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Colleges are called upon to review their collaborations with Saudi Arabia after the Khashoggi killing

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 2018-11-08 08:00

Ties between American colleges and the Saudi Arabian government or universities are under more scrutiny than ever following the killing of Washington Post journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey last month.

Several institutions, most notably the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have said that they’re reviewing their Saudi ties in the wake of the killing, which many observers believe would not have been carried out without the approval of Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

At the same time, some in higher education have defended their partnerships with Saudi counterparts as something to be encouraged, and cautioned against pressure to withdraw from collaborations involving the kingdom.

American university ties with Saudi Arabia take a variety of forms. They include lucrative research collaborations with Saudi universities or companies, fee-for-service consulting relationships in which American colleges assist in the development of new Saudi higher education institutions or programs, and multimillion-dollar gifts to U.S. universities from individual Saudi donors, including members of the royal family.

In addition, U.S. universities accept money from the Saudi government to pay the tuition and fees of government-sponsored students on their campuses. Saudi students are the fourth-largest group of international students on U.S. campuses, though the number of such students has fallen sharply as the Saudi government's foreign scholarship program has been scaled back over the last couple of years.

Calls for colleges to review their Saudi ties are not new, even if they have taken on new salience after the Khashoggi killing. Some activists say colleges are overdue in re-evaluating their Saudi connections in light of the country's human rights record.

It's hardly a secret that Saudi Arabia represses and jails peaceful dissidents and human rights activists and that its laws and policies systematically discriminate against women and gay people. And Saudi Arabia's intervention in the war in Yemen -- of which the crown prince is widely seen as the architect -- has put millions of civilians at risk of dying from starvation.

“The man MIT is hosting has created the worst humanitarian crisis on earth,” Shireen Al-Adeimi, then a doctoral student at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, said at a demonstration in March opposing the crown prince's visit to the MIT campus (he also visited Harvard on the same trip).

MIT announced the signing of a series of agreements during the crown prince’s visit, most of which had to do with research collaborations between MIT and Saudi companies or universities in areas including energy and climate science and medicine. Another agreement related to expanding a fellowship program that brings female Saudi scientists and engineers to MIT for one-year research projects.

Al-Adeimi, now an assistant professor at Michigan State University, said that universities should reassess any ties they have with any entities affiliated with the Saudi government.

“They’re just seeing the Saudis as cash cows,” she said of American universities. “Yes, they have a lot of cash. but they’re putting on these blinders -- ‘let’s ignore everything else they’re doing.’”

A group of graduate students in political science at MIT recently published an open letter to President L. Rafael Reif in the student newspaper, The Tech, in which they urged the university to sever ties with the Saudi government and issue a statement condemning the government for its human rights violations -- and encourage other institutions to do the same.

“We know that you and MIT’s leadership initially approached the institute’s partnership with Saudi Arabia with the noblest of intentions,” the letter says. “However, at this point, MIT’s continued collaboration with the Saudi government sends the message that human rights violations can be overlooked in favor of financial considerations. It assures Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, that MIT will tolerate his present and future transgressions. And it enables the regime to profit off of MIT’s reputation. This both grants the kingdom impunity and damages MIT’s reputation.”

The letter cites as one example of reputational damage a photo of Reif shaking hands with the crown prince during the visit to the MIT campus (featured at right). One of the suspects in the Khashoggi killing can be seen standing in the background of that photo, as The New York Times reported in an article documenting links between the suspects and the crown prince.

“This photo,” the students wrote, “disgraces MIT’s reputation and provides the MBS regime with a veil of normalcy.”

MIT’s associate provost for international activities, Richard Lester, sent a letter to faculty Oct. 15 expressing "grave concern" about the allegations surrounding the disappearance of Khashoggi -- Saudi officials have since confirmed that he was killed at the Istanbul consulate --- and promising to “to conduct a swift, thorough reassessment of MIT’s Institute-level engagements with entities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia so that we can determine a course of action for the Institute.”

“All of us should recognize that MIT has enjoyed highly productive educational and research collaborations with colleagues and partners in Saudi Arabia over many decades,” Lester wrote. “We have also benefited from the presence of many outstanding Saudi students, faculty, and staff on our campus, and our Saudi students and colleagues here in Cambridge today are valued members of the MIT community.”

Not everyone thinks universities should be reviewing their ties with the kingdom in response to the Khashoggi killing. Writing for Inside Higher Ed’s "World Views" blog, Liz Reisberg, an independent consultant and research fellow at Boston College's Center for International Higher Education, wrote that if universities terminate their academic collaborations with a country, "then we cede international interaction to economic, political and military interests."

“I am uncomfortable with the call for scholars or universities to pull back from Saudi Arabia,” wrote Reisberg, who has worked as a consultant for Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Education. “We could certainly do this as a symbolic statement of our abhorrence of the Khashoggi murder. But what will it accomplish and who will be hurt? Don’t we also risk hypocrisy? Why stop with Saudi Arabia? If we reject this kind of violence against individuals, shouldn’t we also cancel academic relationships with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Israel, Kenya, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, Venezuela, Yemen and many other countries?”

Recently, Cornell University suspended a relationship between its labor college and that of Renmin University of China over concerns about academic freedom and, more specifically, a crackdown on students involved in activism related to workers' rights. The move to sever an international partnership over such concerns was highly unusual, however. It is rare for universities to walk away from partnerships over academic freedom or human rights issues.

U.S.-Saudi Financial Ties

U.S. universities have a comparatively smaller footprint in Saudi Arabia compared to some other parts of the Gulf. Unlike in the United Arab Emirates or Qatar, there are no U.S. university branch campuses in Saudi Arabia. But there are collaborations of a variety of other kinds and a significant flow of Saudi money coming American universities' way.

There have been a number of high-profile Saudi gifts to American universities over the years. In 2005, a Saudi prince, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, gave $20 million each to Georgetown and Harvard Universities for Islamic studies programs. Prince Alwaleed was one of dozens of wealthy Saudi elites who was detained in the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh last November as part of what the crown prince characterized as an anticorruption sweep and which his critics saw as a move to solidify his power. Prince Alwaleed spent more than two months in detention before being released in January.

A decade ago, in 2008, a number of major research universities entered into partnership agreements with a Saudi start-up institution, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which launched with a $10 billion endowment gifted from the former King Abdullah, who died in 2015. Cornell and Stanford Universities and the University of California, Berkeley, and Texas at Austin all entered into lucrative relationships with KAUST worth $25 million or more over five years.

For a more up-to-date picture, Inside Higher Ed analyzed a federal database maintained by the Department of Education on foreign gifts and contracts that U.S. universities report receiving between Jan. 1, 2012, and June 30 of this year. Institutions are required to report gifts and contracts from foreign sources worth $250,000 or more.

The database shows that some of the biggest recipients of Saudi-sourced funding since 2012 include MIT, which reported $77.7 million in funding from Saudi sources over the last six years, the bulk of which came from a single donor, Mohammed A. Jameel, and George Washington University, which reported receiving $75.2 million, the majority of which came from the government or embassy of Saudi Arabia.

“The government of Saudi Arabia has for many years provided tuition and expenses for pre-college, undergraduate, graduate and medical education and training for Saudi students attending the George Washington University,” said a university spokeswoman, Lindsay Hamilton. “We evaluate our international programs regularly, including our programs with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to ensure they are consistent with our educational mission.”

Complicating any attempt to rank universities in terms of their overall Saudi funding is the fact that some institutions appear to report the tuition and fee payments they receive from the Saudi embassy or cultural mission for students on government scholarships in their federal disclosures, while others do not. George Mason University reported receiving $58.9 million in contracts with the Saudi embassy since 2012. A spokesman said the funds are for a contractual arrangement with the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission to collect tuition and fees for students who receive Saudi government scholarships.

Asked if George Mason was re-evaluating its Saudi connections, the spokesman, Michael Sandler, said, “The scholarships have already been awarded to the students by the time they choose a school. Refusing payment would result in us denying an educational opportunity to otherwise qualified students. This would run counter to our mission of serving students.”

Another major receiver of Saudi funds is Tufts University, which reported $37.9 million in Saudi-sourced gifts or contracts since 2012, including more than $30 million in contracts with the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission. "We have had a long and productive history of working with Saudi students, faculty, researchers and institutions to advance the cause of global health," said a Tufts spokesman, Patrick Collins. "Our collaborations have provided Saudi students with access to education, training and research experience in healthcare and the life sciences. As we continue to follow closely the deeply concerning news, we remain committed to global engagement and the power of educational and research collaboration to make a positive difference in the world."

Other recipients of large amounts of Saudi funds include Johns Hopkins University, which reported $32.6 million in Saudi funds since 2012; Harvard, $26.8 million; the University of Southern California, $21.9 million; and Stanford, $17.5 million. In the cases of both Hopkins and Stanford, the funds are all reported as monetary gifts, but the names of the donors are unspecified. Harvard's funds represent a mix of grants and contracts, but again the parties to the gifts or contracts not named.

"As a global research university, Harvard has a broad and robust scholarly engagement in the Middle East, including in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and has benefited immensely from the intellectual contributions of Saudi-based individuals over the years," Harvard said in a statement. "We are following recent events with concern and are assessing potential implications for existing programs."

Many U.S. universities have entered into lucrative research partnerships with Saudi universities or research funding agencies. Berkeley reported receiving $16.1 million in gifts or contracts involving various Saudi universities and a governmental scientific institution, the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. “At this point in time there have been no conversations regarding whether or not we may seek or accept future funding from Saudi Arabian entities,” said a Berkeley spokesman, Roqua Montez.

The University of California, Los Angeles, reported receiving about $12 million from Saudi sources, including two contracts worth $11 million and $540,000, respectively, from the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. However, a UCLA spokesman, Tod Tamberg, said that the $11 million contract was reduced in size to $6 million due to changes in the contract terms after the reporting period. Tamberg said both contracts were for engineering projects related to green energy.

Georgia Institute of Technology reported receiving $14.4 million from Saudi sources since 2012, all in contracts or gifts involving Saudi universities or research institutions or the state oil company Aramco. “Employees of Saudi Aramco are enrolled in classes taught through Georgia Tech Professional Education,” said a spokeswoman, Laura Diamond. “These include degree programs in information security and cybersecurity, as well as an ongoing professional education project with Saudi Aramco, that provides a hosted master’s of science in information security.”

Northwestern University reported receiving $13.9 million in gifts and contracts involving the Saudi governmental scientific agency, the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.

“Northwestern extends heartfelt condolences to the friends, family, and colleagues of Mr. Khashoggi,” the university said in a statement. “As stated before, we have reviewed our funding from Saudi Arabia and determined that the vast majority of the funds received have been to faculty in the form of grants for basic science research. The results of such research will be shared with the world through peer review published journals with the intent of global benefits. Going forward the university is asking faculty to assess their relationships with Saudi Arabia.”

Pact With a Security College

Beyond the scientific partnerships, the University of New Haven has an agreement with King Fahd Security College, in Riyadh, to consult on the development of a new bachelor's program in security studies. "We are excited to put the University of New Haven's world-renowned programs in criminal justice, national security, and forensic science studies at the service of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's next generation of security professionals," New Haven's president, Steven H. Kaplan, said in a press release issued at the time the partnership was announced in 2016.

Stanley Heller, a New Haven-based activist and executive director of the Middle East Crisis Committee, was aghast when he learned of the partnership and organized a letter opposing it. “We were appalled because we knew a lot about the terrible state of the so-called justice system in Saudi Arabia, where Amnesty [International] and other groups say there’s torture and a lack of lawyers and hideous punishments like beheading and crucifixion," he said. "We wrote to the authorities and said, ‘You should not do this program.’ We also talked about the fact that this college they’re working with is a police/military college, and we warned them that whatever kinds of skills they were teaching could have a military aspect, conceivably. The regime was attacking Yemenis with horrible consequences.”

New Haven has stood by the relationship with the security college, saying in a statement that its goal is “to help modernize and professionalize criminal justice activities in Saudi Arabia through this educational partnership.”

“The educational advising provided by the University of New Haven to the King Fahd Security College (KFSC) in developing their own security studies program is something we believe should be supported and fostered,” the university said in a statement.

The Wrong Direction?

Babson College is also involved in a consulting relationship in Saudi Arabia through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Babson Global, which consulted on the development of a new coeducational college that bears the crown prince’s name, the Prince Mohammad Bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship. Federal disclosure documents reported on by The Boston Globe indicate that Babson Global expects to receive $52.2 million for its involvement in the project over an approximately 12-year period starting in 2014.

A university spokesman declined a reporter's request for an interview on Babson Global's involvement in Saudi Arabia but referred to the college's statement on the matter, in which it described entrepreneurship education as an "unalloyed good" and said it has worked for many years "at an institutional-level with various entities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to provide and facilitate transformational educational opportunities."

"At this time, we are monitoring events closely and gathering input from our community regarding potential paths forward. We are committed to ensuring that the College’s activities and affiliations remain aligned with our core values and supportive of our institutional mission and global educational goals," Babson said in its statement.

Shahid Ansari, a professor of accounting who oversaw the Saudi partnership in his former role as the head of Babson Global (but who speaks now in his capacity as a faculty member), said that "there's always a very difficult choice between engagement and endorsement. I strongly believe that engagement is not endorsement; you don’t have to endorse someone’s values to engage with them."

At the same time, Ansari said, the balance between engagement and endorsement is tricky -- and it can shift. For example, when the entrepreneurship college was planned, it was not originally going to be named after the crown prince. The addition of Prince Mohammed's imprimatur had both positive and negative effects, Ansari said. On the positive side, the association with the crown prince gave the college a certain freedom to operate as a coed institution in the highly conservative kingdom. On the negative side, Ansari said, “with the name of the crown prince on the college, we have moved closer to not just engagement, but endorsement.”

Ansari said he was comfortable with Babson's decision to engage with Saudi Arabia at the time it was made but that circumstances have shifted and the college should review its relationship in light of those shifting circumstances. He declined to take a position on what Babson should do but said there should be a community discussion about the college's next steps.​

"I do believe that the conditions are considerably different today than they were in 2015," he said. "Under King Abdullah, it was not that things were perfect, but the trend was going in the right direction."

"There are things that have changed; the trend is uncertain and going in the wrong direction," Ansari continued. “I’m no longer looking at something that is moving in the right direction and being able to contribute to it. I’m now looking at something that is moving in the wrong direction in the short term."

What Does the Money Buy?

The questions for colleges collaborating with entities connected to the Saudi monarchy are at least twofold: One, is the project worthy? And, two, is the Saudi government or an affiliated entity an acceptable partner regardless of the worthiness of the project?

“There are probably cases where projects in and of themselves are not problematic,” said Grif Peterson, an affiliate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard who co-wrote an op-ed critical of MIT and Harvard following the crown prince's visit to Cambridge. But what is always problematic, Peterson said, "is that a financial relationship with an institution like MIT allows Mohammed bin Salman to project an image of being a Western-leaning progressive leader."

"It's really clear that Harvard and MIT offer legitimacy to this growing power base that he’s creating," Peterson said.

