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UNC, Michigan State show how partisan politics is infiltrating university governance

Inside Higher Education - Hace 12 hours 42 mins

Michigan State University and the University of North Carolina became uncanny reflections of each other this week as the new culture wars claimed two casualties on campus in the form of ousted executives.

On Monday, UNC Chapel Hill chancellor Carol Folt handed in her resignation at the same time as she decided to remove the remnants of the toppled Silent Sam Confederate monument. Two days later, Michigan State interim president John Engler tendered his resignation rather than be fired in the wake of another in a long series of missteps seen as hostile toward victims of sexual assault.

Clearly, the details and dynamics of each situation are different. In North Carolina, Folt was a leader who had faced criticism for not acting as she unsuccessfully supported a middle-of-the-road solution between progressive activists who wanted the statue off campus and a conservative system board that did not. When she did act, citing safety concerns, she suddenly found her tattered image at Chapel Hill being rehabilitated.

Engler, on the other hand, was embattled after he made comments and took actions that set victims of sexual assault and the Me Too movement against him. But he had enjoyed the backing of a Board of Trustees until new members took seats -- and until he said last week that sexual assault victims in the spotlight were enjoying the moment. Few on campus seemed to be backing him in the wake of his ouster.

Nonetheless, both leaders found themselves dismissed earlier than they’d hoped. Folt planned to step down after graduation, but the UNC System Board of Governors accepted her resignation as of the end of the month. Engler, who until this week planned to stay on until a new president would be in place sometime this summer, intended to stay on until Jan. 23, only to have his board vote Thursday to oust him immediately.

Underneath all those details, the two cases fit into a larger trend of cultural change causing governance challenges on campus. Anyone who remembers the 1960s will tell you that’s nothing new. It is still notable today for playing out in the form of politically charged clashes between presidents and boards at public institutions. In North Carolina, Folt found her actions on the Confederate statue angering board members appointed by Republicans with little sympathy for those who study and teach at Chapel Hill and felt the monument glorified racism and white supremacy. Engler's background as a powerful and connected Republican politician could have been seen as a strength at a time when the university in crisis would likely need backing from lawmakers, but he also brought a fair share of baggage.

It’s a particularly concerning development for higher education supporters because boards have traditionally been seen as protecting universities and their potentially controversial scholarship from political whims. Having elected or appointed boards who in turn are responsible for hiring and firing presidents and chancellors strikes a balance by providing much-needed political insulation but still keeping institutions accountable to the taxpayers who fund them and the politicians in charge of the states.

If clashes continue to take on tones of the political polarization that has poisoned so much public discourse, it will harm governance and universities themselves, the fear goes.

“Governance cannot break the university system quickly, but it can break it steadily over the long term,” said Ellis Hankins, a former executive director of the North Carolina League of Municipalities who ran for state senate in 2016 and who has taught at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University and Duke University. “If we don’t have enlightened, effective university system governance, we’re no longer going to have a world-class university system. You start having more trouble attracting and retaining faculty members. It can become a downward spiral, which I’m very concerned about.”

Engler’s resignation letter provides a striking example of a cultural change bringing about a burst of partisan accusations. The resigning interim president, who spent three terms as a Republican governor of Michigan, opened his letter by discussing trustees’ political affiliations.

“You have advised me that five Democratic members of the MSU Board, including yourself, have requested my resignation as MSU President,” he wrote to the board’s chair, Dianne Byrum. “The election of two new Democratic members and the appointment of a Democrat to replace Trustee George Perles has created a new majority on the board.”

An Engler supporter also turned to politics, telling the Lansing State Journal that trustees and Engler’s critics should have examined the reforms that were put in place under Engler’s watch.

“It’s more about partisanship than it is about scholarship,” Dan Pero, who managed two Engler campaigns for governor and spent a term as his chief of staff, told the newspaper.

During Thursday’s meeting to accept Engler’s resignation, trustees maintained that they were acting in the university’s best interest, not in a political fashion.

“It’s not a partisan decision,” said Dan Kelly, the board’s vice chair. “I don’t think it’s a Democrat or Republican position to condemn comments that are not consistent with the values or what we hope to be the values of the university."

Indeed, many Republicans were horrified by Engler's comments about abuse survivors. And former lieutenant governor Brian Calley, a Republican, was credited with recruiting Nancy Schlichting, one of the new trustees who voted to accept Engler's resignation Thursday, to the board.

Engler’s case may be an aberration, of course. He is a former politician, and his relationship with some trustees was already remarkably poor -- one trustee, Brian Mosallam, described Engler during Thursday’s meeting as an individual with an instinct for division, callousness and hostility.

Yet the clash between Folt and the UNC system board shows political polarization overshadowing board actions elsewhere. And critics say the UNC board has been growing more polarized -- and more Republican -- for years.

The Board of Governors is elected by the state Legislature, which has been Republican since 2010. Some bemoan the dismantling of an arrangement that used to see Democratic and Republican lawmakers both appointing members of the board.

“Historically, there was a peace treaty between Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly,” said Hankins, of North Carolina. “It made perfect sense, and it worked well for many years back when the General Assembly members and governors of both parties didn’t disagree significantly at all about the value of the public university system and how important it was to the future of the state -- not just educating our citizens, but as an economic development engine.”

In the years since, critics have pointed to a long line of actions taken by state lawmakers and the system Board of Governors that they say amount to conservatives exercising too much influence over university governance.

In 2017, the Board of Governors overwhelmingly voted to prevent a center for civil rights at Chapel Hill’s school of law from engaging in litigation. In 2015, the state Legislature passed a law preventing monuments that are public property from being removed, relocated or altered without permission from the state’s historical commission. That law was passed amid protests over the Silent Sam statue, according to The News & Observer.

When Margaret Spellings, the former U.S. education secretary under President George W. Bush, became president of the UNC system, she soon found herself caught in a battle over a controversial state bathroom law. Tensions between the Board of Governors and Spellings, who was seen as interested in focusing on areas like assessment and completion when she first took the job, developed over several other issues, including Silent Sam. She decided in October to resign, and her last day was scheduled for this week.

