English Language Feeds

Chronicle of Higher Education: Departures at Gates Foundation Stir Speculation About Its Plans for Higher Ed

Some observers hope the foundation will use its time of transition to promote fresher options both outside of traditional colleges and within academe.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Ashford U. Faces New Setback in Battle Over GI Bill Funds

The for-profit university, recently the subject of a Chronicle investigation over its attempts to skirt state oversight requirements, has failed to get California’s approval to serve veterans.

Chronicle of Higher Education: After a Mass Shooting, Education Programs Confront a Question: ‘Am I Obligated to Take a Bullet for My Students?’

Colleges’ education programs typically do not require training in how to respond to an active shooter. But some are rethinking their curriculum.

Chronicle of Higher Education: The Faculty-Retirement Conundrum

Professors may want to retire, but they also have jobs they don’t want to give up. Here’s how administrators can smooth faculty members’ paths into retirement.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Battling Sexual Assault on Campus

The heat is on colleges to prevent sexual violence and to respond to reports of it. Here are college officials’ legal obligations and what strategies they are using.

Liverpool U expands China offering

The PIE News - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 10:54

Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University has announced plans to open a new campus in Taicang, China, in 2020 with the aim of enrolling 6,000 students by 2025.

Bosses say that the new campus will offer a high calibre, international higher education experience with the opportunity to study in China and the UK. It is hoped that enrolments at the new campus will add to XJTLU’s target of teaching 24,000 students by 2028.

“The great number of German businesses in Taicang provides a favourable environment”

Currently, there are 12,000 students and 1,000 staff from more than 50 different countries at XJTLU’s existing campus in Suzhou. Both Suzhou and Taicang border the hub city Shanghai.

University of Liverpool’s vice-chancellor, Janet Beer said that she hopes that the new campus will establish itself in the same way that Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou has done since opening in 2006.

“The new campus will forge innovative, dynamic relationships between the university, local companies and society, providing highly-skilled international graduates and contributing to the knowledge economy,” Beer said.

Youmin Xi, executive president and pro vice-chancellor of XJTLU, said that the campus is a part of a larger aim.

“The new Taicang Campus meets our ambitious mission to develop the ‘University of the Future’, establishing a new relationship between the university and companies, industries, and the wider community.”

He added that the new campus will be for ‘Syntegrative Education’, which involves close cooperation with industry where students gain experience within different companies.

“Because the Taicang campus focuses on developing industry elites, the location needed to be near established industries and industrial resources,” he said. “The great number of German businesses and joint ventures in Taicang provides a favourable environment for our experiment.”

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Gabriela Ardito, President, ARSAA, Argentina

The PIE News - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 09:48
Gabriela Ardito, president of ARSAA and founder and CEO of VCE International, first left Argentina with a group of students to study in the UK in the early 90s. She spoke to The PIE News about working as an educational agent for 25 years, why she set up an Argentine agent association and the state of the Argentinian market.

The PIE: How long have you worked in international education?

Gabriela Ardito: I started back in 1993. I used to have a small language school in Buenos Aires and suddenly I decided I needed to come to the UK because I think, as a teacher of English, coming to the UK is a dream you must fulfil. I had a conversation with the parents of my students, and said I’m travelling to the UK for the first time. I have no experience at all, I’ve never been to Europe before, but if you want I can take your kids with me and we will have an experience abroad.

I was 21 and my students were 18, we were like friends. I was guiding them through the streets of Amsterdam and I didn’t know where I was. It was so much fun.

That was my first trip to the UK, 25 years ago. I brought four students, we spent a full month in Wimbledon School of English and then I took them on a tour of Europe. Two years later, I organised another trip and that’s how I started getting more and more students – word of mouth, someone’s cousin, someone’s brother, sister-in-law. So my groups got bigger. Now my groups are 60, 70 – I’ve got 75 right now.

The PIE: You also work in China?

GA: I send individual students, but I wouldn’t organise group trips there. Many people started to learn Mandarin, but there still isn’t a market for that [in Argentina].

The PIE: So what is the market like for English learners?

“It was pretty difficult. Sometimes I had to bring my students with their fees in their pockets”

GA: It’s very good. In Argentina, people prefer British English to American English. That’s why I come three times a year here, and only once to the US. It’s pretty good, it’s going up. Especially as English has become compulsory in schools. Now all kids have a knowledge of English.

The PIE: Has it become more difficult to sell courses?

GA: No, on the contrary. I wouldn’t say it’s easier, but I’d say that there is more interest. Parents see this as an investment for the future. They are ready to pay for it.

