Higher Education News

Publishers accuse ResearchGate of mass copyright infringement

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

ResearchGate, a popular for-profit academic social network that makes it easy to find and download research papers, is facing increasing pressure from publishers to change the way it operates.

On Tuesday, the American Chemical Society and Elsevier, two large academic publishers, launched a second legal battle against the Berlin-based social networking site -- this time not in Europe, but in the U.S.

The publishers accuse ResearchGate of “massive infringement of peer-reviewed, published journal articles.” They say that the networking site is illegally obtaining and distributing research papers protected by copyright law. They also suggest that the site is deliberately tricking researchers into uploading protected content. A spokesperson for ResearchGate declined to comment on the accusations.

The court documents, obtained by Inside Higher Ed from the U.S. District Court in Maryland, include an “illustrative” but “not exhaustive list” of 3,143 research articles the publishers say were shared by ResearchGate in breach of copyright protections. The publishers suggest they could be entitled to up to $150,000 for each infringed work -- a possible total of more than $470 million.

This latest legal challenge is the second that the publishers have filed against ResearchGate in the last year. The first lawsuit, filed in Germany in October 2017, is ongoing. Inside Higher Ed was unable to review court documents for the European lawsuit.

The U.S. lawsuit is the latest development in a long and increasingly complex dispute between some academic publishers and the networking site.

ACS, Elsevier and a handful of other publishers formed an organization called the Coalition for Responsible Sharing last year because they were dissatisfied with ResearchGate's response to copyright infringement claims. The coalition has grown to include more than a dozen academic publishers in the last year and has the sole aim to “remedy the illicit hosting of millions of subscription articles on the ResearchGate site.”

James Milne, senior vice president of ACS Publications and spokesman for the Coalition for Responsible Sharing, said the group wants ResearchGate to take responsibility for the content it shares. Rather than sharing copyrighted articles and waiting for notices from publishers to take them down, Milne wants ResearchGate to check that it can legally share the articles before it does so.

Milne said the coalition has developed a tool that would allow ResearchGate to automatically distinguish which papers can or can’t legally be shared.

“They rejected that solution,” said Milne.

Although academic publishers are united in their desire to ensure that ResearchGate shares copyrighted materials responsibly, the publishers are not united in their approach to resolving this issue. Earlier this year, Springer Nature, Cambridge University Press and Thieme announced they were working with ResearchGate to find a solution. The coalition maintains that it was left with “no other choice” but to pursue legal action after attempts to find a joint solution broke down.

Milne stressed that the publishers are not holding authors responsible for unlawfully sharing their work on the site, adding, "Our case is against ResearchGate, not against researchers." Researchers who are unsure about whether they can share their work on ResearchGate can easily check using a website called www.howcanishareit.com, said Milne.

Generally speaking, authors who publish with ACS or Elsevier are allowed to share earlier, non-peer-reviewed versions of research articles. But sharing of final, peer-reviewed articles is restricted. These "versions of record" may be used in classroom teaching or presented at meetings and conferences. They can also be shared privately between colleagues via email. They cannot be uploaded to third-party commercial websites such as ResearchGate.

“ResearchGate is not the passive host of a forum where infringement just happens to occur,” the publishers said in the court document. They suggest that not only is ResearchGate uploading and making copies of journal articles that it locates by scraping the internet, it is also tricking authors into uploading copyrighted content.

Lisa Hinchliffe, professor and coordinator of information literacy services at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said she has never personally been asked to approve a research article that she did not upload to ResearchGate herself. She added that when researchers do upload articles to ResearchGate, they are asked to affirm that they are authorized to do so.

“While some authors may be intentionally affirming that they can legally upload the file even though they know this is not true, I would speculate that many authors believe that they are sharing their work legally,” said Hinchliffe.

She added that it can “come as a shock” to many authors that they “do not have the right to share their work as they choose to due to their publishing agreements.”

Many authors do not realize that they transfer their copyright to publishers as part of the manuscript submission process.

“I’ve heard more than one author say that they were ‘tricked’ by a publisher,” she said.

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Institutional change is required to better serve first-generation students, report finds

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

First-generation students make up a third of all college students. Yet only 27 percent of this group graduates within four years, according to a new report released today. And while an increasing number of colleges recognize a need for student support services aimed at first-generation students, the report identified a notable lack of guidance about what those services should look like and how to scale them effectively.

Sarah Whitley, co-author of the report and senior director of the Center for First Generation Student Success at NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, hopes the new paper will help fill those gaps. Put together by the center in partnership with Entangled Solutions, a higher education consulting agency, the report outlines the current state of programs for first-generation students and presents concrete suggestions, backed by data, to improve their success.

“As I started this process, I said I thought I’d be able to find a good number of institutions who are doing this work, and it seems like the number has exploded … so many campuses are turning their attention [toward first-generation students],” Whitley said.

Eighty percent of the institutions surveyed now identify first-generation status at the point of admission, according to the report. Yet only 61 percent track outcomes for those students. And although programs targeting first-generation students are growing, the report said they tend to lack depth.

To give the programs more impact and greater reach, it emphasizes a focus on intersectionality -- that institutions must consider how students’ first-generation status intersects with other aspects of their identity. The report refers to these subgroups as “first-gen plus.” Focusing on students' whole identity is important, according to the report, because assuming that first-generation students are all the same -- that they are all low income or members of minority groups -- can leave those who don't fit that picture without support.

Survey data revealed that 75 percent of first-generation student programs are housed in student affairs, 48 percent in academic affairs and 43 percent in student success. Some colleges, Whitley said, choose to route their first-generation student services through the campus multicultural office or to tie it to a financial aid program. But first-generation students who wouldn’t otherwise visit that office or use that program could then miss out on those critical services.

The report employed a “mixed-method” research strategy that was split in two phases. The first was a series of qualitative interviews with 78 faculty members, administrators and leaders from 45 four-year institutions, 15 leaders from 12 nonprofits focused on student success, and 40 first-generation students, which were conducted through focus groups at eight four-year institutions. The second phase was a survey of 371 faculty members and administrators across 273 four-year institutions.

Another recommendation from the report was that institutions must shift from focusing on whether a student is "college ready" to whether or not the college is "student ready." In other words, college leadership should reflect on and change policies and procedures that might inhibit student success. Necessary changes could be as small as clarifying college lingo, which can be trickier for first-generation students to decipher if they haven't heard it before.

“I talked to some students during this study who said, ‘I just don’t get what add/drop is and why do we call it that?’ Whitley said, adding that Wichita State University "made a decision to shift the term ‘office hours’ to ‘student hours,’ because some first-gen students were saying they didn’t know what office hours meant."

First-generation students also shouldn't be penalized for juggling additional responsibilities, she said, such as having a job or caring for family members. The perspectives and experiences of first-generation students should be an asset, not a shortcoming.

“It is OK for you to be a full-time college student and also have this job or be part of your family,” Whitley said. “[Colleges] should not see that as you not being engaged in the classroom, or you not wanting to be here or not belonging here.”

Two-year institutions, where first-generation students make up a majority of the student population, were not part of this report. Whitley and the Center for First Generation Student Success plan to undertake additional research focusing specifically on two-year institutions.

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Investigation launches into low-flying helicopter that disrupted Penn State game

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

Saturday’s Penn State versus Ohio State University football game blew. Literally.

Tailgaters at Pennsylvania State University’s home game were allegedly getting rowdy, Pennsylvania State police reported. “Unruly individuals” had ignored commands, according to a campus police statement -- one man was arrested and charged with striking a police horse and for disorderly conduct, among other offenses. A state trooper broke his wrist.

So state police sent in a helicopter to break up the party.

Video posted online shows the copter swooping in above the cars, flying above the throng of tailgating fans in white jerseys. Bystanders revel at the helicopter until it dips, and footage reveals winds so powerful that grills, tents, wooden cornhole game sets and other items were lifted and sent flying, as in The Wizard of Oz. Police statements have not said how low the helicopter went.

Videos recorded by people on the ground reveal chaos -- many in the crowd ducked and swerved to avoid the debris, and others were knocked to the ground.

“It is rare to resort to these expanded interventions,” Penn State police said in a statement. “However, when all other warnings … on the ground were ignored, a Pennsylvania State Police helicopter was deployed as another tool to compel the group to disperse and curb dangerous and unruly behavior.”

State police said officers were attempting to use a loudspeaker to communicate with the crowd and the pilot pulled back up after objects started flying.

Since Saturday, police have met tempestuous criticism.

Chris Buchignani, one of the hosts of the local TV show Obligatory PSU Pre-Game Show, wrote on Twitter that he hopes the university and President Eric J. Barron “will show leadership” on the “weaponization” of a police helicopter.

“Disproportionate, unacceptable use of force,” he wrote. “Unnecessarily dangerous.”

Penn State announced that temporarily it won’t use helicopters at football games to make announcements. The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed to the Associated Press that it is investigating a complaint but declined to share details. FAA regulations state that pilots should remain at least 1,000 feet above congested areas and must be able to safely land a helicopter without harming people or property in the event of power failure.

Josh Bronson, director of training for the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and former deputy police chief at McDaniel College, said he did not want to question Penn State's decision to use the helicopter -- but that in his career he has never seen one called to a tailgate, even when he worked at University of Maryland, College Park, the flagship public university in the state, with the most competitive athletics scene.

Among the most common incidents campus police forces handle are large or out-of-control crowds during sporting events, Bronson said.

