Higher Education News

Accreditor's decision on Grand Canyon's nonprofit bid coming soon

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

The Higher Learning Commission's decision on Grand Canyon University's application to convert from a for-profit to a nonprofit is expected within days.

The Arizona-based Christian institution, which enrolls more than 19,000 students at its Phoenix campus and more than 70,000 online, announced in January that it would again attempt to change its tax status. The for-profit failed in a similar bid four years ago, when HLC -- the university's regional accreditor -- denied Grand Canyon's application.

"The company believes that the current proposal addresses any concerns noted by the HLC in its denial and complies with the new 2017 HLC guidelines," Brian Mueller, the university's president and CEO, said last week in a call with investors. "No assurance can be given that HLC will approve this application … However, we are encouraged by the fact that the response to our updated report was very positive, that our proposed transaction and structure is almost identical to many others in the industry and is very similar to the Purdue and Kaplan proposal, which HLC is also reviewing at this time."

GCU is one of several large for-profits that in recent years have sought to make the change. In addition to Purdue University's proposed acquisition of the for-profit Kaplan University, the for-profit Education Management Corp. sold its institutions to the nonprofit Dream Center Foundation last year. One accreditor among a number that oversee EDMC has rejected Dream Center's purchase of two Art Institute locations, while another has backed a portion of the sale.

Even if HLC approves Grand Canyon's bid, the university will also need approval from the Education Department and the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education.

The proposed conversions have drawn fire from critics of for-profits who are concerned that they could make the nonprofit sector less ethical. After the high-profile collapses of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institutes, which followed findings by regulators that the companies in some cases deceived and misled students while reeling in big profits, some critics fear the conversions will give new nonprofits -- and the for-profit management companies they would contract with for services -- leeway to mislead students.

"This is not a trend, it is an infection," Robert Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and a former Education Department official during the Obama administration, said in an email. "If the infection is allowed to take hold, the effect on existing nonprofits will not be immediate. But over time board members at nonprofit institutions will shift from givers to takers, from oversight that is based on heartfelt devotion to the educational mission, to support that is about the money they personally can make off of the school's operations. That shift will change institutional behavior leading over time to the same type of scandalous abuses we have seen repeatedly in the for-profit sector."

The heart of Shireman's criticism of several of the conversion bids is about how the operations of the resulting institutions will be split between the two sectors.

Grand Canyon's corporate filings explain how the university, including its academic-related assets and real estate holdings, would become a nonprofit institution governed by an independent Board of Trustees. However, the parent company would remain a for-profit entity that operates as a third-party provider of services to the new university. Those services would include recruiting, counseling, human resources and marketing. Mueller said the structure is similar to the one proposed for Purdue-Kaplan, which will be called Purdue University Global.

Paul LeBlanc, the president of the nonprofit Southern New Hampshire University, said he shares some of Shireman's concerns. For example, he said it would be disingenuous for the for-profit side of restructured institutions to charge steep fees of their nonprofit divisions. However, LeBlanc said he has yet to see that sort of problematic behavior.

"The boundary lines are blurring a bit when you look at the growth of for-profit [online program management companies] working with nonprofit institutions," he said, adding that there is and should remain a clear difference between for-profits and nonprofits. "Where does the nonprofit end and where does the for-profit begin is a little cloudy. But I think in that world, the OPMs have had to be pretty respectful of the guardrails nonprofits operate with, and I think they've largely been good actors."

LeBlanc said there isn't any evidence of "bad actors" that contract with OPMs because nonprofits have largely stayed in control of their institutions, unlike for-profits, which are largely driven by shareholder concerns.

"A lot of people, including many in the nonprofit sector, welcome some regulatory relief," he said. "Higher education has a lot of regulatory responsibilities and expenses. But no one wants to see such a relaxation that we have bad behavior again."

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have been considering legislation that would end the separate legal definition of nonprofit and for-profit institutions. That would prevent regulation like the Obama-era gainful-employment rule, which would have led to sanctions that applied mostly to the for-profit sector. The Trump administration hit pause on that rule, announcing plans last year to conduct a regulatory rewrite.

Shireman said public dollars going to for-profits require greater oversight than those that go to nonprofit or state-run institutions. But instead of designing policies to conduct that oversight, he said that the Education Department under Betsy DeVos, the U.S. secretary of education, would rather allow for-profit colleges to incorrectly portray themselves as having the accountability of a nonprofit or public entity.

Steve Gunderson, the president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, which represents the for-profit sector, said the new administration is showing a willingness to look at proposed conversions and sales on their individual merits and to not base the decisions on political or ideological beliefs.

"Schools are working to position themselves for the future as they navigate economic realities and changes in higher education," Gunderson said. "The previous administration, unfortunately, was not open to school conversions to nonprofit status but targeted all proprietary schools simply because of their tax status."

In describing Grand Canyon's nonprofit strategy, Mueller said it has "nothing to do with current regulations imposed by the Department of Education on for-profit institutions." None of the university's programs, for instance, failed the gainful-employment guidelines. Tuition on the traditional campus has been frozen for 10 years and Grand Canyon's default rate for student loans will be approximately 6.5 percent for the most recently completed cohort of students, he said.

However, the university sees its conversion as a way to "level the playing field with other traditional universities with regards to tax status," in part by allowing it to accept nonprofit contributions and to participate in National Collegiate Athletic Association governance. In GCU's previous attempt to convert to a nonprofit, the company cited the for-profit "stigma" as a reason for seeking the change.

Shireman said he's hopeful that raising red flags about conversion deals will help keep the nonprofit sector honest.

"By pointing out the problems in the Purdue-Kaplan deal and the GCU plans, we are trying to stop the infection early," he said.

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Pulse podcast features interview about Starfish with Howard Bell of Hobsons

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

This month's episode of the Pulse podcast features an interview with Howard Bell of Hobsons about Starfish Enterprise Success Platform, the company's student success platform.

Bell is senior vice president of higher education student success and general manager of Starfish at Hobsons. In the conversation with Rodney B. Murray, the Pulse's host, Bell discusses how colleges use the Starfish platform and its various services -- including early alerts and communication tools -- to improve student success.

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

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

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SNHU, other donors guaranteeing education for 1,000 Dreamers

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 03/01/2018 - 08:00

In higher education and nationally, support for Dreamers remains strong, despite the tenuous status of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs.

That support is evident in a new $20 million initiative announced today by Southern New Hampshire University, the Shapiro Foundation and TheDream.US to provide free college educations for 1,000 DACA recipients over the next five years. The Dream.US, which is the country's largest college access scholarship program for Dreamers, was co-founded by Don Graham, the former Washington Post publisher and Kaplan University owner.

The full scholarships would help these undocumented young people pursue associate and bachelor's degrees through SNHU's College for America competency-based education program. College for America's tuition starts at $5,000 a year, however, DACA students aren't eligible for federal student aid, so tuition may be a hurdle for them.

"If you think about what immigrants and refugees have done for this country, [people] like Steve Jobs, the son of a Syrian immigrant… we're quite convinced that in the ranks of 1,000 Dreamers and in the larger pool of 650,000 DACA recipients, there are future scientists, community organizers, mayors, doctors and researchers," said Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University. "We can't afford to squander that talent … no sane country walks away from that wellspring of talent."

The DACA recipients who would benefit from the scholarship aren't unlike many of the students who attend SNHU's programs. They include those who have been out of high school for some time, and they're overwhelmingly students of color who are low-income and have familial responsibilities, LeBlanc said, adding that many have children or are taking care of their parents. They may be their families' principal breadwinners, even though their incomes are modest, he said.

But that's where SNHU's program and partnerships with place-based nonprofits and institutions come in.

Match Beyond, which is based in Boston, has been working with SNHU since 2015 and has about 200 students enrolled in the metropolitan area.

"We coach students from start to finish," said Liz Mariano, chief of growth and strategy for Match Beyond. "What we've done is create a place-based relationship experience to help students leverage those degrees."

The organization provides student services that they wouldn't otherwise get, like free internet access, meals and full-time in-person coaches to help students stay on track, she said, adding that Match Beyond has experience working with Dreamers.

"They have done everything right on the education path," Mariano said. "It's heartbreaking to watch them get to the point of college and have absolutely no way to afford it or an inability to access financial aid."

LeBlanc said those organizing the program remain hopeful that Congress and President Trump will authorize a long-term fix for the DACA program, and he sees hope in two federal district judges recently issuing temporary injunctions barring the administration from ending the program March 5.

"If you imagine the unimaginable, given 75 percent of Americans support DACA, but if somehow, it's not renewed, and these students face deportation … our program is offered online, and they can continue to be enrolled with us from wherever they are sent," he said.

Regardless, SNHU and its partners will continue to serve those students, LeBlanc said.

"Dreamers came here through no choice of their own, and in many instances, they've known no other country," he said. "This is their home country for all intents and purposes, and it seems like abject cruelty to send them to a country they have never known."

The American Council on Education, policy groups and other associations estimate that there are about 350,000 students in the DACA program, said Ted Mitchell, president of the group and a former under secretary of education in the Obama administration. 

"The higher education community is really united around the need to provide a stable landing place for DACA recipients, not just the students, and a path to citizenship," Mitchell said, adding that more than 800 college presidents have urged Congress to enact a long-term solution that protects Dreamers. "We're seeing colleges and universities step forward independent of that to do all they can to provide predictable, stable opportunities for DACA students. The Southern New Hampshire, the Shapiro Foundation and the Dream commitment is a fabulous expression of that."

The initiative has been fast moving, so far. The discussion about creating the program only started two weeks ago, when the donors questioned why they could have a similar program for refugees but not DACA recipients, LeBlanc said.

"It was an amazing thing," he said. "Some funders and foundations can be measured in their pace. But we feel so passionate about students that we cut through the bureaucracy very quickly."

And in just that short time, the program has 11 students who have shown interest. The plan is for 10 of the SNHU place-based partners across the country to commit to offering the program to 100 DACA recipients by 2019.

SNHU is looking at areas where there are high concentrations of DACA students with few higher education options, LeBlanc said.

"Some in California do a great job with Dreamers," LeBlanc said. "Some other states like Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, they do a terrible job, so we're quietly scouting for other partners. Chicago will almost certainly be an area where we'll open soon."

While the plan is to serve 1,000 Dreamers with the initiative, the donors and SNHU see the program growing beyond that.

"A thousand is our initial target," LeBlanc said. "But what we hope to do is build an evidence base for how to best serve the student population and scale well beyond that in 2019."

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New books examine college governance and how it can adapt to changing times

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 03/01/2018 - 08:00

The challenges colleges and universities face are well documented and often intimidating.

