Inside Higher Ed

Professor at UC Irvine tweets to demand action on her complaint against a fellow instructor

9 hours 22 min ago

A department chair at the University of California, Irvine, took to social media Monday to shame her institution, saying it had failed to protect her from a colleague’s harassment. She did so from home, saying she was unable to visit campus due to concerns about her safety.

The live tweeting attracted a major following, with commenters asking Irvine why it wasn’t doing more and why institutions don’t generally do more to defend the female academics -- and, in particular, female scientists -- they claim to value against harassment.

Irvine said Monday afternoon that it had addressed the situation and that it is "committed to providing an environment in which ideas and knowledge can thrive without fear of harassment, mistreatment or retaliation."

Kathleen Treseder, chair of ecology and evolutionary biology at Irvine, started her social media campaign against Irvine last week, saying she was staying home Thursday because she didn’t feel physically safe from a faculty member in biological sciences. She tagged the university and the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health to get their attention.

On Friday, dissatisfied with what she described as Irvine’s nonresponse, Treseder again tweeted at the university, asking her chancellor, “Please authorize your adminis [sic] to hire me a security escort so I can go to work today. I don't feel safe from one of your faculty members. Your admin has all the documentation. (You may remember me as one of Ayala's victims.) #metoo.”

Good morning, Chancellor Gillman @UCIrvine. Please authorize your adminis to hire me a security escort so I can go to work today. I don't feel safe from one of your faculty members. Your admin has all the documentation. (You may remember me as one of Ayala's victims.) #metoo https://t.co/BHPZewmL2p

— Dr. Kathleen Treseder #MeToo (@KKTreseder) December 14, 2018

By “Ayala’s victim,” Treseder was referring to a high-profile harassment case in which she, two other female faculty members and a student accused Francisco J. Ayala, a longtime professor of genetics and major university donor at Irvine, of harassment. Ayala resigned over the summer after an investigation, with the stipulation that he not attend future university events. Some colleagues publicly defended Ayala, and he said his effusiveness had been misinterpreted. But Irvine announced that it would remove his name from university buildings, graduate fellowships, scholar programs and endowed chairs.

The Ayala case figures into Treseder’s new complaint in that she alleges another faculty member is retaliating against her for it.

Treseder declined an interview request Monday, saying she was too shaken to talk. But she posted to Twitter some of what her colleague, Richard Symanski, senior lecturer of ecology and evolutionary biology, has allegedly said to her.

The first note, left in my mailbox on Halloween https://t.co/YvKtuFoUlO pic.twitter.com/HmyshPWDcV

— Dr. Kathleen Treseder #MeToo (@KKTreseder) December 16, 2018

A handwritten note delivered on Halloween, which Treseder said was the first of multiple such missives from Symanski, is essentially an invitation to read his self-published memoir, Bad Boy Geographer. Sharing a copy of the book, Symanski wrote in the note, in part, “Since you found yourself in the middle of a highly visible sexual harassment issue, and now apparently strongly identify with the Me Too movement, you may want to read about the formal sexual harassment charge filed against me in 1995 at this very university, the very long chapter in this memoir titled, ‘The Inquisition.’”

He added, “Be warned that if you do not want to read about my life, and a good deal that revolves around sex and prostitutes, I strongly suggest you ignore the rest of the book … Based on the facts I have seen, I of course do have some thoughts and opinions on the Ayala case and the way it was handled.”

Treseder didn’t say what had happened between Halloween and now, only that it gets “worse.” But she shared parts of Symanski’s book, including a passage about a novel he once wrote that includes the murder of seven academics in an unnamed department at a Southern university. Symanski also said he’d been known to call himself by the name of the protagonist of that book.

Some on Twitter said the book was an implied threat, with a few linking the passage to former University of Alabama at Huntsville professor Amy Bishop’s real-life killing of three faculty members at a meeting in 2010.

“They were taken into a seminar room and, with one exception (a coward who jumped out the window instead of facing the killer’s humiliating charges), were killed with a sawed off shotgun,” Symanski's book says. “Nearly an entire academic department was eliminated.”

Other commenters remarked that the book included numerous derogatory statements about women, such as the following:

"All these 'poor' and 'victimized' and 'oppressed' and 'sensitive' women don’t have the intelligence to see that men saying they want to fuck them is an enormous compliment, and if they don’t like the compliment, they can simply say: Thank you very much, but I think you’re too ugly or too old or I’m simply not interested. The reason women can’t do this is that beside their precious 'dignity,' they have their victimhood to worry about, and their quite fragile angry feminist egos to worry about, and more than a small handful have an overriding desire to emasculate men and make up for all the poor treatment they believe they have received since Adam met Eve."

The NSF on Monday replied to Treseder to say it was listening and to advise her of its reporting mechanism for harassment. Earlier this year, the agency said it was moving forward with a plan to link funding to appropriate conduct.

Prof. Treseder, thank you for tagging NSF in your post. We have a no tolerance policy for harassment. Please be sure to reach out to: programcomplaints@nsf.gov.

— National Science Foundation (@NSF) December 17, 2018

Symanski did not respond to a request for comment. But he allegedly wrote in his Halloween letter to Treseder that he planned to file for retirement in March, although he’d rather not have teach for one last semester. Cynically, it appears he got what he wanted.

The university said in a statement Monday afternoon that its School of Biological Sciences and administration "intervened immediately as soon as we became aware of Treseder’s concerns” and that it’s been “working closely with all involved parties to reach a resolution for several weeks.” On its face, the account conflicts -- at least in part -- with Treseder’s in that it has in part responded to her requests.

The UCI police and admins say that they don't see anything of concern in the book or correspondence.

— Dr. Kathleen Treseder #MeToo (@KKTreseder) December 17, 2018

The university said it was unable to share many details about a “sensitive, personnel-related” situation. But it said it could “confirm that we arranged for a police escort this morning and contracted for private security services beyond today.” Symanski will not be teaching at Irvine in the winter quarter, beginning Jan. 7, it said.

More generally, the university said its police department offers a safety escort service.

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UW Whitewater chancellor resigns while the UW system investigates her husband

9 hours 22 min ago

Beverly Kopper, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, announced her resignation Monday amid allegations that she turned a blind eye when her husband sexually harassed female employees at the university.

In her campus announcement, Kopper did not say why she was resigning or mention the investigation by the University of Wisconsin System into the allegations against her husband. She did cite a request that she resign by the Board of Regents in her official resignation letter to Ray Cross, the University of Wisconsin System president, on Dec. 6.

“I am aware the Board of Regents would like different leadership for UW-Whitewater and thus I hereby render my resignation as chancellor effective December 31, 2018,” she wrote.

Cross accepted her resignation Monday.

“I have accepted Chancellor Beverly Kopper’s decision to resign,” he wrote in a brief public statement. “We appreciate her accomplishments during her time as Chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.” Kopper had served as chancellor since 2015.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the newspaper that first reported the story, Kopper hadn’t been seen on campus since Wednesday and did not preside over the winter graduation ceremony Saturday. Instead, Susan Elrod, provost, filled her place.

Kopper had been under pressure to step down since reports broke that her husband, Pete Hill, sexually harassed female employees, sometimes during university functions held at the chancellor’s house. In September, Hill was removed from his honorary role as associate of the chancellor and banned from campus after a UW System investigation concluded that he sexually harassed female employees. At the time, Kopper addressed the investigation's findings and concurred with the UW System's decision to remove Hill from his role, but she gave no indication that she would step down.

In September, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the UW System took up another investigation into allegations from Stephanie Vander Pas, a Whitewater Common Council member, who claims Hill sexually harassed her when she was a student. In a Facebook post, which has since been deleted, Vander Pas claimed Kopper "should have known" about Hill's misconduct and called for her resignation. Kopper had previously told the Journal Sentinel that the allegations against her husband took her "completely by surprise."

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Lamar Alexander's decision to retire could add urgency to pass higher ed law

9 hours 22 min ago

Senator Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, said Monday that he will not seek re-election in 2020.

His decision could have big consequences for a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act as well as congressional approaches more broadly on issues like student loans and college accountability.

Alexander, 78, said earlier this year that he hoped to make quick progress on a new higher ed law. But even after a series of detailed hearings, talks with Democrats in the Senate never got serious. He was already facing a term limit as committee chairman in two years. Now Alexander’s retirement plans may add more urgency to reach a deal on the renewal of the key law governing financial aid and many other higher education programs and add another signature accomplishment he's long targeted as chairman.

“I will not be a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate in 2020,” he said in a statement. “The people of Tennessee have been very generous, electing me to serve more combined years as governor and senator than anyone else from our state. I am deeply grateful, but now it is time for someone else to have that privilege. I have gotten up every day thinking that I could help make our state and country a little better, and gone to bed most nights thinking that I have. I will continue to serve with that same spirit during the remaining two years of my term.”

Alexander is one of a handful of lawmakers with experience as a college president. Also before being elected to the Senate, he also served as Tennessee governor and U.S. education secretary under President George H. W. Bush. That résumé in education policy has gone unmatched by Alexander’s peers in Congress.

In the Senate, he’s been known as a bipartisan deal maker as a well as a legislator with an intense interest in the higher education system. His biggest legislative achievement was the 2015 passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, a “fix” to the No Child Left Behind law, which he co-wrote with Senator Patty Murray, his Democratic counterpart on the HELP committee. More recently, he helped restore year-round Pell Grants last year.

But his relationship with Murray appeared strained after a tense confirmation process for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last year. Murray and other Democrats argued for more hearings to scrutinize DeVos's record, a demand that Alexander rejected. For many observers, that process didn't bode well for bipartisan cooperation on a higher ed bill.

Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, the top Washington lobby group for U.S. colleges, said that Alexander has made it clear for several years he would like to pass a new comprehensive higher ed law as well, and predicted that the decision to retire will only increase his desire to get it done.

“But the fact is they didn’t get too close last year with Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate,” Hartle said. “The bigger and the more complicated the legislation, the harder it is to do it in the current environment. That’s just the world we’re living in.”

One of Alexander’s long-running goals has been an overhaul of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which students must complete to qualify for Pell Grants and student loans. He’s famously made the paper application a frequent prop in committee hearings and other public events to underscore how long and complicated it is.

Simplifying the process to apply for student aid is a goal shared by congressional Democrats as well. But disagreements over how to restructure student loan repayment options and accountability rules for colleges have slowed any serious talks about a bill. In February, Alexander released a white paper suggesting current government accountability measures were inadequate and unfair to for-profit colleges. House Democrats, by contrast, this summer introduced a plan to reauthorize the Higher Education Act that would preserve Obama-era higher ed rules like borrower defense and gainful employment.

If Alexander and congressional Democrats do reach a compromise on a new law, they’ll have a long way to go to reach middle ground.

But Tamara Hiler, deputy director of education at the think tank Third Way, said Alexander’s retirement announcement is the clearest indicator yet that the Higher Education Act renewal will be a priority in 2019.

“He has already demonstrated the ability to work well with Senator Murray in a bipartisan fashion, and without having to worry about the prospects of managing a political campaign and re-election, he will be even more focused to work across the aisle to get this legislation through,” she said.

Senate Leadership

Alexander’s departure will leave a big void in the Senate. But there are a handful of Republicans on the committee with a track record of bipartisan higher ed legislation, said Emily Bouck West, deputy executive director at Higher Learning Advocates and a former staffer for GOP senator Marco Rubio. Georgia senator Johnny Isakson has worked with Delaware Democrat Chris Coons on the ASPIRE Act, which would pressure wealthy colleges to enroll low-income students. And Louisiana senator Bill Cassidy was one of the earliest co-sponsors of the bipartisan College Transparency Act, which would produce more data on higher ed outcomes.

Alexander, though, brought to Congress a knowledge of the Education Department's earliest years and some of its biggest challenges. Bill Hansen, president and CEO of Strada Education Network, said he was the first to put in place national goals for education at the department.

“He was really a pioneer in helping to shape the Department of Education,” said Hansen, who served under Alexander at the department.

Alexander also entered the department when the federal student loan program was experiencing major turmoil. Loan default rates had risen throughout the 1980s as the Reagan administration starved the department of resources, said ACE’s Hartle. Default rates exceeded 20 percent before Alexander started at the agency. He responded by stepping up policing of the program and rebuilding the Education Department’s oversight capacity.

