By Michael Patrick Rutter

Open thoughts.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Susan O’Doherty

Avoiding extreme choices — and tragedies.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)

Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)
How can you broaden your kids’ horizons without actually going anywhere? These videos and resources for virtual field trips will inspire you to try a few engaging web-based explorations.

Source: Edutopia


By Youki Terada

Youki Terada
Research suggests that while homework can be an effective learning tool, assigning too much can lower student performance and interfere with other important activities.

Source: Edutopia


By Scott Jaschik

The University of Akron has insisted for the past two days that it is not eliminating its university press. But the university admits that it has eliminated the jobs of all three employees, including the director.

Reconciling these facts has a lot of people doubting the viability of the press at Akron, although many are campaigning to keep it.

Earlier this month, the university announced that more than 200 people would lose their jobs — and that the baseball team would be eliminated — as part of an effort to put the university on stronger financial footing. The baseball team was the only specific program that Akron said at the time would be eliminated.

But this week, the university started telling people that their jobs were being ended — and people noticed when all of the employees of certain divisions received such notices. There was the multicultural center, for example. But the university said the center’s programming would be handled elsewhere. Many at Akron and in the scholarly publishing world took note that the layoffs included all three employees (including the director) of the press — and they all figured this meant that the press was history.

The local newspaper wrote of “another cultural hit” at the university. Hundreds signed petitions. A Twitter hashtag was created. The Association of American University Presses issued a statement condemning the action. “Sudden and unplanned press closures are not a solution to budget crises. Such a top-down approach produces breached contracts, alienated faculty and staff, and culturally impoverished communities,” said the statement.

As criticism spread, the university issued statements on Wednesday and Thursday, but press supporters said the statements raised more questions than they answered.

On Wednesday, the university issued a statement from Lawrence Burns, vice president for development, which said reports that the press and the multicultural center would close were inaccurate. The statement said the university press was being transferred to the library. Further, the statement said that the budget cuts were developed “in close consultation with faculty leadership,” including the American Association of University Professors union, which represents faculty members.

The statement offered no further details on the press — and both those who had published and worked there said that they had been told nothing about any functions moving to the library.

Then on Thursday, the university issued a new statement saying that “the director [of the press] will work with the interim dean of libraries and the provost to assess press operations and recommend priorities going forward. It is anticipated that books under contract will be completed. Proposals under review or consideration for publication will be evaluated.” The director, however, said that he has been told nothing about that plan — only that his job is ending.

Further, while some universities have moved press operations to their library divisions, the norm for this is to bring press directors and press employees into the library as a unit, not to eliminate the press staff and just assume library staff can handle everything. The Association of American University Presses requires, for example, that its member presses all have a director and at least three employees. And adding to doubts about whether the university press will continue in the library, several Akron faculty members said they believed layoffs in the library were too high as is, so that librarians were already losing necessary support to do the job they have been doing.

Thomas Bacher, director of the press, said in an interview that the university’s statements were “spin,” and that no discussions have taken place involving the press about moving its duties to the library.

The press is attracting support because it has a strong reputation, not as a major national press, but as a regional press with a focus on Ohio history and culture, and a well respected poetry series.

And many are disputing parts of what the university has said. Stephen Weeks, a professor of biology who was the AAUP representative in the budget discussions that produced the planned cuts, said that the three professors were never given a total amount needed for cuts, and that their suggestions about spending less on an expensive, money-losing football program were ignored. He said no one in the room during budget talks came to the defense of the university press, but that it was unclear it was more than one possible cut, when in fact it turned out that just about everything on the list was cut.

Weeks also said that he didn’t think anyone present knew anything about university presses. “I’m a biologist. I don’t know how many people you need to run a university press,” Weeks said. He added that the press “would not have been on my chopping block.”

Peter Berkery, executive director of the Association of American University Presses, said that he hoped that the various university statements indicated a commitment to keeping the press functioning. But he too said that a university press needs a staff. “It of course is impossible to have a university press without staff, just as it’s impossible to have a a chemistry department, or a football program, or a provost’s office without staff,” he said.

Bacher said one of his frustrations is that eliminating the press employees’ jobs won’t save that much money. He estimated that the three employees had combined salaries and benefits of about $200,000 and that the press was self-supporting beyond that. With a few small endowments and book sales, the press was releasing 15-20 books a year. Bacher noted that he teaches every year — and was scheduled to teach two courses in the honors college in the next academic year — so the university will have to eliminate those sections or hire someone else to teach.

“In my seven years here, we’ve never had to go back to the university to ask for more money,” he said.

There are currently 25 or so books that the press has signed contracts to publish, he said. But those books require book editors with time to spend on them.

Among the questions that the university declined to answer were how much money the university expected to save by eliminating the press employees’ jobs, how the library could handle the responsibility in light of its own cuts, and how many library employees (and what share of the library staff) had been subjected to the layoffs. A spokesman first said that answers would be provided, but then said that would not be possible.

Bacher said he was very proud of the role of the press and sad to be leaving it. But he said he had different feelings about the university, in light of the way administrators are handling budget cuts. “I like to leave a ship that’s sinking before it hits the bottom,” he said.

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Source: Inside Higher Ed


By Colleen Flaherty

Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson are in, Ronald Reagan is no longer “bellicose,” and the Gilded Age is a little shinier — at least as the far as the new Advanced Placement U.S. History Framework is concerned. In response to criticism that a previous framework portrayed American history in too negative a light, with too little emphasis on American exceptionalism, the College Board on Thursday released an amended framework for the AP U.S. History curriculum, or “APUSH.” And while some accused the board of “caving” to politically motivated critics, many historians said the framework is as good, if not better than the previous version.

“This is a highly flexible, more articulate guide to the kind of subjects that should be taught in a college-level U.S. history course, and each teacher chooses how that will be implemented,” said Jon Butler, the Howard R. Lamar Professor Emeritus of American Studies, History and Religious Studies at Yale University and president of the Organization of American Historians. “It’s not a rigid curriculum with specific interpretations of the American past.”

For decades, the APUSH framework was essentially a long list of names and concepts that teachers used to prepare their students for the APUSH exam for college credit. But many teachers complained that the framework didn’t offer enough guidance about what kinds questions in which contexts would appear on the test. So the College Board overhauled the framework in 2014, paring down the list of learning objectives but offering much more discussion, along with a new emphasis on critical and historical thinking skills.

That framework, which was in use last year, was met with near immediate criticism. Critics, including the Republican National Committee, deemed it unpatriotic with too little focus on great American leaders and contributions. For example, the committee said in a 2014 resolution, the framework offered “little or no discussion of the Founding Fathers, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, the religious influences on our nation’s history and many other critical topics that have always been part of the APUSH course.” They noted that the 2014 framework also left out “the U.S. military (no battles, commanders or heroes) and omits many other individuals and events that greatly shaped our nation’s history (for example, Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Tuskegee Airmen, the Holocaust).”

Critics also noted the omission of the term “American exceptionalism,” and accused the framework of focusing too much on identity politics. (A group of learning objectives in the 2014 framework, for example, were organized under the heading “identity.” That’s been changed to “American and national identity.”)

Initially, the College Board called the criticism unwarranted, saying that just because a term wasn’t in the framework didn’t mean a teacher couldn’t teach it. But the College Board soon initiated a public review period and consulted various professional historians, including Butler. He said the 2015 framework released this week maintains the 2014 framework’s focus on critical and historical thinking but is much more clearly worded. It also shed such “unfortunate” wording as “bellicose” in relation to President Reagan’s rhetoric about the Soviet Union, he said.

“That word rightfully attracted the attention of critics.”

Jeremy Stern, an independent historian who also consulted the College Board during the revision period, said that while some of the early criticism of the framework was “excessive,” the framework “did show political bias that concerned me.… I thought there were a number of places where it took a politically slanted tone and emphasized presentistic moral judgement.”

