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Comprehensive Demographic Profile of American College Presidents Shows Slow Progress in Diversifying Leadership Ranks, Concerns About Funding

American Council on Education - 5 hours 47 min ago
The American College President Study 2017 is the eighth edition of the leading and most comprehensive study of presidents from all types of higher education institutions, public and private, two- and four-year.

Judy Genshaft to Receive Donna Shavlik Award at ACE2017

American Council on Education - 5 hours 47 min ago
ACE has announced that Judy Genshaft, president of the University of South Florida System, will receive the 2017 Donna Shavlik Award. The award will be presented at ACE2017, ACE’s 99th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

AFS launches program for Greek students

The PIE News - 7 hours 26 min ago

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation has awarded a $525,000 grant to AFS Intercultural Programs to launch a Global Citizen Scholarship Program for high school students from Greece to participate in an exchange program abroad.

The scholarship program will provide 50+ Greek youths with year-long, semester-long, and trimester-long scholarships.

“Early international exchange experiences often have profound effects on participants”

Global not-for-profit network AFS has nearly 1,000 Greek alumni but has not been active in Greece since 1992.

Support from SNF will also allow AFS to set up a permanent, fully self-sustaining AFS organisation and volunteer structure in Greece that will expand intercultural learning opportunities for schools, students, and families in Greece.

The new scholarship program will help Greek students develop the global competence needed to collaborate and communicate across cultures and create personal ties between people in other countries and Greece, both widening the perspective of Greek youth and enabling citizens around the world to get to know Greek culture in a positive and personal way.

AFS will conduct a competitive selection process that focuses on diversity, academic merit, and attributes that best position participants for a successful program abroad.

AFS will also identify host families and host schools in the destination countries, and provide a guided intercultural education curriculum.

President and CEO of AFS Daniel Obst said that in order to be successful in their professional and personal lives, students must learn how to actively engage with people from different cultures and be comfortable with perspectives and ideas that are not familiar to them.

“The Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s generous grant demonstrates the Foundation’s commitment to create and foster transformational and long-lasting impact on Greek youth and society,” he added.

SNF program and communications officer Taylor Glazebrook added that education is not only about what goes on in the classroom, but also about the personal growth that occurs when young people encounter unfamiliar people and experiences.

“Early international exchange experiences often have profound effects on participants that prove transformative throughout their lives. SNF is proud to support AFS in making this possible for Greek students who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity.”

The online application portal will be available in late 2019 and the first cohort of scholars selected in early 2020.

The post AFS launches program for Greek students appeared first on The PIE News.

With faculty anger surrounding several presidential searches, some point to search firms as the cause

Inside Higher Ed - 8 hours 17 min ago

In recent years one of the greatest points of contention between faculty members and their institutions’ governing boards has been over the board’s arguably most important function: the search for and the selection of a president to lead the institution.

Throughout higher education, campus stakeholders are increasingly disapproving of and speaking publicly about searches conducted by their institution. One of the more frequent complaints is the growing tendency of governing boards to conduct a “secret search.” In these cases, those involved in the process keep the names of any potential candidates under wraps until an appointee is announced, or in other, similar cases, boards announce a sole finalist who will meet with campus leaders and get to know the institution before being officially appointed.

However, as these instances and the faculty outrage that often comes with them become more frequent, some more recent searches where multiple candidates have been announced before the board votes have not been without significant controversy.

Judith Wilde, chief operating officer and professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, has conducted research on executive searches at universities. She points to the increasing inclination of governing boards to hire an executive search firm as the cause for the uptick in secret searches. Research conducted by Wilde found that in 51 percent of the instances studied, confidentiality was the search firm's policy.

“We think these have appeared within the last 10 years, and most especially in the past five years. Much of the cause is the search firms themselves,” Wilde said. “They tell universities that the only way to get ‘the best’ president is to have a confidential or secret search. Along with this, those who serve on boards have little experience in conducting searches. So, having a search firm step in to tell them exactly how this should be done, and that they'll lead the efforts, is very appealing.”

Oftentimes, representatives of executive search firms argue that the only way to recruit talented candidates for the presidency is by holding a secret search, due to the fact that many candidates wouldn’t allow themselves to face public scrutiny before a selection. Wilde said there has been no research supporting that claim.

“The secret search is a recent phenomenon, really seen only in the past five to 10 years -- at most -- so we weren't looking for them,” Wilde said. “I will say that what little we've seen, we see no reason to believe that this leads to better presidents. Think of this -- until just recently, all presidential searches were open. To state that secret searches yield better presidents is to imply that all previous presidents were not good. That just doesn't make sense.”

Jan Greenwood is a veteran search consultant and partner and president of Greenwood/Asher & Associates Inc. She said the practice of keeping private the names of finalists in presidential searches began in the early '90s, when a president of a research university lost his job after he advised his alma mater about an open presidency.

"He was fired for looking at the other position, which technically he wasn't pursuing," Greenwood said. "He was doing his alma mater a favor."

Other similar outings and firings have occurred, she said, including to provosts and deans. In addition to making job candidates nervous, she said publicizing the names of finalists can jeopardize gifts to colleges, as donors have pulled back on a pledge when they hear the president is looking for another job. Likewise, if a public university president is up for another job, it can be harder for the institution to secure state funding.

"That hurts the university. And presidents don't want to hurt the university," said Greenwood.

Campuses Left With Questions

Frank LoMonte, the director of the University of Florida’s Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, said that in many cases where states have legal requirements to reveal finalists before selecting a president, the selection of a sole finalist meets the letter of the law but not the spirit.

“Unfortunately it seems that the prevailing structure these days is that the law specifies up to three or up to four finalists,” LoMonte said. “The growing practice has been to default to one finalist. Even though you would certainly read the intent of legislation like that to suggest that the public should see multiple finalists, that's not the way trustees and search firms are applying it. They’re gaming those laws to achieve the maximum secrecy.”

In Colorado, conservative former congressman Mark Kennedy was chosen as the sole finalist in the state system’s presidential search. Kennedy’s voting record on issues such as gay marriage became a contentious issue with many students and faculty, who called upon the Board of Regents to consider another candidate. The regents ended up selecting Kennedy, who had formerly served as president at the University of North Dakota, despite the outrage.