And Alexander in 1992 helped shepherd an HEA reauthorization bill that included reforms to the loan program designed to cut down on defaults.

“His retirement is a huge loss for America’s colleges and universities,” Hartle said. “There’s no other way to look at it.”

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Grinnell student union leaders end expansion effort

9 hours 22 min ago

Students at Grinnell College have decided to nix a campaign to expand their union of undergraduate workers, fearing that their petition to a Republican-controlled federal board would ultimately erode the rights of other similar units nationwide.

The once-good relationship that the union enjoyed with administrators of the small, progressive college in Iowa devolved into a bitter battle over whether it would grow to represent more than just Grinnell’s dining hall workers to every student worker on campus.

Grinnell administrators opposed the move. They said it would infringe on student privacy (the union leaders likely would have had access to private financial information about workers) and would complicate the relationship between students and professors and other staffers who advise or hire them. According to the Associated Press, President Raynard S. Kington said that 93 percent of the current senior class had worked for the college at some point.

Despite deep administrator opposition, student workers voted last month to approve the union expansion.

The college had hired two anti-union law firms, Nyemaster Goode and Proskauer Rose -- the latter of which has represented nearly every American professional sports league in negotiations -- to try to block the effort. And this month, the college appealed to the National Labor Relations Board in an attempt to nullify the election.

But union leaders were concerned that the NLRB -- the majority of which was appointed by President Donald Trump -- would rule against them, which seemed likely considering the political leanings of the board. A loss for the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers could then affect the status of other student unions and their ability to bargain. And so the students filed last week with a regional branch of NLRB to remove their petition, calling it a “flimsy possibility” that they would have a fair outcome with the Trump board.

“Historically, the labor movement has advanced not through court decisions and government institutions, but through the collective power of working people,” the union said in a statement Friday. “We continue to call on Grinnell College to negotiate with us over a framework to move forward and protect students’ rights.”

Neither a union representative nor Grinnell officials responded to request for comment.

But the college posted a statement saying it supported the move to withdraw the petition.

“The college’s concern has always been about how the expansion of the student union could affect Grinnell’s distinctive culture and diminish educational opportunities for our students,” the statement reads. “We believe the actions we took to preserve our educational mission were in the best interests of the Grinnell College community.”

In 2016, when the NLRB was in the hands of Democrats, it found that Columbia University’s graduate students could serve as employees and allowed them to unionize. Union supporters fear that the NLRB now is itching to revisit and reverse that decision, which could have come as a part of the Grinnell students’ push. William Gould, a Stanford Law School professor and former NLRB chairman under President Clinton, told The Guardian that the board members “will do so at the first opportunity.”

The rulings from the NLRB tend to vacillate depending on which political party is in power. Prior to the 2016 Columbia decision, the board had determined in 2004 that Brown University graduate students were not employees, which was a reversal from its verdict in 2000 in favor of teaching assistants at New York University.

Grinnell’s student union was launched in 2016 in an attempt to secure more money and additional rights for the dining hall employees. The leaders have since negotiated a pay increase from $8.50 to $9.76 an hour.

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New presidents or provosts: Arizona Carroll Hilbert Keene KCPE Oshkosh Park Texas Tech UNC

9 hours 22 min ago
  • Mark Blegen, dean of health sciences at St. Catherine University, in Minnesota, has been selected as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Carroll University, in Wisconsin.
  • Michael S. Brophy, former president of Benedictine University, in Illinois, has been chosen as president of Hilbert College, in New York.
  • John Koker, interim provost and dean of the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, has been promoted to provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs there.
  • Tedd L. Mitchell, president of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, has been selected as well as chancellor of the Texas Tech University System.
  • Michelle Myers, interim provost at Park University, in Missouri, has been appointed to the job on a permanent basis.
  • Patrick Robinson, dean of nursing and health sciences at Capella University, in Minnesota, has been chosen as vice president of academics and provost at Arizona College.
  • Aaron Thompson, executive vice president and chief academic officer at the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, has been promoted to president there.
  • Melinda Treadwell, interim president of Keene State College, in New Hampshire, has been named president there on a permanent basis.
  • Kimberly van Noort, interim senior vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer at the University of North Carolina System, has been appointed to the job on a permanent basis.
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Newbury College provides early notice in closing announcement

Mon, 2018-12-17 08:00

Newbury College had been through many changes and adaptations in its 56 years.

The small private college was founded in 1962 in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston as the Newbury School of Business. It moved multiple times, settling in Brookline, outside the city, in 1982. It became Newbury Junior College in 1971, changed its name to Newbury College in 1985, and became a baccalaureate college in 1994.

These days, Newbury branded itself to try to appeal to current students -- as a “liberal arts college providing career-oriented experiential education.”

But on Friday Newbury joined a steady drip of small private liberal arts institutions succumbing to financial pressures and falling enrollment. It announced it will close at the end of the spring 2019 semester.

Administrators and trustees at Newbury are still exploring the possibility of a partnership to keep the doors open. Nonetheless, they want prospective students, current students, faculty members and staff members to have time to plan for their futures, said the college’s president, Joseph Chillo, in a statement.

“Accordingly, we are providing this notice, before we are legally required to do so, because it is the right thing to do,” Chillo said. “Our people, the dignity of our mission, and the legacy of the institution are our most important concerns of today.”

By announcing in December that it would close months later, Newbury stood out. The timing of its announcement quickly drew support from state regulators.

Closing a college is never an easy decision, but it can be the right one for students, said Jillian Fennimore, a spokeswoman for Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey, in a statement.

“The Attorney General’s Office expresses its appreciation to Newbury College’s board and senior leadership for making this difficult choice in an orderly way that helps maximize opportunities for students,” she said.

The state’s commissioner of higher education, Carlos Santiago, said in his own statement that his office was working with Newbury to put a closing plan in place that will help students explore their options. He anticipates Newbury will lay out transfer programs soon so that students and families can make plans well before the end of the academic year.

"It is a sad occasion when a college announces plans to close its doors,” Santiago said. “In this instance, I am pleased to see that campus leaders are working proactively and collaboratively with members of my staff to ensure an orderly closure process, which will benefit all members of the college community.”

Observers outside the state took note of the timing as well.

“If an institution really knows that it’s not financially viable, it is ethical to give students, faculty and staff that information as soon as possible so they can make the best choices available,” said Susan Resneck Pierce, a former college president who is now a college consultant and occasional columnist for Inside Higher Ed.

Those reactions are markedly different from the outcry that erupted in April when another Boston-area institution, Mount Ida College, announced that it would be closing at the end of the semester. Mount Ida’s announcement came after last-ditch merger efforts fell apart.

In the aftermath of Mount Ida’s announcement, faculty members complained that they had been blindsided and were left seeking jobs too late in the academic hiring cycle. Lawmakers attacked Mount Ida leaders’ decision making, and state officials started discussing possible regulatory changes. Students complained they were left with no clear teach-out plans for their programs and even went on to launch a lawsuit against the college and some of its former leaders.

After that outcry, it is perhaps no surprise that Newbury made its intentions clear at an earlier time.

The decision to close still isn't always easy, of course -- or widely accepted. The leaders of Sweet Briar College in rural Virginia decided to shut down operations in 2015, even though it had a sizable endowment, because they thought trends were not in the college's favor and did not see a path to keeping it viable over time. But alumnae reacted with outrage and soon won a deal to keep the college open under new management.

It had become clear that Newbury was struggling. Its audit for the year ending in June 2017 noted that the college's net assets had dropped by roughly $2.4 million, it ran a working capital deficit of about $825,000 and it recorded negative cash flow from operations of $442,000. In response, Newbury was marketing real estate with an estimated value of $2.8 million and discussing the terms of its line of credit with its lender.

"Management acknowledges that uncertainty remains over the ability to sustain the long-term financial stability of the College, however, they believe the above steps are viable and achievable and will enable the College to meet its funding requirements and obligations as they become due in the ordinary course of business, for a period of twelve months following the date these financial statements are available to be issued," the audit said. "For the long-term, management is considering all alternatives including revamping its curriculum and program offerings to increase enrollment and decrease expenses."

Then the college was placed on probation by its accreditor earlier this year because of concerns about its finances. At the time, the college’s leaders said they were exploring real estate transactions and strategic partnerships to try to bolster its position.

Options the college pursued were said to include a merger with another institution, according to sources familiar with the Boston higher ed market. On Friday, Newbury’s president said in his statement that the decision to close came only after a “tireless pursuit” of multiple options to remain open. Those options included affiliations.

Newbury declined to make officials available for interview Friday. But a review of publicly available data shows the college had been losing enrollment and fighting to bring in money for years.

The college lost roughly half of its enrollment between 2006 and 2017, according to federal data. In 2006, its head count totaled 1,282, but it fell all the way to 620 in 2017. Newbury reported 625 enrolled students Friday.

Adult students declined even more rapidly. In 2006, Newbury enrolled 326 students aged 25 to 64, federal data show. In 2017, it enrolled just 68. For colleges in regions like New England, where the population of traditional college-age students is shrinking, adult enrollments can be crucial.

Newbury posted an annual deficit twice in the three years from 2015 to 2017, according to its most recently available federal tax documents. It lost almost $2.8 million in 2017.

Almost 92 percent of Newbury students received financial aid, with the average institutional award totaling $18,217. Tuition for the 2018-19 academic year stickered at $33,940, meaning the college was offering deep discounts to the students who enrolled.

Meanwhile, the college posted other metrics that might have made prospective students look twice. Its six-year graduation rate was just 34 percent, it reported.

Whether such statistics show a college is serving its students is subject to debate and dependent on context. But the data clearly indicate an institution struggling to enroll students who are willing or able to pay.

Newbury is far from the only small college or university to publicly face closure in recent weeks. Bennett College, a private historically black women’s college in North Carolina, is appealing a decision announced this week by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to yank its accreditation over financial issues. Iowa Wesleyan University said in November it would be seeking new funding in order to keep its doors open.

Back in New England, the College of St. Joseph in Vermont must improve its financial situation by the beginning of April or lose its accreditation. This spring, St. Joseph said it might lack the money to stay open, then decided it would continue operations. But the college and its students are back on the ropes, as loss of accreditation would be a serious blow -- accreditation is required for a college’s students to be able to access federal financial aid, which is also a key source of funding for colleges and universities.

Newbury College’s closure is likely to resonate in the Boston area both because of its contrast with Mount Ida and because the institution had striking similarities to Mount Ida. The two institutions’ campuses are just five miles apart. They likely competed for some of the same students, observers say.

Still, some aren’t ready to say further consolidation in the Boston area or in New England is inevitable.

“The individual institutions that have been impacted and are being impacted each had very unique characteristics and challenges,” said Richard Doherty, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts.

Some colleges in the market facing a bleak financial future have also tried to merge, Doherty acknowledged. Wheelock College did so last year when it agreed to merge into Boston University.

After each merger or closure, other institutions have tried to learn, Doherty said.

“I don’t feel as if it’s a foregone conclusion we’re going to be seeing a string of these,” he said. “I think schools have tried to take away many lessons learned and have tried to adapt and take a look at where their recruiting efforts are focused and where their academic offerings are directed and try to adapt.”

Newbury’s history, of course, is filled with adaptations.

And its leaders seem to have made one more adaptation -- in the way they went about winding down operations.

“That will make a huge difference for lots of folks who are going to be impacted by this,” Doherty said.

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Health sciences final exam question on gangs, race and graffiti rubs some the wrong way at Cal State Long Beach

Mon, 2018-12-17 08:00

California State University at Long Beach is reportedly investigating an instructor who included a question about gangs and graffiti on a health sciences final exam after a student publicly complained it was racist.

In between two questions about sexually transmitted diseases, lecturer Matt Fischer asked the following on the 75-question take-home exam:

“Which of the following gangs generally do the least graffiti? A. Black. B. Asian. C. Hispanic. D. White.”

A student tweeted a picture of the question last week, saying, “A taste of the kind of idiocy I’ve been dealing with in my health science education class. This is a question on my final exam … [I don't know] what the answer is or what it’s supposed to be.”

A taste of the kind of idiocy I’ve been dealing with in my health science education class. This is a question on my final exam... pic.twitter.com/bQJgkmmXSb

— Jim... James... Jimothy? (@Al_RamBro) December 11, 2018

The student didn’t immediately allege that the question was racist. But he said he didn’t recall discussing gangs in class and didn’t understand how gang graffiti was relevant to a class on adolescent health for future high school teachers.

