Inside Higher Ed

Rice to investigate scholar in gene-editing case

Tue, 2018-11-27 08:00

Rice University will launch a “full investigation” into whether one of its American scholars had a hand in controversial new research that a Chinese scientist claims has produced the world’s first genetically edited babies.

He Jiankui of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, on Monday stunned attendees at a Hong Kong genetics conference by announcing that he used the genome-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9 to alter the DNA of embryonic twin girls to make them immune to HIV infection. He said the babies were born earlier this month.

A Rice physics and bioengineering professor, Michael Deem, worked with He on the project after He returned to China following graduate school in the United States, the Associated Press reported Monday. Deem had been He's adviser at Rice in Houston and holds what he has called “a small stake” in He’s two companies in Shenzhen. Deem is also on the companies’ scientific advisory boards, AP reported.

The type of gene editing described by He is banned in the United States because the DNA changes can pass to future generations. The modifications also risk harming other genes.

By the time of Monday’s announcement, there had been no independent confirmation of He’s claim, which was not published in a peer-reviewed journal. He revealed the breakthrough to one of the organizers of an international conference on gene editing that is set to begin today. He also spoke to AP, telling a reporter, “I feel a strong responsibility that it’s not just to make a first, but also make it an example,” adding, “Society will decide what to do next.”

The announcement generated a flurry of news coverage and a resurgence of debate about the ethics of gene editing. One Oxford University medical ethicist told England's Telegraph that He would be facing jail time in most countries for the experiment. If true, said Julian Salulescu, "this experiment is monstrous," calling it "genetic Russian roulette."

Rice on Monday said the research “raises troubling scientific, legal and ethical questions.” The university said it had no prior knowledge of the work, and that none of the clinical work had been performed in the United States.

“Regardless of where it was conducted,” Rice said, “this work as described in press reports violates scientific conduct guidelines and is inconsistent with ethical norms of the scientific community and Rice University.” It announced “a full investigation of Dr. Deem’s involvement in this research.”

Deem did not respond to a request for comment. In an interview, he told AP that he was present in China when potential participants in the research gave their consent. Deem said he had worked with He on vaccine research at Rice and considers the gene editing similar to a vaccine.

Rice wouldn’t comment further but said Deem remained on faculty. On Monday, his profile page remained on Rice’s website, as did the webpage for its program in systems, synthetic and physical biology, which he founded.

But several pages, including those dedicated to Deem’s research, his research group, his publications and his patents, had been taken down.

He, the Chinese scholar, studied at Rice and Stanford Universities before returning to China to open a lab at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen.

In a statement issued Monday, the Chinese university said, as did Rice, that the research was conducted outside its campus and that it wasn’t reported to the university or its biology department. The university said it learned of the research through media reports, noting that He has been on “no-paid leave” since February.

The university said it was “deeply shocked by this event” and has attempted to reach He for clarification. It also said the biology department had called an emergency meeting of its academic committee. He’s work “has seriously violated academic ethics and codes of conduct,” the university said. It called for international experts to form an independent committee to investigate He’s claim and to release the results to the public.

In a statement, the National Institutes of Health on Monday said officials there had not been able to review the "unexpected and deeply troubling claims" by He. "Without further information, NIH cannot comment on the scientific merits of the study, but we are profoundly concerned about the ethical implications of modifying the human germline."

In a 2015 statement, NIH director Francis S. Collins said that while genomic editing has enabled researchers to more easily study the underlying genetic causes of several diseases, NIH "will not fund any use of gene-editing technologies in human embryos. The concept of altering the human germline in embryos for clinical purposes has been debated over many years from many different perspectives, and has been viewed almost universally as a line that should not be crossed."

Kiran Musunuru, a University of Pennsylvania gene-editing expert and editor of a genetics journal, called the development “unconscionable,” telling AP that experimenting on humans “is not morally or ethically defensible.”

Likewise, Scripps Research Translational Institute director Eric Topol cautioned, “We’re dealing with the operating instructions of a human being. It’s a big deal.”

But Harvard Medical School genetics professor George Church said attempted gene editing for HIV is “justifiable,” given that HIV is “a major and growing public health threat.”

Church said He’s claims were “probably accurate,” telling Stat News by email that he’d been in contact with the team in Shenzhen and had “seen the data” on the gene editing.

“Is the genie really out of the bottle?” Church wrote. “Yes.”

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What Title IX plan would mean for misconduct off campus

Tue, 2018-11-27 08:00

A proposed overhaul of federal standards for colleges’ handling of sexual misconduct would require that institutions only investigate incidents that occur within campus-sanctioned events or activities.

The fear among many advocates for survivors of sexual assault is that language would mean colleges could take a pass on investigating harassment or assaults experienced by students just outside their campuses. But lawyers who advise institutions on compliance with Title IX, the federal law governing sex-based discrimination, say colleges are likely to continue pursuing any incident that affects learning on campus.

“These schools deal with off-campus conduct issues all the time outside of sexual assault,” said Scott Schneider, an Austin, Tex.-based lawyer who advises higher ed clients. “There’s a fairly lengthy history especially in higher education of extending student disciplinary codes to off-campus behavior.”

The rule explicitly states that Greek housing would be considered an “education program or activity.” The implications of Title IX for other off-campus locations are less clear.

The regulation cites both existing statute and court rulings to illustrate what would fall under that category.

"In determining whether a sexual harassment incident occurred within a recipient’s program or activity, courts have examined factors such as whether the conduct occurred in a location or in a context where the recipient owned the premises; exercised oversight, supervision, or discipline; or funded, sponsored, promoted, or endorsed the event or circumstance," the rule states.

The proposed regulation also says that nothing would prevent colleges from launching student-conduct proceedings when harassment occurs outside a campus program or activity.

The proposed rule includes plenty of other mandatory provisions institutions would be expected to carry out -- conducting live hearings, for example, and allowing for cross-examination of parties. But they would have discretion whether or not to continue investigating harassment or assault involving students outside of campus-sanctioned programs. And lawyers who work with colleges say while some may not pursue those cases, many institutions are likely to receive pressure from organizers and student groups to pursue those cases under their own campus codes of conduct.

Most colleges and higher ed associations in Washington have had little to say about the proposed rule so far. And the lawyers tasked with explaining federal statute and regulations to institutions are still unclear about the implications for many of the provisions in the proposed rule.

Jose Olivieri, a Milwaukee-based lawyer, said the proposed rule will require more scrutiny and more explanation from the department. But he said some off-campus misconduct incidents that affect on-campus learning may not qualify as Title IX issues under the rule.

"I think they did make a change there that might eliminate coverage in some situations," he said.

That may not mean colleges rush to change the campus misconduct policies they use to investigate misconduct, though. Melissa Carleton, another lawyer who advises higher ed institutions, said when colleges do change policies, it is typically a consensus-building process.

“I would think that would be something where the campus community would have something to say,” she said.

Carleton said the Education Department should clarify whether the proposed rule would obligate colleges under Title IX to investigate off-campus incidents that create a hostile learning environment on campus. If not, it could be easier for colleges to dismiss a student accused of misconduct.

Higher ed institutions will also be seeking clarification on what constitutes a campus “program or activity.” Would activities like study abroad programs or professional internship programs affiliated with colleges, for example, fall under that category? Jim Newberry, a lawyer based in Louisville, Ky., said he expected so.

“The question is does that particular form of misconduct impact the educational activities of the institution,” he said.

Advocates for survivors of sexual assault, though, are still wary about the implications of the new requirements advanced by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Sage Carson, executive director of Know Your IX, said many off-campus fraternity houses aren’t officially recognized by their colleges.

“It seems to be her way of skirting around our concerns,” she said of DeVos.

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Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan no longer recruiting college sophomores for internships

Tue, 2018-11-27 08:00

The long-standing advice for students (even in high school) is that they should secure an internship as soon as possible to gain experience in their field.

This makes the move by two top Wall Street investment banks -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase -- to postpone their internship recruitment timeline seemingly all the more counterintuitive. But it’s a change institutions are welcoming because they say it will help alleviate student anxiety.

“It put a lot of pressure on students, which just wasn’t great,” said Barbara Hewitt, executive director of career services at University of Pennsylvania, a major feeder for the two banks.

Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan will no longer interview or extend internship offers to college sophomores. Even when the companies were interviewing sophomores, they weren't offered internships until the summer after their junior year anyway, which meant they were agreeing to a position roughly 15 to 16 months in advance. This meant sophomores would sometimes be trying to learn concepts for the internship that might be taught in an upper-level course their junior year, Hewitt said. She said that she’s never known another field to be quite as competitive and have the same sorts of early timetables as the banks.

“A lot of the banks told me they wouldn’t be giving technical interviews, but students would go on interviews, and be asked technical, financial questions, so they needed to prep and learn material they probably were learning the following year,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt said that sophomores tend to work with smaller employers with less structured internship programs that don't tend to recruit as early as some of the larger employers. While the sophomores may be doing some networking right now, they usually land the internships across industries in the spring semester, she said.

As The Wall Street Journal reported, the banks initially started earlier recruitment periods in an attempt to appeal to the contingent of students who had not considered banking careers and diversify their ranks from largely white, affluent men.

But the opposite appeared to happen -- with stiffer competition, students with existing connections to the finance world started to use them to get internships.

Executives from both Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan told the Journal that they acknowledged how disruptive the early timetable was for many students. One representative from JPMorgan said that it felt “felt obligated” to follow the market.

JPMorgan also asked the National Association of Colleges and Employers to recommend that all banks delay recruitment until junior year to create the level playing field, but NACE does not prescribe such time frames -- it only maintains a broad set of ethical principles for employers.

Mimi Collins, a spokeswoman for NACE, said that in the 1990s, the association would recommend that students be given at least two weeks to consider a job offer, but that was changed because it seemed ultimately two prescriptive and wouldn’t fit many industries, Collins said.

Collins said that because NACE does not suggest recruitment timelines for companies, it was not necessarily endorsing the change by the banks, though she did acknowledge that the previous was system was likely “not a good practice.”

“I think what the banks have done reflects the reality that giving at a least a year may not be the wisest use of recruitment efforts,” Collins said. “I think that what they’re doing if you have an experience that’s going to start a whole year later, students are going to change their minds, so it’s being realistic.”

But Stephanie Marken, executive director of education research at Gallup, said in an interview that she was concerned when companies choose to delay internships until junior or senior years. Having an internship either the first or second year of college can help students decide whether they want to pursue a job in a particular career without them getting too far into a particular major, Marken said.

While first- and second-year students may not developmentally be as prepared to take on the same type of internship at a high-profile investment bank as juniors and seniors are, Marken said that the companies can adjust the experience for the younger students.

“These companies sense great value in internships, and there’s such a great focus on providing them that I think that this customization is possible,” Marken said.

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SUNY Fredonia auctions off a painting from its Stefan Zweig collection

Tue, 2018-11-27 08:00

A painting in the Stefan Zweig Collection at the State University of New York at Fredonia is up for auction today amid some faculty pushback.

The painting, Georgian Woman Wearing a Lechaki, by the Georgian painter Niko Pirosmani, is expected to sell for more than half a million dollars. According to the Sotheby’s listing, proceeds from the sale will benefit the Reed Library at Fredonia, where the collection is housed. However, Birger Vanwesenbeeck, an English professor at Fredonia who has opposed the sale since it was listed a few weeks ago, said in an interview that it is wrong for Fredonia to be selling a great work of art, even if supporting the library is a worthy cause.

