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Chronicle of Higher Education: Education Dept. Eyes Changes in Bankrupt Borrowers’ Ability to Discharge Loans

The Trump administration may be signaling that it wants to take a closer look at streamlining the forgiveness process. That may find some unlikely allies on the Hill.

Chronicle of Higher Education: As Kaplan Sale Faces Final Hurdle, Purdue President Criticizes Faculty Opponents

"If that had been turned in on a term paper, you’d have given it an F," Mitch Daniels said of a letter opposing his university's deal to acquire the for-profit institution.

Colombia’s two anti-coca strategies are at war with each other

Economist, North America - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 09:28

JUST one road connects Tumaco, the second-busiest port on Colombia’s Pacific coast, to the rest of the country. Beyond its verges are fields of coca bushes, many of them cultivated by poor people. Yuley Alexandra Ruano’s crop grows behind a beauty parlour she owns on a patch of land she does not. It is fringed by yucca, plantains and a rotting cacao tree. She and her neighbours have signed up to the government’s “comprehensive programme for illicit crop substitution” (PNIS), whose aim is to replace the coca with a profitable legal crop. But bureaucracy moves slowly. Ms Ruano has yet to see new seeds or the money promised by the government to help with the switch.

From her salon in the department of Nariño, she can see that the government is pursuing with more energy the other part of its anti-coca strategy, forced eradication. Every day a Black Hawk helicopter passes, bearing police to a jungle camp in Alto Mira y Frontera (see map). Their mission is to kill the bushes, by uprooting them or by spraying them with herbicide. The government wants to eradicate by force 65,000 hectares (160,000 acres) of coca this year.

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Brock to pay international PhD fees

The PIE News - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 08:31

Brock University, near Niagara Falls, says it will extend financial aid to cover all tuition fees for all international PhD candidates.

It currently employs fellowships to cover all but C$3,500 of the tuition rates, but come May, the institution will raise the amount it spends on covering tuition to the full amount.

“We are seeing a lot more interest from developing countries, northern Africa, Latin America”

The change follows a new funding initiative from the Ontario provincial government, which ups the percentage of the provincial grants universities receive from domestic graduate enrolments than can be spent on international students.

Brock and other HEIs will be able to spend 10% of these funds on covering the cost of enrolling international students. More research-intensive institutions, such as the University of Toronto and McMaster in Hamilton, will be allowed to spend 15% of the grant this way.

The HEIs must charge the international PhD candidates the same as domestic students, in order to benefit from the government plan. This was hinted at in January, when the University of Toronto announced that all international PhDs would be charged domestic fees.

If the three year plan runs smoothly, it is estimated that the province will pay for around 1,200 students’ tuition. It currently funds only 133 students.

A spokesperson for the province said that the plan will aim to benefit both international and domestic students in Ontario.

“[It] will help provide international students with a high quality postsecondary experience … and expand learning opportunities for domestic students who interact with their international counterparts on campuses across the province,” they said.

Jamie Mandigo, vice-provost for enrolment management and international at Brock, said that the decision was made due to rising numbers of applications from developing nations.

“We are seeing a lot more interest from developing countries, from northern Africa … from Latin American countries,” he said.

With the degrees earned in Canada, Mandigo said, students can return to their growing home nations with the tools for growth and prosperity.

“That’s an important role we as a university can play. We have a social obligation to disseminate knowledge worldwide and education can be that catalyst of revitalisation in all parts of the world”.

The announcement came as HEIs across Canada announced record PhD applications, with Waterloo up by 41% and 80% at the University of Alberta.

The post Brock to pay international PhD fees appeared first on The PIE News.

Quality English and JAOS sign MoU

The PIE News - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 08:11

Quality English and the Japanese Association of Overseas Studies have signed a memorandum of understanding which bosses say will support, strengthen and promote co-operation and build collaboration between their members and licensees.

President of JAOS, Yasuo Sone, said that the QE brand has the potential to do well in the country.

“Working with such a trusted provider, we are confident in our shared future,” he said. “Through our co-operation together, I am very excited to see what we can achieve.”

Jonathan Swindell, chief executive of QE, sees the agreement as an efficient way for its schools to build up relationships in Japan.

“We believe this [formalised relationship] will help us to promote the high standards of all QE and Quality English Education schools to agents, students and parents across Japan.”

He added that he looked forward to introducing JAOS members to QE schools at a mission in March in Tokyo.

Speaking to The PIE News, Swindell stated that QE believes future plans in Japan including the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and changes to university exams could increase demand with young and senior learners.

Swindell added that QE schools offer Japanese students different opportunities to schools in Asia. According to the Japanese Association of Overseas Studies, Asia has become a more attractive study destination.

“It’s clear that destinations such as the Philippines pose a significant challenge but these countries are offering something very different to the nine English-speaking countries where QE schools are located.”

“This will help us promote the high standards of Quality English Education schools across Japan”

Swindell added that MoUs have been an important way for QE to build relationships with agents, access market data and raise its profile in countries. It has previously signed MoUs with BELTA in Brazil, IALCA in Italy, KAEA in Kazakhstan and UNOSEL in France, some of which QE is hoping to renew over the coming months.

The post Quality English and JAOS sign MoU appeared first on The PIE News.

Prime minister announces review of tertiary education

University World News Global Edition - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 08:08
The higher education reforms of recent years under which student tuition fees have more than tripled, have made equality of access to university more difficult and have created one of the most exp ...

Aus: international students lured into cannabis “crop sitting”

The PIE News - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 04:00

A spate of convictions has revealed an increasing number of international students in Australia are being exploited and lured into the illicit drugs trade through “crop sitting” to overcome financial difficulties.

Since October 2017, seven current and former international students, all from Vietnam, were convicted of “crop sitting” cannabis plants in Victoria state. In total, 22 students faced trial on similar charges in 2017.

According to Victorian court documents, large criminal syndicates set up houses with equipment needed to cultivate cannabis plants and then recruited students to maintain the plants and live within the dwellings to maintain the appearance of regular occupancy.

“This is a very prevalent crime where young people are often targeted by criminal syndicates and exploited”

Many of those charged with cultivating cannabis for profit cited significant financial stress while in Australia but were paid relatively small sums of money – as little as $150 for a weekend.

ISANA president Bronwyn Gilson said it was common for students to fall into financial difficulties once in Australia, adding she did not believe the financial requirements required for a study visa were at fault.

“Most students who fall into a vulnerable situation do so after arriving, normally through no fault of their own,” she said.

“It can be that those supporting the student financially, usually family members, may lose their job or their business falls on hard times and thus the student needs to seek employment or increase their hours of work. These students then become a target for unscrupulous people who offer them an immediate way out of their financial problems.”

In one case from 25 January this year, Thanh Chau said he obtained a student visa in November 2013 with the dual goals of studying business management at Holmes Institute and using in-study work rights to support his family back in Vietnam, after his parents heard of “supposedly very high wages” in Australia.

After failing to find employment, and then being underpaid working at a strawberry farm and later a butcher, Chau’s mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and the area in which he grew up was hit by an environmental disaster, destroying its fishing industry and putting further pressures on him to send money home.

Chau said he was then approached by one operator to tend to a crop in Melbourne’s East Cranbourne, for which he received $3,000, most of which went back to his parents.

“I accept the difficult circumstances underlying and surrounding this offending,” Judge Gaynor said in sentencing.