Population trends will leave institutions in some parts of the country without enough traditional-age local students to fill classrooms, while stretching others’ capacity. Costs keep escalating, high sticker prices are a consistent source of angst and constantly rising discount rates leave many private colleges in the difficult position of not having enough money coming in even as they’re perceived by students as being too expensive.

Yes, market conditions are difficult. But that doesn’t mean higher education’s leadership will escape scrutiny. It’s worth wondering if governance practices currently in place are adequate for attracting good leaders, training them and putting them in a position to succeed in the face of challenges.

Some experts believe solutions have to start at the top, with changes to the way shared governance plays out between trustees, administrators and faculty members. Among them are the authors of two books released in January by Johns Hopkins University Press, How to Run a College and How University Boards Work.

“Can American higher education navigate through uncharted waters if the leadership relies on an unprepared, inexperienced captain and crew?” ask the authors of How to Run a College, Brian C. Mitchell and W. Joseph King. Mitchell and King are both experienced college presidents and trustees who believe higher education’s most important challenge is professionalizing its governance.

Failing to professionalize governance isn't good for anyone, said Mitchell, a former president of Bucknell University and Washington & Jefferson College, in an interview.

“There should be a clear delineation of authority and a clear understanding -- and a transparent understanding -- of how power is executed on a college campus,” he said. “Until then, we have a kind of mom-and-pop approach to governance, and that’s not serving anyone well.”

Mitchell and King argue that higher ed is suffering through a particularly bleak period, one that can seem unprecedented. But viewing the current era as a historical outlier can lead to damaging paralysis among college and university leaders. It is also historically inaccurate.

American higher education has already gone through and survived two similar periods of pressure, according to Mitchell and King. The first was a depression in the 1870s, and the second was the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Those eras, which the authors refer to as inflection points, were marked by hundreds of colleges and universities merging or closing. But they were also times of great adaptation and innovation.

Colleges and universities are nimble, Mitchell said. If today is indeed a third point of inflection, lessons can be drawn from the past to help colleges and universities survive.

Mitchell and King argue for colleges and universities to evolve, modernizing practices and monetizing assets. They examine major elements of college operations: governance, finance, enrollment advancement, academic affairs, student life and athletics. They support shared governance, but it’s clear they believe the system could work better if all parties refocused on educational strategies and transparency between different leaders.

“It’s a misunderstanding of what trustees do, what faculty do and how their work relates that causes many problems,” said King, who is president of Lyon College. “If you have substantial malfunction or dysfunction, it’s not going to go anywhere.”

Some of the authors’ greatest concerns are focused on the state of governing boards. Mitchell and King believe boards are often too big and too dysfunctional. Those at private universities often run more than 40 trustees deep and come with internal politics, which leads to complacency, they write.

While public universities may have board issues of their own, including charges that trustees are politically motivated or appointed, their boards are typically smaller than private boards and therefore don't attract as many criticisms related to size.

Voting boards should have no more than a dozen active members, Mitchell and King argue. Larger advisory boards can also play a separate role, approving policy and preventing boards from becoming insular, but they should be geared toward offering advice and helping with fund-raising.

It’s a model like the one used by Harvard University, where the 30-member Board of Overseers influences strategy and carries certain responsibilities but is eclipsed in direct power by the 13-member Harvard Corporation, which has fiduciary responsibility and approves major operations.

A Focus on Trustees

In How University Boards Work, Robert A. Scott doesn’t go so far as to advocate for limiting voting boards to 12 members. He thinks 12 is on the small side, he said in an interview. Yet he also advocated for limiting the size of voting boards.

“It depends on the institution,” he said. “Eighteen would be the low end -- certainly no more than 30. Eighteen to 24 is manageable. You can get in touch with everybody in a day.”

Still, Scott, who is the former president of Adelphi University and Ramapo College, sees plenty to worry about in boards. Among his many concerns are that board members often know little about the higher education enterprise or their own institutions, and that board chairs sometimes act like emperors. Trustees with experience on other boards or in business frequently believe they do not need a guide when they start on college or university boards, he writes. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Trustees need to be much more knowledgeable about their institutions than they are today, Scott believes. They need to know a college’s history and heritage, its competitors and where it fits in the overall higher ed ecosystem. They also need continuing professional development. That support will help them understand how to navigate challenges.

Scott also argues for trustees to spend more time listening and asking questions -- and for others in university governance to do the same. He advocates for presidents to eschew the corporate-style chief executive officer role in lieu of a chief education officer ideal, with an emphasis on being collaborative. Boards, he writes, should be a president’s partner in establishing priorities.

Toward its end, How University Boards Work includes a list of ideas best described as policy priorities. For instance, Scott writes that colleges should be held accountable for graduation rates. He suggests they might pay more attention to student retention if they were forced to repay public financial aid dollars for students who drop out before graduating -- an idea that has parallels in risk-sharing concepts that have drawn interest at the federal level. He also suggests making non-need-based aid count as taxable income for a recipient’s family, because so-called merit scholarships are a major cost driver among colleges.

The ideas are presented alongside some changes colleges and universities could make on their own, like modifying class schedules to make better use of facilities. But the inclusion of policy ideas in a book aimed at trustees fits a larger idea: the big picture matters for colleges and universities, and their leaders, as they face the future.

It’s a theme running through both books, even though they dedicate many of their pages to the basics of running a college or university. In practice, the big picture could mean a faculty member taking a more active role in student life, because much of what students learn on campus comes from outside the classroom. It could mean presidents being more engaged and transparent with faculty members, even in times of crisis. It could mean trustees advocating for higher education funding when they’re meeting with politicians.

“Enterprise risk is not just about one’s own institution,” Scott said. “It’s about the whole enterprise.”

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One-and-done should be done, says Purdue president

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 03/01/2018 - 08:00

As startling allegations of widespread corruption have rattled the college basketball world in recent months, ideas have abounded about how the National Collegiate Athletic Association could fix the system.

Purdue University’s president, Mitch Daniels, joined that chorus recently, writing a letter that was unusually critical for the president of an NCAA Division I institution, few of whom criticize the association’s practices (except, perhaps, when their own institutions are affected by a policy or a ruling).

But Daniels’s focus in his Washington Post essay on the issue of “one-and-done” -- by which talented players play college basketball for a single season before going professional -- has drawn its own criticism, with athletics experts saying the phenomenon isn’t the root of the issues with big-time men’s basketball, but merely a symptom.

“Basically one-and-done needs to be done with,” said Andrew Zimbalist, professor and chairman of the department of economics at Smith College. “But it’s not the reason for these basketball scandals.”

Daniels addressed his letter to Condoleezza Rice, the former U.S. secretary of state and Stanford University provost who now chairs the NCAA’s Commission on College Basketball, formed in the wake of the scandal last year. Four coaches at high-profile programs were arrested in September for allegedly working with Adidas executives to steer recruits to certain institutions in exchange for cash.

While these initial arrests caused shock waves in the world of college sports, news reports and federal officials have indicated that the corruption is far more widespread than just four programs. Yahoo reviewed documents related to the federal probe that allege at least 20 NCAA Division I men's basketball programs could be in violation of the association's rules, as could at least 25 players. Recently, too, ESPN detailed how Federal Bureau of Investigation wiretaps reportedly caught the University of Arizona's head basketball coach, Sean Miller, discussing payments with a representative of one of the sports agents at the center of the federal inquiry.

NCAA president Mark Emmert released a statement after the Yahoo report saying that if the allegations were true, they are “systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America.”

But the NCAA, as Daniels described it, is “impotent” to stop the abuses of the system. He offered a few solutions to ending the one-and-done phenomenon -- some of which have been recommended before, with little traction.

Daniels suggested that freshmen should sit out games in their first year, turning it into "a year of readiness." The NCAA discontinued such a rule in 1972, but the Big Ten conference and other leagues have periodically considered reinstating it, to little interest.

He also suggested using the structure that now exists in college and professional baseball, in which athletes either jump to the pros immediately after high school or need to spend three years in college, a deal between the NCAA and Major League Baseball.

Perhaps the most controversial of his pitches would be potential scholarship changes. If a college gives a player a scholarship, and then he leaves, the institution couldn’t pass it to another athlete, Daniels wrote.

“I’m convinced the college game would be more, not less popular, if a handful of would-be pretend students, whose names fans barely get a chance to know, instead went straight from high school to some sort of professional league. Doing so would certainly bring more parity and fairness to the college game,” Daniels wrote.

Online commentators noted that while it’s rare for a college president to speak out as Daniels did, his suggestions sounded a little, as one columnist deemed it, “pathetic.” Purdue, despite being a Big Ten institution, doesn’t tend to draw the same freshman talent as competitors like Michigan State and Indiana (this year’s results notwithstanding), and all Daniels’s proposals would benefit his institution. As Daniels points out in his letter, 58 percent of the one-and-done athletes -- the top tier -- play at just five colleges.

Officials from Purdue did not make themselves available for comment but said that Purdue has never enrolled a one-and-done athlete.

Daniels's argument has some flaws. For starters, the NCAA doesn't actually have direct control over the one-and-done rule, as it is determined by its deal with the NBA.

In an interview, Zimbalist of Smith said that one-and-done can’t be blamed for the influence of Adidas, or other apparel makers like Nike and Under Armour, on college basketball. The sway of these apparel behemoths has been well documented in both media reports and books, such as Raw Recruits and Sole Influence: Basketball, Corporate Greed, and the Corruption of America's Youth.

One-and-done really only emerged in 2006, after a new set of contract negotiations with the National Basketball Association, which newly required athletes to be at least 19 years old and one year out of high school to play professionally. Thus, athletes would enter college -- sometimes but not always attending classes -- and get a year under their belt before being drafted. The institutions that recruit these one-and-done students enjoy a big-name player for a year and the money that comes with it, and the NBA receives a much more seasoned athlete.

Zimbalist said the problem is that the current collegiate athletics system combines elements of amateurism -- as the NCAA intended -- with professionalism.

Some college coaches earn the same as their professional counterparts, which makes no economic sense, Zimbalist said. Essentially, those coaches are valued and are being compensated by recruiting star players -- who are not paid at all. This could be remedied either by creating a players’ market -- a professional league completely separate from institutions -- or enforcing the rules of amateurism and forcing athletes to make real progress toward a degree.

“Everything he said incrementally would be a step in the right direction, but I think the problem is 1,000 times larger than that,” Zimbalist said, referencing Daniels’s letter.

