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Williams College to rework free speech policies after controversies

Inside Higher Ed - 12 hours 59 min ago

A faculty petition at Williams College to adopt the Chicago principles, which many free speech advocates consider the gold standard of free speech philosophy, has divided the campus and pushed administrators to review the college's policies.

Williams is in “meltdown,” said Luana S. Maroja, an associate professor of biology and one of the faculty members who led the charge for the college to endorse the Chicago principles, known formally as the University of Chicago’s “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression.” At least 60 entities -- including colleges, universities and higher education systems -- have embraced the Chicago principles since they were first introduced four years ago. The growing support for the principles is due in part to a promotional campaign by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a civil liberties watchdog group. Those who disagree with basing policies on the Chicago principles don't dispute the importance of free expression, especially in academe. But these critics say that reliance on the principles alone can ignore the role of a college in promoting inclusivity and diversity.

"The Chicago principles’ main shortcoming is in the false assurance they offer the colleges and universities who endorse them," Sigal Ben-Porath, a professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in an essay for Inside Higher Ed. "They rely on a legalistic and formal framework that purports to offer a response to a set of problems that has little use for such blunt tools. They fail to recognize that higher education institutions must address the current tensions brewing under the heading of 'free speech' -- brought on by students, faculty members and outside forces -- by reconsidering, and possibly shifting, a host of practices in classrooms, dorms, clubs and administrations in ways that would differ across campuses. Those tensions cannot simply be resolved by endorsing a one-size-fits-all statement."

The controversy at Williams comes after President Trump signed an executive order recently barring federal research funds from institutions that do not meet their free speech obligations. Williams is in the process of revising its policies after President Maud S. Mandel announced the creation of a committee of students, professors and administrators to recommend changes that would strike a balance between free expression and inclusion.

The problems at the Massachusetts institution began in September with a panel discussion on free expression in which a well-known religious scholar took part. The scholar was Reza Aslan, a best-selling author and professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. Maroja, who attended the event, said Aslan dominated the conversation and made statements that baffled her, including that administrators should dictate what can and cannot be said on college campuses, and that only “factual talks” had a place in higher education. She said students cheered these remarks.

“This nonsense was met with intense student applause,” Maroja wrote in a blog post about the roundtable. “It was appalling.”

After the talk, she and a couple of other professors decided to start the petition for Williams to adopt the Chicago principles, which say in part:

The ideas of different members of the university community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the university to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable or even deeply offensive. Although the university greatly values civility, and although all members of the university community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.

After the professors drafted the faculty petition, which Maroja said about half of the college's roughly 400 professors signed, they scheduled a meeting in November to discuss the proposal. Maroja said a formal vote on the petition was not scheduled to take place at this meeting.

She said a group of about 20 students showed up, some carrying signs proclaiming “free speech harms” and other similar sentiments. Maroja said the students were disruptive and eventually started yelling at white, male professors to sit down and “acknowledge their privilege.” Maroja said she attempted to engage the students -- as a Hispanic woman, she said she understood prejudice -- and told them that shutting down speech they find offensive would only invigorate bigoted speakers.

The students were unpersuaded.

“Students were just screaming that we were trying to ‘kill them,’” Maroja said.

The students had put together and brought with them a lengthy statement, which has since morphed into a counterpetition, that argued the Chicago principles -- and more broadly, unfettered free speech -- harms minority students.

A recent copy of the student petition wasn’t available, but a version from December had more than 360 signatures. Williams has an undergraduate population of about 2,000 students.

The student petition references a controversial decision from 2016, when Adam Falk, former Williams president, disinvited John Derbyshire, a writer widely decried as racist, from speaking on campus. As a private college, Williams is not governed by the First Amendment, but by its own policies, which can restrict speech that the campus finds distasteful. The college currently follows the American Association of University Professors' guidelines on freedom of expression, which say in part that "on a campus that is free and open, no idea can be banned or forbidden. No viewpoint or message may be deemed so hateful or disturbing that it may not be expressed."

In their rebuttal, the students, who called themselves the Coalition Against Racist Education Now, or CARE, wrote that the faculty petition “prioritizes the protection of ideas over the protection of people and fails to recognize that behind every idea is a person with a particular subjectivity. Our beliefs, and the consequences of our actions, are choices we make. Any claim to the ‘protection of ideas’ that is not founded in the insurance of people’s safety poses a real threat -- one which targets most pointedly marginalized people. An ideology of free speech absolutism that prioritizes ideas over people, giving ‘deeply offensive’ language a platform at this institution, will inevitably imperil marginalized students.”

The student group did not respond to requests for comment. But in an opinion piece in the student newspaper, The Record, CARE representatives wrote that they had no interest in the "free speech debate." They said these issues come down to trust among students, professors and administrators. The students called the free speech argument a "discursive cover."

"For this reason, we refuse to accept the terms of this debate. Instead, let’s see the faculty petition for what it is: an institutional manifestation of a national anxiety towards a more diverse student and faculty population, not an invitation to a dialogue," they wrote. "Prejudice cannot be talked away; more 'dialogue' is not the answer. Oppression can’t be fixed with rational debate because oppression is not rational."

The faculty members never voted on the petition.

Free speech issues were again raised on campus after two professors, Kai Green, assistant professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, and Kimberly Love, assistant professor of English, abruptly went on leave before the spring semester. They have written at length about how they have felt "not safe" in academe.

A college spokesman, Greg Shook, offered no comment other than to confirm Green and Love were on leave.

Students constructed a “memorial” in February to express solidarity with the professors, which was promptly taken down by campus workers, who said it violated safety codes. The students were allowed to reinstall the memorial, only to have it removed again. Students said the college's actions didn’t match its stated commitment to free speech.

The committee on free speech that President Mandel formed is due to make its recommendations in about a month, said Jana Sawicki, its chairwoman and a philosophy and rhetoric professor.

Mandel charged the committee with developing policies and an overarching philosophy about campus speakers and free expression, but Sawicki said she views the group's mission more broadly, including to rework the institution's approach toward inclusivity. Committee members have met with alumni, professors and students and have read students' answers to an online survey on free speech. Sawicki said about 530 students responded to the survey.

Sawicki said the committee is close to drafting recommendations. The goal is to not restrict who can speak on campus but to prompt the students who invite those guests to consider whether they have academic value and whether individual speakers' views would offend minority students or make them feel harmed, she said, adding that speakers brought on campus by student groups are generally the most controversial.

One idea the committee floated was involving faculty advisers to student clubs in more of the discussions about which speakers to invite to the campus, Sawicki said. If a student group wanted to host a controversial speaker, the adviser could talk with the club members about whether they'd thought through how the speaker's views would affect their peers, she said. The advisers, who currently are not involved in club operations, would never stop the students from hosting a speaker they wanted, Sawicki said.

Sawicki said she initially signed the faculty petition to support the Chicago principles -- a no-brainer, she thought -- but rescinded her name when she saw the students' reaction.

"What needs to be bolstered here is trust in the institution, and the institution needs to deserve that," Sawicki said.

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Elizabeth Warren plan moves goalposts of college affordability debate

Inside Higher Ed - 12 hours 59 min ago

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s call Monday to wipe out student debt has ignited a debate over the scale of federal action needed to deal with the growing loan burden borne by many borrowers.

The $1.25 trillion proposal received praise by progressive groups for its ambition and its explicit focus on racial equity. But some higher ed experts questioned whether it offered too many benefits to college graduates who don’t require assistance from the federal government.

Warren’s plan would completely wipe out the debt of three-quarters of student loan borrowers, according to her presidential campaign.

It would offer up to $50,000 in student loan cancellation to borrowers with household income of up to $100,000. Borrowers with six-figure incomes would receive graduated loan forgiveness, and those earning more than $250,000 would receive no debt forgiveness.

The proposal would also eliminate tuition at two- and four-year public colleges by creating a partnership between the federal government and states (an idea many GOP governors rejected in 2016). And it would add $100 billion to the Pell Grant program to cover the full cost of college attendance at public institutions.

The cost of the plan would be offset by a proposed tax on the ultrarich that would hit the 75,000 wealthiest families in the U.S. and raise $2.75 billion over a decade.

Warren argued in a Medium post Monday that a student loan crisis has developed because, as states have disinvested in higher education, students have shouldered more of the costs by taking on debt to attend college. She said her plan recognizes “that a public college education is like a public K-12 education -- a basic public good that should be available to everyone with free tuition and zero debt at graduation.”

The proposal adds to a growing catalog of policy plans for everything from antitrust enforcement to universal childcare that have set Warren apart from a crowded primary field. Some Democratic presidential hopefuls have rejected free college this year. While others have backed free college or debt-free college, none have offered as comprehensive a plan on student debt.

Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, called the Warren proposal "by far the biggest and most inspiring student debt plan from any 2020 candidate."

Ben Miller, vice president for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said the plan includes important dimensions absent from other free college or debt-free-college proposals. For one, it specifically addresses the ramifications of student debt for black borrowers. Federal data show black student borrowers are more likely to struggle to repay their loans whether they graduated or not.

Miller said the proposal also acknowledges that “even if we tackle future college affordability, we still have folks struggling with loans from the existing system.”

The proposal, however, was still subject to the same critiques as other expansive college-affordability proposals. Neal McCluskey, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, said it wouldn’t be fair for borrowers who benefited from their college degree to have their loans canceled.

“People go to college, and often take on loans to do so, at least in part to greatly increase their lifetime earnings,” he said.

Even some left-of-center voices questioned the plan, arguing there would be better options for new federal spending. Clare McCann, deputy director for federal higher education policy at New America, said most people struggling with student loan debt aren’t earning up to a quarter million dollars each year.

“Debt forgiveness would transfer federal dollars to the disproportionately middle- and high-income students who went to college and wouldn't help borrowers who have already repaid their debts or Americans who never went to college because they didn't want to take on the debts,” she said. “Poorly targeted, expensive proposals like Senator Warren's might be politically popular, but they're not the wisest use of federal money.”

Doug Webber, an associate professor and director of graduate studies in the economics department at Temple University, said borrowers with loan debt of $50,000 or more have often taken on debt to attend graduate programs. And graduate degrees, especially in fields such as law or medicine, can be expected to eventually lead to much higher incomes.

“We’re talking about a lot of money going to people who are going to have very high-paying careers,” he said.

Although high-balance borrowers have traditionally been graduate students, some research has shown that in recent years those borrowers have increasingly attended for-profit colleges and less selective institutions. And more large-balance borrowers are undergraduate students. Those borrowers have also struggled more with student debt.

The Warren campaign argued that the proposal would substantially boost the wealth of black and Latinx households. About 80 percent of black households and 83 percent of Latinx households would receive full debt cancellation, compared to 73 percent of white households, according to the campaign.

Tiffany Jones, director of higher education policy at the Education Trust, which focuses on education equity, said the Warren loan-forgiveness proposal takes the right approach by targeting loan relief. But she said debt cancellation should account for family wealth alongside income. The typical white family has 10 times the wealth of the typical black family, Jones noted.

“We know that when you don’t take wealth into consideration, you’ll have a disproportionate impact on white families because of the racial wealth gap,” she said.

Warren’s proposal would take other steps to address racial disparities in higher ed, including the creation of a $50 billion fund to support historically black colleges and minority-serving institutions. It would also require public colleges to conduct an annual equity audit to identify failures to enroll and graduate low-income students and students of color.

The plan also calls for cutting off Title IV federal student aid to for-profit colleges, which, Warren said, “have built a business model around sucking down taxpayer dollars while delivering a poor education primarily to students of color.”

Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, the lobby group for for-profits, said Warren had disclosed her “true endgame” with the proposal.

“She, like too many voices in the public sector today, are so opposed to the very existence of small family businesses that she now proposes to eliminate the very sector that was created to provide midlevel career skills education and continues to do so today,” Gunderson said.

The Warren proposal could also have negative implications for private nonprofit colleges and public colleges, said David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

"I think we should direct as much federal aid as possible to students who need it," he said. "Then those students could afford to go to the college where they decide they fit in best, whether that is a community college, a small private or a large public."

The plan’s approach to college affordability could set new standards for other presidential campaigns, though. Jones of Ed Trust said it shows the Democratic primary has reached the “big idea” phase.

“These are big problems,” she said. “We’re not going to be able to solve them on the cheap.”

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Experts divided over how to close the homework gap

Inside Higher Ed - 12 hours 59 min ago

Thousands of students nationwide still don’t have access to a fast and stable internet connection in their homes despite huge advances in technology in the past decade.

Whether it's a lack of technology infrastructure, particularly in rural and remote areas, or prohibitive monthly costs for high-speed internet service, students without access at home have a harder time doing homework and often fall behind their peers that do have access.

Educators and policy makers have grappled with this so-called homework gap for decades as online learning became more integrated into secondary school and college curriculums. But there is now a possible solution: the Educational Broadband Service, or EBS.

The EBS is a 2.5 GHz-frequency spectrum that could be used to create high-speed wireless broadband networks in rural communities, but educators and policy makers are divided over how best to achieve this.

Several school districts and colleges in rural areas want to take matters into their own hands by deploying their own wireless broadband networks for use by local residents. But some policy makers and experts have argued it would be more effective to sell the EBS spectrum to telecommunications companies and use the proceeds to fund government-led initiatives to close the homework gap.

Fred Campbell, director of Tech Knowledge, a technology policy think tank, wrote a recent report outlining why auctioning off the EBS and creating a needs-based subsidy for underfunded K-12 schools is the best way forward.

There are around 1,300 nonprofit organizations, schools and colleges with EBS licenses, yet Campbell argues the spectrum is not being used to its full potential.

The FCC estimates that about 90 percent of all EBS license holders lease their spectrum rights out to commercial wireless service providers such as Sprint and use the payments as a revenue source. Campbell, who formerly headed the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, described this practice as an "implicit federal subsidy" for the "lucky few" institutions that got EBS licenses more than 20 years ago. He noted that at least 20 universities with endowments of more than $1 billion, such as Emory University in Georgia, Purdue University in Indiana and Ohio State University, hold EBS licenses. Many of these institutions are leasing out their spectrum and pocketing the proceeds, he said.

Institutions have been permitted to lease out their spectrum since 1983, on the condition that they retain 5 percent of their capacity for educational use, but the requirements for meeting this condition are unclear, said Campbell. The 2.5-GHz spectrum was earmarked for educational use by the administration of President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

Dozens of universities contacted by Inside Higher Ed declined to say how much money they make from their leasing arrangements, but Campbell said these institutions can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

“It does not serve the FCC’s mission of the public interest to subsidize the general operations of these elite institutions and other well-funded school systems at the expense of closing the homework gap for K-12 students in rural and underserved communities,” he wrote in his paper.

The FCC could break the existing lease agreements, but Campbell lays out the framework for a voluntary auction in which EBS license holders could choose to participate. He argues that institutions should be paid a lump sum, in exchange for their licenses, that is several times higher than what they might earn from leasing out their spectrum over a 30-year period.

