Inside Higher Ed

Baylor studies find that students perform better on tests after eight hours of sleep

Tue, 2018-12-04 08:00

A few years ago, when Michael Scullin started teaching a class on sleep at Baylor University, he noticed a frustrating trend: his students were learning how detrimental sleep deprivation could be, but they never changed their habits. Many slept only five hours a night.

Scullin, director of Baylor’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory and assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience, took it a bit personally, he said half jokingly in an interview.

And so he issued a challenge.

If, during the week of final exams, his students could sleep for at least eight hours a night, he would give them extra credit points on the test, amounting to about 1 percent of their overall class grade. They would wear devices to bed similar to a Fitbit -- but far more accurate in judging sleep time, Scullin said.

Overall, 24 students in two of the classes tried it out -- and performed better on the exams than their classmates who did not take the challenge, even discounting the extra credit they might have earned. This indicates that even though some students think they should cram for finals, staying up to all hours and studying, a better strategy for students likely is to sleep more.

“If you provide a really strong incentive, people will change their behavior,” Scullin said.

The results of Scullin's study have been recently published in two journals: The Teaching of Psychology and, when a class of interior design students tried the challenge, the Journal of Interior Design.

Scullin first tried two iterations of the study. In the first, he offered 18 students the chance to receive the extra credit, but with a catch: if they slept fewer than seven hours during the finals week, five days total in the challenge, they would lose points on the exam.

Only eight students decided to participate because of the penalty, which was put in to discourage “yo-yo” sleeping -- going to bed in short spurts and then rebounding.

In the second version of the study, Scullin removed the drawback, and all 16 students in the class participated.

But in both versions, the students who ended up completing the challenge scored better on the exams than those who did not, or those who had opted out. Students who succeeded in getting eight full hours of sleep earned nearly five points more on the exam than those who didn’t (not counting the extra credit).

One student who had a D-plus grade in the class before the final exam but completed the challenge reported back that it was the “first time my brain worked while taking an exam.”

The study was replicated with students who weren’t in the sleep class -- in the interior design program -- and the results were the same: they performed better on their test.

“Some fields might find it unprofessional, but for many years, in design, sacrificing sleep was viewed as a rite of passage. That's something we're trying to change,” Elise King, assistant professor of interior design, who ran the study in the interior design classes, said in a statement. “Even during stressful deadline weeks, students can maintain healthy sleep habits.”

Scullin said that when he was experimenting with his class, the students reported that only about 15 percent of them were meeting the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep per night. But the benefits of getting a proper night's sleep are innumerable, he said: better memory, better mood, better health, Scullin said.

Because they have such autonomy, college students tend to spread their work out over longer periods, maybe 19 hours in a 24-hour day, and cram sleep in when they can, Scullin said. But if they were to treat academics more like a nine-to-five job, tapering off in the evenings and heading to bed sooner, they might be more successful academically.

Socializing means that some students won’t go to bed until 2 or 3 a.m., Scullin said. Students, and society generally, also thinks that insomnia is inherent, something that can’t be changed through behavior, but as this study finds, Scullin said, with the proper motivation people can fall into better sleep habits.

For the next round of the study, Scullin will be grouping students and each of them will have to encourage others in the group to follow the schedule more -- and if they fail, then they’ll earn fewer points. Scullin is hopeful that this will inspire students and create more of a “culture” around better sleep.

“Students say, ‘There’s nothing I can do about it,’” Scullin said. “There’s quite a lot you can do it about it, and the first-line treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy, basically just the way you think about sleep and your relationship with sleep.”

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Is Temple defending the academic freedom of a professor when board chair says he is seeking ways to punish him?

Mon, 2018-12-03 08:00

Marc Lamont Hill lost his job as a commentator for CNN last week after he gave a speech about the Palestinian cause at a forum at the United Nations. The speech was harshly critical of Israel, but it was his closing lines that have prompted many to call for Temple University to fire him from his job there as professor of media studies.

Hill ended the speech by saying that he hoped for a free Palestine "from the river to the sea." That phrase is commonly used by Palestinian supporters and is viewed by many as a call to eliminate Israel. The river in the phrase is the Jordan River, which marks the eastern border of Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank with Jordan. The sea is the Mediterranean, which marks Israel's western border. A Palestinian state from the river to the sea, many say, means one in which Israel does not exist.

Other critics noted that Hill's speech (viewable here on YouTube), while endorsing nonviolent protest, said that Palestinians should not be limited to nonviolent tactics.

After CNN fired Hill, Temple initially said that his views were protected free speech. On Friday, President Richard M. Englert issued a new statement. This one referenced Hill's right to free speech, while disassociating his views from the university. "Let me be clear: Professor Hill does not represent Temple University, and his views are his own. Further, Professor Hill’s right to express his opinion is protected by the Constitution to the same extent as any other private citizen," the statement said.

It went on to say, "Temple condemns in the strongest possible terms all anti-Semitic, racist or incendiary language, hate speech, calls to violence, and the disparagement of any person or persons based on religion, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation or identity. The university, in the best interest of its community, will take necessary and proper action to protect these values when they are threatened."

Faculty leaders became alarmed, however, when The Philadelphia Inquirer published an article on the controversy Friday night, quoting Patrick O'Connor, chair of the Temple board. O'Connor not only denounced Hill's remarks but made comments suggesting he did not think the speech might be protected. "It should be made clear that no one at Temple is happy with his comments," said O'Connor. "Free speech is one thing. Hate speech is entirely different."

O'Connor was also quoted as saying that he had instructed Temple's legal office to consider steps the university could take in response to Hill's comments. "I'm not happy. The board's not happy. The administration's not happy. People wanted to fire him right away," O'Connor said. "We're going to look at what remedies we have."

He added that Hill's speech "blackens our name unnecessarily."

A Temple spokesman did not respond to questions about whether the board chair's comments indicated that Hill's comments were not being treated by the university as protected speech.

The faculty union at Temple, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, on Saturday afternoon issued a statement questioning the board chair's comments.

The Temple Association of University Professionals "finds unacceptable the statements by Temple’s chairman of the board, Patrick O’Connor, in response to Professor Marc Lamont Hill's speech about Israel and Palestine at the United Nations," the statement said. "Professor Hill's remarks are clearly protected by the principles of free speech -- as President Englert noted in his message to the Temple community -- and by academic freedom, which we are disappointed to find has thus far not been mentioned by Temple's administration.

"We are also deeply disturbed by Chairman O'Connor's claim that the administration is looking at 'what remedies we have' to discipline Professor Hill. Professor Hill is covered by the TAUP contract, which begins with the principles of academic freedom, and which clearly sets out procedures for disciplining faculty members. We trust that the contract will be followed; if it is not, the administration can count on a vigorous defense by TAUP of Prof. Hill’s rights as set forth in it."

Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary of the American Association of University Professors' Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance, said via email that Hill's comments were protected free speech. The AAUP believes that professors should "have the freedom to address the larger community with regard to any matter of social, political, economic, or other interest, without institutional discipline or restraint, save in response to fundamental violations of professional ethics or statements that suggest disciplinary incompetence."

The board chair's statement, Tiede said, suggest that he "appears to be micromanaging a personnel matter" that should be left to campus officials. If the president believes some sort of review of Hill is needed, he should ask appropriate faculty bodies to do so, Tiede said.

Adam B. Steinbaugh of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education also criticized the board chair's statement. He said via email that Temple "had it right the first time" when it said simply that Hill's comments were protected free speech. "This is very clearly protected speech on a matter of public concern, and Temple cannot take steps to penalize Hill for his speech. The chair of a Board of Trustees of a public university, an attorney himself, should know better than to steer his institution toward infringing First Amendment rights," said Steinbaugh.

Hill did not respond to a request for a comment on the latest developments.

On Twitter, Hill said that he did not call for Israel's destruction. (In his speech, he called for a return to pre-1967 borders, which did have Israel as a state.)

My reference to “river to the sea” was not a call to destroy anything or anyone. It was a call for justice, both in Israel and in the West Bank/Gaza. The speech very clearly and specifically said those things. No amount of debate will change what I actually said or what I meant.

— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) November 29, 2018

I support Palestinian freedom. I support Palestinian self-determination. I am deeply critical of Israeli policy and practice.

I do not support anti-Semitism, killing Jewish people, or any of the other things attributed to my speech. I have spent my life fighting these things.

— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) November 29, 2018 Editorial Tags: Academic freedomImage Caption: Marc Lamont Hill, speaking at United NationsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Academic FreedomTrending order: 2College: Temple University

Princeton a cappella group discontinues singing Disney song over complaints of misogyny and lack of consent

Mon, 2018-12-03 08:00

In its typical performance of “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid, one of Princeton University’s all-male a cappella groups, the Princeton Tigertones, selects a woman from the audience.

The singers will playfully dance with her for a bit, and right before the number wraps up, they’ll pick a man from the audience, too. They might pretend to groom him, and spin him around, and then pull the duo together. And at the end, they declare that, in a node to the song's title, they should kiss -- and the couple will comply, sometimes on with a peck on the cheek, sometimes briefly on the lips.

The entire ritual appears harmless and lasts no more than three minutes, a usual and relatively well-liked selection in the group’s repertoire. But complaints over whether the encounter is consensual and appropriate has prompted the Tigertones to discontinue the song until the members can perform it in a way that’s comfortable for the entire audience, the group said.

Last week, a sophomore student, Noa Wollstein, wrote to the student newspaper The Daily Princetonian that the song was misogynistic and “dismissive” of consent. This was the first time the issue was raised publicly, though the group noted that audience members have expressed discomfort over the performance before.

Remove the context of magic and mermaids, Wollstein wrote, and the lyrics blatantly encourage a man to try to make physical advances on a woman without her consent.

The tune, which in the film is crooned mostly by Sebastian the talking crab in an attempt to unite the voiceless Ariel and the handsome prince Eric, also is a “heteronormative attack” on “women’s rights to oppose the romantic and sexual liberties taken by men,” Wollstein wrote.

As Sebastian the crab sings, “Looks like the boy is too shy” and “it’s such a shame, too bad/you’re gonna miss the girl.”

“Such expressions imply that not using aggressive physical action to secure Ariel’s sexual submission makes Eric weak -- an irrefutable scaredy-cat,” Wollstein wrote. “Applied outside of the realm of the movie, these statements suggest that masculinity is contingent on domination of women.”

Wollstein also objects to the Tigertones’ interpretation. The fervor of the members encouraging the kiss on stage enforces the song’s “toxic masculinity.” Wollstein wrote that she has witnessed queer women having to “push away” the male counterpart during the song and heard that unwilling women were subjected to their first kiss.

“Too many people have felt uncomfortable and violated by this practice to continue its justification on the basis of popularity or tradition. The fact that it has continued as long as it has is disturbing,” Wollstein wrote.

Wollstein demanded that the group remove the song from the lineup.

And the Tigertones have agreed.

Wesley Brown, president of the group, wrote to the Princetonian on Friday to say that the singers’ highest priority is creating a “positive atmosphere” and that as Wollstein’s column pointed out, not every audience member has felt at ease.

Brown wrote that performances have made previous participants “uncomfortable,” and offended observers, and so the group has tried to make sure that audience participation is voluntary -- he did not elaborate what steps the members had taken.

This has not succeeded, Brown wrote, and so the group is eliminating the song. He apologized to past participants in the skit who felt uncomfortable. He did not respond to a request for additional comment.

“Our group is always striving to impart joy and positivity through our music, and we take very seriously any indication that we fall short of this goal,” Brown wrote. “For that reason, we want to make sure that all audience members feel encouraged to reach out to the group and initiate a dialogue if they ever feel that any aspect of our show is upsetting or offensive. Our repertoire, traditions, and group as a whole are constantly evolving, and thus we value this opportunity to ensure a more comfortable performance environment moving forward.”

Tony Huerta, president of the Contemporary A Cappella Society, said he felt the group's need to connect with the audience but could see how some audience members might feel uncomfortable kissing in front of a mass group of strangers.