The university declined to comment until after the auction is complete.

Vanwesenbeeck and his students often study the collection, which contains thousands of letters, artifacts and artworks obtained by Zweig during his lifetime. Zweig was an Austrian author of Jewish descent who is "widely regarded in the literary community as a decidedly humanitarian thinker[;] by the 1920s he was one of the most published authors in the world," according to the university website.

“I’ve been a faculty member since 2008, and I take students there almost every semester,” Vanwesenbeeck said. “Just a year ago we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the collection.”

The Pirosmani painting up for sale was gifted to the university by Harry Zohn, who acquired the painting from Zweig’s first wife in 1953.

“The sheer variety and polyglot diversity of these documents and artworks attest to the humanist in Zweig: a lover and advocate of the arts, a cosmopolitan, a generous mentor to younger writers and artists, and, in the last decade of his life, a continental European Jew forced into exile by the Nazis’ rise to power,” Vanwesenbeeck wrote about the value of the collection.

One of Vanwesenbeeck’s concerns about the sale is that the painting is being sold as a “single lot” rather than as part of a collection. It will likely go to a private party, and students and scholars will no longer have access to it.

“If we’re going to start selling … individual items, we are effectively erasing that archive,” he said. “We are effectively undoing the work of faculty and administrators who have been collecting these.”

In the past, organizations such as the Association for Academic Museums and Galleries (AAMG) and the Association of Art Museum Directors have raised concerns about similar artwork auctions. Both opposed the sale of a George Bellows painting by Randolph College in 2014, and the AAMD issued a statement in January against the sale of 43 paintings by La Salle University.

Craig Hadley, vice president for communications at the AAMG, wrote in an email that according the AAMG best practices, universities must be “committed to following AAM and museum field standards, particularly with regard to the museum’s collections, the use of deaccessioning proceeds, and collecting and gift-acceptance policies.”

Most of the time, proceeds from artwork sales are supposed to be used only to buy more art or benefit a collection in some way. The Zweig Collection is not part of a university museum and contains more than just artwork, therefore the deaccession standards for pieces in the collection may not be identical to those of museums.

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Canadian scholar says he's been 'persecuted' for his research on colleagues who published in predatory journals

Mon, 2018-11-26 08:00

Derek Pyne, an associate professor of economics at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, Canada, says he wasn’t trying to make his colleagues look bad when he used them as his data set for research on predatory publications. Nevertheless, he found that the majority of the School of Business and Economics faculty had published in these open-access journals, which have low to nonexistent quality standards and charge authors fees.

As a result of that 2017 paper and the media attention that followed, Pyne says, he’s been effectively banned from campus since May. He may visit only for a short list of reasons, such as health care. Teaching is out and so, too, is the library. It’s unclear when, or if, Pyne will be allowed to resume his normal duties.

Canada's Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship has appealed to Thompson Rivers on Pyne's behalf. The Canadian Association of University Teachers, similar to American Association of University Professors, is also looking into the case.

Thompson Rivers has refused to participate in that investigation so far, David Robinson, CAUT’s executive director, said recently.

“This is a very peculiar case,” Robinson said. “But certainly criticizing colleagues’ research or his administration is intramural speech protected by academic freedom. These are matters of educational quality. He may be correct, or he may not be correct. But he certainly has a right to express his views on educational quality.”

A university spokesperson declined to answer specific questions about the circumstances of Pyne’s suspension but forwarded several general comments on the matter, including one from Christine Bovis-Cnossen, interim president. That statement says that Thompson Rivers is “unequivocally committed to the principle of academic freedom for all of our faculty members. This is fundamental to who we are as a university. We routinely work in concert with our faculty unions to ensure that the principle of academic freedom is protected and preserved in the research and teaching of every member of our faculty, as well as in the right of any faculty member to criticize the university.”

Pyne says his faculty union, TRU Faculty Association, did file a grievance that restored his pay after he was suspended. But it's unclear why the union hasn't filed grievances about academic freedom aimed at getting him back on campus. The association president did not immediately respond to a request for comment and has publicly declined to answer other questions about the case.

Pyne, who has been at Thompson Rivers since 2010, was always a squeaky wheel in the department, once getting into a shouting match with a former chair about academic programs, for example. He’d also had earlier email skirmishes with his dean and a colleague about his interest in predatory publications. Yet he says his motivation to study his colleagues’ research records for involvement with bogus journals was fundamentally economic.

Predatory journals, which have proliferated over the last decade, are typically portrayed as, well, predators, preying on unsuspecting or desperate-to-publish academic victims. After learning that some scholars with otherwise strong research records had published in predatory journals, Pyne wanted to know if there was more to the story. Were colleagues who published in these journals actually rewarded for doing so? His hunch, based on economic theory, specifically incentives, was yes. Otherwise, why would they do it?

Here’s what he found: most of his business school colleagues had, in fact, published in at least one predatory journal. More than that, they were being rewarded for it, perhaps more so than from publishing in quality journals. His analysis showed that publications in predatory journals, at least in his tiny corner of the academic universe, were correlated with higher compensation and internal research rewards.

Pyne didn’t name names of individuals in his paper, but it marked a shift in the predatory journal discussion -- namely that institutions may be much more complicit in the system than merely clinging to easy research output metrics.

The Journal of Scholarly Publishing printed Pyne’s paper, “The Rewards of Predatory Publications at a Small Business School,” in the spring of 2017, when he was on sabbatical in Europe. There was little initial fanfare. But that summer and into the fall, when he returned to campus, Pyne fielded numerous media requests about the paper.

Around the same time, Pyne began to criticize new graduate programs within the business school. Internally, he told colleagues that they were more like undergraduate programs in quality. He said as much externally, including in comments posted to a local news website, where he also mentioned his findings on predatory publications.

According to department minutes, Pyne’s colleagues soon passed motions of “serious concern” about his comments on the news site. A colleague also launched research claims against him, which were later dropped.

‘Pathologizing Dissent’

In the meantime, in January, Pyne was summoned to a meeting with administrators and informed that faculty members, staff and students were afraid of him. Pyne says it’s unclear why, since he was never provided even redacted copies of specific complaints of that nature. Later that month, Pyne says, he was asked to undergo a psychological evaluation or risk an immediate forced medical leave.

In May, Pyne was banned from campus, his keys confiscated. People claimed they’d seen him on campus talking to himself and waving his hands, he was told. Two weeks later, in hopes that he could lift the suspension, he followed through on the evaluation order with a psychologist provided by the university.

A copy of the psychologist’s evaluation said that Pyne felt persecuted by the university, which he says is understandable in his situation. But there was no indication that he posed a security threat or anything that would justify an administrative leave based on medical or safety grounds, he says.

Even on leave, Pyne submitted to the university feedback on an associate dean candidate, questioning his research record. Several news outlets contacted Pyne around the same time for another interview, in which he continued to criticize the university and some of his colleagues, still not by name.

Later in the summer, Pyne's union informed him that he was back on the university payroll. But he also received a new administrative directive, which he took as the university’s latest in a series of shifting rationales for his suspension: that he “cease communicating inappropriate, defamatory and insubordinate statements” about the university.

Most recently, earlier this month, the university’s human resources office emailed Pyne to ask him why he’d commented on Facebook that a university statement about his case was “misleading (if not dishonest).”

“Please explain what in the president’s message was ‘misleading’ and the facts that you rely on in making that statement,” an email from the office reads. “For clarification, your response should be sent directly to me, and will not be treated as new and independent defamation.”

Ivan Oransky, Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University's Arthur Carter Journalism Institute and co-founder of Retraction Watch, has followed Pyne’s case for over a year. He said recently that he was “puzzled” about “what's actually going on. It's not very helpful when a university takes action like this but doesn't say why.”

That's why Retraction Watch has argued for the release of university investigations, he said, citing an article on why Cornell University hasn’t released its findings in the Brian Wansink research misconduct case, among other similar incidents elsewhere.

Robinson, of the CAUT, said the Thompson Rivers investigation is ongoing. But based on Pyne’s claims and the available documents, he said, the university appears to be “pathologizing dissent.”

If that’s the case, the university has a lot of material: Pyne dissents much. But if putting him on leave was an attempt to quiet him, it hasn’t worked. Instead, speaking out against the university is a method of defense for him.

However personal things have gotten, Pyne said his concerns continue to center on research integrity. Some colleagues have thanked him for his work and even moved to delete publications in predatory journals from their CVs.

“I can see making the mistake once,” he said of publishing in a predatory publication. “But when you start getting multiple mistakes, people doing this six, seven, eight, nine times, you have to wonder if they’re really qualified to do research to begin with.”

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Academics outraged over life sentence for British graduate student in U.A.E.

Mon, 2018-11-26 08:00

A Ph.D. student at Britain’s Durham University, who had been sentenced to life in prison by a United Arab Emirates court after being found guilty of spying for the U.K., was pardoned Monday.

Matthew Hedges has denied the spying charges and said that he was conducting academic research. The Guardian reported that the pardon was announced at a press conference Monday, which followed talks over the weekend between the British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and U.A.E. officials. Press reports indicated Hedges would be released soon. Al Jazeera quoted Anwar Gargash, the U.A.E. minister of state for foreign affairs, as saying, "His Highness the president’s gracious clemency in the customary National Day pardons allows us to return our focus to the underlying fundamental strength of the U.A.E./U.K. bi-lateral relationship and its importance to the international community. It was always a U.A.E. hope that this matter would be resolved through the common channels of our longstanding partnership. This was a straightforward matter that became unnecessarily complex despite the U.A.E.'s best efforts."

The Hedges case led many academic groups to demand his release, and also to question the ties of Western universities to the U.A.E. Whether those questions will continue to be raised after the pardon is not yet clear.

The Middle East Studies Association said in a letter about Hedges's case prior to the pardon that he was arrested in May at the Dubai airport at the end of a two-week research trip and that his dissertation focuses on "civil-military relations in the U.A.E. and examines how concepts of regime security have evolved since 2011," the year of the Arab Spring. MESA's board recently issued a statement citing the prosecution of Hedges as evidence of an “intensification of threats” against researchers and resident scholars in the U.A.E.

Hedges's family reported that he was sentenced after a five-minute hearing in which he was not represented by a lawyer, according to CNN. The family also said that Hedges was forced to sign a confession in Arabic, a language he does not read or speak.

Human Rights Watch has previously reported that Hedges was detained for months before being formally charged or granted access to lawyers, denying his due process rights. The human rights group also reported that Hedges was held in solitary confinement for prolonged periods.

Prior to the pardon, Britain's foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, described Hedges's sentence as "extremely worrying."

"We have seen no evidence to back up charges against him," Hunt said on Twitter. "U.A.E. claim to be friend & ally of the U.K. so there will be serious diplomatic consequences. Unacceptable."

The vice chancellor of Durham University, Stuart Corbridge, said in a statement he was “devastated” by Hedges’s sentencing.

"Following a period in which he was detained in conditions which breached his human rights this judgment has been delivered in the absence of anything resembling due process or a fair trial,” Corbridge said. “There has been no information given on what basis Matt was handed this sentence and no reason to believe that Matt was conducting anything other than legitimate academic research."

The sentencing could have implications for the U.A.E.'s extensive international academic ties. The country is home to a number of British branch campuses, as well as a branch of New York University in Abu Dhabi. An online petition calling for a boycott of all U.A.E.-based institutions -- as well as all institutions that have campuses in the U.A.E. -- had received more than 100 signatures as of Sunday afternoon. 

