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New Round In Debate Over Ann Coulter And Her Right To Speak At Berkeley
Inside Higher Ed | News

The fight over whether and when Ann Coulter will speak at the University of California, Berkeley, did not end with the university's invitation to her to speak there May 2. Before that invitation was extended, the university had said it could not allow campus Republican groups to host her talk April 27 because of security concerns, and that she would have to wait until the fall semester. Amid charges that it was denying Coulter a platform due to her views (charges Berkeley officials repeatedly denied), officials regrouped and said they had found a location on campus where she could appear with security assured, on May 2. But the fight is not over. Coulter is vowing to show up Thursday. And she's suggesting that she will sue Berkeley for insisting that she appear May 2 instead. The university, meanwhile, is accusing Coulter and her campus fans of distorting free speech principles, and putting the safety of Coulter and any who might attend her talk in danger. Further, the university is arguing that a commitment to free speech does not mean that it has to agree to let Coulter appear at any time or any place -- and that its objections to her plans have nothing to do with her political views. A letter from a lawyer representing Berkeley College Republicans and Young America’s Foundation -- two groups seeking to bring Coulter to campus -- says that May 2 is an inappropriate date because it comes during the study period after classes end and before final exams. This date was selected, the letter says, to depress attendance and because Coulter will no longer be in the area to give a talk. Further, the letter accuses Berkeley of a pattern of "similar silencing" of guest appearances of conservative thinkers. It cites the planned appearance of former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos in February, which the letter says was "canceled at the last minute on the pretext of being unable to provide adequate security." Berkeley officials defended the right of Yiannopoulos to appear (amid considerable criticism from campus groups for not blocking him from appearing). The university called off the event as it was about to start, as noncampus groups engaged in violent protest and vandalism while student groups engaged in nonviolent protest. In a letter back to the conservative groups' lawyer, Berkeley defended its actions. The Berkeley letter said that the campus groups bringing in Coulter signed contracts with her before conferring with the university about security issues. When Berkeley learned of the invitation, officials were concerned because of the violence that accompanied the Yiannopoulos visit to campus, and violent clashes among protesters in the city of Berkeley more recently. The university rejected the April 27 event based on "mounting intelligence that some of the same groups that previously engaged in local violent action also intended violence at the Coulter event." Further, the university said that -- when security issues are involved -- student organizations don't have an absolute right to host events whenever they want. "Student organizations’ access to event venues on campus is subject to the availability of venues of appropriate size and the ability of the university to provide adequate security," the letter said. "Security risks of each event are evaluated independently. Differences in the management of event security have nothing to do with the university’s agreement or disagreement with the opinions of the speakers, but are based entirely on [the police department's] assessment of the security risks and the measures needed to minimize them." Finally, the university said that it is untrue to say that Berkeley hasn't worked to allow conservative student groups to hold events, even those requiring security. "This semester, UC Berkeley has dedicated more resources -- in the form of staff time, administrative attention, police resources and cash outlay -- to facilitating BCR's [Berkeley College Republicans'] expressive activities than have been devoted to any other student group in memory. Dedicated staff and administrators have spent countless hours, including during weekends and vacations, working to enable BCR’s planned events and to maximize the possibility that those events can occur safely for the participants, the speakers, our students and others in our campus community." Yiannopoulos Plans Return Whatever happens with Coulter this week, Berkeley appears likely to continue to be the focus of debates over free speech and security. Speakers known for their inflammatory statements -- and for attracting both violent and peaceful protests -- are vying to visit the campus. Since Yiannopoulos tried to speak on campus in February, he has gone from a conservative hero to (in some circles) a conservative embarrassment. In February videos circulated in which Yiannopoulos appeared to defend sex between boys as young as 13 and older men. Yiannopoulos has since said that his views were distorted and that he was talking about older teenagers, and that he opposes the sexual abuse of children. But the Conservative Political Action Conference withdrew an invitation for him to speak there, and Yiannopoulos all of a sudden became someone not just opposed by many campus groups for his rhetoric, but by conservatives as well. But Friday, Yiannopoulos on Facebook announced his plans to return to Berkeley. "I am planning a huge multiday event called Milo's Free Speech Week in Berkeley later this year. We will hold talks and rallies and throw massive parties, all in the name of free expression and the First Amendment," he wrote. "Free speech has never been more under threat in America -- especially at the supposed home of the free speech movement. I will bring activists, writers, artists, politicians, YouTubers, veterans and drag queens from across the ideological spectrum to lecture, march and party. "Milo's Free Speech Week will include events on the UC Berkeley campus. We will stand united against the 'progressive' Left … Free speech belongs to everyone -- not just the spoiled brats of the academy … Each day will be dedicated to a different enemy of free speech, including feminism, Black Lives Matter and Islam. If UC Berkeley does not actively assist us in the planning and execution of this event, we will extend festivities to an entire month. We will establish a tent city on Sproul Plaza protesting the university's total dereliction of its duty and encourage students at other universities to follow suit."Editorial Tags: Academic freedomStudent lifeImage Caption: Ann CoulterIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Mon, 24 Apr 2017 07:00:00 +0000

Whittier Law School Shutdown Raises Prospect Of Future Closures And Access For Underrepresented Students
Inside Higher Ed | News