Typically, officers will try to talk to “leaders” in the crowd and try to de-escalate and disperse the revelers verbally, but depending on the intensity of the situation, police may use pepper spray or other tactics, Bronson said.

Even at McDaniel, a small, private institution in Maryland, he and his officers would break up fights that would turn into crowds otherwise, especially around homecoming time, he said.

Police often have helicopters waiting in the wings at large-scale events such as the Penn State tailgate, Bronson said. Many campus police forces have mutual aid agreements with other area law enforcement in which they provide helicopters or bomb-sniffing dogs, for instance.

“If you’re securing the games for thousands of fans in one place, you certainly need additional resources,” he said.

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Report says international graduate enrollments were down for the second straight year last year, after a period of significant growth

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 07:00

First-time international graduate enrollments in U.S. institutions fell 3.7 percent from fall 2016 to fall 2017, according to a new report from the Council of Graduate Schools. While the council isn’t certain what caused the drop, it’s hard for it -- or anyone else -- not to think of the Trump administration’s stance on immigration.

While actual visa and other policy regulations appear to have impacted relatively few prospective students, “the climate and reputational side of U.S. grad ed” may be a different story, said Hironao Okahana, associate vice president for research and policy analysis at the council. “That’s an area we’re looking into at the moment.” There also have been reports of students being rejected for visas, signaling that even if rules haven't yet changed all that much, enforcement has.

Institutions with the highest research productivity, by Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, saw no such decline: their enrollments actually increased 3 percent year over year. But for doctoral- and master’s degree-granting universities with lower research profiles, “it might be the case that prospective graduate students are looking at institutions elsewhere in the world,” Okahana said.

While the council is closely monitoring international enrollments, the longer-term picture still looks good. The five- and 10-year average annual increases are still 4.7 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively. Still, this year’s drop is the second annual decrease in more than a decade. Indeed, Suzanne Ortega, council president, called the emerging trend “worrisome” in a statement about the organization’s annual degrees and enrollments report, out today.

Among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, first-time graduate enrollment increased by about 1 percent last year. But considering the international numbers, overall first-time graduate enrollment dropped by one-tenth of a percent and the number of applications fell 1.8 percent year over year. Ortega said that lower applications and enrollments over all are consistent with a strong U.S. economy.

By discipline, several fields saw application increases: business (4.5 percent), public administration and services (1.9 percent), education (1.8 percent), and mathematics and computer sciences (1.7 percent). Those applications translated to increased enrollments in the following fields: mathematics and computer sciences (3.8 percent) and business (3.7 percent).

Over five and 10 years, mathematics and computer sciences saw enrollment increases of 12.8 percent and 12.1 percent, respectively. The health sciences saw enrollment increases of 4 percent and 6.9 percent.

Engineering enrollments fell by 3.8 percent year over year, compared to just about 1 percent the year prior. Engineering applications fell 7.3 percent last year. Okahana attributed some of this change to the decrease in international students.

Ortega said the continued growth in health sciences indicates that graduate education “is aligning with the increasing work-force demand for advanced degree holders.” Many of the fastest-growing occupations are in mathematics and computer sciences and the health sciences, she said, including physician assistants, occupational therapists, mental health and substance abuse social workers, mathematicians, and computer and information research scientists. Entry-level jobs in all these fields typically require at least a master’s degree, Ortega added.

As in previous years, most -- 74 percent -- of the 1.8 million students at 619 institutions included in the council’s survey were enrolled in master’s degree programs. For the eighth year in a row, the majority of degrees awarded went to women. Men still earned the majority of graduate degrees in many sciences, technology, engineering and math programs, however.

The number of master’s degrees awarded by institutions participating in the council’s survey increased by 4.6 percent last year. Graduate certificates made up 5.5 percent of all degrees conferred.

First-time enrollments in doctoral programs decreased by 0.8 percent last year, with some of the biggest declines seen -- perhaps unsurprisingly, given the poor tenure-track job market -- in the arts and humanities (5.7 percent) and physical and earth sciences (2.3 percent). Business Ph.D. program enrollment also fell a bit.

Graduate applications in the arts and humanities decreased 1.8 percent year over year. Doctoral arts and humanities first-time program enrollment decreased by 5.7 percent. Those enrollments dropped 26.2 percent at the graduate certificate level and 4.9 percent at the master’s level.

Some 24 percent of all U.S. citizens and permanent residents enrolled for the first time last year were underrepresented minorities. Public administration had the largest share of underrepresented students, at 15 percent Latino and 19 percent black students. Both these groups had modest increases in enrollments last year, of 2.2 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively. Public administration also saw an international student enrollment boom of nearly 10 percent.

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Book publishers part ways with Springer Nature over concerns about censorship in China

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 07:00

The editors of the book series Transcultural Research have discontinued publishing the series with Springer Nature to protest its decision to accede to the Chinese government’s censorship demands.

The Financial Times first reported last year that Springer Nature had blocked access in China to more than 1,000 articles in two political science journals dealing with sensitive subjects in China such as Taiwan, Tibet and the Cultural Revolution. The publisher issued a statement at the time acknowledging that “a small percentage of our content (less than 1 percent)” was limited in mainland China in order to “comply with specific local regulations.” Springer Nature -- which publishes the flagship science journal Nature -- defended the decision to limit access to certain content in China on the grounds that otherwise it would “run the very real risk of customers [in China] not being able to access any of our content.”

The editors of the Transcultural Research book series, which is connected with the Heidelberg University research cluster on Asia and Europe in a global context, were unpersuaded by Springer Nature’s reasoning.

“For a scholarly publisher, this is an unacceptable breach of trust both with the authors and the international scholarly community,” a group of six former and current editors of the Transcultural Research series wrote in a press release announcing their decision to switch publishers. “There is no ‘law’ in China that bans treatment of these topics but only an informal unpublished directive from the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department that discussions of the topics mentioned should be ‘managed’ in the sense of being kept from the public. The Springer argument that ‘only 1 percent’ of Springer Nature articles offered were affected disregards the fact that once this door of accepting censorship orders is opened, nothing stands in the way of China (or any other state) expanding its list of banned subjects. There are enough states in the world who will see the Springer Nature behavior as a guarantee that they, too, may randomly and without disadvantages ban the scholarly discussion of topics they find objectionable for religious, ideological, political, race or other reasons.”

Rudolf G. Wagner, a senior professor of Chinese studies at Heidelberg University’s Asia and Europe cluster and an associate at Harvard University’s John K. Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, said he is concerned about the threats to independent scholarship everywhere.

“Our concern is that once you get this idea, that you just have to tell these guys to take down this or that you don’t like, what does Mr. Erdoğan [the president of Turkey] do the next morning? Any reference that refers to Ataturk that we don’t like, out of it. Anything that refers to Gülen, out of it,” Wagner said.

He continued: “I think that there is a serious danger there that you start opening that door and a lot of people are going to march through that and say, ‘thank you.’”

“Independent scholarship is already all over the place in great difficulty because of financial concerns, political concerns and so on, and if we are moving into blunt censorship of certain articles because they don’t fit the propaganda department’s agenda, this is totally unacceptable.”

The Transcultural Research book series is now being published by Heidelberg University Publishing, an open-access publisher. Separate from the decision by the Transcultural Research series editors, scholars previously organized a peer-review boycott of Springer Nature publications to protest its compliance with Chinese censorship requests.

Springer Nature’s decision to stick by its decision to restrict access to certain scholarly content in China stands in contrast to that of Cambridge University Press. Cambridge initially acquiesced to demands from a Chinese import agency to block access to more than 300 articles on sensitive topics published in the journal The China Quarterly before reversing course and restoring access after facing a storm of criticism from academics.

In a letter to the Transcultural Research editors, Steven Inchcoombe, Springer Nature’s chief publishing officer, cited Cambridge's reversal in relation to its own decision to stand its ground in complying with censorship requests. “As a result of not complying with local Chinese laws, Cambridge University Press has for example had all articles from ‘banned’ journals (both new articles and those previously accessible) and all books deemed to be ‘suspect’ by Chinese importers or by the Chinese government’s appointed online text mining engines, are now blocked from being accessed in China,” Inchcoombe wrote. “This is why we did not then and do not now believe that further limiting or stopping access in China to all the other content we publish is in the long term interests of the advancement of research and the academic community, both in China and world-wide.”

However, Wagner said his own inquiries with The China Quarterly suggest that -- contrary to Springer's characterization -- the journal remains fully accessible in China, although there has been a drop in institutional subscriptions. The editor of The China Quarterly, Tim Pringle, confirmed this.

"We are grateful to Professor Wagner for alerting us to the mistakes contained in Springer Nature's response to current and former editors of Transcultural Research over the publisher's decision to censor articles pertaining to sensitive subjects in China," Pringle said via email to Inside Higher Ed. "The China Quarterly has been subject to a significant drop in institutional subscriptions in China, but we not aware of any text-mining activities by the Chinese authorities that would in effect block all access to our journal. CUP has informed us that the CUP/CQ site and tables of content remain available -- although all purchases go through import agencies. We have also conducted our own checks and these confirm availability. We are therefore surprised by the content of Springer Nature's letter, and have contacted CUP to investigate further."

In a brief statement, Cambridge University Press said that it makes its entire academic catalog available throughout the world, including in China. "Chinese importers decide which publications they will purchase for dissemination within China," the publisher said.