The BBC reported that the University and College Union members at the University of Birmingham voted after Hedges's sentencing last week to boycott the university's new Dubai campus. The UCU at the University of Exeter also passed a motion calling on the university to suspend its academic relationships with the U.A.E. Hedges's institution, Durham University, is recommending a moratorium on all non-U.A.E. staff and student travel to the Emirates.

More than 200 faculty and students signed an open letter to NYU president Andrew Hamilton calling on him to "issue a public statement condemning the arrest and sentencing of Matthew Hedges, as well as his prolonged detention under conditions tantamount to torture. The statement should make it clear that the U.A.E.’s treatment and sentencing of Mr. Hedges have grave implications for NYU’s ongoing operation in Abu Dhabi."

The letter also called on NYU to establish a permanent standing committee on academic freedom comprised of representatives from all of NYU's global sites, and for the NYU administration to "establish steps to be taken whenever government officials or policies encroach upon academic freedom of students or faculty at a campus or program site. Information about such encroachments, when they occur, should be publicly available."

In a statement an NYU spokesman said the university was not privy to the details of Hedges's case. "It would of course be a source of significant concern to us if someone engaged in routine scholarly activity were imprisoned for it," said NYU's spokesman, John Beckman. "However it is important to note that we do not have any information regarding the case of Mr. Hedges beyond what has been publicly reported. NYU and NYU Abu Dhabi strongly encourage and assist the conducting of research and scholarship that is essential to our educational mission, to the advancement of knowledge, and to the intellectual growth of the faculty."

Beckman added, "Protocols and policies related to the conduct and support of research and scholarship have been adopted to advance our academic mission, to ensure compliance with applicable laws and ethical norms, and to support our researchers, their research, and research subjects."

John Archer, a professor of English at NYU and one of the organizers of the open letter, described NYU's response as potentially harmful to Hedges's case.

"To state that we only have information on Matt's case from public reports implies he may have done something wrong," Archer said. "It is eerily similar to Trump's response to the [Jamal] Khashoggi murder, which claimed 'We may never know all of the facts surrounding the event.' It shows a distrust of media and implies that NYUAD's strong encouragement of research is proper, in a manner unlike Matt's research in the Durham program. It in fact contradicts what [U.K. foreign minister Jeremy] Hunt has said and also Matt's [member of Parliament's] statement that he is not a spy, as well as the Durham [vice chancellor's] statement that his research was in accord with Durham's scholarly standards and there is no reason to suppose anything else. President Hamilton is out of step, then, with what is known."

"The only way to gain his release and perhaps forestall later academic arrests of Emirati and foreign scholars is for foreign institutions like ours to keep up the pressure on the U.A.E.," Archer added. "We have both a special responsibility and exceptional influence. Instead, we are using our access to undermine both media and, remarkably, U.K. government reports, implying perhaps a special knowledge of Matt's guilt or at least irregularity in research practice."

In its letter on Hedges's sentencing, issued Sunday, the Middle East Studies Association's Committee on Academic Freedom said that no evidence had been produced to back up Hedges's sentence. "We believe that Mr. Hedges’ conviction for espionage betrays a fundamental and/or willful misunderstanding of the nature of field-based academic research, and that the extraordinarily disproportionate nature of his sentence will inflict incalculable damage on the reputation of the U.A.E. as a safe and welcoming place for students and scholars conducting research in and on your country," says the letter. The letter noted particular alarm by a suggestion in an English-language Gulf newspaper that Hedges may have been turned into Emirati authorities by one of his interviewees. 

The U.A.E. ambassador to the U.K., H.E. Sulaiman Hamid Almazroui, said in a statement that the government is "studying" a request by Hedges's family for clemency. But he defended the country's judicial process.

"Matthew Hedges was not convicted after a five-minute show trial, as some have reported," Almazroui said. "Over the course of one month, three judges evaluated compelling evidence in three hearings."

"They reached their conclusion after a full and proper process. This was an extremely serious case … This was also an unusual case. Many researchers visit the U.A.E. freely every year without breaking our laws."


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Brazilian academics vow to resist threats to freedom

Mon, 2018-11-26 08:00

Brazilian academics have vowed to fight back against threats to academic freedom after campuses were stormed by military police and staff were arrested for their political views in the wake of the presidential election.

Right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro won the presidency with 55.5 percent of the vote last month, to the dismay of academics who have criticized his failure to commit to tackling Brazil’s research funding crisis and to protect academic freedom.

Fears have deepened in the aftermath of the poll because Bolsonaro’s supporters have pledged to campaign against the “corrupt ideologies” of the academic community.

Academic leaders told Times Higher Education that employees had been threatened and teaching materials had been confiscated by military police with links to Bolsonaro’s political party on the grounds that they contained “leftist propaganda” and “false information” about Brazil’s political history.

“It is a very worrying time for us, and many look back to life under military dictatorship [between 1964 and 1985],” said one university dean, who asked not to be named.

Meanwhile, an anonymous phone line has been set up for students and members of the public to denounce “ideological professors and indoctrinators” in universities.

The initiative was led by Ana Caroline Campagnolo, an elected state representative in Santa Caterina, who asked students to film their classes to catch “political-partisan or ideological” behavior from teachers. “We guarantee the anonymity of the denouncers,” she said in a video published on social media.

Adriana Marotti de Mello, professor of business at the University of São Paulo, reported that students in Para State University had already “denounced teachers … because they were discussing ‘fake news’ in class … It was enough for police invasion and prison. I cannot imagine what is going to happen [in the future],” she said.

Justin Axel-Berg, associate researcher in higher education policy at the University of São Paulo, described the move as a “direct and first-day attempt to create a climate of fear and persecution” but noted that Campagnolo had since been reprimanded by Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court, which ruled against the restriction of political speech on university campuses on Nov. 1.

Opponents of Bolsonaro have vowed to “resist and defend” their academic freedom, and a number of protests have taken place since the election across Brazilian cities. But the majority still admit that they are too afraid to speak to the media without the condition of anonymity.

One academic from the State University of Goiás told Times Higher Education that as many as 27 universities had reported military incursions into their campuses in recent weeks. “Some cases are more ostentatious than others -- it is for show, to [scare] us. But the fascist climate is already apparent,” he said. “We will not bow to it. [It is clear] we have wide-ranging support on this.”

While the Social Liberal Party does not take over leadership of the country until Jan. 1, it is understood that the party has been able to successfully push for the issuing of arrest warrants in cases where universities were alleged to be breaking federal law.

Vahan Agopyan, rector of the University of São Paulo, explained that political advertisements of any kind were still banned by law in public buildings. “With this excuse, in some states the police are acting inside the campuses,” he said.

Axel-Berg concluded, “In the weeks before and shortly after the election, it’s fair to say we were terrified. But the atmosphere has since changed to one of solidarity among academics. I don’t believe life will return to how it was in 1964.”

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DeVos restores authority of for-profit accreditor

Mon, 2018-11-26 08:00

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will restore federal recognition to a for-profit college accreditor for which the Obama administration withdrew recognition.

DeVos will act on the recommendation of a senior department official who recommended in September that the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools be reinstated with the condition that it demonstrate full compliance with federal standards within 12 months. The decision means colleges overseen by the accreditor that failed to find recognition elsewhere will maintain their access to federal student aid.

DeVos outlined the decision in a nine-page document Nov. 21. The Washington Post first reported the news.

Former education secretary John King withdrew recognition from ACICS, which oversaw collapsed for-profit chains Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech, in December 2016. Many critics of for-profit colleges applauded that decision and said it would protect students and the use of federal aid. But a federal judge this past spring found that the department failed to consider key evidence before terminating the agency and ordered the department to reconsider the case.

“After the previous administration failed to review 36,000 pages of documents related to ACICS’s application to continue as a recognized accreditor, the United States District Court in Washington, D.C., remanded the case back to the secretary,” said department spokeswoman Liz Hill. “Based on the department’s thorough review of the previously neglected documents, and the [staff's] 77-page recommendation, the final agency decision is to grant ACICS continued recognition, with the condition that it submit compliance reports within 12 months demonstrating full compliance with two specified criteria and that it submit annual monitoring reports concerning four other criteria.”

A more comprehensive internal review of ACICS conducted by career staff at the Education Department released this summer found the accreditor failed a majority of federal standards. Those findings were not considered in the recommendation to reinstate the agency.

Democratic lawmakers and student advocates were quick to criticize the decision.

“This decision will expose hardworking people across the country, including many service members and veterans, to schools that routinely leave students with crippling debt, nontransferrable credits and no degree, while leaving taxpayers to foot the bill,” said Representative Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat who is widely expected to be chairman of the House education committee next year.

Even with recognition extended by DeVos, the long-term outlook of ACICS remains unclear. After King withdrew recognition from the accreditor in 2016 following a lengthy staff review process, the agency began hemorrhaging members. Concerned about their continued access to federal student aid, colleges who could find recognition elsewhere did so.

The accreditor oversaw 245 colleges as of 2016. But roughly 70 ACICS institutions who receive Title IV funds haven’t yet found recognition from another accreditor and remain, according to analyses from the Center for American Progress.

And the largest chain of schools still overseen by the accreditor, Education Corporation of America, looks to be facing serious questions about its financial viability. The for-profit chain, which includes Virginia College and Brightwood College, announced in September it would close about a third of its campuses due to declining enrollment. And last month, ECA sued the Education Department to receive assurances that it could keep access to federal student aid while it pursued a financial restructuring. (A federal judge later tossed the lawsuit over lack of standing.) In May, Virginia College was rejected for recognition through another accreditor. Critics of ACICS say the outcomes at institutions overseen by the accreditor raise serious concerns about the consequences of reinstatement for students attending those colleges.

“We have an agency that has proven over and over again that it’s unreliable as an oversight body,” said Antoinette Flores, associate director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress. “We have schools remaining in the federal aid system that are of questionable quality, and students are going to suffer as a result.”

Michael Itzkowitz, a senior fellow at the think tank Third Way and a former Obama administration official, said at remaining ACICS colleges, less than a third of students will end up earning more than the average high school graduate.

“That’s substantially below the national average and clearly unacceptable,” he said.

Itzkowitz said those results call into question the role of accreditors as gatekeepers that ensure a basic level of quality at institutions receiving federal aid. The Education Department can’t set an explicit threshold for college outcomes when reviewing accreditors. But some critics of the move question whether the department looked closely enough at student achievement at ACICS colleges.

After District Court Judge Reggie Walton sent the accreditor’s case back to the department in March, DeVos left it to principal deputy under secretary Diane Auer Jones to review thousands of pages of additional documents submitted by ACICS. Those documents have yet to be made fully available to the public. The National Student Legal Defense Network sued for their release, and the department has provided them at a “snail’s pace,” said Aaron Ament, the group’s president.

Jones concluded in her review, though, that the Obama administration’s decision to terminate the accreditor appeared to be politically motivated -- a finding DeVos appeared to endorse Wednesday.

“Among other things, the [senior department official] believes the 2016 Secretary Decision and the recommendations below suffered from insufficient evidence, circular reasoning, and a desire to achieve a preordained result,” she wrote.

But the recommendation to reinstate ACICS was itself criticized for misrepresenting support from fellow accrediting bodies, which the department called an inadvertent error in the editing process. And Flores said Jones and career department officials who produced the more comprehensive review of the accreditor in several instances came to starkly different conclusions based on the same evidence.