For example, he said, a discussion of settlers moving West focused on their impact on Native Americans, but not their complex motivations for becoming pioneers. And a discussion of industrialization didn’t emphasize the economic growth that came along with things such as urban poverty, he said. Those concepts have been fleshed out. Manifest destiny, for example, is no longer just a “belief in white racial superiority” but also in “economic opportunities and religious refuge.”

In another example, critics said the 2014 framework’s discussion of World War II was wrong to merely note that the conflict brought new opportunities for women and minorities and moral questions raised by the atomic bomb and Japanese internment. (It also notes that the Allied powers won, mainly due to their industrial superiority.)

The 2015 version still includes those concepts but now begins: “Americans viewed the [World War II] as a fight for the survival of freedom and democracy against fascist and militarist ideologies. This perspective was later reinforced by revelations about Japanese wartime atrocities, Nazi concentration camps, and the Holocaust.”

In the end, Stern said he thought the 2015 document was more complete than the 2014 version, and that the revision process wasn’t acrimonious. Rather, he said, it was “an extremely unusual case of a major education organization responding to criticism, when usually the response is to button down the hatches and defend what’s done.”

The College Board said in a statement that the new edition was based on feedback gathered over the last year, including during the public review period, and that it includes “improvement to the language and structure of the course.”

The statement continues: “Every statement in the 2015 edition has been examined with great care based on the historical record and the principled feedback the College Board received. The result is a clearer and more balanced approach to the teaching of American history that remains faithful to the requirements that colleges and universities set for academic credit. The new edition has been embraced by educators, including AP U.S. History teachers who reviewed it at the recent AP Annual Conference.”

It says the biggest changes relate to:

  • American national identity and unity
  • American ideals of liberty, citizenship, and self-governance, and how those ideals play out in U.S. history
  • American founding political leaders, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Franklin
  • Founding Documents – including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers – as reflected in a new recommended focus section
  • Productive role of free enterprise, entrepreneurship, and innovation in shaping U.S. history
  • U.S. role in the victories of WWI and WWII, particularly the contributions and sacrifices of American servicemen and women in those wars
  • U.S. leadership in ending the Cold War

Many of the changes are are subtle, but nevertheless significant.

Describing Southern attitudes about slavery prior to the Civil War, for example, the 2014 framework says that many people “asserted their regional identity through pride in the institution of slavery, insisting that the federal government should defend that institution.”

The 2015 framework reads: “Antislavery efforts increased in the North, while in the South, although the majority of Southerners owned no slaves, most leaders argued that slavery was a part of the Southern way of life.”

Some on the other side of the argument already have accused the College Board of “caving” to critics, such as in this piece by the blog ThinkProgress. (The post over all is somewhat neutral toward the changes. But it compares the APUSH debate to recent changes to history guidelines in Texas, which exclude Jim Crow laws and the Klu Klux Klan, for example.)

But Stern said he hoped that wouldn’t be the consensus among historians, since the new document was in his view more historically balanced than its predecessor.

James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, has publicly defended the 2014 APUSH framework to critics. Grossman said in an interview that he agreed with others that the new framework was more clear than the previous one, including in sections that “have nothing to do with political valence.”

Grossman said everyone could find something to criticize in the new 2015 framework, such as the statement that Native American “resistance” to westward expansion led to war. But over all, he said he respected the work of the professional historians involved in all phases of the project. There’s nothing wrong with responding to public feedback in a rigorous way, he added.

“One of the great strengths of this framework is that it enables teachers and students to explore issues and ideas that have united and have divided Americans,” Grossman said.

As recently as June, a number of prominent historians signed on to an open letter opposing the 2014 framework, accusing the College Board of “centralizing control” over the curriculum and promoting “a particular interpretation of history.”

The letter continues: “This interpretation downplays American citizenship and American world leadership in favor of a more global and transnational perspective. … Gone is the idea that history should provide a fund of compelling stories about exemplary people and events. No longer will students hear about America as a dynamic and exemplary nation, flawed in many respects but whose citizens have striven through the years toward the more perfect realization of its professed ideals.”

John Agresto, former president of St. John’s College at Santa Fe and former deputy chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, a letter signatory, said it was too early to comment on the changes Thursday since he was still studying the more than 130-page document.

Still, he said via email, “if the revised document really does give more serious and thorough attention to the principles and ideas that form the basis of our Constitution and way of life, and if the efforts and insights of the men and women who helped shape our nation are highlighted and brought forward and not merely ‘mentioned,’ then the framework will indeed have been improved.”

The College Board got at least some kudos from previously critical corners. In an essay in the National Review, Frederick M. Hess, director of the education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and Max Eden, program manager for education policy at the institute, called the new framework strikes the “balance right between the pluribus and the unum, and does justice to our nation’s remarkable history.” The essay includes a detailed analysis of the changes, including the World War II and manifest destiny examples.

David Burton teaches AP U.S. history at Southmoore High School in Oklahoma, where political opposition to the new framework was high earlier this year (a bill to defund APUSH passed a state legislative committee before it died; similar controversies arose in several other states). Burton, who wasn’t opposed to the 2014 framework but offered the College Board some feedback about how to “massage” some controversial language, said he didn’t know if the changes would do much to address political concerns. But he said he’s happy to start teaching with a more detailed framework than was available prior to last year.

“The old [pre-2014] framework was a series of outlined bullet points — cover this name, cover this event — but gave no direction on what to cover on that person or event,” he said. “So the new use of descriptive key concepts truly helps educators on what to cover, even if the person or name of the event isn’t specifically mentioned.”

Standardized Tests
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Source: Inside Higher Ed


By Paul Fain

Students who participate in federal work-study are more likely to graduate and get a job after college. But those who get the biggest academic benefits from the program — low-income students at public colleges who would have worked anyhow — are the least likely to receive the federal grants.

Those are the primary findings from a newly released study by two researchers at the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

While the research found generally positive impacts of the federal work-study program, it also found one surprising downside — participants take on substantially higher debt compared to non-participants with similar characteristics, including income, gender, institution type and other factors.

Students in federal work-study are 21 percentage points more likely to borrow during their first year of college, found the study, which is based on a national sample of 12,200 students. Participants also had a cumulative undergraduate debt load that was $6,263 higher than similar students who were nonparticipants.

A possible explanation for the increased debt is that college financial aid officers typically package loans and work-study grants together, said Judith Scott-Clayton, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor of economic and education at Columbia.

That means students who participate are much more likely to also take out loans, the study said.

Scott-Clayton called the finding alarming, adding that it “could ultimately undermine the positive effect of the program.”

Roughly 700,000 students, or 1 in every 10 full-time, first-year undergraduates, receive federal work-study subsidies each year, according to the study. With an annual cost of about $1 billion, the grants cover up to 75 percent of the wages of student employees who typically work on campus 10 to 15 hours per week.

To be eligible, students must file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to demonstrate that their expected family contribution is less than the total cost of attendance at their institution. However, the federal work-study money goes to colleges, which then decide how to distribute it to eligible students. Work study is one of three federal programs that are designed this way, along with the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and Perkins Loan Programs.

As prior research also has shown, the study said an “arcane” funding formula provides much more money per student to older, more expensive institutions — particularly private colleges. In 2012 fully one-quarter of students attending private four-year institutions received federal work-study funds, compared to just 6 percent of students at public four-year institutions. Student advocates have called on the feds to change the funding formula.

“Federal work-study is not allocated in an equitable way,” said Scott-Clayton.

Benefits of Better Jobs

Participating in federal work-study is not the same as having a job while attending college.

For starters, a slight majority of participants would have worked during their first year of college anyhow, according to the new study, which Veronica Minaya, a senior research assistant at CCRC, co-wrote. The study determined whether students would have worked by comparing the participant group with a much larger comparison group — using detailed comparisons based on students’ characteristics to guage the likelihood of whether a student would have worked outside of federal work-study.

The jobs for students in the program, however, are substantially different from the ones students would have had if they didn’t participate. They pay somewhat less (61 cents less per hour), but are much more likely to be located on campus (52 percentage points more likely), which means less commuting and more flexible scheduling, said Scott-Clayton. The jobs also are more likely to be related to the student’s major.

