Higher Education News

After rebuke from Congress, Education Department suspends reshuffling of defaulted student loans

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

The Department of Education planned this month to begin reshaping the role of private debt collection firms in handling student loans by pulling defaulted borrower accounts from a handful of large private contractors.

Lawmakers who control the department’s budget had other ideas.

After a recent Senate spending package warned the department against dropping the debt collectors, the plan is on hold. And it’s not clear how those companies will figure into the Trump administration’s proposed overhaul of student loan servicing.

Private loan servicers handle payments from borrowers on their student loans and provide information on payment plan options. When borrowers go more than 270 days without making a payment on their loans, they are considered to be in default. Those companies are tasked with collecting on more than $84 billion in defaulted student loan debt.

The tactics and performance of debt collectors have come under attack from Democrats and consumer advocates. And the Education Department has been involved in a years-long legal dispute over contract awards for the collectors. But the Trump administration, in a resolution of that legal fight, in May said it planned to cancel the entire debt collection solicitation. (A separate contract award for "small business" firms was not affected.)

Those five firms last month received notice from the department that it planned to start withdrawing tens of thousands of existing borrower accounts beginning July 3. The accounts would be reassigned to 11 companies designated as “small business” firms with a contract that lasted two additional years.

Observers in the industry warned the sudden transfer of accounts would disrupt relationships with borrowers looking to rehabilitate loans and make progress fixing their credit. And they said it could mean thousands of job losses at the companies losing those accounts.

Members of Congress, who have already expressed concerns about aspects of the department’s so-called NextGen loan servicing system, warned in separate appropriations bills against the move. A spending bill approved by the Senate appropriations committee included language directing the department not to pull accounts from debt collectors. And it encourages the department to extend current debt collection contracts set to expire next year.

The week after Senate appropriators voted the bill out of committee, and just before it planned to start reassigning borrower accounts, the department notified collections firms it was postponing that step.

The Senate legislation isn’t close to being signed into law. But Colleen Campbell, associate director of the postsecondary education program at the Center for American Progress, said its plans were likely affected by the language from lawmakers.

“If we have appropriations language that they feel contradicts what they planned on doing, I think that definitely is something that could be motivating their behavior here,” she said.

Campbell, who has called for the federal government to remove private debt collectors from the student loan system, said the Trump administration’s notice that it would reassign borrower accounts shows what could be expected from the NextGen system.

The department’s May notice that it would cancel all debt collection contracts said it would increase outreach to borrowers who become delinquent on their loans and that it expects those changes to reduce the overall number of borrowers in default.

It did not make any officials available from the Office of Federal Student Aid, which oversees debt collectors, to discuss those plans or the withdrawal of defaulted borrower accounts. An FSA spokeswoman said the office couldn’t offer details on the process or comment on whether lawmakers’ concerns led the department to hit pause on the reassignment of borrower accounts.

“The recall of accounts from the [private collection agencies] is temporarily postponed to ensure an efficient transition,” the spokeswoman said.

Similar scrutiny from Capitol Hill earlier this year led the department to delay the rollout of a pilot program for a debit card to disburse federal aid money.

Student advocates who have been critical of debt collectors had their own concerns about what the sudden transfer of accounts would mean for student borrowers whose loans are in default. Persis Yu, director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project at the National Consumer Law Center, said the opacity of the process is itself concerning.

“I absolutely applaud the department for recognizing this is a model that doesn’t work and saying we need something different,” she said. “I am very concerned about the lack of transparency and with figuring out what that something different is.”

Yu said serious disruption for borrowers occurred when Direct Loan Servicing Center lost a contract to handle federal direct loans to a handful of loan servicers, including FedLoan Servicing, Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Nelnet and Navient.

“They need strong oversight. The department hasn’t historically been great at that,” she said. “Will borrowers be lost in the shuffle? I think that’s a big possibility.”

The department has said it plans to reduce defaults in the future partly by undertaking more engagement of student borrowers when they become delinquent on their loans.

The removal of the debt collectors would also mean the loss of institutional knowledge of that loan market, said Tim Fitzgibbon, a former senior vice president of the National Council for Higher Education Resources, who led the group’s default and debt management efforts.

“They really are regulated by multiple parties. They're very attuned to what the consumer protections are. These are time-proven experts in their professions,” he said. “I would encourage the department to take advantage of private sector expertise that's built up over the last 30 years instead of opting for a one-size-fits-all approach.”

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San Francisco State finds evidence that ethnic studies students do better

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

Racial tensions and culture wars on many college campuses have often led some to propose that colleges add ethnic studies, while others have challenged the existence of these courses. Meanwhile, the data show that students in these classes at one university have improved or better outcomes than their peers.

New data from an evaluation of San Francisco State University's ethnic studies courses found that by passing just one class, students improved their overall performance across the campus.

The data compiled by the college's Division of Institutional Analytics found that ethnic studies majors in general graduate at a rate about 20 percentage points higher than non-ethnic studies majors. In 2010, ethnic studies majors had a six-year graduation rate of 77.3 percent, compared to a rate of 52.3 percent for nonmajors. SF State is unique in having the country's first and only freestanding college in ethnic studies.

The study also showed that students who enrolled in at least one ethnic studies class graduated at a higher rate than students who took no ethnic studies classes.

Ken Monteiro, the acting director of the César Chávez Institute at the university and former dean of the ethnic studies college, said the data point in one direction: "We would suggest more ethnic studies classes."

There are several reasons why this effect in improved outcomes happens in ethnic studies over other majors, he said.

"Ethnic studies faculty members spend more time on advising and supplemental education than faculty in other areas," Monteiro said. "We partner and try to offer wraparound services. We teach them information that directly relates to them and then teach [students] how to relate the information to them even if it's not literally related. And third, we teach critical thinking strategies to show them they can look at things from a different perspective."

Many of the ethnic studies students are also in SF State's Metro Academies College Success Program, which has seen its own success in increasing completion rates. The Metro program combines student services with a curriculum that emphasizes social justice. At SF State, Metro students have a 60 percent six-year graduation rate compared to 53 percent for the university.

But Matt Malkan, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a member of the California Association of Scholars, which is skeptical of some ethnic studies programs, said correlation shouldn't be confused for causation. Majoring in ethnic studies is easier than other majors like physics, he said in an email.

"One would have to control for the relative difficulty of the major programs chosen by these students to make any serious evaluation of this," said John Ellis, a chair of the California Association of Scholars and professor emeritus of German literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Malkan said he also questions the effects reported at San Francisco State when completing an ethnic studies course is required to graduate. For example, students can satisfy U.S. history requirements for graduation by passing one of a number of courses offered from within the College of Ethnic Studies.

"Any graduation requirement is a clear signpost of progress toward degree completion," he said. "Students who complete that requirement are also showing themselves more likely to finish college, and in a shorter time, compared with those who have still not yet managed to get around to getting that requirement done successfully."

But Monteiro said ethnic studies also works to protect students from the emotional distress they may feel even within the classroom.

"They see our classes as an oasis where they're not attacked or harmed, and it's easier to learn when you're not feeling under attack," he said, adding that those attacks -- also known as stereotype or identity threat -- can happen in physics or calculus courses where one may assume identity doesn't play a role.

The idea is that if you're a historically underrepresented person in an education setting, then you experience anxiety in that academic setting. So a woman in an all-male high-level math course may underperform if she senses gender bias, even if that bias isn't overt or malicious, said Thomas Dee, a professor and director of Stanford University's Center for Education Policy Analysis.

SF State is a diverse campus where about 30 percent of undergraduates identify as Latino, 27 percent as Asian, 19 percent as white and 5 percent as black. But in a paper published last year, SF State professors found stereotype threat affected black students in psychology courses, where they were in the minority, as opposed to those black students who were enrolled in Africana studies, where they were the majority.

A similar effect of ethnic studies courses improving outcomes for students was found at the high school level two years ago by Dee and other researchers at Stanford's Graduate School of Education. The study examined an ethnic studies pilot program in San Francisco high schools and found students' attendance, grades and number of course credits for graduation increased and improved.

"There is an extensive literature base demonstrating the effects of ethnic studies in K-12 and higher education that goes back a couple of decades," said Nolan Cabrera, an associate professor in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona. "Ethnic studies definitely need to expand. We're still exploring the underlying mechanisms, but the more students see themselves in the curriculum, the better they'll do. The more they see the relevance to their everyday lives, the more engaged they'll be, and that's what makes [ethnic studies] unique."

Despite the multiple studies that show the improvement students make when they take an ethnic studies course, the field continues to be under attack. Cabrera, for instance, has presented evidence defending the efficacy of Mexican-American studies in Arizona high schools, which led to a federal judge ruling that the law banning the courses was created and enforced with anti-Mexican-American hostility.

And two years ago the ethnic studies college at SF State was fighting to survive budget cuts.

"Either it doesn't exist or there are legislators trying to kill it and this data is not changing their minds," Monteiro said. "We say we're a fact-based society and evidence-based society, but we're trained to ignore facts if they don't help our agenda."

Dee said some of these same interventions used in ethnic studies, such as limiting stereotype threat and offering student support services, could apply in other fields to help students.

"This isn't just culture wars or identity politics," he said. "There's a sound theoretical foundation for why culturally relevant pedagogy can be effective."

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New presidents or provosts: Bentley Broward LSU-Alexandria Marshall Missouri State Ohio Saint Mary's Salisbury Spokane Tuskegee

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 07/09/2018 - 07:00
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Wisconsin Supreme Court says Marquette must reinstate professor it wanted to fire

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

Marquette University must immediately reinstate and pay damages to John McAdams, the political science professor who criticized a graduate student by name on his personal blog over how she handled a classroom discussion that turned to gay marriage. So ruled the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday, overturning a lower court’s determination that Marquette was within its rights to suspend McAdams over the incident in 2014. 

Wisconsin’s high court split along conservative and liberal lines in the case, voting 4-2 in favor of McAdams. While the professor’s case was about an alleged breach of contract, the decision touched on the current campus speech climate, especially for political conservatives, such as McAdams. It also broke with a long judicial tradition of deferring to colleges and universities on tenured personnel matters. 

Academic freedom “and concomitantly, free speech, is increasingly imperiled in America and within the microcosm of the college campus,” Justice Rebecca Grassl Bradley wrote in concurring with the majority opinion.

Describing McAdams’s case as an “unprecedented dispute between a university and a professor” in which “academic freedom was put on trial,” Bradley said the question was whether that freedom would "succumb to the dominant academic culture of microaggressions, trigger warnings and safe spaces that seeks to silence unpopular speech by deceptively recasting it as violence.” 

In this “battle,” she said, “only one could prevail, for academic freedom cannot coexist with Orwellian speech police. Academic freedom means nothing if faculty is forced to self-censor in fear of offending the unforeseen and ever-evolving sensitivities of adversaries demanding retribution.” 

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which represented McAdams in the case, said in a statement that “across the country, academic freedom is under assault on campuses. Universities are treating academic freedom as the right to say only what administrators or the loudest factions on campus approve of.” 

Yet the Wisconsin court “struck a major blow in favor of free speech, delivering the unequivocal message that ‘academic freedom’ means just that,” the institute said.

Marquette said it will comply with the ruling but maintained that McAdams’s case isn’t, and never was, about academic freedom.

“A tenured professor put a graduate student’s name and contact information on the internet so that people could go after her,” said Ralph Weber, a lawyer for the university. “That’s not academic freedom, that’s cyberbullying. Marquette, as a private, Catholic, Jesuit university enforces codes of conduct, and cyberbullying violates those codes.” 

McAdams via email to Inside Higher Ed disagreed with that characterization, saying he merely linked his blog to the graduate student’s now-defunct public web page (the student has since left the university for another program). He said he intends to return to teaching at Marquette, but didn’t say when.

