In trying to shore up its policy on professor-student romantic relationships, did Virginia Commonwealth University create and then advertise a loophole? That’s what some faculty members think. But the university says it meant to strongly discourage student-faculty dating while at the same time leaving room for some relationships that don’t put either the student or faculty member at risk.
Earlier this week, Virginia Commonwealth shared via email its new interim policy on consensual student-employee relationships. The university’s near-decade-old policy was that employees “shall not engage in consensual relations with students whenever the employee has a ‘position of authority’ with respect to the student in such matters as teaching or in otherwise evaluating, supervising or advising a student as part of a school program or employment situation.” Such relations were to be immediately disclosed to a supervisor.
The new policy is similar but more thoroughly defines “position of authority” to mean “in any context, including but not limited to teaching, advising, training, providing recommendations for, evaluating, supervising, mentoring or in the context of any student employment situation regardless of full- or part-time status, for example as part of laboratory or other graduate assistant responsibilities, as part of clinical service or learning, or in the context of supervised graduate student teaching activities.”
In a memo accompanying the policy, Gail Hackett, university provost, said that Virginia Commonwealth “has adopted a revised policy restricting ‘consensual relationships’ between students and [employees], including faculty. … To summarize the essence bluntly — it is almost never appropriate for a faculty member to develop a romantic or sexual relationship with a VCU student.”
That description struck Jeff South, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, as odd.
“‘ALMOST never’? ‘RESTRICTING’?” South wrote in a Facebook post [emphases his]. “Under what circumstances does VCU think it *would* be appropriate for a faculty member to have sex with a student? How would VCU officials answer that question for the parents of incoming students?”
He continued: “Let’s strike ‘ALMOST’ (‘it is NEVER appropriate for a faculty member to develop a romantic or sexual relationship with a VCU student’), and have a policy PROHIBITING such relationships between students and faculty members.”
In the alternative, South quipped, “be consistent and give a postmodern conditional twist to the VCU honor code: ‘It is almost never appropriate to cheat or plagiarize …’”
Some colleagues agreed that “almost” didn’t go far enough. One former Virginia Commonwealth professor wrote in response, “It’s too late to accept anything close to ‘almost’ which doesn’t make it clear that such relationships are prohibited.”
In an interview, South said he probably wasn’t opposed to the new policy as much as the university’s memo description. Whereas South and presumably other professors previously believed that student-faculty relationships were banned, he said, using the word “restricting” instead of “prohibiting” and “almost never” instead of “never” seemed to suggest loopholes that could be exploited.
“This way of describing it, to say that in essence it is almost never appropriate, to me was leaving the door open or almost advertising it,” he said.
Pamela D. Lepley, a university spokeswoman, said the institution was now soliciting public comment on the policy. But she said it doesn’t create loopholes so much as leave room for a few exceptional cases in which a student-professor relationship would not exploit the inherent power structure between a professor and a student.
Take, for example, the situation described in the interim policy’s frequently asked question section, in a which a professor in the College of Humanities and Sciences meets a medical student at a social event and wants to pursue a relationship.
In that case — and in any number of others that could spring up on the two-campus university with a large population of nontraditional students — Lepley said, a relationship wouldn’t necessarily be prohibited.
“Here a situation is described in which your faculty role has no overlap with the educational program at another school of VCU in which this individual is enrolled,” the policy FAQ reads. “Nor does there appear to be any potential that he or she would enroll in one of your classes or need or seek recommendations or professional mentoring from you in the future. However, if you do enter into a personal relationship with this individual, you should both be careful to ensure that you do not later assume a position of authority as defined in this policy.”
The American Association of University Professors doesn’t rule out student-professor relationships, but says that professors are “expected to be aware of their professional responsibilities and to avoid apparent or actual conflict of interest, favoritism or bias.” And when a sexual relationship exists, “effective steps should be taken to ensure unbiased evaluation or supervision of the student.”
Still, AAUP’s statement on Consensual Relations between Faculty and Students discourages such relationships, saying that “Sexual relations between students and faculty members with whom they also have an academic or evaluative relationship are fraught with the potential for exploitation. … Even when both parties initially have consented, the development of a sexual relationship renders both the faculty member and the institution vulnerable to possible later allegations of sexual harassment in light of the significant power differential that exists between faculty members and students.”
Some institutions have changed their student-professor relationship policies following situations warned of in the AAUP policy. Northwestern University, for example, says that when a “consensual romantic or sexual relationship exists or has existed between people in positions of unequal power at the university, the person with the greater power must not hold any supervisory or evaluative authority over the other person in the relationship” — and now requires that if a such a relationship exists, the person in the place of power must immediately report the relationship to a supervisor. Undergraduate-professor relationships also are now banned entirely. The changes took effect as Northwestern was handling a case in which a former professor of philosophy was accused of sexual assault by two women he had seen socially, including a graduate student whom he’d dated.
Anita Levy, an associate secretary with the AAUP, said she couldn’t say how many institutions might have dating “loopholes,” such as the one some say Virginia Commonwealth created. AAUP simply doesn’t track such policies, she said. But AAUP’s overall stance “does leave room for the conduct of such relationships with due attention to appropriate ethical and procedural constraints.”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
By Jake New
In November, the University of Washington and the University of Texas will face off in their first basketball game of the season. Neither team will have a home court advantage, however, as the contest will take place more than 5,000 miles away from either campus.
For the first time in U.S. sports — intercollegiate or professional — two teams will play a regular-season game in China. The game, taking place at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, is a key step in a broader effort by the Pacific 12 Conference, as well as U.S. college sports more generally, to expand the global presence of their teams and to promote the American model of intercollegiate athletics.
College teams for years have played special exhibition games in other countries, but a conferencewide effort to ensure a regular season opener in China every year, as the Pac-12 is starting, is something new. On Monday, the Pac-12 announced it had hired Carter Westfall to serve as its vice president of international, further affirming a commitment to its Pac-12 Globalization Initiative.
“There’s this idea that athletics are supposed to be the front porch for their colleges,” Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pac-12, said. “They’re meant to bring attention to an institution and provide connection. Globalization is an important strategy for universities, generally, and athletics now has the opportunity to be a part of that.”
The initiative began in 2011, soon after Scott became commissioner of the league, bringing with him years of experience working globally as chairman of the Women’s Tennis Association, as well as the idea that U.S.-style college athletics shouldn’t be limited to one country. The initiative has now sent players from several Pacific 12 men’s basketball, women’s basketball and volleyball teams to compete in China. The tours — including the upcoming Texas-Washington game — feature elements of both road games and educational trips similar to college travel courses.
Last year, the conference became the first league to stream men’s basketball games played in the U.S. to China, and it will stream another 27 basketball games in the country this season.
Since 2012, the conference has hosted three symposia on sports development, with the goal of helping China move toward a model of intercollegiate sports more akin to the United States’. To that end, the league signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federation of University Sports China, the fledgling Chinese equivalent of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The federation is part of China’s Ministry of Education.
“Getting a partnership with the government was so important,” Erik Hardenbergh, the Pac-12’s vice president of public affairs, said. “It’s going back to the ‘Ping-Pong diplomacy of the early 1970s. It fits under this larger goal of a people-to-people exchange with China and the idea that sports can help. They are very focused on learning how the American intercollegiate system works and how they can use some of our learnings back at home. To date, intercollegiate athletics has been uniquely American.”
The symposia organized with the FUSC have included sessions on creating conferences, marketing conferences, creating athletic department revenue streams and improving academic support for athletes. While colleges in China sponsor athletics, the teams are similar in nature to club sports, rather than the highly professionalized and expensive programs seen in the United States.
David Ridpath, a professor of sports administration at Ohio University, who recently traveled to Europe to study college athletics there, said there might be some positive lessons that China could learn from certain tenets of U.S. college sports — such as corporate sponsorships and alumni engagement — but he cautions other countries from outright adopting a model that is increasingly seen by critics as flawed and easily corruptible.
“What I have found in my travels is that the rest of the world is fascinated by U.S. college sports,” Ridpath said. “People are fascinated by the system because other countries do not have anything like it. I would caution them, however, if they’re going to adopt an academic eligibility model and those types of things. In reality, going the other way might be better, where we learn from other countries. We have to get to the point where we are creating models beyond our current system.”
While the Pac-12’s initiative is meant to be global in nature, it unabashedly remains focused on China. Basketball is immensely popular in China and is played by about 300 million people there. The country is an increasingly important market for U.S. colleges and universities. Nationally, the number of Chinese students in the U.S. has risen fivefold since 2000.
When Washington and Texas compete in Shanghai this November, representatives from every Pac-12 institution will join them on the trip in an attempt to entice more Chinese students into crossing the Pacific Ocean for their educations. The conference will host a college fair while in Shanghai, Scott said, which thousands of Chinese families will attend to learn more about Pac-12 universities.
The Pac-12 is not alone in using big-time college sports to reach out to Chinese students. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign enrolls more students from China than any other U.S. institution. Nearly a tenth of last year’s freshman class hailed from China. The university enrolls about 5,000 Chinese students in all.
Last week, the university announced it will begin broadcasting its football games in Mandarin. Already, Illinois offers educational programming to teach Chinese students the basics of football and basketball.
“Our goal with this is to better reach all Fighting Illini fans, whether they attend school here in Champaign-Urbana or have graduated and are living abroad,” Mike Waddell, senior associate athletic director, said in a statement. “We are very excited to reach both Chinese students and alumni and give them the option to enjoy Illinois football in Mandarin Chinese. We hope that this is the first of many international outreach efforts for Fighting Illini Athletics.”
The University of Texas athletic department is also looking to expand its international outreach efforts. The soon-to-be-annual Pac-12 game in Shanghai will feature a different nonconference team each year. Texas, which is a member of the Big 12 Conference, was chosen to be the inaugural opponent after it started making global plans of its own, Scott said.
The Texas volleyball team hosted a Chinese team last year, and the men’s soccer team played against a team from Mexico. In May, the university said it hopes to begin sending its football team to play in Mexico City by 2020. Steve Patterson, athletic director at Texas, told the Associated Press that the university has a “natural advantage because of its proximity to what he considers to be a lucrative fan base in Mexico.”