A spokeswoman for Springer Nature, Susie Winter, said via email that, “in relation to CUP, there has perhaps been a misinterpretation of what was said. Our understanding is that institutions in China have not taken a license for these journals. So, while they are not blocked, they, in effect, cannot be accessed in China.”

More broadly, Winter described the restrictions on Springer Nature content in China as “a highly regrettable situation” but reiterated what she described as Springer Nature’s obligation to "operate our SpringerLink platform in compliance with their local distribution laws governing what content Chinese citizens can access."

“We are obviously disappointed at the decision by the editors to discontinue the publication of their book series with us but if we had not complied with this requirement we were facing very real and significant risks to our ability to distribute all our content in China -- something we did not feel to be in the interest of the advancement of research and the academic community, both in China and world-wide,” she said.

Springer Nature's move to restrict certain content in order to preserve access to the whole run counters to general recommendations from the Association of University Presses, whose board issued a statement in March on just this question.

"Because of the increasingly digital nature of scholarly communications, requests to restrict access to specific elements of a larger digital collection within a given market seem likely to become a more common form of attempts at government censorship," the statement said. "AUPresses encourages university presses generally to withhold their consent to any such request, whether made directly or via a third-party aggregator, even if doing so results in the unavailability of the entire digital collection within that market. Scholarly integrity mandates that scholars and students accessing digital content encounter the same body of content, regardless of their geographic location. Additionally, even when digital access to content is available at increasingly granular levels (e.g., a journal article, a book chapter), any bowdlerization of a curated collection of scholarship (e.g., a journal issue, an edited volume) does damage to the editorial work invested in the construction of that collection. Acquiescence to government requests to restrict access inevitably would produce a disfigurement of the scholarly record."

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Trump bemoans that men are now 'guilty until proven innocent'

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 07:00

President Donald Trump on Tuesday bemoaned “a very scary time for young men in America” following allegations of sexual assault against his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The comments earned Trump sharp rebukes from advocates for sexual assault survivors.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said, “My whole life I’ve heard you’re innocent until proven guilty, but now you’re guilty until proven innocent -- that is a very difficult standard.”

“This is a very difficult time. What's happening here has much more to do than even the appointment of a Supreme Court justice,” Trump said.

The Trump administration has long railed against what it perceives as a lack of due process in campus sexual assault investigations. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos last year withdrew guidance from 2011 surrounding Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal gender antidiscrimination law protecting against sexual violence. DeVos said the Obama-era rules had been unfairly slanted against accused students.

While activists have credited the Title IX rules with bolstering protections for survivors, colleges and universities in some cases have apparently been too zealous in their interpretations, resulting in a number of accused students winning lawsuits and having their sentences reversed over the past several years.

New Title IX regulations are expected from the department soon. A leaked draft of the document shows that the regulations would boost the rights of the accused and drastically reduce the number of federal sexual misconduct probes.

Advocacy groups for survivors criticized Trump’s remarks in interviews with Inside Higher Ed.

“I think it’s not a scary time for men who have not committed sexual assault,” said Carly Mee, interim executive director of SurvJustice. “Maybe it’s a scary for men who might be held accountable, but this notion that people are now guilty until proven innocent is just not true.”

Mee added, “It really comes down to the fact that men who have engaged in improper misconduct are concerned that they can’t get away with that. My answer is that if [they] treat women with respect and aren’t committing sexual misconduct, they have nothing to worry about. If someone is worried, I would wonder why they’re so worried.”

In his remarks, Trump was conflating the process surrounding criminal charges with what is essentially a job interview for Kavanaugh -- “a significant job promotion” to the Supreme Court, Mee said. She likened this to the difference between campus sexual assault adjudication and court trials: one process determines whether a student should be kept on campus, while the other decides whether someone will be sentenced to jail time and lose his or her freedom entirely.

And survivors still must prove they were raped, Me said. The burden of proof falls to them.

Rates of false sexual assault reports are quite low, reportedly between 2 and 8 percent, a fact that belies the administration’s rhetoric, said Laura Dunn, a lawyer with the Washington-based firm the Fierberg National Law Group.

“The reality that is sexual harassment, misconduct and violence are prevalent with historical discrimination against women, resulting in low prosecution rates for these crimes,” Dunn said in an email. “Furthermore, there is a long history of institutional cover-ups to avoid civil liability and administrative obligations to survivors. Think of the Catholic Church, Michigan State, Penn State, etc. We have so many scandals because survivors are not believed. Trump is furthering a misinformation campaign that contributes to disbelieving survivors specifically, and women more generally, when they sound the alarm about sexual misconduct.”

Alyssa Peterson, a state organizer with the activist group Know Your IX called it “unconscionable” that the Education Department is pushing the rollback of protections for survivors despite the Me Too movement and the continued national reckoning around sexual assault issues, noting that Trump too has been publicly accused of sexual misconduct by at least 15 women.

“It just shows how out of touch they are,” Peterson said.

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College administrators meet to find solutions to reduce student poverty

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 07:00

PHILADELPHIA -- Amarillo College president Russell Lowery-Hart and his staff frequently talk about a young woman called Maria.

Maria is a first-generation student at the Texas community college. She is a racial minority who attends Amarillo part-time, receives financial aid and is focused on eventually transferring to a university. But she struggles to make ends meet and, without intervention, her financial challenges may derail those plans.

She also is not a real person.

Maria is representative of many of the students at Amarillo College. Those students are at the heart of a policy adopted by Lowery-Hart to combat the negative effects of poverty on students and their academic outcomes. So far, the "No Excuses" policy, which he started in 2014 when he became president of the college, is helping improve completion rates.

“Our job is not to fix students, it’s to fix ourselves,” he said. “At Amarillo, we’ve adopted a no-excuses philosophy. No matter what is causing our students to taste failure, they are not responsible for it. We are.”

By "failure," he means the thousands of Amarillo students who don't graduate or move on to four-year institutions because they're tripped up by need --- not having enough food to eat, not having adequate housing, not having enough money or financial support from family to pay the costs associated with college that are not covered by financial aid. Some 72 percent of Amarillo students have at least one basic need -- 59 percent are housing insecure, 54 percent are food insecure and 11 percent have experienced homelessness in the past year, according to a survey.

Amarillo established an Advocacy and Resource Center on its campus last year to centralize the college's efforts to tackle poverty. The center is a one-stop shop for students to access emergency aid and social services and find resources for their childcare needs. It also has a free food pantry and clothing bank.

“If a student is failing, it’s because we didn’t have the right process and policy or person in place,” Lowery-Hart said.

Amarillo is not the only college attempting to help students meet their basic needs. Lowery-Hart was joined by more than 550 faculty members, college presidents, foundations and students in Philadelphia last weekend at the second annual Real College conference at Temple University, where they discussed ways to address student poverty on campuses across the country.

The conference is the brainchild of Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University and founder of the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, which also launched during the conference. The Hope Center will continue the research originally started by Goldrick-Rab at the University of Wisconsin Madison to study poverty among college students and find solutions to help them.

“I hope we don’t need a Real College in 10 years, because we will have solved hunger and homelessness on our campuses,” she said.

Goldrick-Rab said by addressing food and housing insecurity among college students, educators can focus more on the academic barriers that prevent students from graduating.

Karen Stout, president and chief executive officer of Achieving the Dream, a student success organization, said there is still debate in academic circles over whether colleges should even be responsible for helping students meet basic needs. But she said that viewpoint is changing as more people become aware of the extent of housing and food insecurity among college students. A study released last year by the Urban Institute found about 13 percent of community college students experienced food insecurity in 2015, although other studies indicated the rate may be much higher.

There is growing national awareness of the issue, including among policy makers. A group of Democratic senators has asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on the scope of hunger and poverty on college campuses. That study is still ongoing. And a couple of documentary film crews also attended the conference as part of upcoming special reports about college students living in poverty.

Jee Hang Lee, vice president for public policy and external relations at the Association of Community College Trustees, said college administrators should advocate for Congress to increase funding to various existing federal programs that can help alleviate student poverty.

He noted that Congress approved an increase in appropriations in March for a federal program that provides grants to college students with children for childcare services on campus. More funding for the federal work-study program would also help low-income students, he said.

Stout said tackling student poverty to help students graduate has important long-term implications.

“It’s about creating economic mobility,” she said. “Colleges should be thinking more of completion as an upward mobility from poverty effort as much as it is an educational attainment effort.”

Stout said much of the discussion on meeting the basic and social needs of students is new territory for many college leaders more familiar with discussing academia or talking to employers about the work-force needs in their communities than about students not having enough to eat.

“We’re not used to talking to community-based organizations or going to local government agencies that deal with public benefits,” she said. “It’s a whole new world and a whole new vocabulary.”

Colleges are used to asking students about their personal demographic information such as race, age or gender. But college administrators now need to dig deeper and find out if a person is a first-generation college student, a single mother, a part-time worker or an ex-convict if they truly want to help them complete college, Stout said.

And college leaders can’t ignore the effects of race, ethnicity and gender identity on students' social and financial status, said DeRionne Pollard, president of Montgomery College in Maryland.

“We have to be particularly aware of what our students present to us and what they bring forward when they come to us in our classrooms and organizations,” Pollard said. “Students will not thrive and learn from an organization that ignores the complexities of intersections.”

Once Amarillo started connecting students to the services they needed -- childcare, legal services, housing, transportation, emergency aid to pay for utilities -- they found those students were more likely to continue their education at the college instead of dropping out.