Enforcing a policy against one-and-done would be problematic, said Josephine R. Potuto, a former member of the NCAA Division I infractions committee and the Richard H. Larson Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

She questioned whether players would be made to sign a contract that compels them to stay in college -- and if that agreement was breached, would colleges go after the athletes in court?

It's difficult to change NCAA practices because of the diversity of opinions in Division I, not because the institutions aren't interested, Potuto said.

“If we solved the one-and-done problem tomorrow morning, we would not solve a number of the other concerns with college basketball, nor would we solve some of the other concerns [Daniels] raised, bylaws that don’t make it easy or possible to get at academic misconduct on campus,” Potuto said.

Potuto said that shifting the competitive schedules might remedy some of the problems in college basketball and academics, because the way March Madness is arranged, athletes are pulled out of classes for up to three weeks in the middle of the semester, which would disrupt even the work of a capable student.

But institutions haven’t always expected much from their athletes academically.

Daniels refers in his letter to the scandal at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The NCAA declined last year to punish the institution for sponsoring faux classes for two decades. Through gritted teeth, the infractions committee said it could not definitively determine whether the courses were set up solely for the benefit of athletes, though it seemed almost assuredly they were.

The NCAA needs to work with its athletes so they can succeed in the classroom regardless of the one-and-done rules in place, said Dave Ridpath, president of ethics watchdog the Drake Group. Focusing just on the one-and-done issue is “myopic,” he said.

“If these rules are hurting Purdue and they want a piece of the cake, some of what he wrote is a little disingenuous,” Ridpath said of Daniels. “But absolutely it is a cesspool, and it’s going to be hard for Condoleezza Rice to do anything. One-and-done is not the sole problem here. It’s endemic.”

Rice’s representatives did not respond to a request for comment. Other members of the commission referred a reporter to either Rice or the NCAA. The NCAA declined comment.

It’s unclear what recommendations the commission will make. Emmert has signaled that reforms must happen quickly. In his address last month at the annual NCAA convention, he called for swift changes to programs in time for next season. The NCAA has set aside an initial $10 million investment for the commission’s ideas.

ESPN reported that the NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, met with commission members in November and discussed the one-and-done rule. Silver wants to end one-and-done, according to ESPN, with an eye toward allowing high school players to once again make an immediate jump to the pros. The NBA’s union has long sought to draft players right after high school graduation. But it would likely need to cede one-and-done and mandate players who do enter college stay for at least two years.

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Asheville expands program to encourage on-time graduation

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 03/01/2018 - 08:00

Many students no longer enjoy summers off, and some colleges are seeing this months-long break as key to promoting on-time graduation. But the cost of attending classes may discourage students from enrolling in the summer.

The University of North Carolina at Asheville has come up with a remedy: free summer courses. The university is offering students who are one or two classes shy of junior or senior status (60 or 90 credits) free summer courses to encourage them to complete the 120 credits required to graduate in four years. The six-year graduation rate at Asheville is 60 percent, according to Deaver Traywick, interim senior director of student success. And the four-year rate, according to the U.S. Education Department, is just under 40 percent.

The second, expanded pilot, called the "first to finish" program, covers tuition for four general education courses, each worth four credits, in the summertime (HUM 214, Communities and Selves; HUM 324, The Modern World; and HUM 414, The Individual in the Contemporary World; and ARTS 310, Arts and Ideas). According to Traywick, the university selected these courses because they help fulfill the university's liberal arts core requirements. Undergraduate summer school classes at Asheville cost $288.80 per credit hour for in-state residents and $610.80 for out-of-state residents.

This year, the program has expanded significantly, with Asheville set to offer 75 to 100 students one or two summer classes plus housing if they need it. The initiative is funded by a $95,000 grant from the University of North Carolina System.

Last summer, the university accepted 23 of 38 applicants to the original pilot, the "back on track" program, after advertising directly to 148 individuals who met the requirements and were one or two courses away from being seniors at the end of their junior year. Of the 23 students, 19 are on track to graduate this May. The program was funded by a $31,500 grant from the state university system; individual packages averaged $1,369 each. While Asheville pledged to cover room and board as well, all 23 students had housing arrangements and didn’t need that money.

Asheville’s interim chancellor, Joseph Urgo, said that the program focuses on low-income, rural and first-generation students. Of the 23 students selected last year, two were from rural counties and 10 were eligible for Pell Grants at some point during their enrollment.

To Urgo, graduating in four years has both academic and psychological benefits. “It can change your personal narrative,” he said.

At the moment, Asheville is the only college in the state university system to offer free summer tuition to rising seniors. But according to Andrew P. Kelly, senior vice president for strategy and policy at the system, the initiative may pilot at other UNC campuses. Western Carolina University announced a similar program recently -- the college is set to offer 70 scholarships of $500 each to matriculating low-income students or those who attended the school for a year but have yet to earn 30 credits, to attend six to eight credit hours’ worth of summer school.

Kelly said Asheville’s program is a "smart idea" because it challenges the traditional academic calendar and gives juniors "a bit of a nudge to stay on track."

“Many of our institutions are interested in this and we’re actively considering ways to leverage the full calendar,” Kelly said. “Asheville is a really important test case.”

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Experts see end in sight to China's brain drain

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 03/01/2018 - 08:00

A sure sign of a higher education sector that is still in its developmental stage is a brain drain of young researchers to Western universities.

For many years, this has been China’s experience, even as it spends huge amounts of money on its goal of becoming a “powerhouse of higher education” by 2050. But now, efforts to stem the loss of talented academics are paying off, according to the president of China’s major science funding agency.

“Just 10 years ago, the flow of talent was at about seven Chinese students leaving for every one that came back. Now it’s six [students] returning in every seven,” said Wei Yang, president of the National Natural Science Foundation of China. “The brain drain is almost over.”

Yang said that the improvement was partly due to an increase in the number of scientists coming from abroad to work in China, but was also driven by the growth of China’s youth population and improvements in domestic universities.

“We get more and more Ph.D. students coming up every year -- about 70,000 -- so there’s a big talent pool,” he said.

China’s investment in higher education shows no sign of abating as it looks to build a modern knowledge economy. Mainland China is now jointly the sixth most-represented nation in the top 200 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, with Peking and Tsinghua Universities in the top 30. The country’s latest excellence initiative, “Double First Class,” looks to achieve “world-class” status for 42 universities by the middle of the century.

China’s strategy focuses heavily on science and engineering subjects, and the NSFC’s budget has increased from 18 million renminbi ($2.8 million) at its founding in 1986 to 28.6 billion renminbi ($4.5 billion) last year.

Yang said that his funding agency was now looking to recruit from abroad just to keep on top of the growing burden of administering these funds.

“We have only 230 staff for the whole of the NSFC and every year we have to handle 200,000 grant applications -- that’s an average 1,000 applications each,” he said. “It’s important to consider how to keep improving on quality when you have this heavy workload.”

With a career spanning 30 years, Yang, an internationally acclaimed engineer and materials science researcher, said that he had nonetheless come across several “surprises” during his five years as leader of the funding body.

“The first is that over the past five years, the people who get grants are so much younger than before,” he said.

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Colleges award tenure

Inside HigherEd - Thu, 03/01/2018 - 08:00

Bowdoin College

  • Vladimir Douhovnikoff, biology
  • Benjamin Gorske, chemistry
  • Christopher Heurlin, government and Asian studies
  • Tracy McMullen, music
  • Ingrid Nelson, sociology and anthropology
  • John (Jack) O’Brien, mathematics
  • Emily Peterman, earth and oceanographic science
  • Manuel Reyes, mathematics
  • Meghan Roberts, history
  • Daniel Stone, economics
  • Hilary Thompson, English

Carleton College

  • Laska Jimsen, cinema and media studies
  • Elizabeth “Liz” Yoon Hwa Raleigh, sociology
  • Jeffrey Snyder, education studies

Clarkson University

  • Byron Erath, mechanical and aeronautical engineering
  • Alex Lee, communication and media
  • Lisa Legault, psychology
  • Chen Liu, electrical and computer engineering
  • Guohui Song, mathematics
  • Khiem Tran, civil and environmental engineering
  • Steven Wojtkiewicz, civil and environmental engineering
  • Christina Xydias,, political science
  • Guangming Yao, mathematics

Colorado College

  • Ryan Raul Bañagale, music
  • Amy Dounay, chemistry
  • Heidi R. Lewis, feminist and gender studies
  • Matthew Whitehead, mathematics and computer science

Illinois Wesleyan University

  • Ann Eckhardt, nursing
  • Abigail Kerr, psychology
  • Wendy Kooken, nursing
  • Kristine Nielsen, art

Macalester College

  • Lesley Lavery, political science
  • Michael McGaghie, music
  • Kari Shepherdson-Scott, art history

St. Norbert College

  • Katie Garber, chemistry
  • Eric Hagedorn, philosophy
  • Anna Herrman, communication and media studies
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Faculty, students and alumni object to moving UT Austin's fine arts collection off-site

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 02/28/2018 - 08:00

Real estate on the University of Texas at Austin campus is scarce -- so scarce that the College of Fine Arts and the University of Texas Libraries have already moved tens of thousands of books, journals, music scores, CDs and other works from Austin’s Fine Arts Library off-site with little input from the faculty. That, along with a proposal to keep culling and moving the collection, has many professors up in arms.

“The declared aim is to move libraries into the 21st century, and nobody’s opposing that here,” said Thomas G. Palaima, Robert M. Armstrong Centennial Professor in Classics and director for Austin’s program in Aegean scripts and prehistory. “But don’t move it into the 21st century by destroying a resource that’s been built up over decades and decades.”

Last semester, Doug Dempster, dean of fine arts, confirmed in a memo to faculty members that he had worked with the library service to move fine arts collections concentrated on the fourth floor of the E. William Doty Fine Arts Building to the fifth floor, and moved what he called “many rarely circulating items” to other locations. That was after much of the collections already had been pushed to the fourth floor from the third to make way for a sleek new maker space called the Foundry. Some faculty members recall finding out about the initial move only by visiting the library and seeing their needed books and journals weren't there.

“Many rarely circulating items” turned out to be about 75,000 pieces, by the university's counting -- a major share of the collection. Most have been moved to a storage facility on the Pickle Research Campus or the Joint Library Facility at Texas A&M University, more than 100 miles away.

Interlibrary transfers are supposed to take up to 72 hours, but faculty members report that some requests have taken much longer. Moreover, they say, the experience of shopping the stacks -- discovering resources by thumbing through them -- is greatly diminished when one must request specific titles from other locations.

Thomas Hubbard, another professor of classics, said via email that the rationale behind the move “reveals just how little understanding library and university administrators have of how academic research actually works.”