He suggested having one or maybe two people in the audience be a "plant" that are part of the performance, who are already willing participants -- either male or female, or a gender-neutral kissing moment could also work.

"Make it part of the show," Huerta wrote in an email. "The audience doesn't need to know that it was planned. Then it's entertainment without hurt feelings. But don't expect strangers to kiss without some pushback."

Artistic performances have faced new scrutiny on college campuses, especially in recent years, amid accusations that the content is offensive. Plays and musicals that were once considered acceptable have since been challenged over being racist or insensitive. Comedians who were once able to make certain jokes during college sets have found they need to focus more on politically correct content. At Purdue University, a female student was pulled up on stage by comic Andy Gross, who made sexual references toward her during the set. This prompted a walkout by some audience members. Gross since apologized and said he would no longer perform on campuses.

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DeVos promises innovation with accreditation reform, but will alternative providers bite?

Mon, 2018-12-03 08:00

The Trump administration in January will begin a new round of deregulation targeting some of the most fundamental rules that govern higher education. The hope, according to officials at the U.S. Department of Education, is that loosening current rules for accreditors can spur new innovation.

Yet as the regulatory overhaul draws near, some operators of alternative postsecondary programs are facing deliberations over whether to pursue federal financial aid if the department loosens current restrictions.

Observers of the sector -- which includes coding boot camps, online professional programs and other skills-based training -- don’t necessarily expect a rush for those federal funds, especially student loans.

“I don’t see a lot of evidence the market wants what the department is offering,” said Trace Urdan, managing director at Tyton Partners.

That reluctance stems partly from the government scrutiny that comes with access to Title IV of the Higher Education Act, the law that governs federal aid. Eligible institutions first must open their books to get approval from an accreditor. They then may face scrutiny over student results like loan repayment rates (although colleges rarely are booted from federal student aid programs over poor outcomes).

Alternative providers also tend to favor market-based financing options, such as private student loans or income-share agreements. Unlike with federal student loans, which critics say distort the higher ed market because students can get money to attend a program no matter the payoff, supporters of ISAs say the private market will support worthwhile programs.

Several observers, including some involved in funding skills-based training, say those programs are doing just fine without extra help from the government. And while Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, has named innovation as a top goal, many conservative policy makers have argued that the higher ed sector doesn't need more public money and should function more like the private market -- exactly what boosters of income-share agreements say those products accomplish.

Those calculations could be complicated when it comes to Pell Grants. Grant aid is targeted to low-income students by definition, and most people attending coding boot camps or other kinds of postdegree career training program won't qualify for Pell. So some ISA supporters, who don't have concerns about grant aid changing higher ed incentives, say they'd be open to taking grant money but not loans.

Revenue generated from either grants or loans could be a boon to alternative providers if they decide it’s worth significant changes to their existing programs to join the roughly 7,000 colleges and universities that participate in Title IV. David Bergeron, a senior fellow for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said federal data indicates that 9,000 institutions take in revenue from GI Bill benefits or other federal programs, a potentially large pool of providers that could seek out new federal funds if restrictions on accreditation are lifted.

"Our goal is to enable otherwise accredited institutions to innovate and serve students based on what today’s students want and need," Diane Auer Jones, the principal deputy under secretary for postsecondary education, who has been the point person for the upcoming package of regulatory changes, said in a written statement. "We are also interested in exploring ways in which institutions could partner substantively with businesses so that work-based learning can be credit-yielding or so that institutions could better utilize the facilities and expertise of businesses rather than trying to keep up with the latest technologies in the traditional classroom environment."

Sustainable Emerging Market or Fad?

In recent years, advocates have promoted ISAs as a solution to anxieties over growing student debt. The agreements require graduates to pay back a certain percentage of their income for a set number of years. That offers a certain amount of security to students who earn less than expected.

ISAs to some extent operate like income-based repayment on student loans. But the provider who offers the plans, rather than students or the government, would be on the hook if a program doesn’t pay off. And unlike federal loans, income-share agreements allow for underwriting, where investors assess whether a particular program will pay off.

“Whether it’s a coding boot camp or a specific skill in health care, all these programs should have a return on investment that is supported by the market,” said Daniel Pianko, co-founder and managing director at University Ventures. “Why else would we be doing skills-based training?”

Pianko said ISAs compete primarily with private student loans. He argues that federal loans remove market incentives and allow programs to survive that wouldn’t otherwise.

“The answer folks are looking for is not Title IV funding, it’s to increase the legality around income-share agreements,” he said of skills-based programs.

Purdue University rolled out an income-share agreement in the 2016-17 academic year. But most institutions that offer the agreements are private sector skills-training programs, many of which focus on older students who already have a bachelor's degree. For example, General Assembly, one of the largest and most respected coding and skills boot camp providers, announced this summer that it would offer an ISA to students.

Another boot camp focused on coding, Make School, offers an income-share agreement that requires graduates to pay back 20 percent of their income for five years as long as they make a minimum of $60,000. At lower salaries, the payments would be deferred.

Ashu Desai, the co-founder of Make School, said those terms -- 20 percent is high compared to most ISAs -- reflects the younger demographic of the school’s student body.

“Initially it was an experiment and a way to get off the ground. We ended up continuing with the model because we felt there was a big challenge with the student debt crisis,” Desai said. “It ensures the school is responsible for getting a good outcome for students.”

ISA providers like Make School operate in a largely unregulated market. (Legislation introduced by Representative Luke Messer, an Indiana Republican, would clarify the rules for income-share agreements, but it hasn’t gone anywhere in Congress.) Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert and publisher of savingforcollege.com, said the regulatory environment gives ISA operators a pass on consumer protections.

“ISAs are just a different type of loan, and they should be subject to all the same rules,” he said.

The agreements face skepticism even within the skills-based training sector. Rick O’Donnell, founder and CEO of the Skills Fund, which makes loans to coding boot camps as well as some other career-training programs, said the agreements are at best a small innovation that won’t get wide-scale traction, or possibly just a marketing gimmick. Skills Fund makes loans for students to attend short-term skills training programs, many of them online, creating another postsecondary pathway without federal aid.

The company acts as both the lender and an accreditor by using its own quality-assurance process to determine which programs are eligible. Alternative providers likely won't pursue Title IV money if it requires them to substantially change their offerings to match the standards of traditional programs, O'Donnell said.

“That money comes with strings attached,” he said. “And the private sector is already responding to the needs of students.”

Some liberal advocates of a more tightly regulated higher education system say they’re fine with options like ISAs as long as students don’t take them out on top of federal loans. The roughly $100 billion the federal government disburses through the federal student loan program each year is a much bigger worry, they say.

“There’s just not as much money on the table. It’s a different scope of risk,” said Clare McCann, deputy director for federal higher education policy at New America. “Federal aid is my concern. That’s when the fraud and abuse kicks up. It’s easy access to money.”

And McCann noted it’s almost impossible to get kicked out of the Title IV program once you’re in -- it’s extraordinarily rare for the Education Department to cut off federal student aid to even the worst-performing colleges. ISAs at least provide accountability to investors, she said.

Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said he was skeptical that many non-Title IV programs would turn down federal money if it became available.

“They’re making a virtue out of necessity,” he said of the ISA model.

Nassirian predicted that more alternative programs may seek partnerships with existing federal aid-eligible institutions to provide courses -- a model along the lines of the EQUIP experiment launched by the Obama administration. That experiment is ongoing but has struggled to attract participants, and several colleges have already dropped out.

“The minute the spigot is turned on, they will all be in line to get theirs,” Nassirian said. “It’s really hard to compete with free money.”

Many of alternative providers DeVos has praised already have formed partnerships with traditional Title IV programs. StraighterLine, an operator of online college courses, which does not offer degrees or credentials, has guaranteed credit-transfer agreements with 130 colleges. And the provider has relationships with other colleges that refer students directly to StraighterLine for courses. The company charges a subscription price of $99 a month, a fairly inexpensive proposition for students who wouldn't qualify for federal aid.

Burck Smith, StraighterLine's CEO and founder, said whether the company pursues Title IV funds would depend on how much the program would have to change its offerings to qualify. StraighterLine has looked at ISAs, he said, but concluded they didn’t make sense because the company offers only individual classes, not degrees or credentials.

"We're a piece of the program as opposed to the whole thing," he said. "Our ability to control outcomes for students after the degree is limited."

Some ISA operators like Make School, meanwhile, are already making plans to get accredited -- a first step toward access to Title IV. But the company’s not planning to seek access to federal student loans, said Desai. Instead, it wants to offer the kind of broader college education that both students and employers are asking for, he said.

“We’ll have a foot in both worlds,” Desai said.

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President of LeMoyne-Owen college accused of plagiarism

Mon, 2018-12-03 08:00

The president of LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis, Tenn., has been accused of plagiarizing a famous pastor during her convocation speech to new freshmen in October.

WREG Memphis, a news station that first reported the story, spoke to Michael Robinson, a professor at LeMoyne-Owen and the president of the college’s faculty organization. Robinson said that he and other members of the faculty were disappointed in President Andrea Lewis Miller for setting a poor example by using parts of a sermon by Joel Osteen without attribution.

“The president is the highest academic and administrative officer at the college and she sets the standard for ethical and moral conduct at the college as well,” Robinson told WREG. “I think these are some serious allegations, because it impacts the credibility of the college going forward, and with the president being the face of the organization, that's a serious allegation and a serious infraction.”

Miller and the university's communication representatives did not respond to Inside Higher Ed's request for comment. But Miller sent the following statement to WREG defending her decision to use material from Osteen’s sermon "I’m Still Standing," saying that she was within the bounds of fair use.

“A few members of the LeMoyne-Owen College faculty are calling for my resignation because they feel I plagiarized a sermon by Joel Osteen. The fact is I did use material from Joel Osteen within the boundaries of fair use, which means I may not photocopy or print text for distribution,” her statement read in part. “In my notes, I have a statement giving credit to Pastor Osteen that I may have overlooked while delivering the speech. In that instance, it would be an oversight and does not constitute a serious breach of academic standards that would rise to level of review for faculty or students. The faculty as a body did not call for my resignation. It is no secret that organizational changes, the pace of change and our new direction at LeMoyne-Owen College has caused consternation among some faculty members. Still, I am committed to ensuring this 156-year-old institution achieves new heights in outcomes for the students and families we serve.”

In 2017, faculty took a vote of no confidence in Miller, who has served as president since September 2015.

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Professor says she's terminating Michigan State as her employer after it ignored her harassment complaints

Fri, 2018-11-30 08:00

It’s not every day that a professor fires her university. So an online Me Too essay doubling as a termination letter to Michigan State University captured the attention of many academics.

Joy Lisi Rankin, a historian of computing, was until recently an assistant professor at Michigan State’s interdisciplinary Lyman Briggs College. In an essay she posted this week on Medium, Rankin says she had no choice but to “fire” the university and leave it after what she called a Kafkaesque series of events: seeing her serious allegations of harassment against an administrator go nowhere, while her college pursued a research misconduct case against her based on an online critique of her work.

Rankin says she filed two harassment complaints against an administrator who leered at her, touched her without her consent and generally would not leave her alone leading up to May 2017, and that both were unsubstantiated by the university’s institutional equity office. Also in May, Brian Dear, an independent scholar, posted a harsh criticism of Rankin’s scholarship on Medium, based on a talk she’d delivered weeks earlier at a niche conference at the Computer History Museum in California.

At the conference, video of which is available here, Rankin said she’d come across hundreds of decades-old notes from workers at the early PLATO computer network, housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Some of the notes demonstrated hostility toward female consultants, foreshadowing the online sexual harassment that happens today, she said. Dear, who recently wrote a book about PLATO, alleged that Rankin was wrong about the network and that her scholarship was flawed.