How lucrative international fan bases are is an important consideration, given that this sort of outreach can be costly. Last year, the University of Kentucky was criticized after arranging an eight-night trip to the Bahamas to square off against basketball teams from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and France. The university spent nearly $800,000 on the trip, paying not only for its own travel but also the travel and expenses of the three teams it played.
Cost won’t be an issue for the Pac-12 game in Shanghai, though, as the conference has partnered with Alibaba Group, a giant in Chinese e-commerce, to sponsor the trip for at least its first two years. As part of the trip in November, basketball players will also travel to Alibaba Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, the capital of China’s Zhejiang Province, to learn about e-commerce. While Ridpath said he’s always concerned when athletics trips take students so far from campus when class is in session, he noted there is value in players experiencing and learning from other cultures.
For many of the athletes going to Shanghai in November, Scott said, this could be their only chance to travel outside the country on a university-sponsored trip.
“What I’m really proud of is that this is probably the boldest thing we’ve done to integrate academics and athletics in a true synergistic initiative that’s beneficial for both student athletes, as well as the university more broadly,” Scott said.
Source: Inside Higher Ed
By Paul Fain
Jennifer Reyes had reached the breaking point. Earlier in her time at the University of California at Davis, Reyes, now a senior, felt she could no longer cope with the demands of university life.
It wasn’t so much the academics, although Reyes said she had begun to struggle in her courses. Like many first-generation students from low-income backgrounds, Reyes lacked support from people who knew how to navigate college. And she had commitments her wealthier peers lacked.
“I had to send money home,” said Reyes. “I had to work.”
Salvation came from an unlikely source. Reyes is a recipient of a Dell Scholars Program scholarship. That program, funded by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, had begun working with ComPsych, the world’s largest employer-assistance program.
ComPsych offers a form of outsourced, short-term counseling. Many companies use it or other, similar firms so their workers can get help with life challenges, ranging from how to find day care or dealing with parking tickets to crises like substance abuse or coping with grief.
Typically employees can call a counselor any time of day or reach them via online chats. ComPsych also can refer people to one of its 40,000 affiliated counselors around the country for face-to-face help. The range of services includes dealing with severe crises, such as suicide prevention.
Colleges are among the company’s customers. A spokeswoman said ComPsych works with more than 1,000 organizations in higher education. The counseling option is typically aimed at faculty and staff members. But demand for student-facing counseling of the employee-assistance variety is growing, the company said, particularly in recent years. The drivers are increasing student stress, often over money. For example, ComPsych helps steer students away from credit card deals.
The Dell Scholars Program sought out ComPsych because an employee-assistance program seemed like a good fit for its recipients.
The scholarship, first offered in 2004, is aimed exclusively at students who have overcome substantial obstacles to pursue a bachelor’s degree. The 300 students who receive a Dell Scholars award each year are from low-income backgrounds — typically first-generation college students.
“We’re really targeting the highest-risk students coming out of high school,” said Oscar Sweeten-Lopez, who leads the program. “Many are contributing financially to their family.”
In addition to providing $20,000 in financial support over six years, the scholarship program helps students throughout their time in college. Recipients get a laptop, textbook credits, access to a private networking group and mentoring. They also can get confidential counseling services to deal with personal problems.
Research has shown that even mundane-sounding challenges — such as a late fee on a credit card — can derail low-income students. And a recent study from the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education and from the University of Pennsylvania Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy found that 47 percent of students in the bottom family-income quartile had earned a bachelor’s degree six years after enrolling in a four-year institution, compared to 76 percent in the top quartile.
Sweeten-Lopez said the scholarship program found ComPsych on its own. They needed a quality counseling option for students and didn’t think it made sense to hire or train staff members to do the work.
“It’s a pretty big lift,” he said.
The company also was affordable — about $11 per student, per year, he said.
Reaching out for help wasn’t easy for Reyes. But she made the leap and decided to call the Dell Scholars Program’s counseling option, in part because of how much she trusted the scholarship’s organizers.
“All they ever do is help us,” she said.
Making the call was a good move. Reyes said ComPsych’s counselors helped her step back and see the big picture. She said she liked the people she spoke with and got plenty of practical advice. Reyes made it past her rough patch and now is getting close to the finishing line at UC Davis. She said that would not have happened without the Dell-sponsored counseling.
“I wouldn’t still be here,” said Reyes. “I would have probably dropped out.”
A few colleges have used ComPsych for similar reasons. Most, it appears, went with the outsourced counseling option for online or nontraditional, adult student populations.
The University of Wisconsin Colleges, for example, offers it to students who attend online programs. An obvious draw for the service is that online students aren’t necessarily near campus and often can’t swing by the office that houses counseling services.
Cathy Sandeen, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Colleges and the University of Wisconsin-Extension, said her institution began offering ComPsych counseling to online students in 2010.
“It provides 24-7 access, which is really important for online students,” she said, adding that the service costs roughly 25 percent of what it would for the institution to hire full-time staff counselors to cover student demand.
The use of outsourced, around-the-clock counseling is spreading, said Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
One reason, he said, is that campus-based counseling and mental-health support is “way overstretched,” meaning there’s plenty of need for high-quality, lower-cost alternatives.
“We need to provide a wider variety of options to students,” said Kruger, adding that colleges “are having a hard time of keeping up with the demand.”
One possibility, he said, is TAO Connect, an online service that was developed at the University of Florida. It’s designed for students with anxiety, with flexibility built in to cater to students’ schedules. For example, students meet with counselors online for 10 to 15 minutes each week and can access online tools whenever they want.
While employee-assistance programs — dubbed EAPs — are rarely aimed at students, Kruger said that could change. One reason is many colleges already work with companies like ComPsych as counseling options for faculty and staff members. So it’s not a big leap to add students, he said, in part because of that existing relationship.
For example, EAPs typically have protocols in place for notifying campuses about serious cases, like suicide prevention or for victims of sexual assault. In those situations, staff counselors likely would take over after the outsourced service handled the initial call.
Another reason some colleges might follow the Dell program’s lead is increasing attention to low graduation and retention rates — including from policy makers. The number of incoming college students nationwide who are low income and first generation is increasing. And colleges will need to get creative to help more of these students get to graduation.
The University of Wisconsin Colleges has synched its ComPsych option with an early-warning system that seeks to identify students who are in danger of dropping out. For example, if a student misses a few classes, Sandeen said, academic advisers have been trained to offer the option of calling a counselor.
An employee-assistance program could be a good option for the expanding pool of adult, nontraditional college students, said Kruger, who aren’t always a good fit for the traditional campus counseling model.
“That one contact could help,” he said.
Source: Inside Higher Ed
- Tashni Dubroy, special assistant to the president for process optimization and chair of the department of natural sciences and mathematics at Shaw University, in North Carolina, has been promoted to president there.
- Lynn Gillette, former president of Sierra Nevada College, in Nevada, has been selected as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Nicholls State University, in Louisiana.
- Paul C. Johnson, dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, has been named president of the Colorado School of Mines.
- Anthony G. Kinkel, president of Wichita Area Technical College, in Kansas, has been chosen as president of Motlow State Community College, in Tennessee.
- Barbara McDonald, interim president of Minnesota West Community and Technical College, has been selected as president of North Hennepin Community College, also in Minnesota.
- Michael Palis, professor of computer science at Rutgers University at Camden, in New Jersey, has been promoted to provost there.
- Charles Powell, president of John F. Kennedy University, in California, has been chosen as president of Bastyr University, in Washington.
- Louise Richardson, principal and vice chancellor of the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, has been named vice chancellor of the University of Oxford, in Britain.
- Joseph Martin Stevenson, chief academic officer at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, in Illinois, has been promoted to provost there.
Source: Inside Higher Ed
Come November, the University of Iowa will have a businessman with little experience in academe at its helm — and many faculty members and others in Iowa City aren’t happy about it.
The Iowa Board of Regents on Thursday unanimously appointed former IBM senior vice president Bruce Harreld as Iowa’s next president, despite outspoken criticism of Harreld as lacking the necessary qualifications to lead a university.
Harreld was one of four publicly announced finalists for the position and the only one without experience in higher education administration. He is a consultant who formerly worked as an executive at IBM, Kraft General Foods and Boston Market Company restaurants. His higher education experience is limited to eight years as an adjunct business professor at Harvard University and Northwestern University.
Faculty members have expressed concerns that Harreld lacks the knowledge and skills to work under a shared governance model and understand the complexities of leading a multibillion-dollar academic and research organization. Many worry that he will view the institution with a corporate mind-set, and that he will allow the regents to make the wrong changes to the university.
“Bruce Harreld is taking on the presidency under an enormous cloud and it’s going to take a lot of work to begin to make his presidency work effectively and to gain the trust of the community,” said Ed Folsom, an English professor who served on the presidential search that produced Sally Mason, whose retirement in August created the vacancy that the board is filling. “The fear of a good part of the university community is that he is assuming a presidency that … looks to the Board of Regents for guidance and approval, rather than looking to the university community for guidance and approval.”
Iowa as a state has long been proud of its commitment to all levels of education, and that pride has historically extended to the University of Iowa. But during Mason’s presidency, the university has been frequently on the defensive against the regents and politicians, who have questioned why the university admits out-of-state students, why the University of Iowa uses some tuition revenue to help low-income students afford college and even why the university would want to hold on to a significant Jackson Pollock mural. To many faculty members, these controversies have illustrated why they need someone who understands academic values leading the university.
Harreld won the job over three other finalists with experience in higher education administration: Marvin Krislov, president of Oberlin College; Michael Bernstein, provost of Tulane University; and Joseph Steinmetz, provost at Ohio State University.
On Tuesday, Harreld participated in a forum with professors, students and others that was at times contentious. He was questioned about his background in business and his knowledge of Iowa and higher education and asked point-blank why he wanted to be Iowa’s president.
“There’s been a lot of discussion, and I think appropriate discussion, about my background,” he said, adding that he’s led “transformational” turnarounds in the corporate sector and wants to usher Iowa through an era of challenges.