Palaima agreed, noting with some irony that a university news story highlighting how an undergraduate used the Foundry to make a six-string violin on a 3-D printer said he'd been inspired to do so only after finding a composition in the stacks, by chance.

Others have raised concerns about process, saying that professors involved with the collection day to day were never consulted about its future.

Jeffrey Chipps Smith, Kay Fortson Chair in European Art at Austin, wrote an open letter to the dean, saying that the fine arts library is among the best in his field in North America -- in part because he and his colleagues have helped curate it. Through annual requests to the Kimbell Art Foundation in Fort Worth and matching funds from the library service, he said, he’s added some $400,000 in supplemental acquisition funds to the fine arts collection over the past 15 years.

“As I watch the dismantling of the Fine Arts Library,” he wrote, “I am not sure that I can in good conscience” ask the foundation for future support. 

Nearly 100 students also attended a town hall on the collection matter in November, with many saying they opposed moving resources. Alumni have also voiced opposition to the changes.

What About the Rest of It?

The fate -- or at least the final destination -- of the remaining 200,000 fine arts items remains to be seen. While their current placement is a “great thing, no doubt,” for those students and scholars close to campus, Dempster said in his memo, “few linger after retrieving material or browsing.” In the fifth floor’s 18,000 square feet, he said, “one is hard pressed at any random hour to find more than a handful of students studying or browsing the collection, some just taking advantage of the solitude of the space.” Circulation numbers also have fallen dramatically, he said. (Critics have argued that heavy art books aren't generally checked out of the library, and that less-than-stellar wifi on the floors in question explain some of why they're not busy.)

Asking whether the space can be put to better use, Dempster said he planned to form two working groups, to include faculty members, to study various alternatives and what facilities the college’s new programs need. He noted that for the first time in decades, thanks to new degree programs, enrollments in the college are growing rather than shrinking. On any given day, for example, he said, hundreds of students and professors are working on the newly redesigned fourth floor, which now houses classrooms, media spaces and offices for the new School of Design and Creative Technologies.

The crown jewel of the library redesign remains the Foundry, however, which houses a laser cutter, 3-D printers, virtual reality headsets, sewing machines, mills, cameras and other video and audio equipment. Dempster described the third floor as a "realization" of the "rejuvenation" he and the library service imagined.

Palaima said he understood the college's desire to modernize its facilities, as well as the inherent tension between fine and applied arts programs and more theory- and history-oriented ones. But to take the Fine Arts Library out of the fine arts building is gravely shortsighted, he said.

The library task force is due to report its findings by April, but Palaima said a lifetime in academe had imbued in him little faith in committees. They're formed either to stall, come up with good ideas that their creators can claim or create bad ideas that by comparison make the original ones sound good, he said.

Smith, the art historian, said Tuesday that he doesn't oppose the new design and creative technologies program, just that it and the movement of a floor full of books to accommodate it were presented to the faculty as a fait accompli. "I do oppose the decimation and potential future closure of one of the finest fine arts libraries in North America," he added. "It supports one of the largest and strongest graduate art history programs in the country."

Travis Willmann, a spokesperson for the university's library service, said Tuesday that the last new library was built on campus in 1979, when the campus had four million volumes. Today, he said, Austin has 10.8 million volumes and has been moving items to remote storage since the late 1990s.

Lorraine Haricombe, vice provost and director of libraries at Austin said through Willmann, via email, that a "core duty of professional librarians assigned to collections is to maintain a highly curated collection to support teaching and research. Collections are curated both in terms of what to add and what to move to storage. In general, our liaison librarians consult with faculty on an ongoing basis in order to inform both decisions, although the specific approach varies across disciplines."

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Parental involvement drastically changes students' college experience, study shows

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 02/28/2018 - 08:00

A new report on parental involvement and wealth shaping a college student’s experience presents the following striking scenario: one student is accepted into a prestigious dental program, steered by her family, who also carefully shape her undergraduate path.

Another, much poorer student, announces her intention to be a dentist, but without the same level of expertise and service from her parents ends up in $11-an-hour dental assistant job, which doesn’t even require a bachelor’s degree.

Research published recently in Sociology of Education tracks a contingent of female students from 41 families in their years at an unnamed flagship public institution in the Midwest. The authors of the study show how parents' affluence can significantly boost their children’s college and employment prospects. But it also demonstrates that the working class rely on resources -- programs for low-income students, advisers, tutors -- touted by institutions that may not be accessible or affordable.

Because colleges have struggled financially, too, the focus has turned to the more affluent students and their families -- the ones who bring in greater tuition dollars, the researchers said.

“I think to me what was interesting [was] that the institutions often time portray that there are all of these resources available,” said Josipa Roksa, one of the researchers and a professor of sociology and education at the University of Virginia. “It gives these parents a false sense of security thinking that their students are being taken care of, that there are people to guide and mentor them, and that just doesn’t happen.”

The study details the experiences of women on one floor of a so-called party dormitory on the institution’s campus. Generally, because this building is one of the more favored on campus, the wealthier families intentionally placed their students there, while the less affluent students ended up there by chance.

The authors classify the parents into two categories -- one, the richer counterparts, were dubbed the “college concierges” versus the “college outsiders.”

Among those more affluent parents, many stayed in touch with their children regularly, giving them money and advice on academics and their social lives with the intention to lead them to a career.

Often, this guidance went beyond simply words of encouragement or suggestions. The authors document how many of the richer students in their study had come from out of state but attended the university because it offered a specialized program that the parents had in mind.

The university’s business school is cited as an example. The report references it as particularly difficult to gain admittance to, but says the wealthier students were able to enroll much more easily because their parents could afford SAT and academic tutoring, understood the requirements of the program better, and felt comfortable talking to institution officials.

The nationally ranked business school offered smaller classes and connected the students with career opportunities that the outside majors did not have, the report states.

Their parents also urged their children to join social clubs, including Greek life, and both greased the wheels to ensure they’d be accepted by sororities and counseled them on how to behave at Greek events.

Those parents told them “only to accept drinks from friends” and “don’t funnel drinks,” reflecting an understanding of the party culture of sororities, while low-income parents who might not have attended college themselves reported thinking that Greek culture was much more academically oriented. And one low-income student said of her chances of getting into a sorority, it’s “like a black person working at Abercrombie: not gonna happen.”

In the case of the student who ultimately went to dental school, after college began, her parents sat down with her to review applications for programs and what she needed. They pushed her to join the Crest Club, of which she ultimately became president. The parents of that student paid for summer courses to lighten her load during the traditional academic year so she could focus on other activities.

Laura Hamilton, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Merced, and the study’s lead author, noted that the advantages the now dentist had versus the student who worked back in her hometown at a lower wage snowballed. Early on there were few differences between the two women, but ultimately, little separations in their lives were magnified by the time they both graduated college.

“These little tweaks along the way made a huge difference,” Hamilton said.

Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, said wealthier parents often understand the opportunities available to their students -- the internships, some unpaid, and studying abroad -- because they attended college and know how those experiences can affect students’ career trajectories.

“Some clear advantages exist,” Kruger said.

By contrast, the “college outsiders” -- a reference to parents feeling removed from the traditional undergraduate experience -- felt ill equipped to help their children, instead telling them to rely on the advisers and other programs that were supposedly in place.

But these were flawed, the study found. One faculty adviser told her mentee to consider sports communications because the student “liked sports,” but ultimately, she couldn’t land a job because the field required internships. This left her to switch majors, and she was unable to graduate in four years.

The university did have programs in place designed to help poorer students, but the researchers discovered that students were either unaware of them or they helped only a fraction of the population. At the time the study was conducted -- starting around 2004 -- about 20 to 25 percent of the students at the university were either first generation or were from impoverished backgrounds, but only one-third to one-fifth of them were enrolled in any sort of program.

The largest program for low-income students on the campus admitted about 200 students a year but didn’t help at all with tuition.

Ultimately, 75 percent of the wealthier students were able to graduate in four years -- compared to only 40 percent of their low-income counterparts. None of the six students in the “working class,” which the authors defined as coming from a family earning $40,000 or less annually, earned their degrees.

Roksa -- author of one of the most influential books in higher education, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, which alleges that students don’t learn much during college -- said institutions are aware that they need to cater more to their low-income students, but they need to do more to help them.

Because over the past several decades local and state funding to colleges has markedly declined, they have turned to recruiting higher-dollar out-of-state students and focused more on pleasing them and their parents, said Roksa.

States have started competing with each other more for nonresident students, including some colleges lowering out-of-state tuition rates, Kruger said. Fund-raising has been more targeted toward parents’ associations, too, which comprise largely upper-middle-class and upper-income families, he said.

What was particularly surprising to Hamilton was the degree to which universities are now cooperating with the wealthier families.

She said that traditionally public institutions, created as a public good, were meant to cater to the constituents of the state, many of whom are now ignored. While some public systems -- such as the University of California system, for instance -- subsidize low-income students’ tuition with dollars paid by the nonresidents, it’s becoming tougher to do so, Hamilton said. UC has of late admitted fewer of these less affluent students in favor of the richer.

“If they can pay, they will have more say,” Roksa said.

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HBCU leaders meet, say strategy under Trump is paying off

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 02/28/2018 - 08:00

WASHINGTON -- Officials from the Trump administration have faced intense protests when visiting historically black colleges and universities, and leaders of those institutions themselves have taken heat from students and faculty for even meeting with administration officials.

But groups that represent historically black colleges have pursued a highly public, if controversial, strategy of courting influence with the White House and Republican lawmakers.

As presidents of HBCUs from across the country assembled at the Capitol this week for meetings with members of Congress, the architects of that strategy say they’re getting results.

Skepticism persists among many of the sector’s supporters, and black colleges haven’t seen a big influx of new federal support. But the sector's lobby groups have claimed victories on financial aid policies, particularly the return of year-round Pell Grants. They also point to more symbolic steps involving federal support, such as the transfer of the White House HBCU Initiative from the U.S. Department of Education to the administration’s executive offices. Most importantly, they say, concerns of HBCUs are registering with top officials in the administration.

Some of those wins won’t look like much to critics of active engagement with the Trump administration. And bigger challenges still face historically black colleges, including limited capital improvement funds and a high proportion of low-income and first-generation students in need of academic support.

HBCU leaders this week got a chance to reacquaint members of Congress and administration officials with their priorities at the Hill event organized by Senator Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, and Representative Mark Walker, a North Carolina Republican.