Of the 86 percent of Amarillo students who received services through the college’s Advocacy and Resource Center, 69 percent continued their education at the college. Only 33 percent of the students who did not receive services through the center remained at the college, according to the college's data.

The three-year completion rate at the college has also increased from 26 percent in 2012 to 45 percent in 2017, according to the Hope Lab.

Cara Crowley, vice president of strategic initiatives at Amarillo, said the college targets students early by looking at their financial aid information and sending emails to those who have an annual income below $19,000 to let them know about available social services.

The college also relies on social workers to provide case management services and connect students to resources that already exist in the community.

“Our social workers help move them through that system and keep them in school,” Crowley said, adding that since 2012 the college has spent about $300,000 from its charitable foundation to help students meet basic needs, which are predominantly housing.

“If you provide that assistance and keep them in school, there is a financial benefit for the college in overwhelmingly higher rates in retention and persistence.”

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FAFSA launches mobile app for start of 2019-20 award year

Inside HigherEd - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 07:00

Students seeking financial aid for college can encounter any number of obstacles to completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The application, which includes more than 100 questions, can be daunting, and students may need assistance answering even basic questions.

And sometimes they just don’t have access to a computer to complete the application.

College-access advocates hope a new mobile student aid app launched by the Education Department this week will remove one barrier to financial aid by allowing applicants to access the FAFSA on their smartphone.

“Students live on their phones, as we all know,” said Sujuan Boutté, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance.

Student aid professionals say the biggest measure of the app’s impact will be whether it leads to an increase in the FAFSA completion rate. But they’re also balancing excitement about the app with realism over the challenges still facing many students most in need of federal aid.

The Trump administration announced plans last year to develop the mobile app -- part of a broader overhaul it envisions for the student experience from seeking aid to repaying loans. In a statement heralding the app’s release, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said students will have even greater access to information about colleges they’re applying to and information about their financial future.

The Education Department released an unfinished “beta” version of the myStudentAid app in July. The final version that launched this week lets students navigate the FAFSA one question at a time, allows parents to separately enter their own income information for one or more students and displays College Scorecard data for comparisons of multiple colleges.

“Our ultimate measure will be if we see increase in FAFSA completion,” said Kim Cook, executive director of the National College Access Network, of assessing the app’s impact. “We hope that a mobile platform is more accessible to students so more students will check out FAFSA and complete it.”

A new report released by the National College Access Network shows that students who need financial support the most to attend college continue to struggle the most with completing the application. The group examined completion rates at the school-district level and found that the greater the share of children living in poverty, the lower the FAFSA completion rate for graduating high school seniors.

Ellie Bruecker, a doctoral student in Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin Madison, said she expects higher filing rates for the 2019-20 award cycle, which started Oct. 1. But that’s because of ongoing efforts in local school districts and states like Louisiana, which last year began requiring all high school seniors to complete the application.

“I’d guess you’ll see some schools and their college counselors advertise the app as an easy way to complete the FAFSA, but I think that’s just part of the larger push to get more students to file and will likely happen in schools that are already making these efforts,” she said.

Bruecker said she doesn’t expect the mobile app to move the needle for FAFSA completion among low-income students and students of color -- those who are most in need of federal assistance. Low-income adults and black adults are slightly less likely to own a smartphone, according to Pew data. And Bruecker noted that the FAFSA mobile app so far is only available in English.

Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said the mobile app is best viewed as one of several steps the Education Department has taken in recent years to incrementally improve the application process.

Earlier, it helped create the IRS data retrieval tool, which allows applicants to automatically import family tax data into their FAFSA application. And in 2016, it moved the beginning of the federal financial aid cycle up two months so that students could start the process earlier in the year.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress on the FAFSA over the last decade,” Draeger said. “This is just another step in the right direction and I totally applaud them for that.”

Boutté of the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance said the mobile app is another tool for advisers helping students navigate the financial aid process. She said students and their advocates should keep in mind it’s just the beginning of a process that should include choosing the institution that’s the best fit for them.

“It’s another option, and really, anything that makes the FAFSA more accessible in the minds of our students -- for us, that’s a win,” she said.

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Sororities reject student with Down syndrome, calling diversity pledge into question

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 10/02/2018 - 07:00

By all measures, AnnCatherine Heigl was an ideal candidate for a George Mason University sorority.

Her sister describes her as “intelligent, motivated, caring.” She’s a flier for the university’s Division I cheerleading squad. She rounded out her high school résumé with French and Spanish clubs and a volunteer job as a teaching assistant.

But Heigl, a sophomore, has Down syndrome. Out of the almost 300 young women who tried to join one the university’s sororities -- not a large number, given the campus enrolls more than 24,000 undergraduates -- she was rejected.

Both George Mason and the Panhellenic Council, the governing body of the eight sororities, posted statements after Heigl was turned down professing support for diversity and inclusion. But student affairs professionals and experts interviewed by Inside Higher Ed said that in this case -- and with higher education generally -- support for diversity doesn't always extend to students with disabilities.

“In a lot of ways, Greek life has been slow to adapt to changing demographic of students on campus,” said Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. “It’s a bit of a weakness in the Greek system.”

Certainly, fraternities and sororities have long been criticized for excluding students who aren't white. Just five years ago, University of Alabama sororities were lambasted for denying membership to black students with exceptional academic and service records. But little has been reported about students with disabilities interacting with Greek life.

Heigl’s sister Lillie last month published a letter on Twitter chastising the Panhellenic system for snubbing AnnCatherine, who was the first Indiana native to be accepted into prestigious Mason LIFE initiative, one of the country’s only full-time programs for college students with disabilities.

My sister who has Down syndrome went through @GMUPanhellenic sorority recruitment this weekend and her experienced has left her feeling unwanted and devastated. Here is my response to their Greek Life pic.twitter.com/pzNSFRz8uA

— Lillie (@lil_heigl) September 17, 2018

“Accepting a woman with a disability to a chapter isn’t an act of charity, it brings diversity and promotes inclusion,” Lillie Heigl wrote.

The university said in a statement that it is “proud of its reputation as an inclusive community where we can all thrive” and that students with the LIFE program are currently part of both fraternities and sororities there. A spokesman declined to make President Ángel Cabrera available for an interview.

“Like most universities, student organizations at Mason, including the Panhellenic Council sororities, manage their own recruitment and determine their own membership,” the statement reads.

The Panhellenic Council also responded, defending its efforts on diversity, writing that any student who identified as a woman was able to go through the rush process. In part, the council said, “We do not possess the ability to dictate our chapters’ membership or the process of selecting new members. As a council promotes inclusivity, we recognize that people have been harmed by the decisions of our members and we are committed to engaging all communities in dialogue on the issues to do better in the future.”

The council did not elaborate on what that “dialogue” might look like, and it did not respond to further request for comment.

For decades, people with disabilities were excluded from higher education entirely, said Cate Weir, program director for Think College, a group based at the University of Massachusetts Boston that is devoted to expanding options for students with disabilities in higher education. In the last decade or so, reinforced by changes to the federal Higher Education Act, students with disabilities have slowly begun finding spots on college campuses, largely through alternative admissions processes, Weir said. But institutions can’t keep up with this “change in perspective,” she said.

Weir applauded George Mason for even allowing students to pledge, when in the past colleges and universities have said students with disabilities should avoid college athletics or Greek life because of their differences.

But beyond simply allowing students with disabilities to rush, university and Greek leaders need to teach fraternities and sororities about them and halt “misinformation.” Those uneducated about disabilities may think that these students would be disruptive or “wouldn’t get anything out of this,” Weir said.

A quick lesson seemed to work at Union University, in Tennessee, where four women with disabilities were recently accepted into two sororities -- a third sorority offered spots as well. All were part of the university’s EDGE program, which is similar to George Mason’s program for those with disabilities. Previously, Union’s sororities hadn’t extended offers to students with disabilities over concerns about their safety in unsupervised scenarios. But after meeting with EDGE officials, the chapters asked the students to be part of the pledge process.

Kruger, of NASPA, said Greek life organizations should analyze their promotional materials and campaigns and figure out if there is an “unintended message” coming through -- if all of the videos advertising for Greek life include only white, non-disabled people, that doesn’t entice students from other backgrounds to apply, he said.

Traditionally, people with disabilities haven’t been well represented in media or society, said Lennard J. Davis, a prominent disability studies scholar based at the University of Illinois at Chicago. While the cornerstone Americans With Disabilities Act protected against legal discrimination, it couldn’t change how the public socializes, Davis said. Those who don’t have family members with disabilities often don’t know much about them -- and this extends into both the higher education and Greek landscape, he said.

On a recent trip to a seminary, Davis said he was impressed to learn that the school intentionally housed a student with a disability alongside neurotypical peers so they could learn from each other -- he called Greek leaders' pledge to diversity “hypocritical” when the institution ended up excluding Heigl, he said.

He posed a thought experiment: make this a racial issue. Make the student black and rewind several decades. While a black woman may have been allowed to rush a sorority, she likely would not have been accepted due to the discomfort of the existing members.

“As a group, sororities and fraternities try to feel comfortable with each other and they choose who they want,” Davis said. “And for a person with Down syndrome, where a fraternity or sorority isn’t going to be familiar, the circle will exclude them.”

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American Historical Association report reveals harassment and demeaning behavior at its meetings

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 10/02/2018 - 07:00

Even in the era of Me Too, many academics report that annual meetings of disciplinary associations are environments where rude and/or harassing behavior is all too common. Disciplinary meetings feature large power imbalances -- young scholars seeking jobs and senior scholars doing interviews. Many of those interviews take place in decidedly unprofessional locations such as hotel rooms. And some academics see these meetings as a chance to drink to excess and to encourage a (legally and ethically questionable) philosophy of "what happens at the annual meeting, stays at the annual meeting."