“My experience is that organizations don’t actually maintain themselves. They either go up or they go down …. Winners can very quickly become losers. Great institutions have an ability to fall very quickly,” he continued. “As good as you are, you need to prepare yourself for what’s coming ahead.”
It was, in part, Harreld’s experience in organizational turnarounds that led the regents to offer him the job. “What we ended up with is someone who has spent his life providing leadership in organizations that he has been a part of, in terms of collaboration, in terms of team building, in terms of reaching out to disparate groups and involving them and developing a strategic plan on how you can get better,” Bruce Rastetter, president of the Board of Regents, said during a press conference Thursday. “The board saw in that leadership skills which was exhibited after being in the private sector.”
Yet in an American Association of University Professors survey released Wednesday of 164 Iowa faculty and 122 students and others, fewer than 5 percent of respondents felt Harreld would make a good president. Other groups that collected faculty comments — including the search firm Parker Executive Search and the Iowa’s Faculty Senate — have not publicly shared summaries of that feedback.
“His own philosophy, the philosophy he promised to bring to the university, is that he knows how to change organizations and he does it by building consensus,” said Bob McMurray, a professor of psychological and brain sciences. “I don’t see how he can possibly achieve that being hired the way he did and under the circumstances in which he was hired.”
He continued, “He’ll have a much more challenging time then one of the other candidates would have. It seems if you want to make changes to an organization you have to get buy-in.”
Many at Iowa have criticized Harreld for saying, during the public forum, that he looked up information about the University of Iowa on Wikipedia. Faculty members have also expressed concern over Harreld’s résumé, which states that he’s the managing principal for Colorado-based Executing Strategy LLC, a firm with an expired registration in Massachusetts. Harreld admits that the firm no longer exists and that he neglected to update his résumé.
Many faculty members were also concerned when Harreld said he could imagine a scenario in which he would support forfeiting some of the university’s state funding to support the state’s other public universities. The topic is a contentious one, after Iowa’s Board of Regents — which also governs Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa — reluctantly scrapped a plan earlier this year to shift $47 million of Iowa’s funding to its fellow state universities. And the issue is not theoretical, as the Board of Regents is considering a plan to ask for more money from the state for Iowa State and Northern Iowa, but not the University of Iowa.
“Faculty, staff, students, alumni and other community members were all of one mind that this man was not competent to run any university,” said Katherine Tachau, a history professor and president of Iowa’s AAUP chapter. Tachau served as the co-chair of a failed 2006 presidential search.
“[Regents] may think that a CEO can run a university without any support on the ground and they are mistaken,” she continued, adding later, “There’s no scenario in which he can be successful in the eyes of the campus community. Maybe he’ll be successful in the eyes of regents, those regents who want to destroy the university.”
Tachau worries that the appointment of Harreld, who touts his experience revamping companies, is a sign that Iowa might undergo faculty and staff cuts or outsource a greater number of activities.
Jean Robillard, Iowa’s interim president and chair of the search committee, said earlier this week that from the onset of the search, regents were interested in interviewing nontraditional candidates as well as academics.
Regents asked the search committee — which included three regents, including the board’s president — to “present them a group of candidates that are different” from one another. They wanted to hear different approaches to the “challenges of higher education today,” such as tuition and student accessibility, he said.
“It was very clear that was the mandate we got,” he said. “They want a choice and they want a different group of people and that’s what happened.”
McMurray pointed out that, in the case of Harreld, his entire career has been spent in business. Unlike other nontraditional presidents, he hasn’t served as a politician or at the helm of a nonprofit organization
“What is clear to me is he doesn’t understand the University of Iowa and how higher education works,” he said. “It’s more than just a lack of academic background, he doesn’t have a background in public service … I’m not sure he’s ever worked for an organization whose goal isn’t to make money.”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
It’s rare for an M.B.A. program — where after all there are pricing experts on the faculty — to admit that it’s charging too much.
But that’s exactly the case with the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School, which next year plans to reduce the tuition for the entire two years of the M.B.A. from about $106,500 to $92,000.
The 14 percent tuition reduction is a course correction for Rochester, which is charging more than most universities with similar rankings and test score averages. Its high sticker price causes prospective students to rule out Rochester early on in their search process, fears Andrew Ainslie, dean of the business school.
Rochester and most high-quality business schools certainly give out aid, but unlike undergraduate programs that announce deep tuition cuts from rates that hardly anyone pays, M.B.A. programs assume many students do pay sticker price (in some cases by borrowing).
Ainslie notes that there’s a correlation between price and ranking, and Rochester — which ranks No. 37 among M.B.A. programs by U.S. News & World Report and No. 38 by Bloomberg Businessweek — didn’t fit within that curve. Rochester has increased tuition between 3 to 5 percent year after year, without really considering the impact the increases were having on its cost relative to its peers (Rochester’s tuition increased from $72,700 in fall 2006 to $106,500 this fall).
“The higher ranked the school is, the higher the price. And the lower ranked the school is, the lower the price. So we were a bit of an outlier,” he said. “We sort of looked at it as an economic problem.”
The University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University and the University of Chicago each charge more than $120,000 for M.B.A. tuition, but their programs are also ranked among the top five in the country by Businessweek. Meanwhile the University of Washington and the University of Buffalo, which have M.B.A. programs ranked just above and below Rochester, price their M.B.A. tuition at $61,000 and $34,000, respectively.
Rochester gives out about $5 million in scholarship funding each year (Ainslie declined to say what percentage of scholarships are of gross tuition). Yet while tuition figures are publicly available, scholarship figures are more opaque and prospective students usually have little knowledge of what opportunities are available. The result is a pricing structure that lacks transparency, Ainslie said.
The new model will put some of the existing scholarship funding toward lowering tuition. Ainslie likened the move to a $14,500 scholarship for all students, and said that it’s a revenue-neutral change for the institution. He says Rochester plans to maintain a generous scholarship program, which is largely based on applicants’ academic competitiveness.
When choosing a business school, applicants typically look at which ones accept test scores within their range and then, within that subset of programs, apply to the best-ranked and lowest-priced options. Because of Rochester’s high sticker price, prospective students were eliminating it early on in their application process.
“What they want is to get in a highly ranked, low-price school that’s appropriate for their GMAT [Graduate Management Admissions Test],” Ainslie said. “If our price is a little out of line … they’re not even going to that second stage.”
A 2015 Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) survey found that financial issues are among the most prominent reservations among prospective students: 48 percent of those surveyed reported attending business school requires more money than they have available and 44 percent said they were hesitant about taking on a large financial debt.
Dan LeClair, chief operating officer of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, says transparency and price are of increasing concern for students and institutions alike. Students, he said, want to know “the price that they’ll actually be paying and what kinds of scholarship opportunities are available.” Meanwhile, institutions are realizing there’s a ceiling on what students are willing to pay.
“There’s a general awareness in our industry that prices can’t keep going up and up and up without some impact on demand,” he said.
It will take time for the change at Rochester to significantly impact enrollment, but Ainslie is expecting a larger first-year class in 2017. Rochester’s M.B.A. program is relatively modest in size: enrollment last year was 213 full-time students.
“I am very optimistic that we are going to have quite a big uptick, something in excess of 20 percent in 2017,” he said.
As Rochester adjusts its price point, it’s also adjusting its competitiveness in terms of GMAT scores. Ainslie said the institution has intentionally brought its average GMAT score down from 680 to 665 in order to place more emphasis on an applicant’s work experience.
The new pricing strategy is in part a response to softer enrollment from U.S. applicants, a trend that exists throughout M.B.A. programs as business schools begin to offer less-costly and quicker alternatives to two-year, full-time M.B.A.s. Business schools are offering one-year specialized master’s programs and other traditional M.B.A. alternatives with increasing frequency.
Stanford University organization theory professor Jeffrey Pfeffer notes that there are some 13,000 M.B.A. programs worldwide and says the industry is over capacity. Coupled with the increase in online education and one-year programs, he believes that “at some point … tuition is going to collapse.”
“Everyone I know expects a substantial shakeout in the M.B.A. industry,” he wrote in an email, saying that such a collapse is “long overdue.”
In 2014, an application trends survey by GMAC found that 62 percent of surveyed M.B.A. programs in the U.S. saw a rise in applications. Yet the increased interest was largely from international students. Fewer than half of surveyed M.B.A. programs, or 48 percent, reported increased interest among domestic applicants.
“American applicants, those numbers have dropped and dropped,” Ainslie said, though he maintains that demand for employees with M.B.A.s remains high.
“Industry really wants us to keep producing M.B.A. students, but we seem to be getting less and less interest from potential students,” he continued. “That’s where the battle occurs and that’s where we have to make very sure that we stay competitive.”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
Paying academics bonuses for their research encourages them to join more productive colleagues, thereby concentrating scholarly talent and boosting output, according to a study of German universities.
The research bolsters the argument for introducing controversial performance-related pay, a measure recommended by a British Treasury-commissioned report in February.
But it also warns that by concentrating the best academics into fewer places, people in some areas of the country could be deprived of a decent scientific education.
The study used data from Germany, where beginning in 2005 a change in the law meant that all new academics would be eligible for performance-related bonuses on top of a basic wage.
Under the new system, known as W-pay, bonuses are paid for research performance and winning research funds, as well as for taking on management duties, or are used to attract and retain academics.
Universities have discretion over how they award bonuses, which can be worth more than €5,000 ($5,630) a month. In some universities, an annual “prize pot” is divvied up at the end of the year according to each academic’s relative performance. On average, just over a quarter of a German academic’s salary comes through bonuses.
After the reforms, the top-performing researchers, as measured by publication rates, clustered together more than they had previously, according to the study, “Lone stars or constellations? The impact of performance pay on matching assortativeness in academia.”
High-quality departments hired far more productive researchers than their lower performing counterparts. They also got rid of poorer performing academics, while lower quality departments lost more productive scholars.
This kind of clustering is known as “positive assortative matching,” explains the paper, by Erina Ytsma, a doctoral candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
In other words, the best scholars seek out similarly talented colleagues to work with in order to boost their productivity, just as highly educated or wealthy people look for mates with similar traits. Concentrating workers into high-productivity and low-productivity clusters results in higher production overall than when groups contain a mixture of talents, the paper argues.
