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Yet another account of censorship involving a China studies journal has come to light. And the scholars involved say this case involves an insidious “blurring of boundaries” where they were misled into thinking Western publishing standards would apply when in fact the journal in question was subject to Chinese government censorship.
Lorraine Wong and Jacob Edmond, both professors at the University of Otago, in New Zealand, have written an account of the censorship they encountered when they edited a planned special issue of the journal Frontiers of Literary Studies in China. The journal is published by the Netherlands-based publishing company Brill in association with the China-based Higher Education Press, an entity that describes itself on its website (in Chinese) as affiliated with China’s Ministry of Education. The journal's editorial board lists scholars from major American and international universities -- including Cornell University, Duke University, Harvard University, the University of California, Davis, and the University of Washington -- and its editor in chief is based at New York University. The journal’s editorial office is located in Beijing.
Wong and Edmond wrote that the association with Brill, along with the involvement of leading scholars in the field on the editorial board, led them to mistakenly assume the publication standards would be akin to those of other journals in the field published in the U.S. What they found, however, was that the affiliation with the Higher Education Press and the location of the editorial office in Beijing means “the journal is subject to the full range of Chinese government censorship.”
Wong and Edmond encountered this censorship in editing the planned special issue on the topic of “how diverse understandings and uses of the Chinese script have shaped not only Chinese literature and culture but also representations of China in the wider world.” They oversaw a peer-review process and accepted four essays.
But they wrote that when they received the proofs for the issue shortly before the publication date, one of the four essays, by Jin Liu, of the Georgia Institute of Technology, was entirely missing. Their introductory essay had also been “crudely edited” to remove references to Liu’s essay, which focused on an artist who uses invented characters to satirize the Chinese Communist Party.
“When we wrote to the FLSC editor, Xudong Zhang, to question this censorship, we were told that the removal of Liu’s essay should come as no surprise, since FLSC has its editorial office in Beijing and so must abide by normal Chinese censorship,” Wong and Edmond wrote. “However, Zhang went further. He went on to say that Liu’s essay should never have been accepted and that he was now using his editorial prerogative to reject it.” Email correspondence with Zhang shared with Inside Higher Ed verifies this general account.
Zhang, a professor of comparative literature and East Asian studies at New York University, declined to comment via email, saying he would like to confer with the editorial board before issuing a statement. He did say there were "misrepresentations in the article about the editorial process and decision making, but those may appear to be academic niceties compared with the larger issue of censorship in China and U.S. academic response to it."
One listed member of the editorial board, Nick Admussen, an assistant professor of Chinese literature and culture at Cornell University, said on Twitter that he had asked to be de-listed from the editorial board and that he had never agreed to join in the first place. “There is something fake about the journal, it shouldn't be on Brill, and while it has published useful and meaningful research, it's not for me,” he wrote.
Brill’s chief publishing officer, Jasmin Lange, issued a written statement saying Brill's cooperation with Higher Education Press in China is under review.
“Since 2012 Brill has had an agreement with Higher Education Press (HEP) in China to distribute the journal Frontiers of Literary Studies in China,” Lange said. “HEP is responsible for the editorial process and production of the journal. Brill distributes the journal in print and online to customers outside China. We are very concerned about the developments that were described in the recent blog post by Lorraine Wong and Jacob Edmond. Brill, founded in 1683, has a long-standing tradition of being an international and independent publisher of scholarly works of high quality. We are committed to the furthering of knowledge and the concepts of independent scholarship and freedom of press. The cooperation with HEP is currently under review and Brill will not hesitate to take any necessary action to uphold our publishing ethics.”
Brill is the latest international scholarly publisher to find itself embroiled in issues related to the exportation of Chinese censorship. In 2017, Cambridge University Press briefly blocked access in mainland China to more than 1,000 journal articles in the prestigious journal The China Quarterly before reversing course and restoring access to the articles, which dealt with sensitive topics in China like the Cultural Revolution, Tibet, Tiananmen Square and the pro-democracy movement, and the Xinjiang region. The German publisher Springer Nature has stood by its decision to block access to certain journal articles in China on the grounds that limiting access to certain content in China is necessary to preserve access to its wider catalog. More recently it’s come to light that Chinese importers have stopped buying whole journals in China or area studies.
Scholars are worried that international scholarly publishers interested in maintaining access to the massive Chinese market are coming under pressure to comply with Chinese government censorship demands, in effect helping spread the Chinese censorship regime beyond China's borders and tainting scholarly publishing standards worldwide. In reflecting on what happened in their specific case, Wong and Edmond wrote that scholars are used to different sets of rules applying to publication inside mainland China and outside China, but that the details of the Frontiers case suggest that distinction is breaking down.
They wrote, “We were perhaps naïve to assume that the association with Brill and the international editorial board indicated that the journal operated according to the normal standards for non-Mainland publications and would not be subject to censorship -- a mistaken belief shared by us as editors and our contributor, Liu. In subsequent correspondence, we have discovered from senior colleagues that others, particularly colleagues in junior and vulnerable positions, have also been caught in the unexpected application of censorship to a journal that, at a casual glance, might appear to sit outside the boundaries of Chinese government control. The journal Frontiers of History in China, which is likewise jointly published by Brill and the Higher Education Press, may have misled others in a similar way.
“We believe that it is precisely the blurring of boundaries between publication inside and outside Mainland China that makes the precedent of FLSC particularly worrying and insidious,” they continued. “We have trained ourselves to read between the lines of work published on the Mainland, noting and compensating for the telling absences. But what happens when it is no longer obvious where something was published and according to which rules? Moreover, in these straitened times, dependence on editorial and financial support may well lead other editors, academics and publishing houses outside China to add their stamp of legitimacy to such censorship.”
Wong and Edmond wrote that they withdrew the entire issue of Frontiers in solidarity with Liu and that three of the four essays, including Liu's, have just been published in another journal, Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (their essay on the censorship they experienced serves as a preface to the three essays, and was also published Thursday on the Modern Chinese Literature and Culture Resource Center website).
