Inside Higher Ed

As Halloween approaches, another university faces a blackface incident

Mon, 2018-10-29 07:00

Last week saw another national discussion over the racist nature of blackface after Megyn Kelly defended it on her now-defunct NBC show as something other than racist and as appropriate for Halloween costumes.

For higher education, discussions of blackface are hardly new, but the reality is that students and others continue to appear in blackface, to the frustration not only of black students and faculty members, but many educators.

At Brigham Young University last week, the university was holding a symposium (in collaboration with historically black Morgan State University) on the 50th anniversary of the report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, known as the Kerner Commission. But even as the university focused resources on that event, word spread on campus that a white student had appeared at a Halloween party in blackface. Many students were shocked, and black students (about 1 percent of the student body) were reported to be particularly upset.

The student was part of the communications school at Brigham Young, which was coordinating the Kerner symposium's focus on press coverage of the events of a half century ago.

Edward L. Carter, director of the communications school, said he had several meetings Thursday and Friday with students upset about the blackface incident, and with the student who wore blackface. Carter via email said that the student has apologized via a Slack group to communications students, but that the issue is not over.

In a letter he sent to students and faculty members, Carter said that wearing blackface was inconsistent with the values of the university, which involve respect for all. He also said he and others would "be working with the student who wore the costume. While I am reserving judgment on the outcome, I will say that this kind of behavior appears to be out of line with the School's Professionalism Statement and that repercussions could include warning, suspension or removal from the communications major."

Brigham Young is far from alone in higher education in facing blackface incidents. In the last few years, some of the colleges and universities facing blackface incidents have included Albright College, California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, Oklahoma State University, Purdue University, University of Central Arkansas, University of Nevada at Reno, University of North Dakota, University of Oregon and University of Wisconsin at Whitewater,

While the use of blackface is almost always condemned by leaders of the colleges involved, many times it is not formally punished, in particular at public institutions, where it is viewed as a form of free expression, however offensive it may be. Most of the blackface incidents become public because students not only wear blackface, but post photographs of themselves on social media, such as the image at right featuring University of North Dakota students.

While many colleges and universities discourage students from wearing costumes that make fun of people's race or ethnicity, most of those actions by colleges are a matter of discouraging, not banning, which probably wouldn't be legal at public institutions.

But a constant meme among those who consider themselves warriors against political correctness is that colleges have "costume police" who regulate costumes. And that's how Kelly started off her show last week, repeatedly saying that the student union at University of Kent, in Britain, was trying to "ban" certain costumes.

The university press office said that there is no policy at Kent about costumes. What Kelly was reacting to was a draft of recommendations being considered by the student union to encourage students not to offend in their costume choices. But Kelly was apparently quoting from the draft and didn't note that Kent students ultimately are making their own choices about costumes.

The Kent Union issued this explanation of why it is drafting recommendations for students ("fancy dress" is a Britishism for "costume"): "Over the past few years we have witnessed incidents where student groups have worn inappropriate fancy dress clothing which has caused offense to some of our students at our university. Our values as a union are to be bold, inclusive and supportive and therefore it is a priority for us to promote an inclusive campus and to be respectful of all students, taking into account their lived experiences and points of view and that is what we should be focusing on here.

"We are being proactive in looking out for all students whilst empowering them to have a great time at Kent and this is the narrative which is seemingly being missed in the headlines. We are aware that students generally have an understanding of these issues, and most fancy dress events are not problematic, but we believe it is important to raise awareness of potentially problematic themes and work with our student groups to ensure successful student run events."

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Cornell ends partnership with Chinese university over academic freedom concerns

Mon, 2018-10-29 07:00

Cornell University has suspended a partnership with a Chinese university because of academic freedom concerns.

Eli Friedman, director of international programs for Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, said that the ILR School had suspended two exchange programs because of concerns that its Chinese partner institution, Renmin University of China, had punished, surveilled or suppressed students who supported workers’ rights in a labor conflict that erupted this past summer involving workers trying to unionize at Jasic Technology in Shenzhen -- or who have otherwise been supportive of workers’ rights. Students who traveled to Shenzhen to support the workers have reported facing pressures from their various universities.

“I accumulated enough evidence of students being subjected to forms of punishment that I thought represented in sum pretty gross violations of academic freedom and thought that something ought to at least be said about it,” said Friedman, an associate professor of international and comparative labor whose research focuses on China.

“I got in contact with the dean of our partner school, the School of Labor and Human Resources at Renmin, to ask for their side of the story. I said, ‘I’ve been seeing these reports; I’m concerned about them, can you clarify? Do you have any additional information?’ I had a few back-and-forths with their administration. It became clear that this was an issue that was to some extent above their pay grade -- that this was being directed at a national level by the [Chinese] Communist Party -- so there were certain questions that they cannot answer, things they cannot say. I recognized that and was sympathetic to their position, but at the end of the day information that could convince me that the evidence I had seen was wrong or not complete was not forthcoming.”

After consulting within Cornell, Friedman -- who said he was largely responsible for setting up the partnership with Renmin in 2012 -- came to the conclusion that the relationship should be suspended. The decision affects two student exchange programs that brought Renmin students to Cornell and Cornell students to Renmin. A research partnership between the two institutions was already largely dormant because, Friedman said, “the increasingly restrictive environment for academic freedom over the last couple years has meant it’s basically impossible for us to do the kind of research that I want to do.”

“I went in with a clear-eyed notion of interacting with Chinese universities, and academic freedom has always been challenging there, but six years ago there were things that could be done that can no longer be done,” Friedman said. He said that early in the partnership, Cornell and Renmin each hosted joint workshops on collective bargaining, with some presentations focused on the way collective bargaining develops after worker strikes.

“That’s a sort of politically sensitive topic that seems like it cannot be openly discussed in China anymore,” Friedman said.

Renmin University officials could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday. Renmin did not respond to requests for comment from the Financial Times, which first reported on the suspension of the Cornell-Renmin partnership.

Renmin lists 29 U.S. university partners on its website, including Columbia and Yale Universities; the Universities of Michigan and California, Berkeley; Georgetown University; the Georgia Institute of Technology; and the University of Chicago.

While many American universities have programs with Chinese counterparts, and while there's widespread acknowledgment of restrictions on academic freedom and freedoms of expression within China, it's rare for an American university to withdraw from a partnership over these issues. A debate erupted at Wellesley College in 2013 after more than 130 faculty signed a letter saying the college should reconsider its partnership with Peking University if it fired a professor known for his outspoken advocacy for democracy and individual freedom. However, faculty at Wellesley ultimately voted to keep the partnership despite the dismissal of the professor, which Peking said was for reasons related to his teaching and research record.

Friedman thinks universities need to be open to Chinese students and to partnering with Chinese universities, but that it’s important for collaborations to happen based on principles of academic freedom. He said universities should look critically at their China ties in light of the changing climate for academic freedom there.

“Things are changing, and it is more repressive than it used to be in all sorts of spheres, and academics are feeling that as well. I think we have to think seriously, what does it mean to engage with an institution that does not have necessarily the same safeguards for academic freedom, to engage in a system where the Communist Party can intervene in university activities without any kind of legal justification, and think about what it means most importantly for academic research,” Friedman said.

He continued, "I think that one of the reasons that this case has been one of the first to draw attention to this is specifically because we are a labor school and this was a labor issue, and the state was saying you can no longer study this. But you can imagine this happening in all sorts of other realms as the number of issues that become deemed too politically sensitive continues to grow. If it’s not actually advancing the academic mission of research and education, then I do think universities need to think really seriously about what they’re getting out of that engagement."

Friedman acknowledged that suspending an exchange program is not a perfect tool for standing up for principles of academic freedom. But he said it was the tool he had available.

"There are some debates I had with colleagues from outside Cornell about whether this was the appropriate thing," he said. "Some people pointed out that the people in the labor school were not the ones responsible, that this was a national security issue so we should be figuring out a way to target the Communist Party. But saying that in my view was tantamount to admitting that you’re going to do nothing because we don’t have the capacity to directly apply pressure to the Communist Party. There was a recognition in some ways that there was going to be -- collateral damage is maybe too strong a word -- but that students were going to be missing out on opportunities that they should otherwise have. There are going to be losses there in terms of opportunities for academic exchanges, and I see that as a real shame. But for me this is contextualized in a broader trend nationwide in declining possibilities for academic freedom and academic exchange."

"I think at the end of the day as institutions that hold academic freedom to be a sacred principle, at a certain point we need to act on that," he said. "Sometimes acting on that requires using imperfect tools -- but you’ve got to use the tools available to you."

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Few achievement gains in Tennessee remedial education initiative

Mon, 2018-10-29 07:00

Tennessee’s unique approach to preparing students for college by requiring them to take remedial math classes in high schools instead of college doesn’t lead to improved math skills, according to a study released today by Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research.

The researchers who have been studying the Tennessee Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support program (SAILS) also found that it did not increase the likelihood of students passing college math once they were enrolled in the course.

“By moving the remedial course requirements to high school, the SAILS program increased the proportion of community college entrants taking college-level math, but only about half of students passed the course,” said Thomas Kane, faculty director of the center. “At least those students weren’t delayed by taking a remedial course, but the SAILS course didn’t improve students’ success in math.”

Tennessee launched the SAILS program in 2012 as an alternative to traditional college remediation. High school juniors are placed in remedial courses based on their ACT score. Students in a SAILS-participating high schools who scored below a 19 on the ACT math exam could take their remedial math course in the senior year of high school. Those students who completed the course were then exempted from taking remedial math when they enrolled in a state community college.

The Harvard researchers determined that during the first year in community college, SAILS students were 29 percentage points more likely to enroll in college math. About half of the students who enrolled passed the course. However, the passing rates for SAILS graduates were not higher than for students with similar ACT scores who scored just above a 19 on the ACT math and were not required to take a remedial course, Kane said.

The study results indicate that state education officials and college administrators should reconsider whether remediation in any form, such as prerequisite or corequisite courses, should be required, he said. Corequisite remediation allows a student to enroll in college-level courses and also receive additional academic supports.

“The sad truth is despite the ubiquity of remediation requirements, higher education has very little evidence that remediation improves students' reading or math skills,” Kane said. “In states like Tennessee that made community college free for recent high school graduates, the remediation requirements may be the primary barrier remaining.”

About 40 percent of community college students enroll in at least one remedial course. But only 34 percent of two-year college students in remediation receive a degree or certificate within six years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Tennessee colleges and universities stopped offering stand-alone remediation in 2015 and moved toward corequisite as the model for helping students improve in math and English. Some other studies have already shown remediation success in Tennessee since the change. And a number of other states have followed suit, with Texas requiring colleges to use corequisite in 2017 and California passing a bill last year to do the same.

Kane said the Harvard study found that once corequisite remediation was introduced, the SAILS program had no impact on students taking or passing college-level math in their first year. There was also no effect on the total number of credits students completed at the end of their second year.

Angela Boatman, an assistant professor of public policy and higher education at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, and one of the researchers who worked on the study, said corequisite remediation and the SAILS program are very similar because they eliminate the need for traditional remediation. The biggest difference is in the timing, because the corequisite support is offered at the same time as the college-level class.

“In the end, the advantage to the Tennessee model is moving remediation from the community colleges back to high school, because in many places like Tennessee … they may have a four-year math requirement,” Kane said. The four-year math requirement in high school means that there isn’t any additional cost on the college to offer remediation because the students are already taking a math course in their 12th year.

Those reduced costs at the community college could be an opportunity for institutions to reallocate resources to other remedial models that have shown more success in raising degree completion rates, Kane said. The researchers point to the City University of New York’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) and the program at Georgia State University.

An MDRC study of the ASAP initiative found that after three years, 40 percent of students in the program graduated, compared to 22 percent of students in a control group.

“We’ve been practicing remediation for decades and just now [are] getting good answers to who this is helping and how, and that needs to change going forward,” Boatman said.

Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, said the benefit of the SAILS program is that students don't have to take the corequisite course in the first place.

The Harvard study noted a positive aspect of the program -- SAILS students' perceptions of the usefulness of math improved. The study found that students in the SAILS program were 6.5 percentage points more likely to think their math content was useful, 10 percentage points more likely to indicate they were better prepared for college math and six percentage points more likely to say they were interested in math compared to their counterparts who passed the ACT threshold.

Krause said he was gratified to see that students perceptions of math were more positive.

"Looking at the report and saying in a corequisite environment SAILS didn't move the needle fails to make the point," he said. "Our goal is to keep students out of remediation."

Krause said the commission will review the report to see which findings will help improve remediation in the state.

"No doubt we'll continue expanding SAILS every year," he said. "In this world, when you're trying to move hard statistics, it requires every approach."