“This sends a message to other accrediting agencies that there are no consequences when you make bad decisions and fail to act,” she said.

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Former Michigan State president charged with lying to police in Nassar case

Wed, 2018-11-21 08:00

Michigan State University’s former president Lou Anna K. Simon was charged on Tuesday with lying to police in their investigation of sexual abuse by Larry Nassar, the disgraced and now imprisoned university physician.

Simon resigned in January after revelations of the breadth of abuse by Nassar, who sexually assaulted hundreds of women both in his role as a former team doctor at the institution and with the U.S. gymnastics team.

As the scandal grew, Michigan State's board first stood by Simon, who claimed to be unaware of the worst of the allegations. But Nassar victims said they informed Michigan State officials of the abuse years before the institution acted.

The Michigan attorney general’s office charged Simon with two misdemeanor and two felony counts. If convicted, she could spend four years in prison. Simon had initially told Michigan State police that she was aware a “sports medicine doctor” whose name she hadn't known had been the subject of a gender-discrimination investigation by the university in 2014. But the attorney general’s office suggests that she knew it was Nassar and also said she knew more about the nature of the allegations than she admitted at the time. The charges stem from that alleged lie. In January, the office started investigating the university’s handling of sexual assault reports against Nassar.

Michigan State said in a statement that it “was aware” of the charges brought against Simon and that she was taking a leave of absence from the university (she remained there as a professor) to focus on her “legal situation.”

Lee Silver, Simon's lawyer, told The Detroit News that the charges have "no merit whatsoever" and are "completely baseless."

One of Nassar's victims said on Twitter that Simon deserved to be charged.

Statement on Lou Anna K. Simon’s Arrest:

— Lindsey Lemke (@lindseylemke) November 20, 2018

Two other officials, William Strampel, former dean of osteopathic medicine and Nassar’s former boss, and Kathie Klages, former Michigan State gymnastics coach, have already been charged in connection with the case. Nassar has been jailed, serving 60 years for three federal child pornography convictions -- he has been sentenced to decades more on the sexual assault convictions in state courts.

Michigan State announced that it would settle with the Nassar’s victims from the university to the tune of $500 million, the largest payout in history related to a university and sexual abuse by an official. The institution was forced to sue 13 insurance companies to get help in covering the costs of the settlement. The remainder of the settlement will come from a combination of cost-cutting, bonding and reserve funds, interim president John Engler has said.

This is not the first time a former university president may be sent to jail after being accused of looking the other way in a sex-abuse scandal.

Graham Spanier, the former president of Pennsylvania State University, who left in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky case, was convicted in 2017 of child endangerment. It was revealed he decided in 2001 to handle internally a report of Sandusky showering with a young boy, rather than reporting it to police or other officials. Former assistant football coach Mike McQueary had told Spanier and other Penn State administrators of the incident, and prosecutors decided their inaction left other boys at risk of abuse by Sandusky for years until the scandal broke.

In June, Spanier lost his appeal to a Pennsylvania Superior Court panel. At the time, he had been free on bail while appealing and had not served his two months in jail, followed by two months of house arrest.

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DePauw faculty split on no-confidence vote in president

Wed, 2018-11-21 08:00

Faculty at Indiana’s DePauw University have sent a mixed message about their leader, with four in 10 indicating that they have no confidence in President Mark McCoy amid faculty downsizing and changes to health-care benefits, among other issues. But the remainder were nearly evenly split on whether they support McCoy or would rather take no position at all.

The results come as DePauw, like most small, private liberal arts institutions, struggles to maintain enrollment while controlling costs -- and weeks after DePauw began essentially guaranteeing that future alumni will find a job or graduate placement in their field of study.

In all, 40.3 percent of faculty who participated during a six-day vote that ended Monday voted no confidence in McCoy; another 28.6 percent expressed confidence in the leader. Slightly more -- 31.1 percent -- abstained from either a yes or no vote.

In a Nov. 14 letter, a group of 20 faculty members said they recognized that DePauw faces "serious financial challenges that require a viable long-term financial plan" and that under McCoy's leadership, the university "has seemingly moved from crisis-to-crisis," among other problems. But the group said they would abstain from the vote because it would delay the "far more urgent" work of collaborative planning and would weaken the university "at a time when it already is in a precarious state and at a time when it needs the full and immediate attention of the faculty, the staff, the administration, and the Board of Trustees."

In all, 206 faculty voted -- about 77 percent of the total faculty.

Earlier this month, faculty laid out the rationale for the vote, saying DePauw "has been in a sustained cycle of crises for the past several years, and under President McCoy’s leadership the crises have become more severe while promoting ‘solutions’ that grow his cabinet and expensive peripheral programs at cost to investment in the core functions of the liberal arts."

They said he had "responded ineffectively" to a series of hate crimes on campus and had dismissed his handpicked dean of the School of Music at a crucial admissions juncture, among other acts. (The university said the search for the School of Music dean was led by a committee of faculty and staff who presented the finalists to McCoy.)

Faculty also said his "divisive management style has brought morale among university employees to historic lows through actions that are ill-considered, done in haste, and poorly communicated."

His presidency, they said, "threatens the reputation of the university and severely compromises the institution’s viability."

After the results were finalized, faculty chair Howard Brooks, a physics and astronomy professor, said in a statement that all of the faculty members he has spoken with this fall “have consistently stated that they want to see DePauw as a better place. They disagree on the path forward.”

Brooks said he planned to work with top university officials “to create more direct pathways of communication between the faculty and their committees with the Board of Trustees.”

He said he’ll also ask the Board of Trustees’ executive committee to clarify a previously announced plan for a campus forum to discuss leadership issues. “I expect President McCoy to stay true to his words to ‘spare no effort in improving our relationship’ and that he will remain ‘committed to getting to a better place,’” Brooks wrote.

Among the biggest issues confronting faculty: tiny annual raises amounting to about 1 percent in recent years, as well as a demand that staff and faculty pick up a larger percentage of their health-care costs. The university is also trying to shrink faculty ranks by urging older instructors to retire.

“Clearly there’s going to be a downsizing of the faculty,” said Jeff McCall, a professor of communication in his 33rd year there.

But he said McCoy has pursued the downsizing in a measured, collegial manner. “I don’t get the sense that they are rampaging out there, targeting the faculty or trying to do it in an inhumane way.”

In a statement, Rebecca Schindler, a professor of classical studies, said the results were “a good outcome.”

“The number of 'yes' votes, as well as abstentions that were cast because of concerns with leadership, send a strong message to the Board of Trustees that the faculty would like to see changes,” she said.

“On the other hand, the majority of votes cast -- the abstentions plus ['no' votes] -- indicate that most voters think removing the president is not the way to affect [sic] that change. The underlying financial and campus climate issues will still be there. In the end, I think everyone who voted believes in DePauw and its academic program, and we all want to strengthen, not weaken, the institution, but we disagree on the best way to make that happen."

University spokesman Ken Owen said DePauw, like many universities, “is facing the challenges of an increasingly competitive marketplace. The Board of Trustees has called upon Dr. McCoy to make needed changes to stay ahead of what we see happening in higher education and to ensure our long-term success,” he said. “That includes investing more into the student experience, curtailing costs, and identifying innovative revenue opportunities. We realize such change is difficult and creates tension. Fortunately, DePauw has a strong endowment and is nearing completion of a record breaking campaign, so has a strong foundation for moving forward. The board supports the efforts the president has taken and will work with the faculty and all campus constituents in the days ahead.”

The 180-year-old Methodist institution in Greencastle, Ind., enrolls about 2,200 students.

An Oct. 10 letter from student groups to The DePauw, the university’s student newspaper, said instructors had told students that top administrators essentially invited faculty to quit, telling them, “We’ll help you find the door.”

The faculty’s working conditions “are our learning conditions,” students wrote. “As students, we were promised an excellent education at DePauw, but how is that possible when our faculty and staff are traumatized by administrative actions and discourse?”

The students noted a plan to save $700,000 by trimming faculty and staff health-care plans. The university recently told employees that working spouses who are eligible for health-care coverage at jobs elsewhere can’t remain enrolled in DePauw’s plan. Many of those spouses work for employers with health plans inferior to DePauw's, essentially meaning that many families could have a reduced quality of care and potentially pay more.

The students said the cut in benefits ignores what they consider wasteful growth in McCoy’s cabinet, a group that they said has doubled in recent decades. (The university said the group has actually grown smaller, from 14 members to 11, during McCoy's tenure.) In their letter, the students asked how many senior executives’ “bloated salaries” could cover the $700,000 health-care cut.

In a letter sent to faculty late Tuesday, the Board of Trustees called the vote "disheartening," but said it was "committed to continuing to listen to the DePauw community and specifically improving our dialogue with faculty."

The board said it takes seriously the responsibility to deliver a high-quality education "while making prudent, if at times difficult, financial decisions."

It added, "We are aware of the faculty’s frustration and appreciate their right to voice their concerns about the actions of the president, administration, and trustees. We believe, however, this vote of no confidence in Dr. McCoy is unwarranted. As a board, we commend Dr. McCoy and his administration for taking on the difficult work we have asked them to do. We remain confident in his ability to lead this institution toward a financially sustainable position within this challenging -- and dramatically changing -- higher education landscape. We believe he has the best long-term interests of DePauw at the core of his work, and the Board of Trustees remains in full support of him."

The board on Tuesday also announced plans for a campus forum “to continue the dialogue on creating a better DePauw.”

Unlike many small liberal arts colleges, DePauw enjoys a fairly healthy endowment, which last year grew nearly 9 percent, to $669 million, according to the NACUBO Commonfund Study of Endowments.

“We aren't struggling to stay afloat,” said English professor Greg Schwipps. “All of the faculty at DePauw still believe in the students we work with every day. I think we disagree about the vision our administration has charted for us, and that's what this vote represents.”

Schwipps said the vote opens an opportunity to work with the Board of Trustees, “and that's the work they've told us they are willing to do. Both faculty and Board of Trustees intend to start working together as soon as possible to create a better university, and I think in that way, the vote might lead to something better in the near future.”

Like several other institutions, DePauw recently offered a kind of job “guarantee,” last spring unveiling its so-called Gold Commitment, an agreement intended to communicate to prospective students (and their parents) that the university stands behind its ability to help students succeed in the work force.

It essentially promises that every graduate, beginning with the Class of 2022, will experience a "successful launch."

Specifically, any student who does not secure an "entry-level professional position" or acceptance to graduate school within six months of graduation will be offered either a full-time entry-level position through one of DePauw’s business partners or another semester of education tuition-free. As part of the plan, DePauw this fall began offering every student a "commitment adviser" who helps ensure that students graduate in four years, remain in good behavioral standing and participate in one of the university's co-curricular centers, among other responsibilities.

McCall said the vote underscored what is perhaps DePauw’s biggest challenge: “to try and find out what kind of institution we really want to be” -- a traditional liberal arts college or one that chases "trendy" majors to attract new students.

As DePauw competes for a shrinking pool of prospective students, he said, the university is “in a place where it has to make some very tough decisions financially.” He added, “I really think some of our issues are much broader than whether the president is performing effectively or not.”

Federal data show that DePauw last year admitted two-thirds of applicants.

Thinking about the split vote, McCall said he kept thinking about a colleague’s famous quip, often written on promising but incomplete student essays: “This is too good to not be better.” He added, “We’re too good as an institution to not be functioning better than we are right now.”