The PIE: Do you offer longer trips or exchanges?

GA: High school is a product which is not very popular in Argentina yet because school owners see it as a drawback. If I take a student away from them for six months, they are losing money. If a student comes to the UK to study, they will not pay fees at home. Although the government establishes that when a student does a course abroad, the local school has to recognise credit for that, school owners will always try to dissuade parents from sending their kids abroad.

This is one of the reasons why I created ARSAA – the Argentine Association of Language Consultants. If we get together, and if we have something interesting to take to the ministry of education, they will understand the importance of a study abroad experience for all kids.

The PIE: Could you tell me a bit more about ARSAA?

“There is a rise in the junior market as well. Many school owners are willing to maybe stop lessons for two weeks”

GA: The founders of the association, myself, and two more agencies – Coined from Cordoba and Interway Consultancy based in Buenos Aires. All three of us started thinking about this idea, I participated in FELTA, in 2014/15 and 2016 and then once we became part of that federation, more agencies in Argentina started showing interest.

We set up a membership fee and set up conditions. We want to set up a kind of quality standard. In order to become a member, we need references from schools in the UK, but also from local people who have already used the services of that agency. If you’re an agent in Argentina you need to provide the names of three schools in Argentina you are working with.

2017 was very important because ICEF asked us to be part of a presentation in ICEF Berlin. As a result, we became more prominent in the market and now we are already eight agencies in the association, which is quite a lot. There aren’t many agencies in Argentina. We have a lot of support from ICEF because they offer training courses free of charge for ARSAA members.

I am also an IALC member, an English UK member, Quality English member.

The PIE: How do those other associations help you?

GA: They help me quite a lot. When someone starts looking for a course abroad, the more accreditations you have, it’s like you have more credibility. You go to their website and you can see my agency and you cannot see others. So definitely that attracts the attention of people.

The PIE: Do the other members also focus on British English?

GA: British English, American English, I think there is an agency that focuses on New Zealand, that is Network, one of our partners. We work with Ireland. I am trying to set up a new program in South Africa. I’m travelling there in March.

I am also interested in a program in New Zealand because in Argentina we are good at rugby. I have some schools which have rugby teams and they would like to have a program combining rugby training sessions with English.

The PIE: In 2011, we reported there were difficulties with foreign exchange laws. Is that still an issue?

GA: Fortunately, there was a change in government. We had the same government for 12 years and there was a slump – nobody could exchange money, nobody could send money abroad. It was pretty difficult. Sometimes I had to bring my students with their fees in their pockets. They paid upon arrival. There was no way you could get any foreign currency. If you paid credit card, they charged a tax of 35%, which made it almost impossible.

I arranged with all my partner schools that we would all pay upon arrival and that’s how I could keep coming.

[The exchange laws] stopped on December 15, 2015. I remember exactly when it was – it was one of the happiest days of my life.

The PIE: Is English the most desired language?

GA: Definitely. We speak Spanish, but our most important second language is English, then Portuguese.

“Many people started to learn Mandarin, but there still isn’t a market in that”

The PIE: How many students are learning English with you now?

GA: In 2015, I brought 120 students during the whole year and then 240 more or less. You also get more individual students who are willing to take a month off work to come here and study. That has been a huge change.

There is a rise in the junior market as well. Many school owners are willing to maybe stop lessons for two weeks, in order to send a group here and that didn’t happen before.

The PIE: Are all your students from private schools?

GA: Yes most. State education in Argentina is just for the poor. Middle-class people send their kids to private schools.

The PIE: How many schools would you say you work with?

GA: At the moment, I work with 16 schools. Right now, in the Wimbledon School of English I have people from Corrientes, which is in the north. I’ve got people from Neuquén which is Patagonia. I’ve got people from Bahia Blanca. So it’s not just Buenos Aires. I work all over the country, I travel quite a lot.

I am also a teacher at the Faculty of History, Geography and Tourism [at university]. I worked for 13 years in the modern languages department teaching phonetics and English language. It’s a good combination because my students who are interested in tourism and geography can get a lot from me because I have travelled a lot and I teach them English.

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Chronicle of Higher Education: What in the World Is Going on Between Olivet U. and Newsweek?

A small California Bible college has found itself at the center of a controversy, with possible criminal implications, involving the magazine and its parent company.

UK: HEIs receive partnership funding

The PIE News - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 07:34

Seventeen universities across the UK will receive funding to build on and enhance their global strategic partnerships as part of the UUKi Rutherford Fund Strategic Partner Grants scheme.