It’s the second year the Republicans have held the event. Last year’s meeting was noted by the wider public mostly for an Oval Office detour featuring an awkward photo op with President Trump. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in the same series of meetings provoked a fiery backlash when she called historically black institutions “pioneers of school choice.”

But Republican lawmakers and HBCU leaders argue year-round Pell Grants wouldn’t have been restored by Congress last year without those meetings. And Harry L. Williams, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, cites the relationships historically black colleges are building in Washington as much as any concrete policy developments.

“This is a continuing dialogue,” Williams said. “In this city, that’s what you’ve got to do.”

His predecessor at the fund, Johnny Taylor Jr., was the biggest public face of the sector's efforts to engage Republicans in Washington. But Williams, until recently president of Delaware State University, served on the fund's board and was involved in the strategy.

Trump on Tuesday named Taylor the chairman of the advisory board for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

For the Trump administration, working with black colleges offers a chance to burnish what credentials it still has with minority communities. Its frequent discussions with HBCU leaders comprise what is likely the White House’s most notable and sustained outreach to any minority group since Trump took office.

At the event, Walker cited personal reasons for caring about the success of black colleges -- his wife attended one. His district also includes North Carolina A&T University, the nation's largest HBCU. Scott said he began organizing the meetings last year to address untapped potential in minority communities. Working with Republicans in Congress is also less toxic for college presidents than working with this White House.

The payoffs of working with Republicans at the federal level already are apparent, Williams said. Chief among those is restoration of year-round Pell, the top priority pushed by college presidents at last year’s event.

That was also a policy goal shared by a wide range of higher ed advocacy groups, particularly those that represent two-year colleges. But Williams said the change wouldn’t have come about were it not for relationships cultivated with Republicans like Walker and Scott.

More recently, Congress in a budget deal forgave $330 million in Hurricane Katrina cleanup-related debt held by a handful of New Orleans-area HBCUs. “That is huge,” said Williams, who credited the Congressional Black Caucus as well as Republican lawmakers with the expenditure, but said the White House also had to sign off on it.

Both budget proposals submitted by the Trump administration have spared dedicated funding for HBCUs even as they recommended steep cuts elsewhere in the Education Department. But since Congress doesn’t adopt the president’s budget or even use it as a template for its own budget process, that proposal amounted to little more than a goodwill gesture that required no political capital or real money commitment from the White House. Lawmakers last year basically maintained stable funding for programs dedicated to historically black colleges.

And in an executive order signed almost exactly a year ago, Trump moved the HBCU Initiative from the department to the executive offices -- a long-held priority for many representatives of historically black colleges. That executive order also dictated that federal agencies should have a plan of action to work with those institutions.

"The executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs and a representative from the White House Domestic Policy Council will meet with HBCU leaders this week to discuss the Trump administration’s ongoing work to directly benefit HBCUs," Hogan Gidley, deputy White House press secretary, said in a written statement. "The president’s commitment to the HBCU community remains strong, and hopes to continue our work with these important institutions of higher education."

Partnerships With Employers

Rather than funding or federal policy, much of the discussion with policy makers this week focused on how HBCUs could better work with local industries or partner with larger higher education institutions in their states. Alabama representative Terri Sewell, the lone Democrat on a panel Monday afternoon that featured Walker, Scott and Senator James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, said black colleges have a funding problem, not an educational problem.

But, she said, “we have to start thinking outside the box.”

Scott said that last year’s meeting led Northrop Grumman, a federal defense contractor, to conduct virtual job fairs at several historically black colleges that led to the hiring of around 40 HBCU graduates. That’s the kind of relationship between colleges and private industry Republicans this week indicated they are interested in fostering.

Trump in September named Johnathan Holifield -- who had no significant experience at black colleges but a long track record in the private sector -- the executive director of the HBCU Initiative. That announcement followed a record wait. Holifield promised to further develop black colleges’ connections with industry. What that means on a practical level for those institutions remains unclear.

Less publicized by black colleges among their wins at the federal level is the rollback of regulations under the Trump administration. When DeVos said last year that she would block two Obama administration rules, the department cited a letter from UNCF that took issue with several provisions of the so-called borrower-defense rule.

Black colleges had quietly been among the strongest opponents of the rule, which established a federal standard for borrowers to seek student loan forgiveness if they were defrauded or misled by their institution. Williams said a rewrite of the rule under DeVos allowed the department to account for the concerns of members from both organizations and was an example of how DeVos is listening to their sector.

Lodriguez Murray, vice president for public policy and government affairs at UNCF, said the group measures progress at the federal level by two barometers -- the willingness of the administration to listen and real funding commitments. He said the group already has found the administration willing to cooperate on issues like the extension of Title III funds to strengthen HBCUs.

On funding matters, the picture is less clear. Murray noted that the White House kept Title III funding steady in its budget proposals but also proposed the elimination of programs like TRIO, which assist low-income and first-generation students in getting to college.

Black colleges have found themselves playing defense on funding proposals in Congress as well. Murray said HBCUs would bear a disproportionate impact of House GOP leaders' proposed elimination of aid programs like the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant as Congress seeks to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. (The White House has avoided weighing in on specific provisions of the bill, while House Republican leaders have yet to find the support necessary to bring it to a vote on the floor.)

“While other reforms, like simplifying FAFSA, would be helpful, it makes no sense to eliminate federal funding targeted towards our students that need it the most,” Murray said.

Skeptics of the tack taken by HBCUs under the Trump administration aren’t bowled over by any federal accomplishments so far. Marybeth Gasman, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Minority-Serving Institutions and a critic of efforts to engage the White House, said a year after Trump’s executive order, little has been heard from the HBCU Initiative. And while successive White House budgets have protected HBCU funding, those institutions were already in desperate need of more federal support, Gasman and others said.

Gasman was more supportive of work to engage Republicans in Congress, although she's seen few gains from those meetings so far.

"It is beneficial for HBCU leaders to have strong relationships with members of Congress," she said. "I hope that these congresspeople will have the sense to understand the importance of HBCUs, the contributions, and to stand up to any efforts by Trump to take away resources."

Even among college presidents who have made it a point to take part in meetings with lawmakers and the administration, the jury is still out on whether Republicans in Washington will deliver. David Wilson, the president of Morgan State University, a public HBCU located in Baltimore, said lobby groups for the sector had done an admirable job educating officials in the White House and Congress. But new federal investments in black colleges have been limited, he said.

“Personally, I still am waiting to see significant results,” Wilson said. “Certainly from last year to this year, we have not gotten any worse.”

Crystal deGregory, director of the Atwood Institute for Race, Education and the Democratic Ideal at Kentucky State University, a historically black institution, said assessing whether the sector's strategy in Washington is paying off isn’t so cut-and-dried, largely because so many factors are out of the colleges’ control.

“Given the increasingly tenuous nature of race relations and seemingly expendable nature of black lives, as well as the current administration’s complicity in these rising levels of toxicity, HBCU leaders are doing what they’ve always done -- the best they can to walk the fine line between honoring their constituents’ demands to voice black discontent while not burning bridges necessary to secure the federal support so critical to what we do,” she said via email. “The unexpected gift of this moment does, however, offer the culture and its leaders an opportunity to step up our campaigns to educate politicians and the wider public about our historic mission and contemporary vision.”

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Christian university debates an anonymous "conservative underground" publication

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 02/28/2018 - 08:00

The newsletter appeared anonymously at Taylor University, in the hallways of academic and residence buildings -- seemingly everywhere.

Now Taylor, an interdenominational Christian university in Indiana, is trying to figure out what to do about Excalibur, which has generated considerable campus debate. The publication suggests that the university has strayed from its Christian roots, which may strike some as odd given that Taylor's rules for student conduct and focus on faith would stand out as traditional and religious compared to most of American higher education.

The student code of conduct, for example, bans "gossip, slander, backbiting, profanity, vulgarity, crude language, sexual immorality (including adultery, homosexual behavior, premarital sex and involvement with pornography in any form), drunkenness, immodesty of dress and occult practice." A review of events at Taylor suggests that many are related to the college's Christian identity.

But Excalibur proclaims that its authors see "permissive views of human sexuality, hostility toward creationist perspectives, rejection of the rule of law (especially on the immigration issue) and uncritical endorsement of liberal-progressive ideas," including "Marxist-inspired critical race theory."

Why anonymous? The publication states that campus publications are "insufficient to counter leftist trends." Further, the publication says that by creating a "conservative underground," the founders can say more. "This forum allows us to articulate our conservative stances boldly, extensively and without editorial filter," the publication says.

It also adds that "our current cultural climate makes so much of personality that withholding our identities will help to keep the focus on the issues rather than who we are." The publication does state that students, faculty members and others are involved.

A spokesman for Taylor said people on campus take their faith seriously. It is true, he said, that biology faculty members teach evolution. But he also said people on the campus "believe that God created the heavens and the earth." With regard to immigration, he said many on campus believe the university "should be welcoming to people from all nationalities," while others are more focused on legal issues.

Many Christian college leaders have expressed support for refugees and for undocumented students, seeing such support as connected to their faith, not in opposition to it. The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, of which Taylor is a member, is among the many higher education groups that have called on Congress to restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

At Taylor, President Paul Lowell Haines issued a statement saying he and others at the university welcome open debate on the issues raised in Excalibur. But he criticized the publication's authors for making their case anonymously.

"The unsanctioned, anonymous and suspect distribution of the publication sowed discord and distrust, hurting members of our community. I am disappointed in the drafters and distributors of Excalibur for their method of addressing these issues, and especially for their lack of foresight and sensitivity regarding how this approach could impact community members, especially those of color," Haines wrote. "Whatever their good intentions, they failed."

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Debate at University of Tennessee over posttenure review plan

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 08:00

A joint committee of faculty members and administrators from across the University of Tennessee’s four campuses spent months revising the system’s posttenure review policy, which it acknowledged was outdated and needed strengthening. The committee included the university system's Board of Trustees in its process and its recommendations were adopted this year, with the goal of making posttenure review clearer and more meaningful.

So professors from across the system are baffled and alarmed by a new, hastily written add-on proposal from the trustees, with some saying it challenges the idea of tenure altogether.

“We’re concerned they're putting together a very ambiguous board policy that threatens academic freedom and represents a huge service load on the faculty,” said Beauvais Lyons, Chancellor’s Professor of Art at the Knoxville campus and president of its Faculty Senate.

Tennessee’s current -- and still very new -- Enhanced Posttenure Performance Review (EPPR) policy says that a campus chief academic officer must initiate an assessment after a professor gets an overall “unsatisfactory” annual performance review rating (the lowest category) or two annual review ratings of “needs improvement” (the next-to-lowest rating) in a four-year period.

