By John Warner
Surveilling students isn’t in anyone’s interest except the people who make the software.
Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs
Pennsylvania State University is rethinking how it trains future faculty members after doctoral students flocked to a crash course in online teaching.
The university had hoped its free, noncredit certificate program, which launched in September, would attract about 30 students interested in developing their online teaching skills. Instead, the program beat that target by a factor of ten. The university is now planning to change its existing professional development program to fit the new course’s mold, emphasizing skills-based education over seat time.
Laurence B. Boggess, director of faculty development for Penn State World Campus, the institution’s online degree and certificate division, said the interest in the program suggests this generation of graduate students sees online teaching experience as a core skill as they enter the job market.
“These graduate students who are about to go off and be the professors of the future, they get it,” Boggess said in an interview. “They understand that they’re going to be teaching online at some point, and they understand that online education — for better or worse — is not going anywhere. … They want to be sure that if they’re going to be competitive in the job market and get that assistant professor job, and if they’re going to be asked to teach online, that they can do it competently.”
Many colleges offer online teaching certificate programs, but most of them spread their content across multiple courses that can take several semesters to complete. World Campus also offers one of those programs, known as the Certificate for Online Teaching, a five-course series that mixes independent work with instructor-led sessions on topics such as accessibility, learning management system use, community building and more.
The Graduate Student Online Teaching Certificate program, in comparison, consists of a quick, four- to five-week course, Essentials of Online Teaching and Learning, with assignments that students largely complete on their own time, plus a 75-minute webinar. The program draws from the courses required for the Certificate for Online Teaching, but the assignments are designed to simulate what students encounter in a virtual classroom. For example, students may be required to demonstrate that they can write a welcome letter or record a video, or show how they would settle an argument between two students on a discussion forum.
After filling 14 sections with a total of 350 students last fall and receiving “rave” student evaluations, World Campus is reconsidering the structure of the Certificate for Online Teaching program, Boggess said. What will likely happen, he said, is that the Graduate Student Online Teaching Certificate program will replace it — perhaps as early as next year — and become a core class. The faculty development office will then build electives based on input from students.
Students in last fall’s pilot came from all disciplines. Boggess said he was somewhat surprised in the interest among postdoctoral fellows — people who may never teach but are still interested in shoring up their qualifications with a credential attesting they have some experience with online instruction. (World Campus offered the credential as a digital badge, but in an ironic twist, the “vast majority [of students] wanted a piece of paper that they could put in a frame and hang,” Boggess said.)
About 60 of the roughly 350 students were scheduled to teach online this academic year. Other than that immediate benefit, Boggess said, the university is essentially using its own resources to prepare students to teach elsewhere, which he said is consistent with research universities’ commitment to graduate education.
“This is investing in the whole future of higher ed,” Boggess said. “We’re paying it forward. If that can be replicated, that just lifts all boats and all online programs and all universities.”
Penn State may have tapped into a need that many administrators and faculty members bring up when asked about the professional development programs available on their campuses. In a survey conducted last year by the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies and the Learning House, about half of the surveyed administrators said their adjunct online faculty were required to complete training programs on academic policies, support services or technology use. Only about one-third said they require them to participate in sessions on effective online teaching methods.
Similarly, in an Inside Higher Ed survey conducted in partnership with Gallup in 2014, half of all surveyed faculty members said colleges don’t spend enough on training programs (versus 7 percent who said they spend too much). A handful of faculty members said a lack of training is keeping them from teaching online.
Boggess said he believes more colleges will put more money toward faculty training once they realize the revenue that online education can generate for them. He also said that, as online education becomes more mainstream, students will come to demand more from their instructors.
“Now what the country is asking is, ‘Who’s teaching?’” Boggess said. “Once they get past ‘Who are they?’ the question they go to is, ‘Are they prepared?’”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
Kentucky lawmakers reached an agreement on a revised plan for free community college, but the state’s governor has delayed for one year the scholarship program.
Republican Governor Matt Bevin postponed the Dual Credit and Work-Ready Scholarship program, which had been pushed by House Democrats, on Wednesday. The scholarships would pay for up to two years of college for the state’s high school graduates. The program, which was modeled after the Tennessee Promise, would operate on a last-dollar method, meaning aid would be given to students to cover any tuition and fees that federal and state grants or assistance programs do not.
“The veto of House Bill 626 should not, in any way, be misconstrued as a negative reflection on the laudable goals of educating and preparing students for higher education and career success,” Bevin said in his veto letter on the legislation. “I share the goals of the legislators who supported House Bill 626. However, there were hastily written and overly broad provisions included … that should not be enshrined in statute.”
Bevin wrote that the details of the scholarship program didn’t target students who are in true need of the “limited” funding. By delaying the work-ready parts of the budget, Bevin also cut the $9.4 million that would have been used to fund the scholarships this year. However, $15.9 million remains to fund those provisions in 2017-18. The program will be funded through the state’s lottery.
Erin Klarer, vice president of government relations with the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, said the one-year delay actually gives higher education officials more time to craft a better program than what would have passed under the budget.
For instance, the Legislature added a provision at the last minute that would have required repayment of the scholarships to the state if students failed to continue meeting the GPA requirements, she said.
“That was a huge concern for us turning this into a conversion scholarship. The best thing it did was prevent students from borrowing student loans,” Klarer said, adding that the “free” terminology led to that idea. “I’m hoping we have longer to explain that there are other ways to have student accountability.”
Another issue may be worked out during the next year. The current form of the scholarships was expanded to students attending any of the state’s four-year public, nonprofit and private institutions.
“It was a much broader program and there was no cap on the dollar amount,” Klarer said. “[The different sectors] have significantly different tuition rates and there was no price differentiation, so we were going to end up exhausting funds a lot sooner.”
Klarer said the state may also explore other funding options during the delay, including the White House’s recent announcement of $100 million in competitive workforce grants to expand free community college.
“We have to redraft some of this stuff, but once we get to a good point this will help a lot of Kentucky students,” she said. “We got really close, but we’re not quite there yet.”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
A professor of philosophy at Gordon College is suing the institution for allegedly retaliating against her for publicly disagreeing with its request for a religious exemption to a federal antidiscrimination law pertaining to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers. The college says it was the professor’s peers who decided to punish her for the tone of her statements.
D. Michael Lindsay, Gordon’s president, signed a 2014 letter asking President Obama to exclude faith-based organizations from a then forthcoming executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Gordon is a nondenominational Christian institution in Massachusetts that prohibits student and faculty sex outside of heterosexual marriage. Lindsay explained his action at the time by saying that while Gordon has never excluded certain groups from campus, “signing the letter was in keeping with our decades-old conviction that, as an explicitly Christian institution, Gordon should set the conduct expectations for members of our community.”
Gordon nevertheless faced criticism from faculty members, students and alumni who disagreed with the request, and the mayor of Salem, Mass., terminated the college’s contract to manage the city’s Old Town Hall, saying in a letter to Lindsay that he “now advocates for discrimination against the LGBT community.”
One of Lindsay’s faculty critics was Lauren Barthold, associate professor of philosophy at Gordon and the plaintiff in a suit filed Thursday in a Massachusetts court. In a 2014 letter to the local newspaper, The Salem News, Barthold wrote that the controversy over Lindsay’s letter had “outed” Gordon’s policy regarding sex outside heterosexual marriage.
“I am sad that this policy stands at all and that news of its existence is likely to cause more pain to and isolation in the Christian LGBTQ community,” she wrote. “I am sad that while some requests to foster internal dialogue about this issue on our campus have been met, responses on the part of the Gordon administration have been too few and too slow. … I am sad that Gordon cannot lead the way amongst Christian colleges by entering into the painful communal work of crafting institutional policy that maintains the integrity of a vibrant, 21st-century faith.”
Barthold also suggested that concerned parties take “difficult practical steps” to influence the discussion.
“I can see reasons for both economic sanctions (so to speak) and for asserting yourself (your views, your money, your actions) more actively into the community — depending on your situation,” she wrote. “I am not writing this letter to either plead for your continued support of Gordon or to ask you to boycott the college. While I do not know what the best action you can take is, I do know that all of us at Gordon want Gordon to thrive, regardless of the degree of pain we have suffered working and studying here.”
According the lawsuit, Lindsay and other administrators criticized Barthold for those and other public comments, saying she’d fostered an image of discord. Lindsay in a meeting allegedly told Barthold she should “rethink” her relationship with the college in light of her letter to the editor, and wrongfully accused her of leaking to The Boston Globe a year-old faculty climate report detailing some professors’ fears that the college was becoming too narrow in its religious identity, according to the suit. Administrators allegedly told Barthold that they planned on initiating termination proceedings against her, but later backed down after receiving a letter from her lawyer.