So the power struggle that played out between Folt and the Board of Governors this week fit into long-running governance tensions tinged by politics.

Folt publicly issued her decision about the monument remnants and her own future while the board was meeting Monday. She and her supporters have maintained the chancellor has responsibility for matters of security on campus.

On Tuesday, after the board voted to accept Folt’s resignation at an early date, its chair, Harry Smith, told reporters he would have encouraged her to take a different approach.

“If this is the action you wanted to do, then let’s talk about it,” Smith said. “You know, the fact that we may not like governance and process doesn’t give us a right to usurp it. And whether you have the authority to do it or not isn’t congruent with the fact that we should follow the proper process and procedures that we had laid out.”

The Board of Governors isn’t the only board for Chapel Hill -- the flagship campus also has a Board of Trustees, although the statewide board hires and fires chancellors. After this week’s events, 20 former Chapel Hill trustees issued a statement that circulated in North Carolina media outlets.

The university faces challenges “created by the very people charged with governing it,” and the former trustees are unable to stay silent any longer, the letter says. Folt stood strong for the university, but during her tenure, increasing pressure from Raleigh and the Board of Governors “put politics ahead of the best interests of education, research and patient care,” it says.

“Silent Sam came to embody it all,” the letter says. “Tuesday, Chancellor Folt paid the price for her leadership and North Carolina lost another great opportunity to resurrect its history as a progressive part of this nation.”

The letter draws a line between Folt’s departure and that of Spellings. The board could not be satisfied to let either leader leave on her own terms, the letter says.

“Regardless of one’s view on Silent Sam, the Confederate monument had become a lightning rod for violence and intolerance on this campus and had to be removed,” the letter says. “We realize taking it down quickly was controversial. It is our hope that we will not have to continue fighting the Civil War by trying to resurrect it elsewhere on campus.”

With all of those words and actions flying, it’s reasonable to wonder whether it's possible that a single executive -- chancellor or president -- can lead in the UNC system under current conditions.

Folt thinks it is.

“Yes, it is absolutely possible to run a university,” Folt said Tuesday in a call with reporters held before the board voted to move up her last day. “We come to campus every day. I’ve got 30,000 students. Every one of them is a ray of sunshine.”

In the face of tensions at the board level, Folt spoke of mission. Leaders have both a mandate and an opportunity to make education available to everyone, she said.

“So no matter what happens to me in the future, I’ve had the greatest privilege of all to be a part of that,” Folt said. “I think that’s what chancellors and presidents feel every day. We live in the middle of the campus. So in spite of these conversations and these tensions, I’m going to walk out of this room and I’m going to see 15 students on the way back to my office, and they’re going to reinvigorate me for the future.”

Faculty members and experts voiced some concern that the issues at Chapel Hill had been boiled down to board versus chancellor. That dynamic shuts out a third party that is traditionally involved in shared governance at universities -- the faculty.

Chapel Hill’s Faculty Council unanimously voted in October to keep the statue off campus and remove its base, according to Sherryl Kleinman, professor emerita of sociology at Chapel Hill. Over 50 black faculty members agreed with that stance, she added.

Yet Folt backed a plan in December that would have housed the statue in a history center, and the faculty resolution was buried in a long appendix after a faculty member asked to have it added, Kleinman continued. The Board of Governors rejected that plan.

“It’s crucial that future chancellors ensure that faculty are at the table with administrators and the Board of Trustees when it comes to such important campus matters,” Kleinman said in an email. “If the chancellor and other administrators had lived up to the AAUP principle of shared governance, they would have received faculty expertise, strategies and support. By shutting out the faculty, the chancellor faced pushback from within and without.”

The situation cuts to the heart of the role of faculty and shared governance, said Cathy Trower, president of Trower & Trower, a firm providing governance consulting to nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities. Do faculty matter, or does the situation come down to the powerful boards and their dynamics with the chancellor, she asked.

But Trower also addressed the political dynamics at play.

“We should definitely be concerned about this,” she said. “What happens nationally plays out on college campuses and always has. It’s one of the reasons things are a little scary right now for a lot of presidents who feel they are in precarious positions, especially at public institutions.”

In crisis situations, Trower asks boards to consider their own performance before hiring a president. How does the board function as a partner for that executive? And when leaders must make difficult decisions, she asks everyone to think about the institution’s mission and values.

She sounded a hopeful note.

“If we can’t solve some of this on college campuses, who are we kidding?” Trower asked. “This is where we should be dealing with these issues. We should be, I think, leaders on those issues. That’s what students come to us -- hopefully -- in part to learn.”

Only time will tell whether UNC and Michigan State leaders are set up to move past the political overtones and find a way to address the issues at hand. Many worry that with Spellings and Folt gone, few leaders are left in a position to protect Chapel Hill from outside influences.

At Michigan State, some trustees tried to look forward after accepting Engler’s resignation Thursday morning.

“I’m sorry it took so long,” said Kelly Tebay, a newly elected trustee, her voice cracking with emotion. “I really hope this is the first step in a long road to really changing the culture of this institution that we all love so much.”

The board’s chair, Byrum, thanked those throughout the university for keeping it dedicated to its mission.

“I believe this is the beginning of a better relationship, both among board members and to the MSU community as we continue the healing and pay respect to the survivors,” she said.

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Colleges respond as shutdown creates new cost issues for some students

Inside Higher Education - Hace 12 hours 42 mins

The College of Southern Maryland is located about an hour’s drive from Washington, and it’s midway between two U.S. Navy bases. That means the area served by the community college is home to thousands of federal employees -- and the impact of the ongoing federal shutdown on its students is unavoidable, said Maureen Murphy, the college’s president.

“The ripple effect is significant. There are very few people who are untouched,” she said.

The college is one of a handful of institutions that are offering emergency aid to students who are suddenly facing challenges paying for college because they or their parents are furloughed or not being paid. At the College of Southern Maryland, more than 100 students by last week had taken advantage of options such as deferred payment plans to deal with those unexpected challenges.

