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Split verdict for Graham Spanier

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 04:56

Graham Spanier, the former president of Pennsylvania State University, was on Friday afternoon convicted by a jury of one count of child endangerment. The jury found him not guilty of another child endangerment count and not guilty of conspiracy.

The counts stem from Spanier's response -- or lack of response -- to reports about Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant coach of the football team at Penn State who in 2011 was charged with dozens of counts of sexually abusing boys. Sandusky was convicted on 45 of the 48 charges against him in 2012.

Lawyers for Spanier did not call witnesses in the case and said the prosecution failed to show that Spanier committed any crime, The Centre Daily Times reported. Jurors deliberated for more than six hours Thursday and most of Friday before they reached a verdict.

PennLive reported that Judge John Boccabella agreed that Spanier could remain free on bail, pending sentencing. Spanier could be sentence to a prison term.

Tim Curley, the former athletics director at Penn State, and Gary Schultz, the former senior vice president, were to have been co-defendants with Spanier. Instead, they pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment charges and testified against Spanier, agreeing that they were obligated to have done more to prevent Sandusky's abuse. Spanier's defense was that he did not realize the full extent of Sandusky's actions against young boys. But prosecutors argued that he knew enough to make sure that Sandusky was reported to authorities, and that having done so might have saved some boys from being abused by Sandusky.

Spanier was president of Penn State from 1995 to 2011 and was widely praised -- prior to the Sandusky scandal -- for building up the university, raising money ($3 billion over his tenure), starting new programs and generating positive publicity. On campus, Spanier was popular with students, performing as a musician and a magician. He hosted a call-in radio show. He was a national leader in higher education for much of the time he was president, chairing the board of the Association of American Universities, for example, and holding numerous important positions in the governance of college athletics.

Spanier was also something of an informal national spokesman for higher education on many issues, and he was known to reporters (including those at Inside Higher Ed) as one who returned calls and email messages -- and could speak eloquently on a wide range of issues.

Shortly after the verdict was announced, Penn State issued a statement that was critical of Spanier, Curley and Schultz.

"A jury today found former President Graham Spanier guilty of one count of endangering the welfare of a child," the statement said. "Recently, two former senior level administrators, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of endangering the welfare of a child, reportedly stating in part that, in the case of Curley: 'I pleaded guilty because I felt like I should have done more,' and Schultz: 'I felt I had been deficient in not reporting it myself.' The verdict, their words and pleas indicate a profound failure of leadership. Penn State has extraordinary expectations of our leaders, who must set and maintain the example for reporting, ethics and compliance that reflect best practices. In the view of the jury, with respect to Spanier, and by their own admission, as to Curley and Schultz, these former leaders fell short. And while we cannot undo the past, we have rededicated ourselves and our university to act always with the highest integrity, in affirming the shared values of our community."

A Scandal Breaks and Escalates

Spanier's response when the scandal became public in November 2011 angered many. His first statement spent more time defending the two senior officials who were charged with perjury (Curley and Schultz) than it did on the crimes of which Sandusky was indicted and later convicted: dozens of counts of sexual abuse of young boys.

"The allegations about a former coach are troubling, and it is appropriate that they be investigated thoroughly. Protecting children requires the utmost vigilance," Spanier said at the time. "With regard to the other presentments, I wish to say that Tim Curley and Gary Schultz have my unconditional support. I have known and worked daily with Tim and Gary for more than 16 years. I have complete confidence in how they have handled the allegations about a former university employee. Tim Curley and Gary Schultz operate at the highest levels of honesty, integrity and compassion. I am confident the record will show that these charges are groundless and that they conducted themselves professionally and appropriately."

Despite Spanier's support, the university announced the next day that they had resigned.

A few days later, the board dismissed Spanier and the head football coach, Joe Paterno.

Penn State commissioned a report -- known as the Freeh report for its chief author, former FBI director and federal judge Louis Freeh -- on the university's role in the Sandusky crimes. The report was issued in 2012 and was critical of many Penn State officials, including Spanier. The report -- which Spanier subsequently blasted as unfair -- noted that Spanier, Curley and Schultz had talked about reporting Sandusky to authorities years before he was charged but opted not to do so.

The report also criticized Penn State and its leaders for an athletics culture that discouraged scrutiny. “For the past several decades, the university’s athletic department was permitted to become a closed community. There was little personnel turnover or hiring from outside the university and strong internal loyalty,” the report said. “The athletic department was perceived by many in the Penn State community as ‘an island,’ where staff members lived by their own rules.”

Later in 2012, Spanier said that he could not have ignored Sandusky's abuse, had he known about it, because Spanier himself had been a victim of "persistent abuse as a child."

The Sandusky scandal and the responsibility of senior Penn State officials continues to be a divisive issue. Many football fans continue to revere Paterno, who died in 2012. But in 2016, many advocates for victims of childhood sex abuse were outraged when the university commemorated the 50th anniversary of Paterno becoming head coach.

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AIEA develops blueprint doc for leaders in int’l ed

The PIE News - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 04:31

How do you measure the efficacy and success of professionals at the top of their game in international education? The Association of International Education Administrators is attempting to answer this question by releasing a first-of-its-kind standards of professional practice document for international education leaders and senior international officers.

The set of 22 standards aims to clarify the professional qualifications required for roles at the helm of an institution’s internationalisation strategy.

Cheryl Matherly, a member of the AIEA Task Force on Standards of Professional Practice, told The PIE News at the organisation’s recent conference in Washington DC, that the guidelines reflect a  “professionalisation of the field”.

“It’s a statement on the part of AIEA of acknowledging that there are standards of practice for this work”

“It’s a statement on the part of AIEA of acknowledging that there are standards of practice for this work and that’s how the individuals who hold these particular roles, regardless of title, if they are in that senior leadership role, these are the standards by which they should be measured and evaluated.”

The guidelines cover using assessment data to strengthen internationalisation and refine processes; possessing international and language learning experience; being entrepreneurial to secure financial support and understanding how to advance global learning in the curriculum.

Six of the guidelines focus on advocacy including advocating for internationalisation within the local community as well as with governments, the private sector and non-profit organisations.

Their release is timely as promoting the benefits of a global education to university communities has become more urgent for US educators in the current political environment.

“When we were doing these we did not anticipate the current climate as to really bring this to the forefront but it is exactly this climate that is the reason that we identified advocacy as being one of the essential competencies in the field,” said Matherly.

“It was a recognition that part of the responsibility in that leadership function is to be forward-facing and public-facing and to be ready to speak and articulate the value of the exchange, to be clear on why universities have these kinds of international agendas.”

AIEA defines SIOs as “individuals within an institution of higher education who are charged with leading and facilitating its internationalisation efforts”.

Part of the responsibility in that leadership function is to be forward-facing and public-facing

In addition to recognising the responsibilities of SIOs, Matherly said the guidelines aim to develop future leaders and help universities who are building their own international departments.

“We hope this will guide institutions with the evaluation, creation and design of positions when they’re preparing to hire…and to help with those who are aspiring for this kind of role to be able to understand what is expected in terms of their own kind of professional development.”

Matherly noted the standards apply to a US context, including using the title SIO, but added that “some of these are standards that are reflective across the world at other institutions.”

AIEA also underlined that the standards are “a living document, subject to change” as the roles of SIOs evolve alongside internationalisation and higher education.

The post AIEA develops blueprint doc for leaders in int’l ed appeared first on The PIE News.

Arizona State U library reorganization plan moves ahead

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 00:00

Arizona State University will spend “well more than $100 million” over the next few years to renovate and rethink its libraries, the clearest indication yet of how the library fits into the institution’s plan for the public research university of the future.

The university later this year plans to close the Hayden Library on its Tempe campus for a two-year renovation. At the same time, the university will continue to work on expanding the library resources and services available to its roughly 26,000 degree-seeking online students and the hundreds of thousands more taking at least one class online from the university.

“The library has never been more important,” President Michael M. Crow said in an interview. “The library turns out to be absolutely central to our logic of building our educational enterprise -- central in the sense that it is the tool which connects our students wherever they are.”

Plans for renovations have been in the works for years, but now, Crow said, "We have the green light. We're moving ahead. And we don't move slowly."

Many other universities are reorganizing their libraries as they see an increase in the use of electronic resources and demand for cafes, multimedia classrooms, maker spaces, writing centers and other spaces devoted to teaching, learning and research. ASU, which under Crow's leadership has relentlessly pursued an innovation agenda, joins their ranks to argue for the benefits of libraries at a time when federal funding is on the cutting block.