LoMonte said instances like this in which boards leave only one option often make stakeholders feel as though they were left out of the process, and they can sow distrust.

“If the community believes that your presidency was foisted on them by a bunch of remote business executives and headhunters, they are going to start off with skepticism and distrust,” LoMonte said. “Surely it’s better to find out early that the person you’ve identified was a mismatch with the campus culture.”

Other searches have ended with secrecy recently -- at Georgia Tech, the former president of George Mason University was announced as the sole finalist. At the University of Texas El Paso, the sole finalist to replace the esteemed president drew sharp criticisms from stakeholders.

Michael Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, said secrecy often benefits the potential candidates for the search and the search firm but is not beneficial to the institution itself.

“A process like this is very often going to be toxic for campus morale,” Poliakoff said. “It can also be rather toxic for board morale. Boards are too often distancing themselves from the engagement and the accountability for the choice. I think the utilization of search firms -- practices that come out of the corporate world -- has influenced the way boards think. They have tended to defer to the professionals rather than being integrally involved in every step of the search process. I think there has been a cultural shift that is not serving higher education well.”

Greenwood, however, said search firms themselves benefit from a search being open. A known candidate is vetted in a more public manner, by the news media and people on campus. And that scrutiny can help protect a search firm by preventing a bad hire or from not getting necessary background information on a job candidate to the hiring committee.

Open Search, Same Outrage

So far in 2019, there have been some high-profile examples of searches in which multiple finalists were revealed to the public that have ended in similarly divisive situations.

Most notably at the University of South Carolina, a candidate was chosen out of a group of four despite the fact there was highly public condemnation of the candidate from the students and the faculty. However, LoMonte said that the protests and outrage are exactly what an open search gives community members an opportunity to do.

“I mean, that’s democracy -- that’s exactly what democracy is supposed to look like,” LoMonte said. “You pick somebody unacceptable and the community loudly tells you to go pick somebody else. That’s exactly how the process ought to be working.”

However, South Carolina statistics professor Bethany Bell -- a critic of the South Carolina search process -- said even their open search left much to be desired. Each candidate was on campus for only one day, and the times of the Q&A sessions with candidates were announced very late and during a time frame when many students would be preparing for finals.

“Yes, there was an open forum for each candidate,” Bell said. “But was it as open as it could have been? Absolutely not.”

Bell also said it was rumored there was an unnamed female semifinalist for the position who had said she would withdraw if her name was made public. The final four candidates were all male.

Another open search, at Miami Dade College, led to faculty feeling like they had the rug pulled out from under them, as the college’s Board of Trustees opted to open a new search after already publicly announcing four candidates.

Wilde pointed to both the searches at Colorado and at South Carolina as examples of why it’s vital that faculty feel bought in to the process -- or else the process can quickly unravel.

“Probably the most important is lack of trust/support on the part of faculty, staff, students and the larger community,” Wilde said. “[Secret] searches also go against the most basic tenet of the university: shared governance.”

-- Paul Fain contributed to this article.

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Kansas professor indicted for allegedly failing to disclose appointment at Chinese university

Inside Higher Ed - 8 hours 17 min ago

A professor at the University of Kansas was indicted Wednesday on federal fraud charges for allegedly failing to disclose a full-time employment contract he held with a Chinese university while conducting research at Kansas funded by federal research contracts.

Feng (Franklin) Tao, a chemist and associate professor at Kansas's Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, is charged with one count of wire fraud and three counts of program fraud. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000 on the wire fraud count, and up to 10 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000 on each of the counts of program fraud.

The indictment against Tao comes amid increasing concerns among federal research agencies and national security officials about alleged efforts by China to steal the fruits of U.S. taxpayer-funded scientific research. Federal scientific agencies have also raised concerns about undisclosed conflicts of commitment in which researchers hold a position with an overseas institution while they are receiving federal grants.

“Tao is alleged to have defrauded the U.S. government by unlawfully receiving federal grant money at the same time that he was employed and paid by a Chinese research university -- a fact that he hid from his university and federal agencies,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in a news release announcing the charges. “Any potential conflicts of commitment by a researcher must be disclosed as required by law and university policies.”

The indictment alleges that Tao failed to disclose that he signed a five-year contract in 2018 with China's Fuzhou University to be a Changjiang Scholar Distinguished Professor, a position that the contract describes as full-time. The Changjiang Scholar program is sponsored by the Chinese government to attract and recruit scientific talent.

The indictment alleges that Tao, who studies a surface chemical analysis technique known as ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, failed to disclose the Changjiang contract to Kansas and that he falsely certified to the university that he did not have any conflicts of interest.

"By not disclosing his position at Fuzhou, and certifying an absence of conflict, Tao was able to continue his employment with KU. His employment with KU allowed Tao to have continued access to U.S. government grant or contract funds, which included funds not only for research but also for Tao's salary," the indictment states.

Tao's research at KU was funded through two Department of Energy contracts and four National Science Foundation contracts. Tao is accused of fraudulently receiving more than $37,000 in salary paid for by DOE and NSF.

Court papers did not list a lawyer for Tao, and his published KU office number was not working Thursday. Messages sent Thursday to his KU email account, a LinkedIn account in his name and a phone number located via a public records search were not returned.

The University's Response

Douglas A. Girod, the university's chancellor, said in a statement about the fraud charges that Kansas "learned of this potential criminal activity this spring" and reported it to authorities. Tao has been placed on paid administrative leave.

In his statement, Girod cited a recent op-ed published in Inside Higher Ed by the presidents of the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities affirming the vital role Chinese and other international scholars play in America's research enterprise.

"At the same time, we also have been reminded of the importance of collaborating with federal law enforcement agencies," Girod said. "We remain vigilant in our own internal efforts to maintain the integrity and security of our research, including the research we undertake on behalf of federal research-granting agencies and, ultimately, U.S. taxpayers," Girod said. "Our Office of Global Operations and Security serves as an important resource for faculty and staff to help them conduct international work in a safe and secure way. The office works to manage and mitigate risk and protect intellectual property while synchronizing efforts related to international work, export compliance and security operations."

"After the formation of that office in summer 2018, we looked at our policies and procedures that regulate how we conduct research and exchange information in an increasingly interconnected world and considered ways they could be improved," Girod added.