"I think the question that we have to ask here is what are these universities giving to the Saudis in exchange for these contributions, and I think most importantly how are these contributions affecting the education of the students at the university," said Ben Freeman, the director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy, a think tank that, per its mission statement, advocates for "policies that advance international cooperation, demilitarization, respect for human rights and action to alleviate climate change and stop illicit financial flows."

“Is this biasing the way that those universities are talking about U.S.-Saudi relations?” Freeman asked. “I think on that point there’s no accident to which universities the Saudis are targeting here. If you think about Harvard and Georgetown and MIT, to a lesser extent, they produce some of the U.S.'s best foreign policy professionals. On some level they at least have to believe some of that funding will influence people as they go on in their careers. Whether it’s implicit or explicit, with that funding comes the idea that the Saudis did this good thing and on some level we might owe them. For all of these universities, it would be at least worthwhile for them to say, ‘Here is what we have done with these contributions, here’s what we’ve done with the Saudis’.’ And I’d love to see a clear statement that said, ‘We don’t feel this is in any way challenges the objectivity of the way we discuss U.S.-Saudi relations at this university.’”

Saudi Arabia isn't the only foreign country that has funded research or professorships at U.S. universities. Zachary Lockman, a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at New York University who has written a book about the development of Middle East studies, put the issue in context in his field: "I don't think there's any doubt that the Saudis have seen such donations as a way to acquire goodwill, legitimacy and support in U.S. academia (and beyond), just as Turkey a few decades ago donated money for chairs in Ottoman and Turkish studies (and sought to suppress discussion of the Armenian genocide), and Israel (through U.S. Jewish donors and foundations) encouraged the development of Israel studies, which has often had an advocacy dimension in addition to (and in tension with) its scholarly dimension. And of course donors want to ensure that the people filling these chairs and running these programs will be sympathetic to the policies of these countries' regimes, though they cannot always make that happen," Lockman said via email.

F. Gregory Gause III, an expert on the Gulf and the head of the international affairs department at Texas A&M University, said universities shouldn't view money from Saudi Arabia more skeptically than they would from any other country.

“I’m perfectly fine with having Saudi students at your university that the Saudi government pays for; I think that’s actually a good thing. I’m perfectly fine with all these Saudi scientific institutions doing grants for scientific research at American universities; I don’t see that there's that much risk either morally or politically in that. I think when you take money from any government for the study of that government, you have to be careful. And you have to make sure that the donor knows that those institutions are going to be independent. That's then up to the institution that takes the money,” Gause said.

That said, Gause isn't convinced that Saudi Arabia has gotten a whole lot out of the money it's given to American universities over the years.

“In general,” he said, “if what they’re trying to do with gifts to universities is buy goodwill, they’ve failed.”

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After tuition hike, Minnesota sees fewer out-of-state students

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 2018-11-08 08:00

A steep drop in the number of new University of Minnesota students from outside the state and its environs has prompted the university to consider cutting back on an aggressive planned tuition increase for 2019. Minnesota’s travails may also prompt state systems to consider whether improving state economies -- and more intense competition for a shrinking pool of 18-year-olds -- might be taking a bite out of their ability to rely on tuition premiums from out-of-state students.

Beginning in 2012, the university began raising tuition for students who live outside Minnesota and its immediate neighbors to the east, west and north: Wisconsin, the Dakotas and Manitoba, Canada. While a long-standing reciprocity agreement allows families in the region to pay in-state tuition, for those from outside this area, prices are climbing. In 2011, tuition rates for new freshmen from outside the region stood at $16,650. Seven years later, in 2018, they were $28,736, a 72 percent increase, according to university data.

Perhaps as a result, university officials last month told regents that Minnesota saw 26 percent fewer students from outside the region over the course of just one year -- 1,015 compared with 1,361 in 2017. The sudden drop followed what had been a steady, multiyear rise. As a result, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported, corresponding net revenue fell by about 17 percent, from $28.5 million to $23.7 million.

A planned 15 percent increase for 2019 may be on hold while President Eric Kaler recommends a more modest 10 percent tuition hike for 2019. He could face resistance in December, when regents are expected to vote on the recommendation. At least one regent has suggested that since higher out-of-region rates discourage these students from attending, that is a positive development, since it could make more room for Minnesota students -- they are, he said, more likely to stick around after graduation and boost lawmakers’ support for the university, the Pioneer Press reported.

Bill Hall, a consultant whose office sits in the shadow of the flagship Minneapolis campus, said other state systems should “pay careful attention to what they’re doing” on pricing in Minnesota.

“We’re well out of the recession, and most state coffers are very healthy,” he said. That brings higher appropriations for universities in competing states -- which lets them spend more per student to tempt them to attend college in-state. Combined with a period of “flat demand” for college freshmen, that produces downward pressure on prices.

Hall, who has been consulting in higher education for 35 years, said he has never seen such competition to push tuition downward.

“What we have here is a problem of too many seats and too few bodies to put in them -- and thus the price competition is intense,” he said.

Hall added, “You’d better be careful during a demographic crisis.”

Last spring, U.S. high schools produced nearly 3.5 million graduates. While that number is expected to rise slightly over the next decade, by 2030 or so it will likely drop to under 3.3 million, or more than 191,000 fewer first-time college candidates, according to data from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. In the Midwest alone, the annual number of high school graduates is expected to drop by more than 69,000, or 9.3 percent. In the Northeast, WICHE predicts a drop of more than 44,000 students, or 7.2 percent fewer than in 2018.

Add in a downturn in the number of international students -- visa data show that the number of international students at American universities declined last year, after years of substantial growth -- and you’ve got even greater competition.

“We’re shifting back in a direction where there’s a lot of legislative emphasis … on enrolling students from our own state,” Hall said.

Recent research shows that many state systems have relied on the higher tuition and fees generated by out-of-state students to help balance budgets in times of tight state appropriations. Researcher Ozan Jaquette, an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, last year noted that the typical “once glorious” flagship university in most states “is now the repository of a majority out-of-state students, many of whom are dramatically less academically oriented” than deserving, but in many cases lower-income, in-state students, but who can pay full out-of-state tuition.

A March 2018 analysis of enrollment data by The Washington Post found that at 11 state flagship universities, more than half of incoming freshmen hailed from out of state in 2016, the latest year for which data were available. In that group, figures for in-state students ranged from 49 percent at the University of Arkansas to as little as 21 percent at the University of Vermont.

Jaquette said that as state university systems have become more tuition-reliant, “the out-of-state solution is a solution every flagship is trying to play. If everyone’s in this market, you’re ultimately competing [for] the same students private liberal arts colleges are competing for -- students whose families are willing to pay those super-high tuitions.”

But he said there’s a “relatively fixed number” of wealthy families in this category. “They’re competing for a pie of a certain size, and that pie isn’t getting any larger.”

Could these dynamics be changing tuition and enrollment patterns? In neighboring Wisconsin, the number of new freshmen from outside the state grew modestly -- about six percentage points -- from 2013 to 2018.

The Colorado-based State Higher Education Executive Officers last year noted a “moderate” increase in state support for higher education, along with a slight increase in tuition revenue. In constant dollars, from 2016 to 2017, educational appropriations per full-time-equivalent student rose in 27 states. But SHEEO also found that in 2017, for the first time, more than half of states relied more heavily on tuition than on educational appropriations. Over all, net tuition revenue accounted for 46.4 percent of all educational revenues.

David Tandberg, SHEEO’s vice president of policy research and strategic initiatives, said relying on out-of-state students for revenue is “a major problem” for state systems. These students may provide “far more direct dollars into your budget,” he said, but they also draw universities away from their essential mission. “These institutions are chartered as public institutions, meant to serve the state interest,” he said.

Larry Isaak, president of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, said states are beginning to see the bigger competitive picture for students. “There is a much different dynamic,” he said. “You’re not only competing with neighboring states -- you’re competing with states across the country. You’re competing with other countries.” He said states are also beginning to realize the value of attracting more local talent, in a few cases relying on regional tuition reciprocity agreements similar to Minnesota's.

He noted that in the Midwest Student Exchange Program, 10 states have long agreed not to charge more than 150 percent of in-state tuition to out-of-state students in a set of degree-granting programs that the institutions choose at their discretion.

While such students may not serve as the kind of revenue generators they've been in the past, he said, the real revenue generator “is in the payoff of having more educated workers graduating from colleges and universities with a much bigger likelihood of staying in the state.”

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Author discusses new book on problem solving and creative thinking

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 2018-11-08 08:00

Edward Burger has long argued that the path to learning is not necessarily a straight line. As a mathematics professor at Williams College, he encouraged students to learn by failing to achieve a task. Now president of Southwestern University, in Texas, Burger continues to argue for nonconventional approaches to learning, alongside (not instead of) the liberal arts.

His new book is Making Up Your Own Mind: Thinking Effectively Through Creative Puzzle-Solving (Princeton University Press), with ideas for academics and nonacademics alike. Via email, he answered questions about the book.

Q: You have written extensively about mathematics and also the need to embrace failure as part of the learning process. How did you get from those topics to puzzle solving? What led to this focus?

A: Over the past decade or so, I've been interested in practices of effective thinking. That effort led to my book The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, co-authored with Michael Starbird and published by Princeton University Press in 2012. One of those elements is effective failure -- in which a mistake is not left until it offers a new lesson or insight. In my experience in delivering lectures and leading workshops, effective failure … appears to provoke the most thought among students as well as business leaders. But all those elements of effective thinking need to be practiced, so I developed a course at Southwestern that I playfully call the Seinfeld of the curriculum: it's about nothing but tries to teach everything. That is, there is no short-term content, but rather only long-term goals to allow students to hone their own thinking and creative skills. They practice these elements of effective thinking through mind-bending puzzles. The ultimate goal is not to solve the puzzle, but rather to practice effective thinking through the puzzles and then apply those same mind-sets to everything else in the students’ lives.

Q: Your new book starts with a discussion of formal education and academe. How much do you view puzzle solving as something that should be part of that education? Or is the idea more to do this as well as higher education?

A: If education is about lifting up individuals and making them better versions of themselves, then we need to provide learners with ways of thinking as well as opportunities to practice those mind-sets. I do not believe we should be teaching students what to think, but rather how to think more effectively, how to understand more deeply, and how be more creative while making meaningful (and, ideally, original) connections. Many people talk about “problem solving.” In fact, our lives are filled with large and small conundrums. The unpleasant ones are problems, but we need to effectively think through all of life’s issues: the good, the bad and the ugly; thus I view them all as puzzles. Twenty years after a student completes a course, that individual will not remember much, if any at all, of the specific content. If we are not explicitly teaching modes of thinking that extend beyond that subject, then we not delivering what is the quintessential element of a high-impact, life-enriching education: changing the lives of our students. Thus the art of thinking, creating and connecting should be taught throughout the curriculum.

Q: Can you give an example of a puzzle that illustrates your point, and the value of this puzzle?

A: The puzzles themselves are only valuable as mindful playgrounds through which to practice modes of thought. Thus, instead of offering an illustrative puzzle, I offer an illustrative mind-set: add the adjective. The next time you are facing a difficult challenge, don’t do it! Instead, add as many descriptors as you are able. By naming what is there and what is missing, we see aspects of the situation we would have otherwise missed. The mindful (and difficult) aspect of this practice of thought is not to leave a descriptor until it leads to a new insight into the challenge at hand. We often want to move on to the next thing (in this case, the next adjective), but instead we must hold on to that descriptor, like a jewel, to see all its facets and allow a new insight to be created. By describing what we see and holding it in our minds, we also identify our own misunderstanding, clarify the issue and uncover otherwise hidden nuance -- all of which hold the promise to lead to an inevitable resolution to the challenge. Adding the adjective is just one practical practice that allows us to make progress in all of the puzzles in our lives.

Q: Are there lessons from your book for college instructors?

A: Yes, I believe so. I certainly hope that the opening essays that challenge the status quo on what formal education means today and how it is delivered will not only provoke thought in the minds of both faculty members and educational leaders, but also will provoke forward-looking action. Formal education is broken and all of us who have taken on the awesome responsibility of educating others need to be looking for ways to make learning more about intellectual and personal growth -- it’s about lifelong growing rather than just short-term knowing. This book offers practical ways for educators to allow their students to practice ways of thinking that are at the center of all disciplines and yet transcend all subjects.

Q: We live in an era of more shouting than reasoning, in which many people don’t seem to have open minds. Do you hope that the ideas in Making Up Your Own Mind might provide a path forward?

A: Yes, just as any type of meaningful and thoughtful educational experience should offer such a pathway. In the book, I highlight the importance of practices of mindfulness, empathetic and active listening, and an openness to a diversity of thoughtful perspectives and ideas. Once an individual is able to understand more deeply, create new ideas and wisely analyze diverse perspectives, then that person has been truly enlightened through a formal educational journey. The title of the book might first appear to be about “deciding,” but rather it is about what education should truly be: a place for learners to create themselves by creating their minds and embracing practices of thinking and living so that they are ever-growing individuals always striving to be even better.

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Global project seeks to have values inform the way universities are run

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 2018-11-08 08:00

Can you name your university’s values? Do you know if it even has any?

Frustration with meaningless lists of institutional virtues -- think “openness,” “respect” or “excellence,” perhaps -- has boiled over into a global project to get universities to think more seriously about what is important to their staff and students.

The Living Values project, run by the Observatory Magna Charta Universitatum, a Bologna, Italy-based organization that monitors institutional autonomy and academic freedom, has over the past year or so run a series of pilots to help universities live up to their stated values.

“The whole thing was born from a view that values can be espoused … but unless they are put into practice, they are not very useful to organizations,” explained David Lock, secretary general of the observatory.

Some universities do think hard about their values, he said, and this feeds into their real-world planning. But at the other end of the spectrum, there are institutions whose “marketing department or whatever bits of the university are putting values on their website, which are very laudable but may not have traction in the institution.”

So far, 10 universities have taken part in pilots. They hail from Australia, Brazil, Britain, Egypt, Italy, Mauritius, Romania, Russia and Sweden.

The process, Lock stressed, cannot just be driven by managers -- staff have to feel involved in the creation of university values or they will fail to “live by them.”

The project works by sending in “ambassadors” from the observatory who meet with university managers, and in some cases broader staff groups. But there is no strict pathway to working out what a university’s values are; the institutions themselves are in charge of the process.

Proponents say that the project genuinely helped to change university behavior, steering institutions down a course more in tune with what they think is important.

As part of the project, the University of Tasmania had a “very deep” series of discussions about whether it should keep on expanding its student numbers, Lock said, and ultimately decided to stay at its current size. Although managers were having this discussion before joining the project, “you can argue that as a result of the process, they resisted the pressure to grow, grow, grow,” he explained.

The University of Bologna decided to get involved when a new rector took over, and a Ph.D. student suggested that the university should rethink what the institution stood for, explained Alessandra Scagliarini, vice rector for international relations. “When we started our self-evaluation, we realized we didn’t have any real statement of our identity,” she said.