Rethinking the EBS

The idea of auctioning off the EBS appears to be gaining momentum. The Internet Innovation Alliance -- a coalition of businesses (most notably telecom giant AT&T) and nonprofits that lobby for broadband expansion -- held an event in January discussing how such an auction might work.

“The great promise of using this spectrum for educational purposes has really not lived up to its potential,” FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said at the January event. “Why don’t we give those who hold these licenses a choice?”

Institutions could choose to hold on to their licenses under the same terms, or they could choose to “sell them back to the agency,” she said.

“We can repackage all those licenses that are sold to us and sell them out for broadband use. Then the revenues from that can be used to fund homework gap initiatives in every state,” said Rosenworcel. “I think that honors the legacy that the Kennedy administration worked so hard to set up. But it does it in a totally modern way.”

FCC commissioners have been considering for more than a year how the EBS can be used more effectively. A notice of proposed rule making was published by the commission in May 2018, proposing to provide “greater flexibility to current EBS licensees as well as providing new opportunities for additional entities to obtain unused 2.5-GHz spectrum.”

The FCC began issuing EBS licenses in the 1960s, when the spectrum was known as the Instructional Television Fixed Service and was used to broadcast educational television programs. As technology evolved, so did the possible uses of the 2.5-GHz band. The spectrum is now a valuable asset that can be used to achieve superfast download speeds through fifth-generation cellular networks, known as 5G.

The FCC stopped awarding EBS licenses in the mid-1990s, when it became clear that few institutions were still broadcasting educational television programs. The existing EBS licenses cover approximately one half of the geographic area of the United States. There are large areas, particularly rural areas with few people, where the 2.5-GHz spectrum remains unassigned. These areas are known as "white space."

Over 300 comments have been submitted to the FCC's proposed rule regarding the future of the EBS. Many of the comments are from educational institutions asking the FCC not to auction off the spectrum. Several groups said they wanted the opportunity to apply for new licenses and create their own homework gap solutions. The FCC is currently reviewing the comments and is expected to respond later this year.

A joint comment from the National EBS Association (NEBSA) and the Catholic Technology Network, which both represent a large number of EBS license holders, argued that an auction is the wrong way forward. The groups said in order to best take advantage of the spectrum, the FCC should issue new licenses to educators and tribal nations in rural areas where none are currently assigned.

“While unassigned EBS spectrum should be licensed and some modernization of the EBS rules may be warranted, a ‘transformation’ of the band is neither necessary nor in the public interest,” Lee Solonche, executive director of NEBSA, said in an email. “EBS does not need fixing. It needs finishing.”

A Call for New Licenses

Jim Stewart, chief technology officer at the Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN), a statewide organization that provides internet infrastructure for schools, higher education institutions and hospitals, is among those hoping the FCC will start granting new EBS licenses and decide against an auction.

UETN had EBS licenses but decided not to renew them back in the ’90s, said Stewart. “We just weren’t using them and didn’t see any advantage in trying to keep them at the time,” he said. Now UETN is trying to get them back.

In addition to improving internet connectivity for students in their homes, UETN wants to use the EBS spectrum to improve internet access on school and college campuses. Many Utah institutions have strained Wi-Fi networks because of the large number of devices students and staff use on campus. Stewart wants to introduce 4G, or perhaps even 5G, wireless broadband connectivity. But to do this, UETN needs the EBS spectrum.

Stewart has met with FCC representatives to obtain a waiver that would allow UETN to get an EBS license, but he has been unsuccessful so far.

“We can’t move forward, we can’t do anything,” he said. “What we’re really concerned about is that this will be auctioned off and that will be the end of it.”

Eric Smith, director of broadcasting and audiovisual services at Northern Michigan University, successfully applied for a waiver to obtain a license about 10 years ago. Now the university is able to offer wireless broadband internet service to several towns in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The NMU Educational Access Network is open to anyone who wants to access the internet for educational purposes, said Smith. Area residents with no affiliation to local colleges, universities or schools can sign up for $34.95 a month on the condition they complete one of the university’s free adult education classes. Students and families with schoolchildren can sign up for $19.99 a month. Over 3,800 households have signed up, said Smith.

He said the monthly fee does not generate revenue for NMU but covers the costs of equipment the university purchased to make self-deployment of the wireless broadband network possible.

Smith would like to see other institutions, particularly in rural areas, deploy their own networks. But they can’t do that unless the FCC opens up applications for new EBS licenses. Like Stewart, Smith is skeptical that auctioning the spectrum to commercial entities would have the same benefit as institutions deploying their own networks.

“There are great opportunities for self-deployment that never existed before,” he said.

Patrick Gossman, deputy chief information officer at Wayne State University, agrees the FCC should give institutions the opportunity to deploy their own networks. Equipment costs have now come down significantly, and projects such as the NMU Educational Access Network have shown it can be done, he said.

Gossman said the EBS is being used effectively by educators.

“The only spectrum not being utilized in the United States is the spectrum that the FCC has been sitting on for over 23 years, despite all the efforts we’ve made to get them to license the unlicensed areas,” he said.

Wayne State University obtained its EBS licenses in the 1960s and produced educational television programming until the 1990s. It then leased its spectrum to Sprint, which built up the necessary infrastructure in Detroit to make the 4G LTE network operational.

“There was no way that I could have built a cellular 4G LTE network to blanket 38,000 square miles and four million people. It made a heck of a lot more sense to partner with Sprint and let them go through that,” said Gossman. “We lease to Sprint, but I look upon it as a partnership.”

Gossman was unable to share the value of WSU’s lease arrangement with Sprint due to nondisclosure agreements, but he said the money is used to create educational programming and provide digital devices to local schools.

“We didn’t get into this for the money; we got into this to provide educational services,” he said. “Yes, the spectrum has become valuable, yes, we make money, and yes, we make good use of all those funds.”

He said no amount of money would convince WSU to sell its spectrum.

“In education, one-time funds evaporate. Getting a steady income stream is extremely valuable.”

Gossman said he struggles to see how auctioning off the “white space” would meaningfully improve internet connectivity in rural areas. “The incentive just isn’t there for commercial entities to build,” he said.

“For an auction to work, you need somebody who wants to sell and somebody who wants to buy. It’s not clear to me that they’d find buyers -- the EBS spectrum is all chopped up.”

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Viral tweet accuses professor of charging for letter of recommendation, but there's no evidence to back the claim

Inside Higher Ed - 12 hours 59 min ago

Social media is full of reports on higher education -- some true and many false. We typically ignore claims that can't be verified, but sometimes a tweet attracts so much attention -- from reputable news organizations and journalists -- that there may be value in saying that there's no proof behind the claim.

In this case, an accusation that a professor was charging students for letters of recommendation attracted coverage from the U.S. and Australia and outrage from prominent social commentators and journalists.

It's of course difficult to demonstrate that something didn't happen. But there is no evidence to back the claim in the original tweet, which was retweeted by more than 1,000 people on Twitter and liked by more than 6,000 people.

My professor really has the audacity to charge me to buy both his textbook and rec letter from him these people have no shame

— Faisal (@FaisalQasim_) April 18, 2019

Many of the hundreds of comments in reply said that they shared the anger of the student, and they were quick to condemn the professor (listed only by last name). The issue of a professor assigning his or her own textbooks is one that comes up periodically. Many colleges frown upon it or bar professors from receiving profits from such assignments, but others don't intervene. This is a documented, real issue.

The issue of charging for letters of recommendation, however, appears to be a new one. Most of those commenting said they were stunned by such an action. Many urged the person on Twitter to go public with the professor's name. Some of those commenting did suggest that the story might not be true.

Then Syed (the name by which the alleged professor addressed the student) posted again, saying that he appreciated the support, but that he wasn't going to reveal the identity of the professor. He said he didn't want a "public execution" of the professor, but that he would report the professor (presumably to his college).

For all those who have replied with support thank you I will be reporting my professor, however I don't want to make this a public execution this matter should and will be resolved in private out of respect thank you everyone for the words of encouragement

— Faisal (@FaisalQasim_) April 21, 2019

While some applauded the decision to report the professor, some said that the failure to name the professor suggested that the incident was a hoax.

Inside Higher Ed reached out to the person via Twitter and did not receive an answer to our questions.

Some on Twitter speculated that the student and professors were at a certain university. Inside Higher Ed contacted the university, which said that it had no student matching the name and no professor with the last name used in the note.

At the American Association of University Professors, officials said that they had not heard of the practice. The AAUP has argued that faculty members have the right to write a recommendation or not, based on their view of the student involved, but prior discussions haven't covered issues of fees.

Hank Reichman, professor emeritus of history at California State University, East Bay, and chair of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure of the AAUP, said of the accusation in the tweet, "If it's real, it's arguably a violation of the [association's] Statement on Professional Ethics."

Specifically, he pointed to this provision: "As teachers, professors encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students. They hold before them the best scholarly and ethical standards of their discipline. Professors demonstrate respect for students as individuals and adhere to their proper roles as intellectual guides and counselors. Professors make every reasonable effort to foster honest academic conduct and to ensure that their evaluations of students reflect each student’s true merit. They respect the confidential nature of the relationship between professor and student. They avoid any exploitation, harassment or discriminatory treatment of students. They acknowledge significant academic or scholarly assistance from them. They protect their academic freedom."

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Colleges announce commencement speakers

Inside Higher Ed - 12 hours 59 min ago
  • City College of San Francisco: Ricardo Lara, California's insurance commissioner.
  • College of Charleston: Sonya Renee Houston, senior producer for CNN NewsRoom; and others.
  • Maryland Institute College of Art: Abbi Jacobson, co-creator of the Comedy Central series Broad City.
  • New York School of Interior Design: Nate Berkus and Elaine Griffin, both interior designers.
  • Quinnipiac University: John F. Lansing, CEO and director of the U.S. Agency for Global Media; Reggie Eadie, president and chief executive officer of Trinity Health of New England; and others.
  • Raritan Valley Community College: Clint Wallace, senior vice president of human resources at Sanofi.
  • San Francisco Art Institute: Emory Douglas, an artist and Black Panther Party minister of culture; and others.
  • State University of New York at Cobleskill: Thomas J. Vilsack, former U.S. secretary of agriculture.
  • Thomas Aquinas College: The Most Reverend Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles.
  • West Virginia University: Hilde Lysiak, the 12-year-old publisher of The Orange Street News in Selinsgrove, Pa., and the youngest member of the Society of Professional Journalists; and others.
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Arkansas Tech University accused of honoring Holocaust denier

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 2019-04-22 07:00

This article contains explicit and potentially offensive terms that are essential to reporting on this situation.

Arkansas Tech University in December announced that it had received a little more than $190,000 from the estate of a late professor to create a scholarship fund. The fund -- the Michael Arthur Link and May Reid Kewen History Scholarship -- would honor the professor and his late mother. Link had taught history for 51 years before he died in 2016.

The university issued a photo (above right) of a ceremonial presentation of the funds from those administering Link's estate. It all seemed like a nice story and a nice sum of money for a university that needs scholarship support.

But Jewish organizations are objecting to an honor for Link, who they say was a Holocaust denier and promoted anti-Semitic views. Higher education has periodically debated whether a professor being a Holocaust denier is grounds for dismissal. The most famous case involves Arthur Butz, an engineering professor at Northwestern University. The university has repeatedly condemned Butz's views but has not fired him, citing principles of academic freedom and the fact that Butz's Holocaust denial activities are unrelated to his work at the university. In the Arkansas Tech case, the question is an honor for a late professor, and for one who taught history and is alleged to have promoted his views in class and publishing.

The university says that it does not believe the allegations about Link, and that there is no conclusive evidence to back up the claims. The university has also said that it has spoken to those who knew Link, and they say he was not bigoted against Jews.

One person who studied under Link has come forward to support the university for honoring the professor. He is Billy Roper, who runs the Shield Wall Network, which is described by the Anti-Defamation League as "a small white supremacist group based in Mountain View, Arkansas, that promotes racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric."

Roper, on his website, wrote, "The Jewish ADL, long under investigation for committing acts of espionage against the United States on behalf of Israel, along with typically shrill Jewess professor Sarah Stein, have failed in their Jewy attempts to intimidate Shield Wall Network Coordinator Billy Roper’s alma mater into removing a beloved history professor’s name from a scholarship he endowed. The greasy hook-nosed kikes even demanded that the university remove a non-offensive comment Mr. Roper placed on a page in memory of his former professor and confidant. To their credit, the university where Roper earned his master’s degree after taking multiple classes under Link has stood firm and so far refused the Jews’ demands. The full name of the ADL indicates that they are the 'brotherhood of the circumcised.'"

The ADL together with leaders of the Jewish Federation of Arkansas and more than 30 scholars of history from around the United States wrote to the university to protest the decision to honor Link.

"The evidence against Dr. Link includes anti-Semitic passages in his written work, testimony from former students and colleagues, and a well-documented 2005 incident in which Dr. Link presented anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi published texts in a graduate seminar as though they were legitimate historical works. This evidence has been reviewed by the Anti-Defamation League, leaders of the Jewish Federation of Arkansas and international and national scholars in the field of Holocaust studies. All have found it credible and convincing, and all agree that Dr. Link presented hate-filled, nonfactual, anti-Semitic misinformation to his students as though it offered a historically valid point of view," the letter says.

"Over the course of Dr. Link’s tenure, the university allowed him to expose thousands of students to these odious, dangerous mistruths under the guise of three deeply disturbing and absolutely intolerable tactics. First, Dr. Link presented misinformation as history. Second, he presented the anti-Semitic nature of this misinformation as though it were truthful, correct and acceptable. Third, he presented the question of whether the Holocaust occurred -- an irrefutable historical fact -- as though it were an appropriate, valid point of debate. The administration of Arkansas Tech has had months to remedy its honoring of Dr. Link at the request of ADL and concerned faculty members, but it has done nothing. The position of the administration clearly breaches the university mission and belies the standing of the university as a public institution devoted to higher education."

ADL closed its letter by saying, "By simultaneously honoring and seeking to conceal the anti-Semitism of Dr. Link, the university has become complicit in his hate."

Arkansas Tech says that it has no definitive evidence of any of this.

But Inside Higher Ed has reviewed a letter sent to the then president of Arkansas Tech in 2005 in which a historian describes complaints he received from his former students while enrolled in a graduate course taught by Link in which he encouraged students to read a range of books on the Holocaust. Some of the books were scholarly texts, but the books also included Debunking the Genocide Myth, published by an organization that denies that the Holocaust was real. The students in the course complained to the professor that they felt something was wrong and that they wanted to drop the course but had missed the deadline to do so. The students told the professor that Link presented the various books as necessary to evaluate the Holocaust.

The professor compared Link to a "geologist who asserts that the Earth is flat" or even that the shape of the Earth is a subject of debate. "Holocaust deniers play off our innate sense of fairness," the professor wrote. "Why shouldn't 'both sides' be argued? They play off a basic flaw in reasoning, i.e., that the assertions of the Holocaust as an event in world history have equal weight to assertions that the event never occurred. But given the patina of academia by professors with agendas, this false equivalency of validity will find acceptance among students who will see it in terms of just another debate among historians when in fact there is no debate."