“That is, the unrealistic dreams that accompanied your arrival in Australia, your failure to find work – whereby you could appropriately support yourself, financial pressures upon… you in relation to your [family] and the duties and obligations you felt towards them, given the sacrifices they had made to send you to Australia in the first place.”

Chau was sentenced to nine-months for cultivating a commercial quantity of marijuana, with time served, and is expected to be deported back to Vietnam once released from prison.

According to Judge Lawson, criminal syndicates are becoming more aware of the pressures placed on international students and targeting them.

“It would be helpful if international students had access to small short-term, interest-free loans via their provider”

“This is, unfortunately, a very prevalent crime where young people are often targeted by criminal syndicates and exploited because of their vulnerable immigration status and they are recruited to crop sit,” she said.

But while Judge Lawson and others have acknowledged vulnerabilities and exploitation around international students, they have maintained the need for harsh punishments as a deterrent.

“Courts must send a message to other people who are in your position who may be attracted to undertaking this sort of work to make quick money, that if you are caught by the police for this sort of criminal offending, then you will face stern punishment and [jail] is likely,” she told one defendant.

Phil Honeywood, CEO of IEAA, said providers needed to ensure students were fully aware of the potential consequences that face them if they chose to undertake illegal activity.

“Education providers need to ensure that in the orientation materials and orientation program that they provide to newly arrived international students that some of these potentially exploitative and illegal activities… are explained fully and the consequences of a student putting their foot wrong are explained in no uncertain detail,” he said.

“When students come to any new country, they must abide by the laws of the land. As many young Australians have discovered when they’ve gone to Indonesia and chosen to use drugs. There is no sort of excuse for this behaviour.”

Gilson, meanwhile, said better services for students who find themselves in dire situations could help to prevent students resorting to the drug trade for money.

“It would be helpful if international students had access to small short-term, interest-free loans via their provider, supported by the Government,” she said.

A recent survey of migrant workers, including international students, found 40% of students were exploited in the workforce, 73% of which were aware that they were being exploited.

The post Aus: international students lured into cannabis “crop sitting” appeared first on The PIE News.

Germany ranks first for int’l students in Europe

The PIE News - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 03:21

Germany has held on to the top spot as the most attractive European country for international students, the 2018 edition of the Study.EU Country Ranking has revealed. Germany’s combination of world-class higher education institutions and a tuition-free public university system made it the first choice for many students ahead of the UK and France.

Drawing from university ranking data, governmental and university organisation statistics, Study.EU ranked 30 European countries across three dimensions: Education (45%), measuring the quality of education; Cost (30%), assessing what students should expect to pay for living and tuition; and Life & Career (25%), evaluating the quality of life and the chances of staying and working in the country after graduation.

“Based on those statistics, most of the countries in our European ranking are safer than the US”

The popularity of Germany as the top study abroad destination for the second year running was of little surprise, having surpassed its long-term goal of hosting 350,000 international students by 2020 three years early in 2017.

Study.EU CEO Gerrit Bruno Blöss told The PIE News that Germany’s combination of high-quality education with near-zero tuition fees make it a “no-brainer” for many international students, particularly with a growing number of English-taught programs.

The UK came in second, taking the top spot for “Education”, and for “Life & Career” but ranking 30th for “Cost” due to high living expenses and tuition fees.

France, with its highly reputed but affordable higher education system, moved up ahead of the Netherlands to take third place, and Russia rounded off the top five.

Poland was the only new entrant into the 2018 edition’s top 10, having consistently increased the availability of English-taught study options and growing its international student population from just 12,000 to over 65,000 in the past 10 years.

Study.EU Country Ranking 2018. Image: study.eu

 

The 2018 edition also took into account personal safety as a factor in the “Life & Career” category.

“We have noticed that students are increasingly concerned with the safety in their host countries,” said Blöss.

The score for personal safety is based on analyses in the Social Progress Index and includes homicide rates, rates of other violent crimes and incidents of political terror.

“Based on those statistics, most of the countries in our European ranking are safer than, for example, the United States,” Blöss added.

The full ranking of all 30 countries can be seen here.

The post Germany ranks first for int’l students in Europe appeared first on The PIE News.

New ACE Paper Explores Challenges to HBCUs in Internationalization

American Council on Education - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 02:30
The paper is the culmination of a three-year research project that was funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education, where seven HBCUs worked with ACE to develop campus-wide internationalization strategies.

North Texas administrator criticizes push to name new building for a woman or minority individual

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 01:42

Just over half the students at the University of North Texas are not white. But none of the 87  buildings on campus are named for a minority individual. As a result, some students have started a petition seeking to have a residence hall under construction named either for a minority individual or a woman (two campus buildings are named for women.)

"We believe that it is important to promote diversity in every aspect of the student experience at our university," says the petition.

The campus is now debating not the petition, but an email sent by a woman who serves as one of the university's spokeswomen in which she sharply questioned the idea. Nancy Kolsti, the spokeswoman, sent the email to a student who was among those who organized the petition. That student then posted a screenshot of the email to Twitter.

“UNT buildings should be named after individuals who are deserving of such an honor - not individuals who are chosen to fill a quota system that you think the university should have because you feel that it is important ‘to promote diversity in every aspect of the student experience,'" the email said.

The email also said that the student petition effort was "a form of reverse racism."

Students are questioning what it says that one of the official representatives of the university weighed in in this way. While faculty members typically express a range of views on matters of campus policies and other issues, administrators who speak on behalf of the institution tend to be more cautious in what they say.

Kolsti has not spoken out about the controversy. But Leigh Anne Gullett, associate director of news at the university, sent an email statement to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram that defended Kolsti's right to send the email but said it did not represent the university's views.

“Honoring diversity is one of our most important values,” the statement said. “We encourage our students to take an active role in helping to shape the university and applaud the actions of our Student Government to petition for values in which they believe. UNT also supports free expression from all of its community members -- including university employees. Nancy was expressing her views as a private citizen and not speaking in her capacity as a UNT employee. Public employees generally retain the constitutional right to free speech they hold as private citizens.”

 

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Sewanee debates honor for Charlie Rose, sin, forgiveness and harassment

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 01:00

In November, The Washington Post reported that numerous women alleged that journalist Charlie Rose harassed them. The reports included groping, unwanted kissing and more. Rose acknowledged "inappropriate behavior" and said that he "deeply" apologized.

In the weeks following the Post article, Rose's career essentially fell apart, as he lost jobs and speaking engagements. Several universities -- including Arizona State University, Fordham University and the University of Kansas -- that had honored Rose in various ways revoked those honors. While many universities revoked honors for Bill Cosby after allegations surfaced that he had sexually assaulted and harassed dozens of women, they generally acted only well after the accusations became public. In the case of Rose, whose behavior toward women became public amid the Me Too movement, universities acted quickly.

One university -- the University of the South, known as Sewanee -- has in the last week been engulfed in a debate over its 2016 honorary degree to Rose. At Sewanee, the university's board rejected a call by students to revoke the degree, a decision that upset some students. The controversy escalated as students questioned a letter sent by Sewanee's leaders to the students who led the effort to rescind the degree. The letter offered a theological explanation for the decision, but students accused the leaders of minimizing the issue of sexual harassment.