Whittier Law School’s enrollment trends over the last five years reflect the pressures squeezing legal education across the country. Total enrollment at the law school in Orange County, Calif., fell by more than 40 percent since 2011, from 700 students to fewer than 400 this year. Enrollment dropped as students’ interest in studying law plunged across the country -- and as heightened scrutiny forced many law schools to pay more attention to their students’ job-placement and bar-passage rates. Administrators at Whittier were trying to cut the size of the law school in order to find a new balancing point, said Sharon Herzberger, the president of the law school’s owner, Whittier College. They wanted to admit enough students to keep the law school financially sustainable, but also to increase selectivity so they were admitting students with a greater chance of succeeding. And they were working to do so even as the number of applications to law schools shrank. “The enrollment has declined sometimes because of what’s going on in the world and the choices of people to come to the school,” Herzberger said. “And sometimes because of our desire to keep the enrollment down and make sure we’re bringing in students that we feel have the capability of doing well.” That attempted balancing act ended last week, when Whittier College’s Board of Trustees announced that the law school will not enroll any new students. Current law students will be able to complete their degrees, although the exact details of that process are not yet set. Whittier Law School will close. The decision vaulted Whittier into the national spotlight. The law school will be the first with full American Bar Association accreditation to close in recent memory. Its accreditation dates to 1985, and it was founded in 1966, so it does not fit the profile of a new, unestablished institution that might be expected to shutter under normal circumstances. Consequently, some experts believe other schools are likely to follow Whittier Law in closing. Critics of legal education argue that the country still has too many law schools that do not prepare their students for legal careers and instead leave them with high levels of debt they will be unable to repay. Others retort that the number of law schools truly in danger of closing is relatively small, with estimates ranging from 10 to 25 across the country. Others worried that the closure of Whittier Law School takes away an important option from groups of minority and women students who are already underrepresented in the legal field. Those students often go on to practice law locally, so closing Whittier law school deprives nearby communities of important services, they said. Whittier College tried to find ways to keep the law school open, according to Herzberger. Administrators offered faculty members voluntary separation agreements last year, the college president said. They discussed merging the law school with other institutions and talked with others that showed interest in operating it. “Over the last couple of years, the board really looked at lots of different things,” Herzberger said. “Nothing really came to fruition, and the board felt that we should not continue to invite students to enter the law school, that it really wasn’t the fair thing to do.” Decisions were complicated by the fact that the law school’s main campus has been separate from the college’s main campus in Whittier since 1997. The two locations lie about 30 miles apart, making it harder to share services between them or govern them as a single institution. Whittier College ultimately struck a deal to sell the 14 acres of land on which the law school sits for $35 million. The land is the largest parcel in the Costa Mesa area that was relatively undeveloped, Herzberger said. It was purchased by a Chinese investment group, she added, declining to share additional details because of nondisclosure agreements. Law school faculty members sought to block the announcement of the closure, filing in court for a temporary restraining order, which a judge denied. They claimed in court filings that the college sold the law school land at a profit of $13 million and sought to “cut and run” with the money. They also argued in the filings that Whittier College leaders did not follow proper procedures for closing the law school because they had not taken faculty opinion at the law school and college into account. Those characterizations are not accurate, Herzberger said. Whittier’s administration asked faculty members whether the law program could be discontinued. Faculty members returned with reports that did not agree with the idea of closure, Herzberger said. But the Board of Trustees still was not convinced the law school should continue in the future. The law school has not operated at a deficit in recent years, except for when it was buying out faculty contracts, the president said. However, projections showed it would run deficits after this year. Leaders considered relocating the law school but decided against it. The law school draws many students from near its campus, Herzberger said. Whittier’s main campus does not have any room, she added. The college’s decision-making process might have played out differently if the law school hadn’t been on a separate campus, Herzberger said. “It did not help,” Herzberger said. “We could not take advantage of each other.” The faculty members who attempted to stop the closure from being announced are not backing down. They are considering further litigation, according to the lawyer representing them, Hanna Chandoo, an associate at the law firm Stris & Maher LLP and a 2015 Whittier Law School graduate. “Now that the announcement happened and we were able to see the way it happened, it was irresponsible,” she said. “It was sudden. There was no plan. It’s been devastating for many stakeholders: admitted students, current students, alums, faculty, staff.” The National Landscape Observers of legal education said the situation at Whittier Law School fits with the trends that have been sweeping the field. At a basic level, there is sharply less interest today in the education law schools are offering than there was a decade ago, said Christopher Chapman, president and chief executive officer of AccessLex Institute, a former student loan provider that is now a nonprofit organization conducting research on legal education issues. Law schools also face new accreditation pressure. The American Bar Association has taken action against four law schools in the last year over issues including loose admissions policies and low bar-examination passage rates. The pressures could push less prestigious law schools into a death spiral. Their applicant pools are declining, and their top students often transfer to better-known institutions. As a result, they can lose the students they admit who are most likely to pass the bar. That can make it harder for them to increase their bar-passage rates over time, which in turn cuts down on their applicant pools and drives their best students to transfer -- continuing the spiral. Shocks like additional accreditation pressure could lead to more changes in the law school sector, Chapman said. But he stopped short of predicting a wave of closures. “I think closing is fairly drastic,” he said. “It’s at one end of the spectrum. We’ve seen some mergers, some combinations. I think maybe you’ll see more collaborations where schools don’t close, but there might be sharing of facilities or faculty or something like that.” Other moves in the legal education sector of late include William Mitchell College of Law and Hamline University School of Law, in St. Paul, Minn., deciding to merge in 2015. Indiana Tech Law School in Fort Wayne this fall announced plans to close in June 2017. Administrators at that law school, which opened its doors in 2013 and had provisional ABA accreditation, said it had incurred an operating loss of nearly $20 million in its brief existence and they could see no way to attract enough students to be viable in the future. Speculation also surrounds the future of the for-profit Charlotte School of Law in North Carolina after it lost access to federal financial aid over U.S. Department of Education concerns about accreditation problems and misrepresentations made to students. Financial issues have played a role in strife at public law schools as well. The University of Cincinnati placed the dean of its College of Law on administrative leave last month after she said her efforts to close a deficit had upset faculty members. The dean, Jennifer Bard, sued the university Friday, with her lawyers alleging a breach of contract and violations of her constitutional rights. It should be pointed out that a college or university could consider closing its law school for reasons beyond finances or accreditation. Operating a successful law school can add to a college or university’s standing, giving it access to a new set of wealthy donors and helping it build a powerful alumni base. But struggling law schools can hurt a college or university’s prestige. “It’s a reputation thing,” said William Henderson, a professor of law at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law. “Bad employment outcomes, high debt and low bar-passage rates -- that affects the university and how it’s perceived in a marketplace.” Yet the national trends are one thing. How they play out locally is another. Whittier students, faculty members and alumni have resisted the closure of the school. The law school has posted notes from unhappy alumni on its website. Students protested the pending shutdown Friday. They were devastated to hear Whittier College’s president and board announce the closure of the law school with finals fast approaching, said Radha Pathak, an associate professor of law and the associate dean of student and alumni engagement at Whittier Law School. Pathak does not believe the decision to close the law school is being driven by large trends sweeping legal education, she said in an interview. She thinks it is a way for the college to redirect its financial resources. “We are a school that has almost always generated a surplus,” she said. “Next year, however, we were going to be incurring a deficit. And so instead of giving a new administration time to improve outcomes, they decided to discontinue us, and I think it’s very difficult to avoid the conclusion that it was done to be able to use those resources for different purposes.” Pathak recognizes the national skepticism about the value of law schools. But she contends that Whittier Law School is serving students who would otherwise not have access to a legal education. Minority students make up almost 60 percent of Whittier Law School’s enrollment. Its student body is also 60 percent women. “We are providing a high-quality legal education to our students, and some of our students wouldn’t have the opportunity to attend another ABA-accredited law school,” Pathak said. “And those students are doing amazing things when they move on.” Still, it should be noted that Whittier’s bar-passage rate has significantly lagged that of other California law schools. Just 22 percent of its students taking the California bar examination for the first time in July 2016 passed. That was almost 40 percentage points below the passage rate across all of the state’s ABA-accredited institutions. Pathak acknowledged that many of Whittier Law School's students need multiple chances to pass the bar. But she said that does not detract from their accomplishments or legal education. Critics argue such a low passage rate means the law school is not, in fact, helping most of its students. Kyle McEntee is the executive director of the nonprofit group Law School Transparency. He acknowledged that a school like Whittier can offer access to students. “But does the school serve them?” McEntee said. “There’s good they do, and there’s bad they do, and you hope the good outweighs the bad. But I don’t see the argument holding weight with Whittier, and it seems the Board of Trustees agrees.” McEntee predicts more law schools will close. But he said it’s difficult to say for sure because local factors can have a major effect on college and university leaders’ decisions. Another Southern California institution stands as a contrast to the decision to close Whittier Law School. The University of La Verne College of Law is not producing a surplus. It’s been losing money for about five years. But university leaders say they are on their way to changing that after they overhauled tuition practices in 2014. The La Verne College of Law broke with the norm of offering deep tuition discounts to attract top students. Instead, it decided to charge students a flat price and lock in their tuition for three years. Leaders put that model in place because of swirling questions about the cost-benefit analysis students make when deciding to attend law school. Many thought a lack of transparency in law school prices and outcomes was leading to rising and unpredictable student debt levels. The new idea at La Verne is that a student can count on a set price over three years and project their debt upon graduation. The law school is moving toward becoming revenue positive, said La Verne’s president, Devorah Lieberman. She acknowledged that the closure of the Whittier Law School could affect La Verne. “I just think it means that the rest of us who have law schools in the region need to continue to focus on serving those students,” she said. It’s hard to say exactly how, though. Law school closures have been so rare that the effects of this one will be unpredictable, according to the La Verne College of Law’s dean, Gilbert Holmes. “That might enable us to be a little more selective in our admissions,” he said. “But the primary thing we need to think about is the communities that may find themselves not served as well, because they have potentially fewer lawyers to serve them.” Across the country, the law schools that are mostly likely in danger of closing tend to produce graduates who go on to work as solo practitioners or in small firms, said Michael Olivas, the chair of law at the University of Houston Law Center, who served as president of the Association of American Law Schools in 2011. That means low- and middle-income residents in the area will have fewer lawyers available than they otherwise would. What is up for debate is whether or not that’s a good thing. As with many of the issues swirling around law schools, the answers to the debate depend on how you weigh different factors. Closing a law school hurts some students, faculty members and area residents. It could theoretically help some students who would not have been served well by the institution. Closing a law school can help a college or university if that law school had been a drag on its operations. “If it means schools that have no chance of meeting their obligations are dying or being put to death, then I would say the system is working,” Olivas said. “Notwithstanding the pain and struggle the faculty and staff and students at the institution are encountering.” Even many optimistic law school admissions officers appear receptive to the idea of closings. A fall 2016 survey from Kaplan Test Prep of officers at 111 of the 205 ABA-accredited law schools in the country found that 92 percent said they were feeling more optimistic about the state of legal education than they had been a year ago. Even so, 65 percent agreed with the statement that “it would be a good idea if at least a few law schools closed.”Editorial Tags: Business issuesDiversity MattersLaw schoolsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 4Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, April 25, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:00:00 +0000