The Office of Federal Student Aid is unaffected by the government shutdown, so federal student loans and Pell Grants are being disbursed like normal. But for students at institutions like Southern Maryland or others elsewhere who depend on income from the federal government, the shutdown is creating sudden challenges paying for tuition, books and fees that would otherwise be affordable. Many of the students affected are well outside the Beltway and attend colleges across the country.

“People believe this is primarily concentrated in the D.C. or Virginia area,” said Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management at Wayne State University. “There are lots of federal offices all over the United States. People are being affected, and they didn’t know to plan for this.”

Detroit, where the Wayne State campus is located, is home to a Delta Airlines hub and a large number of Transportation Security Administration employees in particular.

Medley said the university has seen a handful of students drop classes this semester. Wayne State announced emergency aid early in January in the hopes that it could let students know about their options to cover those costs. The university has been offering students deferred payment plans and emergency loans using institutional funds. So far, the campus has extended that aid to about 10 students but expects more to take advantage if the shutdown continues.

“We’re working with students coming now who didn’t think it would take that long or thought their parent would be back to work by now,” Medley said. “Every day we’re having new ones pop up.”

Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said financial aid offices deal with situations all the time where a parent is laid off during the semester or a family member accumulates unexpected medical debt. The temporary nature of the shutdown makes it a unique circumstance, he said -- federal workers should eventually get paid when the shutdown ends. But it creates uncertainty for their ability to pay for essential costs in the short term.

Murphy, from Southern Maryland, said financial aid administrators have seen student parents who are afraid they won’t be able to continue paying for childcare and the cost of classes during the shutdown.

“I don't think anybody realizes how thoroughly it disrupts the lives of people who are struggling to get an education,” she said.

The college’s winter semester doesn’t begin until next week, meaning it’s tough to tell how enrollment may be affected, but Murphy expects some sort of decline. The college has also tried to assist students in the meantime in applying for state and federal aid. Many have tried to updating their federal student aid or FAFSA applications -- an endeavor hindered this month for some students by problems with the IRS website.

Other colleges are taking their own steps to help students during the shutdown. Thomas Edison State University in Trenton, N.J., said this week it would cover the tuition for any Coast Guard students enrolled at the college who haven’t received tuition assistance because of the shutdown. The University of Indianapolis said this week it would partner with a local brewery to provide meals to federal workers. 

And Southern New Hampshire University announced a $1 million special fund for those without their regular income.

Announcing today the creation of a $1m emergency fund for all SNHU students and employees adversely impacted by the federal govt shutdown and furlough. Emails have gone out to the SNHU community. No should be facing hunger or seeing their housing at risk because of broken govt.

— Paul LeBlanc (@snhuprez) January 15, 2019

The federal government, meanwhile, issued guidance last week to federal employees who have student loans about what steps to take during the shutdown. Their options, the department said, include postponing payments through a deferment or forbearance. Or they could enroll in an income-driven repayment plan that will lower their monthly payments.

Colleen Campbell, associate director of postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said the most important step for those borrowers is to call their loan servicer themselves to discuss their situation.

“The Department of Education is not telling servicers who is furloughed,” she said. “There are tools in place that should be able to assist furloughed borrowers.”

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Enrollment rebounding at City College of San Francisco

Inside Higher Education - Hace 12 hours 42 mins

For years City College of San Francisco faced declining enrollments as it weathered budget shortfalls, an accreditation crisis and leadership turnover.

It was a positive development when enrollment at the two-year college finally began climbing last year. But it still wasn't enough to stop CCSF administrators from moving forward with a plan to eliminate a third of nearly 1,200 credit courses over the next seven years to help balance the college's budget. College officials are also planning to increase the number of high-demand classes offered, such as accounting, math and English, as part of that process. Administrators aren't certain how many more courses will be added, however.

“We are decreasing offerings of some underenrolled classes but also increasing the offerings of in-demand classes,” said Connie Chan, media relations director for the college. “We’re looking into the future and we are staying on track.”

Last month, Chancellor Mark Rocha proposed cutting about 400 underenrolled classes over several years. Those classes, ranging from labor relations to ethnic studies, are multiple sections of general education courses that have had fewer than 20 students enrolled in the last six years, according to CCSF data.

Rocha wasn’t available for comment, but he told board members in December that the underenrolled “courses over a period of time have to go or else the college cost structure will just be unsustainable.”

Those cuts could also help lower an $11 million budget deficit City College is facing this year. CCSF has a $185 million operating budget, but last year was the first time the community college didn’t receive about $35 million in stability funding from the state. That funding had been given to help City College make up the shortfall from the loss of enrollment revenue precipitated by students' uncertainty about CCSF's accreditation status. The enrollment decline began immediately after the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges sanctioned the college for financial and administrative problems. At the time, City College had been running budget deficits for several years and had dipped into its reserves to cover shortfalls. The sanction led to a years-long dispute between the college and the accrediting commission.

“We no longer have that large number of full-time-equivalent students,” said Brigitte Davilla, a City College board trustee and a faculty member at San Francisco State University. “But we're growing. We’re trying to keep in mind our budget is much less without stabilization funds.”

City College earned back its full accreditation in 2017 after years of uncertainty. But rebuilding hasn’t been easy.

When the accreditation crisis occurred in 2012, the overall student head count at City College fell by 12 percent, going from about 83,400 in 2011 to 73,359. Enrollment reached its lowest level in 2016, when just 58,242 students were attending the college, but the number rose to 63,041 students in 2017, the first increase in 10 years.

Enrollment at City College has rebounded in part because of the Free City College program started by the college and the City of San Francisco. The pilot program allows city residents to attend the college tuition-free and earn associate degrees or enough class credits to transfer to a four-year college or university, where they will be guaranteed admission.

“It’s definitely had an impact and encouraged people to go back to school or to take classes and switch careers,” said Jennifer Worley, president of the City College of San Francisco Federation of Teachers. “So, for sure it has increased enrollment, but we’re still not where we were before the accreditation crisis.”

The free-tuition program is set to expire later this year, but voters will decide this fall whether to extend it for 10 years.