Commenters soon swarmed the post and connected the student’s dots, explicitly calling the question racist and demanding that Fischer explain himself.

In later public comments, including to the local Press-Telegram, the student, Alex Rambo, said, “The question was pretty offensive” on racial grounds. Rambo, who is black, reportedly said he felt that Fischer, who is white, was targeting minorities.

Rambo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Via email, Fischer said Sunday that his course includes questions about health that "teachers may encounter during their careers as secondary educators." Topics include social and emotional learning, conflict resolution, recognizing and reporting suspected abuse, drug use, and bullying, he said.

The query in question referred “to one of the leading causes of death (homicide due to gang violence) among teens,” Fischer added, saying that the answer is Asian gangs. “Asian gangs are less likely to tag/write graffiti as they typically do not claim a geographical territory as some other gangs may.”

A 2016 analysis of decades of state homicide data by The Sacramento Bee found that youth murders peaked during the gang violence of the early 1990s and then dropped off, but that more than 100 children are still murdered in California each year. The most common motive for youth murders was gang violence, the analysis also found. Among cities, youth murders were most common in Compton, inland from Long Beach. And there was a racial dimension to the findings: blacks were nine times as likely as whites to be a youth murder victim and Hispanics were nearly three times as likely as whites to be a youth murder victim. Nationally, homicide is the third leading cause of death for people aged 10-24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But even if gangs are a public health issue of national and especially local import, it appears Fischer may not have done enough to connect those dots for his students. He’s since said that he never intended harm with his question and that he’ll change it going forward. On Sunday, however, he said that gangs were discussed in class as being a contributor to youth homicide rates. The phrasing of the question -- the only one on gangs -- required students to do some of their own research on the topic on the take-home exam, he said.

Jeff Bliss, a university spokesperson, said last week that Cal State Long Beach “takes these allegations seriously.” The Press-Telegram reported that Fischer’s dean had asked the health sciences chair to investigate the matter.

Fischer told Inside Higher Ed that in today’s teaching and learning environment, things can go “‘viral’ without consideration of context/facts/intent.”

While he would have preferred Rambo “share his concerns directly with me during class or via email/phone call, the First Amendment affords Mr. Rambo freedom of speech extending to his social media accounts,” he said. “I completely respect this freedom.”

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UNC board rejects plan for Confederate monument

Mon, 2018-12-17 08:00

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors on Friday rejected a plan to build a new history center on the Chapel Hill campus to house Silent Sam, a Confederate monument widely seen on the campus as a symbol of white supremacy.

Chapel Hill's campus board and its chancellor, Carol Folt, proposed spending $5 million on a history center that would house the monument and also tell the story of race at the university. Folt has said she would prefer for the statue to be moved off campus but that North Carolina law generally bars moving such monuments off campus. Protesters toppled the statue in August (at right), and many fear that restoring it to its old location would simply lead to more attempts to bring it down. Student and faculty groups have demanded that the statue be kept off campus, and some teaching assistants have held a grading strike to protest the plan to bring the statue back, even in a history center. There were also protests outside Friday's meeting. Many have also questioned spending money to house and protect the statue.

In the days prior to the Board of Governors vote, group after group issued statements condemning the plan to build a new facility to house Silent Sam. Many academic departments and student groups have offered various reasons why the statue should not return to campus in any form. Many have noted that it was placed there by champions of white supremacy at a time when monuments to the Confederacy were being promoted throughout the South not as a tool to remember history, but as a means to glorify Jim Crow society's restrictions on black people.

The department of English and comparative literature issued a statement, for example, that said in part, "As researchers and teachers, we encourage our community to continue to learn about the historical context and narratives that surround Silent Sam and other similar memorials and monuments of the early 20th century. These are far from simple remembrances of fallen soldiers. Erected in 1913, the Memorial to Civil War Soldiers of the University, as it is formally entitled, is inscribed to those Confederate soldiers 'whose lives taught the lesson … that duty is the sublimest word in the English language.' That duty, as Julian Carr described it during his speech at the statue’s unveiling, was to 'save the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South … and today, as a consequence the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon is to be found in the 13 Southern states.' Carr dwelled proudly on his own 'pleasing duty' of brutally horsewhipping an African American woman, whom he referred to as a 'negro wench,' for allegedly 'publicly insulting' a white 'Southern lady.' His intent for the monument was thus explicitly one of racial oppression and white supremacy."

Few statements attracted the attention, however, as did one from black former athletes at Chapel Hill. Their statement noted that they understood how hard it would be for current athletes to speak out. So the former athletes said, "We agree with the 500-plus member Black Student Movement statement that black students and faculty are often used by the university as 'accessories.' We were a part of that sacrifice and branding. We helped to tell the story that Carolina is the 'University of the People.' We love UNC but now also feel a disconnect from an institution that was unwilling to listen to students and faculty who asked for Silent Sam to be permanently removed from campus. The recommendation is embarrassing to us who proudly promote UNC."

Critics of the idea of returning Silent Sam to campus generally said that they were pleased with the outcome of Friday's meeting. But it is unclear whether they will be pleased with the eventual plan the board develops.

But some politicians and at least one Board of Governors member have called for the statue to go back to its place on campus, outside.

The Board of Governors discussion of the issue took place in closed session. After that, a few board members cited the cost of the proposed history center, and safety issues as part of their reason to reject the proposal. But it remains unclear what the board will do.

Folt, the Chapel Hill chancellor, issued a statement Friday in which she said she was pleased to see the university have more time to consider all of the issues involved. She reiterated her view that an off-campus location for Silent Sam would be best.

In some of her past statements on Silent Sam, Folt's expressions of sympathy for fans of the statue have angered some on campus who viewed her as taking a "both sides have equal arguments" approach. In an August statement, for example, she noted the frustrations and anger of those who want the statue off campus, but also added that "we also hear daily from our community, citizens from across North Carolina and the country, who have always seen the statue as a memorial to fallen soldiers, many of them family members. I hope we can agree that there is a difference between those who commemorate their fallen and people who want a restoration of white rule. Reconciliation of our past and our present requires us to reach deep into our hearts and across the state to the people we serve."

Friday's statement stressed the pain caused by the statue. Of Silent Sam, she said, "Put here more than one hundred years ago, our community is carrying the burden of an artifact, given to us by a previous generation in a different time. The burden of the statue has been and still is disproportionately shouldered by African Americans. No university today would even consider placing such an artifact on their campuses."

On Sunday, a small group of protesters appeared at the site where Silent Sam stood until being toppled. The group, Heirs to the Confederacy, describes its role this way on Facebook: "Heirs to the Confederacy is devoted to the preservation of our Southern heritage and traditions, Confederate monuments and memorials, the honor of our flags, and the Cause of the Confederate States of America; freedom, the preservation of the Constitution, and the memory of the Old Republic, America as it was meant to be."

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New study shows college selectivity impacts women’s careers, home lives

Mon, 2018-12-17 08:00

A new study indicates that women’s careers and family lives are significantly impacted by the selectivity of the college they choose to attend. These effects are not the same for men.

The study, “Elite Schools and Opting-In: Effects of College Selectivity on Career and Family Outcomes,” was conducted by three economics professors, Suqin Ge at Virginia Tech, Amalia Miller at the University of Virginia and Elliot Isaac at Tulane University, and is being circulated as a white paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The researchers utilized data from the College and Beyond Survey, a 1996-97 survey of college graduates at 34 “highly selective” colleges. The survey also included administrative student records from the colleges.

Three cohorts of students were surveyed -- those who entered college in 1951, 1976 and 1989. Ge, Miller and Isaac chose to focus on the 1976 cohort because they were “middle career” at the time of the survey, the life stage they were focused on.

“In historical context, the women of this cohort are at the forefront of the fifth cohort of 20th century American female college graduates … this cohort was the first to aspire to achieving ‘career and family’ at the same time,” the study read.

Their sample included 9,917 women and 9,738 men, and they excluded data from individuals who attended one of four historically black colleges and universities, individuals with missing income information and individuals with missing college application information.

Over all, researchers found "important earnings effects of attending a more selective school on women’s career outcomes, but not on men’s."

Attending a selective college increased a woman’s probability of working by 2.3 percent but had virtually no effect for men. College selectivity also influenced women's pay: women who attended a selective college earned 13.9 percent more than women who didn't.

The data also showed that having a mother who worked was a strong predictor of earnings for women, but not for men. In addition, attending a selective college increased a woman’s likelihood of obtaining an advanced degree by 4.8 percent.

The effects on marriage for women were “striking.”

“Attending a college with a 100-point higher school-average SAT score reduces the chances of being married in their late 30s by 3.9 percentage points,” the study read.

The findings contradict popular assumptions of women's behavior.

“Attending a more selective college also lowers a woman’s probability of marriage while improving her spousal characteristics, possibly because it makes her set a higher threshold for accepting a marriage offer,” the study read. “These results argue against applying a causal interpretation to the popular descriptions of women with elite educations ‘opting out’ of the paid labor force to devote more time to their families.”

They study also noted that despite dropping out of the work force to raise families, women who attend selective colleges still earn more than those who don't.

"Women who attend highly selective schools will not all persist in the labor market after marriage and childbearing, but these departures are not induced by their choice of college," the study read. "In fact, married women with children are the group whose earnings are improved the most by attending a more selective college."

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Survey finds increasing interest in skills-based hiring, online credentials and prehire assessments

Fri, 2018-12-14 08:00

Recent headlines have touted the move by several big employers to stop requiring new hires to hold college degrees. Meanwhile, a drumbeat of studies show increasing labor market returns for degrees, and employers say they value the critical thinking skills of liberal arts graduates.

These seemingly oppositional trends are both real and on display in a new report from Northeastern University’s Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy. The report sheds light on a technology-enhanced shift in the way workers are being hired in the knowledge economy.

The traditional college degree remains by far the best ticket to a good-paying job, a well-established fact bolstered by a survey the center conducted. But the results also suggest that college leaders should pay close attention to the gradual, ongoing transformation of HR functions as well as to nascent changes in how employers view alternative credentials, particularly of the digital variety.

“The way employers relate to higher education is shifting,” said Sean R. Gallagher, the center’s executive director and the report’s author. “It’s employers getting savvier.”

The center surveyed 750 hiring leaders at U.S. employers in August and September. The results are nationally representative, spanning a wide range of industries and organizational sizes.

Most respondents reported an increase (48 percent) or no change (29 percent) in how they value educational credentials in hiring during the last five years. Just 23 percent reported a decline.

A majority (54 percent) of those surveyed agreed with the statement that college degrees are "fairly reliable representations of a candidate’s skills and knowledge." And 76 percent agreed that completing a degree program is a “valuable signal of perseverance and self-direction” in a job candidate.

Likewise, 44 percent of respondents said the level of educational attainment required or preferred for the same job roles had increased over the last five years. Most who responded that way (63 percent) indicated that additional education requirements were due to evolving skills needed for jobs, rather than the mere availability of candidates with better credentials, a finding that argues against conventional wisdom on credential inflation.

In addition, 64 percent of respondents said the need for "continuous lifelong learning" in the future will drive demand for higher levels of education and more credentials.

While the traditional degree’s currency is secure for now, the survey found that employers increasingly are moving toward hiring based on applicants’ skills or competencies. And while it remains small, the market for nondegree microcredentials is growing rapidly, according to the survey.

The report points to the increasing use of data and analytics in hiring, noting that another study found 30 percent of HR departments reporting some form of analytics usage this year, up from 10 percent a few years ago.

As a result of the increasing reliance on artificial intelligence and analytics in hiring, the report predicted that employers are likely to change their preferences for credentials.

One area where this is happening is the rise of skills-based hiring that often de-emphasizes degrees and pedigrees. These typically technology-enabled strategies involve employers defining specific skills that are necessary for the job and seeking them in candidates. As examples, the report points to IBM's New Collar Jobs project and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Talent Pipeline Management Initiative.

The survey found that 23 percent of respondents are moving in this direction, with another 39 percent reporting that they are exploring or considering such a move.

Going Online and Micro

Online credentials have become mainstream, according to the report.

“Both the education market and the HR function are less digitized than many other sectors,” Gallagher said, pointing to finance and health care as examples. “It’s coming to education.”

