the faculty vote on his resolution, he said many professors didn’t focus on the science that he and his two other colleagues presented, but rather defended football on its cultural merits. Many didn’t grasp that a concussion is not like other injuries, Serbin said. One professor compared it to a rotator-cuff tear. But while the body can recover from that after a certain period, he said, the brain isn’t like a broken bone, and damage can be permanent. Some of his colleagues' view of brain damage was “unsophisticated,” he said.

“The old idea of ‘having your bell rung,’ as we called concussions -- that’s gone,” he said. “We are at a new level of brain science.”

Serbin was particularly astounded by the number of abstentions. Though he said he couldn’t pinpoint why faculty members voted the way they did without interviewing them, he guessed many have concerns about football but didn’t want to take on such a popular sport.

One professor approached Serbin after the vote and said the presentation against football was convincing, but that the professor didn’t want to discontinue it because his brother played college football and the brother would be “disappointed to hear that the university was canceling it.”

“It’s a sacred cow, football is,” Serbin said. “It really is for many people America’s new religion. People used to make church attendance their primary Sunday activity, and now people’s primary Sunday activity for many, many Americans is watching a football game. It’s been very successful in establishing itself in our culture as this new item of worship.”

He said though this attempt failed, Serbin wants this to serve as a “spark” for those at other institutions.

Serbin’s story is somewhat unique in that although few professors have called for football to be banished entirely, decades ago a faculty-led campaign essentially killed the formerly beloved sport of collegiate boxing.

Faculty at the University of Wisconsin at Madison voted to ban the sport after a well-liked student, Charlie Mohr, died following a fight in 1960. He first went into a coma, then passed away days later. Though proponents of boxing adamantly defended it, the NCAA canceled its boxing tournament, and the sport's popularity faltered.

This year, Occidental College, a Division III institution, scrapped its football season entirely in October amid health concerns for players. Despite being in a lower division, the move was significant. Occidental plays in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

President Jonathan Veitch said in a statement at the time there were not enough healthy players to field a team.

"No one wanted or expected the season to end this way. Making this decision now provides needed clarity to players, their parents, coaches and other SCIAC members,” he said in his statement. “After canceling two of our first five games because of a depleted roster, including last weekend's homecoming game, the need to address the viability of the season became unavoidable."

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Texas State president blasts "racist" student column

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 08:00

A quick skim of any student newspaper across the country will likely yield some sort of column denouncing white privilege. What’s more unusual is a college president taking notice, criticizing such a piece and calling it racist -- but such is the case at Texas State University, where an op-ed has student groups warring.

In its Tuesday issue, The University Star published a column titled “Your DNA Is an Abomination,” about an “oppressive world” that white men and women have built to “subjugate” people of color. The author, student Rudy Martinez, referred to white people as “an aberration.”

“Whiteness will be over because we want it to be. And when it dies, there will be millions of cultural zombies aimlessly wandering across a vastly changed landscape,” Martinez wrote in his op-ed, which has since been pulled from the University Star website. Martinez reposted the column on his Facebook page.

“Ontologically speaking, white death will mean liberation for all. To you good-hearted liberals, apathetic nihilists and right-wing extremists: accept this death as the first step toward defining yourself as something other than the oppressor. Until then, remember this: I hate you because you shouldn't exist. You are both the dominant apparatus on the planet and the void in which all other cultures, upon meeting you, die.”

His words prompted widespread fury, with threats by the student government president to try to take away the newspaper’s funding. The president, Conor Clegg, demanded the resignation of the editors and Martinez, who is a periodic columnist for the Star. In turn, groups representing minority students have sided with the newspaper, asking instead for Clegg to step down. Despite the strong rhetoric, Martinez was not advocating for white people to be killed, as some accused him of, but the destruction of a certain type of white identity.

Typically, administrators remain laissez-faire on the operations of student press, even when the publications receive university funding. But Texas State President Denise M. Trauth released a statement deeming the column racist and said its themes were “abhorrent.”

She also delivered a mild rebuke to University Star staffers.

“As president of a university that celebrates its inclusive culture, I detest racism in any manifestation,” Trauth said in her statement. “While I appreciate that the Star is a forum for students to freely express their opinions, I expect student editors to exercise good judgment in determining the content that they print.”

