Inside Higher Ed

Rejecting the requirement to publish dissertations online

10 hours 27 min ago

Rob Schlesinger is not your typical college student. A lawyer who worked in higher education administration for more than 25 years, he decided to take time off from his day job two years ago to pursue a doctorate degree in education at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y.

Getting an Ed.D. degree is a lifelong dream for Schlesinger. He defended his dissertation proposal, “Ethics Education in the Undergraduate Curriculum: An Action Research Analysis,” earlier this year. He said his experience at the college has been mostly positive, but it recently took an unexpected turn.

In an article published on the blog The Scholarly Kitchen last month, Schlesinger wrote of the shock he felt upon learning that all doctoral students at Manhattanville are required to submit their dissertations to an online database run by for-profit library services company ProQuest.

Schlesinger was even more surprised by the reaction he received from faculty members, administrators and fellow students when he voiced his objection to this policy.

“One would think that I was Oliver Twist asking for more porridge or I had said that I was writing my opus in crayon,” he wrote.

Requiring students to publish dissertations, particularly online, may put vulnerable students who have been victimized, threatened or stalked at risk, said Schlesinger. He believes it could also jeopardize the safety of people mentioned in the research, even if they are anonymized. ​

“My legal -- and moral -- concerns about this practice stem from the issues it raises with privacy and intellectual property rights, as well as contract law,” he said.

Aside from privacy concerns, Schlesinger believes that as the author of his dissertation, he should have the right to decide how his work is published and distributed. He also questions whether it is defensible under contract law for colleges to make the publication of a dissertation a degree requirement.

“My argument here is not against publishing online; rather, it is for giving dissertation authors -- the doctoral students themselves -- a say in the disposition of their work,” wrote Schlesinger.

Ray Harris, director of the law firm Fennemore Craig, said Schlesinger raises valid concerns about privacy, but Harris notes issues around anonymity in qualitative research can usually be identified and resolved early on through discussions about appropriate research design.

If the candidate and the university cannot reach agreement, then the candidate is left with a “Hobson’s choice” of risking harm or withdrawing from the degree program.

Harris expects that most universities would be willing to accommodate serious concerns about publishing students' work online because it is the right thing to do, and because of the liability risk institutions face if harm results from a publication.

“If the university insists on publication in exceptional circumstances where publication is objectively inappropriate, then I believe courts should deal with that situation under traditional contract doctrines,” he said.

The requirement for students to upload their doctoral theses to ProQuest is “bordering on universal” at U.S. institutions, said Rick Anderson, associate dean for collections and scholarly communications at the Marriott Library at the University of Utah.

“This practice amounts to outsourcing the digital archiving of locally produced theses and dissertations,” Anderson said in an email. By putting dissertations in a virtual space that is curated by another entity, institutions can free up institutional server space and staff time for other uses, he said.

“I don’t have a problem with this system being the default arrangement, but I think students should have the option to decline,” said Anderson. “A thesis or dissertation is the author’s original work, and it should be treated as such -- not institutional property. At the very least, if the institution is going to impose such a requirement on its graduate students, that fact should be made very clear before the student matriculates, and an agreement to that effect should be made in writing.”

Barbara Fister, a librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota (who also blogs for Inside Higher Ed) noted that this is not the first time scholars have voiced concern at the requirement to publish their work with ProQuest. In the past, scholars have been surprised to learn that their work was being sold by ProQuest through third-party retailers such as Amazon. ProQuest stopped selling dissertations on Amazon in 2014 following a number of complaints.

People forget that it is a long-standing practice for hard copies of doctoral theses to be made available in libraries for anyone to read, Fister said by email. “It’s public proof of your attainment of knowledge and your membership in the discipline. It was never controversial so far as I know,” she said.

When dissertations started to become widely available online, however, the situation changed. Some publishers became hesitant about publishing commercial books from authors who had recently published their doctoral thesis on the same topic, said Fister.

“Ownership per se is not at issue here. Authors retain copyright,” said Fister. “The issue is the nonexclusive right to distribute copies of a dissertation. ProQuest pays royalties on sales and dissertations may be embargoed, but that appears to be a decision made by institutions rather than individual authors or ProQuest.”

Jessica Horowitz, director of academic relations at ProQuest, said the company publishes dissertations and theses from more than 3,100 universities.

“The universities we work with set their own policies on publication requirements, and while we can’t give exact numbers, we find that many do require their students to publish with ProQuest,” she said in an email.

Publication with ProQuest benefits universities because it boosts the visibility of their graduate programs and makes their research widely available, said Horowitz.

“Most dissertation authors welcome the added visibility that dissemination through ProQuest offers,” she added.

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global, as the database is officially called, has been a designated off-site dissertation repository for the U.S. Library of Congress since 1999. All dissertations sent to ProQuest become part of the official national collection.

ProQuest is committed to offering flexibility to authors, said Horowitz.

“Authors’ agreements are nonexclusive with ProQuest. Authors retain copyright and full control of their work and may submit it anywhere they wish,” she said. “ProQuest is governed by any embargo that the author or university places on a work and can, upon request, remove online works within 24 hours.”

After speaking with his advisers, Schlesinger was granted an exception to the requirement to publish with ProQuest. He has encouraged other students to request the same but said none have yet done so.

Students should be made aware of the requirement to publish with ProQuest at the beginning of their studies, said Schlesinger. He also objected to the college encouraging students to have their work professionally edited to meet ProQuest’s standards, which he considers an unfair and costly expense.

Schlesinger said he objected to publishing his work online because it hampered the ability of his research interviewees to speak openly with him. When he shared this concern, his supervisors suggested he was “not masking his data well enough.” He argued it is often very easy to unmask anonymous sources in educational research, particularly if they are identified as college presidents or deans.

By not publishing online, Schlesinger is not saying he doesn’t want others to benefit from his research. In fact, he wants the opposite.

“For practitioners, dissertations and journal articles aren’t that helpful,” he said. “If I identify useful information in my dissertation, I want to boil it down into articles and practice guides that will likely be much more widely read.”

Manhattanville's School of Education has since revised its dissertation policy to say that “should a student appeal electronic filing, then a bound copy would be required.”

Tracy Muirhead, interim vice president for institutional advancement at Manhattanville, said in an email that filing with ProQuest is "not a graduation requirement" but doctoral students are "very strongly encouraged to use the electronic filing option."

She said the college's doctoral faculty members will be discussing the issues raised by Schlesinger at an upcoming retreat. But faculty members generally support uploading dissertations to ProQuest and believe it "helps to share with others, both externally and internally, the research that Manhattanville doctoral students have undertaken."

While he is happy he doesn't have to publish his dissertation online, Schlesinger said he wants the college to make it clearer to other students that they also have the option to make an appeal. Many students are still under the impression that filing with ProQuest is mandatory, he said.

"I can see the argument for encouraging students to publish their dissertations on ProQuest, and have spoken with several faculty members who believe that it is a really good thing for the students' careers," said Schlesinger. "But to gloss over the situation does not do the issue, or the college itself, justice."

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Feds release broader data on socioeconomic status and college enrollment and completion

10 hours 27 min ago

The federal government on Wednesday released a wide range of updated and new data on postsecondary education, including broader measures of college completion and several indicators that show how much family wealth contributes to college students’ odds of enrolling and graduating.

For example, among people who were ninth graders a decade ago, those from the highest quintile of socioeconomic status (parental education and occupations and family income) were 50 percentage points more likely to be enrolled in college in 2016 than were their peers from the lowest quintile -- 78 percent compared to 28 percent.

Money also played a big role in which college and level of degree program students enrolled in, according to the new report from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Students from the lowest quintile who attended college were more likely to first pursue an associate degree (32 percent) than a bachelor’s degree (47 percent). Their peers from the wealthiest quintile, however, were much more likely to first seek a four-year degree (78 percent) than a two-year degree (13 percent).

Likewise, the percentage of higher-income students who first enrolled at a highly selective college or university (37 percent) easily outpaced that of lower-income students (7 percent).

Wealthier students also were much more likely to enroll at a four-year college than at a community college or for-profit institution. More than half of students from the top quintile first enrolled at a public four-year institution (54 percent), while 26 percent enrolled at a four-year private college. The report found that 18 percent enrolled at a community college while less than 2 percent attended a for-profit.

Among students in the lowest quintile, however, 51 percent first enrolled at a community college compared to 28 percent at a four-year public, 8 percent at a four-year private and roughly 13 percent at a for-profit.

The report found that lower-income students from that ninth-grade Class of 2009 were less likely to enroll in college within one year of graduating from high school.

Roughly one-third of students from the lowest quintile of that cohort enrolled within one year of graduating high school and were still in college or had earned a credential by 2016, according to the report, compared to 79 percent of students from the top quintile. Likewise, 53 percent of students from the lowest quintile either never enrolled or delayed their enrollment by more than a year, compared to roughly 11 percent from the top quintile -- 88 percent from this group enrolled in college within one year after high school.

“These numbers are sobering,” said Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, director of upskilling policy at the National Skills Coalition, who called the new report an “affirmation of how diverse the higher education cohort is, and how different the college-going experience can be.”

Completion Rates for Part-Time Students

The new data arrived as the higher education sector has been rocked by increasing scrutiny of its role in perpetuating economic equality, thanks to a high-profile admissions scandal and unflattering data on social mobility.

As with the Varsity Blues scandal, the federal numbers pull back the curtain on how higher education is stacked in favor of white and wealthy students, said Phil Martin, a spokesman for the Education Trust.

"Students from the least affluent families who enrolled in college were more than three times as likely to start at a community college than their wealthier peers. Community colleges are starved for resources. No surprise their outcomes aren't great," Martin said via email. "Students from the most affluent families were about five times as likely to enroll in a selective college as students from the least affluent families. Selective colleges are typically the ones with lots of resources. So the wealthiest students get the richest campus experience."

The Education Department's annually released report, dubbed "The Condition of Education 2019," features updated and improved measures of student success. Some of those indicators can be broken out by the relative wealth and race and other characteristics of students, including whether they attended college full-time or part-time.

As was the case with students’ enrollment patters, socioeconomic status had a big impact on those outcomes, according to the data.

For example, the report includes updated completion rates for Pell Grant recipients (data that did not become available until the department recently broadened its completion metrics). The federal grants are need based and represent a subset of lower-income students within the general undergraduate population, the report said.

Completion rates after eight years for the 2009 cohort were lower for Pell recipients who attended four-year colleges across all levels of selectivity except for open-admissions institutions.

For colleges that accepted 90 percent or more of applicants, the new federal completion rates were about 12 percentage points lower for Pell recipients than for nonrecipients (35 percent compared to 47 percent). Among colleges that accepted less than a quarter of applicants, completion rates for Pell recipients lagged by 10 percentage points (79 percent compared to 89 percent).

NCES recently began publishing college completion rates that include part-time students, an improvement from the much-criticized previous limitation of only tracking graduation and transfer rates for full-time students who attend college for the first time.

“This provides the clearest picture yet of how colleges are doing in providing all of their students a credential,” said Michael Itzkowitz, president of the Edvisors Group, a consulting firm, and a former Education Department official during the Obama administration. “This is much more representative of all students who are attending college today.”

For example, the report said just 22 percent of students attended public colleges on a full-time, first-time basis, compared to 42 percent who attended part-time and had previously enrolled at another postsecondary institution.

Yet the addition of part-time students to colleges' completion report card doesn’t make them look better.

The full-time, first-time rate was the “most generous” measure, Itzkowitz said. The new report found that most institutions have eight-year graduation rates of less than 50 percent, he said, although those numbers improve substantially when transfer numbers are added.

“The typical institution leaves students with a mere 50-50 chance of graduating from the institution where they started,” he said, adding that a high percentage of part-time students are “leaving without any credential in hand.”

The “nontraditional” student is the norm for the two-year sector, with three-quarters of the 4.7 million community college students who enrolled in 2009 attending either part-time or not for the first time, meaning they were not included in traditional graduation and retention rates.

Graduation rates for students who enrolled at a community college in 2009 were higher among those who attended full-time (30 percent of first-time students and 38 percent of non-first-time students earned a credential at that college within eight years) than for part-time students (16 percent for first-time students and 21 percent for their non-first-time peers).

Transfer rates for community college students eight years after entry were higher among students who had previously enrolled elsewhere (37 percent for part-time students and 30 percent for full-time students) than among their first-time peers (24 percent for both full-time and part-time).

Part-time students also make up large shares of enrollments at four-year institutions. The report found that 44 percent of students who enrolled at a four-year public in 2009 attended full-time and first time, as did 57 percent of students at four-year privates.

Part-time students at four-year colleges were unlikely to graduate within eight years. Just 19 percent of part-time, first-time students who enrolled at a four-year public or private graduated within eight years, according to the report, compared to 32 percent of part-time students at publics who previously attended another institution and 43 percent at privates. (In most cases, similar portions of those students transferred to another college.)

The report should be a call to action for policy makers, said Martin.

"[S]tudents from low-income families are underserved at every level of the U.S. education system," he said. "That's obviously not the kind of system anybody would set up if the goal was equal opportunity."

New Data on Wages

The federal data also included updated employment outcomes for bachelor’s degree holders.

Unemployment rates for young adults (ages 25-29) with a bachelor’s degree were lower in 2017 than in 2010, when the recession was in full swing (3.1 percent compared to 5.6 percent). But median annual earnings (inflation adjusted) were not measurably different.

The median annual earnings for young adults with a bachelor’s degree were $50,500, according to the report, which included both wages and unemployment rates by selected fields of study.

Earnings ranged from $38,400 for graduates with degrees in social work and human services ($39,000 for those with degrees in liberal arts and humanities) to slightly more than $70,000 for holders of bachelor’s degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering.

Graduates with liberal arts and humanities degrees had an unemployment rate of 5.8 percent, which was the highest among fields covered by the data.

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Pew study finds more poor students attending college

10 hours 27 min ago

A growing number of college students are from poor families, but they’re mostly attending less selective institutions, which may decrease their chances of earning a bachelor’s degree.

A new report from the Pew Research Center released Wednesday found that the overall number of undergraduates at U.S. colleges and universities has increased during the past 20 years, with students of color and those from low-income families making up much of that growth. Those students are mostly attending the least-selective colleges and universities, which tend to have fewer resources to help students succeed.

The total share of undergraduate college students who come from poor families increased from 12 percent in 1996 to 20 percent in 2016, according to the report. The number of undergraduates who are nonwhite also increased from 29 percent in 1996 to 47 percent in 2016. The report focused on the financial status of dependent students who are under age 23, unmarried and childless.

“This is a positive development of something that had been a concern, and what the data shows are that many more students from poor families are attending colleges and universities,” said Richard Fry, a co-author of the report and a senior economist at Pew. “On the other hand, when we look at what employers pay, there is a premium for bachelor's degrees … and you’re more likely to get a bachelor’s degree at more selective institutions or at a four-year college rather than a community college.”

While there are more students from low-income families attending all types of colleges and universities, Pew found that their growth at selective institutions is less pronounced than at less selective four-year, two-year and for-profit colleges.

The percentage of low-income, dependent undergraduates attending “very selective” institutions increased from 10 percent in 2016 to only 13 percent in 2016, according to the report. Meanwhile, at public two-year colleges, the number of low-income students increased by 14 percentage points, to 27 percent, over the same 20-year time period.

Although the report focuses on young, dependent students who presumably receive financial assistance from their parents or other family members, it also shows that there are more independent students living in poverty compared to 20 years ago. Among independent students, 42 percent were living in poverty in 2016 compared to 29 percent in 1996.

Jason Delisle, a resident fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said selective universities should receive more credit from the Pew researchers for enrolling more low-income students today than they did 20 years ago. Furthermore, these institutions also are enrolling more independent students, who tend to be poorer than dependent students, he said.

The Pew study found that among independent students at four-year institutions, 52 percent were poor and attended a “very selective” institution in 2016, which reflects a 20 percentage point increase from 1996.