Rick Esenberg, McAdams’s attorney, said that “Criticizing someone is not cyberbullying. Disagreeing with someone -- even sharply -- is not cyberbullying. The Wisconsin Supreme Court explained that what Marquette is doing is holding [McAdams] responsible for the actions of others,” who contacted the student after the fact.

Background

In 2014, a Marquette undergraduate secretly recorded a conversation he had with a graduate student instructor in philosophy. In the recording, the student complained to the instructor that she had, in his view, dismissed a second student's comment about gay marriage during a class discussion on a separate philosophical issue. The instructor responded that the student didn’t “have the right, especially [in an ethics class], to make homophobic comments or racist comments.

The first student shared his recording with McAdams, who wrote about it in a post called “Marquette Philosophy Instructor: ‘Gay Rights’ Can’t Be Discussed in Class Since Any Disagreement Would Offend Gay Students” on his blog, Marquette Warrior, which has a wide following in conservative circles. McAdams named the graduate student, who he did not otherwise know, linked to her blog and accused her of “using a tactic typical among liberals now.” That is, "Opinions with which they disagree are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up,” he wrote. 

In the “politically correct world of academia, one is supposed to assume that all victim groups think the same way as leftist professors,” McAdams said in the post. While certain groups “have the privilege of shutting up debate,” he added, academe is a “free fire zone where straight white males are concerned.”

The student soon complained to Marquette that she’d received hate mail as a result of the blog post and write-ups elsewhere. Marquette suspended McAdams, pending a faculty review. 

In 2016, a seven-professor panel recommended that McAdams be suspended without pay for a period of up to two semesters -- not for writing about the student but for using her name and thus making her vulnerable to harassment. Michael Lovell, university president, took the advisory faculty panel’s suggestion but went a step further, instructing McAdams to write a letter of apology to the student, as well. 

McAdams refused and the university moved to terminate him. 

McAdams’s Suit

Around the same time, McAdams sued Marquette, alleging breach of contract. He said that his terms of employment, as articulated in the Faculty Handbook and other university documents, indicated that he could only be dismissed with good cause and that tenure afforded him academic freedom. In suspending him indefinitely for extramural speech, he argued, Marquette was violating both contractual obligations.

A district court sided with Marquette in the suit last year, saying McAdams erred in identifying the philosophy student by name and that the university was within its rights to punish him. That court afforded Marquette the special deference it argued it had in faculty matters, and that institutions typically enjoy in such cases, particularly at private colleges.

But Justice Daniel Kelly, in his Supreme Court opinion reversing that ruling, wrote that Marquette’s disciplinary process is “not a substitute for [McAdams’s] right to sue.” He also called the lengthy faculty panel report a “distraction” from the issues at hand, since it was merely an advisory group to the president under university bylaws. And the report was compromised anyway, he said, because a faculty member on the committee had publicly disparaged McAdams over the blog post but continued to serve on the committee. 

In any case, Kelly disagreed with the faculty and administrative finding that McAdams's post was not protected by academic freedom in its entirety.

“We conclude that McAdams's blog post qualifies as an extramural comment protected by the doctrine of academic freedom,” he wrote. “The post is incapable of clearly demonstrating McAdams is unfit to serve as a professor because, although the university identified many aspects of the blog post about which it was concerned, it did not identify any particular way in which the blog post violated McAdams' responsibilities to the institution's students.” 

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote in her dissent that at its core, academic freedom is a “professional principle, not merely a legal construct,” which “embraces the academic freedom of the faculty as well as the academic freedom of the institution.” The majority opinion only looked at academic freedom from McAdams’s perspective, she said, ignoring the shared governance aspect of academic freedom, and the fact that a faculty panel had approved of his suspension. 

Moreover, Bradley argued, the majority did not mention key facts surrounding the case, such as that McAdams actively promoted his blog post criticizing the student to news media, including Inside Higher Ed.

Weber said Marquette will work with its faculty to make clearer going forward that deference should be given to institutional decision-making. Yet he said that Friday’s decision has serious implications for institutions beyond Marquette. 

Judgments of Professional Conduct 

“The Faculty Hearing Committee were people from across the university -- dentistry, law, engineering professors -- who found, unanimously, that what was done here crossed the line, ‘This is beyond what a Marquette professor can do,’” Weber said. “And yet you have a court saying, ‘We’re better equipped to make that judgment of professional conduct.”

Weber also highlighted the dissent’s notes that McAdams had not only promoted the blog but also threatened administrators involved in his disciplinary process that he would write about them on it. So the question of whether the incident reflects on his professional fitness is determined by how one looks at it, he said. “If you look within the four corners of the blog post, you’re not seeing the full picture.” 

Hank Reichman, professor emeritus of history at California State University at East Bay and vice president of the American Association of University Professors, referred comments about the decision to the amicus brief the association filed about the case in February. 

That brief cites AAUP policies defining academic freedom in extramural speech, saying that “a college or university administration cannot discipline a faculty member unless it proves that extramural speech ‘clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness to serve,’” taking into account the faculty member’s entire record as a teacher and scholar.” 

The brief also argues that Marquette violated McAdams’s due process rights by “unilaterally imposing” a new penalty -- the letter of apology.

“This severe sanction would compel McAdams to renounce his opinions, a fundamental violation of his academic freedom,” and amounted to a “de facto termination,” it said.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which also filed an amicus brief in the case, applauded the court's decision. 

"Administrators cannot simply decide that they do not like the results of certain faculty speech, and then work backwards to find a justification for firing them,” Ari Cohn, director of the group's Individual Rights Defense Program, said in a statement. “The court's decision recognized that allowing a university to do so is incompatible with any meaningful understanding of academic freedom. Colleges and universities across the country that are facing calls to discipline faculty members for their online speech should pay attention."

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Antioch College survived furloughs and salary cuts, but worries remain

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

Some faculty members have grown increasingly unsettled about Antioch College’s future, worrying the small private liberal arts college in western Ohio is trailing enrollment goals for its upcoming fall quarter even as it comes off a period of furloughs and pay cuts.

College officials on Thursday disputed an anonymous tip that Antioch currently has 34 new students signed up for its Class of 2022, significantly trailing a goal of 75 that was made public earlier this year. Antioch is focused instead on enrolling the right mix of students to hit a new revenue target, they said. But they did not share any alternative new student enrollment snapshot Thursday, saying only that the college is on track for a significant increase over last year.

Last year, 28 new students came to campus against a goal of 60 for the fall of 2017. If Antioch were to miss an enrollment target again, it could increase pressure on a college that has been heavily dependent on donations since it reopened in the fall of 2011. Antioch offered full-tuition scholarships for several years after it reopened as it re-established its accreditation, but it has since struggled to transition to charging tuition. Consequently, its enrollment and budget figures draw scrutiny as those within the college and across higher education watch to see if students are willing to pay -- and if a once-closed college can stabilize its financial model.

This week, an anonymous faculty member emailed Inside Higher Ed, saying that Antioch’s Class of 2022 currently stands at 34 students, less than half of a goal of 75 that was published in February. The email included details about a letter faculty members sent to college leaders voicing displeasure after Antioch announced cuts in March to address a budget deficit, and it included a response from the college’s board. The letter also expressed concern about faculty members leaving the college.

One Antioch faculty member speaking on background confirmed the enrollment number of 34 new students, saying it is well-known on campus. The faculty member also confirmed that several tenure-track faculty members are soon leaving the college.

The number of new students enrolling may look low, but it has sparked optimism in some corners because it is better than where Antioch was at a comparable point last year, the faculty member continued. Weeks before the start of its 2017 fall quarter, the college had signed up 22 new students.

But college officials disputed the tip’s accuracy. Christine Reedy, communications specialist, said in an email that the number was not correct but that she might not be able to gather additional information until early next week. Gariot P. Louima, dean of admission and external relations, also said the number was off.

“The fall 2018 cycle is still open for us as we have rolling admission,” Louima said in an email. “Our committee meets weekly to review applications. As I have recently submitted applications and recently admitted students in this cycle, I wouldn't feel comfortable releasing a number that will be inaccurate upon publication. We do, however, expect increases in net revenue and new matriculates this fall.”

Neither Reedy nor Louima responded to follow-up requests seeking additional information on how many new students were enrolled for the fall. Tom Manley, Antioch’s president, was vacationing and did not have the latest numbers available Thursday.

The number of new students for the fall reported by the faculty member who sent the email tip "could have been a real number two weeks ago," Manley said in a phone interview. It could be different today, and today's number is not where Antioch plans on landing.

"You take a snapshot and you have students and their applications that you're still processing, and the probable numbers that you're going to convert," he said. "So if you look at a number right now, on July 5, that's not necessarily the number that you're going to have on Sept. 1."

Antioch is attempting to get away from the practice of presenting an enrollment number for today and a goal for the future, Manley said. It hasn't served the college in the past, and distracts from the results the college needs and is getting.

"We have completely redesigned the curriculum," Manley said. "We have developed a new calendar. We have a clear value proposition offering. We have developed an experiential focus … and so I am very optimistic."

Manley acknowledged that it's not unrealistic to worry about any college's future in the year 2018. Antioch is trying to disrupt higher education in a disruptive time. While it may be challenging work, people on Antioch's board, in its faculty and in its community are excited about its direction, he said.

"Before I left, I looked at some projections in terms of cash for the next quarter or two, and we look good, or we're OK," Manley said.

At the very least, the situation is a reminder to watch Antioch College, which reopened as an independent institution in 2011 after Antioch University -- which operates campuses with graduate and professional programs at locations around the country and online -- decided in 2007 to close it amid enrollment and financial struggles. In addition to changing its tuition model since then, the college has gone through several rounds of cost cutting. Most recently, it announced cuts effective between March and June of this year. Staff earning more than $40,000 annually needed to take 10 days of unpaid leave by the end of June, and faculty members had their salaries reduced by 11 percent over the same period.

In response to those cuts, faculty members drafted a March 12 letter expressing dismay. They also voiced concern about a lack of funding for faculty development, faculty retention issues and levels of representation on a planning and finance committee.

Several weeks later, Board of Trustees chair Barbara Winslow responded with a letter to faculty expressing regret for the salary reductions and furloughs and addressing several other concerns. The board is doing everything it can to support the college’s move toward financial stability, the letter said.

“We have unanimously and strongly endorsed the President's Action Areas and the financial model proposed by the President and the Finance and Planning Committee,” it said. “We ask you to give it your full support as it is introduced and developed beginning next quarter and over the next 3-5 years. We also encourage you to work collaboratively with the Provost to bring the full power and creativity of the faculty to these efforts and to translate your concerns into practical solutions and opportunities.”

After the furloughs and salary cuts were announced, Antioch’s president, Manley, told The Yellow Springs News that the college had made progress reducing expenses. But it hadn’t held expenses to the budget trustees had set, prompting the need for additional cuts.

The planned cuts did not entirely eliminate the budget shortfall. It’s not clear whether Antioch closed the year at the end of June with a deficit -- it is too soon after the end of the fiscal year for the calculations to be finished, Manley said.

Antioch lost a reported $1.7 million for the year ending June 30, 2017, a year in which its expenses totaled $17.6 million. That was down from a $7 million deficit the previous year. The college employed 118 staff members and 31 faculty members as of January, not counting adjuncts.

Asked whether Antioch would have had enough cash to make payroll if the furloughs and salary cuts weren't put in place, Manley responded that the savings from the moves were significant. The college was also able to raise additional money. Today, no furloughs are in place, the salary cuts are no longer in place, and professional development has been returned to the budget.

"It would have been touch and go, yeah," he said about cash levels without the cuts last year. "In the end, it was about the board saying … we want to make sure the college gets closer to budget. So I don't think it was a hollow exercise by any means."

Manley has previously discussed many of the strategic issues at play. In a telephone interview with Inside Higher Ed in September 2017, he talked about Antioch’s changing value proposition. When Antioch was offering full scholarships, many families were choosing the college because they understood the value proposition of a free college education. As leaders worked to end free tuition, the value proposition that remained wasn’t what leaders necessarily thought it was.