Controversy Over Alice Goffman Leads Pomona Students To Say Her Alleged Racial Insensitivities Disqualify Her From Visiting Professorship
Inside Higher Ed | News

Alice Goffman’s star fell almost as fast as it rose a few years back, as sociologists divided over her controversial book, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, and allegations that it eschewed crucial disciplinary norms. Some of Goffman’s supporters maintained that her six-year embed with inner-city Philadelphia youths pushed ethnography forward in important ways. But others questioned her unusual methods -- including the destruction of records she said could one day compromise her subjects, to whom she was unusually close. Worse, others questioned the veracity of her accounts, including that police officers made arrests in some cases by identifying visitors to a hospital. The University of Wisconsin at Madison, where Goffman is an assistant professor, in 2015 affirmed its support for her, saying that it had “carefully considered the misconduct claims and found them to be without merit.” That didn’t end the controversy, however. Indeed, it’s followed Goffman to the next stop in her academic career: Pomona College. Goffman continues to work toward tenure at Madison but has accepted a visiting professorship at Pomona as she finishes a new book. As it stands, she’s slated to be there for two years starting in July, teaching quantitative research methods and an elective. But more than 100 self-described “students, alumni and allies” say she’s not welcome at Pomona, citing familiar concerns about academic integrity and less commonly cited ones related to "positionality." Positionality in sociology refers to where one is situated within the social structure being studied, often with regard to gender, class or race. So to sum up the latter set of concerns at Pomona, in telling the story of a poor, predominantly black community, and focusing on its criminal elements in On the Run, Goffman paid insufficient attention to the fact that she herself is white and well educated, from a family of prominent academics. Those concerns are not new. Victor Rios, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, for example, has described Goffman as guilty of employing the “Jungle Book trope,” in which an outsider enters the jungle and lives to tell the tale. Christina Sharpe, an associate professor of English at Tufts University, wrote in The New Inquiry in 2014, “In the neoliberal ‘engaged’ university, On the Run is sure to be a primer for how to do immersive ‘urban’ ethnography. And so continues, into the next generation, within and outside of the university, what Sylvia Wynter has called our black narratively condemned status.” (In fairness, such critiques tend to reserve as much disapproval for Goffman’s enamored, largely white audiences as they do for Goffman herself.) Students Seek Revocation of Goffman's Offer A letter from Goffman’s critics at Pomona to their administration attempts to explain what it means when a body of such criticism exists and a professor is hired anyway. As background, it notes that Pomona recently committed to making attention to student diversity and inclusion tenure requirements, and that the college has no female sociology professors of color. “Goffman’s hire proves the college's failure to wholeheartedly address underrepresentation of faculty of color and Pomona’s institutional inadequacy to recognize and advocate for the best interests of students of color,” the letter reads. The “national controversy around Goffman's academic integrity, dubious reputation, her hypercriminalization of black men, and hypersexualization of black women does not embrace and align with our shared community values.” Demanding the revocation of Goffman’s offer, the letter goes on to say that hiring white faculty members “who engage in voyeuristic, unethical research and who are not mindful of their positionality as outsiders to the communities they study reinforces harmful narratives about people of color.” If “no action is taken, the sociology department will knowingly provide Goffman with a platform to promote harmful research methods” in her courses. Goffman’s appointment to the McConnell Visiting Professor Chair, in particular, which was established to “improve the tolerance and sympathy of individuals for each other and their understanding of their respective motivations,” the letter continues, does “not enhance a culture of inquiry and understanding on campus as we navigate a tumultuous time in our nation’s history.” Rather, it “boasts the framework that white women can theorize about and profit from black lives while giving no room for black academics to claim scholarship regarding their own lived experiences.” In addition to killing Goffman’s offer, the group in its letter demands a meeting with the faculty hiring committee, the dean of faculty and President David W. Oxtoby by Wednesday to discuss “greater transparency in the process of hiring sociology faculty as well as the future direction of the sociology department as a whole.” It also seeks a formal letter from the faculty hiring committee by May 1 explaining why it originally hired Hoffman, the alleged lack of “representative student involvement” in the decision, and future plans for transparency in hiring. The letter concludes by saying that Pomona supports diversity in theory but not in practice, and that students need “authentic mentors.” It asserts that the two other candidates for the visiting position were women of color who study structural inequality, and that Goffman’s hire over them will chill people of color’s involvement in the sociology department “for years to come.” Threatening unspecified “direct action” if no response is received by Tuesday evening, the 128 signatories say their names have been redacted for “individual safety in recognition of the violence inflicted on communities of color by various publications,” including a conservative student newspaper that covers Pomona and other Claremont colleges. Pomona’s chair of sociology did not respond to request for comment Monday. But Audrey Bilger, vice president for academic affairs and dean, said in an emailed statement that Pomona follows “a rigorous process when hiring faculty,” including “a range of activities, from a public presentation to faculty and students to meeting with our faculty diversity officer.” Saying that Goffman also met with students over lunch, Bilger said the college is “pleased that this process resulted in an offer and an acceptance, and we look forward to her joining our very active, vibrant academic community in the fall as a visiting professor.” Mixed Reactions From Outside Pomona Goffman did not respond to a request for comment. Her Wisconsin colleague Eric Grodsky, associate professor of sociology and educational policy studies, said he thinks “highly” of her. Asked about second chances for promising scholars accused of mistakes early in their careers, Grodsky said that as a general principle, “it really depends on the nature of the mistake.” And in Goffman’s case, he said, “it’s not at all clear to me that any mistakes she made should rise to the level of requiring a career-salvaging second chance.” Philip Cohen, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland at College Park who’s previously criticized aspects of On the Run, noted this week that he saw research value in the project, too. As to Pomona, Cohen said, “If I were evaluating her for a position, I would consider the whole story, as well as her current work, and make a judgment. I couldn't say how that might turn out, but I don't see the case for a lifetime ban from academia.” While it’s of course reasonable for members of a campus to oppose a hiring decision, he added, a group of anonymous critics derailing a hire based on “this superficial description of her work and its impact would be unfortunate.” Saida Grundy, an assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at Boston University who once weathered her own controversy over tweets about race, said via email that she’d seen the Pomona letter and thought the students have a point, “particularly about the systemic practices of race and hiring/promotion within our disciplines.” Beyond hiring, Grundy said sociologists have poignantly critiqued the roles of race and “reflexivity” in sociological methods, and that latter is especially important in ethnography, Goffman’s field. “Our tradition of trying to hold white sociologists accountable for more than interpreting black life through a white gaze goes back to [W. E. B.] Du Bois calling out his colleagues for ‘car window’ sociology -- the idea of passing through these communities and never getting out of the (train) car to see beyond the two-dimensional observations of black life,” she said.DiversityFacultyEditorial Tags: BooksSociologyDiversity MattersImage Caption: Alice GoffmanIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 1Diversity Newsletter publication date: Tuesday, April 25, 2017Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:00:00 +0000

Analysts, Colleges Question Blackboard'S All-Of-The-Above Strategy
Inside Higher Ed | News