The university in October 2014 hired James J. O’Donnell, a classical scholar who previously served as provost at Georgetown University, to lead the university library through the reorganization process. In an interview, he said one of his priorities since taking the job has been to figure out what to do with the 4.5 million physical items in the library’s collections.

“It’s time to realize that all of our users are primarily online users of our collections,” O’Donnell said. Reorganizing a university library around that concept “means changing your service model, your staffing structure and organization, and bringing in a bunch of new people,” he said.

Some of those new people might be embedded at EdPlus, ASU's innovation unit, or might work with instructional designers to embed library resources into course syllabi. O’Donnell said he hopes to hire around 25 people, bringing the library staff up to about 200 people.

The university last year received a $50,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support that work. O’Donnell said he plans for the renovated library to highlight a “carefully chosen print collection.” Its special collections feature prominently in those plans, as they will be moved from their current location “hidden away on the fourth floor” to the main floor, he said.

“We want it to be a place that says libraries are important because libraries have the good stuff,” O’Donnell said. “Libraries have and manage access to the best-quality learning and research resources, and we have the wizards to help you find what you need. We can take you to lots and lots of places that the open internet just can’t plain take you, and we can show you how to get there.”

O’Donnell also said the library is considering a future in which it will feature smaller “thematic exhibits” with accompanying events on a rotating basis. One semester might be devoted to Italy; the next, sustainability.

The library is taking some cues from the retail world on how to design the rotating exhibits to invite visitors to attend and explore, O’Donnell said. The retail angle extends to how the library is talking about its operations. The library will store the rest of its collections in off-site shelving on its Polytechnic campus, some 20 miles away from the Hayden Library. But librarians don’t refer to the off-site shelving as “storage,” he said. Instead, they are being encouraged by Crow to see it as a “fulfillment center,” similar to those used by online retailers.

An informational website that the university set up to raise awareness about the library renovation completes the comparison to Amazon. It explains that books “will remain accessible to the ASU community through expedited delivery options similar to the Amazon Prime service.”

“I’m hoping even that we can get to the point where we can have all the books on same-day delivery,” Crow said, adding that the university is open to testing technologies such as delivery by drone in the future to make it possible.

Off-site storage has become a popular solution for university libraries looking to free up some space by removing stacks. The Georgia Institute of Technology, for example, is engaged in its own library renovation project that involves moving virtually all of its physical books to a facility it shares with nearby Emory University (but keeping some as a “visual cue,” administrators said last year).

Irene M. H. Herold, president of the Association of College & Research Libraries, said in an interview that the trend of using off-site storage is one example of how the university library profession is changing.

“Our focus is where it has been all along,” said Herold, university librarian at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “We’re not just knowledge preservers and information-literacy, critical-thinking instructors. We’re also engaged in knowledge creation. It’s just that the knowledge that’s being created is able to be accessed and shaped and shared in such different ways than in the past.”

When it reopens in 2019, the Hayden Library will be a “comfortable, homely and welcoming” place that encourages and helps students succeed academically, O’Donnell said. The renovated building will ditch the traditional single entrance in favor of multiple points of access and egress and feature some food options to take advantage of its central location on campus.

O’Donnell expanded on his vision for the renovated building in an email. “I want a building that is a showplace (a sign of ASU's academic and achievement) and a showcase (a place to make people aware of library treasures and resources and of the achievements of student and faculty partners) and a showroom (a place for users to go to find out about and road test and learn how to use information resources for best contribution to academic work and ambition).”

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Berkeley again accused of protecting reputation of star professor instead of acting on reports of harassment

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 00:00

It’s more bad news for both a discipline and an institution that have been plagued by reports of sexual harassment and assault in recent years: a former research assistant is suing the University of California for failing to properly address her report of misconduct against a star philosopher on the Berkeley campus.

The lawsuit, filed this week in a county court, alleges that John R. Searle, Willis S. and Marion Slusser Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Language, forced himself on and groped the assistant, then continued to harass her until she was summarily terminated. The assistant allegedly reported the initial incident and other behaviors to the director of the John Searle Center for Social Ontology, where she was working, but says that employees sought to protect Searle instead.

Searle and an employee named in the complaint and have not responded to the allegations, either to Inside Higher Ed or local reporters covering the story. The university said in a statement late Thursday that while it can't comment on individual ongoing cases, "we want to be certain that the campus community is aware of the care we take in handling such cases."

Inside Higher Ed does not typically name alleged victims of sexual misconduct, but the plaintiff, Joanna Ong, has been public about her case. Ong, a 2014 graduate of Berkeley, began working at the center after taking a class with Searle during her undergraduate studies and establishing a mentor-style relationship with Searle’s graduate student instructor at the time. More precisely, Ong wanted experience working in academe before entering graduate school, and her mentor, who had since been named director of Searle’s center, allegedly offered her a $1,000-per-month position as a research associate. Searle himself offered Ong an additional $3,000 per month to cover her living expenses, according to the complaint.

Ong says the job -- mostly clerical work but always in close quarters with Searle -- went well for a week. Searle in that time talked with her about her interest in philosophy and reassured her that her living costs and other needs during graduate school (which she plans to begin this fall) would be taken care of, urging that they have a relationship based on -- in his words -- "total trust," according to the complaint.

After a week, in July 2016, Searle allegedly assaulted Ong in his office, locking his door and groping her. He slid his hands down her back to her buttocks and told Ong that they would be “lovers,” that he had an “emotional commitment to making her a public intellectual,” and that he was “going to love her for a long time,” the lawsuit says.

Ong says she was shocked and immediately rejected his advances by saying that her interest in him was intellectual and that she would not be his lover. Searle allegedly apologized and told her to “forget it.”

The professor paid Ong $3,000 for her first month of work, as agreed, according to the complaint, and allegedly told her to keep working while he went on vacation. After he left, Ong says she reported the assault to the Searle Center director, Jennifer Hudin; Hudin allegedly told her that she’d protect her from Searle’s advances, and that he was known to have sexual relationships with students and others “in exchange for academic, financial or other benefits.” She didn’t tell Ong to report her concerns to university officials, however, according to the complaint.

Ong’s work environment became increasingly “hostile and awkward” when Searle returned from vacation, she says, as Searle allegedly acted like nothing had happened between them and cut her pay essentially in half by beginning to pay her an hourly rate of $15 with no notice or stated reason.

Searle also behaved inappropriately around Ong, she says, asking her to log on to a website called Sugar Baby, Sugar Daddy, watching internet pornography in front of her, and responding to a comment about American imperialism like this: “Oh boy, that sounds great, honey! Let’s go to bed and do that right now.” (Ong, who is a Asian-American, believes that was a reference to her race.)

In early September, Ong reported to Hudin what was happening, and complained about her pay cut. Hudin allegedly said she’d talk to Searle, but later said she couldn’t address the issues with “upper management” out of respect and loyalty for Searle, and a need to "protect" him.

Later that month, Hudin alleged told Ong her services were no longer needed at the center, even though she’d allegedly left a higher-paying job in San Francisco to work at Berkeley.

Ong’s accusing the university system’s Board of Regents and Searle of quid pro quo sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation and wrongful termination. She’s suing Searle individually for assault, seeking a trial by jury and unspecified damages.

BuzzFeed originally reported Ong’s story, writing that Searle abruptly stopped teaching undergraduates earlier this month with the university citing “personal reasons.” A university spokesperson declined to provide any additional information Thursday, including whether he is still in contact with graduate students.

Carla Hesse, Berkeley's interim lead on sexual misconduct issues, said in a statement that, in general, an investigation is launched once the campus Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination is made aware allegations. The process includes "taking immediate interim steps to ensure the complainant's concerns regarding safety, employment issues or other matters are addressed," she said. "Steps may also be taken to ensure that a complainant is not required, in the conduct of their campus duties, to come into contact with a faculty member alleged to have violated policy."

The California system and Berkeley, in particular, have received much negative attention in recent years over reports of sexual harassment by professors and insufficient institutional responses. Geoff Marcy, a well-known astronomer, for example, was forced to resign in 2015 after news broke that he’d been found to have harassed a number of female graduate students over many years -- but was still allowed to teach. More recently, the UC system released records showing it had disciplined more than 100 employees systemwide for sexual misconduct over a three-year period, including many professors.