“What we’re looking to do is shape a value proposition, a clear value proposition, which, frankly, Antioch didn’t have in the first period of its start-up phase when it was trying to get accreditation,” Manley said. “Very much our value proposition was, ‘We’re a liberal arts college that has an emphasis on social justice and history of cooperative education and a long legacy of doing these things, and that’s why you should join us.’”

Affordability would remain a critical piece of Antioch’s new value proposition, Manley said. He also said the college would be paying attention to demographics, starting locally in its region and in Ohio while also looking to other parts of the country. It would look where students are attracted by autonomy, agency and making an impact in areas like the environment, democracy, social justice and creativity.

Manley used the language of a business start-up several times during the September interview. He referred to Antioch’s alumni as angel investors.

The college was raising $12 million per year, mostly for operations. Alumni were giving to support Antioch’s efforts to reinvent the model of a small-college education, he said.

That would mean donations make up a remarkably large chunk of Antioch’s operating revenue, reported at $15.9 million for the fiscal year ending in 2017. But Manley did not seem worried about donor fatigue.

“I can’t say by year 2020, if we’re not there, we’re done,” he said of budget goals. “This college and the alumni fought too hard to gain its independence. They’re going to do whatever is necessary to keep going forward.”

Not every faculty member was concerned for Antioch. One speaking on background expressed growing bullishness for the college. Another said many faculty members feel confident in its new admission dean, Louima.

A third, who was willing to speak on the record Thursday, acknowledged Antioch’s struggles but expressed optimism for the future. Corine Tachtiris is an assistant professor of non-Western literature who is a member of the Executive Committee of the Faculty.

“Antioch has faced a lot of challenges over the last year,” Tachtiris said. “And those challenges will continue to pose problems over the next year, and possibly years. But I still believe that Antioch can ride out the rough waves.”

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William Shatner unleashes on academics on Twitter after he criticizes librarians over renaming award named after Laura Ingalls Wilder

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

William Shatner, Star Trek’s original Captain Kirk, wasn’t exactly telling academics on Twitter to live long and prosper this week when he dived into the ongoing controversy over the former Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. (He might have done well to summon his inner Mr. Spock, however.)

In a series of tweets, Shatner criticized the Association for Library Service to Children's June decision to change the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for significant contributions to youth literature to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. The children's librarians group, which is a part of the greater American Library Association, has said it based its decision on “the fact that Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent” with its “core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness.”

The Little House books were published starting 1932. Wilder received the inaugural children’s literature award in 1954. Since that time, concerns have emerged about Wilder's portrayal of black people and especially Native Americans. The books’ nearly all-white characters sometimes comment that the only “good Indian is a dead Indian,” for example. For those reasons, many have applauded the award name change as an important acknowledgment that Wilder’s descriptions perpetuate hurtful stereotypes.

Others have accused the association of censorship. Critics say it’s unfair to apply contemporary norms to historical works and that even ugly truths present teaching moments. Joining them, Shatner tweeted, “Did you hear about the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award being renamed over negative lines on the indigenous people of America?” Shatner added, “I find it disturbing that some take modern opinion & obliterate the past. Isn’t progress @ learning from our mistakes?”

The tweet gained its own variety of responses, with some circling into a debate about whether Star Trek itself was progressive or racist -- or both. Shatner continued to defend his position on Wilder while some academics criticized it. Among them were Brigitte Fielder, an assistant professor of comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, an associate professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania.

Fielder has since made her account private, gaining rebuke from Shatner, who called her a “troll.” But Thomas has kept public her account, including tweets saying that Star Trek was “groundbreaking for its time, but is problematic from a 2010s [point of view], especially on gender.” Shatner “seriously needs to stay in his lane,” she added. Thomas later commented that she'd earned tenure for her work on these kinds of issues. "This is my lane -- I have a book coming out in the spring on this very topic," she said.

Clearly perturbed, Shatner tweeted about both professors, tweeting at their institutions’ accounts in an apparent, nonironic request for censorship. “Perhaps @clfs_uw & @UWMadison should look at the content of their faculty online? @Penn should also check out their professor who cannot seem to stay in her lane & uses 2018 sentiments on 50 yo TV shows,” he wrote. 

Shatner’s tweet prompted Ari Cohn, a lawyer with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, to chide him and warn both Penn and Wisconsin not to take up Shatner's idea. If “either university tries to police the content of faculty's speech because you were offended (side note: criticizing your show and your views is not ‘debasing’ or ‘making fun of’ you, it's mere criticism; grow up),” Cohn wrote, “they are going into a much bigger thorn than you. Namely, me.”

Fielder said via email Thursday that she is "invested in antiracist pedagogical practices" for teaching Little House on the Prairie in her own classes. So she's "familiar with the racist content of these books and the longstanding objections to them.” 

She said she'd entered the conversation about Shatner to reply to a tweet about "a common (and historically false) argument: that past racism ought not to be judged by ‘modern' standards of opposing racism because racism was not objectionable at the time.” As a scholar of U.S. literature from the 1800s, she added, "I know that there have always been people objecting to racism, even when those people were not in the majority."

So far, Fielder said she’s heard nothing about an investigation but has received support from colleagues. The American Association of University Professors’ advocacy chapter at Wisconsin's Milwaukee campus supported her online, tweeting that Shatner had spent July 4 implying that its administration and Penn’s “should consider firing 2 kid lit professors for disagreeing with him about whether it's appropriate to note racism in Little House [on] the Prairie.”

As Shatner continued to tweet about her -- saying, for example, that she had just gained tenure while he was a published author a dozen times -- Thomas shared a photo of herself sipping a beer. In later tweets, she said that while such an incident might have “devastated” her career 10 or 15 years ago, she’s fine today.

“As long as I'm not physically threatened, let people talk,” she said. “I went through so much earning my Ph.D. and trying to make tenure that Grandma's prayers were answered. Skin's tough. This is nothing. If I lose my job over this, or my institution investigates me, I'll just be on the market."

Penn said it had “nothing to offer" about the matter.

 

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NCAA institutes new transfer rule

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

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has approved a new transfer rule, one that appears to give athletes more control over their fates at a time when the NCAA is facing questions about its commitment to athletes' rights.

But the policy was written such that in some circumstances, players could risk losing their scholarships at the whim of an institution.

“This was forced because of public, media and legal pressure … It’s easy for the NCAA to take a victory lap even though this should have happened years ago,” said Dave Ridpath, president of the Drake Group, which promotes academic integrity in college sports. “It’s a win for the athlete even though it does not go far enough.”

Earlier this month, in what the NCAA called an “expected next step,” it allowed all athletes in Division I to transfer out of their programs without permission -- all they would need to do is inform their college or university they intended to do so. The players would then be added to a national database and any coach could contact them. Some athletes in the more high-profile sports still need to sit out a year upon transferring, per NCAA rules.

Before, athletes required the go-ahead from their college or university to leave and seek out new scholarships. This led to some coaches intentionally obstructing the departures of some talented players, experts say.

While this move does remove some autonomy from the institution, it could leave athletes vulnerable. If athletes have given notice they want out, a university could cancel their scholarship at the end of the semester in which they notified the university.

As SB Nation noted in a recent column, this would be discretionary for the institution, with some of the more mediocre players possibly being shortchanged if they change their mind and decide they won't transfer: “If a former five-star recruit wants to browse other schools, his current program probably won’t nix his scholarship. If a middling three-star who’s been fighting for a spot on the two-deep does, maybe the school will.”

But the NCAA’s conferences can also adopt their own procedures around transfers, essentially rendering the rule change, which takes effect in October, moot if they wanted. Ridpath said this was “too restrictive.”

The conference that sponsored the new transfer rules, the Big 12, indicated that allowing the institution to nix a scholarship was an issue of fairness. It was supported by a number of NCAA panels, including the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

In Division II, an athlete must still get permission to transfer; that's not so in Division III.

“In fairness to the transfer student-athlete’s teammates, coaching staff and overall team dynamic, the Division I SAAC felt that a student-athlete should not be able to give notification, search for other opportunities, then return to their institution if dissatisfied with their options with no repercussions,” Noah Knight, the committee chair, said in a recent statement.

Jon Solomon, director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society program, said that the move was a “healthy step.” Too many coaches, he said, were blocking players simply to protect their own interests and those of their programs.

He said that while the impact of this shift can't be predicted, likely the less-talented players would be more at risk when they want to transfer because an institution might not hesitate to cancel their scholarship.

The NCAA’s transfer rules have been both under fire and under legal scrutiny for some time, particularly the requirement that Division I athletes in some high-profile sports such as men’s basketball and football sit out a year after transferring. There was some talk of changing this policy, though not all together removing it, The Associated Press reported.

The rule has been tried in court. A former punter for Northern Illinois University, Peter Deppe, sued the NCAA in 2016 after he tried to transfer but found himself forced to take the one-year break.

A federal appeals court recently ruled in his case that this was legal. The association had argued a rule change would “undermine amateur character of college athletics” -- a model the NCAA desperately tries to preserve -- and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit agreed.

Solomon criticized the NCAA for this piece of its policy.

“The NCAA and its schools still can’t come up with public rationale as to why athletes in some sports can transfer and play immediately while athletes in other sports must sit out a year when they transfer,” Solomon said. “We know the answer … they often carry immense value for the athletic department and the university.”

In addition to the transfer rules, the NCAA recently changed its policy around redshirting, the practice of sitting out of play for a season but still receiving scholarship money. Now an athlete can still participate in four games without burning his or her red shirt, a popular move among both players and coaches.

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UVA's latest fund-raiser marks a new trend of early public announcements

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

The University of Virginia recently announced a $5 billion fund-raising campaign with an interesting twist: instead of lying low until the public phase begins, UVA is building excitement for a public campaign start date that is still over a year away.

UVA's campaign is part of a trend of college mega-campaigns that span years and aim to raise billions. The typical fund-raising formula begins with a silent phase, during which fund-raisers court promising donors. But as campaigns get longer and more ambitious, the silent phase is increasingly less silent.

“The average silent phase of a mega-campaign is approaching four years. Given that length, they are only sort of silent,” said Brian Gawor, vice president for fund-raising research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, a consulting firm. “We’re going to see numerous updates from the institutions during both the silent and public phases as they work to keep attention and excitement up.”

Jeff Martin, practice manager at EAB Strategic Research, said that such long silent phases can sometimes take the wind out of public campaigns. Issuing public announcements earlier can help maintain the power of the brand for longer.

"If you wait four, five years to go public, then you lose out on a lot of the power of everything you put together when you do, so the brand you built, the marketing campaign you put in motion, that all starts with the public launch," Martin said. "The longer you delay that, the higher the opportunity cost."

In addition, early announcements like UVA's can help colleges reach more donors faster than they traditionally would with one-on-one gift officer visits, which are increasingly necessary. According to an analysis by EAB, at the median institution, 36 gifts each year make up 63 percent of total gift revenue.

'“I do know that institutions of higher ed are increasingly worried about a needle-thin gift pyramid at the top. They rely on fewer donors for more revenue every year," Martin said.

In the era of the mega-campaign, Martin also thinks there could be pressure on colleges to be constantly campaigning, leading to earlier public announcements.

"It seems odd when the institution isn’t in campaign, and that expectation may be accelerating things," he said.

According to a survey by Ruffalo Noel Levitz, 81 percent of fund-raisers said they are either in the middle of a campaign or about to enter one. UVA's campaign has been in its silent phase since July 2017 and will not officially become public until the fall of 2019. No one at UVA was available to comment on the campaign, but the campaign announcement noted that the university has raised $1.7 billion since its last major campaign ended in June 2013, all of which will count toward the new $5 billion goal.