Many if not most major research universities have recently begun revisiting their policies and protocols governing federal research grants and protection of intellectual property in response to the increased attention from federal law enforcement officials to academic espionage-related issues and the threat posed by China in particular.

The increased scrutiny has raised concerns in academe about whether ethnically Chinese scholars are being racially profiled and targeted for additional scrutiny. In a June statement, Massachusetts Institute of Technology president L. Rafael Reif reported that "faculty members, postdocs, research staff and students tell me that, in their dealings with government agencies, they now feel unfairly scrutinized, stigmatized and on edge -- because of their Chinese ethnicity alone."

As U.S.-China relations worsen, some have also raised concerns about whether scholars stand to be penalized for forms of scientific collaboration with China -- such as participation in the Chinese government's talent programs -- that were previously considered by many to be within the bounds of normal academic collaboration.

The former assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Counterintelligence Division, Bill Priestap, told a congressional panel last December that the talent programs "encourage theft of intellectual property from U.S. institutions."

Such programs, Priestap said, "offer competitive salaries, state-of-the-art research facilities and honorific titles, luring both Chinese overseas talent and foreign experts alike to bring their knowledge and experience to China, even if that means stealing proprietary information or violating export controls to do so."

"I have no firsthand knowledge of the case and no opinion about Franklin Tao’s innocence or guilt," said Robert Daly, an analyst who has been tracking these issues and is the director of the Wilson Center's Kissinger Institute on China and the United States. "I do know that Washington’s concern with China’s talent re-recruitment programs emerged only recently and that the new security issues involved are not fully understood by many American universities. One result of this disconnect is that American faculty of Chinese origin who 'didn’t get the memo' and continue to behave as they did before the issue appeared -- especially by taking undisclosed dual appointments at Chinese institutions -- may now be cast as criminals when they are merely guilty of moonlighting and careless paperwork."

"To protect faculty from unfounded accusations, it is essential that American universities orient their scholars about the FBI’s concerns and the need for full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest," Daly said. "To date, public reports don’t make clear that KU gave this vital information to Professor Tao. If he was not informed of these issues by his employer, 50 years in prison and a million-dollar fine seem like heavy penalties for a case in which no espionage or intellectual property theft is alleged."

KU's policies governing conflicts of interest can be found here, and the policy relating to conflict of time commitment appears to have last been updated in 2017.

"All KU employees are informed of their disclosure obligations during onboarding, and they are reminded each year during the annual reporting period," a university spokesman said. "Additionally, researchers are required to certify that their compliance reporting is up to date before submitting every proposal. Research integrity staff who facilitate conflict of interest reporting deliver in-person training to departments and centers upon request and through the annual research administration training program."

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New research alliance cements split on AI ethics

Inside Higher Ed - 8 hours 17 min ago

Germany, France and Japan have joined forces to fund research into “human-centered” artificial intelligence that aims to respect privacy and transparency, in the latest sign of a global split with the U.S. and China over the ethics of AI.

The three countries’ funding agencies have put out a joint call for research proposals, backed by an initial 7.4 million euros ($8.2 million). They stressed that they “share the same values” and warned that the technology has the potential to “violate individual privacy and right to informational self-determination.”

Observers see the move as part of a wider divergence in AI research priorities, with Europe, plus Japan and potentially Canada, taking the lead on its ethical development.

“We share the same beliefs and the same standards,” said Susanne Sangenstedt, a program officer at the German Research Foundation who is helping to oversee the collaboration.

The joint call has been under development since last year, she explained. Last November, the German Centers for Research and Innovation, a global network of universities and companies, organized an AI symposium in Japan involving ethicists and social scientists as well as more technically minded academics.

Results should, if possible, be released on an open-access basis, said Sangenstedt. The funding call asks academics to pitch projects on the “democratization” of AI, the “integrity of data for fairness” and “AI ethics to avoid gender/age segmentation,” as well as in areas such as machine learning, computer vision and data mining.

Germany, France and Japan are more concerned than some of their rivals that “if you let this [AI] go wild, it can cause profound damage to society,” said Holger Hoos, professor of machine learning at Leiden University. He said that he expected Canada to join the trio soon.

“AI is a game of critical mass. Japan can’t compete with China on AI, so they need allies. And the same goes for Canada,” he said.

China’s approach to AI was to put its development under the control of the “government-state,” he said. Meanwhile, the U.S. -- which has less of a developed national AI strategy than most other major economies -- has allowed AI development to be dominated by private technology companies, argued Hoos, one of the founders of the Confederation of Laboratories for Artificial Intelligence Research in Europe, which is pushing for the continent to remain competitive in AI research while leading on ethical, legal and social issues.

The “European way” was an attempt to find a “balance” between “government, industry and individual,” he said, an approach Japan supported, too.

Countries from Finland to India, plus the European Union, have devised AI strategies in the past few years, responding to predictions that the technology will upend the economy and society, for example displacing jobs, allowing algorithm-based sentencing for criminals and even unleashing “killer robots.”

This new alliance between Germany, France and Japan was “quite a logical and natural expansion of the E.U.’s position on AI,” explained Sophie-Charlotte Fischer, a researcher on AI and international relations at ETH Zurich.

By establishing itself as a world leader in “ethical” AI, the E.U. hoped to set standards for the rest of the world. “They have selected this as their niche,” she explained.

France’s AI strategy has called for the creation of interdisciplinary institutes involving social scientists and philosophers. The German strategy, released last year, established a plethora of observatories, dialogues and councils to make sure AI “serves the good of society.”

Japan has also used its presidency of the G20 group of nations to push for a common, global body to oversee the development of AI, Fischer added.

It was “unfair,” however, to say that China -- which in 2017 launched its own strategy, aiming to lead the world by 2030 -- was not thinking about ethics, she argued. In May, universities and companies signed up to the Beijing AI principles, which commit to “privacy, dignity, freedom, independence and rights.”

Whether China’s authoritarian government would heed these principles was “hard to tell,” she acknowledged, but “as a signal it’s quite noteworthy” and may indicate that Beijing was “open to dialogue about how AI is used.”