California has recently taken major steps to address sexual harassment and assault by professors, including by explicitly making it a violation of the faculty code of conduct and shoring up timelines for taking disciplinary action after reports of misconduct. System President Janet Napolitano has said she wants California to become a national leader on issues surrounding Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination in education. But that goal becomes harder to reach with each new allegation.

Philosophy, too, has been rocked by complaints of harassment and disciplinary permissiveness toward harassment. Ong’s story, for example, is strikingly similar to another alleged case of harassment in philosophy, at Yale University. There, too, a recent alumna said she was promised a good job working as an assistant to Thomas Pogge, another well-known professor of philosophy. But the job ended when she rebuffed his sexual advances, she said. Pogge has denied the claims.

Neither Hudin nor Searle immediately responded to a request for comment Thursday. The Berkeley spokesperson, Janet Gilmore, said campus leaders “are dedicated to fostering a community where sexual harassment and sexual assault is never tolerated. We are continuously working to improve our efforts, and much progress has been made.”

Berkeley reportedly denied two earlier requests from BuzzFeed to make public information about sexual misconduct claims against Searle. The university reportedly said that it could not “confirm or deny” that any complaints against Searle had been made, and that it was not in the public interest to turn over documents “where there has been no finding of employee misconduct,” as it would “constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

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Head of McGill's Canadian studies institute resigns after column offensive to some Quebecers

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 00:00

The director of McGill University’s Institute for the Study of Canada has resigned from his post after a magazine column he wrote about "social malaise" in Quebec came under heavy criticism, including from the province’s premier.

In announcing his resignation on social media, Andrew Potter, a former newspaper editor with a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Toronto, cited “the ongoing negative reaction within the university community and the broader public to my column” as the reason. He has apologized for aspects of the column.

Because I can't figure out Facebook, here's my resignation statement: pic.twitter.com/kbevPAyYuz

— Andrew Potter (@jandrewpotter) March 23, 2017

“This has been the dream job of a lifetime, but I have come to the conclusion that the credibility of the institute will be best served by my resignation,” Potter wrote. He will continue in his position as an associate professor in the Faculty of Arts at McGill, one of Canada's leading universities.

News about Potter's resignation immediately raised speculation about whether Potter was pushed out and concerns about academic freedom at McGill -- concerns that the university's leader described as "unfounded." The university was, however, quick to disassociate itself from Potter's piece.

Potter did not respond to Inside Higher Ed's request for an interview. The Canadian news magazine Maclean’s, which published Potter's offending column, cited unnamed sources saying that "McGill endured such intense backlash over Potter’s Maclean’s piece that the university left him only two choices: resign or be fired."

“If it is true that the McGill administration bowed to external pressure and forced Professor Potter to step down, then this would be one of the most serious violations of academic freedom in recent years,” David Robinson, the executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said in a statement. “Universities have an absolute obligation to protect and defend the academic freedom of their faculty from outside influences.”

In a public message, McGill's principal and vice chancellor (the equivalent of president), Suzanne Fortier, said the board of the institute accepted Potter's resignation "regretfully." She wrote that Potter's "resignation provoked unfounded rumors and concerns regarding academic freedom," which she described as a "foundational principle" for the university.

"The mission of MISC is to promote a better understanding of Canada through the study of our heritage and to support the study of Canada across the country and internationally," Fortier wrote. "Professor Potter recognized that he had failed to uphold this mission and that the 'credibility of the institute would be best served by his resignation.'"

A McGill spokesman said that Fortier would not be granting interviews and declined to answer questions beyond published statements from Fortier and the institute.

Potter's controversial Maclean's column, which was published Monday, offers a dim view of Quebec's society as lacking in social cohesion. Potter takes as his starting point for the piece the stranding of hundreds of cars on a Montreal highway during a snowstorm last week and argues that the stranding "reveals the essential malaise eating away at the foundations of Quebec society."

In making the case that, compared to the rest of Canada, "Quebec is an almost pathologically alienated and low-trust society, deficient in many of the most basic forms of social capital that other Canadians take for granted," Potter cites statistics related to volunteerism rates, civic engagement and social isolation; discusses the scale of the province's underground, cash-only economy; and describes the lack of "proper" uniforms worn by protesting police officers and the "on strike" stickers plastered on Quebec's emergency response vehicles as having a corroding effect on public trust in institutions.

Potter has apologized for parts of the column, saying in his resignation statement that “I deeply regret many aspects” of it, including “its sloppy use of anecdotes, its tone and the way it comes across as deeply critical of the entire province.”

He previously issued an apology for what he described as “rhetorical flourishes that go beyond what is warranted by either the facts or my own beliefs," according to the Montreal Gazette, which quoted from the earlier apology statement. Maclean's also issued two factual corrections.

"I think the op-ed itself was poorly executed, but that’s beside the point, because academic freedom also means that researchers can be wrong," said Emmett Macfarlane, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Waterloo. "The proper forum for correcting errors is in scholarly or public debate, and that actually happened in this instance. But then suddenly he’s issuing a resignation. I think that’s a huge failure on the part of McGill administration."

Macfarlane wrote a piece that appeared in Maclean's characterizing a McGill University tweet distancing itself from Potter's views as "chilling." The tweet, below, was issued by the university's official account on Tuesday, prior to Potter's resignation.

The views expressed by @JAndrewPotter in the @MacleansMag article do not represent those of #McGill.

— McGill University (@mcgillu) March 21, 2017

“I think it's an outrage," Macfarlane said Thursday of Potter's resignation. "I think this is a real scandal for McGill University, which has completely failed to protect its core academic mission and the principle of academic freedom.”

“Mr. Potter has been undoubtedly pressured at the very least to resign following the articulation of an unpopular and controversial argument in the public sphere,” Macfarlane said. “Academic freedom is expressly there to protect against that. Our ability to learn, to create knowledge as researchers, depends on our ability to examine things from a minority perspective, from an unpopular or outside-the-mainstream position. To have effectively sanctioned a scholar at their university for writing an op-ed that outraged people, that created obvious political pressure on the university, is an overt failure and violation of that principle.”

Michael Byers, the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia, also criticized McGill's response in an op-ed in The Globe and Mail. "First, they publicly stated that Mr. Potter’s views did not represent the university’s views. But great universities do not have views. Instead, they provide a venue -- safe from prejudice and persecution -- in which intellectuals, including students, can gather to develop, debate and express knowledge, insights and opinions," Byers wrote.

"Second, by stating that Mr. Potter’s views did not represent McGill’s views, the administrators were implicitly criticizing him, at a time when he was already under intense public pressure to retract his column and apologize. A great university would have rushed to support his right to speak," Byers continued.

"Third, McGill allowed the controversy to become a resigning matter, thus turning a bad mistake into a scar on its reputation. The scar will be larger if it turns out that senior administrators pressured Mr. Potter into resigning. If they themselves succumbed to pressure from politicians or donors, the damage could be crippling."

Terry Hébert, the president of the McGill Association of University Teachers and a professor in the department of pharmacology and therapeutics, said that while he does not know the details of what happened, he is saddened that Potter resigned -- and he would be angered if he found out university administrators encouraged or compelled him to.

“I don’t know what to make of his resignation,” Hébert said. “I’ve asked people in the university if he was fired or encouraged to resign; the one person that I spoke with said no.” That person is highly placed, Hébert said, “but they’re not right at the top and they probably don’t hear every discussion. I’ve asked the principal and the provost and I haven’t heard from them, either. I think they’re just hoping this whole thing will blow over.”

“I would have thought the apology would have been sufficient, but I don’t know him. I don’t know how much self-regret there was there and how much he thought that this compromised his ability to do his job as the head of the institute. Only he knows that,” Hébert said.

A petition on Change.org that originally called for Potter's firing -- which only received 24 signatures -- argued that his apology was insufficient given his role as director of an institute focused on the study of Canada. "We call on Principal Suzanne Fortier and the McGill Board of Governors to acknowledge that an institute with the mission of promoting understanding of Canada's pluralistic society and values cannot have a director who demonstrates prejudiced opinions and sloppy academic rigor in his approach to public dialogue and commentary," the petition states. "The public attention that this incident has received will ultimately tarnish the reputation of the institute unless further action is taken."

Potter's column had come under fire from, among others, the province's highest political figure. Quebec's premier, Philippe Couillard, described it to reporters as "an article of very poor quality," according to the CBC.

"It aims to paint a negative portrait of Quebec, based on prejudices," Couillard reportedly said.