“For all the hand-wringing about affordability, it appears that … a larger proportion of the student body is low income despite all these scary stories about affordability,” Delisle said. “One thing we do know is that the selective colleges are keeping prices really low for these students. The net price after inflation that students pay for tuition at really selective colleges has barely budged in 20 years.”

According to the College Board, the average annual net tuition and fees over time for full-time students at private nonprofit universities declined from $15,500 a year in 2007 to about $14,600 in 2018. At public, four-year colleges, the average net tuition and fees increased by about $600, from $3,100 per year in 2007 to about $3,700 in 2018.

For-profit institutions saw the share of dependent low-income undergraduates increase, as well, from 23 percent in 2016 to 36 percent in 2016 -- a 13-percentage-point gain.

“Selectivity does matter,” Fry said. “It is noteworthy that students from lower-income backgrounds are in higher education but disproportionately at least-selective colleges and universities, and that will impact their likelihood of getting a degree.”

Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, said this trend is concerning.

“These are the [institutions] with fewer resources, and among the public [colleges] they get less in state funding even as their students come with greater need,” he said.

Kelchen said states ultimately need to rethink how they fund their colleges and universities.

“It’s not enough to get a small number of low-income students into a flagship university,” Kelchen said. “How are states funding their colleges in a way that helps reduce gaps in degree attainment?”

A recent report from the Century Foundation called for more public investment in the country’s community colleges because of the growing number of low-income students enrolling. The report blamed low completion rates on a lack of state higher education funding. The report states that private, four-year colleges spend an average of $72,000 per full-time student each year, which is five times more than the $14,000 community colleges typically spend per student. Public universities spend $40,000 each year on each full-time student.

Even when research spending is excluded, private universities spend triple what community colleges do, and public four-year institutions spend 60 percent more.

“The research suggests going to a flagship public university pays off in the long term, but for many students, going hundreds of miles to a flagship isn’t possible,” Kelchen said. “The open-access institution is what’s close by, and that’s why they’re going. Even giving students more financial aid to go to a selective college may not be enough to change their decision if they have to go 300 miles away.”

Even with significant numbers of low-income students going to college, they are no more likely to take out loans than any other undergraduate, according to the Pew report. Borrowing has increased the most among higher-income students, the report said.

Thirty-three percent of students in poverty borrowed for their education in 1996, compared to 8 percent of higher-income students. But in the years since then, borrowing increased among high-income students to 30 percent, while 38 percent of poor students took out loans in 2016.

"High-income families are choosing to attend very expensive schools, and they may need the loans to do it," Delisle said. "The student loan program is as much a loan program for high-income families attending elite institutions as it is low-income families attending less selective ones."

Delisle said another reason low-income students' borrowing habits haven’t changed much is that they’re attending less selective, lower-cost colleges and receiving financial aid packages that will cover their tuition and fees.

“The amount of loans they have to take out is covering living expenses, and the decision around how much to borrow can be flexible,” he said.

Despite the increased numbers of poor students attending community college over the past 20 years, the overall share of undergraduates at two-year colleges has decreased. Community colleges educated 44 percent of the undergraduates in college in 1996, but only 36 percent of all students attended a two-year college in 2016, according to the Pew report.

“What used to be classified as a two-year college or community college has shifted over the past 20 years, and now, they’re granting bachelor’s degrees,” Fry said. “But I don’t think it explains it all -- there have been some other demographic changes in the nation’s undergrads. More of them are traditional age, 18 to 24, fewer are older or nontraditional students, and that sort of demographic shift lends itself more to a four-year college than community college.”

The Pew report also found that the growth of nonwhite students in colleges and universities reflects the growing number of Hispanic students pursuing education beyond high school. And for the first time, Hispanics are now the largest minority group among the nation’s undergraduates over all; there are now as many Hispanic undergraduates as African Americans at moderately selective institutions.

Fry said there shouldn’t be much surprise that the population of Hispanic undergraduates has grown, since they became the largest minority group among high school graduates in 2008. But another reason why more Hispanics are attending college is that high school dropout rates among this group have decreased.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the Hispanic high school dropout rate decreased from 27.8 percent to 8.6 percent from 2000 to 2016.

“Both higher education and K-12 can take some credit for this,” Fry said. “Yes, the high school dropout rates have come down a lot, but among the high school graduates, there is a notable increase in the share of Hispanic graduates going on to college.”

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Athletics officials question role of top college leaders in disciplining coaches

10 hours 27 min ago

WASHINGTON -- National Collegiate Athletic Association representatives on Wednesday touted reforms that followed the men’s basketball scandal of 2017. But other officials involved in college sports questioned why top administrators hadn’t stepped in to punish bad actors -- namely coaches.

NCAA leaders presented at a meeting of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, describing a "significant" slate of changes, including much stiffer penalties for breaches of association rules and a new entity that would investigate the most complex violations.

These changes and others -- which passed the association membership with relative speed, given the usual lag in approving NCAA policy -- were in response to a pay-for-play scheme federal law enforcement officials revealed in September 2017.

At the time, 10 men -- including Adidas executives and assistant or associate coaches at prominent institutions -- were arrested for allegedly guiding recruits to certain teams in exchange for cash payments. In the past two years, coaches and players in top programs all across the country have been implicated in the controversy.

A committee appointed by the NCAA, led by Condoleezza Rice, who was formerly U.S. secretary of state and Stanford University's provost, made recommendations last year that were largely adopted by the association and were shared with the Knight Commission on Wednesday.

But one panelist at the commission meeting, Mike Brey, the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Notre Dame and president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, questioned why athletics directors and presidents hadn’t fired corrupt coaches. Brey was responding to Michael Crow, a commission member and president of Arizona State University, who asked why basketball coaches couldn’t be more self-regulating, akin to the medical or legal professions. Crow said he was confused why the onus needed to be on the NCAA when coaches have such an understanding of their field.

Brey initially agreed with Crow, that coaches should take that responsibility, but then turned the question back on Crow with questions of his own.

“Why hasn’t an athletics director or president acted in some of these current cases already?” Brey said. “I think a lot of our coaches want to know, why hasn’t the hammer come down? Again, I’m a little naïve to it -- is it legal stuff? … I think our profession would love to see the hammer be dropped on some of these situations.”

Other coaches, Brey said, have been waiting for “an explosion back.”

In an interview, one of the commission's chairs, Arne Duncan, former U.S. education secretary, said, “There has been an absence of strong leadership” -- not just by athletics directors and presidents, but college governing boards, institutions and the NCAA.

“We would urge institutional leadership -- presidents, chancellors and others -- to look seriously at opportunities to send those strong signals,” said Carol Cartwright, president emeritus of Kent State University and Bowling Green State University and the other commission chair. “Because tone at the top really matters. And when you release a coach for reasons other than [wins], you send a pretty important signal about the values in your program.”

Earlier in the meeting, Cari Van Sensus, the NCAA vice president of policy and chief of staff, had introduced a pilot program in certifying basketball coaches. It is being modeled off a program in Division II athletics called Division II University, in which coaches take online classes on concepts such as sexual assault and mental health. Van Sensus didn't specify how institutions would administer the certification or if it would be required for coaches to keep their jobs. She said many of the details have yet to be ironed out, but that the NCAA was working with the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

The top NCAA governing panel, the Board of Governors, in January endorsed the pilot program for Division I basketball coaches with the intention that it may eventually spread to other sports. After a series of felony convictions in the men’s basketball scandal in October 2018, the Knight Commission had suggested that the NCAA develop such credentials.

Brey said that education for coaches should be ongoing. To advance in their careers -- to the spot of head coach -- a certain level of credentialing should be required, he said.

Credentialing will likely not avoid the problems that arose in the men’s basketball scandal, Josephine R. Potuto, former member of the NCAA Division I infractions committee and Richard H. Larson Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, told Inside Higher Ed.

She said that the program might teach interpersonal skills, which is a worthy goal, but it would not address coaches' ethical lapses.

“The scandal emanated not from a failure to understand rules or appreciate ethical behavior but from efforts to circumvent rules,” Potuto wrote in an email. “There have been people for many years arguing that it should be a requirement for coaches that they show they have adequate background and training to warrant their opportunity to work with students.”

Many of the reforms following the scandal will be in place in time for the next season. Cartwright and Duncan praised the NCAA for "stepping up" and approving the changes quickly, though they said the association could do more, including making public contracts with shoe and apparel companies.

University presidents and athletics staffers must now commit in their contracts to cooperate with NCAA investigations, and the NCAA now has the power to suspend coaches and staff immediately if they fail to do so.

NCAA investigators and adjudicators can also use findings from other administrative bodies -- courts, police or other governing agencies -- in rules violations cases. This will be particularly helpful in disciplining coaches or institutions implicated in the men’s basketball scandal.

And in particularly complicated cases, a separate, independent body from the NCAA can investigate.

Five new members were also recently added to the Board of Governors, with no ties to individual institutions or NCAA conferences. They are:

  • Kenneth Chenault, chairman and managing director of General Catalyst and former chairman and chief executive of American Express.
  • Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities.
  • Grant Hill, former college and National Basketball Association athlete, now a partial NBA team owner and a broadcaster.
  • Dennis McDonough, senior principal and chairman of the Rework America Task Force for the Markle Foundation and former chief of staff to President Obama.
  • Vivek Murthy, the 19th surgeon general of the United States.
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University of Kirkuk took in students fleeing the Islamic State

10 hours 27 min ago

When the Islamic State began taking control of swaths of Iraq in 2014, seven universities were forced to shut their doors. But 50,000 of the students displaced were welcomed by the University of Kirkuk, which provided support for them to complete their studies, a refuge from terror -- some had fled with tales of people being drowned in cages by IS -- and an alternative to the prospect of being forced to join the jihadists.

The remarkable achievements of Kirkuk, which had 26,000 students before its humanitarian expansion, won the university the Outstanding Support for Students category in the recent inaugural Times Higher Education Awards Asia.

Abbas Hassan Taqi, Kirkuk’s president, highlighted that a young university founded only in 2003 had played “a vital role in rescuing … students from IS gangs,” helping to address “big dangers for the whole world, not Iraq only,” given that students who remained in their home cities would have been potential recruits for IS.

“I don’t think there is any [other] university in the world that is capable of rescuing more than 50,000 students, hosting them, providing them with all the facilities, all the instruments in the labs, all the financial assistance, for … nearly four years,” he told Times Higher Education.

The university opened its doors to students displaced from seven universities across three provinces of Iraq, including the Universities of Mosul -- Iraq’s second-oldest institution -- Tikrit, Anbar and Fallujah.

As IS rule wore on, increasing numbers of people sought to escape these provinces, often driven by horror at the “different, incredible ways of executing people” used by the jihadists, said Safwat Al-Bazzaz, head of the English department at Kirkuk and a member of the university’s team at the awards ceremony, which took place early this month in Abu Dhabi. “They [IS] were putting them in a closed cage [and] by use of a crane drowned them in a river … as we heard from our colleagues from the University of Mosul,” he added.

At the peak of its power, IS occupied about one-third of Iraq, encompassing territory with a population of 10 million.

The aim of IS “was to damage everything in Iraq,” said Al-Bazzaz. “They know that the youth is the basic component of the society.” The choice that IS gave to young people was “either to join them or be punished,” he added.

To accommodate the influx of students, Kirkuk allowed its classrooms and labs to be used by counterpart departments from the seven institutions on its days of closure -- Fridays and Saturdays -- as well as at the end of normal working hours. Some Kirkuk professors worked after hours, without pay, to teach these classes.

Other displaced students were taught alongside Kirkuk students. The university’s libraries were opened to the newcomers. And the university constructed new buildings to cope with the expansion.

Students were provided with accommodation, often for free, and financial assistance as well as food, thanks to donations. Some Kirkuk staff allowed displaced colleagues and students to live in their properties for free. Social events helped to combat any isolation the students, far from home, might feel and served “to raise their spirit,” said Al-Bazzaz.

There was “a very successful and strategic plan to embrace all these students” that was supported by “a lot of administrative efforts to help them continue their studies,” he said.

“So instead of making [perhaps] 30,000 terrorists, we made 50,000 graduates,” he said. “This affects [Iraqi] society a lot. Instead of reinforcing the [IS] gangs, we reinforced education.”

Kirkuk is an ethnically diverse city, with a mixed population of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Assyrians.

Iraq’s ethnic mix has often led to tension and violence. But Al-Bazzaz said that different populations could live together peacefully in Kirkuk, pinpointing this as a factor that allowed the university to welcome students from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

Friendships and “even marriages” have blossomed between students at Kirkuk as a result of its hosting the displaced, he said. Students from Mosul and Tikrit, and from Mosul and Kirkuk, were married after meeting at the university.

With the displaced students now graduated and the IS “caliphate” ended, Kirkuk has returned to its normal level of 26,000 students.

But the new buildings and a new spirit will leave a legacy for the university, the city and the region, said Al-Bazzaz. “Our capability improved during this time, and our experience in teaching improved in this time,” he said.

The hosting of the displaced students happened while the city of Kirkuk itself was close to the front line of conflict. “Kirkuk was in danger,” said Al-Bazzaz. “But Kirkuk citizens didn’t leave the city … even though sometimes we were hearing the sounds of explosions near Kirkuk. But because of the high spirit of the citizens, of the Kirkuk university students, we remained there. We were able to continue our mission and our study.”

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Institutions generally don't have provisions against professors dating students they just taught

Wed, 2019-05-22 07:00

Last month, Princeton University’s 2016 valedictorian, Cameron Platt, announced that she was engaged -- to her former professor and mentor, Lee Clark Mitchell, Holmes Professor of Belles-Lettres.

Eventually “it became impossible to deny how fully we feel meant for each other, and neither of us has looked back since,” Platt wrote on Facebook. “Now here we are, more enthralled than ever wanting no life other than the one we make together.”

The ages of the couple -- her, 25; him, 71 -- are unusually far apart. The relationship doesn’t violate university policy, however.

Princeton, like a growing number of institutions, has banned all student-faculty relationships, including for graduate students. As one graduate student put it, “Students should be treated by faculty as scholars, not as potential sexual partners.” And even though most other colleges and universities ban student-faculty dating where a supervisory relationships exists, virtually no institution requires professors to wait any length of time before dating former students.

Platt has said that she waited until two years after her graduation to ask Mitchell out. Mitchell, who is currently on preplanned leave, is just one of a number of professors to engage in or attempt to initiate a relationship with a former student or students. The other examples don’t end in a glowing engagement announcement, however, suggesting that dating former students -- even when allowed by policy -- is questionable.

Still, experts with different positions on student-faculty dating advise against adopting any kind of timeline for dating former students.

No Sunset Provisions

Andrew T. Miltenberg, a lawyer who’s represented professors in numerous Title IX-related cases, said he hadn’t heard of any “sunset-type” provision in which faculty members can’t date former students for a given period of time. And in an environment in which more and more institutions are taking disciplinary action against professors who have had consensual relationships with students that then soured, he said, such a policy is not a good idea.

“What you should do is have a definitive policy one way or the other, where faculty and administrators decide which way is the best way to go -- not start to carve out situations,” Miltenberg said. “What if it’s a dean with no direct academic role for the student, or a professor in a different department, or an adjunct? There are a lot of questions that will arise, with too many anomalies as far as circumstances.”

A sunset provision might work in the future, when colleges and universities “start to offer a fair, transparent and equitable process” to all parties in a Title IX case, Miltenberg said. Just not now. He recalled a case in which a faculty member taught only a core class, meaning there was no chance he would teach his students twice. But a relationship between the professor and one of his former students “didn’t go well,” Miltenberg said. “There was a complaint, and the faculty member lost his job.”

That’s what happened to John Barrett, an assistant professor of developmental studies at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, in 2017. According to court documents, Barrett sent a student of his a Facebook friend request at the end of the spring 2015 semester, when she was in his class. The two corresponded over the summer about the student's writing. Back on campus in the fall, the student asked to meet Barrett for coffee, and they began dating. Their sexual relationship lasted through the next summer.

