Higher Education News

Colleges start new academic programs

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 03/08/2018 - 08:00
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Accreditor backs Purdue University Global as more for-profits seek to convert or sell

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 03/07/2018 - 08:00

Purdue University Global has cleared its third and final regulatory hurdle, with the Higher Learning Commission following state and federal agencies in backing Purdue’s acquisition of the for-profit Kaplan University.

Yet questions remain about the final structure of the boundary-pushing Purdue Global, which has drawn both strong praise and criticism. The online university will combine aspects of public, private nonprofit and for-profit higher education after its anticipated launch in April.

Meanwhile, experts said more nonprofit entities, including some colleges, will seek to acquire for-profits. And the tax-status conversion of Kaplan University has stoked interest among for-profits, many of which are hemorrhaging students and money, to follow suit with their own bids to become nonprofits.

“There’s going to be a lot of activity between now and 2020,” said Trace Urdan, an expert on the for-profit industry and a managing director at Tyton Partners.

Also this week, Grand Canyon University, a publicly traded for-profit that enrolls roughly 70,000 students online and has a growing physical location in Phoenix, got a green light from the Higher Learning Commission to convert to a nonprofit. It’s the second attempt for the university, which still needs approval from the feds and state regulators. And officials from Grand Canyon have cited Purdue Global in their latest bid.

Industry analysts and lawyers said as many as 12 proposed for-profit conversions or sales are in the works. While most of those attempts will be smaller in scope than the ambitious Purdue deal, some could involve other public universities, experts said. And another blockbuster deal is possible.

Several conversion bids languished at the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama administration, said Neil Lefkowitz, a lawyer with the firm Loeb & Loeb LLP, who focuses on mergers and acquisitions.

Congressional Democrats and some state attorneys general have generally opposed for-profit conversions and sales, according to Lefkowitz and other experts. But the environment has changed under the deregulation-minded Trump administration, although the department required some changes to the arrangement between Purdue and Kaplan as part of its approval of the deal, including a limit on some fees the for-profit can charge.

“People will try to finish them up because there’s a limited political window,” Lefkowitz said. “The political winds will change again.”

Purdue is expected to formally close the deal with Kaplan before April, when the new online university is slated to become a separately accredited nonprofit within the public Purdue system. Kaplan University’s roughly 30,000 students and 2,000 faculty members will join the new university, along with Kaplan’s 15 campus locations and its 80 or so degree programs, which range from associate to doctoral degrees.

Kaplan Inc., however, isn’t going away. The company’s international and test preparation divisions brought in more than half of its $1.5 billion in revenue last year, according to a corporate filing. And Kaplan will continue to run a large portion of the nonacademic operations of its former university under a complex 30-year contract with Purdue.

The public university is paying only a nominal fee for the acquisition. Kaplan will be paid for handling Purdue Global’s marketing, admissions support and financial aid administration, as well as other services (see the box below for a list of responsibilities under the partnership).

Kaplan is guaranteeing that Purdue Global will generate at least $10 million a year in new revenue for the first five years, chipping in money to cover any shortfalls. The company will be reimbursed for its support activities and will receive a fee of 12.5 percent of the university’s revenue.

As a result, Kaplan’s role with Purdue Global in some ways will resemble that of an online program management company, albeit one that charges a relatively small fee and with a long-term contract that Lefkowitz said “transcends outsourced program management agreements prevalent in U.S. higher education in complexity, anticipation of future changes, operational control and payments to Kaplan in most termination scenarios.”

Under the contract, Kaplan gets an enviable big client in Purdue and could expand by offering similar services to other universities.

Shared Services for Purdue Global

Purdue Global oversees: student admissions, academic standards, curriculum, student records, academic reporting, faculty and faculty support, student support services, degree-granting procedures, career services, educational approvals and related matters.

Kaplan will provide: marketing and advertising, front-end student advising, admissions support, financial aid and student finance, international student recruitment, test preparation, business office, technology support, human resources, finance and accounting functions, and related services.

In exchange, Purdue immediately becomes a major national player in online education -- joining a growing group of nonprofit colleges with the largest online enrollments, including Western Governors University, Southern New Hampshire University, Liberty University, the University of Maryland University College and Arizona State University.

Mitch Daniels, Purdue’s president and Indiana’s Republican governor from 2005 to 2013, has said Purdue is far behind in distance education and lacked a competitive means of delivering online courses.

“The chance to acquire overnight that delivery competence was an opportunity not to be missed,” he said in a January open letter to the university.

Purdue anticipates that the former Kaplan University’s enrollment will increase by an estimated 13 percent this fall semester, according to a Higher Learning Commission report from January.

Faculty members, particular at Purdue’s West Lafayette campus, have been fiercely critical of the Kaplan deal. More than 300 in November signed a petition to the HLC that opposed the acquisition, with much of the criticism centering on Kaplan’s role in the new university. (Professors at Purdue also have complained about not having an adequate say in Purdue Global’s creation.)

The acquisition will be expensive in the long term and pose reputational and other risks to the university, its students and faculty members, said David Sanders, an associate professor in Purdue’s department of biological sciences who is a past chair of the University Senate. He said Kaplan’s involvement threatens Purdue’s priorities in several areas, including its commitment to academic rigor and keeping students’ debt levels in check.

“We no longer have the high moral ground,” said Sanders. He asked of Purdue Global, “Is it an educational entity or is it a corporation?”

Purdue officials, most notably Daniels, have pushed back hard on the faculty criticism. A centerpiece of the president's argument for the new university is that it will help Purdue better fulfill its land-grant mission by making high-quality degrees available to working adults who have some college credit under their belts but no credential. (Roughly 750,000 people in Indiana fit that profile.)

“The democratization of higher ed, and its broader accessibility to wider sections of society, has always drawn detractors from within the incumbent system of the day,” Daniels said in his January letter.

Unresolved Questions and Faculty Concerns

The Higher Learning Commission approvingly cited Purdue’s desire to reach adult students in its 60-page January report about the proposed university, which the Journal & Courier obtained last month. The report also included results from a commission team’s visit to the university.

Judith Eaton, president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, said the HLC’s decision sends a “very powerful message” that accreditors are adapting to exciting innovations.

“It’s an acknowledgment of significant change in higher education,” she said of the accreditor’s decision.

However, the commission, which is the regional accreditor for Purdue and Kaplan, also identified several ambiguities and unresolved questions about Purdue Global. In the letter this week about its decision to approve the transaction, which Purdue opted to release, the accreditor said it will conduct a focused evaluation of Purdue Global during the next six months.

Specific areas of interest during that review, the commission said, include questions about how students might transfer credit from Purdue Global to other universities in the Purdue system, an as-yet-unestablished code of conduct for students and employees, and the autonomy of Purdue Global’s governing board.

Kaplan’s suite of degree programs is unlikely to change much in the immediate future, according to the HLC report. But the university has said it may add programs in human resources, social work and marketing and management.

Purdue Global’s new board voted to approve a tuition discount of approximately 45 percent for Indiana residents who enroll in undergraduate programs at Purdue Global -- at $220 per credit hour, the total sticker price for a bachelor's degree would be $39,600.

Daniels also told the accreditor that Purdue plans to tighten admissions requirements for graduate programs, including increasing the minimum grade point average required for admission to 3.0 from Kaplan’s 2.5.

“The process for aligning educational quality is just beginning,” the commission said in January.

Likewise, HLC said Purdue and Kaplan’s approach to shared services “seemed ambiguous” to the site visit group.

“The team could not determine if Purdue officials embraced the philosophy of the shared services or were simply accepting the proposed shared services as a part of the agreement to compensate Kaplan Higher Education for the market value of Kaplan University,” according to the commission’s report.

However, the accreditor largely dismissed concerns Purdue faculty members shared with the site team. For example, it pushed back on worries about the qualifications of Kaplan University’s faculty members.

“Purdue has numerous full-time and part-time non-tenure-track faculty, as well as graduate students, who teach an appreciable amount of total student credit hours on the campus. Teaching loads and research expectations for tenured and tenure-track faculty are very different on Purdue’s two existing regional campuses than at Purdue, further demonstrating that existing teaching roles are already differentiated across Purdue University,” the commission’s report said. “Significantly, KU faculty meet HLC’s assumed practice expectations for faculty quality and the team heard no evidence to suggest that KU faculty would not be qualified to assume non-tenure-track positions at any of Purdue’s existing campuses.”

Sanders said faculty members at Purdue were not given much time to prepare for the commission’s site visit, just as he and others complained about the university giving them an hour’s notice before it announced the transaction.

“The Higher Learning Commission wasn’t ultimately interested in faculty opinions about the deal,” he said. “We weren’t really listened to.”

‘A Different Animal’

Purdue officials said they are working on the outstanding questions the commission identified.

For example, a university spokesman said Purdue is working with Kaplan to review course catalogs at Purdue’s three branch campuses to evaluate them for transfer to Purdue Global. And the university will use its current process to evaluate the transfer of Purdue Global courses to the university’s other campuses.

Purdue will use learning outcomes to determine equivalency between those courses. If a Purdue Global course meets those equivalencies, “it will be treated the same as a Purdue course and applied toward meeting the degree requirements of the program,” the spokesman said, although he added that Purdue Global’s adult learners mostly will be place bound and unlikely to transfer to another Purdue campus.

Bob Shireman has been a prominent critic of Purdue Global, even drawing a personal rebuke from Daniels. In particular, Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and a former senior Education Department official during the Obama administration, has questioned the public-university status of Purdue Global.

For example, he has criticized Purdue’s decision not to publicly release several attachments to its contract with Kaplan, including a policy manual that describes how and when Purdue could owe money to Kaplan for making academic changes that hurt Purdue Global’s enrollment and bottom line.

Purdue Global is exempt from some open-records laws that apply to Indiana’s public universities and to others around the country. That’s because of language the state’s Legislature inserted into a bill that paved the way for the university’s creation.

The Higher Learning Commission said it inquired about those exemptions. Purdue told the commission that it selected an existing statute that is “not open to public records” and that the “goal was not to facilitate hiding information; rather the statute in question requires this approach, at least for the time being.”

Shireman called that reasoning disingenuous. He also cited the commission’s letter this week, which said Purdue Global’s tax status is a legal matter outside its purview, and one that state and federal governments should determine.

“It is telling that HLC explicitly says it is not taking any position as to whether Purdue University Global is for-profit, nonprofit or public,” Shireman said via email. “Purdue University Global really is a different animal, and HLC, the federal government and Purdue will need to grapple with what it is and what really drives it.”

Purdue said in response that Indiana’s Commission for Higher Education, in its letter granting approval to Purdue Global, said the university is considered to be a public university because it is under the supervision and control of Purdue’s Board of Trustees, which the Education Department considers to be a “governmental entity equivalent to the state.”

Beyond Purdue Global, higher education’s regulatory “triad” likely will be forced to grapple with more line-blurring conversions and partnerships.

Urdan said nonprofits will continue to look for new sources of enrollment and revenue, particularly given serious worries about demographics and a declining number of college-bound high school graduates. Like Purdue, he said some will pursue a “buy versus build strategy” when it comes to online programs.

Meanwhile, even big for-profits might be looking to make a change, Urdan said, in part because their brands have taken a big hit in recent years. While a Republican-dominated Washington has substantially eased the regulatory pressure that contributed to the collapse of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, he said many in the for-profit sector expect the pendulum to swing back.