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Report: Students prefer issue-based groups rather than political parties

Mon, 2018-10-29 07:00

Ahead of the highly anticipated midterm elections next week, colleges and universities and activists have pushed to get students to the polls -- historically a difficult task and especially so off a presidential year.

But the author of a new report on college student civic engagement says that institutions should be considering how to involve students even outside of election season, especially since his research shows that they are more interested in joining campus groups that are issued based, rather than those aligned to a political party.

Campus Labs, a tech company in higher education, analyzed student groups at 397 colleges and universities (mostly four-year institutions) across five academic years -- 2013 to spring 2018.

The party-based organizations -- such as the traditional college Democrat and Republican clubs -- numbered around 3,100. About 60 percent of those groups leaned progressive, or Democratic, and 20 percent were more conservative or Republican.

But the organizations around certain issues were far more common, with more than 13,700 of them. Party-specific groups have been on the decline at least since the re-election of President Obama.

“Instead of relying on College Republicans and College Democrats as being the hub, they should be looking at the opposite, and they should want to be umbrella groups that fit students for one reason or another,” said Will Miller, assistant vice president of campus adoption at Campus Labs and the report’s author.

Miller in his paper pointed to the success of Turning Point USA, an outspoken conservative group that has taken off on campuses since its creation six years ago. Its leader, Charlie Kirk, is an avid Trump supporter and his group maintains the notorious Professor Watchlist, a list that many academics say is full of inaccuracies and false assumptions.

While Miller said that many of the reactions to Turning Point are “visceral” and “polarizing,” he said that the traditional parties need to harness some of that kind of energy. He recommended that the College Democrats and Republicans seek out and partner with some of the issues-based organizations to increase their membership -- even if students only see themselves as tangential participants in the traditional party system.

He also urged professors and administrators to break down the wall between academics and student affairs in politics. While both faculty and university leaders want to promote civic engagement, sometimes they can be timid for fear of becoming the next headline or labeled a “liberal brainwasher” if they too overtly share their views, Miller said.

“They’re afraid to have the difficult conversations,” Miller said. “And that plays a big role. Just generally it comes back to the fact instead of encouraging debate in a meaningful, informative way, we tend to try to avoid it. They don’t know how to discuss things in a civilly minded way. But it is on administrators to create a culture and environment so that if something is unpopular, or might be politically incorrect, to help discuss what that means and discuss different views.”

Traditional organizations such as the College Republicans and Democrats still can play a role on campus, too, partially by drawing on the legacy of their groups, said Barbara Trish, professor and chairwoman of the political science department and director of the Rosenfield Program at Grinnell College. Trish said she was unsurprised by the results of the Campus Lab analysis, noting that since the 1970s and '80s ties to the electorate have weakened.

Trish said she would like to know how long this phenomenon of declining participation in party groups has persisted -- she guessed it began far before 2013, when the study began. She, too, suggested that institutions -- as many already do -- should focus on teaching skills in the classroom that can translate to the political process.

“The same skills that are useful to make your way to higher education setting are skills that are useful in registering to vote, and how to maneuver in the political world, which is more important now than it was in the '70s, because it’s become much more complicated now,” Trish said.

Miller said he fears that too much emphasis is placed on registering students and getting them to vote. He said that they don’t truly engage with the political process and then become disillusioned when they campaign hard for a candidate they want and then the politician doesn’t end up fulfilling promises. He said they need more of a constant education.

“We need allow them to see that there’s so much more work than dropping a ballot in the ballot box,” he said.

That’s not to say institutions shouldn’t be registering students to vote. NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education worked with the Fair Elections Center to help campuses commit to political goals and earn a particular designation when they achieve them, said Stephanie King, NASPA’s director of civic engagement and knowledge community initiatives.

About 80 campuses participated two years ago, which has since expanded to more than 150, King said.

“We would encourage our administrators not just be talking about policy or political spaces around election season, but in a normal environment, too,” King said.

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Graduate student assistants at campuses across the U.S. are pushing for $15 per hour, what they call a minimum living wage

Fri, 2018-10-26 07:00

Amazon announced this month that it would begin paying its workers at least $15 per hour, making it the latest employer to cede to labor activists who have been pushing for that new minimum wage nationally for several years.

Graduate assistants want $15 per hour, too, and are waging their own campus campaigns for it.

“Fifteen dollars an hour represents a living wage in much of the U.S.,” said Casey Williams, a Ph.D. candidate in literature at Duke University. “Grad workers, like all workers, deserve to earn enough to live decently in exchange for the research and teaching labor they provide universities, many of which depend on the work of grad students and adjunct professors to function, maintain prestige, secure key grants and attract tuition-paying undergraduates.”

Graduate students pushing for $15 per hour generally maintain that they are full-time, full-year employees, even if universities view them as part-time employees or as students learning to teach and do research. Fifteen dollars per hour times 40 hours per week, times 52 weeks per year, is $31,200. So $31,000 -- which is on the high end of graduate student stipends nationally -- has emerged as a new target minimum annual stipend.

Emory University recently announced that it had upped its minimum graduate assistant stipend to about $31,000, from about $24,000 -- a 29 percent increase. The official university notice said the change was part of a bigger academic excellence initiative. But graduate students have attributed it in part to their on-campus advocacy for $15 per hour.

Isaac Horwedel, a Ph.D. candidate in theology at Emory, said in a statement that the pay increase means “the difference between making rent or not for me and many of my fellow workers, and is a step in the right direction toward improving working conditions on campus.”

Service Employees International Union, among other organized labor groups, has supported low-wage workers in the Fight for $15 campaign, on college and university campuses and off, including at Emory. At Duke, SEIU withdrew its petition for unionization before the results of a 2017 graduate student union election could be certified -- a sign of unclear support for unionization or imminent defeat. But some graduate students are still seeking wage increases and better working conditions outside of collective bargaining.

That’s increasingly true across private campuses without recognized unions in the Trump era, since the future of a major Obama-era National Labor Relations Board decision in favor graduate student unions at these kinds of institutions looks grim. (State governments determine whether graduate students on public campuses are employees entitled to collective bargaining, and not just students.)

A spokesperson for Duke noted the union election outcome and said that most graduate students gets stipends of about $29,000 to $31,000 per year. SEIU’s accounting says grad students on campus tend to make closer to $20,000 to $25,000. The university doubled down on its numbers when asked about the discrepancy. Williams offered up his own example, saying he has a $22,470 base salary and no guaranteed summer fellowship this year.

Horwedel said he and his colleagues hope that Emory will “expand living wages” to all campus workers. Following a long tradition of student solidarity with campus workers on pay and other matters, $15-per-hour campaigns at numerous institutions have included lower-wage employees. Duke said last year that it would up its minimum wage for eligible full-time employees to $15 per year by next summer. The current minimum is $14 per hour.

Williams said that work in general in the U.S. “has become increasingly precarious and flexible.” Graduate students, in particular, can no longer count on “finding a decent-paying tenure-track position upon graduating, and so can't afford to make financial sacrifices -- or go into debt -- during grad school,” he added. And establishing a “living minimum wage” is one way to ensure workers can continue to take care of themselves, their families and their work.

Joseph Verardo, vice president and chief operating officer of the National Association of Graduate and Professional Students, said that efforts toward a $15 minimum hourly rate for graduate students will benefit their quality of life and increase their productivity. Such efforts should keep all graduate students in mind -- not just graduate assistants with stipends, he said, noting that many master’s and unfunded Ph.D. students work graduate-level jobs on campus for actual hourly wages, not stipends.

Nationally, stipends for funded students range from about $13,000 to $34,000, depending on the program, institution and location, Verardo said, emphasizing that $15 per hour is a target minimum, not necessarily a target.

Even on the high end of the stipend range, it’s “difficult to live on a $30,000 salary and cover living and academic-related expenses,” such as books and fees, he said. Of course, that’s “even more difficult when annual earnings are in the teens.”

Graduate workers at Illinois State University, who make about $14,000 per year on average, recently voted to form a union affiliated with SEIU. Macauley Allen, a graduate student in music, said he supported unionization because he was tired of “scrounging” for food money.

Graduate assistants at Loyola University in Chicago, where there is also an active $15-per-hour campaign, get a base stipend of $18,000, which a university spokesperson said is equivalent to $2,000 per month for nine months.

Again, graduate students involved in the campaign tend to consider themselves full-year employees, since their research -- which they say is part of their job, not just their training -- doesn’t stop. But most universities fund assistants for the academic year, when they're engaged in the more obvious work of an assistant, such as teaching. And many institutions say they see graduate students as trainees, not workers. 

Lacy Endicott, a graduate assistant in art history at Washington University in St. Louis, said her and her colleagues’ labor “extends outside our assistantship responsibilities.” They positions require “pedagogical training, mindful preparation of course materials and departmental service, in addition to completing our own research. Would a tenured professor’s continued pedagogical training and personal research be considered outside of their regular work responsibilities? No.”

Graduate stipends also are supposed to cover living expenses, she said, noting that graduate students are often discouraged from seeking additional work that could distract them from their programs. That's even if they need extra money to live.

Earlier this month, graduate workers at Wash U participated in a Fight for $15 rally on campus, with personal stories and chants such as, “What’s outrageous? Poverty wages.” Graduate student organizers report that the average annual stipend there is about $22,000.

Julie Flory, university spokesperson, declined to share the average annual stipend but noted via email that graduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences voted down an SEIU-affiliated union bid last year. Since that time, she said, “we have continued to partner and engage with our students about ways to improve their educational experience through direct conversation and by working with graduate student councils, departments and faculty to identify opportunities to enhance graduate education and support.”

As always, Flory added, “we are committed to providing the best environment for all of our students to succeed.”

Travis Dauwalter, a Ph.D. student in candidate in public policy at Duke and president of its Graduate and Professional Student Council, said his colleagues who are pushing for a $15 per hour wage appear to be doing so “thoughtfully and always with an eye toward collecting more data.” Let’s understand “the full scope of this issue and how it interplays with all the other things that a Duke student is facing, like rising housing costs, food insecurity, feeling a sense of community and finding a great job.”

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Guilty verdict in college basketball corruption trial puts new pressure on NCAA

Fri, 2018-10-26 07:00

At the beginning of the year, National Collegiate Athletic Association president Mark Emmert pledged swift changes in men’s basketball after revelations that Adidas executives and coaches in high-profile programs had paid recruits -- in some cases tens of thousands of dollars -- to steer them to certain institutions.

Change did come for the NCAA, with its highest leadership approving reforms designed to punish coaches more severely and watch recruitment more closely -- but Emmert probably couldn’t have anticipated the shifts that took place in the last couple of weeks.

On Wednesday, two Adidas employees and an aspiring agent were found guilty of fraud charges in connection with the payoff scheme. Federal prosecutors successfully argued that universities, namely the University of Louisville and University of Kansas, were victimized. On the surface, that rationale may strike some observers as odd, given that the institutions' teams (and their finances) clearly benefited from these top players. But these universities gave scholarships to ineligible players and now face possible NCAA sanctions, which was enough to persuade jurors that they had been harmed.

The trial, and other recent developments in the big-time sports world, challenge the status quo and leave many athletics experts questioning what the association will do next.

James Gatto and Merl Code Jr., the two former Adidas employees, and the agent, Christian Dawkins, were found guilty on wire fraud charges in a trial that lasted three weeks. Sentencing begins in March, and each is expected to spend several years in prison. Even more significant rulings will come later, when four coaches who were arrested a year ago in connection with the case will go to court, said John R. Thelin, professor of history of higher education and public policy at the University of Kentucky (and an occasional columnist for Inside Higher Ed). This will have implications for other coaches, athletics directors and university presidents.

“A principle of leadership and organizations is that ultimately a leader should know and be responsible for what goes on, especially with important programs and units,” Thelin said. “I think this holds for universities. Intercollegiate sports programs, especially in the Power Five conferences, are sufficiently visible and significant that it’s fair and right to expect a coach, an athletics director and a president -- and the Board of Trustees-- to know. If college sports are, indeed, the ‘front porch’ of the university, all those high-profile and highly paid leaders are responsible and should know. No excuses.”

Observers said the proceedings laid bare an open secret: the influence of apparel companies in the high-profile sports of football and men's basketball, and how common these payments have been (at least among elite players). A father of one player testified how his son was essentially in a shadowy bidding war among many universities before landing at Louisville, The Washington Post reported.

And institutions did profit off these players. Data suggest that athletic donations often jump and admissions spike when universities perform well athletically. Ultimately, though, they could face financial penalties, scholarship reductions from the NCAA and the embarrassment of vacating earlier games, said Josephine R. Potuto, former member of the NCAA Division I infractions committee and Richard H. Larson Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

“It’s a black eye for a university when it’s involved with a major case like this,” Potuto said.