The pair remained friendly for a time after breaking up, but the student eventually confronted Barrett about a relationship he was having with a second former student of his. The first student later filed a complaint with the university, alleging that Barrett had touched her genitals while she was sleeping during their relationship. The university investigated and terminated Barrett based on his poor professional judgment and the alleged touching without consent (which he denied, and which the student never brought up during their relationship).

Barrett filed a grievance with his faculty union, and an arbitrator ordered his reinstatement. Bloomsburg fought the decision, but a state appeals court upheld it last week. Bloomsburg doesn’t prohibit student-faculty relationships unless a supervisory relationship exists, and it no longer did in Barrett’s relationships, the court determined. 

‘Toxic to All Involved’?

In another example, Hofstra University recently vowed to change its policies after an undergraduate student complained that a professor hit on her immediately after she finished his course. The professor didn’t technically violate the institution’s policy prohibiting relationships where there exists a supervisory relationship, since he was done teaching and grading her. But the student felt the overture verged on harassment, and she reported it.

The professor of music, Lee C. Carter, attached a handwritten letter to the student's final graded project, saying, “At the risk of embarrassing myself, I confess a foolish and dangerous attraction to you.” Saying he was experiencing either a midlife crisis or a schoolboy crush, Carter added, “I’ve felt this way for well over a year, but have tried to conceal it to protect both you and myself, but also everyone around us. Such feelings from a teacher toward a student -- while inevitable given that we’re only human -- are usually toxic to all involved when expressed openly.”

There was no quid pro involved. But antiharassment activists often say that this kind of move breaks trust and hurts students nevertheless, as they may then wonder whether their accomplishments in a class were due to their effort or their professor’s relationship aspirations.

Professional Norms and Power Differentials

Catherine Prendergast, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where there is no policy governing student-faculty relationships, said she opposed any kind of undergraduate-faculty dating when students are still enrolled. To her, the issue is less legal “than one of sound professional norms.”

Student-faculty relationships don’t happen in a vacuum and are instead “part of a community in which trust in one’s professor to treat all students equally is paramount to the educational experience,” she said. If a professor dates a former student who is still on campus, "that changes the community."

On Prendergast’s own campus, economist Joseph Petry recently announced that he was retiring as part of a resignation agreement related to a Title IX case, according to the The News-Gazette. A former student of Petry’s accused him of offering to change her grade in exchange for sexual favors. He’s admitted to communicating with the student online and sending photos. But he says that they first engaged on a personal level via an online platform, and that when they eventually met in his office nine months after he taught her in a large class section, he realized that she wanted him to change her grade. He also says he refused. In a strange twist, the student accuser was arrested last month for allegedly threatening a man with a knife to delete information from his computer.

Miltenberg said he was professionally agnostic as to whether colleges should allow student-faculty relationships where there is no supervisory relationship or whether all they should ban student-faculty relationships outright. But as a father of a child in college, he said he would prefer that his daughter not date a professor, given the inherent power differential between students and faculty members that seems to exist even when there is no supervisory relationship.

As for professional norms, Miltenberg said those were too subjective and differed too much between fields and institutions to be helpful.

Brett Sokolow, a higher education lawyer and president of the Association of Title IX Administrators, opposes blanket bans on student-faculty relationships on the grounds that students who can decide whether they’ll sleep with other students can also decide whether they’ll sleep with faculty members. He said he opposed any notion of a time restriction on dating former students for the same reason -- among others.

“How long is enough for a cooling-off period? Five days? Five months?” he said. “Of course there was something there before. But how about we say there can be no flirting. How about we say human beings can’t be attracted to each other?”

He added, “I just don’t know why we want to infantilize students and take away their autonomy.”

Asked why there’s still a collective recoil at these kinds of relationships, Sokolow said, “I think there’s a recognition that in our society May-December relationships don’t really work out, and that there’s some sort of leverage there, some attraction based on the person’s accomplishments.” That implies a power differential, of course, Sokolow said, but “attraction doesn’t happen in a vacuum. That’s not how the world works. People are attracted to power,” no matter the gender dynamics at play.

‘The Dynamics Shift’

The laws of attraction aside, Prendergast said that if the relationship goes south, it’s “always the student who loses something.” Even if they’ve left campus, they can’t ask that professor for a reference “or any other form of professional support that sustains alumni in their careers.”

Of course, sometimes these relationships actually work out, and even develop into loving, lifelong partnerships. An academic who did not want to be identified, given the complexity of the issue, said she began dating her professor after her first year of graduate school in the early 1980s. She was single, and he was 20 years older and divorced.

There were no prohibitions against faculty-student dating at the time, and there were other professors in the department who had married students. She took a course with the professor after the relationship started, and he participated in her preliminary exams, as did all instructors. But the effects of the relationship were felt "most acutely" in her interactions with other graduate students, she said, recalling one who was concerned she might have access to the woman's seminar paper.

“Looking back, I realize how uncomfortable it was in many ways that I didn't fully appreciate then,” she said. When there is a personal relationship, “the dynamics shift.”

Her own view on student-faculty dating now? Undergraduate students should be “protected from the moment they arrive on campus until they have no more dealings with the institution. Period.”

Graduate students are “another matter,” however.

It seems “sensible to prohibit relationships where there are any supervisory responsibilities,” she said. Otherwise, “adults should be left to determine whom they date or marry.”

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Trump administration releases new program-level loan data

Wed, 2019-05-22 07:00

The Education Department on Monday announced progress on delivering more comprehensive data for the College Scorecard, a consumer tool originally launched by the Obama administration.

The department added new information for 2,100 non-degree-granting institutions to the consumer-facing website. And, more significantly for the Trump administration’s priorities, it released new preliminary data on student debt for individual programs of study.

That’s a first step toward giving students access to a fuller picture on outcomes for individual higher ed programs, instead of just colleges over all. Potential students could see, for example, how liberal arts majors fare versus engineering students at nearby institutions, instead of just getting results for the college over all.

After its future initially looked uncertain with a Republican in the White House, the College Scorecard has become a central piece of the higher ed agenda for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. She’s pulled back on Obama-era accountability rules like gainful employment but argued that college students would be better served by having more data on individual programs.

“We committed to students that we would continually improve the College Scorecard so that they could access relevant, accurate and actionable data as they make decisions about their education after high school,” said DeVos in a statement. “The updates released today are another step in fulfilling that promise. We look forward to seeing how students, parents, institutions and researchers utilize this important information.”

On top of adding new certificate-granting programs, the update to the Scorecard consumer tool also includes graduation information for students previously excluded from data. Earlier iterations of the tool accounted only for first-time, full-time college students. Critics of the project had complained those limitations provided an incomplete picture of institutions. At many colleges that don't serve traditional-age, residential freshmen, most students aren't first time or full-time.

Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, said for higher ed researchers the most significant new development was the release of program-level data on student debt. The data could provide a fuller picture of which borrowers take out the highest volume of student loans -- Kelchen said graduate programs in health sciences made up most of the high-debt programs in the new data.

Kelchen said the eventual release of earnings data would also allow researchers to calculate the ratio of debt to earnings for typical program graduates, the key metric for gainful-employment ratings.

“This is a traditional conservative administration,” he said. “The goal is to get consumer information out there, and this is a step in that direction.”

The Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions, a consortium of college accreditors, praised the update to the Scorecard tool in a statement.

“Providing expanded, accessible information about college and other postsecondary performance is critical to our work to assure institutional quality and continuous improvement,” the group said.

Some college groups had criticized the Scorecard after its launch for providing an incomplete or even misleading picture of outcomes involving graduation and student loans. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities said it was pleased with the updates to the website. But Craig Lindwarm, APLU's vice president for congressional and governmental affairs, said that important gaps remain because of a federal ban on the collection of student-level data. For example, he said, although updated graduation data incudes part-time students and students who transfer into institutions, it doesn't reflect outcomes for students who transfer out of institutions.

APLU argues passing the College Transparency Act would address those shortcomings.

Adding information about program-level outcomes was a long-term goal for officials who created the College Scorecard. Michael Itzkowitz, a senior fellow at the think tank Third Way who directed the Scorecard under the Obama administration, said the department should be applauded for releasing more data.

“However, information by itself will never be a substitute for strong accountability,” he said. “Students shouldn’t be able to take out loans at programs that show no return on investment.”

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Quad Learning attempted and failed to dramatically improve transfer

Wed, 2019-05-22 07:00

When Quad Learning launched its American Honors program, the company expected to provide academically talented community college students with an affordable and seamless pathway to transfer to selective universities.

Over the course of five years, the program proved to be financially unsustainable and may have even hurt the academic futures of students who would have gone to a four-year college by encouraging them to attend community college instead, according to a new report from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

“Students who would’ve come to the community college anyway and were starting at the honors program did have higher rates of transfer to a four-year institution and better overall persistence,” said Shanna Smith Jaggars, a co-author of the report and assistant vice provost of research and program assessment in the Office of Student Academic Success at Ohio State University. “But for students who would’ve gone to a four-year college and instead started at a community college because they were swayed by this honors program and transfer pipeline, it didn’t seem as strong of a bargain.”

About one-third of high school graduates who entered American Honors but would have otherwise directly entered a four-year college saved nearly $12,000 per year in tuition and fees in their first two years of college, but they substantially decreased their chances of transferring and graduating with a bachelor's degree within four years, the report said.

Smith Jaggars noted that most community college students, even high-achieving students who would likely be admitted to selective universities as freshmen or as transfer students, ultimately do not transfer to those institutions. This was the problem Quad Learning wanted to solve, she said. A number of factors often prevent high-achieving students from transferring to universities, such as not getting enough financial aid after completing an associate degree or not getting sufficient advice from college counselors about navigating the transfer process.

A 2018 report from the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program found that each year more than 50,000 community college students who are prepared to do well at a university don't transfer. And 15,000 of those students have earned at least a 3.7 grade point average and could transfer to selective universities. Ultimately, only 17 percent of degree-seeking community college students transfer to a four-year college and complete their bachelor’s degrees, according to CCRC.

Those students who do transfer tend to enroll at local or regional public universities closest to where they live. But those institutions sometimes have lower graduation rates than selective universities, Smith Jaggars said.

“And the return on your degree is much greater at a selective institution,” she said. “Quad Learning wanted a career pipeline for lower-income and middle-income students to have a chance to get into selective destinations and graduate from them.”

Quad Learning used venture capitalist funding and launched the American Honors program in 2013 after conducting a pilot program the previous year. The plan was to build a network of community college honors programs with collaborative curricula and "intrusive advising" that would give students high-quality associate degrees and allow them to seamlessly transfer to a network of selective universities. The program had enrolled 650 students at seven community colleges by 2014, and Quad Learning had plans to expand to 3,000 students by 2016.

“They thought in order to scale this across the country they would create a common online honors curriculum,” Smith Jaggars said. “That idea seemed simple and elegant, but it never happened.”

Faculty members at the community colleges pushed back on the idea that the for-profit Quad Learning would create the curriculum for the American Honors courses. Some faculty also were opposed to teaching the courses online. Each community college eventually developed its own honors curriculum with assistance from Quad Learning’s American Honors design consultant.

“A start-up backed by venture capital and behaving in much the same way start-ups do, where they move fast and break things, is not the way community colleges and higher education acts,” Smith Jaggars said. “These are two very different cultures, and at the beginning, a lot of faculty were not OK with that.”

Paul Freedman, founder and chief executive officer of Entangled Ventures, an education design agency, said Quad Learning tried to reinvent general education courses, a challenge most public-private higher education partnerships don’t attempt.

“American Honors focused on the core general education experience, and that is the heart of an institution’s academic control,” Freedman said. “Most public-private partnerships have been in vocationally or professional-oriented programs outside of the core general education experience.”

Google and Facebook, for example, have been partnering with colleges across the country for cloud computing certificates or digital marketing programs, he said.

“They’re dealing with professional-oriented faculty members where the clear outcome is getting a job,” Freedman said. Those faculty understand that work-force curricula must be more flexible and open to change, unlike standard general education courses, because the industries they’re training students for are constantly evolving, he said.

Freedman has experience attempting to shake up traditional education models. His Altius Education company once ran Ivy Bridge College in collaboration with nonprofit Tiffin University to offer online, two-year degrees. Accreditor scrutiny eventually led to Tiffin pulling out of the partnership and Ivy Bridge’s collapse.

Even without the involvement of a private company, creating multi-institutional transfer agreements is difficult to tackle, he said, referring to American Honors.

While the more rigorous American Honors courses were great for community colleges, they made the transfer aspect of the program even more difficult for Quad Learning to manage because the company had to negotiate transfer agreements for multiple curricula at multiple colleges.

“Usually community colleges have pretty good articulation agreements with whatever is the close destination university,” Smith Jaggars said. “But outside of that, it’s difficult to have that kind of articulation relationship with colleges that are geographically distant or highly selective, or if they’re only sending a handful of students to a university over the course of a few years.”

Quad Learning officials believed that the selective universities would be more willing to accept transfer credits from even a small community college if the courses were backed by American Honors, Smith Jaggars said. More importantly, the universities could accept 100 American Honors students instead of just one or two from a community college they may not recognize, Smith Jaggars said.

Instead, Quad Learning found that their advisers were helping students understand which of their college courses met the requirements of the universities students wanted to attend, she said.

“It was much more of a retail operation and a lot more time intensive, much more so than Quad Learning anticipated,” Smith Jaggars said.

One positive aspect of the American Honors program was the specific advising students received.

It’s not unusual for community colleges to have one adviser serve nearly 1,000 students, Smith Jaggars said. In the American Honors program, the ratio was one adviser to about 100 students, and the advisers met with each assigned student at least once a semester.

“It’s a model most community colleges can’t afford on their own,” she said.

Quad Learning also had difficulties securing admission and transfer agreements with selective universities. The company eventually signed more than 70 transfer agreements with four-year colleges, including some “highly selective universities,” according to the report.

Even when those transfer agreements were completed, students still were not “guaranteed” admission.

“If students completed their associate degree with an American Honors designation, they would be well qualified for admission to [Michigan State University] and would almost certainly be accepted -- but by no means was MSU guaranteeing this,” according to the report.

Quad Learning also failed to understand the on-the-ground realities of transfer for many students, Smith Jaggars said.

“Just because you build program maps and align curriculum doesn’t mean student mobility is a slam dunk,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen program. Students may not have planned financially for at least four years of college, or they might not be prepared to leave their families and travel out of state or across the country.

“These are big decisions people need to make, and those are the life decisions that will make or break the capacity of community college students to transfer,” he said.

Aspen is a part of the American Talent Initiative, an alliance of about 120 four-year institutions that consistently graduate 70 percent or more of their students in six years and have partnered to enroll and graduate 50,000 low- and moderate-income students, including transfers, by 2025.

Smith Jaggars said that had the American Honors program continued, it could have served as a pipeline of students for the institutions taking part in the talent initiative.

A Clash of Business Cultures

Quad Learning built the American Honors program using a tuition model that ultimately made money, but not as much as was needed to keep the operation running, Smith Jaggars said.

Although tuition prices varied under the honors program, the rates were typically 50 percent higher than standard tuition rates at the community colleges but still lower than the costs at nearby four-year institutions. Quad Learning and the community colleges each got a share of the total tuition cost.

Ultimately, Quad Learning didn’t have enough enrollment to meet the profits of the business model they created.

“If they were able to operate under a nonprofit model, they could have pursued it, but at the offset, they had unrealistic expectations of how much they were going to make,” Smith Jaggars said.

Quad Learning needed to enroll groups of new students who wouldn’t otherwise have attended community college but were persuaded to do so by the American Honors program. But the program routinely failed to meet enrollment goals, according to the report.

“Corporate pressures on [Quad Learning] staff to meet enrollment goals became increasingly intense, some college stakeholders felt the program’s admissions standards are becoming more lax … In 2017, challenges meeting domestic student enrollment goals prompted QL to increasingly move into the international student market to recruit [American Honors] students,” according to the report.

The company shifted to pursuing international students, who pay more in tuition, as a revenue strategy, but that proved to be a difficult endeavor as well.

Smith Jaggars said the CCRC researchers didn’t have any insight into Quad Learning's budgets but believe what may have “doomed” the company was its goal to maintain a socially conscious model for domestic students while reconciling the need to make high profits and give investors a significant return on their investment.