Then some students anonymously put up posters all over the campus addressed to John McCardell, the vice chancellor (the equivalent of president). "VC John McCardell: Why won't you condemn sexual assaulters?" read many of the posters, including one placed on McCardell's campus home. The posters, which were quickly removed, stunned many on the campus, who see civility as a cherished, all too rare value in higher education today.

A rally is being planned for later this week, and there are no signs that the debate is about to die down.

Theology and the Letter

Sewanee is owned by 28 dioceses of the Episcopal Church, and the board meeting at which the Rose degree was discussed included three Episcopal bishops and three Episcopal priests. In an interview, McCardell said the letter was an attempt to convey the thinking, not of every individual on the board, but the view that emerged, which was influenced by board members' faith.

The letter praised the two student representatives to the board for bringing up the issue and offering board members their perspective. The portion of the letter that has angered many students focused on theological ideas:

"Respectfully, we submit that we should look to our own Honor Code for a tradition that combines both the academic and the ecclesiastical. In its essence, we do not condone perverse behavior. We want to be clear that we have stood, and always will stand, against sexual harassment of women or men. At the same time, we do not believe it is our place to condemn the individual. In fact, we think there is grave danger were we to go down that path. We impose a penalty where appropriate, but we also offer forgiveness. That said, it would be easy to condemn Mr. Rose and rescind the honorary degree. It is harder not to do so. The opportunity to forgive should always be taken. Condemnation has no place here," the letter said.

The letter went on to say, "Clarification comes in the question 'Is there a hierarchy of sin?' Quickly followed by 'Are we all not sinners?' Therein lies the ecumenical rub. If we condemn a person then who among us sinners should not also be condemned?"

The letter so angered students that many of the posters put up on campus featured those paragraphs.

Who Should Forgive?

Claire Brickson is a senior at Sewanee, one of the two student representatives to the board to whom the letter was addressed. (Brickson and the other student representative were permitted to present their request on the Rose degree to the board, but they were not allowed to participate in the board's deliberations.)

In an interview, Brickson said the letter displayed a lack of appreciation for the position of the students -- and the harm done to the women Rose harassed. "We are not the ones who can forgive Mr. Rose," she said. "We're not the ones who he harassed. It is not our position to offer forgiveness."

The culture associated with sexual assault and sexual harassment is a national problem, she said, and it is a problem at Sewanee. "This is not just about Charlie Rose," she said, but about the university having had the chance to make a statement about the problems of sexual harassment by taking back an honor for someone who mistreated many women in his career. "The university has failed," she said.

As to the anonymous posters on campus, Brickson said she did not favor the personal attacks on McCardell, but "I understand" why some students felt the need to put up the posters. Many take the board's decision as a sign that it does not care about these issues, she said.

Others have noted that the university has an honor code through which it punishes students for various infractions, with penalties including suspension.

Richard Pryor III, a student, published an essay Monday in The Sewanee Purple in which he challenged the theological underpinnings of the leaders' letter. He said that he accepts that all people are sinners, but that Rose's conduct -- using his power against women time and again, over a period of many years -- put him in a different category.

"By not revoking Charlie Rose’s honorary degree, you have told these strong survivors that you don’t care about the fact that he hurt them. You have shown every person on this campus that if you’re powerful enough or well-connected enough, you can sexually assault others without repercussion," Pryor wrote. "This is the message you are sending, and you will stand on the wrong side of history."

‘Adding a Feather’

McCardell, in an interview, disputed the idea that there was inconsistency between the university's stance on the honorary degree and its honor code. Unlike honor codes at some other colleges that can be used to expel students, Sewanee's has suspension -- with the possibility of returning -- as its strongest punishment. Those found to violate the honor code have the choice to "be welcomed back," he said.

Further, he said that the honor code only allows for punishment of those who have had due process -- something that the college cannot offer Rose in a meaningful way. In fact, McCardell said, Sewanee has never revoked a degree -- honorary or otherwise -- in its history. "We have no procedure or process for revoking a degree," he said.

Rose has been punished, just not by Sewanee, he said. "It's hard to say that he has not been censured in the court of public opinion," he said. "His career is over."

McCardell also asked whether revoking the degree would accomplish anything.

Doing so would be "to add a feather to a thousand-pound weight," he said. The focus of students would be better directed at the campus. "These students are concerned about what we are doing about the climate on campus," he said. "The morning after we have revoked Charlie Rose's degree, we may feel very good about ourselves, but what have we done on campus?"

As for the posters directed at him, McCardell said, "I've got a thick skin. I've seen this stuff and worse. I am more disappointed than hurt."

But he said he was concerned about the tactic. "I think anonymous postings of a personal nature -- leave aside entirely who is being named -- are inappropriate and are fundamental violations of the rules of civil behavior," McCardell said. "How does one respond to anonymous charges? Where is the diversity that we claim to possess and to celebrate when such things as this are posted? Where are the voices saying, 'This goes too far?'"

Duke and Hopkins

Sewanee is not the only institution to have awarded Rose an honorary degree and not to have revoked it.

Duke University in December announced that it would not revoke an honorary degree it awarded to Rose (who is an alumnus). The university said it had never revoked an honorary degree and that the board had discussed the issue. However, at the same time, Duke announced that its DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy was revoking an award it had given Rose, given that the Post articles showed that "he used his status to prey on women who worked for him."

One of the few institutions that has not revoked its honorary degree for Cosby is Johns Hopkins University, where some students are pushing the university to do so.

A statement from the university said, "Johns Hopkins University remains deeply troubled by the reports and allegations regarding Bill Cosby. As stated previously, Johns Hopkins has a set of values we seek to uphold and we continue to closely monitor all developments related to this matter. We exercise great care and deliberation in awarding an honorary degree and would do so in the event of revoking one."

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New app seeks to shake up student ratings of instruction by facilitating open-ended feedback in the moment, throughout the semester

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 01:00

Even defenders of student evaluations of teaching admit they’re flawed. A top contention is that students are almost always asked to evaluate a professor at the end of a course, when they no longer have a personal incentive to help that instructor teach better.

Enter ClassPulse. Part of a growing market of products that allow students to offer anonymous, instantaneous feedback on instruction, ClassPulse is a free application students and professors download to their phones. From there, students can post comments or questions visible to everyone in the class. Professors can gauge the significance of each post by the number of supporting votes it gets from other students. So a comment with one vote might not mean much. But a comment with 25 votes is probably representative of students’ concerns, depending on class size.

Instructors can also post comments or questions or request targeted feedback via the platform’s “polls” function. “Did you find today’s exercise useful?” a professor might ask, for example, or “Rate the pace of my lectures: too slow, too fast, just right.”

Rather than students using their phones throughout class -- to the point of distraction -- ClassPulse proposes that students use the app between classes or at key moments while meeting.

Claudia Recchi, a recent graduate of Georgetown University, founded ClassPulse last year and has built a following based on outreach to individual instructors and word-of-mouth recommendations. Instructors nationwide now use the platform, she said, with particular interest among non-tenure-track professors. That makes sense, given that these professors are often rehired, or not, based largely on student feedback.

“These people care about their teaching effectiveness not only because they care about students but because their jobs are on the line,” Recchi said, noting that faculty developers and teaching center staffers also have reached out to her personally about ClassPulse.

Recchi, who graduated in 2017 with degrees in operations and information management and Chinese, said ClassPulse was informed by her own experiences as an undergraduate.