Potter came to McGill for what was to be a three-year term directing the institute in August 2016. A university announcement about his hiring cited his "reputation as a public intellectual in Canada and his experience as an editor at a major metropolitan newspaper," The Ottawa Citizen.

The university press release about Potter's hiring describes the institute's programs as follows: "The institute runs an academic program at McGill, supports an active research environment and organizes a variety of large-scale, public events on matters of interest to Canadians. These include MISC's annual conferences, which attract a great deal of attention from policy makers, media and the general public. While the institute itself is nonpartisan, MISC is no stranger to debate and controversy."

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Indiana creates free tuition program for certificate earners

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 00:00

When people talk about free community college, they’re most likely thinking about tuition-free programs like those in Tennessee or the one proposed by President Obama, which focus on getting students to an associate degree with as little debt as possible.

But in Indiana, a new proposal -- the Workforce Ready Grant -- would instead offer free community college to those students who want a certificate in a high-demand field. While the certificates would vary by program, they typically take anywhere from 18 to 34 credit hours to complete or at most one year for a full-time student.

“We’re aware of what’s happening in Tennessee and other states, but we wanted to send a message to Hoosiers that if you come back and get a certificate in a high value area … then we will pay for it,” said Teresa Lubbers, Indiana’s commissioner for higher education.

Indiana projects that by 2025 the state will have about one million job openings due to retirements and new positions. But there are approximately 1.4 million working-age Hoosiers with a high school education or less. About 750,000 of the state’s residents have some college, but no associate degree or higher, and, of that population, about 170,000 have some kind of certificate.

The focus on college as a means not only for a degree but work force development is one the Trump administration and some academics seem to agree on.

The state has determined that a high-value certificate is one that has “high job placement, high completion rate, high wage and high demand.” Some of those potential certificates would be in the following fields: automation and robotics technology, medical office administration, supply chain management logistics, certified nursing assistant, welding, or commercial driver’s license.

Indiana only has two public institutions that provide two-year degrees and certificates -- Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University.

The Workforce Ready Grant would be a last-dollar program, where students would first use federal and state aid to cover the cost of college before using the grant aid, but the state plans to award the grant to all adults regardless of financial need. The Legislature and governor’s office are considering paying $2 million a year for the grant program. The state would only cover up to two years, and the cost of certificates is determined by the college's tuition per credit hour. For instance, Indiana residents at Ivy Tech paid $135.15 per credit hour last year.

Lubbers said there is a separate adult student grant paid for with existing money, and with the last-dollar component, the state is convinced it will be able to cover the costs.

And because the initiative could be appealing to working adults, there’s an opportunity for employers to provide tuition assistance.

“We used to hear employers say that if they trained and educated [employees] they would leave, but we don’t hear that anymore,” Lubbers said. “Now we hear that if we don’t train or scale them up, we can’t produce a product or services.”

Indiana has been trying to encourage more adults to go back to school. Last year the state launched the You Can Go Back initiative, which provides $1,000 in assistance to adult students. So far, more than 9,000 people have re-enrolled in college through that program.

The state has already seen an increase in the number of Indiana residents earning certificates. Since 2012, the state has increased certificates awarded by 32 percent, from 12,910 to 17,046. And 55 percent of the state’s certificate earners have gone on to complete an associate degree, while 25 percent have earned multiple certificates in the same year.

That growth in certificates is reflective of a nationwide trend to move toward quick credentials as they become more popular.

“Certificates are the fastest-growing award in postsecondary education, and that’s because the skill requirements at entry-level positions for what used to be high school jobs have increased, in part because they’ve shifted from manufacturing into service functions,” said Anthony Carnevale, a research professor and director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “What Indiana is doing makes a good deal of sense, and it’s powerful. It breaks away from the American fascination with the high-school-to-Harvard pathway as the only pathway available to students.”

Lubbers said it’s common to hear adult students, in particular, complain that the barrier to pursuing a degree is the general education requirements that often come attached to programs that lead to a career.

But there are some areas of concern that students should be aware of before they pursue a certificate.

For instance, certificates tend to hold more value for men than they do for women, because the more valuable certificates tend to be in male-dominated industries, Carnevale said.

And if students want to pursue degrees or stack the certificates so they’re adding additional skills to their repertoire, they will be able to do that with the certificates Indiana awards, Lubbers said.

“Even the credits from a stackable certificate will often not be transfer worthy after a few years,” said Mary Alice McCarthy, director of the Center on Education and Skills for New America. “That’s one reason why certificates that lead to occupational licenses or industry certifications can be more valuable than just stand-alone certificates, even if they are for credit.”

Meanwhile, Ivy Tech officials are looking forward to seeing more students in its system embracing certificates. The system expects that it may have to increase health-care programs in order to meet the demand, as well, said Mary Jane Michalak, vice president of government relations at Ivy Tech.

“A work force certification and work force training and certificates are just as important and can be just as lucrative as bachelor’s degrees, and in some cases, students who graduate with a certificate will come out of college immediately making more than those pursuing a bachelor’s degree,” she said. “We need individuals at all levels, and it’s important we connect adults to the jobs that are available.”

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The peace process and higher education in Colombia

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 00:00

On Nov. 24, 2016, the great and the good of Colombian higher education made their way through Bogotá’s noise, congestion and pollution, past the graffiti murals of exotic birds, serpents and mythological scenes, to a plush reception hosted by the U.S. Embassy.

The occasion was a Thanksgiving lunch. But the Colombians could surely have been forgiven if they preferred to give thanks not so much for the American harvest as for the dividend they hope to reap from the revised peace deal their government had signed that very day with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Marxist guerrilla organization infamous for its more than half century of involvement in kidnappings, extortion and the drug trade.

The deal -- whose original version had been rejected by Colombian voters in a referendum the previous month -- was ratified by the country’s Parliament within a week. And the higher education sector is poised to carry out the research and establish the access programs that will help clarify issues of social justice and reintegrate the ex-combatants: tasks likely to be crucial in building long-term peace.

But as well as fulfilling this national agenda, many leaders of higher education institutions are hoping the more stable postconflict environment will also enable them to become more effective players within global higher education. Indeed, the reason the U.S. ambassador was able to gather so many of them together for stuffed turkey and pumpkin pie was that they were already in Bogotá -- once reputed to be among the most dangerous big cities in the world -- to attend the eighth Latin America and the Caribbean Higher Education Conference, which was devoted to the theme of internationalization.

Still, the dining room would have had to be the size of a university refectory to accommodate the close to 300 leaders of the country’s complicated tertiary education system. The system includes 82 universities, as well as assorted “university institutions” (that award only undergraduate degrees), technological institutions and professional technical institutions. Claudia Aponte González, a consultant who works with Colombia’s ministry of national education, told the conference that the ministry is committed to promoting internationalization but had struggled to come up with a one-size-fits-all model. There were institutions located in border cities; institutions committed to “Bolivarian” pan-Andean ideals; institutions that offered only online courses; institutions focused on regional development; institutions in special territories such as small Caribbean islands; even institutions in places where the climate was so bad that the ministry had never managed to send someone to carry out an assessment. Each had different ideas about what internationalization should mean for them.

Major attempts at reform in the sector have proceeded in parallel with the long peace negotiations. President Juan Manuel Santos’s National Development Plan for 2014-18, Todos por un nuevo país (All for a New Country), established education, alongside peace and equity, as one of its three pillars. Santos -- the winner of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize -- has also announced an ambitious aspiration for Colombia to be the best-educated country in Latin America by 2025. Perhaps the most obvious practical consequence of this has been a laborious, ongoing process to streamline the country’s system of qualifications, improve the status of technical education and create new pathways into universities.

Common Issues for Latin America

For international higher education consultant Liz Reisberg (an Inside Higher Ed blogger), many of the challenges facing the equatorial nation apply across much of Latin America.

“All countries are responding to the challenges of massification, which started 20 to 30 years ago,” she said. “Higher education went from being an elite enterprise to trying to incorporate anywhere between 30 and 60 percent of the age cohort. [It is currently in the region of 50 percent in Colombia.] The traditional universities just couldn’t accommodate that …. Most of the ministries backed off on the restrictions on setting up universities and allowed very rapid growth with very little quality control.”

As the dust has settled, Reisberg said, most countries established systems of quality control. That includes Colombia, and the nation is also notable for “a pretty well-established private sector,” whose elite tier has a level of research productivity on a par with that of the public universities, she says.