“If they had been funded through a model where investors just wanted to be paid back or socially conscious investors who believe in this program and hope they get their money back and that’s it, they could’ve done that,” she said.

Eventually Quad dropped the American Honors program for domestic students, and the program was sold to Wellspring International Education last year. Wellspring helps colleges recruit and enroll international students.

“A source close to the deal described it as a distress sale, worth ‘a small fraction’ of what Quad Learning had raised,” according to the report.

Smith Jaggars said there are lessons future public-private partnerships can learn from Quad Learning's experience.

Companies should first understand the student customer base and what motivates them to enroll in any college, she said.

“Another takeaway for companies is that the move fast, break things approach is not the best partnership approach,” Smith Jaggars said. “You need to realize it takes time to develop trust and make it clear you have only good intentions and that scaling something up super fast is probably not doable.”

Nonetheless, the American Honors program was not completely dissolved. Some community colleges maintained their own honors programs. Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, for example, now has an Ivy Honors program that has transfer agreements with more than 60 four-year colleges and universities.

"Most of the community colleges were fine with Quad Learning dissolving," Smith Jaggars said. "They felt Quad Learning had helped them start something they felt was a good model for their students, and they planned to continue it in some form or another after Quad was gone."

Eventually, there wasn’t much incentive for colleges to hand over a quarter of their tuition and fees to the company once they saw they could replicate the program on their own, she said.

“The colleges learned a lot and received a lot of support and connection with their counterparts at other community colleges,” she said. “They were happy they had done it over all.”

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An accessibility turnaround at Atlantic Cape Community College

Wed, 2019-05-22 07:00

Atlantic Cape Community College administrators were shocked when the college was sued for discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act. They thought the college was doing a pretty good job providing accommodations for students with disabilities, given staff and budget constraints.

Two blind students at the college felt otherwise, however, and, backed by the National Federation of the Blind, filed a lawsuit in 2015 claiming Atlantic Cape violated the ADA.

One of the students, Anthony Lanzilotti, said in court documents that he failed several courses because the course materials were not provided in an accessible format. The other student, Mitchell Cossaboon, objected to an institutional policy requiring visually impaired students to be accompanied at all times by a sighted aide.

Atlantic Cape agreed to settle the case, entering into a consent decree that required the college to conduct a full audit of its technology and develop a plan to make all student-facing materials accessible to blind students. The consent decree also required ADA training for all faculty, among other conditions.

The college has since taken steps not only to become ADA compliant but to make accessibility part of its institutional culture. Though the college still has work to do, it has started to build a reputation as an institution that supports students with disabilities -- so much so that their numbers at the college are rising.

At the time of the consent decree in 2015, Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, commended the college on its “willingness to engage in a comprehensive program to ensure that all of its students, including the blind, receive a truly equal education.”

Riccobono said it was “especially significant” that the college agreed to make all of its technology accessible within three years. The college has since received an extension on the consent decree.

Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum, managing partner at the law firm Brown Goldstein Levy, who represented the plaintiffs in the case, said it’s typical for such lawsuits to be settled with a consent decree. The advantage of a consent decree over a private settlement is that the court retains jurisdiction -- it’s a “stronger way to ensure compliance,” she said.

Though Atlantic Cape has made good progress toward full accessibility, Krevor-Weisbaum notes that it has taken time for the college to find the right strategy. The three-year consent decree was extended in late 2018 for another three years.

“They have certainly shown they are making this consent decree high priority, and we’re very pleased about that,” she said. “It took a while for them to get the right people in place to make the change that they needed to make, but they are doing that now.”

Michael Barnes, director of the Center for Accessibility at Atlantic Cape, said the college has made a lot of progress since 2016 toward integrating accessibility into the culture of the institution.

“Lawsuits are painful -- I don’t want to sugarcoat that at all,” said Barnes. But the impact on Atlantic Cape has been positive, he said.

“It made us look at ourselves, our processes. It made us really evaluate how we work with students and think about how to be a better, more inclusive, institution.”

One of the first actions the college took was to change the name of the Office of Disability Support Services to the Center for Accessibility, said Barnes. The college signed a $274,000 contract with accessibility consultants Interactive Accessibility Inc. in 2016 to perform a technology audit, report accessibility outcomes and help provide accessibility training to faculty and staff, as required by the consent decree.

“We rebuilt all of the policy and procedures from the top down,” said Barnes. It was important that the Board of Trustees, the president and the deans were all on board, he said.

“We wanted to make accessibility part of the culture of the institution," he said. "We didn’t want to be thinking about accessibility just for the sake of compliance.”

Rather than retroactively fixing inaccessible content created by instructors or provided by third parties, Atlantic Cape focused on encouraging the creation and procurement of accessible content, said Barnes. As part of this effort, the Center for Accessibility and the instructional technology department started working closely together to provide training to faculty members.

Michelle Perkins, director of instructional technology at Atlantic Cape, said the college now offers four accessibility workshops to instructors, from beginner level to advanced. Basic training is mandatory, but participation in the more advanced sessions is voluntary. Perkins said she has been pleased with the number of faculty members who have taken part in the more advanced training, even if they don’t have great computer skills. The training teaches faculty how to create accessible content with colors, fonts and descriptions that can be picked up by screen readers and other assistive technologies. It also teaches them how to assess whether products they purchase from publishers are accessible.

Persuading busy faculty to attend workshops is never easy, but attendance has been encouraged through emails and the work of "accessibility champions" -- faculty members who are available to offer support or answer questions should other faculty need help. The instructional technology team is also on hand to troubleshoot any specific issues faculty have, said Perkins.

Atlantic Cape uses Blackboard Ally technology that alerts faculty if the content they upload to the learning management system is not accessible, with specific feedback and instructions on how to fix each issue, said Perkins.

Nicolaas Matthijs, product director of Blackboard Ally, said the tool is now used by 550 colleges and universities. Unlike other commercially available website-accessibility checkers, Ally is designed to work with digital course content and multiple learning management systems, he said.

The Ally team is working not only to give institutions more detailed accessibility reports, but is also building out the tool to offer live feedback and support -- possibly checking the accessibility of content not just in the LMS or on a college website, but in instructors’ Google Drive or Dropbox accounts. A spokesperson for Blackboard Ally declined to comment on how much the tool costs.

According to Ally stats, 90 percent of the course material in Atlantic Cape’s LMS is now accessible to students with visual or other impairments, said Perkins. The tool also enables administrators to identify materials that are not meeting requirements. This data insight can be used to generate reports on progress in ADA compliance by departments and also pinpoint faculty who may need extra support.

“Ninety percent looks awesome, but we still have work to do,” said Barnes. “We spend a lot of time reviewing content on our LMS -- sometimes there are files that are buried.”

Though individual faculty can be identified and potentially ranked on the accessibility of their course materials, the objective is not to shame or punish anyone who is not meeting the desired standard, said Barnes.

“We’re not going to people’s bosses and telling them someone’s course materials are not accessible,” he said. “We’ll have brown-bag lunches; we’ll go through the content one on one and see how we can be of support.”

“This is not about minimizing the instructor’s experience -- some of them have been teaching for 30 or 40 years. This is about taking the valuable materials that they’ve created and asking how we can make them into an accessible digital format.”

In addition to data insights, Blackboard Ally also automates some work, said Perkins. If an instructor uploads a PDF, for example, Blackboard Ally will automatically generate the document in multiple file formats for students to download. Students can then easily access the material on their phone, tablet, e-reader or other assistive technology.

Making content available in multiple formats has benefited all students, not just those with disabilities, said Perkins. Students with long commutes can now have course materials narrated to them while they drive, for example. Accessibility isn’t just for the obvious students who need it -- it’s for the benefit of everyone, she said.

Because students with disabilities are not required to register with the Center for Accessibility, faculty are keenly aware that their classes need to be accessible to all students at all times, said Barnes.

"This has really resonated with faculty," he said. "My office could have no idea if they're here, and they have the legal right to take your class." ​

Barnes said the college has seen an increase in the enrollment of students with disabilities.

“We have students now forgoing other institutions to come here,” he said.

Since 2016, the number of students with disabilities who have registered with the Center for Accessibility has increased by 25 percent and is now at around 500 students. College administrators have no way of knowing how many others are enrolled but didn't register with the center.

Juliana Torres, a student at Atlantic Cape who is due to graduate this month, is visually impaired. In her four years at the college pursuing three majors, Torres said she has noticed major improvements in the support services available to her.

“I had a lot of anxiety deciding whether or not to go to college,” she said. A New Jersey native who wants to become a professional caterer, Torres said she was attracted to Atlantic Cape because of its strong culinary arts program.

“I don’t want to say that there weren’t support services when I started, but they have improved," she said. "I now have the accommodations that I need to have a seemingly normal day-to-day school life.”

Support staff helped her plan her course schedule and ensured she was able to access course materials in a way that worked for her.

Though the support staff has been instrumental in helping her succeed, Torres believes they are stretched too thin and feels guilty that she took up so much of a staff member's time. “The support staff needs more support,” she said.

Torres said she has nonetheless been pleased with her experience.

“Not everyone needs or wants to go to college,” she said. “But I’m very grateful for the fact that I was able to come here and get the support I needed.”

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Sentences reduced for former Penn State fraternity brothers in Piazza hazing case

Wed, 2019-05-22 07:00

Two years ago, a local district attorney started aggressively pursuing charges against the fraternity brothers who contributed to the death of a Pennsylvania State University freshman, Timothy Piazza.

Piazza, a Beta Theta Pi pledge, died after rounds of heavy drinking at a party in February 2017, at one point in the night tumbling down 15 steps. The university sanctioned the fraternity and Greek life broadly, and combined with the authorities' push, antihazing activists heralded the response as a new era of hazing crackdowns.

Most of the former fraternity members -- who pleaded guilty to misdemeanors ranging from hazing to furnishing alcohol to a minor -- still await sentencing. But a judge has allowed three former brothers he initially sentenced to jail to instead serve their time on house arrest.

Experts in fraternity life and hazing said the decision showed that despite more college administrative attention around these issues, the courts are still likely to be more lenient.

“This is obviously dispiriting for those who thought this is the ideal case to make a stand and to signal that hazing is intolerable,” said John Hechinger, senior editor at Bloomberg News and author of True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities.

Piazza was rushing Beta Theta Pi -- the process of joining the fraternity -- at the time of his death. After drinking heavily, he fell down a flight of basement stairs and was knocked unconscious. Fraternity members carried him to the couch but ignored his need for medical care, instead trying to wake him by splashing liquid on his face and hitting him. At one point, Piazza tried to get up but struck his head on an iron railing, which left him with significant head trauma. He bled for hours internally before dying two days later.

Fraternity members did not call 911 until the morning after the party.

The case inspired a national antihazing crusade, in part led by Piazza’s parents, Jim and Evelyn. They pushed for and eventually succeeded in getting antihazing reform passed in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly. Institutions now need to publish a report on hazing, and any incident that results in severe injury or death is classified as a felony. Piazza’s death was a particularly effective rallying point because of his story: he was young, affable and a high school football star -- and the night had been documented on surveillance footage, giving the public a gruesome picture of what had happened.

“This action signifies important movement in an ongoing conversation to identify meaningful solutions that create transformational change,” Eric Barron, Penn State’s president, said in a statement after the law was passed. “Unfortunately, hazing continues to plague universities across the country, and we hope this law will serve as a model for other state legislatures to effect critically needed national reform. Penn State has been, and continues to be, committed to addressing this serious national issue.”

After Piazza’s death, Barron kicked Beta Theta Pi off campus and postponed rushing, which many advocates generally deem a positive step. Banning fraternities or sororities outright is often not effective, they told Inside Higher Ed.

Magisterial District Judge Brian K. Marshall initially sentenced three former Penn State fraternity members, Luke Visser, Michael Bonatucci and Joshua Kurczewski, to jail time ranging between 30 days and nine months. Many antihazing activists cheered the sentences as potentially severe enough to make fraternity members take notice and change their behavior.

He later reduced the sentence -- Kurczewski to 90 days on house arrest, Bonatucci to 30 days and Visser to 45 days.

Local media reported that Marshall said that some of the fraternity members were remorseful for their actions.

Hank Nuwer, a journalism professor at Franklin College who has written broadly about hazing, said that the Piazza case reminded him of an early hazing death, Isaac William Rand, a University of North Carolina student, who died in 1912 after his throat was cut with a broken bottle. Rand’s death came with promises of change around hazing and a major media blitz, but little was accomplished, Nuwer said.

Nuwer said that hazing isn’t often looked at as a homicide -- that judges still look at the episodes as “unfortunate accidents” that involve students with no prior criminal record. Often, hazing investigations take quite a bit of time, which allows the bad actors to build up a good defense in a criminal case, he said.

Even if tougher laws, such as Pennsylvania’s, are passed, they won’t do much unless they’re enforced properly, Nuwer said.

Texas and Florida have considered bills that would toughen rules around hazing. Florida’s would make hazing a felony if it resulted in permanent injury and gives immunity to people who provide medical assistance or call 911 for help. The Texas legislation modifies the definition of hazing, adding that coercing someone to drink alcohol or use a drug is now considered hazing. Universities would also need to publish summaries on hazing, and students would be protected from liability if they reported a hazing episode.

But judges often don’t understand hazing or the psychology behind it, said Gentry McCreary, the chief executive officer of Dyad Strategies, which consults with colleges and universities to reshape their Greek life systems.

In the Piazza case, no one physically forced him to consume alcohol, but the “need to belong” is a particularly powerful motivator, McCreary said. Just like with sexual assault, in which police, judges and prosecutors have been taught trauma-informed interviewing, so should they need to learn about the nuances of hazing, he said.

The new laws are helpful because prosecuting students under manslaughter can be complex, McCreary said. The standards for those charges can be significantly higher, so making the hazing laws clearer helps, he said.

“We continue to see this as a challenge -- that it’s hard to hold people accountable,” McCreary said.

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USC Board of Trustees to undergo major changes in the wake of recent scandals

Tue, 2019-05-21 07:00

Over the past two years, as scandals and controversies have plagued the University of Southern California, the institution’s divided and, some argue, unwieldy Board of Trustees has been afflicted with its own array of problems.

While the university’s difficulties played out in public, the board turmoil largely took place behind the scenes, as is the norm in the usually staid culture of private university boards. But internal disagreements on the board -- replete with biting insults, leaked emails and accusations of conflicts of interests and ethics violations -- have spilled into public view in recent months.

The infighting has highlighted institutional governance challenges and prompted calls for a major restructuring and shrinking of the 56-member board. It turns out some reforms are already underway or under consideration. And despite the deep divisions on the board, many members agree a major transformation is sorely needed.

“There are significant changes being discussed, dozens and dozens of changes we're going to be bringing to the board,” said Rick Caruso (at right), chair of the Board of Trustees. He said reducing the size of the board is among several modifications being considered based on the recommendations of a committee created to address the board’s many challenges.

“When you look at different universities across the country, there are a wide range of numbers of board members,” Caruso said, adding that no decision has yet been made on the final composition of the USC board.

While it's true that university governing boards are of varying sizes, the average private university board had 29 members in 2016, according to the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. Stanford University's board has 31 members, for example.

“A number of changes that are equally if not more important than the size of the board” are also under discussion, Caruso said. “What’s important is to get it right.”

Getting it right seems more consequential than ever at USC. The push for change is occurring as the university itself is in the midst of transition, with a new president set to take over in July and several top administrators already gone. The fallout from the national college admissions bribery and cheating scheme, in which employees, students and parents connected to USC predominated, is still unfolding.

The admissions scandal further hurt the already damaged reputation of the university, making it the butt of jokes on late-night talk shows and embarrassing and cutting skits on Saturday Night Live.

Students, faculty members, alumni and others with a stake in the future of the university are not amused. They say merely tinkering with board structure won't lead to real change without considering broader issues -- a culture of secrecy many say has discouraged confronting problems, a willingness to look the other way when money or athletics are involved, and a failure to seek adequate faculty input.