Because of the university’s student population of about 85,000, “it was not easy to reach everybody,” but in the end, Bologna came up with 10 new values -- five of which are particularly important -- using a combination of online polling and discussions of senior managers. For example, it now has a working group on research integrity, she said. “Before, [concern over research integrity] was just a reaction to things that happened,” but now, the university is trying to be more proactive, she added.

At the University of Stockholm, staff jettisoned most of the existing university values and came up with new ones, Lock said, while the University of Mauritius has altered its student induction process.

Others think success constitutes more subtle changes. You will know that the project has worked by noticing a “myriad of small things” rather than a “big bang,” according to Ella Richie, former deputy vice chancellor of Newcastle University and an ambassador who worked with Bologna. For example, if diversity is selected as a value, the university might need to monitor changes in student attitudes.

In March this year, the Magna Charta ambassadors convened to discuss what worked and what did not (nine of the 10 universities have now submitted their final reports). One lesson was to try not to have too many values. “You can’t remember 15, but you can remember five,” Lock said. Although the participating universities are continuing their engagement with the project -- the idea is that change keeps happening -- “we’ve shown that you can get useful results out of this in a year,” he concluded.

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New presidents or provosts: Davidson Deakin Fisk Goddard Heritage Nebraska UCF Westfield

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 2018-11-08 08:00
  • Bernard Bull, chief innovation officer and vice provost of curriculum and innovation at Concordia University Wisconsin, has been selected as president of Goddard College.
  • Elizabeth A. Dooley, interim provost at the University of Central Florida, has been chosen as provost and vice president for academic affairs there.
  • Darrin L. Hartness, superintendent of Davie County Schools, in North Carolina, has been named president of Davidson County Community College, also in North Carolina.
  • Iain Martin, vice chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University, in Britain, has been selected as vice chancellor and president of Deakin University, in Australia.
  • Vann R. Newkirk, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs and professor of history at Elizabeth City State University, in North Carolina, has been named provost and vice president for academic affairs at Fisk University, in Tennessee.
  • Diane Prusank, chief of staff to the president of Westfield State University, in Massachusetts, has been selected as provost and vice president of academic affairs there.
  • Kazuhiro Sonoda, interim provost at Heritage University, in Washington State, has been appointed provost and vice president of academic affairs there on a permanent basis.
  • Paul D. Turman, system vice president for academic affairs for the South Dakota Board of Regents, has been chosen as chancellor of the Nebraska State College System.
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Democratic House will trigger tougher oversight of DeVos

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 2018-11-07 08:00

Democrats have taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in eight years. And one of the biggest losers of the midterm elections may be Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

With a Democrat running the House education committee, DeVos likely faces the most scrutiny since her confirmation hearings nearly two years ago.

The party has frequently complained about being shut out of legislative efforts by Republicans and ignored by the Education Department.

Now Representative Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat and the committee's ranking member, will have the chance to call department officials for questioning on key regulations and student loan programs.

“We should expect that Democrats won’t hesitate to use the committee’s subpoena authority to look at the rationale for decisions at the department -- or at the organizations the department has been coordinating with,” said Craig Lindwarm, assistant vice president for congressional and governmental affairs at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

Among the Democrats elected Tuesday was Donna Shalala, a Democrat who won a formerly Republican seat in Florida. Shalala is a three-time college president/chancellor: at the University of Miami, the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She is expected to speak out about higher education issues.

Republicans on Tuesday night appeared to hold onto a narrow majority in the Senate. But the House results will energize an opposition that’s been eager to hold the Trump administration publicly accountable for its expansive deregulation push on everything from student loans and civil rights to the environment.

Democrats will focus on decisions by DeVos on two major higher education rules. She’s proposed a more restrictive overhaul of the borrower-defense rule, which allows defrauded students to seek loan forgiveness, and a repeal of the gainful-employment rule, which holds higher ed programs accountable for graduating students with debt they can’t repay.

They also are likely to question the department’s handling of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The vast majority of applicants for PSLF have been rejected so far. Many likely haven’t met minimum qualifications for loan forgiveness. But a GAO report released this fall found that the department has not provided enough guidance to borrowers or the loan servicers that run the program.

“I really think that Democrats will feel like this is an opportunity to finally have a say and push back against the DeVos agenda,” said Tamara Hiler, deputy director of education at the center-left think tank Third Way.

The Democratic victory also puts another nail in the coffin for the PROSPER Act, the controversial GOP proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. PROSPER would reshape accountability for colleges by eliminating gainful employment and the 90-10 rule, which prohibits colleges from generating more than 90 percent of their revenue from federal aid, while putting all colleges on the hook for student loan repayment rates. It would also streamline the federal student aid system and curtail many current benefits for graduate students. After its introduction last year, the bill has been opposed by nearly every higher ed lobby group as well as most student and veteran organizations.

Scott, if he ends up chairing the education committee, likely will look to pass a Democratic bid to update the Higher Education Act. A reauthorization of the law is overdue. Congress last updated it in 2008, and advocates have clamored for years for simplifying the application process for federal student aid. Lawmakers from both parties, meanwhile, are dissatisfied with an accountability system that has few consequences for most poorly performing colleges.

House Democrats' HEA proposal likely would look a lot like the Aim Higher Act, which Scott introduced in July.

Aim Higher, in many ways a rejection of the PROSPER Act, would make two-year community colleges free for all students while modestly increasing grant aid for low-income students and preserving current rules like gainful employment. It would also close the so-called 90-10 loophole, which exempts education benefits for veterans and active-duty members of the U.S. military from being counted toward the 90 percent threshold for federal aid revenue. Some veterans' groups argue that the exemption makes current and former service members attractive targets for bad-actor colleges, especially in the for-profit sector. The bill would explicitly recognize a role for state regulators in overseeing the federal student loan system as well, while DeVos has argued only federal agencies have authority to police student loans.

The Trump administration has courted historically black colleges for much of its first two years. With Scott serving as the leader of the education committee, those institutions would have a supportive Democrat in a key leadership position. The United Negro College Fund this summer praised Aim Higher for promising additional institutional aid for member schools.

Aim Higher was received by many as largely a messaging bill introduced just ahead of the midterm election season with no chance of passage in the Senate. Yet Hiler of Third Way said even with a divided Congress, there is a possibility the HEA law is reauthorized -- if the process is led by the upper chamber. That’s because the next two years could be the last opportunity for Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, to lead a rewrite of the law as chairman of the Senate education committee. The 2020 election cycle is widely seen as being more favorable for Democrats’ hopes of retaking the Senate. And Alexander is term limited as committee chairman as well. 

“There really is extra incentive for him to try to get a bill across the finish line,” Hiler said.

Robert Kelchen, assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, agreed that Alexander likely wants to take advantage of the next two years to pass a law. But after a series of higher ed hearings earlier this year, Alexander and his Democratic counterpart, Senator Patty Murray of Washington, appeared as far apart as ever on a bill.

“I think it’s going to be difficult given the polarization happening over the last few years,” Kelchen said.

Preston Cooper, an education research analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, said the House bills introduced by both parties in the last Congress have shown just how far apart their visions are for higher education.

“I hope there might be some room for the parties to cooperate on shared priorities -- such as expanding income-share agreements -- but I’m not holding my breath,” he said.

Absent serious progress on a bipartisan agreement in the Senate, a new higher ed law is unlikely. But House Democrats could signal what the party would seek to accomplish if it controlled Congress.

“It will very likely be a kind of dress rehearsal for 2020 in terms of substantive policy proposals,” said Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

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Governors races and higher education

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 2018-11-07 08:00

Even as many were gripped by the potential change in control of Congress, races for governor could be exceptionally important for public higher education. Governors appoint board members and have great influence over appropriations.

New Democratic governors in several states have ambitious plans for higher education.

California was assured a new governor next year because Governor Jerry Brown is stepping down after his second two-term tenure in office. Brown, a Democrat, restored much of the funding cut during the state's economic collapse under Governor Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger, a Republican. Brown was a champion of higher education, but he also clashed with higher ed leaders, questioning the pay for campus leaders and the enrollment of out-of-staters.

He will be succeeded by Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who is the current lieutenant governor and was formerly mayor of San Francisco. In his current role, he is an ex officio member of the boards of the University of California and California State University systems, and he has used that role to criticize tuition increases, insisting that the systems need to function without them.

In his campaign, Newsom stressed the link between what happens early in a child's life and the progression through school to higher education. He has pledged as governor to create a program where every new kindergarten student in the state is given a savings account by the state to start the path of saving for college. Newsom has also spoken out about the need to address equity gaps early on to assure that students from all groups excel in higher education. He has called it "unacceptable" that of the 10,244 California high school students who took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science in 2016, only 27 percent were female, 15 percent were Latino and 1 percent were black.

The university and community college systems in the state, he said during the campaign, "operate in their own silos." To change that, he has vowed to re-create a coordinating board for higher education (a previous board was killed in 2011) "to set bold statewide goals and hold institutions accountable to them."

Newsom is not the only governor-elect to talk about the role of the state coordinating board.

Jared Polis, the Democrat elected in Colorado, has vowed to strengthen his state's board. "We will work with the Legislature to bolster the authority and resources available to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education so that it can do the job needed to save people money: to serve as the relentless watchdog of our institutions, recommend adequate funding of our institutions, and to insist that our institutions facilitate partnerships that will lower costs and increase access to academic programs currently out of reach to too many of today’s students," his campaign platform says.

Polis is also vowing to take steps to minimize textbook costs for students and to make it easier for them to earn a bachelor's degree in three years.

In Illinois, where state support for higher education has been minimal in recent years (and that's when the state actually managed to pass budgets), J. B. Pritzker, the Democrat elected Tuesday, is vowing improvements for public higher education. He has said that the state needs to provide programs to stop the trend of greater and greater numbers of Illinois students leaving the state for college.

In Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer was the Democrat who won Tuesday. She wants to require every 12th grader to create a "postgraduation plan" based on career and education goals. She also vows to create a scholarship program that would enable all state residents to attend two years of college without debt.

Walker Apparently Defeated in Wisconsin

As of early Wednesday morning, Governor Scott Walker, a Wisconsin Republican, appears to have narrowly lost his bid for re-election. Walker was involved in fight after fight with academics during his two terms in office. Higher education was not a dominant issue in the campaign of Democrat Tony Evers to unseat Walker, but Evers stressed his career in education (as a teacher, principal and state superintendent of schools).

Evers also pledged to undo the budget cuts that the state imposed (with Walker's encouragement). "As a member of the Board of Regents, Tony has seen firsthand the damage Scott Walker has inflicted on higher education in Wisconsin, cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from our UW System. When other states began reinvesting in higher education, Wisconsin chose not to and it’s resulted in fewer classes and quality educators for our kids.  Our possibilities are not limited; it’s time we look to the future," says the Evers platform.

Many professors said in recent weeks that they would have backed just about anyone against Walker. Among the disputes of the Walker era: his successful attempt to remove tenure protections from state statute, his criticisms that faculty members don't teach enough -- criticisms many said were based on incorrect data -- his push for deep budget cuts that have led to the elimination of many programs in the university system and his elimination of a state board to oversee for-profit higher education.

Republican Win in Florida

One of the gubernatorial races that attracted national attention was in Florida, where Ron DeSantis, a Republican who is a former U.S. representative, on Tuesday defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum, a Democrat who is mayor of Tallahassee.

DeSantis pledged if elected to promote the prominence of the state's research universities. He noted that one institution, the University of Florida, has made the top 10 list of public universities maintained by U.S. News & World Report. DeSantis said he wanted to be sure that one Florida public university moves up to make the top five. (It is unclear how DeSantis plans to have Florida topple the likes of the University of California, Berkeley, or UCLA.)

Gillum pledged in his campaign "making college debt-free."

A graduate of historically black Florida A&M University, Gillum had been expected to be an advocate for minority-serving institutions. Many supporters of black colleges viewed President Trump as insulting them when he tweeted support for Gillum's opponent and noted that DeSantis was "a Harvard/Yale-educated man."

The Winners and Their Pledges

States where gubernatorial races are blank indicate the race has not been called. An asterisk indicates incumbent.

State Winner Higher Ed Record/Platform Alabama Kay Ivey* (R) Ivey pledges to build support for public schools. Alaska     Arizona Doug Ducey* (R) Ducey notes that he backed programs to make it possible for college students to graduate debt-free if they pledge to work as a teacher in the state. Arkansas Asa Hutchinson* (R) Hutchinson pledges to continue support for program to provide computer science instruction in every high school. California Gavin Newsom (D) He has been strong opponent of tuition increases at public colleges and universities. He pledges to have the state start a savings account for every kindergarten student to promote savings for college. Colorado Jared Polis (D) Polis pledges to increase the authority of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to promote effectiveness and efficiency in higher education. He also says he will create financial incentives for colleges to use open educational resources in place of textbooks. Connecticut Ned Lamont (D) Lamont says he will make community colleges tuition-free for state residents who pledge to live and work in Connecticut after graduation. Pledges to improve partnerships between employers and community colleges. Florida Ron DeSantis (R) DeSantis says that he will push for greater prominence for the state's research universities. Georgia     Hawaii David Ige* (D) Ige says he will expand early college programs. Also, he pledges to keep in place regulations about sexual assault in higher education, even if the Education Department revises its approach to the issue. Idaho Brad Little (R) Little proposes to allow colleges to keep all sales tax collected on their campuses. He also pledges to improve coordination between elementary and secondary education, and higher education. Illinois J. B. Pritzker (D) Pritzker pledges major increases in state support for student aid, and to create new programs to help students with debt consolidate their loans. He vows to reverse a recent increase in Illinois students going out of state for higher education through new aid programs. Iowa Kim Reynolds (R) Reynolds pledges to improve public schools and STEM education. Kansas Laura Kelly (D) Kelly says she will work to restore cuts in state appropriations for public higher education Maine Janet Mills (D) Mills pledges to focus on improving mentoring programs to encourage people to go to college, and finding ways to draw back into higher education those who have completed some college but lack a degree. Maryland Larry Hogan* (R) Hogan pledges to continue efforts to limit tuition increases at public universities. He vows to continue a program allowing home owners to pay off mortgage debt and student debt at the same time. Massachusetts Charlie Baker* (R) Baker, unlike his opponent, did not back a tax on large college and university endowments. He pledges to continue to support program that allows students to earn college degree for less than $30,000 over four years. Michigan Gretchen Whitmer (D) Whitmer wants to require every 12th grader to create a "postgraduation plan" based on career and education goals. She also vows to create a scholarship program that would enable all state residents to receive two years of college without debt. Minnesota Tim Walz (D) Walz pledges to have the state provide two years of tuition-free higher education for those from families who earn less than $125,000 a year. Pledges to recruit more minority K-12 teachers. Nebraska Pete Ricketts* (R) Ricketts pledges to continue to work on career preparation and training for high school and junior high school students. Nevada Steve Sisolak (D) Sisolak says he will work to reduce student debt. New Hampshire Chris Sununu* (R) Sununu notes that he has pushed for increases in student aid and has backed a robotics education program. New Mexico Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) Grisham pledges to develop research centers of excellence at public universities. She also says she will expand and improve job training programs at community colleges. New York Andrew Cuomo* (D) Cuomo points to his creation of a plan, enacted by the Legislature, to provide tuition-free education for most families at public colleges and universities. Ohio Mike DeWine (R) DeWine pledges to require all public colleges and universities to keep tuition levels flat for each entering class. He also vows to provide more aid to low-income students. Oklahoma Kevin Stitt (R) Stitt says he will create a program to use technology to deliver Advanced Placement courses to rural high schools. He also pledges new efforts to recruit talented schoolteachers. Oregon Kate Brown* (D) Brown notes that she has helped add funds for student aid generally, and for those attending community colleges in particular. She says she will continue to promote job training programs. Pennsylvania Tom Wolf* (D) Wolf notes that he restored more than $1 billion in education cuts made by his Republican predecessor. He pledges to continue to focus on science, technology and mathematics education. Rhode Island Gina Raimondo* (D) Raimondo points to her championing a plan, since adopted, to provide tuition-free community college. She also pledges to continue efforts to improve job training opportunities. South Carolina Henry McMaster* (R) McMaster says he will push for computer science instruction in every school in the state. South Dakota Kristi Noem (R) Noem says that she will push colleges to focus on affordability and on-time graduation. She also says she will work to simplify the process of applying for student aid. Tennessee Bill Lee (R) Lee says he will improve high schools in rural areas with an emphasis on agricultural and vocational education so high school graduates are ready for jobs. Texas Greg Abbott* (R) Abbott wants the state to require public colleges to grant college credit for edX courses. He says he will push to shift more state appropriations to be provided based on outcomes. And he pledges to make more credit from community colleges easy to transfer to four-year institutions. Vermont Phil Scott* (R) Says he can continue to improve public education without property tax increases. Wisconsin Tony Evers (D) Evers pledges to reverse higher education budget cuts and policies of the outgoing governor, Scott Walker. Wyoming Mark Gordon (R) Gordon promises to focus education and research on technology, computer science, advanced manufacturing and engineering.