“A greater total scientific output may boost technological progress, so to the extent that there are positive productivity spillovers in academia, this calls for a concentration of the most productive academics,” Ytsma’s paper concludes, although it warns that this may come at the cost of providing “good scientific education to many people, all over a country.”
The results from Germany play into the longstanding debate over how far to concentrate research funding into a few select institutions, and whether to pay academics in relation to their performance.
Earlier this year a Universities UK review recommended phasing out automatic annual pay rises in favor of performance-related pay.
Source: Inside Higher Ed
SAT scores dropped significantly for the class of college-bound seniors this year. All three sections saw declines — and the numbers were down for male and female students alike.
At the same time, SAT scores showed continued patterns in which white and Asian students, on average, receive higher scores than do black and Latino students. And, as has been the case for years, students from wealthier families score better than do those from disadvantaged families. These and other figures — including new data on Advanced Placement participation — are being released today by the College Board.
Over all, scores dropped two points on critical reading, two points on mathematics and three points on writing. The seven-point decline across all three sections compares to a one-point decline the prior year, and no change the year before that.
Here are the figures for the last five years:
The reading score has not been so low as far back as the College Board’s annual report, which dates to 1972. The mathematics score hasn’t been this low since 1999. And the writing score is the lowest since that portion of the test was created in 2006.
The ACT announced its scores — which were flat for the year — last week.
Both the ACT and SAT reported that more students took the tests than ever before. (Students may take both tests, and guidance counselors in parts of the country where the SAT was once dominant now report more students taking both exams.) But the new data show that the ACT has opened a significant lead in terms of test takers. As recently as 2011, more people took the SAT than did the ACT. This year, more than 1.9 million people took the ACT and just under 1.7 million took the SAT.
The release of SAT scores comes at a significant time for the College Board. A new SAT will launch in the next year, and it arrives as a growing number of colleges are dropping requirements that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores, and as many parents of elementary and secondary school students are rebelling against standardized testing generally.
According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a critic of the SAT, 27 colleges and universities have dropped ACT/SAT requirements in the last year — more than have dropped in any other 12-month period. And about 40 colleges have ended requirements since the College Board announced a revamping of the SAT. That figure is notable in that the last time the College Board was working on a new SAT, relatively few colleges made decisions to drop the requirement, seeming then to prefer to wait for the new test.
Much of the criticism from colleges has been about fears that the SAT scores seem to reflect family income, and that, on average, black and Latino students receive significantly lower scores than white and Asian students do.
Clearly sensitive to these issues, the College Board webinar for reporters started with David Coleman, the organization’s president, saying that “we need fewer tests that do more.” He also said he favors tests that do not hold people back but that “deliver opportunities for students.” Coleman argued that the College Board’s tests do so — with the PSAT and SAT helping students obtain scholarships and the Advanced Placement program helping students obtain college credit.
He also said that almost 300,000 people have visited the Khan Academy online to learn about how that organization — known for its online educational programming — will be offering tutoring to prepare for the new SAT. That tutoring will be free, and Coleman said he hoped that the Khan Academy would end up providing as much help to those taking the SAT as do the many services that charge students and their families.
Coleman also stressed that an increasing number of low-income students were having their fees waived to take the SAT, which also suggests more of them are taking the exam. For the class of 2015, 25.1 percent of students had fee waivers, up from 23.6 percent the prior year.
But despite these efforts, the pattern with regard to family income remained the same. In each of the three parts of the SAT, the lowest average scores were those with less than $20,000 in family income, and the highest averages were those with more than $200,000 in income, and the gaps are significant. In reading, for example, the average for those with family income below $20,000 is 433, while the average for those with income of above $200,000 is 570.
The figures on race and ethnicity also show large and growing gaps. These gaps could become particularly troublesome for colleges that rely on the SAT (and for the College Board) if the U.S. Supreme Court sets new limits or restrictions on the consideration of race in admissions, as justices could do in a case they will consider in the forthcoming term. One reason given by many colleges that have gone SAT optional is that they are uncertain about the value of the SAT in evaluating black and Latino applicants.
Here are the numbers from this year:
Mean SAT Scores by Race/Ethnicity, 2015
The numbers show that Asian-American and white test takers are comfortably in the 500 range for all three parts of the test, while other groups are in the 400s and for the most part in the mid-400s for all three parts.
Everybody’s scores are going down except for Asians. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing has kept track of the gains on the combined scores on all three sections, by race and ethnicity, since the introduction of the writing test for the class of 2006. Those statistics, combined with the new data, show that between the class of 2006 and the class of 2015, every group except Asians has seen its totals go down.
Combined SAT Score, and Changes Since 2006, by Race/Ethnicity
|Group||Combined Score 2015||Change Since 2006|
The College Board also released new data on Advanced Placement exams, noting that 1.5 million students this year earned a score of three or higher on an AP exam. (That score frequently qualifies a student for college credit.) That is a gain from 1.4 million students in 2014.
But on the AP tests as well, there is a clear racial and ethnic gap, with 72 percent of Asian test takers earning at least one three, compared to 66 percent of white students, 50 percent of Latino students, 46 percent of Native American students and 32 percent of black students.
Source: Inside Higher Ed
Talk about graduate school being broken is beginning to sound like a broken record: Yes, it’s too focused on preparing students to become the tenure-track professors that populate academe’s endangered species list. Yes, the better part of a decade is probably too long to spend as an apprentice, forgoing a living wage and likely accruing debt. And yes, too many people never finish.
So now what?
Get to the root of the problem and work upward, argues Leonard Cassuto, a professor of English at Fordham University, in his new book out this month, The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It (Harvard University Press).
“If the problems with graduate school are a tree, a lot of people are fixated on this branch or that branch,” Cassuto said in an interview. “But you can’t fix the branch if the trouble is in the roots of the tree. And in graduate school, there are a lot of common problems that go down to the roots.”
For Cassuto, the fundamental problem for graduate school education in the humanities and humanistic social sciences is one of teaching. Tenure-line professors at research institutions prepare students to become “mini mes,” even though the odds are less than one in two that they’ll get the chance at becoming one, and that is more than a practical failure, he argues — it’s a moral one.
“There’s an enormous trust that’s being extended here, and that’s something that people who run graduate education programs need to take seriously,” Cassuto said. “If you’re not teaching them to do and value the work they’ll actually be doing, you’re really teaching them to be unhappy.”
He argues in Mess that graduate school professors must “convey their own awareness and approval” of taking teaching-intensive positions outside research institutions, or outside academe entirely. And programs must make readily available placement data for past graduates so students know what they’re getting into, Cassuto says. Next, he argues — since graduate schools are no longer letting in “armies” of students — faculty members must begin to better “tailor” students’ experiences to their professional goals. Cassuto’s not big on quotas, but he says that a program’s ability to provide this kind of attention should drive its admission numbers.
He also says that graduate programs must create strong relationships with the campus career services office, which students should be interacting with throughout their time in school — not just frantically at the end of their programs. It also means a bigger focus on professionalization within graduate programs themselves.
The School of Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Louisville, for example, in 2012 created a comprehensive professionalization program for all graduate students. It offers 20 to 30 workshops per semester on professional development, life skills, academic development and networking — hence the program’s acronym, PLAN.
Reform also means rethinking the curriculum and traditional milestones. For example, Cassuto asks, why can’t time-consuming, comprehensive “tell me what you know” exams be more authentic and better serve students’ needs in the humanities, as they already do in other fields? Take biology, he says, in which many programs ask students to defend an original research proposal before a committee of faculty members.
Scientists “test their students in ways that allow them to develop the skills of professional scientists, and the certification of those skills later allows them to enter their scientific disciplinary communities,” Cassuto writes. “That’s a model that humanists need to adopt.”
As for dissertations, Cassuto says it’s a “costly and misguided mistake” to think of them as books in progress, as so many humanities and social science departments do, since so few people will read them. (That’s outside of those with whom the writer shares a bed or DNA, he quips.) Cassuto suggests considering a three-chapter dissertation, down from four. He also expresses interest in a relatively new multitrack model adopted by the German and Slavic languages department at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Program guidelines state that students who are interested in academic careers but also in those in government, business or the nonprofit sector will spend just a year writing the dissertation after two years of course work and a year of research.
Cassuto also advocates the “expanded repertoire” of dissertation formats noted in the Modern Language Association’s 2014 report on reforming graduate school education: web-based projects that give evidence of extensive research, translations with accompanying theoretical and critical reflection, public humanities projects that include collaboration with cultural institutions, and the treatment of texts in terms of their pedagogical value in the classroom.
“A more flexible view of the dissertation offers to expand our definition of ‘scholar’ (and ‘scholarship’),” Cassuto writes. “Or else it may lead to the argument that some graduate students are not scholars at all.”
Mess has little patience for professors who argue they can’t prepare graduate students for jobs outside the academy that they themselves haven’t experienced. Professors “have to do this because it’s part of their 21st-century job description,” Cassuto says. Moreover, he added in the interview, “teachers are very good learners.”
Cassuto said a democratic society needs more “happy” Ph.D.s — whether or not they stay in the academy. And that starts with better teaching. He ironically asserts that with all the talk of reforming graduate education, no one’s ever written a book about how to better teach graduate students. But with Mess, he said, he’s started to fill the void.
What Students Can Do
If graduate school needs better teachers, two other new books argue that students can do more ensure their own success.
Managing the Graduate School Experience: From Acceptance to Graduation and Beyond (out now from Rowman and Littlefield) pitches itself as the streamlined, comprehensive guide to the doctorate. Whereas Cassuto’s book is rich with personal anecdotes, Managing is more to the point: think checklists and bullet points. A chapter called “Can I Really Get a Ph.D.?” gets the ball rolling with discussions of the impact of study on family life, the importance of time management, learning types and reasons for wanting a Ph.D. Further chapters discuss choosing a program and degree type (including online) and financing one’s degree — including how to avoid financial aid scams.