“Nobody wants to invest in a company that you can only own when there’s a Republican in the White House,” Urdan said.

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Study finds sharp decline in foreign language enrollments

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 03/07/2018 - 08:00

Foreign language enrollments dropped 9.2 percent from fall 2013 to fall 2016, according to new data from the Modern Language Association. The drop is the second largest since the MLA started tracking such information in 1958.

Decades of increases ended after 2009, the MLA found. Since 2009, enrollments are off more than 15 percent. These findings, a report from the MLA says, suggest that the declines reported in 2013 were "the beginning of a trend rather than a blip."

In recent years, many smaller language programs have found themselves targets of elimination at private colleges without significant endowments and at regional public universities that are lacking in consistent state support. Just this week, the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, as part of a retrenchment of many liberal arts programs, announced that it was eliminating its majors in French, German and Spanish.

While Spanish remains, by far, the most widely taught foreign language, it saw declines from 2013 to 2016. All of the 15 most widely taught languages in 2016 saw declines from 2013 except for Japanese and Korean. The top three foreign languages are the same as in 2013: Spanish, French and American Sign Language. But there have been some changes in these ranks. Japanese is fifth, jumping ahead of Italian. Korean is now 11th, having passed ancient Greek, biblical Hebrew and Portuguese.

The following table from the MLA report shows how enrollments were going up in most languages until 2009, only to then start dropping.

More than three times as many students study foreign languages at four-year colleges as at two-year colleges. But the decline from 2013 to 2016 was greater at community colleges (a drop of 15.9 percent) than at four-year institutions (a decline of 7.3 percent). The MLA report urges more study of why this was the case.

Another data point that the MLA views with alarm is the sharp decline in enrollments per student in American higher education.

The MLA found only 7.5 foreign language enrollments per 100 students enrolled in American colleges in 2016. That was down from 8.1 three years prior, 9.1 in 2006 and figures over 10 in the 1960s and 1970s.

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College says professor is on leave after telling Asian-American family 'go back to your home country'

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 03/07/2018 - 08:00

A professor of career counseling at Golden West College is on leave for the next two weeks after she was recorded telling an Asian-American man and his family to go back to their “home country.”

The college declined to say whether the professor, Tarin F. Olson, was suspended or took voluntary leave, saying it was a “personnel matter.”

Letitia Clark, a spokesperson for the diverse community college in Southern California, said a surface review of Olson’s 25-year career at Golden West does not suggest that she ever shared racist or anti-immigrant views in the classroom or with the students she counseled. But given that the case has attracted widespread attention and concern from students, among others, Clark said, “it’s important that the review continue.”

Olson could not immediately be reached for comment. But she has publicly offered to share her thoughts on the “displacement of European-Americans.”

Tony Kao, a Long Beach, Calif., resident, late last week shared on Facebook a video of part of the incident, which has since been viewed over 500,000 times on that platform alone. Kao said that he, his wife and his young daughter were out walking in their neighborhood when a woman told them go back to their country.

Kao’s wife began recording the incident, at which point the woman -- later identified as Olson -- turned and walked away quickly, saying, “You’re disgusting.” As she fled, Kao asked Olson to “tell everybody why you told us to go back to our country.” Olson responded, “You need to go back to your home country.”

Source: Facebook

Kao expressed disbelief, telling Olson that and he and his family members were born and raised in the U.S. Olson said, “I never voted for you,” before the video cut out.

Golden West initially responded to the incident with a statement saying that it does “not condone or support” Olson’s comments. The college “believes in an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students,” it said.

Olson has declined to explain her comments to local media, telling CBS2 News off-camera that “my perspective will be twisted if discussing the skewed video, which cut out part of the incident.”

She reportedly said that her students know she is not a racist. However, she added, “If you would like to have a full normal interview about the displacement of European-Americans then I gladly am available to enlighten the public.”

It appears she hasn't made good on that offer, thus far.

Clark, a spokesperson for the entire Coast Community College District, said administrators reviewing the case were operating in somewhat “uncharted territory,” given that Olson made her comments off-campus, not in the classroom. That makes for some policy “ambiguity,” she said.

The district dealt with another recording controversy in 2016, when a student at Orange Coast College secretly recorded Olga Perez Stable Cox, a professor of psychology, telling her class that President Trump’s election was an “act of terrorism.” Cox received death threats and temporarily left the state; she was later voted full-time colleague of the year by a joint faculty-administrative committee. Orange Coast first said it would suspend the student who recorded Cox for violating a related college policy. It later backtracked.

The American Association of University Professors says professors should only be removed from the classroom during a conduct review if they pose an immediate threat to students or others on campus. The main principle of the AAUP's statement on extramural speech is that "a faculty member’s expression of opinion as a citizen cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness to serve."

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Higher ed groups want end to student aid restrictions for applicants with drug convictions

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 03/07/2018 - 08:00

If Republicans and Democrats can agree on one priority for reauthorizing the law governing higher education, it’s cutting down the lengthy application for federal student aid. Student advocacy groups hope that a FAFSA simplification push will include eliminating a question about drug convictions while receiving federal aid -- and a corresponding section of federal law denying aid to students with such convictions.

At least one Democrat on the Senate education committee plans to reintroduce legislation soon to eliminate the question, a statutory remnant of some of the most punitive steps taken by Congress during the War on Drugs.

Data from the Department of Education show that about 1,000 students each year lose full or partial access to Title IV aid because of a drug-related conviction. Organizations supporting the change, however, argue those numbers don’t capture how many students never apply for aid because they expect they won’t qualify.

“Our research has shown there’s a drastic deterrent and discouraging factor by the question even being on the FAFSA,” said Julie Ajinkya, vice president for applied research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy.

Access to federal aid has a huge bearing on whether students are able to attend and succeed in college, Ajinkya said. And because drug convictions disproportionately affect students of color -- who, research shows, use illicit substances at comparable rates to white peers but are disproportionately charged with drug-related offenses -- the denial of federal aid poses a racial equity issue, she said.

Question No. 23 on the FAFSA, which asks about student drug convictions, was originally added in 1998. At the time, lawmakers voted to deny federal aid to students who had ever been convicted of a drug-related offense.

Restrictions on student aid come into effect whether an applicant is convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor, whether the offense involved the sale or merely the possession of a drug, and apply to convictions under both state and federal law. That means no or limited funding from Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Federal Work-Study as well as federal student loans.

After the restrictions took effect, tens of thousands of students began losing access to federal grants and loans each year. A 2005 Government Accountability Office report found that in the 2003-04 academic year, more than 41,000 FAFSA applicants were ineligible for aid because of drug-related offenses. Of those, 29,000 would otherwise have been eligible for federal student loans and 18,000 would have been eligible for Pell Grants. (Because the FAFSA does not collect data on students’ race, GAO was unable to determine how minority groups in particular were affected by ineligibility issues.)

The George W. Bush administration in 2005 proposed narrowing eligibility restrictions and Congress the next year changed the law to only deny Title IV funds to applicants who were convicted of a drug offense while they were receiving student aid. Representative Mark Souder, the Indiana Republican who first introduced the student aid ban for applicants with drug convictions, wrote the revision to the law. But the Department of Education’s numbers indicate that thousands of students have continued to lose out on aid in the intervening years. During the 2016-17 student aid cycle, 1,032 FAFSA applicants were deemed fully ineligible because they had a drug-related conviction or failed to answer the question about convictions. Another 254 received a partial suspension of eligibility.

Aid Eligibility Status 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017 Partial Suspension of Eligibility 257 242 273 254 Eligibility Suspended for Full Award Year (Due to conviction) 572 474 564 657 Eligibility Suspended for Full Award Year (Left question blank) 535 504 308 375 Total 1364 1220 1145 1286

Policy observers like Jared Bass, senior counsel for education and strategy at New America's education policy program and a former Department of Education official, have noted the inconsistencies involved in attaching aid eligibility to one type of crime, regardless of the severity of the offense and with many different laws from state to state. A student going to college in a state like California, where marijuana is legal for recreational purchase, for example, could still lose federal aid eligibility if convicted of a drug offense in a state like Texas. And a student convicted for crimes such as burglary and not incarcerated would still be eligible for federal aid, while a student convicted of a nonviolent drug offense would not. "That's still time you're not taking classes and not enrolled in school," said Bass. While students lose federal aid, they are still eligible for state or institutional aid programs. And individuals who lose access to federal aid can restore their eligibility sooner by completing a drug rehabilitation program.

“That’s highly problematic,” Bass said.

Applicants are required to self-report -- there is no federal database of such convictions. A first offense for possession means a one-year period of ineligibility; a second offense results in two years of ineligibility; and a third offense means a student loses access to aid indefinitely. For convictions involving the sale of a controlled substance, a first offense leads to two years of ineligibility for student aid, and a second means an indefinite loss of eligibility.

Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat who sits on the Senate education committee, in 2016 introduced the SUCCESS Act to eliminate the statutory language restricting aid as well as the drug offense question on the FAFSA.

“Forcing students to drop out of college for committing a youthful mistake does nothing to reduce drug abuse or crimes on campus,” Casey said in a statement. “Repealing the Aid Elimination Penalty will reduce recidivism, over-criminalization, and tax-payer burdens by stopping the suspension of college aid for young people who made a mistake but want to get their lives back on track.”

With reauthorization of the Higher Education Act standing its best chance of passage in years, lawmakers could see some movement on small tweaks to federal law, like Casey's bill, that can be difficult to advance without a larger legislative vehicle. Casey’s office is still seeking a GOP co-sponsor for its legislation this time around but in 2016 the legislation counted Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, among its co-sponsors, as well as Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat.

Thirty-eight advocacy groups and individual researchers concerned with equity in higher ed recently urged Senate education leaders to reinstate Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students as part of reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Those groups are also backing an elimination of the drug offense question on the FAFSA as part of efforts to expand access to postsecondary education.

Those groups drew a link between the Pell Grant and FAFSA issues to recent “ban the box” campaigns on college campuses. Institutions like the State University of New York and lawmakers in states like Louisiana and Maryland have dropped requirements from admissions applications asking students to declare prior felony convictions.

Marc Cohen, president of the State University of New York Student Assembly and a student trustee on the SUNY Board of Trustees, said the assembly passed a resolution in support of “ban the box” because of research showing those policies affect historically marginalized communities.

“Now instead of admissions, we're talking about financial aid, and the same logic applies,” he said.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy was originally formed in response to the FAFSA question on student drug convictions. The group won a significant victory in 2006 when the aid restrictions were scaled back by Congress. Executive Director Betty Aldworth said HEA reauthorization is a chance to push for its complete elimination.

SSDP believes the ongoing opioid crisis, which has drawn bipartisan interest in crafting a federal solution, should add even more relevance to the FAFSA issue. And the group says that rehabilitative resources should go to individuals actually struggling with drug abuse, Aldworth said.

She said the vast majority of college students caught using drugs don’t have a problem with abuse. Having them go through a rehabilitation program to restore student aid eligibility is a misuse of resource, she said. But for students possibly dealing with legitimate drug problems, losing the ability to pay for college hurts their chances of succeeding, Aldworth said.

“What we do know for sure is one of the most critical factors for any person who is teetering on that edge between occasional use and chronic misuse of drugs is having solid connections and hope for the future,” she said.