How the NCAA will punish universities caught up in the payoff scandal remains to be seen. Among the package of reforms the NCAA approved this year, which came from a commission led by former Stanford University provost and U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, is a new bylaw that would allow the association to use information at these trials to investigate and sanction the institutions.

The NCAA’s enforcement arm has relied on outside information before; Potuto noted that association leaned on a university-commissioned report in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill academic fraud case, and depended on an outside investigation in the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse case at Pennsylvania State University. But this new rule makes that power explicit.

NCAA critics have also questioned if the association even has the teeth to punish major programs anymore; it declined to sanction UNC despite overwhelming evidence that its faux classes mostly benefited athletes. Whether it will pursue punishments against multiple major programs remains to be seen, as some skeptics say that doing so would hurt NCAA revenues. Potuto, however, said that when she was a part of the NCAA's system for adjudicating athletic misbehavior, the association never hesitated simply because it was coming down on one of the major money generators for the NCAA.

Jon Solomon, editorial director with the Aspen Institute's Sports and Society Program, said the trial bizarrely represents a win for the NCAA. While it does demonstrate that the association has historically been incapable of enforcing its rules, the verdict could deter other coaches. (Both he and Potuto also said that it was unusual that violations of NCAA rules were ultimately considered a federal crime.)

“Paying players is a cost-benefit analysis by coaches,” Solomon said. “You’re rarely caught by the NCAA, and if you are, the penalties only go so far as you lawyer up. But time in prison? That’s serious.”

Also days before the verdict, the National Basketball Association announced it would rework its minor league, the G League, to create a “comprehensive professional path” for high school graduates to play immediately after leaving school and be paid $125,000. The NBA has clung to an explicit rule that players can't enter the league until they've been out of high school for at least a year.

This was a clear attempt to mitigate the “one-and-done” phenomenon in which players sometimes enter college for a single season before departing for the professional league. It’s unclear how many players would take advantage of this new path, as experts do not predict a mass exodus from colleges. In one particularly prominent case, a top prospect, Darius Bazley, withdrew from Syracuse University to play in the G League, then instead took an internship with the New Balance apparel company worth at least $1 million.

Thelin, of the University of Kentucky, said he favors allowing high schoolers to pursue any route they wish after graduation.

“For many decades, it was quite all right and acceptable for high school seniors to sign professional baseball contracts the day after high school graduation,” he said. “Why not the same for aspiring professional basketball players?”

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Sam Zell's talk at UCLA called off due to "unforeseen circumstances"

Fri, 2018-10-26 07:00

The University of California, Los Angeles, canceled an event scheduled for Thursday featuring Sam Zell, a controversial billionaire, due to “unforeseen circumstances.”

The UCLA Real Estate Alumni Group and the Office of Alumni Relations teamed up to invite Zell to appear at the UCLA Anderson School of Businesses.

Prior to the cancellation, journalists expressed their disappointment with the university's decision to invite Zell. In 2007, Zell bought the Tribune Company -- the media conglomerate that owns the Chicago Tribune, The Orlando Sentinel and many other media outlets across the country (and that used to own the Los Angeles Times) -- and famously bankrupted the company in 2008, resulting in hundreds of layoffs. Many journalists blame him for those layoffs and generally for eroding the quality of some of the best newspapers in the country. He was also notorious for making lewd comments to or about women.

“Dear @uclaanderson you cannot be serious. Are you gonna have Sam Zell give tips on how to pillage and destroy newspapers while saying untoward things about women?” Carolina Miranda, a columnist at the Los Angeles Times, tweeted.

“He was a nightmare of an owner,” Blair Kamin, architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, tweeted in response to Miranda’s comment. “He hired idiot misogynists and put them in positions of power. We were thrilled to be done with him.”

Steve Marble, the assistant editor to the foreign and national desk at the Times, also told a story about an instance in which Zell asked employees at the Times to send him their favorite porn websites.

The UCLA webpage for the event touts Zell's accomplishments and his "long track record of turning around troubled companies and assets." It also notes Zell's role as chairman of Equity Group Investments, a private investment firm he founded 45 years ago, and his high-level positions within a number of other real estate investment companies.

"Eager to engage and inspire the next generation of real estate professionals, Mr. Zell will share his insights from his experience as an entrepreneur in the real estate industry, reflecting on shifts in the market between his early career and now. Mr. Zell will also dive into the fundamentals and philosophies that made him a self-made billionaire," the event page read.

This past summer, Zell had been slated to be the keynote speaker at the Mizuho Global REIT and Real Estate Conference in New York, but he was cut from the schedule after making a vulgar comment about women at a Nareit real estate conference in June.

"I never promoted a woman because she was a woman," Zell said, according to CNN. "I never demoted a woman because she was a woman. My issue is what do you do, what do you produce, how do you interrelate to the rest of the business. I don't think there's ever been a, 'We gotta get more pussy on the block, OK?'"

Zell later apologized to attendees for the remark. Elise Anderson, director of media relations for the UCLA school of management, would not elaborate on why the event was canceled or when it will be rescheduled.

“I think it’s perfectly clear on the invitation that it’s been rescheduled due to unforeseen circumstances,” she said.

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Central European University says it has no choice but to move U.S.-accredited programs to Vienna

Fri, 2018-10-26 07:00

Breaking a more than yearlong stalemate with the Hungarian government over its future in the country, Central European University announced that it will move all of its American-accredited degree programs to a new campus in Vienna starting next fall unless the Hungarian government signs an agreement allowing it to legally remain at its campus in Budapest before Dec. 1.

“The Board of Trustees at this university is saying there’s still time for a solution -- but enough is enough,” said Michael Ignatieff, the president and rector of CEU, an American-accredited graduate institution that was founded in the wake of the Cold War by the liberal Hungarian American financier and philanthropist George Soros.

CEU’s ability to continue to operate in Hungary was cast into question in April 2017 by passage of a law on foreign branch campuses that was widely viewed as a targeted attack on CEU's independence and academic freedom by Hungary's increasingly illiberal government. CEU says that it has fully complied with the terms of the law but that the Hungarian government refuses to sign a negotiated draft agreement with the State of New York that would allow it to continue to operate in Hungary under the terms of that law.

“A couple of weeks ago, the Hungarian government informed the United States ambassador that they will neither sign nor ratify the agreement that they themselves required of us and that they themselves negotiated,” Ignatieff said at a news conference Thursday. “And they do not recognize the activity that we’re conducting in New York to ensure compliance” with the 2017 law, which among other things required CEU to operate programs in New York State, where it is chartered. CEU now offers programs in New York in collaboration with Bard College.

“This means we cannot operate legally in Hungary as a free U.S.-accredited institution,” Ignatieff said. “We’re being forced out of a country that’s been our home for 26 years. And accordingly from the first of September 2019, CEU will offer all of its U.S.-accredited degree programs in Vienna.”

The decision does not go into effect until Dec. 1. "Even at this late hour, we are still seeking a solution that allows us to remain in Budapest as a free institution," Ignatieff said. "The CEU decision will take effect on Dec. 1 to give the United States ambassador, David Cornstein, one last chance to get the parties together to find a solution that will enable us to stay here in Budapest as a U.S.-accredited free institution. If no solution is found by Dec. 1, we'll move our degree programs to Vienna."

A spokesman for the government of Hungary, Zoltán Kovács, issued a statement dismissing CEU's announcement as a "Soros-style political ploy." Hungary's right-wing prime minister, Viktor Orbán​, has waged a sustained personal campaign against Soros, and government officials and communications routinely describe CEU as the "Soros university."

Soros, who sits on CEU's board and is its honorary chairman, has increasingly become a target for animosity from the far right in Europe and the U.S. alike. Earlier this week a bomb was reportedly found in the mailbox of his suburban New York home, one of a series of bombs sent to prominent Democrats in the U.S.

The statement from Kovács does not address whether Hungary will return to the negotiating table with CEU or why it has not signed the draft agreement. Instead, it focuses on the fact that the university, which has dual U.S. and Hungarian accreditation, is registered and accredited in Hungary under a different name, Közép-európai Egyetem (KEE).

"KEE has been delivering courses as a Hungarian institution of higher education. It continues to do so today and, as far as we know, will continue to do so in the future," Kovács said.

"Technically, then, the rector’s declaration of an intent to relocate the CEU’s issuing body to Vienna only affects the U.S.-registered CEU and leaves KEE intact. Taking that into consideration, one sees that this has nothing to do with 'academic freedom' -- and never has -- it’s another wily maneuver, a Soros-style political ploy," Kovács said.

A spokeswoman for CEU said that it is the hope that KEE will remain intact. "However, as currently all of our students are enrolled into American programs, and KEE has significantly fewer programs than CEU, it is unclear whether KEE will be viable in the long run," said the spokeswoman, Ildiko Rull. "We need to seek clarification from the Hungarian government on these issues. We are committed to maintain our Budapest campus as a teaching site, but we don’t know yet in what format." (This article has been updated to add CEU's comment on KEE's future.)

Hungary has been an increasingly hostile environment for CEU under the leadership of Orbán​, who has pushed Hungary toward a vision of what he has described as "illiberal democracy." The government recently banned gender studies programs in Hungary, forcing CEU to discontinue its Hungarian-accredited programs in the field (the university said it would continue to offer master's and Ph.D. programs in gender studies under the umbrella of its American accreditation). CEU also announced in August that it was suspending a European Union-funded research project on migration policy and an open learning initiative for refugees in response to a new law imposing a 25 percent tax on immigration-related programs.

In September, the European Parliament took unprecedented action in voting to invoke the first step in a possible sanctions process against Hungary, an E.U. member state, for breaching the union's founding values, including values related to academic freedom and freedom of expression. At the time the European University Association, which has 13 member institutions in Hungary, issued a statement saying that "Hungary is the first EU member state to systematically interfere in university matters and repeatedly violate academic freedom."

"We are not leaving because we want to leave," Liviu Matei, CEU's provost, said at the Thursday news conference. "We are not moving part of our activities at least to another place because it happens to be just 2.5 hours up the river … We are forced to move. We don't have any other opportunity legally, and also I'd like to say this comes at a huge cost. Our costs in Vienna will be much higher."

"But there will also be very significant human costs," Matei added. "If we count everybody at CEU -- students, academic staff, administrative staff and their families -- we are talking about a few thousand people who are forced to move out of Hungary."

The U.S. ambassador to Hungary emphasized, however, that there is still a chance that CEU and the Hungarian government can reach a resolution.

“CEU remains a priority for the U.S. government and has overwhelming bipartisan support in the United States,” Ambassador Cornstein said in a statement. “I understand CEU’s position -- prolonged uncertainty is not sustainable for an academic institution. However, a solution is still possible. There is a small window to resolve this, but it needs to happen fast. I am working with both parties to continue the negotiations and find an acceptable resolution before December 1.”

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Academics in India face restrictions on criticizing government

Fri, 2018-10-26 07:00

Academics at some of India’s central universities have been banned from criticizing the government, in a move that scholars claim is hampering teaching, research and academic publishing.

The University Grants Commission sent a notification to central universities earlier this year stating that the Central Civil Services (CCS) Conduct Rules of 1964 would apply to their staff and academics.

The rules state that government employees cannot “make any statement of fact or opinion which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy of the central government or a state government.”

India has 45 central universities, which are regulated by the national government, according to the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Antara Sengupta, a research fellow specializing in higher education at the Observer Research Foundation, an independent think tank based in India, said that central universities “aren’t bound to follow CCS if they have their own rules in place.” However, scholars have reported that some institutions are already following the policy and that it has had a chilling effect on academic freedom.

According to Apoorvanand, a professor in the department of Hindi at the University of Delhi (who uses only one name), a central university, some institutions, such as the Central University of Gujarat, have already drawn up policies to abide by the CCS rules. Others, such as Jawaharlal Nehru University, are in the process of doing so, he added.

Apoorvanand, a vocal critic of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, said that the rules restrict “teachers from writing, speaking and participating in meetings and seminars which authorities find unsuitable.” Because of this, “some notable names have already left public universities and joined private ones hoping they would remain relatively free there,” he continued.

“These restrictions, along with the constant attacks by the organizations affiliated to the ruling party, are definitely affecting teaching, research and writing adversely,” Apoorvanand said.

“Publishers are wary of publishing anything which might invite the wrath of the right-wing ruling establishment. Academic publishing is now being scanned by legal teams. It means that books on certain themes would face difficult times in India.”

Sengupta said that the CCS rules “should not be applicable to university teachers … who need absolute autonomy and authority to ethically deliver education on campuses.”