For those who’ve decided to proceed and have been accepted, there’s talk of choosing a dissertation committee, preparing for comprehensive exams and pitching a dissertation idea. There’s some practical advice on how to defend a dissertation and a note on what’s next — such as how to copyright or publish one’s work.
Mark H. Rossman, a professor emeritus of education at Capella University, co-wrote the book with Kim Muchnik and Nicole Benak, fellow scholars of education. Rossman said that while good teaching matters, it’s also up to students to take graduate school success into their own hands.
Since elementary school, he said, “learners have been trained to be good students and to wait until they are told what to do and when to do it. As a result, they frequently wait for something to happen rather than making it happen.”
That’s a pattern that many students have continued in graduate school, sometimes to their detriment, Rossman said, waiting for advisers or dissertation committee members to tell them what courses to take or how to structure their comprehensive exams, or what to write about.
“While this has worked for many learners, it is not always the best and most expeditious way for the learner to proceed, as it does not foster a lot of critical reading or critical thinking,” nor does it encourage creativity, Rossman said. And “many learners do what they are told to do by the major adviser or committee members, which may not be what they really want to do as part of the process of completing a personally satisfying or meaningful graduate degree.”
What Not to Do
A second book aimed at empowering students takes the opposite approach from Managing. Instead of a how-to, 57 Ways to Screw Up in Grad School: Perverse Professional Lessons for Graduate Students (out now from University of Chicago Press) is more of a how-not-to. The book is a highly entertaining and informative list of pretested pitfalls, including “Do not think about why you are applying,” “do not clarify the supervisor’s (or your own) expectations,” “expect to write the perfect comprehensive exam” and “write only to deadlines.” They’re all fleshed out in good humor and only-in-hindsight wisdom.
No. 45, “Get romantically involved with faculty,” for example, says that flings between graduate students and faculty members have been known to end amicably, or evolve into a long-term relationship. “But more often than not,” the book says, “students end up feeling betrayed, exploited and abandoned. These are risky situations and unfortunately the grad student bears almost all the risk.” (There’s a P.S. about keeping it professional with one’s undergraduates as a teaching assistant, as well.)
Kevin D. Haggerty, a Killam Research Laureate and professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Alberta, said he and his co-author, Aaron Doyle, an associate professor in of sociology and anthropology at Carleton University in Canada, created their list by drawing on their own experiences as graduate students and faculty supervisors. They also interviewed various administrators and student services providers from across their respective campuses for a richer perspective.
All 57 points “refer to mistakes we have seen students make over the years, sometimes even after they have been specifically cautioned to avoid a particular pitfall,” Haggerty said.
He noted the original plan was 99 points, but it was scaled down after he and Doyle realized various experiences were really part of the same category or mistake. While not every pitfall will ring true or apply to every graduate student in every program, Haggerty added, he and his co-author tried to “balance” out the book to speak to a wide variety of graduate school experiences.
Asked how responsible graduate students are for their own successes or failures, Haggerty said it’s obvious students “have to show initiative and take some responsibility for their own program and education. Reading books and blogs about graduate school is a great place to start.”
At the same time, he added, universities can and should make structural improvements to better support graduate students — and a relatively easy place to start is more training for faculty supervisors.
“Everyone recognizes the tremendous impact that a supervisor can have on a student’s success in grad school and beyond,” Haggerty said. Despite that, “faculty members receive almost no mandatory training in effective and compassionate supervision. Not all faculty members supervise graduate students, but for those who do there should be greater emphasis on training.”
Such opportunities exist, he added, “but my experience is that these courses and workshops tend to be populated by people who are already conscientious supervisors, whereas the people who most need such instruction tend to shun them entirely. We need to develop more ways to encourage, support and perhaps reward good supervisors.”
That plays into Haggerty’s overall piece of advice for new graduate students (as well as Cassuto’s to teachers): seek out “wise, experienced and generous academic mentors.”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
Colleges and universities are ramping up their efforts to preserve a federal student loan program that some congressional Republicans are eyeing for elimination in the next several weeks.
The Federal Perkins Loan Program, which allows colleges to make loans of typically several thousand dollars to certain students, will expire on Sept. 30 unless Congress acts to reauthorize it.
The program is relatively small for the federal government. Last year, more than 500,000 students received Perkins Loans totaling more than $1 billion. That’s only a fraction of the roughly $150 billion in student loans and grants the federal government awards each year.
Still, many colleges and universities view the Perkins program as important to the financial aid packages they create for students — especially because institutions have more flexibility in how the funds are awarded than is true for most other federal aid.
The program also has some allies in Congress. Ninety-five members of Congress — led by Representative Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat — on Monday sent a letter to the House and Senate education committees urging them to stop the program from expiring.
The Perkins program has previously faced threats from budget hawks in Congress or the White House. But some key Republican lawmakers on those committees are now looking to cut the program as part of an effort to simplify and streamline the federal government’s various student loan programs.
“It makes little sense for Congress to extend the Perkins loan program, which is outdated and unnecessary, would come at a significant cost to taxpayers, and provides little benefit to students,” an aide to Republicans on the Senate education committee said in an email on Wednesday.
Lauren Aronson, a spokeswoman for the House education committee, led by Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican, said in a statement about the Perkins program that “the current patchwork of federal student aid programs has become so confusing that it can discourage individuals from pursuing a higher education.”
Not only would Congress have to pass legislation to continue the program, but lawmakers would also have to find more than $500 million elsewhere in the budget to offset what the Congressional Budget Office has determined is a cost of renewing the program, according to several people briefed on the budget estimate.
Some advocates for the Perkins program called that estimate misleading because it is based on the government “losing” out on revenue it would receive if the program were to be dismantled and colleges would have to return all of the federal funds they currently use to make the loans. Continuing the program wouldn’t actually cost the government money, they said, noting that Congress hasn’t chipped in any money to the Perkins program since 2004.
Proponents of the program say it plays an important role in financial aid packages for students.
The Perkins loan programs gives colleges “flexibility to fill the gaps of needy students,” said Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.
“All the campus-based programs, in general, are relatively small expenditures that schools feel have a large impact,” Draeger said. “There is merit to this conversation about simplifying federal loans for students, but you can’t pit and parcel programs without a more comprehensive look at all programs.”
Other campus-based aid programs include the Federal Work-Study program and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, which provide funding to low-income students.
The pending expiration of the Perkins loan program comes as Congress is working on a massive rewrite of the Higher Education Act, which governs all federal student loan programs.
For many Republicans, and some Democrats, a central goal in a new Higher Education Act is to pare back rules and regulations on colleges and simplify how the government awards student loans and grants.
Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate education committee, has proposed eliminating the Perkins loan program in legislation that would consolidate the government’s existing loan programs into one.
Cyndy Littlefield is vice president for federal relations at the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, which is one of several college groups that have formed a coalition to lobby to keep Perkins.
“The problem, from a political perspective now, is that everyone is on board the mantra of eliminating student debt — and who would not want to eliminate student debt?” Littlefield said. “But Perkins Loans really serve needy students and it covers part of their cost of college without forcing them to go to private lenders.”
Some 1,500 colleges and universities currently make loans to students under the Perkins Loan Program using a mixture of federal dollars and the institution’s own funds. Students qualify for the loans based on financial need.
Colleges are required to put up at least one-third of the money, and federal dollars cover the remaining two-thirds. But Congress hasn’t contributed money to the program since 2004 — the federal share of Perkins money currently comes from older Perkins Loan borrowers paying back their debt.
Some of the nation’s wealthiest universities participate heavily in the Perkins program. In the 2013-14 school year, federal records show, the top 10 institutions disbursing the largest amount of Perkins Loans included New York University ($13.4 million), Stanford University ($12.3 million), the University of Pennsylvania ($10.9 million), the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ($10.2 million), Cornell University ($9.4 million) and Harvard University ($9.4 million).
Congressional authorization for the Perkins Loan program technically ended last year, but it was automatically extended through this fall under a separate federal law.
If Congress doesn’t act before the automatic extension ends on Sept. 30, colleges would no longer be able to make new Perkins Loans to students, except for limited circumstances in which a student is already receiving a Perkins Loan and needs another one to graduate.
Source: Inside Higher Ed
New York State’s attorney general plans to announce a deal today that will substantially change the governance of Cooper Union and could create a path back to restoring the institution’s long-standing but recently abandoned policy of being free to students.
The deal would require Cooper Union to add two students as voting members of the board and between five and nine (depending on the size of the board) alumni-elected trustees. In addition, four faculty members will be elected as non-voting observers of board meetings. The board will also be required — in a move that is unusual for a private college — to publish all board minutes and reports, and to provide detailed reports on the university’s finances — with some exemptions for information that must remain confidential. These provisions all reflect criticisms of many students and alumni that the board has in the past mismanaged the university’s finances.
The agreement does not — by itself — require Cooper Union to return to free tuition. But the deal does require the board to create a committee, including student and alumni trustees and led by an an alumni trustee, to try to find a way to do so by 2018. That year is significant because it is when rent Cooper Union receives on the Chrysler building is due to increase from $9 million to more than $32 million a year, potentially creating a major improvement in Cooper Union’s troubled finances. According to a statement from Cooper Union, any plan to return to free tuition must also maintain “Cooper Union’s strong reputation for academic quality within its art, architecture and engineering programs at their historical levels of enrollment.”
Today’s news marks a stunning reversal of policy at Cooper Union, founded in New York City in 1859, and for most of its history, free to students. Peter Cooper, the founder, was committed to educating the working classes, not just the wealthy, and this idea was radical when Cooper Union was founded. Over time, free tuition attracted many top students, some of whom might have gone elsewhere. The 2013 plan to impose tuition set off a huge protest — including a lengthy occupation of some offices by students.
Cooper Union’s leaders argued that they could not preserve the quality of the institution without tuition revenue, and pledged to use some of that revenue to preserve access for low-income students. Generally, private colleges have considerable leeway to set their tuition and financial strategies, however unpopular.
But the case of Cooper Union, students and alumni said that the board was violating its obligation to preserve the mission of the institution not only to offer a high quality education, but to be free to students. Further, they charged that bad decisions by board leaders and administrators violated their fiduciary duties.