“As a student you’re always aware that course evaluations are flawed,” she said. “When the semester comes to an end, you can’t be bothered to fill them out, or you’re checking boxes or writing super-generic comments.”

Recchi recalled one professor in particular who was a “great guy” but who walked through examples too quickly and “had a hard time getting things across” to students. At the end of the semester, the professor got terrible evaluations, Recchi said, and wasn’t rehired.

A second professor of finance, meanwhile, she said, asked students to offer feedback anonymously on his course via a Tumblr page.

“I though that was super useful and wished I had it in all my classes,” Recchi recalled.

Patrick Johnson, an assistant teaching professor of physics at Georgetown, uses ClassPulse in his large, lecture-style courses. Because ClassPulse is only as effective as the share of students using it is large, Johnson said he asks students to take out their phones and download the app at the beginning of the semester.

“The fact that students have their phones with them everywhere they go means this is super easy for them to do,” he said. “So that barrier to providing feedback is lower. And every professor knows that it’s hard to get 60 percent of students to fill out course evaluations -- the best I’ve ever done is in the 70s or 80 percent, and that’s with constant pestering.”

Because ClassPulse is anonymous, Johnson said he doesn’t know if a dedicated group is using the app on a regular basis or if different students are using it all the time. Either way, he said, a critical mass is using it, to everyone’s benefit.

Asked if ClassPulse means more work, in that he now has to consult the app and answer student emails, Johnson said he hadn’t studied the issue. But he guessed that ClassPulse eliminated at least some of the monotonous, time-consuming work that is answering multiple student emails about the same questions. And ClassPulse offers anonymity that some students crave, he said, noting that he’s previously received comments from students who create accounts like “concernedphysicsstudent@gmail.com.”

To that point, Johnson said he’d prefer that students approach him directly with questions, comments or criticism than use any platform. But as he himself was intimidated by his own professors as an undergraduate, he said, he gets it.

Johnson said he still pays close attention to students’ narrative comments in his formal course evaluations, but that ClassPulse is a way to get that feedback in a more timely manner so that it’s “actionable.” Sometimes, that means telling students that he’ll consider their suggestions as policy changes for the next semester, he said. But just as often it means answering questions or making small changes that might help students now.

Recchi said that ClassPulse is not currently seeking to replace student evaluations of teaching, but rather complement them. A small ClassPulse study involving 12 faculty members, for example, demonstrated that professors who used the app over a semester saw a 20-percentage-point increase in their overall teaching ratings, she said.

Going forward, ClassPulse hopes to add more sophisticated analytics so that professors can track the impact of their interaction with students on their teaching. Recchi’s eventual plan is to sell ClassPulse to institutions so that they can offer access to it to all their professors. The platform seeks to remain instructor centered, not administrator or ratings centered, however, she said.

Beyond the fact that traditional student evaluations of teaching are completed after the fact, they’re also often criticized for conveying students’ bias against professors -- especially those who aren’t white men. Recchi said that when students give feedback in the moment, instead of at the end of a course, it tends to be much more targeted and objective: a professor talked too fast on this day or this particular quiz was too difficult, for example.

“If you’re looking back on a course, you’re going to give very general impressions,” she said. “It’s very easy for biases to creep in that way.”

The IDEA system is another tool for making student feedback more meaningful, including through instant responses; IDEA’s instant tool can be delivered to students at any time throughout the semester, but it currently includes seven set questions instead of open-ended feedback.

Ken Ryalls, IDEA’s president, said that while ClassPulse’s open design offers an “opportunity for more flexibility,” pre-designed questions “can have advantages of reliability and validity, and focusing on things that really matter to the instructor.”

While both systems have their benefits and drawbacks, he said, classrooms “are not democracies, and opening up feedback on any subject that allows students to anonymously give thumbs-ups to seems risky to the instructor's control of the class.” Somewhat similarly, Ryalls said he was skeptical about instant feedback’s potential to attenuate student biases. While some students might vote down, ignore or otherwise drown out biased perspectives, he said, other students might join in.

Ryalls said that instant feedback during the semester can be a bridge to well-designed end-of-course evaluations, and that in a "perfect world" they’d both always exist.

“I love to talk about feedback as fostering an environment of co-learning, where the instructor and student truly feel that they're working together to get better,” he added. “More feedback would probably lead to more co-learning, provided the feedback is of some quality.”

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University of Michigan will now allow mediation in some sexual assault cases

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 01:00

The University of Michigan will now allow certain cases of sexual assault to be resolved with mediation and other methods, such as sexual violence classes for accused students, a move the university believes could help victims who don’t want to pursue an arduous formal process.

Survivor advocates, however, caution that colleges often steer students toward what could be a less complicated path for the university, but one that could go against victims' wishes.

The changes come as the issue of sexual violence is exploding across the political landscape.

The university's neighbor just two hours away, Michigan State University, has been shaken by the Larry Nassar case, in which the former university and Olympic gymnastics team doctor was found to have abused more than 160 women over several decades. The fallout resulted in the president’s ouster and a recent no-confidence vote by faculty against the embattled Board of Trustees.

“In light of MSU's horrible treatment of the Larry Nassar investigation, it's ironic that Michigan is now trying to make it easier for the school to sweep violence under the rug,” said Alyssa Peterson, a state organizer with Know Your IX, an advocacy group with a name that refers to the federal gender antidiscrimination law, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Last year Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education, loosened federal rules for how colleges can investigate and adjudicate sexual assault. DeVos said a Title IX-related edict from the Obama administration skewed colleges’ processes too far against students accused of rape.

Michigan appears to be following the Trump administration's more flexible guidelines by changing their policies to allow mediation and other forms of “alternative resolution” to be used to resolve sexual assault cases, though not when a student has been accused of any sort of penetrative offense.

The university also increased its timeline to investigate, hear and potentially punish a student for sexual assault allegations from a total 60 days to 75 days -- but circumstances can extend this.

The two-month time frame previously was required under the Obama guidance on Title IX, which came in the form of a Dear Colleague letter in 2011.

Many of Michigan's substantive changes to its policy were based on student feedback, specifically from survivors, said Erik S. Wessel, director of the university's Office of Student Conflict Resolution.

For some students, the formal process -- an investigation, then a hearing -- is the best route, but the university wanted to add “another tool in the toolbox,” he said.

Many tend to focus on mediation as the only method of "alternative resolution," but the university could also require the accused to take a class on sexual violence, Wessel said, but only if they admit a degree of responsibility.

Wessel stressed that point: a student would have to take responsibility for their actions. The solution might not just be mediation or some kind of course -- it could be a combination, he said.

Both parties have to agree to a solution outside the formal process. And any agreement has to be approved by the university's Title IX coordinator, Wessel said. The university will not attempt to force or guide a survivor into mediation or another avenue if they don't want it, although staff members likely would lay out all the options, he said.

The changes took effect Feb. 7. And the university has yet to use an alternative resolution for a sexual assault case.

“In no way would we ever coerce or strongly suggest in any particular way how a claimant should think, feel or want to pursue a process moving forward,” Wessel said. “It’s our role, period, to offer the options to them, to give them as much choice and voice and agency as we possibly can.”

Voluntary Mediation?

Survivor advocates fear the opposite.

