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Experts: Punishments, bans not effective in changing Greek culture

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 01:00

Andrew Coffey, a 20-year-old fraternity pledge at Florida State University, died at an off-campus party this month following a night of heavy drinking.

The circumstances were nearly identical at Texas State University just last week -- Matthew Ellis, 20, another pledge, died, with officials saying alcohol played a factor.

And at Ohio State University, 11 of the institution’s 37 fraternities have come under investigation since the beginning of the academic year -- mostly for alcohol and hazing violations, per a spokesman.

The responses to these incidents have dominated headlines because of their seemingly drastic nature -- a complete and sweeping prohibition of sororities and fraternities at three powerhouse state institutions with a major Greek presence (in the case of Ohio State, just its fraternities were suspended).

Yet similar bans have been tried before, and deaths associated with Greek organizations have never ceased.

Lesser punishments of varying degrees have also been attempted. Administrators have limited or removed alcohol from Greek events, or they’ve discontinued the pledging process. Often, the drinking and recruitment have continued but shifted underground.

Individual chapters have been shut down or barred from campuses, such as Beta Theta Pi at Penn State University after the high-profile death this year of pledge Timothy Piazza, whose fraternity brothers never sought medical attention for Piazza after he drank so much that he fell 15 feet down a flight of steps and bled internally for hours.

The University of West Florida last week suspended Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity for a minimum of five years after an investigation revealed hazing and alcohol-related misconduct, and issued a temporary ban on Zeta Phi Beta sorority, also for hazing. The student-led Interfraternity Council at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor voted recently, too, to suspend most fraternity pledging and parties after claims of sexual misconduct and hazing -- an unusual move in that it was taken by students and not administrators.

Sanctions historically, though, have accomplished little to nothing, experts and researchers into Greek life said in interviews.

Both institutions and the national heads of fraternities and sororities must truly start to control their chapters more, they said, which in some cases means clashing with the preferences of donors, the alumni of the Greek system. It means more oversight -- responsible adult guides need to be installed in the chapters.

And it means investing in investigations and training for the people who conduct them.

“There’s been a never-ending stream of bad headlines,” said John Hechinger, a senior editor at Bloomberg News and author of True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities. Greek organizations “are very concerned about this. Enrollment may be up, but every one of these deaths results in a criminal investigation, often a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, and it’s hard. It does put a huge amount of pressure on them.”

Suspending Greek activities entirely isn’t quite a new phenomenon. West Virginia University and Clemson University both did so in 2014 following pledge deaths.

A slew of higher education professional associations, among them NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and the Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors, released a statement after the now infamous 2014 Rolling Stone piece (since retracted) about an alleged sexual assault at a University of Virginia fraternity house. That statement touched on such bans:

“Pausing the activities of student groups for a reasonable, defined period of time can be a useful mechanism in helping a reeling group evaluate and assess in a time of crisis, especially when that crisis may be related to the group’s activities, as may be the case with sexual violence, hazing and binge drinking,” the statement reads.

The suspension of Greek life activity only serves as a stopgap measure, said Jill Creighton, president of the Association of Student Conduct Administration. It’s not designed as a punishment, but as a way for the institution to address possible safety concerns by pushing “the pause button,” she said.

“It’s to help the community understand the gravity of the concern and collectively work toward positive cultural changes,” Creighton said.

But Nick Altwies, founder of the Society Advocating Fraternal Excellence, a pro-Greek group, has a slightly more cynical view -- he thinks the move is more of a public relations strategy. Altwies was formerly the assistant executive director, director of programs and field secretary for the national Phi Gamma Delta office.

Because these suspensions are temporary, just years later colleges and universities likely go back to operating as “business as usual,” he said. Sometimes after a scandal fraternity chapters will weed out some of the members -- a national branch or administrators might only keep 20 out of 100 brothers and kick the rest out, Altwies said.