While litigation failed to block the imposition of tuition, the movement attracted the interest of Eric T. Schneiderman, New York State’s attorney general. He started investigating Cooper Union and reportedly pushed board members not to renew the contract of President Jamshed Bharucha, the architect of the plan to charge tuition. Then in June, five trustees who were supporters of Bharucha quit and he left office well before the end of his contract.
The Wall Street Journal reported late Tuesday that Schneiderman will today issue a “scathing rebuke to the board and Mr. Bharucha,” that will start that increased spending and the “risky” decision to borrow $175 million for a new academic building endangered Cooper Union’s finances.
The Cooper Union Alumni Association issued a statement pledging support for the new governance system and the push to restore free tuition. “[W]e are direct beneficiaries of Peter Cooper’s gift of free education, and understand—on a deeply personal level—the importance of the full tuition scholarship in making our alma mater a vibrant and unique environment for learning,” the statement said. “Our most recent election results confirm that 98 percent of voting alumni support free education at Cooper Union.”
Statements coming out of the university were measured in tone, but supporters of Save Cooper Union, the group of students, alumni and others that organized opposition to the tuition plan, were jubilant. Many messages on social media noted that few outside the protest movement expected it to prevail, but it did.
On Twitter, Mike Essl, associate professor of art, wrote: “So um, you know how we’ve been fighting Cooper Union’s board of trustees? WE WON.”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
Students at the University of Central Florida are fighting for seats in the institution’s crowded lecture halls. Those who can’t find a spot have to tune in online.
Live-streaming lectures is not a new idea. Some institutions have broadcast lectures live for more than a decade, lecture-capture providers pointed out. But a recent story in The Orlando Sentinel, which featured “mega-classes” in the College of Business enrolling in one case nearly four times as many students as their assigned classrooms can seat and students sprawled in the aisles, has highlighted a particular use of the technology.
UCF, like many of Florida’s public institutions, has more qualified applicants than it has room for. To address the issue of overcrowded introductory courses, UCF has opted for a “first-come, first-served” strategy: pile as many students into lecture halls as possible, and use lecture-capture technology to both live stream and record sessions for students who can’t find a seat.
The university’s neighbor to the north in Gainesville, the University of Florida, is also experimenting with using technology to enroll more students. The university earlier this year invited thousands of students to enroll in Pathway to Campus Enrollment, or PaCE, a program where students complete 60 credits online before coming to campus as upperclassmen. Even though the students invited to join PaCE would not have been accepted into residential programs because of space issues, many students were confused by the offer.
The situation at UCF is different, however. Students there have been accepted into and paid to attend residential programs and registered for classes, yet some are finding that doesn’t guarantee them a physical seat in their classes.
The practice has been around for years, but the number of mega-classes continues to rise. This spring, the university offered 111 such courses, according to an official count. And new students continue to give mixed feedback — some welcoming the convenience, others expressing frustration.
“Thanks, UCF, for having lecture-capture courses so I don’t have to go to class ever,” one student tweeted last month.
Another student, seemingly in response to complaints about the format, tweeted, “Bunch of rookies at UCF complaining about no seats available in a class. It’s a lecture-capture course. Watch it online. Overachievers …”
When lecture capture started to gain popularity a few years ago, proponents took care to describe the technology as an enhancement, not a replacement, for face-to-face instruction. A UCF promotional video from 2010, for example, promoted recorded lectures as a way to improve retention and test scores — with students able to show up in person when they wanted, while having video available as well.
Administrators and faculty members involved with lecture-capture technology at UCF were unable to respond to a request for comment.
Companies that provide lecture-capture technology said live streaming is a rapidly growing trend among the colleges they serve, although most universities still prefer to record lectures so students can review them on their own time after having attended in person first.
“From a technology perspective, the use of lecture capture for live streaming mega-classes is a logical extension of what lecture capture was originally envisioned for,” said Ari Bixhorn, vice president of marketing for Panopto. The company, which spun off from Carnegie Mellon University in 2007 after five years of incubation, provides lecture-capture technology to UCF.
The trend is being fueled by improvements in streaming technology, Bixhorn said. As recently as two years ago, live streaming courses meant college IT offices had to tweak their firewalls to avoid the stream being blocked, he said, but now, live streaming functions more or less similarly to recording lectures. “You check one additional button, and the recording you’re making will also be live streamed,” he said.
Bixhorn declined to talk about the ethical implications of enrolling more students in a course than can fit in a classroom, but called it an “interesting scenario.”
At UCF, students who watch the live stream can still ask questions in real time, which appear on the lecturer’s computer. The Panopto platform also collects data on student viewing patterns, including how many students tuned in to the lecture and how much of it they watched, Bixhorn said.
Fred Singer, CEO of the lecture-capture company Echo360, said future versions of the software need to capture more than numbers of viewership. He suggested institutions such as UCF ask themselves, “How do I take advantage of the fact that my campus is extended with technology?”
In addition to letting students ask questions, lecture-capture platforms could also be used to determine whether students watching the live stream are taking notes and understanding course concepts, Singer said. That information could in turn help colleges improve retention rates and student outcomes, he said.
“Whether you’re streaming video or capturing it, the next generation is really about capturing the responses and the engagement of students,” Singer said. “Live streaming itself is great … but in and of itself it doesn’t improve outcomes.”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
By Jake New
For years, advocates pressing colleges to do more to prevent campus sexual assault — including the White House — have cited a 2007 statistic that claims one in five female students experiences a sexual assault in college.
That statistic, based on a survey of only two colleges, has been questioned for as long as it has been cited, with a particularly strong backlash emerging in the last year. But, by broadly defining sexual assault in a way similar to the 2007 study, a number of surveys at individual campuses in recent months have started to reach the same conclusion. The most recent research to bolster the statistic comes from Rutgers University at New Brunswick, which was asked by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault to pilot a climate survey developed by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The university announced the results of the survey today, and provided a list of recommendations to the White House about how to better implement it.
The survey found that one in five female students at Rutgers has experienced “unwanted sexual contact” since arriving on campus. In May, the University of Michigan reached roughly the same conclusion with its survey, as did the University of Oregon last week. At all three universities — just as in the 2007 study — the surveys used a broad definition of sexual assault that included not only incidents involving rape but also unwanted kissing and touching.
When surveys at the University of Kentucky and the Harvard School of Public Health used a narrower definition limited to unwanted or forced penetration, the rate of assault was far lower.
At Kentucky, 5 percent of both male and female students said they had been assaulted. At Rutgers and Michigan, where broader definitions were used, about 12 percent of both male and female students said they had experienced an assault. At Michigan, 22 percent of female students said they had been assaulted in the last year. Kentucky has not yet released a breakdown of its numbers by gender.
Settling on one definition for use in climate surveys will be a crucial step in understanding the prevalence of campus sexual assault, said Sarah McMann, associate director of the Rutgers Center on Violence Against Women and Children and the lead researcher on the survey.
“We think the one-in-five statistic is important,” McMann said. “We know sexual violence means different things to different individuals, so we used a broad definition. We know all forms of sexual violence are problematic and have serious repercussions.”
In their recommendations to the White House regarding the pilot survey, McMann and her team stopped short of suggesting that all colleges use the broader definition, however, noting that the phrase “unwanted sexual contact” made it “nearly impossible” for researchers to distinguish among types of sexual violence that differ in severity. “Our recommendation does suggest that we need to have more discussion about how to define and measure sexual violence so that we can compare institutions,” McMann added.
Laura Dunn, executive director of sexual assault prevention group SurvJustice, said the fact that some still balk at the idea of unwanted kissing being considered sexual assault is a result of the criminal justice system frequently focusing on only the worst kinds of sexual violence. It has caused a particular image of sexual assault to form in people’s heads, she said, and it’s an image that denies the existence of a much broader expanse of offenses.
“People who deny this issue don’t believe something like an unwanted kiss is harmful, but it is,” Dunn said. “I think there’s an idea in our society that says if a man’s not using a gun or beating a woman, then it’s OK to be pushy and aggressive, or to wait until she’s drunk. We really think of some sexual aggression as really not that bad, and that mentality extends to the survivors as well.”
The Rutgers study — which included survey responses from about 11,000 students and details from 21 focus groups featuring about 200 students — also expanded its victimization questions to ask if students had been assaulted prior to coming to the university. Those findings support yet another often controversial statistic: that at least one in four college women has been sexually assaulted at any point in her life.
Nearly 25 percent of female students reported that they had been sexually assaulted before enrolling at Rutgers.
“That’s making a difference in the references we share at new student orientation and throughout our first-year experience programming,” said Felicia McGinty, vice chancellor for student affairs at Rutgers. “It’s an awful epidemic that often begins long before a student steps foot on campus. We’ll be modifying some of our efforts based on that awareness.”
In response to the survey, Rutgers is modifying much more than that. The university has rewritten its sexual assault policies to include an affirmative consent definition. It has launched a new awareness campaign called “The Revolution Starts Here: End Sexual Violence Now,” and has created new prevention programming aimed at male students.
A new website will serve as a “one-stop shop” for information and resources about campus sexual assault and include the results of the climate survey. Student affairs staff members will receive updated training, and counseling center staff members will learn about post-traumatic stress disorder and how it pertains to sexual assault victims.
A yearlong schedule of events about bystander intervention is also being planned for students. While only 7 percent of undergraduate women reported their assault to university officials, more than three-quarters said they had told a friend. This, McMann said, could mean that “peers have an important role to play” in prevention efforts.
The steps amount to what the university is calling its “action plan,” and one of the university’s main suggestions to the White House task force is to remind institutions that climate surveys are pointless if they don’t lead to changes on campus.
“Information must lead to action,” McMann said. “Survey tools alone are not enough.”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
A nontraditional candidate. Concerns about faculty input. A lightning-quick final round of interviews. Each of these factors is present in the hunt for the University of Iowa’s next president, a search that is underscoring tensions common today over executive searches in higher education.
The Board of Regents that governs Iowa’s three public universities is in the process of interviewing four finalists for Iowa’s top spot and is expected to make its choice on Thursday, just 24 hours after the last finalist’s campus visit.
