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Trump administration civil rights officials promise colleges fairer regulatory approach

Inside Higher Ed - il y a 12 heures 26 min

CHICAGO -- Candice Jackson and Thomas E. Wheeler Jr. received modest applause when the head of the National Association of College and University Attorneys introduced them to the roughly 1,700 lawyers attending the group's annual meeting here Tuesday afternoon.

Seventy-five minutes later, the two top Trump administration officials overseeing civil rights enforcement for higher education were treated to a warm, even grateful, ovation. That's because in between, Jackson and Wheeler told the crowd of higher education lawyers much of what they wanted to hear.

The basic message: We’re the government and, unlike our predecessors in the Obama administration, we’re here to help.

Jackson, the acting assistant education secretary for civil rights, and Wheeler, the acting assistant attorney general overseeing the U.S. Department of Justice's civil rights division, won the crowd over by rather artfully walking a tightrope that administration officials -- and many college leaders -- appear to be on when it comes to certain aspects of higher education regulation, particularly those related to the treatment of students.

Many college and university officials felt overregulated by the Obama administration, and have expressed interest in seeing that oversight eased. But few if any college administrators can afford to be seen as advocating for more latitude that might appear to come at the expense of their students -- in the form, say, of less protection for female students from sexual assault, which they would roundly oppose.

So the question many of the lawyers at the NACUA conference were asking was what signals the Trump administration’s new civil rights officials would send about how to balance regulatory relief and continued, vigorous enforcement. While Wheeler and especially Jackson made clear that they have had multiple meetings with higher education groups in recent weeks, these were their first public comments to a college group, and were therefore much anticipated.

Jackson and Wheeler said unequivocally that they were fully committed to upholding federal civil rights laws. "Before we talk about the things that are changing in OCR, it's important to highlight the things about OCR’s role that won’t change. We're charged by Congress with a specific mission: to enforce the civil rights guaranteed to our nation’s students by certain civil rights laws, and we are fulfilling that charge," Jackson said. 

"For those in the press and my friends with other political perspectives who have been expressing fear that ... OCR is scaling back or retreating from civil rights, that's just not the case," she added. (Democratic lawmakers and advocates for sexual assault victims have accused the department of pulling back enforcement with recent changes that direct OCR employees not to automatically look for systemic patterns when investigating individual complaints.)

What will change, she and Wheeler both said, is how the Trump administration will go about fulfilling that charge -- less confrontationally and more cooperatively than how the Obama administration did. "We will reorient ourselves at OCR as a neutral, impartial investigative agency," Jackson said.

"We feel as an administration, and particularly Candice and I feel, that it is very, very important to adopt these positions, work these issues through in a collaborative approach with the people out there in the field," Wheeler said to growing applause.

Both of them offered pointed criticism of how their predecessors had dealt with colleges and universities.

"OCR has fallen into a pattern and practice of overreaching, of setting out to punish and embarrass institutions rather than appreciate their good faith and genuine desire to correct legitimate civil rights problems," Jackson said.

She pointedly accused the Obama administration's civil rights office of taking a "gotcha" approach to enforcing civil rights laws, of approaching "every complaint as a fishing expedition through which our field investigators have been told to keep searching until you find a violation rather than go where the evidence takes them."

That expansive approach, combined with OCR leaders' discinclination to let investigators in the agency's regional offices exercise their judgment, Jackson and Wheeler argued, created a huge backlog of cases, keeping colleges -- and the students who brought the complaints as well as those accused -- in limbo for "months if not years."

"I've heard from activists on all sides that they no longer recommend going to OCR because the long investigations mean that an OCR complaint is virtually worthless in terms of actually correcting a violation for a complainant," Jackson said, repeating several times: "Justice delayed is justice denied."

And all the while, much to colleges' chagrin, the Obama administration's OCR regularly published lists of institutions that had been accused of -- but not yet found to have committed -- civil rights violations, Jackson said.

She called that the "list of shame," and said that "our job at OCR is to do our job; our job isn’t to threaten, punish, or facilitate drawing media or public attention" to the parties it regulates. She suggested that the publication of the lists is "high up on that list of things that will soon be addressed as the agency reconsiders various regulatory efforts as part of President Trump's administration-wide regulatory review.

Jackson and Wheeler did not take questions directly from the audience. Instead, NACUA's chief executive officer, Kathleen Santora, asked a series of questions she said had been culled from the association's members.

Most of them were aimed at teasing out what Wheeler and Jackson had in store going forward. Among the issues they addressed:

  • Jackson said that OCR is "committed to discontinuing the legally dubious practice of issuing sub-regulatory guidance that is then treated through enforcement as binding mandates," and that OCR would no longer impose new regulatory requirements without going through negotiated rule-making or other "mandated procedures."
  • She stopped short of vowing to withdraw the most contentious recent guidance, the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter regarding Title IX and sexual assault, though Jackson suggested that the agency might engage in negotiated rule-making to do "what should have been done the first time around": seeking input from a variety of parties to decide on a fair system for all parties.
  • Jackson was also noncommittal about whether the agency would reconsider the standard of proof that colleges must meet in their sexual misconduct disciplinary proceedings. The 2011 letter was seen as requiring colleges to meet only a "preponderance of evidence" standard instead of a more stringent "clear and convincing" evidence approach, and many Republican lawmakers have argued that the federal government should not be setting a uniform standard. "It is unavoidable that OCR will take a position," she said, and "whether or not the end result will be that the federal government mandates that particular standard of proof is actively under consideration."
  • Jackson said that the agency would open up more ways to adjudicate sexual misconduct and other civil rights cases, including making use of "early complaint resolution" processes for sexual violence and racial discrimination cases.
  • Wheeler and Jackson both insisted that, despite criticism to the contrary, the Trump administration fully intends to defend the civil rights of transgender students. "There is no doubt that [transgender students] are protected" by existing federal civil rights laws, Wheeler said. The withdrawal of the Obama administration's 2016 guidance requiring educational institutions to make their facilities available to transgender students "does not leave those students without [civil rights] protection."
  • Wheeler, citing Justice Department policy, said he could not say much about the status of federal guidance on web accessibility, which led the University of California at Berkeley to pull video content from the public domain, citing the costs of complying with the new rule. He did say, however, that the Trump administration's regulatory review could subject rules and regulations to a cost-benefit analysis, and that that could imperil the web accessibility standard. "We get it -- there's a tremendous burden," he said. "That’s money that ought to be spent on students."

Reactions From the Crowd (and Beyond)

Catherine Lhamon, who headed the Office for Civil Rights during the Obama administration's second term, was not in the audience at the NACUA conference (she did speak there several years ago, and was roundly booed). But Wheeler singled her out for criticism by name on one occasion, and many of the criticisms that he and Jackson leveled at OCR were aimed at her.

In a telephone interview Tuesday night, she disputed Jackson's assertion that OCR was "fishing" when it looked at an institution's history when investigating individual complaints. "OCR's charge from Congress is that it must act whenever it has information that civil rights may be violated, and if one student has been harmed, it's incumbent on OCR to look to see if there's another student who is similarly situated," she said.

She also disputed Jackson's statement that the Obama-era guidance on Title IX and other matters made new law or exceeded the agency's authority. And she said that her successors would be "abdicating the role of OCR" if they stopped issuing sub-regulatory giudance when questions arise about what a particular law does or doesn't do or say.

"If OCR does not tell students and the regulatory community how they’ll apply the law, then they’re playing gotcha with students’ lives," said Lhamon, who is now chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Of those in attendance Tuesday afternoon, the reaction to Jackson and Wheeler seemed largely favorable.

Scott Roberts, a lawyer for Hirsch Roberts Weinstein who represents numerous colleges on Title IX and other issues, said he was heartened by a lot of what Jackson said.

He said her comments "indicated that her office will start from the premise that institutions of higher education have long had a commitment to the protection of civil rights, and that OCR is looking to work with colleges and universities in a cooperative and proactive manner to address issues that may arise.

"I appreciated her perspective that OCR will act as a neutral, impartial investigator, not as a prosecutor of presumed wrongdoing," he added, a sentiment shared by many in the crowd.

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University of Louisville pursues different strategies for different scandals

Inside Higher Ed - il y a 12 heures 26 min

When the University of Louisville responded to a June 8 report detailing millions of dollars in unbudgeted spending, unapproved activities and endowment losses at its foundation, leaders made no attempt to defend what had gone on and pledged themselves to transparency.

A week later, the university found itself responding to more critical news. The National Collegiate Athletic Association issued sanctions against Louisville stemming from the case of a former men’s basketball employee who was found to have arranged for strippers and prostitutes to provide dances or sex acts for 17 recruits and student athletes as well as some of their associates over a four-year period -- when some of the recruits were minors. But officials weren’t quite so contrite.

They acknowledged the events shouldn’t have happened. But they pointed out the university had already imposed penalties on itself. They quickly pledged to appeal additional NCAA penalties that they considered excessive.

“Not only is it unjust, unfair, over-the-top severe, but I’ve personally lost a lot of faith in the NCAA and everything I’ve stood for in the last 35 years with what they just did,” said Rick Pitino, the university’s head men’s basketball coach, in a press conference immediately after the NCAA penalties were handed down.

The difference in tone was hard to miss. Louisville faculty members certainly took note.

“The disconnect or the disparity between the two responses was something that a lot of people noticed right off the bat,” said Susan Jarosi, an associate professor of art history and visual studies who is the president of the American Association of University Professors chapter at the University of Louisville.

“It’s really frustrating, I think, for the faculty,” Jarosi said. “If people really are concerned about restoring the reputation of the university, comprehensively restore it. Appealing these sanctions isn’t going to help. It’s just going to drag it out.”

To some, Louisville seems to be taking its medicine in the foundation case while belligerently fighting against its prescription in the men’s basketball case -- promising to fix its financial improprieties while refusing to take full punishment for its moral transgressions. But it’s important to note that the details of the two situations are significantly different.

Putting aside moral judgments, examining those details shows the university has several incentives that could be driving its seemingly disparate responses. Different power dynamics are at play regarding the foundation and men’s basketball, as university trustees and administrators have largely turned over since the foundation issues took place, while the athletic department and men’s basketball program are headed by longtime leaders in Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville may also have more money at stake in the resolution of the men’s basketball crisis than in how it fixes its foundation. And while many may cringe at the details of the cases and the optics involved in fighting athletic sanctions in a case involving prostitution, management experts say the athletic department might have calculated that the upside outweighs the risk from a public relations standpoint.

Before fully exploring all of those dynamics, though, it’s important to examine the two situations and where they stand today. The University of Louisville Foundation’s operations have for some time been the subject of scrutiny, including how much it paid top leaders. Although technically a separate legal entity, the foundation was led by longtime university president James Ramsey.

Ramsey stepped down as president of the university and its foundation last year under pressure from Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. The governor also drove an overhaul of the university’s Board of Trustees, and the foundation’s board has been revamped as well.

