Inside Higher Ed

Middlebury faces questions about speaker whose appearance it called off, in an unusual month for the college

Fri, 2019-04-19 07:00

When it comes to colleges that receive extra scrutiny for the way they handle controversial speakers, Middlebury College is high on the list. Two years ago, Middlebury students shouted down Charles Murray, the controversial writer whom many accuse of espousing racist ideas, preventing him from giving a public lecture at the college. Conservative critics have called Middlebury students "snowflakes" for being allegedly unwilling to listen to ideas with which they disagree.

That's why this week's decision by Middlebury to call off a scheduled appearance by Ryszard Legutko, a Polish scholar and politician, is attracting so much attention. Middlebury is being criticized for again failing to make it possible for a conservative figure to appear. (Legutko's views on many issues are controversial. He is known to criticize Western democracies in general and gay rights in particular.)

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a watchdog group on free speech issues in academe, blasted Middlebury for blocking the talk and a planned protest against the talk. Middlebury "deprived everyone of their rights," said FIRE in a blog post. "It deprived a willing audience from hearing Legutko’s arguments. It deprived student critics of Legutko from challenging those arguments, either through peaceful protest or pointed questions. And it deprived faculty members from exercising their academic freedom right to invite speakers to campus in service of educating their students."

So how did Middlebury find itself in this situation?

Middlebury is facing the debate over the Legutko talk as it is also dealing with fallout from a bizarre incident involving a question on a chemistry exam that asked students how to create the gas that Nazis used in concentration camp gas chambers (more on that later).

The Legutko talk was called off Wednesday with Middlebury officials citing safety and security issues. When Murray was shouted down two years ago, the college not only faced the shouting and chanting at his talk, but physical attacks on a professor and on the car carrying Murray by protesters -- widely believed to be anarchists who were not necessarily affiliated with the college.

It's impossible to know what would have happened had Wednesday's talk gone on as scheduled. But the students who were organizing a protest issued a statement in advance of the event saying that they believed Legutko never should have been invited, but also that they had no plan to disrupt his appearance.

Their statement (the bold emphasis is from the protesters) appeared in the blog Beyond the Green: "We have no intention to prevent Legutko from speaking or to prevent our peers from attending. Rather, we want to provide information to contextualize his talk and to create a place of healing and inclusivity in the face of prejudice. During this protest, we will be distributing flyers which detail Legutko’s history of hateful speech against LGBTQ+, Muslim and Jewish folks, as well as women and POCs. We will distribute these flyers to anyone walking into the lecture who wants one, in order to highlight (and implicitly problematize) their potential willingness to indulge his violent rhetoric."

A Middlebury spokeswoman said via email that the students organizing the protest against the speech have been "very clear" that they were not planning to disrupt the talk, adding that "we believe they were sincere. Our concern was not with the well-intentioned organizers."

She added that "there has been no history of violence, threats or disruptive protests with this speaker and no reason to anticipate such actions during his appearance at Middlebury. Concerns about the speaker did not surface until Sunday, April 14." At that point, when the college considered locations and the two events (the speech and the protest), "it became clear with the increased number of participants, and heightened tensions on campus, that we didn’t have the capacity and resources to adequately ensure everyone’s safety."

The spokeswoman added: "The concern, quite frankly, is that when you bring hundreds of people together, even the most well-meaning, who have strong views, and place them in close proximity, there is always a risk. Any institution -- college, university, or city -- would, correctly, respond to a situation that has even a possibility of volatility with a security presence. It is a reality for us that we are not located in an urban area like New York or Washington where there would be capacity to draw on local law enforcement, so managing multiple events like these necessitates careful design, structure, and planning. As you know, a provisional invitation for the fall has been extended, which will allow us that additional time and space to execute the event(s) safely."

Peter McDonough, vice president and general counsel of the American Council on Education, said that he had no direct knowledge of the discussions at Middlebury. But he said Middlebury appeared to be "trying to make it happen," referring to the speech. He said that colleges such as Middlebury, located in rural areas, have challenges with security that are more difficult than those colleges that are in urban areas, where there may be a range of state and local police forces with which to work.

McDonough said that colleges are committed to free speech, but that college leaders must always think about student safety. When talking about free speech issues on campus these days, he said, the issue is always linked by college leaders to issues of student safety.

Linus Owens, an associate professor of sociology at Middlebury who opposed the decision to invite Legutko to campus and who has supported the student protesters, said via email that he was bothered by the way Middlebury handled the event. By talking about safety issues as the college did, he said, Middlebury was effectively blaming student protesters -- even though they had pledged not to disrupt the event.

The statements made it "pretty easy for people to interpret the 'safety risk' as the result of student protesters and the threat of disruption," Owens said. "This feeds into the existing narrative of Middlebury students (unfair to begin with, in my opinion, but this is even less grounded in actual events), and puts students at risk. Already, I have heard (unconfirmed, for now) multiple stories of student organizers and activists being targeted for 'shutting down' the event -- coming from off campus, mostly, but also on campus."

Added Owens: "It was irresponsible for the college administration to not think about how such a statement would make their students vulnerable to such attacks. And they continue to be irresponsible in not clarifying this … Several students I’ve spoken with, who now are being targeted online and are feeling like they are being left out to dry by the college, which is not in an hurry to clarify that they are not the cause of the cancellation, that they were not planning any disruption."

And on social media, there are many references to Middlebury students as the reason the lecture could not go on.

Chemistry Exam

The backdrop at Middlebury for the discussion of the lecture was a dispute over a chemistry exam last month.

A question on the exam asked students to calculate a lethal dose of hydrogen cyanide gas. As the question noted, that gas was used by Nazis in concentration camp gas chambers. As word of the test question spread, many on campus were appalled and could see no possible reason for a chemistry exam to focus on this issue.

Middlebury's president, Laurie L. Patton, issued a statement that said, "This inexplicable failure of judgment trivializes one of the most horrific events in world history, violates core institutional values and simply has no place on our campus. We expect our faculty to teach and lead with thoughtfulness, good judgment and maturity. To say we have fallen short in this instance is an understatement."

As a result of the question on deadly gas, Middlebury conducted a review of past test questions by the professor involved, Jeff Byers. The college said that the review found a question from last year with "a reference to the Ku Klux Klan in a way that appeared to be humorous in intent, but which was gratuitous and offensive."

Byers has gone on leave and issued an apology that said in part, "I apologize and take full responsibility for my actions in administering two examinations in the last year containing questions that were clearly offensive, hurtful and injurious to our students. I can offer no explanation for my actions other than carelessness and hubris. My students came to my class trusting that I would provide them with a supportive learning environment for a challenging curriculum. I failed them, and, in doing so, compromised their ability to focus on learning the subject matter I have devoted my career to teaching. I apologize without equivocation to the students, faculty and staff of Middlebury College and to the parents and alumni who, rightly, have denounced my actions."

Patton also said that Middlebury is "actively exploring practices to reduce the risk that incidents like this might occur in the future."

In an email message to the campus released Thursday, Patton said that the college valued the free exchange of ideas. "Middlebury is committed to the values of academic freedom, academic integrity, inclusivity and respectful behavior, which are intertwined at the core of our educational mission. Over the past two years, we have constructively engaged many controversial speakers, demonstrated peacefully and persuasively, and stayed in conversation with each other over very difficult issues," she said.

And Patton linked the response to the lecture to the debate over the chemistry test questions (although she alluded to that situation, and did not explicitly name it).

"It is equally important to note that this event did not occur in a vacuum. In recent weeks we have experienced several incidents of bias that are causing pain and anger in our community. It is clear that we need a deeper campuswide engagement about classroom climate and inclusive pedagogy," Patton wrote. "Members of the STEM faculty have expressed interest in a facilitated dialogue about course content, its potential impact and how to develop and maintain more inclusive classroom environments. We will meet with those faculty members early next week. That conversation with them can become a model for engaging all faculty in every department in these dialogues throughout the rest of this semester and continuing in the fall."

Other Incidents

Middlebury is not the only college to have experienced issues with disruptions.

Last month, Beloit College, a liberal arts institution in Wisconsin, shut down a planned speech by Erik Prince, an associate of President Trump and the controversial founder of the security company Blackwater. Administrators canceled Prince’s chat following student protests in which they banged on drums and built a barricade of chairs on the stage where Prince was due to give his talk.

A spokeswoman for the college, asked about any steps that have been taken since the incident, sent this email: "Beloit College cannot legally discuss disciplinary matters. As an institution of higher learning, open dialogue on all topics is one of their core principles. They review policies every year in collaboration with students, faculty and staff, and expect policies to be revisited."

At Harvard University, students who want the university to sell investments in companies involved in fossil fuels or private prisons interrupted a speech by President Lawrence Bacow, forcing him to relocate.

Bacow responded with an open letter in The Harvard Crimson, strongly criticizing the protest -- not for the views students expressed, but for the tactic of preventing a speech from being heard.

"What I saw last week was not a group of students looking to engage in conversation about things that matter to them. It was, instead, an effort to obstruct the rights of others to speak and to listen," Bacow wrote. "The heckler’s veto has no place at Harvard. When we shut down conversation, when we shut down debate, we shut down the opportunity to learn through reasoned discourse. It would be a shame if the state of our national public discourse, which has become so coarse, becomes the state of our campus discourse as well. We should strive to model the behavior we would hope to see in the rest of the world. Now is the time to ask ourselves: What kind of community do we want to be?"

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Concordia U's Liberal Arts College wanted conservative scholar Harvey Mansfield to speak at an alumni gala -- until it didn't

Fri, 2019-04-19 07:00

Concordia University’s Liberal Arts College asked the conservative political philosopher Harvey Mansfield to speak at its 40th anniversary gala, planned for next month. Citing alumni backlash over Mansfield’s past controversial statements on gender and gay marriage, the Canadian college then uninvited him and postponed the event.

Mansfield, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard University, recently went public with the incident, via a ticked-off op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. And faculty members within the intimate college remain divided over the decision to rescind Mansfield’s invite.

Frederick Krantz, professor of history and founding principal, or chair, of the college, described it as “a proven, full-time Western civilization degree program based on a multidisciplinary Great Books curriculum,” unique in Canada.

He’s always referred to the program as “a community of scholars, dedicated to objective analysis and free and open discussion and debate.” And for that reason, he’d also always thought that it was “immune to the wave of politically correct ideology sweeping many North American campuses.”

“Sadly, I was wrong,” Krantz said. Alumni and current students still “deserve better,” however, he added, expressing hope that the disinvitation may again be reversed.

Comparing the current climate for conservative professors to McCarthyism, Mansfield wrote in his op-ed, “I little thought that I would now in my old age be qualified for exclusion from Concordia University in our free neighbor to the north, not as the member of a conspiratorial organization serving an enemy power, but simply for holding opinions shared by half the American -- and perhaps the Canadian -- population.”

He added, “My speech was to be on the study of great books to which that college is devoted. The invitation was a surprise, and the rejection less of one, because I am a white male conservative professor. Though I teach at Harvard and lecture elsewhere fairly often, I don’t get invitations for occasions when universities put their principles on display. My last commencement address was for a private high school in rural California.”

An Invitation Revoked

Mark Russell, the college’s current principal, said in a statement that the faculty “acted in good faith when we originally invited Professor Mansfield.” But through “further discussions,” the college later recognized that choosing Mansfield as a speaker “was not the right match for the particular objective of this celebratory public event.”

Russell said that he personally invited Mansfield to give a keynote address on the relevance of great books in higher education, after the college’s entire faculty voted to endorse the idea put forth by a smaller search committee.

Mansfield is a well-known expert on Edmund Burke, Machiavelli and Tocqueville, and he’s put forth theories on executive power. But it’s his nonacademic work that has proved polarizing. He wrote a 2006 book, Manliness, and defended Lawrence Summers’s widely criticized 2005 comments about women's aptitude for quantitative fields.

Mansfield also has criticized affirmative action, linking it to grade inflation, and testified against gay marriage. Being gay doesn’t make for a life of “individual happiness,” for example, he said of anti-gay marriage legislation in Colorado in 1993.

Once the Liberal Arts College at Concordia announced its choice of speaker for the reunion, “a large number” of alumni reached out to faculty members to voice their concerns, Russell said. Many alumni stated that they would not attend the gala “because they objected to the views [Mansfield] has expressed publicly on women and homosexuals,” he added.

Professors within the college discussed the alumni concerns, and a majority ultimately decided that it was “best not to have Prof. Mansfield give the keynote address at the college’s reunion since it is intended to be a time of celebration and unity,” Russell said. Russell notified Mansfield of the change, tell him the initial invite was real but "precipitous."

This keynote was “not intended to be narrowly focused on Prof. Mansfield’s academic expertise on the works of Machiavelli and other political philosophers,” Russell said in his statement. “We would welcome him back for a scholarly discussion on the subjects of his research at any time.”

Russell emphasized that the gala is not canceled, as is rumored. Instead, it’s been postponed until the fall, he said.

Krantz -- one of two faculty members to vote against revoking the invite, of eight total -- said that “postponed” is merely “doublespeak,” and that the event has in fact been canceled.

In a separate statement to college alumni, Krantz -- along with Eric Buzzetti, another former college principal, and the president of program’s student alumni organization -- formally dissociated themselves from the disinvitation and reaffirmed their “commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of thought” at the college.

Saying that they neither endorse nor condemn Mansfield’s “views on aspects of feminism,” Krantz and his co-writers said, “It is wrong to silence a scholar because we happen to dislike, or to disagree with, what he has to say.”

A university “loses its purpose when freedom of speech becomes a dispensable luxury,” they wrote. “With this unfortunate decision, the [college] took a step down a path that has become all too well trodden, and in the process ignored its high heritage.”

Krantz’s statement cites a letter from 12 recent alumni opposing Mansfield. He said Thursday that he’s received feedback from numerous alumni and students, with “10 to one” against disinvitation.

‘Guilty’ of Being Conservative

Mansfield on Thursday “passed” on describing his current views on gender and gay marriage other than to say he’s “guilty” of holding conservative positions.

He discusses gender at some length in his op-ed, however, saying that “When I die I wish it said that I gave my best to my female students.” But the “new doctrine of feminism in which women are essentially the same as men, except that women have all virtues but no characteristic defects and men have no virtues and terrible defects, has little appeal to me either as fact or right.”

Feminism “is not so much an attack on ‘toxic masculinity’ as on feminine modesty, the ‘feminine mystique’ of Betty Friedan’s devising,” he wrote. “To feminists, modesty diminishes women’s power and keeps them dependent on men. Yet it is to be replaced by the notion of a ‘safe space’ that will protect women and liberate them from the need to defend themselves in the hostile environment presupposed by the so-called virtue of modesty.”

A moment’s reflection “suggests a certain resemblance between the old-time feminine modesty and the newfangled safe space,” he added. “In both, women are dependent on men to defend them -- whether they are old-school gentlemen or sensitive men like Mr. Russell.”

Scholars including Martha Nussbaum have previously accused Mansfield of misunderstanding feminism, and his most recent comments probably won’t vindicate him to his critics. But most of all, Mansfield contends the disinvitation is about free speech. The principle is “diminished by the view that seizes on the power of speech to manipulate and denies its power to enlighten,” he wrote.