The American Historical Association has released a summary of a survey it conducted of those who have attended its annual meeting over any of the last five years. The association found significant minorities of its members reported that they had experienced demeaning or insulting behavior. And a small minority (but one that the association summary says is still of concern) experienced harassment of various types.

The seriousness of the issue in the field of history was illustrated in June, when a historian tweeted about how a female attendee at the meeting of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations was too drunk to give consent, and how he followed her and a male attendee back to her room. The other male attendee expected to be able to do whatever he wanted to the woman. The scholar who shared the story reported that his intervention prevented that from happening -- and many who read his account said that far too many women are assaulted in various ways at scholarly meetings.

The AHA based its survey (with permission) on one by the American Political Science Association that found similar results.

Here are the findings that the AHA released, which featured answers from 1,656 people about their experiences at the meetings.

  • Nearly 28 percent said they were "put down or condescended to" at least once.
  • Almost 15 percent had "heard sexist comments uttered in their presence."
  • 10 percent had been "the object of behavior that made them uncomfortable, such as leering, staring or ogling."
  • 5 percent of the total reported receiving "unwanted attempts to establish a romantic or sexual relationship at least once."
  • Slightly more than 1.25 percent had felt "bribed to engage in sexual behavior with some sort of reward or special treatment."
  • Nearly 1 percent reported being threatened with retaliation for not being “sexually cooperative."
  • 5 percent had experienced being "touched in a way that made them uncomfortable."

The association summary of the findings said that the lower percentages reporting some of the most serious violations of professional ethics (and the law) should not make people minimize the importance of the issue. "Even though relatively few respondents recounted such offensive behaviors, the association regards these reports as revealing unacceptable and unprofessional conduct unworthy of members of the historical profession," said the summary.

The association also included summaries of responses to open-ended questions on the survey.

Several comments indicated a view by women that harassment and rude behavior they experienced at annual meetings decreased over the course of their careers. But some speculated that this wasn't necessarily due to improved behavior but to the way men target younger women.

Many women reported sexist behavior at committees or sessions of the annual meeting, with some male historians ignoring or insulting the work of female historians. Even job hunters are rude, the women in the survey reported. "Some male job candidates have been condescending to me, assuming I was a secretary instead of a professor on a search committee," wrote one member.

In some cases, scholars want someone present when something sexist takes place to just say something. Two of those who responded to the survey, the AHA said, "described a panel session in which a historian claimed that the women who participated in anti-Vietnam War protests were 'easy.'" Wrote one of the women, “It was an erroneous and sexist assertion … I wouldn't think the AHA should do anything, but it was unfortunate that the chairs of the session didn't acknowledge one of the people in the audience who voiced disagreement and allow for a reply. The statement just hung there and the conversation went on. I think this is more typical of the way sexism goes down in the profession.”

The top suggestion for improving the climate at meetings was to end the use of hotel rooms for job interviews. "Despite the AHA’s efforts to reduce the incidence of this practice, it still exists and creates uncomfortable situations for people in vulnerable positions," the association summary said.

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Student parents complete degrees more slowly, drop out due to 'time poverty'

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 10/02/2018 - 07:00

College students with preschool-age children take longer to complete their degrees and are less likely to stay in college than their childless peers, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Higher Education.

The study explored the relationship between degree completion and parental status and determined that “time poverty” -- the lack of available time that student parents can spend studying and completing course work -- was a primary factor in degree completion. Students with preschool-age children had only about 10 hours per day to dedicate to schoolwork, sleeping, eating and leisure activities, compared to the 21 hours that childless students had. The study's abstract is available here.

Claire Wladis, a mathematics professor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College at the City University of New York, conducted the research alongside Katherine Conway, a business professor and CUNY colleague, and Alyse Hachey, an education professor at the University of Texas at El Paso.

"I think a lot of the motivation for the theory and the idea that this was important for students came from serving as advisers for community college students and seeing that they just didn’t have enough time … for work, for academics," Wladis said.

The group used transcript and survey data from 15,385 students at two- and four-year colleges at CUNY and controlled for whether the student had a live-in partner. Two-thirds of the student parents surveyed said that childcare services did not provide them with enough time to complete their academic work, and three-fourths of those students were on financial aid.

"I think an interesting finding is that student parents actually do much better in college than you’d expect if you control for how much time they’re spending," Wladis said. "Student parents precisely have a really strong incentive to go to college and to do well in college because it can pay off for their children."

Congress increased federal investment in financial aid for student parents in 2016 by upping the funding for the Child Care Access Means Parents in School program (CCAMPIS), a federal aid program for student parents, from $15 million to $50 million annually.

But meanwhile, the number of institutions that offer childcare is declining, according to a briefing paper by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

“Despite the growing need for student parent supports, campus child care centers have been closing across the country. In 2015, less than half of four-year public colleges provided campus child care, down from 55 percent in 2003-05,” the briefing paper read. “The share of community colleges reporting the presence of a campus child care center declined more sharply -- from 53 percent in 2003-04, to 44 percent in 2015.”

Lindsey Reichlin Cruse, study director for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said that publicizing the necessity of childcare for student parents is critical to solving the problem.

“The more we can put out research that shows that direct link between access to childcare and student graduation rates, the better,” she said.

Wladis advocated for a restructuring of how colleges assess financial need.

"Currently, students are expected to work to pay for family expenses while they go to school. I think that’s a negative aspect of existing policies," she said. "If we give them financial aid to go to college, but we make them work to pay for family expenses, then we’re throwing a little bit of that money away."

Making it easier for student parents to bring their children to campus and removing hurdles, such as strict attendance requirements, that may unfairly harm student parents is also important.

“Just having the ability to bring your child on campus to meetings, or while you’re studying, or while you’re in the library can make a huge difference. It’s the small things that add up that really make their lives easier,” Reichlin Cruse said. “Not having to worry about shame or negative consequences from faculty and staff or their peers … is huge.”

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Roundup of colleges starting or finishing fund-raising campaigns

Inside HigherEd - Tue, 10/02/2018 - 07:00
Capital Campaign Watch: Harvard

Starting Out:

  • University of Utah has started a campaign to raise $2 billion by 2022. To date the campaign has raised $1 billion.

Adding to a Goal:

  • University of Oregon, which started a campaign in 2014 with the goal of raising $2 billion, has raised the goal to $3 billion. No end date is set for the campaign, which has thus far raised $1.87 billion.

Finishing Up:

  • Fairfield University has raised $218 million in a campaign that started in 2015 with a goal of $160 million.
  • Florida State University has raised $1.16 billion in a campaign, started in 2010, with a goal of $1 billion. Major goals were scholarships and endowed chairs.
  • Harvard University has finished a five-year campaign, raising $9.62 billion. The goal when the campaign went public in 2013 was $6.5 billion. Major targets of the campaign include endowed chairs and financial aid.
  • Otterbein University raised $52.8 million in a campaign that started in 2014 to raise $50 million. Priorities for the campaign include efforts to make the university affordable and to improve student life.

For updates on other colleges' campaigns, check out the Inside Higher Ed fund-raising database.

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Trump administration recommends restoration of ACICS, an accreditor that remains controversial

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 10/01/2018 - 07:00

The Trump administration has revived a troubled accrediting agency, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, reversing another move on for-profit higher education by the Obama administration.

U.S. Department of Education two years ago derecognized ACICS, a national accreditor which was the gatekeeper to $4.76 billion in 2015 federal aid payments to more than 245 career-oriented colleges, most of them for-profit institutions.

In justifying the decision, the Obama administration pointed to ACICS’s “pervasive compliance problems,” while advocates decried the agency’s lax oversight of several failed and deeply flawed for-profits, including Corinthian Colleges and FastTrain College. Ted Mitchell, then under secretary of education, cited “such wide and deep failure that they simply cannot be entrusted with making the determinations we, you and the public count on.”

Controversy continues for ACICS. For example, a Danish newspaper last month reported that a business school of questionable academic quality was using its accreditation from ACICS to "circumvent" the laws of that country.

The extraordinary 2016 move by the Obama administration set off a flurry of activity for ACICS-accredited colleges, which enrolled roughly 800,000 students. Under federal law, those institutions had 18 months to find a new accreditor to retain their federal aid eligibility. A February analysis by the Center for American Progress, a frequent ACICS critic, found that most ACICS-accredited colleges had closed, moved to a new accreditor or were in the process of doing so.

ACICS sued to block its derecognition, which was finalized just before President Trump took office. And the U.S. Congress in 2017 gave colleges overseen by ACICS an additional 18-month extension to find a new agency.

The Trump administration initially backed the agency’s termination in a court filing. But many observers predicted that Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, eventually would restore ACICS, given the administration’s focus on deregulation and reversing Obama-era moves, as well as its generally favorable view of the for-profit sector, which remains in throes of a broad collapse.

DeVos in April tentatively restored ACICS. That decision came after a federal court ruled that the Obama administration had violated a federal law on the establishment of regulations, having failed to consider all relevant evidence in terminating ACICS, including the accreditor’s supplementary response to the department about its job placement verification and data integrity procedures.

DeVos had extended the timeline for the department’s final decision on ACICS, with a most recent deadline of last Friday.