Still, several reports have detailed issues during Ramsey’s tenures. A state auditor’s report released in December listed problems including ineffective governance at the university and its foundation stemming from indistinguishable administrative operations. It also found an environment of distrust between board members at the two entities and above-contract compensation for Ramsey.

Then this month a university-commissioned report found a host of additional issues. That report’s findings include that the foundation loaned money without board approval, that it overstated endowment pool market values, that it spent far more than called for under its endowment’s policy, that it purchased properties for athletics and that it spent large sums of money on athletic association employees. The report also examined a deferred compensation plan that cost the foundation nearly $22 million between 2005 and 2016. Officials worked to conceal the details of that plan from open-records requests, the report said.

When the university-commissioned report came out, the university board chair released a statement saying that the board was reviewing policies and procedures and would consider if it should take legal action in the future. The university’s president, Greg Postel, issued a statement pointing out that the report showed activity happening under a previous administration and foundation board.

“As I have said since I took this position in January, I am committed to being transparent and to operating above board,” Postel said. “I also am committed -- and I think our recent actions confirm this -- to returning this university to solid financial footing. The steps we are currently taking will position us well for the future.”

Since then, the university has fired Ramsey’s former chief of staff, Kathleen Smith, who was a key figure in the June report and who had been on paid administrative leave since September. (Smith’s attorney has denied wrongdoing and called her the “fall girl.”) The university also decided to pay $200,000 to the firm that produced the report in order to answer additional questions. It paid $1.7 million for the original review.

A Tell-All Book

The men’s basketball scandal has also been brewing for years. It became public in 2015, when a book written by an escort alleged former men’s basketball staff member Andre McGee paid women to dance for players and recruits and have sex with them in a dormitory. The university went on to penalize itself, self-imposing a postseason ban on its men’s basketball team in 2016.

That ban wasn’t enough for the NCAA’s Division I Committee on Infractions, which placed the university on probation for four years, reduced the number of scholarships the men’s basketball team can offer, suspended Pitino for five conference games and put in place some recruiting restrictions. More notably, the NCAA declared players who took part in the acts in question ineligible, calling on Louisville to vacate wins between December 2010 and July 2014. More than 100 games and the university’s 2013 men’s basketball title could be vacated.

The NCAA also penalized Louisville $5,000 and called on it to pay back money received from conference revenue sharing related to the 2012-2015 men’s basketball tournaments, which could amount to millions of dollars.

The NCAA issued a decision describing 10 different occasions when McGee, the former director of men’s basketball operations, arranged for one or more sex workers to visit a residence hall when recruiting prospects were staying there, where the women “performed sex acts on and/or with prospects, an enrolled student athlete and a prospect’s friend.” At least seven of those prospects were under the age of 18 at the time. Twice, the former director of men’s basketball operations arranged for prostitutes to have sex at local hotels with basketball coaches of prospects Louisville was recruiting, the report said. Some prospects were surprised and uncomfortable and declined sex, the report said.

Pitino has denied knowing about the events and said he was unaware of what happened in the residence hall between 10 p.m. and the following morning. But the NCAA found that the head coach failed his responsibility to monitor the activities of his former operations director. NCAA bylaws create the presumption that head coaches are responsible for the actions of their subordinates, the group’s Division I Committee on Infractions wrote.

Postel’s statement after the NCAA penalties were announced said that the university was “saddened” by what took place. He went on to point out that the university penalized itself and said the NCAA had gone beyond what Louisville considered to be fair and reasonable.

“The person responsible for these activities, Andre McGee, long ago left the university, and he has yet to cooperate with investigating officials,” the statement said. “In contrast, [Louisville] did cooperate. We wanted the NCAA enforcement staff to uncover what happened. We have been open and transparent throughout this process.”

On Wednesday, Kentucky Sports Radio reported on a letter Pitino sent to supporters urging them to “keep their spirits high.” Louisville’s self-imposed 2016 postseason ban took away a chance for an experienced and highly ranked team to win a national championship, Pitino wrote. He went on to attack the NCAA’s process.

“I was told during the process that I didn’t ask pointed questions,” the letter said. “Well what does that mean exactly? I asked our staff if the recruits enjoyed themselves. What did they do? How did they like everything? I then met with their families for breakfast and asked the same questions. No, I did not ask the staff if they saw any strippers last night. I can assure you that if I asked Andre any difficult question, he would have lied to my face to avoid immediate termination.”

Pitino went on to write that he is not concerned about the “outside world and what they think.”

Asked whether administrators were available for interview on the difference in reactions to the foundation and men’s basketball reports, a university spokesman referred to the official statements released by Postel and university board chair J. David Grissom. Kenny Klein, an athletics department spokesman, said in an email that the athletics department has chosen to appeal the NCAA’s ruling because it believes its penalties to be excessive.

Klein declined to address which wins Louisville would have to vacate or how much money it would have to pay back if the university’s appeal is not successful. No one has been fired since the NCAA sanctions were handed down, he said.

Some see the situation as highlighting the contrast between expectations and responsibility in the worlds of university finance and athletics.

Looking the other way in athletics has become second nature, said Charles Clotfelter, a professor of public policy studies at Duke University who studies college athletics. Clotfelter spoke generally about college athletics.

“In the case of commercial sports, it’s just become truly unexceptionable,” he said. “In that world, it’s like there are no standards of truthfulness or consistency that there would be in the world of finance and the running of foundations.”

Still, there is a financial bottom line for Louisville’s men’s basketball team. It is substantial, and it represents real value the university could lose if its program takes a hit.

Louisville’s men’s basketball team brought in $45.6 million in revenue in 2015-16, according to statistics collected by the federal government. Its expenses totaled $17.9 million. It was a major part of the university’s athletic department turning a $2.8 million surplus on $112.1 million in revenue.

It’s a substantial amount of money on the line, even when compared to the university’s foundation, which manages a quickly dwindling endowment. The endowment’s value declined from $844.3 million to $715.7 million between 2015 and 2015.

That endowment faces further pressure because of the foundation’s troubles. The university-commissioned report on the foundation said restricted endowment programs were underwater -- had a market value below the size of initial gifts -- by $23.7 million as of the end of June 2016. In April the foundation said pledged gifts dropped by $32 million in a nine-month period, driven in large part by a $20 million one-time gift. Additionally, one foundation arm owes $9.8 million to the university.

Still, key stakeholders like board members and donors might view the two situations differently. The basketball program might be seen as a revenue generator that needs to be protected from the NCAA, an outside body, said Simon Barker, managing partner of Blue Moon Consulting Group, a reputational risk management and crisis consulting firm with a focus area in higher education. In contrast, the foundation might be seen as an organization that has been hurt by a lack of financial controls that could scare away donors.

Aggressively fighting the NCAA sanctions does not fit with the classic public relations playbook, Barker said. It’s likely to keep the issue in the news cycle, rather than minimizing the amount of coverage it receives.

But some leaders in the athletic department and university may simply support Pitino, Barker said.

“It doesn’t feel like they have a strong hand to play, yet they’re being quite aggressive in their defense,” Barker said. “I think they’re really trying to protect, most likely, certain hard-core board members and probably people who genuinely think Pitino has done a good job for the program and is getting a bad deal.”

Additionally, the university has already received a large amount of negative press coverage tied to the issue. Leaders probably weighed the likelihood that they would tarnish their image further with an aggressive appeal against the likelihood that such an appeal could be successful.

“They probably feel they have nothing to lose,” Barker said. “Knowing how passionate board members are, and sometimes the community is, and alumni are about these sports that define their college, I can see it happening. ‘What have we got to lose? Let’s go out and defend it.’”

It raises the question of how much the institutional culture has actually changed, even with board and presidential turnover. Faculty members are certainly wondering.

The answer isn’t clear when it comes to most university operations, according Jarosi, the professor and AAUP chapter president. But it doesn’t seem to have changed when it comes to athletics, she said.

“You’re under this kind of scrutiny and you’re trying to say the new paradigm for how we operate at U of L is transparency and openness and oversight,” Jarosi said. “It went out the window.”

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Books on race, social justice issues dominate selections for summer reading for freshmen

Inside Higher Ed - il y a 12 heures 26 min

As summer gets underway, books centering on racial and social issues are again popping up on incoming-freshman reading lists at colleges across the country. Although it might be easy to correlate that trend with the presidential election -- and the heightened racial and social tensions seen during and since -- books focusing on those areas have been popular with many colleges for a few years now. In what may be a shift, however, working-class and rural white people are the focus of a book that has been assigned by several colleges, J. D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy.

Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, as well as The Other Wes Moore, by Wes Moore, saw popularity at colleges in 2015, as relations between African American civilians and police were thrust into the national spotlight after the deaths of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner, in New York, among others. Those books are still being assigned this year. Incoming students at Northeastern University will be reading Just Mercy this summer, as will students at Goucher College, in Baltimore, and at Ohio State University. The Other Wes Moore was assigned at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, as well as Virginia Tech and University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Freshman book assignments vary by college. Many institutions assign one book, hoping for a common intellectual experience for new students. Others, such as the University of California, Berkeley, put together a large list for students to pick through. (This year's selection ranges from the cast recording of the Broadway smash hit Hamilton to Disposable People, which investigates modern slavery.)

“We want to tackle issues of community and also engage students at the point of … making choices and defining who they are,” said Jonathan Wynn, one of two co-chairs of the book selection committee at UMass, about The Other Wes Moore, a nonfiction book which tells the story of two black boys growing up in Baltimore, both named Wes Moore, who experience very different outcomes in life. “Being in the political and cultural climate that we’re in, it’s important to note there are significant barriers to the success of the individual.”

The trend isn’t necessarily limited by geography, or whether a college is private or public. Students at the University of South Alabama will read The Complete Maus, a graphic novel on the Holocaust, while students at the College of Wooster, a small liberal arts college in Ohio, will read Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Writings on the Wall. At California State University at Northridge, this year’s book is Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, who writes about the intersection of race and culture for The Atlantic.

Not in a Vacuum, but Not Politically Motivated

While Wynn said that The Other Wes Moore can be fitting for modern political and social issues, the book -- which made its way through a campuswide recommendation period and then through the committee’s multiple selection rounds -- “isn’t explicitly political,” nor was it chosen for political purposes.

“The common read [program] is engaged with those wider conversations. Do we sit in a room and we say, ‘How can we address this issue?’ No,” he said.

“In this era, it just feels like everything is politically charged. I don’t know how we could not” be politically relevant, he added.

At the University of Nebraska at Omaha, officials also said that, while the committee choosing the books doesn’t live in a vacuum, The Other Wes Moore was chosen on merits outside its possible application to today’s political climate.

“Really, no,” Lucy Morrison, director of the university honors program, said in an email. “We are not oblivious, as a committee, to those elements of the text, but the emphasis Moore places upon education and mentoring are really what the committee found important.”

Cheryl Spector, director of academic first-year experiences at Cal State Northridge, where Between the World and Me was assigned, said that outside factors could have played a part in the book’s selection, but no more so than they would in any year. Ultimately, she said, the selection committee sticks to its criteria, which include questions such as “Does this book engage freshmen and draw them into reading and reflection?” and “Does this book address significant issues?”