Ariela Gross, a professor of law and history at USC, who is on an Academic Senate task force on shared governance, considers the current composition of trustees “a board for a different era.”

"And as the current board leadership recognizes, it can’t stay this size and this composition and function the way it has in the past if it is to move forward,” she said. “I think the question is how quickly change will happen, not whether that change will happen.”

William G. Tierney, a professor of higher education and co-director of USC's Pullias Center for Higher Education, agrees the focus should be on the future.

“The real issue is to look forward, not to look backward,” he said

Tierney wrote a widely discussed op-ed in which he endorsed the idea of a reconfigured board and called on the incoming president, Carol Folt, to “convince the USC Board of Trustees … to radically restructure itself” as one of her first acts as president.

Tierney also urged Folt to work with Caruso “to convince the trustees that they should resign en masse to allow USC to build a new, smaller board tasked specifically with oversight and aligned more with the university’s future than its past.”

Reshaping the Board

Caruso said the executive committee of the Board of Trustees is in fact focused on the university’s future. Committee members attended a retreat in March to discuss changing the board's structure and came up with a list of recommendations that were “significant, meaningful and frankly necessary to govern this institution that has changed dramatically over the past 30 years,” even as “the formation and operation of the board has not changed in that time,” he said.

“There a number of ways to do it and we’re looking at many options,” Caruso said. “We haven’t taken votes yet, but I can tell you that everybody wants a change; everybody wants an effective board.”

He said the changes will occur in stages, with the most significant one taking place in the next academic year.

In the interim, the board members are still working out their personal problems.

Like any large body of individuals with various views and allegiances, the trustees sometimes disagreed, but they usually resolved differences privately. Things shifted soon after Caruso, a longtime trustee and billionaire developer, was elected chairman of the board in May 2018.

At the time, faculty members were calling for the removal of the university’s then president, C. L. Max Nikias, in the wake of a shocking sexual assault scandal involving numerous instances of abuse of students by a campus gynecologist.

The faculty members and many students and administrators believed the scandal, among the worst of several at USC, was badly mishandled by Nikias, a prolific fund-raiser popular with the trustees, many of whom did not want him removed. Critics of Nikias blamed him for fostering a campus culture where administrators and others did not report wrongdoing.

Although the effort to oust Nikias was ultimately successful, the Los Angeles Times recently reported that Nikias, who sits on the board and maintains close relationships with other trustees, continues to wield influence on campus and on the board. Some faculty members voiced concerns that his participation in board decisions may potentially undermine Folt’s ability to reform the university and may further fuel perceptions of the board as being insufficiently concerned about the best interests of the university.

Among Caruso’s most visible actions as the board's leader was his support for, and pushing through of, a highly controversial move by the interim president, Wanda Austin, to demote the dean of the university’s Marshall School of Business. The decision sharply divided business school faculty, students and, perhaps most critically, alumni, many of them wealthy donors and a few of them members of the Board of Trustees.

The dean’s removal made Caruso a lightning rod for blistering criticism about his leadership style. Trustees that supported the dean, Jim Ellis, condemned Caruso in interviews with local and national news outlets, and in bluntly disparaging letters they sent to him and made public.

Caruso was unapologetic about supporting the dean’s removal.

“The decision that Dr. Austin made was within her authority, and we approved it,” he said.

To be very honest, there was a handful of people that did not want to see change. They were not the majority; it was tough for them. Change is tough but change has to happen. From time to time, I became the focus of their frustration and that’s fine. As chair, you have to lead.

Before long, a small but vocal contingent of die-hard supporters of Ellis, including some board members, were calling for Caruso’s resignation and orchestrating a negative public information campaign against him. This prompted a trustee who supports Caruso to call on colleagues to show more civility.

“I must take this time to state that the attacks on our chairman and the challenges to his leadership and the direction of this leadership simply should stop,” Ron Tutor, chairman and chief executive officer of Tutor Perinni Corporation, one of the largest general contractors in the United States, wrote in an email to fellow board members on Jan. 21. (Two buildings on campus are named for Tutor.)

“Whether you agree or disagree with the termination of Dean Ellis, I perceived it as one of the many unfortunate products of the times where, because of many past practices that were lax, the university’s management reacted aggressively and strongly. Whether or not it was the wise thing to do is not the issue. It is done, direction is clear and we simply cannot be in an attack mode against our leadership with all of the issues facing us going forward. We must close ranks and we must accept the fact that the chairman and this Board of Trustees going forward must take a much more aggressive role than in the past and must be more supervisory over our presidents and staff so that the sort of issues that took place will not occur again.”

“I ask all of you to refrain from any further attacks, communicate in a civil manner within the board, and support our leadership going forward. If there is to be disagreements, let them be on a closed basis within the executive committee and abide by the general consensus of that committee and the board itself.”

Ming Hsieh, another trustee and major USC donor -- a cancer research institute and a department of electric and computer engineering are named for him -- responded by email that same day.

"I strongly disagree with your statement that there should be no more challenges to either Rick's leadership or the current direction of USC's leadership. How can you possibly say that?" Hsieh wrote. "It is due to the very fact that the direction of this administration is clear that we must speak up, because the direction this university is currently headed is down, not up."

“You say we should ‘close ranks’ and be ‘more supervisory over our presidents and staff so that the sort of issues that took place will not occur again,’ but these issues continue to occur, which is why this board must act to change USC's flawed leadership now.”

Hsieh also noted financial ties between Tutor and Caruso -- Tutor’s company was the general contractor on two major Caruso projects, the Rosewood Miramar Beach Resort and the Palisades Village Center -- and implied that their business relationship posed a conflict of interest and could influence or compel Tutor to vote in favor of Caruso initiatives as board chair, or in “any upcoming votes of confidence in this leadership team.”

Hsieh also called on other trustees to disclose if they have any business relationships with Caruso and recuse themselves from voting on certain matters before the board.

Relations between the trustees and the board president were further complicated by news reports connecting a USC student whose parents were implicated in the admissions scandal to Caruso. The student, Olivia Jade Giannulli, a friend of Caruso's daughter, was on Caruso's yacht in the Bahamas during spring break, along with other friends of his daughter, who is also a USC student, when the news broke of the indictments in the federal probe. Giannulli's mother, the actress Lori Loughlin, is accused of participating in the admissions scheme and paying $500,000 in bribes to get Giannulli and her sister accepted into USC. Caruso's critics cited the yacht incident as yet another example of his personal and professional ties intersecting with his role as board president and creating possible conflicts of interests.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Caruso said he personally knew two families in which parents were charged.

Caruso "declined to name the families, but said they never asked him for help in gaining admission," the Times article stated. The newspaper also reported that at least two of the parents charged socialized with USC trustees or top administrators. One parent, a wealthy financier, even bragged in a wiretapped phone call that "half the board knows me" and said he planned to seek their help to get his son admitted.

These revelations reinforced the image of the board as being the clubby bastion of rich and powerful, and sometimes famous, mostly white male donors -- movie director Steven Spielberg is on the board, for example -- on a campus dotted with buildings and departments bearing the names of several trustees, including the USC Caruso Catholic Center and the USC Caruso Department of Otolaryngology at the Keck School of Medicine.

Putting Controversies Behind Them

Caruso dismissed any suggestions that he had potential or actual conflicts of interests with Tutor or others on the board.

“There is no conflict of interest that I have. None,” he said. “Ron Tutor was the contractor on two projects of mine. My business is a small fraction of the multiple billions of dollars in business that he does. I don’t know anybody who could influence Ron -- he’s his own man.”

Caruso said business ties between trustees do not pose conflicts of interest challenges for the board.

“The conflict occurs if I’m doing business with the university,” he said, adding that such conflicts would have to be formally disclosed. “I have a fiduciary duty to the university.”

Caruso said the allegations “are all falsehoods, stirred up by one trustee, maybe two” and that accounts of widespread backbiting, finger-pointing and distrust between trustees was overstated. He also said the board had put an end to “inappropriate behavior” by certain trustees intent on tarnishing the reputation of fellow trustees.

“The board does not tolerate that anymore,” he said. “And we have made that very clear. The board has moved past these controversies and is overwhelmingly united.”

Caruso, a 1980 USC alumnus and founder and CEO of Caruso, one of the country’s largest privately held real estate companies, is intent on moving the board forward.

He laid out his vision for the board in a long memo to “Members of the USC Family” last August. Among other measures, he announced the establishment of a Special Committee on Governance Reform made up of five trustees tasked with examining “all aspects of the Board of Trustees’ structure and operations to ensure that USC is a world leader in higher education governance.”

The committee also reviewed best practices at peer institutions and involved others on campus in its efforts, according to the memo.

“As a board, we recognize that the university has grown dramatically over the past few decades,” Caruso wrote. “That success includes a fast-growing budget, staff and student body in addition to operating one of the region’s largest medical enterprises. However, the Board of Trustees is organized in much the same way as it was 30 years ago. That needs to change.”

Caruso’s detractors believe the change should start at the top of the board.

“I think if he really cared about USC, he would step down,” said a critic who did not want to be identified because of the risk of reprisal. “He speaks as if the board is one big happy family that sings ‘Kumbaya’ together. It’s not a happy family at all. This board is broken -- he can say what he wants, but the board is broken.”

The critic said Caruso makes decisions for the board without collaborating with members and instead simply presents his decisions and asks them to vote on it. The critic cited the demotion of Dean Ellis and the selection of Folt as prime examples. Trustees who questioned those decisions or wanted to discuss the decision making behind them were sidelined or silenced, he said.

For example, the critic said, the selection of Folt was announced to the board on the same day she was presented as the finalist for the job by the selection committee, whose members were handpicked by Caruso. Caruso was the chairman of the committee.

No information was provided about Folt in advance of the meeting, the critic said. Instead, the search committee members spoke highly of her, and then there was a vote.

“That’s not a choice, that’s a fait accompli,” the critic said. “He’s made the board his own fiefdom and that’s not an example of good governance.”

Not so, according to Caruso.

He said in the past when the board considered presidential candidates, the board’s personnel committee reviewed applicants and recommended finalists to the executive committee, which would then make a recommendation for a final selection to the full board for a vote.

“This time the whole board listened to the discussions of each committee,” Caruso said. “They heard the same info at the same time and were able to ask questions. And everybody involved in the decision-making process was, in turn, being accountable.”

As a result, the selection of Folt was made by “unanimous voice vote,” he noted.

“In the old days, only the executive committee would have heard the information and made a recommendation, and then the full board would have voted,” he said. "That isn’t, to me, an example of best practices. There’s a role for the executive committee to play, no doubt, but the goal here is to have the whole board engaged and acting like a fiduciary.”

Caruso said when he became president of the board, he started talking and meeting with deans, students and professors to better understand what was happening on campus.

“It was incredibly helpful,” he said.

He said he came away from those conversations with a consistent message for the board: “We have to be more engaged, more involved and more visible.”

“We can’t be accountable unless we know the facts,” he said.

Gross, the law and history professor, is chair of Concerned Faculty of USC, a group of about 360 mostly tenured professors representing about a third of all tenured faculty members on campus. She said she’s impressed with Caruso’s follow-through on his commitments to change the board, including his promise to make public the identities of the board’s executive committee, which until recently were kept secret.

The committee turned out to have 17 members, which, Gross noted, is “almost as large as university boards in their entirety.”

“Fourteen of the committee members are older white men almost entirely drawn from business, heavily in real estate, very homogenous,” she said. “Now that we know who they are, there’s a pretty wide understanding of why that has to change.”

Caruso concurred.

“Under the old system, we were not visible. Deans and faculty members were not allowed to talk directly to trustees; I was told it was taboo for them to speak to trustees,” he said. “We got our information through the president. Big, critical decisions were made by the executive committee.”

Now more decisions are made by the whole board, he said. There’s also more direct communication with the interim president, more collaboration and more hard questions asked. The trustees also have a better sense of the decision-making process.

“This board, in a very short period of time, has transitioned from not being very engaged to this past year being very engaged and very in tune,” he said.

The Caruso critic who did not want to be named believes the other trustees have simply capitulated to Caruso's demands.

“This board lacks a backbone,” the critic said. “The board rules need to be rewritten, and the members need to be more engaged than just rubber-stamping the president’s decisions and allowing him to continue making the board in his image.”

That consensus is certainly not universal on the USC campus. Tierney and other professors say they approve of the changes taking place under Caruso's leadership.

Moving Forward

Paul Adler, a professor of management and organization, sociology, and environmental studies at USC’s Marshall School of Business, was on a faculty task force created to identify some of the roots of the recent scandals and met, in that capacity, with the leaders of the Board of Trustees’ special governance committee.

“I was impressed,” Adler said. “They were very thoughtful and open to radical restructuring on the board and quite aware of the need to remake the board.”

He said he was not aware of any significant opposition to Caruso or disagreement among board members.

“From what we hear on the grapevine, there’s pretty broad contentment within the board now and consensus on the direction for change,” he said. “While there's a lot of agreement on where we need to go, there remain unresolved issues about how to get there. Many of us, but not all, feel that we need a stronger faculty voice, primarily by strengthening the Faculty Senate. Strong faculty governance is a hallmark of a world-class university.”

He said more transparency is also needed.

“USC's leadership has long had a very defensive attitude -- when bad things happen, the reflex seems to be to duck and wait for the storm to pass. A university that is confident of its place in the top tier would be more open to both its internal and external stakeholders about its failures.”

Tierney agreed and alluded to those failures in his op-ed column.

“The next set of trustees must have duties beyond giving generously, attending football games and meeting at the 11th hour to fire the president when the university is in crisis,” he wrote. “Given the egos of many board members, and their genuine affection for the university, making such a sweeping change will be no easy task, but it is crucial.”

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Pennsylvania court rules in favor of Bloomsburg U professor fired for sleeping with two students

Tue, 2019-05-21 07:00

Bloomsburg University must reinstate a professor it fired in 2017 over sexual relationships he had with two students, according to the appellate Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

The decision upholds an arbitrator’s earlier order that Bloomsburg reinstate the professor with back pay, based on the finding that he did not violate the university’s consensual relationship policy.

Bloomsburg’s policy says that employees may not date or have sex with students or others currently under their supervision, but does not expressly prohibit relationships with past students. The university argued, ultimately unpersuasively, that the professor had violated public policy nevertheless.

The professor, John Barrett, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Court documents say that he taught one of the students in question in 2015 and began dating her the next semester, when she was no longer in his class but still a student at Bloomsburg.

The unnamed student testified that she engaged in consensual sex with Barrett but would sometimes wake up to him touching her genitals without her consent. She said it bothered her but that she did not discuss that with Barrett at the time.

The pair ended their romantic relationship in mid-2016 but remained friendly until later that year. Soon after, the woman confronted Barrett about rumors that he was now sexually involved with another student on campus. The second student has since acknowledged the relationship.

In mid-2017, the first student complained to the university that Barrett had a pattern of targeting his female students and that Barrett had touched her when she was asleep and unable to consent.

Barrett was placed on administrative leave almost immediately, pending an investigation. Bloomsburg formally terminated him the next month, citing his lack of professional judgment in engaging in sexual relationships with two students and “engaging in sexual conduct” without the student’s consent.

Barrett’s faculty union, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, field a grievance on his behalf, on that grounds that Bloomsburg fired him without just cause. The case went to arbitration, and Barrett was awarded reinstatement and back pay. Barrett’s conduct didn’t violate any university policy against sexual harassment and discrimination because neither student was under his supervision at the time of the relationship, the arbitrator found.

In fighting that award and Barrett’s reinstatement, the university cited cases in which the state court had previously vacated arbitrators’ decisions based on a public policy exception -- namely Pennsylvania’s well-defined policy against sexual harassment. Bloomsburg relied heavily on the first student’s allegation of nonconsensual touching.

In his opinion for the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, Judge P. Kevin Brobson said that the Bloomsburg case differed from other cases cited by the university in that Bloomsburg sought to “vacate an award based on sexual conduct that occurred within the overall context of a consensual sexual relationship and asks this court to find that the conduct was criminal.”