Though proving beneficial, early public announcements carry a few risks. Once institutions go public with a concrete number, they lose the flexibility to quietly adjust it. Another issue is donor fatigue; announcing a campaign years in advance of its start date could make it more difficult to keep donors interested.

“I’ve heard of institutions worried about that,” Gawor said. “I think it’s impossible to predict what will excite people in a world where our attention has so many demands. So I tell institutions to communicate more than they have in the past. A steady, consistent message of opportunity and transformation is very important.”

In general, Martin doesn't think colleges are worried about such risks right now.

“At this current time I think there’s a lot of excitement and optimism. Fund-raising returns are at the highest they’ve ever been," Martin said. "We have seen growth for years and the outlook for the future at present looks promising, so I think it’s understandable that the risk of a campaign goal becoming unrealistic is less of a factor in institutional decision making at present.”

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GOP congressman Jim Jordan ignored sexual abuse at Ohio State, former athletes allege

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 07:00

Republican U.S. Representative Jim Jordan has been drawn into Ohio State University’s investigation of a former team doctor who allegedly molested college athletes decades ago, with some ex-wrestlers accusing the congressman, a leader of archconservatives, of failing to stop the ongoing abuse.

Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1986 to 1994, coinciding with the tenure of Richard Strauss, who worked at the university until the late 1990s. Strauss was a team physician for about 14 years and also did a two-year stint in the campus health center. He died in 2005.

Ohio State announced the investigation into Strauss in April, and to date the institution has received reports of sexual misconduct from male former players in 14 different sports, among them baseball, cheerleading, cross country, fencing, football, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer and wrestling.

While Jordan has denied knowing anything about Strauss’s conduct, according to a new NBC News report former wrestlers directly told Jordan about it on multiple occasions.

Three former wrestlers who NBC interviewed said that Strauss’s abuse was essentially an open secret -- that everyone knew Strauss would shower with players and touch them inappropriately during checkups.

Dunyasha Yetts, a wrestler at Ohio State in 1993 and 1994, told NBC that once he went into Strauss’s office after he injured his thumb, and the doctor pulled down his pants. He said that that he and his teammates talked to Jordan about Strauss multiple times.

“For God’s sake, Strauss’s locker was right next to Jordan’s and Jordan even said he’d kill him if he tried anything with him,” Yetts told NBC.

The congressman was unaware of any misconduct, his spokesman, Ian Fury, said via email to Inside Higher Ed. Fury said that investigators had not contacted Jordan, but Jordan would be willing to assist them in any way possible “because if what is alleged is true, the victims deserve a full investigation and justice.”

Ohio State has declined to say who has been interviewed in the investigation, though NBC reported that Jordan is among those who will be. Jordan is the founder of the House Freedom Caucus, a far-right group of federal lawmakers.

"Congressman Jordan never saw any abuse, never heard about any abuse, and never had any abuse reported to him during his time as a coach at Ohio State," Fury wrote in his email.

Another former wrestler, Mike DiSabato, called Jordan a “liar” to NBC.

DiSabato, whose report to Ohio State prompted the investigation, has said that Strauss sexually assaulted him. He told The Columbus Dispatch that he alerted the university of Strauss’s behavior in the ’90s.

“I considered Jim Jordan a friend,” DiSabato said to NBC. “But at the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on.”

At the request of the university, the Ohio attorney general’s office appointed a law firm, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP, which in turn engaged with the Seattle-based Perkins Coie LLP, for the investigation, which has also turned to whether Strauss treated high school students and others outside the university.

The firm has interviewed more than 150 former students and other witnesses, Ohio State said. Campus officials also contacted the Columbus Division of Police and the Franklin County prosecuting attorney’s office over the possibility of a criminal investigation.

“The university recognizes and appreciates the courage and assistance of those in our community who have come forward and contacted the independent investigators about former university physician Dr. Richard Strauss … we are deeply concerned for everyone who may have been affected by his actions,” Ohio State spokesman Chris Davey wrote in an email.

The abuse by Strauss recalls the similar actions of Larry Nassar, a longtime doctor and faculty member at Michigan State University who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting hundreds of women -- many but not all of them athletes at the institution.

After Nassar’s well-publicized trial, the university settled with Nassar’s victims from the institution for half a billion dollars, the largest settlement of its kind involving a university and sexual misconduct.

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Cost concerns keep cloud services out of reach of many small colleges

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 07:00

Cloud-based IT services are becoming the norm in higher ed, but some colleges, particularly those with limited resources, may not be as far along on their “cloud journey” as one would think.

Most institutions have moved to the cloud in “one form or another,” but there are relatively few institutions that have moved beyond adopting cloud-based software (known as software as a service, or SaaS) to cloud-based infrastructure and platforms (IaaS and PaaS, respectively), said Karen Wetzel, director of working and constituent groups at Educause, which promotes the use of information technology to advance higher ed.

Tom Dugas, director of information security and new initiatives at Duquesne University, said it is common for institutions to move into cloud by first trying out SaaS options such as email, then expanding into IaaS and PaaS, which are more complex and costly to implement. Dugas said his institution was one of the first to switch to Microsoft’s cloud-based Office 365 suite a few years ago and has been moving more and more services to the cloud, “as the need arises.”

The promise of cloud services is that they will provide a better experience for users, reduce costs for institutions that would previously have spent lots of money on hardware and, if the service is managed by the vendor, reduce workloads for stretched IT staff. Cloud vendors such as Jenzabar say that their services may increase operational costs, but that this is offset by large decreases in capital costs -- saving institutions money in the long run.

Vicki Tambellini, president and CEO of higher education consulting company the Tambellini Group, said that cloud costs can vary significantly depending on the vendor, the services selected and the size of the institution.

"There's no one right solution for every institution, but there is a best solution for every institution," she said.

For an institution with about 1,000 employees and 5,000 to 6,000 students, the cost of moving HR, finance and student information systems to the cloud can range from $400,000 to $700,000 per year, depending on the vendor and the modules. Smaller institutions might pay less, while larger institutions might pay millions of dollars annually, she said.

Tambellini said moving to the cloud can provide better security, disaster recovery and business continuity, but it may take several years to break even. In addition to annual operating costs, "institutions have to plan for implementation, training, change management, project management and a host of other expenses to ensure project success," she said.

These setup costs can create a barrier for smaller institutions wishing to switch to cloud services, said Dugas.

“A lot of people think, ‘well, why don’t you just call Amazon Web Services and get a bunch of data servers?’” he said. But the reality is not so simple.

“When you start thinking about how we’re going to secure that, whether we’re going to have to tie it into our existing infrastructure in some way, the barriers get more and more complex,” Dugas said.

For larger institutions that have “already made a sizable investment” in data centers on their campuses, the cost benefits of moving to cloud are clear, he said. But for smaller institutions, “we’re in the opposite position. We think it’s going to be costlier in terms of resources and expense to move to the cloud than it is to host it ourselves.”

Implementing cloud-based platforms and infrastructure would require "hundreds and thousands of staff hours that we can't spend," he said. The university might also have to run dual infrastructure during the transition, which "would be costly to manage, both in terms of resources and in terms of IT infrastructure and cloud costs."

Josh Piddington, vice president and chief information officer at Rowan College at Gloucester County, said it's a faulty assumption that moving to cloud will always save institutions money. Some cloud services may require temporarily contracting technicians to get them up and running.

“We don’t have a ‘cloud architect’ like you would in a Fortune 500 company,” said Piddington.

He said there are some cases where moving to cloud just doesn’t make sense financially.

“Anything that’s really data heavy, like my security camera infrastructure with 250 cameras -- to put that in cloud would cost a lot of money,” he said.

But where moving to cloud does make sense, there can still be challenges. Rowan has a single sign-on system across campus, but Piddington said getting it to work with Office 365 had been difficult. For the moment, the New Jersey college still hosts its email on premise.

Steve Terry, director of information technology at Capital University, a small private liberal arts college in Ohio, said that even if smaller institutions have the in-house expertise to set up cloud services, moving to cloud-based products (particularly IaaS and PaaS) requires significant back-end work that can be too time-consuming for small staffs with other responsibilities.

Larger institutions have “time to experiment” with more immersive cloud solutions and can carve out time for staff to focus on this, he said. But at smaller institutions, they may need to hire external help to set up new systems.

Terry said that many liberal arts colleges, for example, have adopted cloud-based admissions systems, but many don’t have cloud-based enterprise resource planning systems, student information systems or financial aid systems. Getting those systems to talk to each other can be tricky.

“This is what every school in North America, in the world, is dealing with -- that integration between tools that may or may not be in the cloud,” said Terry.

Terry plans to move Capital University’s ERP, student information system and financial aid systems to the cloud in the future but for now doesn't have the money to do so. If Terry were to move his ERP system to the cloud, it could cost 50 percent to 200 percent more per year due to expenses such as dual licensing costs, consultant fees, data egress fees and other expenses.

"Oftentimes, the cloud total cost of ownership is only realized after eight to 10 years," said Terry.

An emerging frustration for smaller institutions is that sometimes vendors expect them to have more sophisticated IT infrastructure. Vendors used to working with large institutions can be stumped by issues that arise when working with smaller ones.

“There are some vendors that make things incredibly easy for you, and some that make it incredibly difficult,” Terry said.

Capital University doesn’t have a single sign-on system, which some vendors expect to be in place, said Terry. He added that sometimes meeting a vendor’s requirements is so challenging that “I might as well be installing it in my data center. It’s the same amount of work, the same effort, almost more so.”

Three cloud service models*:

Software as a service (SaaS) -- allows customers to use applications managed by the supplier on a cloud infrastructure, e.g. email, learning management systems, productivity tools.

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) -- allows customers to deploy their own applications on a cloud infrastructure, e.g. servers, data storage, hardware.

Platforms as a service (PaaS) -- allows customers to provision and manage basic computing resources on a shared platform, e.g. operating system, server software, hosting.

*As defined by Educause here.

In addition to costs, meeting vendor expectations, integrating services, drawing up contracts and finding employees with the right skills are among the top five barriers to cloud adoption at smaller institutions, he said.

Thomas Dobbert, director of information at Truckee Meadows Community College in Nevada, cited cost as one his biggest barriers to employing more cloud services. The college is part of the Nevada System of Higher Education and shares resources with other institutions in the system. Several institutions in the system use the same learning management system, for example, and share licensing costs.

Dobbert said it would have been "impossible" for the institution to pay for these on its own.

Dobbert noted that while it can be easy to transfer data to the cloud, it can be “costly to access and manipulate the data” or remove it once it's there.

“History has taught us it’s never a good idea to put all our bits and bytes in one basket,” he said. Additionally, cloud vendors are subject to mergers and takeovers, he said, and vendors can also choose to end support for applications at short notice. Limited options can also lead to price lock-ins.

“We have experienced situations where a single provider was able to raise prices on the institution, knowing that the institution had no choice but to pay because there was no alternative anymore,” he said.

Dobbert said cloud financing options are sometimes not flexible enough for smaller schools. He described an instance where a programming instructor wanted to set up virtual machines (software programs or operating systems that act like separate computers) with a cloud provider. The vendor would only offer a contract for a full calendar year, but access was only needed for the spring and fall semester -- a total of eight months.

“While everybody understands that the cloud provider needs to make money, it was financially not feasible for us to engage in this kind of contract,” said Dobbert. “We ended up installing virtual machines on our equipment, which was still much cheaper than going with the cloud provider.”

Dobbert estimated that the virtual machines would have cost over $7,000 a month to run on cloud. Running them on the institution's own equipment did not cost anything except the people hours it took to set up, he said. The downside is that students cannot access the virtual machines from off campus, and the free software the institution used has limited functionality. It would be possible to set up a virtual private network so that students could access the resources off campus, "But again, we are not large enough to make that a top priority," said Dobbert.