The scheme will see 88 fellows from 13 partner countries join research teams at 17 UK institutions.

“UK institutions are continuing to grow the kind of international partnerships which will become ever more vital”

Some 85 institutions entered bids to offer short-term fellowships, and HEIs could choose the combination of partner institutions, length of fellowship and number of fellows to host as part of their bid.

The fellowships are funded by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy through the £118m Rutherford Fund.

Rutherford Fellows will be engaged in research areas spanning CO2 capture and energy research, at the University of Aberdeen; the challenge of food production in Argentina, at Lancaster University; and resource efficient future cities and infrastructure planning, at Brunel University London.

Through this framework of partnerships, UUKi is aiming to enhance research links between UK institutions and key strategic partners, develop opportunities for collaboration and enhance the reputation of the UK and its institutions in a broad range of countries.

Director of UUKi, Vivienne Stern, described the UUKi Rutherford Fund Strategic Partner Grant as “win-win”.

“International early career researchers get to work with world-leading teams at UK universities and our researchers will benefit from the knowledge of their international colleagues,” she said.

“At the same time, UK institutions are continuing to grow the kind of international partnerships which will become ever more vital in the pursuit of outstanding research.”

Maria Kolokotroni, a professor at Brunel, where five short-term fellowships will be offered to Australian researchers, added: “Grants such as the Rutherford Fund allow British universities to attract the brightest young talent in academia.

“Australia is at the forefront of research on new approaches to solving built environment challenges and I’m very much looking forward to welcoming our newest fellows.”

The full list of HEIs receiving grants can be viewed here.

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India launches web portal to combat bogus courses pre-departure

The PIE News - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 06:32

India, the second largest supplier of students in the international education sector, recurrently finds hundreds of Indian students stranded on foreign shores after getting duped by bogus courses and fraudulent agents.

To help prevent such situations, the Indian government is all set to launch a web portal for international education that will list accredited foreign universities and supply verified information on a range of courses and visa norms.

The web portal is a collaboration of the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (which oversees education in India) and Indian missions across the world.

PM Narendra Modi is a vocal proponent of students, often raising it with his foreign counterparts. According to sources, it was through these meetings that the students expressed a need for verified information on foreign courses.

“Governments abroad [presume] Indian students commit fraud and don’t want to study. This is far from the truth”

Jayne Rowley, CEO of Prospects, which the UK’s degree authentication system, believes this web portal in India “would fit very well” with global trends.

“In terms of the database project in India, there are a number of initiatives in this area across the globe. Prospects is the UK signatory to the Groningen Declaration Network and sits on its task force for verification policies and best practice. India is also a signatory to the Groningen Declaration,” Rowley told The PIE News.

This declaration serves global academic and professional mobility needs by helping stakeholders share their authentic educational data through Digital Student Data Portability system. The Task Force is working to develop and maintain a database of trusted national verification providers; mapping a list of recognised institutions in various countries.

“Government intervention in this sector will be very useful. This will lead to the decline of fraudulent applications and also help sift rumours from facts,” said Pratik Shandilya, a counsellor certified by the Indian government, and founder of Adelbert International Education and Consultancy.

“A presumption has arrived in the minds of governments abroad that Indian students commit fraud and don’t want to study. This is far from the truth and so it’s quite important for the Indian government to intervene in this scrutiny of universities and agents.”

Every year 220,000 Indian students travel to 86 global destinations to pursue their higher education with currently 550,000 Indians studying worldwide, according to the latest figures released by the Indian government.

According to WES, an overwhelming majority of Indian students (93%) that used agents indicated they did so to shortlist universities. And this is what worries the government as every year new cases of fraud make headlines.

Bogus colleges and substandard courses have been known to emerge even in popular Western destinations, and thousands of Indian students are left in a lurch with a threat of deportation and a blot on their CVs. Many are also lured by false promises of job prospects and flexible study. Sometimes changes in immigration laws are often not conveyed to students by the agents allegedly wishing to boost their commission through admissions.

“Government intervention in this sector will be very useful”

Agents in India were accused by New Zealand of using immigration promises to secure admissions in substandard courses and providing fraudulent documents to the authorities. Over a hundred students have returned to India this month. Many more are fighting to stay in NZ and complete their studies.

Britain saw deportation of 19,000 students when English language tests came under the scanner after a media investigation found evidence of fraud in those centres. 65 colleges lost their license; students found their fees wasted with no degree secured and were shamed when they were slapped with a deportation and a 10-year visa ban.