While the first student alleged that Barrett manipulated her genitals without her consent, Brobson wrote, she continued to visit his home and have sex with him. She never brought up the touching, Brobson noted, and Barrett said it didn’t happen. And the arbitrator determined that if these acts had occurred, they happened in the context of a consensual sexual relationship and not as an act of sexual harassment.

While Bloomsburg is acting as if it must reinstate “a criminal,” Brobson wrote, the “obvious problem with the university’s contention here is that there is no record that [Barrett] was ever charged with, prosecuted for or convicted of indecent sexual assault stemming from the alleged acts.”

An arbitration award “is not the proper venue to litigate whether a grievant is guilty of a crime,” Brobson added.

Still, he said, noting the arbitrator’s comment that Barrett must going forward hold himself to a higher standard, “we are in no way ignoring [Barrett’s] appalling lack of judgment, especially as one who once held a position of trust” for the student.

The university said it is aware of the decision and in the process of reviewing it.

In March, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court refused to hear Lock Haven University’s appeal of a lower court’s order that it rehire Charles Morgan, a professor of math it fired in 2016 upon discovering his decades-old conviction for child sex abuse. That lower court decision upheld an earlier arbitration ruling in Morgan’s favor. These decisions all have cited the fact that Morgan has not engaged in criminal behavior in the many years since his conviction. The statewide public faculty union also supported Morgan in his grievance.

Morgan is suing Lock Haven in civil court.

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Oregon Promise analysis shows four-year colleges lost enrollment to community colleges

Tue, 2019-05-21 07:00

A recent analysis of Oregon’s tuition-free community college scholarship found that the program helped increase enrollment at the state’s two-year colleges but shifted students away from public four-year institutions in the first year of its existence.

The analysis by Oded Gurantz, an assistant professor of education policy at the University of Missouri, also found that low-income students in Oregon didn’t receive much financial aid from the Oregon Promise program because it is a last-dollar scholarship, meaning it covers tuition and fees only after students have used all federal and state financial aid for which they are eligible.

Oregon Promise was started in 2016 and became the country’s second statewide tuition-free program. In the first year, 6,971 students received the scholarship. More than 5,600 students and 5,900 students participated in the program in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Gurantz examined the graduation and college enrollment records of high school students in the state who took the Preliminary SAT, which measures college readiness, in 10th grade. He found a 4.2 percentage point increase in community college enrollment in the first year of the Promise program. Most of that increase was the result of a corresponding 2.9-percentage-point enrollment decline at the state’s four-year colleges, he said. Gurantz used PSAT data because the exam is subsidized by the state and students are more likely to take it. The PSAT and SAT student data are also linked to National Student Clearinghouse data on postsecondary enrollment.

“In that first group of eligible students for the Oregon Promise, the enrollment shifts away from four-year colleges,” Gurantz said. But that effect didn’t appear in the second year of the program, even as the community colleges continued to see enrollment gains, he said.

Gurantz said the shift of students choosing not to attend four-year colleges and instead using the Promise scholarship to attend community colleges could have occurred because it took longer for information and marketing about the program to reach students from families with no college experience, or those who hadn’t considered college as an option.

“The spread of information is quickest to the highest-income families and slowest to families less likely to go to college,” he said.

Oregon universities have been opposed to the Promise program since it began and have argued that the state should instead fund the need-based Opportunity Grant program that directly helps low-income and underrepresented students regardless of whether they attend two- or four-year colleges. The grant program provides up to $2,700 to eligible students attending community colleges and $3,300 to students attending public or private four-year institutions in the state. The program has a maximum $3,500 expected family contribution cap.

“Oregon State from the beginning has advocated funds for students with financial need should go toward improving the Oregon Opportunity Grant, which targets low-income students,” said Steve Clark, vice president of university relations for Oregon State University.

Clark said that the university doesn’t have the data to show a direct correlation between enrollment rates at community colleges in 2016 and 2017 by Oregon Promise students and enrollment rates at the university. Oregon State’s overall enrollment in 2016 increased 2.6 percent, to about 30,354 students, and in 2017 increased by 1.8 percent to nearly 30,900 students.

However, Clark noted, the university had been enrolling fewer Oregon high school graduates before the Oregon Promise started. Enrollment by graduates of the state’s high schools decreased by 0.6 percent in 2016 and by 4.1 percent in 2017.

A report from the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission found similar effects in the first year of the Promise program between four- and two-year institutional enrollments, said Ben Cannon, executive director of the HECC.

The rate of students with state and federal grants increased by 3.6 percentage points, to 29.3 percent, in 2016 among the community colleges, while the rate of students receiving grant aid at public universities in the state decreased 4.2 percentage points, to 37.2 percent, according to HECC data.

Gurantz’s analysis also shows that because of the last-dollar component of the program, fewer low-income students received actual scholarship dollars. Oregon does provide a separate $1,000 stipend to full-time Promise students if they are entirely covered by Pell Grants -- or $500 if they attend part-time -- to help offset additional costs such as textbooks, transportation or living expenses.

The first year of the Promise program did not include a limit on the maximum expected family contribution, or EFC, allowed for eligibility, which means middle- and higher-income families were able to receive the scholarship dollars. As a result, about one-fifth of Promise scholarship dollars went to students from families with an EFC of more than $20,000, according to Gurantz's analysis.

Oregon's community colleges on average cost about $5,000 a year in tuition and fees, according to the state. Gurantz's analysis found the average Promise scholarship award was $653.

“A lot of the money goes to middle- and high-income families,” he said.

Oregon placed a $20,000 EFC cap on the program in 2017 to prevent Promise dollars from going to high-income families. But that cap was removed last year, Cannon said.

The Legislature is considering imposing another EFC cap, but in the interim, the state is encouraging students of all income levels to apply for the program, he said.

“I am concerned that first-generation or low-income or other underrepresented students will be inadvertently affected by the mixed messaging that we have given over the years,” Cannon said. “When we are forced to impose EFC restrictions, or otherwise have to adjust eligibility, it confuses the message that I think we’re trying to drive around this program, which is tuition will not be a barrier for any Oregon student who wants to go to community college.”

Compared to all community college students, Oregon Promise students are less likely to be first generation. Only 31 percent of Oregon Promise students in 2016 were first generation, according to HECC data.

“We know signaling of college being free is an important and powerful magnet for students,” Gurantz said. “Even if more money is going to middle-income families, some money is still going to low-income families.”

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Colleges see rise in popularity for emotional support animals

Tue, 2019-05-21 07:00

Most students know the list of items they can’t bring into a university dormitory. They can’t haul in their own beds. They can’t set up a microwave. Candles usually aren’t allowed.

The family golden retriever would usually fall in this banned category.

But no longer does that stop students from asking for emotional support animals -- requests for them have skyrocketed at colleges and universities nationwide.

Washington State University’s Access Center, which handles the needs of students with both psychological and physical disabilities, only fielded two or three requests for emotional support animals in 2011.

Now the center gets 60 to 75 requests a year, said Meredyth Goodwin, its director.

The bouncing bunny, the fluffy kitten and more exotic companions -- ferrets, snakes, bearded dragons -- all of which would have been promptly exiled from a campus residence no more than a decade ago, have become widely accepted features, at least among officials who work to accommodate students with disabilities.

These creatures are meant to comfort students with anxiety, depression or some other mental health issue. They are distinct from service animals, which are legally defined as only dogs or miniature horses that can perform tasks for their handler -- think a guide dog for the blind.

Misinformation and skepticism abound when it comes to both emotional support animals and service animals. How can college administrators differentiate from the student down the hall who needs to pet his cat to ease a panic attack versus the student who just wants to room with Fido?

Students don't need to provide documentation to have a service dog. But they do need a letter from a mental health professional justifying the need for an emotional support animal.

This type of verification can be easily fudged, however, as online services can -- for a certain price -- connect students with a psychologist who would provide them with such a letter, which has led to officials being much more diligent about potential abuse of the system.

“It is one of the issues that all access centers across the country are grappling with,” Goodwin said. “If you go to professional trainings, this is one of the most common items we’re seeing.”

College administrators started taking real notice of emotional support animals seven or so years ago. Students began suing when administrators denied their requests for a furry or scaly roommate, arguing that the decisions violated the federal Fair Housing Act, which protects from discrimination when buying or renting a home. The animals have made headlines elsewhere, too, such as when passengers on airplanes try to take their emotional support turkey or peacock on a flight.

Students who sued universities have won.

In 2013, Grand Valley State University settled for $40,000 with a student who sued the previous year. The institution had told her she couldn’t live with her emotional support guinea pig. A similar, $140,000 settlement came two years later for two students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. The settlement stemmed from a lawsuit in 2011 by a former student who asked to keep a four-pound miniature pinscher named Butch in her apartment for her chronic anxiety but was denied. As recently as three years ago, Kent State University paid out $100,000 to a couple living in university housing who were told they couldn’t have a dog to accommodate the woman’s anxiety.

With case law clearly defining that emotional support animals were covered by the Fair Housing Act, administrators began processing how to deal with such requests.

At Washington State, students who want an emotional support animal must submit a letter from a mental health practitioner outlining a student’s diagnosis and how the creature in question would help alleviate their symptoms, Goodwin said. The university’s housing division makes the final call whether to allow the animal once her office approves it. Officials aren’t obligated to approve every request. Goodwin recalls a dog, she believes a mastiff, that was 200 or so pounds that simply couldn’t live in a dorm room. Eight years ago, when this issue was first coming to light, the university approved a pig that damaged a residence hall, Goodwin said.

The level of scrutiny applied to these requests will vary by institution, said Courtney Cioffredi, the director of student access and accommodations at New England College. But generally the requirements are similar to Washington State’s, she said.

Many administrators in the disabilities field are aware, however, of how easy it is to secure such a doctor's note, Cioffredi said. In 2014 a New Yorker writer went online and, for $140, had a phone consult with a therapist who gave her a letter confirming she needed an emotional support animal. This was after a single call.

At Ohio State University, where about 175 support animals live in the residence halls, administrators tend to flag the “template” letters, said L. Scott Lissner, the university’s Americans With Disabilities Act coordinator and 504 compliance officer. These notes tend to lack the same detail compared to those that came from a therapist with an existing relationship with a student, Lissner said. Ohio State asks for information about a student’s history with the therapist, too, he said.

“Companies that purport to have these interactions online with a licensed psychologist who can opine on your needs [are] more than a bit problematic,” Lissner said.

Service dogs can be trickier than emotional support animals. Miniature service horses are obviously not common on college campuses, though Lissner said he’s heard of a Muslim student owning one at an institution in Michigan (in Islam, dogs are traditionally considered impure).

The ADA only allows officials to ask two questions regarding service animals: Is this animal required for a disability, and what task does the animal perform for you?

Administrators can’t pry beyond those questions -- they can’t force the student to show whatever duty the animal is trained for, and they can’t force the student to show proof of a disability. Theoretically, anyone could order a service dog vest from Amazon, slap it on a dog and take the dog wherever they like around campus, including inside buildings. Goodwin said that students could bypass all of the institution’s policies around emotional support animals by declaring their dog was a service animal.

Lissner said that administrators can ask students to remove their service dogs if they aren’t behaving appropriately, such as causing a disruption or invading personal space.

Cioffredi said she’s not worried about students exploiting the vague service animal rules, though. Students who have a service dog sometimes already have their disability confirmed by an institution, usually because they need another accommodation other than the animal. A student with a hearing deficiency might already require a strobe light in a dorm room, for instance, she said.

Often, Cioffredi has found that students who need a service dog will contact a disabilities services office immediately, too.

“It’s usually the first place they stop,” Cioffredi said. “Even before they get on campus, they are calling disability resource centers, asking, ‘What are your processes for this?’ making this transition a little easier for them.”

Because emotional support animals are only permitted under the Fair Housing Act, students who need them can’t take them anywhere they like outside a residence hall or apartment. An emotional support boa constrictor won’t be slithering around a campus dining hall.

Complaints on these animals are handled case by case, officials said. They’ve moved students who are allergic or simply don’t like living with a canine or a rodent. Some institutions have opened pet-friendly dormitories to avoid this. Stetson University started allowing animals inside dormitories as early as 2010, but two residence halls went completely to the dogs in 2015. Students don't need to prove they have mental health issues in this case -- they can bring their pet just because they want to live with their pet.

“Pets can help students socialize and provide much-needed emotional support throughout the academic year,” Lua Hancock, vice president for campus life and student success, said at the time. “They are a great stress reliever, especially during finals and other exams.”

Research is mixed as to whether the animals can help treat mental health problems. One study from 2015 did reveal short-term benefits from exposure to animals. But what is definitive is that college students are reporting anxiety and depression at higher rates. In 2018, the American College Health Association found that 63 percent of students they surveyed had experienced overwhelming anxiety in the past year. And 42 percent of students indicated they found it difficult to function because they were depressed.

Students have asked to live with any number of support animals: birds and snakes, rats. Cioffredi said she once heard of a request for an emotional support cockroach. Dogs are simple, but some of the other animals are not -- when Ohio State considers an emotional support animals, officials check on vaccinations and other potential health hazards, Lissner said. If the support animal eats live food, then administrators would vet that, too, he said.

Institutions have come up with other ways to involve animals in mental health treatment. Bringing trained therapy dogs to campus has become common, particularly around exam time. The University of South Carolina has a resident therapy pup, a year-old English cream golden retriever named Indy, short for Indigo.

Indy has “office hours,” about an hour every day Monday through Friday, said Justina Siuba, a stress-management coordinator there. Indy lives with Siuba when she’s not at work.

She will also take laps around campus and appear at events, Siuba said. When a student schedules a session to talk about stress levels, Indy can be by their side, which helps open them up, Siuba said.

“It’s really important to have a conversation around mental health in the first place,” Siuba said. “Bringing in animals as a means of support for mental health -- these conversations are just so important.”

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DeVos experiment will open work-study to more private-sector jobs

Tue, 2019-05-21 07:00

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Monday she will launch a pilot program allowing some colleges to use Federal Work-Study benefits for off-campus employment, including apprenticeships and clinical rotations.

The experiment delivers, if on a limited scale, on repeated proposals by the Trump administration to reform the work-study program and connect student aid more directly to careers.

It also marks DeVos’s first use of the department’s experimental sites authority, which allows the secretary to offer waivers to rules governing student aid programs in order to evaluate new policy ideas.

Her announcement Monday also noted that she would look to expand the number of colleges participating in the Second-Chance Pell experiment, which allows a limited number of incarcerated students to receive Pell Grants to attend college courses. A congressional ban on Pell Grants in prisons has been in place since 1994.

The work-study experiment, though, is the clearest reflection of the Trump administration’s ongoing priorities.

The federal government spends about $1 billion annually on the program, which supports student aid as a form of employment. Recent research has shown that the program has positive impacts on college completion, especially for low-income students. It may also help level the playing field in the professional world for disadvantaged students who can’t afford to take on unpaid internships.

But critics of work-study have said that the program is not well targeted to the students most in need of support and does little to ensure that jobs prepare them for careers after college. The government routes work-study funds directly to institutions using a funding formula that favors colleges based on past allocations. So money is skewed toward wealthy private colleges that have a high cost of attendance.

The Trump administration’s experiment doesn’t address funding allocations for work-study; that would require action from Congress. Instead, it would focus on helping colleges match job opportunities with students’ career goals, in large part by promoting more employment in the private sector. Those employment opportunities could include apprenticeships as well as clinical rotations and student teaching opportunities.

“For decades, the Federal Work-Study program has allowed students to support themselves while earning a college degree, but for too long, the majority of the work options students have had access to have been irrelevant to their chosen field of study,” said DeVos in a statement announcing the experiment. “That will change with this experimental site. We want all students to have access to relevant earn-and-learn experiences that will prepare them for future employment.”

The experiment would aim to measure the effectiveness of working more closely with private-sector employers and measure the impact of more flexible employment rules on student retention and completion and employment after graduation.