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Massachusetts voters keep protections for transgender people

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 2018-11-07 08:00

Massachusetts voters on Tuesday voted to keep a state law that bars discrimination based on gender identity in access to public facilities. The Associated Press reported that about two-thirds of state voters backed the law.

Had voters repealed the law, the exact impact on higher education was unclear. Many colleges have said that they intended to preserve policies barring discrimination against transgender people on their campuses. But academic leaders feared that the state would have sent a hostile message to transgender people and others about a lack of support for inclusiveness. In North Carolina, colleges faced a backlash from many prospective students and faculty members over a law dubbed the "bathroom bill" -- since repealed -- that barred transgender people from using public facilities other than those aligned with their legal gender at birth.

The leaders of the University of Massachusetts System and its campuses issued a letter urging state voters to keep the law, and noted that UMass policies could have faced challenges had the repeal been approved.

"The state’s current public accommodation law insures that transgender and gender-nonconforming persons can choose to use public restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity without fear of discrimination. It protects them from harassment in public places and preserves their dignity and safety," said the letter. "Present UMass policy assures that all members of our campus communities can choose a restroom or locker room consistent with their gender identity. Repealing the provision in the state law protecting those rights would make current state law inconsistent with UMass policy, which could result in legal challenges to UMass. Repealing the provision could also create confusion among university community members and guests, including prospective students, about rights for transgender and gender-nonconforming persons on our public university campuses."

Many private colleges also urged voters to keep the law. And students have organized rallies to keep the law -- and to oppose moves by the Trump administration to eliminate the legal status of transgender people. The photo above shows medical students at Harvard University, who held a rally against the repeal of the state law (a yes vote on the ballot kept the law in place).

Free Community College in Seattle

Voters in Seattle approved an increase in the property tax of $620 million over seven years to provide free community college for all graduates of the Seattle Public Schools. Only $40.7 million from the tax would pay for free community college, while the rest would support various elementary and secondary school efforts. The Seattle Times reported that more than two-thirds of voters approved the measure.

A backgrounder in The Seattle Times notes arguments in favor of the new program (encouraging more low-income students to go to college) and against it (some argued that it would be better to focus funds on low-income students, some of whom already are eligible for aid that would effectively make community college free). The program is a major priority of Mayor Jenn Durkan. KIRO Radio ran this discussion with an advocate and critic of the program.

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University of Florida will hire 19 new faculty members in the arts

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 2018-11-07 08:00

At a time when arts and humanities departments at many institutions are struggling for support, the University of Florida offers a contrast.

The University of Florida College of the Arts is in the middle of a hiring wave that will increase the size of its faculty by over 10 percent.

The College of the Arts currently employs about 120 faculty and seeks to hire 19 more. Fifteen will fill brand-new positions and four will replace faculty members who are retiring or leaving the college. Embedded in each job description is a “metanarrative,” a short manifesto developed by arts faculty and staff that promotes the values of the college and describes the type of colleague the college is looking to hire.

“We seek a colleague who identifies as a change-maker. We seek a colleague who will prepare students to access and unsettle centers of power in a radically changing world. We seek a colleague who will position emerging artists and researchers as catalysts for equity on local and global levels,” the metanarrative reads.

Jennifer Setlow, associate dean of the College of the Arts, hopes the metanarrative will lead to a better applicant pool.

“It really gives the opportunity to shape who is excited about coming to the College of the Arts,” Setlow said. “Because at the end of the day, when you’re hiring, your hires are only going to be as good as the pool you attract.”

The available positions are a mix of tenure-track and term appointments and include professorships in music business, graphic design, theater, museum studies and dance, among others.

The effort is part of a larger hiring wave at the University of Florida announced in June 2017 that aims to hire 500 faculty members across the university over a period of two years. Funding for the new hires, as well as compensation increases for current faculty, comes from a $52 million grant from the Florida state Legislature, reallocated university funds and private gifts from alumni. The 500 new positions are being created in addition to the 300 to 400 annual hires to replace those who leave or retire each year, and will bring the university's current 20 to one student-faculty ratio to 16 to one.

Of the 500, the College of the Arts was allotted a particularly large portion of positions. About 2.5 percent of all University of Florida students study in the College of the Arts, and 250 new positions were distributed across the university this year. The College of the Arts received all 15 positions they asked for -- 6 percent of the total.

Each position has its own search committee, and on each search committee sits a “provocateur” from outside the department whose job it is to keep the committee focused on the metanarrative.

“The provocateur’s job is to make sure that at every stage, the metanarrative is present in every part of the search committee,” Setlow said. “While they’re not a voting member of the search committee, their role is to say, ‘Hang on, let’s remember that we drafted this metanarrative.’”

The university's focus on the arts draws common skepticism about whether or not investing in arts education is worthwhile for students, and Setlow is tired of hearing it.

“Working in the arts, you get a little bit tired of the idea that the arts are an ‘extra’ and that you can’t get a job. The data show the opposite: that the arts are going to prepare you for a job,” she said. “The soft skills that employers are looking for are the things that you learn in the arts. Are there not a lot of jobs as a director on Broadway? Sure. But being a student in theater prepares you for a job in many ways. You could be doing social justice work in prisons, you could be doing theater for youth … you could be so many things.”

The university posted the job openings just a couple of weeks ago, and according to Barbara Mitola, associate director of human resources, the college is still in early phases of reviewing incoming applications.

The positions will be filled on a rolling deadline, but priority deadlines will fall from mid-November through the end of December, and the college hopes to conduct first-round interviews in December and January.

Offers to all candidates will go out by the end of March, as the start dates for most of the positions is fall 2019.

Interested candidates can apply here.

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Colleges push for more resources to support prison education programs

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 2018-11-06 08:00

DAYTON, Ohio -- Learning societal rules about touching and personal space is the lesson of the day in Heidi Arnold's interpersonal communications class.

“How many of you were raised in a touchy-feely house?” she asks her class of 17 women.

Two arms, both covered in plain blue shirts, shoot into the air.

The communications class is part of the business pathway program at Sinclair Community College. To many of the women, it’s one of the most challenging classes they have taken. Arnold is teaching them the types of skills employers demand of workers in middle-skill professions.

A tap on the shoulder or a hug mean different things to a colleague than to our children, Arnold tells the class.

“The rules of haptics,” she says explaining the concept of physical communication.

On the front wall of the classroom, just above the whiteboard, are three sentences in bright, large lettering: “Make a difference. Make it happen. Make it right.”

That’s the goal for every one of the women in Arnold’s class. They’re attempting to make it right -- "it" being the crimes that landed them in Dayton Correctional Institute in the first place.

The class is part of Sinclair's prison education program. For 31 years the college has given incarcerated men and women an opportunity to earn certificates -- and associate degrees at one point -- to help them achieve those three sentences once they’re released.

Two-thirds of job postings will require some level of college education by 2020, according to the Lumina Foundation. And educators and policy makers increasingly agree that offering certificates and degrees to prisoners may be one of the best first steps to helping them re-establish their lives and be less likely to reoffend in the future.

But government funding for such programs is sporadic at best. The 1994 crime bill signed by President Bill Clinton banned incarcerated students from receiving federal student aid. That left it up to states and colleges to figure out the best way to pay for these programs. Many collapsed in the law's wake.

Some prisoners -- and their families -- pay tuition out of pocket, and others receive funding through state correctional departments. For example, Sinclair is reimbursed by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections an average $1,950 for every student the college educates. But the 1994 ban led the college to stop offering associate-degree programs to inmates to keep costs down.

In recent years, a growing number of universities and community colleges have been seeking awareness of their prison education programs and calling for more funding to help inmates earn degrees. And those efforts appear to be working as bipartisan support emerges in Washington for such programs.

“The bottom line is that there are about 2.4 million incarcerated people, and 95 percent of them are coming out at some time,” says Dan Phelan, president of Jackson College, a two-year institution located in Michigan. “We have a choice. We can let them come out and a number of them will do something to get back in prison … or we can do what the RAND Corporation pointed out: when inmates have an educational experience, they’re less likely to recidivate.”

In a widely cited 2013 study, RAND found that by reducing recidivism, taxpayers save $5 for every $1 spent on prison education. In comparison to the annual $1,950 per student Ohio spends to reimburse colleges for educating inmates each year, the average inmate costs the state about $26,000 a year, according to the Vera Institute for Justice. And multiple studies have found that inmates who receive an education are 43 to 72 percent less likely to reoffend.

“We believe from a moral point of view we have to assist them,” Phelan says. “They’re paying their debt to society and we’re giving them the essential skill sets they need so they can leave and become employed and contribute to the tax base and provide for their family.”

Funding Prison Education

Jackson College is among 65 two- and four-year institutions that are participating in the Second Chance Pell Grant program. Launched in 2015 by the Obama administration, the program gives colleges and the U.S. Department of Education flexibility to award federal aid to incarcerated students.

  • 43 percent to 72 percent: Impact of prison education programs on chance a participant will be incarcerated again
  • 400 percent: Return on investment over three years for taxpayers, or $5 saved for every $1 spent
  • About 50 percent of incarcerated people have a high school degree or equivalent
  • Two-thirds of job postings will require some level of postsecondary education by 2020
  • At least 95 percent of incarcerated people will be released at some point

Sources: National Reentry Resource Center and Vera Institute of Justice

The Trump administration supports the experiment, which is funded through 2019, and is examining how to better evaluate its results. The results could help Congress decide whether to lift the ban on federal funding, which would mean programs like the one at Sinclair could return to offering associate degrees.

Cheryl Taylor, the coordinator of Sinclair’s prison education programs, says the college could serve many more potential students with more funding. There are 28 prisons in the state, of which Sinclair is only in 10.

Michigan does not provide funding for educating inmates, which means that prior to the Second Chance program, many convicts and their families covered the cost of tuition.

The college was granted more than 1,300 Pell Grants to award to inmates as part of the federal experiment. About 600 prisoners are participating in the program, Phelan says.

Lumina is funding an initiative at California's San Quentin State Prison to develop a set of benchmarks to help states and funders evaluate the best ways to educate incarcerated people.

Haley Glover, strategy director for the foundation, says no helpful resources exist to identify which states fund higher education in prisons and how well states are positioned to offer funding.

“There is a really vibrant community of practitioners focusing on how do they maintain and sustain these amazing programs, and they’ve been evaluating them all this time,” she says. “There is no shortage of evidence that says they really work.”

Glover says policy makers and educators know anecdotally that the benefits extend beyond lowering recidivism rates, including increased earnings for families and ex-convicts who are more engaged in civic life. But research on those benefits is lacking.

Sinclair's prison education program, for example, saves taxpayers more than $33 million each year in avoided incarceration costs.

As the U.S. labor force requires more people with college degrees and certificates, some colleges and states consider incarcerated people a largely untapped work-force resource that could help increase educational attainment rates overall.

“Completion is a part of it, but honestly I believe the state believes it’s the right thing to do,” Taylor says. “The value is in seeing lives change and having opportunities that weren’t afforded to them. Giving them and equipping them with the ability to be the people they were meant to be.”

In the state of Ohio, about 70 percent of prisoners don’t have a high school diploma. But Sinclair’s prison education program has a 92 percent completion rate, she says.

Back in Arnold’s classroom at Dayton Correctional, when the 17 student inmates were asked who had made the dean’s list, every hand raised in the air.

The Impact, and a Guided Pathway

Earning a college credential helps convicts prepare for life outside prison. And for some, it's an opportunity to have a life they could never have had before prison.

Dayton Correctional has housed women inmates since 2012. More than 800 are behind its bars today.

Erin Noll is one of those prisoners.

“Without this, I would literally be leaving 11 years later to a whole new world,” says Noll, an inmate who has already earned a certificate in social services from the college and is currently in Sinclair’s business pathway. “I’ve never been an adult outside of here. I’ve never had a job. I’ve never paid a bill. I’ve never done none of these things.”

Noll has spent almost all of her adult life behind bars. She spent time in juvenile detention as a teenager and in 2009, at age 17, she was charged and convicted for aggravated robbery and burglary after committing several home break-ins.

She describes her life prior to being incarcerated as tough. Her mother, who has been sober for the past 10 years, was a drug addict at the time. So Noll grew up with her father. But she says, she was sexually assaulted between age 4 and 11 by a family member. That family member and her father remained close friends despite her family’s knowledge of his actions. Noll says this damaged her relationship with her father.

“I started getting into trouble a lot and I started skipping school,” she says. “I didn’t think my life was going to go anywhere.”

A Day in the Life of a Student Inmate

Shauna Stumm is not the typical college student.

But the 37-year-old Dayton Correctional Institute inmate, who was indicted for burglary and will be released in 2021, has what could be viewed as a traditional day for many community college students.

She starts her mornings around 7 a.m. by getting dressed and making a cup of coffee for herself before going to work.

In prison, Stumm’s job is as a maintenance apprentice. The role isn’t connected to the college but is offered through the prison.

“I have to be at work at 8 a.m., and generally I’ll work on different odds and ends -- things like painting, laying tile, putting in screens … different things like that,” she says.