“Especially for subjects such as political science, law and economics, the only viable way of teaching is to analyze real policies of the government and retrofit them in an academic environment to understand their feasibility. Even to publish research papers in these fields, CCS rules will get violated, which can unnecessarily cause an environment of dissent on university campuses,” she said.

Philip Altbach, research professor and founding director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College (and a blogger for Inside Higher Ed), said that the policy shows that “the highly restrictive and dramatically overbureaucratized environment of Indian universities remains the mentality of government.”

“Without much more autonomy, and of course a recognition of the centrality of academic freedom as a core value, Indian universities are unlikely to join the ranks of world-class institutions,” he added.

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More budget cuts and tuition hikes at U of the Pacific lead to student and faculty unrest

Thu, 2018-10-25 07:00

Tensions are boiling over at the University of the Pacific after the university announced a tuition hike and budget cuts for the third year in a row. Students protested outside the Board of Regents meeting last Thursday and called for Pamela Eibeck, university president, to resign. In September, the Academic Council (the university's faculty senate) passed a resolution of no confidence in Eibeck with 95 percent in favor of removing her as president. The resolution will be put to a full faculty vote in November.

“The president’s policies put the university in an unsustainable financial position. The faculty have lost confidence in leadership, and are worried about the future of the university,” the resolution read.

This year, tuition and fees total $48,264. Next year the university will increase tuition by 3 percent, following a 3.7 percent increase in 2018 and a 3.9 percent increase in 2016 and 2017. According to Deidra Powell, senior director of communications, next year’s tuition hike will be the lowest increase in 10 years.

"University of the Pacific is facing many of the same long-term trends confronting most institutions of higher education," Powell wrote in an email, noting national concerns about attracting students and maintaining balanced budgets.

The tuition increases might not have spurred protest had they not been accompanied by budget cuts and secrecy about some financial information at the private California university. The university plans to cut its budget by 10 percent; according to Powell, 60 percent of the cuts will be in administration and 40 percent in academic units. Despite the cuts, Powell said that university is "financially strong."

"We have a strong endowment, modest debt and a strong rating from Moody’s on our investment strategies. Pacific is also in the process of a successful fund-raising campaign," she said. So far, the university has raised $200 million of its $300 million goal.

Even if the faculty pass a no-confidence vote, Kevin Huber, the board chairman, doesn't think the board would support it. "We're very confident in the president," he said. He hopes the university will be able to implement the cuts and move forward quickly. "The board is hopeful that we can move beyond this issue quickly and get back to the hard work of implementing the changes that ensure the financial sustainability of the university," he said.

Faculty members are unsure where the university is “bleeding” funds, as the cuts would suggest are the case, said Cindy Ostberg, a professor of political science. She serves on the 20-member Institutional Priorities Committee, an advisory group made up of faculty, staff and students that reviews and approves the university’s budget. Despite its consultative role, the committee is privy only to high-level university budget information and not department or unit-specific account details. A comprehensive chart of accounts is in the works and scheduled to be available at the start of the next fiscal year in July, but Ostberg is frustrated that the university is moving forward with a 10 percent budget cut without the committee having the full information.

“We have lots of concerns, but I think the biggest concern is the overarching fiscal mismanagement and the lack of transparency by both the upper administration as well as the regents,” Ostberg said. “We are a very committed faculty and staff, we want this to be a university that thrives and we’re very interested in trying to help rectify the financial mismanagement.”

The number of committed new freshmen at the university has hovered around 950 for the past few years, save 2016, when it fell to 747. According to federal data, the university admits 65 percent of applicants, and only 11 percent of those admitted enroll.

Faculty concerns have been growing. According to a 2015 Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education faculty climate survey, the University of the Pacific ranks in the bottom 30 percent of institutions in regards to trust of senior leadership. Powell said that since the survey was taken, there has been "increased communication and transparency with faculty to address their concerns among senior leadership," but Ostberg disagrees.

"There’s no transparency, there’s no interaction between the faculty and the regents," she said. "They say there’s shared governance, but there is none."

Athletics was stuck with a fair share of the blame for the university’s deficit. During an academic council meeting last fall, Eibeck revealed that in fiscal year 2017, the department went $4.2 million over budget, and in FY 2016 it went $2.2 million over budget. While the university is taking steps to address the issue, Eibeck estimates that it will take several years to remedy the situation and that the athletics budget will not be balanced until FY 2020. The Pacific Tigers compete in the Division I West Coast Conference.

“[After FY 2016] things were supposed to change, and then this year it was particularly shocking,” she told the council.

Eibeck and Ken Mullen, vice president for business and finance, gave a number of reasons for the deficit: a two-year investigation into misconduct within the men’s basketball and baseball teams derailed forward progress on the budget, coaches weren’t told how much they could spend month to month, the department uses an antiquated budget tracking system, expected donor money was spent before it was received, and the department has too many “episodic” accounts that are not consistently monitored.

Lee Neves, a graduate of the University of the Pacific and former member of the Pacific Athletics Foundation (the university’s booster club), is frustrated that athletics is shouldering the blame for the university’s financial woes.

When the university joined the West Coast Conference in 2013, Neves compared the upgrade to moving from a Stockton apartment to a home on the Carmel coast. Expecting the athletics department to be able to compete in the West Coast Conference with the same budget it had before was “just not realistic.”

“When you move to a different conference, your expenses are going to increase,” he said.

Neves resigned from the foundation in March because Eibeck “put athletics in a position to fail,” he said.

“It finally got to the point where I’m banging my head against the wall and asking myself ‘What am I doing here?’” he said. “We were looked at as human ATM machines, and I finally said that I’ve had enough.” Neves regularly donated to the athletics program. In 2017, he contributed $15,000.

The university has taken several steps to stop overspending in athletics. Eibeck and Mullen review athletics' operational spending each month, and the university hired a new athletics director.

Discontent among the faculty has reached students. Over homecoming weekend, students spray-painted the boulders in the middle of campus -- dubbed “spirit rocks” -- with the phrase “Eibeck = $580,000,” a reference to the president's half-a-million-dollar salary, and other messages of concern over the looming budget cuts.

The messages were painted over and repainted three times throughout the weekend until a student taped the university’s free speech policy to the top of one of the rocks. Censoring the messages only fueled students' anger, according to Grant Kirkpatrick, president of the Associated Student of the University of the Pacific.

“I understand that it was homecoming weekend, but it’s at times like homecoming weekend that free speech is most important to protect,” he said.

Students created the Twitter page “No Ma’am Pam” (@UoPindecline) to share their frustrations and protested the cuts and censorship during the Board of Regents meeting last Thursday.

“Students are definitely feeling the impact of the [low] morale on campus. Faculty are obviously very upset, staff are nervous, they don’t know who is going to get let go, who is going to get cut, and students see their faculty everyday,” Kirkpatrick said.

During the protest, students called for Eibeck’s resignation. Neves bought pizza for the students.

At the board meeting, Eibeck proposed a 3.2 percent tuition increase for the 2019-20 school year. Huber had met with a small group of students the day prior and referenced their concerns during the board meeting.

"Students suggested that because the [Institutional Priorities Committee] had recommended a 3 percent increase, that’s the increase we should go with. We deliberated about that for quite a while in our board meeting and asked the president and her cabinet whether or not they could make other adjustments to reach the margin we needed to reach, and they said they could," Huber said. "I believe that [students] felt that their voice had been heard."

Students considered the 0.2 percent change a victory.

"Although small, this change signifies that the board is questioning the leadership of the president and that our voices were heard. We will continue to fight,” the No Ma’am Pam account tweeted.

Kirkpatrick sits in on the board meetings. During the five meetings he’s attended, he’d never seen the board members disagree with the president like they did last Thursday.

“I’ve never seen the board take such a firm stance with the administration,” he said. “I think they were really asking for answers more than they usually do.”

Neves, Kirkpatrick and Ostberg mentioned Eibeck’s salary. The president's office will shoulder a 12 percent cut, and many are wondering if Eibeck’s pay will decrease. According to the university’s Form 990 for FY 2016, Eibeck’s base salary was $567,030 and she earned an additional $105,030 in compensation from the university and “related organizations.”

“She makes more than the president of the entire UC system. That’s insane,” Ostberg said. Janet Napolitano, the University of California system president, earned $578,916 in gross pay in 2016.

Neves and Ostberg both said they’d like to see Eibeck take a pay cut.

“The smart PR move here is to say, ‘Look, you guys are getting cut, so I’m going to cut X amount of my pay and put it towards student aid’ or whatever,” Neves said. “But she isn’t doing that.”

The university did not make Eibeck available for comment, but Powell wrote in an email that "the board has not asked any member of our community, including the president, to take a reduction in pay."

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Colleges sue to stop policy that makes it easier for international students to accrue "unlawful presence" in the U.S.

Thu, 2018-10-25 07:00

Four colleges have filed suit in federal court to contest a new policy that makes it easier for international students and exchange scholars on F, J and M visas to accrue “unlawful presence” in the U.S. Accruing more than 180 days of unlawful presence in a single stay can subject students or scholars to three- or 10-year prohibitions on re-entering the country.

Two of the four colleges that have filed suit -- Haverford College and the New School -- claim in the complaint that the new policy has changed how they advise international students, and that they are now more likely to refer students to outside immigration lawyers. Haverford and the New School also report that there are cases of individual students who have left their institutions as a result of this new policy who wouldn't have left otherwise.

The new policy, implemented via memorandum Aug. 9, holds that unlawful presence for students and scholars on F, J or M visas will begin accruing the day after a student stops pursuing a course of study or otherwise violates his or her immigration status, such as by working without authorization. By contrast, under the previous policy, unlawful presence began accruing the day after the Department of Homeland Security issued a formal finding of a status violation in the course of adjudicating a request for another immigration benefit or the day after a judge issued an order of deportation.

In other words, previously the unlawful-presence clock started ticking the day after a student or scholar was formally put on notice of an alleged violation of status or ordered to leave the country. Now, it starts ticking the day after the alleged violation.

"Now, when a government official or immigration judge determines that an F, J, or M visa holder is out-of-status, the unlawful-presence clock will be backdated to the day on which Defendants conclude that the visa holder first fell out-of-status," the lawsuit filed against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina states. "The immigration system is beset with processing delays, and many of these status determinations are made when an individual is applying for new immigration benefits. Thus, the new policy’s use of a backdated unlawful-presence clock will render tens of thousands of F, J, and M visa holders subject to three- and ten-year reentry bars without any opportunity to cure."

USCIS has said that the new policy is needed to reduce visa overstays and that international students who stop pursuing a course of study should be held accountable for that. It says that the development of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, a federal database for monitoring international students that was developed in the early 2000s, gives the agency much more information to determine when students fall out of status than it had when the previous policy was put in place, in 1997.

But advocates for international students are concerned that students would be subject to a disproportionately harsh penalty -- a three- or 10-year bar on re-entry -- even for minor or inadvertent status violations. They're also concerned that students might not know they've committed violations in some cases until after more than 180 days had elapsed and they were already subject to a re-entry bar.

The lawsuit filed this week lists “a multitude of ways in which a well-intentioned individual on an F, J, or M visa can be adjudicated out-of-status,” including by failing to alert his or her institution of a change of information, such as a change in address; failing to obtain approval for dropping below a minimum course load; or working without authorization or in excess of the allowable 20 hours on campus per week.

In addition to errors on the student’s part, the suit says that a student could be wrongly reported out of status because of errors made by a college official in updating the SEVIS database. Another scenario could be that USCIS retroactively determines a student fell out of status on a given date if it found that the student’s work placement through the optional practical training or curricular practical training programs did not meet the letter of the regulations.

“Many of these determinations rest on discretionary judgments by USCIS,” the legal complaint states. “Under the prior policy, the unlawful-presence clock began after USCIS made these often-discretionary adjudications. That provided individuals 180 days to order their affairs and exit the country without accruing any reentry bar -- or to otherwise regain status and avoid a reentry bar … The August 2018 Policy Memorandum, however, will backdate unlawful presence. That means that individuals will have less than 180 days, or often no time at all, to leave the country prior to being subject to a reentry bar.”

"In fact," the complaint continues, "because of delays in USCIS processing and immigration court backlogs, most of these adjudications will occur more than 180 days after the underlying facts giving rise to a status violation. In those circumstances, an F, J, or M visa holder will automatically be subject to a three-year reentry bar with no opportunity to cure whatsoever."

“We think this is going to snare thousands upon thousands of well-intentioned students who are trying to comply -- but mistakes happen or they just can’t predict what USCIS might determine down the road,” said Paul W. Hughes, a partner at the law firm Mayer Brown and the lead lawyer for the four colleges that have sued to challenge the new unlawful-presence policy.