Shortly after this letter was sent, Link was removed from teaching duties. The university would not say why but said he was subsequently cleared to return to teaching.

Inside Higher Ed has also reviewed a self-published book by Link on the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. In the beginning of the book, referencing the situation in Germany during Hitler's rise to power, Link offered reasons other than anti-Semitism to explain Hitler's hatred for Jewish people -- and Link's explanations aren't that different from those offered at the time by Nazis. "Jews were prominent in banking, the press, the Socialist party and the Communist party," Link wrote. He later references the "many Jewish bankers" in Germany at the time.

Niebuhr was strongly anti-Nazi and never showed sympathy for Hitler's views. But the book says (in ways other Niebuhr scholars would likely contest) that Niebuhr viewed the "real reason" for Nazi violence against Jews was "the strong influence of the Jews in the liberal and radical parties of Germany."

‘We Don’t Know’

Arkansas Tech has said that the fellowship will help students and promote diversity by allowing more people to enroll.

Robin E. Bowen, president of Arkansas Tech, said via email that the university took the allegations against Link seriously and in no way would endorse Holocaust denial. "The question at hand relates to intent," she said.

Defenders of Link have said that he was trying to show his students the range of ideas about the Holocaust that are "out there" and that he was not trying to endorse the books that argued that the Holocaust did not take place.

"Therein lies the problem," Bowen wrote. "We don’t know. We don’t know if he intended to use the books as part of a conversation regarding how to evaluate the legitimacy of materials or whether his intent was not as noble. We simply don’t know."

Bowen added, "One of our many challenges as educators is balancing what we believe to be true with the rights of others to express their truth. As academics, we should strive to provide students with opportunities to consider varied perspectives as they learn to grow as critical thinkers."

As to the biography Link wrote of Niebuhr, Bowen said that the university has asked the ADL for evidence that the passages in question are anti-Semitic, and has not received an explanation. Those in Jewish organizations who have reached out to Arkansas Tech say that they have explained the tropes in the language used by Link in the book.

Bowen said, "Arkansas Tech University categorically denies the unfounded accusation by ADL South Central that ATU is 'complicit in hate' against people of the Jewish faith. Teaching Holocaust denial and promoting anti-Semitism are not behaviors condoned by Arkansas Tech University."

‘Aiding and Abetting Holocaust Denial’

One of the people consulted by Arkansas Tech faculty members about the situation was Deborah E. Lipstadt, one of the world's leading experts on Holocaust deniers. Lipstadt is the Dorot Professor of Holocaust Studies at Emory University. She is the author of a book -- History on Trial -- about how she stood up to a lawsuit by a Holocaust denier who challenged her work.

Asked by Inside Higher Ed about her take on the evidence, Lipstadt said via email that she reviewed the various materials that had been presented to Arkansas Tech.

"If the descriptions of his courses are correct and if he indeed did assign the materials he is said to have assigned, then there is no question that he is aiding [and] abetting Holocaust denial," Lipstadt wrote. "In fact, I would call him a Holocaust denier if he said he wanted students to study both sides of the issue. There are many 'sides' to debate on Holocaust-related matters … But to debate whether this genocide happened or not is more than ludicrous. It is a form of denial. If the materials with which you have been provided are accurate -- and there are too many different reports together with Link’s own writings to simply discount them -- then to name a fellowship after this man is highly inappropriate."

Lipstadt also said that it was stunning that one could review Link's writings, such as his Niebuhr work, and not see the bigotry in some of the language. Those who would read such work and say that they needed more information should "take some courses in history of the Holocaust and of anti-Semitism." Added Lipstadt, "Those who are defending the fellowship have cited the fact that it will enhance diversity. This seems to me to be a pretty poor excuse for honoring a man who facilitated historical lies and the prejudice that flows from them."

Stein, the professor noted in the post by the white nationalist at the beginning of the article, is an assistant professor of English at Arkansas Tech.

Of the honor for Link, she said, "I feel that it is a total disservice to our students and it's an embarrassment to the university."

"As a Jewish professor it hurts to go to work at a university that would honor a Holocaust denier."

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Photography professor is accused of violating rules of consent in a new book on Greek life

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 2019-04-22 07:00

Candid photos are the lifeblood of documentary photography. But a critically acclaimed photo book on fraternity life by Andrew Moisey, assistant professor of visual studies at Cornell University, has attracted ire from students on multiple campuses over issues of consent and women's autonomy.

Specifically, critics say, The American Fraternity (Daylight) documents women in compromising positions. In one photo, for example, a woman in party clothes lies passed out on a dirty fraternity house bed with her legs splayed open toward the camera. In another photo, a woman lifts up her shirt to expose her bare breast. Most of the women’s faces are obscured. But some have said they are nevertheless recognizable. And Moisey has admitted he did not obtain consent from several women he featured -- despite having obtained consent forms from the fraternity men.

“Moisey lacked the practical wisdom to see that publishing these photographs presented the greatest risk to women, already a primary target of fraternity violence. Moisey himself had little to lose,” Augie Faller, a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at Cornell, wrote in a recent column in The Cornell Daily Sun. “Consent is for Cornell faculty, too.”

A woman who did not want to be identified by name or position, for fear of retribution, attended a talk Moisey gave about the book at Cornell. 

The photos "don’t speak clearly, at least not as a criticism. It’s hard to not see these photos as anything other than violence pornography and fetishism," she said.

Moisey "hides behind the excuse of documentary photography and activism to absolve himself of the blatant disrespect of women that he demonstrates in publishing the photos without their consent," she added.

According to an audio recording of the talk, Moisey said he hadn't gotten consent from some of the women he photographed. Asked about the potential for the women's employers or families to recognize them, he said, "Those consequences haven’t happened. They could. They very well could. But I felt if I didn’t put those pictures in there then the book wouldn’t be able to make a critique at all."

Moisey has received more negative coverage from student newspapers at the University of California, Berkeley, his alma mater -- and where he shot the photos -- and at Kenyon College, where he recently gave a talk.

The American Fraternity came out just this fall, but Moisey collected photographs for it from 2000 to 2008 at Berkeley. He’s said he waited years to publish to protect the identities of the students he photographed, under the agreement that he would only refer to their fraternity under a pseudonym. (He’s also said he previously tried to show the photos in galleries.)

In an article in Bustle, a Berkeley alumna who attended frat parties while Moisey was on campus also says that the women in the photographs are still recognizable to her.

“Moisey may not have set out to say anything about consent with his book, but, as far as women pictured in the book are concerned, he says a lot about what their consent means to him,” wrote the alumna, Alexis Schrader. “I spoke to four women about Moisey’s book; one, whose image I recognized in several online articles about the book, didn't sign release forms or consent for Moisey to publish her image. When she contacted Moisey to protest, he sent her release forms signed by her friends.”

Schrader said those women don’t remember signing the forms, and they “visited the fraternity exclusively to socialize while drinking.” Street photographers legally don't need permission to photograph subjects in public spaces, she said, correctly. But “given that these parties were pre-social media and they viewed the fraternity as a private residence, the women feel they should have been fully informed of how Moisey intended to use their images.”

No Endorsement of Greek Life

The American Fraternity is no endorsement of campus Greek life. Moisey’s photos are by turns lewd and disturbing. Male genitalia and alcohol feature prominently. A man crawls naked, wearing only a denim undergarment and a ski boot, for instance. The brothers at one point appear to be tormenting a dog. And their pointed secret ceremony caps evoke the worst parts of U.S. history.

In various interviews, Moisey has described the book as a unique, real-life look into fraternity culture -- even calling it an imagining of U.S. Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh’s college days.

“Fraternities are the places where problematic and toxic masculinity is incubated,” Moisey is quoted as saying in a favorable article in Time, which named his photo book one of the best of 2018, for example. “We literally send our kids to be educated in places where they learn to be the opposite of gentlemen. It’s mind-boggling.”

Even so, Moisey’s critics accuse him of undermining women in the same way fraternity men sometimes do.

Beyond issues of consent, Moisey’s critics say the book and his public comments send a mixed message about women and their role in campus party culture.

At Kenyon, for example, Moisey was “asked to share his thoughts on why fraternities get away with such typically abhorrent behavior,” undergraduate Lucy White wrote in a campus newspaper op-ed. “He responded by saying that fraternities only exist because women still attend their parties. He then went on to suggest that, if women were to stop attending frat parties, then fraternity party culture would fall apart.

Asked at the Cornell talk whether some women might actually enjoy attending frat parties, Moisey said, "I'm not critiquing that they're having fun, but they're fulfilling the fantasy that often ends up so badly."

Both Schrader, author of the Bustle piece, and the woman at the Cornell talk took issue with one of two essays in the book -- that written by Cynthia Robinson, a professor in Moisey’s department at Cornell. It at once blames women for enabling frat culture and erases their autonomy, they say.

“She is at a frat party,” Robinson wrote of a woman in one of the photos. “She has heard, or seen, somehow learned, that this is what girls should expect at frat parties. This is what girls do at frat parties. What they let be done to them. If they want to be invited to more frat parties. At least she’s still standing.”

Robinson describes other women as being “infantilized” by sitting on men’s laps. And of that photo of the woman splayed out on the bed, Robinson wrote that Moisey stood “where the frat boys stood, the ones who posed her. Before? After? Or maybe not this time, she dodged a bullet, they passed her over.”

Despite Moisey's intentions and Robinson’s description, Schrader wrote, “the images of the women in The American Fraternity are where the tension between desire and social expectations is revealed -- women want to shotgun beers, fuck strangers, and get messy, the way the boys can. Yet we hesitate to do so, knowing eyes, and perhaps even cameras, are always, acutely, on us.”

Moisey declined an immediate interview request. He said via email that the “student authors of these pieces did not read the book, nor did they report accurately on what I said, nor did they speak to me." (Schrader, no longer a student, did speak to Moisey.)

The question of consent “is a very important one and [I] actually took it much more seriously than the authors of these articles have,” he said. “They just equivocated the word ‘consent’ in order to create a charged story, making it seem like I went looking for passed-out women to photograph and then uploaded them to the internet. I didn’t do anything like this. In fact it is so far from what I did that I have not considered it safe even to respond to them.”

Robinson also declined an immediate interview reques and said via email that “the topic of the book is immensely relevant to our current cultural discourse.” She added, “I recognized the frat culture in those images as one also prevalent on college campuses during my own (long-ago) undergrad days, and found it both striking and perturbing that so little appeared changed.”

Robinson said she attended a separate talk with Moisey about the book in a local bookstore, and that the “conversation, while intense -- there were various viewpoints represented -- was civil and intelligent and very well received.”

Berkeley said in a statement that it is aware of The American Fraternity and that is “dedicated to fostering a culture of safety, respect and an environment of safe, legal and responsible alcohol use. The campus and our CalGreeks community work together as partners to make our campus environment safe and supportive.”

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Accusations of forced failing grades fly at Arizona State

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 2019-04-22 07:00

A former professor's public accusation against Arizona State University's “highly unethical” grading practices has devolved into a case of dueling recriminations. And despite being widely discussed on social media, it's still unclear where the truth lies between the disparate perspectives of the professor and the institution.

Brian Goegan, who was a clinical assistant professor of economics at ASU, says he was fired for failing to adhere to grading quotas.

ASU officials flatly deny this. They said there were no such quotas and implied that Goegan was fired for his "multiple shortcomings" as a professor.

The kerfuffle was prompted by an email Goegan sent to his students on April 18, which was then shared on Reddit, saying he was forced out for pushing back on a requirement to fail 30 percent of his class. He said the alleged mandate was issued in order to falsely inflate the positive impact of a new digital courseware product on students’ grades.

The courseware is a homework and assessment platform called MindTap, which uses adaptive learning to test students' knowledge of material covered in an associated digital textbook. ​Goegan was required to start using the platform in 2018 and says he was fired after he continued to voice concern about the department's policies regarding the courseware to his supervisors. 

Mark Searle, executive vice president and university provost at ASU, responded in a written statement Friday, saying the university had investigated Goegan’s claims and “found no factual evidence to support them.”

“The accusation that the university would establish quotas in any course requiring to fail a certain percentage of students is unequivocally false. That is not who we are,” Searle said.

Goegan posted a rebuttal to Searle's statement the same day. Goegan said he was troubled by how his department selected the new courseware. He claimed that ASU had received a “large monetary” grant from Cengage, an educational technology company and publisher, which owns the MindTap platform.

He said the grant was put toward an institutionwide adaptive learning initiative called the Principles Project. And in exchange for this funding, his department started to require the use of the MindTap platform in introductory-level economics classes.

Searle denied that there was any such deal.

“Cengage has not given ASU any grants,” he said. Cengage published a corroborating statement saying the company has never paid any grants to ASU.

Searle also refuted Goegan’s suggestion that he was fired after speaking out. “There are many reasons that a faculty member’s contract might not be renewed, including when a faculty member resists course correction of multiple shortcomings despite supervisory intervention.”

Though Searle denied that students are required to pay to turn in their homework, he acknowledged there is a course fee to access the MindTap platform.

“There is a fee to use MindTap, but it also pays for the class [digital] textbook,” he said. “The economics courses using MindTap are optional at this time; students may choose to take the same courses taught by other professors using traditional university grading/textbook platforms.”

Addison Wright, a junior at ASU, doesn't buy that explanation.

“They are blatantly lying about not requiring students to pay to turn in homework,” she said. “I have had to pay for homework for classes multiple times."

“This year I took a statistics class that required me to pay over $100 just to complete the homework,” said Wright. “I couldn’t afford the fee and ended up having to do the entire semester’s worth of homework in the two-week trial period.”

Wright, a graphic information technology major, took a class with Goegan in spring 2016. She, like many other students on social media, praised Goegan’s teaching skills and thanked him for publicly raising his concerns.

“He was incredibly passionate about economics and made it fun for the class to learn,” she said. “To this day he is the best teacher I’ve had at ASU.”

In a discussion thread on Reddit, some observers suggested students liked Goegan so much because his class was an easy A.

Wright disagreed. “I didn’t struggle passing it, but I know a lot of students were struggling.”

Goegan said that on average, around 30 percent of students got an A in his class, which was not easy. He attributed the proportion of A grades to a large number of honors students who chose his class. He said very few students withdrew from the class and he worked hard to help students succeed. 

"I made sure that every assignment and test was comprehensive and difficult, but I was always willing to do whatever it took to help students figure it out," he said. 

Goegan described a departmental meeting in July 2018 in which instructors for certain introductory economics classes were told to grade their students according to set percentages: 10 percent D’s, 10 percent E’s and 10 percent W’s (withdrawals). Goegan said this would set a new baseline against which the impact of the new courseware could be measured. When Goegan subsequently failed fewer than 30 percent of his students, he said he was formally reprimanded. 