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Literature nonprofit brings a book club to the workplace

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 03/07/2018 - 08:00

Reading serious literature isn't the norm among American adults these days. But nonprofit Books@Work hopes to encourage adults to continue to read and learn after they have left formal schooling by organizing literature discussions in the workplace.

“Many adults are undereducated,” said Ann Kowal Smith, who started the organization in 2010. “It’s about getting them back into the system as lifelong learners.”

Books@Work pays college professors to lead literature seminars for employees at a rate of $500 for four one-hour sessions. The professors are also paid a stipend to account for transportation. Each hourlong weekly class, usually spanning three months, contains a discussion of three narrative texts. The seminars do not culminate in a grade, and professors don't need to mark papers or exams. The programs cost about $5,000 each and are paid by the employer.

Instructors are selected by location: once the organization decides to hold a seminar in a certain place, it contacts the local colleges to find interested professors, Smith said. Instructors participating in the program have come from private and public institutions, including American University, Cleveland State University, Beloit College, Arizona State University and Oberlin College.

Laura Baudot, an associate professor of English at Oberlin, has taught four monthlong Books@Work sessions since being introduced to the program last year. Baudot said that teaching adults in the workplace has helped her figure out how a postsecondary liberal arts education "fits into the wider world." Among the texts Baudot has taught are short stories by John Steinbeck and Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly (now a critically acclaimed movie). Baudot has taught the program in several companies.

"As we lose faith in the value of it for undergraduates, employers are seeking it out," Baudot said.

Books@Work has held courses in a range of industries, including manufacturing, health care, food services, technology and even higher education itself. In spring 2016, Books@Work started a seminar at Ohio’s Case Western Reserve University. The college currently offers two literature courses to faculty and staff alike.

“It allows faculty and staff from all over the university to come together and read a book,” Mary Ann Dobbins, wellness coordinator at Case Western Reserve said in a video. “When you talk about a book, when you talk about themes from books with people who you don’t normally interact with, you get to really know people deep down.” Several classes have continued to meet after their sessions have concluded, without the instructor, Dobbins said.

The seminars, Smith said, are a “safe space,” encouraging employees to have important conversations about race, religion and politics. “What we find is that the books are wonderful venues or vehicles to have these conversations,” Smith said.

Since its founding, Books@Work's instructors have led discussions on nearly 600 books representing a range of genres, including classic, contemporary, Western, non-Western, fiction, nonfiction, poetry and short stories. Some texts Books@Work continues to use include Franz Kafka’s A Hunger Artist, James McBride’s The Color of Water, Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Chinua Achebe’s Dead Men’s Path.

To Smith, the “ideal books and stories” involve “interesting characters, often with a moral dilemma or an ethical dilemma.” In response, participants often “take very different views of the story,” which “lends itself to the comparison of ideas, and different perspectives,” Smith said.

Daniel Contofalsky, a program participant who worked in manufacturing, said in a video that the program helped him think about a text in a different way.

“Everyone kind of brings in their own thing,” Contofalsky said. “I know we’ve had multiple times where it’s like, here’s how I read something, and then it’s fun to, you know, talk to somebody else, and they’re like, yeah, I read it this way, and it’s like, all right, I never would have thought of it that way, but now that you say that, I see that.”

Books@Work also holds seminars for community members in Ohio, where the organization was founded, including veterans, urban parents and nonteaching staff in public schools, as well as police officers and other residents.

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Colleges announce commencement speakers

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 03/07/2018 - 08:00
  • Assumption College: The Reverend Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
  • Baldwin Wallace University: Janet L. Kavandi, director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's John H. Glenn Research Center.
  • Canisius College: Allegra C. Jaros, president of the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital; and Norma J. Nowak, executive director of the Center for Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences at the University at Buffalo, of the State University of New York.
  • Colgate University: Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
  • Fisher College: Paul Francisco, chief diversity officer and head of work-force development programs at State Street Corporation.
  • Goucher College: April D. Ryan, political analyst for CNN and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks.
  • Harvard University: U.S. Representative John Lewis.
  • Lafayette College: Marcia Bloom Bernicat, U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh.
  • Radford University: U.S. Senator Tim Kaine.
  • Swarthmore College: Edgar Cahn, the poet; Sonia Sanchez, the poet and activist; and Francisco Valero-Cuevas, professor of biomedical engineering, biokinesiology and physical therapy at the University of Southern California.
  • University of the Arts: Kevin Beggs, chairman of the Lionsgate Television Group; and Lorna Simpson, the visual artist.
  • Virginia Tech: Governor Ralph Northam.
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New study says graduate students' mental health is a "crisis"

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 03/06/2018 - 08:00

Several studies suggest that graduate students are at greater risk for mental health issues than those in the general population. This is largely due to social isolation, the often abstract nature of the work and feelings of inadequacy -- not to mention the slim tenure-track job market. But a new study in Nature Biotechnology warns, in no uncertain terms, of a mental health “crisis” in graduate education.

“Our results show that graduate students are more than six times as likely to experience depression and anxiety as compared to the general population,” the study says, urging action on the part of institutions. “It is only with strong and validated interventions that academia will be able to provide help for those who are traveling through the bioscience workforce pipeline.”

The paper is based on a survey including clinically validated scales for anxiety and depression, deployed to students via email and social media. The survey’s 2,279 respondents were mostly Ph.D. candidates (90 percent), representing 26 countries and 234 institutions. Some 56 percent study humanities or social sciences, while 38 percent study the biological and physical sciences. Two percent are engineering students and 4 percent are enrolled in other fields.

Some 39 percent of respondents scored in the moderate-to-severe depression range, as compared to 6 percent of the general population measured previously with the same scale.

Consistent with other research on nonstudent populations, transgender and gender-nonconforming graduate students, along with women, were significantly more likely to experience anxiety and depression than their cisgender male counterparts: the prevalence of anxiety and depression in transgender or gender-nonconforming graduate students was 55 percent and 57 percent, respectively. Among cis students, 43 percent of women had anxiety and 41 percent were depressed. That’s compared to 34 percent of cis men reporting symptoms of anxiety and 35 percent showing signs of depression.

Because work-life balance is associated with physical and mental well-being, and little is known about it in the graduate trainee population, the authors asked respondents if they agreed that their work-life balance was “good.” Of the graduate students who experienced moderate to severe anxiety, 56 percent did not agree, versus 24 percent who did. Among graduate students with depression, more than half (55 percent) did not agree with the statement (21 percent agreed).

The authors take those findings to mean that good work-life balance is “significantly correlated with better mental health outcomes.”

Graduate students’ relationships with their advisers or principal investigators are also known to impact the quality of their experience, so the study included questions about that, too.

The authors say they were alarmed to discover that that among graduate students with anxiety or depression, half did not agree that their immediate mentors provided “real” mentorship (about one-third of both groups agreed with that statement). Responses were roughly similar to questions about whether advisers and PIs provided ample support and whether they positively impacted students’ emotional mental well-being.

More than half of those who experienced anxiety or depression did not agree that their advisers or PIs were assets to their careers or that they felt valued by their mentor.

“These data indicate that strong, supportive and positive mentoring relationships between graduate students and their PI/advisors correlate significantly with less anxiety and depression,” the authors say.

Source: Nathan Vanderford

While some respondents with a history of anxiety or depression may have been more apt to respond to the survey, given the study’s design, the authors say their data should still “prompt both academia and policy makers to consider intervention strategies.”

The “strikingly high rates of anxiety and depression support a call to action to establish and/or expand mental health and career development resources for graduate students through enhanced resources within career development offices, faculty training and a change in the academic culture,” the study reads.

The authors suggest that institutions follow a successful National Institutes of Health program “train the trainer” model, in which faculty members and administrators are trained by mental health professionals to recognize and respond to students’ needs, providing referrals as needed. The same model could be used by career development professionals to train faculty members to help today’s Ph.D.s compete in the “vast and ever-changing job market,” they added.

Perhaps less simple, the study advocates a “shift in the culture within academia to eliminate the stigma [surrounding mental health issues] and ensure that students are not reluctant to communicate openly with their faculty advisors.” The authors do note that many in academe have spoken out about their own struggles. Yet, they say, fears of not gaining tenure or otherwise being judged by colleagues remain.

The paper also pushes for work-life balance, which it acknowledges is “hard to attain in a culture where it is frowned upon to leave the laboratory before the sun goes down,” especially in an ever-competitive funding environment. Faculty and administrators must nevertheless “set a tone of self-care as well as an efficient and mindful work ethic” to move the dial, they say.

Nathan Vanderford, assistant professor of toxicology and cancer biology at the University of Kentucky and assistant dean for academic development at its College of Medicine, co-wrote the study with colleagues across several campuses and disciplines. Noting that graduate students’ work supports much of what faculty members do, Vanderford said Monday that the sustainability of higher education depends on a “vulnerable population.”

So “we must put into place mechanisms that support our students’ current and future career outcomes,” he said. And as a foundation for that, he added, “we should be providing much better mental health care resources -- including interventions that can help those who may not otherwise seek help.”

Over all, Vanderford said, his and his colleagues’ work points to a “fragility in higher education,” in that underlying high rates of mental health issues among graduate students also likely extend to faculty and other campus groups, based on previous research.

And so the question becomes, “At what cost do we allow this to occur?”

Frederik Anseel, a professor of organizational behavior and a vice dean for research at King’s College London who studied graduate student health in Belgium, said whether there is a “crisis” in graduate student mental health is a “very important question.”

Social media is “flooded” with stories and testimonials, and Anseel’s own related study in Research Policy made it to No. 2 on the Altimetric Top 100 of 2017, he said. So “clearly something is going on.” Yet Anseel said academics should resist the urge to divide themselves into “believers” and “nonbelievers” in any crisis and seek out the “the most compelling and robust data and evidence for the problem,” if there is one.

We’re not there yet, he said, noting that his own study of Belgian graduate students suffered from the same possible selection bias among respondents as Vanderford’s. (He also faulted the new study for asking students to directly comment on their PIs’ impact on their mental health, but praised it for its diverse pool of respondents from different countries, institutions and disciplines.) At the same time, Anseel said, “I’m not sure if we can wait to take action. Studies and especially intervention studies take years to conduct and to evaluate. In the meanwhile, people are suffering and are dropping out.”

Anseel said his reply to skeptics thus far has been, “Given that there are at least strong indications that a substantial group of people are suffering, wouldn’t it be worthwhile to at least examine in your own organization what the problem is, and make sure that you have policies in place to deal with problems if they arise?”

Skeptics aside, Anseel said he’s noticed a “change” and increased “openness” in recent months, evidenced by a constant stream of invitations to talk on campuses about his findings and to assist in developing monitoring and prevention practices.

“In all honesty, there’s no way we can keep this up,” Anseel said of meeting the demand. “We’re now looking for more external funding to set up a team to try to deal with all these requests in a more structural and systematic way.”

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Students interrupt several portions of speech by Christina Hoff Sommers

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 03/06/2018 - 08:00

Christina Hoff Sommers has for years been a critic of the women's movement -- and has in turn been criticized by many feminists. She has accused feminists of an ideology that hurts boys and men. Feminists accuse her of distorting their ideas.