"Rankin’s presentation makes assertions about the PLATO system, its developers, its users, and its online and offline culture at [Illinois] in the 1960s and 1970s, that paint a decidedly negative picture, one where Rankin declares PLATO suffered from 'endemic misogyny' and that she likens to a 'fortress of patriarchal heterosexual power in American computing,'" Dear wrote. "Such a description stands in stark contrast to the picture described to me by roughly 1,000 PLATO people over the course of more than thirty years of research." He included interviews with some of the women Rankin discussed, and the women appeared to disagree with Rankin's interpretation of their comments or actions.

The next month, in June 2017, Rankin says that her former dean at Briggs filed a research misconduct allegation against her based on Dear's essay. By contrast, Rankin says, the dean of a college with which she was affiliated declined to pursue a similar investigation based on flimsiness of the claims (that could not be immediately confirmed).

“Let us pause for a moment. In the exquisitely competitive academic job market,” she said, “Michigan State recruited me for a much-desired tenure track position because of my expertise as a historian of gender, science and technology. My degrees, the prestigious fellowships I had won, articles and essays I had published, my book contract with Harvard University Press  --  all of those were indicators that I was a vibrant and valued thinker in my field.”

But then, she says, “I became a vibrant and valued thinker who filed two complaints of sexual harassment.”

Rankin was cleared of the charges after a lengthy investigation. An inquiry panel determined that there was no evidence of misconduct, and that while Rankin "drew conclusions from her research with which Dear takes strong issue," that "does not make them the product of misconduct." She maintains that the charges against her were in retaliation for her complaints against the administrator, and says that the university refused to investigate her subsequent complaint about retaliation.

In an interview, Rankin said that hers was not a resignation letter, since that sounds like she’s giving up. To the contrary, she said, “I am standing up for myself and others.” She said she’d been “devastated but not surprised” by the number of people who have expressed solidarity with her, sharing their own experiences with misconduct.

“Part of the reason I wrote this essay is that sexual misconduct is a part of academia. But it’s particularly egregious at Michigan State,” she said. “Misogyny and, frankly, the abuse of women is entrenched in the [campus] culture. And as hard to come by and precious as tenure-track jobs are, I did not want to be associated with a place that had been perpetrating this kind of harm.”

The obvious angle in Rankin’s story is Michigan State, which repeatedly dropped the ball regarding sexual assault in the Larry Nassar case that eventually took down former university president Lou Anna Simon and shook U.S.A. Gymnastics.

But some academics working within the history of computing said Thursday that Rankin’s case is another example of the field’s -- and academe’s -- hostility toward women.

Mar Hicks, an associate professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology who is currently a fellow at the National Humanities Center, and author of Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing, said that the history of computing as an academic field is “still disproportionately white and male, although that has been changing, particularly with all the books being written by people outside of academia.” Hicks noted that the “most important” book on the topic to surface of late, Hidden Figures, was written by Margot Lee Shetterly -- a black woman who has not had a traditional academic career.

Still, Hicks said, “Who gets to tell the history of computing -- all histories, actually -- is still a highly contested issue. This is all part of who gets to claim expertise and be recognized as an expert both in academia and the wider world.” While academe sees itself as more progressive than the rest of society, she added, “most academic institutions are conservative institutions even if they may employ some radicals.”

Hicks said retaliation against people, usually women, who speak up about harassment is “so commonplace that most people don't report at all.” She said she’d seen and experienced many incidents similar to what Rankin described over the course of her career, and that academe “is still overdue for a serious reckoning when it comes to sexism, harassment and assault -- and all the other categories tied up with privilege in academy, including race, class and sexuality.”

Sarah T. Roberts, an assistant professor of information studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, who chaired the panel for Rankin’s talk in 2017, said it was entirely appropriate for the conference and within her realm of expertise. She further remembered it as “not particularly provocative.” It’s therefore chilling that someone -- especially someone outside academia -- could launch allegations that could derail a scholar’s career, she said. Junior faculty members, in particular, need institutional support when they are criticized for exactly the kind of work they were hired to do, not institutional scrutiny.

Dear says he was eventually banned from a disciplinary Listserv on computing history and blocked on Twitter by some of those involved in the field. He says he only sought to engage scholars in discussions about the important questions he raised about PLATO and that he was effectively silenced. But Roberts said his comments seemed personal, and that “what is essentially trolling seems to have the ability to bleed over into serious administrative processes. And institutions need to take more care there, and more safeguards should be in place.”

Rankin declined to name her harasser at Michigan State. Elizabeth Simmons, the former dean at Briggs whom Rankin alleges investigated her in retaliation for her report of harassment, is now executive vice chancellor of academic affairs at the University of California, San Diego (and a contributor to Inside Higher Ed). She said in an emailed statement that the allegations of research misconduct were brought to her attention by "faculty in the college." Due to the ongoing harassment investigation with Rankin as a complainant and herself as a respondent, she said, "I consulted with the Office of General Counsel. They advised that I was obligated, as an officer of the university, to forward the allegations to Michigan State's research integrity officer for an impartial investigation, which I did."

Simmons added, "It is the role of the investigatory department to make a determination as to whether a violation of policy has occurred. It was determined that there were no violations of university policy" by any of those named in any of the complaints, she said.

Emily Guerrant, Michigan State's spokesperson, wrote in an email Thursday that improving the campus culture surrounding sexual harassment involves “making sure every single student, faculty member and staff person feels confident in bringing forward their concerns.”

In this particular case, she said, Rankin “appropriately reported the incidents to the office of institutional equity, which is charged with the responsibility of conducting investigations.” That office conducted an investigation, applying the processes in place at the time, and found no policy violation.

“We continue to take into account the experiences of those who have participated in the investigative process to make improvements,” Guerrant said. “The university is committed to thoroughly investigating all complaints to create a safer, healthier and more respectful campus community.”

At an event in Washington earlier in the day, Michigan State's interim president, John Engler, said that he was unaware of the case but that if Rankin “made it public, probably there will be more conversation.”

In an interview, Dear called the allegations that he'd tried to torpedo Rankin's career "horse shit." As someone who was at the time finishing a book on PLATO, he said, he was shocked to hear Rankin's comments about a history of misogyny and wondered if he'd missed something in the research. He said he appealed to Rankin for help several times before publishing his blog post, but heard nothing. He felt it was therefore his duty to correct the record, he said, denying that he ever asked the university to investigate her for misconduct.

"I utterly, categorically deny these misleading, very carefully, strategically orchestrated accusations against me, that have really been going on for a long time," he said. Expressing sympathy for what Rankin says she endured in terms of sexual harassment, but saying that she appeared to be "conflating" two separate issues, Dear added, "This is entirely about the PLATO system."

C. K. Gunsalus, director of the National Center for Professional and Research Ethics at Illinois and a former PLATO worker, is singled out by Rankin as having actively perpetuated Dear’s criticisms. Via email, Gunsalus (who has written columns for Inside Higher Ed) said Rankin’s post “mischaracterizes my role in a situation where, along with many others, I disagreed with her conclusions, based on our experiences and the historical record.” At no point did Gunsalus file any research misconduct charges against Rankin, she said.

Rankin’s termination of Michigan State is effective immediately. As of now, according the bio on her website, she’s “institutionally homeless.”

Greg Toppo contributed to this article.

 

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Autograder issues upset students at Berkeley

Fri, 2018-11-30 08:00

Students in one of the largest computer science courses at the University of California, Berkeley, have spoken out about problems with the automated system used to grade their work.

The class prompting complaints, CS 61B, or Data Structures, relies on an autograder to evaluate hundreds of students’ coding skills and assign them grades.

Autograders are widely used in computer science and engineering programs, particularly in large introductory-level courses such as the one at Berkeley, which has more than 800 students.

Autograders test students' computer programs, identify errors in their work and assign a score. Universities commonly design their own autograders in-house.

Berkeley's system, designed by the computer science faculty, typically works without incident, but the students ran into technical obstacles this semester. The problems were first reported in the university's student newspaper, The Daily Californian.

One sophomore student in CS 61B, who asked to remain anonymous because she is still taking the class, said there were autograder difficulties with each of the three projects she and her classmates have submitted so far this semester.

The autograder stopped running for a "very frustrating" few hours on the evening of the deadline of the first project, preventing students from seeing whether or not their code worked, she said.

“Many students complained on Piazza -- our online interface with the staff -- and we were simply told that it would be up again as soon as possible.”

With the second project, the autograder misrepresented students' results and had to be modified -- resulting in some students “getting fewer points than they had on previous submissions,” the student said. Students were given a 24-hour deadline extension to make up for this issue. “That extension has been the only concession that the staff has made to compensate for their autograder’s problems,” she said.

On the third project, rather than being able to submit their work multiple times before the deadline to see if they achieved their desired grade, students were told the autograder would run only once, 24 hours before the deadline. But with everyone submitting their work at the same time, there were “multihour delays between submission and result,” the student said.

“It seems odd that the autograder for a required course -- that routinely has over a thousand students in it -- doesn’t have the capacity to handle peak submission times, such as in the 24 hours before and after the deadline,” the student said.

The student said although her grade might be “slightly negatively impacted” by the autograder issues, the main impact was “a significant increase in my stress levels.”

“It’s one thing to be stressed out because of a big project with an impending deadline; it’s another entirely to be worried that I might not even know whether my code passes the staff’s hidden tests before the deadline,” she said.

James Demmel, chair of the electrical engineering and computer sciences department at UC Berkeley, said in an email that the technical glitches that occurred with the autograder this semester “are due to some new projects that were introduced into the course, rather than symptoms of scale.”

It is “quite uncommon” for anything to go wrong with the autograders used at UC Berkeley, said Demmel.

“In our largest courses, autograders and other pieces of infrastructure typically run smoothly. In fact, as the courses have grown, the technology infrastructure has generally improved because more instructor and staff time is available for larger courses," he said.

“In general, we have not observed that student feedback about our courses has decreased as the course sizes have grown to meet the increasing demand for computer science at UC Berkeley,” he said. “On the contrary, ratings for teaching effectiveness have reached their highest level ever in recent semesters for our largest courses -- CS 61A and CS 61B -- even though these courses have increased in size by more than a factor of three in the last seven years.”

The student who did not want to be named, and another classmate who also asked to remain anonymous, said they are unhappy with the way their professor, Paul Hilfinger, has handled the problems with the grading system.

"It doesn't seem that Professor Hilfinger is particularly concerned about the student experience," the first student said. “He seems unwilling to accept responsibility,” she said.  

Hilfinger confirmed there was an error with the autograder earlier in the semester that meant students’ work had to be rerun through the system, resulting in some students getting lower marks. He also acknowledged that large numbers of students submitting work at the same time caused some students to receive their results back slower than usual.

Hilfinger said part of the problem is that some students submitted work “many, many times, somewhat pointlessly” before getting any results back -- causing a backlog. “I’m not sure why they are doing that, but they do,” he said.

Asked if he would consider staggering deadlines to alleviate the backlog, Hilfinger said he felt this would be unfair because it would give some students a time advantage.

“I think what we’ll probably do at some point is move into the cloud -- use some scalable service that would allow us to scale up the processing as the frequency of submissions increases,” he said.

Tushar Soni, co-founder of free computer science autograding tool AutoGradr, said autograding systems should be built with the expectation of handling large numbers of submissions at the same time. He agreed with Hilfinger that staggering deadlines would not be the right solution as it would give some students more time than others.

At the current class size, it would be “unfeasible” to assess students’ projects without an autograder, said Hilfinger. He said there are downsides even when the system is functioning at full capacity -- an autograder can tell you whether or not a program works, but not measure how creative it is.

Mark Guzdial, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan, said in an email that while not using an autograder does take more time and require more teaching assistants to help with grading, it results in better feedback for students.

“For the things that I teach, the subjectivity of a human being is better than the objectivity of an autograder,” said Guzdial.

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Several Canadian universities are allowing marijuana use on campus

Fri, 2018-11-30 08:00

The University of British Columbia is in the middle of tweaking its campus smoking policy to allow recreational marijuana use after the drug was legalized by the Canadian government in October.