“It’s certainly true we have a diversity of political positions on the selection committee,” Spector said. “I think the sort of drumbeat of news stories of young black men being shot gave this book a heightened urgency for anyone who was reading it on the selection committee. We are in California, in Los Angeles -- I’m personally glad to have a book that seems unafraid to ask questions.”

Morrison and Spector both said that their institutions’ books were chosen for their ability to get incoming freshman reflecting and thinking critically, regardless of those students’ political views.

“We want [students] to look back on how they have arrived at UNO and what choices they have made have brought them to this point,” Morrison said. “Then we want to help them consider what will be required to take that next step, including making good choices and seizing new possibilities.”

Conservative Pushback

This focus on social and racial issues, however, has drawn criticism from those who advocate for more a traditional curriculum, such as the National Association of Scholars. The group bemoaned the lack of classics, and in a 2014-16 trend report on summer readings called the majority of books assigned “recent, trendy and intellectually unchallenging,” containing “progressive political themes -- illegal immigrants contribute positively to America, the natural environment must be saved immediately.”

That critical attitude is “not dissimilar to [attitudes held by] some of my colleagues,” Spector said, although she defended the assigning of modern books over classics.

“I empathize with the hesitation [of colleges] to enter into it and make a political stand,” Wynn said of freshman reading assignments, although he also said that the committee has chosen more explicitly political books in the past. “It gives me pause that the common read is deemed a political tool.”

“The common read is such as powerful tool to get the conversation going,” he said.

Many of those involved with summer reading programs also say the NAS critique seems to view these books as part of a formal curriculum, whereas summer reading advocates say they elevate the intellectual content of orientation, rather than replacing the curriculum on a given campus.

At Wooster, where Abdul-Jabbar’s Writings on the Wall was assigned, the college was aiming to be relevant for incoming freshmen, but not to push a political agenda, said Hank Kreuzman, an associate professor philosophy and dean for curriculum and academic engagement. As far as the book’s recency, part of Wooster’s selection criteria -- as at other institutions -- is whether the author of the book will be available to speak at the campus and engage with the students.

Abdul-Jabbar “is all in on the American dream and the U.S. Constitution,” Kreuzman said. “At the same time, he’s willing to say we haven’t achieved it yet, and we need to make ourselves better. It’s not a critique of the U.S., but saying, ‘This is what I really believe in, and we can continue to improve.’”

“In today’s political climate, it’s either you’re for us or against us. It’s a lot of polarizing talk.”

Hillbilly Elegy

At least one popular assignment this year, however, while recent and trendy, focuses on a population that proved crucial for conservatives in the 2016 election. Viewed by many as a window into the lives of rural voters and working-class whites, J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy became a New York Times best-seller, driven in part by those reading it in an attempt to understand President Trump’s base. At least seven institutions -- including Augustana College, Bowling Green State University, Flagler College, Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Wisconsin at Madison -- have assigned the book or put it on a larger suggested reading list for incoming freshmen. Students reading it will attend institutions in locations as disparate as Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio -- a half hour away from where Vance grew up -- and UC Berkeley (where it is optional), located in a state that hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.

“There’s some recognition that it is not an easy book, and it is not a book where everybody is going to read it and say, ‘I completely agree with what’s going on there,’” said Rich Taylor, director of Miami’s office of liberal education.

Despite the book’s popularity among opinion columnists and political pundits, however, Taylor said that the committee in charge of assigning summer reading, which he chairs, didn’t pick the book to highlight any specific political issues or because of the election.

“I don’t like to think of us trying to follow the trends too much,” Taylor said. “What we really like to have is a book that touches on important things but doesn’t tell people what to think.”

Speaking at Miami last year, Vance said he tried to avoid traditional politics in the book, focusing instead on economic troubles.

“I wanted to answer, or explain, this lack of upward mobility,” he said during a visit to the campus just after the election, according to The Miami Student. “If I put personal faces on these ideas, they might be easier to digest, to understand.”

Taylor said that, depending on the discussion facilitator students get after following the university’s convocation ceremony, the topics they talk about after reading the book could vary widely. The convocation speaker is set to be Stephen T. Williams, the mayor of Huntington, W.Va., and Taylor is hoping that discussions are based on the problems highlighted in the book, as well as potential solutions.

“There have been some local responses to this book, of people saying, ‘Well, my community isn’t like that.’ The danger of this book -- we don’t want this to be an anthropology text, like, ‘Look at these other people who aren’t like us,’” he said. “There’s some common ground that can be reached here, and I’m hoping that will come through.”

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TSA ends pilot program of asking passengers to remove books from carry-on luggage

Inside Higher Ed - il y a 12 heures 26 min

The Transportation Security Administration has abandoned a pilot program in which some passengers were asked to remove books from their carry-on luggage during screening. A spokeswoman for the agency said there are no plans to restore the pilot or to expand it.

Civil liberties and faculty organizations were concerned about the pilot program and the possibility that it could be expanded.

Many academics believe the government has no business knowing what books one carries. And some fear inappropriate heightened scrutiny of those who may carry books in Arabic or other foreign languages, or books that might be seen as critical of the Trump administration.

For example, a professor at the University of California, Davis, wrote a column about having TSA ask for her reading material, and how invasive this felt.

John Kelly, the secretary of homeland security, said in May that the pilot (involving not only paper goods, but also food and various small electronics) might well be expanded, and that its goal was to have TSA agents see more of what people are bringing with them. He said passengers are packing more and more in carry-on bags and "the more stuff in there," the more difficult it is for agents to see everything.

The agency spokeswoman said the test on book screening was appropriate, but was limited. "This test protocol was designed so X-ray operators could have a clearer view of carry-on baggage at checkpoints. Like many tests TSA performs at checkpoints around the country, we collected valuable data but, at this time, are no longer testing or instituting these procedures."

She added that "TSA understands privacy concerns and only inspects items to clear them of dangerous/prohibited items."

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - il y a 12 heures 26 min
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Australia regaining favour in South Asia, agent survey suggests

The PIE News - mar, 06/27/2017 - 10:06

Australia appears to be regaining favour in markets in South Asia according to a survey of agents in the region. However, Australia’s popularity level is far from its peak in 2009.

Australia’s attractiveness in the region dropped significantly in 2010, now a commonly told tale in the sector of a reputation damaging perfect storm of tightened visa restrictions, a high Australian dollar and a series of highly-publicised attacks against Indian students in the country.

From 2009 to 2012, the number of students from South Asia halved, with Indian numbers further shrinking by almost 60%. Last year’s figures show the country is still almost 36,000 South Asian students short of its peak in 2009, with the greatest gap seen in Indian enrolments.

“South Asia represents the largest region that has not yet fully recovered its enrolment levels from the market’s problems several years ago”

However, Australia-based agent training and market intelligence firm PIER’s survey of some 300 agents in India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka indicates that attitudes are turning positive for Australia.

Almost three quarters (74.4%) of agents say they had a favourable or very favourable perception of the country.

Among agents in India, Australia’s second largest source market, perceptions were almost 70% favourable for the country while in Pakistan it was 100% positive.

Alongside the shift in perception, numbers are slowly starting to recover, exhibiting a marked shift away from vocational education providers towards higher education institutions.

“The results show the hard work that was undertaken by the Australian international education industry over the past twelve months has paid off,” noted Chris Evason, managing director of PIER.

The survey also showed that over 60% of South Asian respondents said their view of Australia was better than the same time last year. “As a destination market, I think that is something to celebrate,” said Evason.

Agents cited the Australia’s post-study work rights and its newly implemented simplified student visa framework as positives for the country.

Over half of respondents said post-study work rights either had a significant influence on or was the deciding factor for students choosing Australia. Less than 10% said it had little to no influence.

However, with 11% of respondents saying they have an unfavourable perception of Australia, there is still room for improvement, Evason said.

“South Asia represents the largest region that has not yet fully recovered its enrolment levels from the market’s problems several years ago. The report shows the diverse reasons for this outcome and includes concerns around visas or the way in which Australia responds to complaints,” Evason commented.

Perceptions among Bengali agents in particular are split, with 57% of agents given a positive response and the remaining 43% saying their perception was “neutral” or “unfavourable”.

The cancellation of the 457 visa and the country’s Genuine Temporary Entrant system are among agents’ criticisms of the country as a study destination.

Just over 50% of agents said the cancellation of the 457 visa had somewhat of an effect on students.

“Recent changes in migration and citizenship laws have caused uneasiness about Australia”

“Recent changes in migration and citizenship laws have caused uneasiness about Australia,” wrote one agent. “People prefer to talk about Canada and consider Canada as having consistent policies. Unfortunately, Australia’s perception is negative, and the policies seem inconsistent and politically motivated.”

Canada, the US and New Zealand are the most popular alternative destinations among agents, the report notes.

When it comes to responding to student complaints, just 16% of agents said Australian providers responded perfectly while 35.1% say most responses were “good”. Eighteen per cent said Australia was below average with its response to complaints, favouring towards “poor” rather than “terrible”.

Despite residual negative perceptions of Australia, Evason said, “Nevertheless, the region is the ‘low-hanging fruit’ for Australia to make the biggest gains in future enrolment growth.

“Considering both the region’s student numbers are still 20% down from its high-water mark and the level of growth experienced in other areas, properly addressing issues for South Asian students could see enrolment figures far exceed previous levels,” he counselled.

The post Australia regaining favour in South Asia, agent survey suggests appeared first on The PIE News.

London higher education group goes global

The PIE News - mar, 06/27/2017 - 07:03

London Higher, an umbrella organisation representing 50 universities and higher education bodies in the city, has launched London Higher International to focus on promoting the city’s higher education providers globally.

The international arm marked its first event at the House of Commons in London today, hosted with the British Universities’ International Liaison Association, focusing on ensuring the city and the country remains open to international talent, and how alumni engagement is key in this goal.

Geoff Petts, chair of London Higher and vice chancellor at the University of Westminster, told The PIE News that the city is a “total powerhouse” with individual institutions boasting their own heritage and capacity.

“If everyone counts as alumni, this will help the UK-based people connect with other internationals”

“So today we’ve launched London Higher International, working with the mayor’s office, not just responding to Brexit, and how we’re going to interact with Europe, but basically say London is global,” Petts said.

MPs, alumni and stakeholders came together to discuss how alumni engagement is key to attract talent to the city.

Petts said alumni are extremely beneficial for institutions themselves, as well as the UK as a whole.

“The more alumni that can connect and do great things, the better the university will look,” he said. “And the more international students they can attract for the future.”

International students generate £2.7bn in export earnings in London, and support 70,000 jobs as a result.

Catherine West, MP for Hornsey & Wood Green in north London, reminded attendees of the role alumni play in the UK’s soft power push, pointing out that 35 current world leaders were educated in the UK.

“I’m a big believer in the long term of soft power. I think we could educate many more people in terms of our values and create a kind of consensus internationally about what’s important,” she told delegates.