“Students don’t work as many hours as they would in a job off-campus,” she said. “It’s a more supportive environment.”

For example, participants averaged 11 hours of work per week compared with 18 hours per week for working nonparticipants. And 80 percent of federal work-study students work on campus.

The primary benefits of what Scott-Clayton calls a “much better job” are academic. Participants in federal work-study are 3.2 percentage points more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree after six years, and 2.4 percentage points more likely to be employed after graduation.

The positive effects are substantially larger for lower-income students and for those who attend public institutions, the study found.

However, the findings are a tad complex. For example, participants’ grade point averages dip in their first year. But that impact does not carry over to their longer-term persistence and graduation rates, according to the study.

The additional work experience appears to outweigh the impact on grades, Scott-Clayton said.

Besides the debt findings, federal work-study does not appear to have substantial drawbacks for participants. But some of the payoff depends on whether students would have worked anyhow.

Those who would have had a job saw a bigger graduation-rate benefit, which isn’t surprising given that their work-study gigs typically are less disruptive to their academics.

Likewise, students who would not have worked during college without participating in the federal work-study program were more likely to be employed after college, at least when compared to similar, nonworking students. But that difference was insignificant when the employment of work-study students was compared to that of similar working students, according to the report.

The researchers’ overall working hypothesis was that lower-income students and those who attend public institutions may be more likely to work anyway and to have less desirable student jobs in the absence of federal work-study. And the new study’s results back that hypothesis.

“The effectiveness of federal work-study funds might be increased by modifying the allocation formula — which currently provides disproportionate support to students at elite private institutions — to better target lower-income students,” the study concludes.

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Source: Inside Higher Ed


By Elizabeth Redden

A draft law that would require foreign nongovernmental organizations to register their activities with police authorities in China has American universities worried about a chilling effect on educational exchanges of all types.

The draft law defines foreign NGOs broadly and is sweeping in its scope, seemingly applying not only to universities that have physical locations in China but also to any institution that so much as sends a single student or professor there. If an American university were to conduct an international research conference in China, that would seem to require registration under the law. So would sending a faculty member there to interview applicants for a graduate program. Or sending a professor to give a lecture or take part in a joint research project. Or organizing a networking event for alumni in China. Or sending a student singing group to participate in a competition there.

Those are all examples of types of potentially affected activities mentioned in joint comments submitted to the Chinese government by 12 U.S. universities, including two Ivies (Columbia and Cornell) and other institutions with long-standing ties in China (among them Duke, Johns Hopkins and New York Universities, and the University of Michigan).

“We are very concerned that the requirements of the draft law may have a dampening effect on both existing and future initiatives,” the universities wrote in their comments. “Nonmainland [or foreign] universities, especially smaller nonmainland universities and nonmainland universities with more limited programs in China, may decide that the complexity of the registration process, the ongoing operational requirements, and the related financial and administrative burdens necessitate modifying, temporarily suspending or even closing their programs.”

Under the draft law, it appears that foreign universities with physical locations in mainland China would have to register their offices with public security agencies — the police — a process that requires them to first obtain a Chinese partner, or sponsor (a “professional supervisory unit,” in the legislation’s language). Foreign universities with representative offices in China would have to submit annual reports outlining their planned activities for the coming year and also submit to financial reporting requirements.

Further, foreign universities without a physical office in China would have to obtain a Chinese sponsor and apply for permits for temporary activities. These could include the kinds of ad hoc activities (a single faculty exchange, a student group trip) described above.

“The ability to respond quickly or do things more informally even if you have no office in China will now have many layers of bureaucratic oversight,” said Elizabeth M. Lynch, a lawyer and editor of the China Law and Policy blog, for which she has written about the draft law.

Many have noted that it seems likely the Chinese government will selectively enforce the law if it’s passed in its current form — and that it would be unlikely to go after foreign universities for run-of-the-mill academic exchanges. But Lynch observed that the prospect of selective enforcement would likely provide little comfort to a university counsel’s office. Penalties outlined in the draft law include detention of personnel and fines, as well as the cancellation of a foreign entity’s registration certificate or temporary activity permit.

“The issue is that you’re always serving at the whim of the public security bureau,” said Lynch. She noted, for example, that a partnership between a Chinese university and a foreign medical school to address mental health issues in China may get public security officials’ approval one year and not the next. “Maybe the public security bureau feels that’s a safe issue now and will give the OK — but next year if your group has been successful in advocating for more rights for people with mental illness, that might be more politically sensitive and the public security bureau might shut it down,” Lynch said.

The question for universities even if they are able to gain registration is “what will the Chinese authorities allow you to do?” said Anthony J. Spires, an associate professor of sociology and associate director of the Center for Civil Society Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“Every activity will have to receive approval not only from the supervisory agency but also from the public security bureau. That surely will make people think twice about developing new projects.”

Scholars at NYU have also drawn attention to another aspect of the law — a provision restricting foreign NGOs from subverting state power, undermining ethnic harmony or engaging in separatism, or disseminating information deemed to endanger state security or damage the national interest. In an op-ed in The New York Times, Ira Belkin and Jerome A. Cohen, directors of NYU’s U.S.-Asia Law Institute, argue that the draft law would extend these prohibitions outside China’s borders. “In other words, if a student group on an American campus protests against Chinese government treatment of Tibetans, the university could be barred from activities in China, and its representatives in China could be detained and prosecuted,” they write.

The draft law also includes restrictions on fund-raising by foreign NGOs. The good news from the point of view of foreign universities is that it does include an exemption for joint Chinese-foreign academic programs — of which there are many — or cooperatively run schools like NYU’s in Shanghai or Duke’s in Kunshan. And it remains unclear whether foreign public universities would be considered “nongovernmental” organizations and therefore fall under the law’s purview.

The timing for passage or possible revision of the draft law — the second and current draft was released in the spring as part of a package of national security-related laws — is also not clear.

“I don’t think that they are really trying with this law to exercise strict control over what professors from American universities have been doing for years, which is go to China and do research, or what universities in other respects have been doing — conducting exchanges or sending basketball teams over or things like that. I don’t think that’s what’s concerning them. But they have this view of NGOs as institutions that are out to foment color revolutions in China,” said Donald C. Clarke, the David Weaver Research Professor of Law, and a specialist in Chinese law, at George Washington University. (“Color revolutions” refers to the various popular uprisings against former Soviet states in the early 2000s.)

Clarke thinks the NGOs China is worried about are groups like George Soros’s Open Society Foundations and the National Endowment for Democracy (both of which recently found themselves on a proposed list of banned NGOs in Russia). Still, while universities might not be the primary intended target for the law, Clarke thinks it’s unlikely the legislation will be revised in a way that excludes them.

“To make a carve-out for educational institutions would, I think, take away more discretion from the security authorities than they are willing to lose,” he said. “When the choice is to give public security officials too much power or too little power, we know which way China is going to go.”

Xinning Shirley Liu, who as president of the Florida-based XL Law and Consulting advises universities on their activities in China, said U.S. institutions need to be aware that “this is potentially coming their way and it could restrict their activities there.”

“It’s tied to the police, and the police have broad, sweeping powers in China — you don’t want people not being aware,” she said.

At the same time, Liu thinks it’s not time to panic yet. “Let’s see what happens,” she said. “It could potentially have some serious implications, but my hope is that I don’t think the intent of the Chinese government was to turn away from all the benefits that collaborations and academic exchanges would offer to China’s society.”

Source: Inside Higher Ed


By Barbara Fister

We need to talk about big data.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Joshua Kim

What have you been reading?

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Rosemarie Emanuele

The end of July.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Maurice

Photo Credit: Edutopia
Maurice Elias
Check out each of these distinctive videos that show educators, parents, and school leaders what social-emotional learning looks like in action in the classroom.