California State University at Sacramento, like more than a thousand other institutions in the U.S., uses the learning management system Blackboard Learn, but likely not for much longer. Sacramento State is getting ready to upgrade. And like many institutions in its situation, the university is looking at systems that are hosted in the cloud and delivered as software as a service (SaaS). Moving to the cloud normally means paying more, but it does come with some benefits. Virtually no downtime is a big one. Software providers can push new features and critical patches to all its customers in the cloud, instead of colleges having to take their systems offline for maintenance. Colleges also don’t need to worry about servers if their systems are hosted in the cloud. Faculty members at Sacramento State are this spring testing out different systems, Blackboard’s cloud-hosted version of Learn being one of them. The IT department plans to make a recommendation about which system to upgrade to before the end of the academic year, said Christine E. Miller, interim vice president for information resources and technology and chief information officer. In an interview, Miller suggested the university will move to a different software provider. She said some faculty members, during their tests with Learn and its new user experience, known as Ultra, had difficulties distinguishing between currently available features and ones that will be introduced in the future. Blackboard isn’t winning among IT staffers, either. Miller suggested that moving to another Blackboard product won’t be any easier than to a product offered by one of its competitors, saying, “Most of those leading products all have migration tools that are pretty robust.” She added, “Based on our progress to date with our project, I wouldn’t say that [Learn] is a front-runner at this point.” More alarming for Blackboard is Sacramento State’s reason for upgrading. Despite the company’s assurances to the contrary, Miller said she believes Blackboard will soon end support for versions of Learn that aren’t hosted in the cloud. “While they haven’t announced a specific sunset date for it, I think a sunset date is imminent,” Miller said. Strategic and Internal Challenges Between competition, the cloud and unclear messaging, the situation at Sacramento State is a microcosm of the situation Blackboard finds itself in. Make no mistake: the company is still the market leader in the U.S. in terms of the number of colleges and students served. It also does far more than develop a learning management system. Blackboard has a significant presence in the payment system market, a respected analytics team and a service portfolio that includes accessibility planning, competency-based education, web conferencing and more. In the learning management system market, however, Blackboard is being pulled between serving the needs of customers using its legacy software and proving that it can deliver a cloud-hosted, cleanly designed and feature-rich product. And the company’s decision to do everything and support everything is raising concerns about whether it is spreading itself too thin. In interviews with Inside Higher Ed, analysts and industry sources in the learning management system market said they are seeing progress from the education giant but remain unconvinced. “They’ve got a real challenge that they can prove to customers that moving to the SaaS model is much quicker and easier than switching LMS's, and I haven’t seen that yet,” said Phil Hill, an ed-tech consultant. However, competing in the SaaS market creates a new set of challenges. As some Blackboard customers move to the cloud-hosted version of Learn, the company faces the same issue plaguing companies such as Microsoft and Google: fragmentation, where users simply don’t update to the most recent version of the software (in fact, a survey released this month showed 52 percent of businesses across the world are still using Windows XP in some way. The operating system was released in 2001, and Microsoft ended support for it in 2014). Any attempt to phase out support for older versions in an effort to force customers to upgrade will undoubtedly draw the attention of Blackboard’s competitors, as it has in the past. After the company in October 2014 announced a final end-of-life date for Angel Learning, which it acquired in 2009, it lost many of those customers to rival companies. On top of those strategic challenges, Blackboard has dealt with internal changes. The company has carried out several waves of layoffs during the last several years. Last year, the company also replaced its CEO. “I don’t envy the position they’re in,” said John Baker, CEO of D2L, one of Blackboard's competitors. “I envy the client base they have. Of all the transitions I’ve seen in the space, they’re probably going through the biggest and hardest one that they’ve had to go through. But at least they’re trying.” Waiting for Ultra Why is the cloud important? For one, Blackboard’s competitors -- companies such as D2L and Instructure -- have been there for years. Blackboard first announced its cloud-hosted version of Learn in 2014. Edutechnica, an ed-tech blog, found an “encouraging trend” for Blackboard in its latest look at the learning management system market in the U.S.: More than 50 colleges are using the cloud-hosted option this spring, up from a mere seven last fall. Running the cloud-hosted version of Learn is also the only way colleges can activate the optional Ultra experience, Blackboard’s long-in-the-works redesign, which the company hopes will help it shed its image as an uncool, inflexible software giant whose system faculty members and students inevitably end up wrestling with. Yet after multiple delays, the Ultra experience is still missing features compared to the “Original experience” that most colleges are familiar with. Assessment and grade-book features, in particular, are keeping some colleges from using the Ultra experience full-time. “It’s got what certain schools need but not what everybody needs,” Katie Blot, chief strategy officer at Blackboard, said, estimating that the Ultra experience covers 70 to 80 percent of colleges’ use cases. Blackboard is issuing regular updates to add new features, she said. While some colleges have completely made the switch to the Ultra experience, most of them moved from homegrown systems with limited feature sets, Blot said. Blot said she anticipates that the Ultra experience will be “ready for everybody other than some super-fringe cases” come summer 2018. 'Trying to Do Too Many Things' Like the cloud-hosted version of Learn, the Ultra experience is intended as an additional option, not a replacement. Blackboard has committed to support both user experiences -- it has recently introduced new features to the latter to make it look and act closer to the former -- and all three deployment methods: self-hosted, managed hosted and cloud hosted. Ending support for versions of Learn not hosted in the cloud “is absolutely not in our plans,” Blot said. Blackboard isn’t worried about fragmentation; in fact, the company sees its range of hosting options and user experiences as a “key differentiator” in the market, she said. Some of its government or private-sector customers, for example, want the security of running their own servers, she said. To simplify its product range, Blackboard explains that understanding Learn is “as easy as 1-2-3.” Broadly speaking, the company offers one learning management system (Learn), two different interfaces (Original and Ultra), and three different deployment options -- self-hosted, managed hosted and cloud hosted. “Each institution has their own needs, so we’re not going to decide what’s best for them,” the company said in a 2016 blog post. “That’s why we provide multiple deployment options -- and it’s why we are going to continue to support our self-hosted and managed-hosted implementations indefinitely. When (and if) a move to SaaS is right for you, that’s up to you. If you prefer hosting Learn yourself, or you like the managed-hosted solution we’re providing, we’re not going to force you to change.” But Blackboard has used the term “indefinitely” in the past before changing its mind. When it first announced the acquisition of Angel Learning, the company detailed plans to sunset the system after five years. Then in 2012, the company changed course, saying it would support Angel “indefinitely.” Two years later, Blackboard again changed its mind, announcing plans to end support for Angel in October 2016. Glenda Morgan, a research director with Gartner who specializes in ed-tech strategies, said “a lot of clients are anxious” about whether Blackboard can deliver on its promises and worry that its plans could change in the near future. Morgan, who speaks with officials at hundreds of colleges a year about learning management systems, said cases such as the back-and-forth on whether to end support for Angel has created a trust problem. “Blackboard hasn’t always been as clear in their messaging as we’d like them to be,” she said. She compared Blackboard to Instructure, whose cloud-based learning management system, Canvas, has in less than a decade captured about one-fifth of the market in the U.S., according to Edutechnica’s data. Other than its technology, Instructure also brought a different corporate culture to the market, including an “honest and straightforward” way of interacting with customers, Morgan said. “Instructure is really blunt with clients, and that can be annoying,” Morgan said. “The upside is that when they actually say ‘Oh, yes, that’s a problem -- we’re going to fix it,’ they actually go and do it.” Blackboard, in comparison, “is trying to do too many things and not disappoint many people,” Morgan said. “Down the road that means a fragmented and unsustainable model. … They need to figure out what the strategy is and just be really clear about it, and then if they end up changing it, be really honest about it.”TechnologyEditorial Tags: Information systems/technologyImage Source: BlackboardIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:00:00 +0000

Vocational Education Surges But Continues To Struggle With Image And Gender Imbalance
Inside Higher Ed | News