The editors have apologized. Editor in Chief Denise Cervantes did not respond to a request from Inside Higher Ed for comment, but the paper posted a statement on Twitter.

“The original intent of the column was to comment on the idea of race and racial identities. We acknowledge that the column could have been clearer in its message and that it has caused hurt within our campus community,” it says.

Trauth in her statement said the editors will examine their editorial process -- though it’s unclear what that means.

Matt Flores, a Texas State spokesman, said in an interview that the administration is “looking further” into the situation and reviewing editorial practices of the newspaper, but said he could not specify further.

Flores said he could not comment on the thinking behind Trauth releasing a statement, or the online petition that calls for the institution to defund the University Star (it has been signed 500 times by Thursday afternoon.) He said he was unsure if or when the university would make any other announcements.

The mood at Texas State has been tense, particularly since Trauth published her statement, said Yunuen Alvarado, a sophomore and programs coordinator of the Student Community of Progressive Empowerment -- which advocates for immigrants and refugees. The university has already been plagued this year by the kind of racist fliers that tend to proliferate on college campuses now.

While the president has responded to these incidents, Alvarado said it was "surprising" that Trauth used such strong language in this case when it involved white people being criticized. She described Trauth's reactions before as "fake" or "sugar-coated."

"When this happened to students of color or other minorities, there was never this much outrage," she said.

Alvarado said she didn't find the column offensive, saying it had largely been misinterpreted -- it didn't call for white genocide, as some implied it had. Martinez is a man of color and was expressing his anger, she said.

In a statement, Clegg said The University Star is no longer aligned with the values of Texas State and that tuition dollars shouldn’t pay for such “behavior.”

Should Cervantes, the opinion editor, and Martinez not resign, Clegg said he would call for an emergency meeting of the committee charged with handling student fees and ask it to divest from the paper.

“I am confident that these cuts will be well received with my fellow students, their parents and future Bobcats,” Clegg said in his statement. “If the Star wishes to maintain its operations without student funding, they can do so like any other paper -- by earning subscribers and selling more advertisements. There is no reason for over 39,000 students to be forced to invest their student fees toward this brand of journalism.”

Clegg has drawn the ire of some student groups -- one, the Pan African Action Committee, published a statement on Twitter calling Clegg “unfit” for office, asserting he has disregarded minority populations on campus.

“To directly threaten a major student publication because of the content of an opinions piece that Clegg happens to disagree with is not only a threat to constitutional free speech as we know it, but also a gesture of censorship reminiscent of an authoritarian regime,” the statement reads.

The tweet containing the statement had been retweeted more than 400 times as of Thursday evening. Other organizations, like Alvarado's, reposted it, saying the Student Community of Progressive Empowerment “stands in unity” with the Pan African Action Committee. The statement asks for the more than $11,000 devoted to Clegg's position to be taken away if he does not resign.

It’s uncertain now how much oversight administrators exercise over the Star, though Flores said it is “primarily student run.” He could not identify how much money the paper receives, exactly, but said that every full-time student taking 15 credits pays $90 in student fees, about 1.6 percent of which (a little more than $1.40) is allotted for the student newspaper.

The institution reported undergraduate enrollment in fall 2016 as 34,276 students.

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Anthropologists consider challenges of teaching in a red state

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 08:00

WASHINGTON -- Does the study of anthropology inherently run counter to conservative values?

In the age of Trump, many in academe are re-evaluating how their professions and livelihoods are perceived by an electorate that rejected the establishment. Additionally, Republicans of all stripes -- establishment or otherwise -- seem to have soured on higher education, with 58 percent of them reporting that they think colleges have a negative impact on the country’s direction.

Anthropology -- especially its various specializations, which look at the intersection of evolution, race, sex, gender, colonialism, public land use, capitalism and climate change on different world cultures -- seems ripe for the picking if conservatives had to select a specific area of study to bash. And given how commonly it’s offered as a general-education option at various universities, how well it does or doesn’t mesh with conservative students -- and long-held conservative beliefs that predate Trump or the Republican Party, such as creationism -- is something that anthropologists are paying attention to.