Goegan doesn’t have any written proof of the alleged mandate to fail 30 percent of his students. He does share an excerpt of an email showing a grade distribution for an introductory economics course, ECN 221, which he was told to follow. The distribution does not match the 30 percent failure rate Goegan said he was verbally told to adhere to. The grade distribution guideline called for 22% A’s, 36% B’s, 28% C’s, 5% D’s, 3% E’s and 5% W’s. 

Robert Kelchen, assistant professor of education leadership, management and policy at Seton Hall University, said that it if Goegan was indeed asked to fail more students to set a new baseline, “the evaluation of the new materials would not be reflecting a real outcome.”

Asking professors to strictly follow a grade distribution is highly unusual, said Steven Greenlaw, professor of economics at the University of Mary Washington. If a professor is giving out too many A's, that might necessitate a conversation, but not a mandate to fail a specific proportion of the class, he said. 

Greenlaw uses open educational resources in his classes with courseware from Lumen Learning which costs $25 per student. The MindTap platform and associated digital textbook -- a well-known title by economist Gregory Mankiw -- costs $99 per student. 

Many students object to the concept of paying to do their homework, but Greenlaw said this is simply a new paradigm in higher ed.

"We're in transition from a period where the textbook was the product and the ancillary materials, be they study guides or homework problems, were thrown in for free," he said. "Now we're in a situation where the textbook is the commodity and the value added is in the ancillary materials." 

Goegan said before the courseware shift at ASU, he would put assessments in the university’s learning management system at no cost to students. When he first started using MindTap, he made sure the homework assessments in the platform did not reflect a significant portion of students’ grades so that they could pass the course without paying the $99 fee. He was later told that MindTap assessments had to account for at least 20 percent of students’ grades.

Goegan believes the platform and textbook are overpriced. 

"I know that relatively speaking it seems low for a textbook, but for that price you can buy just about any book in the world," he said. "I would joke with my students that they could buy all the Harry Potter books for that price and learn more from those than from the textbook." 

Of course, Goegan's dispute with ASU is about more than money. It's also about upholding the principle of academic integrity.

“I had hoped they would conduct a more serious investigation,” he said. “It really appears to me that they are not at all concerned with actually addressing these issues -- they are only concerned with saving face.”

Goegan is now looking for a new job. He recognizes that speaking out may cost him professionally, but said he felt duty bound to tell his students what had occurred after his attempts to voice concern through official channels were unsuccessful. He encouraged his students to email the dean of the ASU business school and ASU president Michael Crow to complain. Goegan said he has been copied on over 600 emails from students so far.

“If they keep resisting students’ calls for changes to these politics, I think they need to take a hard look at whether or not they're truly keeping students' best interests at heart," he said. “I hope when people look at this situation, they consider that I wouldn't take this risk and jeopardize my future if it wasn't true." 


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Broad coalition puts focus on lifting ban on student aid in prisons

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 2019-04-22 07:00

Congress passed sentencing reform legislation in December that was widely regarded as the first major step in recent years to address mass incarceration. Now many involved in that fight are turning their focus to higher education.

A coalition of groups with a broad range of ideological positions is pushing to make repeal of the federal ban on Pell Grants for incarcerated students a top priority as talks heat up over reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the law that oversees federal financial aid.

Those organizations, including civil rights groups, religious colleges and conservative organizations, argue that college access for students behind bars is an issue of equity for postsecondary education and also the logical extension of efforts to end mass incarceration.

“For two years, all anyone has been talking about is 94 percent of people in prison are going to come home someday. This was a natural next step,” said Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “This is just saying, let’s allow people to use their time to improve themselves and to prepare themselves for returning home.”

Federal law has prohibited incarcerated students from receiving Pell Grants -- the primary form of need-based student aid -- for more than a quarter century. That’s limited the growth of college programs for people behind bars, while some sort of postsecondary credential has become ever more important to get a well-paying job.

But many conservatives in recent years, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, have expressed interest in supporting prison education. And the Trump administration has named financial aid for incarcerated students as a top priority for a new higher ed law.

Advocates for removing the ban saw one sign of progress this month, when Senator Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, reintroduced legislation to repeal the ban, with bipartisan support from Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican. Supporters are looking to win over lawmakers to support a repeal of the ban and to have Pell Grants for incarcerated students mentioned in the same breath as bail and sentencing reform.

“We’re in a moment where criminal justice reform has a lot of bipartisan support and momentum,” said Tiffany Jones, director of higher education policy at the Education Trust. “We want to build on that momentum at the federal level.”

Advocates also said the Second Chance Pell experiment, which was launched under the Obama administration and will soon enter its third year, could be an asset in winning more support for prison education. The experiment allowed a limited number of incarcerated students to receive Pell Grants while enrolled at participating colleges. So far, the program has awarded more than $35 million in aid to about 8,800 students, according to the Government Accountability Office.

In a listening session on the experiment this month, DeVos said the nation “benefits when former inmates are able to re-enter their communities and contribute in positive and meaningful ways.”

Next Steps

But significant hurdles remain to move the needle politically, including widespread misconceptions about how the Pell program works and about how lifting the ban would affect current students.

“We have to explain to folks that the Pell Grant is an entitlement program,” said Jones.

That means anyone who qualifies receives the grant, which provided a maximum award of about $6,000 this academic year. There isn’t a limited amount of Pell grants, so expanding eligibility would not prevent other students from receiving grants.

A Vera Institute report released in January found that most people in prison would qualify for postsecondary education but don’t receive the necessary financial support. Less than 10 percent of incarcerated individuals completed any postsecondary program in 2014, the latest year for which data is available.

The report also found that prison education increases the employment and earnings of formerly incarcerated people. And it argued that expanding postsecondary education would save $365 million per year in state spending on incarceration. The Vera report projected that if every eligible person in state prisons received a Pell Grant -- an unlikely possibility -- the total costs of the program would rise by only 10 percent. But the savings on other government spending would be much greater, it said.

Advocates who support repealing the ban have sought to knock down misconceptions in meetings with lawmakers and in events organized on Capitol Hill that target their staffers. Earlier this month, Ed Trust and the Institute for Higher Education Policy organized an event for mostly congressional staff members that was designed to simulate the re-entry challenges faced by formerly incarcerated people.

A debate also is likely to unfold over who qualifies for the grant -- would all incarcerated students be eligible? Or only nonviolent offenders and those without long-term sentences?

The Second Chance Pell experiment directed institutions to prioritize individuals who are set to be released within five years, although it did not bar financial aid for other incarcerated students. And the White House has backed "targeted" financial aid for incarcerated students who are eligible for release. A Democratic House proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act last year included a repeal of the ban without restrictions. Groups like Ed Trust and the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities are pushing for a similar “clean repeal” of the Pell ban.

“We think that all people are created with dignity and all people were created for a purpose,” said Shapri LoMaglio, vice president for government relations at the council. “We think that education gives people an opportunity to fulfill their purpose vocationally. That applies whether you’re a prisoner or not.”

Efforts to build support for repealing the Pell ban have brought together education policy advocates and criminal justice reformers who wouldn’t typically cross paths, as well as organizations with decidedly different politics.

“It’s amazing to go to these meetings and you see your archenemies in other areas,” said Arthur Rizer, director of criminal justice and civil liberties at R Street, a free-market think tank. “I’m not going to say we’re holding hands and singing, ‘Kumbaya.’”

In meetings with lawmakers, he argues lifting the Pell ban is an issue of supporting incarcerated individuals’ re-entry after prison. Blocking access to an education undermines the future chances of those individuals, Rizer said.

“This is taking FIRST STEP and making it real,” he said, referring to the new sentencing-reform law.

The Pell ban was installed as part of a 1994 crime bill that was passed at the height of the tough-on-crime era and is now widely viewed as draconian. Critics of mass incarceration say that punitive approach hasn't made communities safer and has exacerbated racial and economic inequality. Ring, the president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, who served 15 months in federal prison for his role in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, called the inclusion of the ban on Pell Grants "a nasty bit of spite." He and other advocates said the government instead should invest in individuals behind bars.

The FIRST STEP Act was seen as the first serious legislative effort to deliver on that critique of mass incarceration. The bill encountered vocal opposition from conservative lawmakers like Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, and former attorney general Jeff Sessions. But figures like Kim Kardashian lobbied President Trump to support FIRST STEP.

Virginia Foxx, the ranking GOP member on the House education and labor committee, believes no person's potential should be ignored, a spokeswoman said. But Foxx doesn't support a repeal of the ban.

"We believe it's work-force development programs, not Pell, that can do the most good for incarcerated Americans, and that's where we should be looking," said Marty Boughton, a Foxx spokeswoman.

So far, most critics haven’t spoken out publicly against Pell Grants for incarcerated students. Instead, advocates have encountered mostly quiet opposition from some lawmakers who remain skeptical about lifting the ban. Meanwhile, others have indicated interest in continued prison education but have been hesitant to sign on to a bill.

Rizer said many conservatives still see support for education as a state issue, and some critics see the idea of incarcerated students receiving special benefits if the ban was dropped as a powerful argument.

But removing the Pell ban, he said, is “about making the program that already exists available to people who need it the most.”

Arguments for expanding access to Pell Grants have found a receptive audience with the officials who run many state correctional institutions. In a March Capitol Hill event, for example, Heidi Washington, director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, said the state will soon have 1,000 incarcerated students participating in the Second Chance Pell experiment.

That will save the state money, Washington said, by reducing the number of reoffenders. But it also has a profound impact on the environment of correctional institutions.

“The greatest impact is students discovering what they’re able to achieve when they’re given the opportunity to pursue an indication,” she said. “We look forward to ultimately lifting the ban so we can grow our numbers even more.”

An even more important key to winning over Republicans in Congress could be support from the White House. In a celebration of the FIRST STEP Act earlier this month, President Trump talked about his administration’s support for re-entry programs and for the Second Chance experiment.

“I think maybe more than anything else, we’re now proving that we are a nation that believes in redemption,” he said.

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Colleges announce commencement speakers

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 2019-04-22 07:00
  • Fisher College: Francisco A. Ureña, Massachusetts secretary of veterans’ services.
  • Fresno Pacific University: Johann Matthies, director of mission development in Europe and west and central Asia for Multiply, an international mission organization.
  • Knox College: Bridget Coughlin, president and CEO of the Shedd Aquarium.
  • Lesley University: Anita Hill, a university professor of law, public policy and women’s studies at Brandeis University; and Beth Harry, a professor of special education at the University of Miami.
  • Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania: U.S. representative John R. Lewis.
  • Midwestern State University, in Texas: Tarkan Maner, executive chairman and CEO at Nexenta, a software storage company.
  • Morehouse College: Robert F. Smith, founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners.
  • Pace University: Richard Plepler, former chairman and CEO of HBO.
  • Salt Lake Community College: Luke Williams, a consultant and expert on innovation.
  • Simmons University: Tiffany Dufu, founder and CEO of the Cru, a peer coaching platform for women; and others.
  • Soka University: Leymah Gbowee, the Nobel laureate and Liberian peace activist.
  • University of Hartford: Orin Wolf, lead producer of the Broadway musical The Band's Visit; and Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
  • University of Massachusetts at Amherst: Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker.
  • University of Montevallo: Richard D. Cummings, the S. Daniel Abraham Professor of Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
  • Westmont College: Walter Hansen, professor emeritus of New Testament at Fuller Seminary.
  • Yeshiva University: David Friedman, U.S. ambassador to Israel.
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Middlebury faces questions about speaker whose appearance it called off, in an unusual month for the college

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 2019-04-19 07:00

When it comes to colleges that receive extra scrutiny for the way they handle controversial speakers, Middlebury College is high on the list. Two years ago, Middlebury students shouted down Charles Murray, the controversial writer whom many accuse of espousing racist ideas, preventing him from giving a public lecture at the college. Conservative critics have called Middlebury students "snowflakes" for being allegedly unwilling to listen to ideas with which they disagree.

That's why this week's decision by Middlebury to call off a scheduled appearance by Ryszard Legutko, a Polish scholar and politician, is attracting so much attention. Middlebury is being criticized for again failing to make it possible for a conservative figure to appear. (Legutko's views on many issues are controversial. He is known to criticize Western democracies in general and gay rights in particular.)

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a watchdog group on free speech issues in academe, blasted Middlebury for blocking the talk and a planned protest against the talk. Middlebury "deprived everyone of their rights," said FIRE in a blog post. "It deprived a willing audience from hearing Legutko’s arguments. It deprived student critics of Legutko from challenging those arguments, either through peaceful protest or pointed questions. And it deprived faculty members from exercising their academic freedom right to invite speakers to campus in service of educating their students."

So how did Middlebury find itself in this situation?

Middlebury is facing the debate over the Legutko talk as it is also dealing with fallout from a bizarre incident involving a question on a chemistry exam that asked students how to create the gas that Nazis used in concentration camp gas chambers (more on that later).

The Legutko talk was called off Wednesday with Middlebury officials citing safety and security issues. When Murray was shouted down two years ago, the college not only faced the shouting and chanting at his talk, but physical attacks on a professor and on the car carrying Murray by protesters -- widely believed to be anarchists who were not necessarily affiliated with the college.

It's impossible to know what would have happened had Wednesday's talk gone on as scheduled. But the students who were organizing a protest issued a statement in advance of the event saying that they believed Legutko never should have been invited, but also that they had no plan to disrupt his appearance.

Their statement (the bold emphasis is from the protesters) appeared in the blog Beyond the Green: "We have no intention to prevent Legutko from speaking or to prevent our peers from attending. Rather, we want to provide information to contextualize his talk and to create a place of healing and inclusivity in the face of prejudice. During this protest, we will be distributing flyers which detail Legutko’s history of hateful speech against LGBTQ+, Muslim and Jewish folks, as well as women and POCs. We will distribute these flyers to anyone walking into the lecture who wants one, in order to highlight (and implicitly problematize) their potential willingness to indulge his violent rhetoric."

A Middlebury spokeswoman said via email that the students organizing the protest against the speech have been "very clear" that they were not planning to disrupt the talk, adding that "we believe they were sincere. Our concern was not with the well-intentioned organizers."

She added that "there has been no history of violence, threats or disruptive protests with this speaker and no reason to anticipate such actions during his appearance at Middlebury. Concerns about the speaker did not surface until Sunday, April 14." At that point, when the college considered locations and the two events (the speech and the protest), "it became clear with the increased number of participants, and heightened tensions on campus, that we didn’t have the capacity and resources to adequately ensure everyone’s safety."

The spokeswoman added: "The concern, quite frankly, is that when you bring hundreds of people together, even the most well-meaning, who have strong views, and place them in close proximity, there is always a risk. Any institution -- college, university, or city -- would, correctly, respond to a situation that has even a possibility of volatility with a security presence. It is a reality for us that we are not located in an urban area like New York or Washington where there would be capacity to draw on local law enforcement, so managing multiple events like these necessitates careful design, structure, and planning. As you know, a provisional invitation for the fall has been extended, which will allow us that additional time and space to execute the event(s) safely."