At some point this weekend, according to a letter that Inside Higher Ed obtained, the department's senior official for accreditation, Diane Auer Jones, principal deputy under secretary of education, said that her review had found ACICS to be in compliance with 19 of the 21 relevant criteria. Jones also said she believed the agency had "likely" been in compliance in December 2016, when then Education Secretary John King withdrew its recognition.

The department gave ACICS a year to come into full compliance by resolving remaining concerns over conflicts of interest and the competency of its representatives.

Jones said ACICS had submitted convincing evidence that it has made “major improvements” to its processes and procedures. She also cited the federal court’s finding that the Obama administration had violated the law in terminating the agency.

“The court’s assessment of how the department erred previously in its consideration and decision regarding ACICS’s 2016 petition for continued recognition strongly inform my recommendations to you,” she wrote.

Antoinette Flores, associate director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, called the Trump administration’s decision to give ACICS more time absurd and irresponsible. She said the fact that the accreditor remains out of compliance two years after its termination is evidence that the Obama administration made the right call.

“This move flies in the face of previous decisions and ignores the expertise of Education Department career staff,” she said in a written statement. “Most importantly, it dismisses the tens of thousands of students who have experienced real harm from enrolling in ACICS-accredited schools while continuing to let it happen.”

Trouble in Denmark

Several foreign colleges are among those that ACICS current accredits, including Niels Brock Copenhagen Business College. ACICS in April 2017 renewed the Danish institution’s approval to offer bachelor’s degree programs through 2020.

However, as Andrea Dragsdahl reported last month in Information, a Danish publication, Niels Brock lacks governmental approval in Denmark to issue bachelor’s degrees. The country’s Ministry of Education views the business college as a high school, not a college. And the Danish government requires separate approval for postsecondary credential programs.

Yet through a “hole in the law,” the newspaper reported that Niels Brock is able to pay membership dues to ACICS to issue four-year degrees with the American accreditor’s approval, even though it lacks that authority from the Danish government.

Niels Brock offers four bachelor's degrees at its school in Copenhagen. It also offers college-level degrees in Vietnam and China, with ACICS approval, Dragsdahl reported. In recent years, students recruited from Nepal accounted for more than 80 percent of the Danish school’s domestic student enrollment. The successful recruitment of Nepalese students, a multimillion-dollar business for Niels Brock, according to Information, has been made possible by the stamp of approval from an American accreditor. The school also heavily recruits students from Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Niels Brock has been criticized for the quality of its academic programs by students who attend its Copenhagen location, as well as by the Danish Evaluation Institute, an independent agency created by the Danish government.

Niels Brock sought out ACICS in 2011, after losing its Danish accreditation, Anya Eskildsen, the school’s CEO, said to Information. She defended the school’s academic rigor, telling the Danish newspaper that Niels Brock provides an “American bachelor degree on Danish terms with Danish pedagogy and skilled professors.”

When contacted in July by Inside Higher Ed, Michelle Edwards, ACICS’s president and CEO, said Niels Brock had the proper approval from the Danish government to issue bachelor’s degrees.

“I can assure you that Niels Brock does have approval on file with us to operate as a postsecondary institution in Denmark and to offer the business program they are currently teaching,” Edwards said via email.

That does not appear to be the case, however, thanks in part to possible confusion about the Danish government’s definition of a postsecondary degree.

The Danish ministry recognizes Niels Brock as an “upper secondary school,” Edwards said, citing a June letter from the ministry that “confirms that Copenhagen Business College Niels Brock, is an officially recognized upper secondary school offering Danish education within business, administration and leadership.”

Yet in Denmark, the term “upper secondary” refers to vocational, sub-baccalaureate credentials. As a result, Information reported that the Danish government says the June letter does not mean Niels Brock is authorized by the ministry to issue the equivalent of bachelor’s degrees.

Edwards told the Danish newspaper that ACICS had received “conflicting information” about Niels Brock’s approval status in that country, and would be contacting the Danish Ministry directly.

Eskildsen from Niels Brock told the newspaper that she was awaiting the Education Department’s decision on ACICS’s recognition. In the meantime, however, she said the school had begun the application process with two other non-Danish accrediting agencies as a backup plan if ACICS did not survive. It’s unclear if the school will stick with the American accreditor now that the agency has been given new life by the Trump administration.

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Catholic University suspends dean over tweet on one of Kavanaugh's accusers

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 10/01/2018 - 07:00

Catholic University on Friday announced that it was suspending Will Rainford as dean of the National Catholic School of Social Service, the university's social work school, amid anger by many students and professors over tweets he made criticizing one of the accusers of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rainford tweeted -- using his official dean's handle -- about Julie Swetnick. She is the third woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. She has said that she saw him at high school parties where she said he participated in verbal abuse of girls and encouraged them to drink to a point where they would not be able to prevent boys from sexually assaulting them. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.

Of Swetnick, Rainford tweeted, "Swetnick is 55 y/o. Kavanaugh is 52 y/o. Since when do senior girls hang with freshman boys? If it happened when Kavanaugh was a senior, Swetnick was an adult drinking with & by her admission having sex with underage boys, In another universe, he would be victim and she the perp!"

The tweet instantly circulated throughout the campus and beyond, and stunned students and faculty members, who questioned why a dean would be using his official platform to try to undercut one player in a major national debate. Many noted that, regardless of what one might believe about Kavanaugh, it is antithetical to the ethics of social work to mock someone for bringing an accusation of sexual misconduct.

Rainford quickly removed the tweet and shut down his social media accounts. He also issued an apology. "I offer no excuse," he wrote. "It was impulsive and thoughtless and I apologize."

He went on to say that he was "keenly aware from decades of combined law enforcement and social work experience and education that victims who suffer assault and abuse need to be heard, respected, and provided treatment and justice."

To many students, however, the apology wasn't enough.

Alex Wood, a graduate student who is among those organizing a rally today to protest Rainford, said that many students feel that their views are ignored and that the tweet reflects larger problems.

"While everyone is entitled to their personal opinions, I think someone who wrote those things (as dean, tweeting as dean) should not be the dean of a social work school because it shows an egregious lack of concern for survivors/victims of sexual assault (or, vulnerable individuals), as well as a severe lack of judgment and understanding of their role as a dean," Wood said via email.

In a statement Friday, President John Garvey announced that he was suspending Rainford as dean for the rest of the semester.

"The Catholic University of America has no position on the Kavanagh [sic] matter. But let there be no doubt that our university, and particularly our National Catholic School of Social Service, has a special concern for every victim and survivor of sexual assault," Garvey wrote. "Rainford’s tweets of the past week are unacceptable. We should expect any opinion he expresses about sexual assault to be thoughtful, constructive, and reflective of the values of Catholic University, particularly in communications from the account handle @NCSSSDean. While it was appropriate for him to apologize and to delete his Twitter and Facebook accounts, this does not excuse the serious lack of judgment and insensitivity of his comments."

Garvey wrote that he hopes that Rainford will continue to lead the social work school, but that he would be suspended from that role this semester.

Rainford, through a university spokesman, declined to comment on the suspension.

Academic Freedom Issues

John K. Wilson, who writes widely on academic freedom and is editor of the "Academe" blog of the American Association of University Professors, said via email that Rainford's tweets and punishment raise a number of issues. He said that Rainford's tweets deserved to be condemned, but questioned the idea that he should be punished.

"Normally, the president has authority over staff and can make performance-based decisions such as removing a dean; there is no tenure for administrators," Wilson said. "However, academic freedom is not merely the property of faculty; it’s a core value of a college, and also applies to students and staff. Universities should not be punishing anyone for their political views, even if the reaction to them might be harmful to the university."

Wilson added that "Rainford’s comments were sexist, inaccurate, offensive and just plain stupid, and that they deserve condemnation. But when administrators are removed for their controversial comments, all staffers will censor themselves -- including those who wish to condemn sexual abusers such as Brett Kavanaugh or Donald Trump, or those who speak out against the failures of the Catholic Church to stop sexual abuse. Extramural comments that reveal professional incompetence can be punished. But one misguided opinion about a politicized case does not indicate professional incompetence."

Professional Standards vs. Free Expression

Courts have generally limited the ability of public colleges and universities (which Catholic is not) to punish students or faculty members for saying things on social media that are offensive. But courts have made an exception in cases where posts showed a violation of the professional ethics of various fields, as taught and promoted by various colleges and universities.

In 2013, a federal appeals court ruled that the University of Louisville had the right to dismiss a nursing student who blogged about a patient's experience giving birth. And in 2012, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the right of the University of Minnesota to punish a mortuary science student for posts on Facebook that made fun of a cadaver.

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Scores of full-time, non-tenure-track instructors were promoted last year under a recognition and reward system

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 10/01/2018 - 07:00

After a major overhaul of how it classifies and rewards the approximately 50 percent of its faculty members who teach full-time but off the tenure track, Pennsylvania State University is claiming success.

Central administrators told the Faculty Senate last week that in one year, 184 of such non-tenure-track faculty members have been promoted: forty to assistant teaching or research professor, 94 to associate teaching or research professor and 50 to full teaching or research professor.

Of those professors, 150 now hold multiyear contracts, with 115 securing contracts of three years or more. Thirty-five professors hold two-year contracts and the rest hold one-year contracts. These new contracts come with raises.

Penn State was unable to say exactly what share of full-timers were promoted, since the way instructors were classified prior to this shift across 24 campuses doesn’t make for an easy comparison. But the numbers are significant and meaningful to those on the ground.