Many are still fighting the case, as The PIE continues to report.

In the US, almost 4000 Indian students suffered terrible consequences when the Tri-Valley University in San Francisco, California and University of Northern Virginia were shut down due to an immigration scam in 2011.

Prospective and past international students agree that the web portal will be a useful tool.

“The website is definitely a good idea. This way we can be sure the colleges we apply to are for real,” said Ashutosh Gupta who wants to do business studies in Europe in 2019.

“If this had existed a few years ago, I would not have to return to India when the ELT tests scam erupted in the UK and my career was jeopardised,” added a student who asked to remain anonymous.

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New data show wage gap between professors and other advanced degree holders

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 01:48

Professors earn about 15 percent less than others with advanced degrees, finds a study published Tuesday by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The study (abstract available here), "Why Are Professors 'Poorly Paid'?," uses data from the Current Population Survey to compare the salaries and other characteristics of those with a Ph.D., Ed.D., J.D. or M.D. Those who reported their profession as "postsecondary teacher" were compared to everyone else. The study was conducted by Daniel S. Hamermesh, an economist at Barnard College.

In his comparisons of salaries, he found essentially no differences among those at the low end of the salary scale for professors and non-professors with advanced degrees. The gaps grew as one went up to the more highly paid in both groups.

Hamermesh also considered (but found evidence against) the possibility that the key factor could be the relative value of a J.D. or M.D. vs. a Ph.D. He excluded advanced professional degrees, and found similar gaps between doctorate holders in and out of academe.

Another key finding from the study: "Although on average professors appear poorly paid compared to other highly-educated workers, their average weekly earnings are 44 percent higher than those of workers without advanced degrees (who are of the same age and have a workweek of the same length),:

To any who might imagine that lawyers and doctors work longer hours than professors, Hamermesh uses other data from the American Time Use Survey to demonstrate that this is not the case. Hours of work are similar for professors and others with advanced degrees. There is a key difference: Faculty members work more on weekends and less on weekdays than do others with advanced degrees.

The American Association of University Professors has argued for years that faculty salaries -- even if some years are better than others -- are eroding, particularly in public higher education. (AAUP data on faculty salaries, searchable by institution and faculty rank, may be found on Inside Higher Ed's website here.)

 

 

 

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Scholar says new book on China's 'leftover women' fails to acknowledge her years of research in the area

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 01:00

Leta Hong Fincher, a well-known independent scholar of China, has been researching and writing about the country’s unmarried, educated, urban female population for years. The topic doesn’t belong to Hong Fincher alone, and Chinese even has a special term for this group of women over about 25: “leftover," or sheng nu. But Hong Fincher is something of a pioneer in the area, and many colleagues consider her 2014 book, Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China (Zed Books), required reading.

So Hong Fincher was surprised to find that a major new book, Leftover in China: The Women Shaping the World’s Next Superpower (W. W. Norton & Company), doesn’t acknowledge her at all in its extensive bibliography. And it’s more than a matter of ego: Hong Fincher says the book’s author, Roseann Lake, a journalist who now writes about Cuba for The Economist, has been following her work since 2011.

Back then, Lake reached out to Hong Fincher saying she admired a recent article Hong Fincher wrote about sheng nu for Ms. magazine. Lake said she was in the early stages of writing about a book about China’s leftover women and she wanted to interview Hong Fincher. Busy with graduate school at the time, Hong Fincher declined. But she said she eventually shared an unpublished conference paper and asked Lake to cite her if she used any of her ideas. Lake also attended talks and conferences where Hong Fincher was speaking when they both lived in Beijing, Hong Fincher said.

That’s where things get a bit tricky. Hong Fincher, who argues that the Chinese government has launched an aggressive singles-shaming campaign to get sheng nu married and has otherwise rolled back women's rights, isn’t alleging that Lake plagiarized her outright -- at least not based on a quick first read of the book. But she is alleging that Lake, in failing to credit her for any of the work she’s done on leftover women, has in effect “erased” her from the scholarly record. That’s a concern scholars in other venues have expressed of late, saying the erasure phenomenon disproportionately affects women and scholars of color.

“There’s a long history here,” Hong Fincher said. “Now she has this powerful publisher, which has given her this platform, and she’s out there presenting all of these ideas as her own and pretending my work doesn’t exist. I’m very angry about it … It’s calculated erasure.”

Lake has denied any allegations of intellectual misconduct, saying in a statement that she purposely did not read Hong Fincher’s 2014 book as she was preparing her own manuscript.