Still, they pursued a campaign of retaliation, according to the suit, allegedly telling her just one day after she applied for promotion to full professor that she was ineligible for the move in light of her actions, and that she was unable to hold any leadership position within the college until she went through a promotion review or review by the Faculty Senate. She also was notified that she was no longer the director of the gender studies minor, according to the suit.
Yet the college says that it was members of the Faculty Senate, not administrators acting unilaterally, who decided to discipline Barthold. Rick Sweeney, college spokesperson, said in a statement that information about the case from the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which sued on Barthold’s behalf, “grossly misrepresents” the facts.
“It was Barthold’s peers on the Faculty Senate who voted to discipline her,” Sweeney said. “The discipline was not a response to her disagreement with the college on any policies but expressly because she publicly called for a boycott of the school and severing of ties, which would harm students and potentially affect faculty and staff at Gordon. …Barthold’s faculty peers voted to discipline her in a manner consistent with past precedent because her actions harmed the Gordon community and violated their trust.”
In addition to retaliation, Barthold alleges sex discrimination, saying that male faculty members who were similarly critical of the college were not disciplined in the same way or at all.
Sarah Wunsch, deputy legal director for the ACLU of Massachusetts, said the organization cares deeply about religious freedom, “but religious freedom does not mean the freedom to do anything to others in the name of religion.” Wunsch also said Gordon hires faculty and staff from a variety of Christian backgrounds — proof that the college “does not have a right to punish a philosophy professor who criticized a policy of discrimination in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
At the same time, Gordon sets forth a set of behavioral expectations for faculty students and staff — including no “homosexual practice” on or off campus — based on a set a faith-based assumptions and principles. Those include recognizing “the Bible to be the Word of God and hence fully authoritative in matters of faith and conduct.”
Sweeney also denied that Gordon has suppressed conversations about LGBTQ issues. “Far from seeking to suppress such disagreement and discussion, Gordon has fostered dialogue by bringing in pro-LGBTQ speakers and funding programs to support LGBTQ students,” he said.
Source: Inside Higher Ed
By Josh Logue
Campus protests have triggered wide-ranging discussion and debate about race. And, because some of the most prominent protests have unfolded at universities like Yale, Princeton and Harvard Universities, those discussions have touched on the experience of minority students at elite, wealthy institutions. While class is often implicated in those debates, it is rarely the focus. Elizabeth Lee seeks to inject issues of class into campus discourse with her new book, Class and Campus Life: Managing and Experiencing Inequality at an Elite College (Cornell University Press). In it, she describes the experiences of students with lower socioeconomic status at a wealthy women’s college that she does not identify but refers to as Linden. The book illustrates a variety of ways in which class inequality influences students, the institution itself and the interplay between the two.
Lee is an assistant professor sociology at Ohio University. She answered questions about her book via email.
Q: Maybe the best place to start is with a phrase you define early in the book and reference often: the semiotics of class morality. Can you talk about what you mean by this and how it played into what you found during your research?
A: In using this phrase, I wanted to address the way that class works beyond access to resources, more than just some students having money and others not, for example. Rather, I draw on Andrew Sayer’s (and others’) observations that class is linked to ideas about better and worse, more and less legitimate — i.e., moral judgments. We can see how this plays out in popular culture quite easily: working-class or low-income people are often framed as buffoons or less intelligent, while wealthy people and middle-class people are framed as hardworking, regular or simply having desirable lives.
Narratives about merit in higher education map really closely onto these broad formulations with the idea that hard work and merit are how you gain access to selective or highly selective schools. This conceptualization minimizes the vast range of advantages that middle- and upper-socioeconomic-status students have through family and school and (often) extracurricular supports. This doesn’t mean that those middle- or upper-SES students don’t work hard — certainly they do — but that they are working with the grain and with some boosts, which tends to get left out of the hard-work narrative. At elite colleges like the one I studied, middle- and upper-income students tend to be understood as typical, while low-income, first-generation students are the exceptions, the outsiders coming in. Echoing what we see in broader popular culture, middle- and upper-income student experiences are presented as common, and the kinds of jobs their parents have are presented as desirable. By contrast, there’s very little discussion of class inequality, or of working-class or low-income lives, except as something to leave behind.
I used the word “semiotics” to communicate how pervasive and often under the surface such ideas are, and how intertwined these ideas are to other important concepts associated with college, like merit and achievement. I don’t think that college administrators or faculty intentionally construct this semiotics or sense of insider/outsider, but this positioning is part of what happens in a great deal of college discourse.
Q: Each chapter in your book examines the role of class inequality in different kinds of interactions on campus, from college discourse to campus activism. I wonder if you can briefly describe some of the important ways class functions in two of the settings you investigated. First, friendships between students?
A: One of the assumptions I went into this project with was that low-income and first-generation students would want to be friends with people who shared their background — this is both a common sociological finding and an intuitive sense — and also that students would be able to tell who shared their background. Instead, what I found was that students generally arrived on campus eager to make friends and pretty much made friends with those around them — whether they arrived worried about class differences or not. Partly this is because everyone just wants to meet people, they’re new and trying to find their spot, and partly because people don’t know how to locate each other by class background. While low-income students had a general sense that most people came from more money than they did, they didn’t always know exactly how much, and they didn’t know who else around them might be more like themselves.
What this means is that low-socioeconomic status students very often had friendships, including close and best friendships, with wealthier peers. On one hand, this is great: if we are worried about students feeling alienated or isolated, having cross-class friendships is a good sign.
[But] this was difficult especially because students don’t have a good way to talk about class inequality. So I found these friendships that crossed class lines, with deep emotional ties and lots of genuine care and warmth, but with deep underlying tensions or untouchable conversations that people would just kind of bury or work around because it was too awkward, difficult or painful to discuss them and no one knew how to do it. So class was very important in students’ friendships and social lives, but in ways I hadn’t expected.
Q: And second, the formal relationship between students and the college itself?
A: First, the college itself, physically and in other ways, was a very classed space. The traditional and well-manicured appearance of the campus, the commonly presumed backgrounds of the students who go to school there, the topics of conversation you hear around campus, and many other examples all communicated the space as being middle or upper SES. Students from middle- and upper-income backgrounds tended to be better able to navigate the college and to feel more immediately comfortable there.
Second, although the college as a body — as well as the individual people I met who worked there, faculty and administrators alike — wanted to welcome students without regard to background, they had a difficult time talking about class inequality. In this way the relationship between the college and low-SES students was parallel to the one I describe between students: this big issue mostly loomed without being addressed in effective ways. At the institutional level, a silence around class inequality helps the space remain very classed — it looks and feels and is assumed to be a middle- or upper-class space, and middle- and upper-class student experiences are usually what are presented as normal, ideal and central, so that look and feel is not questioned or disrupted.
Q: The identity of the college where you spent two years researching this book is disguised, as are all the other names in the book, but you do describe it as “a selective women’s liberal arts college located in the Northeast” that is “elite” and “offers plenty of financial aid.” I wonder how many of the dynamics you observed are likely to be similar on different kinds of campuses — large publics, less wealthy privates, etc.?
A: I do think there are some differences — one prominent one being that at a large campus, there may be room for a wider variety of social niches and more anonymity. However, having spent time at institutions very different than the one I studied (the University of Pennsylvania, a large private campus in a city that’s also predominantly affluent students, where I went to grad school; and Ohio University, a large public campus in a small town that’s less markedly affluent but nonetheless majority non-first[-generation], where I now work) — I see some aspects that are similar.
One example that was a little surprising to me is the language around community. I talk in the book about the contrast between the image of college as community, or even family, while also feeling like an outsider. This was really prominent at Linden, which is a small campus, and it was something I thought might be quite different at a larger campus. However, Ohio University uses very similar language, and my students there talk about the very emotional expectations for college life — not only as the “best four years” but also of the friendships and close ties you’ll make there. That contradiction is frustrating for low-SES students: on the one hand, campus is shown as this inclusive community where people are forming lifelong friendships, but on the other hand you’re partially excluded. Some issues I write about are actually amplified at other campuses. For example, the ways in which students try to manage their social lives in a setting where most of their peers have more money than they do. Linden has a pretty campus-based social system. At a campus like Penn, by contrast, there are much more immediate ways to spend money because of the close proximity to Philly’s downtown, whether it’s dinner or clothes or nightclubs.
Q: Your book focuses very specifically on class and socioeconomic status, but, in light of recent protests and controversies at institutions like the very one you investigated, I wonder whether you think your work might shed some new light on discussions about race on campus, and if so, how?
A: Some issues or experiences are specific to racialized power structures — racism is racism, and applied to nonwhite students whether they come from affluent backgrounds or low-income backgrounds. But I do think there are commonalities in some ways.