“I admire the two special editors, their courage for speaking out and letting the broader academic community know about this,” said Liu, an associate professor of Chinese language and culture at Georgia Tech. “I think scholars will be more careful to submit their articles to this journal later on.”
In an interview, Edmond, an associate professor of English at Otago, said he and Wong decided to go public with what happened "because of our belief in academic freedom, also a desire for the Chinese studies community to at least have a proper conversation about the potential through such joint publication deals and other forms of partnership for Chinese government censorship to be extended beyond the borders of China. We consider these really serious issues."
Charlene Makley, a professor of anthropology at Reed College who has tracked issues related to censorship in China studies journals, said that "many of the previous examples that have come to light have been more about Chinese importers choosing not to buy whole journals or trying to pressure publishers to get rid of certain articles just due to key terms. We haven’t [previously] seen cases come to light where you actually see editors stepping in and going after content.
"This might be a tip of an iceberg or it might be an anomaly," Makley said. "What’s happening I think is as they say the boundaries are blurring: there’s no easy distinction between China publication and outside China publication because of these behind-the-scene connections between Chinese publications and non-Chinese distributors and publishers. We need somebody to be trying to unpack some of those behind-the-scene relationships. There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than authors and peer reviewers know and maybe even editors -- in this case, they were invited editors."GlobalEditorial Tags: Academic freedomChinaPublishingIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box:
Colorado governor Jared Polis on Thursday weighed in on the controversy surrounding the state Board of Regents' pick to lead the University of Colorado system, suggesting that board members should find someone to replace University of North Dakota president Mark Kennedy, the sole finalist for the job.
A Republican former Minnesota congressman, Kennedy has led North Dakota since 2016, but his party-line GOP voting record in Congress from 2001 to 2007 has given some Coloradans -- including at least one Democratic board member -- second thoughts on his candidacy. Regents chose him April 10 as the sole candidate for the post and could issue a final vote on his nomination as early as next week.
In a Thursday morning tweet, Polis, a Democrat who is Colorado’s first openly gay governor, said, “It's very important that they find a candidate that unites the board. It’s never good for a candidate or the institution if the board is split on a decision of this magnitude.” Polis ended with the hashtag #copolitics.
As the University of Colorado moves forward in its selection process for a new President, it's very important that they find a candidate that unites the board. It’s never good for a candidate or the institution if the board is split on a decision of this magnitude. #copolitics— Jared Polis (@GovofCO) April 18, 2019
Ken McConnellogue, the CU system’s spokesman, said in response, "We look forward to the next steps in the process when the university community and Coloradans will get to hear from Mark Kennedy, beginning Monday," The Denver Post reported. "The governor will be one of the first stops on his itinerary next week."
Five of the nine elected regents are Republicans; the other four are Democrats. It's not immediately clear how they will vote on Kennedy's nomination. By law, they are required to allow 14 days before acting on it further.
One regent, Democrat Lesley Smith, has said regents didn’t discuss Kennedy's voting record during his interview, but that he discussed his support for gay people while answering a question on diversity. The board was satisfied with his answer, but Smith said she is "getting a lot of pushback from constituents" on Kennedy's congressional voting record.
She tweeted last week, "Some information about Mark has come to light that is concerning; my colleagues and I will be exploring this further."
Smith did not respond to a request for an interview, but speaking at a meeting of Boulder Progressives on Thursday, she said Kennedy would have "lots of chances to talk about things that are issues with the community," the Boulder Daily Camera reported.
During an interview Wednesday with Colorado Public Radio, Kennedy wavered when asked his thoughts on affirmative action in college admissions. The interviewer noted the U.S. Education Department's demand that Texas Tech University's medical school stop considering race in admissions. Kennedy said he hadn’t “wrestled with that at the university yet.” He added, after a hesitation, “Can I just not answer that question?”
He later told the interviewer, “I apologize. You caught me off guard there. I think however we do admissions, it has to be done in a way to recognize that diversity provides a benefit to all, and there are many ways of doing it. Each university needs to wrestle with it in its own way, but making sure that we have an admissions policy that is embracing a diverse population of students and giving each the benefit of understanding each other.”
Kennedy later told The Denver Post that he stumbled on the answer because he believed he was going to be late to a meeting, which “I did end up being late for,” he said. “My concern was the time to get to my next meeting.” He told the Post that he believes affirmative action policies can’t give “undue benefit or undue penalty” to applicants. Kennedy also said he wasn’t familiar with the Texas Tech admissions matter. He said colleges “can use holistic review processes or admissions that factor in things like race or first-generation college applicants in a nonprescriptive way.”
Kennedy added that at North Dakota, the medical school looks for rural applicants and those with Native American heritage, since this is the area’s largest minority population.
Kennedy is scheduled to visit all four of the Colorado system’s campuses next week, the Daily Camera reported. As the visit draws near, several groups, including faculty groups, are expected to weigh in on his candidacy with petitions, protests and resolutions.
The regents met in private on Tuesday, the newspaper reported, but didn’t vote or issue any official statements. McConnellogue, the system spokesman, said, "It's interesting to me that groups want to pass resolutions without hearing from the guy. They base a lot of this on things that happened 13-plus years ago, without hearing what he has to say about it."
In an interview with the Daily Camera, Kennedy said, "I understand there's a lot of passionate people. I also know that CU has a tradition of open and honest discussion, and I hope I'm given the opportunity to discuss these issues and that they'll maintain an open mind when I come to campus."Editorial Tags: College administrationColoradoImage Source: Rally Against Mark Kennedy/CU Boulder Facebook pageImage Caption: Participants at an April 15 rally protesting Mark Kennedy's candidacy to lead the University of Colorado systemIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: University of Colorado - System AdministrationDisplay Promo Box:
New presidents or provosts: Beaver Bloomfield Bucknell Clarke Goldey-Beacom John Carroll Modesto Norfolk Paterson St. Francis Southwestern
- Javaune Adams-Gaston, senior vice president for student life at Ohio State University, has been chosen as president of Norfolk State University, in Virginia.