Michael Serebriakov, legal counsel for the university, is helping to prepare the revised policy for approval by the Board of Governors. The move is expected to make the university -- and others in Canada making similar shifts -- among the first in North America to permit marijuana use on campus.

“Under the current policy, under the definition of smoking, we already included smokable plant products. That’s why when legalization came up on the 17th [of October], smoking cannabis was already included in the policy,” Serebriakov said. “The revised version will make it more explicit.”

Smoking regulations on the University of British Columbia’s two campuses differ. The Vancouver campus prohibits smoking in specified areas such as student housing and university transportation, but it is otherwise permitted. That policy will likely apply to marijuana. The Okanagan campus, which is significantly smaller, has six smoking gazebos. Two of those, Serebriakov said, have already been designated as “mixed use” for tobacco and cannabis.

Several states in the United States have legalized recreational marijuana use in recent years, but college campuses have continued to ban the drug due to unwavering federal laws. Candace Smith, assistant vice chancellor for strategic media relations at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said that the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act requires the university to ban the drug in order to be eligible for federal funding. In addition, many students are under the legal age for use and possession of marijuana in Colorado.

“The majority of our students are under the age of 21, so state law continues to prohibit their use/possession,” Smith wrote in an email. “Furthermore, any marijuana use -- including medical marijuana -- is prohibited in campus housing. That’s a part of their housing contract.”

The University of Denver also bans the drug due to federal guidelines. Jon Stone, a spokesman for the university, said that it’s too early to speculate about whether those rules will ever change.

“Smoking and tobacco products are banned on the University of Denver campus. So, obviously if any laws were to change on the federal level, the marijuana policy would have to be examined,” he wrote in an email.

The University of British Columbia’s new policy is “not unusual,” Serebriakov said. Two nearby universities are also allowing marijuana use on campus.

“It is a bit of a different climate [in the United States],” Serebriakov said. “Our closest institutions here in British Columbia -- the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University -- they’re both allowing smoking of cannabis in designated areas.”

The University of Victoria allows marijuana use in designated smoking areas on campus, per its amended smoking policy.

Simon Fraser University is also in the middle of revising its policies and has established two temporary cannabis-smoking areas on its Burnaby campus in the meantime. According to the Simon Fraser website, “Policy revisions are set to be proposed this fall and at the forefront of the policy planning is responsible usage and education of all university community members. SFU will be holding a public consultation on the proposed approach before presenting the policies for final approval by the Board in early 2019.”

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Two-year colleges in Arizona consider cutting football after five institutions drop sport

Fri, 2018-11-30 08:00

For the second time in its history, the Pima Community College Aztecs will play in a football bowl game hosted by the National Junior College Athletic Association.

But the Aztecs' appearance this weekend in the C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl will be Pima's last game.

The community college, which is located in Arizona, decided in June to cut football, citing the expense of the program. That decision followed a similar one by the Maricopa County Community College District to eliminate football programs next year at its Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa and Glendale colleges. Now other two-year institutions in Arizona are questioning whether they can maintain football programs in the Western States Football League, which only has three teams left with Eastern Arizona, Arizona Western and Snow College in Utah.

“We have to decide now what to do with this league. Is it viable and is it worth it for us to pay to do so?” said Todd Haynie, president of Eastern Arizona. "Football has been around since 1920 at the college so it's a part of us … I hate we have to come to this conversation, and we have to talk about it, but it's something that was given to us."

The Arizona Legislature and governor eliminated all state funding for Pima and Maricopa in 2015. Since then the two districts have struggled with declining enrollments and budgets.

Leaders of the four Maricopa colleges weighed the costs of maintaining insurance premiums and stadium facilities for their football programs before ultimately deciding they were too expensive, said Matt Hasson, a spokesman for the district.

Maricopa pays an overall annual insurance premium of about $890,000, he said. But the premium will decrease to about $630,000 without the football program. Last year, 31 percent of the district's insurance claims were football related, he said.

Likewise, the total cost to the district of maintaining and updating football stadiums over the next five years was projected to be as much as $25 million, according to Hasson.

“The state stopped funding us in 2015, and we just don’t have the money for these programs,” he said.

The lack of state support also played a role in Pima’s decision.

“It’s expensive,” said Edgar Soto, acting Desert Vista campus vice president and director of student affairs at Pima. “It costs half a million dollars to run the basics at a community college football program. Our decision wasn’t because of a viable conference, or because of future risk, it was because financially there are challenges.”

Pima recently cut 15 staff jobs and 23 faculty positions. Soto said the college couldn’t justify paying for a football program while it copes with that level of financial strain. It’s also difficult to measure the return on investment from football.

“You’re not filling up stadiums, you don’t have endorsements from big-time companies,” he said. “But what we have to look at is not just the return on financial investment, but the return on social investment. Team building, leadership, being a part of a team -- with athletics you do have a unique skill.”

But you can’t run a football program on a “shoestring budget,” Soto said. Colleges can’t buy cheaper helmets or cheaper pads, he said, because there are too many safety risks and the priority should be protecting the health of student athletes.

National Impact

The NJCAA's membership includes 400 community college basketball programs, compared to 73 football programs.

“Four or five schools possibly drop football, and it certainly impacts other school programs,” said Christopher Parker, the association's executive director. “We respect and understand all the decisions the State of Arizona and the Maricopa system have to make. But we’re also true advocates for those students who are only attending school because football is the driving force to get them to attend.”

While two-year college football programs exist across the country, Parker said the strongest ones are in Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi and Texas. And the number of programs nationwide has remained steady for the past decade.

Starting football at a community college costs about $100,000 on average. But eliminating it could be even more costly, according to Parker.

“Schools look at the football programs as enrollment generators,” Parker said. “We’re talking 100 to 200 students attending these schools to play football … Many of our two-year football student athletes graduate and earn significant four-year scholarships to continue their athletic careers at four-year schools.”

For example, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers are both former NJCAA student athletes and examples of football players who used community college as a launching pad for their NFL careers.

However, the enrollment effect of cutting football at Maricopa isn't the same as it would be at Eastern Arizona. Maricopa, which enrolls about 200,000 students across 10 colleges, this year enrolled 318 football players on four teams. Eastern Arizona, with roughly 6,300 students, enrolls 77 football players.

Haynie said if all the football players decided to leave the college because the program was cut, it would mean losing about 3 percent of total full-time enrollment.

“On one hand it’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things,” he said. “But our enrollment declined 7 percent from last year. So, another 3 percent on top of that would be significant, and I don’t know what next year’s enrollment will be like.”

Eastern Arizona also will take into consideration its marching band and sports medicine program when it examines whether to cut football. The marching band is the only one at an Arizona community college. And Eastern Arizona's sports medicine program allows students to receive on- and off-the-field training with football players.

“Would we continue marching band?” Haynie said. “I don’t know.”

Students in the sports medicine program get a great experience on the football field, he said. But the college features seven other sports that allow those students to get the experience they need. The college has other bands that would continue as well, such as jazz and symphonic ensembles. But Haynie said cutting football and possibly the marching band could affect recruitment.

“Every college or university is trying to define ourselves as unique, and we’re the only community college marching band in the state,” Haynie said. “We’ve claimed that title for a long time, and if we have to drop that, it would be a blow for us.”

Officials at Arizona Western said they will be evaluating whether the football program can survive in a smaller conference after the team's bowl game this weekend.

NJCAA is monitoring the situation and is in discussions with Arizona colleges that have not eliminated their football programs to figure out whether the conference can remain feasible.

“It’s a difficult situation right now,” Parker, the NJCAA executive director, said. “We’ll have to work with different conferences on evaluating their needs and helping to facilitate more games for them to play and to fill a schedule. It’ll take some creative and out-of-the-box thinking.”

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Colleges start academic programs

Fri, 2018-11-30 08:00

 

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Adult film star's invite to campus gets Wisconsin chancellor in trouble. Some see hypocrisy on part of state university system

Thu, 2018-11-29 08:00

One year after passing a free speech policy that campus chancellors are required to enforce, the University of Wisconsin System formally reprimanded a chancellor for inviting an adult film star to lecture during his campus’s inaugural free speech week.

Joe Gow, chancellor and tenured professor of communications at the La Crosse campus, invited actress Nina Hartley to visit earlier this month to give a talk she called “Fantasy Versus Reality: Viewing Adult Media With a Critical Eye.”

The event was optional. And it was, by many accounts, a success: students asked Hartley, a self-identified feminist who advocates for sex education and free expression, about the relationship between pornography and human trafficking, and whether porn is exploitative.

But several days after the event, Gow received a letter from Ray Cross, university system president, saying, “Apart from my personal underlying moral concerns, I am deeply disappointed by your decision to actively recruit, advocate for, and pay for a porn star to come to the La Crosse campus to lecture students about sex and the adult entertainment industry.”

Cross said that while he understood and appreciated Gow’s “commitment to freedom of expression and public discourse, as chancellor, you need to exercise better judgment when dealing with matters such as these.”

Cross chided Gow for not informing him that he’d talked to news media about the event, despite his “prior cautions about your interactions with the media and your need for a public information officer.” His “underlying moral concerns” notwithstanding, Cross’s primary contention appears to be financial. He told Gow that as “we continue to struggle for greater financial independence and public trust, your decision to spend money from this fund on a one-sided lecture by an ‘ … [adult entertainment] performer, educator, and … activist’ unfortunately, puts all of our funding at risk. I fear your actions also detract from our budget request and our capital plan, which should be one of your highest priorities.”

The formal letter of reprimand will remain in Gow’s file and be “part of future evaluations,” Cross wrote, saying he’d also order an audit of the chancellor’s discretionary fund -- from which Gow paid Hartley $5,000 -- going back to 2016. Gow already voluntarily repaid that sum out of his own pocket.

Gow’s “poor judgment” and “lack of responsible oversight with respect to the use of state funds” also will impact his salary adjustment, before the board next month, Cross said.

In an interview Wednesday, Gow said that he asked Hartley to La Crosse to promote free speech in the spirit of the new system-backed policy.

“She’s someone who has a perspective that the rest of us would not have, and her views are not in any way hateful,” Gow said, recalling how he made his decision, and hinting at other, more divisive figures on the campus speech circuit. “She’s a thoughtful speaker who has written a book, and she’s spoken on other campuses. I was surprised this caused so much controversy.”

Others academics in Wisconsin are surprised at the system’s outrage, too, given that its Board of Regents last fall adopted a lengthy Commitment to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression Policy. It guarantees that “all members of the university community the broadest possible latitude to explore ideas and to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn.”

While different ideas will naturally conflict, the policy says, it is “not the proper role of the university to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they, or others, find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”

Although the university “greatly values civility,” it continues, “concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members within the university community.”

The policy essentially follows the law on the limits of free speech. It includes accountability measures and punishments for violations. Its final line says that “each chancellor shall be responsible for implementing the provisions of this policy.”

Asked if he thought that the system’s reaction to his choice of speaker contradicted that policy, Gow said, “People will have to make up their own minds.” The more important issue, he said, is “free speech on university campuses, and what are the limits of that. Because I don’t see this [speaker] as crossing a line, but obviously some people do.”

Does someone "who is involved in making pornography have the right to speak or not? That would take us to the Constitution,” Gow said. “There’s no exception there for makers of pornography.”

The regents’ free speech policy was backed by state Republican lawmakers. It was met with skepticism from some Wisconsin professors who wondered just what kind of speech it would protect: all expression, or just the kind of speech those lawmakers supported? Other states have passed mirror legislation, inspired by blueprint language from the conservative Goldwater Institute. Other campuses, including the University of Chicago, have acted wholly independently to enforce free speech.

Some of those skeptics were quick to criticize the Wisconsin system Wednesday, after Gow’s sanction was first reported by the Journal-Sentinel. Don Moynihan left the Madison campus last year, due in part to what he called “ongoing attacks on the university by state officials,” to become the McCourt Chair at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. He said that “many people doubted how sincere [the regents’] commitment to free speech was if it was not coming from a conservative speaker. This incident confirms their concerns.”