The lawsuit argues that the new policy is unlawful for four reasons: 1) that it was not published in the Federal Register through the normal notice-and-comment rule-making process; 2) that it is "arbitrary and capricious" and relies on inaccurate data about visa overstay rates; 3) that the policy is at odds with the statutory definition of "unlawful presence"; and 4) that it violates Constitutional protections to due process by imposing three- or 10-year bars on individuals re-entering the U.S. "without notice or the opportunity to cure."

The lawsuit cites several examples of individuals who have interrupted their studies as a result of the new unlawful-presence policy. It says that “as a result of the August 2018 Policy Memorandum, Haverford recently was required to ask two international students to leave the campus based on potential status violations that, prior to the new policy, would not have disrupted their studies.” It also says that the New School had a student who “left the United States in order to take the correct action to regain her status but subsequently took a semester-long leave of absence out of fear of accruing unlawful-presence time under the new policy.”

The lawsuit does not provide any further details of the circumstances of these cases. Haverford declined to comment, preferring to let the complaint speak for itself, and the New School referred questions on the lawsuit to Hughes.

“What I can say is that all the schools with which I’ve spoken have said that this policy is changing the way they approach international students both in big ways and small ways,” Hughes said. "They are withdrawing from the amount of advising they’re doing" -- referring students to outside immigration lawyers instead -- "but also when it comes to individual decisions about students, they are telling students that they need to leave the United States, disrupt their educations because of status violations or alleged student violations that may have been uncovered, in order to protect both the student or institution.

"Before they might have tried, for example, a petition for reinstatement in order to fix the status violation while the individual was still in the United States and could pursue their course of study," Hughes said. "Now they’re becoming much more likely to say that they need to leave the United States and potentially seek a new student visa in order to re-enter." (The new policy does make allowances for the filing of reinstatement petitions, and stops the clock on the accrual of unlawful presence during the time a “timely-filed” reinstatement application -- defined as one submitted within five months of the alleged status violation --- is pending. NAFSA: Association of International Educators has cautioned in its guidance to colleges that because travel outside the U.S. can trigger a three- or 10-year bar depending on how much unlawful presence has already accrued, it should not be seen as a "simple" solution to a status violation.)

Apart from Haverford and the New School, the other institutions that joined the suit are Foothill-DeAnza Community College District, in California, and Guilford College, in North Carolina. The Guilford International Club is also party to the suit.

A USCIS spokesman said that as a matter of policy the agency does not comment on pending lawsuits. The agency's director, L. Francis Cissna, has previously said the change is necessary to protect the integrity of student and exchange scholar visas and reduce overstays.

“F, J, and M nonimmigrants are admitted to the United States for a specific purpose, and when that purpose has ended, we expect them to depart, or to obtain another, lawful immigration status,” Cissna said. “The message is clear: these nonimmigrants cannot overstay their periods of admission or violate the terms of admission and stay illegally in the U.S. anymore.”

Jill Welch, the deputy executive director for public policy at NAFSA, said that the unlawful-presence policy change is damaging to efforts by U.S. colleges to compete for international students, particularly when it's considered alongside other proposed changes to impose a maximum period of stay for student visas and to overhaul the optional practical training program.

"We’re just making ourselves less and less competitive to these talented individuals who are contributing to our classroom," Welch said. "It’s not adding to security. International students and scholars and exchange visitors are the only populations who are monitored throughout their stay anyway. There are measures in place already to pay attention to any issues that might arise that could cause a security flag. Adding things that cause a disproportionate penalty for an inadvertent violation is unreasonable and doesn’t ensure our security."

GlobalInternational Higher EducationEditorial Tags: International higher educationForeign Students in U.S.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Foothill CollegeGuilford CollegeHaverford CollegeNew School

AAUP says St. Edward's U flouted norms surrounding shared governance, due process and academic freedom when it dismissed two "squeaky wheel" professors

Thu, 2018-10-25 07:00

St. Edward’s University in Texas could face censure by the American Association of University Professors, based on an AAUP report out today saying that the institution found ways to quickly get rid of three outspoken faculty members -- two of them tenured.

Beyond violating the basic tenets of academic freedom, tenure and due process in these three cases, AAUP’s investigating committee found that St. Edward’s has a generally “abysmal” climate for academic freedom and shared governance. St. Edward’s “heavy-handedness” has created “widespread fear and demoralization among the faculty,” the report reads.

The university said in a statement Wednesday that it has “a robust commitment to tenure and academic freedom” and values “our strong faculty leaders who form an essential part of shared governance at the university.” So the AAUP report “maligns the great work of almost 500 faculty members and imposes its own agenda on our university.”

George Martin, St. Edward’s president, called an earlier version of the report “disappointing” in a Facebook post. He reportedly declined to meet with AAUP investigators when they visited campus in August, saying personnel matters are private and that the university and the association have different standards.

Indeed, St. Edward’s Faculty Manual is relatively “silent,” to borrow AAUP’s term, on procedures for faculty dismissals. Instead, the manual says that professors who are summarily dismissed have the right to a later appeal. But AAUP, which advocates a professor’s right to appeal disciplinary decisions before an elected faculty body, says that is no substitute for due process prior to dismissal.

A Couple of ‘Squeaky Wheels’

According to AAUP, Shannan Butler and Corinne Weisgerber, both associate professors of communication in good standing with about 12 years each on campus, and a married couple, were summoned to a meeting with administrators in January. They were immediately handed dismissal letters citing their “continued disrespect and disregard for the mission and goals of the university.” That’s a fireable offense, according to university policy, but Butler and Weisgerber say they’ve never been given specific examples of how they flouted St. Edward’s mission.

The letters did cite a department meeting a month earlier, in which the professors allegedly treated their colleagues “in an unprofessional, intimidating, and bullying way.” Weisgerber’s letter, in particular, said that “toward the end of what had initially been a productive meeting, you began to question the future of the department, a topic that was not on the agenda.” The professors were asked to return to the agenda, but things got “out of control,” the letter said, as Butler and Weisgerber “persisted in attempting to intimidate” both their interim chair and the previous interim chair.

Butler’s letter said that he also “repeatedly referred” to his membership on the Faculty Evaluation Committee in a way that implied he “would or could use” that role “for personal retribution.” Such an implication is “entirely improper and undermines the integrity of the faculty review process,” it said.

The termination letters also asserted that department members who left the meeting heard shouting -- proof of Butler and Weisgerber’s “unwillingness” to “to engage colleagues in a productive manner.” As proof of a pattern of similar misbehavior, the letters also said that the professors in 2016 “launched an attack” on the decision to appoint someone other than Butler as interim department chair. Short on details, the letters said that the attack included “efforts which constituted harassment, bullying and attempts at intimidation.”

A dean met with the professors in 2016 to address such concerns, and notes about their “disruptive and unprofessional behavior” were placed in their personnel files in 2017. But Butler and Weisgerber continued to behave unprofessionally, including at a later 2017 faculty meeting, according to the termination letters.

Reeling from the news of their immediate dismissals, Butler and Weisgerber were escorted off campus by a security guard. They were given the option to appeal, but banned from campus.

Both professors appealed on several grounds, including that they hadn’t been given a two-year performance improvement plan (or even a single negative performance review) as required by the university’s posttenure review policy with regard to revoking tenure. They also said they’d been denied specific examples as to what constituted “bullying” behavior, and that they hadn’t been formally notified that new disciplinary notes had been placed in their personnel files, in 2017.

But instead of a duly appointed faculty committee, an ad hoc review panel, whose members they never saw or knew the names of, assessed their cases and sided with the university.

An Inconvenient Professor

As shocking as the terminations were, there was something of a precedent, in AAUP’s telling: just a month earlier, Katie Peterson, an assistant professor of reading in her fifth year of service at St. Edward's, received a non-reappointment letter. It didn’t cite her behavior, but rather the university’s attempts to “right size” itself. Peterson got six months’ notice -- more than Butler and Weisgerber got, but not the typical year for professors elsewhere.

AAUP’s report implies that these events are linked in that Peterson also spoke out on issues of concern to her: Peterson told the association that her time on campus had been difficult since at least 2015, when she filed a complaint against an associate dean who made what she called “weird pseudo-sexual comments.” The dean continued to make her uncomfortable until he left last academic year, she said, prompting her to file additional complaints. The new dean then made unspecified comments that “led her to believe that the dean perceived her as a troublemaker and therefore a candidate for nonrenewal,” the AAUP report says.

Peterson further believes she was targeted for personal reasons, not academic or financial ones, because full-time faculty members got modest raises last year, enrollment in her courses was good and the courses she normally taught were assigned to others this year.

AAUP says that under its widely followed recommended policies and procedures, a tenure-track professor notified of nonrenewal in the fifth year of appointment is entitled to written reasons for the decision, the opportunity to appeal the decision to an elected faculty body and at least a year of notice.

Regarding the tenured faculty members, Martin reportedly told AAUP via email prior to the investigators’ visit that its dismissal policy was proposed by the St. Edward’s faculty, approved by the university’s Board of Trustees and included in the university’s Faculty Manual in 1989. The process is fair, he said, includes an independent review by a faculty committee and honors academic freedom.

AAUP disagreed, citing its own widely followed policies, and asked about academic freedom when it visited campus. One person quoted but not identified in the AAUP report described Butler and Weisgerber as “squeaky wheels -- first in line to complain when things are bad.” But “that’s no reason to get rid of faculty, especially tenured faculty,” the person said.

Considering similar comments from other interviewees and the additional evidence, AAUP’s investigating committee concluded that “what the administration deemed ‘misconduct’ on the part of Butler and Weisgerber was nothing more than persistent and conscientious questioning of administrative decisions,” with “university” being used as a stand-in for administration. The language in their dismissal letters was “revelatory,” the report says.

Climate Control

Other faculty members described an overall climate of fear. One longtime professor reportedly said at the beginning of an interview, “I was scared to come here today. When I got out of the car in the parking lot, I literally looked over my shoulders to see who might see me.” Peterson told investigators, “People are angry about what happened. People came up to me all spring and they were angry. And they said, ‘Message received.’” And another longtime professor said, “I have been shocked at the actual, real fear that has been manifested even by long-standing faculty over the last five years.”

Regarding shared governance, faculty interviewees reported that it was very weak, and that questions for the president’s annual visit with the faculty must be submitted and approved in advance. (A spokesperson denied that this week.)

St. Edward’s, “like so many other small institutions, has seen a great deal of structural and cultural change over a relatively short period of time,” the committee concluded. “Equally clear was that much of the change has been driven by the administration and that a large segment of the faculty feels that its voice has not mattered.”

The administration’s recent actions against three “respected and dedicated faculty members have only made the relationship between the administration and the faculty significantly worse,” the committee wrote, “for they further alienated the faculty from the institution so many of them told the committee they ‘used to love.’ As one faculty member lamented, ‘This place has lost its soul, and I feel like I’m losing mine.’”

St. Edward’s in its statement said the AAUP “attempts to take personnel matters and incorrectly recast them as issues of academic freedom.” In all three personnel cases, it said, “the university followed processes outlined in the faculty manual -- processes proposed and approved by the Faculty Senate and approved by the university’s Board of Trustees. We reject the AAUP report and remain grateful for the support and work of our outstanding faculty, who are deeply committed to student success and to our mission and values.”

AAUP findings of violations of academic freedom and tenure mean make institutions eligible for censure votes at the association’s annual meeting, typically in June. Censure is symbolic, but most institutions eventually work with the group to remove themselves from AAUP’s censure list to improve their reputations and ability to attract faculty candidates.

Greg Scholtz, director of academic freedom, tenure and governance for the AAUP, said that the St. Edward’s case is notable in that Butler and Weisgerber, a married couple, were treated almost interchangeably, or as a single unit in their dismissals, and that they appear to have been punished for exercising their academic freedom via participating in institutional governance. Echoing language in the report, Scholtz said, “I thought that the dismissal letter they received was unintentionally revelatory in that it seemed to equate a lack of respect for administrative decisions with misconduct.”

Also unusual is the “execrably deficient dismissal policy that made it so easy for the administration to rid itself of these two perceived troublemakers,” Scholtz added. “Most reputable four-year institutions have stronger dismissal policies. This one allowed the administration to send them packing unceremoniously without any warning.”

The appeals process afforded them was not a faculty hearing in which the burden of proof was on the administration, he said, but one in which they had to prove to a “secret committee” that the administration should not have dismissed them.

Violations of academic freedom link all three cases in that Butler and Weisgerber “questioned administrative decisions affecting their department and its chair,” while Peterson had complained of sexual harassment "to an extent that she claimed her dean seemed to view her unfavorably.”