Mansfield told Inside Higher Ed that the incident “shows a great deal wrong with campus speech, especially with the attitude of the faculty.” Professors are the “keepers as well as the beneficiaries of the freedom of universities, and for the faculty to surrender to the pressure of aggressively intolerant alumni is a disgrace.”

“It’s just as bad, perhaps worse, if the faculty share their intolerance,” he added.

Asked about students at Harvard, Mansfield said some “of course take issue with my conservative views, but so far they haven’t attempted to silence me.”

One student leader in the Occupy Harvard movement once declared that Mansfield should be fired on the grounds that academic freedom is subordinate to social justice, Mansfield said. But “mostly students lack a sense of adventure and just stay away from my courses.”

Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, said that she wouldn’t have personally invited Mansfield to talk, because he is “more like a provocateur than like a serious thinker.” But others “could reasonably disagree, and I can imagine a vigorous debate that could ensue if he did speak.”

As to disinviting him, Nussbaum said didn’t know enough about the initial terms of his visit to comment. On the broader campus speech debate, however, she said that when a person with “objectionable views speaks, unless advocating violence, the person should be heard and not shouted down.” Silent, peaceful protest, such as standing with signs, is always fine, she added, as is “civil counterargument.”

Concordia referred questions to Russell.

Edward King, an associate professor of political science at the university who is not part of the Liberal Arts College, said that disinviting speakers to an institution whose “raison d'être is to offer its students challenging, provocative and disturbing material for consideration in the marketplace of ideas is a chilling and counterproductive action.”

When an institution “like ours allows the student tail to wag the academic dog simply in order not to have their settled presumptions to be challenged,” King added, “our role as a free and open forum for political expression is over and we should turn out the lights and shut the doors.”

Travis Smith, another associate professor of political science at Concordia, said it seemed that liberal arts professors “apparently forgot, temporarily, I’m sure, what it means to be a professor of the liberal arts.” That’s “disappointing and embarrassing,” he said, “but at least this wasn’t one of those cases where an administrator intervened in an illiberal fashion.”

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Another case of censorship in a China studies journal

Fri, 2019-04-19 07:00

Yet another account of censorship involving a China studies journal has come to light. And the scholars involved say this case involves an insidious “blurring of boundaries” where they were misled into thinking Western publishing standards would apply when in fact the journal in question was subject to Chinese government censorship.

Lorraine Wong and Jacob Edmond, both professors at the University of Otago, in New Zealand, have written an account of the censorship they encountered when they edited a planned special issue of the journal Frontiers of Literary Studies in China. The journal is published by the Netherlands-based publishing company Brill in association with the China-based Higher Education Press, an entity that describes itself on its website (in Chinese) as affiliated with China’s Ministry of Education. The journal's editorial board lists scholars from major American and international universities -- including Cornell University, Duke University, Harvard University, the University of California, Davis, and the University of Washington -- and its editor in chief is based at New York University. The journal’s editorial office is located in Beijing.

Wong and Edmond wrote that the association with Brill, along with the involvement of leading scholars in the field on the editorial board, led them to mistakenly assume the publication standards would be akin to those of other journals in the field published in the U.S. What they found, however, was that the affiliation with the Higher Education Press and the location of the editorial office in Beijing means “the journal is subject to the full range of Chinese government censorship.”

Wong and Edmond encountered this censorship in editing the planned special issue on the topic of “how diverse understandings and uses of the Chinese script have shaped not only Chinese literature and culture but also representations of China in the wider world.” They oversaw a peer-review process and accepted four essays.

But they wrote that when they received the proofs for the issue shortly before the publication date, one of the four essays, by Jin Liu, of the Georgia Institute of Technology, was entirely missing. Their introductory essay had also been “crudely edited” to remove references to Liu’s essay, which focused on an artist who uses invented characters to satirize the Chinese Communist Party.

“When we wrote to the FLSC editor, Xudong Zhang, to question this censorship, we were told that the removal of Liu’s essay should come as no surprise, since FLSC has its editorial office in Beijing and so must abide by normal Chinese censorship,” Wong and Edmond wrote. “However, Zhang went further. He went on to say that Liu’s essay should never have been accepted and that he was now using his editorial prerogative to reject it.” Email correspondence with Zhang shared with Inside Higher Ed verifies this general account.

Zhang, a professor of comparative literature and East Asian studies at New York University, declined to comment via email, saying he would like to confer with the editorial board before issuing a statement. He did say there were "misrepresentations in the article about the editorial process and decision making, but those may appear to be academic niceties compared with the larger issue of censorship in China and U.S. academic response to it."

One listed member of the editorial board, Nick Admussen, an assistant professor of Chinese literature and culture at Cornell University, said on Twitter that he had asked to be de-listed from the editorial board and that he had never agreed to join in the first place. “There is something fake about the journal, it shouldn't be on Brill, and while it has published useful and meaningful research, it's not for me,” he wrote. 

Brill’s chief publishing officer, Jasmin Lange, issued a written statement saying Brill's cooperation with Higher Education Press in China is under review.

“Since 2012 Brill has had an agreement with Higher Education Press (HEP) in China to distribute the journal Frontiers of Literary Studies in China,” Lange said. “HEP is responsible for the editorial process and production of the journal. Brill distributes the journal in print and online to customers outside China. We are very concerned about the developments that were described in the recent blog post by Lorraine Wong and Jacob Edmond. Brill, founded in 1683, has a long-standing tradition of being an international and independent publisher of scholarly works of high quality. We are committed to the furthering of knowledge and the concepts of independent scholarship and freedom of press. The cooperation with HEP is currently under review and Brill will not hesitate to take any necessary action to uphold our publishing ethics.”

Brill is the latest international scholarly publisher to find itself embroiled in issues related to the exportation of Chinese censorship. In 2017, Cambridge University Press briefly blocked access in mainland China to more than 1,000 journal articles in the prestigious journal The China Quarterly before reversing course and restoring access to the articles, which dealt with sensitive topics in China like the Cultural Revolution, Tibet, Tiananmen Square and the pro-democracy movement, and the Xinjiang region. The German publisher Springer Nature has stood by its decision to block access to certain journal articles in China on the grounds that limiting access to certain content in China is necessary to preserve access to its wider catalog. More recently it’s come to light that Chinese importers have stopped buying whole journals in China or area studies.

Scholars are worried that international scholarly publishers interested in maintaining access to the massive Chinese market are coming under pressure to comply with Chinese government censorship demands, in effect helping spread the Chinese censorship regime beyond China's borders and tainting scholarly publishing standards worldwide. In reflecting on what happened in their specific case, Wong and Edmond wrote that scholars are used to different sets of rules applying to publication inside mainland China and outside China, but that the details of the Frontiers case suggest that distinction is breaking down.

They wrote, “We were perhaps naïve to assume that the association with Brill and the international editorial board indicated that the journal operated according to the normal standards for non-Mainland publications and would not be subject to censorship -- a mistaken belief shared by us as editors and our contributor, Liu. In subsequent correspondence, we have discovered from senior colleagues that others, particularly colleagues in junior and vulnerable positions, have also been caught in the unexpected application of censorship to a journal that, at a casual glance, might appear to sit outside the boundaries of Chinese government control. The journal Frontiers of History in China, which is likewise jointly published by Brill and the Higher Education Press, may have misled others in a similar way.

“We believe that it is precisely the blurring of boundaries between publication inside and outside Mainland China that makes the precedent of FLSC particularly worrying and insidious,” they continued. “We have trained ourselves to read between the lines of work published on the Mainland, noting and compensating for the telling absences. But what happens when it is no longer obvious where something was published and according to which rules? Moreover, in these straitened times, dependence on editorial and financial support may well lead other editors, academics and publishing houses outside China to add their stamp of legitimacy to such censorship.”

Wong and Edmond wrote that they withdrew the entire issue of Frontiers in solidarity with Liu and that three of the four essays, including Liu's, have just been published in another journal, Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (their essay on the censorship they experienced serves as a preface to the three essays, and was also published Thursday on the Modern Chinese Literature and Culture Resource Center website).

“I admire the two special editors, their courage for speaking out and letting the broader academic community know about this,” said Liu, an associate professor of Chinese language and culture at Georgia Tech. “I think scholars will be more careful to submit their articles to this journal later on.”

In an interview, Edmond, an associate professor of English at Otago, said he and Wong decided to go public with what happened "because of our belief in academic freedom, also a desire for the Chinese studies community to at least have a proper conversation about the potential through such joint publication deals and other forms of partnership for Chinese government censorship to be extended beyond the borders of China. We consider these really serious issues."

Charlene Makley, a professor of anthropology at Reed College who has tracked issues related to censorship in China studies journals, said that "many of the previous examples that have come to light have been more about Chinese importers choosing not to buy whole journals or trying to pressure publishers to get rid of certain articles just due to key terms. We haven’t [previously] seen cases come to light where you actually see editors stepping in and going after content.

"This might be a tip of an iceberg or it might be an anomaly," Makley said. "What’s happening I think is as they say the boundaries are blurring: there’s no easy distinction between China publication and outside China publication because of these behind-the-scene connections between Chinese publications and non-Chinese distributors and publishers. We need somebody to be trying to unpack some of those behind-the-scene relationships. There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than authors and peer reviewers know and maybe even editors -- in this case, they were invited editors."

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Colorado governor tells university system board to find leader who 'unites the board'

Fri, 2019-04-19 07:00

Colorado governor Jared Polis on Thursday weighed in on the controversy surrounding the state Board of Regents' pick to lead the University of Colorado system, suggesting that board members should find someone to replace University of North Dakota president Mark Kennedy, the sole finalist for the job.

A Republican former Minnesota congressman, Kennedy has led North Dakota since 2016, but his party-line GOP voting record in Congress from 2001 to 2007 has given some Coloradans -- including at least one Democratic board member -- second thoughts on his candidacy. Regents chose him April 10 as the sole candidate for the post and could issue a final vote on his nomination as early as next week.

In a Thursday morning tweet, Polis, a Democrat who is Colorado’s first openly gay governor, said, “It's very important that they find a candidate that unites the board. It’s never good for a candidate or the institution if the board is split on a decision of this magnitude.” Polis ended with the hashtag #copolitics.

As the University of Colorado moves forward in its selection process for a new President, it's very important that they find a candidate that unites the board. It’s never good for a candidate or the institution if the board is split on a decision of this magnitude. #copolitics

— Jared Polis (@GovofCO) April 18, 2019

Ken McConnellogue, the CU system’s spokesman, said in response, "We look forward to the next steps in the process when the university community and Coloradans will get to hear from Mark Kennedy, beginning Monday," The Denver Post reported. "The governor will be one of the first stops on his itinerary next week."

Five of the nine elected regents are Republicans; the other four are Democrats. It's not immediately clear how they will vote on Kennedy's nomination. By law, they are required to allow 14 days before acting on it further.

One regent, Democrat Lesley Smith, has said regents didn’t discuss Kennedy's voting record during his interview, but that he discussed his support for gay people while answering a question on diversity. The board was satisfied with his answer, but Smith said she is "getting a lot of pushback from constituents" on Kennedy's congressional voting record.

She tweeted last week, "Some information about Mark has come to light that is concerning; my colleagues and I will be exploring this further."

Smith did not respond to a request for an interview, but speaking at a meeting of Boulder Progressives on Thursday, she said Kennedy would have "lots of chances to talk about things that are issues with the community," the Boulder Daily Camera reported.

During an interview Wednesday with Colorado Public Radio, Kennedy wavered when asked his thoughts on affirmative action in college admissions. The interviewer noted the U.S. Education Department's demand that Texas Tech University's medical school stop considering race in admissions. Kennedy said he hadn’t “wrestled with that at the university yet.” He added, after a hesitation, “Can I just not answer that question?”

He later told the interviewer, “I apologize. You caught me off guard there. I think however we do admissions, it has to be done in a way to recognize that diversity provides a benefit to all, and there are many ways of doing it. Each university needs to wrestle with it in its own way, but making sure that we have an admissions policy that is embracing a diverse population of students and giving each the benefit of understanding each other.”

Kennedy later told The Denver Post that he stumbled on the answer because he believed he was going to be late to a meeting, which “I did end up being late for,” he said. “My concern was the time to get to my next meeting.” He told the Post that he believes affirmative action policies can’t give “undue benefit or undue penalty” to applicants. Kennedy also said he wasn’t familiar with the Texas Tech admissions matter. He said colleges “can use holistic review processes or admissions that factor in things like race or first-generation college applicants in a nonprescriptive way.”

Kennedy added that at North Dakota, the medical school looks for rural applicants and those with Native American heritage, since this is the area’s largest minority population.

Kennedy is scheduled to visit all four of the Colorado system’s campuses next week, the Daily Camera reported. As the visit draws near, several groups, including faculty groups, are expected to weigh in on his candidacy with petitions, protests and resolutions.

The regents met in private on Tuesday, the newspaper reported, but didn’t vote or issue any official statements. McConnellogue, the system spokesman, said, "It's interesting to me that groups want to pass resolutions without hearing from the guy. They base a lot of this on things that happened 13-plus years ago, without hearing what he has to say about it."

In an interview with the Daily Camera, Kennedy said, "I understand there's a lot of passionate people. I also know that CU has a tradition of open and honest discussion, and I hope I'm given the opportunity to discuss these issues and that they'll maintain an open mind when I come to campus."

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New presidents or provosts: Beaver Bloomfield Bucknell Clarke Goldey-Beacom John Carroll Modesto Norfolk Paterson St. Francis Southwestern

Fri, 2019-04-19 07:00
  • Javaune Adams-Gaston, senior vice president for student life at Ohio State University, has been chosen as president of Norfolk State University, in Virginia.
  • Thom D. Chesney, president of Brookhaven College, part of the Dallas County Community College District in Texas, has been appointed president of Clarke University, in Iowa.
  • Roger W. Davis, interim president of the Community College of Beaver County, in Pennsylvania, has been promoted to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Marcheta P. Evans, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Our Lady of the Lake University, in Texas, has been named president of Bloomfield College, in New Jersey.
  • Steven T. Herbert, associate provost for academic affairs and dean of the Graduate School at Xavier University, in Ohio, has been selected as provost and academic vice president at John Carroll University, also in Ohio.
  • James Houpis, dean of academic support and learning technologies at Skyline College, in California, has been chosen as president of Modesto Junior College, also in California.
  • Colleen Perry Keith, president of Pfeiffer College, in North Carolina, has been selected as president of Goldey-Beacom College, in Delaware.
  • Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Gonzaga University, in Washington State, has been selected as provost at Bucknell University, in Pennsylvania.
  • Joshua B. Powers, administrative fellow at the Vermont State Colleges System and former associate vice president for academic affairs at Indiana State University, has been appointed provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at William Paterson University, in New Jersey.
  • Beth Roth, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Alvernia University, in Pennsylvania, has been chosen as provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of St. Francis, in Illinois.
  • Minou Djawdan Spradley, acting vice president of instruction at San Diego City College, in California, has been selected as vice president for academic affairs at Southwestern College, also in California.
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Amid budget deficits and unfavorable demographics, Oberlin pushes to do more with less

Thu, 2019-04-18 07:00

Facing challenging finances and a demographic cliff, Ohio's Oberlin College is mulling a strategic plan that would trim 100 students from its renowned music conservatory while adding the same number to its liberal arts program.