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Journal retracts 29 articles but offers few details on why

Wed, 2018-11-21 08:00

The journal IEEE Transactions on Electromagnetic Compatibility took the unusual step Tuesday of announcing that it was retracting 29 articles that had been published in the last two years. (The IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, but it is more commonly known by its acronym.)

The journal declined to identify the articles or to explain in any detail why they were being withdrawn. Plenty of journals retract articles after allegations of scientific misconduct are made, but the norm is to identify the articles.

The association's statement said that the retractions were made "because of violations of IEEE policy discovered in the peer review process of those articles." Further, the association said that "the IEEE Board of Directors has established a committee to examine all aspects of peer review practice across the organization and make recommendations for improvement. The findings of the committee will be published upon the conclusion of the committee’s review."

For now, the IEEE said that "three volunteer editors identified during the investigation as involved in the misconduct have been permanently excluded from IEEE membership. They have been prohibited from publishing with IEEE in the future and no longer hold any positions on an IEEE publication."

The IEEE received "an allegation" about the misconduct this year, and that sparked an investigation.

Inside Higher Ed asked IEEE a series of questions about which papers were retracted, which editors had been barred from working with the group, how they violated peer-review rules and whether the papers had flaws that had been identified or were being retracted solely because of problems with the peer-review process. IEEE declined to answer any of those questions.

Ivan Oransky, co-founder of the blog Retraction Watch and distinguished writer in residence at New York University's Arthur Carter Journalism Institute, said via email that the retraction announcement raised many questions. He also noted that IEEE journals have a reputation for large numbers of retractions.

As to this retraction notice, he said that "it's a bit odd for a publisher to announce a host of retractions but not say which papers they're retracting."

Oransky added, "We've been campaigning for clearer retraction notices since we launched Retraction Watch in 2010. Opaque notices don't help anyone."

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Unique nursing programs allow students to earn associate and bachelor's degrees simultaneously

Wed, 2018-11-21 08:00

Public-private partnerships between universities and community colleges are growing as national demand for nurses with bachelor's degrees is increasing. The institutions are attempting to stave off a projected shortfall of more than a million nurses in coming decades.

Mount Mary University in Wisconsin, a private institution, joined this trend last year when it teamed up with Milwaukee Area Technical College and Waukesha County Technical College, both public institutions, to offer a "1-2-1" nursing program that allows students to earn associate and bachelor's degrees in nursing simultaneously.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Stritch University, also located in Wisconsin, has been piloting a concurrent enrollment model that also allows nursing students to earn both degrees.

“We’re hearing from our community partners and our clinical affiliates in southeast Wisconsin that they need an increased number of bachelor-prepared nurses,” said Kara Groom, chief nurse administrator at Mount Mary. “We hope to expand our partnerships, but we began with those technical colleges close to us geographically.”

Most students who attend the Catholic women’s institution are from the metropolitan Milwaukee area. The university currently has 46 nursing students in the 1-2-1 program.

Students in a 1-2-1 program spend the first year taking required prerequisite courses at the university and the second and third years taking nursing courses at the community college and doing clinical work. Students are eligible to graduate with associate degrees at the end of the third year of study, at which time they can also take the licensure exam to become registered nurses. The fourth year of the program is offered completely online and earns students a bachelor’s degree.

“The last year is designed to meet the part-time student’s need,” Groom said, adding that offering the courses online allows students to begin working as nurses.

Cardinal Stritch administrators started its partnership with Gateway Technical College in 2016 after hearing from Milwaukee-area hospitals and health facilities about a need for nurses with bachelor's degrees.

“The program is very streamlined to ensure that these nursing students who are at a technical college can complete the B.S.N. very quickly,” said Kelly Dries, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Cardinal Stritch.

Students in the program take the heaviest course load in the first semester, Dries said, and like at Mount Mary, they complete the final year online.

Cardinal Stritch has enrolled seven students so far in the dual-enrollment program and recently established partnership agreements with the technical colleges in Milwaukee and Waukesha County. Dries said the university is planning to soon launch a marketing campaign to help increase the number of students participating.

Nursing programs and associations applaud these partnerships and say more of them may be needed across the country to help increase the number of people in the nursing field. The state’s Center for Nursing Research estimates that Wisconsin will be facing a shortage of 20,000 nurses by 2035. Nationwide, there are about three million nurses, but the American Nurses Association contends the country will need to produce more than one million new registered nurses by 2022 to meet health-care needs.

The National Academy of Medicine, formerly the Institute of Medicine, published a report in 2010 recommending the percentage of nurses in the field with a bachelor's degree increase from 49 percent to 80 percent by 2020.

In 2016, 54 percent of nurses held a bachelor's degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

That recommendation has led some health agency employers and hospitals to require nurses to either have a bachelor's degree or to earn one within a set period of time, as a condition of their employment.

Whether the associate or the bachelor’s degree should be the decisive credential for entry into the nursing profession has been the subject a long-running debate in the nursing industry. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing, which represents four-year and graduate nursing educators, views the bachelor’s degree as the minimal entry-level credential for the field.

“AACN is a strong proponent of academic progression in nursing with the goal of preparing registered nurses with a minimum of a baccalaureate degree in nursing,” Robert Rosseter, chief communications officer for AACN, said in an email. “We encourage universities to partner with community colleges and offer seamless educational pathways from an associate degree to the baccalaureate degree in nursing.”

Donna Meyer, the chief executive officer for the Organization for Associate Degree Nursing, said the organization has traditionally supported the two-year degree as an entry point into the nursing profession.

“OADN totally supports the innovative academic partnership models,” said Meyer, in an email. “OADN supports lifelong learning and academic progression and believes all pathways are important to meet the nursing workforce and ultimately health care needs of the country.”

Jenny Landen, dean of the School of Health, Math and Sciences at Santa Fe Community College, said the dual-degree partnerships aren't likely to end the debate but will certainly help increase the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees.

In the interim, more nursing school students are graduating with associate degrees than with bachelors, she said. In 2016, 81,633 nurses with associate degrees received their licenses, compared to 72,637 nurses with bachelor's degrees, according to OADN.

“We have a shortage of nurses, and we have a lot of industry partners,” she said. “In certain pockets of [New Mexico], they want registered nurses. They want them quickly, and they don’t see the value of spending more money and time to get that bachelor’s nurse.”

New Mexico adopted a statewide curriculum a few years ago that encourages community college and university partnerships based on the dual-enrollment model.

More nursing partnerships between two- and four-year institutions are also emerging in the public sector. Salt Lake Community College and the University of Utah are building a partnership, as is Sinclair Community College in Ohio and its neighbor, the University of Dayton.

Landen said these partnerships between community colleges and universities also lead to more nurses pursuing the graduate degrees needed to increase the number of nurse educators.

Although there currently aren't enough spots available at many university nursing programs to accommodate more students earning bachelor's degrees, the New Mexico model shows there are other paths available for community colleges to help fill that need, she said.

“When community colleges and universities partner, we can raise the number of available bachelor’s degrees … it’s a win-win,” Landen said.

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Colleges start new academic programs

Wed, 2018-11-21 08:00
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Title IX rules on cross-examination would make colleges act as courts, lawyers say

Tue, 2018-11-20 08:00

Last week Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released her proposed overhaul of federal standards for how colleges handle campus-based sexual misconduct. The rule includes a key demand from supporters of accused students, requiring that colleges allow those students to cross-examine, through an advocate, the person who accused them of misconduct in a live hearing.

DeVos said the regulations would ensure a more transparent, consistent and reliable process for campus hearings.

However, advocates for survivors of sexual assault said requiring cross-examination rights will discourage victims from coming forward to report misconduct to their colleges. And many lawyers who advise colleges on Title IX issues are warning that the proposal essentially would turn campus hearings into courtroom proceedings, pushing colleges into roles they are ill equipped to take on. And critics said the requirement raises questions about equity for student representation in court-like settings.

“The department has through regulation essentially set up a court system at colleges. And it's a court system that has almost all of the same features as the legal court system,” said Josh Richards, a lawyer who specializes in higher education. “It has mandatory right of representation by counsel. And it has what amounts to sort of a full discovery right, which exceeds the rights that many criminal defendants have.”

Richards and other lawyers said institutions with more resources are better equipped to comply with the new standards. But the rules won’t necessarily work for every institution, they said, especially smaller colleges. For example, an Ivy League institution could easily provide each student with a trained advocate for a hearing. But that may not be the case for smaller colleges or even public universities with relatively strapped budgets.

Naomi Shatz, a lawyer at Zalkind Duncan and Bernstein LLP, who has represented students on both sides of campus misconduct hearings, said the rule will require more time from complainants, accused students and witnesses, likely prolonging a process that already can take several months to complete under current standards. The hearing requirements also will raise questions about the kind of advocates each student has access to, she said.

“These cases are already on an incredibly unlevel playing field,” she said. “Are we going to start having ineffective-assistance-of-counsel issues after these cases?”

Title IX experts have long had concerns about unequal access to representation, even under previous federal standards. Those concerns likely only will be exacerbated by a rule that many experts say would press college administrators into the jobs of lawyers and judges.

“There’s this huge asymmetry between male responding parties who can afford lawyers and female reporting parties who can’t,” said Brett Sokolow, president of the Association of Title IX Administrators. “For a lot of those victims -- male, female or otherwise identified individuals -- who know they can’t afford good legal advice going in, if the other side has high-paid lawyers, I think it’s going to create a powerful incentive to not persist.”

Groups like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education have long argued that cross-examination is essential to fair hearings on campuses. FIRE has backed that part of the new rule as well as other changes, such as a presumption that an accused student is not responsible for misconduct.

“Having a live hearing ensures that all parties can see exactly the same evidence and testimony that the fact-finder is seeing, so that he or she can rebut that evidence and testimony as fully as he or she is able,” Susan Kruth, a senior program manager for legal and public advocacy at FIRE, said last week in a written statement.

Cross-examination is especially important in cases that hinge on witness testimony, Kruth wrote.

The provision also illustrates the Education Department's attempt to reflect recent rulings from a federal appeals court, which found that accused students have a right to question their accuser in a live hearing.

Advocates for survivors, however, said cross-examination can be used to weaponize the hearing process against survivors.

"Even when it is conducted through third parties, cross-examination can be used as a tool to harass Title IX complainants," said Alyssa Leader, an activist on Title IX issues. "Accused students can raise pointed questions designed to embarrass or traumatize the complaining party, such as questions about mental health, substance abuse or irrelevant details of the events alleged. The provision preventing questions about sexual history is insufficient to ensure that cross-examination is used for these purposes."

Sokolow predicted that the requirement for cross-examination in live hearings -- even with accommodations like questioning from a separate room -- would lead to a 50 percent drop in the reporting of misconduct.

He said the change proposed by the department is addressing a problem that never really existed. Under previous standards, accused students had opportunities to respond in writing to an investigative report and provide questions for the other student. The DeVos Title IX rule moves that process to a live hearing setting, which Sokolow said would be a "train wreck."

Colleges operating under previous federal standards have faced numerous legal challenges from accused students who were found responsible for misconduct. Sokolow said the proposed rule is likely to drive more litigation by survivors of sexual harassment and assault as well as students who don’t believe they were effectively advised during a hearing process.

After the new rule is published in the Federal Register, members of the public will have 60 days to make comments, including suggestions of potential changes, before the department issues final regulations.