NEW ORLEANS -- Career and vocational education is en vogue, as Republicans who dominate Washington and most state capitols have been touting job training over the bachelor’s degree. But community college leaders say vocational training is sorely in need of an image makeover. “It is considered a second choice, second-class,” said Patricia Hsieh, president of San Diego Miramar College. “We really need to change how people see vocational and technical education." Hsieh was speaking here Monday during the annual meeting of the American Association of Community Colleges. She and other speakers described the stigma career programs still face compared to academic paths that lead to transfer and a bachelor’s degree. Parents and students tend to prefer that more traditional pathway and are skeptical about the work force value of vocational credentials, said community college leaders. And that skepticism often extends to many people in higher education. “This kind of misconception is across the board,” Hsieh said, noting that parents from all racial and ethnic groups have doubts about vocational credentials. In addition, career and technical training has a severe gender imbalance. Most of the decent-paying vocational jobs go to men, who dominate middle-skill (less than a four-year degree required) fields such as information technology, welding and advanced manufacturing. Women, however, are overrepresented in in lower-paying, middle-skill health professions, such as jobs as nursing aides. Just 36 percent of middle-skill jobs that pay at least $35,000 are held by women, Ariane Hegewisch, program director of employment at earnings at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said during a session here. Women also hold only 29 percent of IT jobs above that pay level, she said, with just 7 percent of those in advanced manufacturing jobs and 3 percent in construction. While there are substantial gender imbalances in vocational training programs at community colleges, they aren’t typically as large as the gaps among jobholders, said Lynn Shaw, an electrical technology professor at Long Beach City College. For example, at California community colleges, women account for 45 percent of student enrollments in IT programs. “In the work force, there’s a huge drop-off,” said Shaw, a former miner, steelworker, longshore worker and electrician, who is a visiting faculty fellow at the California community college system chancellor’s office, where she is helping lead the implementation of a work force program. “Somewhere between women showing interest in nontraditional careers and getting into the work force, something happens.” In recent decades, little progress has been made in breaking the extreme gender segregation in technical jobs, said Hegewisch. And the lack of female role models in these professions contributes to the logjam. “My sense is that we’ve all kind of given up,” she said. “We’re still very uncomfortable with crossing gender roles.” Creating Partnerships to Make a Better Pitch The shortage of women in career and technical jobs is a contributor to the nation’s biggest skills gap challenge. And while enrollments in vocational programs are generally up nationwide, employers face deep shortages of skilled workers. The tough sell of vocational jobs to students, particularly women, is part of the problem. Many have outdated notions about dirty, physically demanding jobs that don’t pay well. Yet in many cities and states, most of the open jobs are middle-skill ones in career and technical fields, often that come with a good salary. For example, 30 percent of California’s projected job openings by 2025 will be of the middle-skill variety, Shaw said -- a total of 1.9 million jobs. Many will be technical jobs such electricians, mechanics, radiology technologists or computer support specialists. “I call it the California community college sweet spot,” Shaw said of training for those jobs. “That’s what we do. That’s what unlocks social mobility.” It’s a similar story in Arizona’s Pima County, Lee Lambert, chancellor of Pima Community College, said during a different session. “We’ve got to do a better job of convincing our students that there’s an opportunity here,” he said. Community colleges themselves deserve some of the blame, according to Lambert and other college leaders, who said administrators and faculty members sometimes look down on vocational training. “We can’t have this minimal focus on career and technical education,” Lambert said. “It has to be as prominent as our transfer focus.” Part of the problem is that American higher education largely developed around four-year degrees in the liberal arts. And academic systems have been slow to adjust to the growing prominence of vocational programs. For example, several college leaders here said career and technical programs tend to be overlooked by accreditors in comparison to their focus on general-education requirements. Seeking Solutions Sessions here included advice on common-sense solutions to both vocational education’s image and gender imbalance problems. A key to making progress, speakers said, is for colleges to develop strong, meaningful partnerships with employers. That means working with them on curricular development while encouraging paid internships, and prodding employers to pay for up-to-date training and technology. “We can’t do career and technical training without our industry partners,” said Jianping Wang, president of Mercer County Community College, in New Jersey. Wang said she reached out to several local employers for help. It paid off, she said, as companies have sent employees to teach classes, paid for labs and, in one case, even provided drones for students to use in training programs. “It’s in our mutual interest,” she said of the partnerships. Colleges also can try to chip away at the gender imbalance through their work with employers, speakers said. For example, they can push for employers to include women on work force advisory boards or among the experts they send to teach in labs, Lois Joy, a senior research manager at Jobs for the Future, said during a session. Another good approach is to send a cohort of female interns to a partner employer. “It’s very important for women to see role models in these fields,” Joy said. The bottom line, experts said, is to show students -- men and women alike -- that career and technical fields include plenty of rewarding, well-paying jobs. Pima has taken that philosophy seriously, creating a new vice president position for work force development and several new programs aimed at touting vocational education. For example, the district now conducts a national signing day for star student recruits in technical fields. “These students are just as important as athletes,” said Lambert.Community CollegesEditorial Tags: Career/Tech EducationCommunity collegesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:00:00 +0000

Making A Case In The Streets For Federal Support For Science
Inside Higher Ed | News

Organizers of the March for Science said that the event in Washington, D.C., and the satellite marches across the country this weekend were just the beginning of a movement to champion science. Those statements would seem to caution against early assessments of the march’s success or failure. Key supporters of the event and participants who trekked to the march in D.C. said the goals of the event went far beyond any immediate effects on policy and included communicating with the public about the state of federally funded research and energizing scientists about advocating for their field. Others were concerned with pushing understanding by the public and Congress of the importance of science in shaping federal policy. Scenes From the March Researchers, students and others explain why they participated. Read more. About 15,000 came out for pre-march events including teach-ins and speeches on the Washington Mall, Reuters reported -- firm estimates for the full march crowd had not yet been released -- while crowds attended hundreds of satellite marches elsewhere in the country. About 40,000 walked Columbus Drive in the Chicago event, according to The Chicago Tribune. The Los Angeles Times reported that thousands showed up for the march that went from Pershing Square to City Hall in L.A. Fred Lawrence, secretary of the academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa, said the March for Science was “a watershed moment in American cultural and social history.” He said the participation of so many scientists in the demonstrations has helped make clear to members of the public that they themselves have a stake in policy decisions like funding of the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. "It takes the issue from being abstract and makes it very present, very concrete and very urgent," Lawrence said. Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said that the march has already been a success, citing the conversations it has created about science and its role in policy making. “Scientists -- who have been often reticent to go public -- showed up for the march and used stories to talk about the importance of their work. We were encouraged to see so many scientists speaking up and expect it will continue in the days ahead,” he said. AAAS, one of the country’s largest nonpartisan science and research organizations, was a major backer of the event. Holt emphasized in comments ahead of the event that it would not be a protest of the White House but would make a positive case for science. Although march events were sprinkled with the occasional anti-Trump message, they were spared the wrath of the president on Twitter over the weekend. In a statement Saturday, Trump said his administration was focused on both reducing regulations and protecting the environment. “Rigorous science is critical to my administration's efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection,” he said. “My administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks. As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.” Those claims, many scientists would say, run counter to the facts of Trump’s own budget proposal, which called for major cuts to National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation research spending -- and to his Environmental Protection Agency chief’s open disregard for climate science. But even though the White House likely helped the spur the marchers into action, many attendees spoke to issues of federal policy that long predated the current administration. Justin Steinfeld, a fifth year M.D./Ph.D. student at Columbia University, said that since the Clinton administration, NIH funding has failed to keep pace with inflation. An increasingly competitive environment to win grant funding has pushed scientists to constantly publish, leading to sloppier work and a “bad culture” within research, he said. Trump’s budget proposals would accelerate those years-long negative trends, scientists said this weekend. “It shows a disrespect for what science is and what it can provide,” said Steinfeld, who is also a member of the Graduate Workers of Columbia-UAW Local. He said that communicating about the importance of science was part of the march, but that the real promise of the event was spurring people in his generation to action. “It's about motivating the people who came to push themselves a little more, to get more involved,” he said. Sarah Joseph, a Columbia doctoral student studying genetics and the president of the graduate student advisory council, said one measure of the march's success would be seeing people without connections to the profession asking scientists like her about their research. "Now they're seeking knowledge they didn't seek openly before," she said. "It's small, but it's going to be really important." Organizations such as AAAS hosted workshops last week to train newly active scientists in how to communicate about their work. Advocacy organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists saw the event as an opportunity to sign up more members for ongoing activism. Academics at the Washington event conveyed a hope that it would highlight the ongoing challenges funding university-based research -- and the threat posed by more cuts. Steven Hanes, a professor at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University, also said researchers struggled in an increasingly difficult funding environment for years before Trump. With the exception of a spike driven by the stimulus package, NIH funding has essentially been flat since 2008, he said. That’s affected both the graduate-level education at his university -- Hanes hasn’t been able to train new graduate students for several years -- and faculty hiring decisions. “We don’t even hire faculty who don't already have their own funding,” he said. Hanes said he hopes the public and Congress will get the message about how important it is to maintain scientific funding to continue making progress in every area of research. His lab studies how genes are switched on and off, or gene regulation. The most common disruption of gene regulation is in cancer, he said. But having steady sources of federal funding turned on and off is incredibly inefficient for research, Hanes said. Layoffs forced by funding cuts mean he has to train a whole new set of researchers later. “I lose institutional memory,” he said. “It sets you back years.” Hanes said that increasing NIH funding by just a few percentage points would have a huge positive impact, while cuts would mean no new grants into important areas of inquiry and no further progress on projects due for grant renewal. Researchers marched not just to highlight issues of funding but also to bring attention to the role that science should play in shaping policy. Melanie Killen, a professor of developmental science at the University of Maryland and a representative of the Society for Research in Child Development, said she hasn't heard research and evidence talked about so dismissively in more than three decades in the profession. "I'm very concerned about the rhetoric we have heard in the last six months," she said. "It's not possible to have democracy if you don't believe in facts and in scientific evidence." Matthew Walhout, a physics professor and dean for research and scholarship at Calvin College, said he joined the march to speak up for the importance of science in the social discourse and as part of the decision making that shapes policy. He said the message of the march transcended party politics and that the turnout would demonstrate that there is a huge number of people supporting scientific research and the role it plays in society. “I would say that over all it was generally uplifting to see a lot people gathered around an issue and treating each other well,” Walhout said. “Even though the weather was bad, the spirits were high.”Editorial Tags: Science policyAd Keyword: Science Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Mon, 24 Apr 2017 07:00:00 +0000

