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Two new bills take different approach to protecting U.S. research from foreign threats

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 2019-06-19 07:00

Two bills introduced within the last month seek to address foreign espionage targeting academic research as Congress continues to pay more attention to this issue and collaborations involving China and Chinese nationals in particular have come under increased scrutiny.

The Protect Our Universities Act, introduced Tuesday by Senator Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, would require students from China, Iran and Russia to undergo background screening before participating in designated “sensitive research projects.” An interagency task force led by the Department of Homeland Security would be charged with maintaining a list of sensitive research projects funded by the member government agencies.

Hawley plans to introduce the bill as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which is currently being marked up in the House and Senate. He said in a statement that American universities are “key targets of espionage and intellectual property theft by not only China, but Russia and Iran.”

“For too long, these countries have sent students to our universities to collect sensitive research that they can later use to develop capabilities that threaten our national security,” Hawley said. “This bill takes much-needed steps to ensure our research stays out of the hands of foreign adversaries who are proactively rooting for our failure.”

Members of Congress, the White House, national security agencies and federal science agencies have all significantly stepped up scrutiny of foreign research links over the past two years, with much of the scrutiny focused on China.

Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in April, Federal Bureau of Investigation director Christopher Wray described China as posing a bigger threat than any other country. “China has pioneered a societal approach to stealing innovation in any way it can from a wide array of businesses, universities and organizations,” Wray said. “They’re doing it through Chinese intelligence services, through state-owned enterprises, through ostensibly private companies, through graduate students and researchers, through a variety of actors, all working on behalf of China.”

The increased scrutiny has raised concerns about racial profiling of Chinese students and scholars and about a chilling effect on collaborations with Chinese institutions. One Chinese American scientist fired by Emory University for allegedly failing to disclose Chinese funding and ties is publicly disputing the charges against him. Bloomberg Businessweek published an article last week about the resignation of a top cancer epidemiologist from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the targeting of ethnic Chinese scientists for extra scrutiny.

Higher education groups say they share the government's concerns about safeguarding U.S. research, but they warn that taking an overly restrictive approach will harm U.S. science, which is highly international.

Tobin Smith, vice president for policy at the American Association of Universities, said he thinks the Protect Our Universities Act proposed by Hawley takes the wrong approach to addressing these issues.

“It ignores that we have mechanisms already in place to safeguard research,” Smith said. “Those mechanisms are classification, export controls and what we call controlled unclassified information. It seems to us that this would create a new category of sensitive research projects, which is very vague and hard to understand. Historically, National Security Decision Directive 189, issued by President Reagan in the '80s, said the primary mechanism for control of information should be classification system, and to the maximum extent possible fundamental research should be kept open.”

“This bill would require background checks of individuals who would be working on fundamental research that is intended to be published and made accessible to the public,” Peter McPherson, the president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said via email. “International students already go through a visa process. Creating another process would unnecessarily complicate research projects that will ultimately be published online and viewable across the world.”

Both AAU and APLU support a different bill, the Securing American Science and Technology Act, or SASTA, which was introduced in late May by Representative Mikie Sherrill, a Democrat from New Jersey and chair of the House Science Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight.

A number of major higher education and scientific associations have endorsed SASTA, as have dozens of research universities, who wrote in a joint letter that the bill takes “a proactive and sensible approach to safeguarding federally funded research and development from growing threats of foreign interference, cyberattacks, theft and espionage.”

The bill would direct the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish an interagency working group “to coordinate activities to protect federally funded research and development from foreign interference, cyberattacks, theft or espionage and to develop common definitions and best practices for federal science agencies and grantees, while accounting for the importance of the open exchange of ideas and international talent required for scientific progress and American leadership in science and technology.” It also would establish a new National Science, Technology and Security Roundtable to encourage information exchange between academia and federal security and science agencies on these topics.

“There are serious and legitimate concerns about academic espionage at our universities,” Sherrill said in a statement. “That’s why we’re proposing a unified approach to protect research without creating overlapping or contradictory federal requirements. We have to get this right. We must protect our innovation and research while maintaining the international engagement and demonstrated value foreign students bring to our institutions of higher learning.”

AAU’s Smith said that SASTA has been included in the current House version of the NDAA, which appears poised to be the vehicle through which legislation affecting science and security issues will be advanced.

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Roosevelt U students take to social media to complain about a professor of theater they say has long been "abusive"

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 2019-06-19 07:00

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

The floodgates opened at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts this month, with numerous students and alumni complaining on social media that a professor and longtime associate dean there had harassed them or their peers and had otherwise been "toxic."

Additional concerns have been raised about the climate within the college for underrepresented students.

Questions remain as to how the alleged behavior went unchecked, if it did, and when the university became aware of the allegations. Multiple students have said that more formal complaints against the professor, Sean Kelley, went nowhere or were dropped by the university.

Kelley did not respond to requests for comment. The university says it’s investigating the allegations.

Complaints about Kelley began to appear on social media after one former performing arts student, Netta Walker, wrote a lengthy public Facebook statement upon receiving a local Jeff Award for her work in Chicago-area theater. Walker, who is black, wrote that the fine arts program at Roosevelt is “abusive.”

“This university taught me that I was less than my peers in the following ways: they did not cast me, they chose white male-dominated seasons, they deliberately did not try to utilize me, they refused to cast outside both the racial and gender binaries, and taught exclusively white theatrical history,” Walker wrote. “This program is still heavily run by white men, and has not changed any of these practices.”

Walker said she didn’t care if her post upset her former professors or broke her ties with the college.

“I’m already comfortable not claiming the institution, and it seems they feel the same in regards to me,” she said. “I refuse to stay silent about the brainwashing that students are faced with daily.”

Tatyana Sampson, a college alumna, then started an online petition targeting Kelley, in particular. Kelley has “for years” been “known for his inappropriate sexual harassment and behavior towards many of the young men” at the college, she wrote, sharing a photo of an allegedly underage person that Kelley had liked on Instagram. “It is not our job as students to have to fight this, our primary job is learning; but when other higher ups neglect to do anything I find it my duty, as an alum, to say something.”

Next, student Laney Yancey shared her own Facebook post about her experiences studying under Kelley.

“Going to acting school for me, was, and continues to be, a dream. I am from a small town in Kentucky, and have always longed for my college days when I could learn more and more about this art form that has given me a deeper purpose in this life,” she wrote. While her first year delivered on part of that dream, it also “opened my eyes to deep systematic issues that exist [within the college]. These issues had me often feeling enraged, deeply saddened, and confused.” Kelley, in particular, “has created and perpetuated a toxic culture and has been a figurehead in abusing his power in an environment that should be founded on trust, safety, and vulnerability.”

Roosevelt’s performing arts school is a conservatory-style program. And conservatories are known for their intense, demanding and sometimes unconventional teaching methods. But the behaviors that Yancey and others have described go beyond unconventional or demanding.

In Yancey’s acting class alone, she wrote, Kelley allegedly said that she and a classmate “looked like we would have great sex.” While preparing Yancey for a scene, Kelley also allegedly “screamed until he was red in the face, while repetitively calling me bitch. Both of these instances were in front of an entire classroom of my peers.” He allegedly told Yancey that she was a “walking counseling center” when she asked for help with a scene and, in another instance, “threw a chair, slammed several cabinet doors, and then used the exact words of, ‘Slap that cunt,’ while ‘coaching’ a male student in his scene with a female student.”

To other students who also shared their experiences in posts or comments on social media, Yancey said, “I am so proud of all the voices that have been vigilant in posting their own experiences. We do not live in a world where men in power get excused anymore.”

Kelley has not commented publicly on the allegations against him and did not respond to requests for comment over several days.

The college on its Facebook page said, “Please know that the university is now aware of the allegations and is in the process of investigating them." It added, “Please know that the university takes complaints very seriously and also that the university strictly prohibits retaliation.”

Roosevelt “values every member of its community, including current and former students, faculty, and other staff,” the college also said. “It is important to us that these matters be investigated promptly and thoroughly, and that members of our community feel comfortable voicing any and all concerns. We will provide updates on these matters when/as we are able.”

The post provided contacts to make formal complaints. Some students have complained that the contacts don’t yield responses. Others have asked if the university is also investigating the climate concerns raised, beyond Kelley specifically. Some also say that the university was previously notified about Kelley, directly, but did nothing.

Nicole Barron, university spokesperson, also said that the university recently became aware of the allegations on social media and takes them “very seriously.” She confirmed that Roosevelt is investigating but declined additional comment, including as to whether Kelley is on leave.

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Texas legislation contrasts with DeVos take on campus sexual misconduct

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 2019-06-19 07:00

Last fall, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released a proposed Title IX rule that many observers said would lead to fewer reports of sexual misconduct on college campuses.

The state Legislature in Texas, however, has taken a starkly different approach. In the legislative session that wrapped up last month, lawmakers passed a flurry of bills that will put new pressure on colleges to address campus-based sexual harassment and assault.

One demands that colleges provide more resources to students and survivors of sexual assault. Another requires institutions to annotate a student’s transcript if they are asked to leave campus for a nonacademic reason.

The third, and perhaps most consequential, would add new criminal penalties for campus officials who fail to report sexual harassment or misconduct to their institution’s Title IX coordinator -- to the consternation of civil libertarians and some survivor advocate groups. They would face a misdemeanor and termination by their institution. Colleges would also have to compile and publicly disclose those reports. Institutions that fail to do so could also face fines of up to $2 million from the state’s higher ed coordinating board.

Texas governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed all three bills into law over the past week after each of them passed both statehouse chambers by wide margins. The mandatory reporting legislation passed without a single no vote.

The approach of that law in particular is being criticized by civil libertarians, who said it defines harassment in an overly broad manner and threatens due process. Advocates for sexual assault survivors, however, said the punitive approach to accountability is misguided and doesn't address the substance of the problem on campuses.

No state has gone so far as to demand reporting of sexual misconduct on campuses. And lawmakers in other Republican-dominated states have advanced bills over the past year to restrict colleges' response to sexual assaults or to reflect the proposed Trump administration rule.

The new campus reporting law also tees up a potential conflict with requirements outlined in regulations crafted by DeVos, who is expected to issue a final rule later this year.

“There isn’t any question that this is a distinct path from the approach taken under Obama and DeVos,” said Peter Lake, director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University.

Under guidance issued by the Obama administration, colleges were expected to investigate complaints where they “reasonably should” have known about misconduct. In practice, that meant instructors were expected to report incidents they became aware of. But the proposed Trump administration rule says colleges only are liable for looking into incidents when they have an “actual knowledge” of misconduct. Students would have to report to an official like a Title IX coordinator with clear formal responsibilities. But a disclosure to a professor wouldn’t put a college on the hook for an investigation.

The new law in Texas goes the other direction.

The Baylor Effect

Campus sexual assault became a hot-button issue under the Obama administration, which pushed colleges to seriously address misconduct for the first time. And DeVos’s decision to roll back federal guidance issued in 2011 and 2014 and to craft new federal regulations on campus-based sexual misconduct has helped elevate the issue for many state legislators.

In Texas, however, the Baylor University sexual assault scandal that eventually led to the ouster of Baylor’s head football coach and president provided a special impetus for lawmakers to take tough action on campus sexual misconduct.

A 2016 report produced by the law firm Pepper Hamilton assigned much of the blame for mishandling of sexual assaults by Baylor football players to former president Ken Starr. Starr, the report said, failed “to provide consistent and meaningful engagement with Title IX.” A series of stories by ESPN found that the university had sought to keep quiet a number of physical and sexual assaults committed primarily by football players.

The transcript notation law was crafted in response to another Baylor case, in which a former fraternity president withdrew from the university after he was accused of sexually assaulting another student at a party in 2016 and later transferred to the University of Texas at Dallas. The student, Jacob Anderson, faced sexual assault charges but pleaded to a lesser charge of unlawful restraint.

After a public uproar over Anderson's case last year, UT Dallas president Richard Benson complained that the university had no knowledge of the accusations against Anderson at Baylor.

A version of the campus reporting legislation introduced in the previous legislative session would have added criminal penalties not only for campus officials, but also for student employees who fail to report sexual misconduct. College groups did not actively oppose the legislation and higher education leaders are examining their institutions’ policies to ensure they comply.

“It is critical that the public, including students and parents, are aware of any potential safety threats occurring on campuses,” State Senator Joan Huffman, the law’s author and a Republican from southeast Texas, told her colleagues during the session.

But advocates on campus misconduct issues fault the legislation for potential negative consequences and failures in its broad approach.

Joe Cohn, legislative and policy director at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, called the Texas campus reporting law “egregiously problematic.”

“This is a perfect recipe to create an environment that is devastating to both campus free speech and due process,” he said.

FIRE had urged Abbott to veto the legislation. 

Cohn said the law uses an overly broad definition of sexual harassment that's at odds with the more narrow definition adopted in the Trump administration's proposed Title IX rule. And he warned that attaching criminal penalties would lead campus officials to report minor incidents to protect themselves from individual liability.

The law directs colleges to designate officials with whom students could speak confidentially about sexual misconduct. But Cohn and other critics said that doesn’t mitigate broader concerns about the language.

Laura Dunn, who founded the nonprofit SurvJustice and was instrumental in the crafting of federal guidance under the Obama administration, said she wasn’t opposed to accountability measures for campus officials who fail to report misconduct.

“It’s really going to come down to how schools implement it,” said Dunn of the mandatory reporting requirements. “It definitely provides an incentive for schools to have very significant training.”

But other survivor advocates rejected the approach of the legislation.

Jess Davidson, executive director of End Rape on Campus, said the campus reporting and transcript notation laws are solutions produced by well-meaning individuals who don’t understand potential unintended consequences of the policy changes. Adding more accountability for individual officials and institutions won't seriously address sexual misconduct without broader changes to policies and resources for survivors. Those policies could include more training for first-year students, due process for alleged victims and accused students, and accommodations on campus for survivors.