Mustafa Khanwala is one such alum who was educated in the UK at the University of Manchester and UCL. He established his own UK-based business, MishiPay, an app which allows people to self-scan and pay for their items in a store without the need to queue.

Khanwala nodded to the importance of sharing stories of alumni who studied in the UK to portray a positive message.

“Then you need to connect people to each other,” he told The PIE News.

This doesn’t just help previous international students, he said, but local students too.

“Everyone would count as alumni, not just the locals or the internationals,” he said. “As alumni you don’t look at that separately. So if everyone counts as alumni, this will help the UK-based people connect with other internationals, which will bring more business into the UK.”

The post London higher education group goes global appeared first on The PIE News.

University of Nairobi (Kenya) - Call for Participation

International Association of Universities - mar, 06/27/2017 - 00:57

Registration for the 6th annual conference “Universities, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development in Africa” on 19th July 2017 at the School of Business, University of Nairobi, Kenya is now open. Please follow the link for registration! . The conference programme will be online soon. More.

Supreme Court partially reinstates Trump’s travel ban

Inside Higher Ed - mar, 06/27/2017 - 00:00

The Supreme Court on Monday partially lifted the injunction on President Trump’s ban on entry for nationals of six Muslim-majority countries, allowing it to take effect except for in the cases of "foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States."

The ruling indicates that students admitted to U.S. universities, workers with job offers from U.S. companies and lecturers with invitations to address American audiences all would qualify as having such a "bona fide relationship," and therefore would not be subject to the reinstated travel ban.

The nation’s highest court agreed to hear arguments in October over Trump’s executive order barring travel for 90 days for nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In indicating it will fully consider the merits of the case at that point, the court also directed the parties involved to address the question of whether the dispute over the 90-day ban has become moot.

The Supreme Court opinion partially overturns injunctions upheld by two lower courts blocking enforcement of the travel ban, in one case on the grounds that it amounted to religious discrimination, in violation of the Constitution, and in the other on the grounds that the president had exceeded his authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act in issuing it.

The Trump administration has justified the March 6 order -- which also suspended admission of refugees for 120 days -- as needed to prevent the entry of terrorists into the United States while the government conducts a review of screening and vetting procedures. Civil rights groups have condemned the travel ban as a pretext for barring the entry of Muslims, a step Trump called for in his campaign. Many higher education groups also have spoken out against the ban, arguing that it undermines principles of inclusion and internationalism in higher education and could prevent talented students and scholars from the six countries from coming to U.S. campuses.

The good news for universities is that international students and scholars who can establish a “bona fide relationship” to an American university should still be able to travel to the U.S. even with the Supreme Court's partial stay of injunctions imposed by two lower courts. In ruling that the ban on travel “may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,” but that it can be applied to all other foreign nationals, the Supreme Court goes some way toward defining what such a bona fide relationship would look like -- and specifically mentions as an example students admitted to the University of Hawaii. (The state of Hawaii is a plaintiff in one of the cases under consideration by the court.)

“A foreign national who wishes to enter the United States to live with or visit a family member … clearly has such a relationship,” the unsigned ruling states. “As for entities, the relationship must be formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading [the executive order]. The students from the designated countries who have been admitted to the University of Hawaii have such a relationship with an American entity. So too would a worker who accepted an offer of employment from an American company or a lecturer invited to address an American audience.”

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities described the Supreme Court opinion as “welcome news for colleges and universities … The court specifically recognizes the status of admitted students and employees as constituting such a bona fide relationship. We expect that the administration will comply fully with the court's ruling in its visa decisions and hope that citizens of the countries in question will continue to participate in, and contribute to, American higher education as appropriate.”

Still, immigration lawyers and international education professionals expressed concern about continued uncertainty and confusion over the travel ban -- and a potential chilling effect on would-be applicants.

Continued Confusion and Uncertainty

“This order is going to create a lot of confusion,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law practice at Cornell University.

“On the one hand, the Supreme Court expressly indicated that a student who has been admitted to a U.S. university should be deemed to have a kind of bona fide relationship required to be able to enter the United States. The court also indicated that a lecturer invited to address a U.S. audience at a college should be allowed to enter. But much will be left to the discretion of consular officers at U.S. embassies overseas and to Customs and Border Protection officials at ports of entry.”

Mark Hallett, the senior director for international student and scholar services at Colorado State University, said of the opinion that "the language is good; it comes down to the implementation." Hallett said he'd be closely watching how admitted students from Iran -- which sends more students to Colorado State than the other five countries -- will fare in the visa application process this summer.

“The wording of the SCOTUS decision makes me cautiously optimistic that this is a group that’s sort of protected rather than temporarily suspended from travel,” Hallett said. “The optimistic part is the language [of the court order]. The cautiously part is what is going through the mind of the consular officials as they are vetting these visa applicants. There’s already been an awful lot that they’ve had to think about -- the broader context of issuing a visa, and security concerns over the last how many years -- but on top of that, you have a new administration who has expressed a very tough stance that we’re not doing enough. So does that make it a little bit harder now for the consular officials to say, ‘Yeah, I’m confident about this one’?”

Trump has called for what he describes as "extreme vetting" of visa applicants in order to better screen for would-be terrorists. The executive order under consideration by the Supreme Court involves the second of two travel bans that the president issued: the first order, which has since been revoked, differed from the second in that it applied not only to new visa applicants but also to current holders of visas, and covered a seventh country, Iraq. Some students and scholars from the affected countries who happened to be overseas at the time the first order was signed -- it went into immediate effect Jan. 27 -- found themselves stranded outside the country, while those who were here reported feeling stuck, unable to return to their campuses if they were to travel abroad for personal or professional purposes.

"It looks like our students and scholars and faculty would meet that definition of a bona fide connection or relationship, but when the first executive order was signed, it was just chaos," said Adam Julian, the director of international student and scholar services and outreach at Appalachian State University and chair of a NAFSA: Association of International Educators subcommittee on travel.

"We’re working under the assumption that lessons have been learned and the consular affairs division of the Department of State and CBP will have some information and know how to handle this when they’re faced with students. That’s the wait and see -- what’s going to happen with the actual implementation on a case-by-case basis at the points of contact with students and scholars," Julian said.

Deborah Pearlstein, a professor of law at Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law who focuses on constitutional and international law, observed that the court had created a whole new standard in distinguishing between individuals who have a "bona fide relationship" with a U.S. person or entity and those who don't. It’s “not as if that has some existing legal meaning. The people who work for the government in the front lines are going to have to make a determination on a case-by-case basis what that means," she said.

"In the near term, this is not a good thing for refugees with no previous connections to the United States seeking admission," Pearlstein said. From a higher education perspective, Pearlstein said the opinion is not a total win "for at least two reasons. No. 1, this is just a stay -- a partial stay at that. We have yet to see how this is all going to play out. Is the administration going to issue some more permanent order; if it does, will it be upheld by the court? There’s an enormous amount of uncertainty here still that’s related to the second point, which is it’s hard to assess the sort of chilling effect of all of this uncertainty on students and families who might be sending a student to the United States to study."

"If I were a family contemplating sending a kid here to school now, I’d worry a lot more about what’s likely to happen in the next two, four years, and I’d be a lot less certain about what kind of environment they’ll be coming into," she said.

"If you are a person thinking about applying, is this going to make you feel confident -- 'oh yeah, if I’m admitted, everything will be cool?' No, it will have a chilling effect," said Wim Wiewel, the president of Portland State University. He noted that the Supreme Court agreeing to take up the case in October means there will be many more months of uncertainty until the court issues a final decision on the ban's merits.

"In March [when the second travel ban was issued] nothing was allowed. Now all of a sudden [after the injunctions], everything’s OK. Now it’s the end of June and it’s OK for some people but not for everybody. In October the Supreme court is going to hear it, so what’s going to be true in October?" he asked. "Any person who looks at it would say we’re not very welcome. And second, it’s unclear what will or will not be OK, so why will I gamble with my future, especially if there are alternatives? If you can go to the United Kingdom or Australia or Canada and you have a similar kind of opportunity or funding, why take a chance?"

NAFSA, the international educators' association, also noted in a statement that the court's order "continues to inject uncertainty into the scope of the travel ban and has added a new distinction between those who have ties to the United States and those who have none."

“International educators are relieved to be able to tell our international students and scholars that they should not be afraid to come to our campuses to study, work and exchange ideas. We are pleased the court acknowledged that students and scholars and others with connections to the United States could not be barred from our country simply because of their nationality or religion, at least while the underlying litigation continues,” said Esther D. Brimmer, NAFSA's executive director and CEO.

“Unfortunately, individuals from the affected countries with no ties to the United States will be subject to the ban on the grounds that a lack of connection to the United States somehow provides evidence of a national security threat,” Brimmer said. “If that is the case, then we should be making every effort to create connections and ties through robust international exchange and travel, and we call on the administration to make clear in its guidance that prospective students and scholars should not be afraid to seek admission to the United States regardless of their current ties.”

A ‘Solomonic’ Opinion

Three conservative justices on the court partially dissented in the case, saying that while they agreed with the decision to stay the preliminary injunctions, they would have stayed them in full, not in part. Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, wrote that he fears "that the court’s remedy will prove unworkable. Today’s compromise will burden executive officials with the task of deciding -- on peril of contempt -- whether individuals from the six affected nations who wish to enter the United States have a sufficient connection to a person or entity in this country."

Thomas's dissent continued, "The compromise also will invite a flood of litigation until this case is finally resolved on the merits, as parties and courts struggle to determine what exactly constitutes a 'bona fide relationship,' who precisely has a 'credible claim' to that relationship and whether the claimed relationship was formed 'simply to avoid §2(c)' of Executive Order No. 13780 … And litigation of the factual and legal issues that are likely to arise will presumably be directed to the two district courts whose initial orders in these cases this court has now -- unanimously -- found sufficiently questionable to be stayed as to the vast majority of the people potentially affected."

Trump, in a statement today, described the Supreme Court's opinion as “a clear victory for our national security. It allows the travel suspension for the six terror-prone countries and the refugee suspension to become largely effective.”

"My No. 1 responsibility as commander in chief is to keep the American people safe," the president said. "Today's ruling allows me to use an important tool for protecting our nation's homeland."

Both Pearlstein and Yale-Loehr independently described the opinion as "Solomonic," however, in its split nature. "They basically split the baby in half by allowing part of the travel ban to go forward and yet allowing people who are directly affected by it because of their relationship to the United States to still be able to theoretically enter the United States," Yale-Loehr said.

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Carl Wieman makes an evidence-based plea for better science instruction in new book

Inside Higher Ed - mar, 06/27/2017 - 00:00

As a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Carl Wieman could probably get away with being a mediocre teacher. Yet he’s devoted much of his career to improving the ways colleges and universities teach science, in his own classrooms and in one of the grandest experiments of his life: the multicampus Science Education Initiative.

Wieman’s new book chronicles the latter effort and makes a strong, evidence-based case for pursuing broad changes in science instruction: out with lectures and in with active learning. It’s also an easily digested how-to guide for interested parties, including deans, department chairs and other faculty members. The project has major implications for administrators, too. Spoiler alert: if institutions want better science teaching, they have to value it alongside research.