Still, “one advantage the E.U. has is that it’s a credible actor. It’s harder to believe when China puts these principles forward,” Fischer added.

For now, the joint funding from Germany, France and Japan is a pilot, explained Sangenstedt, “but possibly it will be the starting point for a discussion about regular calls.”

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - 8 hours 17 min ago
Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: New academic programsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: 

Chronicle of Higher Education: U. of Tulsa Faculty to Ask Oklahoma’s Attorney General to Halt Controversial Restructuring Plan

A universitywide reorganization proposal has sparked an outcry from faculty, students, and alumni for its drastic cuts, mainly in the humanities.

read more

Singapore MoE defends foreign student spending

The PIE News - Thu, 08/22/2019 - 08:38

Singapore’s minister of education Ong Ye Kung was recently called to defend government spending on foreign students in parliament following weeks of debate about whether the country is spending too much money on them.

Responding to a series of questions submitted by a fellow MP, the minister assured the country that the main aim of the education system is to “serve the needs of Singaporeans” and that “no Singaporean is ever displaced from an institute of higher learning because of an international student.”

“No Singaporean is ever displaced from an institute of higher learning because of an international student”

“We plan the number of IHL places with Singaporean students in mind… When all Singaporean students who meet the standards have been admitted, the IHLs then raise the bar by a few notches, and then admit a small minority of international students, over and above the local students,” Ong explained.

The government’s education budget, around $13 billion a year, is, according to the minister, “overwhelmingly” spent on local students to ensure affordable education, with spending on international students coming to around 1% of the annual education budget.

“The controversy over government spending on international students came about following reports online that said that government was spending over $300 million a year on international students.

“The real cost actually, I think it is well below $130 million a year, because $130 million is the worth of the scholarships to the students, not the cost to the education system as a whole,” Ong noted.

In the early 2000s, Singapore unveiled an ambitious plan to turn the state into a “global schoolhouse” that would see 150,000 international students attending schools in the country by 2015. Supported by the Singapore Education campaign, the initiative saw a record high of 90,000 students head to Singapore to study in 2010.

However, the project was discontinued following the 2011 election, which was strongly influenced by public anger at increased immigration and competitive job and housing markets.

In 2017, the government claimed that international students accounted for just 10% of undergraduates, far below the cap of 15% that was introduced by the new government.

Singapore is home to the top two universities in Asia – Nanyang Technological University and the National University if Singapore – which both ranked joint 11th on the QS World University Rankings 2020. The city itself was also listed 20th in the 2019 list of best student cities.

The post Singapore MoE defends foreign student spending appeared first on The PIE News.

Why the Mexico City marathon attracts so many cheats

Economist, North America - Thu, 08/22/2019 - 07:44

IN RECENT YEARS the Mexico City marathon has caused crowding on the city metro. That is not just because the city shuts down numerous roads above ground for the 42-kilometre race. It is also because cheating marathoners have been known to hop on for a quick detour to the finish line. Last year 5,000 of the 28,000 runners who finished were disqualified. Hundreds more were kicked out mid-race. No other race admits to stripping so many competitors of their places. Ahead of this year’s event, on August 25th, organisers are hoping for scurrying without skulduggery.

Most of the corredores de chocolates (Mexican slang for fake runners) are easy to spot. Each runner carries a chip across electronic checkpoints placed along the course. Those who skip to the end are doomed to disqualification—but only days later, well after they receive their medal and the crowd’s adulation. Over the past six years marathon medals have each been emblazoned with a letter. Collectively, they spell out “Mexico”. That has motivated some people to cheat and complete the set, says Javier Carvallo, the Mexico City marathon’s chief. This year a new series of six medals, which together will make up a map of the city, begins.

Other cheaters give their bib to a speedier “bib mule” before the race, hoping to...

Forest fires in the Amazon blacken the sun in São Paulo

Economist, North America - Thu, 08/22/2019 - 07:44

IN THE MIDDLE of the afternoon on August 19th South America’s largest city went dark. Under a thick, black cloud at 3pm, the lights flickered on in São Paulo’s skyscrapers; on the motorways brake lights started to glow in the city’s bumper-to-bumper traffic, and many Paulistanos were worried. Social-media users posted pictures of the gloom, juxtaposing the dystopian afternoon sky with fictional apocalyptic places such as Gotham City from “Batman”, Mordor from “Lord of the Rings” and “the upside down” from “Stranger Things”.

Meteorologists scrambled to explain what was going on. But the most likely explanation, most accept, is that fires burning far away in the rainforest are to blame. Climatempo, a popular private meteorology website, reported that a cold front brought low-lying clouds which then combined with smoke to form the thick black smog. According to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), forest fires are more common than ever. The number detected so far this year is 84% higher than in the same period last year. Just over half of the fires are in the Amazon.

During the Amazon’s dry season, it is common for farmers to set fires illegally to clear land. Brazil’s populist president, Jair Bolsonaro, has encouraged them by weakening the agencies that enforce environmental regulations. He holds the view...

Visa, scholarship announcements put regional Australia back on agenda

The PIE News - Thu, 08/22/2019 - 04:24

A busy period in Australia has seen the government’s goal to more evenly distribute international education revenue and alleviate congestion concerns put back on the agenda, after launching several program and visa changes with direct and indirect consequences for overseas students.

Made throughout early to mid-August, the announcements are the first substantive migration and international education measures from the federal government after the Liberal-National coalition unexpectedly retained power during the May 2019 election.

“International education must remain a key feature of our immigration system”

Among the changes, immigration minister David Coleman announced that the trial of the Global Talent Scheme would be made permanent and expanded to include the Global Talent Independent program to recruit 5,000 highly skilled migrants, with fast-tracked visas.

“Within our annual migration plan, skilled migration is the lynchpin of our approach, accounting for close to 70% of the intake,” he said, adding the education sector would play a key role.

“It stands to reason that the more skilled a migrant is, the better… [and] the education sector supports high skill, high wage jobs – the exact kind of jobs we want to develop. International education must remain a key feature of our immigration system.”

Speaking at the Sydney Institute, Coleman’s announcements stem from March 2019’s Planning for Australia’s Future Population document and provide further details on the planned incentives.