Dobbert’s cloud strategy is somewhat cautious. He likes to take a “wait and see” approach to new implementations -- often letting TMCC’s larger sister institutions leap first, then waiting to see evidence of an outright benefit before moving forward himself. He's also very concerned about security, and what happens to data that institutions put in vendors’ care. “How many incidents like those at Home Depot, Facebook, Equifax, does it take to realize that cloud computing has serious limits when it comes to the safety of our students’ data?”

Dugas, of Duquesne University, said institutions are sometimes pushed to choose cloud options because they have no other choice. Sometimes vendors stop offering support for on-premises solutions, switching their focus to cloud-based services that allow them to charge a monthly maintenance fee rather than one up-front fee, he said. This shift from capital to operational costs can present a budgeting challenge for institutions.

Dugas described Duquesne as an “opportunistic” cloud organization -- opting for cloud services when it makes sense but not “urgently pushing” to move to cloud when there isn’t a problem with the existing system.

Joseph Vaughan, CIO at Harvey Mudd College, a small, private liberal arts college in California, said that his institution has been “pushing toward a ‘cloud-first’ approach for many years.” This approach is one of several that was described in a seven-part web series from Educause called Preparing the IT Organization for the Cloud. Vaughan, Dugas and Terry are among the co-authors of the online report.

Though there are institutions that have taken a cloud-first approach, including the  University of Notre Dame, Harvey Mudd seems to be somewhat of an outlier among smaller institutions. In addition to cloud-based SaaS, the institution also has IaaS and PaaS.

A few years ago, the college started creating "hybrid" positions where employees spend two days a week working to implement cloud services, with a view to moving them into this role full-time. A staff member recently moved from a user-support role to a new cloud computing specialist position, Vaughan said.

Harvey Mudd College is part of the Claremont Colleges -- a consortium of liberal arts institutions that share some centralized university services. While HMC pays for some cloud services like Microsoft Azure and Office 365 on its own (around $60,000 per year), the cost of the ERP system is shared by the consortium. Although Vaughan said there are likely areas where other Claremont Colleges are farther along in their cloud journey, his college took steps earlier than the others.

“We’re definitely helped by the fact that we are a STEM institution with few departments and a focus on high autonomy and interest in technology,” said Vaughan. “We may also be more accepting of perceived risk.”

Dugas said the cloud is the future for higher ed. “Everyone has seen the writing on the wall, but the real challenge for all of us is finding the time, money and resources to make it happen.”

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Preparedness leads to high-quality senior theses, new research shows

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 07:00

Senior theses often serve as the culminating academic project for undergraduates. They give students a chance to use the skills and subject knowledge they’ve learned to produce a meaningful piece of work. There is little debate among academics that writing a senior thesis is a valuable exercise. They are considered a high-impact practice, meaning they produce especially positive student outcomes, learning gains and retention.

But researchers Carol Trosset and Steven Weisler set out to answer one seemingly obvious question: What makes a senior thesis good? Their article of the same name appears in the current issue of Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning.

To do so, Trosset, a private consultant in higher education, and Weisler, chief data officer at the University of California, Davis, collected 789 student self-evaluations and asked faculty to blindly review 213 of those students’ senior theses. From that data, Trosset and Weisler determined that student preparedness was the biggest indicator of quality. That is, students who were reportedly more prepared for thesis work wrote higher-quality theses.

"Preparation is very important," Weisler said. "Some of my colleagues have the attitude that it’s OK for students to tackle a new subject that they haven’t explored previously. I think our office polls against that. It says that students should be prepared."

Other potentially influential factors, such as faculty supervision and student commitment, had no effect on thesis quality, according to the article. However, they did play a role in grading. Sixty-two percent of thesis grades given by faculty advisers were an A or A-plus, whereas 33 percent of theses evaluated by the faculty readers received an A or A-plus, suggesting that students' feelings about their theses are more reflective of the overall experience than the quality of the final product.

Should grades be more reflective of quality? Trosset and Weisler agree that it’s more complicated than that and say professors should better articulate to students exactly what contributes to a grade.

“A student might reach the wrong conclusion about what aspect of their work went well or badly, because the grade doesn't have a clear itemization of what’s the best. And some grades do; in these cases they didn’t,” Trosset said.

The student surveys also revealed that students are unable to recognize what makes for high-quality work. A majority of student respondents were “very satisfied” with their work, despite the fact that only a third of theses received top marks from blind readers.

“There could be a bunch of things going on. One possibility … is that students know the work isn’t that great but that’s OK with them,” Trosset said. “It’s also possible, given that things like the experience of working with an adviser and how they felt about the project … were strong predictors of how satisfied they were with their own work … that when we say ‘how satisfied are you with the quality of the product,’ they’re actually answering ‘how satisfied am I with the whole experience of doing this work?’”

The senior thesis played a key educational role at all seven of the institutions Trosset and Weisler examined. Past research shows that use of high-impact practices, which include first-year seminars, learning communities and undergraduate research, are on the rise at bachelor's-granting institutions.

High-impact practices emphasize the development of soft skills like critical thinking, reliability, qualitative reasoning, work ethic and time management. Daniel Sullivan, a senior fellow at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, believes faculty need to do a better job explaining to students exactly what skills they want students to build during these projects.

“One of the things that we see is that faculty primarily focus their teaching on disciplinary learning goals, and they assume that students will pick up what it means to be a good critical thinker or qualitative reasoner,” Sullivan said.

He added that employers today are not looking for subject-specific knowledge as much as they’re seeking reliable, hardworking and on-time employees.

“In work, we need people to produce things and to do it in a time frame. In college, it’s really all about you. The college focuses on your development,” he said. “One of the things colleges don’t teach very well is how dependent a work organization is on you showing up and being on time.”

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Saudi plans for higher education attract enthusiasm and cautions

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 07:00

Footage of women driving cars on the streets of Riyadh helped to project an image of Saudi Arabia as a country that is, very slowly, embracing modernity.

Another key feature of a modern economy -- particularly one that is trying to wean itself off its reliance on fossil fuel extraction -- is a thriving research and innovation sector.

Under Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the economy, Saudi Arabia is pursuing this goal, too, investing $1.6 billion in research and development in the next two years alone.

Hisham Alhadlaq, director general of the country’s new Research and Development Office, said that the investment -- which includes $75 million to support collaboration with international partners -- would “transform” higher education in Saudi Arabia.

The funds will go toward enhancing the capacity and capability of publicly funded universities to conduct high-quality and high-impact research, with the aim of propelling five Saudi institutions into the top 100 of international university rankings by 2030.

However, observers have warned that, just as allowing women to drive is only one small part of efforts that are needed to tackle gender equality in Saudi Arabia, money alone will not be sufficient to create the knowledge economy that the country’s leaders desire. For higher education to flourish, there must be a culture of academic freedom and integrity, too.

For Christopher Davidson, reader in Middle East politics at Durham University, the investment was “a welcome sign that the country is willing to put its money where its mouth is and back up its commitment to building a knowledge economy, thus far only on paper, with some actual funding.”

But, Davidson added, “The problem is that Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, have periodically lavished money on higher education but rarely got bang for their buck. This can happen when you have the physical infrastructure -- impressive buildings, libraries, laboratories -- and so on, but don’t have the higher education culture in place.”

Alhadlaq, who was in London as part of a delegation of Saudi government and university officials looking to forge closer ties with British institutions, said that the government was working on an initiative to give more autonomy to universities, with more details expected in coming months. Meanwhile, amid warnings of high levels of research misconduct in the Middle East, funding will be directed toward training in academic integrity, and institutions without strong policies in this area are unlikely to be able to participate in the Vision 2030 project.

Driving up international collaboration is a key priority, with support planned for Saudi academics and postgraduates to spend time abroad, and international researchers to come to the country for up to nine months.

The Saudi Research and Development Office has identified six priority fields for international research collaboration: water; energy; information technology; petrochemicals; life sciences and health; and the environment.

There will also be support for postdoctoral training, and a drive to increase technology transfer activities.

All this means that, this time around, investment will not be lavished only on new infrastructure, Alhadlaq said.

“We felt we needed to utilize the existing infrastructure first, rather than implement new facilities,” Alhadlaq said. “Our first phase is focusing on the maintenance and upgrading of the infrastructure at the universities.

“Some have good infrastructure; some are still building up their capacity. We want to have some sharing initiatives between local universities and have universities share their facilities with industry, specifically small and medium enterprises.”

Simon Marginson, director of the UCL Center for Global Higher Education, agreed that creating the right conditions for universities to thrive would be crucial. Teaching in Saudi universities remains segregated by gender, apart from at the private King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

“Universities flourish in different environments, but there is a basic openness you need,” Marginson said. “Money isn’t enough -- you need free and open conversation and mixing of conversation. Gender is probably a minimum thing that you would want to see shift and change; you need to bring women in on an equal basis. That’s half your talent, students and faculty, you lose out on if you don’t.”

Alhadlaq insisted that “the participation of women is very important” to the ministry and highlighted that nearly 40 percent of assistant professors in Saudi Arabia were women, “which is good compared with the global average.”

For Marginson, “higher education is a transformative thing if you allow it to be -- it’s very modernizing. So building higher education and research and allowing it to flourish will be good for the country.”

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Trump administration rescinds Obama guidance on race and admissions

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 07:00

The Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded guidance issued by the Obama administration on how colleges can legally consider race and ethnicity in admissions decisions.

The move is the latest sign that the Trump administration is skeptical of the way some colleges consider race in admissions. But the immediate impact may be minimal. Court rulings already are more powerful than guidance from any administration. The move may indicate how the administration would respond to complaints it receives, but those complaints could well end up in courts and not be decided by federal agency officials.

In all, the Justice Department and Education Department withdrew seven separate documents -- issued by the agencies between 2011 and 2016 -- on the use of race in decisions by schools and by colleges. The guidance in those documents generally said that colleges had ways to consider race in admissions, consistent with various Supreme Court decisions.

But a Dear Colleague letter sent to schools and colleges late Tuesday said that officials at the two agencies "have concluded that [the documents] advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution … Moreover, the documents prematurely decide, or appear to decide, whether particular actions violate the Constitution or federal law. By suggesting to public schools, as well as recipients of federal funding, that they take action or refrain from taking action beyond plain legal requirements, the documents are inconsistent with governing principles for agency guidance documents."

"The departments are firmly committed to vigorously enforcing these protections on behalf of all students," said the letter, signed by Kenneth L. Marcus, assistant secretary of education for civil rights, and John M. Gore, acting assistant attorney general.

Press speculation prior to the release of the letter suggested that the Trump administration would encourage colleges to rely on 2008 guidance issued during the administration of President George W. Bush. That guidance, while not saying it was impossible to consider race in admissions, framed the issue in ways that many college officials viewed as discouraging colleges from doing so.

The letter released Tuesday, however, made no mention of the 2008 guidance.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a statement Tuesday that urged colleges and schools to focus on what the Supreme Court has said. “The Supreme Court has determined what affirmative action policies are constitutional, and the court’s written decisions are the best guide for navigating this complex issue,” she said.

What the Obama Guidance Said

Generally, college leaders and advocates for affirmative action had praised the guidance that has now been rescinded. One key document among those rescinded was Obama administration guidance issued jointly by the Education and Justice Departments in 2011. The guidance states that diversity is an important educational goal, and that colleges should be able to use a variety of methods (including the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions) to achieve diversity. In many ways, the guidance is consistent with the arguments made by colleges that consider race in admissions decisions. The Obama administration also elaborated on the issue in 2016, again saying that colleges could legally consider race in admissions.

The guidance issued in 2011 never had the force of federal court rulings, but it was important nonetheless. The guidance outlined the way the Obama administration would consider complaints it received about admissions policies.

"Ensuring that our nation's students are provided with learning environments comprised of students of diverse backgrounds is not just a lofty ideal. As the Supreme Court has recognized, the benefits of participating in diverse learning environments flow to an individual, his or her classmates, and the community as a whole. These benefits greatly contribute to the educational, economic, and civic life of this nation," the Obama administration guidance said.