She is known for pithy quotes that endear her to many critics of campus political movements but that advocates for women say oversimplify at best. Her lead quote on her Twitter feed is "Want to close wage gap? Step one: Change your major from feminist dance therapy to electrical engineering."

Of late, Sommers has spoken critically of the campus response to sexual assaults, questioning the concept of "rape culture." In a New York Times interview last year, she said that the push against sexual assault has "infantilized" women, and that "equity feminism," which she supports, has been replaced by "victim feminism" and "fainting couch feminism."

On Monday, Sommers spoke at the law school of Lewis & Clark College. Prior to her speech, a small group of protesters attempted to block access to the room, prompting the college to lead those who wanted to hear Sommers around to a back entrance. Then at the beginning of the speech and at various points throughout, protesters interrupted Sommers, although there were sustained periods when Sommers was able to talk.

At one point, the protesting students (a minority of those in attendance) sang, "Which side are you on, friends? Which side are you on? No platform for fascists, no platform at all. We will fight for justice until Christina's gone."

Protesters start singing again about no-platforming fascists. @CHSommers looks at audience in dismay. pic.twitter.com/STw1DhYFqi

— Andy C. Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) March 5, 2018

At the beginning of the event, protesters prevented Sommers from talking by shouting, "Rape culture is not a myth," "Microaggressions are real," "The gender wage gap is real," "Trans lives matter," "Black lives matter" and other chants.

The students, some of whom had asked Lewis & Clark to rescind the invitation, accused the college and the law school of endorsing Sommers's views by giving her a platform to talk. Sommers was invited by the Federalist Society, a self-described conservative student group at Lewis & Clark.

The incident at Lewis & Clark comes at a time when higher education continues to discuss whether colleges are tolerant of all ideas and visiting speakers, and especially ideas voiced by those who go against the grain of widely shared views on campuses.

Janet Steverson, a law professor and dean of diversity and inclusion at the law school, said in an interview Monday night that the students who blocked the entrances to the auditorium and who interrupted Sommers violated college rules. She said that she anticipated "consequences" for those students but that she did not know what those would be.

Steverson stressed that it was only a minority of students who disrupted and that Sommers was given the opportunity to speak.

Sommers, on Twitter, criticized Steverson for asking her to cut short her remarks and move to the question period. Steverson said she did so to promote an orderly discussion. She said she was worried that Sommers was going on too long and that the question period would be minimal. Steverson said the argument she and others made to students not to disrupt was premised in part on the idea that students would be able to question Sommers.

"I could see the students getting antsy," Steverson said, explaining why she asked Sommers to move quickly to the question period.

Steverson said that, at another point when some were disrupting, she asked them to stop so that their classmates could ask questions. "I think it worked out as well as it could have."

Steverson said it was important to understand that some of those protesting Sommers viewed her as personally attacking those who have reported sexual assaults. "This is a very personal thing," she said

At the same time, Steverson said that while there are many grounds on which to criticize Sommers, she did not think it appropriate to call her a fascist, as the protesting students did repeatedly. "In the law school it is important to define the terms that you are using and apply the facts to support the allegations that you have made," she said.

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Stanford students challenge Apple on iPhone addiction

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 03/06/2018 - 08:00

Few universities have closer ties to Silicon Valley and more love for technology than Stanford University. Walk around its beautiful campus and it's hard to find a student who isn't using or carrying a smartphone. But students there -- computer science majors, no less -- have started a protest movement urging Apple to help its customers put down their phones.

The student group, called Stanford Students Against Addictive Devices, recently held demonstrations outside Apple’s headquarters and its Palo Alto, Calif., store to draw attention to the issue of smartphone addiction.

The students held signs such as “Honk! If you’re addicted to your iPhone.”

Led by four computer science majors, the group said they were inspired to act after taking a mandatory course in ethical issues in computer science.

Though the class encouraged students to engage with the public, the students said they weren’t protesting for credit.

“We realized that we ourselves, and many of our friends, have issues with device dependence,” said Cameron Ramos, one of the students leading the group. “We thought that reaching out to Apple and engaging with consumers directly would be the best way to raise awareness about this issue.”

On the SSAAD website, the students point to research that shows excessive use of smartphones can have serious implications for people’s mental and physical health.

“It’s an important public health issue, and something that we think needs to be addressed,” said Ramos. “We want people to start talking about this in Silicon Valley and beyond.”

Divyahans Gupta, another SSAAD leader, said the issue was not unique to Apple but the group chose to target the company because where they lead, other companies will follow. He noted that the group’s intention is to be friendly rather than aggressive. They want to start a conversation. “We’re reaching out to Apple to say, ‘Hey, you could help on this,’” said Gupta.

Part of the group’s request to Apple is that the company make it easier for users to track how much they are using their phones. “We want Apple to include something like the Health App on every iPhone, except instead of counting steps, it could track how much time you spend on Snapchat or Facebook,” said Evan Sabri Eyuboglu, another group leader.

The group also wants to see the introduction of an “essential mode” that would limit phone use to just basic functions, and a way to give users more fine-grained control over their notifications.

Though the group is looking to Apple to help its users tackle excessive phone use, the students said there are steps that people can take on their own -- including tracking how long they spend on their phone and switching to view the phone in grayscale, so that the screen is less stimulating.

The students said that the reception to their demonstration outside Apple HQ was positive. Apple engineers were empathetic to their cause and took home their leaflets. Some even suggested the group come back with bigger signs. “It was great,” said Gupta. Apple officials did not respond to requests for comment for this article

Earlier this year, two of Apple’s largest shareholders wrote an open letter to the company urging it to take steps to curb how much time children and young people spend on devices.

This letter referenced research by Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of a book called iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy -- and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood. Twenge’s research has shown links between excessive smartphone use and anxiety and depression.

Twenge said that the students’ suggestions to Apple to help limit phone use were sensible, but her No. 1 suggestion would be to automatically shut phones down at night to encourage better sleep -- with exceptions such as permitting emergency calls.

Whether someone can truly be addicted to their smartphone is debated by academics, said Twenge. “In my view the negative effects of spending too much time on these devices are considerable, whether we call it addiction or overuse,” she said.

Apple, perhaps more than other cellphone manufacturers, is aware of the dangers of smartphone overuse and is working on solutions, said Twenge. But she notes that getting social media companies to engage on the issue will be a “tougher sell,” as their revenue model is dependent on keeping people on their apps.

“Hopefully, they’ll start to take action for the health of their users,” said Twenge.

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Anti-gay slurs common in college sports, but few are speaking out against them

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 03/06/2018 - 08:00

PHILADELPHIA -- College athletes who hear anti-gay insults or remarks won’t often call it out, even though it’s happening frequently.

At least, that’s according to research presented at the annual NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education conference, where issues of inclusion are particularly popular topics.

Gay athletes, once completely stigmatized in the realm of college sports, have emerged much more prominently, with a record-setting six out football players in the 2017 season across the three National Collegiate Athletic Association divisions.

Still, some of the old prejudices or discomfort around sexuality in athletics seem to linger.

Only a small percentage of athletes -- less than 10 percent -- reported not hearing slurs against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer people, according to a study of more than 150 heterosexual athletes conducted in part by Christi McGeorge, professor in the North Dakota State University department of human development and family science. She and Russ Toomey, an associate professor of family studies and human development at the University of Arizona, interviewed players at two NCAA Division I institutions. The survey was about remarks heard while participating in their chosen sports.

Students either didn’t feel the need to defend LGBTQ students, or they did but reported feeling unsure of how to speak up or were fearful they would be attacked for their views, McGeorge found.

In an interview after the NASPA session, a deep dive into some of the data collected on gay athletes, McGeorge said her research shows that it’s not enough that athletes recognize anti-LGBTQ slurs. Institutions must add training around intervening in these cases -- “active bystander” education, she said.

“We're seeing seven in 10 people say, 'I'm hearing anti-LGBT slurs,' but we're also hearing that they're not doing anything about it,” McGeorge said, adding that the problem is not just confined to athletics. Research shows that students across campus aren’t stopping LGBTQ bullying, she said, but the problems are unique and sometimes exacerbated on the playing field.

"Now we need to train them in action," McGeorge said.

McGeorge also asked a series of 75 or so questions to classify whether students were LGBTQ allies -- the students didn’t get to self-identify as supportive to their nonstraight peers. Through her criteria, McGeorge determined that 57 percent of the athletes surveyed were not truly LGBTQ allies -- another 36 percent of athletes were supportive but not visible with their views. Only 7 percent of college players demonstrated they were allies and also shared that view.

The NCAA has done some work on this front. It has sponsored Common Ground, a think tank of both administrators and students from institutions across the board to come up with ideas with improving the experience of LGBTQ athletes, and published “Champions of Respect,” a lengthy report on gay athletes in all divisions.

A fall 2017 survey of NCAA Division III institutions was more optimistic than McGeorge’s data, though attendees noted that administrators and students filled out a survey instead of participating in a study like McGeorge’s. Thus, the results could skew more favorable.

About 80 percent of the administrators and two-thirds of the student athletes in that survey identified as allies of LGBTQ people and 75 percent believed their department or athletics conference was completely free from LGBTQ discrimination.

McGeorge’s presentation also listed several ways to promote an LGBTQ-inclusive athletics department. Among them were having a specific nondiscrimination policy in the athletics department and holding yearly, mandatory training for staffers and on codes of conduct.

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New presidents or provosts: Cincinnati Columbus Eastern Idaho Hong Kong John Carroll Kirkwood Lake County Limestone OSU-OKC

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 03/06/2018 - 08:00
  • Rick Aman, interim president of the College of Eastern Idaho, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Deborah Bordelon, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Governors State University, in Illinois, has been chosen as provost and executive vice president of Columbus State University, in Georgia.
  • Michael D. Johnson, provost of Babson College, in Massachusetts, has been appointed president of John Carroll University, in Ohio.
  • Kristi A. Nelson, interim provost at the University of Cincinnati, has been appointed senior vice president for academic affairs and provost there.
  • Darrell Franklin Parker, dean and professor of economics at Western Carolina University, in North Carolina, has been selected as president of Limestone College, in South Carolina.
  • Lori M. Suddick, vice president of learning and chief academic officer at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, has been appointed president of College of Lake County.
  • Lori Sundberg, president of Carl Sandburg College, in Illinois, has been chosen as president of Kirkwood Community College, in Iowa.
  • Brad Williams, vice president of student services at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City, has been promoted to president there.
  • Xiang Zhang, Ernest Kuh Endowed Chair Professor and director of the Nano Scale Science and Engineering Center at the University of California, Berkeley, has been named president and vice chancellor of the University of Hong Kong.
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"Contra-power" harassment of professors by students isn't that common, but it's real

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 03/05/2018 - 08:00

Academe’s Me Too movement has thus far focused on professors harassing students, or senior professors harassing junior professors. And that makes sense, given the obvious power differential between those groups: in many cases, students depend on faculty members for not only grades but mentorship, recommendations and professional opportunities. Much the same can be said for the dynamic between junior and senior faculty members. Yet a recent case highlights the fact that professors, too, may be vulnerable to abuse by students.

Last week, a judge issued a temporary restraining order against a student at Florida SouthWestern State College accused of harassing and stalking a faculty member. The history instructor, Matthew Vivyan, asked the court for the order after his college issued the student a no-contact order, which she allegedly violated multiple times via email.