Nothing will change fundamentally, though, if the national offices won’t step in and assure a system is in place at all chapters that provides for mentors and supervision, Altwies said -- they have a responsibility to do so, he said.

“The chapters need a fatherly figure, perhaps alumni, to connect with students -- not control them -- much like a good coach does,” he said.

Some chapters have such a figure and are high functioning, and they’re not the ones making news, Altwies said.

National fraternities must also back alcohol-free policies, such as Sigma Phi Epsilon did at its more than 200 chapters, said Hechinger -- this would greatly help institutions in enforcing the rules.

Gentry McCreary, the chief executive officer of Dyad Strategies, which consults with colleges and universities to reshape their Greek life systems, said he was aware of at least four national fraternities that are discussing shifting their policies, either instituting alcohol bans or curtailing the pledging period. He declined to name the fraternities.

“These incidents are a catalyst for these changes,” he said.

The North-American Interfraternity Conference will pilot a new program come January -- an “enhanced health and safety policy” that mandates that hard alcohol be removed from fraternity houses.

The program also tries to better control crowd size at such events -- and the number of them that can have alcohol is limited.

“This pilot approach blends policy rooted in research, best practices in education, enhanced procedures to make events safer and consistent assessment to measure the effectiveness of these interventions,” Heather Kirk, an conference spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

Institutions benefit from the current Greek system, however, Hechinger said.

Colleges market their campus social experience, particularly state institutions looking to attract full-paying out-of-state customers, and are in a way endorsing the current practices, Hechinger said. Many donors also come from the Greek system, he said. Greek alumni are often in high-ranking positions in congresses and in legislatures.

“Really what needs to happen is that colleges and fraternities can’t look at the other way and then act all shocked when someone dies,” he said. “For every death there are multiple hospitalizations before that and sexual assaults and horrible behavior. They need to change the environment -- it’s a public health issue.”

In a statement to Inside Higher Ed, Carole Jones, chairwoman of the National Panhellenic Conference, a coalition of sororities from across the country, said the message to universities is that the sororities want to partner with them.

“Student safety is too important for us to do anything other than work together. We’ve always known that rules alone are not sufficient, so we must create cultures where students advocate for one another. We believe this can happen and we believe it can happen in ways that also respect the rights of students. To that end, we see our role as an organization that can convene leaders from across the industry -- from member organizations, from alumni and from the ranks of university leadership -- to identify where campuses are succeeding in creating the kind of cultures we aspire to build everywhere. This will be our focus in the coming months.”

Hechinger noted that recruitment within Greek life has suffered little despite the negative headlines, with a 50 percent increase in membership in the last decade.

Institutions have also never really tried to determine if their punishments are working, said McCreary.

He said his group offers surveys that can figure out the motivation behind hazing in fraternity and sorority chapters -- in some cases, it’s a bonding exercise to unite the members. In others, it’s simply an issue of “social dominance,” McCreary said.

If colleges simply hand down consequences without learning those motivating factors, they can’t actually change the culture of a chapter, he said.

Many institutions are also particularly poor at investigating low-level hazing and alcohol incidents. If someone dies, generally information comes to light quickly, but in the smaller-scale events, even the victim is more likely to lie, McCreary said.

While colleges have invested substantially in Title IX coordinators, those who administer the federal gender antidiscrimination law Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, McCreary said, they have not done so with those who investigate hazing.

He questioned whether the federal government needed to step in, as the Obama administration did with Title IX in 2011, when it enacted far more strict measures for colleges to investigate and adjudicate campus sexual assault.

“All in all,” he said, “we just need more responsible adults in the room.”

Editorial Tags: Student lifeImage Source: iStockIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: 

Boston U moves to terminate professor after investigation into sexual harassment claims

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 01:00

Boston University said Friday that it found evidence of harassment in a case involving David Marchant, a well-known geologist -- enough to initiate termination proceedings against him.