“The Science Education Initiative showed that it is possible for large, research-intensive science departments to make major changes in their teaching,” says Wieman, a professor of physics and education at Stanford University. “Most faculty adopted innovative research-based methods, and as a result experienced teaching as a far more rewarding activity than they had found it to be using traditional lectures. Their students attend class more and are far more interested in learning the subjects and benefiting from instructors’ expertise.”

Moreover, he concludes, “Advancing the craft of teaching has become much more of a shared goal and focus of collaborative intellectual activity in these departments, with faculty sharing methods and results and seeking out ideas from others of novel ways to solve instructional challenges.”

Faculty members did find learning to teach anew takes time, he wrote, but “given suitable support, the time investment is not much greater than that required to create a new course. The results are perceived to be worth the effort.”

Improving How Universities Teach Science: Lessons From the Science Education Initiative (Harvard University Press) details Wieman’s experiences leading the program across 13 science departments at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of British Columbia. Wieman used to teach at both campuses, and his goal to was to adopt, at scale, the most promising research-based approaches to science teaching.


After many years of doing research on bettering undergraduate science education, Wieman says, “I became convinced that it was time for broad-based change.” Despite overwhelming evidence that “new research-based methods were superior to the lecture instruction found in most college science classrooms,” he wrote, professors “were mostly unaware of this superiority, even in the situations where active research on improving science education was talking place within their own departments.”

Wieman sums up the literature on science education like this: no one develops a true understanding of such a complex field by passively listening to explanations alone. Instead, they must “actively construct their own understanding via a process of mentally building on their prior thinking and knowledge” through what’s been called “effortful study.” Experts, eventually, have not only factual knowledge but distinctive mental organizational structures and problem-solving skills. They also have the metacognitive wherewithal to evaluate and correct their own thinking processes.

While there’s a growing need for technical literacy and skills across the work force and in public policy decisions, Wieman says too many students today are learning that “‘science’ is a set of facts and procedures that are unrelated to the workings of the world and are simply to be memorized without understanding, and they learn to ‘solve’ science problems by memorizing recipes that are of little use other than passing classroom exams.”

What to do? Wieman devised a six-year plan to get active learning to the masses, via new incentives for good teaching and science education specialists embedded within each participating department at Colorado and British Columbia. Wieman and his collaborators tried to operate within the typical financial and organizational constraints of the contemporary research university, so that their project -- if successful -- could at least inspire change (if not exactly be replicated) on additional campuses. So it wasn’t overwhelmingly costly and it didn’t supersede the departmental structure that Wieman concludes is necessary because the human brain can only be expert in so many fields.

What Should Students Learn? What Are They Learning? How Will They Learn Better?

At the heart of the initiative was a course transformation process, guided by three questions: What should students learn, what are students learning and which instructional practices will improve student learning? Education specialists worked with individual faculty members to help them rethink their courses and, at the same time, impart to them new teaching methods, in accordance with the principles of the initiative. Active learning techniques include worksheet-based activities, clickers to answer questions in real time, whole-class discussions and solo and paired work. Specialists working with small groups of faculty members at the same time was found to be a less successful approach.

Each campus had central program oversight, to pursue and make decisions about funding, give feedback on how to improve departmental results and to train education specialists; the specialists learned not only pedagogical skills but also how to work with faculty members. Data collection on student achievement initially proved more difficult than expected, largely because there was little incentive for faculty members to test students to establish a baseline against which to measure change. But the data eventually gathered are compelling.

A 2011 study using data from the British Columbia program published in Science, for example, found that students in a transformed physics class were nearly twice as engaged as their peers in a traditional lecture course. Students from the experimental course scored almost twice as well on a test of complex physics concepts, 74 percent vs. 41 percent, respectively. Attendance in the more active class was 20 percent higher.

The initiative involved nearly 300 instructors in 235 courses over 200,000 credit hours. Major portions of the faculty in participating departments adopted new methods -- up to 90 percent in the most successful units -- and the level of teaching transformation was “substantial,” the book says. The sustainability outlook is strong, though there was wide variation across departments in terms of successful innovation.

Wieman underscores the finding that virtually all faculty members say they want to teach well and can learn new teaching methods effectively. In the most successful departments, however, several things stood out: the success of competitive grant programs for improving undergraduate teaching (by unit, not individual faculty member) and use of the embedded specialists, who were trained in both the relevant discipline and effective teaching. Department culture, organization and management also affected success in innovation. “Persistence and flexibility” also were key, as some initial program assumptions proved flawed.

The largest barrier to faculty change, meanwhile, was the formal incentive system. Faculty members tended to see that system as penalizing time taken away from research, even to improve teaching. When faculty members did embrace new methods, the book says, “it was usually because they valued the greater personal satisfaction they would experience with students’ improved engagement in learning.”

Andrew Martin, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Colorado, was the learning initiative lead in his department. He and his colleagues used postdoctoral fellows as teaching specialists and, in the process, “learned a lot about how the teaching mission is central to the departmental culture.”

In the long term, he said, it seems that the initiative “kicked off sustained and beneficial changes in our culture such that we place a high value on effective teaching and are looking for ways to make it better.” Consequently, students are getting a better education.

Wieman in his book proposed something called the “optimized university,” which doesn’t look all that different from the typical modern research university -- just better, in his view.

Faculty members are still central to the educational endeavor, but instead of working in “isolation to set their own goals and agendas,” for example, professors within a department establish by consensus learning goals related to program goals. And instead of departments offering courses defined by topics reflective of faculty members’ interests, each academic program in the optimized university “has a series of courses that are carefully aligned and sequenced to progress toward the program goals. Each course is defined by explicit and detailed learning goals that identify the full set of student knowledge and competencies provided by the course.”

It’s also not assumed in the optimized university that faculty members know how to teach a subject well just because they’re expert in it.

Wieman told Inside Higher Ed that universities today are in a similar position to where hospitals were in the 19th century, “when they had many traditional practices, but research was coming along revealing completely new and better ways to think about disease and treatment.” Research findings forced these hospitals to abandon tradition and rethink “how they hired and evaluated doctors, but it was not done easily,” he said, citing the hullabaloo surrounding the newfangled practice of washing one’s hands between patients. Even though it was proven to dramatically reduce the rate of infection, Wieman noted, it took 50 years before most hospital required doctors to wash their hands.

“If it is that hard to give up tradition when corpses are piling up in the corridors, it should not be surprising that universities are slow to abandon tradition when their failures are far less conspicuous,” he said. Yet as Improving How Universities Teach Science demonstrates, it “is possible for a major university to make a large-scale improvement in its teaching methods, and I am confident that the research on the greater effectiveness of these teaching methods, and the demonstration that change is possible, will result in many others eventually doing the same.”

Wieman added, “I just hope it doesn’t take another 50 years.”

Teaching and LearningEditorial Tags: Computer scienceFacultyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 

Trinity College in Connecticut puts Johnny Eric Williams on leave over controversial comments about race

Inside Higher Ed - mar, 06/27/2017 - 00:00

Trinity College in Connecticut put Johnny Eric Williams on leave, it announced Monday evening.

Williams, an associate professor of sociology at Trinity, previously said he’d left the state amid physical threats that followed his use of racially charged language on social media. The college also closed down for a day last week over such threats. Reached via email Monday, Williams said he was “heartbroken” over the college’s decision, which came without a faculty review.

Joanne Berger-Sweeney, Trinity's president, said in a statement that a leave “is in the best interest of both [Williams] and the college,” and that a dean’s review of Williams’s case continues.

Meanwhile, she said, “the principles that underlie this particular set of events go far beyond the actions of any one person. These involve principles that concern how we think about academic freedom and freedom of speech, as well as the responsibilities that come with those fundamental values.”

As “scholars and citizens, and as individuals and as a community of higher learning,” she added, “our roles in and relationship to social media and the public sphere are complicated. We must be able to engage in conversations about these difficult and complex issues, and Trinity College and other places like it are precisely where such conversations should occur.” A college spokesperson said Tuesday the leave is paid.

Williams’s case has attracted the interest of academic freedom and free speech advocates, partly because the sociologist is among a number of other scholars who have been physically threatened or harassed online in recent months for their public comments. Most of those comments concerned race in some way.

Williams last week shared an article from Medium called “Let Them Fucking Die.” The piece argues that “indifference to their well-being is the only thing that terrifies” bigots, and so people of color should “Let. Them. Fucking. Die” if they’re ever in peril. The Medium piece linked to another Fusion piece about Republican Representative Steve Scalise, who was shot earlier this month in Alexandria, Va. It says Scalise has previously opposed extending protections to LGBTQ people and reportedly once spoke at a meeting of white supremacists, while one of the black law enforcement officers who rescued him is a married lesbian.

In sharing the Medium piece, Williams used the “Let them fucking die” comment as a hashtag, and wrote that it is “past time for the racially oppressed to do what people who believe themselves to be ‘white’ will not do, put end to the vectors of their destructive mythology of whiteness and their white supremacy system.”

That post and a similar one prompted critical reports on conservative websites suggesting Williams was advocating violence against white people.

“Less than one week after a gunman opened fire on more than a dozen Republican members of Congress on a Virginia baseball field, a Connecticut college professor said that first responders to the shooting should have ‘let them die’ because they are white,” The Blaze reported, for example.

Williams has since apologized for his remarks and said he was not advocating violence against whites, only drawing attention to systemic racism.

Berger-Sweeney previously said she’d told Williams his use of the hashtag was “reprehensible and, at the very least, in poor judgment.” No matter its intent, she said, “it goes against our fundamental values as an institution, and I believe its effect is to close minds rather than open them.”

Several state lawmakers also called for Williams’s termination. Other scholars have rallied around Williams, however, saying that his speech is clearly protected by the First Amendment and academic freedom.

“Williams included the hashtag #LetThemFuckingDie in his comment as a provocative way to get readers to pay attention to his own points on white supremacy,” reads a petition signed by Trinity students, alumni and faculty members. “More effort is being put into criticizing how [Williams] presented his message than condemning the violent threats being sent to him. This is similar to calling out Black Lives Matter protests; we spend more time criticizing the protesters than the oppressive systems they are exposing. The exact system [Williams] has called out in his posts, a system of violence and bigotry toward marginalized people, is violently retaliating against him. We need to stick up for him.”

The American Association of University Professors also has said it is “dismayed” by the threats against Williams.

“We condemn the practice, becoming all too common, of bombarding faculty members and institutions of higher education with threats,” it said in an earlier statement. “When one disagrees with statements made by others, threats of violence are not the appropriate response. Such threatening messages are likely to stifle free expression and cause faculty and others on campus to self-censor so as to avoid being subjected to similar treatment. Targeted online harassment is a threat to academic freedom.”

Henry Reichman, chair of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, said Monday that putting Williams on punitive leave amounted to a “clear violation of the professor's academic freedom.” The association considers involuntary leaves of absence as severe sanctions that should only be imposed absent a faculty review when the professor in question poses an immediate safety threat.