The shift, which would take place slowly, over four years, would bring the conservatory’s enrollment to around 480. It would also create a brand-new minor in music for liberal arts students, who often show up with musical interests but little interest in a music career. Oberlin would offer these students conservatory classes and private lessons, as well as the opportunity to perform with conservatory students.

College officials say the moves would make the conservatory more competitive. For one thing, they would technically shrink it, offering fewer slots for top musicians. They would also allow Oberlin to capture musically inclined students who nonetheless want to major in the liberal arts -- the college’s data on recently admitted applicants to the liberal arts program show that nearly 80 percent of applicants who list music performance as a field of primary or secondary interest end up enrolling elsewhere, despite the presence of the acclaimed conservatory on the same campus.

The changes are aimed at “ensuring Oberlin’s long-term resiliency” in an uncertain time for both liberal arts colleges and music conservatories, said President Carmen Twillie Ambar.

Oberlin predicts that the shift would also bring in millions more in revenue. As recently as 2017, the liberal arts program saw net revenues of $23.9 million, while the conservatory lost $11.1 million.

That’s not because of different tuition rates -- the two programs are priced identically, college officials said. But conservatory students bring in about $10,000 less, on average, since the two schools are in search of different pools of students. To be competitive among other conservatories, Oberlin must offer these prospective students more aid than it does liberal arts students, who are enrolled in what's officially known as Oberlin's Arts & Sciences program.

Officials predict the change could produce an estimated $1 million in new revenues annually, beginning in year four of the plan.

The change would need approval by Oberlin's Board of Trustees, which is expected to vote on it at its June meeting.

"If this is how you keep financial aid intact, and you continue to work on the most important initiatives you have going on, then maybe it's the right thing to do." -- alumna Linda Holmes ('93)

In an interview, Ambar said many “extremely talented” musicians don’t choose the conservatory because they don’t see themselves performing professionally. “We haven’t captured enough of those students because we can’t give them enough access to the conservatory to enhance those abilities,” she said. Doing that won’t dilute the quality of instruction -- even the student musicians say that “hasn’t been a concern that they’ve expressed” during the process.

“Yes, our conservatory’s students perform at an extremely high level -- they’re entering the profession, absolutely. But there is a nice, robust group of Arts & Sciences students who will be able to mesh with those students in ways that will enhance this experience.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, alumni say they hate to see the conservatory shrink, but they see both sides of the debate.

Linda Holmes, a 1993 liberal arts graduate who hosts NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, said she hasn't followed Oberlin's financial travails closely enough to second-guess "people who have put this kind of work into coming up with recommendations." But she said she'd be sad to see the conservatory -- and the number of people who each year earn degrees there -- shrink. "At the same time, it always gives me comfort that everything that happens at Oberlin is argued over endlessly, to the point where if there are other options to prevent this, they'll be brought to the forefront."

Holmes, whose first novel appears in June, said she "loved being on a campus that was shared with a music school. It enriched my life so much to know musicians -- some of my close friends were either conservatory students or double degree. I don't relish any reduction in the size of the conservatory. But I also don't relish seeing the school struggle in the long term. If this is how you keep financial aid intact, and you continue to work on the most important initiatives you have going on, then maybe it's the right thing to do. But I trust them to fight it out. That's kind of classic Oberlin."

Ziya Smallens, 2016 liberal arts graduate who works as a political speechwriter with West Wing Writers in New York City, similarly said he is weighing the proposal's pros and cons. An amateur musician himself, he recalled applying for a conservatory class that required passing a vocal skills test. He balked at the test and never took the class. As painful as that was, he thinks Oberlin was correct to demand top-notch musical skills. "It would have been lovely" to take the class, he said, "but those opportunities should not come at the cost of preventing would-be musicians from entering the conservatory."

Terry Hsieh, a Beijing-based multi-instrumentalist who earned bachelor's degrees in Chinese and jazz performance at Oberlin in 2012, said he hadn't seen the proposal. But he said he hopes Oberlin “can continue to leverage its strength in the higher ed world: producing both talented and creative liberal arts and sciences graduates and professional-level musicians who make a sustained impact in the world of music.”

Needed: More Revenue

Like many other small private colleges, Oberlin faces challenging financial times ahead. In addition to structural deficits that could last several years if unaddressed, Ambar said, Oberlin is confronting the reality of smaller numbers of high school graduates in the Northeast that puts it at a distinct disadvantage, since unlike many larger colleges, it primarily serves traditional-age students.

The extra revenue from more liberal arts students can’t come fast enough. Last June, the board approved a $160 million budget that included a projected $4.7 million deficit. Without making cuts, the college’s deficit could have been as high as $9 million this year, an "unsustainable" figure that would hamper Oberlin's ability to offer financial aid "and to invest in our faculty, staff and campus," college officials said in an open letter to campus.

Ambar, along with Chris Canavan, Oberlin’s board chair, and Chesley Maddox-Dorsey, the vice chair, said the college last year raised enrollment. "But we’ve also had to contribute more financial aid, so the net revenue gain from improved enrollment has been modest. In other words, we are exhausting our pricing power," they wrote.

For new students, fall 2019 tuition and fees, along with room and board, are expected to be $73,694.

Raising tuition, they said, "only increases the demand for financial aid. It also adds to the financial strains on our students and their families, making it harder for us to keep them at Oberlin from the day they matriculate to the day they graduate. This weighs heavily on Oberlin’s finances."

The college has said that if it doesn’t trim expenses, Oberlin’s deficit could reach $162 million within a decade. It relies on net student income for 83 percent of operating revenue.

In its most recent audited financial statement, Oberlin said 97 employees took voluntary buyouts in 2016, with another 17 in 2018. It reported $184 million of outstanding bonded debt.

With an $887.4 million endowment last year, 186-year-old Oberlin is wealthier than most small private institutions, but far behind its wealthier peers -- colleges like Amherst, Swarthmore and Wellesley all reported endowments at or near $2 billion. For the past few years, Oberlin has drawn about 5 percent of its endowment for operating expenses, a standard distribution. Last year, that amounted to about $44.1 million.

In a widely circulated October 2017 letter, Canavan, the board chair, said a group of trustees examining the college’s finances concluded that “we lean too heavily on cash from generosity (past and present gifts, and borrowing against future gifts) and not enough on cash from operations (tuition, room and board).”

He said Oberlin has many generous donors. “But they’re not generous enough to insulate us from the ups and downs of enrollment and retention, or from the broader socioeconomic trends that make it harder for families to afford Oberlin. The conclusion may seem self-evident, but it’s important nevertheless: we can’t stop appealing to generous donors, we need to find ways to boost our operating revenues and we have to reduce our cash needs where possible.”

Oberlin remains selective, said Ambar, but it’s “still facing those same headwinds” as other liberal arts colleges.

Looking back over the past decade, the conservatory’s application numbers peaked in 2017, with 1,396 applications, up from a low of 1,189 in 2014. Last year, 1,256 prospective students applied. Of those, 33 percent were admitted, up slightly from 28 percent in 2017.

The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston had a slightly higher acceptance rate at 33 percent in 2017, according to the most recent federal data. At the Juilliard School in New York City, just 6 percent of applicants were admitted in 2017, federal data show.

While last fall’s enrolled conservatory students had higher average SAT scores than in recent years, Oberlin’s liberal arts students had mixed scores.

Oberlin's selectivity in the college of liberal arts has dropped slightly: in 2018, it admitted 39 percent of applicants. As recently as 2016, its acceptance rate stood at just 29 percent.

By way of comparison, Amherst College admitted just 13 percent of applicants in 2017. Middlebury last year admitted about 19 percent. Carleton College in Minnesota admitted about 20 percent, an admissions official said.

“To say that they’re being prepared just to show up to be the first violinist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a very narrow view of what their career path will be.” -- Oberlin president Carmen Twillie Ambar

Oberlin's yield, in both the conservatory and the college of liberal arts, has shrunk: the conservatory enrolled 42 percent of admitted students in 2009. Last year, that dropped to 33 percent. In the college of liberal arts, yield dropped from 32 percent to 29 percent. Enrollment last fall totaled 2,785, about what it was a decade earlier.

C. Todd Jones, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio (AICUO), said he was impressed with how the college is going about the strategic process. “The beauty of what Oberlin is doing here is addressing the problem before it becomes a crisis. And that’s leadership,” he said.

It's clear that college officials have looked at the conservatory "in the context of the whole operation" and are trying to "make adjustments that are true to the overall mission of the institution, while looking at the dollars and cents of how it operates."

Officials foresee conservatory faculty, facing smaller enrollments, being freed up to offer “greater and more meaningful musical experiences” to liberal arts students -- collaborating with faculty across campus in interdisciplinary performances, for instance.

David Kamitsuka, dean of the liberal arts college, said the goal is to provide a more integrated experience that connects classroom work with experiential learning, likely in the form of more internships. Students come to Oberlin because they’re interested in a classical education, he said, “but they want pathways for that classical education to launch them into meaningful lives.”

William Quillen, the conservatory’s acting dean, said, “Every conservatory is having this conversation.” The realities of being a professional musician are “completely different from the world of 2010 or 2000, let alone 1980,” he said. “What we offer them in 2020 has to be different -- and will invariably, and must be different, from what we offered them 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago.”

While today’s conservatory graduates must play their instruments with the same technical mastery as always -- and with broad knowledge of classical repertoire -- they must also be able to perform in other musical styles and in different settings such as in film, animation and videogame soundtracks. “And on top of that, they have to have an entrepreneurial disposition,” he said, a set of skills that musicians simply didn’t need a generation ago.

“They’re being asked to do radically different work,” Ambar said. “To say that they’re being prepared just to show up to be the first violinist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a very narrow view of what their career path will be.”

She said conservatories “have to be prepared for an industry that’s changing more rapidly than health care has changed. What it will look like we don’t know, but we think we’re on the right track in helping our students prepare for the unknown.”

A Way to Differentiate Itself

Among other proposals, Oberlin is considering shrinking the size of its campus to save on utility costs and deferred maintenance, as well as introducing new majors such as business and global health.

AICUO's Jones said he can't recall another instance in which he has seen “a deeper engagement of various stakeholders, while simultaneously being very public about numbers and about the effects of policies. I just don’t see that very often with processes like these at campuses.”

He's not surprised that's taking place at Oberlin, a college known for inclusivity. Founded in 1833, it was coeducational from the beginning and began admitting African American students two years later.

The open process is “true to the culture of the place,” Jones said. “I’m looking forward to the results of it, because colleges learn from each other. And the experience here, if it’s successful -- and I expect it to be so -- it is one that’s likely to be drawn upon by other institutions going forward.”

Michael Emerson Dirda, a 2009 graduate who majored in English and history, said many students choose Oberlin because "while they may not be conservatory-caliber musicians themselves, they still love playing music, learning about music and being surrounded by music. If the enrollment changes are able to free up resources for such students and otherwise bridge the gap between college and conservatory, this could be a useful way for Oberlin to differentiate itself from similar liberal arts institutions."

NPR's Holmes, who is also a former attorney, said she's more concerned about what seems a bid by Oberlin to reconsider hourly workers' pay. "That worries me a little," she said.

The college says that while many faculty salaries fall below those of peer institutions, Oberlin's hourly workers earn "significantly higher wages than their counterparts" at four nearby liberal arts colleges. Oberlin’s average hourly staff wage is 34 percent higher than at Kenyon, Denison, Ohio Wesleyan and Wooster Colleges.

"I don't want to see the school in a race to the bottom with hourly wages -- although again, I feel weird second-guessing, because they've put some study into this, and it's not like they're likely to be leaving chests full of money they could just open up and empty out," Holmes said. "It's just hard. It's painful. Oberlin for me was weird and intense and serious and sometimes kind of aggravating, but there's nothing quite like it. I think that's probably still the case, even as they tackle this."

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Middlebury calls off lecture by conservative Polish leader amid threats of protests

Thu, 2019-04-18 07:00

A little more than two years ago, Middlebury College students shouted down Charles Murray, the controversial writer whom many accuse of espousing racist ideas, preventing him from giving a public lecture at the college. While Murray was not the first speaker blocked from speaking on a campus, his case captured national attention. Although Middlebury later punished many of those found to have prevented him from speaking (videotape captured the incident), many accused the college of failing to protect free expression.

On Wednesday, another controversial figure was slated to give a talk at Middlebury. Again, protests were planned against the speaker, although it is unclear if those protests would have disrupted the speech -- a violation of Middlebury rules and the norms of campus discourse. This time Middlebury called off the event, citing safety concerns.

An email that went out to the campus hours before the scheduled appearance by Ryszard Legutko said, "In the interest of ensuring the safety of students, faculty, staff and community members, the lecture by Ryszard Legutko scheduled for later today will not take place. The decision was not taken lightly. It was based on an assessment of our ability to respond effectively to potential security and safety risks for both the lecture and the event students had planned in response."

The email was signed by Jeff Cason, the provost, and Baishakhi Taylor, dean of students.

They went on to write that due to location changes and an increased number of expected attendees, "we didn't have the staff capacity" to assure safety.

The Alexander Hamilton Forum, a group at Middlebury that invited Legutko, indicated that it would invite him again in the fall, and a Middlebury spokeswoman indicated that the college was open to that visit, consistent with "standard" event scheduling rules.

While he was unable to speak in a public lecture, Legutko did appear in a political science class, some of which was live-streamed to Facebook.

Legutko is a professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University, in Kraków. He is also a member of the European Parliament and is associated with far-right views that have growing support in Eastern Europe. He has offended many groups, and criticism at Middlebury has noted his support for discrimination against gay people. His fans note his stance against dictatorship in the era when the Soviet Union controlled Poland.

An open letter circulating on campus questions sponsoring "a speaker who blatantly and proudly expounds homophobic, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic discourse." Bringing such a speaker to campus amounts to "shutting out large swaths of the Middlebury community, all of whom are engaged, critical and rigorous thinkers whose energies would be better spent not combating degrading and dehumanizing rhetoric."

A recent Middlebury graduate who is from Poland published a letter in the student newspaper in which he said in part, "I am all for Middlebury inviting speakers that hold views different than those of the campus majority. But you could at least seek speakers who are not bigots and hypocrites."

Keegan Callahan, assistant professor of political science and director of the Alexander Hamilton Forum, circulated another letter about the planned visit. While noting that many respect Legutko, the letter stressed the value of the college having speakers with a range of views.

"We treat all Middlebury students as independent thinkers with a right to and capacity for free and open inquiry," the letter said. "We are committed to viewpoint diversity and freedom of thought. We believe that through the competition of ideas, each of us can better understand our own deepest convictions and make progress in the pursuit of truth. We believe that Middlebury students deserve to hear a multiplicity of perspectives, including the views of influential scholars with whom we might disagree strongly."

As word spread Wednesday about another conservative figure being unable to speak at Middlebury, some academics far from campus spoke out against what happened. Robert George, a Princeton University professor who has defended the right of controversial academics (on the left and right) to speak, offered a series of tweets.