By 2 p.m. Stumm and the other inmates will have “count time,” which is when guards count each inmate in the facility.

“For me that’s key,” she says. “Because that’s the only time that I’m forced to sit down and be still. So, I sit in my room during count and do my homework … There's no distractions. There’s nobody bothering me.”

On the days she doesn’t have to work, Stumm spends her mornings studying with another student inmate, Erin Noll.

Stumm, who is on Sinclair’s business pathway, plans to earn a bachelor’s degree eventually and to open her own deli.

“I always wanted to go to college," she says, "but I became a young mother and a young wife and was not able to follow through with that."

Stumm, who has two teenage daughters and an 11-year-old son, said she dropped out of high school as a junior and later earned her GED. But with two decades having passed since the last time she was a student, Stumm was nervous about going back to college.

“I thought, ‘Is this going to be too much for me?’” she says. “But after getting into it, I realized it wasn’t.”

From 5:30 to around 8 p.m., Stumm attends Sinclair classes in the prison.

After that there’s dinner and back to her room to sleep.

“For me, as a woman, this feels empowering,” Stumm says. “I’m getting to do something that, through my poor choices, I’m actually able to pull something positive out of something negative. It’s something that I have for myself that I can be proud of.”


Like many prison education programs, inmates are not allowed to apply for the Sinclair program until they are five years away from their release date.

“I was young and on the prison scene, and that's a scary thing,” she says. “I’ve watched so many people come in and out of here. I would watch other women go to college or school and I would just watch.”

Noll didn’t think the program was for her. But after seeing other women take advantage of the opportunity, she decided to apply and take an entry assessment to determine her skills. She passed and was accepted in the program.

“I’m like, ‘I’m in, oh gosh, now I got to do it,’” she says. “Six semesters later and I think it’s the greatest decision I’ve ever made.”

Noll is scheduled to be released next year. She jokes about her lack of knowledge of gadgets and the latest technology -- Noll's the rare Millennial who has never used a smartphone. The Motorola Razr was popular when she was first locked up.

“Without the education in here, I think I would be walking out of here blind,” she says.

Noll knows how she wants to use her certificates when she’s released from prison next year, although even the thought of life outside is a bit scary.

“It’s hard when you live in here to try and think about outside of here,” she says. Noll hopes the credential helps take her to a career working with children and in social services.

“I want to work with troubled youth,” Noll says. “I know it might take a while to get to that point, so I really want to focus … I hope to have my bachelor’s degree in four years. I just really want to give back, and I want to be able to show people that people can change.”

Taylor, the Sinclair coordinator, says community and social services is one of the more popular programs among inmates, perhaps unsurprisingly. She says many who have dealt with drug addiction want to turn to social services work as a way of helping others avoid making the same mistakes that they did.

“A lot of them want to enter the help professions,” she says, adding, however, “The help professions don’t pay a lot unless you earn a master’s degree, but supply chain management in Ohio is a large industry.”

Sinclair instructors encourage the student inmates to take classes that interest them, but they also guide them to enroll in programs that will lead them to jobs that pay a living wage once they are released. The college estimates that supply chain management jobs will increase at a rate of 22 percent over the next several years. Noll enrolled in the program after completing her social services certificate.

Sinclair’s business pathway and entrepreneurship certificate is another popular program among inmates.

“You know having a felony on my record, I just think it’s going to be kind of hard to get employment,” says Tracee Burton, who is 54. “So I decided I’ll start my own business.”

Burton, who was convicted of felony assault, has been in Dayton’s prison for about four years and is scheduled to be released in just a few months. She’s interested in starting a business selling all-occasion gift baskets for holidays and celebrations.

But she doesn’t intend to stop going to college, even after she’s released.

“This is going to be an ongoing thing for me,” she says. “Even if I have to take one class at a time. Once you get your feet wet, it’s like, ‘OK, I’m ready.’ I just want to learn everything.”

Instructing Student-Inmates

Dayton’s prison houses inmates whose security level ranges from Level 1, which is the lowest security risk and grants the most amount of privilege and autonomy, to Level 4. Level 5 is maximum security, followed by death row.

Looking past the barbed-wire fencing that envelopes the facility, the institution looks like a large high school or small college campus, with sidewalks carrying visitors from one building to another.

But before moving from one section of the prison to another, guests, staff and employees must pass through a set of sliding metal doors into a small holding room. There they wait for the heavy metal clink of the first door to slide closed, as a second door slides open.

Taylor says the sound of those doors closing the first time can be unnerving for instructors.

Sinclair has about 80 faculty members, both adjunct and full-time, who teach in the prison program. The level of access instructors receive inside a prison varies widely. Some wardens allow instructors to bring in approved materials. Prison classrooms may have computers, but it’s rare to find an internet connection. As a result, the Ohio Department of Higher Education purchased tablets for the program so instructors can preload information for students to download.

Faculty members who teach in prison education programs must make adjustments, says Laura Hope, executive vice chancellor of the California community college system.

“Every college running a prison program is committed to making sure the students have the same accredited, rigorous degree or certificate experience as they would have on a college campus,” Hope says. “It does mean they have to be creative and overcome challenges.”

For example, Lyndsey Adams, an adjunct faculty member in Jackson’s prison education program, makes adjustments to her science lab when she teaches in prison. She works with the Michigan Department of Corrections to make sure that everything she brings is appropriate for inmates.

“A lot of the beakers and equipment had to be plastic. We couldn't have digital balances and had to use an old-fashioned balance. Thermometers couldn’t have mercury. I couldn’t bring in acidic liquids to cut rocks,” she says. “We had to compromise.”

Instructors often make compromises in the prison setting and sometimes get criticism from colleagues about the effects these changes have on the curriculum.

“In the past, we’ve gotten pushback,” Adams says. “We have people challenging whether the classes are rigorous enough. Every teacher goes into a facility and teaches classes the same exact way they would teach them on the outside.”

Bobby Beauchamp, director of the prison education initiative at Jackson, says the college is pretty good about alleviating concerns from faculty members about teaching in prisons. He says many instructors would rather teach all of their classes in the prison than on campus. The college employs about 60 faculty members in its prison programs, he says.

Getting In, and Getting Out

The process for applying and enrolling in a prison education program varies from college to college and state to state. But some aspects of the programs cross those boundaries. For example, many require that inmates be five years or less away from release, although some just require that inmates aren't on death row.

In Michigan, Phelan says, wardens analyze each inmate who applies for the program and recommends them to Jackson. California's community colleges run application sessions in prisons, Hope says.

Last year, 22 of the state's community colleges were providing instruction to more than 7,000 students in California's 35 prisons.

“Marrying these two bureaucracies is challenging,” says Hope, referring to the corrections and education systems. “People get transferred, disciplinary issues arise, people drop out because life happens to people in prison just as it does to people outside of prison. The college and the prison work together to basically monitor that cohort of students and keep them enrolled in the college program.”

Adams, the Jackson instructor, said a common criticism she hears is that student inmates should not have a problem being successful in their college courses because they have nothing but time to master and complete them.

“That drives me crazy, because unless you’ve been in a prison, you can’t truly appreciate the challenges they face,” she says. “I have parents still trying to parent their children inside of prison … the living is crowded, there’s no privacy, no quiet place to study, there may be officers who don’t want them to be successful and inmates who don’t want them to be successful … I can’t imagine those challenges.”

Hope says the biggest hurdle may be transfers between prisons.

“A court order may happen and they’re transferred 200 miles away to a prison that may not have an educational program like the one they were in,” she says.

The California system is working on an associate degree pathway that would follow transferred inmates.

While many student inmates earn their degrees and certificates behind bars, others complete their education once they’re released. And even when they don’t, colleges and organizations help them with the transition.

Last year, Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for community college students, extended its membership to students who are incarcerated or on parole.

"You look at the mission of Phi Theta Kappa and it's to recognize academic excellence -- it's not to pass judgment," said Lynn Tincher-Ladner, the organization's president and chief executive officer. "We want to recognize their academic excellence and set them up with opportunities."

By extending membership to inmates and ex-convicts, the honor society also made these students eligible for scholarships to pursue bachelor's degrees.

Taylor, the Sinclair coordinator, says the college works with parole officers who often call administrators to verify that former inmates are continuing with their studies and attending courses on the outside.

“We look at ourselves as partners in how to help this individual succeed,” she says.

The same is true in other states where colleges with prison programs often work with parole boards to help students with their release.

Beauchamp says Jackson provides a letter to parole boards to highlight inmates’ accomplishments in the classrooms, as well as their transcripts.

Kristi Fraga is a former inmate at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, which is located in Ypsilanti, Mich. She enrolled in Jackson’s prison education program and graduated with her associate degree earlier this year.

Fraga, who was a drug addict, was imprisoned in 2011 after being convicted of assault and theft.

“I use my story to change the way people view felons,” she says. “I completely acknowledge and take responsibility for my past … I realized the only way I could make amends was to better myself.”

When Fraga enrolled in Jackson’s courses in 2014, the Pell program wasn’t available. But her family was willing to pay the tuition. The college charges $762 in tuition for up to five credits, $1,524 for six to eight credits, $2,286 for nine to 12 credits and $3,048 for 12 credits or more.

Parole rules vary from state to state. But Fraga faced challenges after her release in May 2017.

“The parole process dictates you go back to the county you came from or a suitable placement with a person who has a decent home,” Fraga says.

Fraga is from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. And while her family does support her, she says they were not willing to take her in as a newly released inmate.

“It was going to be community placement for me. And in my county, there are three seedy motels, all of which I bought drugs from,” Fraga says. “I was terrified to be released in that situation, especially less than a year from my degree.”

So she reached out to an acquaintance in Hillsdale who allowed her to stay in her home. That meant Fraga could be paroled at Hillsdale and complete college at Jackson's Hillsdale campus. Fraga is now a student at the University of Michigan. She works as an economics tutor at Jackson College.

“I got out May 3, and by the second week of May I was in school,” she says. “Going to Jackson after being released has been crucial to my success, even to staying sober. I found value and purpose in my life.”

Community CollegesEditorial Tags: AdmissionsAdult educationCurriculumCongress/legislationImage Caption: Sinclair Community College classroom at Dayton Correctional InstituteIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Prison EducationTrending order: 2

Protests over UMD athletics scandals shows student division

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 2018-11-06 08:00

The rally was supposed to show support for the family of Jordan McNair, the University of Maryland at College Park football player who died from heatstroke after a summer practice.

It was supposed to express unity among students at the university, which has been shaken by an athletics scandal beginning with McNair’s death, and followed by revelations of coaching abuse in the football program and the exit of top higher education leaders in the state, including the College Park president and the chairman of the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents.

The demonstration last week instead devolved into screams by some dissatisfied attendees, who were apparently irked by the suggestions by the rally’s sponsors -- student government leaders, the campus chapter of the NAACP and others -- that they back athletics and attend the football game on Saturday against Michigan State University. The student government especially was criticized as tone-deaf for trying to rally support for football and not advocating for true change for minority students on campus. McNair was black, as are many of the football players. Most of the fans at the game are white.

Another coalition of more than 20 student groups -- among them the university’s Black Student Union and the Latinx Student Union -- planned another protest on Monday, a “Fire the Liars” demonstration to demand the ouster of others responsible for the problems in the football program.

The turmoil began with McNair’s death in June. He collapsed at a practice in May from heatstroke, and a subsequent investigation, initially led by the university but taken over by the regents, revealed that athletics staffers had failed to follow their own procedures and did not treat McNair with a cold-immersion bath that would have assuredly saved his life. College Park president Wallace Loh publicly took “legal” and “moral” responsibility for McNair’s death, which was followed by explosive media reports of allegations of a “toxic” culture in Maryland football.

Another inquiry, the results of which were made public late last month, revealed that indeed a former strength and conditioning coach, Rick Court, would often belittle players with homophobic slurs, chucking food and weights around, and on one occasion, a trash can full of vomit. Court negotiated a settlement and left the university in August.

Fallout from the scandal was messy and public. McNair’s parents indicated they would sue for millions. Head football coach DJ Durkin, who had been on leave since August, charmed the regents, according to media reports -- the board pressured Loh to keep Durkin in his position and threatened to fire Loh instead. System-level officials do not have the purview to fire employees on individual campuses, which would be left to College Park administrators.

Loh initially complied, and announced his retirement last week. But after he met with students, administrators and professors who were adamant Durkin should not return, Loh defied the regents and dismissed Durkin.

The university’s fund-raising arm and state lawmakers, including Republican governor Larry Hogan, had also blasted the regents, and its chairman, James T. Brady, eventually stepped down.

Academic leaders and faculty have since asked Loh to reconsider his retirement, too. But this was not a sentiment shared by the student coalition that organized the protest outside McKeldin Library on Monday, which posted in a statement on Twitter that Loh had been a “abysmal” and “cowardly” leader who “abdicated … in the midst of extreme trauma, crisis and violence.”

It’s unclear whether these students were also those that disrupted the rally last week, organized by members of the University of Maryland Student Government Association.

Chants of “Black lives matter” and “Justice for Jordan” at times rose above remarks by College Democrats and Republicans, urging students to attend Saturday’s football game, video posted online shows.

After students from the college democrats and republicans spoke, chants of black lives matters and #JusticeForJordan became intertwined with each other.

— Reese Levin (@ReeseLevin_) November 2, 2018

The request was met with shouts to instead boycott it.

Akil Patterson, an activist and former football player at Maryland, yelled to the crowd they should call for Brady’s resignation (he had not yet stepped down) and that the regents needed to answer to the students. One request by the coalition was that the regent board members -- instead of being appointed by the governor -- be elected.

“You are the future, not them,” Patterson told the crowd.

In a column to the student newspaper, The Diamondback, sophomore Zachary Jablow wrote that the student government’s plea to attend football games “badly misses the mark.”

Jablow pointed out that Athletics Director Damon Evans remains employed at the university, despite his lack of oversight on the program, and that the institution will be paying Durkin millions of dollars to buy him out of his contract.

“The SGA has pushed the idea of attending games by framing it as supporting student-athletes,” Jablow wrote. “This wrongfully equates supporting the victims of abuse and those affected by tragedy with blindly supporting this football program and the sport in general.”

Editorial Tags: AthleticsRacial groupsStudent lifeImage Source: Jon OrbachIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 4Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, November 6, 2018Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: A Campus DividedMagazine treatment: Trending: College: University of Maryland-College Park

Seton Hall students occupied administration building in quest for institutional change

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 2018-11-06 08:00

Friday marked the end of a 10-day sit-in at Seton Hall University. A group of students called the Concerned 44 had occupied Presidents Hall, where the university's administrative offices are housed, and vowed to stay until university officials adequately respond to their demands to address what they considered institutional racism.

Mary Meehan, interim president at the university, sent a message to students, faculty and staff on Friday announcing the end of the sit-in.

"The university is committed to an ongoing dialogue," the email read. "Going forward, university leadership will meet with representatives of Concerned 44 to clearly define the plan moving forward to create a more inclusive community at Seton Hall."