“We can’t just assume that if we add more accountability things will change,” she said. "We know reporting rates are extremely low. That's because so many pieces of the system are broken.”

Ashka Dighe, a University of Texas sophomore and vice president of the campus chapter of It’s On Us, a national organization that seeks to end sexual assault, said she was impressed with the bipartisan focus on tackling campus sexual assault during the legislative session.

“The overall goal of the bill was to protect survivors and prevent instances of sexual assault from happening,” she said. “I just think the way they approached this should have been different.”

Rather than adding criminal penalties to hold employees responsible for reporting misconduct, Dighe said the Legislature should push colleges to provide more resources to students who experience assault or harassment.

The American Association of University Professors has opposed mandatory reporting requirements, including in comments submitted to the Education Department on the proposed Title IX rule last year.

“These kinds of policies have a strong negative impact on faculty members in particular because of the negative effects on the teaching and advising relationship they have with students,” said Risa Lieberwitz, general counsel at AAUP.

Adding a criminal penalty for campus officials only exacerbates existing problems with the policy, Lieberwitz said.

Survivor advocates found more to like in the approach of another new law authored by State Senator Donna Howard, a Democrat from Austin, would mandate that colleges craft policies dealing with sexual harassment and assault, as well as dating violence and stalking. They would also have to lay out a process for reporting allegations and accommodations for victims. Davidson said by making small tweaks to various parts of the college system, the law could increase reporting without including tough penalties for individual campus officials.

Cohn of FIRE said that legislation also used overly broad definitions of harassment and said the procedural protections in the legislation were too sparse.

But Davidson said the law would have a positive impact by focusing on student experiences on campus rather than just an institution’s response to misconduct.

“Criminalizing school employees is not the kind of accountability we’re seeking when everything else in the system is set up to make it harder for survivors to report,” she said.

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Author skewers campus culture wars in new book

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 2019-06-19 07:00

Politicians (mostly conservative) have perpetuated a narrative of college students, even before the election of President Trump. They have depicted campus activists as "snowflakes," overly sensitive, irrational and unbending in their beliefs. It is a depiction that has caused lawmakers to zero in on college campuses in a new way. Trump himself signed an executive order barring federal funds to colleges that do not meet free speech obligations.

Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump (St. Martin’s Press), the first book from Robby Soave, a rising young libertarian author and editor for Reason -- a libertarian publication -- does little to dispel these myths. The book is out this week.

In Soave's view, many of the causes for which these students fight are being marred by unnecessary infighting and political correctness, or with sexual assault issues and overreach by the federal government in telling institutions how to adjudicate such cases.

Soave delivers blazing critiques of progressive student activists -- their fondness for "trigger warnings," for instance, which he writes can be invoked regarding virtually anything uncomfortable. He said in a recent interview with Inside Higher Ed, though, that his intent is not to portray the situation on college campuses as a “crisis.” Rather, Soave said, he is trying to help moderate-to-center Democrats identify warning signs. Soave said he hopes these liberals will see the scenarios unfolding and will step in before free speech rights are further “trampled,” to ensure due process in college sexual assault proceedings is restored and no longer disregarded in “kangaroo courts.”

Soave said he was inspired to write about these issues following a series of incidents in 2015. The first were the racial protests at the University of Missouri at Columbia that exploded into the national forefront, and the second involved two Yale University professors. Nicholas A. Christakis, and his wife, Erika, resigned from their positions as head and associate head of Silliman College following an email Erika sent to students questioning whether Yale should be policing offensive Halloween costumes.

After he started writing about higher education more, Soave said with his libertarian background he was concerned by the language students were using in some cases -- particularly those attending elite colleges -- that seemed to suppress the views of those with which they did not agree. He said he was worried by the fact that some students consider free speech "harmful."

This manifested in a number of ways, in Soave’s opinion. He continually refers to the faults with intersectionality in his book, not as a concept generally but how it is applied to activism, he said.

For instance, if feminists do not consider a black woman’s view or a transgender woman’s view, then they are not “being intersectional” and can be excluded from the movement, Soave said. He identifies the Women’s March as an example of this conflict among feminists, in which certain advocates were angry more women of color and trans women were not involved in organizing it.

This unwillingness to hear out certain opinions is much more evident in Soave’s free speech chapter, though. Here, he discusses how the Free Speech Movement, which originated at the University of California, Berkeley, originally benefited liberal activists. He questions why students do not seem to support the concept of free expression.

He said that students seem to believe that free speech -- and in students’ views, offensive speech -- can actually inflict harm and jeopardize safety. Soave runs through some of the more significant shout downs of controversial speakers, namely Charles Murray, a social scientist many view as racist, who was drowned out at Middlebury College in 2017.

Soave also discusses how the anti-fascist movement, commonly referred to as antifa, has encroached on campuses in violent ways. This was most notably the case at Berkeley, where outsiders who subscribed to antifa caused widespread destruction, literally setting part of the campus ablaze when Milo Yiannopoulos, the former Breitbart editor, attempted to speak there in 2017.

Though Soave does note that many of these perpetrators were unaffiliated with the campus, the image he creates of Berkeley is particularly unflattering and consistent with conservatives who feel that free speech is being suppressed. Soave links the students to this behavior, saying they did not want Yiannopoulos on the campus.

In the interview, Soave acknowledged that the Berkeley students were the ones who were not violent -- but that didn't matter -- "they still didn't want him there," he said. Soave does not note that the administration publicly stated that Yiannopoulos had a right to speak on campus and devoted resources to trying to make that possible

Soave said he does not want to promote “absolute alarmism." He does not feel free speech has reached a crisis point (Soave disagrees with the Trump free speech order) but he also believes what is happening on college campuses might “trickle into” workplaces, such as media companies and elsewhere. Soave pointed out that The Atlantic swiftly cut ties with Kevin Williamson, a longtime National Review staffer and arch-conservative, following 2018 backlash against his public statements. Most notably, Williamson posted on Twitter that abortion should be treated like homicide and those who seek abortions should be subject to the death penalty, preferably, in Williamson's view, by hanging.

Soave is unclear where this crisis attitude comes from -- he said he does not believe, as some other pundits do, that liberal professors are brainwashing students. On the contrary, Soave said in his research he found that professors are terrified to broach certain subjects in the classroom for fear of running afoul of the more outspoken progressive students who might take exception to their lessons, even in an academic sense. But he does maintain that some disciplines are more “activist oriented,” such as gender studies and those that study other races.

“I have tried to convince conservatives that I think the liberal professor theory is wrong,” he said.

Soave is more harsh and absolute in his criticism of the Obama administration's rules around Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which were largely credited with providing more protections for sexual assault survivors. While Title IX practitioners have continued to defend Obama’s guidance around the federal sex antidiscrimination law, saying that the guidelines were strong but institutions may have misinterpreted them, Soave wholeheartedly does not support them. In the book, Soave writes that he does believe sexual assault "is all too common, on campus and off."

"The debate is over the size, scope and shape of the problem," Soave wrote. "With activists often taking the most extreme position that patriarchal forces systematically oppress and violate women, particularly women who are, for identity-based intersectional reasons, extra susceptible to marginalization."

He said that the guidance, which came in the form of a Dear Colleague letter in 2011, caused institutions and administrators to overstep and has resulted in some truly farcical Title IX cases. Obama’s guidance was rescinded by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who offered new draft regulations that have yet to be approved by the department. They largely undo the Obama rules and give more latitude to colleges and universities in investigating and adjudicating such matters. Soave said that he’s not particularly optimistic that administrators will change much of anything around Title IX -- in fact, they are likely to double down on their practices given the public’s sensitivity to sexual assault.

Soave said (without data to back this up) that the adjudicators who sit on Title IX panels have a natural bias and tend to side with those accusing others of sexual assault.

“Automatically believing the victim and the application of that mind-set to these cases is disastrous,” Soave said.

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Campus security officers work to inform freshmen on crime prevention

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 2019-06-19 07:00

Living on campus and away from home for the first time, many college freshmen are susceptible to crimes like burglary and theft. But on some campuses, security personnel are trying to help students learn crime-prevention tactics early on.

In recent years, many campuses have started or expanded programs to prevent sexual assault of students. But the crimes many will experience relate to theft, which is why some colleges are stepping up programming on the issue.

According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 6,716 reported burglaries in campus residence halls and 5,299 reported in other areas of campus throughout the U.S. in 2016. There were also 1,106 total on-campus robberies. (Robbery is when an assailant induces someone to hand over their property, while burglary is when someone steals property while the owner is away.)

With all these in mind, some universities are working to ensure students have all the tools necessary to avoid theft when they arrive on campus.

At Winston-Salem State University, a historically black college, crime-prevention learning is incorporated specifically into a required freshman classes, taught by a campus police officer.

“Like many college campuses, larceny is the most reported offense on campus,” Winston-Salem spokesperson Jay Davis said in an email. “This includes students leaving or misplacing student ID cards. To address this issue, WSSU’s Police and Public Safety are taking a layered approach.”

The issue of stealing wallets -- not just in the hopes of finding cash but credit cards as well as student and government IDs for the purpose of identity theft -- has become an increasing trend at universities, according to John Ojeisekhoba, campus security chief at Biola University in California. Ojeisekhoba said along with increasing issues of identity theft, stealing wallets with student IDs can allow criminals swipe-in access to areas of campus where they can find more valuable items to steal. Consumer Reports found there was a 20 percent increase in reported identity theft among college students in 2017.

“The trend coming up is mostly wallets, because you can go easily to any store and use someone’s card,” Ojeisekhoba said. “From a student’s single wallet, there are financial gains -- if there’s money or a card in the wallet, if there’s someone’s ID, that’s icing on the cake for identity theft. Bad guys also know students keep their student ID card in their wallets. They can come back to the campus, access more areas and steal more stuff.”

In 2017 Ojeisekhoba was the recipient of the National Clery Compliance Award for his efforts at Biola. As at Winston-Salem State, Ojeisekhoba said informing students early is key to crime prevention, as freshmen are often targets.

“We do things in different phases,” Ojeisekhoba said. “The orientation information is generic but also has in-depth details. For the orientation, we cover the current crime trends on college campuses.”

At Winston-Salem State, the freshman experience is littered with moments of learning about crime prevention. In addition to the mandatory class, Davis said students periodically break into smaller sessions about crime prevention during the weeklong freshman orientation prior to the start of classes.

As Ojeisekhoba prepares for the arrival of a new freshman class, he plans to keep them up-to-date on the growing issue of bike theft, which he said is on the rise due to the ease with which bikes can be resold. Ojeisekhoba even tested as many available bike locks he could find on the market in order to determine which would be best for students to use and determined that a metal U-lock is preferable. Biola will now hand out 200 free U-locks to students who agree to register their bikes with campus security.

Ojeisekhoba said in his experience, informing students early on about crime trends at their university poises them to be more successful at crime prevention.

“Sometimes we’ll have events in dormitories to make sure we’re reaching freshmen beyond the orientation,” Ojeisekhoba said. “It’s helpful for us and for them to use this medium to educate freshmen.”

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Student debt cancellation pushes to mainstream of higher ed debate

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 2019-06-18 07:00

As the for-profit Corinthian Colleges chain began to collapse in 2015, tens of thousands of borrowers were left with student loans they had no prospect of repaying. Debt activists turned to a novel solution -- they said they wouldn't repay the loans and argued the federal government should clear the student debt.

That campaign resulted in debt relief for thousands of former for-profit students until the loan forgiveness process became the subject of a regulatory rollbacks under the Trump administration. When it began, debt forgiveness was considered an extraordinary solution to a unique problem related to the for-profit sector.

Four years later, though, automatic debt cancellation for every student borrower is being taken seriously as potential policy to address the $1.5 trillion in outstanding federal student loans.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, said last week she would introduce legislation to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for 42 million borrowers, mirroring details she outlined in a presidential campaign proposal estimated to cost about $640 billion.

And Washington-based think tanks are issuing new publications looking into the potential benefits of broad debt cancellation.

Where the 2016 presidential campaign pushed free college onto the national agenda, candidates and policy makers are getting pressure now to take a position on solutions for current student borrowers struggling to repay their loan debt. An idea that was previously relegated to the political fringes -- canceling student debt -- is gaining new momentum. That’s a reflection of just how many borrowers have student debt that is a major concern, observers say.

“Demands previously regarded as laughably unrealistic are now part of mainstream political discourse” thanks to grassroots efforts of student borrowers, said Ann Larson, an organizer with the Debt Collective, the activist group that began pushing for loan forgiveness in response to Corinthian’s collapse.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, is the only other candidate for the Democratic nomination to endorse massive student debt cancellation. But Warren's plan has reshaped the debate over higher ed in the Democratic primary.

Student debt is even drawing the attention of philanthropists and corporate brands. Billionaire investor Robert Smith's announcement that he would pay off the student debt of the entire Morehouse College Class of 2019 created new buzz around big solutions for student debt. It also highlighted the extent to which African American borrowers in particular struggle with student debt burdens.

Even corporate brands are looking to build marketing efforts on the issue, where a few years before they might have offered tuition assistance or free college courses to employees. Fast food chain Burger King last month announced it would pay out $250,000 in student loan payments to customers who use the company’s app. And bargain beer brand Natural Light said in January it would give $1 million for student loan payments.

Student organizers with the Debt Collective pushed the Obama administration to grant debt forgiveness to defrauded students who attended for-profit colleges through a provision of federal law known as borrower defense to repayment. That resulted in more than half a billion dollars in debt cancellation for students before the process ground to a halt under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Warren was perhaps the biggest champion of debt cancellation for defrauded borrowers in Congress. She took then Education Secretary John King to task in 2016 over the pace of relief for former Corinthian students. Her presidential campaign proposal, though, made the case for canceling debt on a much wider basis. The $1.5 trillion in student debt, she argued, amounted to a failed experiment to offload the burden of financing higher education onto students and their families.