A "liberal arts college" that bans speech is like a "cigar bar" that forbids smoking. What's the point of the place? #middleburyyieldstothemob

— Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) April 17, 2019

Middlebury yields to the mob's threats of violence. No questioning of campus dogmas permitted. Why keep the place open? "College Cancels Conservative Philosopher’s Lecture on Totalitarianism": https://t.co/303oDFTFfC

— Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) April 17, 2019

The decision by Middlebury came just a few weeks after Beloit College, a liberal arts institution in Wisconsin, shut down a planned speech by Erik Prince, an associate of President Trump and the controversial founder of the security company Blackwater. Administrators canceled Prince’s chat following student protests in which they banged on drums and built a barricade of chairs on the stage where Prince was due to give his talk.

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Advocates share war and success stories at 'Inside Higher Ed' event

Thu, 2019-04-18 07:00

WASHINGTON -- General education is not simply filler for a student’s time in college beyond the major. Done well, gen ed can answer students’ questions about what college is, and why it matters.

Gen ed is also a great American contribution to higher education, affording students the time and space for intellectual exploration, and teaching them to learn to think in different ways.

Yet general education is under threat. Politicians question the value of it, specifically requirements that aren’t explicitly job oriented. Students don’t always get it. And creating and adopting a strong general education program demands much of already time- if not resource-strapped professors and their institutions.

Is gen ed worth the fight? Speakers at Wednesday’s Inside Higher Ed Leadership Series event, The Future of Gen Ed, think so. The sold-out all-day meeting, held at Gallup's headquarters here, featured conversations on why general education matters more than ever, along with data-driven arguments for gen ed. Other speakers offered thoughts on challenges and lessons learned in their own institutions’ gen ed reforms, and whether diversity should be a program requirement.

‘A Common Commitment’

Geoffrey Harpham, visiting scholar and senior fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University and former president and director of the National Humanities Center, talked about the namesake figure of his 2018 book on the “golden age” of education, What Do You Think, Mr. Ramirez?: The American Revolution in Education. Harpham once met a Mr. Ramirez (that’s a pseudonym) during a campus visit and described how general education transformed the man’s life.

Ramirez went from being a penniless Cuban refugee in 1960s Florida who spoke no English to a professor emeritus of comparative literature. The turning point was when he enrolled in a community college and was forced to take a course on Shakespeare. A professor asked him what he thought about some topic of discussion -- the first time anyone had ever done so. Ramirez was too embarrassed to answer at the time, as he thought he had nothing to say and “no thoughts at all.”

But of course he did have thoughts and things to say. He just needed someone to ask him the right question.

Harpham said he’s under no illusion that we’ll return to that golden age of general education. But he said he does hold out hope that general education survives as a powerful democratizing force and a “common commitment -- variously realized to be sure -- to a common culture that we all share and have a responsibility for.”

While general education is often expressed as a program of courses and values, it’s also an “aspiration,” or spirit, that can be embodied by any professor in any class, he said.

Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, agreed that general education is a democratizing force that provides a mind- and life-broadening education to the many, not just the elite few. And so political rhetoric that “calls into question the value of higher ed generally, and of liberal education in particular, perpetuates growing racial and economic segregation in our society,” she said.

What can be done? Higher education needs to “demonstrate in a more compelling way that we are teaching 21st-century skills,” Pasquerella said. She offered the example of her own son, Pierce, who railed against having to take courses in small group communication and intercultural competence while he was studying to be a filmmaker.

Then Pierce’s first job out of college happened to be on the Jerry Springer show, where he helped manage guests for hours on end in the green room. Finally all that education made sense to him.

Still, Pasquerella said, if a student who has two academics for parents doesn’t understand at the time what good his education is doing him, “What hope do other students have of sticking with a structure they think is totally useless?”

Case Studies in Gen Ed Reform

Indeed, one measure of a gen ed program’s value is student buy-in. In one of a number of general education case studies presented, Mary Dana Hinton, president of the College of Saint Benedict, said that her faculty members are seeking to build a more cohesive and student-centered program with the college’s new Integrations Curriculum. The program, set to begin in fall 2020, was guided by three design principles: making explicit connections between classes via themed courses, reflection and more; high-impact practices including writing-intensive courses, common intellectual experiences and a student portfolio; and a strong liberal arts and sciences education.

“Our faculty was seeking to answer two key questions: Why does general education matter to liberally educated students, and what content and pedagogy best support our goals for the liberal arts” on campus? Hinton said. While the process was faculty driven, Hinton added, students were engaged in conversations about what courses would help them lead and make positive change in the world from the start.

Linda A. Bell, provost and dean of the faculty at Barnard College, helped oversee a general education reform around 2016 that was, in part, prompted by students' requests for a change. There wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with the 16-year-old curriculum centered on nine ways of knowing, she said. But “fundamentally working is not good enough.”

Barnard’s reform, also driven by the faculty, resulted in a new Foundations curriculum promoting six modes of thinking, including thinking technologically and digitally. Courses in dance, architecture and fine arts, among other disciplines, satisfy it. Barnard has devoted more resources to it based on student demand. It's also committed to reviewing the Foundations every five years.

Ursinus College also hopes to transform the residential college experience with its new general education program based on four enduring questions, Mark B. Schneider, provost and dean, said in a separate TED talk-style presentation.

While liberal arts colleges were well represented at the event, administrators, faculty members and even students from across institution types shared insights, too. Pam Y. Eddinger, president of Bunker Hill Community College, reminded those present that half of all college students are at institutions like hers. So if general education is to survive, she said, community colleges must be involved in conversations about it. And those conversations must be inclusive, she added, saying that her culinary students and faculty members are intellectuals, too, for example.

Melody Bowdon, interim vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of Central Florida, is helping lead an overhaul of the general education program there. It’s complicated by the institution’s massive enrollment (some 68,000 students, mostly undergraduates), state restrictions on the curriculum and the fact that over half of undergraduates transfer from community colleges.

Still, she said, the process has gone relatively smoothly and enjoyed high levels of faculty enthusiasm. A valuable part of the process is hearing faculty members make explicit connections between program requirements and the content they’re already teaching -- making what's often invisible in general education visible. Bowdon also personally invites faculty members to participate in workshops on the pedagogical innovations that make gen ed courses that much more successful.

Donald J. Laackman, president of preprofessional Champlain College, talked about the merits of integrating general education across disciplines, for all four years, via the Core. And Melinda Zook, professor of history at Purdue University, discussed the runaway success of a Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts certificate program for students studying outside the liberal arts. The 15-credit-hour certificate is based on engagement with transformative texts and advanced humanities study.

Diversity Matters

An increasing number of institutions are requiring students to study diversity within their curricula. Should they?

Lucía Martínez Valdivia, assistant professor of English and humanities at Reed College, spoke with candor about her lingering doubts as to how her institution responded to a long-term student protest over a shared introductory humanities courses. The course, Hum 110, previously began with The Epic of Gilgamesh and covered ancient texts from Rome to Egypt. But following student complaints that the curriculum was "too white," there are now new modules. One of them attempts to cover 500 years of Mexican cultural history in a few weeks.

At least one student involved in the protest has since expressed regret, acknowledging that she “didn’t know what she didn’t know” at the time, Valdivia said. Valdivia’s response was that that’s typical for an 18-year-old. But the fact that students don’t know what they don’t know is something colleges might seriously weigh in responding to these kinds of student demands, she said.

Valdivia also said her last few weeks of teaching have confirmed that the closer in time and space diversity-based content is to students’ own experiences, the harder it is for them to be objective and ready to take information in.

Students' "learning identity is something we can no longer take for granted at liberal arts colleges,” she said. “Things have changed so much in the last 10 years.”

Laura Rosanne Adderley, associate professor of history at Tulane University, said students were involved in but did not drive a decision to add two diversity-related requirements to their curriculum. Students are now requred to take one course that is more than 50 percent related to race and inclusion in the U.S.., and one course on global perspectives. The latter requirement was inspired by the idea that when one studies life, language or culture outside one’s own domain, one’s racial empathy grows.

Adderley said it’s too soon to call these new requirements a success. But one hope is that they’ll not only revitalize enrollments in history and other courses dealing with diversity, but possibly draw students deeper into these programs, through exposure.

But to Valdivia’s point, students only benefit when they are in a growth mind-set and believe they have something to learn, Adderley said.

“These courses are not to fix people who don’t already know,” Adderley said. “It’s not what they’re there for.”

Measuring Gen Ed's Value

Getting gen ed right is clearly tricky. But beyond anecdotes and personal opinion, the data on long-term outcomes indicate that students benefit when colleges do get it right. Richard A. Detweiler, founder and managing director of HigherEdImpact, discussed his findings from 1,000 interviews with both liberal arts and other kinds of college graduates, 10 to 40 years postgraduation. He found that gradates who reported key experiences associated with liberal arts colleges (which tend to value general education) had greater odds of measures of life success associated with these colleges’ goals.

Graduates who reported discussing philosophical or ethical issues in many classes, and who took classes in the humanities, were 25 to 60 percent more likely than other graduates to have characteristics of altruists, for example (meaning they volunteered and gave to nonprofit groups, etc.). And those who reported that professors encouraged them to examine the strengths and weaknesses of their views, and whose course work emphasized questions on which there is not necessarily a correct answer, were 25 to 40 percent more likely to report that they felt personally fulfilled.

As for money, Detweiler has found there is a strong relationship between a having a broad undergraduate education and financial success. Those who take more than half of their course work in subjects unrelated to their majors -- an extensive general education -- are 31 to 72 percent more likely than others to have higher-level positions and to be earning more than $100,000.

A number of commenters throughout the day bemoaned the difficulty in assessing general education at the institutional level. But Carol Geary Schneider, fellow at the Lumina Foundation and president emerita of the AAC&U, bristled at that idea, saying that there's no need to recreate the wheel on assessment. Groups such as AAC&U have long-standing essential learning outcomes for a liberal education, she said.

"You don't have to measure every little course," she said. "We're not doing enough to celebrate the tools that already exist."

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Author discusses new book on impact of Virginia Tech mass shooting

Thu, 2019-04-18 07:00

On April 16, 2007, a gunman murdered 32 students and professors at Virginia Tech. Other mass shootings (including on college campuses) have followed, but the words "Virginia Tech" evoke a particular sense of the shock of what happened there in 2007.

After Virginia Tech: Guns, Safety and Healing in the Era of Mass Shootings (University of Virginia Press) tells the story of what happened after that terrible day. Thomas Kapsidelis, the author, is a journalist and a fellow at Virginia Humanities. Via email, he responded to questions about the book.

Q: What do you see as the key evolution you document of many of the survivors and family members of the slain at Virginia Tech in terms of how they responded?

A: It’s impossible to generalize about the experiences of survivors, especially in a community as large and diverse as Virginia Tech. Some of the survivors whose work I reported on in this book came to advocacy very soon after the shootings. Others may have taken some time, or been active at certain times and less so at others. Three of the graduates I followed worked in advocacy over much of the decade after the shootings. But they are quick to point out, and I agree with this, that the work of Tech survivors who may not be known to the public but who have persevered and have accomplished so much personally and professionally, must also be recognized. As one parent told me, “Whether the survivors choose to go forward as advocates for policy change or to continue with their previously chosen careers, they show strength and resiliency.”

Q: Certain names -- Columbine and Sandy Hook -- have come to be identified with certain kinds of mass shootings. What has Virginia Tech come to mean?

A: The Virginia Tech tragedy changed how higher education administrators in Virginia and across the nation view campus safety. A timely notice when there is a threat -- which was delayed at Virginia Tech -- would now seem to be a given. Likewise, the establishment of threat-assessment teams gives colleges and universities an organized way to intervene before a problem becomes an emergency. Sadly, some of these reforms are more difficult to replicate in our own communities, as shown by shootings in which the perpetrator was a person who showed signs of problems but slipped through the system for any number of reasons. Likewise, even with the increased awareness and strategies that have emerged since Virginia Tech, safety depends on vigilance and everyone doing their part. In my book, I quote a Virginia mental health official advising his colleagues, "Don’t become complacent … and don’t forget that the eyes of the world are now on you all the time."

Q: How has Virginia Tech (the university) balanced the need to memorialize the dead, and to promote the normal functioning of a large university?

A: The April 16 Memorial is on Virginia Tech’s historic Drillfield, in front of the main administration building and just steps away from Norris Hall, where 30 of the 32 were killed before the gunman took his own life in the front of a French class. I’ve been there many times and never fail to see someone stop and pay respects at the 32 “Hokie stones” inscribed with the names of the victims. The memorial grew from a tribute started by a student group, Hokies United, in the days after the shootings. A survivor of the 1966 University of Texas tower shootings told me the memorial at Tech helped drive interest in dedicating a larger memorial at UT, which took place in 2016.

Norris Hall is still in use. Renovations on the second floor, where the attack took place, included space for a new Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention, founded by a professor whose wife, a French instructor, was killed.

The university initially canceled classes for its annual Day of Remembrance, but resumed a regular schedule in 2012. The annual remembrance continues, however, and includes a memorial 3.2-mile run and walk. Activities have included displays from the huge collection of memorial tributes and items from around the world that are under the care of the university’s archivist. Among these tributes is an oversized, wood-bound book of condolences sent to Tech in 2007 from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. When I was completing my book, I was amazed to find that I had snapped a picture of the MSD tribute when it was on display for the 10th anniversary memorial weekend at Tech, a year before the Parkland shootings.

Amid the deep sorrow at Virginia Tech, the many questions of accountability would make any immediate recovery even more difficult. Time cannot heal all wounds. But I think the dignity, love and determination of the survivors have buoyed the Tech community. And just like the survivors we don’t hear about, there are many others -- faculty, administration and employees -- whose compassion will always be remembered.

Q: What lessons should higher education learn from Virginia Tech?

A: The safety and well-being of everyone in the campus community must be a priority. Universities should examine their complex systems to ensure they are responsive to the needs of students, faculty and staff -- and families. Having a safe campus doesn’t just happen. It needs to be tended and the product of communication with all involved. This goes beyond gun violence, given the many troubling issues facing colleges and universities.

Q: Campus carry has spread in the years since Virginia Tech (and many other shootings). Why do you think that the efforts of Virginia Tech survivors haven't been effective in preventing this?

A: Virginia Tech survivors spoke out against this in the immediate aftermath of the shootings, and I sense the movement for campus concealed carry in Virginia has waned over the years even as other gun rights have expanded nationally. In Texas, a Virginia Tech graduate whom I wrote about in the book was in the forefront of opposing campus concealed carry, which took effect in 2016 but only after earlier defeats in the Legislature. There is obviously renewed discussion across the nation about the role of armed staff and individuals in schools. As of 2018, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more states banned campus concealed carry rather than allowed it. Nearly half the states leave the decision up to the institution.

It’s important to note that Tech survivors, families and community members have become influential and respected for their advocacy in the areas of guns, safety and healing. Survivor advocacy has long been a force in the American gun violence debate, and we’ve seen that most recently with the energy of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students and the support they’ve generated. But one scholar told me the Tech community deserves recognition for helping create a template for involvement, in a time when the social media channels that are so effectively used today were just in their infancy. Added another expert who is an ally of the Tech families, “Had those families retreated, I think that you might have a very different outcome today.”

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Tensions grow in Australia over courses on Western civilization

Thu, 2019-04-18 07:00

Plans for lavishly funded “great books” courses are under a cloud amid academic revolts at two Australian universities.

The executive and the governing council of the University of Wollongong have closed ranks over Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings’s approval of a degree bankrolled by the Ramsay Center for Western Civilization, a philanthropic organization.