Strength at the Top

Indeed, there seems to be general agreement about the strength of the top Colombian universities. Four institutions -- the University of the Andes, the University of Antioquia, the Universidad del Norte and the Pontifical Bolivarian University (UPB), Medellín -- feature among the top 50 in Times Higher Education’s rankings of Latin American universities for 2016. That is more than any other country except Chile (11 institutions) and the regional giants Brazil (23 institutions) and Mexico (eight). Citation data provided by Elsevier also suggest that Colombia is quickly increasing its research output, whose quality bears comparison with the strongest performers in the region, especially in physics and astronomy.

Colombia was identified last year by Times Higher Education as one of seven nations with the potential to become significant players in global higher education. This was on account of its respectable research quality, its increasing research output and its high and growing student enrollment rate.

A report called “Education in Colombia,” published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development last April, also praises many aspects of Colombian higher education. However, it is highly critical of the country’s “outdated, inequitable and inefficient” system for distributing public resources. Established in 1992, this system allocates 48 percent of the entire budget for public universities to just three of the 32 institutions, and leaves 20 out of 39 public technical colleges without “regular” subsidies. Given that total student numbers have more than quadrupled since 1992, the system’s “rigidity, lack of definition and scope” make it a major obstacle to progress, the report says.

Impact of the Civil Unrest

Colombia’s long decades of civil unrest are, of course, another important background factor to take into account when assessing its higher education. In a Ph.D. thesis titled “Conflict, Postconflict and the Functions of the University: Lessons From Colombia and Other Armed Conflicts,” awarded by Boston College in 2013, education consultant Ivan Pacheco describes how the conflict was “part of the day-to-day life” of many public universities. “Struggles for the political and economic control of campuses have been bloody and claimed several victims,” he said. In one case, about 50 academics and students were kidnapped by guerrillas; elsewhere they were “killed, tortured and disappeared.”

Precisely because of the “almost unquestioned prevalence of the left-wing ideology on campuses,” Pacheco explained, the extreme right also “decided to take over some public universities, particularly in the north of the country.” Meanwhile, universities’ very autonomy could make them “more attractive to outlaw groups …. Corrupt politicians have attempted (and sometimes been able) to gain administrative and political control of these institutions.”

Anyone who visits Bogotá’s “White City” will take Pacheco’s point about “left-wing ideology.” This is the main campus of the National University of Colombia, close to the center of the capital. Surrounded by a fence, it covers an area of 600 acres, complete with observatory, stadium, children’s playground, pop-up cafe, restaurant and white faculty buildings. At its heart, where little stalls sell food, is the Francisco de Paula Santander Plaza, more often known as the Che Plaza, on account of the huge painting of Che Guevara on a facade opposite the library.

The leftism of student activists was also apparent in their opposition to plans to reform the sector -- including the system for distributing funding -- embarked on a year after President Santos took office in 2010. According to the OECD report, the protesters objected to only “one highly controversial clause -- to allow for-profit tertiary education institutions,” but the volume of their opposition “caused the whole … reform proposal to fail.”

There seem to be no current plans to revive the reforms.

A rather different figure from Che Guevara greets visitors to the Bogotá campus of Uniminuto, perhaps the only university in the world named after a television program. This was established by a Roman Catholic priest, the Reverend Rafael García Herreros, famous throughout Colombia during his lifetime because of his daily one-minute “God slot.” When a vacant lot was donated to him, he created a whole district on the outskirts of the city, complete with houses, textile workshops and even a museum of contemporary art, which looks like a miniature version of the snail-shaped Guggenheim Museum in New York. It was also here that he established a university “inspired by the Gospel and the church’s social mission” to provide “quality education within reach of everyone.” It now has branches in 85 cities and teaches 120,000 students. Distance learning, online courses and evening classes help it to reach out to the underprivileged indigenous communities in remote cities and other groups largely ignored by the rest of the sector. Scholarships helped to support almost 90,000 students in 2015 alone.

‘Who Do We Leave Behind?’

This points to another key educational challenge Colombia faces: social exclusion. In the words of J. Salvador Peralta, associate professor of political science at the University of West Georgia, the central question in Latin American higher education is “Who do we leave behind?” Like several other countries, Colombia has “much more demand for higher education than [it] can possibly supply efficiently and at a high quality.” This has led to “very difficult questions about where to allocate resources to get the most return for [its] money.”

The government’s flagship policy for widening access, known as Ser Pilo Paga (Hard Work Pays Off), has given 10,000 scholarships a year since 2014 to pupils from poorer backgrounds who achieve excellent results in the national school-leaving exams. A new student loan program was also introduced in 2015.

Pablo Navas Sanz de Santamaría, rector of the University of the Andes, calls Ser Pilo Paga a “very, very significant” initiative that had “an immediate impact in making universities much more inclusive and diverse." His university has also secured philanthropic funding for other programs targeting similar underprivileged groups. As a result, says Navas, “42 percent of those selected last semester” to study at the university now come from such backgrounds.

Internationalization is not an entirely novel concept in Colombia. According to Elsevier, the proportion of the country’s papers that were internationally co-authored between 2011 and 2015 is high: 46 percent.

“Internationalization is absolutely crucial for us,” Marta Losada, president of the city’s Antonio Narino University, told Times Higher Education. “We put in a strategy 10 years ago to sign up faculty without Ph.D.s to go abroad [to do a doctorate], and [we] see lots of international collaboration as a result.” The university is now following this up with “a strategy to hire people with doctoral degrees from all over the world.” Losada is actively pursuing partnerships in the Spanish-speaking world but is also keen to “implement more programs in other languages, particularly English, over the next 10 years.”

Alberto Roa is vice president for academic affairs at the Universidad del Norte, a private university set up in 1966 in the Caribbean region. His institution is also committed to a comprehensive approach to internationalization, which “seeks not only to increase the inbound and outbound mobility of students and faculty, but also to work on internationalization at home, in order to have a global environment on the campus.” International conferences, events and courses in English are among the measures adopted to “strengthen global citizenship skills in our students.”

External partners confirm the effectiveness of such strategies. David Wilson, professor of human developmental genetics at the University of Southampton, attended the recruitment fair accompanying the higher education conference, looking for Colombian postgraduate students in areas well beyond his own specialist field.

Mike Proctor, vice president for international affairs at the University of Arizona, is similarly enthusiastic. His university is seriously engaged with about half a dozen Colombian universities and he claims that Colombia’s research universities “are fabulous universities and on a par with anybody.” Many of Arizona’s Colombian contacts are “world-class global scholars, presenting multilingually at conferences and publishing in Nature,” he adds.

Yet it is safe to say that this excellence represents the tip of the iceberg. Apart from the funding system, which does nothing to incentivize efficiency, the OECD report also laments the comparatively low academic abilities of typical Colombian high schoolers; the high dropout rates from universities; the low proportions of undergraduates going on to postgraduate study; and the “lack of employer engagement in the governance and delivery of [tertiary education].” Ministry figures indicate that, as of 2012, there were only seven people per million in Colombia holding doctoral degrees, compared with 31 in Chile, 42 in Mexico and 69 in Brazil. The Latin American average is 37.

Quality assurance also remains somewhat cumbersome. At the most basic level, all institutions and programs are required to meet minimal standards in order to be certified. Universities can also apply for voluntary high-quality accreditation, but, given that it has little public recognition, many have not felt it worth the effort to go through the laborious process. In mid-2015, a further instrument known as the Modelo de Indicadores del Desempeño de la Educación (Model Performance Indicators for Education) was introduced. According to critics, this imposition from on high lacks transparency and amounts to a ranking of Colombian universities based on criteria that implicitly penalize those, such as Uniminuto, that are doing important work but are not operating on standard models.

According to consultant Reisberg, Colombia is also “ahead of the game in collecting really good data.” This includes areas such as research, labor market returns for particular qualifications and “value added” (as measured by tests of those entering and completing university courses). However, as a spokesman for the ministry of education admitted, this energetic information gathering has proved somewhat fruitless, since “families do not use the data to decide on a university” and “universities do not use the data to measure how they are doing in comparison with others,” preferring to rely on international rankings.

Also new are international summer schools. Begun last summer, these last about a month and bring together about 300 Colombian academics and students with international experts, including Nobel prizewinners, to address one of the three key pillars -- equity, education and peace -- flagged up in the president’s National Development Plan.

Far to Go

Despite all this, a ministry representative who wished to remain anonymous is frank about how far the country still has to go: “As of now, few academics can write in English,” she explained. “That is one of the biggest challenges we are working on. We are really encouraging bilingualism, but since universities are autonomous, the ministry cannot force them to do things.”