Sally Mason, Iowa’s president for eight years, retired last month. The search for her successor has many faculty members concerned about the transparency of the process and the choice of a finalist with limited academic experience.
On Tuesday, that finalist, Bruce Harreld, a consultant and former senior vice president of marketing and strategy at IBM, visited the Iowa City campus to meet with faculty members and students. Aside from spending eight years as an adjunct business professor at Harvard University and Northwestern University, Harreld has no experience working in higher education.
Without that experience, how will he go about evaluating faculty or academic programs, how will he chose a provost, and how will he participate in shared governance, asked Michael O’Hara, a psychology professor and former leader of Iowa’s Faculty Senate, in an interview.
“I doubt if he had to really worry a lot about his employees because they didn’t have an independent source of power, so someone like him is going to come in and find that working in this environment, given his experience, is going to be very, very difficult,” O’Hara said. “I don’t know why we would be interested in essentially jumping off a cliff and hoping that the parachute opens up … I don’t know why we’d want to take that kind of risk.”
Other finalists include Marvin Krislov, president of Oberlin College; Michael Bernstein, provost of Tulane University; and Joseph Steinmetz, provost at Ohio State University. Each has also visited campus in recent days.
Iowa is one of a shrinking number of states that require universities to publicly announce multiple finalists (other universities, such as Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota, have in recent searches announced just one finalist).
Yet faculty members at Iowa are concerned that the search committee was disbanded after the finalists were announced and therefore won’t have the opportunity to give a final summary of the finalists to regents, as previous presidential search committees have. Faculty members interviewed for this article also say there’s insufficient opportunity to offer feedback on candidates — in part because of the rush of choosing a president within days of publicly announcing the finalists.
“The process was a little unorthodox and certainly not like previous searches, and that has a lot of people in the university upset,” said Paul Muhly, a mathematics professor who has taught at Iowa since 1969. “There’s very limited faculty participation.”
Added Bob McMurray, a psychology professor: “We didn’t feel like there was a strong mechanism for collecting the opinion of students and faculty and staff on campus.”
The university originally asked faculty members to offer feedback directly to the search firm, Parker Executive Search. When this didn’t sit well with many faculty members — who said they didn’t trust the search firm to accurately convey concerns — faculty members were also given the option to submit comments directly to the Faculty Senate, which would summarize the feedback in a report to regents.
Yet Harreld, the last finalist, visited campus on Tuesday and regents expect to make their final decision on Thursday. Though the 21-member search committee included seven faculty members, some faculty say the quick timeline marginalizes the impact of faculty feedback.
“If we want to hire a new faculty member, it takes a really long time,” said Kembrew McLeod, a professor of communication studies. “To have a decision made in two days is crazy for such a significant decision that’s going to affect the university long-term … everyone I know is scratching their heads.”
Jean Robillard, Iowa’s interim president and chair of the search committee, pointed out that while the final stage of the search is moving quickly, the search itself has been taking place for months. The search firm was hired in February.
He highlighted the fact that faculty members have multiple avenues to submit feedback — through both the Faculty Senate and the search firm — and noted that at many other flagship public universities, faculty don’t have the opportunity to hear from multiple finalists publicly.
“The process has been transparent and open at every corner,” Robillard offered. “Many, many searches at universities, even public ones, are not that open. This is probably one of the most open searches that’s done in the country.”
William Funk, head of a Texas-based search firm that specializes in higher education, agreed that Iowa’s search process is a relatively transparent one, given that most searches at major public and private universities take place behind closed doors.
He said that once finalists are chosen, search committees generally have limited influence, and the power shifts to a university’s governing board, so the case of Iowa’s search committee not meeting past the finalist stage is not uncommon. He also said it’s common for universities to ask faculty to offer feedback directly to the search firm, and to want to minimize the amount of time between when a candidate’s name is public and when the final decision is made.
“They’re unusually open about their process,” he said of Iowa. Funk has facilitated two past presidential searches at Iowa.
Seconds after businessman Bruce Harreld finished his talk on Tuesday about why he should be the University of Iowa’s next president, audience members flocked to the microphone: What’s the place of tenure, academic freedom and shared governance at the university? Would he ever take money from Iowa’s coffers and put it in another state university? Why did he even apply for this job?
The questioning, at times contentious, reflected the widespread concern on campus about a possible president who has little experience in academia. Harreld addressed those concerns head-on during the forum.
“Let me tell you why I am here. I am here because I have helped other organizations … go through transformational change,” he said, adding that Iowa needs to undergo its own major changes. “It’s completely legitimate for you to ask, ‘What the hell is this guy doing?’”
Though many faculty members were surprised that Harreld was named a finalist, the Board of Regents early on in the search requested that the search committee interview nontraditional candidates.
Robillard said regents directed the search committee — which included three regents, including the board’s president — to “present them a group of candidates that are different” from one another. They wanted to hear different approaches to the “challenges of higher education today,” such as tuition and student accessibility, he said.
“It was very clear that was the mandate we got,” he said. “They want a choice and they want a different group of people and that’s what happened.”
Funk said governing boards are seeking nontraditional candidates with increasing frequency.
Recent years have seen some high-profile selections of nontraditional candidates — such as Mitch Daniels, a former governor, as president of Purdue University and William McRaven, a former military leader, as chancellor of the University of Texas System. But such placements still remain relatively uncommon, despite the increased interest.
“Boards and search committees are increasingly asking us to include in the pools some nontraditional candidates. That was something we saw beginning within the past five to ten years, but it seems an increasing request on the part of boards for sure,” Funk said. “Our experience is that at the end of the day is it’s very difficult to get those candidates through the search committees. There is such an intrinsic hesitation from faculty on these search committees to someone who they perceive doesn’t understand the academic community.”
Such hesitations were apparent during Tuesday’s forum.
“Universities are very complex organisms. Ours is definitely complex, and if you don’t understand what makes certain parts of it tick … it’s very hard to develop a sensitivity for,” said Muhly.
Choosing an outsider might work, but it could just as easily backfire, he said: “That’s a real gamble. And the question is, is worth that gamble?”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
Seven months ago free community college was the higher ed policy idea with the most buzz, with everyone from President Obama to families with no college experience talking about the appeal of eliminating the cost of tuition.
Yet movement on two years of free tuition has only happened at the state and institutional level. The national conversation — particularly in the Democratic presidential race — has shifted instead to the debt-free movement as concerns over the student loan crisis at four-year public institutions has grown. The bulk of this conversation has shifted from getting more people into higher education, like through community colleges, to the best way to help those coming out of college with as little debt as possible.
But the shift doesn’t seem to bother advocates of two-year free community college initiatives, who don’t see either idea as divorced from the other.
“I don’t think it’s as clear-cut a distinction,” said Morley Winograd, president and chief executive officer for the Campaign for Free College Tuition, which is a nonprofit group. “Over all, even though there are lots of differences of opinion about the right way to approach college affordability, the fact that people are embracing and debating how to do something about it is great.”
The debt-free movement, which is broader than just free tuition at community colleges, is an ambitious policy proposal. Both are tied together. For instance, Hillary Clinton’s proposal focuses on a debt-free solution, but also embraces free tuition for community colleges. Senator Bernie Sanders’s debt-free plan also calls for two years of free college.
Instead the conversation has shifted to affordability in general with Republican presidential candidates talking about lowering the cost of higher education — or providing higher education in innovative ways — and Democrats focused on how to pay for college, Winograd said.
“I’m trying to restore the fundamental need for this country to invest in higher education in a smarter way,” she said. “If we can get a debt-free model for the first two years, that’s great. But are they really debt-free? Because students are probably paying for other things …. We have to look at the full cost of college at a minimum.”
Free, of course, isn’t free, but most advocates say part of the issue is communicating who will shoulder the burden of the cost. Kanter said it should be treated the same way people view K-12 education.
That requires a hard look at how resources are spent and figuring out which costs are important, Kanter said.
Community college leaders are still pushing the two-year free conversation, and those discussions are still happening at the state and institution level, said David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and research for the American Association of Community Colleges. “They feel the basic concept behind the president’s proposal and program is a valid one.”
And for the most part, the debt-free conversation doesn’t involve community college students as much as those in the four-year realm.
“For our institutions … fewer than 20 percent of our students borrow,” Baime said.
But there may be some underborrowing happening with community college and low-income students. Although fewer community college students are borrowing, it’s because they’re at part-time status in order to work in other places and pay for the full cost of accessing higher education, such as transportation expenses, housing or books, said Debbie Cochrane, research director for the Institute for College Access and Success.
“The simplicity of free tuition is trying to solve an access problem where debt-free is trying to solve an affordability problem. In a lot of ways people assume tuition-free must be about making college more affordable, but in many ways it’s not,” Cochrane said. “Low-income students at community colleges and public universities are more likely to take on debt when they don’t pay tuition because students paying tuition are low income enough to get grants, but they can’t pay for other costs. A plan that only considers tuition isn’t going to help students with those other costs.”
Debt-free has been able to capture the issues and encourage people to deal with making college as free as high school, Winograd said. “But we’re at the beginning of those debates and a long way before everyone comes to a solution.”
In order to tackle both access and affordability, Cochrane said, there needs to be a proposal that is tuition-free, reduces student debt, increases grant aid for low-income students and is a first-dollar program.
Winograd said the campaign has been working to promote all of the state, community and institutional ideas and activities that have actually built tuition-free initiatives. Even statewide programs like those in Tennessee and Oregon will force Congress to take action on a national free tuition program, he said.
“As these national proposals come forwards, it’s states that offer the best solutions,” said Mike Krause, executive director of Tennessee Promise. “Financial aid is complex and there will be a range of solutions. In Tennessee this is what works and we’ll continue to move forward and make sure our students have the opportunity.”
But free across the board isn’t necessarily a good idea.
Education in the U.S. has become a privilege instead of a right, which is why Shai Reshef, founder of University of the People, said he supports plans to offer free tuition, like President Obama’s. But Reshef cautions against a broader free tuition plan. U of the People is a nonprofit, tuition-free, online institution.