Other Democratic candidates have rolled out policy platforms promising to fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program or allow student borrowers to refinance their loans at lower rates. But none have generated buzz like the Warren debt plan. Some polling has found that a majority of Democratic primary voters support the plan.

The proposal has also taken criticism from those who say it isn't targeted enough to borrowers most in need of assistance, that it's too expensive or that it isn’t fair to those who have already paid off their student loans. Warren's proposal would provide debt relief on a limited basis to borrowers with incomes of $100,000 or more. Less than half of borrowers in the top income quintile would receive full student loan forgiveness, compared to more than 80 percent of borrowers in lower income brackets, according to analysis from the campaign.

An analysis from the Brookings Institution, though, found that the proposal would be regressive, because the highest-earning households would receive the most benefits in dollar terms.

But Marshall Steinbaum, a professor of economics at the University of Utah, said arguments that the proposal is regressive understate the extent to which lower-income borrowers increasingly struggle to manage their student loan burdens. They also rely on outdated views of who holds student loan debt, he said, when a college degree has increasingly been a requirement to compete for good-paying jobs.

"Having student debt used to mean you were relatively privileged," he said. "Now it's the case that having student debt, at least among younger cohorts, means you're relatively deprived."

New Focus of Progressive Policy Groups

Steinbaum was the co-author of a 2018 paper from the Levy Economics Institute at Bard College that called for the federal government to wipe away all $1.5 trillion in federal student loan debt, arguing it would stimulate the overall economy. That paper acknowledged that the largest loan balances are held by the highest earners but said that the degree to which student debt is held by high earners has diminished. Steinbaum said it's clear that there's been a shift in the policy discussions over the past year.

"The public is obviously interested in this. And because the public is interested, some policy makers are interested in at least exploring it," he said. "Then you've got the people supposedly responsible for formulating policy dragging behind to keep up with the changing political balance."

Other progressive policy shops -- the kind of places that generate many of the policies candidates run on -- have started to study broad debt cancellation more seriously as well. The Aspen Institute in April issued a paper assessing broad student debt cancellation. And in the past two weeks, Demos and the Center for American Progress have released separate papers examining the potential impact of debt forgiveness along with a range of other potential policies to assist student borrowers.

Both papers examined the equity implications for several potential policies designed to assist current student borrowers, including total debt cancellation, targeted debt relief, reform of various repayment options and student loan refinancing.

Mark Huelsman, associate director for policy and research at Demos, said the idea of loan forgiveness is politically salient for many voters because it addresses an issue they are dealing with today. The Warren proposal would also extend debt forgiveness on federal student loans to individuals who attended private and for-profit institutions, where free college plans address costs at public institutions.

“There was a pretty robust push for bold solutions on college affordability and expanding what was possible from a policy standpoint,” Huelsman said. “It’s taken a little longer to coalesce around a solution for outstanding student loans.”

One reason for that development is an evolving understanding of challenges with loan repayment among researchers who track student loan debt.

“There was an assumption that the student debt problem was concentrated among those at for-profit colleges or predatory programs. Or it was seen as a problem with repayment and not necessarily with debt itself,” he said. “That has shifted over the last couple of years.”

Ben Miller, vice president for higher education at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said new federal data on loan repayment released in recent years have revealed the extent to which even many borrowers who completed degrees struggle to repay student loan debt. Federal data in 2017 showed, for example, that nearly a quarter of black college graduates who entered college in 2003-04 defaulted on their loans within 12 years. Just 6 percent of white borrowers defaulted over the same period.

The various policy proposals from Democratic candidates would have particular benefits for specific groups of borrowers, the two papers found.

“Our hope is that policy makers understand that whatever their given solution is, that it should truly match the problem,” Miller said. “Circumstances for borrowers vary, so the right answer is probably a combination of these tools.”

Tiffany Jones, director of higher education policy at the Education Trust, said the growing focus on solutions for current student borrowers shows a recognition that there are challenges at every part of the higher ed system -- from unaffordable college costs to challenges repaying loans. But she said figuring out how those choices would affect different kinds of borrowers should guide how those solutions are crafted.

“The first step is asking the question, ‘Who is going to benefit?’” she said.

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Professor says his course proposal on conservative thought was rejected because of diversity rule

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 2019-06-18 07:00

Bruce Gilley, a professor of political science at Portland State University, said an international “hate mob” tried to silence him following the 2017 publication of a controversial essay in which he defended aspects of colonialism.

Now Gilley says his own institution won't grant permanent status to a course he designed on conservative political thought because it doesn’t meet a new diversity standard.

Such a standard is a kind of “political litmus test,” Gilley said recently, recalling that colleagues advised him to play the game in seeking permanent course approval: keep his head down, explain how the class advances diversity, equity and inclusion, and then teach as he saw fit.

“I’m at a stage in my career, however, where I don’t want to play these games anymore,” Gilley said. “It’s wrong.”

So in his application for permanent status, Gilley wrote that the combined advanced undergraduate and graduate-level course would contribute to the diversity of ideas on campus.

More specifically, Gilley wrote in the diversity section of his application that the course “contends that fixed group-based identities are both logically and empirically problematic for political communities.” His course would “pay particular attention to the diversity of ideas in a pluralistic society and the variety of voices and learning perspectives that come with this.”

As to how the class would promote “culturally responsive” teaching, Gilley wrote that it would be about “the diversity of intellectual, personal, individual and character-based (rather than group-based) characteristics” of students.

Ideological diversity is of course a goal on college and university campuses. And it’s an increasingly popular response to what Gilley and others call the diversity “agenda.” But some say it's offensive when offered up as an alternative to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in that it erases the lived experience of historically marginalized people and minimizes the effects of structural racism.

Asked about that, Gilley said diversity is a "reasonable" ideal. But diversity of ideas is “logically much more important than diversity of skin pigmentation or genitalia because it speaks to the human condition and what shapes how we think,” he said.

Gilley further said it’s “cultural Marxism” to attribute “goodness” or “badness” to people based on their ideology, and that doing so “threatens the very idea of the university.”

The course description for Conservative Political Thought 485-585 says that conservatism is an “approach to political life that emphasizes prudence, tradition and incremental change.” For that reason, reads the syllabus, “it is sometimes described as a practice of politics without a theory. Yet there is a large body of normative and analytical political theory in the conservative tradition.”

The purpose of the course is to “consider the main theories of conservatism and how they have been applied to political practice,” it says. “An emphasis will be placed on understanding the internal logic and the different strands of conservative political thought and the ways that it has responded to contemporary challenges.”

Gilley’s syllabus includes various introductory readings, several weeks of Edmund Burke, and one week each on European, British, American and black conservatism. It ends with readings on conservatism and public policy. Many colleges offer similar courses.

Portland State's response to Gilley’s application disappointed him.

"At this time there are concerns about the diversity questions as they have been answered," read the minutes of an April meeting at which it was discussed by faculty members from across the university who review course proposals.

Gilley said he was asked to try again but that he didn’t change the course or application in any substantive way.

Last month, he heard from a curriculum coordinator that the proposal was denied by the faculty Graduate Council "because the responses to the diversity perspectives and engagement sections did not support the university commitment to access and inclusion, particularly in regards to providing accommodations to students to the standard set by the Disability Resource Center." There were additional concerns about a missing librarian's statement on resources for the course, which Gilley described as a kind of technicality, easily remedied. He attributes the rejection to his take on diversity.

Gilley has already taught the class twice. The university says he needs permanent status to teach it more than three times. Gilley says he will still teach the class with a temporary course number, and that he’s already scheduled to do so in 2020.

But the denial of a permanent number means that the course can't be included in formal tracks of study, he said. By extension, fewer students will probably end up taking it. And it keeps the department from offering the most well-rounded political philosophy education possible, he added. Students might still learn about conservative political thought, but they'll do so through a liberal lens.

Portland State says that its faculty curricular councils have approved some 340 courses since diversity perspective and engagement guidelines were made part of the course review process in 2016-17. Gilley’s is the only one not approved under the criteria.

Many colleges and universities have in recent years mandated that students take a course or two with a diversity focus. Many colleges also have made diversity, equity and inclusion formal parts of their faculty hiring, review and promotion policies. But far fewer institutions have moved to require that all permanent courses consider diversity, equity and inclusion.

Chris Broderick, university spokesperson, said via email that both the undergraduate and graduate curriculum councils are subcommittees of the Faculty Senate, "which has the authority to approve courses under the shared governance model at Portland State."

The university enrolls 28,000 students from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities and ages, with many first-generation college students, international students, LGBTQ students, veterans and those with disabilities, Broderick said. “That is one of the reasons the faculty graduate and undergraduate councils consider how diversity and inclusion are relevant to course approval. Does the curriculum reflect diversity? Is the instruction plan inclusive?”

In a humanities course, both questions apply, he said. “If it is a science or technical course, the second question is the relevant one.”

Broderick said that Gilley disagreed with the very premise of addressing diversity in his course proposal, but that he can still resubmit it.

Jon Shields, associate professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and co-author of Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University, said Gilley’s syllabus “assigns a nice sample of some of most prominent and thoughtful conservative intellectuals.”

It also brings out the “intellectual breadth of the tradition by highlighting its many currents, Burkean and libertarian, British and European, American and African American,” he said.

Shields added, “There are places where one can take such a course, but they are depressingly few. The conservative intellectual tradition is one that few students are exposed to in college.”

Andrew Latham, a professor of political science at Macalester College, teaches a course on conservative and liberal political thought every other semester. Latham said what while Macalester is a "very progressive,” liberal college, he believes liberal students take the course because they’re interested in how "the other side" thinks.  And the few conservative students who enroll "understand their political philosophy a bit better” as a result.

Latham said he enjoys administrative support for his course within the context of a liberal arts education, and that he tries hard to make it inclusive. His syllabus includes some of the same readings as Gilley’s. "The focus of our inquiries will be upon topics such as 'how should I lead my life?' (ethics), and 'how should we lead our lives together?’ (politics),” Latham’s syllabus reads. Secondary course goals include “familiarizing students with the various ‘languages’ or ‘idioms' of conservative and liberal political thought” and “helping students understand the great political debates between conservative and liberals." The course ends with a paper on "why I am/am not a conservative,” which Latham said was his favorite to read.

Gilley said departments are the ultimate experts in what constitutes a strong course. Asking an outside committee to judge it against standards such as diversity is a dangerously “open door.”

“Where does it end?” he said.

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Study finds falling appropriations will negatively affect degrees awarded by public universities

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 2019-06-18 07:00

A new study finds that states that cut appropriations for higher education see declines in the numbers of bachelor's and doctoral degrees -- with a negative impact on the state's work force.

The study, published as a white paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research titled “Public Universities: The Supply Side of Building a Skilled Workforce,” was written by John Bound, a University of Michigan economics professor; Breno Braga, an Urban Institute research associate; Gaurav Khanna, a University of California, San Diego, economics professor; and Sarah Turner, a University of Virginia professor of economics and education.

The study, according to Braga, found that a 10 percent decrease in state appropriations over time at a public research institution leads to a 3.6 percent decrease in bachelor's degrees awarded. A 10 percent decrease in state appropriations also lead to a 7.2 percent decrease in Ph.D. degrees completed.

“A big highlight that is consistent with other research that has been done is that money matters,” Turner said of the results. “Spending of public universities’ state appropriations impacts degree attainment both at the undergraduate level and at the doctorate level at research universities, and enrollment more broadly at the nonresearch public universities.”

Braga said the research was conducted by comparing institutions across various states where state funding was going up or remaining the same versus states where it was being reduced.

“A couple states like Michigan, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania -- there was a significant decline in state appropriations over the past 25 years,” Braga said. “So we looked at states where the same thing didn’t happen -- Texas or New York State, for example.”

The study also focused on the different methods public research institutions adopted in order to fill the void left by the falling appropriations: many universities began recruiting more out-of-state students, increasing fund-raising or raising tuition. Some institutions recruited more international students, who pay higher fees. However, nonresearch public universities struggled considerably more, according to the study, to replace lost state funding. Those institutions aren't able to recruit nationally or internationally or to raise large sums of private money the way flagships can.

Data showed that at research institutions, as state appropriations declined, in-state tuition was increased while out-of-state tuition remained relatively the same, indicating a higher demand for these types of students who, at the undergraduate level, are typically willing to pay more than in-state students.

Turner said in instances where the lost funding could not be replaced by a new source, there were typically two types of blows to the institution: a reduction in institutional and student support services, as well as instructional resources.

However, Turner said for Association of American Universities public institutions, this frequently didn’t lead to the institution spending less on expenditures per student, while at the broader group of research institutions the study found a 10 percent decline in state appropriations led to a 1.6 percent decline in overall expenditures.

At nonresearch universities, Turner said there’d be a 3 percent decline in total percentages, which goes again into losses for institutional support and instructional resources.

“All institutions are raising prices,” Turner said. “But the price increase in dollar terms tends to be more selective at AAU institutions, and that also is accompanied by a change in the composition of students, which is how those institutions are able to make up for the lost revenues.”

Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, said the study was an indication that students felt the effects of falling appropriations most, and leaves universities struggling with how to serve in-state students.

“When public colleges see drops in funding without finding methods to replace the lost funding, students can’t get the resources they need,” Kelchen said.

Kelchen also pointed to another issue regarding international students, who are often recruited to help fill these holes in appropriations. Kelchen said international students have been increasingly recruited by other English-speaking countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom, flattening out U.S. recruitment of international students.

One of the most significant factors in the study is the effect reduced appropriations has on a state’s work force as degrees awarded decline in the relevant states.