“I am grateful for Leta Hong Fincher’s work on the subject and have cited it in articles that I wrote for Salon and Foreign Policy in 2012, after she and I had corresponded over the phone and email,” Lake’s statement says.

Since 2010, she added, “I have researched and written on the topic and have also raised awareness of it through creative means, including the Chaoji Shengnu cartoon series that was published starting in 2013, and a stage play called ‘The Leftover Monologues’ that debuted in Beijing in 2014. When Leta’s book was released, I decided not to read it because I was working on the manuscript for my own book, and I chose to stay focused on the stories of the women whose lives I feature in it.”

Lake did not respond to a follow-up question about why she avoided Hong Fincher’s book, namely how it would have interfered with her own writing.

In any case, Lake’s is an unusual defense for allegations of intellectual theft: claiming ignorance about a book's content by virtue of admitting you avoided it. And it’s done nothing to appease Hong Fincher, who has aired her concerns on social media.

“I find that excuse completely indefensible,” Hong Fincher said. “Taking that claim at face value, it doesn’t even make any sense.”

It’s true that Lake has previously cited Hong Fincher’s work: Hong Fincher said she also had concerns about the extent to which Lake’s 2012 Salon article on sheng nu echoed her own 2011 Ms. magazine article about them. But she didn’t pursue anything at that time because Lake had at least mentioned her in the piece. Here’s a side-by-side comparison Hong Fincher recently posted to Twitter of those two articles.

Compare Lake’s Salon paragraph (2012) on left with my Ms. paragraph (2011) on right pic.twitter.com/yyxqBIg6u8

-- Leta Hong Fincher洪理达 (@LetaHong) February 20, 2018

This time, Hong Fincher decided to speak out, and publicly. She initiated a previous, internal complaint against another scholar who wrote about leftover women with another publisher but said that process went nowhere because the onus fell on her to prove misconduct, distracting her from her own work. (The author of that second book did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hong Fincher's allegations.) Now, she said, people can read the two books and judge for themselves.

Hong Fincher has gathered much public support on social media. Some of her fans have made the leap from erasure to plagiarism on their own, accusing Lake of intellectual theft.

Rebecca Karl, an associate professor of history at New York University, also published a note in the Modern Chinese Literature and Culture website saying that Lake "appears to nowhere acknowledge in print how much her work and her text are indebted to Leta Hong Fincher, whose 2014 book, Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China, Lake’s work closely parallels. Lake seems to poach upon the latter’s research, thematics, and acumen, while never citing Hong Fincher as either source or inspiration."

Such conversations prompted ChinaFile, an online news source, to remove an interview with Lake. Announcing the move on Twitter, its editors said, "We invite authors to promote books on our site on the assumption their work respects basic scholarly and journalistic principles. At present, we don't feel confident of that assumption in the case of Leftover in China."

But is erasure a scholarly misdeed on par with plagiarism? Charles Lipson, a professor emeritus of international relations at the University of Chicago who has written about plagiarism, said Tuesday that the issue of citing "borrowed ideas" is a disputed one.

Of course, he said, “the best practice -- and the honest one -- is to openly acknowledge all sources, including those that prompted your concepts and language.”

But in more complicated cases, he said, “Everything rests on the second author's intentions, and those can only be determined by circumstantial evidence and guesswork.”

And second authors can make honest mistakes, Lipson added, saying that he recently came up with an ancillary idea and included it in a manuscript he’s writing. Before publication, a reader told him the idea was well-known, if not to him.

“If I had published the earlier version, I would have stolen an idea without knowing it,” he said.

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Adams State President on leave after turbulent tenure

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 01:00

Adams State University president Beverlee McClure has been put on leave following complaints of her caustic behavior toward college employees.

McClure has been the target of much criticism, the most vigorous from a blog, Watching Adams, run by a former professor, Danny Ledonne, who widely publicized what he perceived as McClure’s faults, including her mockery of blue-collar workers with a Halloween costume in which she donned a fat suit and bulbous and yellowing false teeth.

A businesswoman by trade and the institution’s first female president, McClure was brought on in 2015 to help fix the many woes plaguing the small public institution in Colorado, but she has so far failed to remedy its troubles. She was previously the president and chief executive officer of the New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry, a lobbying group for businesses.

Adams State has suffered from sliding enrollments and has also had to deal with its accreditor placing it on probation shortly after McClure’s tenure began.

McClure has also both publicly and privately soured her relationships with some professors and other employees.