Source: Edutopia


By Deborah Maue

In this guest post, Deb Maue examines how to build a highly effective marketing team.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Chelsea Dale

Chelsea Dale
A simple, low-cost video chat program motivates unruly, disengaged elementary and middle school students through relationships with high school students who demonstrate the value of education.

Source: Edutopia


By Margaret Andrews

Is higher education having a Wile E. Coyote moment?

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Matt Reed

Why the story about U of Wisconsin at Eau Claire matters so much.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Jacqueline Thomsen

During a widely anticipated news conference Wednesday afternoon, an Ohio county prosecutor announced that a white University of Cincinnati police officer would be indicted for the murder of Samuel DuBose, a black man shot by the officer during a traffic stop on July 19.

Prosecutor Joe Deters called the killing “asinine” and “senseless” during the news conference, saying that Ray Tensing “should never have been an officer,” and released footage of the shooting from Tensing’s body camera. Earlier in the day, the university canceled classes and called on surrounding police districts to help ward off any potential riots on campus.

But Deters also called for the University of Cincinnati’s police force to be disbanded and replaced with officers from the Cincinnati Police Department.

Deters, who has earned two degrees from the university and is a former trustee, described the institution itself as “wonderful” but said it shouldn’t be doing police work on campus.

“They’re not cops, and we have a great police department in Cincinnati, probably the best in Ohio,” he said. “And I talked to the [city police] chief about it today and I said, ‘You know, you guys should be doing this stuff,’ and I think he’s in agreement with it.”

In a separate news conference later in the day, University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono fielded questions addressing Deters’s proposal, saying the university has no plans to disband the campus force but does plan a review of the department.

Ono announced last week that the university would join Cincinnati’s Collaborative Agreement to help improve relationships with community members. He also said at the time that the university had reached out to officers from Cincinnati’s Fifth and Fourth Districts to help patrol the boundaries of campus and that university officers would remain on the campus and not perform any traffic stops outside the campus grounds.

Ono said during the news conference that campus officers have different requirements from city police because the officers at a university have different responsibilities and scenarios that are oriented more toward students than toward the diverse group of people the average police force might interact with on a daily basis.

“It’s really a specific field where a police officer is working with students a lot, so they need a lot of experience working with them. There are also a lot of federal guidelines that they’re working toward,” Ono said.

He added that he had met with DuBose’s family that morning, including one of DuBose’s stepdaughters, who is a student at the university, and that university officials were in the process of discussing different ways the university could help the family.

When a student died after being shocked with a Taser by a University of Cincinnati officer in 2011, the family was awarded $2 million in a settlement with the university. The victim’s two siblings also received free undergraduate educations at the university.

City Police on Campus

Generally, a campus police force patrols an institution, although there are a couple exceptions to the rule. Auburn University does not have a police force but instead relies on the City of Auburn Police Department for law enforcement.

The University of Cincinnati police force is not accredited, but officers are allowed to carry weapons. Ninety-four percent of armed officers at more than 900 institutions were authorized to carry firearms, and nearly 70 percent of colleges and universities operated full police departments on campus in 2012.

William Taylor, president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and chief of police at San Jacinto College, in California, said most colleges began creating their own forces after clashes between students and police broke out during Vietnam War protests in the 1970s.

He said the quality of campus police forces is about equal to that of municipal police departments, because both choose from the same pool of applicants and both kinds of officers have to follow the same state requirements and policies.

Taylor called the prosecutor’s comments “disheartening” and said the police department at the University of Cincinnati should not be judged on the actions of a single officer.

“I’m concerned to see that kind of public statement made, because it’s stating everything that’s wrong with the department based on a single incident,” he said.

Taylor also noted that the chief of police at the university, Jason Goodrich, has been in his position for a relatively short period of time (less than two years), and that the force could be in a period of transition.

Chuck Drago, a former police chief and a police practices consultant, said that if a campus police department is trying to put reforms in place and bringing it to a level where it can be accredited, as Goodrich is, community members have to be patient while those changes take effect.

“If you see evidence of this chief trying to fix things and they brought him in to do it, as I assume they did, he needs a fair amount of time to do it,” he said.

Twelve officers were sworn in to the University of Cincinnati force in March, bringing the total to 72. In November of 2014, that number was only 51.

Drago said that if the university runs the police department, university officials get to dictate policy. Otherwise, the university is at the mercy of local law enforcement.

“The city of Cincinnati would have to reach an agreement that would provide the type of police the school would want, just like any jurisdiction would want to define the type of police department a jurisdiction has,” he said.

S. Daniel Carter, director of the 32 National Campus Safety Initiative, said it was “an incredibly short-sighted and dangerous call” made by the prosecutor, noting that specialized campus police departments have been the norm for more than 40 years.

“It would be dangerous to replace them with a unit of city police from the police department of Cincinnati,” he said.

Healing on Campus

During the prosecutor’s news conference, DuBose’s family and their lawyer called for peace in the city. In 2001, the city suffered millions of dollars in damages after riots broke out in response to the death of a black man at the hands of a white officer.

A protest by the group Black Lives Matter Cincinnati was planned for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday outside the Hamilton County Courthouse, where the officer turned himself in earlier that day.

While the Cincinnati police department has received praise for its reforms in recent years, Christina Brown, a University of Cincinnati alumna and Black Lives Matter Cincinnati activist, said that replacing campus police with city police wouldn’t help to solve the racial and law enforcement issues on campus.

“It’s just changing the uniform,” Brown said, adding that the police still need to recognize the systematic cultural and racial issues on the city campus.

She also called the university’s response to DuBose’s death “problematic” because no statement was issued until 72 hours after the incident and the president’s statement offered condolences to the family but no mention of a transparent investigation.

She said that the university should take this opportunity to reflect and determine the best way to “not move beyond, but work through” the racial issues and conflicts the university community faces.

“If we can’t honestly analyze these issues at an institution of higher learning,” Brown said, “where can you do so?”

Students and Violence
Editorial Tags:

Source: Inside Higher Ed


By Doug Lederman

  • Benjamin Ola. Akande, professor of economics and dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology at Webster University, in Missouri, has been chosen as president of Westminster College, also in Missouri.
  • Hilary Beckles, principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, in Jamaica, has been selected as the university’s vice chancellor.
  • John M. Beehler, dean of the School of Business at Robert Morris University, in Pennsylvania, has been named president of Jacksonville State University, in Alabama.
  • Leah Bornstein, president of Coconino Community College, in Arizona, has been named president of Aims Community College, in Colorado.
  • Steven Dew, associate dean and professor of engineering at the University of Alberta, has been promoted to provost and vice president (academic) there.
  • Robin Dummer, interim president of Simpson University, in California, has been named to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Robert Hoar, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, has been appointed as provost and academic vice chancellor at Montana State University-Billings.
  • Kathy Ogren, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and associate provost at University of Redlands, in California, has been promoted to provost there.
  • David E. Rogers, director of institutional research and planning at Onondaga Community College, part of the State University of New York, has been named president of SUNY’s Morrisville State College.
  • Marwan A. Wafa, vice chancellor and dean of Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, has been named chancellor of Pennsylvania State University’s Worthington Scranton campus.

Source: Inside Higher Ed


By Paul Fain

With 110,000 residents, the city of Temecula is in one of California’s fastest growing regions. But the nearest public university is more than 30 miles away, an unusually large distance for densely populated Southern California.

The city’s leaders wanted the state to build a new California State University campus in Temecula around the time the recession began. Not a chance, they were told. And the California State University System couldn’t afford to even open a branch campus there.

That meant the best option for place-bound residents to attend a public university would remain a commute of more than 30 miles to the University of California at Riverside or, in the other direction, to CSU at San Marcos. And we’re talking about California driving.

“The traffic is horrendous,” said Suzanne Lingold, an associate dean of extended studies at CSU San Marcos. “They couldn’t afford to drive to UC Riverside.”

As a result, most local high school graduates weren’t going to college, even though there are several private university campuses in Temecula.