It added, "Learning environments comprised of students from diverse backgrounds provide an enhanced educational experience for individual students. Interacting with students who have different perspectives and life experiences can raise the level of academic and social discourse both inside and outside the classroom; indeed, such interaction is an education in itself. By choosing to create this kind of rich academic environment, educational institutions help students sharpen their critical thinking and analytical skills."

The Supreme Court, in several rulings, has said that colleges that want to consider race and ethnicity in admissions may only do so if they have considered race-neutral means to promote diversity and found those inadequate. Many colleges -- in particular those with highly competitive admissions -- have said that there are no race-neutral ways. The Obama administration guidance expressed some sympathy for that point of view. "Institutions are not required to implement race-neutral approaches if, in their judgment, the approaches would be unworkable," the guidance says. "In some cases, race-neutral approaches will be unworkable because they will be ineffective to achieve the diversity the institution seeks. Institutions may also reject approaches that would require them to sacrifice a component of their educational mission or priorities (e.g., academic selectivity)," the guidance said.

The Trump administration has already signaled that it is much more skeptical of the consideration of race in admissions than was the Obama administration. The Justice Department is backing the plaintiffs in a suit over Harvard University's admissions policies. The plaintiffs in that case argue that Harvard discriminates against Asian-American applicants, a charge that the university denies.

Groups backing the lawsuit immediately issued statements praising the Trump administration's action Tuesday. The Asian American Coalition for Education called the move "a triumphant moment for Asian American communities."

But Harvard released a statement that indicated that the university had no plans to change any policy as a result of what happened Tuesday. "Harvard will continue to vigorously defend its right, and that of all colleges and universities, to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court for more than 40 years," the statement said. "Harvard is deeply committed to bringing together a diverse campus community where students from all walks of life have the opportunity to learn with and from each other."

Even before Tuesday's news, many supporters of affirmative action were worried about its future in cases that reach the Supreme Court. The retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who has in recent years backed the consideration of race in admissions, with some limits, may have erased the Supreme Court majority that has repeatedly upheld the right of colleges to do so.

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New University of Oklahoma president wastes no time with administrative overhaul

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 07:00

The University of Oklahoma’s new president waited out the weekend before shaking up the leadership team he inherited.

Six top administrators were laid off or retired Monday, the first workday Jim Gallogly was on the job as president. The university also announced a reorganization cutting the number of administrators reporting directly to the president from 25 to 17.

The changes were swift, even for a university that was clearly in line for a significant overhaul as it faces a multimillion-dollar budget gap while installing a new president for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century. Although some expected the new president to sweep in and clean house, Gallogly’s background as a business leader and the suddenness of his broad staffing moves mean Oklahoma is now a prime example of issues arising when a university hires a president from a nontraditional background who goes on to execute the leadership transition in a way perceived as unusual.

Oklahoma announced the administrative overhaul in a press release Monday, the day after Gallogly officially took over as president. The release quoted Gallogly thanking six now-former administrators -- Vice President for Administration and Finance Nick Hathaway, Chief Financial Officer Chris Kuwitzky, Chief Audit Executive Clive Mander, Senior Associate Vice President for Public Affairs Rowdy Gilbert, Executive Director of Federal Programs Scott Mason and Vice President of Government Relations Jonathan Nichols.

Some of the administrators were laid off and some decided to retire, Gallogly said in an interview. The new president, who had been on campus for several months after being selected for the job in March, had previously discussed retirement with several of the administrators. But they did not know their jobs would be ending before Monday, he said.

Oklahoma needed to simplify its administrative structure and budgeting process, Gallogly said in an interview. The changes aim to put administrators into a more traditional structure, he said.

“You simply can’t operate efficiently with 20-something direct reports,” he said. “Nobody else does it that way, and we shouldn’t.”

Nonetheless, the changes are wide-ranging and come as the university faces a particularly turbulent time. Observers wondered how Oklahoma can hope to replace so many administrators at once while also facing significant challenges.

The university has been losing $36 million per year and spends almost $70 million annually on debt service, Gallogly said at a Board of Regents meeting in June. Regents approved a $2.12 billion budget for the 2019 fiscal year with the understanding Gallogly will revise it, The Oklahoman reported. Without changes to the budget, the university is facing an operating loss of $14.5 million. The discussion prompted Gallogly's predecessor to issue a statement arguing the university's debt situation is not unusual and that the true threat to the institution is a lack of public funding.

Gallogly has experience turning around a struggling company but no background leading a university. He is a former petroleum and chemical company executive and major University of Oklahoma donor who earned his law degree from Oklahoma in 1977. He is credited with guiding LyondellBasell, where he served as chairman and CEO, out of bankruptcy.

He takes over for David L. Boren, a former Oklahoma governor and U.S. senator who was the university’s president for almost 24 years. Boren had been praised for raising money and building the university’s profile. But he’d also been the target of some criticism in 2013 when faculty members worried he was picking administrators in order to secure his legacy -- charges his defenders denied.

The staffing and organizational changes announced Monday have nothing to do with the former administration, Gallogly said.

“I’ve been in the corporate world, in the oil business,” Gallogly said. “My people aren’t really in higher ed, so no, it’s not about bringing in my own people. I’m a person who works with really strong teams and top people. We have ambitions and goals, and I want to make sure we have the best possible team.”

The restructuring is intended to simplify reporting, bring in “fresh, diverse perspectives” and improve the university’s cost structure, according to Oklahoma’s Monday news release. Gallogly did not provide a specific dollar amount that would be saved.

“We’re going to be working with each one of the colleges, each of the staff, to figure out what’s the right thing to do and make collective decisions,” he said. “We also have some ambitious goals, of doubling our research.”

In addition, the university wants to give faculty members raises and maintain existing tuition levels, Gallogly said.

Several current and former Oklahoma faculty members declined to comment on the record, saying the situation was evolving or that they had been away from campus recently. But some thought Gallogly had been signaling major changes for several weeks.

Two Faculty Senate leaders did go on the record, responding to questions jointly by email. Gallogly's decisiveness has been well established, said Megan Elwood Madden, a professor of geology and geophysics who is chair of the Faculty Senate, and Joshua Nelson, a professor of English and director of film and media studies who is Faculty Senate chair-elect. The Senate "looks forward to helping cultivate a similarly strong reputation for consensus-building and collaboration," they said.

"We are always saddened to hear about the departure of colleagues with whom we have worked," they said. "We understand that changes in leadership entail changes in administrative structure but remain as committed as ever to the fundamental principles of shared governance, and we have every expectation that President Gallogly will work closely with faculty concerning changes closer to our purview."

Nonetheless, the breadth and speed of the changes surprised those who closely watch college and university leadership transitions. Usually, new presidents spend time on the job studying an administrative structure before making major modifications, said Terry Franke, managing director of Franke Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in presidential transitions and board governance in higher education. It’s out of the ordinary for a president to make widespread changes to senior leadership teams on their first day on the job.

“It’s much more like a corporate executive to make changes like this when there is a crisis or the need,” Franke said.

Franke has also seen executive changes put in place by an outgoing president or board chair before the new president takes over. That sets the stage for the new president to restructure without his or her first official action being layoffs.

Generally, it takes time to get to know a campus, learn about its administrative team and decide whether executives are a good fit with a new president, said David Attis, managing director of strategic research at EAB. Attis declined to comment specifically on the Oklahoma situation but agreed to discuss broad trends in presidential transitions.

A president who has been tapped for a job and spent time on campus for several months might have had time to learn about an institution and accelerate his or her plans, Attis said. With tenures shortening, presidents are doing everything they can to manage stakeholders quickly.

And a new leader who follows a longtime president might have more to manage.

“We often hear that when there hasn’t been a change in a long time, there is a kind of accumulation of issues that need to be dealt with,” Attis said.

At Oklahoma, 25 executives reporting to the president was an unthinkable number to manage, according to Franke. Lowering the number of direct reports below the new level of 17 would be closer to typical structures, he added.

It’s too soon to say whether additional changes will be put in place in the future at Oklahoma, Gallogly said.

“The first thing we wanted to do is make sure we had part of the senior management team settled,” he said. “We have a lot of positions we’re going to be doing national searches for.”

Those positions are vice president and chief financial officer, vice president for human resources, vice president for development, vice president for student affairs, vice president for public affairs, executive director for government relations and chief auditor. Others will fill those roles on an interim basis until they are filled permanently.

For his part, Gallogly wasn’t particularly concerned with whether his actions at Oklahoma are more common in a corporate or higher educational setting.

“It depends on what the situation is at a business or at a university and whether a change needs to be made,” he said. “The question is, did it need to be done? And in my view and the view of the regents, it did.”

(Note: The headline on this article was changed from an earlier version because of reader concerns about the original's meaning.)

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After Portland State police shot and killed a man, students call to disarm

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 07:00

Protesters took to the streets of Portland, Ore., Sunday to participate in the Disarm PSU: No More Killer Cops rally organized by the Portland State University student union after Jason Washington, 45, was shot and killed by Portland State campus police on Friday outside of the Cheerful Tortoise, a campus sports bar.

Washington was a Navy veteran and U.S. postal worker. Witnesses told CBS News that he was attempting to break up a fight between two other men and was shot while moving to pick up a handgun that had fallen from his holster. Washington had a concealed-carry permit for the weapon.

Shawn McKenzie and James Dewey, the Portland State officers involved in the shooting, have been placed on administrative leave while the Portland Police Bureau investigates the situation. In response the protest, Portland State issued the following statement:

“Portland State University supports the right of individuals and groups to organize and participate in peaceful protests. PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi said Friday that he recognizes there are questions and concerns about the fatal officer-involved shooting, and the university is fully cooperating with the Portland Police Bureau's investigation. In addition, President Shoureshi has requested the Campus Public Safety Chief to conduct a thorough internal assessment and evaluation of the incident as well as our policies and procedures. This is the first officer-involved shooting at Portland State.”

The #DisarmPSU movement has existed since the Portland State Board of Trustees voted in favor of a sworn armed campus police force in December 2014. Armed officers were present on campus beginning in the fall of 2015. Prior to the decision, Portland State was the only public university in the United States with more than 15,000 students that did not have sworn police officers.

The decision was made despite opposition from many students and faculty members. A survey issued by the Associated Students of PSU in November 2013 revealed that, of the 1,200 students who responded, 58 percent were opposed to the creation of a sworn police force, 37 percent supported it and 4 percent were neutral. The American Association of University Professors polled their Portland State members on the same issue, and of the 400 faculty respondents, 256 were opposed and 119 were in favor.

A statement issued by the Portland State student union explained that the group had opposed the arming of campus police since the university first considered it in 2012, and that many faculty members and students were worried that the decision would one day result in deadly violence.

"We called to #DisarmPSU because we know that policing in this country is built atop an explicitly racist foundation, and in a city with a laundry list of people of color and disabled people who have been murdered by police, we saw no need to perpetuate this oppression on our campus," the statement read in part. At the rally, speakers said that Washington was a black man and the two officers appeared to be white.

Students, faculty members and local residents took to Twitter with the hashtag #DisarmPSU to share their thoughts.

As an alumnus & present adjunct faculty, I say now as I did when this awful decision was made, we must #DisarmPSU

— Julia (@missjuliamaria) July 2, 2018

if Portland State would’ve listened to its students when PSUSU campaigned to #DisarmPSU, Jason Washington wouldn’t have been shot to death outside of my apartment yesterday

— hal (@jasonschwrtzwmn) June 30, 2018

A fact sheet on the Portland State website notes that certain situations, such as serving search warrants and performing off-campus welfare checks, require the possession of firearms, and that Tasers and Mace are "ineffective in a dire situation involving an active shooter," though campus officers do also have access to Tasers and pepper spray.