CCSF is not the only struggling community college to experience increased enrollments after starting free-tuition programs.

Morley Winograd, president of the Campaign for Free College Tuition, points to enrollment increases in Tennessee after the state expanded its tuition-free program to include adults last year. Tennessee officials had anticipated 8,000 adult learners would apply for the program. But they received more than 30,000 applications, and nearly 15,000 adult students enrolled.

Winograd said Tennessee's experience is an example of how these initiatives can help community colleges rebound.

The numbers "suggest expanding the idea to adult learners would actually end any enrollment decline," he said in an email. Free City doesn't have any age restrictions and its message is clear -- it's for San Francisco residents.

Mary Rauner, a senior research associate at WestEd, a nonprofit organization that is part of the California College Promise Project, which tracks and provides support for free-tuition programs in the state, said programs that have clear messages about the financial and academic benefits of participating can influence students' decisions about where to go to college, which can lead to enrollment increases.

Davilla said CCSF administrators are also expecting more students to enroll as a result of the college's efforts to increase dual enrollment with San Francisco-area high schools, and also because the college added more online classes to its course offerings.

"We see a lot of room for growth," she said.

Davilla is also optimistic that CCSF's enrollment will return to what it was prior to the accreditation crisis.

"We still have enough of a program base that attracts students and enough underserved students to climb back," she said.

Chan, the CCSF spokeswoman, said some faculty members may see their workload increase or decrease with the programmatic changes. The college is also hoping to shift faculty members into high-demand courses, such as math and English, for which four-year universities grant transfer credit, she said.

Worley said the faculty union disagrees with Rocha’s decision to cut classes.

“We want to see the college rebuild enrollment, and if we’re cutting courses, then we’re shrinking the college,” she said.

Some faculty members fear the changes City College administrators want to implement may alter the mission of the college.

Worley said there has been "a pretty concerted effort" to turn the institution into a junior college focused on increasing access to 18-year-olds so they can transfer to universities. She noted that CCSF already serves young students and the faculty union would be against any changes that limit options for nontraditional students and students in non-credit-bearing courses.

“We want to keep robust and diverse course offerings at City College for the entire community.”

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Ontario cuts tuition by 10 percent while reducing aid spending, raising concerns about effects on low-income students and university budgets

Inside Higher Education - Hace 12 hours 42 mins

The Ontario government announced Thursday it would cut tuition fees for domestic students at all public colleges and universities across the province by 10 percent and reduce student aid spending, raising concerns both about the hit universities will take to their bottom lines and the impact of the changes on low-income students, who will no longer be eligible for free tuition.

According to the CBC, low-income students who previously could qualify for a grant covering the full cost of tuition will now receive a loan for a portion of their funding. An online calculator for estimating eligibility under the Ontario Student Aid Program shows that a student with a family income of 50,000 Canadian dollars ($37,659) or less would be eligible for about a 50-50 mix of loans versus grants, while students from higher-earning families would receive a higher proportion of funding in loans.

In a news release, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government said it wants to target funding to students who need it most, reducing the family income threshold a student must fall under in order to be eligible for grants and increasing the share of grants going to families with incomes of less than 50,000 Canadian dollars from 76 to 82 percent.

Alex Usher, a Toronto-based higher education consultant and frequent commentator on Canadian higher education, said on Twitter that the changes include some he has advocated for, such as not wasting money on grants for high-income students. But he said the problem is that some low-income students are worse off as a result of these changes while students whose families make 170,000 Canadian dollars or more are better off.

This is not wholly inaccurate spin. Such OSAP as remains will be more targeted than previously. Fact remains: all students on student aid will be worse off after today; only students not in need of aid (mainly due to high family income) will be better off. https://t.co/tgXwHpb81U

— Alex Usher (@AlexUsherHESA) January 17, 2019

Ontario’s minister for training, colleges and universities, Merrilee Fullerton, said in a news conference Thursday that the previous Liberal government had put the OSAP program "on an unsustainable path." She cited a December report from the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario that found the cost of OSAP rose substantially after the government introduced changes in 2017-18 that increased the share of aid that took the form of grants versus loans. The audit found that the cost of aid, mostly in the form of nonrenewable grants, disbursed in the 2017-18 academic year increased 25 percent over the previous year while enrollments rose 2 percent.

Fullerton said the government would restore the program to its 2016-17 levels "to ensure that it is both sustainable and available for the students of today, tomorrow, and generations to come."

Another change announced by Fullerton Thursday will allow students to opt out of paying certain ancillary fees. Fullerton said that while certain "essential" fees covering things such as health and safety programs and mental health counseling would continue to be mandatory, students could choose to opt out of others. “Starting in September, students will be able to choose which programs and organizations they want to support and be more empowered and informed about their own finances through our Student Choice Initiative,” she said.

Fullerton did not reference specific examples of programs that students might opt out of. However, in response to a question from a reporter about whether a student could opt out of paying for a program supporting LGBTQ students, she said there will be some leeway for institutions to determine which fees are essential.

Over all, Fullerton framed the changes as intended to put money back in the pockets of students and their families.

“This first-of-its-kind, across-the-board tuition reduction will see Ontario students receive a 10 percent savings in their education,” she said. “This reduction means significant savings for students and their families. And for a student attending an Ontario college, they will see a savings of on average of 340 [Canadian dollars] depending on the program,” she said.

Fullerton said the total value of tuition relief to students and families across the province equates to 450 million Canadian dollars. Asked if colleges and universities would be reimbursed by the provincial government for the lost tuition, she said she had confidence universities would adapt and find other sources of revenue. She estimated that the lost tuition revenue will account for between 2 and 4 percent of most institutions’ operating budgets.

“Universities are autonomous, colleges are relatively independent, and they have funding from other sources and revenues from other sources. And I fully anticipate that they are capable and able to make adjustments,” Fullerton said. She said that there will be no reduction to state operating grants for institutions.

Universities protested, however, that without being made whole, the cuts to tuition will negatively affect their teaching. The situation is parallel to state legislatures in the U.S. freezing tuition rates and not making up for the difference in tuition revenue with increases in appropriations -- though in this case Ontario actually reduced tuition rates, as opposed to merely freezing them in place.