Nlrb Official Rules That Resident Advisers At Private Colleges May Unionize
Inside Higher Ed | News

A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled Friday that resident advisers at George Washington University have the right to unionize. The ruling could apply to other private colleges and universities, potentially opening a new part of private higher education to unions. At the same time, the ruling could open the door to legal fights that could block the union. Friday's decision orders an election at GW. But if the RAs at the university vote to unionize, GW could challenge the ruling, and it has indicated that it may do so. Many higher education groups are also lining up to oppose unionization. (Collective bargaining rights of resident advisers and other employees at public institutions are governed by state law and will not be changed by whatever the outcome in this case.) The ultimate outcome could depend on how soon President Trump has openings to fill on the NLRB, whose members serve staggered terms that do not end automatically with a new president. The current board has a majority sympathetic to unions, but that is unlikely to be the case with more Republican appointees. The decision in the GW case was based largely on an NLRB board decision last year that said that teaching assistants at private universities could unionize. In that case, based on a union drive at Columbia University, unions argued that the TAs were employees, while universities said the TAs should be seen primarily as students who should not be entitled to collective bargaining. The NLRB ruling said that TAs were both students and employees and that they were entitled to unionize. The regional director who heard the GW case, Sean R. Marshall, wrote in his decision that he looked at the definition of "employee" in the teaching assistant case and found three criteria. Employees, he wrote, "(1) perform services for the employer; (2) are subject to the employer’s control; and (3) perform these services in return for payment." And Marshall then outlined how RAs meet all of those tests. They are paid (both a stipend and in the form of free housing) and they must follow specific rules. Further, he rejected GW's argument that the undergraduates who work as RAs "reside in the university’s residence halls in order to have an informal, peer-to-peer mentoring relationship with, and serve as role models for, their fellow undergraduate students.” "The employer’s characterization of the RAs’ duties tellingly omits any explanation about why these duties are performed by RAs, and why undergraduate students serve as RAs," Marshall wrote. "Plainly, the RAs are not providing these services voluntarily -- the RAs unquestionably receive something of value in exchange for their services. Further, since there is no suggestion that RAs receive academic credit in exchange for serving as RAs, I find no basis to conclude they provide these services as part of their educational relationship with the employer. Rather, I find that the RAs provide these services based on an economic relationship with the employer -- the RAs exchange services desired by the employer in return for compensation from the employer and desired by the RAs." Marshall added that just because RAs may value their experiences for reasons beyond compensation that doesn't mean they aren't employees. "I do not doubt that when current and former RAs reflect on the time they spent as RAs, they believe the experience was educational and was instrumental in their future career accomplishments," he wrote. "However, the same can be said for many of one’s life experiences, whether they are educational, social, religious or occupational. Employment experiences can simultaneously be educational or part of one’s personal development, yet they nonetheless retain an indispensable economic core. Here, the evidence shows, and no party contends otherwise, that an economic exchange between the RAs and the employer is the sine qua non of their relationship." GW released this statement Friday: "While the university will continue to cooperate with the NLRB in this process, the university continues to believe that the NLRB’s union election process should not be applied to students in our residential life program, which is an integral part of the educational experience of our undergraduate students. We will continue to share our views with resident advisers as this process moves forward." Steven M. Bloom, director of government relations at the American Council on Education, said via email of the decision, "A regional office administrator deciding to let undergraduate resident advisers unionize is a major and unprecedented change in federal labor law. This really is a bureaucracy run amok. This represents the kind of step that we feared after the Columbia decision, which opened the door to this deeply troubling extension of federal labor law to undergraduates. We hope a future NLRB overturns this decision." ACE and other higher education groups filed a brief with the NLRB opposing the union drive. Service Employees International Union is the group seeking to organize RAs at GW. SEIU has had success of late in higher education organizing non-tenure-track faculty members. GW students who are among the RAs seeking a union wrote an op-ed last year in The GW Hatchet, the student newspaper, outlining why they want a union. They said that some contract terms are ambiguous, and that they consider others unfair. Further, since anyone fired as an RA loses housing and a stipend, the consequences are serious, they wrote. These are the kinds of issues, they wrote, on which a union could help. "We look forward to embracing our rights under federal law to democratically bargain with our employer," the op-ed said. "Ultimately, we look forward to coming to the table … to negotiate a contract that will allow us to continue to better the student experience."Editorial Tags: Student lifeUnions/unionizationImage Caption: Residence hall at GWIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Mon, 24 Apr 2017 07:00:00 +0000

More Colleges Look To Replicate Cuny'S Accelerated Two-Year Program
Inside Higher Ed | News

The City University of New York’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, or ASAP, has been widely praised for turning out promising results and doubling graduation rates. That’s why more than a few community colleges are interested in bringing it to their campuses. Westchester Community College, which is part of the State University of New York System, and Skyline Community College in California are the latest campuses that are gearing up to try ASAP for the first time. The program helps community college students get to graduation by providing additional academic support and financial incentives like free tuition, textbooks and public transportation. “The ASAP model was one achieving results that appeared to be unprecedented in regard to helping students in the developmental education sphere,” said Belinda Miles, president of Westchester, which is located roughly 30 miles north of New York City. CUNY requires participating students to enroll full time and to take developmental courses immediately and continuously. The goal of the program is to double graduation rates. ASAP nearly did just that at CUNY -- after three years, 40 percent of ASAP students graduated compared to 22 percent of control group students, according to MDRC, a nonprofit research organization. Three years ago, three community colleges in Ohio became the first other institutions to try the ASAP approach, despite having a slightly different demographic in a very different location. Last year MDRC found that those three colleges -- Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Cuyahoga Community College, and Lorain County Community College -- were seeing early improvements in enrollment, retention and completion. “We believe the ASAP Ohio demonstration and CUNY demonstration are remarkable, and this is something people should seriously consider,” said Colleen Sommo, a senior research associate at MDRC. “We were able to get findings in Ohio very much in line with what we saw in New York, and that was very reassuring, but it’ll be helpful to have Westchester as a third proof point.” The program’s costs are in addition to each institution’s typical costs per student. CUNY's version costs about $3,700 more per year for each student, according to MDRC. The Ohio programs are estimated to cost about $3,000 more per student. At Skyline, officials are estimating the cost per student will fall between $1,200 and $1,400 a year. If the program goes full scale, or grows to about 500 students, the college estimates it will cost $1.5 million a year. Westchester estimates its ASAP model will cost between $3,000 and $4,500 a student. But with outside grants, funding from the college and tuition from increasing student persistence, Westchester is hopeful the program will become sustainable. Westchester ASAP In addition to tuition waivers and textbook vouchers, CUNY students received New York City MetroCards to use on public transportation. At Westchester, officials overseeing the proposed ASAP pilot are considering $500 for books and $500 annual stipends for food, housing, transportation and other needs for students, Miles said. But there’s an additional dynamic the college is taking into consideration -- New York’s new free-tuition proposal. Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and the state’s Legislature reached a deal this month to offer free tuition in the CUNY and SUNY systems for families with annual incomes up to $125,000. “It’s important to distinguish between the price of tuition and the cost of education,” Miles said. “So we think the incentive will be significant, and we know these mandatory elements have proven successful for students, so we anticipate the effort and reward cycle will be strong.” Westchester is planning for 150 students to be in the first group to participate in the program, with plans to grow to 450 students by the third year, said Sara Thompson Tweedy, vice president for access, involvement and success at the college. The college enrolls approximately 13,000 students. The college is the most diverse two-year institution in the SUNY system, Tweedy said. Many of the students at Westchester are low income and about 50 percent use financial aid to fund their education. But officials at the institution are optimistic that the stipend will help close financial gaps. ASAP and a Promise Scholarship Unlike the New York and Ohio programs, Skyline Community College in San Bruno -- south of San Francisco -- is moving toward scaling up ASAP to about 500 students. Both Skyline and Westchester received start-up funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation -- Skyline received $800,000 and Westchester $1 million -- but both institutions are using a combination of institutional dollars and money from other grants to help cover the program's costs. The college had success with an early pilot version, which included 138 students. The persistence rate for participants from the fall semester to spring was 96 percent, compared to 82 percent among full-time students who were not enrolled in the program, said Angelica Garcia, vice president of student services at Skyline. “The ASAP data was just compelling, and it was compelling [that] they were working with full-time, degree-seeking students,” Garcia said. “We wanted to get what has been effective out there … and we have a lot of similarities in being incredibly diverse and having students with low socioeconomic status. We are trying to do everything we can to bring to our college and students what we know is working.” While California isn’t offering a free tuition program like New York, Skyline last fall launched a free tuition, or Promise, program. Garcia said the ASAP program would combine with the Promise scholarship and the work the college is doing with building guided program pathways and meta-majors. Skyline’s last-dollar Promise scholarship covers tuition and fees for the first year for full-time students. Skyline is still experimenting with the types of incentives to offer ASAP students beyond free textbooks and tuition. Public transportation near the campus isn’t the same as in New York City, but the college is considering a mixture of shuttle service to the Bay Area’s subway system, bus passes or gas cards. ASAP students would also receive priority access to register for courses. “We want our students to get in, get through and get out on time,” she said. “We’re asking students interested in doing this to commit. And with our programmatic components, it’s our hope that we make this as seamless as possible for students.”Community CollegesEditorial Tags: Graduation ratesCommunity collegesCaliforniaNew York CityOhioImage Caption: Graduation at Skyline Community CollegeIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Mon, 24 Apr 2017 07:00:00 +0000