Kevin Hagopian, a longtime lecturer who is now an associate teaching professor in media studies at University Park campus, said he thought the change reflects “a huge amount of mission creep at Penn State, where non-tenure-track faculty members are doing the kinds of work that it was long thought required the special set of brains that went along with the tenure track.” At Penn State, he added, non-tenure-track professors “are department heads and teaching on the graduate faculty, and this is a way of recognizing and regularizing all that.”

Beyond teaching and research, Hagopian said, “structurally and administratively and in a dozen other ways, we have become more essential to the operation of the university than we were a few decades or even a few years ago.”

Hagopian is on a five-year contract. In his case, he previously held these longer-term contracts with the expectation of being reappointed for strong service. But the expectations and terms for instructors across programs and campuses were all different, and the new path to promotion system does much to align them.

Michael Bérubé, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature at State College and chair of the University Faculty Senate, credited his provost, Nick Jones, with making good on a promise to look into paths to promotion for non-tenure-track faculty members. Back in 2015, Bérubé published a book calling for a teaching-intensive tenure track for long-serving adjuncts and, especially, those with terminal degrees. He forwarded an article about the book to Jones, he said, and Jones responded that while Penn State wouldn’t proceed with such a conversion plan, it would look for other ways to stabilize the full-time, non-tenure-track faculty.

“He has agreed from the outset that there is no sense in having people teach here for 30 years on 30 one-year contracts,” Bérubé said. “And since our FT faculty are involved in governance at every level, including Senate, we want them to have as much job security as possible.”

So the senate took on the stabilization task, focusing on full-time, or “fixed-term,” promotion review committees made up of full-time peers, tiers of promotion, professorial titles and access to multiyear contracts. Under the new system, those without terminal degrees can be lecturers, and assistant and associate teaching or research professors. Those with terminal degrees may be assistant, associate or full teaching or research professors.

Penn State’s central administration, referred to on campus as Old Main, approved of most of the Senate’s recommendations but did not sign off on three- and five-year terms by rank, preferring instead to give chancellors and deans more say in reappointment decisions. And that’s one reason the high number of multiyear contracts “is encouraging,” Bérubé said, in that administrators are not using “flexibility” as an “excuse for more one-year contracts.”

Asked why he supported the initiative, Bérubé said it’s “the right thing to do, and the best outcome we could have gotten short of conversion to tenure.”

Did he have doubts it was possible? Yes, he said, “Oh, very much yes.” Plus, he added, ”We still have to monitor this whole thing very carefully, and of course units now have to figure out for themselves what the promotion criteria for non-tenure-track faculty should be.”

For example, he said, “changes in title are not changes in job description.” Teaching-Intensive faculty members can’t be expected to suddenly develop a research profile and vice versa.

Jones, the provost, referred a request for comment to Kathleen J. Bieschke, vice provost for faculty affairs. She said that professors who are non-tenure line are “vital members of the scholarly community at Penn State.” The new titles not only provide these instructors with a “more stable career progression” but also provide the institution the “opportunity to recognize and celebrate excellent performance.”

Bieschke was reluctant to guess whether the promotion numbers would increase substantially next year, too, however, since 85 percent of academic units adopted a promotion process last academic year. The rest are expected to do so this year.

So while it seems like the numbers would increase, she said, many units “fully embraced this first opportunity to recognize those colleagues who were deserving of a promotion.”

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Azusa Pacific University reinstates code of conduct clause that bans same-sex romance

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 10/01/2018 - 07:00

Reversing a policy that was in place for only a few weeks, Azusa Pacific University reinstated the same-sex relationship clause in the student standards of conduct, which states that “Students may not engage in a romanticized same-sex relationship.” The Board of Trustees issued a statement on the reversal.

“Last week, reports circulated about a change in the undergraduate student standards of conduct. That action concerning romanticized relationships was never approved by the board and the original wording has been reinstated,” the statement read. “We pledge to boldly uphold biblical values and not waiver in our Christ-centered mission. We will examine how we live up to these high ideals and enact measures that prevent us from swaying from that sure footing.”

Albert Tate, a member of the board, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that the board was still considering new language for the standards of conduct.

“When we took out the language, everyone else filled that gap with their own language and interpretations, and it was hurtful to LGBTQ students, our faculty, our constituencies outside,” Tate said. “We reinstated that language with the intention to strategically partner with our LGBTQ students to find the best language possible to capture our heart and intent.”

Azusa Pacific University did not respond to a request for comment.

Previously, the university had revised its human sexuality statement and code of conduct to ensure that it applies equally to all students regardless of sexual orientation and removed language that explicitly prohibited same-sex romance. The new human sexuality statement is still intact, and prohibits sex outside of marriage, which the university defines as a covenant between a man and a woman.

Azusa Pacific University students and LGBT advocacy organizations applauded the short-lived willingness of the university to permit some gay and lesbian relationships. They said that the policy -- now reversed -- was significant​. Now, they're wondering why the university is backing down.

“Students are feeling heartbroken and hurt. I know that students who have not originally been activists or organizers are now feeling compelled to try and engage with the institution more and generally try to understand what happened and why the institution would make such a bold stance to only reverse it,” said Yaz Mendez Nuñez, director of programs and communications for SoulForce, a nonprofit dedicated to ending religious bias against gay people. “A lot of students are feeling -- the students that SoulForce is in relationship with now, anyway -- are feeling distrust and that the university is actually not brave enough to live truly in their faith and what they believe.”

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Peralta colleges faculty and administrators divided over spending, fiscal management

Inside HigherEd - Mon, 10/01/2018 - 07:00

Northern California voters will consider two ballot measures in November on funding for the Peralta Community College District. As voters decide whether to give the community college system more money, they'll also have to consider whether they believe accusations that district administrators misspent past public funding.

The ballot requests for more money have led to a larger debate about whether Peralta's current leaders can provide adequate financial oversight of the system's budget and address concerns that administrators put more money in their own pockets instead of into the college. Peralta's faculty and staff have accused Chancellor Jowel Laguerre and his administration of misappropriating money from a voter-approved 2012 parcel tax -- the same one the district is asking voters to extend -- and spending it on administrative expenses instead of enhancing instruction.

Those administrators, led by Laguerre, dispute the accusations. He said he plans to provide further clarity to voters in the coming days proving that the faculty allegations are false.

"As chancellor, I believe strongly in transparency," Laguerre said in a statement to Inside Higher Ed.

The ballot question is asking voters to renew a $48-per-parcel property tax for eight years to raise $8 million a year for the four community colleges in the Oakland area district. The parcel tax would support classroom instruction. There is also an $800 million bond measure on the ballot to upgrade classrooms, science labs and job-training facilities.

Despite the criticisms and allegations Peralta's faculty members have lodged at Laguerre, his administration and the district's Board of Trustees, faculty have been encouraging voters to support the ballot measures.

Blake Johnson, a history instructor at Laney College, said he recognizes the unusual circumstance he and his colleagues are in as they call for new leadership and allege ineffective fiscal stewardship, and at the same time, support more funding for Peralta.

"It is unusual to have any public employee come out and be critical of the administration when going after a bond measure and the parcel tax," he said. "But the major reason myself and a lot of us are getting involved is because Peralta’s reputation on the state level is poor. It’s not necessarily the laughingstock of the California Community College system, but it's known to be corrupt."

Earlier this month Johnson filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission alleging Peralta trustee Linda Handy violated campaign finance laws by not repaying loans for a political consultant. Handy is up for re-election. She didn't respond to requests for comment.

The conflict in Peralta is also unique because faculty, trustees and administrators tend to lower the tensions among themselves and within the college during an election year.

"This situation is very unusual," Terry O'Banion, chair of the graduate faculty at National American University and former president of the League for Innovation in Community College, said in an email. "Very few college leaders would go after local bond funds if there was this kind of stress in the institution."

He said Peralta's faculty may be "cutting off their noses to spite their faces" by making these allegations now.

Jennifer Shanoski, president of the Peralta Federation of Teachers and a chemistry instructor at Merritt College, said the faculty finds itself in "a catch-22.”

“We know we need this money. Our infrastructure is crumbling and the facilities are not adequate for students," she said. "The problem is we don’t have a lot of confidence in the way the current administration has been spending that money.”

As a result, the faculty union has endorsed the challengers of two incumbent members of the Board of Trustees -- Handy and Bill Riley.

Laguerre, the district’s chancellor, said several false accusations were made about his administration in Oakland-area media. He disputes a claim by faculty that a larger portion of the money raised through property taxes was spent on administrators' salaries than on classroom instruction.

“Over the past several years, we have increased the percentage of funding from [the parcel tax] to directly support faculty, lower class sizes and support student services through tutoring, instructional aides and counseling to ensure the overall well-being of our students,” he said.

Laguerre points to a 2017 audit of the parcel tax as evidence that the money has been spent as promised to voters.

The audit does show that funding for faculty salaries, books and supplies practically doubled from 2013, after voters approved the tax, to 2014. But funding in those areas decreased substantially since that time. For example, funding for books and supplies went from $112,150 in 2015, the year Laguerre began his tenure as chancellor, to about $84,000 in 2016.

The audit ultimately concluded that the district used the parcel tax funds for the purposes and activities approved by voters.

“The fact is, with the current budget shortfall … funds have been critical for us to provide direct support for faculty and students,” Laguerre said. “Without these funds, I believe it will be challenging for us to provide the same level of service that they have come to rely on and expect.”