- Thom D. Chesney, president of Brookhaven College, part of the Dallas County Community College District in Texas, has been appointed president of Clarke University, in Iowa.
- Roger W. Davis, interim president of the Community College of Beaver County, in Pennsylvania, has been promoted to the job on a permanent basis.
- Marcheta P. Evans, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Our Lady of the Lake University, in Texas, has been named president of Bloomfield College, in New Jersey.
- Steven T. Herbert, associate provost for academic affairs and dean of the Graduate School at Xavier University, in Ohio, has been selected as provost and academic vice president at John Carroll University, also in Ohio.
- James Houpis, dean of academic support and learning technologies at Skyline College, in California, has been chosen as president of Modesto Junior College, also in California.
- Colleen Perry Keith, president of Pfeiffer College, in North Carolina, has been selected as president of Goldey-Beacom College, in Delaware.
- Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Gonzaga University, in Washington State, has been selected as provost at Bucknell University, in Pennsylvania.
- Joshua B. Powers, administrative fellow at the Vermont State Colleges System and former associate vice president for academic affairs at Indiana State University, has been appointed provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at William Paterson University, in New Jersey.
- Beth Roth, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Alvernia University, in Pennsylvania, has been chosen as provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of St. Francis, in Illinois.
- Minou Djawdan Spradley, acting vice president of instruction at San Diego City College, in California, has been selected as vice president for academic affairs at Southwestern College, also in California.
Facing challenging finances and a demographic cliff, Ohio's Oberlin College is mulling a strategic plan that would trim 100 students from its renowned music conservatory while adding the same number to its liberal arts program.
The shift, which would take place slowly, over four years, would bring the conservatory’s enrollment to around 480. It would also create a brand-new minor in music for liberal arts students, who often show up with musical interests but little interest in a music career. Oberlin would offer these students conservatory classes and private lessons, as well as the opportunity to perform with conservatory students.
College officials say the moves would make the conservatory more competitive. For one thing, they would technically shrink it, offering fewer slots for top musicians. They would also allow Oberlin to capture musically inclined students who nonetheless want to major in the liberal arts -- the college’s data on recently admitted applicants to the liberal arts program show that nearly 80 percent of applicants who list music performance as a field of primary or secondary interest end up enrolling elsewhere, despite the presence of the acclaimed conservatory on the same campus.
The changes are aimed at “ensuring Oberlin’s long-term resiliency” in an uncertain time for both liberal arts colleges and music conservatories, said President Carmen Twillie Ambar.
Oberlin predicts that the shift would also bring in millions more in revenue. As recently as 2017, the liberal arts program saw net revenues of $23.9 million, while the conservatory lost $11.1 million.
That’s not because of different tuition rates -- the two programs are priced identically, college officials said. But conservatory students bring in about $10,000 less, on average, since the two schools are in search of different pools of students. To be competitive among other conservatories, Oberlin must offer these prospective students more aid than it does liberal arts students, who are enrolled in what's officially known as Oberlin's Arts & Sciences program.
Officials predict the change could produce an estimated $1 million in new revenues annually, beginning in year four of the plan.
The change would need approval by Oberlin's Board of Trustees, which is expected to vote on it at its June meeting.
"If this is how you keep financial aid intact, and you continue to work on the most important initiatives you have going on, then maybe it's the right thing to do." -- alumna Linda Holmes ('93)
In an interview, Ambar said many “extremely talented” musicians don’t choose the conservatory because they don’t see themselves performing professionally. “We haven’t captured enough of those students because we can’t give them enough access to the conservatory to enhance those abilities,” she said. Doing that won’t dilute the quality of instruction -- even the student musicians say that “hasn’t been a concern that they’ve expressed” during the process.
“Yes, our conservatory’s students perform at an extremely high level -- they’re entering the profession, absolutely. But there is a nice, robust group of Arts & Sciences students who will be able to mesh with those students in ways that will enhance this experience.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, alumni say they hate to see the conservatory shrink, but they see both sides of the debate.
Linda Holmes, a 1993 liberal arts graduate who hosts NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, said she hasn't followed Oberlin's financial travails closely enough to second-guess "people who have put this kind of work into coming up with recommendations." But she said she'd be sad to see the conservatory -- and the number of people who each year earn degrees there -- shrink. "At the same time, it always gives me comfort that everything that happens at Oberlin is argued over endlessly, to the point where if there are other options to prevent this, they'll be brought to the forefront."
Holmes, whose first novel appears in June, said she "loved being on a campus that was shared with a music school. It enriched my life so much to know musicians -- some of my close friends were either conservatory students or double degree. I don't relish any reduction in the size of the conservatory. But I also don't relish seeing the school struggle in the long term. If this is how you keep financial aid intact, and you continue to work on the most important initiatives you have going on, then maybe it's the right thing to do. But I trust them to fight it out. That's kind of classic Oberlin."
Ziya Smallens, 2016 liberal arts graduate who works as a political speechwriter with West Wing Writers in New York City, similarly said he is weighing the proposal's pros and cons. An amateur musician himself, he recalled applying for a conservatory class that required passing a vocal skills test. He balked at the test and never took the class. As painful as that was, he thinks Oberlin was correct to demand top-notch musical skills. "It would have been lovely" to take the class, he said, "but those opportunities should not come at the cost of preventing would-be musicians from entering the conservatory."
Terry Hsieh, a Beijing-based multi-instrumentalist who earned bachelor's degrees in Chinese and jazz performance at Oberlin in 2012, said he hadn't seen the proposal. But he said he hopes Oberlin “can continue to leverage its strength in the higher ed world: producing both talented and creative liberal arts and sciences graduates and professional-level musicians who make a sustained impact in the world of music.”
Needed: More Revenue
Like many other small private colleges, Oberlin faces challenging financial times ahead. In addition to structural deficits that could last several years if unaddressed, Ambar said, Oberlin is confronting the reality of smaller numbers of high school graduates in the Northeast that puts it at a distinct disadvantage, since unlike many larger colleges, it primarily serves traditional-age students.