Delegates at the Bogotá conference also pointed to major challenges, even while acknowledging that important (if sometimes cumbersome) structures had been put in place.

Luis Alejandro Arévalo Rodríguez is head of internationalization at Bogotá’s private EAN University. Although his institution manages to do “a fair amount of applied research, working closely with enterprises in areas such as clean energy, entrepreneurship and sustainability,” he points to sectorwide difficulties in giving research the priority it deserves. “When you hire professors at a Ph.D. level, they expect to [be able to conduct] research, so if your university is not committed to [this], it is difficult for them to be happy,” he says. But “very few” universities can afford to allow staff to concentrate exclusively on research, and most ask them to focus on teaching.

Sonia Marcela Durán Martínez, vice president for international affairs at Del Rosario University, agrees that “the country does not have enough funding for science, so it’s a huge challenge for private universities.” When Colciencias -- a government agency that supports science, technology and innovation -- was set up in 1968, it was “clear that it had to fund laboratories and research as well as mobility, but this remained at the level of good intentions, because it was never given [enough] funds.”

The coming of peace is naturally welcomed, but universities seem cautious in their optimism about what it is likely to mean for them. Universidad del Norte’s Roa expects “great economic investments for the postconflict transition” but sees no evidence that increased funds will be directed towards higher education. If they aren’t, it will mean “no resources available to finance very costly investments, such as facilities, technology, laboratories and libraries.”

Navas at the University of the Andes is eager for the Ser Pilo Paga initiative to continue after its initial four years. He would also like to see more “top-notch researchers” addressing issues such as “drug trafficking, biodiversity, the new justice structure” to be implemented. Unfortunately, he believes that a system directing 10 percent of oil and mining royalties toward science, technology and innovation was “incorrectly designed and hasn’t worked out well,” since responsibility for distributing such funds is in the hands of “the governors of the different states.” With elections approaching, he fears that both the extension of Ser Pilo Paga and any plans to reform research funding may run afoul of short-term political pressures.

It seems that only time will tell whether Nov. 24 becomes permanently established in Colombian university calendars as a day for thanksgiving.

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New presidents or provosts: D'Youville Earlham Free State Harford JMU Rhodes Southwestern UNI UNT-Dallas Walsh

Inside Higher Ed - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 00:00
  • Lorrie Clemo, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the State University of New York College at Oswego, has been selected as president of D'Youville College, also in New York.
  • Heather Coltman, dean of the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters at Florida Atlantic University, has been appointed provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at James Madison University, in Virginia.
  • Marjorie Hass, president of Austin College, in Texas, has been named president of Rhodes College, in Tennessee.
  • Marsha Kelliher, dean of the Sigmund Weis School of Business at Susquehanna University, in Pennsylvania, has been chosen to be president and CEO of Walsh University, in Michigan.
  • Kindred Murillo, superintendent/president of the Lake Tahoe Community College District, in California, has been named superintendent/president of the Southwestern Community College District, also in California.
  • Mark Nook, chancellor of Montana State University Billings, has been selected as president of the University of Northern Iowa.
  • Francis Petersen, deputy vice chancellor for innovation at the University of Cape Town, has been named vice chancellor and rector of the University of the Free State, also in South Africa.
  • Alan C. Price, former associate director of management for the Peace Corps and acting chief of staff for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, in Washington, has been chosen as president of Earlham College, in Indiana.
  • Betty H. Stewart, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Midwestern State University, in Texas, has been appointed provost and executive vice president at the University of North Texas at Dallas.
  • Steven L. Thomas, dean of the health and human services division at North Seattle College, in Washington, has been chosen as vice president for academic affairs at Harford Community College, in Maryland.
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Universities should make their own foreign policies

University World News Global Edition - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 10:49
Universities in the United States and United Kingdom need to call upon their "marvellous capacities for having their own foreign policies" in the light of Donald Trump being elected US president a ...

As Cuba’s economy flat-lines, retirement has become notional

Economist, North America - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 08:44

NORBERTO MESA, a 66-year-old grandfather, stands in the hot sun 11 hours a day, six days a week, guiding cars in and out of the parking spaces in front of a bustling farm stand. The 4,000 Cuban pesos ($170 at the official exchange rate) he earns each month in tips is more than ten times his monthly old-age pension of 340 pesos. Without it, the retired animal geneticist could not afford fruit and meat, or help his children, who work for low salaries, to feed his four grandchildren.

Though revolutionary Cuba had one of the region’s earliest and most comprehensive pension systems, in recent years retirement has almost vanished. Without further economic reform, and the cheap oil that used to come from Venezuela, the economy has stalled. Pensions have been frozen, and their value eaten up by inflation. According to the most recent government statistics, from 2010, a third of men past retirement age are working. Three-fifths of older people say they often have to go without necessities.

The insular socialist paradise supposedly offers a social safety-net, cradle to grave. But it is full of holes. Medical care is free, but most medicine is not. Retirement...

Floods in Peru are just the latest blow to its economy

Economist, North America - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 08:44

Time for a clean-up

MORE than 75 people have been killed, and more than 100,000 left homeless, as Peru’s coast has been battered by the strongest rains seen in decades. Millions are without running water; more than 2,000km of roads and at least 175 bridges have been destroyed. The devastation has been caused by a “coastal El Niño”, a localised version of the global El Niño weather cycle that brings warm currents from Australia to the Pacific coast of the Americas. Peru had been braced for a big El Niño in 2016, but it did not arrive. It was not expecting a coastal version, especially of such magnitude.

But even if it had known what was coming, it would not have been prepared. “This is not a natural disaster, but a natural phenomenon that has led to disaster because of the informal way this country has developed,” says Gilberto Romero, the head of the Centre for Disaster Research and Prevention, a local NGO. “We need to re-think and re-engineer our cities.”

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the newish president, has pledged to work with mayors to stop homes from being rebuilt in vulnerable areas, and wants hydrological studies along river...

Coca-growing in Colombia is at an all-time high

Economist, North America - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 08:44

THE hills surrounding Sinaí, a village in south-west Colombia, are blanketed in a green patchwork, ranging from the bright chartreuse of coca-plant seedlings to a darker clover colour that indicates the leaves are ripe for picking and processing into cocaine. It is areas like this that have helped to boost Colombia’s estimated cocaine output 37% since 2015 to an all-time high of 710 tonnes in 2016, according to America’s government. Some 188,000 hectares of land is now planted with coca, up from a low of 78,000 in 2012.

One reason for the rise seems counter-intuitive: the signing last November of a peace deal between the government and the FARC rebel group. It was supposed to reduce coca cultivation; the FARC had extorted a tax on coca crops and trafficked cocaine, and under the peace deal it is to support the government’s eradication efforts. But the deal’s terms were years in the crafting, and many of its provisions were clear well in advance—including that there would be payments for coca-farmers who shifted to different crops. The government created a perverse incentive to plant more.

And as the peace talks progressed, the government scaled back aerial...

There has never been a better time for Latin American integration

Economist, North America - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 08:44

IT IS Saturday lunchtime, and about 30 trucks are parked at each of the customs posts on either side of the bridge across the broad Uruguay river that marks the border between Argentina and Uruguay. Both countries are members of Mercosur, a would-be customs union that also embraces Brazil and Paraguay. In theory, internal borders should not exist in Mercosur. In practice, customs, sanitary inspections and other paperwork mean that the trucks are delayed for up to 24 hours, says Oscar Terzaghi, the mayor of Fray Bentos, on the Uruguayan side.

This represents an improvement. For three years before 2010, access to the bridge—the shortest land route between the two capitals, Buenos Aires and Montevideo—was blocked by Argentine environmentalists with the support of the country’s president, Cristina Fernández. They claimed that a planned paper mill at Fray Bentos would pollute the river. The dispute ended only when the mill was operating and the International Court of Justice ruled that there was no evidence of pollution.

For the past half-century, Latin American politicians have talked incessantly about regional integration. But they have struggled to make it...

Spain: ELE schools see jump in group bookings  

The PIE News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 07:46

Spanish language schools in Spain have seen a rise in demand for group bookings resulting in more student weeks but shorter average stays and an increase in intensive programmes, according to the latest annual report from the Federación de Escuelas de Español como Lengua Extranjera.

The report also shows a notable increase in bookings for DELE exam preparation courses spurred by government policy requiring proof of language level for applicants applying for Spanish nationality status.