Still, in the dispute over Peralta’s finances the district’s Citizens Oversight Committee chairman, Michael Mills, resigned in August. He filed a ballot argument against extending the tax because of what he says is the misuse of the funds.

“Since 2015, taxpayer money has been shifted from the colleges, classrooms and students to pay for non-academic District office expenditures,” according to Mills’ statement.

Johnson and Shanoski both agree the colleges need the funding, especially as student enrollment has decreased. Enrollment fell from about 53,000 students in 2012 to 50,864 in 2017, according to state data. Meanwhile, the number of administrators grew from 51 to 74 during that same period.

"We know we need the money," Shanoski said. "But we also know we need better oversight."

Meanwhile, Laguerre said, the administration is preparing to release a report soon that will provide information about the district’s finances and refute the accusations of misspending.

“With the high cost of college constantly in the news, I believe that voters in our community understand the value and importance of their local community colleges,” he said.

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Study reveals bias against women's basketball teams from historically black colleges

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/28/2018 - 07:00

A new study suggests that long-standing claims of bias aimed at black athletes in college sports could be true, at least in some sports. The study, which appears in the Howard Journal of Communications, finds that teams from historically black colleges and universities are among the most heavily penalized, despite their small representation in athletics overall.

Andrew Dix, an assistant professor of communication at Middle Tennessee State University, analyzed data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association on women’s basketball teams that played from 2008 to 2017 in Division I.

Dix identified 23 teams from HBCUs and 310 from predominantly white institutions. Then he totaled the number of personal fouls from every game and calculated a 10-year average for each team.

Despite HBCU teams representing just a fraction of those in the division (less than 7 percent of the 333 teams), they were the five most penalized over the 10 seasons, Dix found. Overall, eight out of the 15 most penalized teams were from HBCUs.

HBCU teams were called out for 1.5 more personal fouls per game than teams from their predominantly white counterparts. Dix said that this proves bias among referees.

“This research … exposes a hidden socio-cultural issue in which female basketball players from historically black colleges and universities are at a competitive disadvantage when they step onto the court,” he said in a statement. “It is imperative to provide a voice for the current and former female basketball players from historically black colleges and universities who have been subjected to this form of racial inequality in women’s college basketball. Creating awareness and fostering a dialogue on this iteration of referee bias is an important step towards facilitating meaningful change in the officiating of women’s college basketball.”

Dix has previously studied referee bias among HBCU football teams. His findings were published in the International Journal of Science Culture and Sport last year. Among football teams that played from 2006 to 2015, the 13 teams that referees flagged the most were all from HBCUs, Dix discovered.

The phenomenon extends to professional sports, too. A 2007 study of the National Basketball Association shows that white referees from 1991 to 2004 called fouls at a greater rate against black players than white players. And defenders of black tennis champion Serena Williams earlier this month cried prejudice when she engaged in a public argument with a U.S. Open umpire, whom she accused of sexism.

The case with Williams proves prejudice against athletes based on race or gender is quite prevalent, said Marybeth Gasman, director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions. She questioned, however, whether there were also black athletes on the teams at predominantly white institutions.

She said that HBCUs generally face the same bias as black people in the rest of the world -- the public "often think they are inferior and their students are as well," she said of HBCUs.

"If some of them are black, the implications are different and more complicated than this study portrays," Gasman said. "If they are white, I agree that there is racial bias and I'd like to see the NCAA look into this issue."

The NCAA did not respond to several requests for comment.

Shaun Harper, executive director of University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center, said he was unsurprised by Dix’s results in both studies, which suggest that racial bias exists against black men and women in almost every facet of society.

He said it would be helpful to know the races of referees in Dix's sample.

“It would be fascinating, but not altogether surprising to me, if some or many of them were black,” Harper said. “Like racial bias in policing, the culprits are not always white -- they are sometimes people of color who have been subconsciously socialized to view predominantly black spaces as violent and aggressive.”

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Education Department includes Navient as subcontractor for revised loan servicing program

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/28/2018 - 07:00

(Note: This article has been changed from a previous version to correct references to Navient's role in the overhauled servicer program.)

When the Education Department this week announced a list of finalists for the student loan servicers that will receive contracts as part of a planned overhaul of the system, one name was noticeably absent.

Navient Corporation, one of the country's largest student loan servicers, was not listed as a finalist or as an organization that was tapped to lead team bids. Some consumer advocates and critics of the company saw it as a victory for efforts to hold Navient accountable for a track record of poor management. However, the company said it was selected to participate in the revised program, dubbed Next Gen, as a subcontractor and part of a team of servicers.

"Navient did not submit an individual bid for Next Gen -- we bid as part of a team, and our team was one of those selected to move forward," Paul Hartwick, a company spokesman, said via email.

The company's portfolio included $215 billion in outstanding student loan debt as of the last quarter of 2017 -- the third most of any loan servicer. In recent years, though, it became critics' poster child for the worst aspects of the student loan industry. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the attorneys general of Illinois and Washington sued Navient, saying it had illegally failed borrowers at every stage of the repayment process.

For example, the lawsuit alleged that Navient wrongfully assessed late fees even when borrowers made payments and steered other borrowers toward forbearance, leading to the accrual of interest on their loan principal, rather than other repayment options.

The Trump administration is conducting a competitive bidding process to select contractors for multiple components of the new servicing system. The Education Department plans to build a single website to manage loan payments that all borrowers will use regardless of their servicer. It also wants to break up several components of the back end of the loan servicing system and award separate contracts for functions like data processing to contractors.

Among the companies listed as finalists for a business process operations contract were Edfinancial Services LLC, General Dynamics Information Technology Inc., Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA), Nelnet, Oklahoma Student Loan Authority (OSLA), Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), Teleperformance​, Trellis Company and Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority.

Colleen Campbell, associate director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said the fact that Navient was not included among those finalists was “absolutely” a reflection of the company’s prior performance.

“If you’re going to put into a contract solicitation and into appropriations language that past performance matters, there’s no legitimate way to put a company into the system that has such a poor track record of performance for borrowers,” she said.

Navient had argued the CFPB lawsuit was unfounded and politically motivated.

“We are pleased to be progressing through the process as a member of one of the selected teams,” Hartwick said.

Persis Yu, director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project at the National Consumer Law Center, said it was notable that the company would not be a contender for one of the largest servicing contracts.

“It’s encouraging to see that, because Navient has had so many issues with compliance,” she said.

But Yu noted that other servicers have faced complaints from borrowers. For example, PHEAA has been sued over its management of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and the TEACH grant program.

She said the new servicing system must allow the department to hold servicers accountable for their performance.

“That’s always been our big concern -- making sure the government is able to hold individual contractors responsible while streamlining the experience for borrowers,” she said.

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Azusa Pacific's new policy no longer explicitly prohibits same-sex relationships

Inside HigherEd - Fri, 09/28/2018 - 07:00

Azusa Pacific University, a private, evangelical Christian university in California, published a revised statement on human sexuality that no longer forbids romantic same-sex relationships as long as both parties abstain from sex. The new statement has social and legal implications for the university and comes a time of pressure on some Christian colleges to be welcoming to students who are not straight.

Yaz Mendez Nuñez, director of programming and communications at SoulForce, a nonprofit dedicated to ending religious discrimination against LGBT people, said the change was “really exciting” and noted the significance of rewriting a statement of belief.

"This move by APU is really important to note legally because these statements on human sexuality … they aren’t just faith-based documents,” Nuñez said. “These statements act as legal documents. If they want to make a legal move … they could use this statement on human sexuality as a basis for religious freedom protections.”

The new document scrapped a clause that listed forbidden sexual behaviors, which included sex between two men and two women. The fourth point, which previously stated that “Heterosexuality is God’s design for sexually intimate relationships,” is now “Sexual union is intended by God to take place only within the marriage covenant between a man and a woman.”

The change makes the statement apply equally to all students regardless of sexual orientation. Language that explicitly forbade any kind of same-sex relationship has been removed so that the belief statement now permits all romantic relationships but maintains that sex should only occur within a marriage. (While same-sex marriage is legal in the United States, the university does not recognize it.)

“A change in policy does not change practice,” the university said in a written statement to Christianity Today, which first reported the shift. “We assessed our student code of conduct and made adjustments, much like other Christian schools have. In doing so, this enables us to care for all students and apply the same accountability across all populations.”

Paul Carlos Southwick, a lawyer at Davis Wright Tremain LLP with experience defending LGBT clients, highlighted the legal implications of APU's new statement.

"The most legally significant thing is that APU would have had a better defense to a sexual orientation discrimination claim prior to its amendment to its human sexuality policy, at least in respect to a certain type of claim," Southwick said. "Under the old statement it would have strong grounds to defend its actions," but it could not make the same defense using the new statement.

The university also cut a section from its standards of student conduct, which read, “9.0 Same-Sex Relationships: Students may not engage in a romanticized same-sex relationship.”

“It obviously isn’t a win for the entire LGBT community,” Nuñez said. The third point changed from “humans were created as gendered beings” to “humans were created male and female,” which still appears to exclude transgender and nonbinary students. The rewritten policy also doubled down on the university’s definition of marriage.

“APU believes in a biblical definition of marriage as defined as between one man and woman,” Rachel White, a spokesperson for the university, told Christianity Today. “All others living outside of that definition are called to abstinence.”

White told Inside Higher Ed that no one from the university was available for comment. The Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, of which Azusa Pacific University is a member, also declined to comment.

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