“At the doctorate level, degrees are negatively tied to state appropriations changes, so there’s a labor force affect,” Turner said.

However, Turner said the results were mixed on whether falling appropriations had a negative effect on a university’s research output.

Turner said there are numerous concerns should trends on decreasing appropriations continue, especially on research.

“You run the risk of both eroding the research capacity at the research universities, and then there are declines in resources at the broad-access institutions,” Turner said. “Those declines are likely to reduce the quality of the programming at those institutions. Ultimately the takeaway is that will have negative effects on the supply of skilled workers in the labor force. A simple way to say this is money matters.”

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Colleges award tenure

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 2019-06-18 07:00

Bowling Green State University

  • Dilum De Silva, natural and social sciences/mathematics
  • John Dowd, media and communication
  • Virginia Dubasik, communication sciences and disorders
  • Robert Green, computer science
  • Andrew Gregory, earth, environment and society
  • Nicole Kalaf-Hughs, political science
  • Steve Koppitsch, marketing
  • Liuling Liu, finance
  • Nermis Mieses, music performance studies
  • Lucas Ostrowski, theater and film
  • Hyun Kyoung Ro, higher education and student affairs
  • Farida Selim, physics and astronomy
  • Anita Simic, earth, environment and society
  • Fei Weisstein, marketing
  • Philip Welch, public and allied health

Northeastern Illinois University

  • Rachel Adler, computer science
  • William Adler, political science
  • Sunni Ali, educational inquiry and curriculum studies
  • James Ball, health sciences and physical education
  • Kimya Barden, educational inquiry and curriculum studies
  • Katherine Bird, mathematics
  • Rachel Birmingham-Hoel, justice studies
  • Emily Booms, biology
  • Lewis Gebhardt, linguistics
  • Matthew Graham, mathematics
  • Elisabet Head, earth science
  • Joseph Hibdon, mathematics
  • Aimee Hilado Villalpando, social work
  • Nabil Kahouadji, mathematics
  • Hardik Marfatia, economics
  • Laura Tejada, counselor education
  • Dilek Yunlu, marketing and management

Trinity College, in Connecticut

  • Katherine L. Bergren, English
  • Elizabeth D. Casserly, psychology
  • Tamsin Jones, religious studies
  • Isaac A. Kamola, political science
  • Michelle Kovarik, chemistry
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Liberty University cuts divinity faculty

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 2019-06-17 07:00

A dozen faculty members at Liberty University’s Rawlings School of Divinity learned at the end of May they would not have their contracts renewed, representing significant cuts to the on-the-ground instructional work force of the Christian university in Lynchburg, Va.

At first glance, the cuts would seem to come at an odd time for both Liberty and its School of Divinity. The university and its president, Jerry Falwell Jr. (at right) have never been more prominent culturally or politically. An online education boom has helped fuel massive construction projects on campus. Just last year, the university opened a 275-foot-tall, 17-story tower serving in large part as the home of its divinity programs.

But on-campus and online enrollment in Liberty’s School of Divinity, which were among the university's largest programs in 2013, have been falling in recent years. The declines came as freshman applications to study on Liberty's campus plunged after 2016 -- and as enrollment across the university’s vast online offerings fell by almost 10 percent between 2014 and 2018.

Liberty, where Falwell raised eyebrows by being a key early backer of the Trump campaign and continuing to defend the president through controversies when others stayed silent, has in recent years cast itself as a wildly successful university at the intersection of politics and religion. President Trump spoke at commencement in 2017, President Carter spoke at commencement in 2018 and Vice President Pence spoke at commencement in 2019. First Lady Melania Trump spoke at one of the university’s thrice-weekly convocations in 2018.

Beyond the glamour of the big names, Liberty has put significant changes in place. It’s overhauled its online operations recently and is now making the changes to its School of Divinity, one of the core pieces of its identity as a university.

Those changes haven’t been widely publicized, nor have they been universally well received by those who care about Liberty. Some of those let go were well-loved professors who’d been at Liberty for over a decade. The terms of their departures include offers of severance and also nondisclosure agreements.

Some changes were likely overdue, Falwell said in an interview Friday. He believes the divinity school needed to adapt to a changing culture where students are less likely to work full-time for churches. Consequently, they're interested in different programs and are more likely to pick minors in religion or divinity than the majors they may have chosen in the past.

“The move we made not renewing those contracts is probably a move we should have made -- as purely a business decision, it’s a move we should have made three-four years ago,” he said. “It’s a cultural shift from full-time ministry workers to Christians in all professions working to make a difference.”

Falwell has been unapologetic about running the university as a business. By many metrics, he’s been successful. Liberty has remained massively profitable, increasing its net assets by more than $950 million between 2014 and 2018 while never making less than $188 million in any year during that time frame.

Yet the latest round of cuts may also reflect a university that’s had to fight harder to keep its success rolling than it has previously acknowledged.

Restructuring the School of Divinity

Unlike most universities, where faculty members can earn tenure and the job security that comes with it, almost all Liberty faculty members teach under one-year contracts that are renewed annually. Only the university’s law school offers tenure protection, which is an accreditation requirement of the American Bar Association.

Divinity faculty members whose contracts weren’t renewed at the end of May were offered severance agreements, the terms of which the university didn’t disclose. They have the option of picking up classes to teach online, something many Liberty faculty members already do while teaching on campus under contracts. They were also asked to sign nondisclosure agreements.

Circumstances surrounding the divinity changes drew attention from a range of people who are or who have been affiliated with Liberty University, several of whom agreed to speak with Inside Higher Ed on a condition of anonymity. Some pointed out the timing of the nonrenewals came long after the academic hiring cycle’s peak, potentially making it difficult for affected professors to find full-time employment. Others wondered about the use of nondisclosure agreements, which academic freedom experts view with skepticism.

Affected professors either did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment when contacted. Some divinity school faculty members had acknowledged the cuts in public postings on social media, however.

“I was brought into a room and informed that my position is being terminated (along with those of 11 other faculty in the School of Divinity) as part of a ‘restructuring’ of the SOD,” read one post from a longtime faculty member. “When I asked what the criteria were for terminating my particular position, I was not told what the criteria were but what they weren’t. My position was not terminated based on performance, ethics, student feedback or anything personally related to me or how I impacted the university.”

Comments on the posts reflected concern for the professors.

“I knew it was that time of year again and I’m heartbroken that you are on the list to go. It’s a sad loss for the students. Keeping you and your family in prayer,” read one comment.

“Definitely not out of the norm in LU’s history, but very upsetting -- and one of two of my favorite divinity professors to lose their position at the same time,” read another.

A dozen employees being let go would represent about a fifth of the different deans, faculty members, program chairs and staff members listed on Liberty’s School of Divinity faculty page in early June. But administrators said the actual portion is far smaller, in part because the website doesn’t list adjuncts or others teaching divinity classes.

A former Liberty administrator speaking on a condition of anonymity remembered nonrenewal notices going out earlier in past years so that faculty members would be able to look for another job after the spring semester ended. At the time, nonrenewals were rare and tended to only come after someone failed to perform basic job functions, the source said. Over time, nonrenewal notices crept later as the university moved toward a year-round cycle of program development and hiring instead of a traditional academic calendar.

Liberty’s provost, Scott M. Hicks, said he’s not aware of the timing changing.

“This is the way we’ve functioned since I’ve been provost, and before that, so I'm not aware of how far back it changed,” he said. Hicks became provost in 2018 and was named vice provost of graduate education in 2017. He started at Liberty as a professor in 2007 and became dean of its business school in 2012.

Nondisclosure agreements are good practice, according to Falwell.

“I think that’s just a standard procedure within any school of our size,” he said. “That would be the advice of any labor attorney.”

Nondisclosure agreements have been controversial elsewhere. Purdue University Global said last year that it would stop requiring a confidentiality agreement as a condition of employment after the American Association of University Professors campaigned against nondisclosure agreements and forced arbitration. Purdue Global’s administrators called the nondisclosure requirements boilerplate and said they were inherited from the institution’s predecessor, the for-profit Kaplan University. The agreement had been criticized for forcing professors to waive rights to courses they created.

Nondisclosure agreements also drew scrutiny when Vermont Law School deployed them while trying to close a large budget gap. Faculty members who did not want to be terminated were offered several restructuring options, all of which required them to sign nondisclosure agreements, according to an AAUP report.

Liberty’s case is different because it deals with nondisclosure agreements for faculty members losing their jobs -- faculty members had to sign the agreements when they were signing paperwork for their severance packages. Still, the AAUP associate secretary of academic freedom, tenure and governance expressed some reservations about the practice.

“When it comes to severance, it's of course impossible to answer the question how common NDAs are (since they're confidential),” said the associate secretary, Hans-Joerg Tiede, in an email. “We view a minimum amount of severance (depending on length of service) as a right under our principles, as opposed to something that one obtains in exchange for signing an NDA.”

‘World’s Largest School for Religious Studies’

Liberty’s evangelical identity, string of successes and sheer size combine to play a crucial role in the way it portrays itself -- and in the way at attracts new students. It used to call itself the largest private, nonprofit university in the country and the largest Christian university in the world.

It could claim those mantles in large part because of the enormous scale of its online operations, which enrolled more than 51,000 undergraduates and almost 44,000 graduate students in 2014. Liberty’s on-campus student body was much smaller, at about 12,600 undergraduates and 1,200 graduate students.

The university’s roots date back to 1971, when it was founded by the pastor and televangelist Jerry Falwell Sr. as Lynchburg Baptist College. Liberty dabbled with distance education on VHS tapes in the 1980s but fell upon hard times in the 1990s, nearly closing under a heavy debt load.

But the college pulled through, steered by Jerry Falwell Jr. After the elder Falwell died in 2007, his son took over leading Liberty. Online programs were beginning to boom. Total online enrollment would spike from 36,740 in 2009 to 92,537 in 2013.

Liberty’s resulting prosperity has been a key part of the story supporting Jerry Falwell Jr.’s leadership, even as some longtime university backers balked after Falwell endorsed Trump. For his part, Falwell plowed money back into Liberty’s facilities in Lynchburg, including a new home for the divinity school.

In February 2018, Liberty opened the 17-story Freedom Tower at the heart of its campus, calling it the home of the Rawlings School of Divinity. The tower would be a testament the Liberty’s heritage as a Christian university and “will really make a statement to everyone for years to come about what the school is all about,” Falwell said in a news release at the time.

A year later, the Liberty Journal -- a university publication that lists Falwell as its publisher -- called the tower a “bold tangible sign of Liberty’s commitment to preparing students both academically and spiritually.” The seventh floor of the tower held a lab for “students to sharpen their preaching and public speaking skills,” the Journal noted. The 13th floor held an executive conference room. The facility was not only the “architectural centerpiece of campus,” it was also home to “the world’s largest school for religious studies and ministerial training.”

Against that backdrop, the recent divinity faculty cuts may seem jarring. But the divinity school has in fact been enrolling fewer residential students over much of the last five years.

In the 2013 fiscal year, Liberty’s School of Religion -- which was later combined with its seminary to create the School of Divinity -- had 1,619 residential students, counting undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students. That was 13 percent of Liberty’s resident student body, making the School of Religion the second-largest academic program at the university, behind a grouping of health sciences and nursing.

In 2015, the Rawlings School of Divinity had 1,078 residential students, or 7.4 percent of all students attending class on campus. By 2018, residential enrollment had fallen to 992, or 6.1 percent of all students on campus. The divinity school was then the sixth-largest school or college on campus.

Liberty’s online religion and divinity programs initially held enrollment steadier. But by 2017, they were also shrinking in both total number of students and share of Liberty’s online enrollment.

In 2013, the School of Religion enrolled 19,286 students online. At the time, the school accounted for 21 percent of online enrollment. In 2015, the divinity school had 19,727 students online, or 20 percent of Liberty’s online enrollment.

By 2017, the Rawlings School of Divinity’s enrollment had dropped to 13,688 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students, or 15.8 percent of Liberty’s online enrollment.

Reached by telephone after being presented with those figures Friday, a Liberty spokesman said they were inaccurate. He said he had nothing “quotable” to offer in an interview. Inside Higher Ed informed him that the conversation was on the record. The spokesman reiterated that the numbers were not correct.

“You can publish them, and the day after you publish them, we’ll let the world know your enrollment numbers aren’t correct,” he said. “You might want to go back to your source and say, ‘Button down your numbers.’”

Inside Higher Ed had not disclosed the source of the information. The enrollment figures came from annual disclosure reports Liberty is required to file for bondholders who lent the university money, including through tax-exempt bonds issued through a state agency in 2010. The introductions to the reports bear the signature of Liberty’s senior vice president of finance.

In a telephone interview later, Falwell and several other administrators acknowledged the statistics as correct.

“We’re still the largest school of divinity out there,” Falwell said.

Coupling Ministry With Other Careers?

Fewer students want to study strictly to be ministers than have in the past, Liberty’s leaders said. Instead, they are seeking to pair spiritual work with other careers.

“The world out there is seeing less and less full-time vocational ministers, even in the way that mission is happening on a global front,” said David Nasser, Liberty’s senior vice president for spiritual development. “More people are going in the mission field, and they’re bankers in Hong Kong while they are missionaries.”

In that paradigm, Liberty would be well suited to attract students. The university’s students are exposed to religious study and work in several ways while on campus, taking divinity or religion courses, attending frequent convocations, or volunteering.

“We do have fewer students who are coming here to study to go into full-time ministry, because churches are not what they used to be,” Falwell said. “I don’t know if the numbers are down or if they just changed in their focus. Maybe they’ve taken to heart what Liberty has always said our mission was, and that is to charge students to go into every profession and lead by example.”