Academic FreedomFacultyEditorial Tags: Academic freedomFacultyTenureIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Firing 'Squeaky Wheel' ProfessorsTrending order: 2College: St. Edward's University

New study shows the causes of college student mental health problems

Thu, 2018-10-25 07:00

Many research studies have been devoted to college students’ mental health and a lack of campus resources to help them. Now researchers, curious about what contributed to these issues, have decided to analyze numerous studies. They found that common contributing factors to students' mental-health challenges were race, violence and sexual assault.

Professors at North Carolina State University and Pennsylvania State University studied 165 academic and news articles from 2010 to 2015 -- including some from Inside Higher Ed -- on college mental health. The authors of the study, which was published recently in the journal JMIR Mental Health, mined these pieces, identified certain terms and themes, then grouped them together into six general categories: age-related factors in mental health, race, crime, services that institutions offer, the “aftermath” of negative experiences in mental health, and violence and sexual assault.

Most of the articles -- 68 percent of them -- centered around what colleges and universities are doing to assist with mental health. But the other top two categories were race related (18 percent of the articles) and sexual assault (5 percent).

“We had found in our previous work that students are concerned about mental health issues, and we wanted to better define the scope of mental health challenges for students and what factors contribute to those challenges,” Fay Cobb Payton, one of the paper’s authors and a professor of information systems/technology at North Carolina State, said in a statement.

Students who have been sexually assaulted are dealing with a dual stigma -- both of seeking help for the actual attack as well as lingering mental-health issues, Payton said.

The researchers wrote that while many institutions are attempting to target students of color specifically when addressing mental-health problems, many of the students are not taking advantage of campus services.

They noted that while more universities may be offering more “rapid-access” services, many of the traditional, more routine offerings have been scaled back, resulting in a void when students need follow-up care.

Institutions can try to mitigate or eliminate some of these initial stressors, a more proactive approach to mental health, the researchers said.

“A recommendation for moving forward would be to focus on helping students to develop coping skills before they experience a traumatizing event, instead of primarily focusing on the post-experience treatment,” the researchers wrote. “In the long run, this … shift could enable institutions to reduce demand for rapid-access services, alleviate their overworked mental health practitioners and lead to a better higher education experience for students.”

Payton suggested that colleges and universities rely on mobile apps to help distribute information and resources on mental health to students in a private way.

“Apps could also be used to create opportunities for peer training or for storytelling that could address issues related to stigma,” Payton said.

Of the remaining articles, 4 percent focused on students’ age in mental health, such as the transition from high school to college; 2 percent centered on the aftermath of a mental health-related problem, and another 2 percent were about how crime plays into mental health.

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Controversial spouses of college presidents can hurt image of the president and the university

Wed, 2018-10-24 07:00

When the husband of the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater was banned from campus events last month because of sexual harassment allegations against him, the unenviable task of informing the campus fell to his wife.

"As you can imagine, this is a challenging and unique set of circumstances for me as a wife, as a woman, and as your chancellor," Beverly Kopper wrote in a message to the campus after the allegations were deemed credible.

That Kopper’s husband, Pete Hill, had put her in such an uncomfortable position made the admission all the more embarrassing and, unfortunately for the university, more newsworthy. The investigation and subsequent dismissal of Hill from an advisory position on campus made local and national headlines.

While having to publicly address such a sensitive and highly personal incident is relatively rare for a leader of a college or university, Kopper is not alone in being thrust into the media spotlight because of the behavior of a spouse. Other university presidents and chancellors have also been the subject of past news reports because of the serious actions, or eyebrow-raising antics, of their husbands or wives.

Spousal misbehavior reflects badly not only on the president but on the institution itself and can have far-reaching implications in terms of potential donors and students. At a time of declining enrollment and increasing reliance on wealthy benefactors, trustees and governing boards are more image conscious than ever.

Troublesome spouses of executives obviously exist in many professions. But employees or stockholders of a Fortune 500 company would likely not have any idea who is the spouse of the CEO. In higher education, the social missteps, indiscretions and lapses in judgment of spouses of college presidents are getting more attention than in past decades, said Susan Resneck Pierce, a former college president and now a consultant to colleges and universities. (She occasionally writes columns for Inside Higher Ed.)

“Twenty years ago, it would have been a problem for the institution and only known about in the local community or the narrow region,” said Resneck Pierce, president emerita of the University of Puget Sound, where she served from 1992 to 2003. “What was previously just considered a local problem has become more national because social media has really put a spotlight on the problems. The more intense the spotlight and public attention, the more the board will worry and try to address it, depending on the circumstances.”

With confidence in higher ed falling and growing numbers of politicians and pundits questioning the need for a college education, the last thing university administrators want is for someone closely associated with their institution to be in the wrong, or for negative news about a president’s spouse or domestic partner to go viral and become the butt of Twitter jokes and ridicule or the subject of less-than-flattering memes.

Nevertheless, the reach and influence of social media has, at times, raised public interest in college presidents and their spouses to a level usually reserved for scandal-prone celebrities. As a result, college governing boards and presidential couples are figuring out how to negotiate this new terrain.

“I think the important point here is that when one of the spouses or partners becomes the president, it’s simply a given that both individuals are going to be in a public role. It just comes with the territory,” said Elaine Maimon, the longtime president of Governors State University, a public institution in University Park, Illinois. “You just have to be prepared for that and to just keep in mind that you’re always, to some degree or other, going to be representing the university. It just means the president lives and breathes that every day and can never forget it.”

Modern presidential spouses or partners are also individuals, however, and don’t necessarily want to be seen as mere appendages of the president to whom they happen to be married. The spouses and partners often have their own careers and interests that don’t revolve around the job of the president. Being mindful of how their actions or statements may be viewed on and off campus is one thing; being focused on this full-time is another.

“Sometimes they can forget that simply by virtue of the partnership, there’s going to be a level of public scrutiny that just comes with it,” Maimon said.

Prior to becoming president of Governors State in 2007, Maimon was chancellor of the University of Alaska at Anchorage and a vice president at Arizona State University, where she led a campus. Her husband, Mort Maimon (who has also written for Inside Higher Ed), moved with her from job to job over the last two decades.

Before he settled into his current role, he worked as the head of the English department at a Philadelphia high school. He then taught education as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, and English at Arcadia University.

“It’s not a kind of carefree enjoyment,” he said of being a presidential spouse. “It’s a conscious enjoyment. You don’t take things for granted; you have to be observant and understand the culture you’re living in and the impression you give others.”

He said every campus has its own unique culture, and spouses or partners that take the time to understand it tend to fare better.

“I’m not a naturally sociable guy,” he said. “I’ve gained sociability in the 22 years I’ve been doing this. I tend to be reticent, which might be deemed as antisocial or as not being forthcoming. This may not be true, but the truth can become the impression some people might have of you."

“I’ve learned a lot. I think there’s a distinct difference between the kind of person I am at this point than when I first started. I hadn’t thought about what kind of community I was entering, what my role will be.”

According to a 2016 survey of presidential partners, transitioning into the role is a “major life event” that can be “especially problematic.”

The survey, "The Lives of Presidential Partners in Higher Education Institutions," was conducted by University of Minnesota researchers under the direction of Karen Kaler, wife of university president Eric Kaler. Some 461 spouses and partners of college and university presidents and chancellors participated.

Although 84 percent of those surveyed said being the spouse or partner of a college president was “satisfying, very satisfying or extremely satisfying,” many also said they struggled with defining their roles “and the stresses of a very public existence.”

“According to survey respondents, the role is seldom made clear before presidents accept their positions, few institutions have written partner policies, and presidential contracts rarely mention the partner role,” the study authors wrote in the summary of their findings.

David A. Williams, author of Caesar’s Wife, The College President’s Spouse: Minister without Portfolio or the President’s Conscience?, wrote about these challenges in a 2013 article for Trusteeship Magazine, a bimonthly publication of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

He described attending conferences sponsored by various presidential associations, specifically the sessions for spouses, where “the common complaints of presidential spouses were aired -- frankly, and, at times, emotionally.”

“This is where the truth is told -- where presidential spouses let their hair down and tell each other how they feel about their lives. A majority are not happy. Many feel they are not respected. Some feel they are hated,” he wrote.

Williams, who is married to Peggy R. Williams, president emerita of Ithaca College in New York and former president of Lyndon State College in Vermont, implied that husbands and wives of college presidents are held to a high standard with little margin for error.

“So long as the presidential spouse can keep the rank and file (and the broader community) happy, all is well,” he wrote. But if the spouse makes a questionable decision not supported by trustees, “There will be hell to pay.”

Mort Maimon plans to attend the annual meeting of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities this month in Washington. He is scheduled to lead a session for the organization’s spouse and partner group on balancing how they’re perceived on campus with the image they want to create.

“This doesn’t mean being phony,” he said. “It’s about how to go beyond who you think you are, and how your manner and demeanor defines who you are to other people. It doesn’t come automatically, it requires thought; you have to be flexible and adaptable.”

The role of the presidential spouse has evolved as the ranks of presidents have diversified and more women, and to a lesser extent, partners in same-sex couples have become college presidents.

“My sense is that the role of the partner or spouse of a college president has been challenging for most of the past 50 years, especially as there has been greater diversity in terms of the gender of the president,” said Jay Lemons, president of Academic Search, an executive search firm.

Lemons, who was president of Susquehanna University for 16 years and also served as chancellor of the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, said there have increasingly been two-career couples attached to the presidency and that this development “has complicated the waters.”

“I don’t know that anything has changed other than there are more media outlets and more opportunity for events or instances to be more widely known,” he said.

“In the vast majority of cases, the partners have been remarkable and made great contributions to the health and wealth of countless colleges and universities,” he said. “There are to my mind, a remarkably small number of cases where these incidents have revealed themselves in public ways.”

When that happens, things can get ugly. The board of the University of Tennessee once banned the wife of the system’s then president from having any contact with university donors or staff members after she allegedly berated a donor and reduced her to tears. The ban was lifted only after the president, John Petersen, wrote the board and pledged that his wife, Carol Petersen, would conduct herself appropriately.

E. Gordon Gee left Vanderbilt University in 2007 after six years as chancellor, during which his then wife, Constance Bumgarner Gee, had a rocky tenure as “first lady.”

Outspoken and politically liberal, she pushed back against the university’s social conventions and the expectations of trustees.

She lowered the American flag at the presidential mansion to half-staff after President George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004. She signed a letter of protest against the university giving Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state under Bush, a medal for distinguished public service. She smoked marijuana in the presidential mansion, which she said was to ward off violent episodes of nausea caused by Meniere’s disease, but trustees were unimpressed and particularly displeased that The Wall Street Journal chronicled her actions in a front-page article.

Now divorced from Gordon Gee, Bumgarner Gee said she made some mistakes and has some regrets. But she noted that she came into the role at a disadvantage after moving with her husband from Brown University, and before that, Ohio State University, and having to adjust and adapt to a new campus culture each time. She said there were no guidelines or discussions about what would be expected of her in the role.

Bumgarner Gee, who wrote a memoir about being married to a three-time college president, has plenty of advice for would-be presidential spouses.

“I would encourage them to sit down with the board and to have early conversations about what is really expected of them and what they’re willing to do and what they’re not willing to do. And to be very up front about what kinds of events they’ll attend and how much time they want to put into it. If you are politically engaged, perhaps you should talk about that, ask if that’s a problem. Be very open. And also have a heart-to-heart with your husband. I would also counsel other first ladies to keep their own counsel, and as much as you’d like to be seen as very approachable and open, don’t be. You can be friendly, but don’t give anything up. The people around you, the staff and faculty, are not your chums. People will want to be close to you only because of who you are and to whom you are married. They’re not your friends. I wish I had understood that better.”

Lemons, a married father of four during his years as a president, noted that when a university hires a president, the president’s spouse or partner -- and extended family members -- are effectively hired, too, even if they’re not on the payroll.

“There is the occupant of that office, be it a person who is male or female, and if they are partnered, that partner becomes a significant strand of that presidency,” he said. “The children are part of that, and even aging parents are part of the picture.”

Lemons believes families -- spouses and partners in particular -- provide added and invaluable service to the presidency.

“I think about the 25 years I spent in the presidency and the incredible asset my partner was in those 25 years. She made me a better president and provided unsung and extraordinarily generous service. We held about 100 annual events. She was one my most important counselors. So my experience was enhanced, made extraordinarily better by the role my wife played.”

He noted that official residences of presidents are essentially “part home, part museum, part event center. The very existence of them gives kind of royal-like quality to the American university president,” and magnifies controversies or scandals that take place in or involve official residences.

“The voyeurism is that much more connected to them when things don’t run normally or smoothly,” he said.