The regional provisional visas included in the document will be spread across two categories, and have 23,000 places allocated, fast-tracking permanent residency within three years for migrants living and working in regional Australia.

International students will also still receive an additional year of post-study work for studying and working regionally.

“As part of our regional focus, we also want to attract more international students to choose areas outside of the capital cities,” Coleman added.

Australia’s higher education peak bodies have given their support to the changes to the visa system.

“The Regional Universities Network welcomes the government’s decision to make the Global Talent Employer Sponsored program ongoing,” RUN’s executive director Caroline Perkins told The PIE News.

“It stands to reason that the more skilled a migrant is, the better”

“We welcome opportunities to encourage more highly skilled workers from overseas to work with businesses in regional Australia to fill gaps in the workforce, and help develop more highly skilled Australian workers.”

Vicki Thomson, chief executive of the Group of Eight, said the decision to fast-track visas for highly skilled migrants would benefit Australia’s higher education system by attracting high-quality researchers.

“It is refreshing and rewarding to have our government recognise that the economy and the community will benefit greatly from having world experts live with us and assist us,” she said.

“We need more specialised experts who can help us foster the development of Australian talent, to ensure that we…grow our prosperous society, and with a diverse range of career opportunities.”

Shortly after the visa and migration announcements, education minister Dan Tehan launched the Destination Australia scholarships program, also referenced in the population growth document.

The scheme, which replaced the Endeavour Leadership Program, will provide $19.5 million in funding per year over four years for scholarships encouraging domestic and international students to undertake regional study.

“Regional Australia is a wonderful place to live and our regional universities and VET providers offer something different to studying in a capital city, such as a cheaper cost of living, smaller class sizes, and a unique experience of Australia,” Tehan said.

“These scholarships will encourage more students to broaden their horizons beyond the big cities and will ensure regional communities share in the benefits.”

Unlike the former Endeavour program, providers, rather than students, will need to apply for Destination Australia funding.

The first round of Destination Australia scholarship funding is open and will close on September 12, 2019.

The post Visa, scholarship announcements put regional Australia back on agenda appeared first on The PIE News.

India: study abroad startup raises $1m

The PIE News - Thu, 08/22/2019 - 02:04

Noida-based study abroad start-up AdmitKard has raised $1 million in a pre-Series A funding round to help it expand its presence across 100 cities in India. The round, which saw participation from India and Australia- based investors, was led by Australian edtech fund Growth DNA.

Founded in 2016, AdmitKard helps students to apply to over 1,000 universities and colleges in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, among others.

“We plan to rapidly expand our presence across 100+ cities in India”

Piyush Bhartiya, co-founder of AdmitKard, said the company will use the capital to enhance its product, strengthen its AI-driven counselling algorithms and blockchain-managed partner contracts.

“We also plan to rapidly expand our presence across 100+ cities in India through our already thriving partner network,” added Bhartiya.

The startup uses the concept of “near-peer” mentoring and AI/ML to assist in decision making.

It connects aspiring study abroad students with their peers already studying in universities overseas through the AdmitKard platform.

“AdmitKard is a data-enabled social platform which helps in eliminating information asymmetry and building trust among aspirants,” said Rachit Agrawal, co-founder at AdmitKard.

“It is a socially active platform by the students, for the students. Current students are passionate to guide aspirants on AdmitKard as they feel they were misguided when they were applying to study abroad.”

The platform has already partnered with multiple service providers ranging from test prep, student accommodation, education loans, banking and forex.

According to a report by KPMG, the Indian edtech segment is expected to be a $1.96 billion market by 2021.

The post India: study abroad startup raises $1m appeared first on The PIE News.

Virginia Tech outpaces George Mason in plans for Amazon's HQ2

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 08/22/2019 - 00:00

Virginia Tech and George Mason University both pledged to significantly expand their computer science programs following Amazon’s announcement last year that it would build a second headquarters in Arlington, Va.

The institutions planned not only to produce thousands more computer science graduates to fill Amazon’s need for highly skilled employees, but also to build state-of-the-art facilities close to Amazon’s chosen 105-acre site near Reagan National Airport. The plans hinged on hundreds of millions of dollars in investment from the state, philanthropic grants and industry partnerships.

But the two universities do not appear to have made equal progress with their plans. While Virginia Tech has already secured a substantial amount of funding from the state, George Mason is still far from meeting its fundraising goals, making the institution's original five-year timeline seem increasingly infeasible. 

The state this year appropriated $275 million for Virginia Tech to build a new Innovation Campus, whereas just $7.5 million has been allocated so far to George Mason -- far short of the $125 million the university is seeking from the state. The $7.5 million will be used to knock down an old building on George Mason's existing Arlington Campus and make room for new construction. 

Ralph Northam, Virginia's Democratic governor, said last November that the state would make performance-based investments of up to $375 million available to the two institutions to build new facilities and dramatically increase the number of computer science graduates they produce. The funds would be made available over the next twenty years, subject to a one-to-one match from the universities. Virginia Tech initially requested $250 million and George Mason $125 million. Northam said additional funding will be available to boost undergraduate enrollment in technology degrees at all Virginia public universities and community colleges. 

Anne Holton, George Mason's interim president, said she's confident the state will honor its $125 million commitment. She said the university has so far identified around $20 million from philanthropic sources and is working to secure more.

"I'm on a rigorous schedule of meetings with current donors and potential new donors," she said. "All the major tech businesses in Northern Virginia are eager to see us succeed and several of them have already stepped up to host events to help us raise those dollars. I am confident we will meet our match. It may be a couple of years, but that's ok. We don't have to have it all right away." 

Holton said the university is "still on track for ambitious growth." She noted that unlike Virginia Tech, George Mason already owns the land that it is planning to build on. "We will move forward expeditiously," she said. 

Big Plans, Big Price Tags

Tim Sands, Virginia Tech's president, last year shared plans to build a $1 billion Tech Innovation Campus near Amazon’s new headquarters that would accommodate 750 new computer science master’s students and hundreds more doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows. Sands proposed that the campus would be built with $250 million from the state, $250 million from the institution and a further $500 million from a mix of philanthropic grants and industry partnerships.