The survey found that 71 percent of HR officials have hired someone with a degree or credential that the employee earned completely online. However, 39 percent of respondents viewed online credentials as being second class, saying they are generally lower quality than those completed in person. Yet more than half (52 percent) said they believe that in the future, most advanced degrees will be earned online.

That hunch is backed by data the Urban Institute released earlier this week about master's degrees.

The rate of enrollment in online master's courses or programs has increased substantially since 2000, the analysis found, and is more common than in bachelor's degree programs. In 2016, the institute said 31 percent of students in master’s tracks reported that their program was entirely online, with 21 percent reporting that they took some online courses.

“You can’t ignore online,” Gallagher said.

The growth of digital learning options has spawned a variety of short, subdegree awards. These microcredentials include digital badges, MicroMasters from edX and Udacity’s Nanodegrees.

Awareness of these credentials in HR departments remains relatively low, according to the survey, yet still substantial. For example, 29 percent of respondents said they had encountered MicroMasters in the hiring process, and 10 percent said they had hired a candidate who had earned one. Another 36 percent said they had never heard of the credential from edX.

Microcredentials currently appear to be functioning as a supplement to degrees, the survey found. But that could change. A majority of respondents (55 percent) agreed with the statement that microcredentials are “likely to diminish the emphasis on degrees in hiring over the next 5-10 years.”

Test Before Hire

The biggest near-term challenge to the reliance on degrees in hiring, the survey found, is the use of prehire assessments such as online tests given to job candidates.

More than a third of respondents (39 percent) expect these assessments to have an impact on hiring within three years, and nearly 70 percent within five years.

Those findings build on a report Ithaka S+R released earlier this week in an attempt to map the “Wild West” of prehire assessment.

The report documented a “wave of rapid innovation” in this space. The interest is being driven in part by the perceived gap between job candidates’ competencies and employers’ needs, the group said, which in turn is contributing to a growing distrust by employers in “signaling credentials” such as college degrees, industry association endorsements and state licensures.

“We are at the early stages of a new market, a new industry,” said Martin Kurzweil, director of the group’s educational transformation program. Kurzweil co-wrote the report with Meagan Wilson, a senior analyst there, and Rayane Alamuddin, associate director for research and evaluation at Ithaka S+R.

As an essay published by Inside Higher Ed earlier this week noted, prehiring assessment faces regulatory and legal challenges in this country, including the risk of lawsuits alleging that such screening of hires is discriminatory. Yet plenty of experimentation with the practice is occurring, said Kurzweil.

The activity around prehiring assessment brings both promise and risks, he said. Kurzweil is excited about the prospect of “hiring people based on what they can do rather than their pedigree.” But the stakes are high, he said, particularly as profit-seeking companies move into the space.

The marketplace for prehiring assessments already is flooded, according to the report. Content and software across assessments and employers' human resources systems often are incompatible. And higher education administrators and industry association officials tend to be out of touch with new methodologies used by employers and assessment providers.

The time is ripe for college leaders to play a role in shaping the use of prehire assessments, Kurzweil said, such as contributing to norms around how the tools are used.

“We think higher education should be more engaged in what’s happening,” he said. “This is a historical force that’s sweeping through. It’s going to happen.”

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Why is Bennett College losing accreditation while St. Augustine's University is keeping it?

Fri, 2018-12-14 08:00

Two historically black institutions in North Carolina faced similar situations heading into this month’s Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges annual meeting.

Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh and Bennett College in Greensboro had both been on probation for two years because of concerns about their finances. SACS does not allow for a third year of probation, so each institution was facing one of two outcomes: have its probation lifted or lose its accreditation.

The first possible outcome would mean the college or university would have its accreditation extended, continuing its access to all-important federal student aid. The second would jeopardize almost any institution’s ability to keep its doors open, as loss of accreditation means loss of access to those federal funds, along with the revenue they provide and the vast majority of students who depend on federal financial aid to help them pay for college.

On Tuesday, St. Augustine’s learned its probation was being lifted after it had assuaged the accreditor’s concerns. Bennett, on the other hand, was not able to satisfy SACS and is in line to have its accreditation revoked. Bennett’s president has pledged to appeal the decision at a February hearing, and the college is now widely soliciting donations to strengthen its standing. It will continue to be open and accredited during its appeal.

Even before the outcome of any appeal can be known, the cases of the two institutions demonstrate the long and difficult paths that struggling colleges and universities travel as they fight to shore up their finances -- and the way those paths diverge during the complex and sometimes opaque crucible of the accreditation process.

The two cases also stand as the latest examples of the stresses mounting on many different small tuition-dependent institutions, especially those with a mission of serving low-income students. St. Augustine’s and Bennett’s struggles resonate particularly strongly because of the unique place HBCUs hold in the American higher education landscape, and because Bennett counted itself as one of only two historically black colleges for women. But other types of institutions are cracking under pressure as well.

“I’m afraid we’re going to see more and more small private institutions either close or get dropped from membership or merge, which is what I would hope they would do so their legacy is not lost,” said Belle Wheelan, SACS president, in an interview Wednesday.

Can Bennett Be Saved?

The most immediate question is whether Bennett College can stave off the loss of its accreditation. The college has scrambled to raise additional money since learning of SACS’s decision Tuesday.

Bennett leaders aim to raise at least $4 million to $5 million over the next 45 days, they said during a Thursday press conference. They are appealing to donors, foundations, corporations and other organizations, both nationally and locally, to give.

College leaders said they had been improving this year in key metrics like enrollment, retention and student loan default rates. And the college had already been touting recent philanthropic successes, like steadily increasing fund-raising totals.

Bennett recently reported a surplus of $461,000 after annual deficits climbed over $1 million just a few years ago. College leaders told the News & Record they are currently projecting a surplus again, of about $300,000.

In light of those indicators, Bennett’s leaders were surprised when SACS decided to revoke the college’s accreditation. They still aren’t clear how much they would have to raise to keep the college accredited, although they hope to know more after receiving a final letter in January detailing the accreditor’s decision.

“The standard speaks to fiscal stability, and it’s judged in many different ways,” said Phyllis Worthy Dawkins, Bennett’s president, during Thursday’s press conference. “There’s no one way to demonstrate fiscal stability, which is why we thought we were demonstrating fiscal stability.”

Leaders have asked how much money they need to raise, said the chair of the college’s Board of Trustees, Gladys A. Robinson. The accreditor has not answered, she said.

“Now our challenge is bigger, and yet simply based on our need to lower the balance on our line of credit,” Robinson said. “We are disappointed that SACS does not seem to understand the issue of HBCUs, and especially an African American woman’s HBCU that continues to survive and strive and improve regardless of economic situations.”

Bennett and its students were severely affected by the Great Recession, Robinson said. The African American community lost much of its wealth, and the population Bennett serves, African American women, was hit particularly hard, she said.

The college will be able to submit new information about newly secured funding as part of its appeal, said Wheelan, the accreditor’s president.

“We never enjoy dropping an institution,” Wheelan said. “We worked with them for a number of years while they were on probation, and we provided guidance. They followed it. They just weren’t able to raise the money to demonstrate stability.”

The college has not discussed a shutdown, according to its president, Dawkins. It is appealing SACS’s decision, and she indicated it would initiate a lawsuit if it loses the appeal.

Bennett wouldn’t be the first institution to sue SACS over having its accreditation pulled. Paine College, a private HBCU in Augusta, Ga., was placed on probation in 2014. SACS eventually determined Paine hadn’t satisfied deficiencies in areas related to finances and the control of sponsored research or external funds. The college decided to appeal, and the dispute eventually ended up in federal court. A judge ruled earlier this year that SACS could withdraw the college’s accreditation.

Paine then indicated it would seek accreditation elsewhere, with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. It currently has candidate status with TRACS.

A college spokeswoman later said Bennett was confident its appeal would be successful. She also said that the college boosted its new student enrollment by 15 percent this fall to 243 students, and that many of the new students are strong academically.

Similar Cases With Different Outcomes

Bennett and St. Augustine’s are located about 80 miles apart in neighboring North Carolina cities. Their recent histories and some publicly available data show some striking similarities between the two.

Both colleges are affiliated with mainline Protestant churches, and both experienced presidential turnover within the last five years. Bennett is related to the United Methodist Church. St. Augustine’s is one of only two historically black institutions affiliated with the Episcopal Church.

Dawkins started at Bennett in 2015 as provost, then was promoted to interim president the next year. Her predecessor was at the college for three years. Everett B. Ward spent a year as interim president at St. Augustine’s after trustees ousted the university’s former president, then he took over the position on a permanent basis in 2015.

The two colleges each lost more than a third of their enrollment since 2010, federal data show. Bennett’s total enrollment dropped from 780 in 2010 to 493 in 2017. St. Augustine’s fell from 1,508 to 974.

Both institutions also posted losses on their latest available federal tax forms -- which do not cover their results for the most recent year. Bennett posted a deficit of $977,000 in the year ending in June 2017 after losing $1.1 million the previous year. St. Augustine’s lost $1.7 million after recording a deficit of $723,761.

The similarities even extend to financial relief recently granted by the federal government. Bennett and St. Augustine’s were both among eight private institutions receiving deferments on loans from the U.S. Department of Education.

The loan deferments, under the HBCU Capital Finance Program, were announced earlier this year. Bennett has quoted the benefits of that deferment at $9 million over six years. Ward has said St. Augustine’s deferment will save it $1 million per year over the same period.

Key differences exist between the two institutions, however. Although they are in nearby cities, Bennett faces a different local market in Greensboro than St. Augustine’s does in Raleigh. And Bennett has a history of financial trouble that includes a 2011 probation because of concerns over its financial stability.

“In Greensboro they have so many institutions around them that they’ve struggled for years,” Wheelan said. “This is not the first time they’ve been in trouble. It’s just the first time they have not been able to come out of it.”

Other key differences between the colleges include the fact that Bennett remains much smaller than St. Augustine’s at a time when many college leaders think small institutions need to grow larger in order to survive. Bennett has reported a significantly smaller net asset base on tax forms than has St. Augustine’s -- $14.2 million versus $30.4 million.

Bennett is not alone as a women’s college facing financial issues. Nonelite women’s colleges from Sweet Briar College in Virginia to Mills College in California have struggled financially to different degrees in recent years.

Nonetheless, outside observers could be forgiven for being surprised that Bennett is having its accreditation pulled while St. Augustine’s is not.

From the student perspective, Bennett costs less on average, has a higher graduation rate and sees its students go on to earn a slightly higher median salary 10 years after entering college, according to the College Scorecard. Bennett's average annual net price for financial aid recipients is listed at $22,730, its six-year graduation rate is 43 percent and the median salary of its students 10 years after enrolling is $30,600. St. Augustine’s average annual net price is listed at $26,415, its graduation rate is 28 percent and the median salary of its students 10 years after enrolling is $27,300.

On their own, those statistics aren't likely to seem attractive to many students -- regardless of which institution they favor. Both institutions trail many other colleges and universities by those metrics. They also posted debt levels for graduates that are significantly higher than the national average. The median federal loan debt for undergraduates who completed their degrees at Bennett was $38,243, excluding private loans and Parent PLUS loans. It was $36,500 at St. Augustine's.

In addition to concerns over St. Augustine’s financial issues, SACS had cited in its probation disclosure a standard about the institutional effectiveness of the university’s education programs.

St. Augustine’s also found itself the target of intense speculation over its future earlier this year after leaked documents called into question its trajectory. The leaks were summarized in an HBCU Digest report saying issues with enrollment, finances, personnel turnover and disagreements about leadership left those connected to the university increasingly worried about its accreditation.

“I am formally informing you and the Board of Trustees that in my expert opinion, I do not feel that St. Augustine’s University is ready or prepared for the upcoming accreditation site visit, and unless drastic measures are taken immediately, the institution will lose its accreditation and be closed,” a consultant wrote in a July 2018 letter to Ward, HBCU Digest reported.

That worst-case scenario did not come to pass. St. Augustine’s followed a plan of action that involved fund-raising, management improvements and cost cutting in order to keep its accreditation, said its president, Ward, in an interview Wednesday.

St. Augustine’s worked to streamline and automate accounting functions with new software, he said. It cut costs in areas including travel and administration.