“There have been in my career, a handful of cases where, very sadly, lives are examined very publicly. My sense is that when these things have exploded and captured public interest, it is just a process of living through them … Those are just never good events and they damage institutions and people, more reputational for the institution and more damaging to the individual.”

Lemons said he couldn’t think of any controversial incident involving a spouse or partner that was more than just a temporary dent to a university’s reputation, “but certainly for the individuals who find themselves in these circumstances they’re probably longer lasting.”

To be sure, the problems don’t always originate with the spouses or partners. Sometimes they get into trouble when their personalities clash with the egos of trustees or other administrators on campus. Wives of male presidents complain of being held to standards that husbands of female presidents are not. Even when they have outside careers, they say, some university administrators, faculty members and benefactors have outdated notions of the role of presidents' wives and think they should serve as social secretaries and dinner party hosts for their husbands.

Spouses can alienate or offend top administrators and trustees by not attending events for rich donors or taking active part in the ingratiating schmoozing expected of presidents and their partners. Or by seeming too assertive. Same-sex partners of presidents have sometimes had to contend with subtle and even blatant homophobia on campus, especially campuses located far from urban centers. Sometimes the spouse or partner of the president is simply not a good match with a particular campus.

Elaine and Mort Maimon have had no such run-ins or culture clashes -- and they hope things stay that way.

Looking back at the years gone by, Mort Maimon says he would have relished teaching a literature course as a member of the faculty, but he worried an official position would be seen as his wife favoring him over other job candidates.

“I would be an easy target for charges of nepotism,” he said. “I never wanted that.”

Instead, he settled for volunteer positions on each campus where his wife worked. He tutored undergraduates and worked with them on reading assignments and discussions, he helped prep graduate students to apply for competitive scholarships and fellowships. At Governors State, he’s helping students improve their writing.

“I love to work with students, to see what you start out with and what you end up with,” he said.

At this point, he’s just as much a pro at being the official spouse as his wife is at being president. Just don’t call him the first gentleman.

“I’m not the first gentleman or any other official designation, absolutely not,” he said. “I’m just the husband trying to make things as easy for my wife as possible and not be an impediment, obstacle or any kind of thing she has to overcome.”

Editorial Tags: College administrationImage Caption: Beverly Kopper and Pete Hill at her 2015 inaugurationIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Presidential Spouses Behaving BadlyTrending order: 3College: Governors State UniversityIthaca CollegeUniversity of Wisconsin-Whitewater

Middlebury professors call for books to be returned to campus bookstore

Wed, 2018-10-24 07:00

The Middlebury College bookstore doesn't look much like a bookstore anymore. The textbooks that once lined its shelves were cleared out earlier this year, making room for more Middlebury-branded sweatshirts, T-shirts and coffee mugs.

The bookstore, like many others at colleges across the country, had suffered from declining sales and stiff competition from large online retailers such as Amazon.

Bookstore manager Erin Jones-Poppe said it simply didn’t make sense for the store to keep stocking books.

"We cannot afford to continue in our current trajectory," she told the student newspaper, The Middlebury Campus, in 2017.

Last spring the bookstore switched to an online-only book ordering system, offered through MBS Textbook Exchange -- a company that was acquired by Barnes and Noble Education in 2017. Under the new system, students can still pick up their books from the bookstore -- they just have to order them online first. The system is supposed to provide better value for students. But faculty members at Middlebury say they want the old system back.

In a letter to the college administration, published in The Middlebury Campus on Oct. 11, faculty from the English and American literature and theater departments and 12 individual faculty members from other disciplines said the new online system had “a significant negative pedagogical impact.”

Students won’t order books in advance of their first classes because they are unsure of their schedules, the professors wrote. When the students do order their books, it can take up to three weeks for them to arrive.

To get the books to arrive faster “costs our students extortionate amounts in shipping costs,” they said.

“Professors are spending valuable time during the early weeks of the semester photocopying materials and trying in other ways to help increasingly anxious student chase down books,” the faculty members wrote. “The whole situation has a significant negative impact on the central thing -- teaching -- that we do. It undermines the process and experience of teaching and learning, as well as sending a message that course materials are devalued or irrelevant.”

Don Wyatt, John M. McCardell Jr. Distinguished Professor of History at Middlebury, said he signed the letter because it’s hard for students to achieve an appreciation of the importance of books “without access to them.”

Since the system changed, many more students have shown up to class without their books, he said.

Because of the “emphasis on the close reading of texts” in humanities studies, the delayed arrival of textbooks is “extremely disadvantageous,” said Wyatt. “Students are behind almost before they begin.”

Antonia Losano, a lead author of the letter and chair of the Department of English and American Literature, said after the letter was published numerous members of the college administration got in touch to “express concern and commitment to working on this.” Many members of the administration also teach regularly, so this is “not an abstract issue to them,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Middlebury College declined to comment while discussions between faculty, staff and administrators are ongoing. Losano said a meeting between the relevant parties has been scheduled for mid-November.

Bill Dampier, executive vice president of MBS Textbook Exchange, said he "understood the concerns of Middlebury faculty" and would be working with the college "to ensure students have access to the materials they need for success in the classroom."

Students who buy directly from MBS's inventory are offered a low rate on second-day air shipping, or they can pick up their purchase from the Middlebury bookstore without any shipping cost, said Dampier.

However, many students at Middlebury chose to purchase their books from individual sellers in the MBS marketplace -- where items are shipped by the seller and not by MBS, often at lower cost.

"It is clearly stated on the website at the point of purchase that the shipping window can be up to 18 days," said Dampier.

Middlebury College is not alone in eliminating books from its bookstore in recent years.

Robert Batyko, social media and digital manager of the National Association of College Stores, said a few hundred institutions have moved course material ordering and delivery online. Nearly all the others do some combination of both online and physical textbook ordering and delivery, he said.

Institutions that move book sales online "generally do so in response to the increasing number of students who purchase online, and increasing usage of digital materials," said Batyko. "Additionally, some institutions have moved in this direction for financial reasons, as it allows them to repurpose the space for other offerings."

Going online-only is "complex, and if not well executed, susceptible to difficulties," said Batyko. "The most common complaints center around delays in the ordering and delivery of course materials, along with the shipping fees."

Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire switched to an online-only ordering system from MBS in 2016.

Administrators at Colby-Sawyer initially “got a tiny bit of pushback” from faculty who didn’t like the new system, said Beth Crockford, chair of the business administration department. “It was a challenge for a few faculty members, but now that we are used to it, I have not heard complaints,” she said.

The MBS system allows students to buy used, new or digital books, and offers to buy back print textbooks once students are done with them.

“It’s a wise business move for small schools,” said Alison Seward, manager of the Colby-Sawyer college store. The system might not be perfect, but she wouldn’t go back to putting books on the shelves.

“I vote to keep the online ordering system,” she said.

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Colleges find new ways to coax former students to return

Wed, 2018-10-24 07:00

In the quest to help raise degree-attainment rates across the country, college administrators are realizing they’ve allowed millions of students to drop out over the decades -- and now they want them back.

The colleges have joined a new national effort to entice those former students to re-enroll and earn their degrees.

The Institute for Higher Education Policy recently launched a three-year initiative, called Degrees When Due, to help colleges identify former students who dropped out and help them earn a degree or academic credential.

“To successfully and meaningfully re-engage students, we need to offer them a new educational environment that acknowledges the student’s responsibilities inside and outside the classroom and supports them through the inevitable challenges of completing one’s degree,” Lexi Shankster, IHEP's director of student success and mobility, said in a statement.

Students drop out of college for various reasons, including family responsibilities, financial hardships, housing problems, health challenges and academic difficulties, Shankster said.

“Degrees When Due will prompt campuses to consider multiple changes,” she said. Those changes could involve creating accessible and affordable childcare options that match students’ schedules. Colleges may also consider removing parking or degree-filing fees or creating prior-learning assessments so students can get credit for their past job experiences, she said.

Two- and four-year institutions in California, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Utah and Washington are participating in the initiative.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center estimated in 2015 that more than 30 million Americans have enrolled in college but left without a degree or certificate in the past 20 years. A report released by the center in August found that more than 350,000 community college students transferred to another institution without getting a degree. Meanwhile, a California Competes report released earlier this month said four million Californians between the ages of 25 and 64 have completed some college but do not have a degree.

In Michigan, Wayne State University officials worked with the clearinghouse and found 690,000 adults in the Detroit metropolitan area do not have a degree despite having earned college credits. The institution also learned that more than 13,000 people attended Wayne State since 2005 and did not graduate or attend college anywhere else.

Wayne State officials are adopting the Degrees When Due initiative by tackling financial hardships that may have prevented former students from staying and graduating. This fall the university is extending a new debt-forgiveness program, currently offered to enrolled students, to students who dropped out. The program, known as Warrior Way Back, allows students who owe the university less than $1,500 to register for classes and have their debt gradually erased. Students can enroll part-time, and if they are working toward completing their degrees, making satisfactory academic progress and are at least two years removed from when they initially dropped out, Wayne State will forgive $500 for each completed semester.

“A lot of these students left because they owed that money,” said Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management at Wayne State.

The university is also partnering with Macomb Community College to offer reverse-transfer opportunities to former students, so they can earn associate degrees. Under reverse-transfer programs, students who transfer from a community college to a four-year university and accumulate some college credit but do not graduate with a bachelor's degree may be able to use the credit they earned to receive an associate degree from a community college that has a reverse-transfer partnership with the four-year institution.

“That way they can take one or two courses and have an associate degree as opposed to nothing,” Medley said. “Then they can land a job at a company with tuition reimbursement and eventually earn a bachelor’s degree.”

Shasta College, a two-year institution in Northern California, is also partnering with neighboring two- and four-year colleges to encourage former students to complete their degrees.

As part of the Degrees When Due initiative, Shasta officials learned that about 61,000 people aged 25 and older in the college’s three-county service area have some college experience but not a degree, said Buffy Tanner, director of the college’s Accelerated College Education, or ACE, program, which offers flexible programming and scheduling for students.

“It’s a significant chunk of our population and definitely a population that deserves attention,” Tanner said.

Shasta is partnering with the College of the Siskiyous, also in Northern California, to identify and find students. The college is also partnering with California State University Chico to offer reverse transfer to former students who don't have associate degrees.

The CSU System, University of California System and California Community Colleges have strong transfer partnerships, so even if someone dropped out of college elsewhere but now lives closer to Shasta, Shasta will be able to work with them to complete their degree, Tanner said.

Shasta is also planning to promote its ACE program so it’s appealing to returning, nontraditional students.

“We’ve built a program that is very friendly to working adults, and so the hallmarks of that program are that courses are eight weeks long instead of a full semester,” Tanner said. “The key part of the program is the compressed classes, but another key is that half of the classes are fully online. It’s very flexible and helps with working adults’ schedules and competing life responsibilities.”

There is also dedicated staff -- a counselor and financial aid adviser -- available to help students navigate college.

Tanner said the college will begin reaching out to former students early next year.

“Higher education didn’t work the first time around for these students, and we need to show them why they should give us a second chance,” Shankster said. “Most importantly, we need to make these changes so that not only do we welcome them back, but we also support them through the completion of their degree.”

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Colleges start new academic programs

Wed, 2018-10-24 07:00

 

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Several programs are encouraging students to slow down and think about life outside of college

Tue, 2018-10-23 07:00

Ask any college student how their day is going and they’ll likely say, “It's busy.”

“My students have résumés and CVs that are longer than most adults' when they’re 18,” said Justin McDaniel, a religion professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “They have internships up the ass, they shadowed this person, they won on the debate team."

Taking time for silence, self-reflection and introspection doesn't top students’ to-do lists, and neither does seeking out mental health services, McDaniel said. "They look at it as taking up time.”

Several programs -- including McDaniel’s course at Penn, a student group at Princeton University and a contemplative studies course at Vassar College -- share a common goal: encourage students to slow down, relax and learn how to manage the problems they’ll face outside of college.

McDaniel teaches a course that meets once a week for seven hours, with no homework, no tests and no syllabus. Instead, every Tuesday he hands students a book upon arrival, which they read from cover to cover. After four or five hours of silent reading time, the group discusses the book.

The 300-level course, called “Existential Despair,” isn’t about anything, McDaniel said; it’s a place where students can “learn for the sake of learning, reflect for the sake of reflection and talk about issues that will actually come up as adults.”

Such issues include addiction, a cancer diagnosis, the death of a loved one or losing a job. In past semesters, McDaniel assigned Junkie by William Burroughs, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea by Yukio Mishima and The Wonder by Emma Donoghue.

"They can all reflect upon [the book] because they’re all experts on that book,” he said.

Leveling the playing field was a priority for McDaniel, who noticed that students without a humanities background often shy away from taking literature courses for fun.