“Ontario universities share the government’s goal of ensuring that all students who qualify should be able to access a postsecondary opportunity,” David Lindsay, the president and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities, said in a statement. “However, today’s announcement, cutting domestic tuition fees by 10 percent, will reduce universities’ revenue by 360 million [Canadian dollars] -- and negatively affect their ability to provide the best possible learning experience for students, partner with their communities and help deliver economic and social benefits to the people of Ontario.”

Lindsay added, “The current financial situation faced by universities should be viewed in the context of over 16 years of decreased funding. Since 2002-3, operating grants per student, when adjusted for inflation, have decreased by 10.6 percent, which in turn has required universities to fund a greater proportion of their operating costs through tuition fees.”

Mitzie Hunter, a member of Ontario's provincial parliament from the Liberal Party and a former minister of advanced education and skills development for Ontario, issued a statement criticizing the policy of the Progressive Conservative government, led by the premier, Doug Ford. “Doug Ford is slashing funding to universities and colleges while adding debt to students across the province -- it’s completely unacceptable,” she said.

“Only Doug Ford would introduce a student aid plan that will help the wealthiest students at the expense of those who need help the most. The Ford government tuition cut will benefit only the wealthiest and the government. Because tuition fees will be lowered, the government will be spending less money on tuition fees through OSAP. Needy students will see next to no benefits because under the previous program they were already being provided for. Wealthy students, who never qualified for OSAP in the first place, are being given a 10 percent tuition cut even though they can afford it the most.”

The Canadian Federations of Students-Ontario also issued a statement condemning what it described as “a reckless plan for postsecondary education in the province, leaving students in Ontario worse off.”

“The Doug Ford government has attempted to spin this announcement as a 10 percent reduction in tuition fees when in reality Ford’s plan will increase out-of-pocket costs for students, diminish the quality of education students receive and undermine crucial student supports on campus,” said Nour Alideeb, the chairperson of the student federation. “The reality of loans-based financial aid programs is that students from low-income families pay more for their education in the long run. This announcement will make life harder for students and their families.”

The student federation also raised concerns that the Student Choice Initiative will encourage students to opt out of paying dues to student unions, which the group described as "important and independent organizations that advocate for students’ best interests and provide cost-savings services."

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, an entity representing a group of student associations across Ontario, also issued a statement expressing concern about the impact of the "opt-out" provisions on student organizations.

"Student representation, the autonomy of student governments, student media outlets, and services like health and dental plans, clubs systems, student-led programming, transit passes, and peer-support services, could be at risk," the alliance said. "Most student unions’ services, funded through student fees, reduce university and student reliance on government funding. Student unions fill in gaps in programming and services where universities cannot or will not."

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Colleges announce commencement speakers

Inside Higher Education - Hace 12 hours 42 mins
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Una huelga indefinida de maestros en Los Ángeles deja sin clase a más de medio millón de alumnos

El País - Educación - Jue, 17 Ene 2019 - 23:20
La izquierda demócrata abraza la lucha por las escuelas públicas de la ciudad, el segundo distrito más grande de EE UU, como un campo de pruebas para todo el país

Part-time research associate wanted for national survey of online learning

Tony Bates - Jue, 17 Ene 2019 - 18:19
We (the Canadian Digital Learning Research Association – CDLRA) have almost completed all the work for the 2018 national survey of online learning in Canadian post-secondary institutions. The 2018 reports will be released next week and we are just beginning the work for the 2019 survey.  For the past two years I have done most of […]

Nadie quiere pagar la cotización de medio millón de becarios

El País - Educación - Jue, 17 Ene 2019 - 17:55
Los rectores de las universidades y las empresas rechazan el pago de los 51 euros mensuales que exigirá el Gobierno. Autonomías del PSOE y el PP también se oponen

Las universidades públicas de Madrid se rebelan contra la apertura de tres privadas

El País - Educación - Jue, 17 Ene 2019 - 15:45
Los rectores afirman que son “academias” que no investigan ni doctoran. La fundación científica del Gobierno regional se opone

(Almost) free books on online learning

Tony Bates - Jue, 17 Ene 2019 - 14:45
I did a big clear-out over the holiday period and found a whole batch of brand new printed copies of three of my books. One reason I moved to open publishing was because I ended up having to buy copies of my own books from the publishers to sell at conferences, and these are the […]

¿Por qué a mi hijo no se le dan bien las matemáticas?

El País - Educación - Jue, 17 Ene 2019 - 09:34
El profesor es fundamental para que los niños se diviertan con las matemáticas, les pierdan el miedo y descubran su aplicación en la vida diaria

Por qué ya nadie coge el teléfono: así hemos olvidado la cultura de la conversación

El País - Educación - Jue, 17 Ene 2019 - 04:22
No es nada personal, las conversaciones telefónicas se reservan para contactos cada vez más íntimos

‘Cut the Wire’, la bomba de juguete que ha ofendido a Canadá

El País - Educación - Jue, 17 Ene 2019 - 02:37
Varios padres han expresado que banaliza la violencia entre los niños, como también lo señalaron voces críticas en EE UU. La empresa suspende su fabricación tras las quejas

Michigan State board moves to oust interim president after a year of pressure and bad press

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 17 Ene 2019 - 02:00

John Engler’s words caught up to him Wednesday as the interim president of Michigan State University reportedly decided to resign in the face of an ultimatum from trustees.

A former governor of Michigan who took the helm of the university in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, Engler was asked to resign by a board that was prepared to fire him, according to reports in the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News. The board was moving to act after Engler made another round of controversial comments about those who suffered Nassar’s abuse.

Engler will resign in a week, he said in an 11-page resignation letter.

"As you are aware, I am out of town heading to San Antonio to attend my late father-in-law's internment [sic] service at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery on Friday morning with Michelle and our Texas family," Engler's letter said. "Given that, in compliance with your request that I resign and in order to ensure an orderly transition to my interim successor, I hereby resign the office of President of Michigan State University effective 9:00am, Wednesday, January 23, 2019."