What I see is a shared element of a demand to be recognized, to not be tokenized or used as a symbol — or at the very least not in an empty way. In some ways that element is perhaps amplified for students of color because they are often literally more visible and therefore easier for campuses to point to — for example, when a group of students of color get together to sit outside in the spring, and a campus photographer comes to take your picture and it’s used in campus materials to show that there are students of color. That’s harder to accomplish regarding class, but the same dynamic exists: students of color and low-SES students are sometimes frustrated by being essentially used as publicity, especially when they do not feel supported or even welcomed on campus.
Q: Lastly, you spend a little time in your conclusion thinking about what colleges can do to better support low-socioeconomic-status students. Can you highlight here one or two of the things you think colleges may not be doing but ought to start?
A: In my current research projects, I’ve been interviewing faculty members from low-SES backgrounds and student organizers of campus groups that support low-SES students. Some of what I’ve been learning from those interviews is really relevant here. For example, faculty have pointed out steps they take to support low-SES students that actually help all their students — for example, requirements to see the professor during office hours at least once to get feedback, assignments that get students talking to people they wouldn’t otherwise and efforts to keep textbook and material costs low. So some of what is good practice for supporting low-SES students is also good practice for supporting students generally — I think this is important to recognize, so that we don’t fall into a way of thinking of low-SES students as needing undue support. I think colleges would be well served by helping faculty members learn how to support low-SES and other students in these types of ways, and by letting faculty members know what kinds of resources exist to help low-SES students should they need extra support. For that matter, it would be great for many faculty members to learn how to address these topics with students — class inequality is hard to talk about, and managing interpersonal issues is not what we are generally trained for as faculty members.
I also think student-organized clubs that provide safe spaces for low-SES students are good things, especially on campuses where the majority of students are middle or upper SES. It can be really difficult for students to locate one another, and the ways that colleges traditionally have approached supporting low-SES students, namely through financial aid, do not include any means for students to socialize or confide or make connections. That’s simply not the role of the financial aid office. So, it helps for there to be a space that students use to do those things, and to serve as a clearinghouse for information and other resources. Students at many campuses are beginning to make this happen for themselves, and I think colleges and universities should support this as much as possible.
Source: Inside Higher Ed
Hao Da Xue — literally “good university” in Mandarin — is no ordinary online education provider. It offers Chinese students the chance to take, for example, a course on “being a competent Chinese person,” which teaches “pride” in the face of perceived Western belittling of their country.
The university is part of China’s “red education” movement, partly sanctioned by government, partly taken on independently by ultra-left-wing “neo-Maoists,” who have been growing in influence over the past 10 years.
Jude Blanchette, former assistant director of the 21st-century China program at the University of California at San Diego, is writing a book on the rise of China’s neo-Maoists, and he explained to Times Higher Education their impact on higher education.
“Over the past decade or so, there’s been a push on the part of the Chinese Communist Party to retell its origin story, its founding myths,” Blanchette says.
One plank of this plan has been an effort to revive the study of Marxism, partly to counter the spread of liberal and religious thought. Last year, Peking University began the construction of a new building to house its Marxism department — ironically funded by a bank.
Blanchette does not think that the department actually needs the extra space. But the construction is “symbolic of this larger effort” to encourage red education, he says.
More recently, President Xi Jinping repeated calls for such red education and urged universities to take up the agenda, Blanchette says.
However, resurgent leftist groups with views that appear to challenge those of the current party are also using the government’s red education campaign as “cover” to advance their own educational vision, Blanchette explains.
Despite draping themselves in the symbolism of Mao, neo-Maoist left-wing views often challenge the ruling party, which has turned China into a largely capitalist economy and led it into the World Trade Organization in 2001.
Neo-Maoists, by contrast, want economic state planning and the protection of state assets from control by foreigners and capitalists, Blanchette says. But they are not necessarily conventionally authoritarian, and support “freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to strike,” he says.
Hao Da Xue is one element of this neo-Maoist network, Blanchette explains. Although its curriculum is not explicitly antiparty, “if you were to imbibe everything they were telling you, you come to the conclusion [the party] has lost its guiding Maoist way.”
One section of its website, “Reflections on the West,” is highly critical of economic liberalism and globalization, which could be read as an attack on the current regime, he adds.
Blanchette says that it is hard to say how many people take online courses at Hao Da Xue, just as it is difficult to know how many neo-Maoists there are overall, because the group “keeps its cards close to its chest.”
More mainstream universities have embraced red education as well. Last year, Tsinghua University, one of the most prestigious in China, released a massive open online course about Mao Zedong on the popular edX platform.
Reviewing the course, The New York Times spoke to several students who found the program uncritical of Mao, and quoted Western historians of China who attacked edX’s decision to host it.
For Chinese universities such as Tsinghua hoping to collaborate with Western academe, the release of an ideologically rigid MOOC about Mao — and the red education phenomenon in general — might seem an embarrassment at best, and a deterrent to international collaboration at worst.
But Blanchette sees it a different way. “Why wouldn’t you have a MOOC on Mao?” he asks. The leader, for all his well-known and catastrophic flaws, is still modern China’s “founding father.”
The same goes for the study of Marxism: modern China is, after all, “the product of Marxist intellectuals,” he says. “There is something quite natural about a country making sense of its future by drawing on its past.”
But the question remains, he cautions, whether Chinese students and academics can debate such politically sensitive topics “honestly and openly.”
Blanchette’s book — which for now has no firm title — is due to be published by Oxford University Press next spring.
Source: Inside Higher Ed
By Jake New
After two decades of playing at college football’s most competitive and high-profile level, the University of Idaho will make the unprecedented move to leave the Football Bowl Subdivision and return to the Football Championship Subdivision.
The university announced the change today, accepting an invitation to join the Big Sky Conference after its membership with the Sun Belt Conference was not renewed last month. The decision comes at a time when faculty and student groups at other colleges with struggling FBS teams have urged their institutions to consider moving away from big-time college sports amid an accelerating athletic arms race. Until Idaho, however, no institution that managed to climb to the exalted ranks of the FBS had ever decided to drop back down.
“This is not a trivial decision, but it’s the right decision,” Chuck Staben, the University of Idaho’s president, said in an interview Wednesday. “What attracts students to our institution is the quality of academic programs, the great outcomes and the preparation for life after college. It’s a great research institution. Football and athletics just complements that. We’re choosing to ensure that students can compete on the field and get a great education.”
Idaho’s choice to leave the FBS was made easier, Staben said, by the Sun Belt’s decision not to renew the university’s membership earlier this year.
Idaho’s football team joined the Football Bowl Subdivision, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s highest competitive level, in 1996 as a member of the Big West Conference, before briefly joining the Sun Belt Conference and then the Western Athletic Conference. After the Western league dropped football in 2012, Idaho’s football team spent one season as an independent program before returning to the Sun Belt Conference. Most of Idaho’s other teams continued to play with the Big Sky Conference, an FCS league that the university co-founded.
Today, Idaho has the lowest revenue in the FBS and its football team plays in the division’s smallest stadium, an enclosed concrete structure that seats 16,000. In its two decades at the FBS level, Idaho’s football team had just three winning seasons.
Earlier this year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association passed new rules allowing FBS conferences with fewer than 12 members to organize title games. No longer needing to split revenue among 12 institutions in order to hold a championship game, the Sun Belt Conference cut loose Idaho and New Mexico State University. Starting in 2018, the two programs would be without a league.
Facing a future of either returning to playing as an independent team, while awaiting a potential invitation from another FBS league, or accepting an invitation to rejoin the Big Sky Conference, the university chose the FCS option. “Frankly, had we been extended in the Sun Belt, this would be a much more difficult decision,” Staben said, adding that the university will lose $500,000 in revenue after its membership with the Sun Belt Conference ends.
That loss of revenue is not a major concern, Staben said, as the move also means offering about 22 fewer football scholarships per year and saving money on travel. The university is nearly 2,000 miles from its nearest opponent in the Sun Belt Conference.
As word of the change began to spread among Idaho football fans this week, critics of big-time college sports welcomed the news. Few institutions — no matter how much money and how many games their teams lose — make the decision to leave big-time college football.
“I think this is going to be a fantastic move for them, geographically and culturally,” David Ridpath, a professor of sports administration at Ohio University, said. “Sadly, I don’t think this is the start of a trend, at least not yet. Too many institutions hold on to the idea that Division I and the FBS is what makes them a relevant university. Perhaps if people see that Idaho dropping down is not the end of the world, the floodgates will open. This could be a good test case.”
In Rare Company
In 1939, the University of Chicago abolished its football program and, a few years later, withdrew from the Big Ten Conference, a league it co-founded.