George Mason’s former president, Ángel Cabrera, who will start his new role as president of the Georgia Institute of Technology in September, announced last year that George Mason would invest $250 million to build a 400,000-square-foot Institute for Digital InnovAtion (IDIA) on its Arlington campus and prepare to significantly expand its computer science enrollment. The planned $250 million investment would include $125 million from philanthropic giving and $125 million in matched funding from the state. He planned to more than double enrollment in undergraduate and graduate computer science programs to 15,000 students by 2024. The current level is around 6,500 students.  

Quickly raising $125 million to support the expansion of its computing programs and fund the new institute could prove challenging. The George Mason University Foundation reported that it received around $68 million in total contributions in 2018, up from $62.5 million in 2017. The largest ever single donation to the university was a $50 million gift for the law school in April this year. The university has also been the subject of criticism in recent years over a perceived lack of donor transparency, particularly regarding financial ties to the conservative Charles Koch Foundation.

Enrollment at George Mason has grown by 17.5 percent over the past decade, from 32,067 students in 2009 to 37,677 in 2018. But increasing tech enrollment by around 8500 students in five years would be a significant feat. The Volgenau School of Engineering, which teaches computer science among other tech subjects, gained 462 students between Fall 2018 and Fall 2019. 

Michael Sandler, a spokesman for George Mason, said Mason is already playing an important role with Amazon and other tech companies because it produces the state's largest number of graduates in highly sought tech majors. “The number of tech talent graduates is a primary reason cited by Amazon in its decision to build here in Northern Virginia, and we plan to triple the number of graduates in tech talent fields over the next decade to meet Amazon’s demand.”

Sandler said Mason has a strong track record of providing access to education for students from a broad range of socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds -- answering “an important demand from Amazon and other employers across the region and state.”

For example, the university recently announced a partnership with Amazon Web Services and Northern Virginia Community College that “offers students a seamless transfer pathway and provides a clear path to high-demand careers in cloud computing.”

Unequal State Support?

Writing for the Richmond Times-Dispatch in July, Cabrera hinted at his frustration with Virginia lawmakers in a “presidential farewell,” which celebrated the university’s achievements in spite of limited state support compared with neighboring institutions.

“The university today is a powerful engine of innovation, social mobility and economic growth for Northern Virginia and, by extension, for the entire commonwealth,” wrote Cabrera. “Quite notably, the university achieves all this while charging about 28 percent lower in-state tuition than the other three R-1s in Virginia (University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University), with a fraction of their endowment, and, sadly, with about one-quarter less state support per student. While private philanthropy has more than doubled in recent years, it alone cannot compensate for the weakness in public support.”

For the university to continue to grow, Cabrera wrote it is “essential that Virginia lawmakers reassess current funding levels as well as the university’s treatment from an overall policy standpoint.”

After talking about the university’s planned computer science program expansion and its commitment to diversity, Cabrera said he was concerned that the path ahead “is precarious and likely unsustainable without funding structures that invest in this growth on par with peer institutions.”

University insiders hope Holton, who is a former Virginia education secretary and current member of the state Board of Education, will be able to foster a better relationship with state lawmakers. Holton’s connections in Richmond and Washington, D.C., are significant. Her husband is Tim Kaine, a Democratic U.S. senator from Virginia, and her father is A. Linwood Holton Jr., Republican former governor of Virginia.

Holton said state support for Mason's ambitions is strong, citing many positive interactions with lawmakers in the first few weeks in her new job.

Although George Mason has yet to secure all of the funding it set out to, Holton said she does not view this as an issue. The university doesn't need to secure all $250 million in one hit, instead requesting funding from the state "as and when it is needed" over the next few years.

Stephen Moret, the president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the economic development agency that led the state’s Amazon bid, refuted the suggestion that the state may be favoring Virginia Tech over George Mason.

The Tech Talent Investment Program (TTIP), which is the mechanism through which the state will award funding to grow both undergraduate and graduate tech programs, has not yet finalized any funding decisions or institutional memorandums of understanding -- this work is expected to be completed by the end of October, he said.

“The $375 million total amount in the HQ2 press release for graduate-level computer science education was the combined total of what Virginia Tech and George Mason respectively proposed for state support in exchange for a one-to-one philanthropic match from each institution,'' said Moret. “Accordingly, it would be misleading to suggest that Virginia Tech secured the lion’s share of master’s-level funding ‘over’ George Mason, when the reality is that those tentative amounts actually are what the institutions themselves proposed to the state.”

Moret said "it definitely is possible" that George Mason will receive the amount it requested, contingent on the final funding allocation decisions of the designated reviewer group for TTIP, and subject to George Mason securing one-to-one matching philanthropic commitments.

"This is a 20-year initiative, so only some of the new state commitments show up in the [fiscal year] 2020 budget," said Moret. "Most of the state funding will be provided in future budget years as all the participating schools ramp up their programs. Some of the capital projects for Virginia Tech were included in the FY20 budget because they have been underway for quite some time."

Bethany Letiecq, an associate professor in human development and family at George Mason and president of the local advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the university's faculty members have received little communication about the expansion plans.

“We just don’t know very much. There are a lot of questions,” said Letiecq. “As the university chases the promise of Amazon, we’re left wondering what will happen to the university’s resources. Will there be funding to uplift other components of the university system? Which programs or departments might get hit? How does this growth fundamentally change the institution?”

There have already been “really troubling” suggestions that George Mason’s humanities departments may be downsized to focus on computer science and “push toward where the jobs are,” said Letiecq. “I’m not sure that faculty have been given much voice in this matter.”

She's also concerned about a lack of guarantees that Amazon will hire the thousands of computer scientists George Mason plans to graduate. The state’s promise to grow computer science programs across institutions in Virginia by 25,000 to 35,000 students over the next 20 years has been reported as a significant factor in Amazon’s decision to pick the region. But it's unclear whether the tech giant will actually hire a significant proportion of these students, when it could have its pick of national and international candidates. And Amazon recently announced plans to invest $700 million in postsecondary job training for 100,000 of its largely entry-level workers -- most of which will be offered outside of traditional colleges and universities.

Letiecq said she hopes Holton might actually slow down the expansion at George Mason, rather than speed it up. “Faculty are very concerned about the pace of growth. There is a lack of infrastructure available to accommodate the number of students that the institution is pushing toward.”