The proposed rule, which has been in the works since DeVos last year rescinded Obama-era guidance on campus handling of sexual misconduct, was intended to create a more fair process and provide more clarity to colleges about their role. But Jeff Nolan, a lawyer who advises clients on higher education, said if the department is going to require cross-examination, it must include clarification on how live hearings are to be run, what kind of questioning is allowable and when colleges can tell attorneys they’ve gone too far.

“It looks like a free for all, potentially,” he said.

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Columbia says it's open to collective bargaining with its graduate student union -- with some caveats

Tue, 2018-11-20 08:00

Columbia University spent more than two years resisting a landmark 2016 decision from the National Labor Relations Board saying that its graduate research and teaching assistants are in fact employees entitled to collective bargaining. But on Monday, the university quietly announced that it had reached a tentative framework agreement for contract negotiations with the graduate student union and its postdoctoral fellows’ union, which are affiliated with the United Auto Workers.

Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia’s president, and John H. Coatsworth, provost, said in a joint statement that the framework is the “product of a dialogue between Columbia and UAW representatives that followed outreach by the university to the union.”

The agreement -- which still must be approved by union members -- includes “principles reflecting the respective interests of the parties,” Bollinger and Coatsworth said. For Columbia, most important is that any collectively bargained agreement “will not infringe upon the integrity of the university’s academic decision-making,” reads the statement, and that the university will retain the “exclusive right to manage the institution consistent with our educational and research mission.”

The framework includes a timeline for bargaining: it must begin no later than Feb. 26. The agreement also precludes any union strike or other kind of “disruption” to university operations through April 2020.

Bollinger and Coatsworth said the framework preserves their ability to honor a commitment they’ve cited repeatedly over the past two years: ensuring Columbia “remains a place where every student can achieve the highest levels of intellectual accomplishment and personal fulfillment.”

A Columbia spokesperson referred questions about the agreement back to the university’s statement. The union did not offer any immediate comment. Graduate students, who went on strike in the spring over the university’s refusal to negotiate a contract, were scheduled to strike again starting Dec. 4.

Generally, graduate student unions say that they are not trying to take over management or educational leadership of universities but are trying to win better wages, benefits and grievance rights for their members.

Columbia’s graduate students voted overwhelmingly to unionize in late 2016, several months after the NLRB decided in their favor in a widely watched case about whether graduate student assistants on private campuses had the right to unionize. Columbia's postdocs voted to unionized this year; theirs is the first such union on a private campus.

While some institutions have moved forward with contract negotiations with graduate assistants since 2016, others have continued to argue that students are students, not employees. Columbia was one of them, until this week, at least publicly. Its willingness to negotiate with the UAW is especially surprising, given that the Trump-appointed NLRB would likely be less hospitable to graduate student unions in future proceedings than the Obama-era board. For this reason, some unions have begun to seek agreements with their institutions outside NLRB channels.

The mutually agreed-on terms of negotiations, as reported by Columbia, include good faith, no-strike and exclusive representation clauses. As noted in the university’s statement, they also say that any contract "must not infringe upon the integrity of Columbia’s academic decision-making or Columbia’s exclusive right to manage the institution consistent with its educational and research mission." Relatedly, any grievance or arbitration processes must defer to Columbia’s right to control academic concerns and issues.

Reflecting protections against sexual harassment and assault that graduate students nationwide increasingly are seeking to build into union contracts, the terms say that unions “can play a constructive role in advocating for or representing survivors of sexual assault and harassment and other forms of discrimination, and may negotiate for additional procedures available to members of the bargaining units,” provided they don’t undermine existing university policies.

The framework is only valid through Nov. 28. If the union accepts it, Columbia must promptly withdraw its request for review in the postdoctoral case pending before the NLRB and recognize both units. Unlike Georgetown University, for example, which has entered in private negotiations with its American Federation of Teachers-affiliated union, Columbia’s negotiations would remain under the purview of the NLRB.

Union Vote at Brown

Late Monday, Brown University and the American Federation of Teachers announced that graduate employees there had voted to unionize with the AFT. The AFT announcement said that more than 60 percent of the graduate students had voted for the union. A statement from Kaitlyn Quaranta, a graduate student in French studies, said, "Hundreds of graduate workers stood up this week and sent a clear message that our labor for the university should not be taken for granted. Winning this election is about more than just improving working conditions for grads at Brown. In voting to unionize, we stood up for labor rights during an incredibly anti-labor administration."

Brown's statement pledged to cooperate in contract negotiations. Provost Richard M. Locke said, “The university’s commitment throughout this process has been to minimize polarization, maintain a cohesive community and ensure that eligible graduate assistants could decide for themselves whether or not to unionize. I’m pleased that we were able to provide a fair and orderly process, and I look forward to continuing to collaborate closely with graduate students to enhance graduate education at Brown.”

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Leaders of journalism schools have condemned Trump's attacks on the press

Tue, 2018-11-20 08:00

President Trump’s attacks on journalists and the media have become routine, and for the most part, journalism schools have stayed quiet.

The president is notorious for his “fake news” remarks during rallies and on Twitter. In October, he praised Greg Gianforte, U.S. representative from Montana, for body-slamming a reporter. Most recently, the White House engaged in a legal battle with CNN after the Trump administration revoked the press pass of Jim Acosta, one of the network’s senior White House correspondents, and accused him of “putting his hands” on a White House staffer during a contentious press conference. Acosta has denied the accusation and believes that his press credentials were revoked because he was asking the president tough questions.

Trump’s disparagement of the press has posed a difficult question for reporters and journalism schools: Should journalists, and the colleges that train them, publicly condemn the president’s attitudes toward media, or should they stay neutral in an effort to focus on reporting the news instead of becoming the news?

The Acosta incident seemed to be the tipping point for many. On Friday, deans from 10 prominent journalism schools signed a letter condemning the White House’s revocation of Acosta’s press pass and other “alarming attacks on the press.”

“Although gratuitous, harsh and insulting reprimands directed at reporters and news organizations that pose inconvenient questions are routine under this administration, the Acosta incident crosses an important line regarding First Amendment protections and press freedom,” the statement read. “Prohibiting White House access to punish a reporter for asking vexing questions of significant public concern resembles the act of an autocrat, not the chief of state of a constitutional republic. The president’s actions against Acosta seem clearly intended to warn other journalists: if you question governmental actions and sayings, the same might happen to you. Play it safe: sit down and be quiet.”

Deans from journalism schools at the University of California, Berkeley; City University of New York; Temple University; Syracuse University; Columbia University; the University of Maryland; Boston University; the University of Texas at Austin; the University of Southern California and Northwestern University signed the letter.

A week before the joint letter was sent, Charles Whitaker, interim dean of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern, sent an email to alumni in support of press freedom.

“It is often said that history will judge us not only for what we said and did in times of strife, but also for our silence. It is important, therefore, that those of us who purport to champion and teach the high ideals and responsibilities of journalism raise our voices when one of the most important obligations of our industry -- the duty to speak truth to power -- comes under attack,” Whitaker wrote.

Katherine Chaddock, a retired education professor at the University of South Carolina and an alumna of Medill, was “thrilled” that Whitaker made a statement.

“I sent them back an email right away that said, ‘Thank you, finally, I’ve been waiting for this. I’m so glad that somebody is speaking out,’” she said.

According to a university spokesperson, the email to alumni was the first time Whitaker had spoken publicly on the issue. Speaking out, Chaddock said, isn’t always easy.

“There is fear that ‘oh my gosh, maybe somebody above me or some powerful gift giver doesn’t like hearing this.’ I guess it is hard to speak out,” she said. “Either [press freedom] is a concern of the journalism school or it’s not, and you can’t always worry that there might be some people who feel like this is overstepping the bounds.”

Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia Journalism School, has made many public remarks since Trump was sworn into office, including a statement in April 2017 in which he addressed the threats to journalism from the current presidential administration.

“From day to day, we know that our mission is to get right back to doing our jobs, reporting hard and fairly on all of those who exercise power in our government and economy. Yet when President Donald Trump publicly referred to journalists as ‘enemies of the people’ and then repeatedly called them ‘dishonest’ or ‘dishonorable,’ he crossed into new territory for an American president, at least in the postwar period,” Coll said in his address. “With such language, the president is evidently seeking to delegitimize the place of an independent, professional press in our constitutional system, for the purpose of weakening it. We must all recognize and resist this attack.”

Michael Bugeja, a media ethics professor at Iowa State University's Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, has reflected on how the current media landscape affects his teaching. His students use a discussion app to have private conversations about the current state of journalism.

“We are operating in a very contentious and partisan climate on First Amendment issues, reporting issues, the fabrications that we have to explore and provide fact to rectify and refute. It’s a very difficult time because I believe social mores are starting to change, not only in journalism, but in the country as well, on how reporting is perceived," Bugeja added.

Despite increased hostility toward the press, Paul Glader, director of the journalism program at King’s College in New York, said he’s noticed his students' interest in the profession continuing to rise.

“We’re a fast-growing program,” he said. “There’s still a lot of young people who seem to be really excited about the profession.”

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Author discusses new book about research universities and why they matter

Tue, 2018-11-20 08:00

American research universities are the envy of those around the world. So why is the value of these institutions so frequently questioned by politicians, pundits and others? In Research Universities and the Public Good: Discovery for an Uncertain Future (Stanford University Press), Jason Owen-Smith offers a defense of these institutions, while acknowledging that they are not always well understood. Owen-Smith, a professor of sociology and executive director of the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science at the University of Michigan, answered questions via email about his new book.

Q: To many in academe, it would seem obvious that research universities promote the public good. Why did you think it necessary to make the case in this way?

A: We may think the idea is so obvious that we don’t bother to make the case as clearly and rigorously as we should. I wrote this book to show how research universities look to someone like me. Their value is obvious and it needs to be explained.

The last decade was not good for higher education. A recent Pew survey found that 58 percent of Republican-identified respondents believe colleges and universities have a negative effect on the direction of the country. States continued, and often accelerated, divestment from public universities. Increasing tuition and concerns about student debt raise questions about the sustainability of our enterprise. Under Secretary Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Department of Education is rolling back Obama-era protections for students. President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposed cuts to federal research funding that would have taken us back to pre-recession levels and imposed a dramatic cap on indirect cost recovery rates.

A new Congress may mean things are looking up, but I remain concerned. Partisan disagreement about the value of universities is dangerous in a polarized political climate. Our dominant language for talking about the value of universities and their work is ill suited to seeing and sustaining their most important purposes. Being sanguine about our contributions to the public good is a loser’s game, especially now.

Q: Much of the political support for university research tends to focus on science with short-term impact (applied research). Why are broad research universities, with programs in a range of disciplines, and support for basic research, important?

A: Consider Google, which I discuss early in the book. Their search technology, PageRank, was invented by Larry Page when he was a graduate student working on a grant the National Science Foundation made to Stanford in 1994. Stanford patented PageRank. Google was founded in 1999 and went public in 2004. Today it is worth more than $1 trillion. You could read Google as exhibit A for short-term, innovation-oriented investments in research. But to understand the challenge that poses, you need three more facts.

First, that 1994 grant was not the first NSF investment essential to PageRank. The earliest NSF grant that supported immediately relevant research funded a sociology project at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1974.

Second, the Stanford project didn’t target the World Wide Web. It wasn’t a thing yet. The first modern web browser, Mosaic, was created at the University of Illinois in 1993. At the end of 1994, the first commercial browser, Netscape, came from a company whose founder worked on Mosaic as an undergraduate.