Chicago was home to the first recipient of the Heisman Trophy, multiple Big Ten championships and 11 future Hall of Famers. But Robert Hutchins, the university’s president, wanted the university to be known for its academics, not its athletics, and cut the program. The football team returned in 1969, but as a member of Division III.
The decision forever made Chicago the model of institutions that have gotten by just fine without big-time sports. Staben, while explaining Idaho’s decision in an interview this week, referenced Chicago as “the classic example” of an institution successfully leaving top-tier college sports behind. Chicago remains the example, in part, because so few others have followed suit.
With the exception of University of the Pacific in 1995, Division I colleges that have dropped their football programs have mostly been smaller institutions with programs that exist outside of the FBS, such as Northeastern University. In 1981, the NCAA demoted the Ivy League from the FBS, then known as Division I-A, after its members could not meet new attendance and stadium-size requirements.
In 2014, the University of Alabama at Birmingham became the first institution in nearly 20 years to shut down its big-time Division I football program. Citing rising costs and the growing stratification of college sports, Ray Watts, the university’s president, said killing the program would help save Birmingham $50 million over the next decade. The announcement, however, created an intense backlash on campus, setting off a tumultuous six months for Watts and the university, eventually resulting in a complete reversal of the decision.
Last year, some faculty and students at the University of Akron urged the university to decrease football spending by dropping to the FCS. The university’s president said at the time that such a move was not “on the table.” Earlier that year, a $60 million deficit had prompted the university to announce staff layoffs and the elimination of its baseball team. Meanwhile, the university was spending $8 million per year to subsidize a football team with the lowest attendance in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The Faculty Senate and student government at Eastern Michigan University last week also told university administrators that its heavily subsidized FBS football team should leave for the FCS. “We have absolutely no plans to eliminate football or move into any other division or conference,” the university bluntly said in response.
The University of Idaho, too, relies on subsidies, including student fees, to fund its football team. Its level of spending and the revenue the team generates are on par with FCS programs, not the power players in the FBS. According to an analysis by the university of spending among FBS conferences, the program would need an additional $4 million per year to compete with even the midtier teams in the division. The move to the FCS is not intended to save the institution money, the university said, but it will transition the team to a level of competition where programs have “similar expenditure levels” to Idaho.
“The game we signed up for has changed over time,” Rob Spear, the university’s athletic director, said.
In the 11 seasons before Idaho’s football team joined the FBS, the program made a playoff game 10 times. As an FBS team, the team has appeared in just two bowl games, though the team won both games. The team has averaged only three wins per season since 1996.
“Our decision should be and is based primarily on the student and student-athlete experience,” Staben said. “I want our football players to walk on the field knowing they can compete for a championship. I want our students to attend a game that matters, excites them and engages them.”
Tearing Down the Front Porch?
Being unable to compete successfully in football, Staben said, has damaged the university’s brand. Some university alumni and team boosters said they are worried that leaving the FBS will hurt the brand even more.
University officials said this week that surveys of — and conversations with — students, faculty and alumni show that many support moving to the FCS. About half of the university’s alumni, Staben estimated, “including some very strong supporters of the university such as several past booster club presidents,” do not.
“We cannot compete for students — let alone student-athletes — if we continue to treat our athletic programs as an afterthought,” Jonathan Parker, president of the Ada County chapter of Idaho’s booster organization, the Vandal Scholarship Fund, wrote in a letter to the university last week. “Alumni who have showed up through thick and thin, with their pocketbooks and their shoe leather, want our football team to remain FBS.”
The chapter’s board also expressed concern that the move to the FCS — with the loss of revenue and reduction of football scholarships — would force the university to eliminate women’s sports programs in order to remain in compliance with federal gender equity laws. Staben said he does not anticipate shutting down any women’s programs, and that the loss of 22 football scholarships would actually bring the number of male and female athletic scholarships closer together due to a previous abundance of men’s scholarships.
Women’s swimming and soccer were added in 1996 to support the move to the FBS, so some alumni remain skeptical.
In another letter, Robie Russell, the president of the Puget Sound chapter of the Vandal Scholarship Fund, wrote that if the team leaves the FBS, local interest in “Idaho athletics would virtually disappear with the move, along with any potential for financial support.” Contributions to the university would decline or “cease entirely,” Russell warned.
With its proximity to Washington State University and Boise State University, Russell wrote, moving to the FCS would be a “huge and potentially fatal mistake” for the university, leaving it unable to compete with nearby institutions.
“Last time I checked, the newspapers have sports pages, and they don’t have education pages,” Russell said in an interview Wednesday. “In the culture that we live in, college football is a very important aspect of life. The FCS gets little or no coverage. It’s not on national TV. An FBS team is the college’s front porch. It’s akin to advertising your business. Students want to go where things are happening. And at FCS schools, nothing is happening.”
As the football team will remain a member of the Sun Belt Conference until 2018, Russell said he also believes the university unnecessarily rushed the decision. Staben, however, said he’s been thinking about the move since he first interviewed to be Idaho’s president in 2014.
“I’ve been considering this issue for two years,” Staben said. “I’ve looked at information about FCS football and FBS football. I’ve listened to donors, students, faculty, alumni, fellow presidents, the NCAA, conference commissioners. I’ve gathered a lot of information. And all of the information points to this being the right decision.”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
Linda P.B. Katehi survived as chancellor of the University of California at Davis after an incident in 2011 where campus police used pepper spray against students engaged in a non-violent protest. And she survived other controversies as well in the years since — even as some students and faculty members demanded her ouster.
But on Wednesday evening, she was placed on administrative leave, in part over allegations that haven’t been the dominant issues for those demanding her ouster.
Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California system, placed Katehi on leave, citing possible “serious violations” of university policy with regard to conflict of interest and the employment of family members. A letter from Napolitano to Katehi said that the chancellor’s daughter-in-law has received “promotions and salary increases over a two-and-a-half year period that have increased her pay by over $50,000 and have resulted in several title changes. During that same period, you put forward a pay increase of over 20 percent and a title change for your daughter-in-law’s supervisor.”
Further, Napolitano’s letter said, the academic program that employs Katehi’s son has been moved into the department where her daughter-in-law works, and “placed under her direct supervision.”
The letter said that it “does not appear that appropriate steps were taken to address, document or obtain approval for the fact that your son now reported to your daughter-in-law, who, in turn, was supervised by one of your direct reports.”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
Apollo Education Group shareholders are voting today on whether or not to sell the company to a consortium of private investors. Their decision could determine whether the University of Phoenix remains under the Apollo brand or if it is sold without its parent company.
On Tuesday, the company recommended in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that investors should vote yes on selling Apollo for $1.1 billion to three investment firms: Apollo Global Management (which is not related to Apollo Education), the Vistria Group and Najafi Companies.
“The board believes that the current transaction is in the best interests of shareholders. If the company’s shareholders decide not to approve this transaction, the company could face serious consequences, including a further decline in share price that could have an impact on the company’s access to liquidity. For that reason, if this transaction is not completed, the board intends to review other strategic alternatives for the company, including a sale of the University of Phoenix,” said the Apollo Education letter.
Selling Phoenix would not require the same level of approval from shareholders, according to the company.
The acquisition deal would pay shareholders $9.50 a share. But for months now there has been resistance on the part of some investors. Apollo’s two largest shareholders, Schroders and First Pacific Advisors, believe the stock is worth more than $9.50, according to Bloomberg. As of Wednesday, the stock finished trading at $7.43.
In a letter to Apollo in January, Schroders’ global value team wrote, “We see the potential for multiple hundreds of percent of upside in Apollo’s stock from current levels over a period of years … We therefore urge the board to reject any proposals that would deny shareholders the opportunity of benefiting from this significant recovery potential.”
Even if the sale goes through, Apollo Education still needs regulatory approval, which the company is in the process of seeking from both the U.S. Department of Education and its accreditor — the Higher Learning Commission. The company also may need some approval from programmatic accreditors.
If shareholders approve of the sale, Tony Miller, the chief operating officer and a partner of the Vistria Group, who is a former deputy secretary for the department under the Obama administration, will become chairman of the Apollo board.
“Tony’s former position has the big plus for the company in him having contacts at the department and knowing how things work,” said Robert Shireman, a former department official himself who is now a senior fellow at the Century Foundation. “But there’s also the problem of people like me pointing those things out and putting the Department of Education in a position of being extra cautious and careful. It definitely complicates things, but companies think overall it’s a positive for them.”
The department will evaluate HLC’s actions and look at the financial health of the new ownership group to determine that they can take on the company, said David Bergeron, a senior fellow for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress and a former department official.
However, Bergeron said, it’s difficult to see a conflict between the department and Miller’s involvement in the transaction, because restrictions of former federal officials are both “narrow and exist only after a period of time.”