Meanwhile, proposals to offer Ramsay-funded majors at the University of Queensland have hit a snag, after the board of studies for UQ’s humanities and social sciences faculty unanimously rejected the draft curricula.

The developments at both institutions suggest that the conflicts over the planned courses -- opposed by many academics and students because of perceptions that they curtail academic autonomy and champion a “Western supremacist” perspective -- are increasingly becoming a test of university governance.

Wollongong avoided a staff and student backlash by negotiating with Ramsay in secret and announcing an agreement in December as a fait accompli. Wellings then bypassed Academic Senate scrutiny of the proposed course by approving it under “fast track” procedures, a move that the university says was necessary to meet publication deadlines for a 2020 course handbook.

In late March, the Academic Senate lodged a formal protest. Insiders said that the fast-track process was typically used to “tweak” existing courses and had never been used to endorse an entire new program.

This month the National Tertiary Education Union launched proceedings in the New South Wales Supreme Court, seeking to have the approval overturned. But last week, the university council sided with the executive.

“I am comfortable that the decisions taken by the vice chancellor have been in accordance with university policies and in the best interests of the institution,” Chancellor Jillian Broadbent said in a statement issued by the university.

That view is not shared by academics and students who protested prior to the meeting. Chloe Rafferty, president of the Wollongong Undergraduate Student Association, said that the university council should have recognized the position of the Academic Senate, “which is supposed to be the body that ensures our university has academic integrity.”

Rafferty said that she had been denied access to the council meeting to discuss a budget for the student union -- an address that she said had been planned for months -- with three security guards barring her entry. The university said that Rafferty had not registered her intention to attend the meeting -- a claim that she denied.

NTEU Wollongong's branch president, Georgine Clarsen, said that she had written to the university council members explaining why the union had taken legal action, enclosing copies of the court documentation, to ensure that the issue would not be “swept under the carpet.”

She said that the university’s governance unit had refused to confirm whether the information had been passed on to council members.

NTEU national president Alison Barnes said that the union had initiated legal proceedings because of the “gradual and persistent erosion of academic governance” at universities such as Wollongong.

The Supreme Court has the power to overturn Wollongong’s administrative decisions because the university was established under state legislation. The first hearing is set for April 23.

Meanwhile, UQ’s HASS board of studies has warned the faculty’s executive dean that “further consultation and refinement of the curriculum” for proposed Ramsay-funded courses is required.

Many of the faculty’s academics had earlier issued a petition opposing Ramsay-funded courses on academic freedom and institutional autonomy grounds. “There are incalculable reputational risks for the University of Queensland in linking itself to an external body that clearly has a specific political agenda,” the petition says.

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Colleges announce commencement speakers

Thu, 2019-04-18 07:00
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Advocates for student learning assessment say it's time for a different approach

Wed, 2019-04-17 07:00

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. -- Ask the many assessment haters in higher education who is most to blame for what they perceive as the fixation on trying to measure student learning outcomes, and they are likely to put accreditors at the top of the list.

Which is why it was so unexpected last week to hear a group of experts on student learning tell attendees at a regional accreditor's conference here that most assessment activity to date has been a "hot mess" and that efforts to "measure" how much students learn should be used help individual students and improve the quality of instruction, not to judge the performance of colleges and universities.

The session took place at the Academic Resource Conference, the annual gathering of the WASC Senior College and University Commission, which accredits institutions in California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. The panel's title built off the conference's theme of "provocative questions and courageous answers," and asked, in regard to teaching, learning and assessment, "is higher education accomplishing what it said it would?"

Not surprisingly, given such a broadly framed question, the conversation that unfolded was wide ranging and, at times, scattershot. But at its core, the discussion revolved largely around whether the way most colleges currently have gone about trying to judge whether their students are learning (by defining student learning outcomes and finding some way to gauge whether they have achieved those goals) helps institutions (and helps higher education collectively) prove they are doing a good job.

The answers were pretty uniformly no, despite all the activity colleges have engaged in during the last decade.

"There's a paradox that puzzles me and should puzzle all of us," said John Etchemendy, former provost at Stanford University, who is also a commissioner of the Western accrediting commission and a member of the federal panel that advises the U.S. education secretary on accreditation. The evidence is unequivocal, he said, that "the answer to the question on the screen -- is higher education accomplishing what it said it would? -- is absolutely yes," based on how much more college-goers earn over their lifetimes than Americans without a degree, among other indicators.

But "whenever we try to directly measure what students have learned, what they have gotten out of their education," Etchemendy continued, "the effect is tiny, if any. We can see the overall effects, but we cannot show directly what it is, how it is that we’re changing the kids."

Part of the problem, said Natasha Jankowski, director of the National Institute of Learning Outcomes Assessment, is defining what assessment is and what it isn't -- or, more precisely, differentiating between different kinds of assessment: that used for individual and institutional improvement and that used for external accountability purposes.

"There is assessment about informing my teaching" and students' learning -- understanding how students respond to or gain from certain kinds of content or instructional approaches, and developing evidence "that I would need to see to make a change in how I teach something," she said.

"That's very different from 'have we [in higher education generally] been effective over time?'" Jankowski said. The latter requires marshaling "a variety of evidence" of performance on numerous fronts (economic as well as educational) to a range of audiences (politicians, accreditors, students and parents, employers, the public), and "one test or measure [of student learning] isn't going to help us in that space." (A 2007 essay in Inside Higher Ed, "Assessment for 'Us' and Assessment for 'Them'" captured this conundrum well.)

Much of the assessment work in the last decade has focused on trying to develop quantifiable proof that institutions are helping their students, collectively, learn, with the aim of being able to create a measure of educational quality that was comparable across institutions. This push was often driven by accreditors' pressure on colleges, which was driven in turn by federal government pressure on accreditors. (One participant in the Western accreditor's panel, Jose F. Moreno, an associate professor of Latino education and policy studies at California State University at Long Beach, shared that when institutions like his were awaiting visits from the accreditor, they would often say "the WASC-itos were coming," a belittling reference to hordes of regulators about to descend.)

That perception of accreditors is why it is noteworthy that the Western accreditor, under its new president, Jamie Studley, staged a conversation that asked hard questions about assessment.

“We chose the theme Provocative Questions, Courageous Answers to underscore that WSCUC is committed to the same self-reflection and continuous improvement we expect of our institutions," Studley said. "When done well, assessment is a powerful tool that supports student success. Assessment has certainly evolved from its earliest days, and it’s our responsibility as an accreditor to encourage its wise application in the context of effective oversight and improvement focused on equity and important outcomes for all students.”

Achieving that goal would require moving beyond what Jankowski called "assessment as bureaucratic machine," which often resulted in institutions slapping together ill-conceived efforts to try to measure something to prove they were doing so.

"At a lot of places," Jankowski said, "it was, 'You need some learning outcomes -- put something together.' 'What are learning outcomes?' 'I don't care. Just fill this out.'

"It's not just that faculty members are crabby and hate change … There are good reasons why faculty hate it. It's real and it's earned," Jankowski said. (An Inside Higher Ed survey of faculty members last year, for instance, found that 59 percent of respondents agreed that assessment efforts "seem primarily focused on satisfying outside groups such as accreditors or politicians," rather than serving students.) Essays like this also reflect faculty disdain.

It's time for those in the assessment field to "own up to the fact that everyone had a first-round 'hot mess' go of it," she said. "We had a round of assessment that was really detrimental, incredibly measurement focused."

What Might Round 2 Look Like?

No one on the panel was arguing that teaching and learning are unimportant or that college officials and faculties shouldn't be regularly analyzing how well both things are happening in their classrooms -- far from it.

But "we need to worry less about the architectonic of how assessment works," Etchemendy said, and more about periodically checking "whether we’re teaching what we’re trying to achieve, and is the design still a good design, or maybe times have changed.

"If we discover that our class is not working or that our students are not getting what we want them to get out of the class, then I would think we would all try to change it. Those are the good parts of assessment, and I think anybody can buy in to that."

If efforts to measure student learning in a quantifiable way have been counterproductive, what should constructive assessment look like?

It should start, Jankowski and others said, with understanding what an institution (or an instructor, at the granular level) wants students to know and be able to do.

Sharon B. Hamill, a professor of developmental psychology and faculty director of the Institute for Palliative Care at California State University at San Marcos, suggested a form of "backward design," focused on "where do I want them to end up, and then how do I help them get there," she said. "Think to yourself, 'if they don’t remember another thing, they’ll remember this.'"

Robert Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and former Obama administration official who has railed against what he calls the "inane" focus on student learning outcomes, attended the Western accreditor's session and later led another called Improving Assessment by Putting a Leash on the Dogma. He said institutions should focus on making sure students are persisting in their academic programs and understanding what's impeding those who don't.

Focusing on outcomes like that don't necessarily capture the amount or quality of the learning, since institutions have been known to let students continue through their programs without demanding much in return.

The best way to gauge that, Shireman said, is to do "random checks of artifacts of the teaching and learning process (student work, instructor feedback, etc.). Ideally, portfolios of student work, not cherry-picked, would be available for public review (or at least external peer review). This should be arranged by the school but checked by accreditors." Such an approach would be designed, he said, to protect against diploma mills or other lesser-quality institutions.

But how might one go about answering the question that the Western accreditor's session started with: "Is higher education accomplishing what it said it would?" If it's not with assessment of student learning outcomes at the course or institutional level, it should be with "external, objective measures that measure indirectly program and institutional success -- things that can’t be fudged," Etchemendy said.

"Whether they graduate; whether they manage high-, well-paying jobs 10 to 15 years out, are they repaying their loans, what do they think about their institutions?" he said. "Those are the things I’m really interested in measuring."

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Connecticut community colleges faculty and administration at odds over proposed consolidation

Wed, 2019-04-17 07:00

Despite faculty opposition, the leader of Connecticut’s public colleges and universities is moving forward with plans to consolidate the state's 12 two-year institutions.

Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, presented his plan to consolidate the administrative functions of the community colleges to the system's accreditor April 11. This was the second time that he presents a plan to the accreditor, the New England Commission of Higher Education. When Ojakian originally proposed the consolidation plan nearly a year ago, the commission said it was not "persuaded that planning for the new Community College of Connecticut as outlined … is realistic."

“When we meet with NECHE, it’s to provide a status report on our progress since we heard from them last year,” Ojakian said. “We can assure them we’re on the right path and receiving guidance accordingly … We’re following their guidance that we should look and act like one accredited institution.”

Ojakian’s consolidation proposal, also known as Students First, would place the 12 colleges and their satellite campuses under a single, centrally managed authority. Instead of 12 separate presidents for each college, the proposal creates three regional president positions. Six finalists for the positions were announced in March. According to the proposal, faculty, academic and student affairs staff would not be affected, but about 23 percent of the 750 administrative staff positions in the system would be cut. Ojakian said some of those positions would initially be reduced through employee retirements.

The single community college entity would be in place by 2023 and would save the 12 colleges a total of $23 million a year, Ojakian said.

“We’ve already realized some of the savings because as individuals have retired, we’ve replaced them with positions that would be part of the new organization,” Ojakian said, adding that the savings from retirements so far have come to about $4 million.

“The more critical piece to this is the student success piece,” he said. “How much additional revenue can we bring into the system because it’s easier for students to enroll, stay and complete?”

Faculty members who oppose the plan -- many of whom call themselves “reluctant warriors” -- question the cost-saving estimates of Ojakian and his administration and have called on state lawmakers to intervene. Last month, students and faculty protested the plan and presented Governor Ned Lamont, a Democrat, with a petition of more than 1,300 signatures opposing it.

“I don’t understand why the Legislature is accepting the numbers being thrown out by the system office and Ojakian,” said Lois Aime, president of the Norwalk Community College Senate and director of educational technology at the institution. “Why isn’t anybody looking for an outside auditing agency to look at this?”

Aime and some other faculty members have complained that they have not been able to view the financial information Ojakian used to determine his estimates.

State lawmakers are examining the statements Ojakian and other system administrators have made about the cost of the consolidation and the savings it could bring the colleges. Faculty members opposed to the consolidation have lobbied the Legislature to stop the consolidation or at least slow down the process. A bill that would require the Legislature to approve the consolidation or closing of any CSCU institutions is awaiting action in the State Senate.

“The Legislature should have some control over this because we’re dealing with public higher education,” Aime said. “The Board of Regents don’t answer to anybody, and they aren’t elected.”

Ojakian opposes the bill and warns that inviting more legislative oversight of the system would politicize the system's decision making. He said community colleges in districts with a smaller number of legislative delegates would lose out under a system that allows input from lawmakers.

“That does nobody any good, and it does a disservice to students,” he said

CSCU and its Board of Regents were created in 2011, when lawmakers merged the state's community colleges with its universities and Charter Oak State College, an online institution. Nine of the 15 voting board members are appointed by the governor, four are appointed by the Legislature and two students are selected by their peers.

Matthew Warshauer, a history professor at Central Connecticut State University, said the bill will not stop the consolidation but is a good first step to confronting Ojakian’s proposal. Warshauer said he’s not opposed to consolidating some administrative functions in the system, or to Ojakian as the system’s president, but he is worried that centralizing management of the community colleges would lead to micromanagement and less academic freedom for instructors at the colleges, and eventually for those at the four state universities.

Faculty groups in the state are opposed to Ojakian’s plan for several reasons. They fear the colleges will lose their individual cultural identities and unique academic programs. Faculty members are also are concerned the colleges will be forced to deliver uniform programs whether or not they meet local work-force demands. Warshauer said faculty also fear that moving to a single accreditation process could jeopardize the individual accreditation of each the colleges, which are currently on different accreditation schedules.

Warshauer also said much of the streamlining that Ojakian proposed could be done without the centralization plan.

“The problem has never been that the community colleges or state universities are poor stewards of state money,” he said. “The problem is clear: the Legislature is putting fewer dollars in education because our state is in economic trouble.”

A report last year from EAB, an educational research and technology services company, found that per-student state spending for college students was below pre-recession levels across the country. State spending on Connecticut students decreased by 12.6 percent from 2008 to 2017, according to the report.

Warshauer said the system, the regents and the faculty should be working together to help the system become more efficient and put the colleges on better financial footing, but instead Ojakian’s answer has been to "blow up the system and remake it."

The total combined enrollment in the state’s community colleges is at a 10-year low, although some colleges are seeing an increase in students. Overall enrollment was 51,105 students in 2008; that number fell to 47,912 students in 2018, according to CSCU data. Enrollment was highest in 2010 at 58,253 students. System administrators project enrollment will decline an additional 8 percent in the next decade. Community colleges nationally have projected that their enrollments will continue to decline over the next several years.

Ojakian said budget shortfalls will only compound the problem.

“The governor’s budget proposal that was released in February flat funded us,” he said. “But even being flat funded, our community colleges are poised to end next fiscal year with a $25 million shortfall.”

If the financial and enrollment problems worsen then someone will have to decide which of the 12 colleges and four satellite campuses continue to exist, he said.

“Somebody will have to pick winners and losers, and it won’t be me,” he said.

The CSCU board approved a 5 percent tuition increase at the state universities last month. Ojakian said over the next couple of weeks the board will consider increasing tuition at the community colleges.

“We will not balance the burden of our deficit on the backs of students,” he said.