The costume criticism -- again, brought to the forefront by Ledonne -- comes from a party McClure attended in 2016, organized by Chris Gilmer, a former vice president for academic affairs. McClure’s costume included a suit that made her appear obese, with a faux belly hanging out of a much-too-small shirt emblazoned with the logo of a fake plumbing company.

She painted on a smudgy beard and popped in grotesque and decaying teeth and posted photos of herself to Facebook. One caption read, “Ain’t I pretty?”

The statement by the Adams State Board of Trustees does not touch on any of the blog’s attacks or the Halloween costume. Instead, they state that they and McClure have agreed their priorities are no longer “congruent.”

“The parties are therefore working to accomplish a mutually agreeable resolution,” the statement reads.

Cleave Simpson, chairman of the board, declined to comment beyond the statement other than to say he was disappointed in the way some media reports have mischaracterized its decision.

The trustees put in charge Matt Nehring, the interim vice president for academic affairs, who did not respond to a request for comment.

McClure could not be reached for comment.

In a statement last year, she defended herself against “cyberbullies,” not naming Ledonne’s website, but saying that they had gone after her reputation, both professionally and as a private citizen.

“I am disgusted by what I’ve seen,” McClure said. “These attacks have been the weapons of cowards, safely hiding behind a website to exercise their aggression. They try and take the moral high ground that they are ‘fighting’ to save the university. But it is anything but high ground and it is anything but helping save this university. These attacks are demeaning, and they constitute an act of violence not just against me, but also against people everywhere who have been the victims of such intimidation.”

Ledonne taught in the mass communication program at Adams State for four years, until 2015, when his contract was not renewed. McClure barred him from campus amid allegations he was harassing university employees, but he sued, with the backing of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and got his banishment lifted. The university settled the lawsuit for $100,000, paid through its insurance, which officials considered a nuisance case.

After McClure announced the ban, the state faculty union, the American Association of University Professors Colorado Conference, wrote to her expressing concern that she had violated Ledonne’s free speech and due process rights and that her actions would chill faculty expression.

By email, Steve Mumme, co-president of AAUP Colorado Conference, said the union has long been concerned with the “mismanagement” of Adams State.

Mumme said that after McClure kicked Ledonne off campus, faculty who did not agree with the decision and voiced their concerns were subject to “threats and intimidation” by her administration. Some professors feared they would not be promoted or would lose their jobs if they dissented, Mumme said.

“Chapter faculty were so fearful of administrative reprisals they insisted on meeting off-campus and resorted to using non-university email for most communications among themselves,” Mumme said in his email.

Gilmer, the former vice president for academic affairs, also departed from the university after eight or so months there, according to his LinkedIn profile, apparently after feuding with McClure.

He lodged an unknown complaint against McClure but later settled with the trustees and arranged to quit. Per the terms of the agreement, neither Gilmer nor his spouse could make “any disparaging remarks” about McClure, and his complaint would be dropped. The university would pay his salary in a lump sum, as well as some money related to his benefits, and set up a reference for him for future jobs.

The settlement also required him to release a statement, which he did.

In it, Gilmer acknowledged that McClure had been accused of creating a hostile work environment and of retaliation and “harboring homophobic tendencies.”

“Regrettably as many of you already know, the friendship which President McClure and I formed quickly and easily has unfortunately dissolved and has begun to affect the university in a negative way,” Gilmer said. “My husband and I freely admit that we have known and valued President McClure as a friend, co-worker and colleague since moving to Alamosa. President McClure was instrumental in helping us to secure a home near the university and attended our Halloween party and both of our birthday parties. In fact, she hosted my birthday party at her home.

“Some people have used this opportunity to spread misinformation, including on the Watching Adams site. I deeply regret any challenges recent events have created, and I am also very hopeful and fully committed that together we can move forward toward more noble goals.”

The Denver Post also cited five unnamed faculty members who criticized McClure and characterized her as bullying.

But in an interview with Inside Higher Ed, one professor, who asked to remain anonymous given the sensitivity of the topic, painted a more positive picture of McClure.

The professor said that she never had any negative interactions with McClure -- the president was always attentive and wanted to listen to faculty, the professor said.

McClure inherited “a tough time” and she believes the reasoning of the trustees, the professor said.

The Higher Learning Commission, the university’s accreditation agency, had deemed it out of compliance with commission standards in 2016 after it investigated reports of the ease of the institution’s distance-learning courses. Athletes at other universities had taken these classes to stay eligible, among other flaws such as a taxing faculty workload, the commission found. The problems started before McClure was hired.