According to FEDELE’s survey of 88 member schools, 50,000 students studied Spanish with a group, accounting for 52% of all 2016’s 97,578 bookings. Total year on year bookings increased 4,700.

“It’s an indicator that Spanish is becoming more important for school-aged students around the world”

“We’ve always been a market of 25+ individuals,” Ana Cózar, directer of FEDELE told The PIE News. “But our sector is now more than 50% groups. It’s an indicator that Spanish is becoming more important for school-aged students around the world.”

Cózar added the shift in client profile is a good indicator for future return business. “When younger students come it’s likely they’ll return as individuals,” she said.

Italy continues to be a fruitful market for ELE providers, sending 14,900 students in 2016, up from 12,855 last year, and contributing to the growth in group bookings.

Germany, the US, France, the UK and the Netherlands make up the top five markets for FEDELE members, each marking gains on 2015 student numbers.

“Italian groups especially are coming and they’re coming for shorter times pushing down the average length of stay,” said Cózar.

Average student week numbers per school grew by about 150 weeks but the average length of stay per student dropped slightly from a consistent 2.9 over the past three years to 2.7 weeks in 2016.

Intensive courses of more than 15 hours of class time per week, which also serve school groups, made up 83% of bookings overall.

By type, general language courses accounted for the bulk of bookings (74%) but DELE preparation courses saw a bump thanks to new language proof requirements for those applying for Spanish citizenship.

“It seems that Spain’s growth is improving its reputation overseas and we haven’t had any negative international news stories recently”

Schools report DELE preparation accounted for 6% of course bookings compared to 3% last year. “I expected it to be more, but it’s growth all the same and where we haven’t seen growth before,” noted Cózar.

DELE preparation courses are available to the public for free which could be attracting students away from ELE centres, she reasoned. Administration of the CCSE nationality exam, however, remains a welcome source of revenue for schools, she added.

Spain’s ELE market continues to be driven by regional dominance, with Andalucia, Valencia and Madrid attracting the highest volume of students. The regions also have the highest number of FEDELE member schools.

And schools across the country say they have an improved market outlook as the impacts of the country’s economic crisis and political turmoil wane.

“It seems that Spain’s growth is improving its reputation overseas and we haven’t had any negative international news stories recently. At the same time, France and Germany are appearing less secure,” said Cózar.

The post Spain: ELE schools see jump in group bookings   appeared first on The PIE News.

Plea to universities to alleviate Syria's brain drain

University World News Global Edition - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 06:58
The Institute of International Education, or IIE, wants every one of the 15,000 universities around the world to offer a tuition-free place to one Syrian student and rescue one Syrian academic dis ...

UK is best place to be a researcher, conference told

University World News Global Edition - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 06:36
British universities need to use one of the best weapons in their armoury to attract and retain international academic researchers in the era of Brexit and tighter visa restrictions, delegates to ...

Research partnerships must 'match China's ambitions'

University World News Global Edition - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 05:29
British universities' partnerships in China need to ratchet up from academic research collaborations ending in published papers to a broader and more strategic approach to match China's own nation ...

French students among injured in London attack

The PIE News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 04:48

Three French secondary school students were among those hurt by a terrorist incident in London, UK, yesterday – two of whom were injured badly when a car was driven into people on Westminster Bridge near the Houses of Parliament.

The students were in a group of over 90 students on a school trip to London, according to France’s Huffington Post site.

Five South Korean tourists were also affected at the scene, with one receiving a serious injury.

As the world woke up to the full extent of the terrorist incident today, the impact will inevitably be felt by Britain’s tourism sector. London is the most popular tourist destination in the UK and this was apparent just from the range of nationalities impacted, with two Romanians also injured.

But in the tourism and in the study travel sector, key stakeholders emphasised the fact this was an isolated incident, with swift reaction of security services.

Sarah Cooper, chief executive of English UK, said: “We are profoundly shocked by the act of one individual yesterday, and our thoughts are with the families of the visitors and Londoners who were caught up in this attack.

“But we have been encouraged by the quick and effective response of our police and security services. Londoners are back at work today, sad, but determined that our city will not be stopped by this one random attack.”

And the European Tourism Association urged, “This incident has to be viewed in context. Anywhere there are cars, fatalities occur. In terms of traffic safety, Britain happens to be a world leader. The intentional nature of this incident makes it newsworthy. It does not make the UK any less safe. It will still be one of the safest countries in the world to be a pedestrian. It will still be one of the safest countries on earth to be a visitor.”

Representing English language schools, Cooper reminded that “English UK member centres take their responsibility to protect students very seriously, and will be carefully monitoring the situation as it develops.”

“Our accredited centres have the strictest regulations in the world on caring for under-18s and keeping them safe, and of course they will regularly update any advice given to adult students if necessary.”

The post French students among injured in London attack appeared first on The PIE News.

Study shows how price sensitive students are in selecting colleges

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 00:00

Every year, prospective students receive offers to attend their college or university of choice. And every year, some of them turn down those offers.

Common wisdom holds that cost is a major factor in those students’ decisions. And new data from a private company provide insight into how much of a role costs play in turning students away from their top choice for college.

Almost one-fifth of students who were admitted to their top choice of college or university in 2016 but decided not to go there turned it down because of the cost of attendance, according to new data from Royall & Co., the enrollment-management and alumni fund-raising arm of EAB. Cost of attendance was cited on a survey by 18.6 percent of students who turned down their first choice. Nearly twice as many students pointed to cost of attendance as pointed to the next most commonly cited reason, the campus environment, which was cited by 9.4 percent of students.

Many other students who opted not to go to their college of first choice said they did so for other reasons that were still related to cost. Financial aid received from other colleges was cited by 9.1 percent of students. Non-need-based scholarships received were cited by 6.3 percent, and a college’s value was cited by 5.9 percent.

Add up the four cost-related reasons, and 39.9 percent of students who turned down their college of first choice did so for a reason related to cost.

Reason for Not Attending College of First Choice Percentage of Students Citing Cost of attendance 18.6% Campus environment 9.4% Location of the school 9.3% The financial aid I received 9.1% Academic reputation 8.1% Proximity to home 7.6% Offered the major I wanted 6.6% The merit-based scholarship I received 6.3% Best value 5.9% Reputation in my intended field of study 4.9% The size of the school/number of students 3.8% Athletic programs 3.3% Overall Reputation 3.0% Legacy/family member attended the school 1.8% Amount of contact after admission 1.1% Timing of my financial aid award 1.0% Amount of contact before application 0.4% The school is coeducational 0.0%

Those findings held relatively steady across groupings of students with different SAT scores and between minority and nonminority students. Students with SAT scores of 1,200 or more gave cost-related reasons for not attending their college of first choice about 42 percent of the time, compared to 39 percent for students with SAT scores below 1,200. Minority students did not attend their first-choice college because of cost-related reasons about 43 percent of the time, while nonminority students did so 39 percent of the time.

“I think that both enrollment leaders and the public in general have had a suspicion that cost factors were driving a lot of enrollment decisions,” said Peter Farrell, Royall & Co. managing director. “This verifies it in an empirical way.”

To reach its conclusions, Royall & Co. analyzed 54,810 students at 92 institutions it works with who were admitted to enter college in 2016. It found that more than 6,000 of those students -- 11 percent -- declined to attend their institution of first choice, further examining their reasons for doing so.

The data do not date back over several years, preventing comparisons over time. But the 2016 results support the idea that students are much more conscious of costs in the years since the Great Recession, Farrell said.

“If you look at a variety of data points, the recession is a turning point in how students made their selections,” Farrell said. “Something has happened more recently that’s accelerated things. It could be demographics. It could be what we’re seeing on the macroeconomic scale about low socioeconomic [status] families being pinched. I don’t know the actual causality of this change in sentiment, but the slope line of concern seems to be upticking.”

The trends also held closely when splitting the 67 private institutions in the sample from the 25 public institutions. Admitted students who opted not to attend a private college or university that was their first choice gave cost-related factors as their reason approximately 41 percent of the time. Those declining to attend a public college or university that was their first choice said their decision was due to cost-related factors 38 percent of the time.

That difference was due largely to a slightly lower percentage of students at public institutions citing cost of attendance, financial aid and merit-based scholarships received. Students who decided not to attend private institutions cited cost of attendance 19.8 percent of the time, financial aid 9.7 percent of the time and merit-based scholarships 5.6 percent of the time. Those deciding not to attend public institutions pointed to cost of attendance 17.1 percent of the time, financial aid 8.5 percent of the time and merit-based scholarships 6.5 percent of the time.