“I think the university administration, along with our external partners, alumni and students, made a concerted effort,” he said. “Our alumni became extremely engaged and have continued to be very involved in recruitment and fund-raising. They have helped us in those areas extensively, as well as coming on campus and mentoring students and just being very engaged through our national and local alumni organizations.”

Ward has also thanked the Episcopal Church for administrative, advisory and financial support during the university’s probation. The university has been through rounds of job cuts as well.

Nonetheless, St. Augustine’s enrollment is down significantly this fall. It was about 800, according to Ward. That would be a drop of nearly 20 percent from numbers reported last fall.

“We attributed that decrease to the perception that was reported in some media outlets that the university was on the verge of closing because of accreditation issues,” Ward said. “When we realized targeted enrollment would not be met, we moved into a budget modification, which was approved by the board, and began to look at how we would reduce costs and live within our budgetary means.”

Ultimately, St. Augustine’s showed its accreditor that it had improved its finances to a degree that demonstrated financial stability now and beyond this year, Wheelan said. The same could not be said for Bennett.

“They were not able to demonstrate that they were financially stable,” Wheelan said. “They hadn’t gotten there yet, according to the board and the board’s opinion.”

Small Colleges Continue to Struggle

Bennett’s and St. Augustine’s recent accreditation struggles fit into a larger landscape where private liberal arts colleges in North Carolina face intense pressure. Many of those pressures echo those felt in other states around the country.

North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities is a 36-member group of private colleges accredited by SACS. Half of the students from North Carolina attending its member colleges are eligible for federal Pell Grants, said the group’s president, A. Hope Williams. Pell Grant eligibility is widely considered a proxy for low-income status.

At the same time, competition for students across state lines can be fierce. For example, Oglethorpe University in Atlanta recently unveiled a pricing strategy under which it will match in-state public flagship tuition rates for students from all states who meet certain requirements -- meaning some of the students who are most attractive to colleges will pay no more in tuition to attend Oglethorpe than the listed sticker price of the flagship in their home states.

In that environment, nonwealthy, tuition-driven institutions face significant difficulty balancing their own need for revenue with students’ ability and willingness to pay.

“So many students need assistance in terms of being able to make it possible for them to attend college,” Williams said. “One of the challenges that private colleges and universities have is the amount of institutional aid that they need to provide to make college affordable.”

The challenge is all the greater for a women’s college like Bennett, which starts with a smaller number of prospective students it can recruit.

“It is such an incredible institution for young women of color,” Williams said. “At the same time, that is a challenge in terms of its applicant pool. One of its most wonderful attributes can also be a challenge in the outreach for applicants.”

Bennett will likely have to make substantial changes to attract students and differentiate itself from other small liberal arts colleges and even other HBCUs, according to Marybeth Gasman, director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Even if it does not win a SACS appeal, Bennett could follow Paine College’s path and apply with another accreditor, like TRACS. Paul Quinn College, a historically black college in Texas, also took that course after SACS pulled its accreditation almost a decade ago.

Today, Paul Quinn bills itself as the country’s only urban work college, and its name surfaces alongside some of the most in-vogue, forward-looking ideas like credential programs and online courses. Its president was even rumored last year to be targeted by Texas Democrats who wanted him to run for governor.

Gasman cautioned against viewing the struggles of Bennett and St. Augustine’s solely through the lens of their identity as HBCUs. Most HBCUs in North Carolina are public, she said in an email. North Carolina A&T State University, for example, is one of the strongest HBCUs in the nation, she said.

“I do think that the experiences of St. Aug and Bennett are indicative of the struggles of some small, under-resourced, church-related HBCUs and small” predominantly white institutions, she said. “One of the most difficult issues for these two colleges is demonstrating what is unique about them and why students should attend them given the lack of resources that they suffer from. Many small colleges across the nation -- HBCU or not -- are faced with this issue.”

Indeed, SACS placed several other institutions on probation at this month’s meeting. Prairie View A&M, a public historically black institution in Texas, was placed on probation for failure to comply with an accrediting standard on federal and state responsibilities. The action was related to state audit issues, Wheelan said.

The accreditor placed other institutions that are not HBCUs on probation. Johnson University in Knoxville, Tenn., was placed on probation for a standard related to federal and state responsibilities. The university provided inadequate evidence to SACS that it had addressed an issue with reporting dating back to its 2016 financial aid audit, said Johnson’s provost, Jon Weatherly. The university has taken steps to resolve the issue.

Loyola University of New Orleans was placed on probation over its finances. Loyola issued a statement saying it has already boosted enrollment, improved retention, raised money and put in place spending reductions to address the accreditor’s concern.

SACS also removed several institutions from probation, including Johnson C. Smith University, an HBCU in Charlotte, N.C., that had been under scrutiny over concerns about its financial stability. Johnson C. Smith had been placed on probation a year ago.

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Catholic University fires professor over relationship with assistant he hired

Fri, 2018-12-14 08:00

Catholic University announced Thursday that it has fired Stephen McKenna, a tenured associate professor of media and communication studies, for having a sexual relationship with a graduate student whom he hired as an assistant.

A university statement said he hired the assistant when he was serving as a department chair. The assistant was a graduate student in another department, and they became sexually involved shortly after she was hired. The university received an anonymous tip about the allegation last year but was unable to get detailed information. But then the employee contacted the university about the relationship.

Catholic referred the matter to a faculty committee, which determined that McKenna had violated university rules with the relationship and that dismissal would be an "appropriate" response. The university's board this week acted on the faculty committee's report and fired McKenna.

University policy explicitly bars any romantic relationships between faculty members or administrators and those they supervise. The relevant policy states, “A consensual dating or sexual relationship between a staff employee, a member of the faculty (including adjunct faculty) and a student, or an employee that the staff/faculty directly supervises, is prohibited when the staff/faculty has any current or foreseeable professional responsibility for the student or the employee … Voluntary consent by the student/employee in such a relationship is suspect, given the fundamental nature of such a relationship.” The policy also states that “violation of this prohibition may result in disciplinary action including dismissal for unprofessional conduct.”

The university statement on his dismissal said that McKenna admitted to the relationship "but argued that dismissal was inappropriate."

Many colleges and universities that dismiss faculty members in these circumstances do not draw attention to the decisions. But the statement from Catholic said that the faculty committee that reviewed McKenna's case "encouraged the university to publicize the matter widely, in the interests of accountability and deterrence."

UPDATE: Via email on Friday morning, McKenna offered this statement: "Although respect for the confidentiality appropriate to the disciplinary process limits what I can say, I think people would look differently at the dismissal if they knew that it was public knowledge that this relationship lasted for four years after we were co-workers, that I sought and was granted an annulment of my marriage from the church, and that we had planned to marry in the church. Furthermore, the person in question repeatedly told the university that the relationship was fully mutual and consensual, and she wanted none of this -- neither for me to be fired, nor any harm to come to me and my family. Most people at the university believe a different sanction would have been far more appropriate. Those who know and respect me here know a person quite different from the one portrayed in the university's communications. People tell me they are shocked by the nature and tone of the announcement."

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British universities are accepting more students with low grades

Fri, 2018-12-14 08:00

The proportion of British students being accepted to university courses with lower school-leaving grades is at one of its highest rates ever, according to a report from the country’s admissions body.

Data released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show that 84 percent of applicants who achieved grades equivalent to CCC at A level, or lower, gained a higher education place this year, up five percentage points since 2013. For those with A-level points equivalent to DDD, the acceptance rate tipped past 80 percent.

There is a similar trend for applicants taking other qualifications such as Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) schools: acceptance rates for students who received three BTEC passes have risen from below 50 percent in 2013 to 70 percent this year.

The figures follow controversy over the ballooning use of unconditional offers -- where students are guaranteed a place regardless of what grades they achieve in exams -- which a separate UCAS analysis released last month showed was now at a record level.

That analysis also suggested that unconditional offers were being made at increasing rates to those with lower predicted grades, while there was also further evidence that those holding such an offer were more likely to miss their forecast grade profile.

According to the latest UCAS report, the share of applicants over all who missed their predicted A levels by three or more grades has gone up 3.3 percentage points since 2017, and 11.5 percentage points since 2013.

And placed applicants with lower grade profiles have, on average, a larger difference between their achieved and predicted grades, the figures show.

All the data are likely to be seized on by critics of the current system, with some believing that universities that are under pressure to fill places and maintain tuition income are accepting too many students with lower grades.

Clare Marchant, UCAS chief executive, said that while many applicants were accepted on the strength of factors such as interviews or personal statements, universities “must be mindful of accepting applicants with lower grades” and such students “must be appropriately supported during their studies, so they can flourish on their chosen course.”

She added that UCAS was also “working with schools and universities to improve the accuracy of predicted grades, exploring the different ways teachers make predictions, and how they are used by admissions teams when making offers,” with a “good practice guide” due to be published in the new year.

Elsewhere, a separate chapter of the report reveals that although the proportion of British 18-year-olds entering higher education continues to rise over all, there has been a fall in the entry rate for some regions for the first time since tuition fees rose.

In the east of England, the northeast, and Yorkshire and the Humber, there was a drop in the share of 18-year-olds entering higher education of between 0.1 and 0.7 percentage points compared with last year. “These decreases come after five years of consistent entry rate increases for every region of England from 2012 to 2017,” the report says.

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Updates on college fund-raising campaigns

Fri, 2018-12-14 08:00

Starting Out:

  • Hamilton College is starting a campaign to raise $400 million by 2023. Top goals include financial aid and living/learning communities. To date, $191 million has been raised.
  • Lawrence University is starting a campaign to raise $220 million by 2020. Top goals include financial aid, with a push to meeting the full need of all admitted students. To date, $165.5 million has been raised.
  • Saint Louis University is starting a campaign to raise $500 million by 2021. So far, $303 million has been raised with student aid and academic programs among the priorities.

Finishing Up:

  • University of Alabama at Birmingham has raised just over $1 billion in a five-year campaign for which $1 billion was the goal. Top priorities included the business school, student aid and athletics.

Track college fund-raising campaigns at Inside Higher Ed's database.

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University of California challenges Elsevier over access to scholarly research

Thu, 2018-12-13 08:00

Lots of universities grumble about the price and restrictions of their subscription contracts with publishers, but few have the negotiating power of the University of California System -- which single-handedly accounts for almost 10 percent of the research output of the United States.

The UC system, which paid over $10 million this year to the publishing giant Elsevier in journal subscription fees, is unhappy with the status quo. So unhappy that when the UC system’s current five-year contract with Elsevier ends on Dec. 31, officials say, they are willing to put access to Elsevier journals on hold until the university gets what it wants. An Elsevier representative said that the publisher is working hard to reach an agreement with the UC system before its contract expires.

Millions of dollars in potential fees are not the only leverage the UC system is using against the publisher. A recent email from the University of California, Los Angeles's provost to the campus urged the faculty to consider declining offers to review articles for Elsevier and not publishing in Elsevier journals "until negotiations are clearly moving in a productive direction."

Unlike some other universities that have canceled, or at least threatened not to renew, their bundled journal subscription agreements with publishers, the UC system is not primarily protesting rising prices, though it would still like to see its fees reduced. The California system wants to fundamentally alter how it pays for journal content from publishers like Elsevier and to accelerate open-access publishing in the process.

The UC system, which is made up of 10 campuses and 100 libraries, wants to do more to make publicly funded research freely accessible to the public, said Ivy Anderson, associate executive director of the California Digital Library, who is involved in the negotiations with Elsevier.

Currently, final versions of research papers are often made available to the public some time after they have been published, said Anderson. The UC system wants journals to make this research immediately available to all.

To facilitate this, the UC system is pursuing a new kind of arrangement with Elsevier and several other publishers, Anderson said. Rather than paying separately to access subscription journals and make articles immediately available in OA, the UC system wants to roll both costs into one annual fee, which could potentially be higher than what the UC system currently pays for subscriptions only.

This arrangement, called a "read-and-publish" deal, would mean that the public would have immediate, free access to final versions of UC research papers, with no additional article-processing fees to the UC system.

In pursuing such an arrangement with Elsevier, the UC system is “trying to fundamentally change the ecosystem of scholarly communication,” said Rick Anderson, associate dean for colleges and scholarly communications in the Marriott Library at the University of Utah.