The university remains on probation until the Higher Learning Commission meets in June, spokesman Steve Kauffman said. The commission won’t comment on active cases, Kauffman said, but it is aware of the issues on campus and the media reports. (McClure has made some inflammatory comments about the commission. In an interview after the university was put on probation, she said Adams State was the commission’s “whipping boy.”)

The professor who spoke sympathetically of the president said that a small number of her colleagues had “dramatized” the situation and helped create the Watching Adams site. In part, the professor requested anonymity because she was worried she would be targeted by the blog. To her knowledge, no one was discussing the Halloween costume from more than a year ago until Ledonne mentioned it again in a recent post, which the professor described as a “sleazy” move.

“We do some really great things here,” the professor said. “Just a few people magnify all the bad things and really taint our reputation. It’s unfortunate. We should be magnifying all the good things that we do here.”

Adams State is approaching its centennial, but like many liberal arts institutions, it has faced declining enrollment and thus financial difficulties. In a year, the number of students dropped from 1,635 in the spring 2017 semester to 1,577 in spring 2018.

AAUP’s Mumme said the history with McClure -- the poor judgment with the Halloween costume, how the distance-learning classes were later handled, the conflict with Ledonne -- is concerning.

“These actions establish a pattern of administrative and professional mismanagement that cast doubt on President McClure’s … competence and undermine the administration’s professed commitment to academic freedom and the practice of shared governance on campus,” Mumme said.

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Public universities band together on completion rates and achievement gaps

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 01:00

A group of 100 public universities will work with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities to produce hundreds of thousands of additional degrees while also reducing achievement gaps for underrepresented student groups.

The college completion project, which APLU announced today, is the latest sign of greater urgency among public universities about graduation rates and student success, aided in part by performance-based funding formulas that are on the books in 35 states.

Even a few years ago, some presidents of land-grant universities would struggle to recall the student retention and graduation rates of their institutions, said Peter McPherson, APLU’s president.

“They do now,” he said. “It’s clear that this is an important issue for universities and the country.”

Roughly 61 percent of students nationwide who first enrolled in a four-year public college or university in 2011 earned a bachelor’s degree within six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Another 3.4 percent of these former four-year university students earned a two-year degree during that period of time, while 11 percent were still enrolled in college.

The overall degree completion rate for black students at four-year publics was 50 percent, the center found, and about 56 percent for Hispanic students. In comparison, 71 percent of white students and 76 percent of Asian students earned a degree.

McPherson said the completion effort will be a big step for participating universities and the association, which is creating the new Center for Public University Transformation to manage its part of the project. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing funding.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said McPherson. “We’ve got to do better.”

The 100 universities will collaborate together in 10 “transformation clusters,” APLU said. The association will act as a matchmaker in helping to create the clusters, which will be formed around universities with common priorities. Some might include groups of institutions within states or regions, peer universities across state lines, or universities that are working on common student success strategies, according to APLU.

The focus for the collaborations will be to expand the use of proven completion strategies. Those might include high-touch advising and student services, co-remediation services, completion grants for students, regional transfer pathways, gateway course redesigns, and other evidence-backed approaches.

“Our focus on scaling known strategies will keep the effort lean and nimble,” APLU said, “and minimize the need for costly consultants and research studies.”

A Completion ‘Movement’?

The project is still taking shape, according to the group, and decisions about which universities will participate in specific clusters have yet to be made.

In some ways the effort resembles the University Innovation Alliance, a coalition of 11 large public research universities that formed about four years ago to work together on improving graduation rates, also with a focus lower-income and underrepresented students.

The UIA, which includes the University of Texas at Austin, Arizona State University, Georgia State University and Ohio State University, has announced substantial gains in degree attainment. For example, after three years, the group said, its 11 campuses were producing 25 percent more low-income graduates per year, with 100,000 additional graduates over all projected by 2025.

Bridget Burns, the alliance’s executive director, applauded the APLU project, describing the broader completion push by public universities as a growing movement.

“We’ve been trying to establish a drumbeat,” she said. “This is all exactly what we hoped would happen.”

UIA-style collaboration between research universities on academics remains relatively rare in a competitive industry, although Burns points to long-standing models like the Big Ten Academic Alliance. But increasing pressure on universities about completion rates, including by state lawmakers and in equity-minded university rankings like those produced by The Washington Monthly and The New York Times, seems to be spurring on more collaborative action.

In addition to the new APLU project, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities has created a coalition of 44 member institutions that are working on a student-success project focused on reimagining the first year of college. And the Gates-funded Frontier Set is a group of 30 colleges and universities, state systems and supporting organizations that are trying to improve student access and success.