Calling Berger-Sweeney's announcement “one of the most mealymouthed statements I've ever read,” Reichman in an email said he wondered, “What on earth does ‘we must be able to engage in conversations about these difficult and complex issues’ mean? Conversations about race, like the one in which [Williams] was participating on social media (and not in his capacity as a Trinity faculty member)? Or the conversations about academic freedom and freedom of speech to which Berger-Sweeney refers? These freedoms are not simply topics to ‘discuss’ and ‘converse’ about; they are first and foremost principles to defend.”

Sadly, he added, “there is nothing in this statement suggesting that Trinity will come to their defense.”

Reichman also contrasted Berger-Sweeney’s statement with one offered recently by Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud regarding Dana Cloud. The professor of communication and rhetoric was the subject of threats and harassment after she tweeted for counterdemonstrators to join her and “finish off” a dispersing group protesting against Islamic law.

Saying he’d received messages insisting that he “denounce, censor or dismiss” Cloud for her speech, Syverud said, “No. We are and will remain a university. Free speech is and will remain one of our key values. I can't imagine academic freedom or the genuine search for truth thriving here without free speech” up to “the very limits of the law.”

Williams said he was told by a dean that he was taking leave whether he wanted to or not, and that Trinity made its decision in “the best interest of the college, not for my family and me.” It’s “not in the interest of safeguarding academic freedom and free speech,” he added. “It is my hope the administration corrects its course.”

Matthew Hughey, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut and a friend of Williams’s, said Williams “was merely the latest target of a campaign by the right-wing white supremacist outrage machine with the goal of silencing academics” working to eliminate oppression.

Berger-Sweeney threw “Williams under the bus by refusing to confront what is happening,” he said.

While some institutions have expressed support for scholars accused of making controversial public statements about race, Essex County College this week also said it won't rehire pop culture pundit Lisa Durden as an adjunct communication professor over her recent appearance on Fox News. In it, Durden defended Black Lives Matter protesters' right to all-black protests on Memorial Day during a heated conversation with host Tucker Carlson.

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Leader in digital humanities discusses forthcoming move from MLA to Michigan State

Inside Higher Ed - mar, 06/27/2017 - 00:00

In 2011, the Modern Language Association created a new office, focused on scholarly communication in the digital age. Kathleen Fitzpatrick is now ending her time leading that office to move to Michigan State University as director of digital humanities and a professor of English. In her role at the MLA and as an author, Fitzpatrick has been a leading voice on digital humanities issues. She answered some questions from Inside Higher Ed about the field and her next steps.

Q: In your blog post on your departure, you noted changes in MLA author agreements to make them more friendly to online sharing. Why is that important? Was it difficult to pull off?

A: It was important for us to find a way to support our members in increasing the impact of their work, and work that is openly available has been demonstrated to receive more attention and more citations than work that is not. But current models for “flipping” subscription-based journals more often than not require authors or their institutions to cover article-processing charges, which risks restricting who can afford to publish. So we decided instead to focus on permitting our authors to deposit preprints without embargo, enabling them to make their work as widely accessible as possible -- and even, through Humanities Commons, providing the platform on which they can share that and other work.

Q: You also noted changes in MLA style. MLA is a well-respected arbiter of style -- how did you and your colleagues try to deal with digital issues in ways that would promote clarity? Any example come to mind of a challenge?

A: Today’s publishing and communication landscape is both blessed and beset by a proliferating number of formats, and the sources that students and scholars cite in their writing are often available on multiple platforms, each of which may present subtle but important differences. On the one hand, we needed to move away from a structure for MLA style that required us to devise and publicize a new works-cited entry for every new format that came along. On the other, we needed to ensure that authors were able to use their citations to guide future readers to precisely the sources they consulted. As a result, we focused on creating a flexible template that will allow future writers to cite sources that are published in formats we can’t today even imagine, while at the same time providing the specificity that enables those writers to indicate that they are quoting from this text, in this version, found on this platform.

Q: While you were at MLA, the association also worked to promote new ways for departments and colleges to evaluate digital teaching and scholarship, since many of the traditional ways just don't work. Do you see enough colleges acting on these recommendations, or do you still hear from scholars who are frustrated?

A: I have heard anecdotally from a number of scholars who have told me that their departments or colleges relied on our guidelines for evaluating digital work in rethinking their tenure and promotion guidelines, or in their own particular tenure cases. I hear much less frustration than I used to about institutions failing to accept or recognize or adequately consider digital work, and that’s a great thing.

But there are still concerns out there. I have heard in particular from a number of junior scholars whose digital work -- the work they were hired to do -- is being included in their tenure portfolios, but who are also expected to put forward a full suite of traditional publications as well, in effect asking them to do double duty. I have also heard of challenges in assessing collaborative work (as committees want to pin down who is responsible for what in projects for which everyone is often responsible for everything), and in selecting external reviewers (as committees want to ensure an arm’s-length objectivity in a field in which broad collaborative relationships are how the work gets done). All of this means that there’s more work ahead, at the levels of both the institution and the discipline, to ensure that review processes really reflect the ways our fields work today.

Q: Many colleges and universities -- including many with a lot of activity in the digital humanities -- don't have someone whose job it is to lead those efforts. Do you see more colleges doing this? What does a director of digital humanities do?

A: I haven’t seen other positions quite like this one, but it’s likely that they’re out there under another name or in another structure. Michigan State University has, both within the College of Arts and Letters and across the university’s other colleges, a wealth of programs and centers and initiatives in the digital humanities, but as at many institutions, those units have developed and are administered independently, by and large. The goal for my new position is to bring those units together and to develop a shared, collaborative vision that will enable both parts and whole to thrive.

Q: What are some of the big challenges ahead to encourage continued growth of the digital humanities?

A: There are two major challenges that I have my eye on right now, though no doubt there are many others. The first is sustainability: over the last decade, support has been available for the development of new tools and platforms to enable digital scholarship -- but now that software all needs to be maintained and updated, and doing so requires ongoing resources of a kind that aren’t usually compelling to funding agencies. So in the same way that we have long encouraged scholars to think (usually in collaboration with folks in their libraries) about preservation from the very beginning of a digital project, we also need to encourage ourselves to think about how software projects will be sustained beyond the period of their initial release.

The second challenge is more immediate, and more dangerous: one of the key funding agencies that has enabled the development of the digital humanities as we know it today is the National Endowment for the Humanities. Programs across the agency -- including, of course, programs in the Office of Digital Humanities, but also programs in research, education and preservation and access -- have supported both institutions and individual scholars in studying and teaching at the intersection of technology and the humanities, and have collectively made possible an extraordinary percentage of the digital humanities work being done today. We must work together to fight the dismantling of the agency’s legacy and the elimination of its future.

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California and Pennsylvania create new alternative community colleges

Inside Higher Ed - mar, 06/27/2017 - 00:00

Across the country, many students still lack access to a college option that fits their needs.

It’s a problem that two very different states are looking to solve.

Despite having 114 campuses in California, Governor Jerry Brown wants the state’s community college system to explore expanding its programs through a new online-only college. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s education department has given its approval for the creation of a new alternative type of community college to serve the northwestern part of the state.

“Community colleges across the country are suffering from decreasing enrollments, so they’re out there trying to figure out what are the options to reach students who they haven’t reached in the past and retain the ones they have,” said Elisabeth Barnett, senior research scientist at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University.

California’s move to try to reach more students with an online-only alternative could boost enrollment statewide. The two-year system has about 2.4 million students, although about 10 years ago enrollment stood at 2.9 million, according to the chancellor’s office.

Barnett said for more rural areas, like in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan or rural New York, community colleges will offer everything from satellite campuses and distance learning to hosting classes in high schools as a way of reaching as many students as possible across large geographic areas.

New College in California

“Part of this is the governor’s desire to reach more students in California through a technology platform,” said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California Community College system. “The 114 campuses are designed in a traditional manner, so we’re reaching a traditional population that is students coming out of high schools.”

But a new online-only college could reach students those traditional brick-and-mortar campuses are currently missing -- adults who are unemployed or underemployed, he said.

“We’ve really spent some time looking at the demographics of returning veterans, displaced workers and working adults with some college and no credential to see if this gives us an opportunity to reach that demographic, which at this point we don’t serve well,” Oakley said.

The state’s two-year system already has the Online Education Initiative, which debuted last year. The OEI is a collaborative program that allows students to register and participate in online courses across multiple degrees. The initiative provides online counseling and allows students to find and take online courses that may be overbooked on their home campus.

There’s also the California Virtual Campus. That website, which works alongside OEI, to help students find transferable courses to California State University campuses. The system particularly makes it easier for students pursuing an associate degree for transfer.

Under an online-only college, neither the virtual campus nor OEI would go away.

“We don’t want to cannibalize the system, and we wouldn't want to create a college to take enrollment from other colleges,” Oakley said. “Any solution would have to complement what we do, and it has to have an opportunity to share revenue with the colleges and really enhance their ability to serve students.”

The idea would be to leverage the content and capabilities of the virtual college and OEI, as well as look into the state’s Open Education Resource initiative, which uses free materials and textbooks for students, as part of the online college solution.

The governor has given the chancellor’s office until November to submit a proposal that would include a number of options for how the online college would be formed and how much it would cost. From there the governor will decide which option the state will invest its money into.

Oakley said the system is looking at Arizona State University, Rio Salado College and even other online universities that have recruited potential community college students away from the California public system.

“We’re pushed and threatened by other online colleges throughout the country,” he said, adding that the proposal would seek not only to recapture the enrollments the system is losing but to go after new students.

In Northern California, particularly the northern inland Shasta County region, about a third of adults have some college and no degree. But there are also significant equity gaps with the tribal population in that area, said Julie Ajinkya, vice president for applied research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy. That's why institutions should be mindful of the types of strategies and interventions they use to target the particular barriers rural populations face beyond access, she said.

"It's important to keep in mind that some of these solutions don't work for everyone when we look at certain opportunities for disconnected populations like those in rural areas," Ajinkya said, referring to online or distance learning solutions. "We want to make sure they're underscored by quality assessments to make sure these are programs that connect these students to high-quality learning outcomes that connect to high-quality job opportunities."

Alternative College in Pennsylvania

While California is seeking to provide more options for residents, Pennsylvania officials want to give an option to people who live north of Interstate 80.

That’s because, for about nine counties in the northwestern region of the state, there isn’t a single public community college. So last month Pennsylvania’s Department of Education approved the creation of the Rural Regional College of Northern Pennsylvania.

“It’s a really unique system,” said Duane Vicini, project executive for the college. “We’ve always had students going to four-year schools … but we’ve always had that segment of the community that could not go to a four-year, but we didn’t have anything to offer them in a two-year associate degree or technical training.”

The new college won’t be online or delivered in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting.

“It’s not online and we want to make clear that this is all interactive television,” Vicini said. “We have live professors who teach courses at any one of the locations where we have satellites and a hub. Students are watching them live and can interact with them -- they’re just not within the same classroom.”