Holton said she understood that some faculty members may feel anxious about the planned computer science expansion, but stressed the university's "very strong commitment to the humanities and social sciences."

"I am confident that it's going to be a win for everybody," she said. 

Full Steam Ahead for Virginia Tech

Stephen Fuller, professor of public policy and regional development at George Mason, has researched Amazon’s potential economic impact on Northern Virginia. He believes Virginia Tech’s new Innovation Campus will have a “major beneficial impact” on the region. Comparatively, George Mason's plans are not so ambitious or advanced, he said. 

“Mason is still in spring training. They don’t have much support from Richmond, and they should have been in the forefront,” said Fuller. “George Mason didn’t talk to the right people early on. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech had a plan in the drawer, ready to go.”

Brandy Salmon, associate vice president for innovation and partnerships at Virginia Tech, said plans for the $1 billion Innovation Campus were catalyzed by the prospect of Amazon’s expansion in the region but not driven by it. The campus had been in development for a number of years, she said.

Virginia Tech will partner with Lionstone Investments to build the campus on a mixed-use development close to a planned Metro station less than two miles from Amazon’s HQ.

The campus will include academic classrooms, incubator space for start-up companies and research and development, offices, and an events space, said Salmon. The first master’s degree students will enroll in fall 2020 and will study in an existing building that is currently being used for retail. The design of the campus is yet to be finalized but is expected to be fully completed in about 10 years’ time.

Cal Ribbens, professor and head of the department of computer science at Virginia Tech, said development of a new master’s of engineering in computer applications is already well underway. The degree is planned to begin in the spring of 2020, pending approval from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

The degree program will be hands-on and will feature courses in software development, communication skills, ethical issues and applied research and development, said Ribbens. It is designed to turn out graduates faster than a traditional research-based program. For example, full-time students will be able complete the program in about a year.

The road map for expansion of the program, which will be the first degree offered from the Innovation Campus, is “pretty aggressive,” said Ribbens. And working from a new location may throw up some logistical challenges, particularly for faculty who will need to commute to Northern Virginia. But Ribbens points out that Virginia Tech already offers programs outside its main campus in Blacksburg.

Informal conversations with Amazon and other tech employers have informed the curriculum of the new degree program, but there is no formal partnership with the company, said Ribbens. It is possible, however, that the program may use “a small number of adjunct faculty from Amazon or other companies.”

Leaders at both George Mason and Virginia Tech said their plans are not contingent on Amazon's needs.

"We're not just growing tech talent for Amazon, but for Northern Virginia," said Holton. 

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Students with some college and no credential still benefit in the labor market

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 08/22/2019 - 00:00

Much of the attention around rising college costs and loan debt has focused on students who never earn a credential, with conventional wisdom holding that they wasted time and money in the process.

But a new study found that attending college typically isn’t a waste of time, even for students who fail to graduate.

The research found “very substantial increases in employability and income” for this group of former students, who attended community college or a four-year institution, said Paul Attewell, a professor of sociology at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, who co-wrote the paper with Matt Giani, a research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin’s Office of Strategy and Policy, and David Walling, a software developer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at UT.

These benefits extend across various student groups. But the paper said low-income students, women and students of color generally experienced the biggest labor-market bump from college attendance.

Previous studies have been mixed on the payoff for students who hold some college credits but no credential.

Several reached conclusions like this one from a prominent 2017 paper: “Many students leave school without any certificate of degree. They have lost valuable time and frequently have student debt to repay, but they have not managed to measurably improve their prospects.”

The most likely explanation for the ambiguity in previous research, according to the new paper, is the broad range of samples, data sets and methods those studies used.

The new research, however, was based on a statewide cohort of 207,332 students who graduated high school in Texas in 2000. The data allowed researchers to compare college completers and noncompleters, to control for selection bias, and to use unemployment insurance information to examine labor market outcomes for the group 15 years after they completed high school. The Journal of Higher Education published the study.

“The Texas data set is huge. It’s like using a different microscope,” Attewell said, adding that the growing numbers of solid data sets featuring labor-market returns from Texas and other states “are really revolutionizing our understanding of the place of college in the long-term economic prospects of students.”

‘A Stepping-Stone and a Signal’

The study found that students who attended college but did not earn a degree -- including those who earned certificates -- were much more likely to be employed than were members of the cohort who did not go to college. And if they were employed, they tended to have higher earnings (see graphic).

For students who attended college but did not earn a credential, the likelihood of employment increases with greater numbers of college credits earned. (However, students who earned 12 or fewer credits had slightly higher wages than those who earned more credits.)

“Students who do not go beyond high school are considerably less likely to be employed 15 years later than their ‘some college’ counterparts, even after controlling for their academic preparation and socio-demographic characteristics,” the study found.

The one-to-12-credits-earned group, for example, had mean annual earnings of $43,732 compared to $37,675 for people with no college credits. Just over half were employed in this group, while 35 percent of those without college credits were employed.

Not surprisingly, college graduates did even better. For example, people who held a bachelor's degree (arts or science) had a median wage of $64,727, according to the study, with 65 percent being employed.

“What’s most desirable is that people who go to college earn a credential,” Attewell said.

But even a small number of credits appears to have a positive impact on employability and wages, according to the study. “It’s a stepping-stone and a signal,” he said.

Attewell speculated that employers are considering both job applicants who didn’t go beyond high school and those with some college credits, and they seem to prefer the some-college group.

A growing number of colleges and reformers in higher education are calling for the addition of credentials that can serve as “momentum points” for students on their way to earning a degree. This could be a short-term certificate or an associate degree that students earn halfway to a bachelor’s.

Such an approach can have psychological benefits for students, Attewell said, encouraging them to continue in their academic programs.

Likewise, students who work while they attend college tend to do better in the labor market, he said. That’s the majority of students, with roughly 60 percent holding a job while they’re enrolled.

“They’re not doing this in order,” said Attewell, meaning go to college then find a job. “They’re doing this simultaneously.”

The study was not able to estimate whether the benefits of college attendance were driven by the knowledge and skills students acquired when enrolled or by the signaling effect of having some college on their résumé. But the economic benefits were clear, either way.