If the shareholders vote against the acquisition, the company warned it could seek other alternatives, including selling Phoenix separately. Apollo also owns Western International University, the College for Financial Planning and Apollo Global, but Phoenix is its largest holding.
“Given the company’s declining performance and limited visibility and that cash flow is expected to continue to decline in fiscal year 2016, the board appreciates that the proceeds of any sale of the University of Phoenix may be limited. However, the board believes that selling the University of Phoenix may still be an appropriate step to mitigate downside risk inherent to the status quo operation of the University of Phoenix, which may negatively impact the value of the University of Phoenix and the value of Global,” the company said.
Last year, an Inside Higher Ed analysis of federal records determined that Phoenix received more than $1.7 billion in federal student loans and grants — the most of any college. Apollo has been the largest for-profit education provider in the country, but revenues and enrollment numbers have been on the decline. At its peak in 2010, Apollo had 475,000 degree-seeking students and about $4.9 billion in annual revenue. Today, enrollment has fallen to under 200,000 students and revenue is down to about $800 million. Earlier this month, Phoenix laid off nearly 500 employees.
Shireman said if the shareholders approve the acquisition, plenty of people will be watching to see just how this new group of investors will fare in offering a good value to students while also making a profit.
“The hazard to taxpayers and consumers is that the new owners of University of Phoenix will increase the perceived value through hype and marketing and seek to sell at a high price, but then it will turn out it’s not real, like we have found in so many cases in for-profit colleges,” he said. “People will be watching whether the University of Phoenix can do what others have failed to accomplish. For-profit colleges have had so much trouble because they’ve tended to focus on getting so many new students and trying to convince people it’s a great university instead of making it a great university … it has to actually become a university for the long term.”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
A research fellow at Makerere University’s Makerere Institute of Social Research staged a nude protest last week after she was locked out of her office by the institute’s director, who justified the lockout on the grounds that the fellow refused to teach in the institute’s doctoral program. The dispute at the Ugandan university has attracted the attention of dozens of international Africanist scholars, who signed an open letter to the university registering their admiration for MISR’s fledgling Ph.D. program and expressing concern about its future.
The background for what happened last Monday is this: Mahmood Mamdani, a professor on leave from Columbia University and the director of MISR, oversaw the establishment of the institute’s Ph.D. program in January 2012. According to a memo from Mamdani published on MISR’s website, all members of MISR’s academic staff were asked at that point to divide their time evenly between doctoral teaching and research. Stella Nyanzi, the research fellow who stripped in protest last week, has to date refused to teach.
Nyanzi did not respond to emailed questions — in a Friday statement the university instructed Makerere employees to refrain from talking to reporters during the course of its investigation on penalty of “disciplinary action” — but she has reportedly maintained that her contract does not include teaching duties.
In the memo on the MISR website, Mamdani quotes from August 2014 correspondence in which Nyanzi wrote, “In our verbal discussions, I have constantly refused to teach on the MISR Ph.D. which was started after I was appointed into my current position …. The advertisement for my position did not include any teaching job responsibilities because MISR was not a teaching institute at the time. As far as I am concerned, my terms of employment have never officially changed.”
Mamdani, for his part, states in that memo that Nyanzi was “confirmed in university service” — a status afforded Makerere employees after a probationary period — in 2013 after she gave assurances she would teach, and that he supported her application for a fellowship at the University of Cape Town based on a formal understanding that she would use the opportunity to develop a new course for the Ph.D. program.
On Monday, April 18, Nyanzi undressed on campus to protest being locked out of her office: a report from NBS TV Uganda also shows her throwing red paint against the walls. According to the university’s account, Nyanzi had previously sought recourse for being locked out of her office from the human resources office and the deputy vice chancellor for finance and administration. The deputy vice chancellor wrote to Mamdani, asking him “to stay the planned eviction until an amicable solution is found.”
Mamdani reportedly replied, “I assure you of my cooperation in finding an amicable solution. That solution is simple: so long as Dr. Nyanzi is committed to doing only private research, she is welcome to have a seat in the MISR library. The day Dr. Nyanzi commits herself to teaching in MISR’s doctoral program, that day we shall gladly assign her an office.”
According to the university, “Professor Mamdani proceeded to lock Dr. Nyanzi out of her office, which triggered the unfortunate standoff that ensued at MISR on Monday morning.”
The vice chancellor of the university appointed an investigative committee, which submitted its report last Friday. At that point the university announced the formation of a second investigative committee, this one reporting to the university’s Appointments Board, and the suspension of Nyanzi pending completion of the investigation.
The Appointments Board committee is charged with reviewing the disagreement between Mamdani and Nyanzi as well as various management issues at MISR, specifically: “the management of the Ph.D. program at MISR,” “how research at MISR is managed,” “how research fellows relate to the Ph.D. program,” “the staff structure, establishment and reporting hierarchy at MISR,” ”the working conditions/environment at MISR,” and the “management of financial and other resources at MISR.”
Mamdani declined to answer emailed questions for this article, citing university instructions that staff not talk to the press. He referred Inside Higher Ed to MISR’s website, where he has published statements on the dispute and his decision not to cooperate with the investigative committee created by the vice chancellor (the first of the two committees referenced above).
Nine members of MISR’s academic staff have signed a petition stating support for Mamdani’s leadership and expressing alarm about what they describe as “a long period of disruptive activities by Dr. Nyanzi and a small group of MISR students” culminating in the April 18 protest. The petition states that the events of April 18 “have placed the institute in a profound crisis, which now threatens to destroy the M.Phil./Ph.D. program as it currently exists.”
The survival of MISR’s doctoral program has become an issue of international scholarly concern. An open letter signed by 41 international Africanist scholars, many of whom have had an attachment to MISR as external research associates or visiting lecturers, expresses great admiration for MISR’s young doctoral program, which the letter describes as having already become “the leading center for postgraduate training in the social sciences in eastern Africa.”
The letter urges Makerere to seriously consider renewing Mamdani’s contract as the institute’s executive director. “We are aware that some members of the MISR community have made serious complaints about Prof. Mamdani’s leadership of the institute,” the letter says. “We are not in a position to evaluate these complaints. We urge you to adjudicate them fairly. It is for us to point out that, so far as we are aware, there are no social scientists in Uganda’s universities who have greater intellectual and analytical reach, greater organizational prowess, and better connections with external supporters than Prof. Mamdani. In our view it would be premature to deprive MISR of his expert leadership at this crucial stage in the life of the Ph.D. program.”
Derek R. Peterson, a professor of history and African studies at the University of Michigan and author of the letter, said he’s not trying to discount those who have been critical of Mamdani’s style of leadership. “But I think there’s a lot to credit the MISR Ph.D. program, its students and its faculty and staff,” he said. “I hope that one outcome of this whole dispute will be to assure everyone involved in the program that the university stands behind it and that they have the appreciation and support of people outside Uganda who are interested in the advancement of higher education in the country.”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
Source: Inside Higher Ed
A dean of admissions at a law school regularly runs into his university’s president in the parking lot, and the president always asks the same question: “How are our LSATs going?”
That anecdote is one of many in Engines of Anxiety: Academic Rankings, Reputation and Accountability, which the Russell Sage Foundation just published. The book provides example after example of how the law school rankings of U.S. News & World Report lead admissions officers, law deans and university presidents to obsess about the pecking order and standardized test scores, which are seen as the speediest way to move up in the rankings. There have been plenty of analyses of the negative impacts of rankings, but this one is based on more than 200 interviews — all anonymous to encourage openness — with admissions officers, deans and others about how they view and try to game the U.S. News rankings. The authors suggest their analysis has relevance for other rankings, including the U.S. News undergraduate reviews.
The authors of the book are two sociology professors: Wendy Nelson Espeland of Northwestern University and Michael Sauder of the University of Iowa. In interviews, both said that, as sociologists, they were attracted to the topic because of their interest in the quantification of quality, the use of numbers to create status and the anxiety of professionals over how they are evaluated.
In their research, they heard a lot of bashing of U.S. News rankings. Admissions deans said the rankings were “evil,” or they just exclaimed, “Hate them.” One admissions dean at a top law school called U.S. News, based on its rankings, “a half-assed, shitty magazine.” These same law school officials, however, described how they do whatever is necessary to do well in the rankings.
Robert Morse, who heads the college rankings division at U.S. News, declined to comment on the book, saying he had not yet read it. He did respond to questions from the authors, who said he provided data that helped their research.
The LSAT Above All Else
In interviews with law school admissions directors and faculty members who serve on admissions committees, the authors found an overwhelming focus on Law School Admission Test scores — above everything else and sometimes regardless of other indications of whether an applicant would be a good or bad law student or lawyer. All producers of standardized admissions tests (and most admissions officials) say such exams should be used in concert with other measures and not dominate the process. The new book suggests this is not the case, in part because LSAT scores count more than undergraduate grades (12.5 percent vs. 10 percent) in the U.S. News methodology.