His coming departure caps a tumultuous year as interim president for Engler, who oversaw the university as it reached a landmark $500 million settlement with hundreds of abuse survivors but who also made numerous statements and decisions that drew outrage. The last straw came after The Detroit News on Friday published comments Engler made to its editorial board about those Nassar had abused.

“You’ve got people, they are hanging on and this has been … There are a lot of people who are touched by this, survivors who haven’t been in the spotlight,” Engler told The Detroit News editorial board, according to an article published Friday. “In some ways they have been able to deal with this better than the ones who’ve been in the spotlight who are still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition. And it’s ending. It’s almost done.”

Trustees felt compelled to act after those words. They scheduled a meeting for today at which they were reportedly ready to fire the interim president.

"What we have is a repetition of instances where there has been despicable comments, and this has created a setback for the community and cost the trust and credibility for the university and the survivors as they continue to heal," the board chair, Dianne Byrum, told The Detroit News.

Another trustee, Brianna Scott, told the newspaper that the majority of the board felt something needed to happen after Engler’s comments. And a third, Brian Mosallam, took issue with Engler’s personality.

“I have watched Engler not only interact with our courageous survivors but our faculty, employees and students as well,” Mosallam told The Detroit News. “He's not only a bully, he is a mean-spirited human being. His time is up.”

Mosallam had tried to oust Engler before. In June, the trustee failed to muster enough votes to prompt the board to fire the interim president. Mosallam mounted that effort after emails surfaced in which Engler alleged one of the survivors of Nassar’s sexual abuse was receiving kickbacks from lawyers and that others were being manipulated by lawyers. Engler apologized for those statements.

Engler's resignation did not contain an apology for his recent comments. It listed what he sees as his numerous accomplishments at Michigan State, including everything from initiating cultural change to managing a visit by "white identity provocateur Richard Spencer" to taking steps to address relationship violence and academic success by student athletes in the classes entering from 2008 to 2011.

"The bottom line is that MSU is a dramatically better, stronger institution than it was one year ago," said the letter, which described the university as an institution in crisis when Engler took over. "The many changes we have made are substantive and offer [sic] far-reaching in their impact. At the same time, our leaders across the university are energized, organized and communicating in far more effective ways than had been the case."

A lawyer representing Nassar's victims issued a statement painting a much less rosy picture of the departing interim president.

"John Engler has always treated survivors as the enemy," said the statement from the lawyer, John Manly. "He took actions to obstruct and undermine criminal investigations of the university and its administration by the Michigan attorney general. His reckless and vile personal attacks upon individual survivors and their legal counsel continued to revictimize them. It is sad that Engler actually had to say publicly that he believed that survivors ‘enjoyed the spotlight’ brought about by their abuse for the university to finally force him to resign as president. It was long overdue."

Trustees took a "giant step" toward reclaiming Michigan State's reputation and placed the university on the path to reconciliation with survivors, Manly added.

Engler's letter pointed out that dynamics on the Board of Trustees have shifted since he was appointed. It started by saying that three new Democrats created a new majority on the board, and that Engler had been advised that five Democratic members of the board requested his resignation.

Two trustees who were up for re-election opted not to run this fall, and a third resigned amid health issues. Then governor Rick Snyder appointed Nancy Schlichting to the board in December as George Perles's term wound down, while Scott and Kelly Tebay won statewide elections for the open seats.

Faculty members who have voiced concern about the direction of Michigan State hailed the new-look board’s actions on Wednesday.

“This is a sign that we really do have a new board, and I think that’s really good news,” said Anna Pegler-Gordon, a social relations and policy professor at Michigan State and a member of Reclaim MSU, a group of students, employees and alumni that has been trying to convince leaders to conduct a public search instead of a closed search for the next permanent Michigan State president.

“It was the old board that hired him,” she said. “They sought input from faculty, staff and students and then completely ignored that input and made their own decision. Now we see just how bad that decision was, and I think it’s really important that the new board doesn’t make the same bad decisions.”

Indeed, Engler had faced opposition virtually from the moment he was named to the position. Survivors of Nassar’s abuse initially worried that Engler, a Michigan State alumnus and Republican who spent three terms as Michigan governor from 1991 to 2003, was not independent enough from the university’s entrenched culture.

Concerns soon grew beyond Engler’s background and his words. He was accused of offering $250,000 to settle a lawsuit with a survivor when her lawyer wasn’t present, then took heat for the university’s response to the Nassar crisis while testifying in front of a U.S. Senate panel. He reportedly cut features about the Nassar case from the university’s alumni magazine and was recently blasted by activists speaking at a meeting for not making eye contact with them.

In December, Engler redirected a fund that was intended to cover counseling for Nassar’s abuse survivors, moving $8.5 million from it into the fund for the legal settlement with survivors. That move cut the amount the university needed to borrow to pay for the settlement to $491.5 million but angered critics who already felt the university’s reaction to the scandal was tone-deaf.

The $10 million closed fund had been created when Lou Anna Simon was still Michigan State president and the university was facing increasing pressure to address the Nassar scandal. It had been suspended in July amid concerns about fraud not committed by victims or their family members.

Simon resigned in January of last year as the Nassar scandal threw Michigan State into crisis. She has since been charged with lying to police as they investigated the case.

Victims have been sharply critical of the way Michigan State responded to complaints about Nassar over the years. Some said they complained about him to the university, but that it did not take any significant action and failed to report abuse to authorities, allowing his abuse to go on for far longer than it would have if their warnings had been taken seriously.

In light of the missteps and massive negative press, faculty members seemed willing to dismiss any concerns that the board was being too activist in pushing out the interim president.

“Sometimes boards may become too interventionist, but under the circumstances in which MSU is suffering reputational damage from an extended failure to prevent or stop sexual mistreatment of MSU students and thereafter from maladroit comments to and about the victims, the active engagement of the board appears to be prudent,” said Mae Kuykendall, a law professor at Michigan State, in an email.