Hope Brinn is a Michigan law student who has done survivor advocacy work. She also filed a complaint with the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights against Swarthmore College, which she attended as an undergraduate.

No matter how much colleges insist otherwise, the choice to use mediation is never voluntary, Brinn said. Institutions have incentives to rely on nonpunitive measures to close sexual assault cases, because otherwise they are exposed to liability, she said.

One reason for this, she said, is that a growing number of male students accused of sexual assault have successfully sued their institutions over the years, alleging their constitutional due process rights had been violated. Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit partially ruled in favor of one such student, who alleged that Miami University in Ohio had been prejudiced when it found him responsible for an assault. The lower district court had dismissed the student’s lawsuit, but on appeal, the appeals court found the student had sufficient evidence to support such allegations.

“As we've increasingly seen, perpetrators sanctioned for violating sexual misconduct policies often sue their schools,” Brinn said. “This risk is lowered by using mediation that won't place any real consequences on assailants. As such, I believe Michigan will either explicitly or implicitly push victims into mediation. This might take the form of responding to a complaint by saying something like, ‘Well, you can pursue adjudication, which will be really traumatizing and probably won’t result in sanctions, or you can pursue this mediation, which is much less traumatizing and built on ‘healing,’ but it’s totally up to you.’”

Brinn also took issue with the 75-day timeline, which she noted is the university's goal, but not a guarantee.

She said that having a prompt and clear time frame is essential to survivors’ emotional health.

“Dragging out the investigation and failing to set a boundary on how long it can take can destroy someone's mental health and thus deny them access to the educational opportunities to which they are entitled,” Brinn said.

Wessel acknowledged that advocates often are skeptical of the concept of “restorative justice,” which many do not support in the context of sexual assault cases.

However, he challenged the perception that other means of solving sexual assault cases don’t hold the accused accountable.

“I fundamentally reject that notion,” Wessel said. “It’s my strong experience in my career that a restorative process with a high degree of accountability, a high degree of support is the sweet spot to ensuring students are learning from the experience.”

After DeVos announced she had rescinded the Obama administration’s 2011 guidance and released interim measures, the Education Department told the National Association of College and University Attorneys that alternatives could be used to resolve sexual assault cases.

But the change still confused some college lawyers. One, Scott Schneider, who specializes in higher education law, told Inside Higher Ed in September he doubted that any institution employs anyone with the competency to mediate sexual assault cases.

DeVos said she intends to make permanent guidance on Title IX after a notice-and-comment period.

The department also permitted institutions to pick a higher standard of evidence in adjudicating possible sexual assaults, a particularly controversial move.

The Obama administration told colleges to rely on a lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which generally means there’s 50.1 percent chance that the accused individual was responsible. DeVos allowed institutions to use the higher “clear and convincing” standard.

Advocates have said the higher standard is meant to be used in criminal proceedings, not in the college adjudication process.

Michigan will keep the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, Wessel said, and he was unaware of any talks to change it.

The university fielded 218 reports of sexual misconduct, including sexual assaults and harassment, stalking and other violence from July 2016 to June 2017. But it offered interim remedies -- such as barring the parties from contact -- in just 34 cases.

Of the 218 reports, the university determined 82 didn’t fall under the scope of its policy. And in the 28 full investigations the university conducted, students weren't found to be in violation of the university's rules in about 53 percent (15 cases).

“I find it hard to believe that the vast majority of individuals making formal reports with the office would seek neither an investigation nor interim measures,” Brinn said. “Most people make reports because they want something done. I refuse to believe that the vast majority of students at Michigan who report sexual misconduct want nothing done as a result.”

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Author discusses new book on how World War I created opportunities for British women in science

Inside Higher Ed - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 01:00

Wartime has opened up many jobs to women. World War I was no exception. A new book explores how women in science found opportunities in Britain in World War I that were previously denied them, and how these breakthroughs related to the drive for women's right to vote. The book is A Lab of One's Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War (Oxford University Press). The author is Patricia Fara, a historian of science who is a fellow of Clare College of the University of Cambridge.

Via email, Fara responded to questions about her new book and about women in science today.

Q: How limited was the role for women in science in Britain prior to World War I?

A: Before the First World War, even women believed that they were fitted only for an inferior place in science. In 1897, the principal of Newnham -- one of Cambridge’s only two female colleges -- hoped that "women will do excellent work in the subordinate fields of science … though it is not very brilliant or striking, and will in particular prove excellent assistants." Girls’ schools provided skimpy scientific education, and many parents refused to fund their daughters’ intellectual ambitions. Those who did manage to pursue a scientific career discovered that as undergraduates, they were mocked, excluded from practical classes and provided with inferior accommodation.

In principle, university posts were open to both men and women, but in practice preference was given to men, even in women-only colleges. A tiny number of women did secure positions, but they were deemed unsuitable for addressing audiences of male undergraduates and were frequently channeled into time-consuming tasks of administration and teaching. Moreover, just as in industry, in-built pay differentials meant that experienced women could be hired more cheaply than men, and so often ended up doing lower-grade work. Women were excluded from many professional organizations. In 1906, the physicist Hertha Ayrton won a prestigious medal from London’s Royal Society for her work on electric streetlights, but her nomination for fellowship had already been rejected on the grounds that she was married.

Q: How did the war change the role? Did those leading science organizations see the potential of women, or was it more that smart women saw an opportunity and pursued it?

A: To have got anywhere in science by 1914, a woman needed to be not only smart, but also determined and ambitious. The war did give them the opportunities they had been looking for, but they were often forced to carve out their own routes to success. When Dr. Elsie Inglis offered her medical services in August 1914, the War Office snapped, "My good lady, go home and sit still." Furious at this official rejection, she raised enough money from suffrage organizations for two fully equipped hospital units, staffed entirely by women and including excellent research facilities. Although spurned by Britain, their services were gratefully accepted by two allies, France and Serbia, where they saved many thousands of lives and investigated topics such as food preservation and bacterial infections.

At London’s Imperial College, the chemist Martha Whiteley took charge of the experimental trenches dug in the gardens. Seizing the chance for independent research, other women joined her team, developing explosives -- one was called DW for Dr. Whiteley -- and enduring the pain and scarring caused by testing poisonous gases on themselves. Because of her research into tear gas, Whiteley was celebrated in the press as "the woman who makes the Germans weep." Nearby at the Natural History Museum, the distinguished paleontologist Dorothea Bate was paid a mere assistant’s wages as she took on ever-increasing responsibility for superintending the collections while her male colleagues were away.

Other examples of extraordinary women who smashed conventions include the Stoney sisters. Florence, a medical doctor, specialized in the brand-new field of X-ray diagnosis but found it hard to fight against the military logic that because a woman had never previously been head radiologist, therefore she could not be appointed to the post. Her sister Edith, a physicist, traveled with female medical units to Serbia, working in atrocious conditions to equip hospitals with electricity-generating systems.

Q: After the war, how did the push for women in science get set back?

A: Female scientists, doctors and engineers discovered that opportunities closed down once the war was over. As unemployment rose, priority was given to finding work for men, while women who had successfully performed high-powered jobs were steered back toward domesticity. Women who had enjoyed responsible positions during the war were forced into accepting low-status posts. Less-skilled jobs became redefined as work for women, thus reinforcing the notion that only men were capable of climbing to the top of a professional career ladder.