Almost 92 percent of Federal Work-Study funds go to on-campus employment, while another 8 percent goes to employment at local nonprofits. Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of funds go to support jobs for students at private-sector employers -- a share of total funds the Trump administration would like to see go up.

Judith Scott-Clayton, an associate professor of economics and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, said providing a direct pathway to careers has always been a mostly aspirational goal for the program.

“Everybody has always hoped for and had in their minds this vision of work-study as being a career-related thing,” she said. “In practice, most students don’t know what they want to do, and they don’t know what career relevant would look like yet.”

It’s also difficult for the federal government to regulate what career-relevant employment would mean to thousands of institutions across the country, she said.

But Scott-Clayton, whose research has examined the impact of work-study, said the program provides positive benefits to students even without a direct connection to a future career.

“They’re still getting exposed to professional work environments that could provide some really valuable soft skills,” she said. “Having a work-study job could be career relevant even if it’s not related to a student's major just by giving them that professional experience.”

Iris Palmer, a senior policy analyst at New America’s education policy program, said that the original rules for the work-study program included barriers to private-sector employment because the federal government didn’t want a student aid program to subsidize for-profit businesses. Yet keeping most jobs on campus hasn’t necessarily resulted in strong connections between student majors and careers, as recent reporting on Harvard University’s work-study program illustrated.

“But it doesn’t necessarily follow that this money being used for off-campus opportunities will be better aligned with a student’s course of study,” Palmer said.

Some students have also said that, even if their on-campus work-study jobs aren't career relevant, they provide the convenience of being near their classes and fellow students.

Kermit Kaleba, director of federal policy at the National Skills Coalition, said the group will watch closely to see how many colleges that currently receive work-study funds would attempt to expand partnerships with private-sector employers.

Expanding Second-Chance Pell

The Education Department’s new interest in exercising its experimental sites authority was underlined by the expansion of the Second-Chance Pell program. Sixty-four colleges are currently offering programs to incarcerated students receiving Pell Grants through the program. The experiment has awarded federal aid to 8,800 students in its first two academic years.

More than 200 colleges applied to the program in 2015, suggesting much broader interest in participating. The Education Department did not comment on the number of new institutions it’s seeking to add. But a press release from the department noted that adding more students and colleges would help efforts to evaluate the Second Chance program.

A Government Accountability Office report released in April found that the department hadn’t taken steps to adequately evaluate the experiment.

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Former Ohio State doctor abused nearly 200 young men with no consequences for decades

Mon, 2019-05-20 07:00

A former physician, now dead, at Ohio State University sexually abused at least 177 male students, likely more, during his two decades at the institution and faced no consequences until he was briefly suspended and then retired with an honorary title.

Administrators, coaches and students were aware of Richard Strauss’s actions -- fondling athletes’ genitals, performing sex acts on them and making lewd comments during exams -- but failed to act, according to an investigative report released Friday. Even when students told officials about Strauss, who died by suicide in 2005, those reports went unheeded. Ohio State’s investigation, conducted by Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie, describes an environment in which Strauss’s misdeeds were an “open secret” and athletes considered the abuse a form of “hazing” or a “rite of passage.”

Many see parallels between this case and other sprawling sexual abuse scandals by doctors at other universities -- Larry Nassar at Michigan State University and George Tyndall at the University of Southern Carolina. Nassar’s victims numbered in the hundreds and Michigan State settled with them for $500 million -- the largest payout related to sexual assault at an institution of higher education.

In the Strauss case, all of his victims were all young men -- men who were reluctant to come forward during the investigation, fearing, in part, the stigma around male sexual assault survivors, the report indicated. (In a separate case, men at USC have come forward alleging another physician sexually abused them.)

Trauma experts told Inside Higher Ed that the public often doesn’t take sex abuse allegations by men as seriously as women’s -- that men are expected to be able to “fight off” their perpetrator. But this stereotype reinforces men’s unwillingness to report sexual assaults -- and in this case, contributed to Strauss getting away with abuse for nearly his entire tenure. The power of these stereotypes was particularly strong given the victims were athletes.

“There are major differences in the stereotypes and assumptions made about male victims,” said Christopher Anderson, a trauma expert and member of the Board of Directors of MaleSurvivor, a nonprofit supporting male sex assault victims. “Among these, perhaps the biggest difference is the perception that any man who was abused must be weak, vulnerable, less of a man. In addition if the perpetrator is male, then toxic prejudice and homophobia can be a major stigma leading many victims to stay silent.”

Strauss began at Ohio State in 1978 as an assistant professor of sports management and began volunteering in the athletics department within months of his hiring. He rose in the ranks and eventually worked both in athletics and the student health center. As early as 1979, athletics staffers and students knew of his misconduct -- mostly lengthy and unnecessary physical exams that involved him fondling men, forcing them to have an erection, the report states. But complaints weren’t elevated outside the athletics department until 1996, following a cluster of incidents in the late '90s.

University officials twice conducted “investigations” -- the word is deliberately in quotes in the report because the inquiries did not nearly uncover the extent of Strauss’s abuse. In one case, a fencing coach reported Strauss to another official, who was dismissive of the accusations and said they were based on “unfounded rumors.” After the second investigation in 1996, Strauss was stripped of his duties in athletics and the health center but retained his professorship until his retirement in 1998, when he was granted an emeritus title, even after the university was aware of the allegations against him. The university has said it will remove the title. (The report does not name any employees discussed who are still at the university, only those who have left or died.)

Strauss opened an off-campus clinic in 1997 after failing to appeal his punishments to administrators. Ohio State had never reported him to the state medical board. He claimed to specialize in sexually transmitted diseases and urological problems, but investigators found that he continued to abuse young men who came into the clinic. The report describes the operation almost as a “free clinic.” Strauss seemed not to charge the men who came in, and when he did, the cash was kept in a lockbox.

Investigators interviewed more than 500 individuals, mostly students who were abused and former Ohio State employees. They found that 22 coaches were aware of Strauss’s actions. The report also notes that 22 of the 177 victims did not believe they had been abused, but consulting with experts, the investigators said Strauss’s exams with them went far beyond appropriate medical conduct.

Strauss’s actions tended to escalate over time. His victims said in interviews that his most egregious violations did not occur in their first encounter with Strauss, which the report said is typical of sexual abusers.

A former student reported to investigators that in his first year, during a physical, Strauss spent more than five minutes inspecting his genitals. Strauss asked the student out to dinner, and the student declined. Strauss commonly took students out to dinner and paid, the report states. When the student saw Strauss again, Strauss touched him with the intent to try to make him ejaculate, the student told investigators. During another examination, when the student had a sore throat, Strauss fondled him again -- for no discernible medical reason. And in their final encounter, Strauss performed oral sex on the student and took off his pants, which the student believed was so the student could reciprocate.

The student never reported the behavior, noting that “student athletes were generally expected to be the ‘manliest of men,’” the report states.

Strauss would shower with players, sometimes for up to 45 minutes at a time, rubbing his genitals. No other athletics staffer did so, which made athletes uncomfortable, the report states.

When his behavior was reported, it seemed not to matter. When another former student injured himself during his sophomore year, the student told another physician treating him about a prolonged examination that involved Strauss touching his genitals. The physician asked the student to repeat the story to the head team physician, and the student told investigators both men looked concerned. But neither seemed to do much with the information. Strauss called the student later that night to check in on his injury but did not bring up the student talking to his colleagues. Strauss kept his job.

After multiple students reported Strauss had abused them in the late '90s, the university investigated the allegations and chose not to allow Strauss to work in athletics or in the health center.

Debra Warner, a professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, and an expert in sexual abuse, said reports likely took so long to surface because society shames men who are vulnerable. The public -- wrongly -- considers men as hunters, protectors, she said, and not those who can be the victims of sexual violence.

“To say that they have been assaulted and victimized in any way shape or form, they are afraid about what everyone will think about them, that it will impact their future and their survival,” Warner said.

Jessica Davidson, the director of End Rape on Campus, said that Ohio State now must show how it will never allow such abuse to fester or go unnoticed again.

The university’s president, Michael V. Drake, issued a letter to the campus Friday, writing that the findings were “shocking and painful to comprehend.”

“On behalf of the university, we offer our profound regret and sincere apologies to each person who endured Strauss’ abuse,” Drake wrote. “Our institution’s fundamental failure at the time to prevent this abuse was unacceptable -- as were the inadequate efforts to thoroughly investigate complaints raised by students and staff members. This independent investigation was completed because of the strength and courage of survivors. We thank each of them for their willingness to share their experiences."

Ohio State currently faces three lawsuits from abuse victims.

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Fighting gender bias in student evaluations of teaching, and tenure's effect on instruction

Mon, 2019-05-20 07:00

Student evaluations of teaching -- which have been shown again and again to be subject to student biases, especially gender bias -- remain as controversial as ever. And two new studies of these evaluations, or SETs, are more fuel for the fire.

The first paper suggests that relatively simple changes to the language used in SETs can make a positive impact in assessments of female professors. Yet the authors warn that if these changes were widely adopted, students (and their biases) might adjust to the new system -- and the positive effect for female professors might wear off.

A second study finds that professors are seen by students as better teachers before they earn tenure. The authors say that this is not a reason to do away tenure entirely, just that increased job security inside or outside academe may come with decreased "quality of output."

Mitigating Gender Bias

The bias paper, published in PLOS ONE, cities experimental research showing that gender bias accounts for a up a 0.5-point negative effect for women on a five-point scale. And yet, it says, “there are few effective evidence-based tools for mitigating these biases.”

What if students were made aware of their potential biases, the authors wondered? While long-term reductions in student biases are beyond a simple intervention, they wrote, it may be possible to limit the immediate problem of biases in SET by “cuing students to be aware of their biases, providing motivation to not rely on them, and suggesting alternatives to their stereotypes.”

To test their idea, the authors conducted an experiment in pairs of large introductory courses in biology and American politics at Iowa State University last spring. All four sections were taught by white professors, allowing the researchers to eliminate effects from confounding racial biases. One section in each field was taught by a man and the other by a woman.

SETs at Iowa State are conducted online, from a link in students’ email. For each course in the study, students received one of two evaluation formats: the standard department format or the “treatment” evaluation. Students were randomized within courses, not across courses, to receive different evaluation formats so that professors could be compared to themselves, not other professors who may actually be better teachers.

Unlike the standard evaluation, the treatment evaluation included the following language, which the researchers expected would mitigate gender biases:

Student evaluations of teaching play an important role in the review of faculty. Your opinions influence the review of instructors that takes place every year. Iowa State University recognizes that student evaluations of teaching are often influenced by students’ unconscious and unintentional biases about the race and gender of the instructor. Women and instructors of color are systematically rated lower in their teaching evaluations than white men, even when there are no actual differences in the instruction or in what students have learned.

As you fill out the course evaluation please keep this in mind and make an effort to resist stereotypes about professors. Focus on your opinions about the content of the course (the assignments, the textbook, the in-class material) and not unrelated matters (the instructor’s appearance).

Among other questions, every student involved in the study was asked the following about their instructor, on a five-point scale:

  • Your overall rating of this instructor is?
  • What is your overall rating of the instructor’s teaching effectiveness?
  • And your overall rating of this course is?

Students were also asked about their gender, as is standard for Iowa State evaluations, allowing the researchers to examine that, as well. The authors guessed, based on existing literature, that male students would be more biased against female instructors than female students would be. The authors controlled for students' expected grades in a course.

What happened? The language seemed to have a small but significant, positive effect for female faculty members on all three questions -- and no effect for men. The answers to the overall evaluation of teaching were 0.41 points higher in the treatment condition. The difference in the means for the teaching effectiveness question were 0.30 points. For the overall evaluation of the course, the treatment condition was 0.51 points higher than the control.

Regarding the student gender hypothesis, the researchers found that the intervention had no effect on women’s evaluations of female professors. There was some evidence of an effect for male students rating female professors on overall rating of the course and the instructor, but not teaching effectiveness. A more advanced analysis reduced this effect, however.

Across courses, the effects of the evaluation language were “substantial in magnitude; as much as half a point on a five-point scale,” the paper says. “This effect is comparable with the effect size due to gender bias found in the literature. There is no evidence of a similar effect on the evaluation of male instructors. Given the outsized role SET play in the evaluation, hiring and promotion of faculty, the possibility of mitigating this amount of possible bias in evaluations is striking.”

Source: Peterson, PLOS ONE

A note of caution, however. “The implication of these results is that universities should adopt some form of this language to mitigate the gender biases in SET,” the study says, yet “we are somewhat uncertain about the broad applicability of these results.” Why? The effects observed “may be magnified by the unusual nature of the situation for the students,” meaning it’s possible that if an institution saw “widespread adoption of bias language students would be less likely to notice the language and its effects would lessen.”

Further research is needed, therefore, “to determine the most effective way to mitigate gender bias in SET on a large scale.”

Teaching and Tenure

And what about tenure’s effect on teaching -- at least students’ perceptions of it? The working paper on that topic involves 250 professors granted tenure over 11 years at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Together, the professors taught more than 6,000 courses to undergraduates and graduate students, and their many SETs of course included proxies for teaching effectiveness -- namely overall ratings for course and instructor.

All such questions are subjective and self-reported by students, the paper notes. But the authors say they looked “within instructors,” pre- and posttenure, “not across instructors,” for consistency.

Results of the instructors’ pre- and posttenure ratings show what the authors call “a small but persistent decrease” in the instructor over all and course over all score, equivalent to up to a sixth of a standard deviation.

Source: Gourley

While the results seems to show an “in-class behavioral change” in instructors after tenure, the paper says, there exist alternative explanations.

The authors were most concerned with the possibility that professors teach different courses after tenure. Yet the study’s most restrictive specification or step compared the same instructor pretenure and posttenure in the “exact same course, leaving few possible alternative explanations to a tenure mechanism.” The results are there are “qualitatively similar to the main set of results: instructors receive worse evaluations after tenure than they did prior.”

The researchers also found a statistically significant decrease in an instructor’s student-reported availability, instructor effectiveness and how much the student reported to have learned posttenure.

What Now?

David A. M. Peterson, professor of political science at Iowa State and lead author on the gender bias paper, said the biggest takeaway for higher ed is that a small, relatively easy-to-adopt intervention can produce “sizable changes” in evaluations of female faculty members.

At the same time, he said, “The concern we have is that the effects will be much smaller if the change is universally adopted.” More generally, “universities absolutely should not make this type of change and then assume that they have fixed the problem,” Peterson added.

Like many critics of student evaluations of teaching, Peterson also said SETs probably shouldn’t be used in high-stakes personnel decisions. They can be useful for “individual faculty members to get an assessment of their courses,” but are “quite problematic for comparing faculty to one another or to some abstract standard.”

Asked about possible other factors behind his findings, Patrick Gourley, assistant professor of economics at the University of New Haven, lead author of the posttenure paper, reiterated that the strength of his research design is that it’s not comparing scores across professors.

“We even take into account the possibility that professors may teach different courses after gaining tenure. Still, the negative impact exists,” he said, adding, “Why else would professors suddenly change their teaching six to eight years after starting a faculty position?”

Gourley said that it’s possible that professors have a first child or more children as soon as they get tenure and “have less time to devote to teaching.” But even that would be an indirect effect of tenure.

Tenure critics will certainly seize on this research as evidence that tenured professors are “deadwood” -- even if other research on other dimensions of faculty work contradict that.

Asked about how his findings should be interpreted, Gourley said he’s currently working toward tenure himself and that the tenure debate is “complex with many good arguments on both sides.” So his own findings should “should first be kept in context,” in that the “magnitude of our effect is small,” he said.

Gourley also noted that the finding is based on “observation of student-perceived teacher quality,” and not an “objective measure of how much a student is learning.” And while it seems likely that professors work harder on teaching while on the tenure track, given the “large benefit” of getting tenure, he said, “the effect we find represents a reversion to what would have happened had no tenure system existed in the first place.”

In other words, he explained, “perhaps the tenure system makes teachers better at the beginning of their career than they would have been otherwise.” Gourley also noted that service requirements typically increase significantly posttenure, partially counterbalancing the negative effect on teaching.