So the city and CSU San Marcos got creative. They created a new campus location in Temecula in 2009 with a $3 million contribution from the city, which also included a former elementary school building for a rental price of $1 per year. The neighboring city of Murrieta — also with a population of more than 100,000 — kicked in another $200,000 to renovate the facility. Private donors contributed as well.

The state and CSU system do not pay for the campus, which is fully self-sustaining, mostly through tuition.

“Our first programs were low-hanging fruit,” said Lingold, meaning easy to launch and in high-demand fields. They included bachelor’s degrees in nursing, kinesiology and business administration.

After five years of operation, a total of about 1,000 students have enrolled in programs at the Temecula Higher Education Center, which offers five undergraduate and two master’s degree programs. The center is graduating roughly 200 students per year.

“Part of its success is that it arose organically and locally,” said Ken O’Donnell, a senior director of student engagement for the CSU System. “It didn’t originate with a mandate from us. It arose from a need.”

The Temecula campus now has moved on with a phase two, which higher education experts say is a novel spin on an articulated two-plus-two degree track.

Mt. San Jacinto College, a community college located 35 miles from Temecula, has partnered with CSU San Marcos to offer a guaranteed transfer pathway — featuring both an associate and bachelor’s degrees in business administration — to students at a joint educational facility in downtown Temecula.

Students can take all their courses for both degrees at the new Temecula Education Complex 2, which opened last fall. The program is cohort based, meaning students progress through it together. They also get locked-in tuition pricing until graduation, as well as a guaranteed time to completion. And tuition rates at CSU and California community colleges are among the lowest in the country for public institutions.

“You can get a degree from CSU San Marcos without ever leaving your community,” said Mike Schroder, the university’s dean of extended learning and associate vice president for international programs.

To be admitted, students must be deemed college ready in math and English, according to placement tests and their high-school grade point averages. Otherwise, it’s an open-access program

The degree track is preselected, prescriptive and intentional, said Patrick Schwerdtfeger, interim vice president for instructional services at Mt. San Jacinto College. That helps ensure that students won’t have to fight to get into classes, which is a common problem at public institutions in California.

“If they’re in this program,” said Schwerdtfeger, “they’re going to get through.”

Freelancing to Fill a Need

Karen Stout is the new president and CEO of Achieving the Dream, a nonprofit focused on college completion strategies. She began this summer, after wrapping up a 14-year stint as president of Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County Community College, which is located outside of Philadelphia.

Two-plus-two degree partnerships between community colleges and four-year institutions are a relatively common and smart approach to developing a transfer relationship, said Stout. For example, Montgomery County has strong transfer relationships with nearby universities, particularly Temple University.

Valencia College, located in Orlando, Fla., has a long-standing two-plus-two transfer program with the nearby University of Central Florida, which is considered by many to be a national model.

Yet Stout said the Temecula program has a few unique, exciting features, particularly the cohort approach with guaranteed pricing and time to degree.

“This is beautifully designed,” she said. “I’ve not seen anything with all of this pulled together.”

The Temecula degree track is also unusual because it’s in California, which has three strong public higher education systems. Many of the state’s community colleges have solid transfer partnerships with nearby CSU and UC campuses — O’Donnell points to Long Beach City College and CSU Long Beach as an example. And the state’s Legislature has prodded its public universities to accept more community college transfer students, even passing a law to create a new associate degree for transfer.

Yet the sort of freelancing Mt. San Jacinto College and CSU San Marcos did in Temecula is unusual. And officials with both institutions said their systems have been supportive.

“Our perspective here is rock on,” said O’Donnell.

The city of Temecula made it happen, however, said Roger Schultz, Mt. San Jacinto’s president. “The city stepped up and really gave us a deal we couldn’t pass up.”

Creating the Temecula campus wasn’t easy. Faculty members from both institutions were involved early, said Schroder, and did much of the heavy lifting to design the joint degree track. Administrators from the two institutions worked together closely as well.

“Many players had to check egos at the door,” Schroder said.

The first cohort of students in the two-plus-two program is small. But CSU San Marcos and Mt. San Jacinto say they’re in it for the long haul. The budgeting is sustainable, officials said, and they plan to add new majors soon, perhaps beginning with kinesiology.

“We have to make a commitment,” said Schultz. “I expect a much bigger class this fall.”

Community Colleges
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Temecula Higher Education Center
Image Caption:
The Temecula Higher Education Center

Source: Inside Higher Ed


By Jake New

Congressional Republicans on Wednesday introduced legislation designed to strengthen the due process rights of students accused of sexual assault and to prevent campus investigations from taking place unless a victim also reports the allegations to law enforcement. The bill would also make it tougher to kick a fraternity or sorority off campus without a proper hearing, and bar colleges from forcing Greek organizations to become coeducational.

The lobbying group representing fraternities and sororities — a frequent financial contributor to the legislation’s sponsor — applauded the bill as providing an avenue for “much-needed reforms.” Campus safety groups and victims’ advocates decried the legislation as redundant and deleterious.

“I am both shocked and disappointed by the amount of Congress members who are proposing legislation without fundamental knowledge about the field of campus safety law,” Laura Dunn, founder and executive director of SurvJustice, said. “Campus safety advocates are going to have to be on the defense to prevent legislation that moves things backwards.”

Colleges are required by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to investigate and adjudicate cases of campus sexual assault. Facing pressure from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to improve their handling of these cases, institutions in recent years have begun more rigorously adjudicating sexual assault allegations.

While victims’ advocates say colleges still have a long way to go in addressing the needs and rights of students who have been assaulted, civil liberties groups argue that in their haste to comply with Title IX, colleges are increasingly trampling the due process rights of the accused. Several lawsuits in the last two years by male students who feel they have been wrongly suspended or dismissed over sexual assault allegations have helped reinforce such a notion.

Earlier this month, a ruling in a lawsuit against the University of California at San Diego bolstered the perception that accused students are not receiving a fair hearing.

The new legislation, called the Safe Campus Act, would address some of the complaints made by the UCSD student, including that he was unable to cross-examine crucial witnesses and that the university kept him largely out of the loop during the investigation and hearing. In a statement Wednesday, Joseph Cohn, legislative and policy director at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and a frequent critic of campus hearing processes, praised the legislation.

“FIRE has repeatedly expressed our reservations about entrusting universities to adjudicate allegations of serious felonies like sexual assault,” Cohn said. “But if they are to continue to hold this responsibility, basic fairness requires students be given tangible due process protections. The due process protections provided by the Safe Campus Act would enhance the reliability of campus proceedings and lend sorely needed credibility to their findings.”

Components of the legislation run contrary to some Department of Education regulations. The Safe Campus Act would allow an alleged victim to decide whether to involve police, but the college could not launch its own investigation unless the student chose to report the incident to law enforcement. Currently, colleges are required to conduct investigations even if police are not informed of the crime. An institution could still provide certain protections, such as ordering the accused student not to contact the alleged victim.

Many victims prefer not to involve police, as the process is much longer and involved than a campus investigation and it rarely results in a suspect being prosecuted. Some prefer to keep the investigation on campus, as they may personally know the alleged attacker, and while they want to see that person punished, they don’t want to send him or her to prison.

If an internal investigation does take place, both the accused and accuser would have the right to hire lawyers at their own expense, and both would be allowed to question witnesses. Colleges could choose what standard of evidence to use when deciding responsibility, rather than being required to use the lower burden of proof known as “preponderance of evidence.”

The stronger due process would also apply to student groups, not just individuals, meaning it would be more difficult to push a fraternity off campus if it is accused of sexual misconduct — a task that, according to student affairs officials, is already difficult to accomplish at many institutions. The legislation would require a discipline hearing with the same due process as an individual’s hearing be conducted before a chapter could be banned from campus.

The legislation would also prevent colleges from ordering fraternities and sororities to become coeducational. In September, following a series of alleged sexual assaults, Wesleyan University told its fraternities that they must admit women in the next three years. One of the chapters is suing the university, alleging the order is discriminatory.