One faculty member of an admissions committee described being told by the dean of admissions that he would not reject anyone with LSAT scores above a certain level — regardless of other indications of an applicant’s appropriateness. The admissions director said he needed these high-LSAT applicants “to keep the numbers up.” Further, faculty members described being told by an admissions dean pushing for high-LSAT students, “I don’t care what the committee says.”
Other admissions directors reported law schools giving them specific targets for an LSAT average, typically higher than the average from previous years, that they are instructed to produce.
While the pressure is most intense at law schools that aren’t at the top of the prestige hierarchy, the trend extends even to those on the top, the book says. (While protecting anonymity, the book frequently identifies the tiers of the law schools from which admissions and other officials are quoted.)
“You’re not going to be able to push your [grade point average] up very much, and the GPA doesn’t count as much as LSAT anyway,” said one faculty member involved in admissions work at a top law school. “And what [my law school] has done is basically focus its entire decision making on [the] LSAT score. It hasn’t done this formally, but the dean basically controls who is on the admissions committee and makes sure the people on the admissions committee will admit people primarily on the basis of LSAT.”
The point about this being a policy that is not public is common among law schools in the book. Generally, no law school admits to an emphasis on the LSAT along the lines that admissions deans (and law school deans) freely admit to in the book. (In many ways, the findings of the book mirror those of Julie Posselt’s Inside Graduate Admissions, published in January by Harvard University Press, which noted that way Ph.D. admissions committees at top graduate programs focus on the GRE far more than they admit to in public.)
By focusing on LSAT scores, admissions officials said they realized they were making decisions that depressed the enrollments of black and Latino applicants, who on average earn lower LSAT scores than do white and Asian applicants. In part this happens by awarding more and more non-need-based scholarships based on LSAT scores, meaning that large awards are being made to wealthier white and Asian applicants (compared to the pool as a whole).
But admissions directors told the authors that largest way the LSAT emphasis hurts black and Latino applicants is that law school officials fear they are judged by LSAT averages — not just in the U.S. News points awarded for test scores, but in the general reputation of a law school. (And the U.S. News methodology gives 25 percent of a ranking to a “peer assessment” in which law school officials are polled about other law schools.)
“The most pernicious change is that I know a lot of schools who have become so driven by the LSAT profile that they’ve reduced the access of people who are nontraditional students,” said one law school official quoted in the book. “The higher [the] echelon you are, the more worried you are that if you let your student [LSAT] numbers slide to reflect your commitment to diversity, you’re going to be punished in the polls for that.”
The pressure on doing well in the rankings, the book says, quoting deans and others, isn’t just a matter of law school deans putting pressure on admissions directors. Deans report a trickle-down impact in which university presidents pressure them, in part by citing trustee and alumni pressure they receive.
Likewise, the book says law schools will do just about anything to game the system. For instance, U.S. News also gives points for whether law graduates find jobs and whether they find jobs for which a law degree is needed. With the market tightening for new lawyers, especially from nonelite law schools, law school career center officials reported being under pressure to get students jobs, any jobs, rather than focusing on which positions would be a good fit.
One director of a career center told the authors the pressure has reached the point that career counselors might say: “Can you get a job in the beauty salon painting nails until these numbers are in?” (The time reference is to when the law school would report enrollment levels.)
U.S. News and the American Bar Association have toughened their rules on reporting job placement in recent years such that a beauty salon job doesn’t count in the same way as a job at a law firm. But Sauder, in an interview, said such shifts don’t seem to scare law school officials. “It’s a continual game,” he said. “Where U.S. News tries to improve the measure, people find ways to game the measures.”
Could Rankings Be Improved?
The conclusion of the book argues that most of what the authors document in law schools applies in various ways to other parts of higher education in the United States and the world.
Still, the authors said, there could be ways that the law school rankings, and other rankings, might be improved.
Espeland said in an interview that she thought one of the biggest problems with rankings was the use of ordinal numbers to suggest a precision that doesn’t exist at all. This misleads prospective students and also creates more pressure on law school officials, she said.
The greatest pressure she saw in the interviews was at law schools that could be either 49th or 51st in U.S. News and were scrambling to do whatever they could to get the former rating instead of the latter — even if the measures had nothing to do with actual quality. There is a sense that being in the top 25, or top 50, matters a lot. And the ordinal rankings convey a false sense that the 49th-best law school (per a ranking) is actually better than the 51st, she said.
Sauder suggested several ways to improve rankings. One would be to divide law schools by mission. Currently, he said, a law school that saw diversifying the law profession or producing more lawyers who would be engaged in helping low-income people likely would be ranked low, as such a mission would be advanced by looking beyond LSAT scores. Such institutions might be better compared to one another, he said.
Further, Sauder said, rankings would be better if they had competition. He has done other projects studying business school rankings, and while he found many of the same problems, the existence of multiple rankings appears to relieve the pressure to conform to the standard of any one of them, he said.
Still, Sauder doesn’t hold out much hope for reform. He hopes drawing attention to the impact of rankings may make educators more reflective about them, but he doesn’t expect them to disappear. “Rankings are here to stay,” he said.
Source: Inside Higher Ed
By Josh Logue
Two weeks ago, during a Harvard Law School panel discussion, a student asked Israeli politician and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni why she was so “smelly.”
Many immediately condemned the question as inappropriate and anti-Semitic, and others rose to the student’s defense. Eventually he apologized, but debate has continued and expanded beyond the inciting question to issues of free speech and censorship.
The law school’s Program on Negotiation, which sponsored the event, “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the U.S.,” featuring Livni, uploaded video of the panel but edited out the student’s question. Criticism turned from the student to the law school itself.
That decision “bodes poorly on our institution, and demands an explanation or justification,” said one student in a letter to the editor in The Harvard Law Record, the law school’s independent student newspaper. “The packed event was clearly public and clearly recorded. Harvard Law is sending a message that censorship may be appropriate if comments are embarrassing or offensive — a dangerous precedent and a signal that Harvard does not trust us to take responsibility for our own actions.”
Michelle Deakin, a spokeswoman for the law school, noted that the question had been reported verbatim by others, including Martha Minow, the school’s dean. And, she said, “the Program on Negotiation publishes video of its academic events in order to share substantive ideas and intellectual content. Administrators in PON removed the offensive comment so as not to detract from that goal.”
In full, the student, Husam El-Qoulaq, said, “My question is for Tzipi Livni — how is it that you are so smelly?” He added, “It’s regarding your odor — about the odor of Tzipi Livni, very smelly.”
Minow also condemned the question in a letter to campus. “The comment was offensive and it violated the trust and respect we expect in our community,” she wrote. “Many perceive it as anti-Semitic, and no one would see it as appropriate. It was an embarrassment to this institution and an assault upon the values we seek to uphold. The fact that speech is and should be free does not mean that hateful remarks should go unacknowledged or unanswered in a community dedicated to thoughtful discussion of complex issues and questions.”
Deakin declined to comment on whether disciplinary action would be taken, as many say it ought to be.
Some, but not all, interpreted the comment as anti-Semitic. Student leaders of the Jewish Law Students Association said in their own letter that it invoked a centuries-old stereotype “of ‘the Jew’ as ‘smelly’ or ‘dirty’” and that “Nazis promoted the idea that Jews ‘smell’ to propagandize Jews as an inferior people.”
Others, including some Jewish students, said they didn’t read it that way, and El-Qoulaq himself said in an apology that he wasn’t aware of that history. “I want to be very clear that it was never my intention to invoke a hateful stereotype,” he wrote. “But I recognize now that, regardless of my intention, words have power, and it troubles me deeply to know that I have caused some members of the Jewish community such pain with my words … had I known it was even possible that some listeners might interpret my comments as anti-Semitic, there is absolutely no chance that I would have uttered them.”
A push for some kind of punishment continues, even among those who aren’t convinced the comment was anti-Semitic.
“The question was offensive. Period,” wrote one alum in another letter to the editor suggesting El-Qoulaq ought not to be allowed to attend commencement. “Letting the matter go on the basis of the questioner’s ‘I’m sorry if I offended anyone, I didn’t know any better’ nonapologetic ‘apology’ is not nearly adequate.”
Others have stood behind El-Qoulaq, saying he experiments with various ways to engage others on this issue, some more substantive than others. “Effective protest should sometimes make us uncomfortable and even be disrespectful,” several students wrote in another letter. “But it should not, even inadvertently, remind its listeners of anti-Semitic tropes. That is why Husam has apologized, for which we applaud him.”