University academic leaders also backed Engler's removal. A group of 23 leaders, most of them deans, addressed a letter to the Board of Trustees dated Wednesday saying they did not support Engler and asking for “appropriate” action.

“The pattern of comments by Interim President Engler, including his most recent statement suggesting that some of the survivors of sexual abuse are 'enjoying' the spotlight, further harms the very people it is our responsibility to support,” it said.

Michigan State’s actions throughout the unfolding Nassar scandal have consistently flabbergasted experts with experience managing organizations through crises and communicating during them. But some could see why a board would have wanted to appoint someone with Engler’s résumé.

Although faculty members may not have been happy with a nonacademic, a former governor who is well connected politically could be seen as an asset at a time when the university faced massive financial and reputational liabilities.

An interim still needs to stay out of his or her own way, said Brian Tierney, the CEO of Brian Communications, a marketing, advertising and public relations firm in suburban Philadelphia.

“The first thing is do no harm,” said Tierney, a former publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer who is also a trustee at Widener University. “You would think a three-term governor of the state is somebody who has been through the battle. They’re going to have good relationships with the Legislature, which is critical.”

Yet Engler continued to make controversial comments in settings where officials usually expect to be monitored. Most know not to make inflammatory statements in emails that can be copied or that are subject to public information requests. They also try not to make news when visiting with editorial boards.

Some who are intimately familiar with the university and the state of Michigan weren’t surprised it didn’t work out with Engler, however.

“I’m very comfortable saying that when he was chosen by the board, I thought he was a poor choice,” said Donald Heller, who was dean of Michigan State’s College of Education before becoming provost at the University of San Francisco in 2016. “Not just because he hadn’t had experience in academe, but more so based on his track record as governor, where he really wasn’t known as someone who was a unifier, someone who was conciliatory, someone who worked across constituencies.”

Michigan State’s board now has to find an interim to take over for the ousted interim until a permanent replacement can be named. They were said to be discussing options Wednesday and were expected to have a name today.

It could be a difficult job to fill. Experts recommended someone who is transparent and who will be visible -- but probably someone who doesn’t have a background as a politician or who tends to be a lightning rod.

For the long term, Heller brought up the idea of following the script written by Penn State University after the Jerry Sandusky case. The university’s provost, Rodney Erickson, took over after the scandal brought down President Graham Spanier in 2011.

The university then hired someone who was familiar with it in 2014. Eric J. Barron had been at Penn State years before the scandal broke but had also been away for a time. Barron was at Penn State from 1986 to 2006, most recently as a dean. He served in several positions elsewhere, including as president at Florida State University, before taking over at Penn State.

Some faculty members are adamant that an external candidate is needed, though. Michigan State has frequently been criticized for an insular culture.

“We have this tendency to hire from within,” said Pegler-Gordon. “It doesn’t lead to institutional change. Frankly, I don’t think it leads to institutional courage, because when people rise up within the existing system, they understand how it works, and they maintain it.

“We really need change,” she said. “We need institutional courage at this moment.”

Editorial Tags: College administrationSexual assaultImage Source: Michigan State University/Derrick L. TurnerImage Caption: John Engler (center) announced his resignation as Michigan State interim president Wednesday.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Michigan State University

Erroneous job ads with the preferred candidates' names in the title roil academics who have experienced "sham" searches

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 17 Ene 2019 - 02:00

Oops. Two job ads from the University of Notre Dame were accidentally posted online this month with the names of the preferred candidates in the job title. The ads were widely circulated on social media -- along with academics’ horror stories about having applied to supposedly open searches, only to discover well into or after the interview process that the position was always going to go to an internal candidate or spousal or other preferred hire.

Notre Dame discovered the error this week and had the ads -- one for a visiting assistant special professional in the program of liberal studies and one for a visiting research assistant professor of engineering -- removed.

Dennis Brown, a spokesperson for Notre Dame, said Wednesday that the university has since apologized to those named in the job titles. He attributed the error to a vendor responsible for posting ads to job sites. That vendor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Brown also said that the searches were not open in the first place, despite many Twitter critics’ suspicions about sham searches. He declined further comment, including questions about how Notre Dame handles open searches when there is a preferred candidate.

Neither preferred candidate returned a request for comment.

Elizabeth Catte, a public historian who shared some of the now-deleted posts on social media, said in a direct message on Twitter that it doesn’t matter whether these specific searches were open or not.

What’s it is important, she said, is “that the ghoulishness of fake academic interviews resonated with so many people and specifically those who had experience with Notre Dame.”

The Notre Dame situation aside, do sham open searches really happen?

A faculty member at a small, private institution who has sat on academic search committees but who did not want to be quoted by name, given the sensitivity of the issue, said he “wouldn’t go so far as to say very many such searches are full-blown charades.”

Yet, he continued, “I do know of a number of searches in which a candidate was preferred from the get-go and other candidates would have had to get over a very high bar to prevail or, alternatively, the preferred candidate would have had to soil himself.”

Based on “my limited experience, I’d say it’s not common, but it isn’t very rare, either,” he added.

Another faculty member at a large public institution said open searches can indeed be a charade.

The professor said he was upset to discover a job he’d once interviewed for had gone to an internal candidate, and that “it's frustrating when you feel like your time and trouble is just window dressing.” At the same time, he said, if a search has a target, “it's better to have a real search process rather than just giving the job to Dr. Inside.”

Here is one of the ads, which the blog Leiter Reports captured before both were deleted.

New Hiring ModelsFacultyEditorial Tags: FacultyHiringImage Source: TwitterIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: University of Notre Dame

U of Nebraska at Lincoln under fire for including race in campus crime alert

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 17 Ene 2019 - 02:00

After a University of Nebraska at Lincoln student was sexually assaulted in her dormitory last month, some on the campus have condemned the email bulletin that warned about her assailants because police noted that the two suspects were black.

So vehement was the criticism among students that university officials are now re-evaluating when and how racial identifiers should be included in such warnings.

The debate on whether race is relevant in campus crime alerts crops up repeatedly nationwide.

Opinions on the matter differ.