In recent months, the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee lobbied Congress for many of the protections included in the new legislation. The legislation was introduced by Representatives Matt Salmon, Kay Granger and Pete Sessions. Sessions and Granger are alumni of Greek organizations.

According to the Federal Election Commission, Sessions has received more than $33,000 in contributions from the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee since 2005.

Sessions is also sponsoring a separate bill called the Fair Campus Act, which includes similar sexual assault policy changes and protections for fraternities and sororities. His co-sponsor on that legislation is Representative Susan Brooks, an Indiana Republican, who has received $10,000 from the FSPAC since 2012.

In a statement Wednesday, FSPAC leaders said that the legislation “enhances the rights of all students” and single-sex student groups, while improving campus safety.

“Over the past several years, it has become increasingly clear that there is an urgent need to improve the current process of handling sexual assaults on campuses,” Kevin O’Neill, FSPAC’s executive director, said in the statement. “We strongly believe that the Safe Campus Act proposes sound and effective solutions to address the current system’s flaws. It ensures that each student and student organization involved in a sexual assault case is treated fairly.”

The North-American Interfraternity Conference announced on Wednesday that it also supports the bill. Dunn, however, said the Safe Campus Act does little to keep campuses safe.

“It would be nothing short of absurd to regress to allow colleges to pick at will what standard of evidence to use,” Dunn said. “Why should a student at Harvard be protected more or less than a student at a community college? Regarding due process, many federal courts have reviewed and upheld the current levels of due process. Considering these are misconduct hearings governed by student conduct codes, it does not seem there is a justification for increasing due process.”

Students and Violence
Editorial Tags:

Source: Inside Higher Ed


By Paul Jump for Times Higher Education

A succession of bibliometric studies carried out in recent years suggest that international collaboration has a significant positive effect on the quality of research.

For instance, Elsevier’s report “International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base — 2011,” carried out for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, reveals that the 46 percent of British academics who published with overseas collaborators in 2010 garnered twice as many citations for their papers as those who collaborated only within their institution. They also had 40 percent more citations than those who collaborated with academics at other institutions in the U.K.

But why is the U.K. so internationally collaborative? According to the 2013 edition of Elsevier’s annual report, the key reason is that researchers in the U.K. are highly internationally mobile.

“International research collaboration and international researcher mobility can be considered as two sides of the same coin, representing collaborative interactions with or without physical co-location,” it says.

Times Higher Education asked Elsevier, the citation data provider for Times Higher Education‘s World University Rankings, to look at researcher mobility levels globally, to find out which other countries benefit from the mobility premium — or suffer from its absence.

Elsevier examined the institutional addresses listed on papers in the Scopus database. Where researchers have had addresses in different countries, they are counted as being mobile — although analysis is confined to authors who have published at least one article in the past five years and at least 10 articles since 1996, or those with at least five papers in the past five years.

Swiss Top the Travel Table

The analysis reveals that 71 percent of U.K. researchers are internationally mobile. But this places the country only 11th in the ranking. The nation with the greatest proportion of internationally mobile researchers (see chart, below) is Switzerland, with 85 percent. Second is Saudi Arabia (81 percent), and Bangladesh is third (78 percent). The top 10 also includes other developing countries (Colombia, Venezuela and Indonesia) interspersed with the likes of the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand and Canada.

The reason for this strange mixed bag is that the analysis does not distinguish between inward and outward movement, and is unable to identify the nationality of movers.

Judith Kamalski, head of analytical services in research management at Elsevier, surmised that the high level of mobility in many developing countries reflected high outflow levels due to “inadequate research infrastructure, low [native] production of Ph.D.s, and shortages in funding.” Additionally, these countries “play a very small role in [world] science, and within the small research community in these countries there is little interest in staying.”

The Global Academy’s Wanderers and Homebodies

The ranking excludes countries with very small numbers of researchers, but Kamalski added that many countries with small researcher populations show high levels of mobility. “For instance, of the 142 active researchers in Afghanistan, only five have never published with an affiliation outside of Afghanistan,” she said.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the country with the least internationally mobile researchers is China. The other BRIC nations, Brazil, Russia and India, are also present in the top 14 most “sedentary” nations. Kamalski noted that in China, sedentary researchers have on average a “field-weighted citation impact” of 25 percent below the world average. By contrast, researchers moving into China have a citation impact 24 percent above world average, and the ones who leave China score 46 percent above the world average.

“Either mobility increases citation impact, or researchers with a higher citation impact are more likely to move internationally. The two factors are clearly linked. Therefore, high percentages of sedentary researchers are in general not beneficial to a country’s citation impact,” Kamalski said.

Another aspect of her analysis looks at the differences between the numbers of researchers entering and leaving different countries. The nation with the highest “brain gain” is Serbia, followed by Saudi Arabia and Thailand. The largest brain drains are suffered by Belarus, Cuba and, surprisingly, the U.K. — which loses 4 percent more researchers than it gains. Germany and Switzerland are also in the top 10 for brain drain.

But Kamalski said that this was not because Britain’s inflow of researchers is low but because its outflow is topped only by that of Switzerland, New Zealand and Singapore. And such high outflows are “not necessarily” a bad thing. “Researchers spend time in the U.K. to gain knowledge and experience, and leave to take this knowledge with them to other countries,” Kamalski said. “This could very well be beneficial for U.K. researchers’ networks and subsequent research, done in collaboration [with those who have left].”

Click graphic to expand.

Editorial Tags:

Source: Inside Higher Ed


By Joshua Kim

On MOOC critiques and listening to opposing viewpoints.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Eric Stoller

Stories, advertorials, and employability

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Tracy Mitrano

Protecting civil liberties is in the national interest.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Erin Sharaf

Erin Sharaf
Teaching students mindfulness can help them counteract the negative emotions and low self-esteem associated with a culture of standardized testing.

Source: Edutopia


By Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Heather Wolpert-Gawron
A key career readiness skill is to get kids talking, encouraging them to talk with each other, reach out to others not in the classroom, and to engage in deeper conversations.

Source: Edutopia


By Matt Reed

Are there reliable alternatives to high stakes tests?

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Kellie Woodhouse

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is not a particularly wealthy school.

So when the writing on the wall made it clear that the regional campus, which educates 10,700 students, would have about a quarter of its state funds cut this year, Eau Claire administrators had already planned a course of action to trim the fat: significant administrative reductions, preferably as far away from the academic enterprise as possible.

Yet dealing with a 13.5 percent reduction in operating funds requires massive change, and it turns out that it’s very difficult to keep the impact of such a loss entirely off the radar of students.

The funding cuts were part of a controversial and sweeping two-year, $250 million pruning of Wisconsin’s university system by Governor Scott Walker and fellow state Republicans, and were passed alongside the continuation of an existing tuition freeze.

Academics nationwide have been largely condemning the removal of tenure from state statute, also approved this budget cycle (tenure remains in effect through the University of Wisconsin System rules), and debating assertions by Walker that colleges should focus more on job training and less on humanities.

Much of the focus has been on the UW System’s flagship campus in Madison. Yet Eau Claire, largely left out of the national spotlight, is well regarded academically and perhaps a better indicator of the challenges most of the UW System’s 13 campuses face. The campus must grapple with cuts, but doesn’t have the cushion of a $2 billion endowment or the ability to bring in hundred-million-dollar gifts.

This year Eau Claire, if its operating model remains unchanged, will have a $12.3 million hole in its budget — a deficit that includes $10.8 million less in state funds than three years ago and accounts for a slight decline in enrollment in past years and stagnant tuition dollars.

When Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt announced the cuts — and planned responses, like centralization of services and early retirements — to faculty members, the mood was somber.

“In many ways a cut of this size feels like a betrayal from Wisconsin,” he recalled telling faculty early this year, when the looming statewide cuts were predicted at $300 million. “It also feels like a death in the family.”

This year Eau Claire, a regional campus much closer to St. Paul than to Wisconsin’s capital, Madison, will get $22.1 million of its $82.2 million operating budget from the state, compared to last year when the university received $29.8 million of its $95 million operating budget from the state.