Peter McDonough, vice president and general counsel of the American Council on Education, said that he had no direct knowledge of the discussions at Middlebury. But he said Middlebury appeared to be "trying to make it happen," referring to the speech. He said that colleges such as Middlebury, located in rural areas, have challenges with security that are more difficult than those colleges that are in urban areas, where there may be a range of state and local police forces with which to work.

McDonough said that colleges are committed to free speech, but that college leaders must always think about student safety. When talking about free speech issues on campus these days, he said, the issue is always linked by college leaders to issues of student safety.

Linus Owens, an associate professor of sociology at Middlebury who opposed the decision to invite Legutko to campus and who has supported the student protesters, said via email that he was bothered by the way Middlebury handled the event. By talking about safety issues as the college did, he said, Middlebury was effectively blaming student protesters -- even though they had pledged not to disrupt the event.

The statements made it "pretty easy for people to interpret the 'safety risk' as the result of student protesters and the threat of disruption," Owens said. "This feeds into the existing narrative of Middlebury students (unfair to begin with, in my opinion, but this is even less grounded in actual events), and puts students at risk. Already, I have heard (unconfirmed, for now) multiple stories of student organizers and activists being targeted for 'shutting down' the event -- coming from off campus, mostly, but also on campus."

Added Owens: "It was irresponsible for the college administration to not think about how such a statement would make their students vulnerable to such attacks. And they continue to be irresponsible in not clarifying this … Several students I’ve spoken with, who now are being targeted online and are feeling like they are being left out to dry by the college, which is not in an hurry to clarify that they are not the cause of the cancellation, that they were not planning any disruption."

And on social media, there are many references to Middlebury students as the reason the lecture could not go on.

Chemistry Exam

The backdrop at Middlebury for the discussion of the lecture was a dispute over a chemistry exam last month.

A question on the exam asked students to calculate a lethal dose of hydrogen cyanide gas. As the question noted, that gas was used by Nazis in concentration camp gas chambers. As word of the test question spread, many on campus were appalled and could see no possible reason for a chemistry exam to focus on this issue.

Middlebury's president, Laurie L. Patton, issued a statement that said, "This inexplicable failure of judgment trivializes one of the most horrific events in world history, violates core institutional values and simply has no place on our campus. We expect our faculty to teach and lead with thoughtfulness, good judgment and maturity. To say we have fallen short in this instance is an understatement."

As a result of the question on deadly gas, Middlebury conducted a review of past test questions by the professor involved, Jeff Byers. The college said that the review found a question from last year with "a reference to the Ku Klux Klan in a way that appeared to be humorous in intent, but which was gratuitous and offensive."

Byers has gone on leave and issued an apology that said in part, "I apologize and take full responsibility for my actions in administering two examinations in the last year containing questions that were clearly offensive, hurtful and injurious to our students. I can offer no explanation for my actions other than carelessness and hubris. My students came to my class trusting that I would provide them with a supportive learning environment for a challenging curriculum. I failed them, and, in doing so, compromised their ability to focus on learning the subject matter I have devoted my career to teaching. I apologize without equivocation to the students, faculty and staff of Middlebury College and to the parents and alumni who, rightly, have denounced my actions."

Patton also said that Middlebury is "actively exploring practices to reduce the risk that incidents like this might occur in the future."

In an email message to the campus released Thursday, Patton said that the college valued the free exchange of ideas. "Middlebury is committed to the values of academic freedom, academic integrity, inclusivity and respectful behavior, which are intertwined at the core of our educational mission. Over the past two years, we have constructively engaged many controversial speakers, demonstrated peacefully and persuasively, and stayed in conversation with each other over very difficult issues," she said.

And Patton linked the response to the lecture to the debate over the chemistry test questions (although she alluded to that situation, and did not explicitly name it).

"It is equally important to note that this event did not occur in a vacuum. In recent weeks we have experienced several incidents of bias that are causing pain and anger in our community. It is clear that we need a deeper campuswide engagement about classroom climate and inclusive pedagogy," Patton wrote. "Members of the STEM faculty have expressed interest in a facilitated dialogue about course content, its potential impact and how to develop and maintain more inclusive classroom environments. We will meet with those faculty members early next week. That conversation with them can become a model for engaging all faculty in every department in these dialogues throughout the rest of this semester and continuing in the fall."

Other Incidents

Middlebury is not the only college to have experienced issues with disruptions.

Last month, Beloit College, a liberal arts institution in Wisconsin, shut down a planned speech by Erik Prince, an associate of President Trump and the controversial founder of the security company Blackwater. Administrators canceled Prince’s chat following student protests in which they banged on drums and built a barricade of chairs on the stage where Prince was due to give his talk.

A spokeswoman for the college, asked about any steps that have been taken since the incident, sent this email: "Beloit College cannot legally discuss disciplinary matters. As an institution of higher learning, open dialogue on all topics is one of their core principles. They review policies every year in collaboration with students, faculty and staff, and expect policies to be revisited."

At Harvard University, students who want the university to sell investments in companies involved in fossil fuels or private prisons interrupted a speech by President Lawrence Bacow, forcing him to relocate.

Bacow responded with an open letter in The Harvard Crimson, strongly criticizing the protest -- not for the views students expressed, but for the tactic of preventing a speech from being heard.

"What I saw last week was not a group of students looking to engage in conversation about things that matter to them. It was, instead, an effort to obstruct the rights of others to speak and to listen," Bacow wrote. "The heckler’s veto has no place at Harvard. When we shut down conversation, when we shut down debate, we shut down the opportunity to learn through reasoned discourse. It would be a shame if the state of our national public discourse, which has become so coarse, becomes the state of our campus discourse as well. We should strive to model the behavior we would hope to see in the rest of the world. Now is the time to ask ourselves: What kind of community do we want to be?"

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Concordia U's Liberal Arts College wanted conservative scholar Harvey Mansfield to speak at an alumni gala -- until it didn't

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 2019-04-19 07:00

Concordia University’s Liberal Arts College asked the conservative political philosopher Harvey Mansfield to speak at its 40th anniversary gala, planned for next month. Citing alumni backlash over Mansfield’s past controversial statements on gender and gay marriage, the Canadian college then uninvited him and postponed the event.

Mansfield, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard University, recently went public with the incident, via a ticked-off op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. And faculty members within the intimate college remain divided over the decision to rescind Mansfield’s invite.

Frederick Krantz, professor of history and founding principal, or chair, of the college, described it as “a proven, full-time Western civilization degree program based on a multidisciplinary Great Books curriculum,” unique in Canada.

He’s always referred to the program as “a community of scholars, dedicated to objective analysis and free and open discussion and debate.” And for that reason, he’d also always thought that it was “immune to the wave of politically correct ideology sweeping many North American campuses.”

“Sadly, I was wrong,” Krantz said. Alumni and current students still “deserve better,” however, he added, expressing hope that the disinvitation may again be reversed.

Comparing the current climate for conservative professors to McCarthyism, Mansfield wrote in his op-ed, “I little thought that I would now in my old age be qualified for exclusion from Concordia University in our free neighbor to the north, not as the member of a conspiratorial organization serving an enemy power, but simply for holding opinions shared by half the American -- and perhaps the Canadian -- population.”

He added, “My speech was to be on the study of great books to which that college is devoted. The invitation was a surprise, and the rejection less of one, because I am a white male conservative professor. Though I teach at Harvard and lecture elsewhere fairly often, I don’t get invitations for occasions when universities put their principles on display. My last commencement address was for a private high school in rural California.”

An Invitation Revoked

Mark Russell, the college’s current principal, said in a statement that the faculty “acted in good faith when we originally invited Professor Mansfield.” But through “further discussions,” the college later recognized that choosing Mansfield as a speaker “was not the right match for the particular objective of this celebratory public event.”

Russell said that he personally invited Mansfield to give a keynote address on the relevance of great books in higher education, after the college’s entire faculty voted to endorse the idea put forth by a smaller search committee.

Mansfield is a well-known expert on Edmund Burke, Machiavelli and Tocqueville, and he’s put forth theories on executive power. But it’s his nonacademic work that has proved polarizing. He wrote a 2006 book, Manliness, and defended Lawrence Summers’s widely criticized 2005 comments about women's aptitude for quantitative fields.

Mansfield also has criticized affirmative action, linking it to grade inflation, and testified against gay marriage. Being gay doesn’t make for a life of “individual happiness,” for example, he said of anti-gay marriage legislation in Colorado in 1993.

Once the Liberal Arts College at Concordia announced its choice of speaker for the reunion, “a large number” of alumni reached out to faculty members to voice their concerns, Russell said. Many alumni stated that they would not attend the gala “because they objected to the views [Mansfield] has expressed publicly on women and homosexuals,” he added.

Professors within the college discussed the alumni concerns, and a majority ultimately decided that it was “best not to have Prof. Mansfield give the keynote address at the college’s reunion since it is intended to be a time of celebration and unity,” Russell said. Russell notified Mansfield of the change, tell him the initial invite was real but "precipitous."

This keynote was “not intended to be narrowly focused on Prof. Mansfield’s academic expertise on the works of Machiavelli and other political philosophers,” Russell said in his statement. “We would welcome him back for a scholarly discussion on the subjects of his research at any time.”

Russell emphasized that the gala is not canceled, as is rumored. Instead, it’s been postponed until the fall, he said.

Krantz -- one of two faculty members to vote against revoking the invite, of eight total -- said that “postponed” is merely “doublespeak,” and that the event has in fact been canceled.

In a separate statement to college alumni, Krantz -- along with Eric Buzzetti, another former college principal, and the president of program’s student alumni organization -- formally dissociated themselves from the disinvitation and reaffirmed their “commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of thought” at the college.

Saying that they neither endorse nor condemn Mansfield’s “views on aspects of feminism,” Krantz and his co-writers said, “It is wrong to silence a scholar because we happen to dislike, or to disagree with, what he has to say.”

A university “loses its purpose when freedom of speech becomes a dispensable luxury,” they wrote. “With this unfortunate decision, the [college] took a step down a path that has become all too well trodden, and in the process ignored its high heritage.”

Krantz’s statement cites a letter from 12 recent alumni opposing Mansfield. He said Thursday that he’s received feedback from numerous alumni and students, with “10 to one” against disinvitation.

‘Guilty’ of Being Conservative

Mansfield on Thursday “passed” on describing his current views on gender and gay marriage other than to say he’s “guilty” of holding conservative positions.

He discusses gender at some length in his op-ed, however, saying that “When I die I wish it said that I gave my best to my female students.” But the “new doctrine of feminism in which women are essentially the same as men, except that women have all virtues but no characteristic defects and men have no virtues and terrible defects, has little appeal to me either as fact or right.”

Feminism “is not so much an attack on ‘toxic masculinity’ as on feminine modesty, the ‘feminine mystique’ of Betty Friedan’s devising,” he wrote. “To feminists, modesty diminishes women’s power and keeps them dependent on men. Yet it is to be replaced by the notion of a ‘safe space’ that will protect women and liberate them from the need to defend themselves in the hostile environment presupposed by the so-called virtue of modesty.”

A moment’s reflection “suggests a certain resemblance between the old-time feminine modesty and the newfangled safe space,” he added. “In both, women are dependent on men to defend them -- whether they are old-school gentlemen or sensitive men like Mr. Russell.”

Scholars including Martha Nussbaum have previously accused Mansfield of misunderstanding feminism, and his most recent comments probably won’t vindicate him to his critics. But most of all, Mansfield contends the disinvitation is about free speech. The principle is “diminished by the view that seizes on the power of speech to manipulate and denies its power to enlighten,” he wrote.

Mansfield told Inside Higher Ed that the incident “shows a great deal wrong with campus speech, especially with the attitude of the faculty.” Professors are the “keepers as well as the beneficiaries of the freedom of universities, and for the faculty to surrender to the pressure of aggressively intolerant alumni is a disgrace.”

“It’s just as bad, perhaps worse, if the faculty share their intolerance,” he added.

Asked about students at Harvard, Mansfield said some “of course take issue with my conservative views, but so far they haven’t attempted to silence me.”

One student leader in the Occupy Harvard movement once declared that Mansfield should be fired on the grounds that academic freedom is subordinate to social justice, Mansfield said. But “mostly students lack a sense of adventure and just stay away from my courses.”

Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, said that she wouldn’t have personally invited Mansfield to talk, because he is “more like a provocateur than like a serious thinker.” But others “could reasonably disagree, and I can imagine a vigorous debate that could ensue if he did speak.”

As to disinviting him, Nussbaum said didn’t know enough about the initial terms of his visit to comment. On the broader campus speech debate, however, she said that when a person with “objectionable views speaks, unless advocating violence, the person should be heard and not shouted down.” Silent, peaceful protest, such as standing with signs, is always fine, she added, as is “civil counterargument.”

Concordia referred questions to Russell.

Edward King, an associate professor of political science at the university who is not part of the Liberal Arts College, said that disinviting speakers to an institution whose “raison d'être is to offer its students challenging, provocative and disturbing material for consideration in the marketplace of ideas is a chilling and counterproductive action.”

When an institution “like ours allows the student tail to wag the academic dog simply in order not to have their settled presumptions to be challenged,” King added, “our role as a free and open forum for political expression is over and we should turn out the lights and shut the doors.”

Travis Smith, another associate professor of political science at Concordia, said it seemed that liberal arts professors “apparently forgot, temporarily, I’m sure, what it means to be a professor of the liberal arts.” That’s “disappointing and embarrassing,” he said, “but at least this wasn’t one of those cases where an administrator intervened in an illiberal fashion.”

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Another case of censorship in a China studies journal

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 2019-04-19 07:00

Yet another account of censorship involving a China studies journal has come to light. And the scholars involved say this case involves an insidious “blurring of boundaries” where they were misled into thinking Western publishing standards would apply when in fact the journal in question was subject to Chinese government censorship.

Lorraine Wong and Jacob Edmond, both professors at the University of Otago, in New Zealand, have written an account of the censorship they encountered when they edited a planned special issue of the journal Frontiers of Literary Studies in China. The journal is published by the Netherlands-based publishing company Brill in association with the China-based Higher Education Press, an entity that describes itself on its website (in Chinese) as affiliated with China’s Ministry of Education. The journal's editorial board lists scholars from major American and international universities -- including Cornell University, Duke University, Harvard University, the University of California, Davis, and the University of Washington -- and its editor in chief is based at New York University. The journal’s editorial office is located in Beijing.

Wong and Edmond wrote that the association with Brill, along with the involvement of leading scholars in the field on the editorial board, led them to mistakenly assume the publication standards would be akin to those of other journals in the field published in the U.S. What they found, however, was that the affiliation with the Higher Education Press and the location of the editorial office in Beijing means “the journal is subject to the full range of Chinese government censorship.”

Wong and Edmond encountered this censorship in editing the planned special issue on the topic of “how diverse understandings and uses of the Chinese script have shaped not only Chinese literature and culture but also representations of China in the wider world.” They oversaw a peer-review process and accepted four essays.