Professors may also request an enhanced posttenure review after at least four regular, annual review cycles.

But earlier this month, professors found out that the trustees had written a new part of the policy, reserving the board’s right to direct administrations to review “some or all tenured faculty of a campus, college, school, department or division at any given time or at periodic intervals, as the board in its discretion deems warranted.”

Faculty members pushed back, saying that the proposal was too vague and ignored the role of the faculty in such matters. After some back-and-forth, the board added language affirming “the importance of tenure in protecting academic freedom and thus promoting the university’s principle [sic] mission of discovery and dissemination of truth through teaching, research, and service.”

Yet the policy goes on to say that the board “recognizes its fiduciary responsibility to students, parents, and all citizens of Tennessee to ensure that faculty members effectively serve the needs of students and the university throughout their careers.”

Therefore, it says, the board “may require the [system] president to establish procedures under which a comprehensive peer review shall be conducted of all faculty members, both tenured and non-tenured, in an academic program that has been identified as underperforming through an academic program review process.”

The president shall also establish, with board approval, “procedures for every tenured faculty member at a campus to receive a comprehensive peer review no less often than every six years.”

Such reviews may be “staggered” under the proposal, to avoid putting undo administrative work on faculty reviewers. But Lyons, of Knoxville, said the policy undeniably burdens professors with reviewing the work of their peers, top to bottom, every six years.

“The philosophy of the board is to maximize faculty productivity, yet they’re doing it through a system that requires more service of faculty,” he said.

The program review clause, meanwhile, falsely equates faculty performance with program performance, Lyons said, and “runs the risk -- if they don’t like what the College of Social Work is doing, or if they don’t like an area of research in sociology -- of being used for retribution based on data that are not rooted in the academic mission.”

By data, Lyons was referring to metrics such as numbers of majors, enrollment and cost of instructional delivery that institutions are increasingly drawing on to, in administrative terms, streamline operations. Advocates of these academic reviews say that they help colleges and universities concentrate resources where they can make the most impact. But critics say that unless they’re done thoughtfully, with faculty input, such reviews paint an incomplete picture of program success or lack thereof. Numbers of majors don’t necessarily demonstrate the important role of more service-oriented departments in delivering general education, and thereby fulfilling institutions’ liberal arts missions, for example. 

Bruce Maclennan, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Knoxville and chair of the systemwide University of Tennessee Faculty Council, said that body has multiple concerns about the proposal. It's vague and seems to be redundant, he said, in that faculty members “already have rigorous annual reviews and performance that does not meet specified expectations can trigger an EPPR,” which can lead to termination.

And while the policy’s “peer review” feature is short on detail as of now, he said, “many faculty are concerned that regular posttenure reviews will consume significant faculty time serving on review committees and perhaps also preparing review dossiers.”

Like Lyons, Maclennan said he, too, worried that the proposal could be “abused to target politically unpopular faculty or departments,” weakening tenure protections overall.

Monica Black, the Lindsay Young Associate Professor of History and president of Knoxville’s American Association of University Professors advocacy chapter, called the entire process “very rushed.” Faculty members have days to review and offer comment on the policy document, she said.

“We spent a lot of time creating a policy that is just now in place, and now this sloppy proposal is being put forth very quickly and in a very vague way.”

Lyons said the proposal’s “principle” versus “principal” typo made the rush all the more obvious and suspect. He noted that there is a simultaneous legislative effort in Tennessee to shrink the board from 27 members to 11, eliminating faculty seats and potentially concentrating the power of board leaders and the system president in the near future. 

Gina Stafford, a system spokesperson, said in statement Monday that the proposed changes will be considered by the board at its March meeting and are subject to further tweaking until then.

Tennessee is just the latest state to propose changes to tenure policies at its public universities. A proposal under consideration by the University of Arkansas System would expand terminable offenses for faculty members, to include being uncollegial.

“Virtually all faculty around the state remain opposed to the changes recommended by the university lawyers,” said Joshua Silverstein, a professor of law at the Arkansas system’s Little Rock campus who has been vocal in his opposition to the proposal, referring to the current draft of the policy. With a Board of Trustees vote also tentatively planned for March, he said, those against the changes “need to make their voices heard now.”

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Gun reform movement spreads on college campuses

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 08:00

Two weeks ago, Zach Xu drove to his hometown of Parkland, Fla. Few had heard of the sunny suburb until Valentine’s Day, when 17 people were gunned down at Xu’s former high school.

After he arrived, he stayed up past 3 a.m. with his best friend, who lost his sister 10 hours earlier.

But Xu couldn’t sleep.

At 5 a.m., he was up on Facebook making an event, a vigil for the University of Florida, which he attends, to remember the victims and call for gun reform.

“I think that’s different about our community,” Xu said in an interview. “In regard to other school shootings have happened, we’re extremely proactive. We’re never going to give this up. We’re going to make change happen, and we’re going to fight tooth and nail for this so 17 lives weren’t lost in vain.”

The phenomenon he described became a national fixation mere hours after the killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The students there were galvanized and angry. They did not shy away from media interviews -- they challenged lawmakers and the National Rifle Association to a televised debate while organizing national marches and becoming Twitter sensations.

Their aggressive activism -- declared by some observers to be a “tipping point” on gun violence -- also has caught on at college campuses, where students like Xu have created their own demonstrations, petitions and plans for walkouts.

Xu said around 400 people attended the event that occurred just a few days after he sent out his Facebook invite. Students who attended, many of them from South Florida, told their stories.

Many of the students at the vigil have siblings still in high school and they love their communities, Xu said -- just like the people of Parkland. Hearing about the personal experiences from those who were touched by the Stoneman Douglas shooting affected the crowd deeply, he said.

The movement is grassroots and student founded, said Xu, who added that he “truly believes change is going to happen, and it will happen.”

Another Parkland native, Stevie Schapiro, who is now a sophomore at George Washington University, said she had not previously been an activist.

The day of the shooting, a friend from high school texted her, asking if she had seen what was happening in the news.

Schapiro called her mom, who told her, “This is bad -- this is more than what you think.”

Schapiro described the next few days as “insanity.” People she went to elementary school with checked up on her while blood drives popped up and camera lenses were trained on the place where she grew up.

Schapiro wanted to do something but had no direction. She was particularly frustrated by a lack of feedback from faculty members and administrators on her campus. For example, Schapiro said she did not receive a response to an email she sent to the university's president. (The president did later meet with her.)

So instead, she scribbled ideas -- including for a vigil -- on a yellow notepad after a poor night’s sleep.

A professor showed her sympathy, she said, listening to her ideas and staying with her “every step of the way.” Schapiro was impressed, too, that the professor brought up the shooting in her classes, when other faculty members hadn’t acknowledged it, creating an emotional bottleneck for her.

The vigil drew more than 300 attendees, with an ever-growing Facebook group and plans to do more.

“I’m so saddened that it took me this long to be on top of this issue,” she said.

Schapiro recently declared her major in psychology, with a dual minor in public health and social justice -- a choice in part fueled by her newfound interest in gun-violence awareness.

“I was scared,” she said. “I don’t like public speaking, but when you are directly impacted, you’ll do whatever it takes.”

Chicago native Marley Rosario, a first-year student at the University of Chicago, has been fighting for social and policy changes for much longer. After the shooting, a student group he belongs to rallied -- Gather Activism partners with other Chicago-based activist organizations, such as Indivisible Chicago (a campaign against President Trump’s policies), and helps students to connect with the rich base of activists in the city, Rosario said.

Many students want to be involved with these causes but are unsure how to do it, Rosario said. Following the shooting, a lot of students came to the group’s leaders with that question -- what now?

Gather Activism helped bus students to a march downtown, where the state branch of Indivisible Chicago requested that students speak at and lead the demonstration.

“They wanted to make sure students were front and center at the event … and are leading this movement going forward,” Rosario said. “In terms of if you look at who is being victimized by gun shootings, overwhelmingly it’s students in schools and churches on the South Side of Chicago.”

Gather Activism will be helping register high school and college students to vote, Rosario said, to inspire the next generation and to vote out lawmakers who don’t enact new laws. Students also will be participating in the Chicago version of a national march on March 24. Hundreds of thousands are anticipated to flock to Washington to protest during that event, which is dubbed the March for Our Lives.

“They weren’t necessarily involved before,” Rosario said. “But they are now.”

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Editors discuss new collection on civil rights issues raised by accountability push

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 08:00

Accountability is much discussed by those making state and federal policies. Do colleges have enough "skin in the game," is a frequently asked question, by many politicians, both Democrats and Republicans. Many states are moving toward tying appropriations to the success of a college's students at graduating or succeeding after graduation. In the U.S. Congress, Republican leaders want to apply these approaches in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

A new collection of essays -- Accountability and Opportunity in Higher Education: The Civil Rights Dimension (Harvard Education Press) -- features arguments that try to change the conversation about accountability. The essays suggest that those making policy have paid far too little attention to the impact these approaches are having on minority students and the institutions that serve large numbers of minority and low-income students. Contributors include Stella Flores of New York University, Marybeth Gasman of the University of Pennsylvania, Sara Goldrick-Rab of Temple University, Sylvia Hurtado of the University of California, Los Angeles, and a number of others.

Also contributing essays to the volume are the two editors of the book, Gary Orfield, Distinguished Research Professor of Education, Law, Political Science and Urban Planning, and co-founder and co-director of the Civil Rights Project, at UCLA; and Nicholas Hillman, an associate professor of educational leadership and policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Orfield and Hillman responded via email to questions about their new book.

Q: Many of the chapters seem to suggest that accountability measures have overlooked the civil rights dimension. Why has this been the case?

A: In a society that is deeply polarized by race, the tendency is for the most privileged groups to see things as fair -- to see few limits on possibilities and to attribute differences in outcomes to individual effort or failure of a group’s culture. It is convenient and even necessary for privileged groups to overlook structural barriers if they want to maintain their advantages. People in excluded groups are much more aware of the barriers, and they have the most to gain from eliminating them. Ignoring these barriers perpetuates and justifies inequality. This is why accountability policies must prioritize the experience of excluded groups in order to reverse inequality. This is also why a central requirement of civil rights policies calls for reporting on race, having plans to overcome structural barriers, prosecuting discrimination and assessing outcomes by race. But most accountability systems documented in this book are not designed to address deeply rooted racial or economic injustices, leaving us concerned that accountability efforts themselves can be part of the problem when they ignore unequal opportunities and resources.

Q: If you had to pick two examples of misguided policies cited in the book that have a negative impact on minority students, what would they be?