On top of the criticism leveled at the university and at El-Qoulaq himself, many also chided the student-run paper that published those letters for initially opting not to publish El-Qoulaq’s name even if it was widely known at the law school. It did so eventually, after his name had been published elsewhere and with his permission, but not before attracting a barrage of criticism just weeks after also taking flack for refusing to publish a series of videos.
Before El-Qoulaq’s question, Harvard Law School was roiled by another, separate free speech debate. Students were putting up signs critical of protesters on campus, and those protesters were taking them down. That sparked its own free speech argument, but The Harvard Law Record‘s editor-in-chief, Michael Shammas, also opted not to publish videos of students removing posters, he explained at the time, out of “consideration for our fellow students.”
“We are all imperfect; we all make mistakes, say things we don’t necessarily intend, and get frustrated. Moments of passion, filmed without the consent of a given student, under circumstances thrust upon them, should not be preserved for all time,” he wrote in a note explaining the decision, which many disliked.
In a similar vein, the paper noted several times that it withheld El-Qoulaq’s name “in the interests of furthering respectful discourse.”
Minow, in a statement at the time, reaffirmed the school’s commitment to freedom of expression, citing a rule prohibiting defacing signs, and she pledged to provide a central space with its own guidelines for students to exchange views.
“In shared spaces, all students must be able to voice their opinions and express their dissent equally,” she said.
Source: Inside Higher Ed
By Paul Fain
Overall college affordability has worsened in 45 U.S. states since 2008, creating a significant financial burden for students of modest economic means.
That’s the top-line finding in a new, state-by-state study by researchers from the Institute for Research on Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development, and the Higher Education Policy Institute.
The report defines affordability as reasonable estimates of the total educational expenses for students and families in each state, calculated as a percentage of family income. Educational expenses include tuition and costs of living, minus all grant-based financial aid from federal and state governments and institutions.
Students who lack wealth have been hit hardest, the study found, as college has become less affordable since the Great Recession began.
“This study shows how the deck is stacked against low- and middle-income Americans when it comes to paying for college,” Joni E. Finney, one of the study’s co-authors and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a written statement. “Without policy changes, the data point toward a problem that will only worsen. That paints a bleak picture for millions of Americans.”
Even the best-performing states tend to have a college affordability problem, the report found.
Only 15 states improved on affordability measures for community colleges between 2008 and 2013, meaning families in these states would pay a smaller portion of their income, on average, for students to attend full time.
Likewise, the report, which is based on federal data, found public, four-year institutions in just six states became more affordable during that period. Seven states saw an improvement on measures of affordability in the private nonprofit college sector. (Click here for an interactive map of the report’s findings.)
One reason for the problem, according to the study, is that much of state financial aid is not based on financial need.
For example, average state financial aid received for reasons other than financial need at public institutions — such as merit aid — increased from $189 per student in 2004 to $268 per student in 2013, after adjusting for inflation, the report found.
In addition, the amount of state financial aid flowing to high-income students at public four-year institutions increased by more than 450 percent between 1996 and 2012, wrote Will Doyle, a professor at Vanderbilt and one of the report’s co-authors.
“State leaders can craft policies that ensure everyone who can benefit from college can go,” Doyle said in a written statement, “but in too many states they have allowed college costs to rise beyond the reach of families.”
Another affordability challenge is that full-time students increasingly cannot work to pay their way through college, even at community colleges. And low- and middle-income families often must weigh the trade-offs between attending college and getting a job, a problem exacerbated by stagnant household incomes over the last decade.
That all means loans increasingly fill the gap between educational expenses and what students get in financial aid, according to the report — a serious concern, particularly for less wealthy students.
“Unless state and federal policy makers act together to ensure that educational opportunities beyond high school are affordable,” the report concludes, “it would not be surprising to see greater economic and racial stratification reflected in our colleges and universities — as well as society.”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
Yale University announced Wednesday that it will keep John C. Calhoun’s name on one of its residential colleges. The announcement follows much campus debate, with critics saying that it was inappropriate to honor a man who was one of the leading advocates in Congress for slavery in the United States.
At the same time, Yale announced that it would follow the lead of other colleges in ending use of the term “master” to describe those who lead residential colleges. Going forward, those in the position will be called “head of college.”
During last semester’s wave of student protests, Yale experienced numerous complaints both about the Calhoun name and the term “master.” While the Calhoun name has surfaced as an issue previously, this time it was subject to a lengthy study.
A statement from Yale Thursday night, announcing the decision, said that “it became evident that renaming Calhoun College could have the effect of hiding the legacy of slavery.”
Yale President Peter Salovey was quoted in the statement as saying, “Ours is a nation that often refuses to face its own history of slavery and racism. Yale is part of that history. We cannot erase American history but we can confront it, teach it, and learn from it. The decision to retain Calhoun College’s name reflects the importance of this vital educational imperative.”
While Yale is keeping the name, the university pledged to do more to put the Calhoun name and the history of the man in context.
“To ensure a deeper, more consistent, and more explicit understanding of Yale’s institutional history, the university will initiate a historical study, beginning with an examination of the legacy of John C. Calhoun,” the university statement said. “The project will draw on the talents of Yale’s scholars, students, and staff, and will be designed to illuminate the lesser-known people, events, and narratives behind the familiar facades seen on campus. The study will enable students and scholars to understand not only those aspects of the university’s — and our nation’s — history that are a source of pride, but also those that are shameful and, therefore, essential to know and confront.”
In addition, Yale announced that it would hold a juried competition for everyone tied to Yale “to select a work of public art that will be displayed permanently on the grounds of Calhoun College. Entrants will be asked to propose works that respond to the realities and consequences of Calhoun’s life and time, and will be encouraged to give the widest possible consideration to different creative approaches.”
Yale’s approach of keeping the Calhoun name but promising additional context is very similar to an approach taken by Princeton University this month with regard to the Woodrow Wilson name on its school of public affairs. Many students, citing Wilson’s deeply bigoted views — on which he acted as president to limit the rights of black people — said that the name was inappropriate.
Other universities, however, have changed names of building and colleges that honor people with racist histories. The University of Texas at Austin changed the name of a dormitory that honored a man who was a leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
Source: Inside Higher Ed
Americans with college degrees are to the left of the majority of Americans who lack a college degree. And a new study by the Pew Research Center shows that those who have attended graduate school are even farther to the left than those who have only an undergraduate degree.
The relationship between education levels and politics isn’t modest, but it is significant, the study found.
Among those with graduate education of some form, 31 percent hold consistently liberal positions based on an analysis of their opinions about the role and performance of government, social issues, the environment and other topics. Another 23 percent hold mostly liberal positions. Only 10 percent hold consistently conservative positions, and 17 percent hold mostly conservative positions.
As the bar chart below shows, there is a clear pattern in which those with more education are more liberal.
While the findings may have implications for understanding the relative liberalism of academics, nearly all of whom have graduate degrees, it is important to note the findings are of all people with at least some graduate education, and so would include many people with graduate education who work as lawyers or health professionals or in any number of fields outside academe.
The idea of the liberal educated elite is also, of course, hardly new. And many past studies have suggested that academics or others who are highly educated may be to the left of other Americans.
But the new study shows that this ideological gap by education is growing — and doing so at a time when American society is becoming more politically polarized.
As the table below shows, those with graduate education (or with college degrees) have long been more liberal than others. But the growth in the percentage of those holding consistently liberal views has been considerable.
In 1994, the share of those with graduate education who held consistently liberal views was 7 percent (compared to today’s 31 percent). The share with mostly or consistently liberal views was 31 percent (compared to today’s 54 percent).
While all levels of educational attainment saw gains in those holding liberal views, those increases were not as large.
Neil L. Gross, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology at Colby College, has conducted extensive research on the political views of academics, generally finding them more liberal than average for Americans, but not as left leaning as stereotype would suggest.
He said via email that the Pew analysis could shed light on some key questions. “For some time there was legitimate debate about whether polarization was just an elite phenomenon — something happening in Congress and among politicos — or whether it was affecting ordinary Americans as well,” he said. “I think the weight of the evidence now indicates there’s been ‘mass’ polarization too.”
Gross said it was “not a huge surprise that the highly educated would be in the vanguard of this. Those with more education have for many decades shown more consistency in their ideological views: they’re better positioned to figure out exactly where they stand in relation to the parties, and expected to take stances that line up. It’s also not a surprise that the movement in recent decades among the highly educated has been toward ideological consistency on the left. The evidence doesn’t show that exposure to higher education turns Republicans into Democrats, but it does seem to make people somewhat more cosmopolitan, more comfortable with social diversity, more tolerant of social difference.”
He added that recent political trends have also likely had an impact. “That the GOP has lurched right means that fewer people with graduate degrees are going to back it, or line themselves up with conservative positions generally. The party is also widely perceived by the highly educated as anti-science and anti-higher education — a tarnished political brand.”