During a recent legislative hearing on the consolidation, Barbara Brittingham, president of NECHE, the colleges' accreditor, wouldn't comment on the steps Ojakian has taken, but she said he has been in regular contact with the commission to “avoid surprises.”

“This is a very big deal, and I don’t know of any other merger as ambitious as the one being planned here,” she said. “It’ll be interesting to see how the commission continues to work with the system, assuming they go forward.”

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University of the Arts rejects calls to fire Camille Paglia

Wed, 2019-04-17 07:00

Camille Paglia has long been a controversial figure in and out of academe -- best known in the world of scholarship for Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (Yale University Press). She is also a professor at the University of the Arts -- and some students there are urging that she be fired. Paglia is a target because of her statements criticizing some women who bring charges of sexual assault, and because of her comments about transgender people.

Her comments won't surprise those who have watched her career, but they have led to more controversy on campus than she has faced in the past. The university's president, without naming her, issued a strong statement defending academic freedom -- a statement that Paglia is praising as a model of the way college leaders should respond to demands that faculty members be fired for their statements.

Paglia's comments on the Me Too movement came in a recent YouTube video.

In the video, she criticizes "girls" who are "coached" about complaints they bring, and she focuses on college students and those who bring a complaint of rape months after an incident over "a mistake they may make at a fraternity party." She said bringing complaints in this way "is not feminism" but is part of a "bourgeois culture of excuses."

Critics also point to comments Paglia made in a 2017 interview with The Weekly Standard in which she touched on transgender issues.

"It is certainly ironic how liberals who posture as defenders of science when it comes to global warming (a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence) flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender. Biology has been programmatically excluded from women's studies and gender studies programs for almost 50 years now. Thus very few current gender studies professors and theorists, here and abroad, are intellectually or scientifically prepared to teach their subjects," she said. "The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible. Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one's birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births."

Paglia has said that she supports equal rights and does not object to people defining their sexual orientations and gender identities as they wish -- including in ways frowned upon by traditionalists. But she has defended the right of scholars to question some of the stances taken by some who support transgender rights. Via email, she said that she identifies as being transgender -- and that she regularly talks about the great contributions made to art and society by people who cross gender boundaries.

The petition demanding her ouster says that "in recent interviews she has blatantly mocked survivors of sexual assault and the #MeToo movement, and in classes and interviews has mocked and degraded transgender individuals."

Further, the petition says, "Camille Paglia should be removed from UArts faculty and replaced by a queer person of color. If, due to tenure, it is absolutely illegal to remove her, then the university must at least offer alternate sections of the classes she teaches, instead taught by professors who respect transgender students and survivors of sexual assault."

And the petition criticizes David Yager, president of the university, saying that he should apologize "for his wildly ignorant and hypocritical letter."

That letter was distributed as students started urging the dismissal of Paglia, but made no mention of her or her statements.

"Unfortunately, as a society we are living in a time of sharp divisions -- of opinions, perspectives and beliefs -- and that has led to decreased civility, increased anger and a 'new normal' of offense given and taken," Yager wrote. "Across our nation it is all too common that opinions expressed that differ from another’s -- especially those that are controversial -- can spark passion and even outrage, often resulting in calls to suppress that speech. That simply cannot be allowed to happen.

"I firmly believe that limiting the range of voices in society erodes our democracy. Universities, moreover, are at the heart of the revolutionary notion of free expression: promoting the free exchange of ideas is part of the core reason for their existence. That open interchange of opinions and beliefs includes all members of the UArts community: faculty, students and staff, in and out of the classroom. We are dedicated to fostering a climate conducive to respectful intellectual debate that empowers and equips our students to meet the challenges they will face in their futures."

And the letter added, with reference to the mission of the University of the Arts, "I believe this resolve holds even greater importance at an art school. Artists over the centuries have suffered censorship, and even persecution, for the expression of their beliefs through their work. My answer is simple: not now, not at UArts."

Paglia said via email that she considered the protests against her "a publicity stunt" by people who do not understand her ideas.

She praised her university president's "eloquent statement affirming academic freedom [as] a landmark in contemporary education." And she said she hoped other colleges would view the statement as a model for how to "deal with their rampant problem of compulsory ideological conformity."

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Med school at Washington University St. Louis will be tuition-free for more than half of new students

Wed, 2019-04-17 07:00

Last summer New York University's medical school, where the sticker price on tuition was more than $55,000 a year, announced that all current and new students would henceforth receive full-tuition scholarships.

One question raised by the move was whether top medical schools would match NYU's new policy.

On Tuesday, another leading medical school -- at Washington University in St. Louis -- announced that it was going to spend $100 million so that more than half of its new students from now on will not pay tuition. Currently, only about 20 of the students in an M.D. class of 120 receive full-tuition scholarships. Those not receiving full scholarships in the future will be able to receive partial scholarships. (Under a tuition plan that assures students the same rates for four years, Wash U currently charges $65,044 a year for tuition, with total costs of more than $85,000.)

The awards will be made both on the basis of financial need and measures of academic merit.

Washington University officials said that they have been making progress at limiting student debt, but that efforts to date have not been enough. The average debt of Washington University School of Medicine graduates over the past five years has been $99,088, compared to a national median of $166,239. Many have argued that high debt levels -- coupled with relatively low pay new M.D.s receive during their residencies -- discourage new doctors from jobs in which they may treat the disadvantaged or work in rural or other locations lacking enough medical care.

According to statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges, three-quarters of the Class of 2018 had debt. Among those who had borrowed, median indebtedness rose 4 percent, to $200,000. About half of students, 51 percent, borrowed $200,000 or more -- and 46 percent planned to enter a loan forgiveness or repayment program.

Completely tuition-free medical education isn't unheard-of. Sometimes new medical colleges adopt such policies to attract students, but this is typically for a limited time period. Other institutions have made pushes for some designated share of the class to receive full-tuition scholarships.

About 20 percent of students at the David Geffen School of Medicine of the University of California, Los Angeles, are awarded scholarships that cover all expenses -- tuition, room and board, books and supplies, and more. The scholarships are awarded based on measures of academic merit, not financial need.

When NYU announced its plans last year, some critics questioned whether all medical students needed the same levels of help. An essay in Slate called the move "at best, a well-intentioned waste -- an expensive, unnecessary subsidy for elite medical grads who already stand to make a killing one day as anesthesiologists and orthopedic surgeons."

Eva Aagaard, senior associate dean for education at Washington University, said via email that the university does hope to encourage medical students to look for a range of careers and that curricular changes will spotlight the value of such careers.

But she also said it may not be realistic to target aid to new medical students based on later career goals. "Students rarely know their career plans at the time of entry into medical school, and many students change their minds," she said. "We do look at interest and potential in academics, including interest in teaching, research and community engagement/advocacy, as part of the selection process both for the school and for the non-need-based aid."

NYU officials said it was too early to know how the new class of students will be different from prior classes. Many medical education experts have speculated that NYU may attract some students who in prior years might have gone to other medical schools.

But NYU saw major gains in its applicant pool, and in particular from groups that have not been flocking the medical schools. NYU Med saw a 102 percent increase, to 2,020, in applications from those who are a member of a group that is underrepresented in medicine (including black, Latino and Native American students). The largest percentage increase was among those who identify as African American, black or Afro-Caribbean. Applications from this group went up 142 percent, to 1,062.

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New presidents or provosts: Davenport Harper Laurentian Monmouth Northern Colorado Oneonta Pepperdine Richard Bland Saint Joseph's

Wed, 2019-04-17 07:00
  • Mark Anderson, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at Kennesaw State University, has been selected as provost at the University of Northern Colorado.
  • Maria Dezenberg, executive director of Navitas, a global education company, has been chosen as provost at Richard Bland College of William & Mary, in Virginia.
  • James A. Gash, associate dean for strategic planning and external relations and professor of law at the Pepperdine School of Law, has been named president and CEO of Pepperdine University.
  • Gilda Gely, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs for Cambridge College, in Massachusetts, has been chosen as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Davenport University, in Michigan.
  • Robert Haché, vice president of research and innovation at York University, in Ontario, has been selected as president and vice chancellor at Laurentian University, also in Ontario.
  • Leamor Kahanov, dean of the College of Health Sciences and Education at Misericordia University, in Pennsylvania, has been named provost at the State University of New York at Oneonta.
  • Cheryl A. McConnell, dean of the College of Business, Influence and Information Analysis at Rockhurst University, in Missouri, has been appointed provost and vice president for academic affairs at Saint Joseph’s University, in Pennsylvania.
  • Avis Proctor, president of Broward College’s North Campus, in Florida, has been named president of Harper College, in Illinois.
  • Mark Willhardt, interim dean and professor of English at Monmouth College, in Illinois, has been selected as dean and vice president for academic affairs there.
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Federal granting agencies and lawmakers step up scrutiny of foreign research collaborations

Tue, 2019-04-16 07:00

Tension between national security and science -- by its nature open and international -- is nothing new.

But over the past year and a half, national security agencies, federal granting agencies, the White House and members of Congress have all signaled their increasing concern about international students or scholars who might seek to exploit the openness of the U.S. academic environment for their own -- or their nations' -- gain. And they’re signaling that when it comes to the balance between scientific openness and national security -- and, to add a third dimension, economic competitiveness -- they’re not happy with where that balance is being struck, especially when it comes to China.

Over the past year and a half, there has been a steady drumbeat of developments out of Washington on this issue. To summarize:

  • In December 2017, the White House released a national security strategy that floated for the first time the possibility of restrictions on visas for STEM students from certain nations to prevent the transfer of intellectual property to competitor countries.
  • In February 2018, Federal Bureau of Investigation director Christopher Wray told the Senate intelligence committee that China is exploiting America’s open research and development environment and that the intelligence threat from China would require “a whole-of-society response” involving not just the intelligence sector, but the academic and private sectors as well.
  • Congressional hearings with names like Scholars or Spies: Foreign Plots Targeting America’s Research and Development followed. In June, the State Department moved to restrict Chinese graduate students in certain high-tech fields like aviation and robotics to one-year visas, instead of the usual five.
  • Programs run by foreign governments aimed at recruiting diasporic or international academic talent -- most notably China’s Thousand Talent program -- have also come under federal scrutiny. Speaking at a House armed services committee hearing last June, Anthony M. Schinella, the national intelligence officer for military issues in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said these talent programs "facilitate the transfer of foreign technology, intellectual property and know-how to advance China’s science, technology and military modernization goals."
  • An amendment to the defense spending authorization bill last year would have barred Department of Defense funding for any researcher “who has participated in or is currently participating in a foreign talent or expert recruitment program” operated by China, Iran, North Korea or Russia. Although the amendment wasn’t included in the final bill, the version of the bill that was signed into law in August includes language calling for further study of foreign talent recruitment programs and the development of relevant regulations.
  • More recently, in January of this year, the Department of Energy, which funds research related to nuclear energy, issued a memo restricting employees and grantees from participating in foreign talent recruitment programs operated by countries deemed by the agency as “sensitive.” A DOE official said the policy, which would affect talent programs operated by China, Iran, North Korea and Russia, has not yet been put in place.

Moreover, it’s not just international collaborations in research funded by the Defense and Energy Departments with their obvious national security implications that have come under increased scrutiny over the past 18 months. Foreign collaborations in the biomedical sciences have, too.

In August, the executive director of the National Institutes for Health, Francis S. Collins, sent a letter to grantees saying the agency “is aware that some foreign entities have mounted systematic programs to influence NIH researchers and peer reviewers.” The letter outlined three main areas of concern: “diversion of intellectual property (IP) in grant applications or produced by NIH-supported biomedical research to other entities, including other countries”; “sharing of confidential information on grant applications by NIH peer reviewers with others, including foreign entities, or otherwise attempting to influence funding decisions”; and “failure by some researchers working at NIH-funded institutions in the U.S. to disclose substantial resources from other organizations, including foreign governments, which threatens to distort decisions about the appropriate use of NIH funds.”

The NIH has reportedly sent letters to dozens of research universities asking them to provide information on specific researchers believed to have undisclosed links to foreign governments, and Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, shared in February that the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General had been referred a number of cases involving allegations that principal investigators on NIH grants had failed to disclose foreign affiliations. An NIH working group on foreign influences on research integrity comprised mostly of university leaders came out with a report in December with a series of recommendations for both the agency and universities to improve disclosure, training and communication, peer review, and monitoring processes.

Bound up in all of this is a broader scrutiny of U.S. universities’ collaborations with China and their acceptance of funding from Chinese government agencies or companies. This scrutiny manifests most prominently in calls from lawmakers for universities to close their Chinese-government funded Confucius Institutes. A wave of U.S. colleges has announced closures of the institutes, which typically focus on Chinese language education and cultural programming, as pressures for them to do so have increased.

Universities have also come under criticism from lawmakers for accepting research funding from Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant that has been charged with violating U.S. sanctions and attempting to steal trade secrets. Some major research universities have cut ties with the company or pledged not to accept future funding. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the latest university to announce it will not accept new funding from Huawei or another Chinese telecom company, ZTE. MIT also announced that it would add an extra layer of review for all collaborations involving people or entities from China (including Hong Kong), Russia and Saudi Arabia.

So that's the overview. And all this is taking place in the context of Trump’s trade war with China and an increasingly competitive relationship between the two countries.

Big picture, what appears to be driving this intensified scrutiny across the various agencies of the federal government and the Congress is a conviction that if academics and other guardians of high-tech knowledge are not more careful, the U.S. risks letting other countries -- most notably China -- steal the fruits of U.S. taxpayer-funded research and cheat their way into gaining a technical edge in certain crucial science and technology fields.

And it’s not just primacy in fields with obvious national security-related implications that’s at issue: at stake as well is U.S. dominance in the biomedical and life sciences and the economic advantage that comes with that. As Grassley said in a February statement about foreign threats to NIH-funded research, "These projects can produce important breakthroughs for patients and industry, keeping America at the cutting edge. I intend to continue scrutinizing this area so taxpayers get their money’s worth when funding this research and foreign actors can’t pilfer the good work done by legitimate researchers."

“This is about not only protecting our national security interests, but it’s also protecting our commercial interests,” said Joanne Carney, the director of government relations at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “That’s an element of national security. Trying to balance our ability to be an innovative nation and protect our commercial interests is something that I think is a priority for the current administration. I think we’re going to go through some growing pains of how do we balance our ability to be an open nation, the ability to collaborate with some of our international partners, while also balancing our commercial interests and national security interests. We’re just going through a new phase.”

"I don’t think it’s necessarily that anything has changed so much as there’s just a growing awareness that there is a potential issue," said M. Roy Wilson, the president of Wayne State University and co-chair of the NIH working group on foreign influences on research integrity. "I do want to emphasize I think everybody on the committee -- most of us were university presidents -- were very, very, very sensitive to the fact that most foreign scientists who get NIH grants and who collaborate with scientists here, the vast, vast majority are very productive and have contributed a huge amount to science and are playing by the rules. We want to make sure that we don’t stigmatize the overwhelming majority of foreign investigators. But having said that, there’s just a growing awareness that there has been some small but nonetheless important problem that has to be addressed."