Even for scientists with high qualifications, all the old stereotypes reappeared: recruitment literature welcomed female graduates not for their brains, but for their “manual dexterity, their delicacy of touch, their conscientiousness and their willingness to bear with a routine under which most men become impatient.” Rather than being replacements for men as in the war, women were now being segregated into separate career tracks: some advertisements even specified that this open-ended research post was suitable for a man, whereas that routine task would satisfy a woman.

For a woman, being a good scientist was not good enough. A careers adviser spelled it out: "When it comes to a permanent post, to obtain equal chances with a male rival, the woman must be obviously a little better."

Q: How do you see the link between women's scientific progress in World War I and women's suffrage in Britain?

A: Women’s work during the war was enormously influential in persuading the government that they should get the vote in 1918. For almost four years, employers and ministers had repeatedly praised the women running factories, hospitals and transport systems. Women’s success during the war transformed perceptions of women’s abilities and social roles. Even those diehards who maintained that women belonged at home with the children could no longer justify their arguments by claiming innate female incompetence. Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes’s creator) changed sides to support the vote, arguing "those who have helped to save the state should be allowed to guide it."

Before the war, science and suffrage were often bracketed together as a twin threat to long-established conventions of female domesticity. When war was declared in August 1914, suffrage groups quickly recognized the publicity that might be generated by switching from protest to patriotism. Benefiting from networks that had been built up over decades, campaigners were ideally placed to respond quickly by raising money and recruiting volunteers. As the male work force diminished, and industry struggled to meet increased demand, women took over the vital tasks necessary for supplying the country’s technological needs. As early as 1916, the minister of munitions boasted that "our armies have been saved and victory assured by the women in the munition factories where they helped to produce aeroplanes, howitzer bombs, shrapnel bullets, shells, machine tools, mines and have taken part in shipbuilding."

Q: Today women are succeeding in science in Britain and the United States in ways that might not have been imagined the early 20th century. But reports are also rampant of sexism and sexual harassment faced by many of these women. Are there lessons for women in science today from the pioneers you profile?

A: Over a century later, equality of opportunity is now firmly entrenched, yet the problems of unequal numbers and gender pay gaps remain unresolved. Even a cursory glance at the statistics reveals that although far more young women are reading science subjects at university than ever before, they are dropping out along the route to the top. The overt differentiation of the past is no longer legal, but it appears that discrimination continues to be practiced.

Not only men but also women need to scrutinize their consciences and explore the behavior patterns and prejudices that they have inherited from the past. Looking back can feel reassuring, because there are clearly dramatic differences between the status of women now and before the First World War. Even so, continuities remain. These are particularly significant when they are concealed, lying dormant, unrecognized and therefore unconfronted. Blind trials show that, just like their male colleagues, women rank anonymized job applications higher when they believe the candidates are men. It seems that even high-achieving women have internalized a feeling of innate inferiority.

Blatant mockery and explicit segregation may now have disappeared, but concealed prejudice can be harder to fight and more keenly felt. Scientists point to subtle ways in which women are made to feel like outsiders: the absence of female portraits on corridor walls, the paucity of women’s works on student reading lists, the near nonexistence of senior women delivering keynote addresses at scientific conferences. When a woman fails to get a lectureship or a research position, it is easy to become oversuspicious -- sometimes the woman is simply not the most suitable applicant. Yet uncertainty often hovers. Before the First World War, suffragists could see what they were fighting against, but modern discrimination is elusive, intangible and insidiously hard to eradicate.

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Vice-chancellor charged over Grace Mugabe's PhD

University World News Global Edition - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 07:02
University of Zimbabwe Vice-chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura has been arrested for allegedly awarding former first lady Grace Mugabe a doctor of philosophy degree 'corruptly' in 2014. Nyagura was ...

AMBA celebrates with annual awards

The PIE News - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 04:42

The Association of MBAs presented four awards to AMBA-accredited schools and their students at its annual Gala Dinner in London in February.

AMBA said the awards are designed to raise awareness of the excellence achieved by its schools, students and graduates. Chief executive, Andrew Main Wilson, thinks this year’s awards did just that.

“The standards of innovation across all our award categories are a credit to our industry and tonight we celebrate the very highest achievements in leadership, from both Business Schools and their eminent MBA students.”

AMBA also used the evening to inaugurate its new chairman, Bodo Schlegelmilch. He was dean of WU executive academy, at Vienna University of Economics and Business from 2004 until 2015 and remains professor of international management and marketing at the institution. 

The student of the year was awarded to Antoinette Catonia Mia Bailey from the University of Hong Kong Business School.

Judges selected Bailey for her proven track record in innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and social enterprise.

Bailey, who was an entrepreneur before she started her MBA program, has led multiple fundraising projects for social enterprises during her program. She is currently working on a technology platform.

An MBA graduate from Copenhagen Business School, founder and CEO of NINAYO.com, an online trading platform for agriculture in East Africa won the MBA Entrepreneurial Venture Award

Jack Langworthy said his platform allows small holder farmers to meet demand more efficiently. The mobile-friendly platform has over 22,000 active users and is providing access to over 16,000 tons of food.

AMBA said that past winners of the Student of the Year and Entrepreneurial Venture awards have been able to use the attention to build new networks and contacts and help them to grow professionally and as individuals.

“Tonight we celebrate the very highest achievements in leadership, from both Business Schools and their eminent MBA students”

The MBA Employer and Business School Partnership Award went to Donbasenergo Public Joint Stock Company and International Management Institute Business School. They have more than 10 years of cooperation.

Professor Iryna Tykhomyrova, MIM Business School president, said that the award confirmed the hard work of the partnership was worth it.

“We’re elated to receive this award because this is a confirmation of our partnership and it is a new step for us. This partnership is an enhancement of our school, and we share values in our activities.”

Mona School of Business and Management at the University of West Indies won the innovation award for its Bloomberg Financial Markets Lab – a virtual trading room that provides economic data and electronic trading.

The awards allow schools to develop relations and collaborations with other schools and employers as well as using the leverage from their award to attract new students and build their reputations, organisers added.

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Cohort Go prospects boom with IDP deal

The PIE News - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 03:48

Australian-based edtech company Cohort Go has penned a deal with global education agency IDP, to roll out its services to the agency’s 34,000 clients annually.

A culmination of over two years negotiations, the deal will make Cohort Go’s payment services available to IDP clients, a significant boon for the company after experiencing a 24% increase to its user base in the past six months.

Cohort Go CEO and co-founder Mark Fletcher said the deal would increase exposure for his company’s payment services both within Australia and abroad, and aligned with IDP’s growth expectations.

“This specifically aligns with where we are and what we’re looking to do,” he said.

“It is a big deal, and from our point of view we’re very happy with it”

“A lot of [IDP’s] expansion is into Canada, the UK, New Zealand and to a lesser extent the US, which is fairly similar to our footprint as well. There is a nice synergy and match in the type of company they are, who they’re going after, and ourselves.”

Phase one of the agreement will see the payment services rolled out to IDP branch offices in Australia, Cambodia, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines, India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea and Bangladesh, with eight additional offices launching later in the year.

Fletcher told The PIE News the deal was a significant moment in the company’s history after it was founded in 2011.

“It is a big deal, and from our point of view we’re very happy with it. It continues to provide that credibility and view on how we’ve gone in the past and where we’re going in the future,” he said.