The extra revenue from more liberal arts students can’t come fast enough. Last June, the board approved a $160 million budget that included a projected $4.7 million deficit. Without making cuts, the college’s deficit could have been as high as $9 million this year, an "unsustainable" figure that would hamper Oberlin's ability to offer financial aid "and to invest in our faculty, staff and campus," college officials said in an open letter to campus.
Ambar, along with Chris Canavan, Oberlin’s board chair, and Chesley Maddox-Dorsey, the vice chair, said the college last year raised enrollment. "But we’ve also had to contribute more financial aid, so the net revenue gain from improved enrollment has been modest. In other words, we are exhausting our pricing power," they wrote.
For new students, fall 2019 tuition and fees, along with room and board, are expected to be $73,694.
Raising tuition, they said, "only increases the demand for financial aid. It also adds to the financial strains on our students and their families, making it harder for us to keep them at Oberlin from the day they matriculate to the day they graduate. This weighs heavily on Oberlin’s finances."
The college has said that if it doesn’t trim expenses, Oberlin’s deficit could reach $162 million within a decade. It relies on net student income for 83 percent of operating revenue.
In its most recent audited financial statement, Oberlin said 97 employees took voluntary buyouts in 2016, with another 17 in 2018. It reported $184 million of outstanding bonded debt.
With an $887.4 million endowment last year, 186-year-old Oberlin is wealthier than most small private institutions, but far behind its wealthier peers -- colleges like Amherst, Swarthmore and Wellesley all reported endowments at or near $2 billion. For the past few years, Oberlin has drawn about 5 percent of its endowment for operating expenses, a standard distribution. Last year, that amounted to about $44.1 million.
In a widely circulated October 2017 letter, Canavan, the board chair, said a group of trustees examining the college’s finances concluded that “we lean too heavily on cash from generosity (past and present gifts, and borrowing against future gifts) and not enough on cash from operations (tuition, room and board).”
He said Oberlin has many generous donors. “But they’re not generous enough to insulate us from the ups and downs of enrollment and retention, or from the broader socioeconomic trends that make it harder for families to afford Oberlin. The conclusion may seem self-evident, but it’s important nevertheless: we can’t stop appealing to generous donors, we need to find ways to boost our operating revenues and we have to reduce our cash needs where possible.”
Oberlin remains selective, said Ambar, but it’s “still facing those same headwinds” as other liberal arts colleges.
Looking back over the past decade, the conservatory’s application numbers peaked in 2017, with 1,396 applications, up from a low of 1,189 in 2014. Last year, 1,256 prospective students applied. Of those, 33 percent were admitted, up slightly from 28 percent in 2017.
The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston had a slightly higher acceptance rate at 33 percent in 2017, according to the most recent federal data. At the Juilliard School in New York City, just 6 percent of applicants were admitted in 2017, federal data show.
While last fall’s enrolled conservatory students had higher average SAT scores than in recent years, Oberlin’s liberal arts students had mixed scores.
Oberlin's selectivity in the college of liberal arts has dropped slightly: in 2018, it admitted 39 percent of applicants. As recently as 2016, its acceptance rate stood at just 29 percent.
By way of comparison, Amherst College admitted just 13 percent of applicants in 2017. Middlebury last year admitted about 19 percent. Carleton College in Minnesota admitted about 20 percent, an admissions official said.
“To say that they’re being prepared just to show up to be the first violinist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a very narrow view of what their career path will be.” -- Oberlin president Carmen Twillie Ambar
Oberlin's yield, in both the conservatory and the college of liberal arts, has shrunk: the conservatory enrolled 42 percent of admitted students in 2009. Last year, that dropped to 33 percent. In the college of liberal arts, yield dropped from 32 percent to 29 percent. Enrollment last fall totaled 2,785, about what it was a decade earlier.
C. Todd Jones, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio (AICUO), said he was impressed with how the college is going about the strategic process. “The beauty of what Oberlin is doing here is addressing the problem before it becomes a crisis. And that’s leadership,” he said.
It's clear that college officials have looked at the conservatory "in the context of the whole operation" and are trying to "make adjustments that are true to the overall mission of the institution, while looking at the dollars and cents of how it operates."
Officials foresee conservatory faculty, facing smaller enrollments, being freed up to offer “greater and more meaningful musical experiences” to liberal arts students -- collaborating with faculty across campus in interdisciplinary performances, for instance.
David Kamitsuka, dean of the liberal arts college, said the goal is to provide a more integrated experience that connects classroom work with experiential learning, likely in the form of more internships. Students come to Oberlin because they’re interested in a classical education, he said, “but they want pathways for that classical education to launch them into meaningful lives.”
William Quillen, the conservatory’s acting dean, said, “Every conservatory is having this conversation.” The realities of being a professional musician are “completely different from the world of 2010 or 2000, let alone 1980,” he said. “What we offer them in 2020 has to be different -- and will invariably, and must be different, from what we offered them 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago.”
While today’s conservatory graduates must play their instruments with the same technical mastery as always -- and with broad knowledge of classical repertoire -- they must also be able to perform in other musical styles and in different settings such as in film, animation and videogame soundtracks. “And on top of that, they have to have an entrepreneurial disposition,” he said, a set of skills that musicians simply didn’t need a generation ago.
“They’re being asked to do radically different work,” Ambar said. “To say that they’re being prepared just to show up to be the first violinist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a very narrow view of what their career path will be.”
She said conservatories “have to be prepared for an industry that’s changing more rapidly than health care has changed. What it will look like we don’t know, but we think we’re on the right track in helping our students prepare for the unknown.”
A Way to Differentiate Itself
Among other proposals, Oberlin is considering shrinking the size of its campus to save on utility costs and deferred maintenance, as well as introducing new majors such as business and global health.
AICUO's Jones said he can't recall another instance in which he has seen “a deeper engagement of various stakeholders, while simultaneously being very public about numbers and about the effects of policies. I just don’t see that very often with processes like these at campuses.”