Henry Reichman, professor emeritus of history at the California State University at East Bay and chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee on Academic Freedom, said that Gow’s chancellor role made the incident something other than a “traditional academic freedom case.” (He has elsewhere explored whether other kinds of academic administrators are entitled to academic freedom.) The main issue, he said, is the “hypocrisy of system leaders who have made a big stink over protecting free speech getting offended when a speaker is invited, never mind by whom, whose message or background they don't like.”

The university system said in an emailed statement that Cross's letter to Gow "acknowledged the chancellor’s commitment to freedom of expression and public discourse. The primary focus of [Cross’s] letter is the need for the chancellor 'to exercise better judgment' with regards to the planning and paying for a campus event."

Gow said the fund through which he originally paid Hartley was a discretionary one, from interests from other auxiliary accounts.

In a local op-ed, Bob Atwell, a regent, publicly criticized Gow and Hartley, saying that pornography "is a horrible hill on which to plant the flag of free expression." He added, "Most of us don’t need science to know how devastating pornography is to the mental, physical and social health of those enslaved by it. We can see it in the sad and empty eyes of millions of boys and young men whose zest for life is being sucked into their smart phones."

Will Creeley, senior vice president of legal and public advocacy at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said it was “very hard to square” Wisconsin's “admirable [and historic commitment to sifting and winnowing in search of truth] with the outcome here.” He said Cross erred specifically in disciplining Gow, rather than answering speech he didn’t like with a statement or counterprogramming. It’s hard not see the system's response to Gow as chilling to other academics, he said, and its apparent reduction of Hartley to a porn star as "demeaning."

“What may be looming offstage and what faculty, students and legislators may reasonably conclude is that the content of the speech is determinative in what speakers are protected and which will be subject to reprimand,” Creeley said. “It’s deeply regrettable that students, faculty and administrators could rationally conclude that they’d better just keep their mouth shut, or not share that information, or refrain from that scholarship, lest they be subject to that kind of response.”

Gow, and free expression, have someone else in their corner: Hartley, who defended them -- and herself, pointing out she's a trained nurse -- in her own local op-ed.

“Sexual freedom is a fundamental human right in that it requires bodily autonomy, free from coercion from the state, church, family or other institutions,” she wrote. Wisconsin’s “intolerance of me as a knower of sex, one worthy of knowing what I know, is an exertion of control and reveals the university offers partial and distorted understandings of adult media. This harms students by stunting their critical engagement on an important topic for which a college education is supposed to prepare them.”

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Engagement survey finds students feel prepared for their plans after graduation

Thu, 2018-11-29 08:00

A vast majority of college seniors believe what they’re learning is relevant to their career paths, and they feel relatively confident in their plans after graduation, according to findings by the National Survey of Student Engagement, released today.

About nine in 10 seniors who participated in the annual survey believe that what they learn in class will be relevant to their career plans. This data point strikes a more optimistic note than previous studies, namely one by Gallup and Strada Education Network earlier this year that indicated students feel ill prepared and unconfident before entering the work force. Only about 34 percent of students surveyed for that report indicated they believed they would graduate with the knowledge to be prepared for a career.

About 3,700 seniors from 38 four-year institutions answered questions on career preparation in the survey. This was part of the NSSE, which is administered to a limited number of institutions and changes every year depending on what officials find most topical. Last year’s NSSE focused on whether students were learning about different cultures and diversity in the classroom.

Over all, 289,867 students from nearly 500 institutions (almost all American) responded to the broader survey.

NSSE director Alexander McCormick said that with the public so focused on the value of higher education and whether students are truly benefiting from college with the amount of money they spend, the researchers wanted to emphasize career prep.

“It’s important and very much on the mind of students,” McCormick said.

About 85 percent of seniors in professional fields, including business, communications, public relations, engineering and health and social services, said they knew what they’d like to do postgraduation and had a specific career in mind. Roughly 80 percent of seniors in arts and science-related fields indicated the same.

A little more than half of the seniors indicated that sometime in their final year in college they had used their institution’s career services department to learn about their field. About half of the seniors attended a career fair, and 60 percent or so of them had interviewed or shadowed a professional in their chosen field. About 40 percent of students in the Gallup/Strada survey said they had used their career center at all. 

McCormick pointed out that the question only asked students whether they had done that type of the career prep work in their senior year, meaning many of them may have laid the groundwork earlier in college. He also said that the Gallup poll was designed differently than NSSE, and that Gallup's survey was provided a "neutral" response while NSSE did not, meaning that some students would have been drawn away from the two ends of the response frame. He also said that Gallup's survey only highlighted the students who answered "strongly agree" on the survey questions, while NSSE combined both "agree" and "strongly agree."

Only about half the seniors talked to career services staffers about their career interests, but almost all of them had discussed their plans with a family member (98 percent) or another student (94 percent).

While research shows students are still visiting traditional career centers, not as many find them particularly helpful -- another Gallup study showed that only 17 percent of recent graduates considered their interactions with career services “very helpful.”

Student services such as career centers generally struggle with attracting their clientele, McCormick said. But he suggested that institutions examine how they’re connecting students and perhaps consider outreach -- a focus group, or a campus-based survey -- on how to bring in students to the centers.

“It only takes a couple students to have a bad experience to damage the whole operation, sometimes unfairly,” McCormick said.

The NSSE researchers also studied career preparation for first-year students -- 484 of them -- at seven historically black colleges and universities, and compared them to 346 African American freshmen attending predominantly white institutions.

Students at the HBCUs reported using career services much more than their counterparts -- nearly 50 percent of the first-year HBCU students took advantage of resources from career services versus more than 25 percent of students at the predominantly white universities.

“It suggests that the HBCUs are being a lot more intentional about drawing students in early in career preparation,” McCormick said.

Time Spent on Academics vs. Outside the Class

Outside of the focus on career prep, the NSSE included its standard questions on students’ academics and how they allotted their time.

About 23 percent of first-year students -- as well seniors -- estimated they spent between six and 10 hours per week preparing for class, which would include studying, reading or writing, or doing lab or other course work.

Only about 6 percent of the freshmen indicated they spent more than 30 hours on this type of academic work, compared to 8 percent of seniors.

Roughly 33 percent of first-year students didn’t participate in any sort of activity on campus such as student government, a club or a fraternity or sorority, while 44 percent of seniors didn’t devote any time to extracurriculars.

About 30 percent of seniors said they spent between one and five hours a week relaxing or socializing -- spending time with friends, watching TV or videos, or going online. Fewer first-year students (21 percent) reported spending one to five hours on recreational time. About 26 percent of first-year students said they spent between six and 10 hours socializing or relaxing.

Civic Engagement

Freshmen and seniors seem to discuss issues both on campus and off -- at the state, national and global level -- more than they act to change them.

About 45 percent of first-year students and 43 percent of seniors indicated they “sometimes” talk about local or campus issues with others. And 41 percent of freshmen and 37 percent of seniors reported “sometimes” discussing national or world issues.

But 64 to 65 percent of freshmen reported they had never organized with others to work on either local problems or state, national or global issues. And 63 percent of seniors had never done any advocacy work around either campus issues or beyond.

Only about 4 percent of first-year students said they “very often” organized to work on any issues, campus or otherwise, versus about 5 percent of seniors.

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Report finds parents of college students taking out more debt and repaying at slower rates

Thu, 2018-11-29 08:00

A loan program offered to parents financing their children’s college education has been the target of repeated calls for tighter restrictions on eligibility. And a report released Wednesday by the Brookings institution on Parent PLUS loans adds new fuel to arguments for restricting the program.

The report finds that the average loan amount taken out by parent borrowers has more than tripled in the last quarter century, according to the report. And parents with six figures in loan debt make up a growing share of borrowers entering repayment.

Repayment rates have declined, meanwhile, and more parents are defaulting on loans as they take out debt to finance their children’s degrees at institutions with poor repayment outcomes. While parent borrowers on average have very low default rates on the loans, those aggregate numbers mask negative trends and poor outcomes at particular types of colleges, the report says.

“We’re in this situation where parents, in order to send their kids to schools they want to attend, are taking out loans that some of them clearly can’t afford to repay. And that seems like a terrible choice,” said Adam Looney, the director of the Brookings Center on Regulation and Markets, who co-authored the report along with Vivien Lee, a senior research assistant at Brookings' Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy.

Those concerns are magnified because Parent PLUS loans don’t come with the same kinds of protections as federal undergraduate debt, like income-based repayment and loan forgiveness.

In 1990, the average parent borrower took out $5,200 annually. In 2014, that number was $16,100, according to the report.

And the five-year default rate jumped from 7 percent in 2000 to 11 percent in 2009.

But parents face only a basic eligibility check for Parent PLUS loans; they can be more than $2,000 delinquent on other loan debt and still qualify. And there are no caps on lending to finance their child's education.

The report is the latest of several papers produced by Looney examining student borrowing trends based on administrative data from the National Student Loan Data System.

Parent borrowing has often flown under the radar relative to undergraduate student loan debt. There isn’t much good data on borrowers, and the loans make up a sliver of the overall federal student loan portfolio, said Rachel Fishman, deputy director for research at New America’s Education Policy program.

But the loans are instrumental for many students to access colleges, especially historically black institutions. When the Obama administration attempted to tighten eligibility standards on Parent PLUS loans in 2011, it led to loan denials for thousands of families and intense backlash from black colleges. Many of the families who take out the loans don't have other options after their student exhausts their federal financial aid eligibility. They likely won't, for example, qualify for private student loans with better rates.

Although those changes were carried out clumsily, Fishman has written that more fundamental reform of the program is still needed. In a paper earlier this year, she said the program exacerbates the racial wealth gap by saddling many black families with debt they’re unable to repay. The Brookings report only adds to those concerns, she said.

“The PLUS program is the only undergrad loan program where loans have been increasing year over year even as enrollments decline,” she said. “The result, as Looney and Lee point out, is that average loan balances for PLUS have increased dramatically.”

Many institutions package Parent PLUS loans as part of a student’s financial aid award letter, a practice faulted by Fishman and other critics. And even more have come to rely on the loans as a source of revenue.

The Brookings paper finds the institutions with the worst repayment rates on parent loans were for-profit institutions -- especially those investigated for fraudulent and deceptive practices -- and institutions serving a high share of underrepresented minority students.

Parents of for-profit-college students had paid back 57.7 percent of their aggregate loans five years after entering repayment in 1999. For the cohort entering repayment 10 years later, parents had paid back only 26.3 percent of loan debt within five years. But half of colleges with the worst repayment rates were public or nonprofit institutions.

Groups representing black colleges have argued their members are trying to address affordability while serving a student population with many needs. And they say the PLUS program should not be restricted without addressing the greater need for financial aid among their student bodies.

Mark Kantrowitz, an expert on student aid, said that the growth in Parent PLUS over the last 25 years roughly matches tuition inflation. The growing rate of loan defaults was more concerning, he said.

“Part of the problem is the Parent PLUS loan program is the safety valve for when students reach the Stafford loan limits,” he said.

Kantrowitz has argued that a slowdown in the growth of average student loan debt through the undergraduate Stafford program indicates many borrowers are hitting lending limits -- and parents are borrowing more in response.

Looney said the numbers he found showed the need for more federal data on parent borrowers.

"There are a lot of things that the federal government can do," he said. "One initial step would just be transparency to have a better sense of who is being successful paying their loans and who isn't."

Recent legislative proposals introduced by Republican and Democratic House lawmakers to update the Higher Education Act have taken contrasting approaches to Parent PLUS. The PROSPER Act, House Republicans' bid to reauthorize the higher ed law, would cap aggregate parent borrowing at $56,250 while slightly raising lifetime lending limits for undergraduate borrowers. The Aim Higher Act, which Democrats introduced over the summer, would make parent loans eligible for income-driven repayment.