But they wrote that when they received the proofs for the issue shortly before the publication date, one of the four essays, by Jin Liu, of the Georgia Institute of Technology, was entirely missing. Their introductory essay had also been “crudely edited” to remove references to Liu’s essay, which focused on an artist who uses invented characters to satirize the Chinese Communist Party.

“When we wrote to the FLSC editor, Xudong Zhang, to question this censorship, we were told that the removal of Liu’s essay should come as no surprise, since FLSC has its editorial office in Beijing and so must abide by normal Chinese censorship,” Wong and Edmond wrote. “However, Zhang went further. He went on to say that Liu’s essay should never have been accepted and that he was now using his editorial prerogative to reject it.” Email correspondence with Zhang shared with Inside Higher Ed verifies this general account.

Zhang, a professor of comparative literature and East Asian studies at New York University, declined to comment via email, saying he would like to confer with the editorial board before issuing a statement. He did say there were "misrepresentations in the article about the editorial process and decision making, but those may appear to be academic niceties compared with the larger issue of censorship in China and U.S. academic response to it."

One listed member of the editorial board, Nick Admussen, an assistant professor of Chinese literature and culture at Cornell University, said on Twitter that he had asked to be de-listed from the editorial board and that he had never agreed to join in the first place. “There is something fake about the journal, it shouldn't be on Brill, and while it has published useful and meaningful research, it's not for me,” he wrote. 

Brill’s chief publishing officer, Jasmin Lange, issued a written statement saying Brill's cooperation with Higher Education Press in China is under review.

“Since 2012 Brill has had an agreement with Higher Education Press (HEP) in China to distribute the journal Frontiers of Literary Studies in China,” Lange said. “HEP is responsible for the editorial process and production of the journal. Brill distributes the journal in print and online to customers outside China. We are very concerned about the developments that were described in the recent blog post by Lorraine Wong and Jacob Edmond. Brill, founded in 1683, has a long-standing tradition of being an international and independent publisher of scholarly works of high quality. We are committed to the furthering of knowledge and the concepts of independent scholarship and freedom of press. The cooperation with HEP is currently under review and Brill will not hesitate to take any necessary action to uphold our publishing ethics.”

Brill is the latest international scholarly publisher to find itself embroiled in issues related to the exportation of Chinese censorship. In 2017, Cambridge University Press briefly blocked access in mainland China to more than 1,000 journal articles in the prestigious journal The China Quarterly before reversing course and restoring access to the articles, which dealt with sensitive topics in China like the Cultural Revolution, Tibet, Tiananmen Square and the pro-democracy movement, and the Xinjiang region. The German publisher Springer Nature has stood by its decision to block access to certain journal articles in China on the grounds that limiting access to certain content in China is necessary to preserve access to its wider catalog. More recently it’s come to light that Chinese importers have stopped buying whole journals in China or area studies.

Scholars are worried that international scholarly publishers interested in maintaining access to the massive Chinese market are coming under pressure to comply with Chinese government censorship demands, in effect helping spread the Chinese censorship regime beyond China's borders and tainting scholarly publishing standards worldwide. In reflecting on what happened in their specific case, Wong and Edmond wrote that scholars are used to different sets of rules applying to publication inside mainland China and outside China, but that the details of the Frontiers case suggest that distinction is breaking down.

They wrote, “We were perhaps naïve to assume that the association with Brill and the international editorial board indicated that the journal operated according to the normal standards for non-Mainland publications and would not be subject to censorship -- a mistaken belief shared by us as editors and our contributor, Liu. In subsequent correspondence, we have discovered from senior colleagues that others, particularly colleagues in junior and vulnerable positions, have also been caught in the unexpected application of censorship to a journal that, at a casual glance, might appear to sit outside the boundaries of Chinese government control. The journal Frontiers of History in China, which is likewise jointly published by Brill and the Higher Education Press, may have misled others in a similar way.

“We believe that it is precisely the blurring of boundaries between publication inside and outside Mainland China that makes the precedent of FLSC particularly worrying and insidious,” they continued. “We have trained ourselves to read between the lines of work published on the Mainland, noting and compensating for the telling absences. But what happens when it is no longer obvious where something was published and according to which rules? Moreover, in these straitened times, dependence on editorial and financial support may well lead other editors, academics and publishing houses outside China to add their stamp of legitimacy to such censorship.”

Wong and Edmond wrote that they withdrew the entire issue of Frontiers in solidarity with Liu and that three of the four essays, including Liu's, have just been published in another journal, Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (their essay on the censorship they experienced serves as a preface to the three essays, and was also published Thursday on the Modern Chinese Literature and Culture Resource Center website).

“I admire the two special editors, their courage for speaking out and letting the broader academic community know about this,” said Liu, an associate professor of Chinese language and culture at Georgia Tech. “I think scholars will be more careful to submit their articles to this journal later on.”

In an interview, Edmond, an associate professor of English at Otago, said he and Wong decided to go public with what happened "because of our belief in academic freedom, also a desire for the Chinese studies community to at least have a proper conversation about the potential through such joint publication deals and other forms of partnership for Chinese government censorship to be extended beyond the borders of China. We consider these really serious issues."

Charlene Makley, a professor of anthropology at Reed College who has tracked issues related to censorship in China studies journals, said that "many of the previous examples that have come to light have been more about Chinese importers choosing not to buy whole journals or trying to pressure publishers to get rid of certain articles just due to key terms. We haven’t [previously] seen cases come to light where you actually see editors stepping in and going after content.

"This might be a tip of an iceberg or it might be an anomaly," Makley said. "What’s happening I think is as they say the boundaries are blurring: there’s no easy distinction between China publication and outside China publication because of these behind-the-scene connections between Chinese publications and non-Chinese distributors and publishers. We need somebody to be trying to unpack some of those behind-the-scene relationships. There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than authors and peer reviewers know and maybe even editors -- in this case, they were invited editors."

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Colorado governor tells university system board to find leader who 'unites the board'

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 2019-04-19 07:00

Colorado governor Jared Polis on Thursday weighed in on the controversy surrounding the state Board of Regents' pick to lead the University of Colorado system, suggesting that board members should find someone to replace University of North Dakota president Mark Kennedy, the sole finalist for the job.

A Republican former Minnesota congressman, Kennedy has led North Dakota since 2016, but his party-line GOP voting record in Congress from 2001 to 2007 has given some Coloradans -- including at least one Democratic board member -- second thoughts on his candidacy. Regents chose him April 10 as the sole candidate for the post and could issue a final vote on his nomination as early as next week.

In a Thursday morning tweet, Polis, a Democrat who is Colorado’s first openly gay governor, said, “It's very important that they find a candidate that unites the board. It’s never good for a candidate or the institution if the board is split on a decision of this magnitude.” Polis ended with the hashtag #copolitics.

As the University of Colorado moves forward in its selection process for a new President, it's very important that they find a candidate that unites the board. It’s never good for a candidate or the institution if the board is split on a decision of this magnitude. #copolitics

— Jared Polis (@GovofCO) April 18, 2019

Ken McConnellogue, the CU system’s spokesman, said in response, "We look forward to the next steps in the process when the university community and Coloradans will get to hear from Mark Kennedy, beginning Monday," The Denver Post reported. "The governor will be one of the first stops on his itinerary next week."

Five of the nine elected regents are Republicans; the other four are Democrats. It's not immediately clear how they will vote on Kennedy's nomination. By law, they are required to allow 14 days before acting on it further.

One regent, Democrat Lesley Smith, has said regents didn’t discuss Kennedy's voting record during his interview, but that he discussed his support for gay people while answering a question on diversity. The board was satisfied with his answer, but Smith said she is "getting a lot of pushback from constituents" on Kennedy's congressional voting record.

She tweeted last week, "Some information about Mark has come to light that is concerning; my colleagues and I will be exploring this further."

Smith did not respond to a request for an interview, but speaking at a meeting of Boulder Progressives on Thursday, she said Kennedy would have "lots of chances to talk about things that are issues with the community," the Boulder Daily Camera reported.

During an interview Wednesday with Colorado Public Radio, Kennedy wavered when asked his thoughts on affirmative action in college admissions. The interviewer noted the U.S. Education Department's demand that Texas Tech University's medical school stop considering race in admissions. Kennedy said he hadn’t “wrestled with that at the university yet.” He added, after a hesitation, “Can I just not answer that question?”

He later told the interviewer, “I apologize. You caught me off guard there. I think however we do admissions, it has to be done in a way to recognize that diversity provides a benefit to all, and there are many ways of doing it. Each university needs to wrestle with it in its own way, but making sure that we have an admissions policy that is embracing a diverse population of students and giving each the benefit of understanding each other.”

Kennedy later told The Denver Post that he stumbled on the answer because he believed he was going to be late to a meeting, which “I did end up being late for,” he said. “My concern was the time to get to my next meeting.” He told the Post that he believes affirmative action policies can’t give “undue benefit or undue penalty” to applicants. Kennedy also said he wasn’t familiar with the Texas Tech admissions matter. He said colleges “can use holistic review processes or admissions that factor in things like race or first-generation college applicants in a nonprescriptive way.”

Kennedy added that at North Dakota, the medical school looks for rural applicants and those with Native American heritage, since this is the area’s largest minority population.

Kennedy is scheduled to visit all four of the Colorado system’s campuses next week, the Daily Camera reported. As the visit draws near, several groups, including faculty groups, are expected to weigh in on his candidacy with petitions, protests and resolutions.

The regents met in private on Tuesday, the newspaper reported, but didn’t vote or issue any official statements. McConnellogue, the system spokesman, said, "It's interesting to me that groups want to pass resolutions without hearing from the guy. They base a lot of this on things that happened 13-plus years ago, without hearing what he has to say about it."

In an interview with the Daily Camera, Kennedy said, "I understand there's a lot of passionate people. I also know that CU has a tradition of open and honest discussion, and I hope I'm given the opportunity to discuss these issues and that they'll maintain an open mind when I come to campus."

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New presidents or provosts: Beaver Bloomfield Bucknell Clarke Goldey-Beacom John Carroll Modesto Norfolk Paterson St. Francis Southwestern

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 2019-04-19 07:00
  • Javaune Adams-Gaston, senior vice president for student life at Ohio State University, has been chosen as president of Norfolk State University, in Virginia.
  • Thom D. Chesney, president of Brookhaven College, part of the Dallas County Community College District in Texas, has been appointed president of Clarke University, in Iowa.
  • Roger W. Davis, interim president of the Community College of Beaver County, in Pennsylvania, has been promoted to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Marcheta P. Evans, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Our Lady of the Lake University, in Texas, has been named president of Bloomfield College, in New Jersey.
  • Steven T. Herbert, associate provost for academic affairs and dean of the Graduate School at Xavier University, in Ohio, has been selected as provost and academic vice president at John Carroll University, also in Ohio.
  • James Houpis, dean of academic support and learning technologies at Skyline College, in California, has been chosen as president of Modesto Junior College, also in California.
  • Colleen Perry Keith, president of Pfeiffer College, in North Carolina, has been selected as president of Goldey-Beacom College, in Delaware.
  • Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Gonzaga University, in Washington State, has been selected as provost at Bucknell University, in Pennsylvania.
  • Joshua B. Powers, administrative fellow at the Vermont State Colleges System and former associate vice president for academic affairs at Indiana State University, has been appointed provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at William Paterson University, in New Jersey.
  • Beth Roth, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Alvernia University, in Pennsylvania, has been chosen as provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of St. Francis, in Illinois.
  • Minou Djawdan Spradley, acting vice president of instruction at San Diego City College, in California, has been selected as vice president for academic affairs at Southwestern College, also in California.
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Amid budget deficits and unfavorable demographics, Oberlin pushes to do more with less

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 2019-04-18 07:00

Facing challenging finances and a demographic cliff, Ohio's Oberlin College is mulling a strategic plan that would trim 100 students from its renowned music conservatory while adding the same number to its liberal arts program.

The shift, which would take place slowly, over four years, would bring the conservatory’s enrollment to around 480. It would also create a brand-new minor in music for liberal arts students, who often show up with musical interests but little interest in a music career. Oberlin would offer these students conservatory classes and private lessons, as well as the opportunity to perform with conservatory students.

College officials say the moves would make the conservatory more competitive. For one thing, they would technically shrink it, offering fewer slots for top musicians. They would also allow Oberlin to capture musically inclined students who nonetheless want to major in the liberal arts -- the college’s data on recently admitted applicants to the liberal arts program show that nearly 80 percent of applicants who list music performance as a field of primary or secondary interest end up enrolling elsewhere, despite the presence of the acclaimed conservatory on the same campus.

The changes are aimed at “ensuring Oberlin’s long-term resiliency” in an uncertain time for both liberal arts colleges and music conservatories, said President Carmen Twillie Ambar.

Oberlin predicts that the shift would also bring in millions more in revenue. As recently as 2017, the liberal arts program saw net revenues of $23.9 million, while the conservatory lost $11.1 million.

That’s not because of different tuition rates -- the two programs are priced identically, college officials said. But conservatory students bring in about $10,000 less, on average, since the two schools are in search of different pools of students. To be competitive among other conservatories, Oberlin must offer these prospective students more aid than it does liberal arts students, who are enrolled in what's officially known as Oberlin's Arts & Sciences program.

Officials predict the change could produce an estimated $1 million in new revenues annually, beginning in year four of the plan.

The change would need approval by Oberlin's Board of Trustees, which is expected to vote on it at its June meeting.

"If this is how you keep financial aid intact, and you continue to work on the most important initiatives you have going on, then maybe it's the right thing to do." -- alumna Linda Holmes ('93)

In an interview, Ambar said many “extremely talented” musicians don’t choose the conservatory because they don’t see themselves performing professionally. “We haven’t captured enough of those students because we can’t give them enough access to the conservatory to enhance those abilities,” she said. Doing that won’t dilute the quality of instruction -- even the student musicians say that “hasn’t been a concern that they’ve expressed” during the process.

“Yes, our conservatory’s students perform at an extremely high level -- they’re entering the profession, absolutely. But there is a nice, robust group of Arts & Sciences students who will be able to mesh with those students in ways that will enhance this experience.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, alumni say they hate to see the conservatory shrink, but they see both sides of the debate.

Linda Holmes, a 1993 liberal arts graduate who hosts NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, said she hasn't followed Oberlin's financial travails closely enough to second-guess "people who have put this kind of work into coming up with recommendations." But she said she'd be sad to see the conservatory -- and the number of people who each year earn degrees there -- shrink. "At the same time, it always gives me comfort that everything that happens at Oberlin is argued over endlessly, to the point where if there are other options to prevent this, they'll be brought to the forefront."

Holmes, whose first novel appears in June, said she "loved being on a campus that was shared with a music school. It enriched my life so much to know musicians -- some of my close friends were either conservatory students or double degree. I don't relish any reduction in the size of the conservatory. But I also don't relish seeing the school struggle in the long term. If this is how you keep financial aid intact, and you continue to work on the most important initiatives you have going on, then maybe it's the right thing to do. But I trust them to fight it out. That's kind of classic Oberlin."