March For Science Participants Say Why They Rallied
Inside Higher Ed | News

WASHINGTON -- Eric Schultz, an associate professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut, hopped on a bus at 1 a.m. Saturday and headed here with about 50 students and faculty members from the university. He said the march was about communicating with the general public, which he said does not appreciate what science does and why it’s valuable. Schultz’s work is primarily funded by the National Science Foundation with some support from the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency. Were the cuts to those agencies in the White House budget released last month to become reality, he said his department could lose the ability to support graduate students. “That means we’re selling out our future essentially for the sake of weapons,” Schultz said.*** John Kilbourne, a professor in the department of movement science at Grand Valley State University, couldn’t go far at the National Mall Saturday without a request for pictures. Kilbourne came to the March for Science dressed as Galileo, who he said spoke up for scientific truths even though he knew he would be persecuted for it. Kilbourne studies the traditional games of indigenous people in the Arctic and looks for lessons to help moderate conflict in that region today. He said he was motivated to come to the march partly because of the administration’s disregard for the science of climate change, the effects of which indigenous people are experiencing firsthand. “For the most part, scientists have stayed on the sideline,” he said. “We need to speak up.”*** More than a hundred Cornell University graduate students traveled via bus Friday to participate in the Washington march. Gael Nicholas and Kofi Gyan were among them. Nicholas, who is studying biochemistry with a focus on the microbiome, said the effects of cuts in federal support of research trickle down from labs to the ability of graduate students to pursue research. Gyan, who is studying computational biology, said he is an optimistic person and hopes to see Congress continue federal funding of research. “You can’t be red or blue with science,” he said. “I’m just here supporting science because I love it.”*** Steven Hanes, a professor at State University of New York Upstate Medical University, wore a cardboard sandwich board reading “Want Cures? Support Basic Research” to the march Saturday. Hanes, who studies molecular genetics, has been unable to train any new graduate students in his lab for the past three years since his NIH funding lapsed. He said he was marching this weekend because of the proposed further cuts to NIH and NSF research funding the White House proposed in its “skinny budget.” If Congress votes to keep research funding flat, it will be seen as a victory by many -- but it will still essentially be a cut because funding has not kept up with inflation, Hanes said. The tight budget environment for university-based funding means winning grants to pay for science, and train graduate students, is already extremely competitive, he said. “If we don’t train the next generation and support that research, we’re going to lose them,” he said.*** Four women, most of whom are pursuing their doctorates at Indiana University, drove 11 hours to the march. Olivia Ballew, Annie MacKenzie, Tiffany Musser and Ali Ordway, all were selected and given stipends by the university to cover their travel costs. They said they were pleased to represent the university. All but Musser are in the midst of earning their Ph.D.s in Indiana’s genome, cell, and developmental biology program. Their signs were sketched out on poster board – one carried a Neil deGrasse Tyson quote: “The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” Soni Lacefield, a biology professor at Indiana, also traveling with the group, said the demonstration places science in a positive light and brings awareness to legislators. The march breaks down stereotypes and stigmas associated with the scientific community, and helps put a “face” on scientists. “It’s not just old white men sitting in a dusty laboratory,” Ballew said. “We are diverse.”*** In a dark green T-shirt, Charles Agosta almost seems to blend in with the vast swaths of grass on the National Mall, especially compared to the highlighter yellow ponchos and massive protest signs that dot the landscape. But up close the text on the shirt is much bolder: National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, a facility at Florida State University where the Clark University professor of physics does some of his work on superconductivity. He came to the D.C. march on a trip with his son as they stopped along the way to look at colleges in New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan. His curly hair fluffy from the continued drizzle, Agosta explained how the age range of the attendees impressed him – students, but also the more “mature” crowd, scientists of his generation. Among the young people was Agosta’s 17-year-old niece, a high school junior who wants to be an astronomer, he said. Agosta’s not sure how she caught the science bug, as her parents aren’t oriented in the sciences. A movement like the march is something that scientists should be organizing more and more, not just as a demonstration for the Trump administration, but to celebrate the sciences, Agosta said. These types of gatherings among scientists are fairly unusual, he said. Debate has arisen about whether “politicizing” the sciences was appropriate, he said. But everything is political – everyone lobbies for federal funding -- but science shouldn’t be partisan, he said. “Stay curious!,” a speaker from the main stage screamed in the background. *** As she stood in the rain clutching her stark sign on a white board that read: “Science is crucial for democracy,” Toni Bell said she was disgusted. The professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania is fed up with funding being pulled from scientific organizations. She can’t “wrap her head around” science money being channeled toward other parts of the federal government. Here in an interview, she hesitated. “Well, to fund the military. I wasn’t going to say it outright,” Bell said. “But to pull money from science education and the arts to fund the military. That just hurts me to my core.” “We have to do something about it. We cannot let it stand.” She traveled to D.C. from Pennsylvania with a bus full of people from Bloomsburg -- a relatively rural, conservative area anchored by the university -- along with a Bloomsburg chemistry professor, Kristen Lewis. Because Bell is rooted in a university environment, people respect the sciences, she said. But she was heartened to see so many community members from the area travel here. Editorial Tags: BiologyFederal policyResearchIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Sat, 22 Apr 2017 19:34:00 +0000

Recent Suicide By Professor Sparks Renewed Discussions About Access To Mental-Health Services For Faculty Members
Inside Higher Ed | News