The Risk

The U.S. academic research infrastructure is highly reliant on international students and scholars, and Chinese nationals make up the single largest group of students and visiting scholars alike. Students from China earned 5,157 doctorates in science and engineering fields at American universities in 2017, accounting for more than 12 percent of the 41,438 doctorates awarded in science and engineering fields in the U.S. that year, according to data from the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates. In the fields of engineering and mathematics and computer sciences, international students in general (not just students from China) make up the majority of students earning doctorates at U.S. universities. Many in higher education argue that American universities’ ability to continue to attract talented students and scholars from China and elsewhere around the globe is therefore critical to the U.S. remaining a leader in science and technology research.

Science is international, and it's also open: long-standing U.S. government policy holds that fundamental research -- defined as "basic and applied research in science and engineering, the results of which ordinarily are published and shared broadly within the scientific community" -- should be unrestricted "to the maximum extent possible."

That said, the U.S. does have laws and systems in place to protect research that is considered sensitive. Research can be deemed classified -- and many research universities have faculty who do government-funded classified research. Technologies deemed sensitive for their potential “dual use” implications -- both military and commercial purposes -- can be subject to export controls by the Department of Commerce, including "deemed export" rules that prohibit transfer of the technology to foreign nationals who are present within the U.S. The Department of State regulates export of certain technologies subject to arms control regulations, and the Department of Treasury enforces economic and trade sanctions.

But security officials say the national security risk is increasing. A 2018 report from a Pentagon entity, the Defense Innovation Unit, on China’s technology transfer ambitions stated that “Chinese science and engineering students frequently master technologies that later become critical to key military systems, amounting over time to unintentional violations of U.S. export control laws. The phenomena of graduate student research increasingly having national security implications will inevitably increase as the distinction between military and civilian technology blurs.”

“U.S. academic environments offer valuable, vulnerable and viable targets for foreign espionage,” E. W. Priestap, then the assistant director of the counterintelligence division for the FBI, said in prepared congressional testimony last year. “These environments offer visiting academics access to cutting-edge research, advanced technology, data about technologies that may later be further developed in classified environments, world-class equipment and expertise, free exchange of ideas, and substantial private-sector and government-backed funding.”

Priestap argued that colleges and universities need to do more to educate faculty and students about how to protect intellectual property and to mitigate threats. “These schools would also be well served to recognize that, as stewards of taxpayer research dollars, they must implement clearer -- and in some cases more restrictive -- guidelines regarding funding use, lab access, collaboration policy, foreign government partnership, nondisclosure agreements and patent applications,” he said.

Reports from several nongovernmental groups have also raised concerns and suggested that universities and/or governments may need to consider more restrictive policies. A report from an Australian think tank released in October found that China has sponsored more than 2,500 military scientists and engineers to study at overseas universities since 2007 and argues that current policies of universities and governments do not adequately address scientific collaborations with the People's Liberation Army.

“To date, there’s been no significant public discussion on why universities should be directly contributing to the technology of a nonallied military,” says the report, authored by researcher Alex Joske. “Importantly, there’s also little evidence that universities are making any meaningful distinction between collaboration with the Chinese military and the rest of their collaboration with China.”

Another report from a group of China specialists published by the Hoover Institution, "China's Influence and American Interests: Promoting Constructive Vigilance," also addresses the loss of sensitive or proprietary technology through academic instruction or cooperation.

"There are indications that the U.S. government is now strengthening measures to prevent the theft of sensitive technology and intellectual property that is being developed on U.S. campuses," the report states. "These measures may require heightened screening and, in some cases, outright denials of visas to individuals from certain state-run institutions or even from certain sensitive research fields. Such calls have understandably prompted concern from the academic community, fearing that this will undermine the principles of academic freedom, hinder collaboration and deny American universities access to a rich talent pool. These reservations are merited and require that any tightening of visa categories be as narrow as possible."

Competition With China and Fears of Racial Profiling

Robert Daly, director of the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China, describes the intensified focus on research security as “a central part of the American response to China, to its emergence as a peer competitor and to aspects of its ambition and to many of its methods -- not all of which are to be attacked and demonized but some of which are problematic.”

“It’s in the universities that you see it most starkly -- although universities aren’t the only place -- where America’s core values of security are at odds with America’s core values of openness, and we haven’t yet made a decision about how we are going to continue to value openness in light of security concerns,” Daly said. “And there’s a third tranche, which is the value of the market and market economic behavior, which also is at odds with both openness and security and aspects of that play within the university setting as well.”

“From the security end of this, the question is why are we training China’s best and brightest to compete with us more effectively?” Daly asked. “That’s not a silly question. You might have a good answer for that, and one of the answers is over the last 40 years, America has tremendously benefited from Chinese talent. It’s a complicated question. There’s a real danger of racial profiling and there’s a danger of McCarthyist views, and yet even when you say that, when you strip it away, the security concerns remain legitimate because we know a good deal about China’s ambitions at this point.”

The risk of racial profiling has, however, sparked concern. Representative Judy Chu, a Democratic congresswoman from California and the chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, objected last year to what she described as efforts by Congress "to fuel the dangerous narrative that students from China should be viewed with more scrutiny than those from other countries."

A letter published in Science last month from several groups of Chinese or Chinese American scientists also raises concerns about "the recent political rhetoric and policies that single out students and scholars of Chinese descent working in the United States as threats to U.S. national interests." The letter expresses the writers' "sincere hope that increased security measures will not be used to tarnish law-abiding scientists and limit normal and productive scientific exchanges."

William Brustein, the vice president for global strategies and international affairs at West Virginia University, said he has grown increasingly concerned about the "China bashing" he hears from Washington.

“These programs that they’re targeting -- the Confucius Institutes, the talent programs -- there hasn’t recently in the last few years been a nuanced and a balanced approach to talking about the pros and the cons,” he said. “I would think it would be a big detriment to both countries if we continue down this road and we start seeing the end of Chinese student growth in America. To portray it as if all these people who are coming over are working somehow for the People’s Liberation Army or national security apparatus in China is so faulty, so wrong. Most of these people coming over, they want to get a top-notch education, their parents are putting all their resources into the hopes that maybe they’ll be able to get an H-1B visa, stay in the United States and have a career here. Or if they go back to China, they’ll be able to land greater opportunities there, whether it’s in business or some kind of government position. But nevertheless, it’s not as if they’re being trained or indoctrinated to come over here to be spies. I worry about where this is all going.”

The View From Campuses

University leaders say the increased scrutiny from Washington is having an effect on their campuses.

“I do think that all of these letters both from the agencies and from Congress and specific callouts in federal legislation have led to a sense of angst at universities,” said Sandra A. Brown, the vice chancellor for research at the University of California, San Diego. "I think everybody does feel it is a time of greater scrutiny. I’m reminding our faculty that we have normal processes in place to be monitoring these kinds of engagements and we are reminding them of what they are, helping them with any questions that they might have and meeting with them individually as needed with regards to their individual situations."

"It [the greater scrutiny] impacts both issues that relate to foreign collaborations at the investigator level and institutional collaborations but also the student side of things can’t be missed," Brown said. "Faculty are getting nervous about bringing students that in the past they may never have been concerned about."

At the same time, she said, “I do think that this challenge has resulted in enhancements in communications between the universities and federal agencies, not just federal funding agencies, but national security agencies, the FBI, and all of those communications, I think, in the end, will be a good thing.”

Tobin Smith, vice president for policy at the Association of American Universities, said the association has been sharing best practices, “whether it’s training to make people aware of these things, whether it’s compliance with export control rules. There’s a lot of sharing of information around what campuses have been doing that they feel are effective practices in this area and what they have just started doing in light of some of the concerns that have come from NIH and some of the other agencies.”

"I can tell you the leading research universities and the administrators at the universities are giving this a significant amount of attention and taking this set of issues very seriously," Smith said.

"The focus on what universities should be doing, I think, are really reminiscent of what we do in a number of areas related to research -- one is educating faculty and staff about issues in this area to make sure that they understand that they need to be disclosing who they’re working with, particularly if they have international collaborators. If they’re receiving money, receiving resources, if NIH-supported work is taking place overseas, that needs to be disclosed," said Samuel L. Stanley Jr., the president of the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a member of the NIH working group on foreign influences on research integrity.

“The more problematic thing is, we really work on a system of trust -- we ask people to disclose,” Stanley said. “How do we monitor this? Do we do random audits, or are there red flags we look at? That’s where the partnership with the security agencies becomes so important. It becomes critical that we have information that can help us identify if cases have taken place in NIH or other agencies where people were not following the rules: What are some of the signal or signs that might have helped detect this?”

"There’s a tension that always exists," Stanley said. "I chaired the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity for eight years; it taught me a lot. The security agencies really spend a lot of time thinking about how to protect assets. That’s what they do, and they do very well."

“Of course, we in science think a lot about how you generate new knowledge and how you disseminate as broadly as possible so other people can push the field further. Those two are in fundamental conflict. Finding middle ground sometimes is difficult.”

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Herb Childress discusses his new book, 'The Adjunct Underclass'

Tue, 2019-04-16 07:00

The human costs of academe’s festering adjunct problem tend to get lost against the scale of it. We know that the contracting higher education job market entails suffering. But what can be done when, by some estimates, 70 percent of professors are part-time? Every once in a while, though, a human take on the adjunct issue cuts through the collective too-big-to-fix mentality. The Atlantic’s recent piece on the late historian Thea Hunter, “The Death of an Adjunct,” is one such take. Herb Childress’s new book, The Adjunct Underclass: How America’s Colleges Betrayed Their Faculty, Their Students and Their Mission (University of Chicago Press), is another.

Through interviews with adjuncts and his own story of working off the tenure track, Childress describes what happens not just to academics’ careers and teaching bandwidth but to their souls when they become workers in the academic pin factory. It’s not pretty. Among other analogies, Childress compares the dynamic to an abusive relationship, where dysfunction becomes the norm but the damage builds too often to breaking.

Still, it would be a mistake to describe Childress’s book as about human costs only. Part memoir, part manifesto, it’s also a rigorous, data-driven analysis of how we got here, why adjunctification hurts the academic enterprise and possible solutions. There’s a full appendix of charts, facts and figures. The mix makes for a book that anyone, novice to expert, can read.

Childress, who also wrote 2016’s The PhDictionary: A Glossary of Things You Don’t Know (but Should) About Doctoral and Faculty Life, recently participated in a Q&A with Inside Higher Ed.

Q: The Adjunct Underclass was not what I expected. I expected to be saddened by the stories of many adjuncts you interviewed for it, and indeed I was. But I think I was most gutted by your own story. Can you share a bit of that here?

A: My parents had no college experience -- in fact had one high school diploma between the two of them. So I dropped out of college the first time; I’d done well enough, but I wasn’t really aiming at anything. When I went back, first to community college at Laney College in Oakland and then transferring to the University of California, Berkeley, I discovered the joys of unfettered curiosity.

I got my bachelor’s degree at 31, worked for a couple of years to save some money and then went back to a wonderful doctoral program, where the doors of intellectual life were really thrown open. My work was nationally recognized, the dissertation was published quickly as a book. But I was 40 years old and still didn’t really understand white-collar life, much less the larger structures of how universities work, the day-to-day facts of hiring and faculty careers. The blunt reality of higher ed as a business was never discussed; like any culture, the things that matter are the things we rarely make explicit.

So I sold furniture for a few years, a job that I’d taken to support writing my dissertation, then a professional job somewhat related to my field, then a nonprofit research position also somewhat related. And although the work aligned with my skills, I discovered that the business world doesn’t need us to be curious. It needs reliable expertise that can be sold quickly, over and over, and doesn’t challenge any standing power. I had committed myself to a life in which questions could be followed wherever the trail led and was bewildered and saddened by a life in which the path was predetermined by the business model. The community I’d loved had ghosted me, and the community I’d joined felt cynical and remote. I felt exiled, longing for home.

So when a Duke University teaching postdoctoral position came open, I gratefully gave up $70,000 a year to move completely across the continent for $36,000 and a chance -- for a five-year maximum term -- to rejoin that culture of curiosity. But I was 44 years old, and the deadline loomed right from day one.

Grief became the central fact of my life. And grief makes you crazy. I lost my marriage. I stopped running, ate randomly as an act of self-soothing. I threw myself completely into the work, into my final courtship of academia. I was a terrific teacher, I kept publishing journal articles and book chapters, I quickly became a productive member of a higher ed professional group, but I could see that none of it would matter. I was closing in on 50 years old, and I knew that those doors would never open.

After the postdoc, I got a job with the Boston Architectural College as its director of liberal studies. And I discovered quickly that the work of running a college could be just as cynical and just as constrained as any other business. I likened administrative work to living next door to your old girlfriend -- you got to see her every day, but you were always reminded of the life you'd never have.

I did that for seven years, once again successful, promoted and lost. And the day came when I could no longer do it.

Q: The book is a feat in that it’s highly readable and starts at the beginning -- describing what lurks beneath the surface of most campuses (your term: an army of content providers) -- but also packs in data and interviews for those already familiar with the problem. Given that anyone could read the book, who should read the book?

A: The book was specifically built for a general readership, which is why the storytelling plays such a large role. As Stalin said, the death of an individual is a tragedy, but the death of a million is a statistic. And I wanted to work both sides of that line, to employ the data and to show the lives it represented, to talk to the producers and the consumers of collegiate life.

I think it comes at an important moment, too. Three colleges here in Vermont announced their closing just this spring. Wealthy people bribe their kids’ ways into elite colleges. Our young (and middle-aged) people carry a trillion and a half dollars of student debt. It’s time for a serious conversation about what the hell this “college” thing is, what it’s for, who gets to participate …

Q: You call most of the book a “diagnosis” of the adjunct problem. What are some of the symptoms -- and what is the prognosis?

A: When I originally thought of doing the book, I knew right from the start that I wanted to avoid the combat narratives of malicious administrators conquering a beleaguered faculty, or of cynical politicians undercutting intellectual life. The problem can’t be framed as one team versus another; it’s an ecological shift, with faculty as the species die-off that shows us how damaged the lake really is.

Like any ecosystem, there are innumerable influences. Some of them come from the changing nature of higher ed -- its broader participation, its reconfiguration to vocationalism, the changing technological landscape, the changing mix of student choices about majors. Some of them come from overstocking the lake with one species, putting 50,000 new Ph.D.s a year into a system that can sustain 10,000 and letting them fight for resources. And some of them come from the fact that higher ed is a component of a larger culture that accepts gig work as a norm, that protects consumers but not workers, that devalues work done by women, that faces fundamental demographic shifts and a 30-year population trough on the heels of a gigantic boom. All of those forces favor contingency. So whatever responses we’re going to make will involve not merely replacing a broken component, but reconceiving the enterprise for the health of all of its inhabitants.

Q: You also say that you shy away from prescriptions, as the gig economy is so ingrained and we’re so used to doing things one way that thinking about how to solve the problem comes across as naïve. Nevertheless, what is a possible treatment?