“Working together is smarter and faster,” said Burns.

Robert L. Caret, chancellor of the University System of Maryland and APLU’s board chair, said collaboration is critical for student success and equity goals.

“From my personal vantage point, I have seen how collaboration between a public system and other state institutions produces important successes,” Caret said via email, “as we see in Maryland by having seamless ‘2 + 2’ partnerships with our state’s community colleges so that students can easily transfer to the University System of Maryland’s institutions and complete their four-year degree. There is similar potential for collaborative clusters to work effectively on a regional basis.”

One of the easiest ways for a university to improve its graduation rate is to get more selective, which tends to mean fewer students who are low income or from minority groups. Likewise, pushing completion goals typically doesn't improve a university’s research clout.

As a result, APLU’s new project will need to thread a needle of competing interests, not to mention ever-tightening state budgets.

McPherson was confident that participating universities can improve completion rates and close achievement gaps while still striving to attract more research dollars and top students.

“There’s real understanding that if you’re going to broaden your numbers of low-income, less-prepared students, you need to put in effort to help them complete,” he said, but adding that “I don’t think degree completion will replace research, nor should it.”

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Trump administration seeks comment on student loan bankruptcy standards

Inside Higher Ed - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 01:00

The Department of Education signaled Monday that it is interested in tweaking the standards used for determining whether student loan debt can be discharged in bankruptcy.

That could point to an opening for potential bipartisan cooperation between the department and Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren, who have long sought to loosen bankruptcy law so student borrowers can discharge their debt.

However, what steps the department might take in that regard, including issuing new guidance or working with Congress to change the law, are unclear.

In a Federal Register notice, it requested public comments on the process for evaluating claims of “undue hardship” -- the standard student borrowers must clear to be able to discharge their loans through bankruptcy.

An Education Department spokeswoman said the notice should speak for itself. The document doesn’t indicate the steps the department may take, but consumer groups that work on student loans and bankruptcy issues said it would be hard to narrow the current standards.

Getting student loans discharged through bankruptcy is notoriously difficult. A 2005 federal law barred most student loan borrowers from that option unless they could demonstrate that they would suffer undue hardship from being forced to pay the loans.

Congress, however, has never defined what undue hardship means and didn’t delegate to the department the ability to do so. That’s left it to the courts to establish their own standards.

But debt holders and Department of Education contractors have often sought to aggressively block those undue hardship claims via litigation.

“It’s a very difficult hurdle for most consumers,” said Jordan Rao, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center and an expert on bankruptcy issues.

In 2014, the obstacles created by contractors prompted congressional Democrats, including Warren, to write to then education secretary Arne Duncan urging new federal guidance that would make clear specific minimum criteria for an undue hardship claim.

Among those criteria, the Democrats wrote that receiving disability benefits under the Social Security Act or being determined to be unemployable because of a service-connected disability should qualify a borrower as having an undue hardship. Contractors should accept proof of those or other criteria from a borrower without a formal litigation discovery process, the Democrats said.

The guidance released by the department the following year disappointed many Democrats and consumer advocates.

Clare McCann, deputy director of higher education policy at New America and a former Obama Education Department official, said the department’s call for comments appears to signal that it wants to broaden the definition of undue hardship. She said whatever change the department or Congress makes will have to strike the proper balance.

“You want to make sure it captures people who aren’t able to pay and won’t be able to pay over the long run, so you’re not wasting energy collecting debts you’ll never be able to collect on,” she said of the standards.

Opening up bankruptcy standards too wide, McCann said, could mean the federal student loan program becomes much more costly.

A report this month from the Department of Education’s inspector general found that the popularity of income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs could mean the federal government soon starts losing money on the student loan program.

But Rao said only a small percentage of consumer borrowers file for bankruptcy now.

“These are individuals who have some kind of hardship that is lasting, or they’re in a position where maybe they went to college and never got a degree,” he said. “In the case of some borrowers, they’re just not going to be able to repay the loan.”

Jason Delisle, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said after the addition of multiple income-driven repayment programs for student loans since 2005, there is less of a case to be made for widening bankruptcy standards for federal student loans than for private loans.

“There are costs that go well beyond discharging loans for people who can’t pay,” he said. “There are also costs to discharge loans for people who can pay.”

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PM orders investigation of burglaries of China expert

University World News Global Edition - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 11:41
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this week ordered security agencies to investigate break-ins at the home and university office of an academic researching China's influence in the country ...

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