Marchant, who was until recently chair of the department of earth and environment at Boston, remains a professor but is now on paid administrative leave, Provost Jean Morrison said in a statement. The university’s 13-month investigation was prompted by claims of harassment by one of Marchant’s former graduate students but involved interviews and statements from more than 30 witnesses and some 1,000 pages of records.

Many details of the case have since become public, due to media coverage. The matter is also the subject of a separate investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Marchant’s primary accuser is Jane Willenbring, now an associate professor of geology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. She says that Marchant harassed her during a 1999 research trip to Antarctica, when he was still an assistant professor at Boston. Marchant allegedly pressured Willenbring to have sex with his brother, who was also on the trip, and called her a "slut" and a "whore." Willenbring also says Marchant pelted her with rocks while she was urinating outside and purposely blew volcanic ash into her eyes as she was recovering from a condition known as ice blindness.

Other witnesses have publicly corroborated some of Willenbring’s account and, in two cases, reported similar experiences during field research with Marchant.

Boston investigators concluded that Marchant engaged in sexual harassment in violation of the university’s policies on sexual harassment and equal opportunity. Specifically, investigators found, “by a preponderance of the evidence, that Marchant directed derogatory sex-based slurs and sexual comments at Willenbring during the 1999-2000 field expedition to Antarctica,” Morrison said. Investigators did not find credible evidence to support Willenbring’s remaining allegations of “direct physical attacks and other types of psychological and physical abuse,” however, she said.

Over all, Boston found the sexual harassment “was sufficiently severe and pervasive so as to create a hostile learning and living environment for Willenbring” in Antarctica.

“We take all complaints of sexual harassment very seriously and will always be vigilant in conducting a thorough, fair and effective investigation,” Morrison said. “We are committed to creating an environment for all members of the university community that is free from sexual harassment.”

Marchant, who has not commented publicly on the case and did not respond to a request from Inside Higher Ed about the university’s findings, has been notified of his right to appeal. Science reported that he denied the allegations against him during the university's investigation.

Willenbring has said that she waited until she gained tenure to report Marchant, for fear of possible professional retribution. Hers is among a group of recent harassment claims against professors involving older incidents -- some inspired by the allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and others not. Boston’s response is significant in that it signals professors will still be held accountable for misconduct, regardless of timeline. The case also highlights the particular challenges faced by those who experience harassment or assault at scientific field sites, which are often geographically remote and lack clear standards of conduct and reporting procedures.

Willenbring said Saturday that she was “pleased that the truth of many women’s experiences was heard and believed.” Even though the university didn’t find credible evidence of physical misconduct, she added, it’s “clear from the report that he still discriminates based on gender and sexually harasses some women.”

Boston’s investigation under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, prohibiting gender discrimination in education, indicates Boston’s “future commitment to students’ well-being,” she said. “Common sense prevailed in their determination that he sexually harassed me.”

Editorial Tags: Graduate educationGraduate studentsMisconductImage Caption: David MarchantIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: 

Feminism, safe spaces and the inclusion of male voices

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 01:00

BALTIMORE -- It was the 38th annual meeting of the National Women’s Studies Association, and Erin Spampinato wanted to talk about cisgender, heterosexual men.

For the City University of New York doctoral candidate, though, that wasn’t an incompatible juxtaposition. Rather, it was a necessary one.

She was talking about a class she taught, Representations of Rape in Literature, and how her syllabus’s trigger warnings on the course's violent content also called for an inclusive classroom -- and specifically welcoming the inclusion of straight, cisgender men -- in order to encourage debate and make sure every student felt welcome to share their opinions. The idea of calling for a safe space in the classroom and using trigger warnings, Spampinato said, wasn’t to stifle debate, as conservative pundits often charge, but quite the opposite: to foster “a diversity of opinions,” the same phrase that conservatives often use when claiming feminism or liberalism is intolerant of their views.