“I’ve gotten on one of my [course] evaluations that I’m not a scientist,” said Kimberly Kasper, an assistant professor at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. Casper was speaking on a panel addressing teaching anthropology in conservative states and environments at the American Anthropological Association’s annual national meeting, held in D.C. this week.

“[Teaching about] gender roles has definitely been an issue, especially for military spouses,” said Virginia Hutton Estabrook, an assistant professor of anthropology at Armstrong State University in Savannah, Ga., who was also on the panel. Cultural anthropology has been at the forefront of researching gender roles and how they vary across cultures, and Estabrook mentioned military spouses as typically strongly oriented around traditional American gender roles when she teaches theories that may run counter to their views.

The session was less an airing of grievances than a session to talk strategies to bring conservative colleagues and students on board with anthropology and the various avenues it explores. Scholars discussed the discipline's relevance in race, sex, gender and evolution, specifically, and challenges and triumphs they’ve had teaching, especially in states across the South and the Midwest. Many described positive, if not exactly fruitful, relationships with students who opted for creationism over evolution.

“Alabama is the only state in the U.S. that still has warning stickers on its [high school] biology textbooks [saying] that evolution is just a theory,” Briana Pobiner, an anthropologist with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, told the audience. “The cultural context in which [anthropologists] are teaching is not very friendly.”

Still, both the panel members gathered to address teaching anthropology in red states and other conference attendees acknowledged that breaking down the discourse on higher education into liberal versus conservative, or Republican versus Democrat, doesn’t always answer every problem facing anthropology’s role in academe.

A panel held Thursday morning addressed the “neoliberalization” of campuses not only in the U.S. but across the world. Bipartisan pushes for privatization measures on campuses, corporate influence on research and the pitching of higher education by policy makers as a practical means to better employment or boosting the national economy, critics said, puts programs like anthropology at risk and obscures the purpose of education in the first place.

“They’re trying to pick the winners,” Cris Shore, an anthropology professor at the University of Auckland, said of policies in New Zealand and elsewhere, prioritizing STEM education.

While some attributed recent trends to the increased political clout of populism, they also pointed to mainstream policy makers cutting back on education funding as a threat to anthropology and the humanities. Janine Wedel, an anthropologist at George Mason University, acknowledged populism’s dangers, but also contended that the same elites whom populists campaign against have also brought damage to academe.

Touching on themes that would be brought up in the afternoon session on teaching in red states, she said that anthropologists have to engage in fieldwork domestically. Part of the reason the election polls predicting the outcomes for Brexit and the 2016 presidential election were so off, she said, was because anthropologists and others were ignoring their own countries.

“As long as we sit in our anthropological caves … we’re doomed,” she said. “If you don’t know anybody who voted for Trump [or Brexit], you shouldn’t be part of the conversation.”

The entire conference wasn’t all doom and gloom, however, as Marc Kissel, a lecturer in Appalachian State University’s anthropology department, tried to make clear. Building on other professors’ insistence that it was important to find a way to let religious students know that learning anthropology didn’t have to mean having one’s faith attacked, he said there was room for both religious conservatives and anthropologists -- plenty of whom, panelists pointed out, are religious themselves -- to learn from one another.

“My postdoc was sponsored by anthropology and theology, and I spent a lot of time working with theologians,” said Kissel, who did postdoctoral research at the University of Notre Dame. “The upshot is that I learned that theologians are not creationists, and they learned that anthropologists are not Richard Dawkins.”

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Opening more occupations to apprenticeships could mean more job opportunities

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 08:00

Apprenticeships are commonly identified with skilled trades such as welding and carpentry, but new research indicates that expanding apprenticeships into other occupations would lead to more job opportunities.

Researchers from Harvard Business School’s Managing the Future Work Project and Burning Glass Technologies, a labor market analytics company, found that the number of occupations that commonly use apprenticeships could be expanded -- from 27 to 74.

That increase alone would open up to 3.3 million job opportunities that could be filled by apprentices, according to the researchers’ report. The 27 occupations that currently use apprenticeship models account for approximately 410,000 apprentices.