Will Moore, a professor of political science at Arizona State University, typically used his blog to comment on -- in his words -- “human rights, conflict, teaching, life as an aspie [someone with Asperger's syndrome] and whatever else strikes my fancy.” Earlier this week, however, he used it to share a suicide note. “Assuming I did not botch the task, by the time this posts I will have been dead via suicide for several hours. Nope, that’s not a setup to a joke,” he wrote. Attempting to explain his decision, Moore said that he’d long struggled feelings of social isolation. Far too often, he said, “I angered, insulted, offended and otherwise upset people, without expecting or intending to,” and “I rarely felt that I was successful explaining my ideas, perceptions, understandings to others.” He said he’d considered suicide off and on since he was a teenager, and learned early on that the topic was “taboo” and not to be discussed. In closing -- what he called “punching out” -- Moore thanked “each and every one of you who interacted with me, in person and/or virtually, and especially those who I interacted with frequently and came to know. … Though I chose to exit rather than persist, I have been very privileged, and I thank you for being a part of my life.” A reader immediately alerted authorities to the blog post, but it was too late. Moore had already taken his life. Friends and colleagues in political science struggled to make any sense of the news in their own blog posts. Several touched on the emotional toll studying Moore’s specialty, political violence, can take, even from a physically safe distance. Steve Saideman, Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University, in Canada, described Moore as a brilliant peer who was zany enough to have once attended the Burning Man music and art festival dressed as a Republican pollster. Sometimes harsh, Moore “was fierce in his pursuit of understanding,” Saideman wrote. “His focus was mostly on the denial of human rights, a topic that could be stressful to study. His passion for justice carried over into how he acted within the profession. Will was very protective as he mentored several generations of students.” Joshua Busby, associate professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote that he didn’t know Moore well but that his death struck many international relations scholars “especially hard, as he was known to be a dedicated mentor to others, particularly junior scholars, in ways that go above and beyond just befriending and reading someone’s work. … These sorts of tragic events remind us that the human condition is hard and that aspects of our profession can be unkind to our mental health.” Christian Davenport, professor of political science at the University of Michigan and a close collaborator of Moore’s, said via email that there was some truth to the idea that one’s professional passions can hurt. But they can also heal, he said. “The study of political conflict and violence does take a toll on the individuals that do it, but at the same time this pales in comparison to the toll it would take on those who were aware of what was taking place but did not address it,” he said. “My particular way of dealing with it has been to talk and later write about my experiences and, to a lesser extent, feelings.” Beyond self-care, Davenport said scholars need to practice some “communal care.” There isn’t enough of it, and “I will make sure that this is one of the positive things that emerges from this tragedy,” he added. Stigma Persists There's no research to suggest that professors have higher than average rates of suicide, and in fact most possess certain risk-reducing traits, such as high levels of education. And for those who aren't adjuncts, quality health care coverage typically includes mental health. But even when scholars aren’t dealing with potentially traumatic material, their lives are high stress. The carefree academic way of life (if it ever existed) has been replaced by new funding pressures, increased administrative work, the decline of the tenure track and a more corporate, consumer-driven model of education. And while student mental-health issues have received much attention and destigmatization in recent years, it’s unclear how much of that has translated to the professoriate, where there’s a premium on clarity of thought. “Stigma with regard to mental health seems to be strong in the faculty community,” said Negar Shekarabi, coordinator for faculty and staff mental-health care and respondent services at the University of California, Irvine. “The very specific pressures that faculty experience around work expectations and their ability to think, foster knowledge and ideas, and be academically productive causes a particularly threatening vulnerability should they disclose that they have mental-health issues.” Many worry about losing their jobs, status or the confidence of their colleagues and students in their abilities if they're public about the challenges they face, she said. “This creates some additional silence around mental-health concerns in the faculty population.” Still, a number of individual faculty members have outed their mental-health challenges. Kay Redfield Jamison, Dalio Family Professor in Mood Disorders at Johns Hopkins University, wrote about her struggles with bipolar disorder in her 1995 book An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. More recently, Peter Railton, Gregory S. Kavka Distinguished University Professor and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of philosophy at Michigan, revealed his struggles with depression in a major 2015 lecture, to much praise. Santa Ono, now president of the University of British Columbia, last year shared that he’d twice attempted suicide as a young man. John W. Belcher, Class of '22 Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also shared his experiences with depression in the student newspaper, in 2013, after an undergraduate wrote a piece about similar challenges. “There is a stigma attached to having been clinically depressed and being on antidepressants (as I am),” Belcher wrote. “That stigma is undeserved, and many people who should embrace such treatment instead avoid it. The more open people like [the student] and I are about our experiences in dealing with depression, the more acceptance of those treatments there will be.” Belcher said this week of his disclosure, “I would do it again in a heartbeat. It makes a tremendous difference to students when they see you can deal with this sort of thing, recover from it, and not be ‘permanently broken,’ as a student once said to me.” He’s experienced no negative repercussions from his admission, either, but he said that as a senior faculty member nearing the end of his career, it involved minimal risk. In general, he said, “I don’t think there’s particularly less stigma surrounding faculty mental health these days.” Railton, of Michigan, also said this week that he’s been “deeply moved by the number of younger people in this country and abroad who have written to me to say that my talk was helpful to them in contending with their own difficulties, or in understanding the difficulties of others.” However, he said, these are “complicated times,” in that “I myself am far enough along in my career that I have been able to accept the wonderful support many colleagues have shown, without having to worry excessively about other effects.” More junior faculty members “unfortunately do not have this luxury,” though, “and academic life is deeply tied up with how others view one's mind. There's much more to be done.” Robert E. Brown, now a professor of communications at Salem State University, shared his account of depression and a suicide attempt early in his career several years ago in The Boston Globe. Like some students today, he wrote, “I felt like an impostor. What right had I to the title of professor? With each passing week that summer, darkness deepened in me. I feared facing my classes every Tuesday and Thursday. As soon as the students left, I’d drive to a quiet place in the hills near my apartment to sit and stare for hours. On Tuesday afternoons, I dreaded Thursday. Thursdays, I obsessed about the next Tuesday.” Brown recently told Inside Higher Ed that he didn’t seen any evidence of professors being increasingly open about considering suicide, though professors and administrators, including his president, thanked him for his piece. “I assumed her gratitude was for my being willing to open an issue shrouded, so to speak, in silence and stigma,” he said. Asked whether academic culture was moving more toward acceptance of mental-health issues, Shekarabi said yes -- at least in her own “little corner of the world.” Shekarabi’s coordinator position is relatively new. The idea is that having someone on campus to talk to before navigating other resources will lead to increased use of services, she said. Shekarabi’s office is also tasked with identifying the need for and developing mental-health training for professors, “not just from the perspective of what to be aware of in their students, but how to recognize and respond to distress in their colleagues, how to manage their own mental-health concerns, and how to create a more inclusive environment in their departments and schools.” Creating a Culture of Access and Inclusion As to how campuses can better support faculty members struggling with mental-health concerns, Shekarabi said accommodations and awareness matter, but so too does inclusivity. Is mental health integrated into standard, mandatory training and policies for all faculty members, for example, she asked. Do those policies prohibit stigma and harassment? Margaret Price, associate professor of English and director of disability studies at Ohio State University, and Stephanie L. Kerschbaum, associate professor of English at the University of Delaware and coordinator of its faculty development program, recently published a resource guide and set of suggestions for practice on promoting supportive academic environments for faculty members with mental illnesses. Based on a survey of 323 self-identified professors with mental-health histories, the report takes the view that mental illness is not a problem to be “fixed.” Rather, it says, “efforts to improve campus climate should be directed primarily toward environments and attitudes," over individual people. "Most importantly, we advocate going beyond the notion of passively ‘supporting’ mental health through compartmentalized campus counseling and wellness services.” The report encourages everyone on campus, especially those in leadership roles, to increase “access” via effective policies for inclusivity, and against stigma and harassment; supportive structures for hiring, performance review and promotion; and a proactive, centrally located service infrastructure, among other recommendations. Here are some reasons (verbatim) that professors in the survey gave for not disclosing their mental health concerns. Fear of losing all credibility. When my child was younger, fear of losing custody. I have seen a colleague with a serious mental-health issue subjected to constant gossip, originating with administrators, and I believe such would seriously damage my ability to work. Because academic work requires a very sharp, functioning mind, I've been terrified that revealing my mental-health problems would cause others to respect me even less than they already do. I am exhausted and overworked, which doubles the difficulty in hiding symptoms. I’m very worried I won’t be seen as capable of doing the job if I disclose that I’ve suffered from major depressive episodes in the past. Kerschbaum said that disclosure narratives provide an important function in acknowledging that disability exists within academe. They also provide affirmation, she said, but it’s important to note what people are comfortable sharing and leaving out, and who’s talking. “Willingness to disclose is often tied to institutional status, employment stability, gender and even academic discipline, as some fields are more accepting or hospitable while others remain hostile,” she said. Faculty mental-health issues often stay hidden because there are far fewer professors than, say, students, who have “critical mass” enough to generate movement toward disclosure. Faculty members also have trouble accessing services, she said, since campuses rarely have “a single recognizable space where faculty with disabilities negotiate accommodations and access.” The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free, confidential 24-7 service that can provide people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, or those around them, with support, information and local resources. 1-800-273-TALK (8255).Health ProfessionsThreats Against FacultyEditorial Tags: FacultyMental healthImage Caption: Will MooreIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Fri, 21 Apr 2017 07:00:00 +0000