As much of an operational headache as the cuts are, Schmidt said they’ve had just as big of a negative impact on campus morale.

Schmidt said his priority in mitigating the cuts was to ensure morale didn’t dip too low, and not to let the cuts have an outsized impact on academics.

Academic initiatives already underway — such as increasing the four-year graduation rate to 50 percent (up from 30 percent), increasing first-year-student retention to 90 percent (up from 83 percent) and increasing racial diversity twofold — will continue.

Eau Claire plans to continue emphasizing offerings that Schmidt believes sets the university apart from its peers, like study abroad programs and internships. About one in four graduating students study abroad, a high percentage, especially for a regional institution.

The campus in 2014 produced a Rhodes Scholar. And though the business and health programs are its most popular majors, Eau Claire is proud of its liberal arts roots, offering a full range of language and humanities courses at a time when many regional universities have made deep cuts in such fields.

Cuts and Changes

So far Eau Claire has cut 130 positions through voluntary buyouts, attrition and not renewing contracts that would typically be renewed. In all, the institution plans to cut about 158 positions — about 11 percent of Eau Claire’s staff — although Schmidt admits that number could rise.

The majority of eliminated positions will be administrative.

The university plans to trim the number of senior-level administrators — people with titles like associate dean or vice chancellor — by 25 percent, or seven positions, a reduction that will save $684,000 annually.

By cutting a quarter of Eau Claire’s leadership positions, Schmidt says he’s “trying to flatten the structure and break up a lot of silos that naturally exist in any organization.” Eau Claire also plans to cut 20 percent of its administrative support and academic department support staff, meaning fewer departmental secretaries (a projected savings of $460,000).

The staff reductions will be paired with restructurings that are becoming increasingly common at cash-strapped universities: things like shared-services centers to streamline and centralize functions like administrative services and student services.

The changes, for a school with roughly 1,387 employees before staff reductions, are large, and impact nearly every constituency of the university.

“We had to figure out what are we going to stop doing,” Schmidt explained. “How are you going to do the work differently?”

Schmidt says that as he and his staff considered ways to reduce costs, they encountered redundancies that had gone unquestioned for years, such as several layers of administrative approvals required for catering at a meeting. Schmidt says he doesn’t want to do more with less, but instead wants to do “less with less.”

“We don’t often sit back and say, ‘What can be eliminated?’ We don’t step back and say, ‘How does this form on this signature affect this process?’” Schmidt said. All that is changing at Eau Claire, which plans to implement many of its proposed changes by December and January.

As administrators began considering efficiencies, they polled alumni for expertise. Eau Claire didn’t hire consultants to plan a transition to a shared-services model, but instead asked about a dozen alumni with business experience to share their expertise and recommendations.

In the case of Eau Claire, it helped build faculty buy-in and trust. Such a strategy is also less likely to engender “boilerplate, cookie-cutter” suggestions, Schmidt said.

Eau Claire will create a central, one-stop student services center, which will handle issues from financial aid to registration to dining and housing contracts to parking fees, all currently handled by separate offices at different locations. This centralization is expected to save about $300,000 annually.

At a similar, one-stop student advising center, each adviser will be tasked with mentoring some 300 students in an effort to increase the graduation rate.

Eau Claire is also in the midst of creating an administrative services center, which will streamline and centralize tasks like expenses and purchasing, and ultimately require 20 percent fewer employees than the existing decentralized way of providing such services (planned savings: $380,000).

The campus is in the midst of a facilities survey, and once the results are in Schmidt plans to implement efficiencies that will cut facilities costs by 20 percent, with a hopeful savings of $1.8 million.

Though most of the eliminated staff positions are administrative, the equivalent of about 20 full-time lecturers — or about 38 full- and part-time lecturers — won’t return to campus in the fall, since their contracts were not renewed. Many taught at the university for several years, and all of the affected lecturers had year-to-year contracts.

Meanwhile, most vacant faculty positions aren’t being filled.

Though Eau Claire has tried to minimize the impact of the cuts on the academic enterprise, students will nonetheless experience change.

The reduction in teaching staff is creating a ripple effect — class sizes will get larger and, for many courses, fewer sections will be taught. Fewer sections means students may have to compromise, taking a course at an undesired time or waiting a semester to enroll in a course. Most faculty at Eau Claire teach four classes a semester, and that will not increase after the cuts, Schmidt says. Eau Claire assembled a group to consider how such changes might affect the curriculum.

“We’re doing the best we can to maintain the integrity of our academic program, our mission, but at least for the next couple of years there will be some challenges for students,” said Mitchell Freymiller, a senior lecturer in Eau Claire’s biology department and chair of the University Senate.

Before the downsizing, Eau Claire employed 184 instructional staff and 392 faculty members. It’s unclear at this point exactly how many teaching positions are being eliminated, and the exact impact on class sizes.

What’s Next?

Schmidt says he’s consulted with faculty through each rung of restructuring, including through committees on academic workload, administrative redesign and student services. Members from the Eau Claire’s University Senate agree that they’ve been part of the process, and that administrators have been transparent and communicative about reductions.

The changes, they said, aren’t easy, but faculty members are generally on board.

“There’s a lot of trepidation because obviously we’re talking pretty dramatic change over a pretty short window of time … academics, as a whole, we don’t deal well with change,” said Geoffrey D. Peterson, chair of the political science department and Eau Claire’s faculty representative to the University of Wisconsin System.

“The frustration is not really with the local administration, the frustration is further up the food chain,” Peterson continued, speaking of lawmakers in Madison.

Added Freymiller: “No one likes to have to do more with less. But the majority of the people with whom I work are in this profession because we love the students.”

As Schmidt and his staff consider the changes already underway, they’re also anticipating the next budget cycle, which will come in 2017 since Wisconsin uses a two-year budget system. Are more cuts on the table? Another round of tuition freezes?

This budget cycle’s $7.7 million in annual cuts follows the 2013-2015 cycle, which brought $3.1 million in cuts. Eau Claire now receives about three-quarters of its funding from tuition.

The university is hoping that the imminent restructuring will show lawmakers in Madison that it’s working hard to be fiscally responsible, and that it can’t cut much more from its budget without dramatically disrupting its academic mission.

“At the end of the day, there’s only so much the government can cut us,” Schmidt said, quickly adding that he’s not issuing a challenge, just simply having trouble imagining a reality that includes less state funding.

Peterson said faculty at Eau Claire brainstorm everyday how to better get their message to legislators.

“The big question is, how do we change the narrative in the capital so it doesn’t happen again in the next budget cycle?” Peterson said.

“Because, the truth is, if it happens again, that’s where you start to have real problems. That’s when you have entire departments close at multiple campuses …. That’s when you’re going to see a real bloodletting.”

Image Caption:
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Chancellor Jim Schmidt testifying before the State Legislature on budget issues.

Source: Inside Higher Ed


By Carl Straumsheim

Instructors have little to lose by responding to student criticism on, a new study suggests, and what they say could actually end up having a positive impact on student performance.

According to research by Yuhua (Jake) Liang, assistant professor of strategic and corporate communication at Chapman University, students respond best in academic achievement to assurances that they will be treated fairly in their courses. Attempts to stress competence or concern for students, however, does not appear to boost either performance or motivation.

“We know from prior research that students often treat the classroom as a commodity and select classes accordingly,” Liang said in an email. “One possibility is that after reading negative reviews, students simply gave up on the idea of having a competent and caring instructor. The only way students might have figured they can learn is if the instructor is fair and creates a predictable playing field where they have a chance to succeed and learn.”

RateMyProfessors was originally intended to be a place to capture word of mouth about which professors to take and which to avoid. Under the cover of anonymity, students could vent about or heap praise upon their professors, rating them on qualities such as easiness, clarity and helpfulness (and, of course, hotness, indicated by a chili pepper).