“We are underutilizing apprenticeships as an education and training model, and it could be much more widely spread,” said Mary Alice McCarthy, director of the Center on Education and Skills with the education policy program at New America and a former official at the U.S. Education and Labor Departments. “[The researchers] even make a good case that it’s not even being used enough in the skilled trades and occupations related to skilled trades.”

Apprenticeships have bipartisan support in Congress and are popular with the Trump administration. President Trump signed an executive order earlier this year to expand the federal apprenticeship program to more industry groups and alternative education providers.

The researchers examined more than 23 million job postings to identify occupations with similar characteristics to existing apprenticeships.

They then identified two categories of occupations apprenticeships could expand to -- expander roles and booster roles. Expander roles are occupations that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, for example, tax preparers or customer service representatives, while booster roles are jobs where employers have often requested a bachelor’s degree, even though the skills required for the job don’t necessitate a college degree. Those occupations include claims adjusters, human resource specialists and graphic designers.

The shift to expanding apprenticeships to more occupations like the ones suggested by the researchers could have an impact on degree inflation.

“We think there is so much potential for apprenticeships to challenge the very real and rampant problem of degree inflation,” said Matt Sigelman, chief executive officer of Burning Glass and a co-author of the report. “Employers are using the [four-year] college degree as a proxy for job readiness, and I think that’s the promise of apprenticeships. There could be more effective and tailor-made avenues to delivering workers who are job ready.”

Sigelman said the researchers aren’t suggesting people shouldn’t go to college, but that many of the occupations they identified may require a sub-baccalaureate degree or certification that can be achieved while gaining experience in an apprenticeship.

Degree inflation has led to a shift in what is considered “middle-skilled” jobs. Those occupations that were once considered middle skill are now the jobs worked by graduates with bachelor’s degrees because employers ask for college degrees, Sigelman said, adding that that can actually lead to a different problem for employers.

“When they hire college graduates into middle-skills jobs, those college graduates are significantly less likely to be engaged and have shorter tenure on the job,” Sigelman said. “If you went to school to get a better job and wind up doing something you’re overqualified for, you’re not happy about it and you’re holding out for a better opportunity.”

And that’s the incentive for employers to push and support apprenticeships. Not only do they tap into pools of talented employees who are more engaged and will stay longer, but this is a group of people that may come from more diverse and low-income backgrounds, he said.

But there are still some barriers to expanding apprenticeships.

“A bachelor’s degree has currency in the market,” Sigelman said. “People know what it is. For apprenticeships to take hold and realize the full potential of our report, there’s going to need to be some strong mechanisms in place to ensure quality assurance and ensure an apprenticeship represents a certain body of defined training.”

McCarthy said for some occupations, such as graphic design, not only is it difficult to convince the higher education world that students need something other than a degree, but students and parents aren’t convinced, either.

“One thing is very clear -- if it is something that leads people away from a college degree, they are very suspicious and they want it to connect to a college degree,” she said.

So apprenticeships also present an opportunity for community colleges, four-year institutions and industry associations to work together, Sigelman said.

“It’s not just about the jobs,” McCarthy said. “When you look at it through the lens of occupation, occupation is the end of the line.”

McCarthy said the goal should be to connect apprenticeships to higher education systemically so the student employee is trained for the job and moving forward through an associate degree and then a bachelor’s degree. She points to the degree apprenticeship system in the United Kingdom as an example.

There are already a number of community colleges that have partnered with companies, particularly middle-sized businesses, to offer training and education to apprentices, said Kermit Kaleba, federal policy director for the National Skills Coalition, adding that those programs and apprenticeships don’t automatically equate to a shorter amount of time in college, since many programs run anywhere from three to five years.

“As we’re expanding into industries that have historically sought four-year degrees as the entry-level requirement for that first level of management, we’re probably going to see more four-year universities partnering with employers,” he said, adding that this already happens with executive master's of business administration programs.

The researchers also found the broadening of apprenticeships opened up more upward mobility. For example, those occupations identified as booster and expander tend to be entry level and can lead to advancement up the career ladder, more so than those in traditional apprenticeships or the rest of the job market -- 12 percent of job seekers in booster occupations and 10 percent of job seekers in expander fields, for example, reached a higher-paying role in five years, compared to 7 percent of job seekers across the market and 2 percent of those in traditional apprenticeship occupations.