A: Chapters in the book were originally written during the height of the Obama administration’s college rating system proposal and later redrafted to cover state accountability issues and the early Trump period. Authors highlight a number of ways the proposed rating systems would have been misguided, such as the failure to promote input-adjusted measures that would have recognizing and rewarded colleges for serving students from highly unequal racial and economic backgrounds. Similarly, the study highlights how federal sanctions would have had particularly harmful effects in geographically remote communities where there are large and growing shares of Latino residents. The second misguided policy was the tightening of Parent PLUS Loan standards without viable alternatives to help students afford college. Due to a long legacy of disadvantage and injustice, black, Latino and Native American families have less wealth than white families. So when the federal government, in the name of greater accountability, restricted access to loans without expanding access to other lines of credit, this had a disproportionate effect on students of color.

Q: Proponents of accountability suggest that they are trying to help minority and disadvantaged students avoid institutions that may not serve them well. What would be your response?

A: Most colleges and universities, though they value diversity, do not adopt missions about serving minority communities or students ill prepared in unequal high schools. Colleges are too often measured and evaluated on selectivity and outcomes that ignore precollegiate academic preparation or economic inequalities of their student bodies. As a result, many colleges appear to be poor performers not serving students well when they may actually be doing quite well given their resources. This is why using input-adjusted performance metrics, accounting for differences in institutional resources (and not just missions), rewarding colleges for serving underrepresented students well and building capacities where inequalities exist are ways to improve existing accountability systems. Unfortunately, current state and federal accountability systems rarely, if ever, do this. As a result, current policies can make colleges even less able to deal with the enormous challenges they face in an extremely stratified society. To be clear, no chapter absolves colleges from accountability standards and none promote watered-down accountability efforts. The authors insisting on providing the data needed to do them fairly. This book aims to raise the accountability bar by adding much-needed nuance and fairness to existing accountability efforts.

Q: How do these issues play out at minority-serving institutions?

A: Minority-serving institutions educate millions of students of color and play a crucial role in achieving national college completion goals. They disproportionately serve students who come to college with unequal academic and economic resources. When accountability policies overlook these realities and use unadjusted performance metrics, they unfairly paint MSIs as underperformers. This is a problem because well-designed input adjustments would show these colleges perform just as well as -- and in many cases better than -- other institutions. It is also a colorblind approach to accountability that will only perpetuate and reinforce inequalities.

Q: Do you see these issues at play in the House Republican plan to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (the PROSPER Act)? If so, how?

A: Yes. A clear example is “risk sharing” proposals that, depending on their final design, aim to hold colleges more accountable for the loan repayment outcomes of their students. Chapters in this book provide guidance on how policy makers might design a fairer risk-sharing system that accounts and adjusts for the deeply rooted inequalities related to student loan debt and repayment. But there is a long way to go on this front, due in large part to existing bans on student-level data. The type of accountability outlined in this book will require significant improvements to the nation’s higher education data infrastructure, and this needs to be incorporated into federal policy. Policy makers cannot afford poorly designed systems if they truly want a society where all students have a fair chance and where colleges that help those whose lives can be most transformed get the recognition and support they deserve.

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OER mandate overturned in Hawaii amid concern about infringement of academic freedom

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 08:00

Hawaii legislators last month backtracked on a bill that would have forced faculty members in the University of Hawaii system to use open educational resources -- freely accessible and openly licensed teaching materials.

The legislation, proposed as a way to reduce high textbook and other costs for students, was reportedly inspired by the early success of existing OER initiatives in the university system, which are collectively saving students hundreds of thousands of dollars a semester.

Though faculty members in the university system said they believed the bill to be well intentioned, the bill failed to take into account that OER materials may not be suitable for all courses due to copyright restrictions. It also did not offer any funding to facilitate a complete pivot to OER.

The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, a union representing faculty members in the University of Hawaii system, was quick to oppose the bill, which it said would have infringed academic freedom and limited choice for faculty members. "Is this a new definition of a state-run university?" the union asked.

Numerous states have in recent years passed laws that fund, enable or otherwise encourage the adoption of open educational resources, including California, Oregon, Washington State and, most recently, New York. But state governments have, by and large, avoided imposing mandates that require the use of such materials.

The Hawaii bill, introduced Jan. 19, would have required all faculty members in the university system to teach with OER beginning in the 2020-21 school year. The use of any instructional materials, including textbooks and online tools, that cost students money would be prohibited. Where there were no suitable OER materials existing, the bill said that instructors would have to create their own and offer them to students free.

Several faculty members independently submitted testimonies opposing the bill. Earl Hishinuma, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, for example, wrote that while he supported the intention to reduce costs for students, “this bill is not the solution.”

The university system also opposed the bill. Donald Straney, vice president of academic planning and policy at the University of Hawaii system, wrote that a mandate for OER was simply “not possible” due to the wide variety of materials used in the thousands of courses the system offers -- some of which remain under copyright.

“Faculty need to be able to choose the instructional content that is most appropriate for their courses and their students,” said Straney. He described how the university system had already invested significantly in OER, by providing grants, training and workshops, which had received a positive response from faculty members. A spokesperson for the University of Hawaii system said that OER initiatives were already saving students hundreds of thousands of dollars. Leeward Community College, for example, reported savings of $459,826 for students this semester.

Following the negative response to the bill, Senator Kaiali‘i Kahele, who introduced it, reportedly rethought his proposal. A heavily rewritten bill, which removed any OER mandate, was passed by the Senate Committee on Higher Education Feb. 6.

The amended bill proposes the creation of an OER task force to identify OER materials to be used in general education and high-attendance courses. The bill also proposes to fund a $50,000 OER pilot program that will distribute grants of between $500 and $5,000 to faculty members to incentivize them to "adopt, develop, and implement OER for their courses." The bill was recently referred to Senate Committee on Ways and Means for review.

Phil Hill, partner at Mindwires Consulting, wrote about the OER bill on the e-Literate blog, describing the incident as a “crisis averted.”

“The bill was a disaster in the making,” said Hill. “Not only would it have been unworkable in terms of funding and intellectual property ownership, it would also have set back the OER movement by associating OER with unfunded faculty mandates and reduction of academic freedom.”

Nicole Allen, director of open education for SPARC, an open-education advocacy group, said that she was pleased that the bill had been amended to remove an OER mandate. “It’s really important to recognize that mandates are not the pathway to OER,” said Allen. The values of the OER community are “deeply linked with academic freedom” and the decision whether to use OER is a “choice that each faculty member needs to make,” she said.

Allen said that she was not aware of any other state that had attempted to mandate OER, though other states, such as Colorado, have used legislation to create bodies that make recommendations on the use of OER. “The important thing is that the state Legislature listened to stakeholders and made changes to the bill,” she said, adding that “the democratic process should be just that, a process.”

Kristeen Hanselman, executive director at the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, said she appreciated that the Senator Kahele had “showed a great deal of flexibility” in response to faculty members’ concerns. She noted that the senator consulted the assembly prior to presenting the original bill, but that it was “broader than we had encouraged.”

The amendments to the bill demonstrate “a more reasoned approach,” to encouraging OER, said Hanselman, but fail to address deeper funding issues in the university system. “You have to build a system that can support what you want to build,” said Hanselman. “We aren’t there yet.”

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Hampshire College centralizes academic assistance programs in the library

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 08:00

At many colleges, academic services such as tutoring or writing centers are in the corners of campuses, scarcely known or used by students. Recognizing this, in September Hampshire College, a liberal arts institution in Massachusetts, decided to centralize its academic support programs in the library, opening a new center called the "knowledge commons." The college saw an immediate rise in student use of the various services.

Located on the first floor of the library, the commons includes one 20-seat classroom, three private rooms and one group-consultation room. The area is also outfitted with lounges, whiteboards, televisions and computers.

The library hired eight alumni to oversee programs within the academic center, including writing, public speaking, library research and media, quantitative resources, instructional technology, art gallery student exhibition support, teaching and learning, and holistic learning.

Five of these programs saw an uptick in attendance after moving to the library, according to the college. The public speaking program, which teaches skills in “persuasive public speaking, civic discourse and interpersonal communication,” saw 172 students in fall, up from 134 recorded in the 2016-17 academic year. Instructional technology helped 20 students in the fall, compared to five the previous year. The library research instruction program consulted with 38 students last semester, compared to 21 in the previous academic year.

Audrey Block, who graduated from Hampshire in May, was hired to oversee the quantitative resources center. Block appointed six students to work as paid tutors. Prior to moving to the library, the quantitative resources center was located on the third floor of the science building, Block said, which discouraged visits. Since the move to the library, attendance has risen quite significantly, from about five students every two weeks to the same number every day, Block said.

“Now it’s much more accessible to students who have basic questions,” Block said.

While the resource center accepts drop-ins in the evenings, Block is in the office between 1 and 9 p.m. and can see students during these times by appointment.

Block is in the process of interviewing a student mentor to teach coding, following several requests from students. The coding mentor will start in the next few weeks, she said.

The knowledge commons (phase one of the project) cost about $100,000 to build, according to library director Jennifer Gunter King. Next up, the library plans to build a new technology and art commons on the library’s ground floor and a community commons on the third floor.

The entire project is funded by a $1.2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. That funding is projected to run out by the end of next year.

King said she introduced the idea of centralizing Hampshire’s academic services shortly after arriving at the college in 2012, and received widespread support from staff. In 2013, the college took initial steps to centralize its academic services, when the writing center began holding help sessions in the library. After the writing center opened in the library, student attendance doubled, according to a news release.

To King, the project is only a pilot for now.

“It’s more of a funded investigation,” King said. When the grant concludes at the end of 2019, King said, the college will review the results and “decide how to maintain it.”

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Colleges name commencement speakers

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 08:00



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UC San Diego Academic Senate rejects student-led push to cut a course on Woody Allen

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 02/26/2018 - 08:00

Calls to boycott Woody Allen movies over allegations that he sexually abused his daughter Dylan Farrow when she was a child have been renewed amid the growing Me Too movement. Critics also cite other concerns about his treatment of women and girls in art and in life. At the University of California, San Diego, in recent weeks, those calls took the form of a student-led petition to end a theater class on Allen’s work.

But even some 22,000 signatures didn’t convince the faculty: the class will stand, the campus’s Academic Senate determined this month, after a review.

The matter is one of free inquiry, San Diego’s senate chairs said in a statement, summarizing the decision of the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom.