Ziya Smallens, 2016 liberal arts graduate who works as a political speechwriter with West Wing Writers in New York City, similarly said he is weighing the proposal's pros and cons. An amateur musician himself, he recalled applying for a conservatory class that required passing a vocal skills test. He balked at the test and never took the class. As painful as that was, he thinks Oberlin was correct to demand top-notch musical skills. "It would have been lovely" to take the class, he said, "but those opportunities should not come at the cost of preventing would-be musicians from entering the conservatory."

Terry Hsieh, a Beijing-based multi-instrumentalist who earned bachelor's degrees in Chinese and jazz performance at Oberlin in 2012, said he hadn't seen the proposal. But he said he hopes Oberlin “can continue to leverage its strength in the higher ed world: producing both talented and creative liberal arts and sciences graduates and professional-level musicians who make a sustained impact in the world of music.”

Needed: More Revenue

Like many other small private colleges, Oberlin faces challenging financial times ahead. In addition to structural deficits that could last several years if unaddressed, Ambar said, Oberlin is confronting the reality of smaller numbers of high school graduates in the Northeast that puts it at a distinct disadvantage, since unlike many larger colleges, it primarily serves traditional-age students.

The extra revenue from more liberal arts students can’t come fast enough. Last June, the board approved a $160 million budget that included a projected $4.7 million deficit. Without making cuts, the college’s deficit could have been as high as $9 million this year, an "unsustainable" figure that would hamper Oberlin's ability to offer financial aid "and to invest in our faculty, staff and campus," college officials said in an open letter to campus.

Ambar, along with Chris Canavan, Oberlin’s board chair, and Chesley Maddox-Dorsey, the vice chair, said the college last year raised enrollment. "But we’ve also had to contribute more financial aid, so the net revenue gain from improved enrollment has been modest. In other words, we are exhausting our pricing power," they wrote.

For new students, fall 2019 tuition and fees, along with room and board, are expected to be $73,694.

Raising tuition, they said, "only increases the demand for financial aid. It also adds to the financial strains on our students and their families, making it harder for us to keep them at Oberlin from the day they matriculate to the day they graduate. This weighs heavily on Oberlin’s finances."

The college has said that if it doesn’t trim expenses, Oberlin’s deficit could reach $162 million within a decade. It relies on net student income for 83 percent of operating revenue.

In its most recent audited financial statement, Oberlin said 97 employees took voluntary buyouts in 2016, with another 17 in 2018. It reported $184 million of outstanding bonded debt.

With an $887.4 million endowment last year, 186-year-old Oberlin is wealthier than most small private institutions, but far behind its wealthier peers -- colleges like Amherst, Swarthmore and Wellesley all reported endowments at or near $2 billion. For the past few years, Oberlin has drawn about 5 percent of its endowment for operating expenses, a standard distribution. Last year, that amounted to about $44.1 million.

In a widely circulated October 2017 letter, Canavan, the board chair, said a group of trustees examining the college’s finances concluded that “we lean too heavily on cash from generosity (past and present gifts, and borrowing against future gifts) and not enough on cash from operations (tuition, room and board).”

He said Oberlin has many generous donors. “But they’re not generous enough to insulate us from the ups and downs of enrollment and retention, or from the broader socioeconomic trends that make it harder for families to afford Oberlin. The conclusion may seem self-evident, but it’s important nevertheless: we can’t stop appealing to generous donors, we need to find ways to boost our operating revenues and we have to reduce our cash needs where possible.”

Oberlin remains selective, said Ambar, but it’s “still facing those same headwinds” as other liberal arts colleges.

Looking back over the past decade, the conservatory’s application numbers peaked in 2017, with 1,396 applications, up from a low of 1,189 in 2014. Last year, 1,256 prospective students applied. Of those, 33 percent were admitted, up slightly from 28 percent in 2017.

The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston had a slightly higher acceptance rate at 33 percent in 2017, according to the most recent federal data. At the Juilliard School in New York City, just 6 percent of applicants were admitted in 2017, federal data show.

While last fall’s enrolled conservatory students had higher average SAT scores than in recent years, Oberlin’s liberal arts students had mixed scores.

Oberlin's selectivity in the college of liberal arts has dropped slightly: in 2018, it admitted 39 percent of applicants. As recently as 2016, its acceptance rate stood at just 29 percent.

By way of comparison, Amherst College admitted just 13 percent of applicants in 2017. Middlebury last year admitted about 19 percent. Carleton College in Minnesota admitted about 20 percent, an admissions official said.

“To say that they’re being prepared just to show up to be the first violinist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a very narrow view of what their career path will be.” -- Oberlin president Carmen Twillie Ambar

Oberlin's yield, in both the conservatory and the college of liberal arts, has shrunk: the conservatory enrolled 42 percent of admitted students in 2009. Last year, that dropped to 33 percent. In the college of liberal arts, yield dropped from 32 percent to 29 percent. Enrollment last fall totaled 2,785, about what it was a decade earlier.

C. Todd Jones, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio (AICUO), said he was impressed with how the college is going about the strategic process. “The beauty of what Oberlin is doing here is addressing the problem before it becomes a crisis. And that’s leadership,” he said.

It's clear that college officials have looked at the conservatory "in the context of the whole operation" and are trying to "make adjustments that are true to the overall mission of the institution, while looking at the dollars and cents of how it operates."

Officials foresee conservatory faculty, facing smaller enrollments, being freed up to offer “greater and more meaningful musical experiences” to liberal arts students -- collaborating with faculty across campus in interdisciplinary performances, for instance.

David Kamitsuka, dean of the liberal arts college, said the goal is to provide a more integrated experience that connects classroom work with experiential learning, likely in the form of more internships. Students come to Oberlin because they’re interested in a classical education, he said, “but they want pathways for that classical education to launch them into meaningful lives.”

William Quillen, the conservatory’s acting dean, said, “Every conservatory is having this conversation.” The realities of being a professional musician are “completely different from the world of 2010 or 2000, let alone 1980,” he said. “What we offer them in 2020 has to be different -- and will invariably, and must be different, from what we offered them 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago.”

While today’s conservatory graduates must play their instruments with the same technical mastery as always -- and with broad knowledge of classical repertoire -- they must also be able to perform in other musical styles and in different settings such as in film, animation and videogame soundtracks. “And on top of that, they have to have an entrepreneurial disposition,” he said, a set of skills that musicians simply didn’t need a generation ago.

“They’re being asked to do radically different work,” Ambar said. “To say that they’re being prepared just to show up to be the first violinist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a very narrow view of what their career path will be.”

She said conservatories “have to be prepared for an industry that’s changing more rapidly than health care has changed. What it will look like we don’t know, but we think we’re on the right track in helping our students prepare for the unknown.”

A Way to Differentiate Itself

Among other proposals, Oberlin is considering shrinking the size of its campus to save on utility costs and deferred maintenance, as well as introducing new majors such as business and global health.

AICUO's Jones said he can't recall another instance in which he has seen “a deeper engagement of various stakeholders, while simultaneously being very public about numbers and about the effects of policies. I just don’t see that very often with processes like these at campuses.”

He's not surprised that's taking place at Oberlin, a college known for inclusivity. Founded in 1833, it was coeducational from the beginning and began admitting African American students two years later.

The open process is “true to the culture of the place,” Jones said. “I’m looking forward to the results of it, because colleges learn from each other. And the experience here, if it’s successful -- and I expect it to be so -- it is one that’s likely to be drawn upon by other institutions going forward.”

Michael Emerson Dirda, a 2009 graduate who majored in English and history, said many students choose Oberlin because "while they may not be conservatory-caliber musicians themselves, they still love playing music, learning about music and being surrounded by music. If the enrollment changes are able to free up resources for such students and otherwise bridge the gap between college and conservatory, this could be a useful way for Oberlin to differentiate itself from similar liberal arts institutions."

NPR's Holmes, who is also a former attorney, said she's more concerned about what seems a bid by Oberlin to reconsider hourly workers' pay. "That worries me a little," she said.

The college says that while many faculty salaries fall below those of peer institutions, Oberlin's hourly workers earn "significantly higher wages than their counterparts" at four nearby liberal arts colleges. Oberlin’s average hourly staff wage is 34 percent higher than at Kenyon, Denison, Ohio Wesleyan and Wooster Colleges.

"I don't want to see the school in a race to the bottom with hourly wages -- although again, I feel weird second-guessing, because they've put some study into this, and it's not like they're likely to be leaving chests full of money they could just open up and empty out," Holmes said. "It's just hard. It's painful. Oberlin for me was weird and intense and serious and sometimes kind of aggravating, but there's nothing quite like it. I think that's probably still the case, even as they tackle this."

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Middlebury calls off lecture by conservative Polish leader amid threats of protests

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 2019-04-18 07:00

A little more than two years ago, Middlebury College students shouted down Charles Murray, the controversial writer whom many accuse of espousing racist ideas, preventing him from giving a public lecture at the college. While Murray was not the first speaker blocked from speaking on a campus, his case captured national attention. Although Middlebury later punished many of those found to have prevented him from speaking (videotape captured the incident), many accused the college of failing to protect free expression.

On Wednesday, another controversial figure was slated to give a talk at Middlebury. Again, protests were planned against the speaker, although it is unclear if those protests would have disrupted the speech -- a violation of Middlebury rules and the norms of campus discourse. This time Middlebury called off the event, citing safety concerns.

An email that went out to the campus hours before the scheduled appearance by Ryszard Legutko said, "In the interest of ensuring the safety of students, faculty, staff and community members, the lecture by Ryszard Legutko scheduled for later today will not take place. The decision was not taken lightly. It was based on an assessment of our ability to respond effectively to potential security and safety risks for both the lecture and the event students had planned in response."

The email was signed by Jeff Cason, the provost, and Baishakhi Taylor, dean of students.

They went on to write that due to location changes and an increased number of expected attendees, "we didn't have the staff capacity" to assure safety.

The Alexander Hamilton Forum, a group at Middlebury that invited Legutko, indicated that it would invite him again in the fall, and a Middlebury spokeswoman indicated that the college was open to that visit, consistent with "standard" event scheduling rules.

While he was unable to speak in a public lecture, Legutko did appear in a political science class, some of which was live-streamed to Facebook.

Legutko is a professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University, in Kraków. He is also a member of the European Parliament and is associated with far-right views that have growing support in Eastern Europe. He has offended many groups, and criticism at Middlebury has noted his support for discrimination against gay people. His fans note his stance against dictatorship in the era when the Soviet Union controlled Poland.

An open letter circulating on campus questions sponsoring "a speaker who blatantly and proudly expounds homophobic, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic discourse." Bringing such a speaker to campus amounts to "shutting out large swaths of the Middlebury community, all of whom are engaged, critical and rigorous thinkers whose energies would be better spent not combating degrading and dehumanizing rhetoric."

A recent Middlebury graduate who is from Poland published a letter in the student newspaper in which he said in part, "I am all for Middlebury inviting speakers that hold views different than those of the campus majority. But you could at least seek speakers who are not bigots and hypocrites."

Keegan Callahan, assistant professor of political science and director of the Alexander Hamilton Forum, circulated another letter about the planned visit. While noting that many respect Legutko, the letter stressed the value of the college having speakers with a range of views.

"We treat all Middlebury students as independent thinkers with a right to and capacity for free and open inquiry," the letter said. "We are committed to viewpoint diversity and freedom of thought. We believe that through the competition of ideas, each of us can better understand our own deepest convictions and make progress in the pursuit of truth. We believe that Middlebury students deserve to hear a multiplicity of perspectives, including the views of influential scholars with whom we might disagree strongly."

As word spread Wednesday about another conservative figure being unable to speak at Middlebury, some academics far from campus spoke out against what happened. Robert George, a Princeton University professor who has defended the right of controversial academics (on the left and right) to speak, offered a series of tweets.

A "liberal arts college" that bans speech is like a "cigar bar" that forbids smoking. What's the point of the place? #middleburyyieldstothemob

— Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) April 17, 2019

Middlebury yields to the mob's threats of violence. No questioning of campus dogmas permitted. Why keep the place open? "College Cancels Conservative Philosopher’s Lecture on Totalitarianism":

— Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) April 17, 2019

The decision by Middlebury came just a few weeks after Beloit College, a liberal arts institution in Wisconsin, shut down a planned speech by Erik Prince, an associate of President Trump and the controversial founder of the security company Blackwater. Administrators canceled Prince’s chat following student protests in which they banged on drums and built a barricade of chairs on the stage where Prince was due to give his talk.

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Advocates share war and success stories at 'Inside Higher Ed' event

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 2019-04-18 07:00

WASHINGTON -- General education is not simply filler for a student’s time in college beyond the major. Done well, gen ed can answer students’ questions about what college is, and why it matters.

Gen ed is also a great American contribution to higher education, affording students the time and space for intellectual exploration, and teaching them to learn to think in different ways.

Yet general education is under threat. Politicians question the value of it, specifically requirements that aren’t explicitly job oriented. Students don’t always get it. And creating and adopting a strong general education program demands much of already time- if not resource-strapped professors and their institutions.

Is gen ed worth the fight? Speakers at Wednesday’s Inside Higher Ed Leadership Series event, The Future of Gen Ed, think so. The sold-out all-day meeting, held at Gallup's headquarters here, featured conversations on why general education matters more than ever, along with data-driven arguments for gen ed. Other speakers offered thoughts on challenges and lessons learned in their own institutions’ gen ed reforms, and whether diversity should be a program requirement.

‘A Common Commitment’

Geoffrey Harpham, visiting scholar and senior fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University and former president and director of the National Humanities Center, talked about the namesake figure of his 2018 book on the “golden age” of education, What Do You Think, Mr. Ramirez?: The American Revolution in Education. Harpham once met a Mr. Ramirez (that’s a pseudonym) during a campus visit and described how general education transformed the man’s life.

Ramirez went from being a penniless Cuban refugee in 1960s Florida who spoke no English to a professor emeritus of comparative literature. The turning point was when he enrolled in a community college and was forced to take a course on Shakespeare. A professor asked him what he thought about some topic of discussion -- the first time anyone had ever done so. Ramirez was too embarrassed to answer at the time, as he thought he had nothing to say and “no thoughts at all.”

But of course he did have thoughts and things to say. He just needed someone to ask him the right question.

Harpham said he’s under no illusion that we’ll return to that golden age of general education. But he said he does hold out hope that general education survives as a powerful democratizing force and a “common commitment -- variously realized to be sure -- to a common culture that we all share and have a responsibility for.”

While general education is often expressed as a program of courses and values, it’s also an “aspiration,” or spirit, that can be embodied by any professor in any class, he said.

Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, agreed that general education is a democratizing force that provides a mind- and life-broadening education to the many, not just the elite few. And so political rhetoric that “calls into question the value of higher ed generally, and of liberal education in particular, perpetuates growing racial and economic segregation in our society,” she said.