Those metrics, combined with the lack of accountability for whomever leaves feedback, have been the target of criticism from people in academe. For example, students who receive a poor grade may take their frustration out on a professor teaching a challenging course. Previous research has also found that faculty members with high hotness or easiness scores are more likely to be perceived as good teachers.

Since MTV Networks acquired the website in 2007, RateMyProfessors has become more mainstream. Faculty members themselves can now use their university email addresses to sign up for the website, giving them an opportunity to respond to the anonymous feedback. The website regularly makes a show of those responses in “Professors Strike Back,” a video series in which faculty members fire back at outlandish criticism.

Liang’s study, which appeared in a recent edition of Communication Education, involved 231 undergraduate students of all years at a small university in the western U.S. Using a combination of a made-up RateMyProfessors profile, a video lecture and a quiz, Liang tested if negative reviews — and different responses to those reviews from the instructor — affected student learning and motivation.

The students first viewed a RateMyProfessors profile of an instructor purported to work at their institution. Former students had rated the instructor as a somewhat easy grader — a 3.2 out of 5 — but the clarity and helpfulness scores registered at a mere 1.4 and 2.0, respectively. Overall, the instructor scored a dismal 1.7 and lacked a chili pepper.

The profile also included reviews from four imaginary students, whose comments included remarks such as “If you value your education, avoid this class at all costs” and “This professor taught me nothing. It was a waste of time and money to take this class.”

Different groups of students read different types of responses — or no response at all, in the case of the control group — from that instructor. The responses began by the instructor stating, “I would like to address the negative reviews that other students have posted by describing myself as a teacher,” and then continued with a statement of caring, trustworthiness or competence — or a combination.

The statement of caring emphasized that the instructor had “a high concern for my students’ success” and “put the needs of the students first.” The statement of trustworthiness, meanwhile, assured students that they would be graded fairly and promised them a “straightforward and direct” classroom experience. Finally, the statement of competence stressed the instructor’s credentials, including “several excellence-in-teaching awards” and a recent book deal.

Only the statement of trustworthiness proved statistically significant. Students who read that statement scored on average a 3.41 out of 5 on the quiz, compared to a 2.57 for students in the control group. None of the other results — nor the effect of the statement of trustworthiness on student motivation — proved statistically significant.

Liang said he was surprised that the statement of caring did not seem to improve student performance.

“There were some supplementary findings showing that trust, caring and competence all contributed to increasing student likelihood of enrolling in similar course content,” Liang wrote. “So instructor statements of caring and competence do help in some other way. I believe the key here is to be aware that our students are trying to learn about their instructors, and instructors who write a comment may show that they are in tune and engaged with the student learning process even before classes start.”

The study does not tackle the question of whether or not faculty members should actively respond to comments on RateMyProfessors. Liang suggested it should remain an individual decision. “After all, we see vendors frequently respond to negative reviews on or Why shouldn’t we?” he wrote.

Liang, who got his master’s degree at California State University at Long Beach, holds a perfect 5.0 quality rating from his time at the institution, but is so far unrated at Chapman. He credited his own mentors for the positive feedback from students.

“One strategy I implement in the classroom is to see it as a continuous field experiment,” Liang wrote. “Every semester, I make sure I implement two substantive changes to improve student learning. Sometimes they work; sometimes they backfire. I am a firm believer that in the end we all can improve over time.”

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Source: Inside Higher Ed


By Colleen Flaherty

As a scholar of media studies, Deepa Kumar knew her tweet comparing the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the Islamic State (ISIS) was provocative. But the tweet, posted in March, didn’t stir up much controversy until recently, when it resurfaced on far-right blogs and on Fox News. Now Kumar, an associate professor at Rutgers University, is being flooded with hate mail and even violent threats. And unlike several others scholars who’ve been slammed in recent media reports for their controversial tweets, Kumar is speaking out against coverage she says is unfair.

“This is not the only case of a professor being targeted by Fox News and by the right — in fact, there’s a long history here of trying to silence and intimidate faculty who have dissenting opinions on the U.S. government and policies in the Middle East,” Kumar said in an interview. “The only way to push back and defend myself is to be public about it.”

Kumar, author of Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire, is a frequent critic of U.S. foreign policy, including on Twitter. And in March she posted the following tweet, linking to a report on the number of casualties resulting from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Yes ISIS is brutal, but US is more so, 1.3 million killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan #NoToWar @democracynow

— Deepa Kumar (@ProfessorKumar) March 26, 2015

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the post attracted some criticism from other social media users at the time. But it hardly made waves until Monday, when Fox News ran a segment on Kumar’s tweet. Several commentators criticized her rhetoric and questioned whether she should be teaching at a publicly funded university. The general consensus of the discussion was that Kumar’s comments were objectionable but protected speech.

But Kumar said the segment veered into a “smear campaign” when commentators erroneously asserted that Rutgers had revoked former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s 2014 invitation to deliver the commencement address amid intense criticism from faculty members, including Kumar. In fact, Rice backed out of her own accord — although, of course, under intense pressure. Fox commentators suggested that Kumar was a hypocrite for exercising her own free, controversial speech while attempting to stifle Rice’s. As proof, they referenced a 2014 tweet by Kumar saying “we won” in response to Rice’s withdrawal.

Kumar called the characterization of her participation in the campaign against Rice’s appearance inaccurate. She reiterated that Rutgers did not pull the plug on Rice, and said that she and other concerned faculty members didn’t want to block the George W. Bush-era secretary of state from coming to campus altogether. Rather, Kumar said they wanted to engage Rice in a more dialogue-based format than a commencement speech.

“They distorted a bunch of things about what I’ve said and done,” Kumar said of the commentators. “I had no objection to [Rice] coming as a guest speaker, but commencement speeches are not a venue for debate.”

Within hours of the segment, Kumar started to receive hate mail — some of it forwarded to colleagues and administrators, as well. One email sent to dozens of Rutgers peers, for example, includes a number of racist and sexist slurs, and suggests that Kumar leave the country for Syria and endure “vaginal mutilation.”

Regina Marchi, a fellow associate professor in Kumar’s department, said via email that she and other faculty members “found the level of sexualized vulgarity and violence in the [note] extremely disturbing.” The role of a university professor, she added, “is to encourage critical thinking and diverse perspectives in order to foster the the kind of lively discussion and debate necessary for democratic deliberation. Professor Kumar’s tweet, which was from last March, was presented by Fox News with no context, making it impossible for the public to understand her larger arguments.”

Marchi said Kumar’s colleagues support her right to free speech. But others outside the university have publicly criticized Rutgers for continuing to employ Kumar.

@ProfessorKumar @rutgersalumni #ReclaimRutgers maybe @RutgersU should find another associate professor that’s not a terrorist apologist

— Common Man (@commonman2016) July 27, 2015

Kumar said she believes the commenters want to intimidate her into silence. She said she’s concerned about her physical safety and even her position at the university.

“They seemingly think they have the power to get us fired,” Kumar said of those who have contacted the university about her and other controversial professors elsewhere, “which I hope doesn’t happen.”

A Rutgers spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As to why her tweet is coming to light now, Kumar said she was involved in a June conference for critical terrorism studies scholars that attracted lots of negative attention in the blogosphere. A slide from Kumar’s presentation, which she said was taken out of context, has been circulating since. And earlier this month, the far-right college life website SoCawlege published a piece on Kumar and her Twitter history.

If the story sounds somewhat familiar, it is. In May, for example, SoCawlege published months-old tweets about race by Saida Grundy, an assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at Boston University. Fox News ran a story about Grundy’s tweets, leading to a similar controversy. And earlier this month, the University of Memphis announced that Zandria Robinson — the assistant professor of sociology whose tweets about race were compiled by another set of conservative blogs — was no longer employed there. (She left after she was hired by Rhodes College.)

Grundy and Robinson have stayed relatively quiet about their cases. But Kumar, who has tenure, intends to keep speaking out. She said she welcomes debate and engagement on the issues raised in her original post, but not intimidation.

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Source: Inside Higher Ed