Briana Peterson, a sophomore psychology major and one of the organizing members of the Concerned 44, said the sit-in was put on pause during negotiations between students and university officials but that the group will "continue demonstrations if need be."

Tensions on the New Jersey campus continued to rise through the duration of the protest, leading to multiple additional protests, a series of meetings between students and administrators, a scuffle between a student and a professor, and the relocation of the president's and provost's offices.

More than 300 of Seton Hall's 9,800 students participated in the protest. The group was named for the 44 percent of students at Seton Hall who are “in the minority,” whether that be for their race, color, sexual orientation or gender identity. According to federal data, 47 percent of students at Seton Hall are white, 10 percent are Asian, 9 percent are black/African American and 18 percent are Hispanic/Latino.

“The students are the ones who make the money for the school, and they’re also the ones who need to feel welcome on campus,” Peterson said.

The group created a list of five demands, born from the 18 submitted by student activists to the administration last year. Their demands include hiring full-time faculty dedicated to the Africana studies program and the Latino studies and Latin American studies program. Both programs are currently staffed by part-time faculty or faculty split between departments. The students are also calling for a reconstruction of the university’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Title IX Compliance; university-allocated funding for black history, Hispanic-Latino history, women’s history and Islamic history months; and a permanent student review board to help oversee faculty hiring at the university.

After the demands were submitted at the beginning of the sit-in, university officials issued a formal response and have held multiple meetings with the students. In its response, the university agreed to conduct a review of the Office of EEO and Title IX Compliance and to increase the budgets for black history, women’s history, Hispanic-Latino history and Islamic history months by 50 percent.

The faculty will be “asked to consider” student participation in faculty hiring, which already occurs to some degree in multiple departments, and the university will convene a task force composed of three students, three faculty members and three administrators to develop “a plan for promoting an educational environment that is both responsive to the educational needs of a diverse student body, and financially sustainable.”

Despite the university's response, students from the Concerned 44 remained in Presidents Hall for another week. They felt they could not agree to proposals without necessary details and were put off by the task force, which they did not ask for, nor do they want, according to the Concerned 44's written response.

Peterson is skeptical of university diversity initiatives after the university started the Talent of Inclusion project, which issued five tokens to first-year students upon arrival, which they could then give to other students they witnessed “performing an act of inclusion or welcome.”

"[A student] would pick up a black person’s pencil or help a Muslim student with their book bag, and they would get a coin,” she said. “We felt like it was a mockery of the struggle that students of color had on campus.”

Technically, the sit-in was scheduled to end last Sunday, per the university’s protest policy, which dictates that all organizers must submit an application for approval by the dean of students' office at least 48 hours in advance of the protest. Doing so gives the university the rights to “designate time, manner, and appropriate areas for the assembly” for the protest.

The protest policy prohibits many forms of protest, including “interfering with university operations, activities, and/or events,” “preventing access to or egress from offices, building or other university property,” “failing to comply with the directions of university officials, including directions to leave a particular facility or space” and “exceeding noise levels and/or interfering with or disrupting university operations,” among others. Any student who is found in violation of the policy “will be subject to disciplinary action and/or criminal charges.”

That’s the policy that Tracy Gottlieb, vice president for student services, cited in an email to student leaders five days after the sit-in began.

“I am writing to formally notify you that the students who remain in Presidents Hall are in violation of university policies. The sit-in protest in Presidents Hall was approved for three days and that time is now past,” she wrote. “Dr. Meehan met with those assembled in Presidents Hall on Friday, Oct. 26, at 5 p.m. Dr. Meehan asked at that time that all students leave Presidents Hall in compliance with the approved protest application.”

She added that the email serves as an “official notice” of violation of university policies, but did not disclose the potential repercussions for remaining in Presidents Hall.

Peterson said that the university did not take action against the students. Instead, the president and the provost moved their offices to the Bethany Hall, across campus. According to Peterson, the building was locked down with security posted at the door, and no one was allowed in the building unless their name was on a list. Laurie Pine, a spokeswoman for the university, would not say whether they had moved back to Presidents Hall at the end of the sit-in.

In addition to the sit-in, students held a protest at noon on Monday of last week during which they entered the University Club, a buffet and dining area for faculty. Students allege that at that protest, Williamjames Hoffer, a history professor, shoved Emani Miles, a student organizer with the Concerned 44. Hoffer denies shoving Miles.

“The only person who was harassed … actually physically abused was me by a full time faculty member … a history professor,” Miles tweeted Monday.

Hoffer said that he felt physically threatened by the students, and though he denies shoving Miles, he does recall brief physical contact.

“The physical contact that they are complaining of is when I held out my hand to tell them to stop, and came in contact with one of the student’s shoulder. I withdrew the hand immediately and we proceeded to engage in a very heated exchange, because they were shouting at me and I couldn’t be heard,” Hoffer said.

Video footage of part of the incident shows a heated conversation between Hoffer and the students, but no physical contact. At one point, another faculty member appears to be preventing Hoffer from engaging further with the students, but Hoffer also denies that he needed to be “held back” by other faculty.

Pine issued the following statement in response to the incident.

“Seton Hall was informed earlier today of an alleged incident between a faculty member and a Concerned 44 student protestor while protesting inside the Faculty Lounge. The university takes allegations of this nature very seriously and urges the student involved in this incident to come to Public Safety so the matter can be investigated,” the statement read in part.

DiversityEditorial Tags: DiversityFree speechStudent lifeActivismImage Source: The Concerned 44Image Caption: Seton Hall students protesting institutional racismIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 2Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, November 6, 2018Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: 10-Day Sit-In at Seton HallMagazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Sit-In at Seton HallTrending order: 1

Universities still struggle to make websites accessible to all

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 2018-11-06 08:00

Hundreds of colleges and universities across the country are currently under investigation by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights for failing to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities.

Universities that receive federal financial aid are required by law to make reasonable accommodations to ensure their web content is accessible to everyone, including, but not limited to, people who are blind, deaf or have limited mobility.

Awareness of the importance of web accessibility has grown among university leaders in recent years partly due to numerous well-publicized lawsuits. Yet ensuring that every aspect of a university's sprawling web presence meets recommended web-accessibility standards remains a huge challenge.

Part of the problem is the sheer volume of content universities have online, said Scott Lissner, Americans With Disabilities Act compliance officer at Ohio State University. Universities can have thousands of webpages, with hundreds of faculty members and staff constantly adding, removing or changing content. This “amoeba-like” quality makes it difficult to monitor content for accessibility, said Lissner.

When Lissner asked colleagues how many webpages Ohio State has, they told him to “multiply the grains of sand on the shore by the stars in the heavens” to get a close approximation. The true number is “somewhere between five and eight million,” he said, “depending on what definition you’re using and what moment in time it is.”

Lissner needs to know the total number of webpages so he and his colleagues can review every single one as part of a requirement by the Office for Civil Rights. The office opened an investigation into Ohio State’s web accessibility two years ago following a complaint. To resolve this complaint, Ohio State must audit its webpages -- identifying any areas that need work and proposing a time frame to fix them.

Ohio State isn’t expected to check millions of webpages overnight, but even the initial audit of the university’s public-facing webpages represents a significant undertaking. There is software that can automatically test webpages for accessibility, but it’s far from perfect, said Lissner.

“These tools do an OK job on very static, content-oriented webpages,” he said. “But depending on the tool and the design of your web space, they are only between 30 and 45 percent accurate.”

Web-accessibility software can, for example, check to see if webpages have descriptions known as alt-tags on images. These alt-tags should describe an image so that people who use screen readers can know what’s there. But Lissner said the software doesn't tell you if a description is good or not.

“If I have a picture of the Oval on a webpage, and the alt-tag says ‘image 27’ -- that’s not going to mean much to anyone,” he said.

Though auditing websites is time-consuming and potentially costly for institutions, Lissner does not resent doing the work. Ohio State’s resolution agreement with the OCR set out a strategy for improving the institution's web accessibility, which includes developing a web-accessibility policy, performing audits and training staff. Ohio State was already doing many of these things but at a slower pace and with a slightly different approach. The agreement requires that institutions perform an initial audit of their websites within 180 days of OCR approving the institution's proposed web-accessibility policy. Lissner estimates Ohio State is probably about two years ahead of where it would have been had it not received the complaint.

John Ellinger, chief information officer at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, said it wasn’t a surprise when the university received a letter last year saying that OCR had opened an investigation into BGSU’s web accessibility. Ellinger, who had been in contact with IT staff at other Ohio-based institutions, knew that many of them were already under investigation by OCR.

“We didn’t wait for the letter to arrive to start the work,” said Ellinger.

A Department of Education spokesman would not say how many universities are currently under investigation by OCR for web accessibility issues. He previously told Inside Higher Ed that there were 556 open cases as of Aug. 7, 2017. The spokesman said OCR receives thousands of complaints alleging violations of federal civil rights laws every year, and the number “has generally increased over time.”

When OCR reviews a website as a result of a complaint, it doesn’t do a comprehensive audit. It instead typically lists a small sample of webpages where it has identified web-accessibility issues. Problems highlighted at BGSU included a lack of alt-tags on some images and videos that were not appropriately captioned.

There were also some surprises -- Ellinger’s team thought they were using accessible fonts and colors on the BGSU website, but in fact, their choices were not compatible with the required web-accessibility standards. The website has since been updated to reflect this, with added features such as a button that allows users to toggle between normal and high-contrast webpages.

Ellinger said BGSU has approximately 15,000 webpages. These webpages are controlled by 610 content moderators, all of whom must be trained as part of the university’s resolution agreement with OCR. So far, around 150 have completed the training BGSU created. A small team is working to audit BGSU’s webpages and is on track to report the results of their audit by next February, said Ellinger.

“I’m very comfortable with where we are,” he said. “We haven’t thrown a lot of resources at this work -- it’s just become part of our day job.”

Jeremy Thompson, assistant vice president of marketing and enrollment management at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., oversees web content at the university. He said that the university had just completed an 18-month project to update its website when they received an OCR complaint in July 2017.

“The site was only two weeks old and we were still testing it,” said Thompson.

He said it took a few months to draw up the terms of the resolution agreement with OCR. The agreement is similar to those drawn up by OSU, BGSU and other universities under investigation by the OCR. Thompson said his institution is “fully onboard” with completing the steps outlined in the agreement but notes it is “impossible to achieve complete perfection.” Web-accessibility standards “change very regularly, and the methods are constantly evolving,” he said.

Lesley University consolidated its webpages when it redesigned its website, but the total number is still in the thousands. There are about 30 staff members who can upload and edit the institution’s website, said Thompson. All of them have now been trained in web-accessibility best practices.

“I would encourage other institutions to make accessibility a key consideration with any website,” said Thompson. “They need to be making every effort to move in that direction -- it’s mission appropriate. Universities should be accessible to anyone interested in pursuing education.”

Gabe Cazares, government affairs specialist for the National Federation of the Blind, said higher education institutions are more aware of what is required of them by law than they were in the past.

“There have been some improvements from when we started doing this work,” he said. “But there’s still more to be done.”

Common issues that NFB members encounter on university websites are a lack of alt-tags and documents being uploaded as image files rather than text files that can be read by screen readers, said Cazares.

The federal government recommends that institutions meet web-accessibility standards known as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, but these are not the latest standards -- new, better ones have been released, said Cazares. Government policy is “very slow” to reflect these developments, he said.

Resolving a web-accessibility complaint can take years. The OCR can take several months to respond to the reports that institutions send as part of their resolution agreements, and institutions can ask for extensions on their reporting deadlines. George Washington University, for example, recently secured an extension from OCR for its first reporting deadline. The Education Department spokesman did not comment on whether it is common for institutions to be granted extensions, nor under what conditions they may obtain them, saying only that “as a matter of policy, OCR does not discuss details of open cases.”

Sometimes institutions are “overoptimistic” in how quickly they can improve their web accessibility, said Cazares. He’d like the work to happen quickly but says he is more concerned when institutions miss deadlines than when they ask to extend them.

Though several university accessibility staffers said it is impossible to make sure every webpage of a university website is accessible, Cazares disagrees. “You can create something inherently accessible,” he said. “It just requires a change in culture.”

Earlier this year, OCR changed the way it processes web-accessibility complaints, releasing a new case-processing manual. This change means that OCR can dismiss complaints that appear to be part of a pattern. What exactly constitutes a pattern is unclear, said Marcie Lipsett, an education rights advocate, who since January 2016 has single-handedly filed thousands of complaints against universities, colleges, schools, public libraries and state education agencies.

Lipsett said that since the OCR changed its case-processing manual, hundreds of her complaints have been dismissed -- including 571 cases that were already under investigation by OCR. “I started getting bulk letters and emails. I had more than 100 dismissals in one letter,” she said.

Cazares noted that the NFB was “very disappointed” when OCR announced the processing changes. The NFB is one of the lead organizations in a lawsuit against OCR regarding this change.

Terrill Thompson, a technology accessibility specialist at the University of Washington, said he doubts there are any universities that have fully accessible websites. “If it exists, it would have to be at a very centralized institution, where every webpage has a standard template or theme,” he said.

At Washington, where many different staff members add website content using different tools and hosting platforms, Thompson thinks it will be difficult to ever attain 100 percent compliance.

It’s “kind of a wild west,” he said. “We are seeing improvements -- we just need to keep that momentum going.”

Thompson said he and his colleagues at Washington are talking less and less about being compliant with web-accessibility standards and thinking more about universal design -- creating things that work for everyone.

“My conversations with web developers in-house and at vendors indicate there is a real motivation to create things that don’t shut people out,” he said.

Legal requirements and the threat of being sued are motivators for some institutions to take accessibility seriously, said Thompson. OCR complaints have had a mostly “positive impact” and prompted more institutions to pay more attention to improving web accessibility, he said

“There are some accessibility staff having a hard time convincing university leaders that this is important,” he said. “A complaint or lawsuit can give them some leverage. And some of the best models for accessibility have emerged out of legal complaints.”

The University of Washington hasn’t had to work with OCR to respond to any web-accessibility complaints, said Thompson.

“The nice thing about being at an institution where we’re not complaint driven is that we can strategize and come up with our own accessibility solutions,” he said. “We have a lot more freedom to address problems creatively and find solutions that work with our culture, without the Department of Justice or OCR dictating what we should be doing.”

“We’re not going to make everything accessible overnight -- that’s an unrealistic expectation,” said Thompson. “It’s important to prioritize, have a road map and demonstrate our progress.”

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 2018-11-06 08:00


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UC Davis is holding eight faculty searches focused on candidates' contributions to diversity, instead of narrow disciplinary expertise

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 2018-11-05 08:00

The University of California, Davis, is launching a pilot hiring program that eliminates the requirement -- typical in department searches -- that candidates have a specific disciplinary specialty.

Davis says the research-backed approach will help it increase faculty diversity.

“Part of having a diverse student body poised for success is having a diverse faculty,” said Philip H. Kass, vice provost for academic affairs. "Part of having intellectual leadership in research and scholarship is having a diverse faculty. Part of bringing students of color into graduate school and academic careers is having a diverse faculty.”