According to 2012 data from the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, 75 percent of college and universities with an enrollment of 2,500 have armed campus police officers. The vast majority -- 92 percent -- of public universities have sworn and armed police officers, whereas only 38 percent of private colleges do.

"The number of colleges and universities that have made a decision to arm their police forces has increased over the past decade," said Paul Ominsky, president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. "These are local decisions made by campus leaders based on state governing laws and an evaluation of their specific needs for community safety. Decisions like these are not made lightly."

Ominsky also said that the use of deadly force varies state by state, but that the standards are the same for sworn campus and municipal police.

Christopher Broderick, a spokesman for Portland State, said that Shoureshi briefed the Board of Trustees on Friday, but the board has not formally met.

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Competitions push researchers to hone real-life solutions

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 07:00

For decades, professors whose research held promise for practical applications had to search largely on their own for investors. But a growing number of efforts are bringing to academe the same kinds of opportunities once available only to young app developers and business school graduates.

Perhaps most notably, SPARK, a project that began at Stanford University's medical school in 2006, has spread to more than a dozen universities worldwide, including the University of Vermont, where since 2013 it has handed out grants of $50,000 to small companies based on professors' research to help them attract investors.

Dryver Huston, a longtime UVM engineering professor, helped create a group at UVM and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga that proposed a way to collect better data on ground-penetrating radar, doing it more quickly but with fewer radio waves. The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the practice, has raised alarms that traditional methods can interfere with air traffic control systems.

Huston is sitting out the competition this year, but in years past he said he “got some good feedback” as well as funding that helped leverage further investments, primarily from the federal government.

At the final round of pitches at this year's competition, held late last month, a few panelists offered similar comments, telling one duo -- a husband-wife UVM team developing a biofeedback smartphone app for panic attacks -- that they were entering an “extremely crowded” field, dominated by heart rate monitoring devices like the Apple Watch, with big, sophisticated software and hardware developers behind it.

Another panelist said flatly, “I’m going to be very frank: I hate the idea.” One problem, he said, is that a prospective user might not be able to find his or her phone -- or might experience a panic attack in the woods, out of range of cellphone connectivity.

The company hopes to market the app, tentatively named [wepanic], to 100 universities in the first two years, saying the proposed $20,000 annual subscription rate represents “a fraction of the cost of hiring a new clinician” to help students head off panic attacks and other episodes.

Most but not all SPARK projects address health issues and help develop drugs and treatments. Since its launch five years ago, SPARK-VT has funded 16 companies, university officials said. Two start-ups and another three potential start-ups owe at least part of their existence to the competition, and researchers affiliated with the program have been awarded six patents and have 36 patent applications pending.

Richard Galbraith, Vermont's vice president for research, said the university for years was “relatively introspective in terms of the work that was done.” That has changed over the past two decades. "It doesn’t really make sense” to be so insular, he said. “You have to work on behalf of society writ large.”

A physician and professor in the university’s department of medicine, Galbraith said the primary purpose of SPARK is to get research “out of the university and into the world so it can be useful.” Recent proposals run a wide gamut, from an emergency hypertension drug to improved propulsion systems for microsatellites, better ground-penetrating radar for urban infrastructure and, perhaps most notably for Vermont, an improved system for nurturing and tapping maple syrup.

Regarding maple syrup, Galbraith noted that the traditional way requires waiting until a tree is 80 to 100 years old, then tapping it each spring. But that takes a long time and a lot of space -- and may not be sustainable in a time of climate change.

An alternate approach involves growing lots of little maple saplings, just a few feet tall, and utilizing a kind of suction system to harvest sap.

“You can plant these trees one or two feet apart,” Galbraith said, noting that the approach is still in the experimental phase.

Ryan McDevitt, a UVM-educated mechanical engineer and onetime research assistant whose company, Benchmark Space Systems, is developing propulsion systems for small satellites, said the company has developed 3-D printing technology that can produce titanium materials much more cheaply, without a huge manufacturing infrastructure. It joined the competition this year.

Their system uses minuscule amounts of chemicals ejected precisely and efficiently to help the satellites perform “very small rotations” and course corrections. Benchmark, located in South Burlington, Vt., near the university, now has five full-time employees and customers on three continents. SPARK funded their work in 2016, which helped develop both the hardware and software. It also allowed them to bring in a co-founder and consult with others in the field.

McDevitt recalled that one of the SPARK panel members flatly told Benchmark their pitch was “rough,” but that he saw the value in the product. He ended up becoming one of their first investors.

Rob Althoff, a neuroscientist on the UVM faculty since 2006, said SPARK helped him and a group of colleagues “get out of the academic mind-set” and into one that helped them consider how their work might benefit real-world clinicians.

“I think academics in general don’t have that mind-set,” he said.

Althoff co-founded Wiser Systems, which is developing a tool to assess the near-term risk that a patient in an emergency room or other medical setting might commit suicide. They applied to SPARK in 2015, got funding in 2016 and are using the funding to work out a commercialization plan.

It’s actually quite simple, amounting to a short electronic questionnaire, accessed via iPad, that hospitals can use to screen patients who show up in the ER. Even if a patient has never told someone he or she is depressed or suicidal, the questionnaire can replicate the kinds of questions a psychiatrist would ask, shifting the questioning as replies are offered.

“It’s not just weighing risk factors, but trying to predict what a psychiatrist would say if they’re sitting in front of the patient,” Althoff said.

The assessment takes just about a minute to complete and can tell a clinician whether a patient has a low, moderate or high risk of suicide. “We really want to build tools that are going to be able to be used,” Althoff said.

All the same, he said, he’s not planning to leave UVM, even if the tool succeeds.

“The idea was never to have this be my exit strategy,” he said. “The idea was to have the stuff that I’m doing make a difference in the real world.”

He added, “I don’t have the desire to make this my job -- I have the desire to make sure that this gets into the hands of people to save lives.”

Galbraith, UVM's vice president for research, said the worry that faculty might take their venture capital with them and leave the university is but a small consideration -- it’s rare that scientists become CEOs, he said. Most investors want “a real CEO,” preferring that the developers remain advisers.

“We’re not worried about losing all of our scientists,” Galbraith said. But he said the SPARK process has changed the way the university looks at its mission: “You can’t be an isolated ivory tower,” he said. “You have to be part of society.”

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Grand Canyon U succeeds in second bid to go nonprofit

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 07:00

Grand Canyon University, one of the few remaining success stories among big for-profit universities, has become a nonprofit.

The Christian university, which enrolls 21,000 students at its Phoenix campus and another 70,000 students online, on Monday said it succeeded in making the change after its accreditor in 2016 rejected a similar bid.

The publicly traded company on Monday closed on the deal to sell its campus and academic operations for $853 million -- with an expected future adjustment to $875 million -- to a new nonprofit that is taking the name Grand Canyon University. Under a 15-year contract, the remaining corporate entity, Grand Canyon Education, will provide a wide range of outsourced support services to the university in exchange for 60 percent of its tuition and revenue, according to a corporate filing.

Bridgepoint Education is seeking a similar nonprofit transition for its Ashford University. And Grand Canyon’s successful move follows the acquisition last year of Kaplan University by Purdue University, which features a long-term outsourced service provider role for Kaplan.

“The structure behind the scenes will change, but our goals and mission remain the same -- to provide high-quality Christian education that is affordable to all socioeconomic classes of Americans,” Brian Mueller, Grand Canyon Education's CEO, said in a written statement.

For years the university has sought to drop its for-profit status, saying the move would put it on a "level playing field with other traditional universities."

As a nonprofit, Grand Canyon said it will be able to bulk up its research capacity, receive philanthropic donations, participate in NCAA governance at the Division I level and continue a decade-long tuition freeze.

The university’s leaders in the past also have said they are trying to escape the "stigma" of being a for-profit, as the sector continues to collapse in the wake of years of bad publicity and tightened scrutiny by the federal government during the Obama administration.

Yet Grand Canyon said its successful conversion is not about attempting to skirt regulations, which in some cases are aimed mainly at for-profit institutions. For example, the university said none of its programs failed the federal gainful-employment regulation, its loan default rates are low (6.2 percent), and the university receives 72 percent of its revenue from federal sources, which is well below the federal cap of 90 percent.

Arizona’s state regulatory agency and the Higher Learning Commission, Grand Canyon's accreditor, previously signed off on the deal. As a result, Grand Canyon Education received approval for the long-term agreement to provide technology, counseling, marketing, financial aid processing and other support services to the university.

“The company no longer owns and operates a regulated institution of higher education, but instead provides a bundle of services in support of [Grand Canyon University’s] operations,” the company said in a corporate filing.

In many ways the arrangement resembles the relationship between online program management (OPM) companies and their college clients. And the 60 percent share of tuition revenue is in the ballpark of what OPMs charge. The 30-year deal between Purdue University Global and Kaplan involves a much smaller fee of 12.5 percent but features other ways for Kaplan to make money farther down the road.

HLC rejected Grand Canyon's earlier bid to go nonprofit, saying too much of the operation, including both academic and service functions, would be housed in the for-profit division. But the accreditor subsequently revised its criteria on service agreements, which Grand Canyon said made the difference this time around. HLC also backed the deal between Kaplan University and Purdue University.

Even so, several consumer groups and congressional Democrats have criticized the trend of for-profits becoming nonprofits, with some saying the for-profit arm of such partnerships can hold too much power.

For example, in 2015 Bob Shireman published a report for the Century Foundation calling the result of such conversions “covert for-profits,” which evade regulations and can continue to enrich their owners. Shireman is a former Education Department official who helped lead the Obama administration's crackdown on for-profits.

Grand Canyon Education and the university will have separate governing boards, the company said. And the university has adopted a conflict of interest policy that prohibits its trustees from having a financial interest or role with the company.

Mueller will continue as the company’s CEO and chairman of the board. He also will stay on as the university’s president. HLC allows such dual roles under its new guidelines, the company said. But at least one critic already called Mueller’s two positions a conflict of interest.

The department under President Trump has yet to respond to the university's January request for a review of the transaction, Grand Canyon said in an online document about the nonprofit conversion. But the Trump administration generally has been supportive of similar transactions. Grand Canyon was a nonprofit institution prior to 2004.

In its corporate filing, Grand Canyon said the "benefits of consummating the transaction at this time were numerous and any regulatory limitations imposed by ED could be managed (particularly since GCU’s regional accreditor and state regulator had already approved the transaction)."

The university's faculty members, academic leadership and related staff members, a total of 1,400 full-time and 6,000 part-time employees, have been transferred from the company to the new nonprofit, Grand Canyon said. The company now employs roughly 2,600 full-time staff members.

“The aligned goals of both organizations, as well as the integrity and ethics of both organizations, will only increase our efficiencies by utilizing resources strategically that further the teaching and assessment of student learning, as well as the overall student experience,” Mueller said.

For-Profit Higher EdEditorial Tags: AccreditationFederal policyFor-profit collegesArizonaImage Source: GCUImage Caption: Brian Mueller, Grand Canyon's CEO, speaking MondayIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Grand Canyon Goes NonprofitTrending order: 2College: Grand Canyon UniversityPurdue University-Main Campus

Student wages social media campaign against Indiana University, alleging Title IX violations

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 07:00

Ellie Johnson has taken to Twitter every day for more than a week, raging at Indiana University at Bloomington.

Johnson, a student there, says she was raped, but the institution subsequently found the student she accused not responsible. She said the university violated its own policies on sexual assault and infringed on a key federal gender antidiscrimination law.

Her first tweet about her case June 25 (which racked up more than 2,000 retweets and 5,000 likes) snowballed into a massive viral social media campaign against Indiana, with students and activists local and beyond trashing the university’s policies and its handling of sexual violence.

Johnson hasn’t stopped what she called “the social media madness.”