While other libraries might be interested in pursuing such deals, “few have enough negotiating leverage to really push it in the way that UC can,” Rick Anderson said. “The UC system is actually somewhat like a European country in that it’s a single system that encompasses a relatively large number of institutions.”

But whether the university system will actually pull it off is unknown. The UC system and Elsevier have been locked in negotiations since the summer and seem to still be at odds about how to move forward.

A ‘No Deal’ Scenario

The clock is ticking for the California system and Elsevier to reach a systemwide subscription deal before the year's end.

The UC system wants to reach an agreement with Elsevier as quickly as possible but is prepared for the “possibility that we may be without a contract for some period of time," said Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, university librarian at UC Berkeley, who is also involved in the negotiations with Elsevier.

The system is prepared for that eventuality. Numerous town hall meetings and discussions between professors, faculty senates, librarians and lead negotiators have taken place over the past few months, and each of the system’s 10 campuses is prepared for the possibility of a "no deal" scenario, said MacKie-Mason.

Faculty members have been largely supportive of the UC system’s negotiation strategy, MacKie-Mason said, though he acknowledges some academics are concerned about losing access to key new research.

If an agreement is not reached before the deadline, then as soon as Jan. 1, 2019, the 69,000 faculty members and 238,000 students in the UC system may no longer have access to new articles published in over a thousand Elsevier journals, including Lancet and biology journals published through Cell Press. Access to older articles through Elsevier’s Science Direct platform will continue uninterrupted.

Stephen Floor, an assistant biology professor at the university's San Francisco campus, confirmed that the faculty largely supports what the system is trying to do.

“Obviously we would prefer no disruption, but we have a network of colleagues and systems in place from which we can request articles,” said Floor. “It’ll be an inconvenience, sure. But I think we understand the importance of what they’re trying to achieve.”

Floor said that communication with faculty about the negotiations has been good, but it’s now up to faculty members to “take that message and broadcast it to everyone else who might be affected.”

Jonathan Eisen, a biology professor at UC Davis, agreed that "not being able to read some papers will be awkward," but, he said, "there's a lot to read out there that isn't in Elsevier journals."

The push by the UC system for immediate open-access publication is an important one, said Eisen. "Prepublication versions of articles are frequently different from final versions, and there are many things that are supposed to be in archives that are in fact, not," he said.

Open to Some Experimentation

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Ivy Anderson hinted that Elsevier may be willing to try out a new open-access fee arrangement with the UC system, but that this would not look like the read-and-publish deal the system is seeking.

Gemma Hersh, vice president for global policy for Elsevier, said in an interview Wednesday that the company is one of the leading open-access publishers and continues to be receptive to working with universities to explore different open-access options.

"There's a lot of experimentation in the market, and we've been engaged in pilots for a number of years," said Hersh. "We're always open to testing and trialing something new, and we have a very broad menu of options."

However, the publisher does not want to shift from individual article-processing fees to a fixed annual rate for the immediate open-access publication of an unknown number of articles. "Our principle is that we would like to be paid for the articles that we publish," said Hersh.

Hersh said the popularity of open-access publishing is growing, but she noted that the subscription model is also growing and remains popular.

A letter from Philippe Terheggen, managing director of scientific, technical and medical journals at the company, to Elsevier journal editors who work within the UC system, sheds some light on the publisher’s concerns about the UC system’s proposal.

“We understand what [the California Digital Library] wants to accomplish and are working hard to construct an agreement that enables CDL to retain access to the highest quality subscribed content at a fair price and promotes OA in a realistic context,” wrote Terheggen.

He continued, “CDL wants to pay towards its authors publishing OA for the world to read freely but only pay a nominal amount to access the world’s subscribed content. This model could work if this were an all-OA world. But the reality is that the world’s subscribed content comprises 85 percent of scholarly output and continues to grow. Therefore, while [CDL] wants to fund OA, which we fully support, it still needs to pay to access subscribed content.”

A Model for Read-and-Publish Agreements

The UC system wants its read-and-publish contract with Elsevier to be a model that can be adopted by other institutions, and many university librarians have expressed interest in negotiating similar deals, Ivy Anderson said. She thinks about the contract as more than just a new type of agreement that supports both reading and publishing.

“It’s really a way to try and move the journal ecosystem from a subscription basis toward an open-access basis in an orderly but accelerated fashion,” she said.

The idea of read-and-publish agreements is “fairly new,” said MacKie-Mason. In the U.S. there is only one university that has so far secured a read-and-publish deal with a publisher -- the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which announced such an arrangement with the Royal Society of Chemistry in June.

“It’s certainly the case that major publishers have not embraced these types of agreements,” said MacKie-Mason. “Springer Nature has been more agreeable to contracts of this sort, but many are moving slowly, or actively opposing.”

Greg Eow, associate director for collections at MIT Libraries, is supportive of UC’s attempt to get a read-and-publish deal in place with Elsevier.

“The global movement towards open access has dramatically gained momentum in recent months,” said Eow. The launch of Plan S in Europe -- an initiative to support open-access publishing -- has helped to align funders, researchers, publishers and libraries in their commitment to an open-access future. But there continues to be debate about the best path forward.

Eow believes that read-and-publish agreements should be just one of a number of different open-access models being explored so that institutions can “learn from what works and iterate forward.”

Curtis Brundy, associate university librarian for scholarly communication and collections at Iowa State University, said there is growing awareness in the U.S. of the potential of read-and-publish agreements to rapidly increase open-access publishing. Iowa State is set to announce its first read-and-publish agreement with a publisher by the end of the year and has several more in the works for 2019.

“Read-and-publish agreements eliminate publisher double-dipping, where the library continues to pay full-price subscriptions while the publisher collects article-processing charges from authors,” said Brundy. “A read-and-publish agreement brings those payments together and even allows the library to negotiate a reduced price for article-processing charges.” The deals also “give libraries a fairly straightforward way to convert their subscription spend, which currently supports paywalls, to support for open access.”

If the UC system successfully negotiated such a deal with Elsevier, it would be a “landmark agreement, not just in the U.S., but globally,” said Brundy. “China is interested in read-and-publish-style agreements. Germany and Sweden have refused to sign a deal with Elsevier until they get such an agreement. So the pressure is mounting on Elsevier.”

The Impact of a New Type of Arrangement

It remains to be seen whether the UC system and Elsevier will be able to find any common ground, said Greg Tananbaum, a consultant at SPARC -- an organization that promotes open access and tracks "big deal" cancellations. While reaching an agreement with Elsevier may be tricky, Tananbaum suspects the UC system may have much better luck with nonprofit and learned society publishers.

Tananbaum said that what the UC system is trying to do is unusual. "Historically, libraries have been vocal in their dissatisfaction with the lock-in and spend associated with many forms of the big deal," he said.

“In this instance, UC is not simply bemoaning the status quo; they are working proactively to change it,” said Tananbaum. “This effort is not limited to simply trying to hold the line on pricing. It also seeks to reset the university’s relationship with publishers, promoting a partnership approach to create a glide path to OA.”

Lisa Hinchliffe, professor and coordinator of information literacy services at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said that many institutions would be interested in read-and-publish deals if the terms were favorable to them.

“The concern is that any read-and-publish deal is likely to have a higher price than an institution’s current read deal,” said Hinchliffe. “Given that [article-processing charges] are usually not paid from a central fund, adding this expense to the library’s budget could be a challenge even if the overall cost to the institution declined as expenses were bundled.”

Some libraries, wary of entering into big deals with publishers, may feel that read-and-publish agreements are just a “new version of the big deal,” said Hinchliffe.

She said she would not be surprised to see Elsevier offer some kind of read-and-publish deal “if Elsevier can negotiate favorable terms for Elsevier.”

However, she said it is “unlikely that what is favorable for Elsevier will also be considered favorable to an institution, or consortium of institutions.”

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State law likely conflicts with DeVos's Title IX proposal

Thu, 2018-12-13 08:00

Three years ago, Kevin Kruger, head of the country’s association for student affairs professionals, wrote to The Washington Post over his concerns with new state laws around campus sexual assaults.

At the time, states such as California and New York were responding to the same pressures that led to the Obama administration’s efforts to crack down on sexual violence at colleges and universities. The states passed legislation that both cemented the rules from Obama’s Education Department into state law and went further, adding new definitions of consent and more. Many of the laws applied to both public and private institutions.

This “patchwork” approach to complex sexual assault adjudication, Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, then wrote in the Post, could create bureaucratic nightmares for institutions.

Kruger’s warning appears to have proven prescient, though likely in ways he didn’t imagine.

Last month, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released draft regulations around the federal gender antidiscrimination law, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, in a drastic shift from the approach that Obama championed.

States with their own sex assault laws on the books now have to figure out whether they conflict with the proposed federal regulations, which, once approved, would carry the force of law. In part, because the regulations were just published to the Federal Register for the required 60-day comment collection period, institutions in such states are in a holding pattern while the state systems vet the regulations. They’ve been instructed to do nothing, change nothing.

But the laws will almost certainly clash with the Education Department’s proposal if it remains as is.

For instance, the regulations indicate that administrators should no longer investigate episodes of sexual violence that happen off campus grounds, or if the misconduct doesn’t fall within the scope of an “education program or activity.” Under the Obama rules, which came in the form of a Dear Colleague letter, colleges still needed to investigate incidents that happened off their property. Recently, a Harvard University student sued the institution for investigating a rape he allegedly committed in a city outside Cambridge -- a case that all but assuredly would not meet the proposed federal guidelines.

New York’s Enough Is Enough law, backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, specifies that a university can still investigate a Title IX complaint even if a victim decides to back out of the process.

The federal regulations, however, state that information from the parties can’t be used at all unless they submit to cross-examination during a hearing.

It’s these sometimes subtle inconsistencies that have not been studied at length. But Brett Sokolow, president of the Association of Title IX Administrators, said he believes in addition to Illinois, California and New York, laws in Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota and Virginia may have conflicting provisions.

“Nobody is making moves yet, but all are moving to study the issues and formulate recommendations,” Sokolow said.

Liz Hill, Education Department spokeswoman, said that department acknowledges certain state laws might dictate institutions do more than what Title IX requires, “but that does not inherently create a conflict between state and federal law.”

Hill did not address the specific examples that were provided to her by email of possible contradictions between state law and the regulations.

“The department is focused on enforcing Title IX to ensure equal access to education free from sex discrimination,” Hill said.

State Laws Explained

Of the state laws, Enough Is Enough attracted headlines partially because of Cuomo’s promotion of it (and several celebrity endorsements -- Lady Gaga publicly supported the law) but also because New York was one of the first states, along with California, to make the controversial affirmative “yes means yes” the standard for consent.

The administration’s regulations, despite being against the “spirit” of the New York law, as several lawyers described it, don’t actually interfere with the consent piece of Enough Is Enough. Joseph Storch, associate counsel with the State University of New York, said the new regulations do not define consent, though the department did narrow the definition of sexual harassment. The new federal definition of harassment is “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the recipient’s education program or activity” from simply “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.”

Storch said since the department had never defined consent under Obama, states such as California and New York did. So while DeVos's proposal does not cover many of the cases that the states' laws do, the regulations do not interfere with the state approach.

The proposed regulations also force colleges and universities to turn over all available evidence to both parties if it’s submitted to institutions during an investigation. But the New York law had given institutions a bit more latitude. If someone provided an email, for instance, that wasn’t necessarily relevant to the case, then officials could exclude it from the case file, said Andrea Stagg, deputy general counsel for Barnard College in New York.

Stagg said the provision in the regulations could deter parties from handing over information that they wouldn’t want the other side to see in a case. It would also create much more work for the colleges, which would likely be forced to redact many more documents than they had previously, as required by federal privacy laws.

New York State and City both also have sexual harassment laws regarding workplaces that could complicate Title IX proceedings. The definitions of harassment in these laws exceed the new federal definition. Stagg pointed out that this could create confusion if, for example, a student was employed by the university and was harassed. And under the regulations, only certain officials must report instances of sexual harassment -- but many more are obligated to do so under the New York employment laws.

“It’s problematic,” Stagg said.

California’s definition of sexual assault, as included in the Donahoe Higher Education Act, is also much broader than the federal definition. It is as follows:

“Sexual harassment” means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, made by someone from or in the work or educational setting, under any of the following conditions:

(a) Submission to the conduct is explicitly or implicitly made a term or a condition of an individual’s employment, academic status, or progress.