Spampinato was speaking a panel on feminist curricula, titled “Pedagogy’s Cutting Edge: The Practice and Promise of Curriculum Design,” where she was joined by scholars presenting papers on topics ranging from teaching feminism during a period of cultural backlash to the design of online and virtual curricula in a feminist manner.

For Spampinato, using trigger warnings and establishing the classroom as a safe space is a way to promote more conversation and bring more people into discussions on feminism and related topics. During the panel, her definition of a safe space wasn’t a classroom that called for censorship, or a place where no one would be offended, but rather a classroom where “if you are offended, you will feel comfortable explaining why and sharing your feelings.”

Spampinato spoke on her paper “Teaching the Literature of Sexual Violence in the Era of the Trigger Warning” and acknowledged that her approach was unorthodox and very specific to the context of the course she taught, which occurred before the 2016 presidential election. She acknowledged the criticism that comes with carving out space for men in a feminist or women’s studies course, but for her it was as practical as it was pedagogical.

“As a person who researches this topic, I know that the vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by cisgender, heterosexual men,” she told Inside Higher Ed. “I work on a college campus where we have sexual violence. It’s a cultural problem, and I believe men must be part of those conversations.”

The conflation of safe spaces and trigger warnings with censorship, she said, was based on a false understanding by critics of what safe spaces and trigger warnings are supposed to do. The only opinions that Spampinato said were not welcome were ones that were only meant to cause offense without furthering a dialogue or conversation.

Still, Spampinato said her method of explicitly calling for the inclusion of straight, cisgender men was contextual to the class she was teaching, and warned against it being used as a general rule. She wanted to bring men into the conversation around the depiction of rape in literature, she said, and she found that this was a good way to accomplish that in her specific course. Although there were instances of male students saying ignorant or offensive things, their ability to express those opinions became teachable moments when the rest of the class could express their feelings in response.

“The reason I centered cis men in this situation was totally contextual … I didn’t want male students not to take my class, and I was worried about that, especially [given] the topic,” Spampinato said in response to an audience member asking if her method inadvertently made male students the center of attention in a feminist course. “But there might be some internalized misogyny in there, trying to meet the needs of cis male students. That’s something I think about a lot.”

She said her method wasn’t set in stone, and she wasn’t above re-evaluating it; perhaps, she said, she was too concerned with male voices, at the expense at others. She also said she worked made sure her method didn’t come at the expense of supporting students from marginalized backgrounds. Still, she said, her method was in line with feminist goals -- particularly shifting the blame for sexual assault off victims and onto perpetrators.

“If talking about rape more, and sometimes offending each other, means that my students rape each other less, then I’m all for that,” Spampinato said during the panel discussion.

Trigger warnings and safe spaces, Spampinato said, are an invitation for discussing difficult topics.

“You shouldn’t be using them unless you’re down to be challenged, and to reconsider your thinking.”

Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: Women's studiesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: 

California colleges consider prospect of multiple promises

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 01:00

California’s Legislature and governor may have officially signed off on covering tuition costs for the first year of community college last month, but many of the state’s colleges have already been offering some type of tuition-free program on their own.

And now questions remain about how those more than 40 tuition-free plans in the state will change once the statewide California Promise goes into effect. Despite the measure being signed into law, the statewide tuition-free initiative is dependent on funding that will need to be secured in the state budget next year, which many college officials are optimistic will happen. The legislation is estimated to cost $31 million.

“We definitely see the recent legislation and the flourishing local Promise partnerships as complementing each other, not competing,” said Paul Feist, vice chancellor for communications in the California Community Colleges system, via email, adding that the law is designed to work with local programs.

Although the law is still in need of funding from the Legislature, it provides some flexibility once funding is available and would allow colleges to use the money to waive some or all fees up to one year for first-time students, although the colleges are not required to do so. So students could only benefit from the statewide initiative if colleges choose to participate in the California Promise. But those colleges should also use the funds to “advance the goals of the legislation.”

And advancing those goals, which include increasing completion rates, eliminating achievement gaps and increasing transfer rates to the state’s public universities, has many colleges already considering different ways to use the dollars they have in their current Promise programs.