According to Vivyan’s petition to the court, Sofia Diaz was a student of his in the fall. Starting in January, he says, “she began making inappropriate comments to me when she would stop by my office,” sometimes with “sexual overtones.” Diaz allegedly began sending Vivyan emails about her clairvoyant visions, some of which were threatening or hostile, such as “The rest of your life awaits you. I’m waiting, idiot.” Vivyan says other emails referred to his personal life, one of which mentioned his sister by name but confused her with someone Diaz believed to be his ex-girlfriend. Another said he has a baby with a woman and demanded that he take a paternity test, but Vivyan says that relationship is imagined. Yet another emailed accused Vivyan’s parents of abusing him.

“Diaz has made my life miserable,” the petition says. “I am fearful for my safety, I dread opening my emails and I fear my professional future due to her threats.”

Vivyan did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Diaz told the local News-Press, which has been covering the case, that she hadn’t “been convicted of anything, and I already have people looking at me different.”

The allegations are “affecting my job,” she added. “It's really sad how people will believe things, and they don't even know if they are true or not.”

Florida SouthWestern State issued Diaz a trespass warning last week, according to the News-Press. Vivyan’s petition says that Diaz is suspended, but the college did not confirm that.

Elusive Data

Statistically speaking, the most common kind of sexual misconduct on college and university campuses is student-on-student harassment or assault. And again, students are more vulnerable to abuse from professors than professors are to abuse from students. But student-on-faculty harassment -- what’s known as academic contra-power harassment -- exists.

There is relatively little recent research on the topic, at least as compared to quid pro quo harassment in academe, in which someone with institutionally conferred power hints at or demands sexual favors in exchange for professional ones. But a 2012 study of 524 professors in the NASPA Journal About Women in Higher Education found that 91 percent reported at least one act of student incivility or bullying and 25 percent experienced at least one “sexual behavior” from a student. Women, racial minorities, younger faculty members and those with less experience and credentials reported more such instances, and more women than men reported a “serious incident” of student incivility, bullying, aggression or sexual attention during their careers.

A related 2016 study found that female professors reported significantly more negative outcomes as a result of contra-power harassment, such as anxiety, stress-related illness, difficulty concentrating or wanting to quit, than their male peers. Male professors were more likely to highlight experiences with sexual harassment in particular than were women, who recalled more disrespectful or disruptive student behaviors.

Claudia Lampman, interim vice provost for student success and a professor of psychology at the University of Alaska at Anchorage, wrote the 2012 study and co-wrote the 2016 one. She said via email that there are “many different types of power” and that contra-power harassment sometimes stems from sociocultural imbalances. So women and minority professors “are more likely to be threatened and challenged by students -- usually white males,” she said. 

“When men faculty are sexually harassed, it usually takes the form of a request -- an exchange of sex for grades, for example. In this case, the student doing it is using their sexual capital,” she added. So it’s not about power as much as it is about “desperation.”

Brett Sokolow, executive director of the Association of Title IX Administrators, said that allegations from faculty members of sexual harassment by students have “ticked up,” of late, “given the overall sensitivities to misconduct within academia.” But they remain rare, he said, making up approximately 2 percent of the harassment allegations his organization sees.

Beyond it being relatively unusual, Sokolow said that many faculty members also still hesitate to report contra-power harassment, out of concern that doing so will “make them look like ineffective classroom managers.” But an increasing number of male professors are coming forward to pre-emptively report “awkward” interactions with students, he said, “or making sure we are aware of sexual come-ons from students, and that they turned the student down.”

Sokolow said these faculty members may be fearful that a “refusal” will be turned against them, and so wish to go on record with their institutions’ Title IX offices.

William Kidder, interim associate vice president for Title IX and strategic initiatives at Sonoma State University, has studied harassment in academe. His research has focused on faculty or administrators harassing students, as the disparity in power “accentuates the risks and vulnerabilities around sexual harassment,” he said. Yet he’s seen contra-power harassment multiple times over his career as an administrator, against teaching assistants as well as professors.

Student Accountability

As for consequences, Kidder said that most public and private institutions will hold students accountable for contra-power harassment, since student codes generally cover misconduct directed at anyone affiliated with the college or university.

Enforcement of such codes can be difficult where student-on-faculty harassment involves anonymity, however, he said -- such as when students write inappropriate or harassing comments in their evaluations of professors’ teaching. When that happens, junior and midcareer female professors are disproportionately targeted, Kidder said, echoing other research on biases in student evaluations (though he noted male professors are targeted in this way, too).

Sokolow said that students “may wield some power” in some instances, but not the institutional power “at the heart” of a quid pro quo claim. So faculty reports of harassment by students much more typically get classified as hostile environment claims.

Title IX coordinators take such claims as seriously as they would student-on-student claims, Sokolow said. And frequently, the same standards, policies and procedures will apply to “any harassment by a student, regardless of whether they have targeted another student, faculty member or other employee.”

Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary for academic freedom, tenure and governance at the American Association of University Professors, said his organization can aid professors harassed by students, but that it isn’t often asked to do so.

As for whether the same standards of conduct that apply to professors should apply to students, Tiede said yes -- generally. Sexual harassment “should not be tolerated by members of either group,” he said, and both accused professors and students should receive appropriate due process following a complaint.

Not all complaints get the same kind of institutional attention, however. Last year, for example, an adjunct at a public university wrote anonymously for Inside Higher Ed’s “Conditionally Accepted” blog, recounting being harassed by a male student at a former campus.

“At one point, he locked me in my own office and tried to proposition me,” the adjunct wrote. “In the aftermath, I experienced firsthand how little the administration at my institution seemed to know about sexual assault and harassment, as well as how few concrete procedures were in place to help me and others in my position to deal with being assaulted or harassed.”

Advice From a Fellow Professor

The institution's webpage had little information on what to do, the adjunct wrote, and “when I reached out to my colleagues in the administration and on the faculty, for the most part, they also turned a blind eye to my situation. Meanwhile, the harassment did not stop. I felt alone, scared and unprotected.”

The adjunct didn’t give up, however, and said the institution changed its related polices and procedures as a result. Among other tips, the adjunct advised fellow professors who are harassed by students to search out campus Title IX procedures and to make sure that all communication with the student is in writing via email, to serve as permanent date and time stamps.

“Remember that you do not have to allow yourself to be revictimized. You do not have to continue to sit in meetings telling your story over and over again,” the adjunct wrote. “You do have the right to legal counsel. File a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office in your state if you feel your case has not been handled appropriately by your employer.”

Lampman said campuses should aim to build cultures of respect, in which students are told there doesn't have to be "a power differential for sexual harassment to occur. It is not ok even if your professor ostensibly has more power."

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DACA continues for now, but colleges and students face uncertainties

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 03/05/2018 - 08:00

Today was supposed to be a last-ditch deadline for Congress to act if it wanted to keep the protections provided by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in place. Two nationwide court injunctions blocking the Trump administration from ending DACA are temporarily keeping much of the program alive, but with no legislative solution in sight, uncertainty about the long-term prospects for the hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers who have benefited from the program continues.

To recap: DACA, established by former president Obama in 2012, offers temporary protection against deportation and also provides work authorization to a subset of young undocumented immigrants, including many current or former college students, who were brought to the U.S. as children. In September, the Trump administration announced plans to gradually end the program, arguing that the establishment of DACA represented an unconstitutional overreach of Obama’s executive power, a conclusion many legal scholars disagree with.

While it would not terminate existing grants of DACA status, which is valid for two years, the Trump administration said in September it would not accept renewal requests for individuals whose benefits were set to expire after March 5 -- today -- meaning that an ever-increasing number of DACA recipients would start to lose their protections and work authorization as early as tomorrow. Trump at the time said that Congress had six months to act to, in his words, “legalize DACA.”

It has not yet done so. Democrats in Congress forced two brief government shutdowns over the issue, but Congress subsequently passed a two-year budget bill that included many Democratic priorities, but no solution on Dreamers. The Senate subsequently voted on three different bills to codify protections for Dreamers. All of the bills failed.

President Trump’s own stance has also shifted. After initially indicating that he would sign whatever bill Congress brought him, Trump began to insist that legislation to protect Dreamers include concessions anathema to many Democrats in Congress, those being: $25 billion for a southern border wall, the elimination of the diversity visa lottery program and new restrictions on family-based immigration.

All of that brings us to today and the question of what colleges can do to assist students with DACA status during this prolonged period of uncertainty. Many college presidents and higher education groups have been active in lobbying for a path to permanent residency or citizenship for these students, and concerns about the possible deportations of Dreamers in the months immediately following Trump's election spurred many colleges to declare themselves "sanctuary campuses" or otherwise articulate commitments that they or their police forces would not voluntarily cooperate with immigration enforcement (while leaving open the possibility that they could be compelled to do so).

“I think we need to look in two different directions,” said Dorothy Leland, chancellor of the University of California, Merced, which she said enrolls about 600 undocumented students, most of whom have DACA protections. “We need to continue to advocate and lobby for a permanent legislative solution, but we also need to think ahead about how can we best protect our students if that doesn’t happen.”

“The most important thing is if they lose their right to work, to find ways to supplement their financial aid packages without the use of state or federal dollars, so through private sources,” Leland said. DACA recipients are not eligible for federal financial aid, and their eligibility for state aid varies.

“We’ve been looking for people who are willing to support our undocumented students. The limbo that our students are in also affects our potential donors in that they don’t know what’s going to happen or if the dollars will be needed. But I know that I have some folks ready to go should there not be a permanent legislative solution and the courts’ decisions don’t go our way,” Leland said.

If it comes to deportations, Leland added that colleges will have "several other things to think about. First, funding for legal defense funds for our students and, secondly, how we may help them to complete their education in the country that they are now in … Many colleges and universities have student exchange relationships [with institutions in other countries]. So in those countries where our students end up, in the worst-case scenario if they were deported, how can we leverage those already existing relationships to help them complete their degrees?"

The Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, for which Leland sits on the steering committee, noted in a memo it sent to its members last week that the March 5 deadline still has real consequences for DACA recipients whose status was set to expire after today’s date and who were unable to apply for renewal until after the first of the two court injunctions ordered in January. “That means that every day after March 5th, large numbers of DACA recipients whose status expires will no longer have protections against deportation and will lose their work authorizations unless or until their renewals are approved and they receive new documents,” the memo states.

“In pragmatic, real terms, there are going to be numerous DACA recipients who are going to experience gaps in their work authorization, in knowing that they are protected from deportations,” said Miriam Feldblum, the founding executive director of the alliance. In its recent memo, the alliance recommends that colleges consider a number of actions to support their students with DACA protections, including locating funds to help them pay the $495 fee to renew their DACA status, connecting them with legal resources and “sharing information regarding what happens if their work authorization lapses, including reviewing both the rights of employees and the responsibilities of the institution, and opportunities for non-employment based fellowship funding or other kinds of financial assistance on campus.”

“I do think continuing support services around mental health, peer support, ally training, education for people on campus about what this means is all very important, too,” said Feldblum, who’s on sabbatical from her position as vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Pomona College. “But we don’t want to forget that there are some new needs that are coming up around applying for DACA, around really thinking even more so than in the past about legal resources, making sure that your campus is ready to understand what it means when a student or others have a gap in their work authorization.”