Third, PageRank’s economic value was far from obvious. Stanford tried to license their patent to companies including Excite and Yahoo! for what now seem like paltry sums. Contemporary market leaders passed.

If we want to support research as a means to economic growth or other good outcomes, we must confront an uncomfortable idea. Right now we probably know just as much about which research will create opportunities in 20 years as sociologists evaluating grant proposals at NSF in 1974 knew about web search. This is why basic research funding across all fields is necessary. That work happens at a very small and unique set of organizations.

About 3 percent of U.S. higher education institutions conduct nearly 90 percent of federally funded basic research. They are a unique knowledge infrastructure that helps ensure we will be ready to address an uncertain future. If we want them to serve that purpose, we need to invest in and run them in ways that support that job. Emphasizing research with clear applications we can see today is important, but doing only that denigrates our universities’ abilities to respond to the problems and opportunities we don’t yet know we have.

Q: Many pundits champion the idea of "unbundling" the various parts of the research university. Why do you think this is a bad idea?

A: Unbundling means many things: separating the research and teaching missions, disentangling parts of degree programs by emphasizing skill-based certifications, or making parts of the institution more independent and subject to market discipline. All these ideas seek to increase the university’s productive efficiency. We should make certain that student and public investments in higher education are responsibly spent to support our missions. But seeking efficiency for its own sake makes those missions more difficult.

Instead we need a research and education system that can identify and address new challenges and possibilities. I develop three metaphors to explain how research universities do this. They are sources of new knowledge and skilled people, anchors for communities and industries, and hubs connecting far-flung parts of society. All these roles require stability, openness and a broad, diverse knowledge base. On-campus public goods like libraries and advanced IT make synergies across competing missions and activities possible. Unbundling activities to promote efficiency one thing at a time will make universities less fertile by limiting possibilities for collaboration on the common platform that campus public goods create. The result may be a more efficient education or a more focused applied research portfolio, but those aren’t the goals we should be striving for.

Q: How does teaching undergraduates fit into the public good of research universities?

A: Teaching undergraduates is a huge part of the public good mission of research universities. I downplay education to keep my argument tractable and because clear, sustained effort to address the research mission is needed. It has become normal to ask why faculty should be doing research at the expense of teaching. Instead, I ask why we should do extensive and diverse teaching at all levels in an institution that is also dedicated to research.

Even the easy answers to that question are challenging. Universities themselves are funding larger proportions of research. That money has to come from somewhere. On most campuses tuition and gifts are the only likely sources. The business model of the university depends on research and teaching together. This has become a shell game that puts too much of the cost of maintaining a legitimate social good on students and their families. A clear sense of what’s at stake for research in making changes to the organization and financing of teaching (and vice versa) is essential.

Students are often the means for new discoveries to leave the university and new problems to enter it. Graduate students directed a Stanford project toward web search. Netscape was founded by a student who helped produce Mosaic. Most research is also teaching. But we could do more to forge that connection.

Treating education as an irreducible component of a university’s mission helps the institutions do the work of ensuring our future. Students make the university more, better anchors and more central hubs. They help universities stand for something more than the simple technical requirements of teaching and discovery. They should be well served, but we should also recognize the role that education continues to play in the academic research enterprise.

Q: What should leaders of research universities be doing to shore up public and political support?

A: Stop ceding ground. We need to articulate a clear message about the long- and short-term public value of research universities that recognizes and defends the features of academe that serve the former even if they come at the expense of the latter. We need to invest in data and infrastructure that allow universities to turn their best science on themselves. Doing so will help us understand, explain and improve the public value of our work, but it will also help our credibility. I think that most people have little sense of what research actually is or how it works. We need to offer better explanations. This book, and the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science, which I co-founded, are efforts to do both those things. We should also focus intensely on teaching students about research. If our graduates don’t understand or see the value in what we do, our hopes for convincing others seem limited.

Talk is necessary, but it is not enough. Campus leaders should commit to data sharing and analysis of the workings of their research and education enterprises that can allow us to identify places for improvement and improve them. We must undertake disciplined experiments with new means to organize and integrate research and teaching. Campus policies and practices should emphasize openness to the greatest extent possible, whether that be in handling of intellectual property licensing, sharing information about the university and its work, or accessing the results of research. We should identify and attend to what makes universities unique and valuable, even, perhaps especially, when those sources of value are hard to explain in terms of short-term, easy-to-measure returns.

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New presidents or provosts: Baltimore City Belhaven Cabrini FAMU Forsyth Tech Methodist Naval New River Texarkana

Tue, 2018-11-20 08:00
  • Bonny Copenhaver, vice president of academic affairs at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, has been appointed president of New River Community and Technical College, in West Virginia.
  • Maurice Edington, vice president of strategic planning, analysis and institutional effectiveness at Florida A&M University, has been promoted to provost and vice president for academic affairs there.
  • Debra L. McCurdy, president of Rhodes State College, in Ohio, has been named president of Baltimore City Community College, in Maryland.
  • Ann Elisabeth Rondeau, president of the College of DuPage, in Illinois, has been chosen as the next president of the Naval Postgraduate School, in California.
  • Bradford Smith, dean of arts and sciences and the School of Fine Arts at Belhaven University, in Mississippi, has been promoted to provost and vice president of academic affairs there.
  • Jason Smith, superintendent of Pleasant Grove Independent School District, in Texas, has been named president of Texarkana College, also in Texas.
  • Janet N. Spriggs, chief operating officer at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, in North Carolina, has been appointed president of Forsyth Technical Community College, also in North Carolina.
  • Chioma Ugochukwu, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty at Cottey College, in Missouri, has been chosen as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Cabrini University, in Pennsylvania.
  • Stanley T. Wearden, senior vice president and provost of Columbia College Chicago, in Illinois, has been selected as president of Methodist University, in North Carolina.
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Anonymous pamphlets channel complaints at LIU

Mon, 2018-11-19 08:00

Long Island University has made deep cuts in recent years, reorganizing departments while pouring more resources into new disciplines that officials hope will bring in new students and revenue.

The result is a kind of turmoil that has engendered an unusual, low-tech protest: an anonymous pamphleteer this fall is papering LIU’s Post campus in Brookville, N.Y., with homemade, hand-lettered screeds that skewer LIU’s administration. The broadsides borrow the title of revolutionary-era author Thomas Paine’s 1776 treatise: “Common Sense.”

Paine argued -- anonymously at first -- that the colonies should fight for independence from King George III. In this version, the anonymous pamphleteer portrays LIU president Kimberly Cline (at left) as “Queen Kimmy,” an out-of-touch royal who draws a “fat” $800,000 salary even as enrollment falters. (For the record, LIU’s latest IRS filings show Cline’s base salary at $761,066, with another $24,578 in “other reportable compensation.”)

In one illustration, Cline is represented as a playing card Queen of Hearts, surrounded by the question "Truth & Ethics, Accountability & Morals -- Where have they gone?" In another, her face and those of other LIU officials are superimposed onto British soldiers in a rendering of the 1770 Boston Massacre.

The so-called Friday Night Massacre calls out Cline’s Oct. 12 decision to enact what the pamphleteer calls “massive cuts” to spring 2019 classes. The pamphlets also note the distribution of 30 “death letters” to faculty, informing them that they’ll be out of a job after the spring semester. (A faculty representative told Inside Higher Ed that the total number of instructors subject to impending layoffs or tenure denials is about 16 to 18.)

Found on tables, chairs and benches across campus, the pamphlets have also found their way under the office door of LIU Post’s student newspaper, a top editor said.

The university is not amused.

LIU spokesman Gordon Tepper told Inside Higher Ed that the author or authors of the “anonymous, factually incorrect, disrespectful, and sexist trash should be ashamed of themselves. The fact that the author refers to a distinguished university president as 'Queen' or 'Royal Majesty' on no fewer than 20 occasions in this unsourced rant speaks to a disturbed individual who clearly has issues with women in authority.”

Tepper said LIU “continues to make great strides as a national teaching and research institution, and while there is certainly opportunity to present alternative views in a collegial shared governance environment, there is no place for this kind of trash.”

LIU did not make Cline available for comment, but instead offered an interview with chief financial officer Christopher Fevola, who spoke at length about the university’s plans, calling Cline “a president that has completely transformed the institution” and has worked collaboratively with faculty.

In interviews, Cline has said Post has had “surpluses every year I’ve been here.” She has also said the university’s endowment has grown 267 percent, from $86 million to about $230 million.

Fevola last week said LIU’s finances are strong. “We are more financially secure than we’ve been in our recorded history,” he said. Any assertion that LIU is financially unstable is pure speculation, he said, “creating a narrative that frankly speaks to change and the reaction to change.”

Jada Butler, co-editor-in-chief of The Pioneer, LIU Post’s student newspaper, said she had fact-checked one of the recent pamphlets, noting that its assertions are “a little bit exaggerated” in places. But she said the treatises accurately reflect the sentiment of many students and faculty on the Post campus. “I think they’re a little tired and exhausted of all of the things that are going on,” she said.

Butler noted that the latest “Common Sense” pamphlet made the cover of the newspaper’s Nov. 14 issue.

“The issues on campus, whether the administration intended to or not, have been timed poorly and piled up one after the other,” Butler said. “It’s just been an overwhelming amount of change going on at the school and students are deciding to speak up about it.”

She noted that other forms of anonymous protest have taken hold on campus as well, including an Instagram account titled “Everything Broken at Post,” which collects students’ mobile phone images of broken bike-share bicycles, dorms in disrepair and the like.

Among other recent changes, Cline ruffled feathers on campus last month when she laid off the director of a popular adult education program -- much to the chagrin of many Long Island retirees, who wrote to the university to demand her reinstatement.

Cline also announced that she would consolidate varsity sports teams on LIU’s two campuses, creating one united roster of teams. Athletes learned about the move after being called out of class to watch her Oct. 3 news conference, broadcast from Manhattan.

Butler said the news has thrown into turmoil the educational plans of hundreds of students. The planned merger would force athletes -- many of whom attend on scholarship -- to compete for a shrinking number of starting positions. Consolidating LIU Post and LIU Brooklyn’s athletics departments also puts many students’ futures in limbo, since Post sports compete in Division II athletics, while Brooklyn is a Division I institution.

“They dropped a bomb on us,” freshman basketball player Liam Kunkel told the Long Island newspaper Newsday. “Nobody saw this coming.”

Lauren Kloos, a sophomore volleyball player, told Newsday that she and her teammates protested during their first home game two days later by covering the “LIU” on their jerseys with white tape. Referees allowed players to warm up under protest, but asked them to remove the tape during the game.

LIU said it will honor all of its current athletic scholarships, even if students don’t play or make their teams’ rosters next fall. Tepper said via email that LIU “is committed to all of its student-athletes graduating on time, with a LIU diploma that will serve for years to come. The university will honor athletic aid awards for all student-athletes who remain at LIU even if they choose not to participate with an athletic team throughout the span of their athletic eligibility.”

Though Cline has said the change had been in the works for at least a decade, the announcement was a shock to most students, especially for athletes who were already in the middle of their seasons, said Butler, the newspaper co-editor. “A lot of students needed to be consoled afterwards.”

Michael Soupios, an LIU political science professor, said many students felt “betrayed” by the move. “The kids are very angry about that -- and their parents are angry.”

Soupios, who also leads the faculty union at Post, said he gives Cline credit for pushing to turn the university’s finances around. “In fairness to her, she did inherit a situation where there was a large deficit,” he said. Soupios also said Cline has made smart hiring moves and has focused more aggressively on securing research funding.