He's not surprised that's taking place at Oberlin, a college known for inclusivity. Founded in 1833, it was coeducational from the beginning and began admitting African American students two years later.
The open process is “true to the culture of the place,” Jones said. “I’m looking forward to the results of it, because colleges learn from each other. And the experience here, if it’s successful -- and I expect it to be so -- it is one that’s likely to be drawn upon by other institutions going forward.”
Michael Emerson Dirda, a 2009 graduate who majored in English and history, said many students choose Oberlin because "while they may not be conservatory-caliber musicians themselves, they still love playing music, learning about music and being surrounded by music. If the enrollment changes are able to free up resources for such students and otherwise bridge the gap between college and conservatory, this could be a useful way for Oberlin to differentiate itself from similar liberal arts institutions."
NPR's Holmes, who is also a former attorney, said she's more concerned about what seems a bid by Oberlin to reconsider hourly workers' pay. "That worries me a little," she said.
The college says that while many faculty salaries fall below those of peer institutions, Oberlin's hourly workers earn "significantly higher wages than their counterparts" at four nearby liberal arts colleges. Oberlin’s average hourly staff wage is 34 percent higher than at Kenyon, Dennison, Ohio Wesleyan and Wooster Colleges.
"I don't want to see the school in a race to the bottom with hourly wages -- although again, I feel weird second-guessing, because they've put some study into this, and it's not like they're likely to be leaving chests full of money they could just open up and empty out," Holmes said. "It's just hard. It's painful. Oberlin for me was weird and intense and serious and sometimes kind of aggravating, but there's nothing quite like it. I think that's probably still the case, even as they tackle this."Editorial Tags: College administrationImage Source: Oberlin CollegeImage Caption: A studio at Oberlin ConservatoryIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Oberlin CollegeDisplay Promo Box:
A little more than two years ago, Middlebury College students shouted down Charles Murray, the controversial writer whom many accuse of espousing racist ideas, preventing him from giving a public lecture at the college. While Murray was not the first speaker blocked from speaking on a campus, his case captured national attention. Although Middlebury later punished many of those found to have prevented him from speaking (videotape captured the incident), many accused the college of failing to protect free expression.
On Wednesday, another controversial figure was slated to give a talk at Middlebury. Again, protests were planned against the speaker, although it is unclear if those protests would have disrupted the speech -- a violation of Middlebury rules and the norms of campus discourse. This time Middlebury called off the event, citing safety concerns.
An email that went out to the campus hours before the scheduled appearance by Ryszard Legutko said, "In the interest of ensuring the safety of students, faculty, staff and community members, the lecture by Ryszard Legutko scheduled for later today will not take place. The decision was not taken lightly. It was based on an assessment of our ability to respond effectively to potential security and safety risks for both the lecture and the event students had planned in response."
The email was signed by Jeff Cason, the provost, and Baishakhi Taylor, dean of students.
They went on to write that due to location changes and an increased number of expected attendees, "we didn't have the staff capacity" to assure safety.
The Alexander Hamilton Forum, a group at Middlebury that invited Legutko, indicated that it would invite him again in the fall, and a Middlebury spokeswoman indicated that the college was open to that visit, consistent with "standard" event scheduling rules.
While he was unable to speak in a public lecture, Legutko did appear in a political science class, some of which was live-streamed to Facebook.
Legutko is a professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University, in Kraków. He is also a member of the European Parliament and is associated with far-right views that have growing support in Eastern Europe. He has offended many groups, and criticism at Middlebury has noted his support for discrimination against gay people. His fans note his stance against dictatorship in the era when the Soviet Union controlled Poland.
An open letter circulating on campus questions sponsoring "a speaker who blatantly and proudly expounds homophobic, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic discourse." Bringing such a speaker to campus amounts to "shutting out large swaths of the Middlebury community, all of whom are engaged, critical and rigorous thinkers whose energies would be better spent not combating degrading and dehumanizing rhetoric."
A recent Middlebury graduate who is from Poland published a letter in the student newspaper in which he said in part, "I am all for Middlebury inviting speakers that hold views different than those of the campus majority. But you could at least seek speakers who are not bigots and hypocrites."
Keegan Callahan, assistant professor of political science and director of the Alexander Hamilton Forum, circulated another letter about the planned visit. While noting that many respect Legutko, the letter stressed the value of the college having speakers with a range of views.
"We treat all Middlebury students as independent thinkers with a right to and capacity for free and open inquiry," the letter said. "We are committed to viewpoint diversity and freedom of thought. We believe that through the competition of ideas, each of us can better understand our own deepest convictions and make progress in the pursuit of truth. We believe that Middlebury students deserve to hear a multiplicity of perspectives, including the views of influential scholars with whom we might disagree strongly."
As word spread Wednesday about another conservative figure being unable to speak at Middlebury, some academics far from campus spoke out against what happened. Robert George, a Princeton University professor who has defended the right of controversial academics (on the left and right) to speak, offered a series of tweets.
A "liberal arts college" that bans speech is like a "cigar bar" that forbids smoking. What's the point of the place? #middleburyyieldstothemob— Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) April 17, 2019
Middlebury yields to the mob's threats of violence. No questioning of campus dogmas permitted. Why keep the place open? "College Cancels Conservative Philosopher’s Lecture on Totalitarianism": https://t.co/303oDFTFfC— Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) April 17, 2019
The decision by Middlebury came just a few weeks after Beloit College, a liberal arts institution in Wisconsin, shut down a planned speech by Erik Prince, an associate of President Trump and the controversial founder of the security company Blackwater. Administrators canceled Prince’s chat following student protests in which they banged on drums and built a barricade of chairs on the stage where Prince was due to give his talk.Image Caption: Ryszard LegutkoIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Middlebury CollegeDisplay Promo Box:
WASHINGTON -- General education is not simply filler for a student’s time in college beyond the major. Done well, gen ed can answer students’ questions about what college is, and why it matters.