“Those caveats aside, this does need to be included as a possible cost of the tenure system, and should be viewed as one of many in the list of costs and benefits.”

Gourley found no evidence of gender bias in his study. But he said it wasn’t surprising with respect to this particular paper, in that it would imply that students “view the tenure-induced teaching change in professors to be larger in one gender than in the other.”

To the contrary, he said, most students aren’t aware of who’s tenured and who isn’t.

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Morehouse commencement speaker promises to repay debt of all graduates

Mon, 2019-05-20 07:00

Robert F. Smith, a billionaire who is the chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, stunned the 396 graduates he addressed at Morehouse College Sunday when he pledged to repay all their student debt.

The vast majority of Morehouse graduates borrow. While the historically black college has not figured out the exact amount that will be involved, Smith said he would pay up to $40 million to meet his pledge.

Graduates broke into cheers when Smith closed his graduation speech with the announcement. College officials standing behind Smith seemed surprised by the news.

Smith, in his speech, talked of the discrimination black people continue to face in the United States and urged the graduates to fight it -- pushing for political change and economic advancement. Smith said Morehouse graduates have an obligation to work on behalf of black people who do not have their advantages.

"You must become a community builder," he said. "You don't want to just be on the bus. You want to own it and drive it and pick up as many people as you can," he said.

He introduced the comments on his gift by saying that he was going "to put a little fuel in your bus."

Smith challenged Morehouse alumni to build on his gift. The Class of 2019 "is my class," he said. But other alumni need to help other alumni and students.

Only by doing so, he said, will the United States become a place where access to education is determined by "the fierceness of your intellect."

Earlier in his address, he urged students to work hard and to be deliberate. "Be intentional about the words you speak, how you define yourself, the people you spend time with," he said.

On social media, graduates and those with them at the time of the speech expressed joy.

Just spoke to 22-year-old @Morehouse finance major from Atlanta who had drawn up Excel spreadsheet to figure out how he would pay off $200,000 in student loans. He didn't believe it when @RFS_Vista said he would pay debt for him and his classmates. He cried at the news.

— Errin Haines Whack (@emarvelous) May 19, 2019

Many were writing that they had not known how they would repay their debt.

If the spending on repaying the debt hits $40 million, the gift would be the largest in Morehouse's history.

Politicians are also taking note, with some suggesting that this could provide a way to see what happens when talented African Americans are able to launch their careers without worrying about student loans.

Every Morehouse Class of 2019 student is getting their student debt load paid off by their commencement speaker.

This could be the start of what’s known in Econ as a ‘natural experiment.’ Follow these students & compare their life choices w their peers over the next 10-15 years.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 19, 2019

Smith's promise to Morehouse graduates is in some ways the flip side of the I Have a Dream program created by the late Eugene M. Lang in 1981. Speaking at the elementary school he had once attended, he promised to pay for college for everyone there that day, as long as they finished high school and applied to a college. The idea quickly caught on and spread. It may be a sign of the times -- with student debt worrying so many new graduates -- that Smith's promise to a class was as its members were finishing college but worried about repaying student loans.

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GOP tax law included surprise tax hike for college students

Mon, 2019-05-20 07:00

A provision in the Republican tax law passed in 2017 could actually mean a hike in the tax bill for many low-income families with a student receiving scholarships for college, a top higher ed group warned lawmakers this month.

Scholarships or grants for nontuition expenses like room and board have traditionally been subject to the same marginal tax rate paid by parents. So low-income students could expect to pay low taxes. But the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act applies the same high marginal tax rates for those scholarships as it does for trusts and estates.

“Now these students are being taxed at the same rates as wealthy individuals,” wrote Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, in a letter to key lawmakers.

The issue, which was first reported by The New York Times, only recently began to register with college groups as the filing deadline approached for the 2018 tax period, the first since the law took effect.

Lawmakers say they’re planning to take quick action on the issue. Representative Richard Neal, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, will introduce an amendment this week to restore the previous tax rates, a spokeswoman said. Neal plans to attach the amendment to a retirement savings bill being considered by the House that has bipartisan support. That fix would apply retroactively, the spokeswoman said.

The Senate finance committee did not respond to a request for comment. But a spokesman for Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the committee, told the Times that the Iowa Republican wanted to quickly reach an agreement to fix the issue.

In the run-up to the passage of the tax law in 2017, higher ed groups focused on stripping out provisions that explicitly targeted higher ed benefits. Early versions of the legislation, for example, would have eliminated tax deductions for graduate students and student borrowers.

The higher ed lobby also tried unsuccessfully to block the creation of an endowment tax hitting the wealthiest private institutions. ACE and private college leaders have backed legislation to repeal the tax on endowments.

But the change to taxes on student scholarships flew under the radar -- partly because it was so arcane.

“That’s what happens when you’re writing a very complicated bill and it gets passed very quickly,” said Steven Bloom, director of government and public affairs at ACE. “It’s inevitable that these technical problems are going to surface later.”

The tax hike for low-income families could be substantial, as Mitchell laid out in his letter to lawmakers. A two-parent household with an income of $50,000 could face an additional $1,200 tax on a full scholarship to a private university, he said. And the higher the amount of the scholarship, the larger the tax bill that would hit those families.

The changes to the so-called kiddie tax on need-based scholarships and grants don’t just affect low-income students. They also affect college athletes on full scholarship as well as Native American students receiving some tribal payments and “gold star” families receiving survivor benefits.

And the higher tax rates aren’t just a challenge for students on scholarship at private colleges. David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges, said students at two-year colleges would be taxed on the portion of their Pell Grants that helps meet living expenses.

Republicans, who controlled the House and Senate when the bill was passed in 2017, had argued the new law would achieve a long-held goal of simplifying the tax code, including the kiddie tax, which was originally created to prevent wealthy individuals from lowering their tax hit by steering income to their children.

But congressional GOP officials told the Times that higher tax rates on college scholarships were an unintended consequence.

Brian Flahaven, senior director of advocacy at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, said donors to scholarship programs expect that their contributions will go to students to actually afford college, not create bigger tax burdens for their families.

“There seems to be a recognition that, yeah, this is something that needs to be fixed,” he said.

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Another alleged case of censorship roils China studies

Mon, 2019-05-20 07:00

In yet another case of alleged censorship in the China studies field, a scholar says a journal editor censored his book review by requesting the deletion of an opening paragraph that contextualized the book in light of Chinese Communist Party policy toward members of the Uighur ethnic minority group in the region of Xinjiang. Human rights groups estimate that China has detained as many as one million Uighurs in camps as part of a mass “re-education” drive aimed at forcing the assimilation of Uighurs and other Muslim-majority groups.

The scholar, Timothy Grose, an assistant professor of China studies at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, says the requested deletions -- and the refusal over multiple months to publish the piece after he did not consent to them -- constitute an "open-and-shut" case of censorship, and he has noted that the editor in chief of the journal is on record defending Chinese government policy in Xinjiang.

The journal’s editor in chief, Han Xiaorong, a professor and head of the department of Chinese culture at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, says he did suggest the deletions but denies that his proposed edits constituted censorship. Han said the review was not published because miscommunications between him and the book review editor led to the commission of two reviews, including the review in question, that were not “directly relevant” to the journal’s theme.

The case of alleged censorship involves a new journal, China and Asia: A Journal in Historical Studies, published by Brill, a Dutch publisher of more than 270 journals. Grose said he was commissioned by the journal to write a review of the book Oil and Water: Being Han in Xinjiang (University of Chicago Press), an ethnographic study of members of the majority Han ethnic group who have settled in Xinjiang, written by the anthropologist Tom Cliff.

Grose opened his review of Cliff’s book with a paragraph discussing the detention of Uighurs in "concentration re-education centers" because, he wrote, he believed Cliff’s argument "afforded much-needed clarity to the confounding situation in the region." He submitted the review Nov. 7. The next day he received an email from the book review editor saying the editorial staff had suggested a "minor change": the deletion of the first paragraph, as well as two subsequent sentences (see image of the deletions above).

“I was more confused than upset,” Grose wrote in an account he published last week on the Los Angeles Review of Books’ website “I spent the evening and next morning trying to make sense of this editorial decision, before responding in an email asking for clarification and expressing my concerns over censorship. The book review editor forwarded my note to the editor in chief of the journal, Han Xiaorong.”

“After waiting over a month for the editor’s response, to no avail, I sent a follow-up email in mid-December. The book review editor responded within a week and expressed serious doubt over the possibility of publishing the piece. He did not offer specific reasons behind the decision.” After three more months of silence, Grose wrote, he took to Twitter on April 5 to offer the review to another outlet. The Asia Dialogue, an online magazine published by the University of Nottingham’s Asia Research Institute, published it three days later.

Any book review editors want my review praising @TMJCliff's Oil & Water? A @BrillPublishing journal refused to publish it because I would not agree to delete my remarks on the mass detention of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the region. DM me.

— Timothy Grose (@GroseTimothy) April 5, 2019

The editor in chief of the journal, Han, acknowledged in a written response to Grose’s article that he suggested the deletions, but he disputed that the suggestions constituted censorship.

“I did suggest the removal of the first paragraph as well as the first two sentences of the second paragraph of Tim’s review, because I believed the views expressed about the situation in Xinjiang were primarily of a political nature and were about a current event that was still developing,” Han wrote. “It is typical for an academic book review to start with the book rather than a political message. If censorship was my aim, I would have rejected the review immediately without revisions, because the book under review and the rest of the book review were also critical of China’s practices.”

Han also cited “miscommunications between our book review editor and me” in saying that the journal acquired two reviews for its inaugural issue “that were not directly relevant to our journal’s central theme, which is China’s historical relations with other Asian countries. This is why I did not include these two reviews in our first issue … My plan was to try to find more suitable journals for these two reviews, and, if that failed, we would consider publishing them in future issues.” Han apologized for what he said in hindsight was poor communication between Grose, the book review editor and him.

As Grose has noted, Han recently wrote an op-ed in which he defended Chinese Communist Party policies in Xinjiang on counterterrorism-related grounds. Han wrote that foreign media, government officials and scholars who criticize the Chinese government for its policies in Xinjiang “have never attempted to understand why Xinjiang is taking these unique anti-terrorism measures; they also almost never mention the positive outcomes brought about by these anti-terrorism measures.”

“In Xinjiang and all other regions under the threat of terrorism, the government and the people must face the difficult decision: whether the personal freedom of a few should be traded for everyone’s right to survive,” Han wrote (translated from Chinese). “The most basic human right is to live in an environment in which one does not have to fear for the life and safety of oneself and one’s family and friends. In order to protect this right, sometimes it is necessary to forfeit some secondary rights. In 2001, after Sept. 11, the United States immediately strengthened airport security check measures and established the Department of Homeland Security, which had the right to restrict the freedoms of certain people; this is a similar decision."

Han said via email the question of what his views on Xinjiang are and the question of whether he censored Grose are two separate issues -- and that "to make false connections between the two is a form of censorship in itself." He asked, "To trace meticulously what someone has written or spoken in order to prove that someone's guilt[y] is the worst form of censorship, isn't it?"

“My views on Xinjiang may differ from those of Tim,” Han wrote in his published response to Grose’s allegations, “but that does not mean the suggested revision of his book review and the delay of its publication were due to censorship.”

Grose said he thinks this is an "open-and shut case" of an editor deliberately censoring his review. “He [Han] incriminates himself in his response to my rendering of the events that transpired by saying, yes, initially I did delete the entire first paragraph and the first few sentences of the second paragraph because I thought they were political,” Grose said. “To me, that is the epitome of censorship when you find something political and you don’t agree with those politics and you decide not to let an individual express those ideas.”

“To me it wasn’t political at all,” Grose continued. “I’m not just a China scholar. My expertise is Xinjiang and Uighurs, and Tom Cliff’s argument is very, very relevant to what’s going on in Xinjiang. It’s about how the CCP formulates its policy, how it privileges the comforts of one group of people over the other and also how it forms Xinjiang’s relationship with the rest of China and how it continues to make this an ‘other’ place compared to the rest of China.”

Kevin Carrico, a senior lecturer in Chinese studies at Monash University, in Australia, said it seemed to him an “extremely clear-cut case of censorship … Han claims that the reference to Xinjiang’s concentration camps at the beginning of Grose’s review is 'political' and thus somehow inappropriate,” Carrico wrote in a Listserv post. “But as someone who writes a fair amount of book reviews, I’ve never encountered an editor who was resistant to linking a book review to pressing current affairs. This applies even to journals focused on history. Books are, after all, read in the context of the world as it is today, and I find it frankly impossible to read Cliff’s book without thinking about the ongoing tragedy in Xinjiang.”

Grose criticized the publisher, Brill, for the slowness of its response, and said the last communication he received from Brill prior to publication of his LA Review of Books piece last week was on April 22.

Jasmin Lange, chief of publishing at Brill, said the publisher had reached out to both Grose and Han for their views on the situation and would assess the information provided. "It was certainly not a matter of not taking this seriously; we simply had to gather all the information,” Lange said.

Lange said Brill first learned about the case on April 7 through Grose’s posting on social media and immediately contacted him. "One day later Timothy Grose published his book review elsewhere, which meant that we could not intervene in the publishing process anymore," she said over email. "During the last few weeks, we were in a process of gathering information. We have first received a report and copies of emails from Timothy. Yesterday [Thursday] we have also received a report from the editor as well as all email correspondence between him and the author. We will review this information and investigate whether our publication ethics have been breach[ed]. If our publication ethics have been breached, we will not hesitate to take any necessary action. Commercial considerations do not play a role in such an evaluation."

This is the second case involving a Brill journal and alleged censorship in the last month; in April Brill announced that it would end its partnership with a Beijing-based press after scholars reported that an entire article was removed from a Brill-affiliated journal at the request of Chinese censors. In 2017, Cambridge University Press briefly blocked access in mainland China to more than 1,000 journal articles in the prestigious journal The China Quarterly before reversing course and restoring access to the articles, which dealt with sensitive topics in China like the Cultural Revolution, Tibet, Tiananmen Square and the pro-democracy movement, and Xinjiang.

The German publisher Springer Nature has stood by its decision to block access to certain journal articles in China, saying it must comply with local rules and regulations in the countries in which it publishes. More recently it came to light that Chinese importers had stopped buying whole journals published by the English publisher Taylor & Francis due to content the government found objectionable.

Jonathan Sullivan, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham and editor of the Asia Dialogue, which ultimately published Grose's piece, said he has had his papers banned in China in the Cambridge University Press and Springer censorship incidents. "I regret that some of my work on China is not available in China, but I would be much more concerned if my work had (hypothetically) been rejected from these journals because a (hypothetical) publisher or editor deemed it to be politically expedient [with regard to] China to do so," Sullivan said.

"China is using subtle and not so subtle, direct and indirect methods to influence the information environment outside of China, but more insidious still is the intervention of actors making decisions for fear of upsetting China," Sullivan said via email. "This kind of self-censoring is a risk to the academic study of China, and there is survey evidence to show that it is emerging in China scholars’ thinking. Therefore, wherever we see attempts to curtail our freedom of inquiry and dissemination we need to push back, because we cannot allow modification of our work (by ourselves or by others) out of political expediency to become normalized."

Sullivan continued, "Tim was reviewing a book about Xinjiang and thus it made sense to provide contextualization in the opening paragraph. The unavoidable context for any contemporary piece of work about Xinjiang is the current government’s policy of systematically repressing Uighur Muslims. There is no room for doubt on this issue -- no one, not even those who seek to justify the policy on counterterror grounds, denies what is happening on the ground in Xinjiang. I have seen the (I think editor’s) argument that invoking the current situation was not relevant to the book review, given that the book does not itself deal centrally with the current policies.

"This is a spurious argument -- and especially untenable for a book review editor, because contextualization is part and parcel of reviewing. I don’t know the editor and don’t have any comment on their motivations. But when I heard about Tim’s experience, I had no qualms about publishing it on the Asia Dialogue digital platform at the University of Nottingham, which under my editorship routinely publishes pieces on issues the Chinese government deems ‘sensitive’ or unpalatable."

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