"I just want to remind @IUBloomington that there are humans in grave suffering," she wrote on Twitter. There are humans standing on the line between life and death because YOU LET THEIR RAPISTS GO! Any crimes they commit in the future falls on your shoulders for not stopping it when you had the chance."

She listed the emails and some phone numbers of top administrators and the police department on Twitter and urged the public to contact them. Her daily tweets have spawned a hashtag: #WeStandWithEllie. Student organizations have tweeted their support at her. A Democratic candidate for state office reposted Johnson’s tweet and said if elected he would have sexual assault survivors from the university share their stories at the statehouse.

Hey @IUBloomington. I am an alum and now running for office.

Ellie was brave enough to share her story. Now it is up to you to be brave enough to do your jobs and defend your students.

If elected, I will have IU student rape survivors share their stories at the Statehouse. https://t.co/YoxyXa3Kov

— Jared Stancombe (@jaredforindiana) June 29, 2018

One woman wrote to Johnson and said she told an incoming Indiana student and her mother about Johnson’s story.

“They said if IU doesn't do anything about it then her daughter would not be attending the school,” she tweeted to the university. “Your negligence is driving students away.”

Johnson didn’t respond to request for comment, but she has detailed her fight with Indiana extensively online, often referencing the Me Too and Time's Up movements that have taken hold in the country.

She said she was raped more than 15 months ago but didn’t immediately report it to the university. After her case was investigated, the accused student wasn’t punished. Johnson appealed the outcome, but Indiana maintained its decision.

“They violated their own policies and Title IX with me,” Johnson wrote on Facebook, referring to the federal law Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. “They pretend like there is a culture of care on campus, but according to the dozens of men and women in my direct messages across various platforms, IU couldn’t give a crap about anything other than keeping their numbers down. They have screwed over HUNDREDS of survivors for decades. I have proof. We all have similar horror stories.”

She said that she was drunk at the time of her assault, which she said wouldn’t be considered consensual under university policy.

For Indiana’s part, it posted a public statement on Twitter a day after Johnson’s initial tweet. The university's response was derided as generic and dismissive of systemic problems there.

In a follow-up statement, the university said it didn’t want to compromise student privacy but said that Johnson’s case was investigated thoroughly and in line with university policy. For Title IX cases, Indiana uses a three-person panel of professors and staff who are trained in sexual assault and adjudication, the university said. Officials estimated 75 hours of personnel work went into Johnson’s case, with cases averaging around 100 hours of work, but ranging up to 125 hours.

The university’s Title IX practices are sound and were followed, said spokesman Chuck Carney in an interview with Inside Higher Ed.

“We appreciate the concerns expressed in this circumstance and recognize that this is a very difficult situation for all involved,” the statement reads. “IU remains committed to fostering a safe environment for all students, which is facilitated by its comprehensive processes for responding to reports of sexual misconduct, as well as its continued efforts to provide support and resources to all students, faculty, and staff in this regard.”

Navigating the court of public opinion can prove difficult for colleges and universities, as they must constantly bear in mind that these cases can easily move to real court or be the subject of a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education, experts say. Lawsuits challenging colleges and universities on grounds of violating Title IX have increased in the last several years, brought by both survivors and accused students.

Notably, the tale of “Mattress Girl” at Columbia University went viral far before the institution was sued over it. A student, Emma Sulkowicz, carried a mattress around campus to signify the burden of her rape and in protest of the institution’s response. Eventually, the student Sulkowicz accused of rape filed a Title IX lawsuit against Columbia, which settled with him in 2017. While many publicly sided with Sulkowicz at first, as more information on the case emerged, some came to doubt her story, as it appeared the encounter was more consensual than she initially let on.

Institutions also want to balance privacy considerations and be sensitive in publicly rebutting a victim of sexual assault so as to not come off as defensive, said Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education.

“From a PR standpoint, it’s very difficult for institutions,” Kruger said. “They want to say as much as they can say publicly while being very delicate. The student who is making the claims is a victim of sexual violence, and they have to be very careful to not re-traumatize them by going after them and discounting what they’re saying.”

Kruger said that communications experts recommend that universities stand by their principles and make sure the campuses know that the proper processes are in place.

“But really, institutions just take it on the chin,” he said.

Indiana has been under scrutiny for its Title IX practices before.

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights investigated the university after four separate Title IX complaints were filed against it, the earliest dating back to 2014. The university signed an agreement in February with the department, which cleared the university of those complaints.

Editorial Tags: Sexual assaultTitle IXIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Columbia UniversityIndiana University-Bloomington

New presidents or provosts: Black Hawk Carleton Ivy Tech Mendocino-Lake Mount Olive NC Community Colleges Otero Ramapo Somerset WKU

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 07:00
  • Timothy Alvarez, senior fellow for NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and former vice president for student affairs at North Dakota State University, has been selected as president of Otero Junior College, in Colorado.
  • Benoit-Antoine Bacon, provost and vice principal (academic) at Queen's University, in Ontario, has been appointed president and vice chancellor at Carleton University, also in Ontario.
  • Terry Ballman, dean of the College of Arts and Letters at California State University, San Bernardino, has been named provost and vice president for academic affairs at Western Kentucky University.
  • Stefan Becker, vice provost for academic programs and professor of earth, environmental and geospatial sciences at Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York, has been chosen as provost and vice president of academic affairs at Ramapo College of New Jersey.
  • Carey W. Castle, vice president for academic and student affairs at Northland Community and Technical College, in Minnesota, has been appointed as president of Somerset Community College, in Kentucky.
  • Peter Hans, consultant to president of University of North Carolina, has been chosen as president of the North Carolina Community College System.
  • Kara Monroe, vice president for academic innovation and support at Ivy Tech Community College, in Indiana, has been promoted to provost/senior vice president there.
  • Debra Polak, interim vice president of academic affairs at Mendocino-Lake Community College District, in California, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • David L. Poole, vice president for online and professional studies and associate professor of leadership and management at California Baptist University, has been chosen as president of the University of Mount Olive, in North Carolina.
  • Tim Wynes, president of Inver Hills Community College, in Minnesota, has been selected as president of Black Hawk College, in Illinois.
Editorial Tags: College administrationNew presidentsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Ivy Tech Community CollegeRamapo College of New JerseyWestern Kentucky University

Rate My Professors ditches its chili pepper "hotness" quotient

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 07/02/2018 - 07:00

RIP, chili pepper.

RateMyProfessors.com confirmed last week that it is doing away with its most controversial teaching “quality” metric -- “hotness,” as indicted by chili pepper icons -- following a social media campaign against it.

Professors have long argued that Rate My Professors is less than scientific, pointing to the hotness rating as exhibit A. Numerous studies support that assertion. A 2017 analysis of millions of online ratings of professors found, for example, that scores varied with instructor gender, discipline and perceived “easiness,” and that professors rated as attractive had higher overall teaching scores.

Nevertheless, the chili pepper persisted -- until last week, when BethAnn McLaughlin, an assistant professor of neurology at Vanderbilt University, tweeted at Rate My Professors, saying, "Life is hard enough for female professors. Your 'chili pepper' rating of our 'hotness' is obnoxious and utterly irrelevant to our teaching. Please remove it because #TimesUP and you need to do better."

Thousands of other professors and students joined in, with some pushing for a boycott of the site until it ditched its Scoville scale for academics’ looks.

It's worse than obnoxious and it invites students to objectify professors. @ratemyprofessor, please drop it. https://t.co/QoeRClG4MH

— Peter A. H. Peterson ✇ (@tastytronic) June 27, 2018

In addition, it gives male profs the notion that female students want to sleep with them.

— Claire Potter (@TenuredRadical) June 27, 2018

yeah I looked up my ratings once and it broke my heart.
written evals were worse, maybe 90% comments on my body and clothes

— Shalyndra (@shalyndra42) June 27, 2018

The campaign comes on the heels of a movement for female academics to include “Dr.” in their social media biographies and, of course, the larger Me Too moment. While many male academics have condemned the Rate My Professors hotness rating as demeaning and irrelevant to their work (they too are eligible for the rating), it’s been particularly loathed by women. That’s because study after study suggests that student evaluations of teaching in general are biased against women. Female professors and their supervisors also report that open-ended comments in end-of-term student evaluations too often disparage or otherwise focus on women’s appearances. With this kind of evidence mounting, the University of Southern California recently stopped using student evaluations of teaching in promotion decisions, in favor of a peer-review model. The University of Oregon's faculty also voted to end quantitative evaluations of teaching and replace them with a more holistic system.

Not everyone objects to the chili pepper. McLaughlin has taken heat on social media and via email from its apparent fans, some of it insulting. And some professors on the website's annual "hottest" professors list (based on the peppers) have laughed off the title. But many academics involved in conversations about campus climate and the validity of student rating systems have criticized Rate My Professors as perpetuating and normalizing the worst aspects of both. And some academics say that Rate My Professors has real effects on classroom enrollment.

So just two days into McLaughlin's campaign, and with little fanfare, Rate My Professors on Twitter said that it would remove all chili pepper ratings from its site, effective immediately.

Rate My Professors did equivocate a bit, saying that the chili pepper rating “is meant to reflect a dynamic/exciting teaching style," despite clear evidence to the contrary on its social media accounts and elsewhere. Still, McLaughlin and others celebrated the move as another win for campus climate and, for female professors, in particular. In an essay on Edge for Scholars, a commentary website, McLaughlin wrote, “Today we had small but important victory in getting the folks at Rate My Professors to take down the chili peppers students use to evaluate professors’ ‘hotness.’”

Within 72 hours of "being called out by 14,000 academics and students," she wrote, “they pulled a thorn from the side of women in education.” Referring to the website’s parent companies, she added, “I am grateful that MTV and Viacom recognized that telling students that evaluating professors based on their looks has aged poorly. In the age of #MeToo, #TimesUp and #MeTooSTEM, we know better, so we must do better.” (Representatives for MTV did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the elimination of the chili pepper.)

In her essay, McLaughlin offered more insight into what prompted her to criticize the "hotness" metric. She said she’s been “lost and angry” reading the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s new report on what she called "shameful numbers on the sexual harassment and isolation of women in academia. These were more than numbers to me. They were stories of [loss] and sadness. Stories of brokenness we have just started sharing outside of whispers.” McLaughlin is also part of a related effort to collect and a related effort to collect stories about sexual misconduct in the sciences.

In that moment, McLaughlin said, she realized that “the failure to respect women in academics was ingrained far too early in our young men.” And Rate My Professors “is one of the earliest opportunities for students to exert very public power over our careers and reputations. Giving us chili peppers is degrading.” Campus sexual assault remains a widespread problem, she added, as female academics “continue to strive to empower our students with a sense that a university education provides a chance to be judged on their creativity without fear for their safety.”

Put “simply,” McLaughlin added, “my single mother did not put my brother and me through college and graduate school for 25 years so that I could be measured by a vegetable.”

McLaughlin also applauded Rate My Professors for making “the right call,” and choosing “civility and kindness over snarky banter and retribution.”

She also asked readers to consider signing a petition to Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, to “stop lecturing us about sexual harassment and ostracize scientists who have been found guilty of sexually assaulting and harassing students and colleagues from our communities and the National Academy of Sciences. They have hurt too many and deserve no honors.” The academies have said they are looking into changing their current policies on this issue, but that any such change entails a two-year process.

McLaughlin also learned during her Twitter campaign that the Journal of Neuroscience has told authors to stop saying "Dear Sirs" when submitting articles. The journal's editor in chief is Marina Picciotto, Charles B. G. Murphy Professor of Psychiatry and Professor in the Child Study Center of Neuroscience and of Pharmacology at Yale University.

 

Thank you, friend.
We've come too far to be erased by authors.
We can be civil and have a teachable moment here. Happy @JNeuroscience can take the lead in addressing something that happens too much. https://t.co/zieVRNlBwg

— Not Mrs McLNeuro (@McLNeuro) June 29, 2018

 

 

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