Gen ed is also a great American contribution to higher education, affording students the time and space for intellectual exploration, and teaching them to learn to think in different ways.
Yet general education is under threat. Politicians question the value of it, specifically requirements that aren’t explicitly job oriented. Students don’t always get it. And creating and adopting a strong general education program demands much of already time- if not resource-strapped professors and their institutions.
Is gen ed worth the fight? Speakers at Wednesday’s Inside Higher Ed Leadership Series event, The Future of Gen Ed, think so. The sold-out all-day meeting, held at Gallup's headquarters here, featured conversations on why general education matters more than ever, along with data-driven arguments for gen ed. Other speakers offered thoughts on challenges and lessons learned in their own institutions’ gen ed reforms, and whether diversity should be a program requirement.
‘A Common Commitment’
Geoffrey Harpham, visiting scholar and senior fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University and former president and director of the National Humanities Center, talked about the namesake figure of his 2018 book on the “golden age” of education, What Do You Think, Mr. Ramirez?: The American Revolution in Education. Harpham once met a Mr. Ramirez (that’s a pseudonym) during a campus visit and described how general education transformed the man’s life.
Ramirez went from being a penniless Cuban refugee in 1960s Florida who spoke no English to a professor emeritus of comparative literature. The turning point was when he enrolled in a community college and was forced to take a course on Shakespeare. A professor asked him what he thought about some topic of discussion -- the first time anyone had ever done so. Ramirez was too embarrassed to answer at the time, as he thought he had nothing to say and “no thoughts at all.”
But of course he did have thoughts and things to say. He just needed someone to ask him the right question.
Harpham said he’s under no illusion that we’ll return to that golden age of general education. But he said he does hold out hope that general education survives as a powerful democratizing force and a “common commitment -- variously realized to be sure -- to a common culture that we all share and have a responsibility for.”
While general education is often expressed as a program of courses and values, it’s also an “aspiration,” or spirit, that can be embodied by any professor in any class, he said.
Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, agreed that general education is a democratizing force that provides a mind- and life-broadening education to the many, not just the elite few. And so political rhetoric that “calls into question the value of higher ed generally, and of liberal education in particular, perpetuates growing racial and economic segregation in our society,” she said.
What can be done? Higher education needs to “demonstrate in a more compelling way that we are teaching 21st-century skills,” Pasquerella said. She offered the example of her own son, Pierce, who railed against having to take courses in small group communication and intercultural competence while he was studying to be a filmmaker.
Then Pierce’s first job out of college happened to be on the Jerry Springer show, where he helped manage guests for hours on end in the green room. Finally all that education made sense to him.
Still, Pasquerella said, if a student who has two academics for parents doesn’t understand at the time what good his education is doing him, “What hope do other students have of sticking with a structure they think is totally useless?”
Case Studies in Gen Ed Reform
Indeed, one measure of a gen ed program’s value is student buy-in. In one of a number of general education case studies presented, Mary Dana Hinton, president of the College of Saint Benedict, said that her faculty members are seeking to build a more cohesive and student-centered program with the college’s new Integrations Curriculum. The program, set to begin in fall 2020, was guided by three design principles: making explicit connections between classes via themed courses, reflection and more; high-impact practices including writing-intensive courses, common intellectual experiences and a student portfolio; and a strong liberal arts and sciences education.
“Our faculty was seeking to answer two key questions: Why does general education matter to liberally educated students, and what content and pedagogy best support our goals for the liberal arts” on campus? Hinton said. While the process was faculty driven, Hinton added, students were engaged in conversations about what courses would help them lead and make positive change in the world from the start.
Linda A. Bell, provost and dean of the faculty at Barnard College, helped oversee a general education reform around 2016 that was, in part, prompted by students' requests for a change. There wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with the 16-year-old curriculum centered on nine ways of knowing, she said. But “fundamentally working is not good enough.”
Barnard’s reform, also driven by the faculty, resulted in a new Foundations curriculum promoting six modes of thinking, including thinking technologically and digitally. Courses in dance, architecture and fine arts, among other disciplines, satisfy it. Barnard has devoted more resources to it based on student demand. It's also committed to reviewing the Foundations every five years.
Ursinus College also hopes to transform the residential college experience with its new general education program based on four enduring questions, Mark B. Schneider, provost and dean, said in a separate TED talk-style presentation.
While liberal arts colleges were well represented at the event, administrators, faculty members and even students from across institution types shared insights, too. Pam Y. Eddinger, president of Bunker Hill Community College, reminded those present that half of all college students are at institutions like hers. So if general education is to survive, she said, community colleges must be involved in conversations about it. And those conversations must be inclusive, she added, saying that her culinary students and faculty members are intellectuals, too, for example.
Melody Bowdon, interim vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of Central Florida, is helping lead an overhaul of the general education program there. It’s complicated by the institution’s massive enrollment (some 68,000 students, mostly undergraduates), state restrictions on the curriculum and the fact that over half of undergraduates transfer from community colleges.
Still, she said, the process has gone relatively smoothly and enjoyed high levels of faculty enthusiasm. A valuable part of the process is hearing faculty members make explicit connections between program requirements and the content they’re already teaching -- making what's often invisible in general education visible. Bowdon also personally invites faculty members to participate in workshops on the pedagogical innovations that make gen ed courses that much more successful.
Donald J. Laackman, president of preprofessional Champlain College, talked about the merits of integrating general education across disciplines, for all four years, via the Core. And Melinda Zook, professor of history at Purdue University, discussed the runaway success of a Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts certificate program for students studying outside the liberal arts. The 15-credit-hour certificate is based on engagement with transformative texts and advanced humanities study.
An increasing number of institutions are requiring students to study diversity within their curricula. Should they?
Lucía Martínez Valdivia, assistant professor of English and humanities at Reed College, spoke with candor about her lingering doubts as to how her institution responded to a long-term student protest over a shared introductory humanities courses. The course, Hum 110, previously began with The Epic of Gilgamesh and covered ancient texts from Rome to Egypt. But following student complaints that the curriculum was "too white," there are now new modules. One of them attempts to cover 500 years of Mexican cultural history in a few weeks.