A: We have to think of higher ed as a community to which we belong and to which we welcome others. We need to stop treating any of our members as expendable -- not the 25 percent of freshmen whom we expect will never become sophomores, not the graduate students teaching on the cheap and running labs, not the postdocs laboring unseen as fourth authors on papers, not the adjuncts teaching first-year and remedial students and transfer/general education courses while the tenured get the upper-division majors and grad students for themselves. We are not business products with an expected amount of process waste: we are whole, beloved, intelligent people invested with every possibility. Our society is adrift in a cynical and angry sea, and higher ed needs to be the counterforce, enabling a return to earnest, generous care …

Q: You talk about breaking down in your 40s over this wound that will never heal: being denied the opportunity to teach and write in one place, indefinitely -- and not through any real fault of your own (despite a lot of negative self-talk and market-inflicted self-doubt). How did you get yourself out of that particular slump? And how did you "protect" yourself while writing this book? (You write about academe's draw in terms of addiction at one point.)

A: I got remarried, which at first made the despair even worse. I was working in Boston, and [my wife] Nora was living in -- and committed to -- a tiny village in Vermont. So we dated for a few years, me driving up from Boston on Friday evenings and back on Sunday afternoons. We got married in 2011, and I kept doing it. We bought a house in that village in 2012, and I kept doing it. Higher ed was the only kind of work that I knew, even though I hated my role in it.

And by the spring of 2013, I was done. I wanted to live with the woman I’d married, and I wanted to live in the home that we’d made. And we were both older, had careers and some savings behind us, and thought we could keep the wolf from the door through doing contract work here and there. So finally, I handed in my keys and my campus ID and drove to Vermont one last time.

I identify myself now simply as a writer. That’s always been true, of course -- that’s what I was good at as a scholar. But there’s some hubris in taking on that label, and being an academic is one venue in which the writer’s life of rigorous curiosity can be understood as a job title. I recognize now that the fundamentals of being a writer -- of engaging with a set of characters and their context and their struggles -- can be done without the framework of academia. The guarantee of a paycheck makes faculty life appealing, even necessary, for lots of creative people, from historians to physicists. But once I believed that I could work without that net, the world of writing bloomed in new and remarkable ways.

Here's a story. When I was a kid, the first career goal I ever had was to be a Lutheran minister. I loved the pastor of our church, John Beem, a kind and wise man, and wanted that life for myself. In subsequent years, I lost that faith, but higher ed allowed me to have that job anyway. I got to read important texts and think deeply about their meaning and implications. I got to counsel people in need, to welcome members every week to consider themselves in the face of important ideas. I got to write and to do public speaking. I’m no longer Christian, but I still knew what kind of job I wanted. And now, with this book, I have the same job again. The outpouring of stories arriving in my email for the past month has been overwhelming, each unique in detail and far too similar in structure. And I’m responding to each one. It’s not you. It's not your fault. There are other ways to be a generous mentor in the world.

I wrote my prior book, The PhDictionary, right after I quit, both as a culture guide to future generations and as a fond farewell to academia. Once that was in production, I really did let go, spending the next three years writing a series of novels and short stories that are still on the desk, immersing myself in different lives and different problems. But my editor at Chicago, Elizabeth Branch Dyson, brought me back one more time, asking for a book on adjunct issues, though neither of us knew exactly what direction we’d be headed. So by fall 2016, I was back in.

The emotional protection I had while writing this one came from several sources. One was that I didn’t have an existential connection to it anymore; I was writing about a culture that I knew, finally, to be completely external to me. And I kept writing fiction while I was working on this book; there were weeks at a time where I didn’t think about higher ed at all, in favor of stories of other lost men trying to reinvent themselves (which seems to be a core theme). And I have the strength of my home with Nora, a blessing of immeasurable worth. But it was still emotional work. It had to be if it was going to be honest, if it was going to matter.

Q: You have not had the kind of non-tenure-track career that involves (as you describe at one point in your book) eating a cheeseburger on the fly between teaching courses at campuses 60 miles apart. You’ve had some interesting, hopefully well-remunerated jobs. Yet you still suffer(ed). In a way, is that a bit of condemnation of alternative career tracks for people who really want to be professors?

A: Everything about the emotional suitability of alt careers is dependent on your motives for participating. If you’re a chemist who wants to do chemical research, there are tons of pharmaceutical and agricultural labs that will welcome you and give you meaningful work. If you’re a historian or a geographer, there are museums and nonprofits that will let you do cultural analysis. If you’re into economics and public policy, there’s government and consultancies and think tanks. And if you’re a writer, then you’re a writer, regardless of the venue. The job title is not the job, and the job is not the life.

But one major difference between academic life and life in any other industry is in pace and focus. The permanent faculty have the luxury of longer-range projects, which allows for more exploration, allows for productive confusion that suddenly becomes a different approach to the problem altogether. The difference between a political scientist working in a university and a political scientist working as a legislative staffer is that the staffer has to be prepared to be yanked from one idea to another at each news cycle and each new bill coming to committee. When I was a teacher and researcher, I had years to go deep on one thing that I cared about; when I was a college administrator, I was paid to be interrupted.

You just have to know, at a really root level, what motivates you. Even in faculty life, if you’re an elite researcher, teaching a 4/4 [course per term] load at a state college won’t meet your goals. If you’re fundamentally a teacher, teaching a 2/1 load at an R-1 [top research institution] and fighting for grant funding won’t meet your goals, either. “Being a professor” is not a single experience, and we don’t do nearly enough careful thinking and coaching about that.

Q: It’s acceptance season. Social media is full of hopeful posts about grads getting accepted to Ph.D. programs. What advice would you give them?

A: Know why you’re doing this. There’s a terrific book called The Academic Self: An Owner’s Manual, by Donald Hall, in which he encourages scholars to write a statement of personal goals, and to use that self-awareness to manage their work and their commitments, to decide what to take on and what to leave aside. He advocates for doing that every year, knowing that our goals shift and grow; I’d advocate for doing it before you start.

Q: And is Appendix B meant to be read cynically? Just checking …

A: Appendix B, the Academic Career Calibrator, isn’t cynical at all. It’s partly just fun -- it’s sort of an academic career guide crossed with a Cosmopolitan love quiz crossed with a drinking game. But the humor also offers a way for current doctoral students to think about where they are and for the fortunate to check their privilege. So many senior faculty members came from elite schools, and comfortable professional families before that, that their privileges remain invisible to them and to the rest of us. So I hope people will have fun with it, but there’s some serious work to be done in understanding how your life circumstances position you to succeed or to fail in academia, how your family history and your mentorship and your demographics set you up for different paths. And it offers its own form of recommendations about how to frame and build your own work for greater odds of success. My own score -- negative 14 on a scale of plus to minus 300 -- was a pretty apt predictor of my own path. It’s like giving students the grading rubric at the beginning of the semester: knowing the scorecard could have helped me make some changes to my trajectory.

Q: What should I have asked you about this book -- or this issue?

A: We often talk about higher ed with remarkable imprecision. We talk about colleges bloated with overpaid administrators, but the biggest growth hasn’t been in administration at all, it’s been in financial aid and student services and IT and institutional research and co-curricular academic programs, all of whom are central to how the enterprise now operates, and most of whom are not making even close to six-figure salaries.

We talk equally imprecisely about adjuncts, not thinking about the different roles of all of the contingent teaching work force, the TAs and the postdocs and the visiting artists and the professors of the practice and the student affairs staffer who picks up a course at her college every couple of semesters. There are any number of ways to be impermanent and undervalued, and the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System distinction between full-time and part-time hides more than it reveals.

The national data helps us understand some things about the scope and nature of the problem -- it gives us a frame. But the real understanding needs take place on individual campuses. Who, exactly, is in your classrooms? How are different kinds of courses staffed differently, across departments and across early or advanced students? Do we staff up the tutoring center or the biology department? Do we buy the multimillion-dollar fabrication equipment that will need to be refurbished or replaced in three years, or do we let that department have two new faculty? Do we buy yet another institutional membership in a professional society, with its associated conference travel and service loads, or do we increase stipends for our contingent community? A budget needs to be understood, and enacted, as a statement of values. And data needs to be understood as a proxy for an awful lot of humans, each trying to make their way through a challenging world.

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Report recommends Congress cap borrowing by parents of college students

Tue, 2019-04-16 07:00

While total federal student loan borrowing has actually been declining for several years amid dwindling enrollments, lending through a federal program for parent borrowers has been on the rise.

The Parent PLUS loan program frequently issues debt to parents with little chance of successful repayment, a report released today finds, and functions as a “no-strings-attached” revenue source for many colleges.

The program issued an average of $16,542 to the parents of 779,000 undergraduates in the 2017-18 academic year and now makes up nearly a quarter of undergraduate debt disbursed by the federal government annually. Parent PLUS loans are typically taken out when students have exhausted all other sources of aid, including federal direct loans.

Concerns about unmanageable loan amounts for parent borrowers have prompted recent legislative solutions. Republicans in Congress have called for new standard lending caps for the parent loan program, which allows borrowing up to the cost of attendance. Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, have proposed making the loans eligible for income-driven repayment options.

But the report from the Urban Institute and New America argues that proposals from both parties have missed the mark.

Its authors say that lending should be limited to a family’s expected family contribution, a federal estimate of parents’ ability to pay for postsecondary education in a given year that serves as the basis for college aid offers. And they say loan limits should be increased for undergraduate students whose parents would no longer qualify for PLUS loans.

“The Parent PLUS program has sort of strayed from its original intent, which was to provide liquidity for high-asset families who could not cover their expected family contribution with their current earnings,” said Kristin Blagg, a research associate at the Urban Institute’s Center on Education Data and Policy and a co-author of the report. “We know parents are borrowing substantially more than they are able to pay back.”

Blagg and co-authors Sandy Baum, a nonresident fellow at the Urban Institute, and Rachel Fishman, deputy director for research at New America’s education policy program, also propose that institutional default rates should be published for Parent PLUS loans. And they say Congress should assist current borrowers by easing restrictions on bankruptcy for Parent PLUS loans and allowing debt forgiveness for borrowers who have made long-term use of social safety net programs like food stamps.

The report builds on other recent research finding troubling developments in the Parent PLUS program. Fishman has found that the program may actually be exacerbating the racial wealth gap by saddling black parent borrowers with debts they can’t repay. And a Brookings Institution report found last year that the average loan amount and default rates for parent borrowers were both increasing.

Defenders of the loans have argued Parent PLUS is an important tool to support college access. But the report from Urban and New America finds that the program was designed originally as a liquidity tool for middle-income families.

Congress created what came to be known as the Parent PLUS loan in the 1980 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in response to demands for increased federal student lending. It was intended for families who needed assistance covering their expected family contribution. In 1992, Congress removed caps on lending, allowing parents to borrow up to the full cost of attendance after passing a minimum credit check, spiking loan rejections and causing huge disruptions for historically black colleges in particular.

A 2014 federal rule-making process led to lower eligibility requirements for Parent PLUS loans, and disbursements through the program have continued to increase since then compared to direct lending to undergraduates.

The report finds that more that 62 percent of borrowers in 2015-16 exceeded their expected family contribution. And 11 percent of borrowers that year borrowed more than $15,000 above their EFC.

A Democratic proposal in the Aim Higher Act would make all PLUS borrowers eligible for income-driven repayment. The authors of the report found that would create unintended consequences, and that high-income families would be the largest beneficiaries.

But the report finds that a Republican proposal to cap parent lending at $12,500 annually wouldn’t sufficiently address overborrowing for the lowest-income borrowers. For parents with a zero-dollar EFC, borrowing any amount of money for their child’s education would be too much, said Fishman of New America.

“Any amount of debt would be more than they could reasonably handle,” she said.

Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert and publisher of Savingforcollege.com, said limiting borrowing to a parent's expected family contribution wouldn't do enough to limit overborrowing. He suggested that lending limits be pegged to a measure like adjusted gross income instead.

Fishman said any metric that measures ability to repay would be useful but argued the expected family contribution was fairly straightforward.

"EFC isn't perfect," she said. "But some of these other measures might be imperfect, too."

The Trump administration has identified capping Parent PLUS lending as a top priority for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Last week Diane Auer Jones, the Education Department’s principal deputy under secretary, reiterated the administration’s commitment to new loan limits.

Ben Miller, vice president for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said the report showed the problems that arise from a primarily debt-based system of funding higher education. But he said efforts by Congress to reform the Parent PLUS program would likely run into budgetary impediments as Democrats look to advance their own priorities in a new higher ed law such as new spending on college affordability. That may seem counterintuitive, but under budgeting rules, the PLUS program generates revenue for the federal government. A Congressional Budget Office analysis found that the PROSPER Act's proposed reductions in lending would mean billions in new federal spending.

“Anything that’s done to reduce Parent PLUS eligibility will come at a substantial budgetary cost,” Miller said. “In a world where you may be fighting for increased Pell or a federal-state partnership, the optics of spending money to take away a benefit aren’t great.”

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Study finds women dropping out of premed science courses at higher rates than men

Tue, 2019-04-16 07:00

Research shows that female high school students are more interested in the medical field than their male counterparts. The young women also earn better grades in high school and attend college at higher rates.

So it might stand to reason that there would be more women than men in college premed courses and taking the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT. But that’s not the case, according to a new study about the "gendered nature" of attrition in premed science courses.

Professors at the University of Pittsburgh examined the academic records of more than 8,250 students at what they described as a large, public four-year research institution. These students had enrolled in the typical sequence of premed science courses at the university between 2008 and 2016.

The researchers wanted to find out if women were dropping out of the premed track more often than men. The study determined that women were indeed dropping out more, and doing so even when they were earning the same high grades as their male peers.

These findings seem to contradict more recent trends showing that, despite the dominant number of men in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, more women than men applied to American medical schools last year -- for the first time since 2004, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

According to the study, men and women enrolled in certain science courses in the first year of college at about the same rate. But gender gaps started to emerge in the second year of college. For instance, about 96 percent of male students who earned an A in an organic chemistry I class, a traditional first-year course, went on to take organic chemistry II. But only 89 percent of women who earned an A in the chemistry I course moved on to chemistry II, the researchers found.

This finding is significant because it shows that academic performance wasn’t the hindrance for women -- it was other factors, said Paulette Vincent-Ruz, a graduate student at Pittsburgh and one of the study’s authors.

Vincent-Ruz and her fellow researchers, Christian Schunn, a psychology professor, and Eben B. Witherspoon, another graduate student, theorized that a lack of confidence in their abilities by the female students played a role.

“Even if they have the same achievement, they still have lower beliefs in their abilities,” Vincent-Ruz said. “It creates this dynamic and makes them be less likely to continue, like, ‘Well, if I’m not great at this, why should I continue?’”

The researchers found that gender discrepancies are more pronounced in the later years of college, especially in the final year when students are taking the MCAT.

About 30 percent of female students whose average final grade from premed science classes was an A took the MCAT, compared to 65 percent of male students.

More than 5,550 women intended to pursue medicine in their first year in college, the study showed. But only 194 of them took the MCAT; for men, about 2,690 men reported they were premed and 262 took the MCAT.

Vincent-Ruz said colleges and universities need to examine their “messaging” and talk with professors to figure out why women are dissuaded from pursuing premedical studies. A possibility for a future study would be interviewing women in medicine and hearing the obstacles they faced entering their field, she said.

“Universities need to be doing interventions for professors and how the professors think about their students,” Vincent-Ruz said.

She said that women are already looked down on by certain science faculty, and a narrative persists that “you have to be a genius” in order to enter the medical field.

Witherspoon suggested that further research focus on how institutions are trying to keep women in premed courses.

“What are institutions doing well?” he said. “For cross-institutional research, it’s important to figure out.”

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