The data offer some insight into how financial aid and non-need-based aid -- often called merit aid -- can be attractive ways for colleges and universities to attract students. Significant numbers of students who are sensitive to college costs mean significant numbers of students who can potentially be won over by an institution offering additional financial aid. That can be seen as a way to snag students who otherwise would attend a more prestigious institution.

The takeaway is not that colleges and universities need to increase their discount rates. But the data do illustrate the risks involved in changing financial aid practices, Farrell said.

“I think the most important message this holds is that there’s a group of students who are really interested in your college that you have the potential to lose if you’re not doing a great job with both your marketing strategy and your aid strategy,” Farrell said. “Some students, they’ll get over the application hurdle. But if somebody else gets their award out faster or their aid is significantly larger than yours, you can lose that student.”

Experts cautioned against reading too much into the different cost factors in the data. The cost-of-attendance reason can become a catchall for students explaining their choice not to attend a college, said Donald Heller, provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of San Francisco.

“When students read financial aid offer letters, they’re not always understanding or careful of distinguishing different forms of financial aid,” Heller said. “Sometimes they conflate grants with loans. I would be a little cautious about interpreting too much into this question.”

Still, students are clearly interested in issues related to cost -- particularly the return on the investment of their tuition dollars, Heller said.

“More and more, we’re getting questions from students and parents about the value proposition,” he said, adding that students and parents often ask about job opportunities after graduation.

Royall & Co. didn’t only look at why students decided not to attend their first choice of college or university. It also analyzed why they decided not to attend any institution to which they were admitted but did not enroll. Price-related considerations weren’t as prevalent in that case but were still cited by 27 percent of students.

In addition, the company examined 6,631 students for which it had available financial information. Those students attended five colleges and universities -- one public, four private.

That analysis showed students who decided not to attend a college or university to which they were admitted were more likely to cite reasons related to cost as their expected financial contribution to college fell. Students from families with an expected contribution of $40,000 or more cited cost-related reasons slightly less than 25 percent of the time, compared to almost 41 percent for students from families with no expected contribution.

The analysis indicates students on the lower end of the income spectrum are more likely to be sensitive to costs. But it shows wealthy students can be sensitive as well. And anecdotal evidence shows even high-achieving students at some of the country’s top high schools consider cost.

Jon Reider is the director of college counseling at the prestigious San Francisco University High School. The school’s students as a whole are likely shielded from college cost concerns more than are students at other high schools. Many are wealthy, and the school’s low-income students are typically seen as talented, meaning they’re likely to receive attractive financial aid offers.

Even so, the high school has one or two students a year who choose a University of California institution over a private college because of cost, Reider said. He also remembered a student from a few years ago who had to change her plans after her father lost his job.

“Both parents had jobs, and Dad lost his job,” Reider said. “She got into Amherst, and they gave her a nice award, but NYU gave her a big merit award. She wanted to go to Amherst, and her parents were lovely people, but they said, ‘Your brother is coming. You’ve got to go to NYU.’”

That story taps into an underlying debate about merit aid, or non-need-based aid. While it can benefit individual high-achieving students and help colleges build strong classes, some criticize its impact at scale over time. Colleges and universities eventually draw resources from low-income students who need financial aid in order to pursue high-achieving and wealthy students, the argument goes.

“College counselors and high school counselors are conflicted,” Reider said. “I’m happy for that kid, that she got good money and her parents are under less stress. But I see kids at big public schools or lower-income inner-city Catholic schools who do a good, honorable job. Those families don’t have a lot to fall back on.”

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Princeton Theological Seminary revokes honor for controversial speaker, but will let his talk go on

Inside Higher Ed - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 00:00

Princeton Theological Seminary announced Wednesday that it is dropping plans to give an award to the Reverend Timothy Keller that was to have been presented when he visited the campus to give a lecture. The invitation to give the lecture, however, stands, and the seminary announced that Keller has agreed to give the talk even without the honor.

Word that Keller was to speak at and be honored by the seminary angered many students and alumni, who noted that it is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), which embraces the ordination of women and of gay people (both groups are educated on an equal basis with others at the seminary). Keller is a leader of the Presbyterian Church in America, which will not ordain people who are not straight men, and he has been an advocate for that position.

The seminary is not affiliated with Princeton University.

As students and alumni objected to the invitation, the seminary initially said that, under the principles of academic freedom, the invitation and award would not be withdrawn. But on Wednesday the seminary announced that the honor would be withdrawn.

The honor is closely linked to the lecture. As described on the seminary website: "The Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life is awarded each year to a scholar or community leader whose outstanding contribution to their chosen sphere reflects the ideas and values characteristic of the neo-Calvinist vision of religious engagement in matters of social, political and cultural significance in one or more of the ‘spheres’ of society. A condition of the prize is that the recipient deliver a lecture on a topic appropriate to the aims of the center."

To many in the world of Presbyterian theology, the honor matters a great deal, and past lectures have been widely discussed.

Traci Smith, a pastor who was educated at the seminary, wrote a widely circulated blog post questioning the idea that her alma mater would honor a theologian committed to the idea that she and many others should never have been ordained.

"I’ll let others argue finer points of Reverend Keller’s theology (hello, this is Princeton Theological Seminary here, arguing finer points is what we do). My personal soapbox is much less refined. It boils down to this: an institution designed to train men and women for ministry shouldn’t be awarding fancy prizes to someone who believes half the student body (or is it more than half?) has no business leading churches. It’s offensive and, as I have taught my four- and five-year-olds to express, it hurts my feelings," Smith wrote.

She added, "But he’s not even talking about 'women’s issues' or 'LGBT issues,' some will argue. The lecture is on church planting. Who can argue with church planting? Can’t we look past what divides us find common ground? Of course we can find common ground. Let me state clearly and without equivocation: I believe Reverend Keller loves Jesus. I believe he is a man of faith. I believe he works hard and has a respectable career. I would happily go to the church he pastors and listen to him preach. He’s absolutely invited to come to the church I pastor and listen to me preach. We can totally hold hands during the hymn sing. The reason that’s not enough in this case (and the reason he shouldn’t have been invited to give this lecture and receive this prize) is that this isn’t some minor thing. This is a giant lecture with a giant whoop-de-doo factor."

An assistant to Keller, who is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, in Manhattan, said via email that he was not commenting on the situation.

Craig Barnes, the president of the seminary, sent out two letters about the controversy. The first, on March 10, said that the seminary "embraces full inclusion for ordained leadership of the church." But the letter noted that many student groups and academic centers bring speakers in, or award honors, as was the case with the center that manages the Kuyper Prize, and that it is not the role of the seminary to veto choices with which it disagrees.

"While my office issues the official invitations to campus, I don't practice censorship over the choices of these organizations, even when I or the seminary disagree with some of the convictions of these speakers," Barnes wrote. "It is also a core conviction of our seminary to be a serious academic institution that will sometimes bring controversial speakers to campus because we refuse to exclude voices within the church. Diversity of theological thought and practice has long been a hallmark of our school. And so we have had a wide variety of featured speakers on campus including others who come from traditions that do not ordain women or LGBTQ+ individuals, such as many wings of the Protestant church, and bishops of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic communions. So my hope is that we will receive Reverend Keller in a spirit of grace and academic freedom, realizing we can listen to someone with whom many, including me, strongly disagree about this critical issue of justice."

The second letter, issued Wednesday, offered a change of heart on the award, and noted conversations with many people, including Keller.

"In talking with those who are deeply concerned about Reverend Keller’s visit to campus, I find that most share this commitment to academic freedom," Barnes wrote. "Yet many regard awarding the Kuyper Prize as an affirmation of Reverend Keller’s belief that women and LGBTQ+ persons should not be ordained. This conflicts with the stance of the Presbyterian Church (USA). And it is an important issue among the divided Reformed communions …. In order to communicate that the invitation to speak at the upcoming conference does not imply an endorsement of the Presbyterian Church in America’s views about ordination, we have agreed not to award the Kuyper Prize this year."

Barnes added that "the invitation to Reverend Keller simply to lecture at their conference will stand, and he has graciously agreed to keep the commitment. We are a community that does not silence voices in the church. In this spirit we are a school that can welcome a church leader to address one of its centers about his subject, even if we strongly disagree with his theology on ordination to ministry."

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