At least one student involved in the protest has since expressed regret, acknowledging that she “didn’t know what she didn’t know” at the time, Valdivia said. Valdivia’s response was that that’s typical for an 18-year-old. But the fact that students don’t know what they don’t know is something colleges might seriously weigh in responding to these kinds of student demands, she said.
Valdivia also said her last few weeks of teaching have confirmed that the closer in time and space diversity-based content is to students’ own experiences, the harder it is for them to be objective and ready to take information in.
Students' "learning identity is something we can no longer take for granted at liberal arts colleges,” she said. “Things have changed so much in the last 10 years.”
Laura Rosanne Adderley, associate professor of history at Tulane University, said students were involved in but did not drive a decision to add two diversity-related requirements to their curriculum. Students are now requred to take one course that is more than 50 percent related to race and inclusion in the U.S.., and one course on global perspectives. The latter requirement was inspired by the idea that when one studies life, language or culture outside one’s own domain, one’s racial empathy grows.
Adderley said it’s too soon to call these new requirements a success. But one hope is that they’ll not only revitalize enrollments in history and other courses dealing with diversity, but possibly draw students deeper into these programs, through exposure.
But to Valdivia’s point, students only benefit when they are in a growth mind-set and believe they have something to learn, Adderley said.
“These courses are not to fix people who don’t already know,” Adderley said. “It’s not what they’re there for.”
Measuring Gen Ed's Value
Getting gen ed right is clearly tricky. But beyond anecdotes and personal opinion, the data on long-term outcomes indicate that students benefit when colleges do get it right. Richard A. Detweiler, founder and managing director of HigherEdImpact, discussed his findings from 1,000 interviews with both liberal arts and other kinds of college graduates, 10 to 40 years postgraduation. He found that gradates who reported key experiences associated with liberal arts colleges (which tend to value general education) had greater odds of measures of life success associated with these colleges’ goals.
Graduates who reported discussing philosophical or ethical issues in many classes, and who took classes in the humanities, were 25 to 60 percent more likely than other graduates to have characteristics of altruists, for example (meaning they volunteered and gave to nonprofit groups, etc.). And those who reported that professors encouraged them to examine the strengths and weaknesses of their views, and whose course work emphasized questions on which there is not necessarily a correct answer, were 25 to 40 percent more likely to report that they felt personally fulfilled.
As for money, Detweiler has found there is a strong relationship between a having a broad undergraduate education and financial success. Those who take more than half of their course work in subjects unrelated to their majors -- an extensive general education -- are 31 to 72 percent more likely than others to have higher-level positions and to be earning more than $100,000.
A number of commenters throughout the day bemoaned the difficulty in assessing general education at the institutional level. But Carol Geary Schneider, fellow at the Lumina Foundation and president emerita of the AAC&U, bristled at that idea, saying that there's no need to recreate the wheel on assessment. Groups such as AAC&U have long-standing essential learning outcomes for a liberal education, she said.
"You don't have to measure every little course," she said. "We're not doing enough to celebrate the tools that already exist."FacultyThe CurriculumEditorial Tags: FacultyLiberal artsTeachingImage Caption: From left: Scott Jaschik, co-founder and editor of 'Inside Higher Ed'; Geoffrey Harpham, visiting scholar and senior fellow at Duke University; and Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and UniversitiesIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Barnard CollegeBunker Hill Community CollegeCollege of Saint BenedictDuke UniversityPurdue University-Main CampusReed CollegeTulane University of LouisianaUrsinus CollegeDisplay Promo Box:
On April 16, 2007, a gunman murdered 32 students and professors at Virginia Tech. Other mass shootings (including on college campuses) have followed, but the words "Virginia Tech" evoke a particular sense of the shock of what happened there in 2007.
After Virginia Tech: Guns, Safety and Healing in the Era of Mass Shootings (University of Virginia Press) tells the story of what happened after that terrible day. Thomas Kapsidelis, the author, is a journalist and a fellow at Virginia Humanities. Via email, he responded to questions about the book.
Q: What do you see as the key evolution you document of many of the survivors and family members of the slain at Virginia Tech in terms of how they responded?
A: It’s impossible to generalize about the experiences of survivors, especially in a community as large and diverse as Virginia Tech. Some of the survivors whose work I reported on in this book came to advocacy very soon after the shootings. Others may have taken some time, or been active at certain times and less so at others. Three of the graduates I followed worked in advocacy over much of the decade after the shootings. But they are quick to point out, and I agree with this, that the work of Tech survivors who may not be known to the public but who have persevered and have accomplished so much personally and professionally, must also be recognized. As one parent told me, “Whether the survivors choose to go forward as advocates for policy change or to continue with their previously chosen careers, they show strength and resiliency.”
Q: Certain names -- Columbine and Sandy Hook -- have come to be identified with certain kinds of mass shootings. What has Virginia Tech come to mean?
A: The Virginia Tech tragedy changed how higher education administrators in Virginia and across the nation view campus safety. A timely notice when there is a threat -- which was delayed at Virginia Tech -- would now seem to be a given. Likewise, the establishment of threat-assessment teams gives colleges and universities an organized way to intervene before a problem becomes an emergency. Sadly, some of these reforms are more difficult to replicate in our own communities, as shown by shootings in which the perpetrator was a person who showed signs of problems but slipped through the system for any number of reasons. Likewise, even with the increased awareness and strategies that have emerged since Virginia Tech, safety depends on vigilance and everyone doing their part. In my book, I quote a Virginia mental health official advising his colleagues, "Don’t become complacent … and don’t forget that the eyes of the world are now on you all the time."
Q: How has Virginia Tech (the university) balanced the need to memorialize the dead, and to promote the normal functioning of a large university?