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University of Illinois insures itself against possible drop in Chinese enrollments

Thu, 2018-11-29 08:00

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has paid $424,000 to insure itself against a significant drop in tuition revenue from Chinese students.

In what is thought to be a world first, the colleges of business and engineering at the university signed a three-year contract with an insurance broker to pay the annual six-figure sum, which provides coverage of up to $60 million.

The university came up with the idea in 2015 and implemented it last year but received permission from the broker to discuss it in public only earlier this month.

Jeff Brown, dean of the Gies College of Business, told Times Higher Education that the insurance would be “triggered” in the event of a 20 percent drop in revenue from Chinese students at the two colleges in a single year as a result of a “specific set of identifiable events.”

“These triggers could be things like a visa restriction, a pandemic, a trade war -- something like that that was outside of our control,” he said.

Tuition revenue from Chinese students makes up about a fifth of the business college’s revenue.

Brown said that the insurance would cover the colleges’ losses if the decline was temporary and buy the university time to “make some adjustments to where we recruit” if it became a longer-term issue.

“Hedging the risk that we face gives us more confidence to be able to continue proactively investing in the very strong relationships that we have in China,” he added.

“We chose the $60 million figure because that roughly is our exposure across the two colleges. If demand had actually completely disappeared, we’d be ‘made whole’ for that year.”

Last month, Peter Varghese, chancellor of Australia’s University of Queensland, suggested that universities should put revenues from Chinese students into a trust fund to insulate themselves against a future drop in enrollments from East Asia.

Sylvie Lomer, lecturer in education at the University of Manchester, said that Illinois’s move was “an interesting development” and “represents the logical extension of the marketplace in international higher education.”

“There are a number of institutions in the U.K. which would be overexposed to this particular form of risk … so this could be a long-term trend,” she added.

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Liberal arts college and boot camp team up to offer new computer science degree

Wed, 2018-11-28 08:00

What do a coding boot camp founded by two college dropouts and a small liberal arts college founded in 1890 have in common? Quite a lot, it turns out.

Make School and the Dominican University of California both want their students to be more employable. But neither one thinks they can do that entirely on their own.

In an unusual partnership, the two institutions are working together to trade expertise and share accreditation to offer degrees that combine a traditional liberal arts education with cutting-edge coding skills.

Make School is helping Dominican to create a computer science minor. In exchange, the university will teach general education to Make School students as part of a new accelerated bachelor’s degree in applied computer science, which Dominican will oversee. During the multiyear “incubation” period for the degree program, Dominican will guide the boot camp as it transitions from a college alternative to an accredited degree-granting institution.

Faculty members from Dominican and Make School will teach courses jointly for the computer science program at Make School’s location in San Francisco, near Union Square. The boot camp has temporarily become a branch campus of Dominican. The university’s traditional campus is located about 20 miles north, just outside of San Rafael in Marin County.

Dominican conducted focus groups with its students as the university mulled whether to bulk up its computer science offerings, said Mary B. Marcy, Dominican’s president.

“We were stunned by the level of interest,” Marcy said.

Dominican is working toward a trial launch early next year of its computer science minor, with a plan to enroll a small number of students. But the university hopes that eventually about half of its undergraduates will take at least one course in computer science.

Make School and Dominican jointly designed the curriculum for the minor, which will be delivered by instructors from Make School. Dominican is working to develop the capacity to run the minor in-house.

The union was blessed last week by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, Dominican’s regional accreditor. Officials from both institutions praised the accreditor for being open-minded and having a policy in place to make the jointly offered degree possible.

The commission's decision is an exciting and important development for accreditation, said Judith Eaton, president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

“This is the way in for alternative providers,” said Eaton. But she adds that “partnering is a lot of work.”

Jeremy Rossmann, Make School’s co-founder, viewed the boot camp as a “two-year college replacement” when he helped launch it in 2015. The boot camp seeks to give students the skills needed to get in-demand tech jobs in software engineering. Many people studying computer science in college weren’t gaining enough relevant experience to get jobs, he argued. Make School was different -- it emphasized creating over studying.

But at a time when many alternative providers are pushing digital badges and other nondegree credentials, Rossmann is headed in the opposite direction.

An MIT dropout, Rossmann doesn't want Make School to be a "college replacement" anymore -- he wants it to be a college. He wants to be able to offer his students the “safety net” of a bachelor’s degree, and says the breadth of a liberal arts education will help students better understand the societal impact of technology they create. With each iteration of Make School’s curriculum, Rossmann said the boot camp started to look more like traditional higher education.

“We were really building a college,” he said, adding that “we know we benefited tremendously from the liberal arts.”

Becoming a degree-granting institution, however, is not easy. Rossmann knew he needed help, and he began searching for a college partner that could help shepherd Make School through the accreditation process. It was a call that Marcy, president of Dominican, answered.

Ready for Change

Dominican, like many small private colleges, is under pressure. With an increasingly diverse student body, the university faces challenges with limited resources as it seeks to ensure that more of its students succeed.

For example, while the university’s finances are sound, its endowment is roughly $33 million. That relatively small amount makes it hard for Dominican to meet the financial needs of its many low-income students.

In the past few years, the call for Dominican to teach computer science has gotten louder, said Marcy. Faculty members want their students to have better digital literacy skills, and students from all disciplines know that basic knowledge of coding could give them an edge in a competitive job market.

But Dominican didn’t have any faculty members who could teach students how to build their own websites or apps, said Marcy. Creating a computer science major from scratch would cost more than $1 million, take four or five years to enroll its first students and would only benefit a small portion of the university, she said.

“We had some generalized anxieties that we needed to provide more for our students than we were,” said Marcy. “But we knew that just adding a computer science degree was probably not going to work for us.”

When Marcy was introduced to Rossmann two years ago, she saw the potential for a partnership. The faculty had just voted overwhelmingly in favor of significant changes to the university’s general education curriculum and its organization of majors and minors. She said this “fertile, creative time on campus” meant that professors were receptive to the idea of Make School teaching their students computer science.

“Faculty just rolled up their sleeves and worked really closely with the team at Make School,” said Marcy. A key concern was ensuring quality, which a faculty-led task force has overseen. Marcy was given the green light from her Board of Trustees to pursue the partnership on the condition that it would not cost the institution any money.

“Do I have worries around the margins? Sure. I want to make sure we do it right. I want to make sure that the courses are of the quality we think they will be,” Marcy said. “It’s a significant change for us,” she said, but a “more radical change for Make School.”

Geology … for Coders?

Friday is now "Science and Letters" day at Make School. Instead of attending their regular coding tutorials, students like Jasmine Anderson now devote the last day of their workweek to physical geology, English or psychology as part of a general education pilot program the boot camp started this semester.

Anderson, a 29-year-old from Florida who previously worked in retail management, moved across the country to attend Make School to try to achieve her dream of becoming a software engineer. She didn’t set out to get a college degree.

Tech companies care more about hiring people with the right expertise than the right piece of paper, said Anderson. But she can see the value of a degree. “If I have experience coding and this piece of paper, that puts me above the competition,” she said.

Learning about physical geology also has been surprisingly enjoyable for her. “I’m seeing the value as I take the class,” she said. “I’m learning things that will help me in life.”

Her instructor, Amy Young, is an assistant professor of physical science at Dominican. She lives in San Francisco, so her commute to Make School is easier than her typical journey to Dominican’s campus. Young said she agreed to take part in the pilot because she thinks the university's partnership with Make School “is an exciting and fun idea.”

Young knows her students were somewhat skeptical at the beginning of the semester.

“They self-selected for a practical education that launches them into a very specific career,” she said. “They thought, ‘I’m here to learn coding, why do I need geology?’ But I think some of them have even started to look forward to Fridays.”

Young described her students as “very driven” and said she likes how much they engage with her and ask questions.

Make School’s current class is 72 percent male and 42 percent underrepresented students of color, according to the boot camp. Half of its students come from households where the annual income is under $60,000.

“They’re very focused on problem solving,” Young said. “They want to open up the hood and see how things work.” She hopes some of her students go on to tackle environmental problems with technology. “I want them to become engaged citizens.”

General education isn’t compulsory for the minority of Make School students who hold a college degree. But the boot camp encourages its students to take general education courses, said Anne Spalding, dean of Make School. She said most students have reacted “very positively” to the prospect of getting a bachelor’s degree in applied computer science.

“We even have alumni reaching out to us, asking if they can come back and get a degree. But we haven’t figured that out yet,” said Spalding.

Incubation and Accreditation

Policy makers of all political stripes often criticize accreditors for putting red tape in the way of promising innovations. But Dominican’s accreditor did not prove to be a barrier to the partnership with a boot camp.

Last week the WASC Senior College and University Commission approved the affiliation between the two institutions. Marcy said the university now can begin admitting students into the new bachelor's degree program in applied computer science. And Dominican next semester will begin offering computer science courses to nonmajor students at its main campus.

The regional accreditor granted the noncollege Make School access to Dominican’s accreditation -- and to federal financial aid -- under an incubation policy it created a few years ago. It’s the first such incubation under the three-page standard, which allows a nonaccredited entity to evolve within the accredited university to become an accreditable one under the commission’s policies.

The policy grew out of the commission’s 2014 approval of degree programs offered by the Minerva Schools through its unusual partnership with the Keck Graduate Institute. That affiliation between a start-up, selective institution with a global reach and an accredited one helped the commission think through how to offer an incubation option for similar partnerships.

“We are trying very hard to help institutions be creative,” said Jamienne Studley, the commission’s president and CEO and a former official in the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama administration. “The standards are broad and leave a lot of room for institutions to create the programs, pathways and models.”

The incubation rules require that Dominican retains academic control of the degree program. “They are responsible until the new creature is finally accredited,” said Studley.

Likewise, Make School also must remain in the partnership until Dominican gains its own ability to be autonomous with its computer science offerings.

“We can’t spin off until Dominican is ready to teach the minor themselves,” Rossmann said. In the future, the partnership could serve as a template to bring the computer science minor to other liberal arts colleges, Rossmann said.

Marcy said creating the incubation partnership was challenging.

“The depth of the integration and collaboration -- between two very different education institutions -- is unique,” she said. “It truly is an act of co-creation.”

Challenging a ‘False Dichotomy’

Many small colleges, particularly those without faculty members in computer science, have reached out to Dominican about the partnership, said Marcy. She said the collaboration has enabled the university to launch a series of courses in coding and app and web development with remarkable speed.

Steven Polacco, associate professor of graphic arts at Dominican, said he was “dazzled” by how quickly Make School adapted its curriculum to meet the university’s standards. Traditional universities have to think deeply about things like learning outcomes as part of the accreditation process -- something Make School hadn’t done previously. “We had to teach them to speak university,” he said.

Polacco had pushed for a computer science minor for years. But he said it kept being put on a back burner because of the expense. Dominican graduates can find jobs in graphic design without coding skills -- but they probably can’t lead teams of designers without “at least some rudimentary knowledge” of the coding language Python, Polacco said. And the new minor will change that.

Dominican is among several small institutions that are trying to “find the sweet spot” between the liberal arts and professional training, said Ashley Finley, senior adviser to the president and secretary to the board for the Association of American Colleges and Universities, who was previously associate vice president for academic affairs at Dominican.

“I think this is a fantastic lesson for other small liberal arts colleges,” she said.

Marcy hopes Dominican’s partnership with Make School will help “ameliorate the false dichotomy” between the liberal arts and in-demand skills training.

“Our goal at Dominican is to create more graduates who combine a strong grounding in the liberal arts with the technical skills necessary to be successful in graduate school or their careers,” said Marcy.

“Some of these students will be graduates in the liberal arts and sciences. Some of these students will be computer scientists,” she said. But “all of them will have the ability to think critically, communicate effectively and apply these skills to relevant work and graduate programs.”

-- Paul Fain contributed to this article.

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Pitzer faculty vote to suspend study abroad program in Israel

Wed, 2018-11-28 08:00

Faculty at Pitzer College voted earlier this month to suspend the college’s study abroad program in Israel.