“They go into these classes and they feel intimidated because they don’t know Foucault’s latest theory on Shakespeare … then they get resentful of the people who actually didn’t do the reading but [participate] in discussion,” he said.

He’s noticed a huge difference in the quality of class discussions, in and outside class.

“In 17 years of teaching, there is no comparison,” he said. “It’s the best conversation I’ve ever had in a classroom.”

The students are graded on attendance and participation, and they’re required to write a two- to three-page journal entry each week, which they often complete in class. They also contribute to an online, weeklong discussion forum.

In his other classes, McDaniel said, “I pose questions online and people would write two or three lines to get their five points. Now, I’m getting five to six pages from each student, and they’re responding to each other.”

He also observed a gender flip during conversations. Women are speaking up more often than men, the reverse of the norm at Penn.

Each reading period includes a 20- to 30-minute dinner break, and McDaniel collects students’ cellphones at the beginning of class. Students spread out across three floors of a building and bring tea, coffee and food for a partner McDaniel assigns.

“We say these kids are addicted to technology -- they’re not. When I started this class I thought there was going to be tons of napping, and there’s not. It’s so rare, so rare,” he said.

Alec Gewirtz, a senior religion major at Princeton University, had a similar goal. Last February he founded Workshop No. 1, a student group that meets on Saturday mornings to work through questions and problems students confront outside of their academic lives.

“Students didn’t have a place where they could reflect on how to build more fulfilling lives,” Gewirtz said. “They often found that they couldn’t do that in the classrooms, and students who weren’t involved in religious groups didn’t have a place where they can do that.”

Gewirtz likened the workshop to religious communities that people lean on for support and guidance, but the group has no religious ties or requirements to join. At each meeting, a student presents on a topic or problem they are facing in their own life -- such as building a meaningful relationship with their parents as adults, handling the death of a loved one or navigating some part of their career. Then, others will chime in about how they’ve confronted a similar problem. Discussions last about an hour.

Over 100 students are part of Workshop No. 1, and about 60 to 70 students attend the hourlong meetings any given week. In addition, they have the option to break into small groups of four members that meet on their own time to identify goals, create a plan and hold each other accountable.

Sophie Steinman-Gordon, a junior politics major, joined the workshop earlier this fall.

“I love it. I think that especially at a place like Princeton where your day-to-day life can get so consumed with school and stress that comes from school, it’s really important to have a space to step back,” she said.

In one meeting, Steinman-Gordon recalled a member who spoke about relationships and how to be vulnerable without relying too heavily on another person.

“The member who presented … her boyfriend was in the room,” she said. “That just is indicative about how healthy of a space it is, if someone can share something about an intimate relationship while their partner is in the room.”

Jaime Cuffe, a senior computer science major, said the group has fostered a fierce sense of community.

“It can be difficult to get a group of 50 people to commit to anything at Princeton, but what Alec has been able to create here as been really, really powerful,” he said. “There’s a saying that ‘we’re the average of the five of our closest friends.’ When I look around the room in any of the workshop sessions, I think, ‘I would be lucky to be the average of any of these five people.’”

At Vassar College in New York, Carolyn Palmer, a psychology professor, debuted an Introduction to Contemplative Studies class this fall. Each week, students in the class are introduced to different methods of contemplation and introspection -- everything from social justice and pilgrimage to journaling and meditation.

“People are thirsty for the tools and the experiences that broaden our lives, and the ways in which we can keep asking important questions of ourselves and of each other,” Palmer said.

In addition to regular classroom periods, students meet for a “lab” period once a week, similar to science course schedule. One day, a music professor walked students through the “soundscape” and asked them move slowly, focusing on their balance and what they heard. During another lab, a staff member at the counseling center led the students through meditation.

Ten students make up the pilot class, which is a typical class size for Vassar, and Palmer hopes that more students will be interested in the course once word spreads.

“They’re experiencing a wide variety of practices, and they’re reflecting on this for themselves. They are also interviewing other people about those people’s experience with contemplative practice, and then they do half-a-semester-long personal project that they want to explore in more depth,” Palmer said. “They’re getting first-person, second-person and third-person experience with contemplative studies.”

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College concierge expansion is on the horizon

Tue, 2018-10-23 07:00

In the last several years, colleges have been criticized for their climbing walls and lazy rivers, which signal to some too much spending on nonacademic matters.

Wait until those critics hear about the latest trend: concierges for students.

New Mexico State University’s nearly one-year old concierge service -- the Crimson Concierge program -- offers students everything from help booking vacations, to, for an extra fee, doing their laundry.

New Mexico State relies on a popular vendor among colleges and universities, Sodexo, to carry out Crimson Concierge, and the company said it intends to expand to other institutions.

“We are very aware of the fact that a large percentage of students are making their ultimate selection on schools that really can fulfill the ‘college experience,’” said Steve Bettner, assistant vice president of auxiliary services at New Mexico State. “Places that have amenities.”

Forbes in a column over the weekend declared New Mexico State’s program “the only one in the country,” which is not the case. High Point University, a private institution in North Carolina, has since 2007 operated a concierge service even more expansive than New Mexico State’s. The author of the Forbes piece, Christopher Elliott, the founder of a consumer nonprofit, praised the concierge service as a way to alleviate student stress.

Bettner said that to appeal to new students, New Mexico State realized it needed to be more competitive with other institutions with flashier offerings. Without the immediate budget to improve some of the buildings that were a half a century old or more, administrators settled on expanding its dining contract with Sodexo to include the concierge service, the vendor’s first. It launched in January.

After a slow rollout, the program is being much more aggressively marketed toward potential students, Bettner said. It is paid for not through university funds, but instead through partnerships with outside companies and charging a fee or commission on services students obtain through the concierge.

The concierge will research travel plans both locally and abroad -- the Forbes article highlights a student who helped plan his entire trip to southeast Asia (completely unrelated to his academics). Crimson Concierge also finds and makes dinner reservations, locates events in the area, and, for a little extra money, cleans and folds laundry and does housework.

Both students and their families have loved the program, which is housed in the university union, Bettner said. One of the staffers there is referred to as a “mother away from home” who “would do anything a mother would do,” which delights parents, Bettner said.

He acknowledged the criticism in academe of too much focus on facilities and not on academics, but said that this will help remove a “to-do list” for students and help them focus more on their studies.

“This significantly contributes to improving [graduation] numbers,” Bettner said. “That’s the goal that will bear out over time. We’re using this as a tool to help students through their matriculation and graduating on time.”

Ronni Schorr, global vice president of marketing for Circles, the part of Sodexo that administers the concierge program, said in an interview that the program doesn’t coddle students, but merely helps improve their lives. This benefits both international and domestic students, such as those who may be from out of state, Schorr said.

“They are the future leaders and they are very stressed,” Schorr said. “They have a lot going on their lives. Often they are going to college and university not in their home area, and getting acquainted with the area … and we want to relieve some of the stress they might feel.”

Schorr said Sodexo intends to expand to other institutions, but declined to name them given that contracts are not yet signed.

At High Point University, the concierge handles phone calls to the university and communications with parents and gives students free rides to the nearby airport, as well as some of the services that Crimson Concierge offers, such as travel reservations, said Lyndsey Derrow, the chief concierge. It also sponsors some programs that might be more traditionally housed in a career center, such as taking pictures for a LinkedIn profile or teaching communication skills.

In addition to the six full-time staff members, the concierge service also employs students to teach them more about the hospitality industry, Derrow said. She declined to say how much money the university devotes to the concierge.

Derrow said that the concierge service has contributed to 96 percent of High Point graduates landing a job within six months after they graduate -- she said that some critics will conflate “being nice,” as the concierges are, with handing out A's in the classroom.

“We want to be that resource for them and feel fully comfortable,” Derrow said. “We want them to feel like they can go to us for answers.”

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Campaign spending by for-profit colleges mostly absent from midterm elections

Tue, 2018-10-23 07:00

Just two years ago, Democratic candidates settled on for-profit colleges as a favorite political target on the campaign trail.

ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges had recently collapsed, and regulators were pursuing high-profile investigations of other colleges, making the sector a compelling target for political barbs. And political donations from for-profit higher education made an attractive cudgel to swing at GOP opponents.

During this campaign season, though, for-profits have received little mention. And they’re mostly staying on the sidelines themselves.

For-profit chains that were once big-time spenders -- mostly on GOP campaigns -- have once again dropped their campaign spending in the midterm elections, a downward trend that has continued for multiple election cycles.

Bridgepoint Education Inc. steered more than $443,000 through its political action committee to candidates, parties and fund-raising committees two years ago. But the company, which owns Ashford University, has spent about $252,000 so far in the 2018 midterms, according to data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics.

A political action committee for the University of Phoenix's owner, Apollo Education Group, donated more than $195,000 through its PAC in the 2016 election, but has spent $47,500 in the current cycle.

And Education Management Corporation, which gave close to $147,000 through its PAC in the 2016 elections, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

Industry observers say the sliding numbers reflect both the changing political environment in Washington -- and the weakened position of the industry. While for-profit colleges have notched key regulatory wins, enrollment across the sector began declining long before the Trump administration started putting its stamp on higher ed.

“They are not swimming in cash the way they were in previous cycles,” said Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “But there also may be a different political judgment and a different political dynamic at work. They are very active when they felt like they were under existential threat.”

Political spending by for-profits peaked in the 2012 election cycle, when the sector poured money into congressional campaigns and political action committees.

That year, a Senate investigation led by Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin wrapped up an investigation into for-profits. The Obama administration was crafting gainful-employment regulations that would sanction career education programs with poor rates of loan repayment among graduates. And the movement to seek loan forgiveness through the previously little-used borrower-defense process was well under way.

Enrollment in for-profit colleges peaked in 2012 as well and has been on the decline as the economy has continued to strengthen. For a sector already on its heels thanks to that trend and federal and state investigations, the 2016 election was seen as critical to deciding whether or not Obama-era regulations targeting the sector would go forward.

Under the Trump administration, for-profits have found the U.S. Department of Education to be much friendlier to their priorities. For example, among the first major steps taken by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was rolling back the gainful-employment and borrower-defense regulations.

The department has also extended a second chance to ACICS, a national accreditor to many for-profit colleges, which the Obama administration sought to eliminate. That decision kept federal student aid money flowing to dozens of colleges that couldn’t find approval from other accreditors.

“The sense of urgency is definitely diminished,” said Trace Urdan, a managing director at Tyton Partners who follows the for-profit education industry.

After lawmakers failed to make serious progress on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act in the past year, there’s also little expectation that a new law with major implications for for-profits will be passed any time before 2020 at the earliest.

“Why spend money to influence something that’s just not going to happen?” Urdan said.

Even as officials in Washington have created a friendlier regulatory environment, though, the industry has undergone a major restructuring that has had implications for entities that once played a big role in funding campaigns. There is less regulatory pressure on colleges, said Jeff Silber, a managing director and senior research analyst at BMO Capital Markets, but at the same time Phoenix and many of the other largest for-profit entities are smaller, and others like Corinthian have gone out of business entirely.

Meanwhile, Grand Canyon University converted to nonprofit status earlier this year. Kaplan University stopped issuing credentials after it formed a new public-private venture with Purdue University. And the parent company of DeVry University has agreed to sell the chain of colleges to a California-based private equity investor.

The trend in the sector’s political activity also is reflected by trade association representing for-profit colleges, once a big-time spender but this cycle much less of a factor in campaigns.

Career Education Colleges and Universities’ political action committee spent close to $300,000 on campaigns in 2012. But CECU, which by 2016 had seen its membership decline, gave more than $87,000 to campaigns through its PAC in the last election cycle. So far for this year’s midterm elections, the PAC has spent $57,000, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. At the peak of the group's political spending, it gave more than $367,000 to candidates and political action committees.

But Steve Gunderson, CECU’s president and CEO, said those numbers shouldn’t be interpreted as the group declaring victory on its federal priorities.

“We have found our most successful political engagement today is organizing and hosting events for members rather than simply raising money for the PAC and sending checks,” he said. “Our members, like everyone else in America, want to have some personal control over where their dollars go. The PAC is not as popular as a political vehicle,” he said.

Gunderson said the organization now goes as far as asking candidates and officeholders to visit a member college before CECU will send donations to campaigns -- a requirement he said he cleared with the Federal Elections Commission.

CECU has been as engaged as any group on federal higher ed policy in the Trump administration -- it backed the department’s overhaul of Obama-era student loan rules and lobbied hard for ACICS to keep federal recognition. And the PROSPER Act, House Republicans’ bid to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, reflected many of the group’s priorities.

But Gunderson said CECU is focusing more on engaging its member colleges than contacts in D.C.

“This is really about the future of your constituents, not about the politic of Washington,” he said.

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