But McCarthy also thinks that the 74 occupations the researchers identified could be broadened and that there are more opportunities for apprenticeships.

Sigelman agrees that while they attempted to be “grounded” in what occupations could be served by apprenticeships, he believes there’s an even broader universe of jobs that weren’t included that would benefit as well.

“There are so many more kinds of jobs the Germans, the Swiss and the British are using apprenticeships for, like cybersecurity, finance and banking positions,” McCarthy said.

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Academics in Zimbabwe have hope and concerns for post-Mugabe era

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 08:00

Zimbabwe’s universities must shed politically tainted leaders and rediscover academic freedom in order to fix the damage done to the country’s higher education system by Robert Mugabe, according to researchers who fled his brutal regime.

Winston Mano, who is originally from Zimbabwe and is now director of the Africa Media Center at the University of Westminster, in Britain, said that the inauguration of Emmerson Mnangagwa as president offered an opportunity to attend to some of the big problems in Zimbabwean higher education that had been “bubbling for a very long time” under Mugabe’s 37-year rule.

An important first step would be to repeal the Ph.D. in sociology that was awarded to Mugabe’s wife, Grace, by the University of Zimbabwe just two months after she first enrolled, without attending courses on the campus or writing a thesis.

Calls for the Ph.D. to be canceled were central to student protests on Zimbabwean campuses in the run-up to Mugabe’s resignation in the face of a military takeover and impeachment proceedings.

“It has to be done as a symbol to break away from the past,” Mano told Times Higher Education.

Mano said that universities’ leadership needed significant change after many years in which political appointees sympathetic to Mugabe had been installed in senior posts. There was “sufficient expertise” within the country to make new appointments on the basis of “proven academic merit,” Mano said, but he argued that universities also needed to re-engage with their academic diaspora. Many researchers fled Zimbabwe in the early 2000s during Mugabe’s land-reform program.

Although Mano feels “very optimistic” about Zimbabwe’s future, he said that things are still too uncertain for him to think about returning.

“We need a clear reform program from the government,” he said. “They need to be inclusive [and] tolerant.”

Prior to his resignation, Mugabe was chancellor of all 10 state higher education institutions, and the higher education minister, Jonathan Moyo, was a key ally of Grace Mugabe. However, it is by no means guaranteed that the family’s involvement in higher education will end, amid reports that Grace Mugabe wishes to focus her energies on plans for the $1 billion Robert Gabriel Mugabe University, which was announced in August and will cost the equivalent of a quarter of Zimbabwe’s total annual budget.

Shadreck Chirikure, who left Zimbabwe for Britain in 2001 and is now an associate professor in the University of Cape Town’s department of archaeology, said that the mood among academics was “a little despondent” because of the amount of work now required to rebuild the country’s universities.

“The most important thing that needs to be done is the politicians must realize that they must not interfere with higher education and let people do their own research,” Chirikure said. “If the incoming president is really very sincere, then [the new regime] should be able to guarantee academic freedom, because [then it] can constructively engage beyond the parochial interests of the previous regime.”

Wesley Mwatwara, an academic in the University of Zimbabwe’s history department, warned that Mnangagwa may not bring about the changes that many researchers are hoping for.

“Until he says something, we are not really sure,” he said. “People now believe that we are actually going to have more of the same, because our former president was [in power for] a very long time.”

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Pulse podcast features interview about AEFIS, assessment management platform

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 08:00

This month's episode of the Pulse podcast features an Interview with Mustafa Sualp, CEO and founder of AEFIS, an assessment management platform.

In the discussion with Pulse host Rodney B. Murray, Sualp describes AEFIS's tools -- syllabus management and course evaluations, among others -- and the problems they are designed to solve for institutions.