(b) Submission to, or rejection of, the conduct by the individual is used as the basis of employment or academic decisions affecting the individual.

(c) The conduct has the purpose or effect of having a negative impact upon the individual’s work or academic performance, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or educational environment.

(d) Submission to, or rejection of, the conduct by the individual is used as the basis for any decision affecting the individual regarding benefits and services, honors, programs, or activities available at or through the educational institution.

The University of California System was perhaps the most vocal in criticizing DeVos’s plan right away, issuing a statement last month denouncing several of the projected changes, including that institutions must now hold live hearings to adjudicate sexual violence cases and the adjustment to the sexual harassment definition. California's governor, Democrat Jerry Brown, in 2017 vetoed a bill that would have put the Obama-era rules into state law. At the time, Brown said that state and federal actions may have unintentionally led to due process being violated, and that he would instead convene a "group of knowledgeable persons" that would help develop a sexual harassment policy for the state.

Suzanne Taylor, the interim systemwide Title IX coordinator, said in an interview that UC is preparing to provide comment to the department and that it is studying how the regulations may diverge from the state’s laws.

A University of Illinois System workgroup is also evaluating the same issues, according to spokesman Thomas Hardy. The system, in a statement earlier this month, said officials will “carefully review” the proposal and promised “safe and welcoming” institutions for students and staff members.

Multiple state officials said in interviews they were also confused by a part of the regulations that allowed for institutions to punish students for sexually related misconduct that the department might not deem sexual harassment under the new definition.

The regulations mandate that colleges and universities completely dismiss Title IX claims that do not rise to the level of sexual harassment. But institutions could pursue separate proceedings, though their codes of conduct, though these look entirely different from a Title IX process -- they’re often much more informal.

“If the whole point of this is due process for respondents [students who are accused of misconduct], proceeding with other conduct code processes rather than Title IX doesn’t seem consistent with that objective,” Taylor said.

University Response and More

As one lawyer who specializes in Title IX phrased it: colleges and universities are “in panic mode.”

Many small institutions -- with generally small budgets -- have historically never needed to hold hearings to manage the few Title IX complaints they receive. But now they will potentially need to find officials willing and versed enough to be on a panel, a costly and time-consuming endeavor.

Students will also be represented by an adviser in such hearings, which critics of DeVos have likened to imposing courtroom trials into a college setting.

“Due process is historically a flexible construct,” Storch said. “The Supreme Court has told us to balance the gains in truth-seeking that more process would bring to a determination against the costs and inefficiencies that additional due process would bring.”

“The proposed regulations do not contain any analysis of the due process balance and simply seem to add additional processes, which, in total, are well beyond what any court decision or statute has ever required, without any consideration of cost, inefficiencies and the additional challenges of addressing violence through the formal process.”

Some colleges and universities, again, particularly the small ones, rely on a “single-investigator” model that the new regulations forbid, in which one official handles the entire Title IX inquiry and, in many cases, makes a recommendation whether an assault occurred.

Natasha Baker, a San Francisco-based lawyer and partner at Hirschfeld Kraemer LLP, who advises colleges in Title IX matters, said she would tell her clients (she hasn’t received many direct questions yet) to wait until the regulations are officially approved.

While some of the proposals make her nervous -- Baker pointed to the possibility of needing to chase conduct code violations and not Title IX -- she said that the department will need to respond to the comments submitted to the Register, which could take a while.

One group, Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses LLC, which counsels colleges on Title IX, has already requested that DeVos extend the comment period from 60 to 120 days in light of the busy schedules most institutions have around winter finals and the end of the semester.

“The department is going to have to sort it out,” Baker said of possible conflicts. “Even if you don’t have a state law definition, this concept of a separate conduct code proceeding is going to cause a lot of confusion.”

Some commentators and Title IX practitioners predict that congressional Democrats, who recently got more leverage by winning majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives, will try to pressure the Education Department to back down on some of its proposals, said Sokolow of the Association of Title IX Administrators.

On Nov. 29, more than 75 House Democrats urged DeVos to withdraw the regulations.

“This rule is a blatant attempt to silence survivors of sexual harassment and violence and force them back into the shadows. A year after the Me Too movement went viral, we will not tolerate a system that shames and blames victims,” the representatives wrote in a letter to DeVos.

The department will almost inevitably be sued once the regulations are final, said Peter F. Lake, a law professor and director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University.

If that happened and the actual implementation of the regulations was delayed, it could push the timeline into the next general election into 2020, Lake said -- he and others think there’s a possibility the new rules never take effect.

“No one has ever attempted to force a federally mandated court system on colleges,” Lake said. “It’s absolutely unprecedented.”

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Author discusses his new book about going to college in the '60s

Thu, 2018-12-13 08:00

The cover of Going to College in the Sixties (Johns Hopkins University Press) features a photograph of a protest at the University of California, Berkeley. Among the photographs in the book that might have been more emblematic of the book’s contents was the one at right promoting a film, Tall Story, that starred a (pre-radical days) Jane Fonda and Anthony Perkins and was a farce about campus romance, reflecting what Hollywood believed Americans thought about when and if they thought about higher education.

The book argues for a broader view of higher education during that decade than one focused on protests and social movements. "Business as usual" was also going on, argues John R. Thelin, a professor at the University of Kentucky who is one of the leading historians of American higher education. Thelin, who was himself a student during the ’60s, responded via email to questions about his new book.

Q: Many will assume from the title of your book that they are going to read only about protests and chaos, but that's not your focus. Why did you decide to focus much of the book on the "business as usual" part of higher education during the ’60s?

A: The tumultuous events of the ’60s made a big impact on students -- but often in causing reconsideration of values and ideas, not necessarily as activists or radicals. For most undergraduates, the consequential factors in going to college in the ’60s were crowding and competition, not political activism. I devote attention to the highly visible and volatile events about campus protests and chaos and then place them in context with other groups, events and activities taking place within a campus -- and across the American higher education landscape. There was, after all, a very strong and pervasive “higher education establishment” during the 1960s, along with the prevalence of traditional campus groups ranging from Greek life to ROTC and big-time sports. It is the interaction of the protests with customary campus life that created the distinctive atmosphere of conflict and contradictions, which each college student had to acknowledge and resolve.

The change in the mood of American higher education from 1960 to 1969 was incredible and surprising -- from optimism and confidence to exhaustion and uncertainty. If I were asked for a eulogy or epitaph for the decade, I would note that much of the ’60s happened in the ’70s. The countercultural innovations that took root in the late 1960s continued and grew into the mid-1970s. I also think the cultural legacies surpassed the political changes.

Q: How did the college curriculum most notably change during the decade?

A: This varied. There were a small number of exciting, new experimental colleges such as University of California, Santa Cruz; Hampshire College; Stockton State and Ramapo College of New Jersey. But nationwide most innovation by undergraduates and faculty took place on the margins, creating new courses and new majors within the existing curriculum. Central to this was interest in various popular culture forms including movies, fiction, design and expanded interpretations of social and political history. Meanwhile, there was relatively little innovation in professional schools, business schools, health sciences, engineering, law and medicine.

Q: Many institutions first experienced meaningful desegregation during this era (and Northern institutions that were not de jure segregated saw their first serious numbers of black students). How did higher education respond to these changing demographics?

A: My interpretation is that many college students of the decade showed great interest in and commitment to racial desegregation, civil rights and social justice. This included participation and activism. However, going beyond nominal racial desegregation and some curricular innovation, I do not think there was much progress in genuine racial integration on most campuses. To the contrary, groups such as a Black Student Union often expressed frustration and discontent with the character of the major colleges and universities. I was surprised in looking at national enrollment data for the decade at how overwhelming the percentages of white students were whether in 1960 or in 1969.

In terms of equity and social change, I think the most overlooked initiatives and innovations were those made by and for women as students and as members of the academic community. Most campus political figures dismissed or underappreciated women, relegating them to secondary roles. Women faced formal and informal exclusion in academics and activities, including varsity sports and a range of other groups. The unexpected consequence of this exclusion was that women as undergraduates learned their lessons well in matters of campus politics and rights. Their early efforts would pay off dramatically and substantially in the 1970s and on.

Q: How did the development of federal aid for college (most notably the Higher Education Act in 1965) change higher education?

A: The Higher Education Act of 1965 had minimal effect on college affordability. It did put in place a political and legislative groundwork that would blossom in 1972 with the massive federal programs of the Higher Education Act Reauthorization, including the BEOG (Pell Grants) and expanded loan programs. Student financial aid, especially grants, remained uncertain and limited in the 1960s. Some colleges took the lead in extending need-based financial aid. And California and Massachusetts and New York, among others, led the way in creating tuition assistance grant programs that were portable to colleges within the state. These various initiatives were ahead of the federal role during the 1960s.

Q: Why do you think public understanding of the decade in higher education is frequently only about the protest movements?

A: First, the enhanced technology of media coverage such as genuine nationwide network broadcast coverage was available. Second, news media understandably gravitate to those campuses whose events and participants were graphic, different and controversial. Third, the accumulated momentum of campus demonstrations and activism accelerated around 1967 and was captivating for audiences cutting across numerous regions and categories.

Q: You were an undergraduate at a politically engaged institution (Brown University) in the 1960s. How did that experience -- both protests and the business as usual -- affect your life?

A: Brown University was hardly chaotic or volatile when contrasted to the University of California, Berkeley (where I started graduate school in 1969). I do think at Brown students were informed and concerned. But serious activism probably gravitated to an important significant minority. Brown was distinctive in 1968-69 for comprehensive and highly organized initiatives for curricular reform that students prompted the faculty and administration to take seriously -- and formally approve. At Brown and many campuses, most undergraduates were concerned about their future prospects, ranging from graduate and professional school, whether or not to serve in the military, or possible job interviews. These had to be reconciled with changes in values and ideals, but not necessarily discarded.

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In male-dominated profession, a woman leads lineman instruction at Metropolitan Community College

Thu, 2018-12-13 08:00

There was not a single woman who climbed poles and repaired electric lines in Missouri until Susan Blaser became a journeyman line worker with Kansas City Power and Light in 1992.

Nearly 30 years later, there still are few women line workers in Missouri and across the country, but Blaser, the lead instructor of Metropolitan Community College’s electric utility line technician program, is trying to change this by encouraging more women to consider entering the profession.

Students can earn an associate degree or certificate through the program, which prepares them for careers as meter readers, utility workers, linemen and wind technicians. The certificate program can be completed in three semesters and the associate degree in four semesters.

“I realized that this was a career opportunity that females could do,” Blaser said.

Although electrical line work continues to be viewed as a “man’s field,” Blaser developed the line tech program at Metropolitan with an eye toward recruiting more women. She started her career as a meter reader for the Kansas City utility company and became an apprentice in line work in 1989. Blaser spent 10 years working in the field and eventually also started training apprentices.

Blaser said the death of her father caused her to re-evaluate her career goals -- she decided she wanted to educate and train future line workers. She began coordinating the line technician program at MCC in 2008 -- one year after the two-year degree program started at the college. Blaser, who had developed the apprenticeship program at Kansas City Power and Light, modeled the curriculum for MCC's program on a first-year apprenticeship.

“My goal was to target females and minorities and bring them over to the program so they could have the same opportunity I got,” she said, noting that women are currently only 9 percent of the industry.

There are significant gender gaps in earnings for careers that require certificates, industry certifications and occupational licenses. Male-dominated occupations such as construction, repair services, engineering and computing, a category which line work falls under, have higher earning levels than female-dominated fields such as health care, education and administrative support.

A New America report released earlier this year showed that 25 percent of workers with a certificate in construction, installation and repair fields made between $50,000 and $75,000 a year, and 13 percent made more than $75,000 a year. Meanwhile, only 7 percent of workers with a certificate in a health-care field made between $50,000 and $75,000 a year, and just 5 percent made more than $75,000 a year. Women comprise 84 percent of health-care workers, while 96 percent of workers in construction and repair occupations are men.

When women are employed in these male-dominated professions, the pay gaps are smaller and are similar to gender pay gaps across all occupations, Mary Alice McCarthy, director of the Center on Education and Skills in the education policy program at New America, said in an email.

“That’s likely due to the effect of union contracts, which provide some wage equality and protection for women,” McCarthy said.