“Tuition-free is the option that should be there, but I do not believe tuition-free should be for everyone,” Reshef said. “The top research universities should be there and they will continue charging what they charge.”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
After 18 years of service, 24 peer-reviewed articles and the creation of a new-teacher education program, Theresa Buchanan was sailing toward promotion to full professor of education at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. Did a few swear words and sex jokes really derail her career? That’s what the American Association of University Professors alleges in a report out today. The report makes it unlikely that the university, which earlier this year was close to moving off AAUP’s censure list for past concerns about its commitment to academic freedom, will do so anytime soon. But the university accuses AAUP of misinterpreting the principles at play in Buchanan’s case, ignoring the way she allegedly treated some students, and of betraying its own values.
“Obviously there are institutions where one person says a dirty word and everybody faints, but those places don’t really exist anymore,” said Jordan Kurland, associate general secretary of the AAUP. “The everyday language in the average administration building is far worse than Buchanan at her worst.”
Buchanan’s story goes something like this, according to AAUP: she was hired as an assistant professor in 1995 and awarded tenure in 2001, centering her research on early childhood education. She earned strong reviews as a teacher and researcher and helped establish a new-teacher education program encompassing prekindergarten through third grade. Several graduates earned honors such as teacher of the year during their first years on the job. Buchanan’s service also was rated excellent.
By the spring of 2013, Buchanan was applying for promotion to full professor, which would have been effective this academic year. As Buchanan worked on a statement for promotion, the director of the School of Education, Earl H. Cheek, solicited outside reviews — all of which were favorable. The school’s Promotion and Tenure Committee voted in the fall of 2013 to promote Buchanan, as did the college dean’s advisory committee. The dean, Damon P. S. Andrew, in his recommendation noted that Buchanan had brought in $1.2 million in research funding and received several teaching awards. The graduate school dean also approved Buchanan’s bid.
But in December of 2013, Buchanan received an email from Andrew that changed everything. Titled “Unacceptable performance,” the email said that “multiple serious concerns” regarding Buchanan’s performance in the classroom and in the field had been brought to light: she’d been accused of making “inappropriate statements” to students, teachers and administrators.
Andrew said Buchanan had been banned by a local school superintendent from locations in his district, and as a result of these concerns, she wouldn’t be able to teach during the spring 2014 semester. The university would pursue an investigation into whether she’d violated any of its policies, including that against sexual harassment.
Buchanan, according to AAUP, was known for having “occasionally used profanities in her speech,” but no complaint had ever found its way into her performance file — until Andrew’s letter.
The charges against Buchanan are somewhat vague, but The Advocate reported that she occasionally said “Fuck, no” to students, once used a slang term for female genitalia to imply cowardice and joked that the quality of sex with one’s partner wanes over time. All of these incidents involved college students, not young children.
In an interview with The Advocate, Buchanan said she used sharp language on occasion to get students’ attention, and that her recent divorce might have affected her tone and sense of humor. But, essentially, she said, the allegations against her amount to a “witch hunt.”
“The occasional use of profanity is not sexual harassment,” Buchanan said. “Nor is the occasional frank discussion of issues related to sexuality, particularly when done in the context of teaching specific issues related to sexuality.”
No one from the university’s human resources office was able to meet with Buchanan until early the next semester, according to AAUP, and no one from her college spoke to her until the end of the semester, in June 2014. But over the course of the spring she was informed that Provost Stuart Bell was not recommending her for promotion, even though a university faculty committee had approved her bid.
She received a memo saying that the university’s investigation had found her guilty of sexual harassment and of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act — the first she’d heard of the latter charge.
After a meeting with Andrew, the education dean, he informed Buchanan that he was considering pursuing her dismissal because she’d admitted to using profanity — which he could not condone, especially as she was an educator of teachers of young children.
Buchanan remained out of the classroom, with pay and focusing on research, until a dismissal hearing before a faculty body in March of this year — over a year after she was first placed on leave.
After a nearly 12-hour hearing, the five-member faculty committee unanimously decided that Buchanan should not be dismissed for her alleged offenses. Although Buchanan did violate the university’s sexual harassment policy “with her use of profanity, poorly worded jokes and sometimes sexually explicit ‘jokes’ in her teaching methodologies,” the committee wrote in its report, the language wasn’t “systematically directed at any particular individual.”
The committee found the claim that Buchanan had violated the ADA was “not substantiated by testimony.” It recommended a written reprimand and statement from Buchanan that she wouldn’t repeat the behavior in question. The stress of the “hearing process itself is seen as an adequate punishment given the nature and apparent infrequency of the noted behaviors,” the committee concluded.
But Chancellor F. King Alexander ignored the committee’s recommendation and notified the university’s Board of Supervisors that Buchanan should be dismissed for cause, since she’d committed sexual harassment and therefore violated a federal law.
Buchanan appealed in writing, to no avail. She was offered a retirement deal in exchange for promising not to litigate, which she rejected, according to AAUP, and was later dismissed for cause.
AAUP quickly advocated on behalf of Buchanan earlier this summer, saying in a letter to Alexander that the professor had a long, sterling record until “vague” complaints from a local superintendent and a student teacher brought about a year-and-a-half-long suspension.
AAUP said it would resist making further remarks “on how distant the [university] administration has placed itself from the mainstream of our secular research universities by dismissing a professor for misconduct simply for having used language that is not only run-of-the-mill these days for much of the academic community but is also protected conduct under principles of academic freedom.”
But after a summer of silence from Louisiana State, AAUP is releasing its supplemental report on the university’s pre-existing censure.
The report is a marked change in tone for AAUP regarding Louisiana State, since as recently as June, at its annual meeting, the organization was hopeful that the university’s three-year censure would soon be lifted. That’s because the university had expressed interest in addressing AAUP’s remaining concerns about its commitment to academic freedom stemming from two protracted cases — including one in which a professor who was critical of Louisiana’s flood prevention systems in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina said he suffered professional retaliation.
Kurland, of AAUP, said Louisiana State performed a good “housecleaning” of administrators involved in those two older cases, but that the Buchanan case signaled more administrative turnover may be needed. Specifically, he questioned how the accusations of a local superintendent “managed to take a big flagship and turn it on its head.”
AAUP says that Buchanan’s statements are protected by academic freedom, and that the university should stand by her, regardless of political pressure. It also asserts that Buchanan should not have been removed from her classroom pending investigation, which by AAUP and Louisiana State policy is a serious punishment to be reserved only for those who immediately threaten the well-being of their students.
The report notes a preliminary response from Louisiana State alleging unspecified factual errors and general imprudence on the part of the AAUP for releasing a report on a matter about which few details have yet been made public and which is likely to be litigated. AAUP says it reviewed the transcript of the 12-hour hearing, so there’s little left to be discovered.
Louisiana State said in a previously released statement that Buchanan “created a consistently hostile and abusive environment in the classroom. Additionally, she was asked not to return to more than one elementary school in the Baton Rouge area within the last three years because of her inappropriate behavior. Based upon this consistent pattern of hostile and abusive behavior that negatively impacted [our] students, we believed it was necessary to terminate her employment.”
The statement continues: “This case is not about the rights of tenured professors or academic freedom, as some of the press have reported. [The university] had an obligation to take action on this matter. We take our responsibility to protect students from abusive behavior very seriously, and we will vigorously defend our students’ rights to a harassment-free educational environment.”
In a statement released Tuesday addressing AAUP’s report specifically, the university said it had four major complaints: that the facts are wrong, that it ignores and misinterprets federal and state law, that it fails to follow AAUP’s own statement of principles, and that it ignores the interest and well-being of students.
“Possessing only limited information pertaining to this issue, the AAUP should not advocate for the continuance of teaching practices that potentially violate university policy, state and federal law,” the university said. “The AAUP continues to diminish its relevance by violating its own Statement of Principles, which holds that: ‘University faculty, as scholars and educational officers … should remember that the public may judge their professional institution by their utterances. Hence, they [faculty] should at all times exercise appropriate restraint, [and] should show respect for the opinions of others.’”
On Tuesday evening, the university released an additional statement saying that evidence suggests that Buchanan over several years “had berated, embarrassed, disparaged, maligned and denigrated young, primarily female students who aspired to become elementary school teachers. The investigation further revealed that at least one K-12 school principal forbade this faculty member from being in contact on school grounds with that school’s teachers and children, which significantly damaged her ability as a supervisor of student teachers to perform her duties.”
Louisiana State added that the number of student complaints about Buchanan’s “abuse likely would have been even higher had there not been fear by students that reporting the faculty member would lead to retribution,” since student teachers are especially vulnerable.
Buchanan’s lawyer, Floyd Falcon, said he hadn’t seen AAUP’s report and therefore couldn’t comment. He said he believed Buchanan still wanted her job, and that she might sue the university over her termination, but declined to answer additional questions.
Peter Bonilla, associate director of the Individual Rights Defense Program at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said earlier this summer that specifics aside, Buchanan’s is part of a string of similar cases he’s seen in recent years.
“FIRE has seen multiple faculty members in recent years investigated, suspended from teaching, removed from campus and even fired from their positions over similar complaints,” he said. “Their universities have regularly shown remarkable indifference to their academic freedom rights even when their speech at issue was demonstrably germane to their teaching or were themselves direct applications of the assigned course materials.”
Even though Louisiana State has framed the Buchanan issue as one of student welfare, not academic freedom, faculty members on campus are nevertheless concerned. The Faculty Senate is scheduled to vote today on a resolution that Alexander, Bell and Andrew, the chancellor, provost and college dean, respectively, be censured “for their failure to adhere to due process standards in faculty review proceedings and for their pursuit of confusing, dangerous and untenable standards for dismissal of a tenured faculty member at Louisiana State.”
Kevin L. Cope, a professor of English and president of the senate, said he thought the AAUP report “pretty much captures faculty concerns,” and that the resolution had a relatively strong chance of passing.
While there’s a wide variety of sides to Buchanan’s story, Cope said, the report pins down “the faculty feeling that procedures were somehow interrupted in this case and that the story culminates a long history of faculty-adverse behavior” at Louisiana State.
Source: Inside Higher Ed