Feldblum acknowledged that there are limitations to what a college can do, and that it will vary across institutions. “What I hear from students often is, ‘what we want to know is what you can do; just share with us that information. So is there some financial assistance and if so what does that look like what do we need to do?’ And I think students also well understand when colleges and universities can’t do more. So what I think what colleges and universities can do is try to be as clear with information as possible with their impacted populations.”

Catie McCorry-Andalis, the associate vice president and dean of students at the University of Texas at El Paso, which is located on the U.S.-Mexico border, leads that university’s DACA response team. She said the advice they’re giving to DACA recipients is threefold. “First and foremost, continue going to school. There’s no reason for them not to continue to go to school. They can absolutely still do that, and they are.”

“Second of all, take advantage of the resources we have on campus,” like the counseling center, McCorry-Andalis said. “Three, the other part of it is understanding their rights and continuing to know that there are services to support them, not only here on campus but in our community.” She added that UTEP has a lot of resources in place to assist students who are struggling financially, including a food pantry. The academic advising office also employs social workers who help students with financial issues. Though these services are not specific to students with DACA status, they’re ones they can take advantage of.

“As far as options if they can’t work, we’re still trying to sort that out,” McCorry-Andalis said. “I know some campuses have had conversations about additional scholarships to offset that. We’re working through all of that, but there’s so many unknowns it’s hard to even come up with a plan.”

“Right now the best that we can do is [tell students], ‘you currently have DACA status, it hasn’t been rescinded yet, do all you can to complete your studies,’” said Lenore P. Rodicio, the executive vice president and provost of Miami Dade College, which has about 400 DACA students enrolled, about 100 of whom are projected to graduate this spring. “On our end we’ve been doing a lot of advocacy with our legislators to open their eyes into supporting the students and finding a permanent solution for them.”

“If, heaven forbid, the program is terminated, then at that point we would work with the students to help connect them with resources to help resolve their individual situations. We’ll do what we can to help support them in that transition, but hopefully our legislators will find a permanent solution to help these students,” Rodicio said.

Boe Mendewala, a fourth-year Ph.D. student studying physics at Merced, recently traveled to Washington with Leland to lobby for a permanent solution for DACA recipients such as herself.

“There was a lot of support in D.C. for a solution, but it seems to be just not going through. Everyone we talked to seems to support it, but it’s just not getting done for whatever reason,” she said. “It’s frustrating and it’s scary for a lot of people, especially people whose DACA is set to expire soon.”

Mendewala, who came to the U.S. from India when she was 5 years old, said her DACA status is set to expire in April 2019. Her goal is to graduate next spring and find a job in a national lab or in industry. She studies properties of materials used in solar energy technologies.

“With an April expiration date on my DACA, if I’m not able to renew that or if I have no way to continue with a work permit, then I may not be able to finish the program, and even if I do finish the program, I’ll have a Ph.D. and I won’t be able to use it for any kind of job, because I won’t have a work permit,” she said.

Asked what colleges can do, Mendewala said, “I’m really lucky to be at a school that is very supportive of its DACA population, but obviously not every school is like that. I guess what I would want other universities to do is to follow the example of University of California, Merced, and to take the time to listen to these students because they feel like they’re not being heard anywhere else, especially by the government and their communities. Listen to their concerns and, if you can, give them assurances that the campus will be a safe place where they don’t have to worry about deportation, that the campus will be supportive either financially if they lose their status or work permit or will provide legal services or psychological services, the kinds of services that students who are living in these really tough, uncertain times will need.”

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President Trump nominates Jon Parrish Peede to lead humanities endowment

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 03/05/2018 - 08:00

President Trump nominated Jon Parrish Peede Friday to become chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Peede has worked at the NEH since April 2017, serving as senior deputy chairman. Since William D. Adams, an appointee of President Obama, stepped down as chairman in May, Peede has been the senior person at the NEH.

In his first two budget proposals, Trump proposed eliminating the NEH, but Congress has rebuffed him.

Peede has experience in the humanities publishing world and in government. He has served as publisher of Virginia Quarterly Review, at the University of Virginia; literature grants director at the National Endowment for the Arts; director of communications at Millsaps College; and an editor at Mercer University Press.

Presidential nominees typically do not give interviews about their thoughts on the agencies they have been selected to lead. But the National Humanities Alliance published an interview with Peede in October in which he discussed the humanities and his career.

He spoke of growing up in a small town in Mississippi and of the importance of literature and the arts in helping people understand their worlds. "We often live in a bifurcated society with those who are engaged in their communities and the world and those who are not, and humanities are a path toward that engagement," he said.

Perhaps reflecting his background in small-town America, Peede said it was important for the NEH to have peer-review panelists "from all 50 states." He believes that when these peer reviewers finish with their panels, they end up encouraging more people in their regions to apply to the NEH for grants.

Peede said he counted among his most important mentors William R. Ferris, who led the NEH during President Clinton's second term in office. Peede earned a master's degree at the University of Mississippi in the Southern studies program Ferris led.

He said he worries about the trend of people earning Ph.D.s in humanities fields and then having difficulty finding good jobs in academe.

"We produce these doctoral students and then we say there are no tenure-track jobs," he said. The answer to the problem may be in careers built -- as his has been -- on master's degrees. Humanities programs need "to create a path" for people to work in humanities-related fields, in publishing, museums, nonprofit groups, he said.

Peede said when he's asked about various M.F.A. programs, he suggests that they look at programs with internships or experiences that prepare people for jobs outside academe.

People who make careers outside academe may also support important work in the humanities, he said. Peede likes reading literature and scholarship "free of jargon," which he called "important for those of us who spend our careers outside the tenure track." Peede described himself as a "generalist" with a strong interest in Southern fiction. He is the co-editor of Inside the Church of Flannery O'Connor: Sacrament, Sacramental, and the Sacred in Her Fiction (Mercer University Press).

With regard to the NEH, Peede said it should be "a catalytic funder" that can encourage "institutional buy-in." He added that in looking at grants, "I don't want to look at anything and only see federal dollars" in a project.

When it comes to examining grants that are awarded, Peede said the NEH has tended to ask for reports on the activities supported by grants, but that he would like to see more information collected on the outcomes of projects.

Asked what he would do if the NEH suddenly had much more money, Peede said he wasn't focused on such questions. He believes it is very important for the endowment to maintain the rigor that is reflected in its grants. He said NEH fellowships, because of their strong reputation, "transform" careers, and he worries that if the NEH expanded the number of fellowships in a significant way, that reputation might be eroded.

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College of Idaho hires co-presidents, breaking with higher ed tradition

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 03/05/2018 - 08:00

In October, Doug Brigham called Jim Everett to talk about the College of Idaho's presidential search.

Brigham is the former president of a title and escrow company and the college's former board chair. He had applied for the College of Idaho presidency, but he did not know if Everett, former CEO of the region's YMCA, had also thrown his hat into the ring for the job.

Everett told Brigham he had in fact applied. And Brigham pitched the idea of a co-presidency.

“I said, ‘I’ll tell you what, I have a crazy idea,’” Brigham recalled. “‘If you tell me you don't like it and want to continue to go solo, I'm going to step out of the process.’”

As Brigham tells it, Everett replied that he liked the idea but would need to think about it some more. Ultimately, he agreed, and the College of Idaho, a 960-student private liberal arts college in Western Idaho, announced Feb. 24 that it was hiring both of them.

They will start as co-presidents in April, testing a largely new dynamic at the college presidential level. Although co-presidencies have taken place in business, experts strained to think of a precedent in higher education.

University systems operate with campus presidents, of course. Similar setups exist at a few private colleges, such as St. John’s College having different presidents at its campuses in Annapolis, Md., and Santa Fe, N.M. But two executive types don't always last for very long on a single campus, as evidenced by J. Keith Motley stepping down from the University of Massachusetts at Boston chancellorship last year just months after Bowdoin College's former president, Barry Mills, was brought on as deputy chancellor and chief operating officer.

College of Idaho leaders are well aware the structure is highly unusual. It was one of the major drawbacks the college's search committee and Board of Trustees evaluated, according to Laura Turner, who chairs the board. Trustees discussed whether they could carve out different roles like a CEO and a president or some sort of special assistant's role instead of hiring co-presidents.

“The uniqueness of the structure caused a lot of concern,” Turner said. “Doug and Jim felt strongly that, in any of those other structures, you'd have the No. 1 and No. 2 guy. They wanted to do it as co-presidents because they felt that diminishing one of their roles wasn't useful.”

Trustees were reassured because both Brigham and Everett had served on the college's board -- Brigham until 2017 and Everett about a decade before, Turner said. They've also known each other for decades, crossing paths while holding prominent positions in the region. Brigham served on committees at the Treasure Valley YMCA while Everett was CEO there.

Still, the search committee and trustees wanted to explore the idea in more depth. They formed a subcommittee of the search committee and did a two-month deep dive into how the structure would work.

“The responsibilities and accountability for the organization are clearly defined,” Turner said. “There is a matrix of who in the senior cabinet reports to Doug and who reports to Jim.”

Generally, Brigham will focus more on finance, academic affairs and student affairs, and the directors in those areas are expected to report to him. Enrollment will be shared. Everett will have athletics and college relations reporting to him and is expected to be heavily involved in fund-raising. At the same time, ultimate responsibility for the institution will lie with both presidents. Crossover is likely to take place, particularly when it comes to fund-raising. What college president wouldn't like to have a second version of him or herself to go on donor visits?

The delegation of authority will be key to whether the arrangement can succeed, college leadership and search experts predicted.

“It would be inefficient if the co-presidents had to come to a unified decision about every issue before them,” Susan Resneck Pierce, president emerita of the University of Puget Sound and a consultant for colleges and presidents, said via email. “There of course would be a problem if the co-presidents disagreed about decisions which had implications for both of their areas of responsibility.”

All parties are optimistic that the two presidents' long-standing relationship will allow them to resolve any major disagreements. But in the event of an unsolvable dispute, the plan is for the presidents to bring the issue before the board for settlement.

Such a process comes with the risk of breaking down the traditional firewall between presidential and board responsibilities.

“Having the board chair adjudicate in such circumstances invites another problem: involving the chair in operations rather than strategy and policy,” Pierce said. “Then too the co-presidents will have to guard against a phenomenon that every co-parent will recognize: the end run to the other parent for a more favorable response.”

The mere fact of disagreement could undermine confidence in any resolution. A key attribute leaders must bring to the table is confidence in any decisions, said Dennis Barden, senior partner at the search firm Witt/Kieffer.

A co-presidency isn't necessarily without merits, however. Pierce said the concept might work at the College of Idaho because of what appears to be a long friendship between Brigham and Everett. Barden could see advantages to a leader having a co-president, because presidents often struggle to find others who share their experiences and can offer sound advice.

“Presidents don't have many people they can turn to and get candid, direct, thoughtful and often constructive advice,” Barden said. “That is a real problem. If this partnership is everything they say it is, that will be a very significant benefit.”

Backers and detractors of the co-president idea emerged even before the College of Idaho announced it was trying the idea. In February, Karen Gross wrote a piece for the Aspen Institute arguing for some colleges to consider co-presidents to fill what has become a nearly impossible job for one person. But Inside Higher Ed blogger Matt Reed responded with a list of reasons he prefers single presidents.