“When [Assembly Bill 19] is fully funded, individual campuses that have raised funds can choose how to use them in addition to what students will be eligible for through the new law,” said Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley in a recent newsletter to the system. “For instance, campus private funds could be used to help fund the second-year tuition, or for books, supplies or other expenses.”

Among the state’s 114 community colleges, Mary Rauner, a senior research associate at WestEd, estimates there are 49 tuition-free or Promise programs.

Rauner said while it’s still too early for many of these programs to have a plan for how to run alongside the statewide initiative, she’s heard plenty of thoughts and ideas.

“And they run the gamut from extending to two years to using funding for add-ons like books, beyond what existing programs offer … I’ve even heard people at various points talk about child care and nontuition fees,” she said.

Take, for instance, the Long Beach College Promise, a partnership between the city, state university, community college and K-12 system, which has existed for about a decade. Just two years ago, the Long Beach program expanded to offer a full year of free tuition to Long Beach City College.

“In Long Beach, we think the statewide promise is a significant step forward,” said Terri Carbaugh, associate vice president for media and government relations for Long Beach College Promise. “It provides that flexibility because California is so large and every region is so different. It incentivizes that behavior but doesn’t tell regions how to do it. Everyone is free to design their own initiative.”

Carbaugh said the statewide initiative to provide a tuition-free year has allowed Long Beach Promise officials to examine what more they can offer. Nearly 80 percent of first-time, full-time students at Long Beach City College are already attending for free because of the California Promise Grant, formerly known as the Board of Governors fee waiver. The name of the fee waiver, which has existed for more than 30 years, was changed in September to reflect the state’s commitment to waiving tuition for low-income students.

So if the statewide initiative is fully funded next year, Long Beach could consider funding a second year, or “we would have the flexibility to create grants for housing, transportation or books to really begin addressing the full cost of attending college in Long Beach,” Carbaugh said.

Unlike typical statewide tuition-free initiatives that often place prerequisites on students to receive the scholarship, California’s new law has created participation requirements for colleges. Which means those that already have thriving Promise or tuition-free programs may be in a better position to use the statewide program.

Rauner said it also remains to be seen what will come from the colleges that don’t participate in a local tuition-free program. Some could be waiting to see how the statewide Promise is funded before launching any new local initiative.

The law, for instance, requires colleges to partner with K-12 school districts to educate families on college opportunities, financial aid and offer preparatory courses. The colleges should also use multiple measures for placement and participate in the California Community College Guided Pathways Grant Program. It will be up to the chancellor’s office to determine that colleges qualify for the statewide initiative.

“Because the Promise movement is really a grassroots movement, that probably bodes well for its long-term success,” Carbaugh said, adding that as opposed to the Legislature mandating institutions participate in a tuition-free program, the opposite has happened -- the Legislature is backing up existing programs in Long Beach, Oakland and Los Angeles.

The Oakland Promise, which is connected to the East Bay College Fund, for instance, doesn’t just help students with college expenses but is also offering to open college savings accounts for children in the school district.

“All the studies will show that money makes a certain degree of difference, but it’s the persistent support and the advising, too,” said Diane Dodge, executive director of the East Bay College Fund. “When you’re in poverty, just because you’re in college that doesn’t mean it’s any easier … supporting students through four or five or six years is a lot.”

Many of the local tuition-free programs, however, have received funding through private donations or local taxes, and there is a concern that the statewide free initiative may lead to donors finding other ways to help students outside the many Promise programs.

“I have heard some concerns and I know the state has talked about being really careful about how to message this funding,” Rauner said. “It will be a little bit of a challenge for some of the programs, especially those that have worked hard on developing relationships with private donors.”

Carbaugh said she would encourage fund-raisers to make sure donors know that the first year of free tuition is just one step and students still face many other expenses.