Pitzer faculty say the question will next go to the College Council for a vote.

Study abroad programs have increasingly become a target of the movement to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The Pitzer vote follows two widely reported instances in which a professor and graduate instructor at the University of Michigan cited their support for the academic boycott in declining to write letters of recommendation for students seeking to study abroad at Israeli universities.

Advocates for ending study abroad programs in Israel argue that academic boycotts are a nonviolent mechanism for resisting Israeli policies that infringe on the freedoms of Palestinians, including academic freedoms, and that American universities shouldn’t be complicit in Israeli visa and border control policies that could prevent all of their students from participating in study abroad programs there.

Opponents of the academic boycott argue that Israel is being unfairly singled out for special scrutiny and that restricting Israel study abroad programs limits students’ learning opportunities and violates their academic freedom.

A Pitzer Student Senate resolution introduced at the organization’s Nov. 11 meeting describes the faculty vote to suspend the college’s study abroad program at the University of Haifa as “an advancement of a political agenda at the expense of students who seek opportunities in Middle East/North African Studies, Arabic, Hebrew, Christianity, Judaism, Islam and the intercultural relations of Israeli and Palestinian ethnicities.”

The resolution says that "only the University of Haifa study abroad program was called into question without the same standards of review being applied to any other study abroad program" and it “denounces the faculty’s desire to suspend the study abroad program at the University of Haifa and the Faculty’s decision to act unilaterally without regard to student voice.” Student Senate representatives did not respond to inquiries about the status of the resolution, but the status on the Senate website is variously listed as "proposed"/"pending approval."

A Pitzer spokeswoman confirmed that the Israel study abroad program is not currently suspended, and said the college administration is declining to comment while the issue is considered through Pitzer's governance channels.

“The college community of students, faculty and staff are deliberating the issue through Pitzer’s shared governance process,” the spokeswoman, Anna Chang, said via email. “The college do not plan to release any formal statements until the process is completed.”

Daniel Segal, the professor who put forward the resolution, said it is his understanding that it will be debated at a Thursday meeting of the College Council and voted on by faculty and voting student delegates at a subsequent meeting in January. He said he cannot say for sure whether the Pitzer administration or board can legally overrule the council but that his expectation is that its vote will be binding. "I do not think there has been a single time when College Council has made a curricular decision that is clearly within their purview that has not then become policy," he said.

The resolution, which Segal said was approved by "at least" a four-to-one ratio in a collegewide faculty meeting earlier this month, calls for suspending the college's exchange program at the University of Haifa "until (a) the Israeli state ends its restrictions on entry to Israel based on ancestry and/or political speech and (b) the Israeli state adopts policies granting visas for exchanges to Palestinian universities on a fully equal basis as it does to Israeli universities."

Part of what is at issue here -- per clause (a) of the resolution -- is a 2017 law barring entry to Israel for foreign supporters of boycotts. An American student with a visa to pursue a master’s degree at Hebrew University of Jerusalem was denied entry to Israel under the law earlier this fall on the basis of her past presidency of a Students for Justice for Palestine chapter at the University of Florida. The student, Lara Alqasem, appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court, which ruled that her “actions do not raise satisfactory cause to bar her entry to Israel” and permitted her to enter after she spent more than two weeks in an airport detention center.

Also at issue is the reported differential treatment of individuals of Muslim, Arab or Middle Eastern origin by Israeli border control authorities and -- per clause (b) of the resolution -- what scholarly groups have reported to be an increase in visa denials for foreign faculty seeking to teach at Palestinian universities in the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel controls entry to. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel issued a statement from Samia Botmeh, a dean of Birzeit University, in the West Bank, in which she praised the Pitzer faculty vote and said that foreign faculty are being forced out of the West Bank and would-be international students denied entry.

“We shouldn’t be listing as an approved program, meaning we endorse it, a program which in practice will discriminate against some of our students on the basis of ancestry and/or legitimate political speech,” said Segal, the author of the resolution and the Jean M. Pitzer Professor of Anthropology and Professor of History. “We should on the other hand be good allies for colleagues who are suffering from grave violations of their academic freedom and who have asked us for their support. It’s the right thing to do to oppose discrimination against some of our students and it’s the right thing to do to support academic freedom of those whose academic freedom is being violated."

Faculty also approved another resolution at their meeting -- also put forward by Segal -- objecting to a move by the college's Board of Trustees to nullify a resolution to divest from certain companies associated with Israel approved by the Student Senate in April 2017. “Independent of agreeing or disagreeing with that resolution, we the Faculty object to the president and trustees singling out this one issue as a basis for not accepting the Senate’s longstanding autonomy in controlling its funds, in the context of Pitzer’s governance system,” the second resolution stated.

Controversy over the trustees' actions in that instance led to the creation of a working group on Israel-Palestine comprised of students, faculty and trustees. The working group produced a report that was fairly neutral on the question of study abroad, concluding that "too little is known about the precise ways in which the Israeli travel ban [on boycott supporters] would potentially affect staff, students or faculty wishing to participate in our institutional relationship with the University of Haifa" and that "the working group sees the educational benefit of facilitating experiential learning around Israel-Palestine issues and does not wish to create a barrier to study in the region."

The working group’s chairperson, Claudia Strauss, said in an interview Tuesday that she voted in favor of the resolution to suspend the Haifa study abroad program. “I actually went through a change in my own thinking about it after we issued the report,” said Strauss, a professor of anthropology. “In general, I’m not in favor of academic boycotts or limiting study opportunities. My initial thinking about this was I’d like our students to have an opportunity to go over and see things for themselves. But Lara’s case changed my mind about that. I don’t want our students to possibly be detained for their political views.”

Another Pitzer professor, Albert Wachtel, argued that the opposite lesson should be taken from Alqasem’s case. “This student was admitted and is studying in Jerusalem,” said Wachtel, a professor of creative studies. “If she’s an indication of anything, she’s an indication that democracy works in Israel and that its courts balance things out and undertake to negate political decisions which it regards as unacceptable. That’s big. That’s very desirable.”

Segal countered that the Supreme Court decision didn't overturn the law restricting entry to foreign advocates of boycotts; rather the court concluded that Alqasem herself did not meet the bar for refusing entry. “Clearly, we have a problem at the college if we have a program that we list as approved and student A chooses it and can go and student B chooses it and student B has been a prominent member of Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine and cannot go into the program. Then we are approving a program that discriminates on the basis of perfectly legitimate political speech,” Segal said.

The vote by Pitzer faculty was condemned Tuesday by the AMCHA Initiative, an organization that tracks what it views as anti-Israel actions on campuses and opposes the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

“The Pitzer faculty’s attempt to implement academic BDS on campus and subvert the educational opportunities and academic freedom of their own U.S. colleagues and students is absolutely reprehensible,” the group’s executive director, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, said in a written statement. “These Pitzer faculty members have abrogated their most basic professional responsibility -- to promote the academic welfare of their students.”

AMCHA called on Pitzer president Melvin L. Oliver to “immediately condemn this action and publicly commit to ensuring that no Pitzer student will be impeded from studying about or in Israel and that faculty will not be permitted to implement an academic boycott of Israel at Pitzer.”

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New policies, student groups change the culture of free speech at Berkeley

Wed, 2018-11-28 08:00

Last year, the University of California, Berkeley, campus literally erupted in flames as a planned speech by conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos devolved into violence: stones and fireworks were hurled at police, windows were shattered, riots turned injurious. Though the destruction then came from off-campus groups, for the next few months, highly public battles around free expression were waged at the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement.

President Trump raised a threat of yanking federal funds over the university’s response to Yiannopoulos (he mischaracterized the situation, saying Berkeley had not allowed Yiannopoulos to speak, when in fact the institution did give him permission).

The former Breitbart editor tried to visit the campus again several months after the protests for a “free speech week” -- declaring he would challenge the status quo grip of liberalism on the campus. The event forced the university to shell out about $1 million in security, though the planned events largely fizzled. Ann Coulter, the hot-button author, also sent her online following after the institution after she had been invited to speak there, but perceived a lack of support by administrators for her talk (she ultimately never appeared). Two conservative student groups filed a federal lawsuit against university officials asserting their free speech rights had been infringed.

But more than a year later, the Berkeley campus is seemingly free of such drama. It has hosted controversial right-wing figures such as TurningPoint USA leaders Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens, commentator Heather Mac Donald and talk-radio host Dennis Prager with little incident.

Students and administrators credit the change in part to the intent of the speakers coming to the university: not to rile up the student body, but instead to engage in discussion. The speakers voiced conservative views but did not insult Berkeley students or groups of students, as others had previously.

This follows two shifts on campus. Most recently, the university’s free speech policies were revised, after being vetted by a university commission. And new student groups were founded intent on promoting “civil dialogue” in wake of the fiascos with Coulter and Yiannopoulos.

“Given that the university has an unwavering commitment to the First Amendment, and has an unwavering commitment to the right and ability of our student organizations -- regardless of their perspective -- to bring speakers of their choice to campus, it seems as if … we’re not a tempting destination for those not interested in engagement, but rather provocation or advancing their brand,” Dan Mogulof, university spokesman, said.

Across the country, attempts by alt-right figures to appear on campuses (namely white nationalist Richard Spencer, a leader of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., last year) have largely halted. Spencer stopped his “college tour” earlier this year and has pleaded for money -- $25,000 -- after being sued for his role in Charlottesville.

Yiannopoulos, the main agitator at Berkeley, also had a fall from grace, following his comments apparently condoning relationships between adult men and teen boys, which led to his exit from Breitbart.

But largely, he and Coulter haven’t returned to campus because of the new student groups and a shift in leadership among the College Republicans, who last year gave an interview to the San Francisco Chronicle saying its members invited “provocative speakers” intentionally, to attract attention.

In October 2017, members of the College Republicans moved to oust the president of the group, Troy Worden, who had supported Yiannopoulos's "free speech week." Worden is now an intern for The Daily Signal, which is published by the Heritage Foundation. He has still clashed with the Berkeley administration as of just last month, when he wrote a piece for The Daily Signal claiming Berkeley was limiting free speech. Mogulof said it was riddled with inaccuracies and misinterpreted the institution’s new policies. The College Republicans did not respond to a request for comment.

The main change in the rules (on an interim basis) is designed to cut down on potential disruptions.

The West Crescent area of the Berkeley campus will essentially serve as a space where large-scale protests can be held at any time. It is now exempt from the institution’s major events policy, which requires advance notice to plan events, among other stipulations.

Traditionally, these types of demonstrations were held in the historic Upper and Lower Sproul Plazas. Now, only the upper portion will be used for impromptu bigger events, and the lower part will be subject to the major events policy.

These plazas are close to a number of significant campus buildings, among them Sproul Hall, which houses the registrar, the university's financial aid center, the dean of students and the César Chávez Student Center, where the Disabled Students Program, Gender Equity Resource Center and Student Learning Center are located.

"Either adding or moving free speech zones would relieve the burden on this area and reduce the likelihood that vital services will be interrupted," the free speech commission's report states.

At the same time, new student groups have become active -- and they are promoting different kinds of discussions on campus.

Manu Meel is a student at Berkeley and president of the national branch of BridgeUSA, a group that tries to promote healthy political discourse without ties to party affiliation. It emerged after Yiannopoulos’s first speech on the campus, and Meel said that a “cultural shift” occurred there. Initially, BridgeUSA was one of the organizations sponsoring Coulter’s visit -- this was an intentional partnership with the College Republicans, to be seen as more moderate -- but Meel said the group pulled out once it was clear Coulter was only intended rabble-rousing.

No longer does the Berkeley administration simply respond to vocal political organizations -- fringe groups on either side of the political spectrum -- but it works with student groups to consider how best to promote free speech, Meel said.

“They were frankly controlled by the circumstances and seen as a reactive, rather than a proactive institution,” Meel said.