Nonetheless, Liberty’s online enrollment trends for divinity may be out of step with other universities'. Many prospective students are focusing on the study of religion, according to Bob Atkins, founder and CEO of Gray Associates, a consulting firm that works on education and technology issues and tracks student demand for programs.

“Gray's data on student inquiries for divinity and ministry programs posted a 19 percent annual gain last year and another 19 percent annual gain through May of this year,” he said in an email. “Inquiry growth was particularly strong for bachelor's degree programs, which experienced 33 percent annual growth; master's degree growth was a more modest 15 percent. But this growth is not coming to a campus near you. Over 90 percent of divinity and ministry inquiries were for online programs. We also noticed that interest seems to be particularly high in the silver segment -- that is, students over 60 years old.”

Falwell predicted Liberty's divinity programs will grow again in the future. The university plans to add a requirement for full-time divinity students to take business courses so they can learn important skills for running a church.

"Learn how to run the business side of the church, how to do what my father did back in the '50s and '60s," Falwell said. "That is, he was sort of a P. T. Barnum -- he'd bring in the world's tallest man, the world's strongest man, if it had some sort of Christian basis. He'd bring in country music stars. He brought in Colonel Harland Sanders one time. I remember that I was 10 years old. He made it entertaining."

Falwell also promised a new focus for full-time divinity students.

"The other thing that we're going to start emphasizing is that these kids going into full-time ministry have to love the people that they're ministering to," he said. "That was the key to my dad's success: he poured everything into those people. He made it entertaining, and he took risks like a businessman would take, and that's not something our divinity school has focused on in recent years. Once we put those measures in place, I think you'll see it grow back to what it was before."

Divinity programs are a significant source of revenue for Liberty. They are among some of the largest Liberty programs for which newly released preliminary data on average graduate loan debt are available from the U.S. Department of Education.

The preliminary data aren’t exact -- they don’t distinguish between debt for graduates of online programs and on-campus programs. Nor do they count debt among nongraduates or graduates of small programs. But they do make it possible to estimate total debt taken on by graduates of certain large programs over a two-year span, and therefore to get a rough sense of how many federal loan dollars a university is collecting from some programs versus others.

Liberty’s master’s degree in theological and ministerial studies had 1,422 graduates between 2015 and 2016. Average debt per graduate was $44,656. That means graduates of the program borrowed a total of $63.5 million in the two-year span.

A total of 1,081 students received bachelor’s degrees from Liberty in religion or religious studies over the two years. Their debt averaged $31,906 at graduation, so total federal borrowing by those students was $34.5 million.

In total, Liberty’s religion programs that were large enough to have data released had 2,966 graduates borrowing a total of about $111.7 million over two years. That’s about 18.7 percent of all borrowing by Liberty students for programs for which data was available. Liberty students in the divinity programs accounted for 16.7 percent of all students for which borrowing data was available.

The federal debt data don’t directly represent revenue collected by Liberty. Some federal loan dollars that are disbursed don’t go to pay tuition or university fees but instead go to students to help them pay for expenses related to their education, like rent or books.

Liberty students across all programs typically receive more than $600 million per year in federal loan funds and more than $100 million annually in federal Pell Grants. In 2018, the university’s students received $617.2 million in federal loan funds, $104.3 million in Pell Grants and another $16.4 million in Virginia Tuition Assistance Grants.

Again, the funds from loan programs don’t necessarily equate to revenue collected by the university, because some of the money is distributed back to students for other expenses.

Struggles Online and a Shrinking Applicant Pool

Liberty’s universitywide online head-count enrollment fell for three straight years after hitting a high of 98,513 in 2015. It fell all the way to 85,848 in 2018. (The illustration at right shows how the online program promotes itself.)

Online enrollment has improved markedly this year, Falwell said. When the 2019 fiscal year closes at the end of June, Liberty could post a record online enrollment of nearly 100,000 students. (Update: Falwell provided new information Monday afternoon indicating online enrollment will total 95,000 at the end of the fiscal year. It still includes the "largest incoming new student class in LU Online history," he said.) 

The university put in place major changes to spark the turnaround, Falwell said.

“We had to fire some people,” he said. “There was some bad management going on. We cleaned house and we brought in the right people and it’s incredible how much they turned it around in two years.”

One person who has worked for Liberty’s online operations declined comment when contacted by Inside Higher Ed but went on to say the experience was “terrifying” and that people had been laid off with “absolutely no warning and no reasoning.” The person went on to explain that current employees would likely not comment because they were “walking on eggshells, trying not to do anything wrong.”

Back on campus, Liberty has been increasing its resident programs’ enrollment. Fall head-count enrollment for undergraduate and graduate students totaled 12,932 in 2013. It rose all the way to 15,549 in 2017. Falwell said overall enrollment continued to grow this year, rising by 400 and potentially pushing Liberty’s campus over the 16,000-student mark.

Freshman applications, on the other hand, are sharply lower than they were in prior years. A total of 28,872 applications came in for students who wanted to study in the fall 2014 semester. Just over 21 percent were accepted, and about 44.2 percent of those accepted matriculated.

Applications rose to 32,115 in 2016, with acceptance and matriculation rates holding roughly steady. But the next year, applications fell to 23,231. They fell further in 2018, to 16,262, meaning applications fell by 49.3 percent in two years.

Even so, Liberty actually raised the number of students matriculating between 2016 and 2018. The university’s acceptance rate jumped to 39.1 percent in 2018, and 49.1 percent of those students matriculated.

Falwell chalked up the steep drop in the number of applications to the university instituting an application fee. He couldn’t say when exactly the fee was put in place. Data in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System indicate Liberty has charged application fees for at least a decade, but the fee could have been waived or deferred in some years.

Administrators also pointed out that Liberty has high retention rates. Freshmen retention from fall 2016 to fall 2017 was 87.4 percent.

Liberty’s six-year graduation rate for full-time, first-time undergraduate students who started in the fall of 2011 and sought an undergraduate degree was 52 percent.

Application trends for residential transfer students, law students and most graduate students have not shown the same recent drop as undergraduate applications. Transfer student applications dropped about 9 percent between 2016 and 2018 to 5,194, law applications rose by almost 16 percent to 279, and graduate applications increased by more than 130 percent to 3,301. Applications to the College of Osteopathic Medicine fell by 41 percent, however, to 2,431.

Liberty reports application and enrollment information for most graduate students separately from graduate students for the divinity school. The School of Divinity has received more applications every year since 2015. Between 2016 and 2018, applications rose by 70 percent to 558. The acceptance rate fell 20 points to 34 percent, and the matriculation rate slipped from 53 percent to 46 percent.

Despite the ups and downs of the different on-campus programs and the struggles with online enrollment, Liberty has posted more than $200 million in profit in every year since 2016. The university’s net assets rose by $276.5 million in 2018, with operating revenue rising year over year by $57.8 million to almost $900 million, versus operating expenses rising by only $27.3 million to $678.3 million.

The current fiscal year, 2019, is shaping up to be better, Falwell said.

“Expenses are way down, and so is the amount we’re spending per student to recruit,” he said. “The bottom line of all that means that this June 30 will be our best year, financially, in the history of the school.”

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Survey shows public's support for, and qualms about, higher education

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 2019-06-17 07:00

Nuance is a good thing, and it tends to help improve our understanding of complex issues and public policy questions. Unfortunately, our political discourse and, increasingly, news media coverage seem less and less inclined to traffic in it.

Take some of the key issues in postsecondary education right now. Most political speeches or media coverage would leave you with the impression that Americans believe college degrees aren't worth the money, that Democrats overwhelmingly support free college as the answer to the college affordability problem, and that Republicans don't care about holding colleges and universities (especially for-profit ones) accountable.

Turns out none of those things are really true -- or at least that the public's true attitudes are much more nuanced than that.

The picture that emerges from Third Way's comprehensive survey of nearly 1,400 Americans who describe themselves as likely to vote in the 2020 general election is of a public that still believes in the value of colleges and universities and their degrees and thinks the institutions must do a better job of educating students affordably and effectively.

The survey also suggests that the public is more centered in its views about higher education than the politicians on the right and left who purport to represent them.

"Voters on both sides of the aisle believe higher education is essential when it comes to helping more students secure the jobs they need to be successful in today’s economy. They also believe that institutions can and should do more to provide value to the students they are supposed to serve -- not just enroll them and cash their checks, but get them to graduation and equip them with the skills they need to get a good-paying job and pay off their loans," the report's co-authors, Tamara Hiler and Lanae Erickson, Third Way's deputy director of education and senior vice president for the social policy and politics program, respectively, wrote of its findings. "That’s why … there is widespread bipartisan support for implementing stronger federal guardrails across the entire system to make sure that both students and taxpayers are getting a real return on their huge investment in higher ed."

A Middle Ground?

The survey is the culmination of a two-year project by Third Way, which describes itself as a think tank that "champions modern center-left ideas." Hiler said that as the group shifted its work from K-12 into higher education, its officials were concerned by an apparent bifurcation in policy makers' ideas about the problems in postsecondary education.

Many Republicans, she said, seemed intent on undoing key accountability measures designed to protect students from predatory or poorly performing institutions. Democrats, by contrast, focused heavily on making college more affordable, with relatively little attention to ensuring that a degree had value. The survey sought to see if there might be areas of agreement at a time when Congress is considering -- though don't hold your breath -- legislation to renew the Higher Education Act.

The survey, which includes 1,389 likely voters drawn heavily from states that are home to key members of the Senate education committee who will craft that legislation, first gauges how the public views various sectors of higher education. Americans have the most positive view of vocational/trade schools and community colleges (83 percent favorable), followed by four-year colleges and universities (69 percent favorable) and for-profit colleges (34 percent favorable). The "higher education system" doesn't fare very well, with 55 percent giving it a favorable rating, and just 17 percent "very favorable."

(The poll's respondents, 43 percent of whom describe themselves as Democrats, 32 percent as Republicans and 25 percent as independent, rate Democrats in Congress more favorably than Republicans over all by a margin of 49 to 35 percent. Forty-three percent of them view the U.S. Education Department favorably, 41 percent give President Trump a positive rating and just 17 percent feel positively about Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Forty percent view her unfavorably, and the rest say they don't know enough about her to judge.)

In addition to the public's generally positive view about colleges, the survey contains some other good news for the institutions.

Strong majorities agree that bachelor's and associate degrees are "worth the investment and usually" pay off (70 and 69 percent, respectively) and that most higher education institutions "provide a high-quality education to their students" (72 percent). Somewhat fewer (59 percent) agree that "higher education institutions are doing a good job of training students for the careers of today and tomorrow."

And asked how they define the value of higher education, 58 percent agreed that it is designed both to "set students up for success in their careers" and "broaden the perspectives of students and make them better and more informed citizens," while 24 percent cited the former purpose and 11 percent the latter.

Other results are likely to concern college officials, though. Respondents divide evenly on how colleges and universities do in providing students a "return on their investment," with 51 percent saying very good or good and 49 percent saying poor or very poor. They feel somewhat better about the institutions in their state, 58 percent versus 42 percent.

Americans overwhelmingly say that rising student loan debt has made them "worry that higher education is not worth it" (84 percent), that students who enroll at a college or university "should be able to repay their student loans" (83 percent) and that "higher education institutions have a responsibility to ensure that most students who enroll graduate" (77 percent). Nearly three-quarters agree that the cost of higher education is "out of control" (72 percent).

But ensuring that students graduate and are able to repay their debt is a shared responsibility, respondents agree. Seventy-eight percent say "the federal government could do more to help make sure students succeed in higher education," and when asked who has more "power" to improve graduation rates, respondents rate colleges and students about equally (86 and 85 percent, respectively), followed by the federal and state governments at 57 and 60 percent.

They give employers, students and colleges roughly equal responsibility for ensuring graduates' employment outcomes after college, but say that governments and colleges have significantly more power than students do to improve student loan repayment rates.

What Should Be Done?

The survey next zeroes in on what respondents think the federal government should (and should not) do to better ensure the value of higher education. Respondents are equally (and overwhelmingly) likely to say that Congress should "address the cost" of higher education (86 percent), increase "guardrails to protect students from predatory and poor-performing schools" (83 percent), and ensure institutions give students "a return on investment" (83 percent).

More than two-thirds say the federal government "should provide basic guardrails to ensure that students aren't encouraged to take out loans to attend predatory institutions that will leave them worse off than when they first enrolled," and that the government should "regulate for-profit, nonprofit and public higher education institutions to make sure they are providing a good return on investment to their students." (The Trump administration has gutted rules that hold for-profit and vocational programs accountable for producing graduates with debt they can't repay.)

When asked to rate a series of possible actions the federal government might take toward higher education, respondents rate increasing the Pell Grant for low-income students (82 percent) far above eliminating tuition for all students at public colleges and universities (57 percent), a policy proposal that prominent Democrats running for president endorse. Ninety percent of Democratic voters in the Third Way survey support expanded Pell, compared to 75 percent backing free college. Eighty-four percent support free community college.

The survey also finds broad support, in both parties, for broad accountability frameworks, though the in-the-weeds nature of some of its questions about specific policy proposals probably make them unreliable gauges.

For instance, the survey asks respondents if they would support "requiring college accreditors to consider student outcomes, such as graduation rates, loan repayment rates and postcollege employment, as part of their review of institutions."

The agencies already do "consider" those outcomes when they do their reviews, in terms of asking those who perform poorly to identify ways to improve; what they don't do currently is to punish institutions specifically because their performance on some of those measures is below a certain threshold. Elsewhere in this list of policy proposals, Third Way asks respondents if they would favor "prohibiting institutions from accessing federal financial aid such as grants and loans if their graduation rate is less than 15 percent," for instance.

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Appeals court reinstates long-standing tenure denial case brought by black law professor

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 2019-06-17 07:00

A federal appeals court in Washington last week revived a former law professor’s tenure denial case against his one-time institution, the University of the District of Columbia.