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

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

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New report says improving educational quality, completion and increasing affordability is everyone's business

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 11/30/2017 - 08:00

What was once a challenge of quantity in American undergraduate education is increasingly a challenge of educational quality. In other words, getting as many students as possible to attend college means little if they’re not learning what they need to and -- crucially -- if they don’t graduate. That’s the recurring message of a new report, “The Future of Undergraduate Education, The Future of America,” from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

More than a challenge, the report says, delivering on educational quality and completion is a must -- not only for institutions but the country. The U.S. is more diverse and technology based than ever, and workers can expect to change careers multiple times, it says, perhaps eventually transitioning to jobs that don’t yet exist. College-educated Americans also enjoy a higher quality of life than their high school-educated peers across a variety of measures and are more able to pay off college debt.

Simply put, the report says, “The completion of a few college courses is not a sufficient education in the 21st century.”

How to achieve educational quality? The report proposes a collective, national approach. Specifically, the report urges a three-part “national strategy” ensuring that students have high-quality learning experiences, that institutions increase their overall completion rates and reduce inequities among student groups, and that college costs are controlled.

The academy is optimistic about the power of technology in helping achieve educational quality. But advances such as predictive analytics for student success have yet to enter the academic mainstream, the report says, and there is no time to waste waiting for them to do so. The academy estimates some of the report’s goals will take decades to realize, even with immediate action.

A Case for Public Investment in Higher Ed

Again, the report doesn’t suggest that institutions go it alone. In terms of funding, it pushes for greater public investment in higher education.

The commission behind the report asked Moody’s Analytics to help it understand the scope of investments required to change course, and the consulting firm determined that an “ambitious yet achievable” improvement in college completion rates would require substantial investments over a decade or more. But that would also translate to “significant improvement” in U.S. economic productivity over the long term, Moody’s found.

One model, based on a 20-year projection, for example, forecasts an annual growth in the gross domestic product that is nearly 10 percent higher than it would be without substantial public investment in postsecondary education -- an increase large enough to recover the initial investments and continue to grow the economy, according to the report.

“While the analysis focuses on the economic side of this development, there is every reason to believe that an investment in students would yield other, less easily quantified returns as well,” the commission wrote, “including gains such as greater intercultural understanding, increased civic participation leading to a stronger democracy and more rewarding lives for graduates.”

Just as the nation “must reinvest in its physical infrastructure -- roads, bridges, railways and so on -- as a stimulus for communication and commerce of all kinds,” the report reads, “the U.S. should commit to a comparable reinvestment in our existing educational infrastructure, including undergraduate education, in order to realize the productive potential of all Americans.”

Focus on Teaching

As for ensuring quality, the commission says that too little attention is currently paid to the undergraduate educational experience itself “and, in particular, to the challenge of ensuring that the 17 million diverse college students in many types of programs are learning and mastering knowledge, skills and dispositions that will help them succeed in the 21st-century U.S.”

All college graduates need their programs of study to impart a “forward-looking” combination of academic knowledge and practical skills in preparation for both economic success and civic engagement. Echoing arguments made by many educators of late, the commission asserts that the long-standing debate over the value of a liberal arts education versus a more “applied” program is a “false choice.” Institutions must adjust their curricula accordingly, the report says, and students “need to see the ability to work and learn with others, and to disagree and debate respectfully, as a skill essential for a high quality of life and a future of economic success and effective democratic citizenship.”

Still, the commission notes that advancing a broad learning agenda and more attention to instruction will remain difficult until it’s easier to measure what (and if) students are actually learning. “Redressing this lack of good data is a high priority,” the report says.

“Students learn in many different settings, including through peer interactions, co- and extracurricular activities, and self-motivated exploration,” the commission wrote. “Ultimately, though, making undergraduate learning stronger and more rigorous will depend upon how undergraduate education invests in the teaching skills of its faculty and the kind of institutional and systemic commitment that is made.”

University systems and individual campuses, academic departments and disciplinary associations all have roles to play in advancing teaching, according to the academy. Master’s and doctoral programs should integrate “meaningful and explicit” teacher training opportunities, for example. Disciplinary associations should lead research and professional development efforts exploring the relationship between teaching practices and student learning.

Institutions, meanwhile, must make a “systemic commitment” to the improvement of college teaching -- something the commission says will most likely require ongoing review of faculty teaching practices, analyzing the faculty incentive system, bettering mentoring and faculty supports, and including teaching quality as a key part of tenure and other personnel decisions. In a nod to shared governance, the report notes that much of that work “must take place in collaboration with academic departments.”