“We continue to think there are opportunities for us to roll out our broader platform.”

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Trinity College Dublin and Columbia University to offer dual degrees

The PIE News - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 03:31

Trinity College Dublin, Ireland and Columbia University, New York have joined forces to offer a dual degree program that will provide students with an international educational experience at two globally renowned universities on both sides of the Atlantic.

It is the first international partnership of its kind for Trinity, where students will spend two-year periods in both universities and receive degrees from both institutions.

“Trinity is a world-class university with many international partnerships and a vibrant and talented student body”

Irish students would pay regular student contributions for the duration of study in Ireland (up to €3,000 per year), and US fees while at Columbia (circa $50,000 per year).

A Trinity spokesperson confirmed that financial support would be available for students studying in Columbia on a case-by-case basis.

Trinity’s provost and president, Patrick Prendergast and Columbia University’s executive vice president and dean of the faculty of arts and sciences David Madigan signed the partnership agreement at a special US-Irish event stateside in Columbia University.

The newly launched programs are unique in that students will graduate with two degrees over the course of four years.

The inaugural cohort will start later in autumn 2018, as students will spend their first two years at Trinity, studying one of four areas—English Studies, European Studies, History, or Middle Eastern and European Languages and Cultures.

They will then go on to study at Columbia for their second two years, completing a core curriculum and several majors.

The program has proved popular with prospective students, with a very high number of applications received from more than 20 countries worldwide, including Ireland, the US, UK, India, Brazil, Canada and China.

“The arts and humanities are pillars of Columbia University’s stellar reputation”

It builds on the success of two other dual degrees Columbia University already has with the prestigious Paris Institute of Political Sciences and City University of Hong Kong.

Commenting on the new programs, Prendergast said it was an “historic” day for Trinity.

“Trinity has produced some of the world’s great minds across the arts and humanities, including the Nobel Laureate, Samuel Beckett, and more recently the Booker Prize winner, Anne Enright.

“Similarly, the arts and humanities are pillars of Columbia University’s stellar reputation, bringing the world’s best art and ideas to our attention. These dual-BA programs offer a truly international educational experience for our students.”

He added that together, both institutions would draw on the traditional and innovative, encouraging students to challenge themselves and develop an understanding of an increasingly globalised world.

Madigan said that as a graduate of Trinity, he felt particularly proud to launch the new program.

“This dual-BA program gives our students the opportunity to be exposed to ideas, literature, language, and culture through immersion into two of the best undergraduate programs in the world,” he said.

“Trinity is a world-class university with many international partnerships and a vibrant and talented student body. We at Columbia University are thrilled to be its first partner in an undergraduate dual-BA program.

“The collaboration between our faculties has created a dual-BA experience that combines the best of our academic programs, at a scale and depth that will benefit our students with an education that is both Irish and American.”

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Judy C. Miner, Chancellor of Foothill-De Anza Community College District, Elected ACE Board Chair

American Council on Education - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 02:30
ACE's membership also elected Barbara R. Snyder, president of Case Western Reserve University, as vice chair; and R. Barbara Gitenstein, president of The College of New Jersey, secretary.

NRA president's donation to Grinnell prompts policy rewrite and soul-searching

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 01:00

At first glance, Grinnell College’s Ignite Program seems like an unlikely source of controversy.

The program has local students in prekindergarten through sixth grade coming to campus for courses crafted and taught by college students, according to its description online. The younger students gain exposure to a college atmosphere, helping them get ready for higher education in the future. In its first three years, the program hosted 580 students taking 105 different classes.

Ignite, the description says, is funded by “a generous gift from Helen Redmond and Pete Brownell, the Grinnell Careers in Education Professions program, and Grinnell College's Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement.” It all seems very fitting for a college that proudly proclaims its historical roots as a center for abolitionist activity and continues to tout its commitment to social responsibility.

Except Pete Brownell is the president of the National Rifle Association.

Brownell’s name caught the eye of several Grinnell alumni who are in favor of gun control and thus in opposition to the NRA’s agenda. In their estimation, the gift from Brownell -- and Redmond, to whom he is married -- helped to whitewash a reputation stained by his leading position in the gun lobby. By accepting the money and publicly recognizing the man, Grinnell bestowed upon him a fig leaf of respectability with which to hide the indecency of the organization he leads, they argue.

The flap over Brownell helped to push the college to revise its gift acceptance policy this month. New language was added saying Grinnell can consider the source of funds when deciding whether to accept or decline a gift. Also added was language calling for specific constituencies to be involved in screening gift proposals if those gifts would benefit particular programs, and the president of Grinnell’s Alumni Council was added to a Gift Acceptance Committee for screening funds.

Not everyone at Grinnell shares the opinion that accepting Brownell’s gift was inappropriate -- some professors included. In an environment where colleges are always scrambling for money, some have worried the college will struggle to find donors deemed acceptable, that it has staked out a moral high ground that leaves little room for associating with anyone else. After all, it does not seem to bother recipients of Nobel Prizes that the prizes were created by the inventor of dynamite. Nor are Rhodes Scholarships going unclaimed because they were created by a leading imperialist of his day.

The situation at Grinnell stands out because it is intertwined with the particularly inflammatory topics of guns and politics at a time when the campus has been the home of much activity by anti-gun-violence activists. Recent school shootings like the one last week in Florida -- which predates this debate -- also add to its resonance. But it strikes at issues not related to firearms.

Grinnell’s debate over accepting gifts is hardly the only one playing out recently. Many have wondered whether colleges confer legitimacy when they recognize donors, or whether they are being played by big-money muscle without even realizing it.

Recently, the University of California, Irvine, found itself under fire for taking a $200 million gift from a couple critics allege back junk science. Donations to universities by the Sackler family, which largely draws its fortune from prescription drugs, including opioids, have been scrutinized. Money from David and Charles Koch, the principal owners of the petrochemical company Koch Industries, always seems to cause an uproar because of concerns about their money coming with strings attached.

In such a climate, it should come as no surprise that many institutions are considering adding or updating gift acceptance policies to account for institutional values or reputational risk of being affiliated with donors. Even discounting policies, many gift agreements now include provisions for renaming or denaming buildings and programs should a donor become involved in a scandal that would compromise the reputation of an institution.

The movement comes with very real concerns, however. Determining who is an acceptable donor is a difficult, imprecise task, because a personal donation is different from one made in an official capacity. And if you don’t take money from the president of the NRA, do you also refuse money from all card-carrying members?

Separating the Individual Donor From the Organization

Those who criticize the Brownell donation say the president of the NRA is different.

“He is really in a position to exercise direct, official action,” said Alana Smart. “You cannot separate the individual from the organization, in my mind, because of his role. It is so prominent.”

Smart is a member of Grinnell’s Class of 1968, one of the loudest voices pushing for changes to the college’s gift policy. She is also co-chair of a group called Colorado Faith Communities United to End Gun Violence.

She has heard the argument that Brownell made his donation on a personal check, not a check from the NRA. It wasn’t a check from his company, Brownells, which has its retail store a few miles from the college campus and bills itself as the “World’s Largest Supplier of Firearms Accessories and Gunsmithing Tools.”

Smart added that she would not object to Brownell coming on campus to speak or start a dialogue.

“That’s what Grinnell is there for,” she said. “The issue is putting that Grinnell Good Housekeeping seal of approval on Pete Brownell.”