The case itself is unusual in that the professor, who now goes by the name of Kemit Mawakana, is black and is suing a predominantly black institution for race-based discrimination. He also alleges breach of contract.

The recent appellate decision in Mawakana’s favor is also unusual in that courts typically defer to colleges and universities in faculty tenure and promotion decisions. In the decision, the judges specifically say there must be limits to such deference.

In her opinion for the three-judge panel, Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote that a “constellation of factors suggests to us that a reasonable jury viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Mawakana could find that race was a motivating factor in the university’s decision to deny him tenure.”

Among those factors: the university treated a co-authored work as “inferior” in assessing the tenure application of another black candidate, but not a white candidate, according to court documents. One now former, longtime law dean also treated work published in the university’s own law review as inferior in assessing the application of a black candidate but not a white one.

The same dean, who is white, also allegedly dissuaded another black female candidate from applying for tenure by telling her that she couldn’t rely on legal briefs and memoranda as scholarship -- and then allowed that kind of scholarship from another white candidate.

The dean also “disfavored” Mawakana’s tenure application, Henderson wrote, which matters because the jury could find that her negative stance on Mawakana was a “proximate cause” of the university’s ultimate decision to deny him tenure. The dean had shifting views on the quality of Mawakana’s scholarship and service, for example. She also supported white applicants -- all of eight of them -- for tenure during her deanship. (Another professor testified that the dean once lobbied so hard for a white applicant’s tenure that she “made [it] happen” for that applicant.) In contrast, the dean raised concerns about half of black professors applying or considering applying for tenure, sometimes even before the faculty reviewed their bids.

Henderson cited an email from a chairman of the faculty review committee to a colleague, for example, that reads, “losing four colleagues these past months, all faculty of color … I am not inclined to be pressured by more of [the dean’s] efforts to clean her house.”

While all white tenure applicants during the dean’s tenure got it, five of seven black professors did.

“Those numbers may not be overly alarming until one considers that one of the five was initially denied tenure -- a decision which was reversed only after her [race discrimination] claim survived a motion to dismiss,” Henderson wrote, “and two other black faculty members were dissuaded from applying in the first place because the dean, Katherine 'Shelley' Broderick, told them they had no chance of succeeding.”

As for Mawakana’s breach of contract claim, Henderson said that administrators failed to meet with him during the 2011-12 year to discuss his progress toward tenure, in violation of a possible implied contract stating that such meetings happen annually. Indeed, many institutions operate under the idea that tenure denials should not be a surprise and that professors in jeopardy should be given ample opportunity to improve their records prior to review.

Henderson’s opinion includes a lengthy discussion of the tradition of “academic deference,” or the idea that institutions are best suited to discern the merit of their employees. Ultimately, however, she says that although the First Amendment “grants a university certain freedoms, the freedom to discriminate is not among them.” She underscored the fact that while she and the court don't say discrimination happened, they can't say for sure it didn't.

Mawakana, who formerly went by the name of Samuel Jefferson, began working at the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law in 2006. His initial three-year contract was renewed in 2009. He applied for tenure in 2011. According to court documents, there is no record that Mawakana heard anything about his tenure application in 2011-12.

In fall 2012, he was invited to a faculty subcommittee meeting to go over his application and told that he was, in Henderson’s summation, in “good shape.”

Soon after, though, Mawakana attended a second subcommittee meeting and was told that members had concerns about his bid, specifically his scholarship record. Later that fall, Mawakana was invited to and attended a meeting with Broderick and the faculty subcommittee chairman. They both suggested that he withdraw his application, and Mawakana refused. Several months later, Mawakana learned that his tenure was denied. He sued in 2014.

The university moved to dismiss the case. A district court in 2018 held that the university was entitled to summary judgment, citing the heightened deference accorded to academic decisions and the apparent fact that no “reasonable jury” could find that Mawakana was denied tenure because of his race. The district court also held that Mawakana’s contract claims were untimely, and that even if they’d been made within the timely three-year standard, they didn’t hold because they hadn’t caused Mawakana damages.

Mawakana appealed.

Richard Salzman, Mawakana’s lawyer, said he and his client are “very gratified by the decision” and look forward to the case being sent back for trial.

Universities “must be subject to the same standards as any other employers,” Salzman said, and “affording special deference to tenure decisions merely allows academic employers to more easily mask discriminatory employment decisions.”

Salzman said that Mawakana loved teaching but was “forced” to leave the profession as a result of the dismissal.

“We hope to prove that his firing was unlawful and get his career back on track.”

The university did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Broderick, who is no longer dean but is currently on a planned sabbatical.

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AAUP votes to censure or sanction three institutions at its annual meeting

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 2019-06-17 07:00

The American Association of University Professors voted to censure two institutions for alleged violations of academic freedom and tenure at its annual meeting Saturday in Washington. It sanctioned a third administration for deviating from AAUP-supported norms of shared governance.

The AAUP's censure list now includes 58 colleges and universities. The AAUP’s sanction list is much shorter, at just six administrations -- now including freestanding Vermont Law School. Idaho State University was removed from that list at the meeting.

Investigative reports based on site visits and, where possible, interviews with affected faculty members and administrators precede censure and sanction votes. And an AAUP report from May on Vermont Law School found that the institution violated shared governance when it moved 14 of 19 total tenured professors to contingent appointments without faculty involvement or approval. The law school said it had to act fast to close a $2 million budget deficit and that faculty members were encouraged to participate in the process. But the AAUP found that faculty involvement was never designed to be meaningful, as the involuntary restructuring was about transferring most of the teaching workload to lower-paid adjunct professors.

Thomas McHenry, president and dean, said via email Saturday that the school is “disappointed by the AAUP’s action and the process by which the AAUP reached its conclusions.”

It’s “important to remember that the AAUP is an advocacy organization and is not involved in the accreditation of Vermont Law School. VLS nevertheless continues to abide by the AAUP’s stated principles of shared faculty governance and academic freedom,” he added.

An AAUP report from October, based on site visit to St. Edward’s University in Texas, concluded that the institution had quickly disposed of three outspoken faculty members, two of whom had tenure. The AAUP’s investigating committee found credible two faculty members’ claims that their criticism of administrative decisions led to their dismissal. The committee also found that a tenure-track faculty member hadn’t been afforded adequate notice of nonrenewal or a chance to appeal before a faculty body -- possibly as a consequence of reporting an administrator for alleged sexual harassment. That allegation went unrefuted, “absent an appropriate faculty review procedure,” according to the AAUP.

St. Edward’s also has a generally “abysmal” climate for academic freedom and shared governance, leading to “widespread fear and demoralization among the faculty,” the investigating committee found.

The university did not respond to a request for comment about the AAUP’s censure vote. It said in an earlier statement about the inquiry that it has “a robust commitment to tenure and academic freedom” and values “our strong faculty leaders who form an essential part of shared governance at the university.” George Martin, St. Edward’s president, declined to meet with AAUP investigators when they visited campus in August, they said.

Nunez Community College in Louisiana found its way onto AAUP’s censure list for terminating an associate professor of English who had served the institution for 22 years -- over the phone. Nunez doesn’t have tenure, but AAUP maintains that professors are entitled to tenure-like due process protections based on length of service.

Nunez previously declined to comment on the specific circumstances of the case and did not respond to a request for comment about the vote. The professor says he was terminated because he refused to fabricate data on student learning outcomes for accreditation purposes. Nunez said previously that it ensures all faculty members' academic freedom.

While censure and sanction are symbolic actions, institutions often work hard to get off the AAUP’s blacklists, typically after a change in leadership. Such is the case of Idaho State University, which was sanctioned in 2011 after the Idaho State Board of Education suspended the Faculty Senate on the recommendation of the university’s president. That followed a period of tension between the university faculty and administration.

With a new president now in place, Idaho State recently approved a faculty-backed Faculty Senate constitution. Following its adoption by the Idaho State Board of Education, the faculty this spring elected a new senate under the revised constitution.

Kevin Satterlee, Idaho State’s president, said in a statement that administrators and faculty members “are working hard to build a positive and productive relationship based on the tenets of shared governance. It is my hope that we continue to work together to build a relationship built upon trust and mutual accountability. I am continually impressed by our faculty and their dedication to our students and the mission of the university. I believe that the university and our students benefit when we can work together collaboratively, inclusively and transparently.”

Seyed H. Mousavinezhad, professor of electrical engineering and co-chair of the new Faculty Senate, said that 90 percent of the faulty had approved the new senate constitution and that the on-campus environment is now “very positive.”

Maricopa Community Colleges in Arizona could have been cited by the AAUP this year. Previously, an AAUP investigating committee looked into the actions of the governing board of the Maricopa County Community College District, which terminated a “meet-and-confer” process of shared governance. The board also did away with the entire faculty manual.

But since the AAUP’s first look, the situation for Maricopa’s faculty members has “taken a welcome turn,” the association reported Saturday. The board has new members and a new president, who reversed the actions of their predecessors, for example.

Also at its meeting Saturday, the AAUP honored Jennifer K. Kerns, assistant professor of history at Portland State University, and Christine Blasey Ford, professor of psychology at Palo Alto University, with its Georgina M. Smith Award. The award goes to those who have provided “exceptional leadership in a given year in improving the status of academic women or in academic collective bargaining and through that work has improved the profession in general,” according to the AAUP. Ford, who accused U.S. Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault last year during his confirmation process, was not in attendance but accepted the honor.

Ford “demonstrated remarkable courage, grace and generosity in sharing her own story of sexual assault in the highly public and publicized U.S. Senate hearing,” according to the AAUP.

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Harvard professors vow new effort to promote open debate

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 2019-06-17 07:00

Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. and Stephanie Robinson, two married Harvard University law professors, were not renewed in their positions as faculty deans of the residential Winthrop House after a series of controversies set off by Sullivan's decision to defend Harvey Weinstein. The couple has now released a video saying they are launching a new effort to speak out to promote open debate at the university.

Sullivan and Robinson found themselves at the center of controversy last month as students demanded action over the fact Sullivan chose to serve on the legal defense team for Weinstein. Weinstein, a former Hollywood producer, is facing sexual assault charges and a series of allegations of sexual harassment. The charges against him were a major spark for the Me Too movement. Sullivan said in a new video he is no longer defending Weinstein, as the new trial date interfered with his teaching schedule, but he rejected the idea that his defense of anyone should limit his role at the university.

Appearing with Robinson in the video, Sullivan discussed the decision not to reappoint the two and said definitively it was because he chose to defend Weinstein. However, Sullivan said what’s at stake in the situation goes beyond him and threatened the “great democratic experiment.”

“In America, everyone is entitled to a defense,” Sullivan said in the video. “In America, everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Freedom of intellectual inquiry and reasoned discourse and debate are central characteristics of higher education.”

Harvard maintains Sullivan and Robinson were not renewed due to other issues as faculty deans, not over Sullivan’s decision to defend Weinstein.

“As we have repeatedly stated, the decision not to renew Ronald Sullivan and Stephanie Robinson was not directly related to the Weinstein representation, but rather due to their failure to fulfill their responsibilities as faculty deans of Winthrop House,” Harvard spokesperson Rachael Dean said via email.

In his message to the campus over the decision not to renew Sullivan and Robinson, Harvard College dean Rakesh Khurana said there had been “numerous” reports of the two creating a negative climate within Winthrop House.

“Over the last few weeks, students and staff have continued to communicate concerns about the climate in Winthrop House to the college. The concerns expressed have been serious and numerous,” Khurana said. “The actions that have been taken to improve the climate have been ineffective, and the noticeable lack of faculty dean presence during critical moments has further deteriorated the climate in the house. I have concluded that the situation in the house is untenable.”

Sullivan said that all at Harvard, including its “most senior leadership,” know the decision was based on his defense of Weinstein. Students at Harvard led protests and created petitions calling for his removal. Sullivan said Harvard is failing to uphold its own values.

“When Harvard University, to which the entire world looks for leadership abandons its commitments to academic freedom and leadership, open and unfettered debate, it undermines its responsibilities and its opportunities,” Sullivan said. “Regrettably, Harvard’s administrators acted in ways grossly antagonistic to the very norms that make Harvard the epitome of higher education.”

Robinson said that dissent was “essential” but that demonization was “unacceptable,” which she said is part of a larger societal problem that Sullivan and Robinson hope to continue to address. Robinson specifically listed “feelings, emotions and ad hominem attacks” as things that have no place in an intellectual argument. Robinson said the Harvard students and faculty members would continue to hear from her and Sullivan regarding these issues.

"Ron and I are here today to say that dissent is essential, but that demonization is unacceptable," Robinson said. "Since our time as students here at Harvard, we have joined in vigorous protest for the causes that are important to us. But we did not demonize the people with whom we disagreed. We did not ever attack the character of innocents."

“A university, it’s a place where bright young minds are supposed to learn the discipline of framing and grappling with arguments and … respecting and understanding the views of others,” Robinson said. “So when a place like Harvard pays insufficient attention to that vital work, it not only betrays the ambitions of the university and its students, but it quite frankly betrays our academic traditions.”

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Columbia law adjunct is latest to leave academe following release of new film on Central Park Five

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 2019-06-14 07:00

It’s been nearly three decades since teenagers known as the Central Park Five were convicted for a rape they didn’t commit, nearly two decades since their sentences were vacated and five years since New York City settled with them for $41 million. But the fallout from that case -- recently retold in a Netflix series by director Ava DuVernay -- continues, with implications for academe.

Most recently, this week, Elizabeth Lederer, lead prosecutor in the case, resigned from teaching law as an adjunct at Columbia University. Gillian Lester, dean of law, announced Lederer’s departure in an email to the school that included a quote from Lederer. She said she enjoyed teaching at Columbia and interacting with its many fine students, but that the “nature of the recent publicity generated by the Netflix portrayal of the Central Park case” makes it “best for me not to renew my teaching application.”