Faculty members need training on how to teach diverse groups of students and help them “grapple with difference,” the report says. It also addresses a major structural issue that is often ignored in discussions about educational quality: professors teaching off the tenure track. The commission says that quality necessarily means providing these professors “with stable professional working environments and careers … Good teaching need not require tenure-track faculty in every case, but it does require that faculty be supported and rewarded for doing their work well.”

The trend toward adjunct professors in undergraduate teaching will persist “as long as colleges are under pressure to keep costs down and universities continue to produce more Ph.D.s in some fields than are likely to find tenure-track employment,” the report says. As institutions continue to hire teaching-focused instructors, they should aim to make positions longer term and full-time.

Such positions “should respect professional norms of academic freedom and provide a voice in university governance and the opportunity to build successful professional lives with reasonable benefits and job security,” the commission wrote.

As for the curriculum, the report says that undergraduate learners need “meaningful opportunities to develop and integrate knowledge and skills in the classroom and through cocurricular experiences such as co-op programs and internships, research, international study, or service that can help them improve their economic prospects, effectively navigate their personal and public worlds, and continue to learn throughout their lifetimes.”

Even in short-duration certificate programs, technical and academic knowledge “should be augmented by curricular redesign that strengthens practical skills such as communication, problem solving and teamwork,” the report says. It also endorses further experimentation with strategies for teaching and supporting students in online, hybrid and technology-supported environments. Further, federal and state governments should invest in a research and development strategy for better understanding instructional design and delivery and for assessing learning.

Completion, Completion, Completion

The commission envisions a future that depends on most Americans getting a high-quality undergraduate education. To improve completion rates, the report calls on college and university leaders to make the issue a top priority -- even making resource allocation decisions through that “lens.” Data collection should enable institution-specific insights through nuanced analyses and enable effective student interventions, and students should have the opportunities to make “meaningful, personal connections” with faculty and staff.

Special attention should be paid to understanding and assisting students from groups with the lowest competition rates, the report says, noting that summer bridge programs, accelerated remediation and the provision of emergency funds are examples of proven strategies. The commission also advocates expanded experimentation with and research on guided-pathways designs.

“Design elements include clear guidelines for students to earn credentials and to further their education or career employment, mapped so course sequences and postcompletion choices are transparent,” the report says, along with faster and better on-ramps to college-level learning for underprepared students; strong, ongoing guidance and mentoring on academic and career decision making; and technology-assisted advising.

Student transfer also should be better understood and assisted at the national level, the commission says, since one-third of college students change institutions at least once, and about half of public university graduates began their studies in community colleges. Employer partnerships with colleges and universities also “play an important part in improving college completion rates and helping students understand the relevance of their education to future employment, develop important workplace skills and explore potential career pathways,” the commission notes. It also encourages federal and state government leadership to enact “comprehensive and coordinated strategies” to make college completion a top national and state priority, such as by using discretionary funds for grants that encourage evidence-based approaches to improving completion.

Pushing for more transparency about completion rates, the report also asks the federal government to build a student unit record data system -- removing identifying information -- on institutional, state and national trends on college outcomes. Colleges and universities, meanwhile, should provide all college-going students and their families “with easy access to accurate and relevant information to inform their college choices, including the actual costs of the academic program to student and family, the likelihood of completing the program, and the prospects for employment or further education after graduation.”

Less Debt, More Affordability

The commission underscores that increasing quality cannot mean making college more expensive. It says that increasing the rates at which students succeed is likely “the best antidote to unmanageable student debt.”

Beyond that, the commission says that the current financial aid system is “far more complex and confusing than it needs to be, and too much public money is being wasted.” The federal government should take further steps to simplify -- or even eliminate -- the process of applying via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, relying more on financial information already available from the Internal Revenue Service to determine eligibility, it says. And the Pell Grant system should provide grants that support students completing 30 credits at any time throughout the course of a calendar year.