Davis is funding the program with some $422,000 of a $7 million University of California System-wide investment in faculty diversity, in addition to existing campus funds.

The eight school- and college-wide searches that make up the pilot program will, in the university’s words, “cast a broad net and reach out to candidates who are contributing to enhancing diversity and inclusive environments through their research, teaching and service.”

The idea is that a diverse search will lead to a diverse candidate pool. Instead of a focusing on a particular disciplinary expertise, search teams will look for candidates with proven commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion among underrepresented groups, namely black, Latino, Chicano and Native American applicants.

Statements of contributions to diversity already are mandatory for faculty applicants across the California system, but search committees will put greater emphasis on these statements in selecting candidates for interviews. Individual search committees will decide just how to evaluate the documents and other evidence of commitment to diversity, however.

Finalists will be assigned faculty members to serve as confidential advisers and may ask one who has no role in the selection process questions about campus life and climate.

Hires will get up to $12,500 for hiring their own students, traveling or writing workshops, and enrollment in the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity’s program for research productivity and work-life balance.

Participating programs are the Colleges of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, and Engineering, along with the Graduate School of Management and the Schools of Education, Law, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.

Deans of all these colleges expressed interest in the program, according to Davis. The College of Letters and Science was participating in a different diversity grant proposal, and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing received similar campus funding for a new faculty member last year.

Search committees will soon be formed, with the goal of hiring these new professors by July. Davis will pay up to $85,000 toward the salary of each hire. Individual schools or colleges will be responsible for pay above that, and the professors’ entire salaries after five years.

Asked if he had any concerns about these hires upsetting the balance of departments’ disciplinary specialties, Kass said no, as these eight searches will happen alongside 45 traditional faculty searches at the participating programs.

While the open-search approach isn't appropriate for all searches at all schools, Kass said, “we do want to see if it can augment these other processes to accelerate the diversification of our faculty.” Beyond that, he said, “faculty may be hired in disciplines that departments had not contemplated but now want.”

The University of Michigan’s chemistry department saw a 10 percent female applicant pool prior to adopting a diversity program and open searches, from about 1998 to 2003. Then its pool shot up to about 18 percent women. The percentage of underrepresented minority faculty also increased from 2 percent in 2001 to 7 percent in 2014, according to information from that university.

Abigail Stewart, Sandra Schwartz Tangri Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at Michigan, has written about open searches and diversity, including as co-author of the recent book, An Inclusive Academy: Achieving Diversity and Excellence. She said via email that Davis “is to be recognized for its willingness to experiment in this way.”  The university’s “relatively specific, but still broad nature of the participating colleges, and their voluntary participation in the experiment, are all factors that make it highly likely to be successful.” The program will provide valuable insight into this kind of hiring to institutions nationally, she added.

Stewart noted that other institutions have offered “target of opportunity” positions to academic units, as requested, when they find “particularly attractive candidates who don't fit a specific search.” That approach has increased diversity on some campuses, she said, but problems have arisen, such as candidates not having the full support of the unit. Cluster hiring also has helped increased faculty diversity in some instances, as noted in a 2015 report from the Urban Universities for HEALTH. But Stewart said that cluster hires have “a very mixed record in terms of advancing diversity and of successful long-term outcomes.”

While Davis’s approach has all the makings of a successful one, she said, “internal hiring environments” still matter. Units with other opportunities to hire professors based on perceived disciplinary needs may be more open hiring someone “they otherwise might not consider, but would be happy to have.” But where positions are scarce overall, she said, “then the tendency will be for the unit to try to identify someone within the broad pool who fits the narrower niche not overtly specified.” And such narrow considerations “can end up trumping the opportunities offered by open searching.” Stewart therefore recommends having “open as possible” searches and says the key “is how the search process is managed on the ground, not just the creation of the apparently open position.” Effective recruitment of candidates is equally important, she said, since open searches can be “slightly puzzling” to potential applicants.

Davis’s faculty is currently 9.2 percent underrepresented minority. The university is moving toward becoming a federally designated Hispanic-serving institution. One qualification for that recognition is that, for at least one year, one-quarter of domestic, full-time students be Hispanic. Davis says it will reach that threshold this fall.

Roland Faller, professor of chemical engineering at Davis, said he thought the open-search process is “a really a good way to foster interdepartmental collaboration and increase diversity at the same time.”

While one “of course has to be mindful about the needs of the departments,” he said, the wider a search is, the more likely it is “to find a broad, diverse pool in all respects.” That’s one reason his department tries to keep its own searches open in terms of research area.

“We typically have an open search with potentially a focus in one or two certain areas rather than a narrow search,” Faller said. The approach “allows us to also respond quickly if we identify candidates in exciting new areas which are just emerging, in addition to having a larger diversity of the pool.”

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Campuses confront spread of 'It's OK to Be White' posters

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 2018-11-05 08:00

“It’s OK to Be White” is the message that has periodically appeared on campus posters over the past two years, typically placed by people or organizations who haven't taken credit for doing so, and who are believed to be from off-campus groups.

Pro-white propaganda of various types has been appearing on campuses in increasing frequency in the last two years. But the last week has seen a surge in such postings.

Last weekend leaflets with the "OK to be white" message turned up in Vermont, at the University of Vermont and Champlain College.

Since then the posters have appeared at American River College, Duke University, North Carolina State University, Tufts University, the University of Delaware, the University of Denver and the University of St. Thomas, in Minnesota.

The trend is not confined to the United States. One Canadian institution, the University of Manitoba, also had the posters turn up. In Australia, the use of the phrase by some politicians has set off a major political debate (and appearance of the posters), but in that case, the focus is not in higher education.

Also last week, white nationalist posters turned up at California State University at San Marcos.

The campuses seeing the posters do not seem to fit any pattern. They include public and private institutions, two-year and four-year, institutions where white people make up a minority of students and institutions where they are the overwhelming majority.

Colleges have generally removed the posters as soon as they are discovered. Colleges generally require those putting up posters to identify themselves and/or get permission to place them. That hasn't happened in these cases. So while college leaders have condemned the message behind the posters, they have not faced free speech challenges because those putting up the posters have violated college rules.

The surge in these posters on campus has come at a challenging time for many institutions, as students respond to a divisive midterm election and recent killings of black people in Kentucky and Jewish people in Pittsburgh.

Richard A. Baker, president of the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity, said via email that "on its face, the statement is both innocuous and obvious. It is OK to be white. But the intent of the flyer’s author is not to state the obvious. It is to find sympathizers to the white nationalists' cause."

Baker, assistant vice chancellor and vice president for equal opportunity services at the University of Houston System, added that "what is interesting is that a position is being inferred by some on the national stage that whites are a marginalized group and are being made to feel 'not OK' in their whiteness. This flyer’s purpose is to attract persons who may be sympathetic to that position but may not respond to a swastika or other traditional symbols of white nationalism or direct recruitment."

Although Baker said that the message behind the posters is protected free speech at a public college, he said that college officials should be paying attention to those spreading this message, and thinking about the implications of the message.

For the last two years, the Anti-Defamation League has been documenting an increase in white supremacist activity (including posters) on college campuses. There were 292 cases of white supremacist propaganda reported on campuses during the 2017-18 academic year, compared to 165 in 2016-17.

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Iowa Wesleyan could become latest small college to close

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 2018-11-05 08:00

Iowa Wesleyan University was founded in 1842, four years before Iowa became a state. But this year could be the college's last.

Steven E. Titus, president of the university, posted a statement to its website last week in which he said that "at this moment, the university does not have the required financial underpinnings to bridge the gap between strong enrollment and new programming, and the money needed to keep the institution open."

He added, "The university does not have a healthy endowment or extensive donor network. We have attempted to secure funding to establish a solid financial base. Unfortunately, several anticipated gifts simply have not materialized."

His statement said that the board would convene on Nov. 15 to consider the future of the college and that the institution would be trying to raise money or create new partnerships between now and then.

In an interview Sunday, Titus said that the key problem facing the college is a lack of cash. Iowa Wesleyan has a head count of around 700, which represents substantial growth in the last few years. But Titus said many who have enrolled have substantial financial need. The discount rate is about 66 percent, he said.

The endowment is less than $8 million, while the university has long-term debt of $26 million. He said that the university needs to raise $2.1 million to be able to afford to operate for the spring semester, and at least $4.5 million to operate through December 2019.

Titus said that the university plays an important role in southeastern Iowa. Talking about "how precarious" the situation is could motivate groups or individuals to help. He said that he has hopes for assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Looking ahead, he said partnerships or merger might be appropriate, but he said that there are no active discussions along those lines.

In 2014, in an attempt to improve its financial situation, Iowa Wesleyan eliminated 22 of 52 faculty positions and half of its academic programs. At the time Titus said that the cuts would trim $3 million from the college's $20 million budget. The faculty is now up to 40, he said.

Iowa Wesleyan has never been a wealthy institution. Titus, in his statement, noted that these are difficult times for small private colleges. "As you may know, small liberal arts colleges and universities across the country continue to face significant financial challenges. Iowa Wesleyan University is no different. We have struggled, yet survived, for decades because of our strong commitment to our students and the southeast Iowa region."

The Higher Learning Commission reports that Iowa Wesleyan is in good standing as an accredited institution. But the commission informed Iowa Wesleyan this year that it will require a "focused visit" by 2020 on the university's finances, even though the next accreditation review would not be normally scheduled until after that.

Titus said that he realized that talking about the extent of the financial problems could scare off some students, and he said he was aware that some students were exploring transfer options. "But we decided it was the right thing to let people know what was going on," he said. "There is risk no matter what we do."

Austin Willis, a junior who is student body president, said that many students were devastated by the possibility of the college closing. He said that international students were particularly worried. While some students are exploring transfer, he said many are committed to the college and hope it will survive. The college "is a very personalized institution" where 30 students are a large class, and many courses have only 10 students or are even smaller. That produces a great student experience, he said.

If Iowa Wesleyan closes, it will not be the first of the year.

In 2018, Mount Ida College in Massachusetts, Concordia in Alabama and Atlantic Union College in Massachusetts have announced that they are shutting down. Last week, Valparaiso University announced that it would shut down its law school.

In late 2017, St. Gregory’s University in Oklahoma, the Memphis College of Art and Grace University in Omaha, Neb., all announced plans to close. And earlier in 2017, Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., suspended academic operations to try to come up with a way to survive.

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Proportion of state financial aid awarded based on financial need grows

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 2018-11-05 08:00

Picture campus leaders and state policy makers as a movie or cartoon character with the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. In this instance the angel -- echoing the views of financial aid experts and advocates for low-income students -- is saying, “Direct your precious dollars toward need-based aid, which is better targeted to lower-income students and others who may not otherwise go to college.”

The devil, meanwhile, pushes a practical approach: “We need to use some of our aid more strategically to keep or attract some talented (but not financially needy) students who will help our (fill in the blank: rankings, debate team, fund-raisers) and will go to (fill in nearby competitor) if we don't throw a few dollars their way.”

Hyperbole aside, that tug-of-war afflicts campus administrators deciding how to award their institutional aid funds and state policy makers alike. New data, though, suggest that the angels are getting the better of their counterparts, slowly but surely, at least at the state level.

The annual report of the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs, or NASSGAP, finds that the amount of all undergraduate financial aid that states allocated based on students' financial need grew by 2.9 percent from 2015-16 to 2016-17, the latest available data. (The NASSGAP study lags by a year due to data-collection demands.) Total need-based aid grew by 20.7 percent from 2011-12 to 2016-17 and by 52.2 percent from 2006-07 to 2016-17.

Grant aid that is based on factors other than (or in addition to) need, by comparison, grew by 0.7 percent from 2015-16 to 2016-17, 6.2 percent over five years and 21.9 percent over a decade.

States allocated a total of just under $11 billion in grant aid in 2016-17, and the proportion that was allocated based on need edged up to 76.6 percent, from 76 percent the year before. It was 72.2 percent in 2006-07.

To put it in dollar terms, states allocated $233 million more in need-based grants in 2016-17 than they did the previous year, and just $18 million in additional non-need-based grants.


Need-Based Grant Aid

Non-Need-Based Grant Aid

Total Aid



% of Total


% of Total


























"Trying to get big increases in that [proportion] is like trying to change the course of a barge or ocean liner," said Frank Ballmann, who heads the state-aid association's Washington office. "But the shift to need does seem to be accelerating at an accelerating rate."

The Balancing Act

While need-based aid is uniformly favored by those who view financial aid (especially government-funded aid) primarily through its historical prism as a way to encourage college going, the use of merit-based financial aid -- once largely the province of private nonprofit colleges -- has been embraced by some states (especially in the South) to keep academically talented students within the states' own borders.

Major statewide lottery-funded programs have been criticized for aiding wealthier students more than poor ones, and the newest "in" state aid programs -- those that make tuition free for all state residents or large swaths of them -- also can disproportionately help upper-income students and families.

One highly touted instance of the latter, the Tennessee Promise program, for instance, has become a widely replicated model for "free tuition" programs, and come in for some criticism as a result.

But Ballmann said that the study offers some evidence that such programs, while not primarily need based, can still have a positive effect on access for low-income students.

Tennessee increased its spending on need-based financial aid by $10 million in 2016-17, while its spending on non-need-based aid remained flat. Ballmann attributed the increase in need-based spending largely to the resonance of the Promise program's "cleaner" message about college affordability -- the power of the word "free" -- and the requirement that prospective college students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which has significantly raised the proportion of the state's high school graduates who do so, from 55 percent to more than 80 percent.

"So even if a Tennessee low-income student has not gotten Promise funds, the program is still having an influence on them going to college and getting money for it," Ballmann said.

Public vs. Private Institutions

One other area of state financial aid policy that has been drawing attention is the question of whether states are shifting their support toward students who attend public universities and away from those at private colleges, as leaders of independent institutions have increasingly worried about the free tuition programs.

The 2016-17 NASSGAP data predate any impact of New York's Excelsior Scholarship program, the most visible of the free tuition programs aimed at public college enrollees. They show that the proportion of all state need-based aid flowing to students at private nonprofit colleges was 20 percent, down slightly from 20.6 percent the year before. (Students at public institutions received 76.1 percent of the 2016-17 total, and those at for-profit colleges took in 2.3 percent.)

But the category that rose between 2015-16 and 2016-17 was "unspecified," at 1.5 percent percent, so Ballmann said it would be premature to conclude that private nonprofit students are necessarily losing out.

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Several colleges are responding to requests to remove gender from scholarship eligibility requirements

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 2018-11-05 08:00

The University of Minnesota Twin Cities changed eligibility requirements last week for two formerly women-only scholarships and will review an additional women-only faculty award after an alumnus complained that the scholarships discriminated against men.

The Carol E. Macpherson Memorial Scholarship was established to provide scholarship money to “women-identified” students who are over 28 years old and returning to school to complete their education. The Dr. Nancy “Rusty” Barceló Scholarship also provided financial aid to “women-identified students” with a “special focus on women of color, new immigrants and first-generation college students,” according to the University of Minnesota website.