Lester, the dean, wrote that the miniseries, When They See Us, released May 31, has “reignited a painful -- and vital -- national conversation about race, identity and criminal justice.” She said she is “deeply committed to fostering a learning environment that furthers this important and ongoing dialogue, one that draws upon the lived experiences of all members of our community and actively confronts the most difficult issues of our time.”

Noting that she’d convened a special committee on diversity and inclusion last year, Lester also thanked the Black Law Students Association for its recent input on those ongoing goals.

Lester was presumably referring to a letter from the Black Law Students Association released Tuesday calling for Lederer’s termination. The "lives of these five boys were forever changed as a result" of her conduct, the letter says. Students, it notes, have previously pushed for Lederer’s termination, including following a 2012 documentary about the case co-produced by Ken Burns, to no effect. (At the time, Columbia reportedly removed a reference to the Central Park Five case from Lederer's online biography.)

A day later, Lester announced that Lederer told her she’d decided not to seek reappointment. University officials did not respond to requests for comment about the terms of Lederer’s departure, nor did Lederer. She has not publicly commented on the Netflix series or her role in the case.

Lederer still has her day job as a prosecutor with the New York County district attorney's office. But her departure from Columbia is surprising, not only because the case is decades old but because the institution has a particular reputation for welcoming controversial speakers and scholars. It was there in 2007, for example, that then president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran proclaimed there were no gay Iranians and expressed doubt about the Holocaust and Sept. 11. Columbia president Lee C. Bollinger introduced him as a “petty and cruel dictator” but said “this event has nothing whatsoever to do with any rights of the speaker but only with our rights to listen and speak. We do it for ourselves.”

Still, teaching law is very different from visiting a campus to speak, as many of Lederer’s critics have argued.

Elie Mystal, a writer for Above the Law, said there that if Lederer "had reckoned with her mistakes and apologized for them, I could see an argument for keeping her on as a lecturer. After all, lawyers are going to make mistakes. They’re going to pursue the wrong leads. They’re going to defend the wrong people or prosecute the wrong people. How they ethically deal with their bad calls is at least as important as how they make the good calls." Yet it appears "she’s unable or unwilling to do that," he wrote, and Columbia "should not be teaching their students that being a lawyer means never having to say you’re sorry."

Last week, Linda Fairstein, another prosecutor in the case -- who is portrayed even more negatively than Lederer in the series -- resigned from Vassar College's governing board. Similar to Columbia, Vassar faced pressure to end its relationship with Fairstein following the series’ release. Fairstein writes crime novels and was also dropped by her publisher.

Vassar's president, Elizabeth H. Bradley, said in a statement, "I am told that Ms. Fairstein felt that, given the recent widespread debate over her role in the Central Park case, she believed that her continuing as a board member would be harmful to Vassar."

Recent days have “underscored how the history of racial and ethnic tensions in this country continue to deeply influence us today, and in ways that change over time,” Bradley also said. “As I have received many emails and phone calls from people who have expressed a broad range of views on this issue, I am reminded of William Faulkner’s quote ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’”

Unlike Lederer, Fairstein has spoken out against the Netflix series. In an op-ed this week in The Wall Street Journal, she said it "attempts to portray me as an overzealous prosecutor and a bigot, the police as incompetent or worse, and the five suspects as innocent of all charges against them. None of this is true."

Some of the teenagers admitted to other, lesser crimes committed in the park that night in 1989. But DNA evidence now makes clear that they did not rape the jogger whose story preoccupied the city and the country at the time. Then New York City resident Donald Trump was among the teens' most vocal critics, even taking out a full-page newspaper ad to call for their execution.

Of the backlash against the series, DuVernay tweeted, “Expected and typical. Onward.”

While Columbia and Vassar say that Lederer and Fairstein, respectively, quit, Harvard University last month announced that it would not renew a deanship for law professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., who had been leading one of the university's residential colleges with his wife. Sullivan has been praised for his work for those who have been unfairly incarcerated. But some began to call for his ouster after he joined Harvey Weinstein's defense team.

Harvard attributed its decision to unspecified "climate" issues in the residential college, but some continue to suspect that Sullivan's affiliation with the accused sexual predator is to blame. Harvard has in turn been criticized for appearing to defer to student demands that brush up against the constitutional right to a fair defense.

Michael Olivas, professor of law at the University of Houston and former general counsel for the American Association of University Professors, said he found When They See Us so tough to watch that he couldn’t finish it. But he said he didn’t believe that Lederer’s actions disqualified her as a teacher. He also said that it didn’t appear that her academic freedom had been violated, since she’s a contingent academic who left of her own accord.

“Think about all the lanes on this highway,” Olivas said. “I think all involved behaved very professionally in their own way," from students to Columbia to Lederer. Academic FreedomFacultyEditorial Tags: LawFacultyLaw schoolsLegal issuesImage Caption: Promotional material for 'When They See Us'Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 4Diversity Newsletter publication date: Monday, June 17, 2019Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: Past as PresentMagazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Fallout From a FilmTrending order: 1College: Columbia University in the City of New YorkDisplay Promo Box: 

New Corcoran exhibition highlights Mapplethorpe cancellation

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 2019-06-14 07:00

Thirty years ago, the Corcoran Art School and Gallery gained national attention when it canceled an exhibit of photographs, some sexually explicit, by Robert Mapplethorpe, amid political criticism over federal support for the show. Now, the gallery is hoping to confront one of the most controversial moments in its past with a new exhibition showcasing the history behind the cancellation.

The Corcoran became part of George Washington University in 2014. In the late 1980s, the Corcoran was at the center of the debate over freedom of expression in the arts when it planned to showcase the controversial works of Mapplethorpe, a photographer. The exhibition would never open -- instead the gallery bowed to political pressure and chose not to showcase the works.

This weekend the Corcoran will open “6.13.89: The Canceling of the Mapplethorpe Exhibition,” displaying both internal and external documents related to the highly public controversy surrounding the original exhibition. Sanjit Sethi, director of the Corcoran school, said showing this exhibition will be vital to helping the gallery confront a dark moment from its past.

“The Corcoran has obviously gone through a significant degree of change over the years,” Sethi said. “It’s been going through changes and challenges over time. There’s no way as an educational community … that we couldn’t mark what happened 30 years ago. We really had to. There’s no way we couldn’t have conceptually or philosophically continued without asking ourselves, ‘How far have we come?’”

The current exhibition moves chronologically through a group of documents that depicts the story of the Mapplethorpe cancellation. The exhibition begins with documents discussing plans to bring Mapplethorpe’s “Perfect Moment” exhibition to the Corcoran, and moves through press releases and advertising discussing the planned exhibit of Mapplethorpe’s work. The documents were compiled after the Corcoran was incorporated into GWU five years ago and have not been publicly displayed before.

The exhibition then moves through the pressure that was exerted on the gallery regarding Mapplethorpe’s work, including a letter penned by members of the U.S. Congress condemning the exhibition and another artist's work.

"We, the undersigned Members of Congress, are outraged to discover two recent grants to 'artists' which lead us to question whether the National Endowment for the Arts is spending tax dollars in a responsible manner," the letter read.

Mapplethorpe’s “Perfect Moment” was particularly controversial because it was partially subsidized by the NEA. Mapplethorpe's art in the exhibit depicted the human form in a variety of ways, incorporating nudity, gay eroticism and images depicting sadomasochism.

Sethi said as he looks at cultural institutions today, he believes they have an obligation to protect freedom of expression -- regardless of NEA funding.

“I don’t think the NEA is funding too much in higher ed anymore,” Sethi said. “I think there’s the possible precipitation of another conversation of what it means to be American. Are we really for a dynamic, culturally accepting, norm-disrupting and culturally creative society, or are we for something more homogenous? That’s where I think all cultural institutions [are], regardless of whether they have NEA funding or not. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too -- you can’t assume someone else is going to push for those dialogues.”

Members of Congress spoke vehemently against the exhibition, and amid the pressure, gallery leadership made the decision to cancel the exhibition. In the center of the room in the 2019 exhibition is a case displaying the documentation surrounding the decision to cancel the exhibition created on June 13, 1989 -- giving the current exhibition its name. The document in the center is the press release announcing the cancellation of the exhibition and explaining the reasoning behind it. Sethi said the central location of these documents reflected what the exhibition is all about.

“This exhibition needed to be done internally by members of our community to be able to assess and understand what occurred,” Sethi said. “It’s important for us to look at through the lens of our students and the lens of our faculty.”

Several recent graduates of the Corcoran school worked to create the exhibition by analyzing the documents. One graduate, Maddy Henkin, said the documents give the exhibition the opportunity to tell several stories at once.

“What this exhibition is trying to highlight is various points of the story and individual narratives happening within this greater narrative,” Henkin said. “I think that’s the beauty of doing an archival show, because you can show so many aspects of a story.”

To the right of the central case in the exhibition is a group of cases showcasing the aftermath of the decision to cancel “Perfect Moment.” Press clippings, letters expressing displeasure and quotes from protesters are shown.

After the original cancellation, LGBT rights proponents and free expression activists protested at Corcoran, earning an apology from the Board of Trustees.

Sethi said due to the Corcoran’s commitment to artistic freedom of expression, the gallery needed to address and reflect on the Mapplethorpe incident.

“The Corcoran really has to be at the forefront of critical dialogues and conversations involving social critique,” Sethi said. “Other cultural institutions need to do the same, and they need to do a better job of it probably. We had to showcase this because we have this moment in time where we didn’t stand up for these issues, so it has to be a critical dialogue with us now.”

Though much has changed, Sethi said America is at the forefront of a new culture war, and to not reflect on the past will be disadvantageous to institutions like the Corcoran. Sethi said he hopes the exhibition will allow viewers to look back on the Corcoran’s past mistakes and help the Corcoran move forward as an institution.

“We need to do a better job of exhuming the ghosts of our past and talking about them, frankly.”

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Mexico backs down on rules that would have limited ability of researchers to travel

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 2019-06-14 07:00

Mexican scholars have warned of a breakdown of relations with the country’s president after he was forced to backtrack on strict new measures that would have banned all unauthorized foreign travel by researchers.

A “memorandum of austerity” published on May 3 outlined plans by the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador to reduce public spending on science, including a 50 percent cut in academics’ international travel expenditure and a 30 percent cut to budgets earmarked for travel within the country.

The plans would have required all staff employed by Mexico’s federally funded research agencies to seek authorization -- signed off by the president himself -- to travel abroad.

At a press briefing, López Obrador, who began his presidential term in December, told researchers planning work-related travel that “if … you can resolve something over the telephone, do it and save [money] instead.”

But the strictness of the proposals resulted in an angry backlash from academics, forcing the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) to adjust the criteria on June 5.

“Students, researchers and academics in the science and technology sector who do not hold command and liaison positions are not required to request authorization for academic commissions abroad,” the council said.

The news came as a relief to Marcos Namad, a postgraduate researcher at the publicly funded Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute (Cinvestav). Having been accepted for a placement at a research center in Chicago in July, he was told that the austerity proposals meant that his trip would be canceled and that the money he had spent on flights would not be reimbursed.

Now that the restrictions have been loosened, his trip is unlikely to be affected. “Even so, there are many austerity measures that are affecting our salaries and academic work,” Namad warned. “Part of this problem is that there is no distinction between bureaucrats or public officials and researchers in government-dependent research centers.”

Eugenia Roldán Vera, a researcher in history and philosophy at Cinvestav, said the measures had had a chilling effect on the scientific community and were indicative of a growing divide between academe and the state.

“What scientists are most opposed to is not the fact that travel must be authorized [or limits on] travel funds,” she said. “What is unacceptable for all is that the president himself wants to authorize them. This dominance of the political over the academic is unprecedented.”

Public sector employees in managerial positions at public institutions such as Cinvestav still must refer travel requests to Conacyt representatives for authorization. To win approval, López Obrador said, applicants had to provide evidence that the trip was “most indispensable, [and] that they are not going to do political tourism … at the expense of the treasury.”

But Roldán Vera said the idea that the president perceived researchers as “public officials” was nonsense. “I think that there is a determined policy of reducing public spending on science from the perspective that science is superfluous for society, that there is a divorce between science and social welfare, and that scientists are a privileged class because we [have] earned good salaries,” she said.