Then there is the issue of why the professoriate is or is perceived to be liberal, and whether the data shed light on the idea that it’s hard for conservative academics to land jobs.
Gross noted that the Pew data are not on academics alone and so cannot be conclusive on any of these questions. Still, he said that the study (compared with data on professors’ politics) suggests that the pool of potential academics leans strongly to the left. This means that “it doesn’t look to me from these numbers that those on the left are being massively favored for academic posts relative to the distribution of liberals and conservatives in the postgraduate pool.”
At the same time, he said, “that’s not to say there isn’t any bias, of course.”
Source: Inside Higher Ed
James Tracy, the former professor of communications at Florida Atlantic University who made headlines for both denying that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre happened and for espousing other conspiracy theories related to mass shootings, is suing the institution for allegedly violating his free speech and other rights. While the development is relatively unsurprising, given the tumult surrounding his termination, the suit also names Florida Atlantic’s faculty union leaders as co-defendants, alleging they conspired with the university to boot Tracy.
According to the suit, filed this week in federal court, union officials successfully intervened on Tracy’s behalf in 2013, when his blog posts alleging that the Newtown, Conn., shootings were really an elaborate federal ploy for more gun control first gained attention. But in 2105, it says, when Tracy faced disciplinary action for not filling out required paperwork detailing his extracurricular activities, the union failed to help him.
Tracy was terminated in January. While he alleges he was fired for his controversial views in violation of the First Amendment and university policies ensuring academic freedom, Florida Atlantic has pointed to the paperwork issue as the official reason.
The suit alleges that university administrators first began “strategizing” about ways to terminate Tracy just weeks after he began blogging about Sandy Hook, in January 2013. At a meeting that month, according to the suit, several administrators told Tracy not to make any further public statements about Sandy Hook and requested that he fill out an outside activities form used to flag potential conflicts of interest for his personal blogging. But union representatives, who attended the meeting with Tracy, allegedly told him that his online speech was protected by the First Amendment and uncompensated by the university, and therefore not eligible for inclusion in the form.
Heather Coltman, dean of the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, allegedly directed Tracy to complete the form again that same month, but he was consistently advised by the union not to complete it, the suit says. Several months later, Tracy received an official notice of discipline from Coltman. She did not mention the outside activity form but allegedly asked that he “stop dragging [the university] into your personal endeavors.”
The union continued to defend Tracy, eventually filing a grievance on his behalf, according to the suit. The university allegedly rejected the grievance but later made an agreement with Tracy that if he removed all references to the university on his blog, it would retract the notice of discipline from his file.
In fall 2015, Florida Atlantic changed its policies to require all professors to agree to the following: “I am required to report any outside activity (compensated or uncompensated) and any financial interest in Florida Atlantic University’s report of Outside Employment or Professional Activities.”
Confused about the new policy, and on parental leave at the time, Tracy emailed union representatives and the university, explaining that he felt forced to sign something he didn’t understand, according to the suit. Robert Zoeller, president of the National Education Association-affiliated campus faculty union and a professor of exercise science, responded via email that the matter was to be addressed in collective bargaining, the suit says. He allegedly repeatedly advised Tracy to affirm the newly required statement for now, and fight it later.
Tracy submitted his annual report but did not sign off on the new agreement, according to the suit. He received another letter of discipline from his dean.
According to the complaint, Tracy asked Zoeller to file a grievance about the disciplinary notice, but he denied the request, saying that he and other union officials met to discuss Tracy’s case and decided that it wasn’t eligible for a grievance.
Threatened with termination, Tracy eventually signed the form under duress, in December, according to the suit. A day later, the university issued a notice of intent to terminate, citing his failure to complete the outside activities form in a timely manner.
When Tracy contacted the union, Zoeller allegedly criticized him for not turning in his paperwork earlier, and then pressured him to resign to avoid termination. Michael Moats, a regional union official who is also mentioned by name as a co-defendant, allegedly did the same.
According to the suit, the union did not respond to the university’s notice within the 10 days afforded by contract. The suit says that inaction allowed the university to finally get rid of Tracy.
“Both [Florida Atlantic] administrators and the university’s faculty union claim they are committed to protecting constitutional rights and principles of academic freedom, but their actions speak loud and clear,” Louis Leo IV, Tracy’s attorney, said in a statement. “Tenure, free speech, due process and academic freedom are under attack. Without judicial intervention, employees and faculty at Florida Atlantic and other universities around the U.S. will continue to be censored, deterred or chilled from sharing unpopular information or opinions for fear that they will be disciplined on a pretext.”
Leo declined to answer additional questions about the union’s involvement.
Zoeller, the union president, declined comment. Moats, a regional service director with the United Faculty of Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Joshua Glanzer, a spokesman for Florida Atlantic, said the university doesn’t comment on pending litigation, and that it’s “too early to estimate how much James Tracy will cost the taxpayer for [the institution] to defend any lawsuit.”
Tracy is seeking reinstatement and monetary relief, including lost wages and for damage to his reputation.
Source: Inside Higher Ed
This month’s edition of the “Pulse” podcast features an interview with Christopher Jaynes, chief technology officer at Mersive.
Mersive offers Solstice, which enables multiple users to share a common display on their own devices.
In the interview with “The Pulse’s” host, Rodney B. Murray, Jaynes discusses how Solstice can improve classroom pedagogy and be used in active learning spaces, among other topics.
“The Pulse” is Inside Higher Ed‘s monthly technology podcast, produced by Murray, executive director of the office of academic technology at University of the Sciences.
Find out more, and listen to past “Pulse” podcasts, here.
Source: Inside Higher Ed
By Ellen Wexler
When states cut higher education budgets, students make up the difference.
Back in 1990, tuition made up 25 percent of public colleges’ revenue. During the recession, state funding fell and tuition rose — and by 2013 the proportion of tuition as a contributor to revenue had nearly doubled, to 47.8 percent.
But now, for the second year in a row, the amount of the cost students pay is going down, according to the annual State Higher Education Finance report, released today.
In fiscal year 2015, tuition made up 46.5 percent of revenue, the study found. And while that number isn’t anywhere near pre-recession levels, it means that public higher education is slowly starting to recover.
But the recovery is spread unevenly, in time and in location. In Wyoming, only 14.9 percent of revenue comes from tuition. In Vermont, that number is 84.9 percent. And across the country, there are still 15 states above 60 percent.
“Even if the overall numbers look like there’s been a recovery, it doesn’t always feel like that,” said George Pernsteiner, president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers association.
At the same time, 40 states increased their higher education budgets in 2015 — the most that the researchers had seen in recent years. And while some states are still seeing cuts, Pernsteiner said, “Forty states is a lot of states.”
With the increase in state support, the average per-student support went up 5.2 percent, to $6,966. But while that’s an improvement over last year, it’s still well below the 2008 average, at $8,221. Going back even farther, it’s also well below the numbers from the previous recession, in the early 2000s.
“We hit a double whammy from the last two economic downturns,” said Andy Carlson, SHEEO senior policy analyst and one of the study’s authors.
This year’s increase in per-student spending isn’t just a sign that states are reinvesting; it’s also a result of declining enrollment.
On its own, declining enrollment could actually be a sign of economic recovery, the researchers say. During recessions, people who can’t find work often ride out their stark job prospects by returning for more education or training. “As the recession ends,” Pernsteiner said, “they’re able to take those skills that they’ve honed and take them into the workplace.”
It makes sense, but one could also argue that the middle of a recession isn’t the best time to get a degree. In tough times, funding for higher education is often the first thing to go.
“A lot of people have said it’s the balance wheel of state budgets,” Carlson said. “During downturns, it tends to be cut more significantly.”
Now, as a result of the most recent recessions, public colleges are facing a new normal, the researchers write. Higher education is easier to cut than, say, health care, and those expenses will keep states from fully reinvesting in public colleges.
Jane Wellman, a senior adviser with the College Futures Foundation, said that states tend to budget one year at a time. They spend more on public higher education when the economy improves, but they don’t plan for the future.
“It’s like an accordion,” she said. “When the money’s there, you expand it open. When it’s not, you close it up.”
Wellman wants to see more states thinking long term. Instead of pouring more money into public higher education during good years, they should do more to plan for bad ones.
Looking ahead to 2016, estimates from the annual Grapevine report show state support growing by 4.1 percent. But, as Carlson said, “there are some unique challenges in specific states in 2016.” Illinois and Pennsylvania spent months in budget stalemates, and other states are likely to face new cuts in 2017.
Some states, Pernsteiner said, will continue cutting education budgets significantly — and over time, those states will face the long-term effects that deep cuts can have on their ability to educate their people.
Source: Inside Higher Ed