“Our results imply that excluding students from higher education might do greater harm than benefit to both students and society, even if admitted students are not very likely to graduate,” the study concluded. “Similarly, our results oppose the notion that college noncompleters have simply wasted their time and resources, as well as the resources of the public sector.”

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Two MIT researchers resign from the Media Lab over its ties to Jeffrey Epstein

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 08/22/2019 - 00:00

Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who died in federal custody this month, allegedly took a predatory interest in teenage girls. But his involvement with thought leaders -- and academics, in particular -- was apparently more symbiotic: Epstein got to feed his ego and maybe even launder his character by chatting up great minds. And those great minds, or at least their institutions, got his money. Harvard University, in particular, got millions.

Some of those who associated with Epstein have publicly expressed regret about it since Epstein's case came under new renewed scrutiny this year. Science writer Carl Zimmer, for example, said recently that he asked the Epstein-funded thought salon Edge to remove him from its website (Edge also scrubbed the site of references to Epstein). Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker -- who also is affiliated with Edge -- explained why he interpreted the wording of a law for Epstein’s defense team in 2007, when he was first charged with sex crimes. And Harvard geneticist George Church, who continued to meet with Epstein even after his 2008 conviction, attributed the mistake to “nerd tunnel vision.”

But beyond words, there’s been little action regarding Epstein’s entanglement with academe -- until this week. That’s when two faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s esteemed Media Lab said they would step down from their positions over the lab’s ties to Epstein.

In a public post on Medium, Ethan Zuckerman, an associate professor of the practice, said he'd recently learned that the lab’s director, Joi Ito, had had a business relationship with Epstein and that Epstein invested in companies Ito personally supported. There were also "gifts and visits by Epstein to the Media Lab and by Joi to Epstein’s properties," Zuckerman said. And so, as "the scale of Joi’s involvement with Epstein became clear to me, I began to understand that I had to end my relationship with the MIT Media Lab." 

His logic, he said, "was simple: the work my group does focuses on social justice and on the inclusion of marginalized individuals and points of view." And it's "hard to do that work with a straight face in a place that violated its own values so clearly in working with Epstein and in disguising that relationship."

Zuckerman plans to leave the lab -- or maybe even MIT altogether -- by the end of the coming academic year. 

Zuckerman declined an interview request Wednesday, saying that he did not intend to go public with his resignation. He'd only done so when The Globe obtained a letter he wrote to past recipients of the lab’s Disobedience Award for rabble-rousers. Last year, those recipients were Me Too leaders.

“I am ashamed of my institution today and starting the hard work of figuring out how to leave the lab while taking care of my students and staff,” he said in the letter, according to the Globe. 

Ito did not respond to a request for comment. He apologized in an open letter last week on the Media Lab website, promising to raise as much money as Epstein gave to the lab and donate it to victims of sex trafficking.

In "all of my interactions with Epstein, I was never involved in, never heard him talk about, and never saw any evidence of the horrific acts that he was accused of," Ito wrote. "That said, I take full responsibility for my error in judgment. I am deeply sorry to the survivors, to the Media Lab and to the MIT community for bringing such a person into our network."

Matias said in his own Medium post that he’d heard last week for the first time about Joi's business relationship with Epstein and the ties between Epstein and the MIT Media Lab. He also said he'd learned about a deposition that names Media Lab co-founder Marvin Minsky in relation to further crimes. Specifically, one of Epstein's accusers said in 2016 that Epstein forced her to have sex with Minsky, who died later that year. 

Describing his work as "protecting women and other vulnerable people online from abuse and harassment," Matias said he can't do that with integrity from a "place with the kind of relationship that the Media Lab has had with Epstein. It’s that simple.”

MIT has not disclosed how much Epstein donated. It told The Globe that an orb-shaped trophy the Media Lab gave to Epstein and other donors in 2017 was not a Disobedience Award, even though it looked similar to the orbs the Me Too activists received last year.

Siva Vaidhyanathan, Robertson Professor in Media Studies at the University of Virginia, said via email that colleges and universities -- especially private ones -- have “become too reliant on the whims of millionaires and billionaires. Too often they set our agendas. Too often we pander to their interests and idiosyncrasies. And too often millionaires and billionaires are terrible people.”

Vaidhyanathan said that Zuckerman is a “moral person,” but that shouldn’t “make him special." Sadly, he said, "it does.”

In a “fairer world,” Zuckerman would lead labs like the one he’s leaving, Vaidhyanathan continued. And if he did, the Media Lab “would never have suffered this embarrassment.” So moral standing in leadership appointments matters, he said, as does appointing women to “high-profile units” such as the Media Lab.

More generally, Vaidhyanathan said that every college and university should audit its donors -- and include “morals clauses” in gift agreements. Donors, should, for example, agree to give up building and program naming rights if they’re credibly accused, charged or convicted of “some moral malfeasance,” like sexual harassment or racism.

Jessica Cantlon, Ronald J. and Mary Ann Zdrojkowski Professor of Developmental Neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University, was involved in the sexual misconduct case against her former colleague at the University of Rochester T. Florian Jaeger. Jaeger was found by an independent investigation not to have harassed students and co-workers but rather exercised poor judgment in a number of instances. Many on campus disagreed with that conclusion.

At Rochester, Cantlon said, she observed the “difference between men of conscience and others who would toe the company line at a moral cost.” Several of her male former colleagues stood up for women to support their sexual harassment complaints, faced retaliation and ultimately resigned their jobs, she said. In other words, they “took risks and suffered costs to help make things right for women students and faculty.”

Similarly, at MIT and Harvard, Cantlon said, some “men like Zuckerman refused to meet with Epstein even in 2014 because Epstein is a sex offender who preys on girls and women.” And Harvard and MIT, like all universities, are “supposed to be nourishing to young people,” she said. 

Other male academics, meanwhile, have accepted rides on Epstein's private plane, performed science for him, attended his events, helped with his legal defense and more.

Why the divide? Cantlon said that some academic "men get confused about whether their job is to enrich and educate people,” or whether it’s to “amass money, power and create an empire out of their expertise.”

Men who “bowed to Epstein's power and money" despite knowing who he was pay a price, she said. But that price is really a “debt they pass on to young people who will be hurt by the misogynistic culture they enabled.”

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