While many of the drawbacks to co-presidencies are abstract, revolving around the pitfalls of multiple sources of power or potential conflicts, one appears very real: pay. It will likely be more expensive for colleges to pay two presidents instead of one. That would seem to make the model hard to follow for small or struggling colleges.

The College of Idaho's co-presidents have proposed sharing "one presidential compensation package,” according to the release announcing their hiring. But college officials declined to provide additional information about what their pay would be or whether the cost of benefits is expected to be higher for two presidents than for one.

Former president Marvin Henberg received $290,516 in total compensation in the year ending in June 2015, according to the college's IRS form 990 filed for that year. Its last permanent president, Charlotte Borst, left in 2017 after just two years. Her salary does not appear on the college's tax form for the year ending in June 2016, and more recent forms are not yet available.

Brigham says the co-presidents' priorities once they take over will be enrollment, fund-raising and managing expenses.

Data provided by the college show an enrollment decline in recent years.

Brigham didn't get too far into any specific strategies, because he wants to start the new co-presidency with a listening tour to hear from faculty and staff. So far, though, the increased bandwidth that comes from hiring two presidents has helped with at least one thing -- Everett was on the road in Georgia Friday and was not available for an interview with Inside Higher Ed. But Brigham was.

Time will tell whether the model is successful in other ways.

“Hopefully, like most things, the proof's in the pudding,” Brigham said. “We're not taking any victory laps by any means at this point. We haven't started yet, and we have a lot of work to do.”

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Wesleyan switches graduation speakers amid controversy over author's comments on women

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 03/02/2018 - 08:48

Wesleyan University announced recently that Daniel Handler, an alumnus and the children's author who writes under the name Lemony Snicket, would be this year's commencement speaker. But on Thursday, the university announced a different speaker, Anita Hill, best known for raising charges of sexual harassment against Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings. (Hill had originally been scheduled to receive an honorary degree but not to be the main speaker.)

Handler withdrew amid anger by many Wesleyan students and alumni as they learned of his history of making rude comments to women, and at least one case where he made a racist comment, joking about watermelon right after Jacqueline Woodson had become the first black woman to receive a National Book Award for literature for young people.

Critics said it was inappropriate for Wesleyan to be honoring Handler -- he also would have received an honorary degree -- given his treatment of women.

While reports about Handler's comments to women over the years have apparently been known in parts of the literary world for some time, this history is getting more attention now, amid the Me Too movement and scrutiny of the conduct of many prominent authors.

A recent article in Pacific Standard detailed Handler's history of comments to women. Many of the comments were sexually charged and demeaned or belittled the women. In one instance, riding on a bus with fellow authors at a literary festival, when Handler heard a woman say she was from the Midwest, he shouted, "Are you a virgin, too?"

As the article and various reports circulated, many Wesleyan students and alumni criticizing the invitation to Handler on social media.

One tweet, referencing Michael Roth, Wesleyan's president, said, "Again and again and again, @wesleyan_u and @mroth78 demonstrate that they prioritize Wesleyan's Brand™ over pain inflicted upon actual people. Do not put @DanielHandler up on that stage with Anita Hill. She, and all of the survivors at Wesleyan, deserve so much better."

Posters on campus featured a photograph of Hill at the Thomas confirmation hearings and focused on the irony of having a man accused of demeaning women appear with Hill, a hero to many for sharing her views of Thomas -- years before the Me Too movement brought support for women making such accusations.

"Time is up for workplace harassment," said the poster. "It is an insult to survivors, women, people of color and Dr. Hill to give this honor to Handler. We call for the removal of Handler as commencement speaker."

Roth sent an email to students Thursday, posted to Wesleyan's Facebook page, that said, "Daniel Handler has chosen to withdraw as Wesleyan’s Commencement speaker this May. We’ve agreed that the focus of the event should be on the Class of 2018, their families and the celebration of graduation."

In a comment on a blog, Handler acknowledged the criticisms of his comments.

"It’s come to my attention, far too late due to my own flaky logistics and lack of an internet life, that a number of women are coming forward to address remarks of mine, at various points in time, that have caused them hurt. It has never been my wish to insult any of my professional colleagues. I sincerely, if tardily, apologize," he wrote. "My whole life my sense of humor has not been for everyone, and my books continue to be regarded, by a segment of the population, as inappropriate. As someone who’s been a struggling author, I take seriously the responsibilities of my visibility, and have always thought that treating all of my colleagues the same was the best way to dispel the unease that can come from a competitive or self-conscious environment."

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Duke University blocks students from picking their roommates freshman year

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 03/02/2018 - 08:00

Duke University has removed from students what has become one of the most significant aspects of matriculation at many colleges: picking a first-year roommate

Beginning with the Class of 2022, the roommate-selection process will be entirely governed by the university, with assignments largely made at random -- a shift, officials said, meant to stem the recent movement of students self-selecting peers with similar perspectives and backgrounds to their own, fueled by social media connections made before arriving on campus.

While many students and higher education professionals applaud the Duke decision, others fear that forcing two people of particularly dissonant backgrounds -- a gay student or a student of color paired with one who holds bigoted views, for instance -- could lead to fear, but not much meaningful interaction.

University administrators announced in a letter addressed to the Class of 2022 that they would take into account certain preferences -- sleep schedules, study habits -- but beyond such factors, roommate assignments would be random.

"Our experience over many years assures us (and thus, you) that you’ll be fine … better in fact!” reads the letter from Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, and Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education. “We believe that you’ll enjoy the opportunity to meet someone you’ve not previously known and will have a great opportunity to explore your roommate’s history, culture and interests. Who knows … you may get invited to a part of the world you wouldn’t otherwise get to see.”

Moneta and Nowicki assured the students that the institution would help them in cases of roommate incompatibility and “make a change” if necessary, and that medical and other exceptions could be made.

Over the last decade, students have started to “meet” -- if only digitally -- long before arriving on campus. For most colleges, it is quite common to have a designated Facebook group for incoming classes (generally unaffiliated with the institution). Here, students can chat, plan for their first semester and, in some cases, find a roommate match. Other platforms, solely designed for this purpose, have sprung up -- websites where students and their families can pay to be coupled with a compatible roommate, and some institutions have even designed their own sorts of networks for this. Many colleges honor requests from students to be matched in their first year.

But the downside is that students can gravitate toward comfort, a natural reaction, given they’re about to be thrown into an entirely new and independent environment -- but one that won’t lead to new experiences for them, higher education experts said in interviews.

“It’s a courageous move on Duke’s part,” said Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Kruger said even when roommates do choose one another, there’s no guarantee they would benefit from sharing a room, especially since for many people, their first year in college is their first time living with another person in one room.

But guiding students from varying experiences together can “create opportunities for dialogue,” Kruger said. Paired with programs in the residents halls -- colleges teaching students how to talk to one another -- this change could broaden perspectives, he said.

Research backs that theory -- David R. Harris, president-elect of Union College in New York and Tufts University provost, and previously a University of Michigan and Cornell University sociologist, published research more than a decade ago suggesting that white roommates who were paired with students of color became more open-minded about race.

And a study by Bruce I. Sacerdote, the Richard S. Braddock 1963 Professor in Economics at Dartmouth College, shows that white students who lived with black students in the same dormitory were three times more likely to interact with black students in their dormitories.

But Ryan Briggs doubts these “kumbaya” scenarios.

A sophomore from Duke, and vice president of the Black Student Alliance there, he lambasted the new policy in a series of Twitter posts, saying it was detrimental to students who fear their roommate has more institutional power then they do.

One thing America and Duke love to pander to when students apply to college is that they have so much control over their life, but now they do not get to choose a roommate: unacceptable. When students apply to graduate school and have their first apartments, they pick roommates

— Briggs (@RyBriggsley) February 28, 2018

While in theory he liked the idea of students learning about new culture, he wrote that, as a black person from a lower-socioeconomic-status background, it would be “terrifying” to be paired off with an affluent white man.

“There are so many cultural things that would have to be taught to my roommate to have a comfortable living experience,” Briggs said. “And I do not have to work for the school to make sure some ignorant student learns how to be a better attribute to the community.”

Student journalists at The Duke Chronicle, the campus newspaper, also expressed some skepticism about whether the system would actually alleviate any of the racially related problems the campus faced.

In a staff editorial, they called the change a “hastily-created, quick fix solution.”

“Simply forcing students from different regions of the world to eat, sleep and work together is not a fix-all for racial and class disharmony on campus,” the editorial board wrote. “Policy solutions like the one touted by Moneta and Nowicki are concerned more with the outward, feigned appearances of neoliberal, brochure-worthy multiculturalism, and are less concerned with the needs and requests of actual students living here.”

Matthew King, a Duke senior, had a slightly more optimistic take -- and he helped create a student group that wants to overhaul the housing model at Duke. Like many the Ivy League institutions, Duke has some housing for upperclassmen students (in addition to the Greek system) in which students control the selection process. King, who is a part of one of these selective groups, said Duke Students for Housing Reform would prefer these homes not be controlled by groups.

After the first year, students who try to get into the selective group either move into one of their homes or another hall, but those lack the same community, King said.

He was appreciative of the step Duke took.

“The Duke admissions office goes to such lengths to recruit students all across America, people of different religious, socioeconomic backgrounds, political views, sexual orientation, and bring them to this campus,” King said. “If you choose your own roommate, you may miss out on that.”

Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, and an Inside Higher Ed blogger, said he lived with a high school friend his first year in college and later regretted not being open to a random roommate -- he said he was plagued by adolescent fear, similar to many students, and now he wished he had lived with a rural farm kid from Illinois.

In particularly polarizing political times, colleges serve a great purpose in “increasing understanding of people of different identities,” Patel said. He said he trusted Duke administrators to make judgments on a case-by-case basis in the event that roommates were truly oil and water.

“One of distinctive features of the roommate situation is that you are in effect required to negotiate a set of lifestyle dimensions and make things work for all parties involved,” Patel said. “Ninety to 95 percent of the time, that’s highly constructive.”

Bowdoin College, a small liberal arts institution in Maine, assigns first-year roommates, with a conscious attempt at pairing those from different backgrounds, said its dean of student affairs, Tim Foster.

Students fill out a questionnaire indicating preferences, similar to the one at Duke -- sleep patterns and more -- and then the college will intentionally couple students from different races, financial backgrounds and states, Foster said.

The college also will break up members of sports teams so they don’t live together, which goes against some other major institutions’ models, where players intentionally room together or are placed with one another.

Foster said the college wants to “mix it up,” because they want students to learn not only about new backgrounds and perspectives, but also how to navigate conflict. He called the recent phenomenon of roommate-by-Facebook to be a “lost opportunity.”

“Especially what makes the residential experience special is the ability to live in close proximity within one another, and it’s an educational experience of who you surround yourself with … it’s shortchanging the opportunity to mix it up and stretch yourself,” Foster said.

Sacerdote, from Dartmouth, said that colleges will likely be exploring this idea more with the continued power of social media. Universities don’t want to be too heavy-handed by deliberately pairing up white students and nonwhite students, for example.

“But this system -- it can work out well,” he said.

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Study finds evidence of institutional favoritism in academic publishing

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 03/02/2018 - 08:00

Academic publishing is supposed to favor the strongest research -- regardless of who’s producing it. Yet we know that isn’t always true. Various studies suggest that the system leans toward significant or favorable results over null ones, research coming from elite institutions, and male authors over women, for example.