Line workers who start their careers in a union apprenticeship can make between $28 and $32 an hour and receive a wage raise about every six months, Blaser said. Apprenticeships last about three to five years.

A journeyman line worker can make about $45 an hour, she said.

Blaser said her daughter, Randi, who went through the program at Metropolitan, is employed as a line worker by Ameren, an Illinois electric company, and is on track to earn $100,000 in her first year on the job.

There’s also a growing demand for more skilled workers to become line technicians.

In the next three years, about 15 percent of the lineman industry, which is about 15,000 employees nationally, will be eligible for retirement, Blaser said.

“My program can only make 40 students a year,” she said. “That’s hard to keep up when you got several thousand a year retiring.”

There are a few federal initiatives that focus on increasing women's access to male-dominated fields. One initiative that does this is the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations grant program from the U.S. Department of Labor. Grants have been awarded to nonprofit organizations that work in specific industries such as the Chicago Women in Trades and Oregon Tradeswomen Incorporated, Katie Spiker, senior federal policy analyst with the National Skills Coalition, said in an email.

But Spiker said more could be done to encourage women to pursue these fields.

"Federal policy should also make childcare more affordable, improve access to transportation for workers to get from their home to work to school or help them afford steel-toe boots or a set of tools for the first day of work," she said.

Blaser also tries to encourage women to consider line work by not only promoting the wages but pointing out that after line workers put in a hard day of work, they can go home and enjoy spending time with their families.

"It's not like I can take my work home at 4 p.m.," she said.

Blaser’s own family is full of line workers. In addition to her daughter, her husband is in the profession, as is her son, who also went through Metropolitan’s program. Blaser’s daughter is now the second female line worker employed at Ameren. The first female line worker was Jodie Reinhart, who was also trained by Blaser at MCC.

“Susan wasn’t easy, and I had to earn her respect,” Reinhart said. “She told me, if you want to do this you have to be tough, and I understand why she was tough on me now.”

Reinhart was 38 when she enrolled in Blaser’s class and had her own challenges as an adult student who was also working for a Walmart distribution center at the same time she attended the college. But after Kansas City Power and Light turned down her initial application, Reinhart said, she was determined to become a lineman.

“People are always pretty amazed that this is what I do,” Reinhart said. “People ask me, ‘Are you a linewoman?’ I say, no, I work hard to be a lineman.”

Still, encouraging women to pursue a career as a line worker isn’t easy.

“Getting females is difficult,” Blaser said. “One good year, I had three. I typically get one to two women a year.”

Blaser said she’s also been able to encourage more men of color to join the program. It's the women, though, who tend to have more concerns about what they perceive they can do as a line worker. Some women assume they can’t do the work because they’re a certain height or weight, she said.

“Even with men, I’m going to teach them how to rig and work smart and work hard,” Blaser said. “That was taught to me when I went through my apprenticeship. I didn’t have the man strength, but I had the woman’s wisdom to learn how to do it right.”

Jacqueline Gill, president of the MCC Blue River and MCC Business and Technology campuses, said Blaser’s presence is the institution's best recruiting tool.

“Encouraging young women and people of color is a possibility,” Gill said. “We know they must see themselves in that position. When they see someone like Susan, she’s our best marketing tool.”

Blaser said few women even consider line work a career possibility, because they aren’t encouraged by their parents or high school counselors. When she visits high schools, she finds that most teachers and counselors don’t promote skilled trades or utility work. Instead, Blaser reaches out to high school athletic coaches to help pass the word along. She also visits high schools to promote Metropolitan's program and encourages principals to guide qualified students to the program.

Blaser said word of mouth is the best way potential students learn about her program.

High school coaches know the women who want to do more “hands-on” or physical work and don’t plan to spend years earning multiple degrees at a university, she said. “They’re probably one of my biggest sponsors.”

It’s not always easy for a woman to enter a workspace that has been and continues to be dominated by men. When Blaser started her career, she adapted to working with men who felt she didn’t belong in the field -- and they learned to adapt to her presence, she said.

“I was the 13th female to attempt an apprenticeship at Kansas City Power and Light,” Blaser said. “All the others had failed, so there wasn’t a good track record. There were people there who didn’t want me there, and they were explicit … some of the old guys gave me grief.”

A male co-worker once even slipped a sexist letter in her personnel file. The letter read that she "should be home cooking brownies and taking care of my kids. Not doing line work," she said.

Blaser used humor to deal with the men who didn’t want her around. But she wasn't all smiles; she made a point of holding her ground by dyeing her work gloves and bags pink to signal that women could do the work. She proudly notes that she’s never had an accident in her entire time on the job.

Blaser said she tells the women in her class to have a good attitude, roll with the punches and not to take comments or jokes co-workers make about their gender personally. She said male line techs have become more accepting of women co-workers over the years.

“I had to prove to these guys I could do this,” Reinhart said. “I told them I didn’t want no special treatment. I’m a lineman just like the guys. I want to do what you’re doing.”

She said some male students enter her class convinced they’re better than any female student or student of color.

“I don’t get a lot of those, and to me, that’s how they were raised,” she said. “I'm not going to change that attitude.”

Most male students see Blaser leading the program and gain a respect for women in the industry, Gill said.

Blaser has also been invited to other lineman training programs to talk to male students about how to interact with women in the workplace.

Despite their small numbers, there is a community of women line workers online and on social media, such as the Women in Linework Facebook page, where they share information and support each other.

“There are more and more women doing it, and that’s kind of exciting,” Reinhart said. “I don’t think it’s for every woman, and it’s not for every man. You can’t get in it just for the money. You have to love what you’re doing, because there are days when it’s snowing, raining, ice coming at you, and you have to be out there in it and fixing the power.”

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Colleges add new academic programs

Thu, 2018-12-13 08:00
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Emails reveal vitriol toward Ohio State president, adamant defense of Urban Meyer

Wed, 2018-12-12 08:00

In early August, a 1961 Ohio State University alumnus emailed the institution’s president, Michael V. Drake, with a glowing endorsement of head football coach Urban Meyer. A revered figure among donors and fans, Meyer led the program to a national championship and was undefeated against archrival University of Michigan during his seven seasons in Columbus.

But Meyer had gotten caught up in a scandal (not for the first time). He failed to report that one of his deputies, assistant coach Zach Smith, had allegedly abused his wife on multiple occasions. Meyer was accused of covering up Smith’s misdeeds, and when John Rapach, the alumnus, reached out to Drake, it was shortly after the coach had been placed on leave while the university investigated.

Many of the alumni reaching out didn't much care about the allegations per se, though there was evidence Meyer did in fact try to conceal his role with Smith. Investigators for the university found that Meyer had asked an athletics staffer how to change his phone settings so that only text messages from a certain time would be available. This was following the publication of a story detailing the allegations against Smith. Officials and news outlets that tried to obtain those texts were unable to read them.

“I feel strongly that damaging Urban Meyer will greatly erode our base and myself from loyalty to the Ohio State University,” Rapach wrote to Drake.

Perhaps unwittingly, Rapach summed up the sentiments of dozens of Ohio State devotees who contacted Drake that August, when the turmoil on campus was peaking. Supporters and critics, and even casual observers and those outside the sphere of the university’s athletics, were watching how Drake and the Board of Trustees would react, as some viewed the leaders’ verdict on Meyer as a litmus test: whether enormously successful coaches such as Meyer could avoid a harsh punishment despite wrongdoing.

Ultimately, Meyer, who is retiring, was slapped with a three-game ban, which many viewed as light punishment. Before and after that announcement, though, Drake was inundated with a flood of vitriolic and impassioned emails, illustrating the pressure the public applies to university executives during these types of controversies -- when they are weighing a decision that could cost the institution its reputation or millions of dollars (Ohio State’s football program generates $90 million for the athletics department annually).

Presidents have long endured similarly rabid campaigns for coaches, notably this year, too, when the University of Maryland, College Park, president and the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents was grappling with whether to fire head football coach DJ Durkin after a player died, followed by reports of abusive behavior by athletics staffers.

Inside Higher Ed filed a public records request and reviewed nearly 600 pages of emails that were sent to Drake for about three weeks in August, from the time that Meyer was first put on leave to when Drake and the trustees suspended him.

While pundits took a range of positions on Meyer, the majority of those who emailed Drake urged him to retain the coach and were quite insistent that he do so.

Common themes emerged in the emails: many of those who wrote to Drake believed that news media was pursuing a “witch hunt” against Meyer, that they were prosecuting him in the court of public opinion without knowing all the facts about Smith and his wife. Meyer’s followers implored Drake to disregard these stories, which in part were a result of rampant “political correctness.” Some nastily implied that Drake should not try to replicate the liberalism of California and the tendencies of University of California, Berkeley, a well-known bastion of progressivism. (Drake previously led another UC campus, not Berkeley.)

At least 20 people threatened to withhold donations, and others likened the scandal to the fallout from Pennsylvania State University and Jerry Sandusky. And one man simply called Drake “an ass clown,” in a call for Drake’s resignation, by far not the only profanity that was sent to his in-box.

One man named Jason Newhouse wrote in a curse-laden diatribe to Drake that Meyer's suspension was not enough.

“Wow, The University of Ohio State really sets the bar high, what a Fucking joke a three game suspension!!!! The Big 10 ever since the whole Penn st ordeal has really really down played everything. Must be real nice to get ALL that money for all your big ten schools and get away with beating your wife and raping women and the University’s involved keep their coaches so basically telling us that this is acceptable behavior,” Newhouse wrote. (All emails quoted here are reproduced verbatim.)

Many others attacked Drake and the institution. Ron Knobbe from Minnesota took advantage of his caps lock when he wrote to Drake to “FIRE THIS SON OF A BITCH URBAN MEYER NOW!!!!” or “I will NEVER, EVER watch another Ohio State University Football Game EVER!”

“I HOPE YOUR INSTITUTION GET'S SUED FOR FRAUD and for COVERING UP THIS MESS. I HOPE YOU GET SUED FOR EVERY DAMNED DIME YOU HAVE OR WILL EVER HAVE!!!!!” Knobbe wrote.

A man named Frank Picozzi was a bit more succinct.

He called Ohio State a “sewer” institution.

A Meyer proponent, Derek Mundt, initially emailed Drake with a relatively polite statement: that he supported Meyer and he hoped that Drake would “do the right thing.” After Meyer’s suspension though, Mundt wrote to him, “Seriously go fuck yourself you SJW weasel.” (SJW stands for social justice warrior, a derogatory way to describe someone who promotes progressive values).

Not every commentator was as ill tempered.

Nicholas A. Jordan, a longtime Ohio State enthusiast, wrote to Drake with a lengthy and deferential justification as to why Meyer should continue coaching, ending with that if Drake had read the letter, “it would be a great honor.”

“I believe that Mr. Meyer is currently the greatest recruiter this university employs. Even his predecessor did not have this success in changing young mens lives. His program has produced more successful students than any other professor on campus -- but this one teaches football. If he were to be let go he would have a dozen offers from programs that will say, ‘we’ve reviewed the investigation and found absolutely no wrongdoing by Urban Meyer’ along with a measure of support for the man,” Jordan wrote.

Alumnus Robert Bulas asked that Drake not “fold” to the “sensationalized media” coverage of the dispute with the assistant coach and his wife.

“I ask that no ‘sacrifice’ is given to the media. Penalties, including suspensions, should only be given to the truly guilty, not as a token to the mob,” Bulas wrote.

Many of those who wrote to Drake seemed to borrow the rhetoric of President Trump that he popularized before and after his election. Multiple commenters decried the Meyer coverage as “fake news” and many more complained about “PC culture.”

“I want a president that is a leader at Ohio State and not a PR liberal California coward,” wrote alumnus Paul Condon to Drake and the trustees. “Myself and others are going to push people we know across many OSU alumni forums to get rid of Drake.”

“I cannot even be professional in this letter and feel better to speak exactly how I feel, tonight was a total embarrassment to be a graduate of Ohio State and watch a president with no backbone cave into a false narrative and national perception,” Condon wrote after the press conference announcing the suspension.

Regardless of how the public felt about how Drake handled this situation, Meyer won’t stay at Ohio State. He announced he would retire after the Rose Bowl game in January, citing the stress the suspension caused him and mounting health issues.

But Meyer has retired from college football once before, in 2010, when he was head coach at the University of Florida. Plenty of sports commentators are convinced he will return.

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