Other recommendations include designing a single income-driven repayment plan in which students are automatically enrolled and loan payments are collected through the income tax system at a sensible rate. The committee also endorses experimenting with alternative financing, such as income-sharing agreements that allow college students to borrow from colleges or investors. Under such agreements, the lender then receives a percentage of the student’s after-graduation income.

Putting pressure on institutions with low graduation rates, the committee also suggests “institutional risk sharing,” by which institutions whose students are chronically unable to repay their loans reimburse the government a fraction of the unpaid balance. That’s providing such institutions continue to honor their access missions, however, according to the report.

The committee also advocates tracking student progress across institutions and linking continued aid to “satisfactory academic progress across multiple institutions.”

In what’s likely to be perceived as a particularly controversial suggestion, the committee suggests revising eligibility rules so as not to finance students attending “low-performing institutions that have extremely low graduation rates.”

The report further recommends developing incentives for states to sustain or increase funding for public higher education. States must continue to take the lead on funding higher education, the committee wrote, but as fiscal pressures on state-run colleges and universities are “likely to be unrelenting,” it is “essential that both government decision makers and leaders on campus focus on directing resources to the highest priorities.”

Such priorities include directing scarce resources to students they’ll most impact, the most disadvantaged. The committee also suggests that policy makers work with institutions toward aligning funding and program completion.

In an introduction to the report, Jonathan Fanton, president of the American Academy, quoted its conclusion: “Progress is not guaranteed, and good things will happen only with sustained effort, but if we can sustain focus on the work, combining patience with urgency, we can, through undergraduate education, make great advances as individuals and as a nation.”

Expectations for Change

The American Academy will release its report this morning. It was written by the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education over a two-year period, during which it consulted a wide range of experts and organizations. The commission itself included college and foundation presidents, academics, and financial and other experts. In the run-up to this final report, the commission published papers including “The Complex Universe of Alternative Postsecondary Credentials and Pathways,” “Undergraduate Financial Aid in the U.S.,” “Policies and Practices to Support Undergraduate Teaching Improvement,” and “The Economic Impact of Increasing College Completion.”

The commission has previewed its work for small groups ahead of the today’s release. Those who have seen the report in advance include Laura Auricchio, professor of art history and vice provost for curriculum and learning at the New School. Auricchio said Wednesday that “The Future of Undergraduate Education” highlights data that point to the need to “reframe some of the terms of the national conversation about higher education, and also to rethink the ways institutions and students alike respond to the very real obstacles that often impede student success.”

Regarding student debt, for example, she said, the report notes that public discourse tends to focus on the most extreme anecdotes -- students who graduate with massive loans to repay -- when the students most likely to default are those who take out relatively small loans but never earn a degree.

Michael McPherson, the report’s co-chair and past president of both Macalester College and the Spencer Foundation, told Inside Higher Ed that improving higher education is “essential to the nation’s future.” That said, he described the commission’s report as distinctive in that it defines undergraduate education broadly, to include community colleges and for-profit institutions, and puts students “front and center.”

In focusing on quality, he said, “we were of course interested in the problem of poor program completion, because the evidence is that students benefit greatly from completing a degree or certificate.” But the committee was also interested in what students learned, and in particular “whether their education went beyond imparting near-term job skills and also helped develop their capacities for critical thinking, problem solving and communication,” McPherson added.

Underscoring the committee’s rejection of the liberal-versus-practical education debate, McPherson said, “The fact is that an education that aims only to enable you to get a job will quickly become obsolete, so these broader skills of reasoning and communication should find a place in all of education.”

Underscoring, too, the report’s focus on instruction, McPherson said college teaching should be “restored to a position of greater respect and attention.” Non-tenure-track faculty members “are here to stay, and those teachers need to be valued, respected and given the opportunity for professional growth.” He added, “We think this message applies very widely -- from the research university to the community college and everywhere in between.” (Even liberal arts colleges don’t always meet that standard, McPherson noted.)

As for the report’s major recommendations on college affordability, McPherson said the committee doesn’t expect an “infusion of funds from governments or elsewhere that will reverse recent funding trends.” But it wants to least to see the declines in per-student funding halted, he said. And colleges can also do much to make graduation more likely and college more affordable of their students.

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