What can be done? Higher education needs to “demonstrate in a more compelling way that we are teaching 21st-century skills,” Pasquerella said. She offered the example of her own son, Pierce, who railed against having to take courses in small group communication and intercultural competence while he was studying to be a filmmaker.

Then Pierce’s first job out of college happened to be on the Jerry Springer show, where he helped manage guests for hours on end in the green room. Finally all that education made sense to him.

Still, Pasquerella said, if a student who has two academics for parents doesn’t understand at the time what good his education is doing him, “What hope do other students have of sticking with a structure they think is totally useless?”

Case Studies in Gen Ed Reform

Indeed, one measure of a gen ed program’s value is student buy-in. In one of a number of general education case studies presented, Mary Dana Hinton, president of the College of Saint Benedict, said that her faculty members are seeking to build a more cohesive and student-centered program with the college’s new Integrations Curriculum. The program, set to begin in fall 2020, was guided by three design principles: making explicit connections between classes via themed courses, reflection and more; high-impact practices including writing-intensive courses, common intellectual experiences and a student portfolio; and a strong liberal arts and sciences education.

“Our faculty was seeking to answer two key questions: Why does general education matter to liberally educated students, and what content and pedagogy best support our goals for the liberal arts” on campus? Hinton said. While the process was faculty driven, Hinton added, students were engaged in conversations about what courses would help them lead and make positive change in the world from the start.

Linda A. Bell, provost and dean of the faculty at Barnard College, helped oversee a general education reform around 2016 that was, in part, prompted by students' requests for a change. There wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with the 16-year-old curriculum centered on nine ways of knowing, she said. But “fundamentally working is not good enough.”

Barnard’s reform, also driven by the faculty, resulted in a new Foundations curriculum promoting six modes of thinking, including thinking technologically and digitally. Courses in dance, architecture and fine arts, among other disciplines, satisfy it. Barnard has devoted more resources to it based on student demand. It's also committed to reviewing the Foundations every five years.

Ursinus College also hopes to transform the residential college experience with its new general education program based on four enduring questions, Mark B. Schneider, provost and dean, said in a separate TED talk-style presentation.

While liberal arts colleges were well represented at the event, administrators, faculty members and even students from across institution types shared insights, too. Pam Y. Eddinger, president of Bunker Hill Community College, reminded those present that half of all college students are at institutions like hers. So if general education is to survive, she said, community colleges must be involved in conversations about it. And those conversations must be inclusive, she added, saying that her culinary students and faculty members are intellectuals, too, for example.

Melody Bowdon, interim vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of Central Florida, is helping lead an overhaul of the general education program there. It’s complicated by the institution’s massive enrollment (some 68,000 students, mostly undergraduates), state restrictions on the curriculum and the fact that over half of undergraduates transfer from community colleges.

Still, she said, the process has gone relatively smoothly and enjoyed high levels of faculty enthusiasm. A valuable part of the process is hearing faculty members make explicit connections between program requirements and the content they’re already teaching -- making what's often invisible in general education visible. Bowdon also personally invites faculty members to participate in workshops on the pedagogical innovations that make gen ed courses that much more successful.

Donald J. Laackman, president of preprofessional Champlain College, talked about the merits of integrating general education across disciplines, for all four years, via the Core. And Melinda Zook, professor of history at Purdue University, discussed the runaway success of a Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts certificate program for students studying outside the liberal arts. The 15-credit-hour certificate is based on engagement with transformative texts and advanced humanities study.

Diversity Matters

An increasing number of institutions are requiring students to study diversity within their curricula. Should they?

Lucía Martínez Valdivia, assistant professor of English and humanities at Reed College, spoke with candor about her lingering doubts as to how her institution responded to a long-term student protest over a shared introductory humanities courses. The course, Hum 110, previously began with The Epic of Gilgamesh and covered ancient texts from Rome to Egypt. But following student complaints that the curriculum was "too white," there are now new modules. One of them attempts to cover 500 years of Mexican cultural history in a few weeks.

At least one student involved in the protest has since expressed regret, acknowledging that she “didn’t know what she didn’t know” at the time, Valdivia said. Valdivia’s response was that that’s typical for an 18-year-old. But the fact that students don’t know what they don’t know is something colleges might seriously weigh in responding to these kinds of student demands, she said.

Valdivia also said her last few weeks of teaching have confirmed that the closer in time and space diversity-based content is to students’ own experiences, the harder it is for them to be objective and ready to take information in.

Students' "learning identity is something we can no longer take for granted at liberal arts colleges,” she said. “Things have changed so much in the last 10 years.”

Laura Rosanne Adderley, associate professor of history at Tulane University, said students were involved in but did not drive a decision to add two diversity-related requirements to their curriculum. Students are now requred to take one course that is more than 50 percent related to race and inclusion in the U.S.., and one course on global perspectives. The latter requirement was inspired by the idea that when one studies life, language or culture outside one’s own domain, one’s racial empathy grows.

Adderley said it’s too soon to call these new requirements a success. But one hope is that they’ll not only revitalize enrollments in history and other courses dealing with diversity, but possibly draw students deeper into these programs, through exposure.

But to Valdivia’s point, students only benefit when they are in a growth mind-set and believe they have something to learn, Adderley said.

“These courses are not to fix people who don’t already know,” Adderley said. “It’s not what they’re there for.”

Measuring Gen Ed's Value

Getting gen ed right is clearly tricky. But beyond anecdotes and personal opinion, the data on long-term outcomes indicate that students benefit when colleges do get it right. Richard A. Detweiler, founder and managing director of HigherEdImpact, discussed his findings from 1,000 interviews with both liberal arts and other kinds of college graduates, 10 to 40 years postgraduation. He found that gradates who reported key experiences associated with liberal arts colleges (which tend to value general education) had greater odds of measures of life success associated with these colleges’ goals.

Graduates who reported discussing philosophical or ethical issues in many classes, and who took classes in the humanities, were 25 to 60 percent more likely than other graduates to have characteristics of altruists, for example (meaning they volunteered and gave to nonprofit groups, etc.). And those who reported that professors encouraged them to examine the strengths and weaknesses of their views, and whose course work emphasized questions on which there is not necessarily a correct answer, were 25 to 40 percent more likely to report that they felt personally fulfilled.

As for money, Detweiler has found there is a strong relationship between a having a broad undergraduate education and financial success. Those who take more than half of their course work in subjects unrelated to their majors -- an extensive general education -- are 31 to 72 percent more likely than others to have higher-level positions and to be earning more than $100,000.

A number of commenters throughout the day bemoaned the difficulty in assessing general education at the institutional level. But Carol Geary Schneider, fellow at the Lumina Foundation and president emerita of the AAC&U, bristled at that idea, saying that there's no need to recreate the wheel on assessment. Groups such as AAC&U have long-standing essential learning outcomes for a liberal education, she said.

"You don't have to measure every little course," she said. "We're not doing enough to celebrate the tools that already exist."

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Author discusses new book on impact of Virginia Tech mass shooting

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 2019-04-18 07:00

On April 16, 2007, a gunman murdered 32 students and professors at Virginia Tech. Other mass shootings (including on college campuses) have followed, but the words "Virginia Tech" evoke a particular sense of the shock of what happened there in 2007.

After Virginia Tech: Guns, Safety and Healing in the Era of Mass Shootings (University of Virginia Press) tells the story of what happened after that terrible day. Thomas Kapsidelis, the author, is a journalist and a fellow at Virginia Humanities. Via email, he responded to questions about the book.

Q: What do you see as the key evolution you document of many of the survivors and family members of the slain at Virginia Tech in terms of how they responded?

A: It’s impossible to generalize about the experiences of survivors, especially in a community as large and diverse as Virginia Tech. Some of the survivors whose work I reported on in this book came to advocacy very soon after the shootings. Others may have taken some time, or been active at certain times and less so at others. Three of the graduates I followed worked in advocacy over much of the decade after the shootings. But they are quick to point out, and I agree with this, that the work of Tech survivors who may not be known to the public but who have persevered and have accomplished so much personally and professionally, must also be recognized. As one parent told me, “Whether the survivors choose to go forward as advocates for policy change or to continue with their previously chosen careers, they show strength and resiliency.”

Q: Certain names -- Columbine and Sandy Hook -- have come to be identified with certain kinds of mass shootings. What has Virginia Tech come to mean?

A: The Virginia Tech tragedy changed how higher education administrators in Virginia and across the nation view campus safety. A timely notice when there is a threat -- which was delayed at Virginia Tech -- would now seem to be a given. Likewise, the establishment of threat-assessment teams gives colleges and universities an organized way to intervene before a problem becomes an emergency. Sadly, some of these reforms are more difficult to replicate in our own communities, as shown by shootings in which the perpetrator was a person who showed signs of problems but slipped through the system for any number of reasons. Likewise, even with the increased awareness and strategies that have emerged since Virginia Tech, safety depends on vigilance and everyone doing their part. In my book, I quote a Virginia mental health official advising his colleagues, "Don’t become complacent … and don’t forget that the eyes of the world are now on you all the time."

Q: How has Virginia Tech (the university) balanced the need to memorialize the dead, and to promote the normal functioning of a large university?

A: The April 16 Memorial is on Virginia Tech’s historic Drillfield, in front of the main administration building and just steps away from Norris Hall, where 30 of the 32 were killed before the gunman took his own life in the front of a French class. I’ve been there many times and never fail to see someone stop and pay respects at the 32 “Hokie stones” inscribed with the names of the victims. The memorial grew from a tribute started by a student group, Hokies United, in the days after the shootings. A survivor of the 1966 University of Texas tower shootings told me the memorial at Tech helped drive interest in dedicating a larger memorial at UT, which took place in 2016.

Norris Hall is still in use. Renovations on the second floor, where the attack took place, included space for a new Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention, founded by a professor whose wife, a French instructor, was killed.

The university initially canceled classes for its annual Day of Remembrance, but resumed a regular schedule in 2012. The annual remembrance continues, however, and includes a memorial 3.2-mile run and walk. Activities have included displays from the huge collection of memorial tributes and items from around the world that are under the care of the university’s archivist. Among these tributes is an oversized, wood-bound book of condolences sent to Tech in 2007 from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. When I was completing my book, I was amazed to find that I had snapped a picture of the MSD tribute when it was on display for the 10th anniversary memorial weekend at Tech, a year before the Parkland shootings.

Amid the deep sorrow at Virginia Tech, the many questions of accountability would make any immediate recovery even more difficult. Time cannot heal all wounds. But I think the dignity, love and determination of the survivors have buoyed the Tech community. And just like the survivors we don’t hear about, there are many others -- faculty, administration and employees -- whose compassion will always be remembered.

Q: What lessons should higher education learn from Virginia Tech?

A: The safety and well-being of everyone in the campus community must be a priority. Universities should examine their complex systems to ensure they are responsive to the needs of students, faculty and staff -- and families. Having a safe campus doesn’t just happen. It needs to be tended and the product of communication with all involved. This goes beyond gun violence, given the many troubling issues facing colleges and universities.

Q: Campus carry has spread in the years since Virginia Tech (and many other shootings). Why do you think that the efforts of Virginia Tech survivors haven't been effective in preventing this?

A: Virginia Tech survivors spoke out against this in the immediate aftermath of the shootings, and I sense the movement for campus concealed carry in Virginia has waned over the years even as other gun rights have expanded nationally. In Texas, a Virginia Tech graduate whom I wrote about in the book was in the forefront of opposing campus concealed carry, which took effect in 2016 but only after earlier defeats in the Legislature. There is obviously renewed discussion across the nation about the role of armed staff and individuals in schools. As of 2018, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more states banned campus concealed carry rather than allowed it. Nearly half the states leave the decision up to the institution.

It’s important to note that Tech survivors, families and community members have become influential and respected for their advocacy in the areas of guns, safety and healing. Survivor advocacy has long been a force in the American gun violence debate, and we’ve seen that most recently with the energy of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students and the support they’ve generated. But one scholar told me the Tech community deserves recognition for helping create a template for involvement, in a time when the social media channels that are so effectively used today were just in their infancy. Added another expert who is an ally of the Tech families, “Had those families retreated, I think that you might have a very different outcome today.”

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Tensions grow in Australia over courses on Western civilization

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 2019-04-18 07:00

Plans for lavishly funded “great books” courses are under a cloud amid academic revolts at two Australian universities.

The executive and the governing council of the University of Wollongong have closed ranks over Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings’s approval of a degree bankrolled by the Ramsay Center for Western Civilization, a philanthropic organization.

Meanwhile, proposals to offer Ramsay-funded majors at the University of Queensland have hit a snag, after the board of studies for UQ’s humanities and social sciences faculty unanimously rejected the draft curricula.

The developments at both institutions suggest that the conflicts over the planned courses -- opposed by many academics and students because of perceptions that they curtail academic autonomy and champion a “Western supremacist” perspective -- are increasingly becoming a test of university governance.

Wollongong avoided a staff and student backlash by negotiating with Ramsay in secret and announcing an agreement in December as a fait accompli. Wellings then bypassed Academic Senate scrutiny of the proposed course by approving it under “fast track” procedures, a move that the university says was necessary to meet publication deadlines for a 2020 course handbook.

In late March, the Academic Senate lodged a formal protest. Insiders said that the fast-track process was typically used to “tweak” existing courses and had never been used to endorse an entire new program.

This month the National Tertiary Education Union launched proceedings in the New South Wales Supreme Court, seeking to have the approval overturned. But last week, the university council sided with the executive.

“I am comfortable that the decisions taken by the vice chancellor have been in accordance with university policies and in the best interests of the institution,” Chancellor Jillian Broadbent said in a statement issued by the university.

That view is not shared by academics and students who protested prior to the meeting. Chloe Rafferty, president of the Wollongong Undergraduate Student Association, said that the university council should have recognized the position of the Academic Senate, “which is supposed to be the body that ensures our university has academic integrity.”

Rafferty said that she had been denied access to the council meeting to discuss a budget for the student union -- an address that she said had been planned for months -- with three security guards barring her entry. The university said that Rafferty had not registered her intention to attend the meeting -- a claim that she denied.

NTEU Wollongong's branch president, Georgine Clarsen, said that she had written to the university council members explaining why the union had taken legal action, enclosing copies of the court documentation, to ensure that the issue would not be “swept under the carpet.”

She said that the university’s governance unit had refused to confirm whether the information had been passed on to council members.

NTEU national president Alison Barnes said that the union had initiated legal proceedings because of the “gradual and persistent erosion of academic governance” at universities such as Wollongong.

The Supreme Court has the power to overturn Wollongong’s administrative decisions because the university was established under state legislation. The first hearing is set for April 23.

Meanwhile, UQ’s HASS board of studies has warned the faculty’s executive dean that “further consultation and refinement of the curriculum” for proposed Ramsay-funded courses is required.

Many of the faculty’s academics had earlier issued a petition opposing Ramsay-funded courses on academic freedom and institutional autonomy grounds. “There are incalculable reputational risks for the University of Queensland in linking itself to an external body that clearly has a specific political agenda,” the petition says.

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