But he said “hundreds and hundreds” of staff have been dismissed over the past several years, affecting student services, among other issues, and contributing to dysfunction on campus. “This is why the students are up in arms” and upset with Cline’s administration, he said.

And Cline’s admissions operation “has failed since the day they got here,” he said, with declining numbers of incoming students most years. Post's first-year enrollment, which reached nearly 900 a decade ago, now sits at under 600.

“You can’t play games in that operation,” he said.

Fevola, LIU’s CFO, said the university’s plan is to focus on admitting higher-quality students -- he noted that the average SAT score of admitted students has risen, as have graduation rates. “The number of students or the number of faculty you have is not determinative of the quality, health or level of service of an institution,” he said. Federal data put Post's six-year graduation rate at 47 percent (lower than the national six-year average of 59 percent for students at public institutions and 66 percent at private nonprofit institutions).

Soupios, who is in his 41st year teaching at LIU, called that line of reasoning “a cop-out.”

“I see no signs in the classroom that we have a higher quality of students,” he said. “This has nothing to do with selectivity. This has to do with incompetence in the admissions office.”

Post’s admissions office garnered unwanted attention last August, when Vice President of Academic Affairs Ed Weis became the target of a lawsuit filed by nearby Mercy College, which said he had poached promising first-year students, among others, upon leaving his job at Mercy last May. Cline led Mercy for six years before moving to LIU in 2013. Mercy is seeking at least $700,000 in the lawsuit. It had no comment on the litigation last week.

The university has clashed with faculty as well. In 2016, LIU locked out faculty from its Brooklyn campus over contract disputes. A year later, in 2017, Fevola said the university hadn’t laid off “a single faculty member,” adding, “we’re promoting people and granting tenure.”

Fevola reiterated that no faculty have been laid off -- actually, he said, hiring is up. “The pace at which we’re hiring faculty is outpacing the rate at which faculty are retiring or leaving the institution to pursue other interests,” he said.

Soupios, the political science professor, said those assertions “are infected with half-truths -- were people denied for tenure? Yes, people were denied. They’re on terminal letters. They haven’t been fired -- yet.”

He said seven or eight faculty members who were up for tenure last spring were denied. Another nine or 10 probationary faculty received termination letters last spring. These instructors’ last employment date: Aug. 31, 2019. So faculty members will likely lose their jobs through contracts that aren't being renewed.

“Essentially, tenure as a principle at LIU is dead,” Soupios said. “You’ve got a whole lot of people on the steps up to the guillotine.”

LIU last September surprised observers when it announced plans to build a new college of veterinary medicine -- it expects to open a new, 47,000-square-foot, $40 million facility in 2020.

Soupios said the vet school is, indeed, hiring faculty. “Everybody else is being contracted.”

Fevola said LIU has “sunsetted” 60 programs that had total enrollments of just a few dozen students. The discontinued programs were “no longer serving the needs of our students and our faculty,” he said. In their place, the university is in the process of creating “high-demand, signature, competitive programs,” often in technical fields. “We’re investing in areas of growth, as any responsible institution would,” he said.

Soupios said he understands that changing priorities in higher ed are “the reality of the marketplace. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean that you should come up with every opportunity to obliterate the arts and sciences, which are the backbone of every university.”

If an institution wants to continue using the word “university,” he said, it must keep its commitment to the humanities. “Otherwise just pick up your toolbox and be an auto mechanic at Apex Technical.”

Over all, he said, Cline’s moves have generated “a tremendous amount of ill will and lack of trust in the eyes of virtually every constituent” on campus. Faculty members, he joked, are “always grousing and complaining about administrations.” But he said he’d “never seen it quite like this -- this is, as they say, sui generis, in a category quite by itself.”

Butler, the newspaper co-editor, a journalism major who is scheduled to graduate in 2020, said she had been trying unsuccessfully to score an interview with Cline. After the first anonymous "Common Sense" pamphlet appeared, Cline agreed to meet with her.

She theorized that the pamphlets have had the intended effect, pushing Cline and others to engage more openly with the campus. “They’re probably trying to get back ahold of the narrative,” she said. Butler said LIU’s dean of students has announced a series of listening sessions over the next few weeks as well.

Tepper, the LIU spokesman, said the listening sessions have no connection to the pamphlets.

So far, administrators have held two town hall meetings, with another scheduled for Nov. 29. “In the beginning it was all crazy, but now it seems like they’re making an effort to fix it,” Butler said.

When the newspaper editor finally sat down with Cline for the interview, the president asked what she could do to help put students at ease. “I told her, ‘Seeing more of you, seeing more of the administration reach out and talk to students about how to fix this. You can’t just ignore a fire burning right in front of you,’” Butler said. “They’re probably trying to calm it down.”

Editorial Tags: AdmissionsPresidentsStudent journalismStudent lifeImage Caption: LIU Post's student newspaper, 'The Pioneer'Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

New paper explores what faculty candidates include in their diversity, equity and inclusion statements

Mon, 2018-11-19 08:00

There’s a lot of chatter about faculty diversity statements, good and bad. But there’s little talk about what’s actually in them. Do they all read the same? Do they provide a clear record of faculty applicants’ past efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in their teaching, research and service? Or do they focus -- less helpfully, in critics' eyes -- on faculty applicants’ beliefs about diversity? A new working paper from researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor's National Center for Institutional Diversity attempts to inject some substance into the conversation.

“From the thousands of applications my team and I have read” for this paper and other work, said co-author Tabbye Chavous, center director and professor of education and psychology, “applicants were not just submitting statements of political beliefs or ideologies.” While statements vary in detail and depth, she continued, “applicants were writing about their experiences, accomplishments and goals as they relate to the faculty role, suggesting the benefit of telling applicants what we're looking for -- rather than them trying to figure it out and then feeling pressured to fit themselves into what they think we’re asking for."

Chavous’s paper, recently presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, is an analysis of faculty equity, diversity and inclusion statements required of applicants to a postdoctoral fellow-to-faculty program across dozens of disciplines at Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts. Some institutions now require these statements across departments, but the requirement varies by program at Michigan.

The sample size for this particular paper is small: 54. But the researchers sought to create a helpful typology that would shed light on what contributions to diversity candidates were actually highlighting in their statements. Ultimately, they found seven recurring elements: "values and understanding" of diversity, equity and inclusion, along with teaching, research and scholarship, engagement and service, mentorship, skill building and personal growth, and personal background experiences.

The authors also considered qualitative features of these statement: depth of discussion and engagement, and the sphere of influence or impact of the actions described.

Again, the authors didn’t test a theory about diversity statements, they wanted to develop one -- hence the typology. Regarding values and understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion, applicants often included statements of support for advancing these values, or described their understanding of structural issues that impact them on campus and off. Valuing diversity and clearly understanding it weren’t always linked in these statements, the authors note. But they often were.

Regarding teaching, applicants often talked about advancing diversity, equity and inclusion through course curricula, such as accommodations for students within syllabi or course readings from underrepresented scholars. Statements also included discussions of pedagogical practice (discussing diversity with students or making space for all students to participate, for example), or the promotion of inclusive classroom climates.

Source: National Center for Institutional Diversity

Teaching and the classroom space were mentioned 80 times across 39 statements analyzed in one phase of the work, with pedagogy being discussed most often. Many applicants referenced the growing body of literature on fostering equity and inclusion.

Scholars referenced their research and scholarship 70 times over the 39 statements, but their foci varied. And sometimes those who did research on underserved groups or inequality didn’t recognize that work as related to diversity, equity and inclusion, Chavous said. That underscores the authors’ assertion that diversity, equity and inclusion work happens all the time -- often by underrepresented scholars -- but that academics aren’t used to talking about it: it’s what the literature calls “invisible labor.”

Chavous said that the postdoc-to-faculty program in question sought to conceptualize the work of diversity, equity and inclusion as “involving skills and competencies that enhance the capacity of institutions to provide … environments that are intellectually rich and inclusive.” And that is a “needed departure” from views of diversity work as “service add-ons,” or as political to ideological, “toward a conceptualization of diversity as interconnected with excellence.”

Diversity statements also included efforts at public scholarship, promoting diversity work in nonacademic channels. Applicants also mentioned efforts to promote diverse research teams.

Service contributions included efforts to develop institutional policies or practices. This most often manifested as participation and involvement in organizations, programs, projects or professional organizations.

References to applicants’ engagement and service were identified 80 times across the sample, with most describing engagement in organizations or programs, as opposed to explicit policies.

Mentorship, which has remained underrecognized across academe, included the mentoring of individual students from underrepresented populations and serving as a mentor within a mentoring or pipeline program. Skill building and personal growth was the least common type of contribution. But applications did mention attempts to increasing their diversity-related competencies, both through formal and informal processes.

Personal background experiences centered on personally held identities, backgrounds and experiences of applicants and how they shaped their perspectives, behaviors or actions. Chavous said she doesn’t necessarily recommend that her own mentees disclose their underrepresented identities in their application portfolios, and that it’s a personal choice. But applicants in the sample disclosed a range of identities, or multiple identities, from ethnicity to gender to socioeconomic status to nationality.

Here are some examples included in the study:

When applicants mentioned frequency of engagement, they were typically “one-time” or “sustained” experiences. When articulating the different ways that they fomented change, applicants often did so through passive proposals, concrete proposals or adopted actions. And when describing the role that they played in these events, the applicants tended to describe themselves as what the study calls “active participants” or “leaders.” Interactions were either one on one, affecting policy, or with an audience.

Over all, Chavous said that scholars across disciplines “were able to describe many ways that their work in scholarship, teaching and mentoring, and service and engagement represented their demonstrated commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Their statements also reflected “many different ways of defining and thinking about diversity,” Chavous said. In other words, there was “no one type of diversity statement or single way of engaging diversity seriously and effectively.” That’s important to note “in the context of criticisms that institutions asking for diversity statements are looking for particular profiles, ideologies or expressions of values.”

Indeed, some critics continue to question whether these diversity statements threaten academic freedom, or push one’s research and teaching in a certain direction for fear of not otherwise being hired. Chavous said she and her team have just begun looking into how these statements are actually being used in hiring decisions (that was not part of the recent paper). But, in the interim, she described asking faculty candidates to submit statements about how equity, diversity and inclusion factor into their teaching, research and service as exercising truth in advertising. It doesn’t quite make sense to affirm diversity as underpinning the institutional mission, while not giving candidates the opportunity to talk about and be credited for their efforts, she said. To that end, diversity statement guidelines for these candidates should be as transparent and direct as possible.

“Too often in higher education and other organizations, diversity is understood as only a proxy, or code, for race or demographic identity, and it is often not tied to equity and inclusion,” Chavous said. “For the faculty program from which we drew our data, applicants were provided explicit guidance about the goal of the diversity statements -- that the university was looking for indicators of demonstrated commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion and valued the different ways this might be demonstrated,” such as scholarship, teaching, mentoring, service and engagement.

“We have more work to do in this area,” Chavous added. “But I’m pushing back on the idea, ‘We shouldn’t be asking about this, because it’s ideological and we should be looking at objective information.’ But there is so much research indicating that how we assess faculty work in general relies on a series of assumptions of objectivity -- from reputations about networks and who trains scholars and what journals they publish in. These things are all based on consensus.”

DiversityEditorial Tags: FacultyDiversityHiringPostdocsImage Source: Getty ImagesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: University of Michigan-Ann Arbor


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