The senate “supports the right to the continued teaching of this course now and in the future,” Senate Chair Farrell Ackerman, professor of linguistics, and Vice Chair Robert Horowitz, professor of communication, wrote. “As importantly, the senate supports and will vigorously maintain the right of all faculty to participate in the principles of academic freedom: these advance and preserve the university as a singular institution for the free exchange of ideas and debate that cannot and should not be diminished by forces that seek to restrict and canalize course content in favored directions.”

Savanah Lyon, a theater major at San Diego who organized the petition and lobbied the theater department to stop offering the course, responded to the news in her own statement, saying she was “disappointed but not surprised.”

“I had hoped that the senate would listen to a student who is advocating for herself and for her peers in an institution that seems to be incapable of recognizing and listening to us, but they sided with the university and the protection of ‘academic freedom,’” she said. “I will continue to stand up and speak out against what I feel is wrong and I know that there will be people beside me helping me along the way. I pay money to this university, all students do, and therefore, we should have a say.”

In an earlier op-ed published in San Diego’s student newspaper, Lyon challenged the idea that academic freedom is a legitimate defense for teaching Allen's work. “We’ve reached a time where it no longer stands,” she said. “There are some issues that are crystal clear: Allen has a number of longstanding sexual abuse allegations and, therefore, shouldn’t get his own class devoted to him. That’s it. Line drawn. It may seem small, but removing this course from UCSD’s catalog speaks heavily to what we as a community and campus will allow. We can’t let anything slide, no matter how ‘small’ they might seem.”

Allen has denied Dylan Farrow’s allegations against him, and a decades-old criminal inquiry into the matter resulted in no charges. But Farrow, now an adult, continues to say that Allen molested her when she was 7. Mia Farrow, Allen’s former partner, also alleges that Allen began having an affair with her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn when Previn was still in high school. Allen and Previn later married.

Beyond personal matters, critics have questioned Allen’s portrayal of relationships between minors and adults on film, such as in the 1979 film Manhattan. Allen cast himself as the love interest of actor Mariel Hemingway, who was 16 years old when the film was shot. She later said that Allen “attacked” her like a “linebacker” during an on-screen kiss. Richard Morgan, a writer who was the first to read the “Woody Papers” archive at Princeton University in its entirety, has described Allen’s work as “flatly boorish. Running through all of the boxes is an insistent, vivid obsession with young women and girls.”

Still, Allen is far from the only artist associated with an obsession with young girls or women -- indeed, a staggering number of short stories, books and films are based on what Morgan, critiquing Allen, described as "young women who are compelled to lackluster men merely by the gravity of the men’s obsession." Vladimir Nabokov’s Dolores Haze in the literature class staple Lolita, was 12, for example.

Allen is also far from the only artist accused of being a bad person, criminally or otherwise. And while a number of institutions have in recent years moved to sever ties with morally abhorrent people or ideas -- revoking honorary degrees to accused serial rapist Bill Cosby or removing monuments with links to slavery, for example -- most haven’t touched on the curriculum, which remains on most campuses the exclusive domain of the faculty and therefore protected by academic freedom. Reed College, for example, has resisted student demands that it overhaul an introductory humanities course over concerns that it is too oriented toward the West.

There are exceptions. Wendy MacLeod, a professor of drama at Kenyon College, called off the production of her original, co-curricular play this semester after some on campus complained about how it portrayed Latinos. Knox College also canceled a production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechuan over student concerns about how it portrayed Asians.

Steven Adler, professor emeritus of stage management at San Diego, has taught the all-Allen course since the 1990s and is doing so this semester. The upper-division class looks at screenwriting, directing, cinematography and editing in Allen’s films, as well as the “intersection of comedy and tragedy” therein, recurring themes and critical responses. Students view 13 films, writing two three-page essays and one 10-page research paper.

Adler has declined to speak publicly about the case and did not respond to an interview request. Lyon wrote she had met with him, however, and shared her concerns. In response, she said, Adler compared “banning this class to banning classes on black history and climate change. I was asked time and time again about hypotheticals of this or that being taught or not taught in class, when it all comes down to one statement: art is not required, it is chosen. You do not have to teach Allen; you choose to. It isn’t like history -- it’s not set in stone.”

There isn’t “an exact timeline to follow or strict figures to feature,” she said. “Art is something that we as consumers of media get a choice in, and despite personal beliefs, there should be a moral obligation in these fields to feature artists that don’t have a history of abuse.”

Historians would probably take issue with the idea that the field is “set in stone.” And the senate subcommittee disagreed with Lyon in a twofold finding.

“First, we recognize that the university is responsible for vigilantly maintaining and promoting the First Amendment guarantee of free expression of ideas and opinions on campus and for encouraging critical, deliberative and informed debate on controversial issues,” it said. “This responsibility is manifested both in our valuing and respecting the right of students to express their deeply held views, and our valuing and respecting the right of our faculty, in accordance with fundamental principles of academic freedom, to choose what they teach.”

Moreover, it said, citing the American Association of University Professors’ statement on academic freedom and tenure, “we conclude that canceling or removing this or any other course for the reason that it contains the study of controversial material, or even material widely regarded as morally problematic, would undermine both the value of free inquiry and the associated rights of faculty to engage in such inquiry by choosing their course content.”

Charles Means, chair of the theater department, did not respond to a request for comment. A university spokesperson referred questions about the class to the senate’s statement.

Valerie Ross, director of the Critical Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania, has taught Allen on her campus. She said she supported the San Diego faculty’s decision to protect freedom of inquiry as well as the the #metoo and related Time's Up movements, and didn't see them as contradictory.

“What I do not support is censorship," Ross said via email. "Censoring a course on Woody Allen simply eliminates an opportunity for thoughtful, fact-based discussion about him and his work.”

The question of whether one should teach or research a particular person has been “vexed” for some time, she said. “Learning and scholarship — academic structure itself — is predicated on such friction, such differences of view.” 

During the heyday of critical theory, for example, Ross recalled, there were “incredibly substantive, heated debates about how or whether to teach, and how or whether to consider, the work of Paul de Man, who was revealed as a Nazi sympathizer and, over time, whose very theory was seen as linked to a Nazi world view; or Louis Althusser, who strangled his wife and whose critics, like those of de Man, came to see his philosophy as inextricably linked to maintaining an oppressive system, in this latter case, patriarchy.” 

“Foreclosing” upon such discussions in the classroom or scholarship “serves no one's interests,” Ross said. “We learned from studying these men the subtle relationships between our ideas and our ideologies, our theories and our practices.”  

A class on Woody Allen, therefore, “provides an excellent case for revitalizing a question that extends back to Plutarch and is very much at the core of the liberal arts: the question of the extent to which one can or should read a text (a film, a book, a theory, an action) through the character of its author or vice versa.”

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Public expresses more confidence in 'higher education' than in 'colleges or universities'

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 02/26/2018 - 08:00

College and university leaders have been consumed since last summer with trying to understand public attitudes about them, as surveys and studies -- like this and this and this and this -- have delivered evidence of growing skepticism and doubts about the value of what consumers and society get from higher education.

Gallup injected yet more data into the mix Friday, with a new survey that both reinforces the idea that higher education has seriously alienated white male Americans without a degree and underscores that people think very differently about the topic depending on the words you use.

The new Gallup survey, conducted last month, asked the polling organization's standard question about whether Americans "have confidence" (and how much) in various institutions. It was one such Gallup survey last summer (along with a parallel survey from the Pew Research Center) that drove a powerful narrative suggesting that Republicans view higher education much more skeptically than Democrats do, and that people from the two viewpoints are troubled by different things (Republicans largely liberal campus politics and perceived indoctrination, Democrats largely rising college prices and debt).

The new survey digs more deeply in two ways: by looking at how a broader range of demographic groups answer the "confidence" question, and by asking Americans about their confidence not just in "higher education," as the last survey did, but in "colleges and universities," "community colleges," and "postsecondary education." Brandon Busteed, who oversees Gallup's work on education and work-force issues, said the organization decided to investigate further after an Inside Higher Ed article in December discussed data suggesting differences in public attitudes about four-year universities versus community colleges, for example. (Note: Gallup and Inside Higher Ed work together on a series of surveys and events, but Inside Higher Ed played no role in this survey.)

As seen in the table below, respondents to Gallup expressed notably more confidence in "higher education" than in "colleges and universities," with "community colleges" and "postsecondary education" in between.

That difference holds up, though to somewhat varying degrees, across most of the demographic breakdowns Gallup examines (more on that in a bit). In a blog post about the data, Busteed and his co-author, Frank Newport, postulate that the difference may occur because "negative stories people hear about higher education in the media or in general conversation most often use the words 'colleges and universities,'" or that "the more general term 'higher education' connotes the positive goal of gaining more knowledge, while the more specific 'colleges and universities' has more negative connections related to specific institutions and specific practices."

Others have speculated that most of the loudest complaints leveled about colleges and universities -- particularly those related to perceived liberal bias and excessive tuition and debt levels -- are truer on balance for selective four-year colleges and universities than for community colleges. At an Inside Higher Ed conference on the topic of public skepticism about higher education this month, one Republican critic reserved most of his enmity for flagship public universities and elite private colleges. And wealthy institutions have been a primary target of Republican lawmakers in the form of the recently enacted endowment tax, arguably tapping into the sort of populist fervor that helped elect President Trump.

Sources of the Skepticism

In addition to suggesting that the public holds varying views of different cuts of academe, the new Gallup survey shows even more clearly that different groups of Americans see higher education differently (no matter how you define it).

Focusing in on respondents' answers about "higher education" (as opposed to the other groupings Gallup asked about, including "colleges and universities" and the like) reveals enormous variations in different groups' confidence.

As seen in the table below, women are significantly more confident than men are, those who lean Democratic are more confident than those who lean Republican, those who are college graduates more than those who aren't, and black and Latino Americans more confident than their white, non-Hispanic counterparts.

Add it all up and the starkest difference appears between white female college graduates and white male nongraduates. Nearly 60 percent of the former express a "great deal" of confidence in higher education, and 4 percent express "very little" or none. In contrast, only 18 percent of white male non-college graduates express a great deal of confidence, and about 23 percent say they have "very little" or no confidence in higher education.

How Much Confidence Do You Have in Higher Education?

  Great Deal Quite a lot Very Little/None Men  29% 20% 19% Women 43 19 13         Democrat/Lean Democrat 47 18 13 Republican/Lean Republican 26 22 18         College Graduate 49 20 8 Nongraduate 30 19 20         White 33 21 15 Hispanic 42 17 19 Black 45 13 17         White Female Graduate 60 17 4 White Male Nongraduate 18 18 23 Editorial Tags: Politics (national)Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 
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