BridgeUSA, which Meel said is not a partisan group, has arranged a series with the university called “Conversations Across Political Divides,” in which two parties with different views on one issue will sit and discuss it. Most recently, his group hosted David French, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and Erwin Chemerinsky, professor of law and dean of the Berkeley School of Law, to debate various political topics.

Another, more right-leaning group called the Berkeley Conservative Society has similarly tried to inspire intellectual debate, rather than inflame the campus. It was created in October last year, said its president and founder, Celine Bookin, who splintered off from the College Republicans with the desire to create an organization with a different sort of goal.

Bookin helps organize debates -- just among students -- where they would debate the issues du jour: fiscal policy, health-care reform and more. She said that while the discussions may not have the same draw as a controversial event, they have been successful. Berkeley students are intellectual and want more robust conversations, she said.

“I’m thrilled to help revitalize civil conversation and decency at Berkeley,” Bookin said.

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Authors discuss new book on land-grant universities and their evolution

Wed, 2018-11-28 08:00

An 1862 federal law, the Morrill Act, created land-grant universities. In the years since, some land-grant universities have become internationally prominent research universities, and many are crucial to their states. But the American economy and the role of higher education in society have changed dramatically since the Morrill Act. A new book, based on interviews with 27 presidents and chancellors of land-grant universities, considers where the role of these institutions is going.

The book is Land-Grant Universities for the Future: Higher Education for the Public Good (Johns Hopkins University Press). The authors are E. Gordon Gee, the president of West Virginia University, and Stephen M. Gavazzi, a professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University, where Gee was formerly president. (Both Ohio State and WVU are land-grant universities). Gee and Gavazzi responded via email to questions about their book.

Q: Many of the leading universities in the United States are land-grant institutions, but they tend to be described by many as research universities first. Is it problematic that the land-grant identity isn't front and center?

Gee: Yes, this is problematic, first and foremost because this implies that we have vastly overprized the research portion of our tripartite mission. What does this say about our value system, and the worth we assign to teaching and community engagement? Evidence of this skewed way of thinking about our reasons for existence as a land-grant university are on full display when we hear faculty members talk about teaching “load” as if it were some sort of undue burden placed on them to be in contact with students.

Gavazzi: The significant emphasis on research prowess in comparison to the pursuit of excellence in teaching and community engagement was on the minds of most of the 27 land-grant presidents and chancellors that we interviewed for this book. Many of these university leaders talked about judicious efforts to find some sort of balance among the three areas. In contrast, individuals outside of academia who we interviewed were less circumspect. Their comments led us to believe that one of the reasons public support for higher education was on the decline was precisely because we underappreciate the value that citizens place on our teaching and community engagement efforts.

Q: The Morrill Act was enacted at a time when agriculture was central to the economy of every state. Today agriculture (however important it remains) is less visible in American society. Some land-grant universities have renamed colleges of agriculture. Agriculture research is rarely the top category of research at land grants. How have these shifts changed the land-grant identity? Should agriculture be more central than it is at some land grants?

Gavazzi: For starters, we must remember that the Morrill Act placed both agriculture and engineering, then known as the “mechanical arts,” front and center in our original mission. This widened appreciation for where we started allows us to see that the difference between 1862 and 2018 is not so much the field of study -- agriculture or engineering -- as it is the transformation of our nation from a primarily rural population to a predominantly urban one. Meeting the needs of rural America versus the requirements of an urban-dwelling citizenry was very much on the minds of the land-grant university presidents and chancellors we interviewed.

Gee: That said, we must not fail to realize how underappreciated agriculture is today. When I served as the president of the Association of American Universities, I came face-to-face with the fact that the research universities assigned less value to agricultural research in comparison to other scholarly pursuits. I thought this was absurd, and yet it was almost taken for granted that there should be less prestige bestowed upon those faculty members who were engaged in crop science, animal husbandry and so on.

Q: Many public research universities these days position themselves as national or international more than as state institutions. How much does land-grant identity depend on close identification with the state? Is this possible in an era when many states have cut back on appropriations, and when some land grants are focused on increasing out-of-state enrollment?

Gee: This is precisely where the land-grant institutions have all the advantages, and yet more recently have failed to create any sort of meaningful brand identity with the public and with those who are responsible for making decisions about how the public’s money will be spent. The land-grant universities are supposed to be the people’s universities, which means they are the representatives of the best and brightest that each state has to offer to its citizens.

Gavazzi: Again, the stakeholders outside of academia that we interviewed, including state legislators and other higher education policy makers, made it clear to us that they want their land-grant university to solve their state’s most pressing economic and social issues. These stakeholders also were quite unambiguous that any national or international activities should come with a clear explanation about how those efforts are going to help citizens closer to home.

Q: Cooperative extension links land-grant universities' research to communities throughout their states. How has this function changed? Should it change more in the years ahead?

Gavazzi: The Cooperative Extension Services, designated by the Smith-Lever Act to disseminate university-generated knowledge to farms, families and communities, just celebrated its 100th year of existence in 2014. Across that century, the shift from a more rural to a more urban population that we mentioned earlier has put enormous pressures on extension personnel to remain relevant in the lives of most American citizens. The presidents and chancellors we interviewed were aware of newer initiatives being undertaken by extension personnel -- urban agriculture was prominently discussed by many of these senior leaders, for example -- yet there also was a deep-seated recognition that more changes must occur, and quickly.

Gee: Again, we see how the land-grant university holds distinct advantages over other public and private universities, and yet often has not been able to parlay that into any sort of tangible recognition regarding their practicality. Having extension offices in virtually every county of a given state means that land-grant universities have at least one representative who should be waking up every morning and saying to themselves, “What am I going to do today to demonstrate how the people’s university is working to make everyone’s lives better?”

Q: You write that land-grant universities should be more "fiercely land grant." What does that mean?

Gee: In the book, we discuss the immense pressures that universities place upon themselves to be more like each other. This is exactly the opposite of what they should be doing. The higher education system in the United State has been so successful precisely because of its diversity, not despite it. We even see this push for homogeneity affecting religiously based institutions, with the sometimes subtle and other times not-so-subtle message that they should act “less religious.” We think quite the opposite. Catholic universities should be more fiercely Catholic, Baptist universities should be more fiercely Baptist, and so on. Similarly, although there is no formal religion involved, we believe that land-grant universities should be more fiercely land grant in their orientation.

Gavazzi: While we may sound a bit evangelical, this is the same sort of message that was delivered by the Kellogg Commission over 20 years ago when they titled their report “Returning to Our Roots.” It’s a call to get back to our original mission, to place the highest value on meeting the needs of the communities that we were designed to serve.

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Updates on college fund-raising campaigns

Wed, 2018-11-28 08:00

Starting Out:

  • ArtCenter College of Design has started a campaign to raise $100 million by 2020. Top priorities are scholarships, learning spaces and the endowment. To date, $84 million has been raised.
  • College of Saint Benedict has started a campaign to raise $100 million by 2020. Campaign goals include scholarships and the modernization of classroom spaces. So far, $75 million has been raised.

Finishing Up:

  • University of New Hampshire completed a two-year campaign, raising $300 million, $25 million more than the original goal. More than one-third of the funds went toward student aid.

Track fund-raising campaigns in higher education at Inside Higher Ed's database.

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New analysis of history-major data says the field is at a 'new low.' Can it be saved?

Tue, 2018-11-27 08:00

History has seen the steepest decline in majors of all disciplines since the 2008 recession, according to a new analysis published in the American Historical Association's Perspectives on History.

“The drop in history’s share of undergraduate majors in the last decade has put us below the discipline’s previous low point in the 1980s,” reads the analysis, written by Benjamin M. Schmidt, an assistant professor of history at Northeastern University.

Some numbers: there were 34,642 history degrees conferred in 2008, according to federal data. In 2017, the most recent year for which data are available, there were 24,266. Between 2016 and 2017 alone, there was a 1,500 major drop-off. And even as overall university enrollments have grown, “history has seen its raw numbers erode heavily,” Schmidt wrote, especially since 2011-12.

“Of all the fields I’ve looked at, history has fallen more than any other in the last six years,” he says. The 2012 time frame is significant, according to the analysis, because it’s the first period in which students who experienced the financial crisis could easily change their majors.

The data represent a “new low” for the history major, Schmidt wrote. While a 66 percent drop in history’s share of majors from 1969 to 1985 remains the “most bruising” period in the discipline’s history, that drop followed a period of rapid enrollment expansion. The more recent drop is worse than history’s previous low point, in the 1980s.

Source: Benjamin Schmidt/American Historical Association

Discussing history as a share of all majors, Schmidt says the picture is still somewhat grim. The current figure is about five degrees per 1,000 23-year-olds, compared to 12 per 1,000 in 1971 and eight per 1,000 in 1993. Still, he notes, five per 1,000 is still better than the “trough” of the mid-1980s.

The decline is observed among all demographic groups. But Schmidt says that the most profound loss is among Asian American students, who already were underrepresented in history relative to their share of all students. The drop among white students, who make up 71 percent of history degrees and 58 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, is a bit less severe. Hispanic students, who are represented among history majors at the same rate they attend college, follow the overall trend, Schmidt says. African American and Native American students have seen the smallest declines. But women also appear less interested in history than before.

By institution type, these declines seem worst where history has previously been a popular major. Research institutions outside the highest-output group have seen the steepest declines, as have private campuses. One advanced analysis indicates what predicts big drops in history majors: being a research university, having a large number of Asian American or foreign students, and being private or having high tuition. Less steep declines, conversely, are associated with factors such as having more African American, multiracial or Hispanic students and being a historically black college or university (even controlling for having a higher share of black students). Schools in the Midwest seem to have experienced the greatest declines.

That the declines have continued among students who entered college well into the economic recovery shows that these shifts “are not just a temporary response to a missing job market,” Schmidt says. Instead, there seems to have been a “longer-term rethinking of what majors can do for students.” The supporting evidence? Other fields with significant declines since 2008 share traits with history. They include most of the other humanities and what Schmidt calls “many of the more qualitatively inclined social sciences,” including political science, anthropology and sociology.

Data from the AHA and other sources indicate that history majors go into a variety of careers and that employers value what they bring to the hiring table. So Schmidt says that in many cases, “this anxiety over career prospects for history majors is probably misguided.” The increasingly common practice of “lumping a wide variety of disparate fields together as STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] is probably giving students and their parents excessive expectations about the earning potential conferred by many science and technology degrees,” he adds. “While engineers in their 20s can indeed make salaries that would make most full professors of history jealous, science, technology, and math majors are much more of a mixed bag.”

He cites recently released data from the University of Texas system showing that history majors make less than most science majors after controlling for the university they attended, but appear to make more than many other majors -- including English, psychology, sociology and even a number of biology-based majors.

Ultimately, Schmidt says, whether through majors or course enrollments, “the long-term state of the discipline will rest on how it adapts to a cohort of students -- and their parents -- who are much less receptive to arguments for the liberal arts than previous generations have been.” So it’s important to look to departments that have found effective ways of communicating the history major’s purpose, he says. During and after the 2016 election, there were anecdotal reports about a resurgence of history. But overall enrollment trends, like majors, suggest that that resurgence didn’t translate to departments from the public consciousness. Still, some departments are doing well. Last year it was reported that history is again Yale University’s top major for the Class of 2019, for example, after suffering a slump through the 2000s.

Alan Mikhail, incoming chair of history at Yale, on Monday shared comments he made to the AHA at the time about the department’s successes. He cited four major strategies: rethinking course offerings, hiring new faculty members in specific growth areas, organizing campus recruiting events and, crucially, rethinking the actual major. Students are no longer required to take one set of courses, but rather pursue thematic tracks as part of a cohort.

“One important thing that came out from our conversations with students when we were considering changes was that the major lacked coherence or a logical path,” called “regions” or “pathways,” Mikhail told the AHA. “Students were conscious of, and perhaps envious of, the fixed path of requirements that their peers in the STEM fields experience.”

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