The language on the website has since changed. Eligibility for the Carol E. Macpherson Memorial Scholarship is “under review” and will be determined by the spring of 2019. All students, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity, are now eligible for the Dr. Nancy “Rusty” Barceló Scholarship.

The University of Minnesota did not respond to Inside Higher Ed’s request for comment, but officials issued the following statement to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, which first reported the story.

“The university is committed to offering access and opportunity to individuals of all gender identities. The university regularly reviews the selection criteria for scholarships to ensure, among other things, that they are consistent with evolving understandings of gender identity and laws protecting against discrimination based on gender identity,” the statement read.

Mark Perry, a professor of finance and business economics at the University of Michigan at Flint, complained to Minnesota, his alma mater, after discovering that several scholarships and awards favored women in ways that he said violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.

In the past, Perry has made complaints that led to the closure of a women’s lounge at Michigan State University and asked the University of Michigan at Flint to change eligibility requirements for several scholarships and programs.

Perry described his efforts as a “lifelong mission that I’ve taken on now as a civil rights advocate for true gender equality through Title IX.”

Some have criticized his campaigns, saying women face serious discrimination and harassment in higher education, and that Perry's efforts divert colleges from focusing on those issues.

"It’s illegal to [give preferential treatment to women], and I think the only way it would be justified is if women are underrepresented, which they aren’t … and they haven’t been for the last 35 years," Perry said in response to those criticisms.

After asking the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor to review nearly 50 scholarships, awards and programs for women, Perry filed a complaint with the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights against the university, which he often chooses to do if he cannot resolve a complaint with the university internally. On Saturday, he asked the University of Virginia to investigate eight scholarships for women and a women-only program at the university's Darden School of Business for compliance with Title IX policy.

Perry said he will continue to ask colleges to re-examine women-only scholarships.

“At least for now, my main focus is on major universities … that accept and get tons of federal funding and tons of taxpayer support -- they’re the ones who would be the most likely targets for these kinds of complaints,” he said.

Perry isn’t alone in advocating for men's equality in higher education. Recently, Tulane University received an Office for Civil Rights complaint about the Newcomb College Institute, an organization at Tulane that provides scholarships, clubs and activities for women. The institute grew out of Newcomb College, which was once a women's college affiliated with Tulane.

In response to the complaint, Michael Strecker, a spokesperson for Tulane, issued a statement.

“NCI is working with the [Office for Civil Rights] to ensure compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. NCI is evaluating opening participation in its programs to all Tulane students as part of its mission of educating undergraduates for women’s leadership. In cases where funding was given to NCI with specific gender restrictions, the institute will honor those restrictions to the extent allowed by law. Tulane’s commitment to NCI, one of its premier academic centers serving undergraduates, remains steadfast,” the statement read in part.

DiversityEditorial Tags: Financial aidTitle IXWomenImage Source: iStockIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, November 6, 2018Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: New Scrutiny for Women's ProgramsMagazine treatment: Trending: College: Michigan State UniversityTulane University of LouisianaUniversity of Michigan-Ann ArborUniversity of Michigan-FlintUniversity of Minnesota-Twin CitiesUniversity of Virginia

New book renews debate about donor influence

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 2018-11-02 07:00

A new book about Nike Inc. and company founder Phil Knight has renewed debate about the corrosive influence of big donors on higher ed and the serious consequences of the unchecked power the author says is wielded by rich benefactors.

The book, University of Nike: How Corporate Cash Bought American Higher Education (Melville House) by journalist Joshua Hunt, is a searing indictment of how corporations in general, and Nike in particular, have compromised the integrity and independence of college administrators, especially presidents of public institutions operating with decreased state funding.

The book also argues that Nike founder Knight used his wealth to shape university policies and practices at the expense of students, faculty and even taxpayers.

A large part of the book is focused on what the author describes as Knight’s officious and sometimes bullying behavior as the University of Oregon’s top donor. The book also delves to a lesser extent into Nike’s actions at other colleges and universities to which the company or Knight donated money, or with whom Nike did business.

In example after example, Hunt details how Knight, an Oregon alumnus and now chairman emeritus of Nike, has used his gifts to control and systematically transform the football program at Oregon into a national powerhouse and gain increasing say over the university’s athletic department, including hiring and firing decisions. Along the way, academic programs became secondary to football, according to the book.

For instance, in 2000 Knight temporarily froze his ties with Oregon over its decision to join a labor consortium pushing for better working conditions at Nike factories in developing countries. He withheld $30 million he planned to give Oregon and instead made a large donation to Stanford University, where he attended business school. As a result, a stadium expansion at Oregon that Knight money was to help fund was halted and became "saddled with ballooning costs," according to an article by Hunt published in Pacific Standard last week.

"Instead of a projected $80 million price tag, the expansion would cost $89 million, plus unforeseen extras, like $1.3 million worth of brand-new artificial turf that had to be replaced after it proved to be too slick in the rain. Instead of the original $30 million pledge, Knight would pay nearly twice that sum toward the stadium expansion, while the remaining $29 million was funded by issuing state bonds that came with hefty interest payments," Hunt wrote.

"What wasn't covered by state bonds or Knight's money were the various operating costs -- like the $2 million that Oregon's athletic department siphoned from the school's general fund each year -- that got passed on to students whose tuition dollars replenished the fund whether they liked athletics or not. While the University of Oregon's top administrators scrambled to cobble together $90 million to improve the … football stadium, its faculty was earning less than their contemporaries at each of the 61 universities in its cohort of similarly prestigious public research institutions."

Hunt wrote that "the $90 million makeover that began in August of 2001 sparked both great hope for the football program's future and great anxiety over the school's priorities."

During that period, Oregon "spent $250,000 on a massive 80-by-100-foot billboard" in Manhattan to promote its star quarterback for the 2001 Heisman Trophy. It also paid the Oregon Ducks' head football coach a $750,000 salary with escalator clauses that made it possible for him to make $1 million per season because he'd led the team to a record 10 victories in 2000.

"Just as Nike had become the national face of concerns over sweatshop labor, Oregon's football program suddenly became the focus of those concerned that academics had become secondary to athletics at a number of American universities," Hunt wrote.

According to the book, Knight at times became so frustrated with university decisions that ran counter to his wishes that he appeared to go out of his way to punish administrators. The labor consortium was a particular sore spot.

That same year he stopped supporting the stadium expansion, he also withheld his annual donation of $1 million to the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund, a nonprofit organization that Dave Frohnmayer, who was president of the university at the time, founded with his wife, according to the book. Three of Frohnmayer's children had Fanconi anemia, a rare inherited blood disorder, and would eventually die from complications related to it. Knight resumed those donations the following year after the dispute with the university had largely been resolved, with a $2 million gift. Nike and Oregon's relationship also deepened after that time, as the football team continued its rise.

Frohnmayer died in 2015. His wife, Lynn, has challenged some of Hunt's claims in the book, including that Knight withheld support for the research fund as retribution.

Others said the events described in the book were accurate.

“The reason why this book is so important is because it highlights an example of a university that’s been bought by an individual who has outsized control,” said Nathan Tublitz, a biology professor at Oregon and a vocal critic of the university’s relationship with Knight. “One of the consequences of that is not enough money going to students or to making sure they graduate on time, not enough money for other educational resources to help students, and not enough money to help students who can’t afford to go to the university.

“Instead we’re using that money to build a sports empire and to pay tribute to a single individual, and that’s just wrong.”

Tublitz's complaint is not new. Faculty have been publicly expressing similar concerns for more than a decade. Some 92 faculty members signed a scathing op-ed article in 2007 accusing the university of gambling its academic future to "become a minor-league training ground for elite athletes."

Tublitz concedes that state funding cuts put the university under financial pressure and forced Frohnmayer to find alternative sources of support, but he says administrators ceded too much control to Knight over the years.

“They have kowtowed to this donor because he’s far and away the largest donor we have,” he said. And as a result, “he has forced the university to accept the strings attached to those donations and he has had a significant effect on the direction and the integrity of the university.”

Knight could not be reached for comment. Nike's representatives have not publicly addressed the book’s claims and declined to weigh in.

“We don’t have a comment on the book,” said Greg Rossiter, a Nike spokesman.

University of Oregon administrators and counterparts at various other institutions that the book’s author contends have also been co-opted by Nike declined to respond to the many specific examples and incidents described in the book.

“Given our focus on the university’s future, we will not engage in debate over Mr. Hunt’s book, which largely speculates about and rehashes historical events that have been covered elsewhere,” a written statement from Oregon said in part.

The statement also said the university was “extremely grateful to both Nike as a company and to Phil and Penny Knight individually for their generous support” over many decades. It noted that the gifts came “without strings attached.”

Hunt, a former Tokyo correspondent for Reuters, said the events he wrote about are “well documented and pretty incontrovertible.”

Among the many examples of aggressive efforts by Knight to make Nike the dominant force in college athletics, the book chronicled how the company struck multimillion-dollar deals with various universities to exclusively sell athletic apparel to those institutions. Florida State University had a $6.2 million deal with Nike in the mid-1990s, including a $225,000 stipend that was added on top of the football coach’s salary, according to the book. Nike also signed an $8 million deal with the University of Michigan and a $7.2 million deal with the University of North Carolina. It paid Pennsylvania State University $2.6 million over three years.

While these deals benefited the colleges, they were also highly profitable advertising opportunities for Nike, Hunt explained.

"Nike is essentially buying the coaches, and on top of that, the schools are getting this money," he said. "So it becomes this whole new avenue for making money, and for the schools what they’re selling is advertising space on the backs and feet of their athletes."

When the colleges sign these deals with Nike, Hunt said, “They try to keep the contracts as secret as possible and frequently make it very hard for reporters to get access to them.”

He says that’s because the contracts often have “elevator clauses” and benchmarks that coaches have to reach to get big bonuses. One of those benchmarks might be convincing all the college's athletes -- especially star athletes -- to exclusively wear Nike brands.

“The fine print is always very, very interesting,” Hunt said.

Administrators at Michigan had little to say in response to inquiries about these deals with Nike.

“We have no comment,” said Kurt Svoboda, associate athletic director for external communications and public relations.

Florida State representatives said they reviewed records of donations from Nike going back to 1996 and determined the university received nearly $3.9 million in total during that time period, “none of which had any conditions placed on them,” said Browning Brooks, assistant vice president for university communications.

She characterized the donations as “not substantive” and said the university “has no further comment.”

In an earlier emailed statement, David Coburn, FSU’s interim athletics director, drew a distinction between donations from Nike Inc. and from Knight or Nike’s charitable foundations.

“FSU is not aware of any gifts whatsoever from Phil Knight or the Nike Foundation,” he wrote.

He said $2.8 million of the $3.9 million donated was used in 1996 toward the cost of building skyboxes at the university’s stadium, and $1 million went to the Human Performance Center Building Fund in 2005.

Penn State administrators declined to discuss the book or the author’s assertions about the influence donations by Nike and Knight may have had on the campus. University officials also declined to say how much Knight or Nike donated over the decades, which programs the money supported, or how it was used. Instead the university issued a brief statement that did not address points raised in the book.

“Phil Knight is a modest scholarship and programmatic donor to Penn State,” the statement said. “Nike, whose last gift was in 2000, has also given modestly to scholarship and program funds, and also toward a renovation of the Knowledge Commons at Pattee Library. All of Mr. Knight’s personal gifts and Nike’s corporate gifts are governed by university policy, which prohibits donors from being directly involved in the use of their gifts once given.”

Hunt took issue with the claim that the deals with, or donations from, Nike or Knight were modest.

“They’re modest maybe by today’s standards, that’s the only measure by which they’re modest,” he said.

Welch Suggs Jr., an associate professor at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia and former associate director for the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, said the revelations in the book were “very troubling.”

“It was really surprising, assuming everything in the book is accurate, the degree to which a donor would want to have so much say over university matters,” he said. “The other piece of it is the extent to which Nike wanted to use Oregon as a training lab of sorts for some of their own technology and products. But more troubling to me was the degree to which Knight wanted to have control over the university policies.”

Suggs, author of A Place on the Team: The Triumph and Tragedy of Title IX (Princeton University Press), said the acquiescence of Oregon and other colleges in the face of encroaching control by Knight was revealing.

“It raises questions about universities being moral leaders in society,” he said.

Suggs said business deals such as those made between Nike and Oregon or the other colleges undermined the autonomy of the institutions.

“University boards and governance have not been active in addressing this and raising concerns when contracts like these infringe on academic freedom and free speech, or when faculty publish findings that are contrary to individual donors,” he said.

Tublitz, who has taught at Oregon for 33 years and was active in faculty governance issues during that time, agreed. He has been president of the faculty senate on three separate occasions but says he’s not active anymore because the university administration no longer values faculty input.

“I’ve been a big proponent of shared governance and faculty involvement, and over the last 30 years I’ve seen that steadily eroded to the point that it no longer exists,” he said. “There was a partnership with the university; decisions were made in tandem. Now it’s not at all. Instead, the university has shifted its ways, its ear and its gaze towards donors.”

Tublitz said Oregon and other colleges with influential donors are no longer structured as traditional institutions with a leadership hierarchy made up of a president, provost and deans.

Instead, the presidents have reorganized universities in “a vertical or corporate structure” where presidents are considered CEOs -- some even have that title, along with “president,” on their business cards -- provosts are vice presidents and deans are associate vice presidents.

This “corporatizing of the university” is “very telling,” and “the symbolism of that cannot be ignored,” he said.

Tublitz also criticized Knight for requiring Oregon to raise money to help pay for specific projects he was funding. University leaders would then request funding from the state Legislature, which in turn would agree to float bonds to help fund the project.

“There’s an enormous amount of bonding going on, and that’s saddling universities with enormous amounts of debt,” he said. “Donors are taking advantage of this and leveraging their donations.”

He pointed to a $500 million donation in 2016 by Knight and his wife, Penny, for a new science center as an example. The university has to raise $50 million per year over 10 years to help pay for it.

“So now all the fund-raising is focused on making sure that $500 million is found, and everything else on the vine is left to die,” Tublitz said. “They’re under the gun to find this money, and it becomes the top priority.”

For his part, Hunt said he learned about the depth of the power dynamics between big donors and universities during his reporting and research for the book.

“Maybe the most surprising thing I learned was how widespread all of this is and how vulnerable our public universities are as institutions. They’re very, very vulnerable to any corporation with money and have been increasingly vulnerable because they're getting less and less government funding,” he said.

“The total transformation that can take place when the school has a nonpublic donor and the way it grows into a corporation within the university” bears watching, he said. “The faculty has no say and nothing to do with it, and sometimes even the athletic department has no say.”

Meanwhile the corporations bring their own public relations and marketing staff to the campuses, and pretty soon they, a handful of top university administrators and the general counsel “are calling the shots,” he said.

“At Oregon and many, many public universities, these are the key people making the decisions and replacing university trustees,” he said. “They become mini-corporations that grow inside the university.”

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