A new study examines another possible kind of bias: whether journals favor research affiliated with their publishing institutions. The short answer is yes.

Guessing that journals published by specific universities might have a slightly lower quality bar for authors who either worked at or earned a Ph.D. from those institutions, the study’s authors looked at citation counts for papers written by authors linked to a journal by work or degree -- or not. On average, articles received nine to 19 fewer Web of Science citations when published in an author’s “home” journal versus a journal to which they weren’t somehow linked, compared to authors who weren’t affiliated with any of the institutions in the study.

The authors acknowledge that using citation counts as a proxy for research quality is a continually vexed issue, since seemingly arbitrary things such as article length, number of authors and order in an issue -- along with other biases -- all can affect citation numbers. And just because more people are citing an article doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. But the authors say their findings still hold important implications for academic publishing, lest good work go unpublished to make way for lower-quality, in-network papers.

“The results confirm the existence of academic in-group bias, at least in some academic journals,” the study says, borrowing the psychological term for favoritism toward members of one’s own group. “This means that in-group bias could be an important factor underlying the acceptance and publication of academic articles -- or equally, the rejection of articles by out-group authors.”

As for possible explanations, the paper says it could just be simple favoritism. Alternatively, it says, “journal editors may use pedigree as a signal for quality: journals may find it hard to assess the quality of all papers that reach the editor’s desk, and so rely instead on the institutional affiliation of the authors.”

The paper, shared recently on the Social Science Research Network, tracks Web of Science and Google Scholar citation data for articles published in four major political science journals, two with institutional affiliations and two without. The affiliated journals are International Security, housed at Harvard University and published by MIT Press, and World Politics, housed at Princeton University and published by Cambridge University Press. The “control” journals were International Organization and International Studies Quarterly.

All four journals are known to publish high-quality work, the paper says. But the citation data, concerning 1,684 articles published between 2000 and 2015, are evidence of at least some in-group bias in the two publications linked to institutions.

Some 23 percent of the articles in the sample were written by “in-group” members. About 7 percent were by faculty members at either Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Princeton. Some 16 percent were written by academics with Ph.D.s from those institutions.

Across all four journals, papers by in-group authors received nine or 11 more Web of Science citations on average (for faculty and Ph.D.s, respectively) compared to out-group members, suggesting that “in-group members in general produce high-quality research,” the paper says. Interestingly, across both sets of authors, in-group and out, papers published in in-group journals received fewer citations compared to papers published in out-group journals.

Controlling for factors such as paper length, articles published by in-group members in their home journals tend to be cited less often than papers published by these scholars in other journals, and the effect is strongest for scholars associated with MIT or Harvard, according to the paper. The results for Ph.D.s (versus affiliated faculty) were particularly striking: in-group authors publishing in their home journal versus the unaffiliated journals appear to lose nearly 20 Web of Science citations compared to the difference between Ph.D. out-group authors publishing in an in-group journal versus the unaffiliated journals. Google Scholar data are similar.

The authors found, for example, that the average article in World Politics by an author affiliated with Princeton gets 80 Google Scholar citations, while papers by non-Princeton researchers receive roughly 105 Google Scholar citations.

Articles by out-group members, meanwhile, are cited with the same general frequency regardless of where they are published.

“Academic In-Group Bias: An Empirical Examination of the Link Between Author and Journal Affiliation” was written by Yaniv Reingewertz, an assistant professor of public administration and policy at the University of Haifa in Israel, and Carmela Lutmar, a lecturer in international relations at Haifa. Their intent wasn’t to pick on specific journals or political science, but rather to look at academic in-group bias in fields other than law and economics, where it has previously been studied. In a recent write-up of their research for Harvard Business Review, Reingewertz and Lutmar say that “academic in-group bias is general in nature, even if not necessarily large in scope.” Journals might also choose their articles based on other factors than likely citation counts, “such as better suitability with the journals’ scope,” they add. Reingewertz and Lutmar also point out that most journals are not affiliated with a specific institution.

But academic in-group bias, where it exists, can cause harm -- “tilting” tenure and other personnel decisions based on publication data, for example, they say. The authors suggest that such bias can be minimized by putting less weight on publications of in-group members in the home journals and assigning more weight to publications of out-group members.

Another possible approach, Reingewertz and Lutmar say, would be to use a strong double-blind refereeing process by not allowing the editor to see the affiliation of the author.

Perhaps most important is the possible effect of academic in-group bias on “the academic endeavor to advance science,” they note. If articles aren’t published based on merit, “the dissemination of knowledge might be at stake. Having non-meritocratic systems might push out talented individuals, to the detriment of the academic community.”

Thanasis Stengos, University Research Chair in Econometrics at the University of Guelph in Canada, has studied academic publishing and,consistent with some data on the topic, said in-group bias seems to be present in his field, as well. The effect seems particularly strong for more junior academics, however, he said, in that journals seem to want to give local scholars a “head start to establish themselves.” Then, he said, if they’re “worthy,” based on a journal’s typical standards, they’d continue to be published on their own merit.

“It does not pay to keep helping out weak researchers, as these journals would lose their leading ranking,” he said.

Andrew Piper, professor and William Dawson Scholar of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at McGill University in Canada, co-wrote a study last year that found humanities journals favor research from elite institutions. As for in-group bias, Piper said this week that he was confident it exists in the humanities, as well.

"We noticed that local institutions were overrepresented in journals published by those institutions," he said of his own study. At the same time, he said, it's "important to point out that this has often been standard practice in the humanities. Some might see a different ethos at work -- in-group bias in an arts-based context might be called a school of thought or movement. Communities generate new ideas. This is another way to look at this question with a less skeptical eye."

However, Piper said, because these practices are tied to tenure, promotion and the sharing of knowledge, "they become more problematic. But it is worth thinking about without subscribing to the absolute objectivity of journal editing, which never exists, but which the authors assume."

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Author discusses new book on accountability push in higher education

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 03/02/2018 - 08:00

Colleges are facing more pressure to prove that the credentials they issue are worth the time, money and effort students put into earning them. Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, attempts to make sense of this building pressure in a new book from Johns Hopkins University Press, Higher Education Accountability.

Kelchen takes a wide scope that tracks the history of efforts to prod colleges to do better, while also looking at the current environment and giving clues about what's to come. We interviewed him via email about the book, which resulted in the following exchange.

Q: What’s driving the accountability push you describe in the book? Will the scrutiny continue to increase?

A: Colleges are facing tougher accountability pressures for two main reasons. The first is due to the rising price tag of higher education. Tuition and fees have increased far faster than the rate of inflation, overwhelming state and federal efforts to increase grant aid for students -- $1.4 trillion in student loan debt has gotten the attention of both politicians and the general public. The second reason is because of concerns about the quality of higher education. Colleges are under pressure to demonstrate that their students learned material that is valuable after college, and there is also a growing amount of skepticism about whether college is a worthwhile use of time and money. The growing political polarization around higher education also plays a role here. I see this scrutiny increasing over the next few years, as tuition looks unlikely to decrease and most colleges have not done enough to demonstrate their value to much of the public.

Q: Are there common weaknesses, or strengths, across accountability efforts at the state, federal, accreditor, private sector and institutional levels?

A: Most accountability policies make sense in isolation, but colleges have to deal with multiple pressures at the same time. This makes some accountability policies less relevant as colleges choose to focus on policies that are financially important and/or align with their mission. For example, consider a public research university that is facing a performance funding system that ties a small percentage of funds to the number of state residents who graduate, but [the university] also wants to move up in the U.S. News rankings. The university may make a very rational choice to focus on moving up in the rankings in order to attract more out-of-state students who can pay full freight over serving more in-state students.

A concern with some accountability policies (particularly from accreditors and the federal government) is that they are all-or-nothing propositions. Either the college crosses the threshold to receive federal financial aid or it falls just below and is suddenly at risk of closing. Politicians are generally sympathetic to colleges that are at risk of closing, so they will back down and try to waive sanctions. This is a bipartisan impulse -- Mitch McConnell got a rider in the budget bill to protect a Kentucky community college’s funding, while Nancy Pelosi tried to close down an accrediting agency that tried to sanction a California community college.

Q: Can state policy makers create performance-funding formulas that adequately address equity issues and unintended consequences while also prodding colleges to do better?

A: Early performance funding systems at the state level incentivized colleges to increase the number of graduates, which then encouraged colleges to simply become more selective. Newer performance funding systems, supported by some of the large foundations, have included bonus funds that reward colleges for graduating more students from traditionally underrepresented groups.

Some of my forthcoming research, as well as some great work by Denisa Gándara of Southern Methodist University and Amanda Rutherford of Indiana University, shows some encouraging findings on this front. But in general, performance funding policies haven’t done a lot to increase the number of college graduates to this point, although I still think they may have some potential going forward.

Q: What caused the Obama administration's college ratings system idea to collapse? And do you think the federal government at some point will, or should, tie aid to performance metrics like completion rates or wages?

A: I think that most higher education researchers and policy folks expected the ratings system to fail spectacularly. The federal government tried rating colleges back in 1911, and colleges were able to squash the effort. History has a way of repeating itself. The federal government has generally focused its accountability efforts on setting a minimum performance threshold, which has generally affected only tiny for-profit colleges. Putting the funding of public and private nonprofit colleges at risk was an obvious political nonstarter.

With that being said, the result of the ratings effort was the College Scorecard -- a tremendously useful data source that made information on student debt, earnings and loan repayment rates more available to the public than ever before. This has led to efforts in Congress to tie at least a portion of federal funding to outcomes, particularly through risk-sharing proposals regarding student loan repayment. Democrats and Republicans have both shown at least some interest in the idea as Higher Education Act reauthorization begins, but the two parties appear to be far off on the details. So I don’t expect tougher new federal accountability efforts in the near future even though it’s reasonable to tie at least some federal funding to colleges that do a good job serving the kinds of students they currently enroll.

Q: Are critics right when they argue that accountability policies often are about cutting public funding for higher education?

A: Whether this is fair or not, I think that tougher accountability policies are the only way that public funding for higher education doesn’t get cut. Policy makers have many other ways to use taxpayer dollars, and higher education isn’t necessarily in the good graces of all legislators at this point. Colleges have to demonstrate their value in order to get more money -- or at least to avoid cuts. The higher education community should work to make sure that accountability policies come with potential rewards as well as penalties and that colleges with fewer resources get assistance in developing capacity to meet their performance goals.

Q: Can outcomes-based funding formulas and other accountability systems work well without better data about how students fare after college?

A: One of the reasons why state governments have been able to implement more nuanced accountability policies (such as outcomes-based funding with bonuses for graduating at-risk students) is that they have the data systems to track individual students without undue burden to colleges. At the federal level, the National Student Loan Data System does a nice job tracking earnings and loan repayment outcomes of students who received federal financial aid -- about 70 percent of all students. But this system doesn’t do a great job tracking completions, and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System only tracks college completions for certain groups of students.

Lifting the federal ban on student unit record data systems would be helpful in creating better accountability systems, but improvements could be made through requiring colleges to report more data through IPEDS. But it’s also worth noting that existing data are probably good enough at the federal level (and definitely good enough in the states) to identify the absolute lowest-performing institutions.

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