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Colleges award tenure

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 2019-06-14 07:00

Clarkson University

  • Ali Boolani, physical therapy

Colby College

  • Denise Bruesewitz, environmental studies
  • Tasha Dunn, geology
  • Daniel LaFave, economics
  • Elizabeth McGrath, physics and astronomy
  • Ronald Peck, biology
  • Sonja Thomas, women’s, gender and sexuality studies
  • Natalie Zelensky, music

Indiana University Northwest

  • Tia Walker, chemistry
  • Micah Pollak, business

Norwich University

  • David Feinauer, electrical engineering
  • Llynne Kiernan, nursing
  • Sean Kramer, mathematics
  • Min Li, sociology
  • Tolya Stonorov, architecture
  • Matthew Thomas, psychology
  • Jessica Wood, nursing

University of San Diego

  • Emilie Amrein, music
  • Jessica Bell, chemistry and biochemistry
  • Barbara Bliss, business
  • Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, peace studies
  • Saturnino Garcia, engineering
  • Adam Haberman, biology
  • Imane Khalil, engineering
  • Koonyong Kim, English
  • Diane Keeling, communication studies
  • Marcelle Maese-Cohen, English
  • Rico Monge, theology and religious studies
  • Ivan Ortiz, English
  • Greg Prieto, sociology
  • Martin Repinecz, languages, cultures and literatures
  • Ruixia (Sandy) Shi, business
  • Steve Tammelleo, philosophy
  • Suzanne Walther, environmental and ocean sciences

Virginia Tech

  • Nicole Abaid, biomedical engineering and mechanics
  • Irving Coy Allen, biomedical sciences and pathobiology
  • Lara Anderson, physics
  • Thomas Archibald, agricultural, leadership and community education
  • Brian Badgley, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences
  • Edwin Barnes, physics
  • Scott Barrett, forest resources and environmental conservation
  • Andrea Bertke, population health sciences
  • Jennifer Bondy, sociology
  • Cayelan Carey, biological sciences
  • Leandro Castello, fish and wildlife conservation
  • Clayton Caswell, biomedical sciences and pathobiology
  • Julianne Chung, mathematics
  • Kelly Cobourn, forest resources and environmental conservation
  • Harpreet Singh Dhillon, electrical and computer engineering
  • Samer El-Kadi, animal and poultry sciences
  • Gonzalo Ferreira, dairy science
  • James Gray, physics
  • Adrienne Ivory, communication
  • Ran Jin, industrial and system engineering
  • Changhee Jung, computer science
  • Luke Juran, geography
  • Andrew Kemper, biomedical engineering and mechanics
  • Brook Kennedy, industrial design
  • Kiho Lee, animal and poultry sciences
  • Yang Liu, mechanical engineering
  • Nneka Logan, communication
  • Paul Marek, entomology
  • Frank May, marketing
  • F. Marc Michel, geosciences
  • Yuliya Minkova, modern and classical languages and literatures
  • Shalini Misra, urban affairs and planning
  • Kimberly Morgan, agricultural and applied economics
  • Marcus Myers, communication
  • Amanda Nelson, School of Performing Arts
  • Charles Nichols, School of Performing Arts
  • Kenneth Oestreich, biomedical sciences and pathobiology
  • Megan O'Rourke, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences
  • Bodicherla Aditya Prakash, computer science
  • Robin Queen, biomedical engineering and mechanics
  • Jennifer Sano-Franchini, English
  • Andrew Scerri, political science
  • Kendra Sewall, biological sciences
  • Nina Stark, civil and environmental engineering
  • Robert Thomas, forest resources and environmental conservation
  • Kelly Trogdon, philosophy
  • Xiaowei Wu, statistics
  • Ariana Wyatt, School of Performing Arts
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Communication scholars debate how the field's distinguished scholars should be picked going forward, in the interest of diversity, equity and inclusion

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 2019-06-13 07:00

All but one of the National Communication Association’s 70 distinguished scholars are white. Most if not all members of the organization agree that’s a problem. But the association’s new plan for selecting its distinguished scholars -- in which a special committee, not the existing group of scholars, chooses new honorees -- has proven controversial. And one of the association’s distinguished scholars in particular just fanned the flames with an editorial that critics say pits merit against diversity.

“The change is being pursued under the banner of ‘diversity,’ which is, of course a god-term of our age, and rightly so,” Martin J. Medhurst, distinguished professor of rhetoric and communication and professor of political science at Baylor University, and editor of Rhetoric and Public Affairs, wrote recently therein about the association’s procedural shift. “But there is a difference in trying to promote diversity within a scholarly consensus about intellectual merit and prioritizing diversity in place of intellectual merit.”

He continues, “Let me be clear: I strongly support diversity and recognize that social, cultural and racial perspectives make a difference in what is studied and how it is studied. The work of the field has been enriched as it has become more diverse. That is a belief, I am sure, shared by the distinguished scholars as a group. We support diversity, but not at the price of displacing scholarly merit as the chief criterion for selecting distinguished scholars, choosing journal editors and evaluating research.”

Beyond the distinguished scholar question, Medhurst says the “far more important issue is what sort of organization the NCA will be. One where selections are made on intellectual merit or one where identity is prioritized over intellectual and scholarly merit? One where new journal editors are chosen on their background, publication record, vision and experience, or one where the color of one’s skin or one’s gender trumps everything else?”

In addition to negative comments on social media, some association members have called for a boycott of Medhurst’s journal.

“Cut all ties to Rhetoric and Public Affairs. Don’t submit there. Don’t review. Don’t cite. Urge others to do the same,” Ragan Fox, professor of communication at California State University at Long Beach, wrote on his blog. Parodying Medhurst’s editorial, Fox also wrote, “‘I strongly support diversity’ as long as it doesn’t interfere with a system of meritocracy that is set up to continue rewarding straight white dudes. ‘I strongly support diversity’ in one breath but call it a ‘god term’ in another. ‘I strongly support diversity’ by abstractly encouraging people of color and sexual minorities to apply; just don’t ask me to address the barriers that inhibit their advancement.”

In a more formal response to Medhurst that has been widely shared among communication scholars, Mohan J. Dutta, Dean's Chair Professor of Communication at Massey University in New Zealand, wrote on his blog, “He wants us to take his assurance on face value that there is no basis for the implicit assumption of racism.” Yet, “paradoxically,” Dutta says, “the very communicative strategies Prof. Medhurst uses to set up the false binary of ‘diversity’ versus ‘merit’ reflects the implicit bias that perhaps the NCA [executive committee] was seeking to address.” He further accuses Medhurst of caricaturing the concept of identity.

Star Muir, associate professor of communication at George Mason University and president of the association, said Wednesday that his organization is absolutely trying to address structural racism, in part due to a #CommunicationSoWhite campaign by members who want it to do more to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. That includes how it looks to underrepresented scholars when a group of mostly white men act as a gatekeepers to a major honor within the field.

Distinguished scholars nominated and selected new distinguished scholars, up to five annually, through 2015. That year, hoping to change up the pool, the association opened up nominations to all association members. But even that didn’t change the candidate list significantly. Just a few scholars of color have been nominated for the honor since. Just one of those was selected -- by fellow distinguished scholars, who still did the final picking.

“They’re kind of focusing on the wrong aspect of the problem in trying to drum up more and more nominations for a process which is controlled by almost 100 percent white scholars,” Muir said. “That’s not going to go very well perceptually, and it hasn’t, empirically.”

Muir sighed, “The issue is it’s really difficult to do change.” Still, he said he believed that Medhurst’s editorial had given a boost to the new effort. Many people who may not have otherwise known about the change have reached out to him to comment -- overwhelmingly positively, he said. The distinguished scholars will now be decided by a committee, with association oversight, similar to how other association awardees are chosen.

Medhurst said in an interview Wednesday that he, too, has received much positive feedback about his essay. He again said that he and his fellow distinguished scholars believed in diversity. But he outlined several problems with the association’s action. Among them: the change was decided unilaterally by the executive council; it strips the distinguished scholars of their last remaining decision-making authority and, arguably, their raison d’être; and it suggests that the scholars are racist.

“We’ve made several suggestions about how we could increase the diversity of the pool, and the main problem, as I see it, is we have almost no people of color being nominated. We can’t select somebody who hasn’t been nominated.”

Medhurst said he had an idea that would solve the pool problem, but he declined to share it, saying he hadn’t pitched it to the entire group of distinguished scholars yet. He also said he wasn't concerned with the journal boycott, since those who seem to be supporting it don't interact with his publication. Still, he pulled the editorial Wednesday and announced a forthcoming journal issue on the "politics of merit."

In the meantime, Medhurst said, “What I’m arguing is that academic merit, scholarship and ideas need to have priority over everything else, including ideology … We need to look first at the ideas, not the person.”

Many scholars would say that pure meritocracy is a myth, given the power of implicit bias and the structural and perception issues Muir mentioned -- such as scholars of color not nominating themselves or peers for an honor decided by all (or almost all) white gatekeepers. Still, some elite scholarly societies, such as the National Academy of Sciences, still allow current members to elect their new peers.

Fox said Wednesday that it's true he doesn't read Rhetoric and Public Affairs. But "I’ll use whatever platform I have to discourage people from supporting the journal." Medhurst "seriously underestimates the mobilization and passion of people whose work the distinguished scholars have historically dismissed. At least he’s consistent." He added that by "Medhurst’s own admission, the distinguished scholars have a singluar task," to "reproduce the structure of their own authority."

Muir said Medhurst and his colleagues have long been made aware of the association’s concerns and that whatever they propose, the NCA is moving forward, not backward.

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Marygrove College in Detroit announces plans to close amid continuing enrollment declines

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 2019-06-13 07:00

Marygrove College will shut down at the end of the upcoming fall semester after the small Roman Catholic institution in Detroit was unable to escape from enrollment and financial pressures by dropping undergraduate education.

College leaders announced closure plans Wednesday, less than two years after saying in August 2017 that they would try to keep Marygrove open by cutting undergraduate offerings and focusing on graduate and professional education. Marygrove eliminated undergraduate programming at the end of the fall 2017 semester, meaning it will have operated in its current form for two years when it ends operations.

Enrollment at the college has been on a downward trajectory for years, even aside from the planned loss of undergraduates. It reported a peak combined enrollment of 1,850 graduate and undergraduate students in 2013. By the fall of 2017, it enrolled 285 undergraduates and 427 graduate students. On Wednesday, it counted just 305 students.

The enrollment funnel looked bleak. Only two new students were signed up for the fall semester, said Elizabeth Burns, Marygrove’s president. About 30 new students were on board for this summer.

In contrast, the college likely needed to boost enrollment to close to 700 students to be on a sustainable path.

Estimates showed an advertising budget of about $2 million could have moved the needle, Burns said. But Marygrove didn’t have $2 million.

“You deal with all of these problems, and you try to keep going and do the things that you think are going to work,” Burns said. “It wasn’t realistic. That’s what the board saw.”

After the changes in 2017, trustees had kept open graduate degree and professional development programs in education, human resources management and social justice. The idea was that those programs would be sustainable into the future.

That didn’t prove to be the case. Programs for teachers were a major source of enrollment, and those programs have struggled, according to John Cavanaugh, chair of Marygrove’s Board of Trustees.

“Part of the longer-term arc of the story has to do with the changing rules in public school systems,” said Cavanaugh, who is also president and CEO of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, a former chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and a former president of the University of West Florida.

“They no longer require people to get master’s degrees, and many districts don’t pay when a teacher gets a master’s degree in terms of increasing salaries,” Cavanaugh said. “All of that has swerved over the last decade, and you look at other programs in the country that have either closed or dramatically shrunk their traditional graduate programs in education. Ours had a good reputation, so we lasted longer than most.”

The closure provides some new perspective on the struggles of both small private colleges and Roman Catholic institutions, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast. Marygrove is at least the fifth private, nonprofit college to announce this year that it is closing, joining the College of New Rochelle in New York, the Oregon College of Art and Craft, and Green Mountain and Southern Vermont Colleges in Vermont.

That’s not counting colleges that have merged or explored partnerships, like Hampshire College in Massachusetts. Hampshire announced plans to seek a partner before an alumni revolt forced leadership changes and new plans to try to stay open and independent.

Roman Catholic colleges closing in recent years include Marylhurst University in Portland, Ore., in 2018, St. Gregory’s University in 2017 and Saint Joseph’s College of Indiana, which suspended operations in 2017 and went on to plan a two-year college in partnership with Marian University in Indianapolis.

More recently, Wheeling Jesuit University declared financial exigency in March and moved to lay off a large number of faculty members as it shifted in focus from the liberal arts to other majors like business and health care. That prompted the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus to cut ties with the university, and its board chair was ousted this week because of scandals rocking the affiliated diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

Small Roman Catholic and mission-driven colleges can struggle to balance innovation and their missions, according to Larry Ladd, national director for the higher education practice at the consulting giant Grant Thornton, in an email. Sometimes they make program choices based on internal factors rather than based on what students are likely to find attractive.

Marygrove seems to have made a strong strategic move in the type of programs it would offer, Ladd said. Graduate education tends to produce more net revenue per capita than undergraduate education. Plus, it can target specific markets and adjust to small market changes relatively quickly. Unfortunately, the programs Marygrove chose didn’t seem to fit the current market.

“Another factor has got to be its location in Detroit,” Ladd said. “While Detroit is coming back, its economy declined for many decades, and the fate of colleges, other than those with strong national brands, does depend on the local economic and cultural climate.”

In addition to radically revamping program offerings, Marygrove leaders sought to transform the college’s 53-acre campus into a “cradle-to-career” site that would host education at levels ranging from preschool to graduate. The City of Detroit, the University of Michigan, Detroit Public Schools Community District, a developer and other nonprofit organizations are involved in the effort, called one of the first “P-20” partnerships in the country. A Michigan-based foundation, the Kresge Foundation, committed $50 million, including money to stabilize Marygrove and restructure its debt.

The Marygrove Conservancy was created to manage and preserve the campus. Plans for the cradle-to-career campus will continue, the conservancy said Wednesday.

A new public school, a ninth-grade academy, is scheduled to open with 120 students in September, with a grade expected to be added each year until all grades K-12 are offered. The University of Michigan plans to launch a teacher residency program modeled after physician training programs. A new early childhood education center is expected. With the new school, the campus is projected to serve over 1,000 children, largely from surrounding neighborhoods.

“The P-20 thing was really something that we wanted to accomplish, and I think it’s going to be one of the long-term legacies from the college,” Cavanaugh said. “We were able to keep the graduate programs going for a couple of years. It gave us the time to put the pieces together.”

The Marygrove Conservancy is chaired by Sister Jane Herb, president of Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which founded Marygrove and sponsors the college. Knowing the sisters’ educational mission will continue on the campus “makes us proud,” she said in a statement.

Marygrove has about nine full-time-equivalent faculty members, plus some adjuncts, Burns said. Roughly 40 more staff members work for the college.

Leaders have started discussions with other institutions to see if they can take on Marygrove’s programs. The college has entered a teach-out agreement with Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.

Marygrove was founded in 1905 as St. Mary’s College in Monroe, Mich. It’s been in Detroit for 92 years.

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