“Our hope is that donors, either through education or inherently in our region, will understand, in L.A. in particular … the vast majority of our students are disadvantaged students, so just helping them with tuition is not enough, and helping them in any way you can is a very valuable need,” said Drew Yamanishi, dean of the first-year experience at Los Angeles City College.

The Los Angeles Promise also covers one year of free tuition for students attending any of the nine Los Angeles Community College District institutions. Yamanishi said officials in L.A. are pondering the same issue as other local initiatives about how to combine with the statewide Promise.

The Richmond Promise, which benefits high school students who live in Richmond or North Richmond -- about 10 miles north of Oakland -- already covers the full cost of attendance. The program is mostly funded by Chevron.

“This legislation reinforces the opportunity we have to proactively build in more financial literacy training for our students about short- and long-term financial management,” said Jessie Stewart, executive director, in an email. “We would welcome recommendations about how to leverage this legislation to make Richmond Promise dollars more impactful and possibly provide alternatives for students to save their scholarship dollars for transfer.”

Community CollegesEditorial Tags: Financial aidCaliforniaIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: 

Roundup of colleges starting or finishing fund-raising campaigns

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 01:00

Starting Off:

  • Mount Saint Mary's University, in California, has announced a campaign to raise $100 million by 2020. Priorities include student aid and efforts to encourage students to study and conduct research abroad. Already the university has raised $68 million.
  • St. Mary's University, in Texas, is starting a campaign to raise $130 million by 2021. So far, the university has raised more than $104 million.
  • Skidmore College is starting a campaign to raise $200 million by 2020. More than $145 million has already been raised.
  • Tennessee Tech University has launched a campaign to raise $60 million by 2021. Three core areas have been identified for the campaign: student scholarships, endowed faculty and campus expansion. The university has already raised $48 million toward its goal.
  • University of Delaware has started a campaign to raise $750 million by 2020. Financial aid, graduate fellowships and endowed professorships are top priorities for the campaign. The university has already raised $565 million.
  • University of St. Thomas has started a campaign to raise $200 million by 2025. The focus will be scholarship support for students. The university has also announced a $50 million gift for that purpose from the GHR Foundation.

Finishing Up:

  • Loras College, in Iowa, has raised $106 million in a campaign that started in 2013. The original goal was $75 million, and that goal was increased to $100 million two years ago. A key focus has been financial aid, with more than 120 new endowed scholarships created with funds raised in the campaign.
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Universities clarify cooperation with industry, society

University World News Global Edition - Sat, 11/18/2017 - 07:08
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Academics at one more university resist online courses

University World News Global Edition - Sat, 11/18/2017 - 07:01
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New international student numbers decline for first time

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ACE Roundtable Examines Issues of Academic Integrity and Intercollegiate Athletics

American Council on Education - Sat, 11/18/2017 - 03:04
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Chamber of the Americas is proud to introduce our new member, Swenson Law Office PC, Centennial, Colorado

Chamber of the Americas (English) - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 18:42

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Science academy launches open access publishing platform

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:34
The African Academy of Sciences, or AAS, is launching its own publication platform early next year that guarantees researchers immediate publication of articles and other research outputs without ...

Universities brace for workforce review and job cuts

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:32
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First university ranking prompts mixed reaction

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:30
A ranking of Bangladesh's private universities, published by two prominent media outlets, prompted mixed reactions in Bangladesh.

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Dispute over first veterinary school in half a century

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:12
Heated debate - both political and academic - over the establishment of a new veterinary school in Japan after a lacuna of 52 years has highlighted the excruciating challenges that face the countr ...

What to do about sexual harassment on campuses

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:10
We are witnessing a virtual tsunami of lists of well-known men in academia, policy-making, the entertainment industry, hospitality and the food industry who are being accused of sexual harassment. ...

Linking female students' access to success

University World News Global Edition - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:08
While significant improvements have been made in female student access rates in universities in Ethiopia, high attrition rates remain a challenge.

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