RRC has been operating under a pilot program since 2012 through a partnership with Gannon University, a private Catholic institution in Erie. That program has grown from four locations to 15, with about 80 students. For now, until RRC is accredited on its own, Gannon provides the curriculum and employs the instructors.

Vicini said now with the department’s approval to seek Middle States Commission on Higher Education accreditation, he expects about 100 students to enroll this year. Tuition at the college will cost $180 per credit and $60 per credit for dual-enrolled high school students.

“One of the first charges is to work through the accreditation with Middle States,” Vicini said. “And it’s important to legislators that we begin to offer a technical or certificate program as soon as possible.”

Right now, RRC is offering degrees in interdisciplinary studies and business administration. They’ve already begun to hire new administrators, who have a year to develop RRC’s own curriculum and certificate offerings.

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Universities look for upside of Trump and Brexit effect

University World News Global Edition - lun, 06/26/2017 - 23:03
International educators in the United States and Europe appear to be moving beyond the twin shocks of last year's Brexit vote and a Donald Trump presidency and are now engaging in some soul-search ...

International Students Dodge Trump’s Partly Reinstated Travel Ban, but Concerns Persist

The Chronicle of Higher Education (Global) - lun, 06/26/2017 - 16:47
The U.S. Supreme Court says students from six Muslim-majority countries can enter the United States. But prospective students still could be affected.

Housing Anywhere nods to early US interest

The PIE News - lun, 06/26/2017 - 14:36

The founder of the housing platform aimed at exchange students, Housing Anywhere, has revealed that an improved customer journey and a growth in users in the US are two outcomes noted since €5m in investment funding was raised late last year.

Speaking with The PIE News, Niels van Deuren said that the funding had helped product development and further global expansion, with Berkeley in California showing great appetite already for the platform.

Further expansion in Europe is an initial focus for the Rotterdam-based company.

But “we are online already in a few cities [in the US],” said van Deuren, revealing that Berkeley had seen high organic traffic “without a lot of marketing efforts” and was in its top 10 cities already.

Van Deuren added that the investment had also enabled Housing Anywhere to hire more engineers and more developers, to improve the customer experience and ensure that students ultimately book a room and can better navigate through the website.

“We received a lot of more user activity on our websites,” shared van Deuren who said staff numbers had risen from 35 to 80 since the investment.

The funding came from Netherlands-based venture capital firm henQ, which had also invested in Housing Anywhere previously, and Real Web, which operates immobiliare.it, a real estate website in Italy and Poland.

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Big Brexit questions still remain for European students 

The PIE News - lun, 06/26/2017 - 09:13

Students around Europe are uncertain of the impact Brexit will have on their education but remain concerned about funding, campus diversity, career options and being welcomed in the UK, according to a QS survey of 1,000 students in 10 European countries.

On average, 42% of EU students (not including students from the UK) said Brexit would have “no impact” on their education. Meanwhile, more than 70% of students from Belgium, Germany, France, Romania and Norway said Brexit would have “no impact” on their education or they “don’t know” if it will.

The UK, Denmark, Spain, Italy and Greece are where perceptions are markedly more negative. Forty-six percent of students in the UK and 45% of students in Denmark said it would have a negative impact on their education while just over 30% of students in Spain, Greece and Italy said the same.

“Actually the uncertainty is putting students off because it is a big investment for their lives”

The survey was accompanied by 100 interviews with European students carried out between October 2016 and March 2017 that author Dasha Karzunina said provides more insight into how students really feel about the UK leaving the European Union.

“The feeling of uncertainty was something a very large portion of students felt but when we dug deeper and asked them to guess the impact, most said it would be negative,” she told The PIE News.

For example, Cédric, a history student in Belgium, told QS: “I guess in a way it will definitely affect my future but I can’t really tell you why or how… In my mind right now, since they’re demonising Brexit, I would say it would be a bad impact.”

Another student from Belgium, Gaspard, who is looking to do a master’s in business management abroad, said: “I cannot say. I’m not familiar enough with Brexit to say that. My feeling is that it will have an impact but I don’t yet know if that will be negative or positive.”

The uncertainty, while not wholly negative for the UK, is still driving students away, according to Karzunina.

“Although it can be dismissed as too early to say, actually the uncertainty is putting students off because it is a big investment for their lives and students are less willing to take the risk,” she said.

Student interviews also reveal a common concern among students that the UK is now a less welcoming destination.

“I was hoping to go there to study but I’ve changed my mind,” said Ema in Spain, a prospective master’s student. “I don’t see the point of going to a country that is sending signals such as these, I won’t be welcome there.”

The impact on the UK’s campus diversity was also brought up by students. “Many scholars and academics are considering going elsewhere if the academic environment is affected… Although I have UK universities on my list, I am reconsidering my options because I am afraid many scholars will leave the UK,” said a student in Italy.

Meanwhile, a German student said: “What if I want to do a semester abroad? Will the UK lose some of its European partner universities based on European law? Brexit has a negative influence on my choice.”

When it comes to funding, the weakened pound made the UK attractive for some students, but many interviewees said the uncertainty around gaining access to the UK’s domestic loan scheme has caused them to look elsewhere.

“With everything that’s happening with the Greek crisis, it is more difficult for me and my family to decide where I should study because of the tuition,” said Theodora, a Greek student of English language and literature at the University of Athens. “I’m looking for something that my family can afford.”

A slightly more positive outcome of the uncertainty around funding is that some students have decided to act sooner on their study plans, confident that nothing will change immediately.

“I’ve put some thought in it, but I think that the Brexit talk is going to last two years so I think I will be able to finish my master’s beforehand,” said Damianos in Greece.

However, questions around longer-term career prospects and the strength of the UK’s employment market are weighing on students’ minds. When asked if Brexit would have an impact on their careers, 42% of Danish students said “yes, a negative impact” along with 41% of Italian students, 39% of Spanish students and 38% of Romanian students.

“They feel that employers would prioritise British students more,” noted Karzunina. “European students are putting themselves in the category with the rest of the world now.”

Assya, a Bulgarian student currently studying in the UK, said: “I decided that after Brexit, I don’t want to stay in the UK anymore. I would prefer to do my master’s elsewhere in Europe. I was investing a lot, my time and everything, and now suddenly – if I won’t be able to find a good job, it won’t be worth it to do one more year in the UK.”

However, some students found Brexit could be positive for their careers, citing the relocation of the UK’s financial services industry. Jan, a student from Frankfurt, said: “Maybe the investment banking and trading will move to Frankfurt and that will offer new jobs for me. On a micro level it might be good, but on a macro level it is definitely bad.”

“Simply telling students things will continue as normal is not the solution”

Overwhelmingly, students from the UK view Brexit negatively. Fifty-four percent said it would have a negative impact on their future career as their confidence in finding employment opportunities falls.

“I’d quite like to get into research, so I am worried about how leaving the EU would affect British research,” said Alex, in the UK, who is looking to go into earth observation. “I wanted to stay in Britain to work, so I am worried about how it would affect research funding.”

The report recommends UK universities double down on efforts to communicate welcome messages and for the government to address the cloud of uncertainty around Brexit.

“Students said the messages of reassurance from universities made a big difference,” said Karzunina. “Campaigns around showing how they want international students are very powerful. If they are concerned, especially for less prestigious universities, not in the top 10, they need to communicate more to students in Europe.”

The report calls for a clear strategy from the government to preserve international partnerships, study abroad programs and student fee guarantees. “Simply telling students things will continue as normal is not the solution,” it says.

The post Big Brexit questions still remain for European students  appeared first on The PIE News.

Many So-Called Innovators Don’t Understand the Community They Need to Serve

Students today are older, poorer, and more ethnically diverse than ever, but Heather Hiles, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, says few investors and entrepreneurs acknowledge that reality.

China: new rules for int’l students include customs and language classes

The PIE News - lun, 06/26/2017 - 07:10

China has announced new measures for universities on the management of international students studying in the country, which include increasing the presence of Chinese culture, customs and language into their curriculum.

Outlined this month, and to be implemented on July 1, the regulations are intended to give universities guidelines in enrolling and handling students as the country moves full throttle towards its target to enrol half a million international students by 2020.

“Chinese [language] and China’s overview should be made as a compulsory course for higher education,” the document, jointly produced by the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security, reads.

“Political theory should be made a compulsory course for those international students who study philosophy and political science.”

“These seem like reasonable changes given the government’s ambitions”

It also states that colleges and universities shall educate international students on the contents of Chinese laws and regulations, school rules, Chinese traditional culture and customs, “and help them to become familiar with and adapt to the learning and living environment as soon as possible.”

The regulations also emphasise that Chinese is the first language for higher education institutions in the country, and institutions can provide extra classes for international students who don’t meet a certain requirement.

International students can write their thesis in the foreign language under which they are studying, the guidelines stipulate, but the abstract is required in Chinese.

Kim Morrison, CEO and executive director at Grok Global Services, an education and market entry consultancy company, said, overall, the new rules are general enough to give “more power to higher education institutions in student recruitment, what programs they offer and admissions processes.”

“These seem like reasonable changes given the government’s ambitions,” she added.

Eric Skuse, research manager at market intelligence company Emerging Strategy, said the intention behind these rules is to standardise the many programs that have arisen to serve the demand from international students.

“A baseline requirement for Chinese language instruction makes sense, but it is something that many programs already have in place,” he said.

“There may be outliers that didn’t previously require Chinese language classes, and these programs will have to change or shutter their doors to international students. In the eyes of China’s central government, this type of quality control is a good thing.”

Universities will also be required to set up international student counsellors.

Youmin Xi, executive president of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou, China said that the required content “would benefit the career development and life of foreign students who are studying [at a] Chinese university.”

Xi noted, however, that although the regulations were implemented as the country welcomes more international students, they would have weak support systems and regulations.

“The main purpose of issuing the new regulations from my understanding is to improve current operational systems and policies according to related Chinese laws,” he said.

Observers do expect the guidelines to improve the perception of China overseas, however.

“Having foreign students come away from their semester in China with a firm grasp of the language and a strong familiarity with cultural traditions delivered through mandatory coursework is an attractive idea to a central government keen to increase its soft power abroad,” said Skuse.

The country is well on its way of achieving its goal of hosting 500,000 international students by 2020. Last year, 442,773 international students studied in China – an 11% growth on the year before. Korea was the top-sending country, followed by the US and Thailand.

Morrison at Grok said it is unlikely there will be an effect on the number of incoming international students as a result of these new rules.

“The main purpose of issuing the new regulations… is to improve current operational systems and policies according to related Chinese laws”

“The government is not interested in making life more restrictive or difficult for international students,” she said.

“Remember, while China is trying to attract students from developed Western countries, these regulations are just as much for international students from Africa, South America and Asia. These markets are very important for China, both for the income international students bring and long-term economic ties in those areas.

“Students from these areas aren’t going to see the regulations as any more restrictive than what they would face when applying to, for example, UK, USA or Australia,” she commented.