Some Nebraska students and certain advocates believe that broadcasting a suspect’s race -- which may seem innocuous and quite typical for an alert -- instead breeds fear because the notices can be vague and reinforce harmful stereotypes that black people commit crimes frequently.

Campus police officers, however, have said that federal law forces them to publicize information they have on violent crimes in a timely way, especially if suspects have not been detained and may pose a threat. They have said that descriptors, including racial ones, are important to warn the public and help police locate a perpetrator -- in the case of the sexual assault at Nebraska, the survivor didn’t know the suspects well, and so they were still a threat to campus, university officials said.

Late at night on Dec. 1, a young woman and her friend took two men, the suspects, back to a residence hall after they had met the duo earlier that evening. The student reported to police in the early hours next morning that she had been sexually assaulted.

Owen Yardley, the police chief, sent a campuswide email describing the suspects two days after the report of the student's assault. One suspect, Yardley wrote, was a black man between 5 feet 8 inches tall and 5 feet 11 inches tall with short hair who was wearing white pants, a white jacket, black shoes and a black stocking hat. The other was also a black man, also with short hair, between 6 feet and 6 feet 3 inches. He had on a black North Face jacket, a black stocking hat with the word “fancy” on the front, red Adidas pants and a white Adidas T-shirt that read "Omaha Basketball." Yardley did not share details about the survivor or the residence hall where she was attacked.

In the day following the warning, students criticized the institution for noting the suspects’ race, said spokeswoman Deb Fiddelke.

One student, Temi Onayemi, questioned in a tweet that was retweeted more than 300 times and liked 3,100 times (as of Wednesday) why the university had publicized the assault.

Out of all the sexual assault's that happen at UNL, why is it that the first one ever blasted to every student's email deals with two black men. Before anyone tries to make any "not a race thing statements", walk down Greek row, think about it, and get back to me. I'll listen.

— temi. (@TemiOnayemi) December 4, 2018

“Out of all the sexual assaults that happen at UNL, why is it that the first one ever blasted to every student's email deals with two black men. Before anyone tries to make any ‘not a race thing statements’ walk down Greek row, think about it, and get back to me,” Onayemi wrote.

These alerts aren’t sent to the Nebraska campus often. The university sent out three bulletins from 2015 to 2018, including the most recent one from December. All three list the suspects’ races (none were white) and concern sexual harassment or assault allegations.

“I just want to clarify, for those who think I'm sweeping the actions of the assailants under the rug. Assault of any kind is wrong, and I truthfully do hope that the men are found and dealt with accordingly. However, just because I bring up race, doesn't mean I'm overlooking the assault, I just want to make it aware that this is a problem that the black community (my community), is facing,” Onayemi continued.

Fiddelke said that because the assailants were unknown, officials wanted to make sure the campus had all the information to identify them. She said generally, the alerts are written by the police department in conjunction with the university communications office.

“We’re looking at how we do these communications,” Fiddelke said. “We are evaluating how we might do this better in the future, if we include the races or a way to do this to explain why we’re including it -- that kind of thing.”

Because these discussions have just started, Fiddelke said she couldn’t provide any more information. (Students also criticized the safety tips in the alert, saying that police officers were victim blaming when they recommended that students not bring people they don’t know back to their dormitories.)

Police chiefs have dealt with these concerns for a long time, said Sue Riseling, executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

Around when the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act was passed in 1990, officers warned politicians that the stipulation in the law about notifying the campus of certain offenses straight away would be problematic, Riseling said.

The Clery Act requires officials to send out a warning even if a crime on the campus hasn’t been confirmed, merely reported. And if there are not many details about a crime, police generally need to include what they do have, which may include a suspect’s race, Riseling said.

Riseling said she supports campus police forces sharing a suspect’s race because that informs the public and helps with an investigation. Only when a racial descriptor is all police have -- “a black man committed X, for example” -- should race be omitted, Riseling said.

“That doesn’t help anyone,” Riseling said. “And I understand the sensitivity -- we don’t want to reinforce that black men are raping women. But I want to ask the students, I understand you’re upset -- but how else would that have gone better? What could have been stated better?”

But some campuses have banned or minimized the use of race in crime warnings, which are generally sent out via either email or text message. Notably, at the University of Minnesota in 2015, following student complaints, the institution said it would limit references to race in its crime warnings to only “when there is sufficient detail that would help identify a specific individual or group.”

Brown University has also excluded race from its crime alerts since 2015.

Evidence suggests that, even subconsciously, the inclusion of race in these warnings can have an effect. Researchers from Harvard University conducted an experiment in 2008 in which participants read two notices about a violent crime -- they were identical, except one listed the suspect as black, the other white. The psychologists reported that those who read the crime alert blaming a black person were more likely to associate African Americans with hostility and criminality.

Their findings showed “how a single word, indicating the racial identity of an alleged crime suspect, can shift implicit and explicit stereotypes toward entire racial groups,” the researchers wrote.

Shaun Harper, an academic who leads the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center, said he has experienced firsthand how race in a crime alert can influence the mood of a campus and its minority students.

In 2004, when Harper was a professor at USC, he received an email from the campus police department about a crime (he doesn’t remember what) committed by a black man in his mid- to late 20s wearing a red T-shirt and jeans.

These details stuck with Harper because, as he read the alert, he realized he matched the exact description in the email. He was wearing jeans and a red T-shirt (the USC colors are cardinal red and gold, so such attire was ubiquitous).

“There are lots of black students and black male professors and staff people who walk around this campus with jeans and red shirts,” Harper said. “Suddenly I felt incredibly unsafe. I wasn’t fearful that the criminal who was on the list would do something to me. I scared to death to walk out of my building -- someone might have thought that I was him.”

Harper said he emailed the police chief at the time, who wrote off his concerns. But Harper maintains that institutions should leave out race in these alerts, because otherwise they run the risk of profiling black students and students of other races.

“I think it’s the job of the police, not the job of faculty, staff and students, to do the work stopping the assailant, or the criminal. I just don’t think the descriptions of race are necessary,” Harper said.

DiversityEditorial Tags: CrimeRacial groupsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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