Other alumni from the Class of 1968 say they’ve heard pushback based on the idea that Brownell should be exempted from scrutiny of his national role because he and his wife are good members of the local community. Redmond is president of the local Board of Education. Many say Brownell is a “good guy” and that their children go to school with the couple’s children, said Charles Connerly, a member of the class who is now director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Iowa.

In response, Connerly brings up the history of Grinnell. The college was staunchly opposed to slavery, even relocating to be in an abolitionist town, he said. It is in its character to take stances that are not consistent with its neighbors.

Connerly acknowledges there might be a line where it’s difficult to decide whether it’s appropriate to differentiate between a leader’s behavior and the behavior of the organization they head. But this isn’t it, he said. Regardless of where you draw the line, the NRA has crossed it.

“There is a difference," he said. ”There is a clear record of the NRA, and there is a clear record of Brownell as president in the NRA. There is no innuendo.”

Supporters of this position can point to what they say is inflammatory rhetoric. The NRA posts memes, for instance, saying things like, “My door isn’t locked for my protection, it’s locked for yours” and encouraging viewers to pick one: victim or gun owner.

But they can also point to the way the NRA has written about Brownell and his relationship to Grinnell College. He was profiled on a “Ring of Freedom” section on the NRA’s website. In part, it described him leaving faculty members “giddy with excitement” at firing a handgun.

Pete and his family live in Grinnell, a town of around 10,000 east of Des Moines in central Iowa. The spick-and-span community likes to refer to itself as the “jewel of the prairie” and is home to Grinnell College, an excellent Midwestern liberal arts school. Brownell likes to point out that the college hasn’t always been a bastion of pro-gun sentiment, and this omission of pro-gun common sense presented Pete with an obvious hometown problem to rectify.

“We started by opening up a dialogue,” Brownell said. “It wasn’t that the folks on the faculty really hated guns, it’s just that they didn’t know anything about them.”

So Pete volunteered to lecture on Second Amendment issues and, in time, managed to start a shooting club on campus. Then, when several of the professors expressed a desire to help with wildlife habitat enhancement on Brownell land bordering the company shooting range, the CEO sensed an opportunity to open even more philosophical doors. When the educators finished with the hands-on work involving plants, seed and soil, Pete introduced them to the shooting range.

For most it was a first. And, as is generally the case, the majority of the faculty left Brownell’s property giddy with excitement over having actually fired a real handgun. Today these same educators are regulars at the range. The newly committed gun owners have been known to take their guns with them when they return to New York for civic events. The professors hate to miss out on even a few minutes of range time, and the previous anti-gun sentiment at the college has been offset by an open-mindedness that never would have exited without a little push from Pete.

The passage in question is no longer in Brownell’s profile, but an online archive still exists from June 2017. The NRA did not respond to a request for comment or to interview Brownell for this piece.

Adam Laug is director of development and interim co-leader of development and alumni relations at Grinnell. When asked on Friday, he said he did not have any information about whether Grinnell was involved in the changes to the NRA profile of Brownell.

Laug declined to answer questions about Brownell’s donation. Grinnell does not release information about how much was given or the length of a gift agreement without approval in a gift release, he said.

The college is not endorsing its donors, even by naming them in association with a program, he said.

“We’re fortunate to benefit from such a wide variety of donors, volunteers and activities,” he said. “I don’t think that recommends any sort of endorsement, but rather an expression of gratitude.”

Policy Changes

Laug was willing to speak in greater detail about the changes Grinnell made to its gift acceptance policy.

Additions include guiding principles that Grinnell accept gifts that have a reasonable expectation of benefiting the college’s mission and that it will not encourage gifts “inappropriate in light of the donor’s disclosed personal or financial situation.” Changes also add alumni representation to a gift acceptance committee that reviews the appropriateness of accepting certain gifts and add a provision that “in cases where gift proposals would benefit a specific program, department, or unit on campus, leadership of relevant campus constituencies will be involved in proposal screening.”

The changes do not expand provisions under which Grinnell should return gifts in certain situations, something some critics had wanted. Gifts can be returned if “deemed prudent” by the vice president for development and alumni relations.

It’s too soon to say whether Grinnell will stop taking money from any donors as a result of the policy, Laug said.

“I think that is something we have not yet encountered,” he said. “As we formulate our process for future gifts, we’ll know more.”

Experts predict more institutions will have discussions about evaluating future gifts. Concerns have been growing about potential donors attempting to use gifts to influence organizations, said David Bass, senior director of research at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Universities aren’t only being challenged on new gifts, he said. They are being challenged about buildings, statues and programs named for donors decades ago.

“In an environment where we are seeing increasing numbers of institutions be challenged to change the names of buildings, change the names of programs, it may be more common for institutions to take some of that into account right at the start,” Bass said.

Clearly, morals and opinions change over time. The optimists hope new mechanisms like those being added to Grinnell’s gift acceptance policy can help colleges deal with those changing morals.

Not everyone is an optimist, though. Some worry Grinnell will be bogged down running background checks on every small gift. Samuel Rebelsky, a professor of computer science, wrote an extensive blog post on such possible drawbacks. He also argued there are few sources of large donations not tainted in some way, and that policies can be interpreted differently over decades.

“If we had the policy in place in the 1950's, would we follow the inclinations of the Senator from the state north of us and choose to refuse donations from those who are friends with communists or who had socialist tendencies?” he wrote. “The ‘You're not moral enough to give to Grinnell’ attitude worries me.”

What Now?

In a telephone interview Friday, Rebelsky said he would not want to be an employee in Grinnell’s development office deciding whether to accept gifts. Everyone feels the college has absolutely clear morals, he said. But individual cases are complex in surprising ways, and acting on clear morals is often a cloudy proposition.

As for Brownell’s gift, Rebelsky said he is able to separate the man from the NRA. The Brownell-Redmond gift funds a program enriching education for students who aren’t wealthy, he said.

“It aligns with the college’s goals and with community goals,” he said. “They make a big, positive difference in town, and so I have trouble saying because of a different hat that one of them wears, we need to say no to them.”

Others feel differently. Eliza Willis is a professor of political science who helped organize a discussion of the gift acceptance policy changes. One of a college’s most valuable assets is its reputation, she said. Any gift that would seem to hurt that reputation should at least be discussed.

“It’s a hard debate, but we can’t just take money from everyone,” she said.

“As a political scientist, it’s a bit of a legitimation exercise,” she said. “There is some exchange that’s happening here, and I think we need to acknowledge more publicly what we’re giving these organizations is legitimacy, and that is a very valuable asset for them -- especially when we’re talking about very powerful organizations that have a lot of resources.”

Faculty and alumni are still worried for a number of reasons. Some didn’t get the rejection clause they wanted in the new policy. Many worry how it will be implemented. Grinnell first added its gift acceptance policy at the end of 2015, but the gift acceptance committee it created has yet to meet, they say.

Keep in mind, these issues are complicating the discussion at Grinnell. Thanks to its history and stated values, it should arguably be more unified about which donations to accept than the average liberal arts college or public institution with many disparate constituencies.

“There is a heritage going back to the origins of the college,” said Connerly, of the Class of 1968. “It’s what gives Grinnellians a degree of distinctiveness. There is a sense of identity that is being challenged by the source of this gift.”

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