In addition to the new guidelines released this month, China has recently taken steps to ease access to post-study work for international graduates.

The post China: new rules for int’l students include customs and language classes appeared first on The PIE News.

Professors are often political lightning rods but now are facing new threats over their views, particularly on race

Inside Higher Ed - lun, 06/26/2017 - 00:00

Professors have long been political targets. But a spate of recent threats against scholars -- including two that have led to campus closures -- is raising fresh concerns about safety and academic freedom.

The American Associations of University Professors “is definitely concerned about this trend, which I think is a fair description of what is happening,” said Hans-Joerg Tiede, senior program officer for academic freedom and tenure at AAUP. “We will continue to monitor it and consider what other actions we can take.”

First, a roundup of cases:

  • In early May, Tommy J. Curry, associate professor of philosophy at Texas A&M University, faced death threats and race-based harassment for talking about violence against whites in a 2012 podcast interview about the gory Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained. Portions of Curry's opinions were quoted in right-wing publications, where he was portrayed as advocating violence.
  • Bret Weinstein, a professor of biology at Evergreen State College, was in May warned to stay off that campus by security officials after he questioned the logic of a student request that all white students and faculty members stay away during a day of protest. The college temporarily shut down after further threats and demands from some students that Weinstein be fired.
  • Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an assistant professor of African-American studies at Princeton University, canceled planned public talks this month, saying she received hateful messages and death threats for criticizing President Trump in a commencement speech at Hampshire College.
  • Sarah Bond, an assistant professor of classics at the University of Iowa, faced threats and harassment -- some of it anti-Semitic -- after publishing a piece in Hyperallergic. She argued that classicists should do more to highlight the fact that statues were often painted and so not necessarily reflective of the “classical ideal” now equated with white marble. Bond's views are widely backed by scholars in her field.
  • At Syracuse University, Dana Cloud, a professor of communication and rhetoric, was the subject of threats and harassment after she tweeted for counterdemonstrators to join her and “finish off” a dispersing group of protesters against Islamic law.
  • Most recently, Johnny Eric Williams, an associate professor of sociology at Trinity College in Connecticut, said he had to flee town due to threats -- and the campus shut down for a day -- after conservative news websites shared Facebook posts he made about race. He used the hashtag #LetThemFuckingDie in response to an online article about racism of the same name. Some have argued he was advocating violence against whites, but he's since said he was referring to systemic racism.

The AAUP has condemned such threats against scholars and asked some individual institutions to support targeted faculty members. It also earlier this year published a set of institutional recommendations for dealing with online harassment of professors. Several faculty-led petitions express support for colleagues in the crosshairs, and the American Sociological Association also weighed in to defend Williams.

“The ability to inject controversial ideas into [the public] forum is paramount to a better understanding of our society and essential to ensuring a robust exchange of ideas on college campuses,” reads the sociologists’ statement. “In principle, ASA does not take a position on such ideas themselves but does take the position that all individuals have the right to express themselves. In that context, we expect thoughtful consideration regarding the way in which the ideas are expressed. We also expect the safety of those expressing them.”

Threatening the lives “of those whose rhetoric we oppose undermines the robust and democratic exchange of ideas,” ASA said. “Ideas -- regardless of how controversial -- should only be attacked by alternative ideas. Mutual understanding requires more discussion rather than a stifling of discourse.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has long advocated answering offensive speech with more speech, not less. Calling threats against professors as “depressing” a trend as violent responses to campus free speech, Will Creeley, an attorney with FIRE, said Friday that such threats require “unequivocal condemnation from all Americans who care about the health of our democracy.”

Threatening violence “against those who hold opinions different from one’s own is a particularly evil form of censorship,” Creeley wrote on FIRE’s website. “To be clear: responding to speech with threats is morally repugnant, illiberal and potentially illegal.”

In each recent case, Creeley added, “the faculty member who received threats had engaged in plainly protected political speech, typically involving contentious issues like race relations. If our nation’s faculty members cannot evaluate and express opinions on the issues of the day without being subjected to violent threats, the U.S. Supreme Court’s stark warning in Sweezy v. New Hampshire will prove prophetic: ‘Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die.’” (In that 1957 case, the high court found that a state investigation into the alleged Communist affiliations of a guest lecturer at a university was unconstitutional.)

Colleges and Universities Respond

Creeley also endorsed AAUP’s statement earlier this year in which it said campus governing boards "have a responsibility to defend academic freedom and institutional autonomy, including to protect institutions from undue public interference, by resisting calls for the dismissal of faculty members and by condemning their targeted harassment and intimidation.”

Institutions, meanwhile, have had mixed responses to threats against scholars. Texas A&M, for example, first condemned Curry’s comments but then softened its tone against him. That followed criticism from colleagues who said the university needed to back Curry and his right to academic freedom.

Syracuse first clarified that Cloud’s comments were not intended to provoke violence, but Chancellor Kent Syverud offered more support in a follow-up statement last week.

Saying he’d received messages insisting that he “denounce, censor or dismiss” Cloud for her speech, Syverud said, “No. We are and will remain a university. Free speech is and will remain one of our key values. I can't imagine academic freedom or the genuine search for truth thriving here without free speech.”

He continued, “Our faculty must be able to say and write things -- including things that provoke some or make others uncomfortable -- up to the very limits of the law. The statement at issue is, I believe, within those limits. I intend to act accordingly.”

Many scholars and civil liberties groups have engaged in protests like those Cloud encouraged. They have argued that since there is in fact no movement to impose Islamic law in the U.S., protests against it are really designed to encourage more general anti-Muslim sentiments.

Trinity’s administration, meanwhile, said it is looking into Williams’s comments and expressed disapproval of his hashtag.

Williams has since said he’s left the state to protect his family. He also issued a campuswide apology, saying, “I am sorry … I regret that the hashtag that I quoted from the title of an article was misinterpreted and misperceived as inciting violence and calling for the death of 'white' people.”

The professor said he never intended to “invite or incite violence.” His only aim, he said, “was to bring awareness to white supremacy and to inspire others to address these kinds of injustices.”

In another case, Essex County College doubled down last week on its suspension of Lisa Durden, a communications adjunct and pop culture pundit, after she appeared on Fox News to defend Black Lives Matter protesters' right to all-black protest spaces on Memorial Day. She has now been terminated, NJ.com reported.

“The college was immediately inundated with feedback from students, faculty and prospective students and their families expressing frustration, concern and even fear that the views expressed by a college employee (with influence over students) would negatively impact their experience on the campus,” Anthony Munroe, the college’s president, said in a statement Friday. “I fully believe that institutions of higher learning must provide a safe space for students. … The character of this institution mandates that we embrace diversity, inclusion and unity. Racism cannot be fought with more racism.”

The University of Delaware also distanced itself from Kathy Dettwyler, an adjunct professor of anthropology, who said on Facebook that Otto Warmbier, a college student who recently died after imprisonment in North Korea, “got exactly what he deserved.” Warmbier was “typical of a mind-set of a lot of the young, white, rich, clueless males” Dettwyler teaches, she wrote, prompting the university to call her remarks “particularly distressing” and not in line with its values, according to the Associated Press. The university subsequently said that Dettwyler would not be rehired.

Questions About Self-Censorship

A number of professors facing threats have attributed the deluge to slanted coverage of their public comments by various conservative news websites. Many of those reports have since been cited by Professor Watchlist, which launched earlier this year “to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

Asked about threats facing professors on the list, Matt Lamb, a spokesperson, said via email that harassment “against anyone for their views, whether it be professors, students or politicians, is terrible. Whether it is Lars Maischak threatening President Trump for assassination, Eric Clanton throwing bike locks at Trump supporters or John Griffin saying Republicans should be lined up and shot, harassment and death threats are terrible and should be widely denounced. Likewise, threats against professors are just as bad as when leftist professors threaten other people. We oppose all forms of violence.”

Cloud, at Syracuse, said she hasn’t apologized “or made excuses for what I said, because that would serve a narrative that is blaming these faculty, rather than understanding these campaigns as right-wing political strategy on the part of people who do actually espouse violence.”

The emergence of the “hard right, including bona-fide fascists, is a product of the Trump moment,” she said, since “his rhetoric emboldens them, and this latest wave of attacks is scarier as a result, even if the messages I and other professors have received share features with earlier waves.”

Tiede, of AAUP, said that Professor Watchlist and its ilk are part of a broader attack on the “core values” of higher education, such as “serving as spaces where ideas can be explored, where dissent can occur and where the truth can be investigated," which is "how they support our democracy.” All these functions have been attacked in the past, he said, but are now enabled with new technology.

As for self-censorship, Tiede said some professors probably do censor themselves due to reports of harassment. Given that faculty members have been targeted for comments “concerning difficult social problems, including racial justice, it is worrisome that public discourse on important topics to which faculty members can bring their expertise may be curtailed as a result,” he said. It’s worrisome as well that some campuses have shut down over threats, he said.

Matthew Hughey, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, recently wrote about his own experiences with threats in an op-ed in The Huffington Post.

“In early 2017 I was scheduled to give a talk that examined the role of overt and subtle racialized messages to magnetize white support for particular political parties and political platforms and how those strategies played a role in the 2016 election,” he said. Various conservative publications misrepresented some of his arguments, even after an appearance on Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, leading to a few death threats, online name-calling, “over 400 emails, nearly 50 voice mails and even a couple dozen snail-mail letters. … Campus detectives got involved. Local police had to patrol my home.”

Echoing the underlying argument of his Huffington Post piece, Hughey wrote in an email to Inside Higher Ed that the common thread in many harassment cases is race -- specifically “that folks seem to be getting attacked when they critique whiteness.”

What Do Critics Want?

A few of the aforementioned cases have little to do with whiteness, or critiques of what being white means as a social construct. But most do focus on issues of race.

Hughey said he felt supported by UConn. As for self-censorship, he said professors “always have an obligation to speak wisely (regardless of what’s going on), but they also have the freedom to use their personal social media as they see fit.”

If universities are going to “praise and link to faculty Twitter accounts when we publish an article, win an award, etc.,” he added, “then they need to have our back when the attacks start on Twitter or when we say something less than popular and/or provocative, or share something that people might disagree with.”

Hughey and others have argued that attacks on scholars appear coordinated. If that's true, a shared strategy speaks to a shared goal. So what do critics who resort to intimidation want? Tiede said it was hard to define clearly, but he thinks certain groups and individuals clearly would "prefer not to have the expertise of faculty members publicized when those run contrary to their interests."

The AAUP observed in 1915 that the social sciences in particular faced a "danger of restrictions upon the expression of opinions which point toward extensive social innovations, or call in question the moral legitimacy or social expediency of economic conditions or commercial practices in which large vested interests are involved," he added. "I don’t see any need to modify that observation today."

Academic FreedomThreats Against FacultyEditorial Tags: FacultyDiversity MattersImage Caption: From top, left to right: Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Johnny Eric Williams, Sarah Bond, Dana Cloud, Tommy J. Curry and Bret WeinsteinIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, June 27, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Email Teaser: Old Criticisms, New Threats