A: The April 16 Memorial is on Virginia Tech’s historic Drillfield, in front of the main administration building and just steps away from Norris Hall, where 30 of the 32 were killed before the gunman took his own life in the front of a French class. I’ve been there many times and never fail to see someone stop and pay respects at the 32 “Hokie stones” inscribed with the names of the victims. The memorial grew from a tribute started by a student group, Hokies United, in the days after the shootings. A survivor of the 1966 University of Texas tower shootings told me the memorial at Tech helped drive interest in dedicating a larger memorial at UT, which took place in 2016.
Norris Hall is still in use. Renovations on the second floor, where the attack took place, included space for a new Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention, founded by a professor whose wife, a French instructor, was killed.
The university initially canceled classes for its annual Day of Remembrance, but resumed a regular schedule in 2012. The annual remembrance continues, however, and includes a memorial 3.2-mile run and walk. Activities have included displays from the huge collection of memorial tributes and items from around the world that are under the care of the university’s archivist. Among these tributes is an oversized, wood-bound book of condolences sent to Tech in 2007 from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. When I was completing my book, I was amazed to find that I had snapped a picture of the MSD tribute when it was on display for the 10th anniversary memorial weekend at Tech, a year before the Parkland shootings.
Amid the deep sorrow at Virginia Tech, the many questions of accountability would make any immediate recovery even more difficult. Time cannot heal all wounds. But I think the dignity, love and determination of the survivors have buoyed the Tech community. And just like the survivors we don’t hear about, there are many others -- faculty, administration and employees -- whose compassion will always be remembered.
Q: What lessons should higher education learn from Virginia Tech?
A: The safety and well-being of everyone in the campus community must be a priority. Universities should examine their complex systems to ensure they are responsive to the needs of students, faculty and staff -- and families. Having a safe campus doesn’t just happen. It needs to be tended and the product of communication with all involved. This goes beyond gun violence, given the many troubling issues facing colleges and universities.
Q: Campus carry has spread in the years since Virginia Tech (and many other shootings). Why do you think that the efforts of Virginia Tech survivors haven't been effective in preventing this?
A: Virginia Tech survivors spoke out against this in the immediate aftermath of the shootings, and I sense the movement for campus concealed carry in Virginia has waned over the years even as other gun rights have expanded nationally. In Texas, a Virginia Tech graduate whom I wrote about in the book was in the forefront of opposing campus concealed carry, which took effect in 2016 but only after earlier defeats in the Legislature. There is obviously renewed discussion across the nation about the role of armed staff and individuals in schools. As of 2018, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more states banned campus concealed carry rather than allowed it. Nearly half the states leave the decision up to the institution.
It’s important to note that Tech survivors, families and community members have become influential and respected for their advocacy in the areas of guns, safety and healing. Survivor advocacy has long been a force in the American gun violence debate, and we’ve seen that most recently with the energy of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students and the support they’ve generated. But one scholar told me the Tech community deserves recognition for helping create a template for involvement, in a time when the social media channels that are so effectively used today were just in their infancy. Added another expert who is an ally of the Tech families, “Had those families retreated, I think that you might have a very different outcome today.”New Books About Higher EducationEditorial Tags: BooksIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box:
Plans for lavishly funded “great books” courses are under a cloud amid academic revolts at two Australian universities.
The executive and the governing council of the University of Wollongong have closed ranks over Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings’s approval of a degree bankrolled by the Ramsay Center for Western Civilization, a philanthropic organization.
Meanwhile, proposals to offer Ramsay-funded majors at the University of Queensland have hit a snag, after the board of studies for UQ’s humanities and social sciences faculty unanimously rejected the draft curricula.
The developments at both institutions suggest that the conflicts over the planned courses -- opposed by many academics and students because of perceptions that they curtail academic autonomy and champion a “Western supremacist” perspective -- are increasingly becoming a test of university governance.
Wollongong avoided a staff and student backlash by negotiating with Ramsay in secret and announcing an agreement in December as a fait accompli. Wellings then bypassed Academic Senate scrutiny of the proposed course by approving it under “fast track” procedures, a move that the university says was necessary to meet publication deadlines for a 2020 course handbook.
In late March, the Academic Senate lodged a formal protest. Insiders said that the fast-track process was typically used to “tweak” existing courses and had never been used to endorse an entire new program.
This month the National Tertiary Education Union launched proceedings in the New South Wales Supreme Court, seeking to have the approval overturned. But last week, the university council sided with the executive.
“I am comfortable that the decisions taken by the vice chancellor have been in accordance with university policies and in the best interests of the institution,” Chancellor Jillian Broadbent said in a statement issued by the university.
That view is not shared by academics and students who protested prior to the meeting. Chloe Rafferty, president of the Wollongong Undergraduate Student Association, said that the university council should have recognized the position of the Academic Senate, “which is supposed to be the body that ensures our university has academic integrity.”
Rafferty said that she had been denied access to the council meeting to discuss a budget for the student union -- an address that she said had been planned for months -- with three security guards barring her entry. The university said that Rafferty had not registered her intention to attend the meeting -- a claim that she denied.
NTEU Wollongong's branch president, Georgine Clarsen, said that she had written to the university council members explaining why the union had taken legal action, enclosing copies of the court documentation, to ensure that the issue would not be “swept under the carpet.”
She said that the university’s governance unit had refused to confirm whether the information had been passed on to council members.
NTEU national president Alison Barnes said that the union had initiated legal proceedings because of the “gradual and persistent erosion of academic governance” at universities such as Wollongong.
The Supreme Court has the power to overturn Wollongong’s administrative decisions because the university was established under state legislation. The first hearing is set for April 23.
Meanwhile, UQ’s HASS board of studies has warned the faculty’s executive dean that “further consultation and refinement of the curriculum” for proposed Ramsay-funded courses is required.
Many of the faculty’s academics had earlier issued a petition opposing Ramsay-funded courses on academic freedom and institutional autonomy grounds. “There are incalculable reputational risks for the University of Queensland in linking itself to an external body that clearly has a specific political agenda,” the petition says.GlobalTeaching and LearningEditorial Tags: AustraliaTimes Higher EdIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box:
- Converse College: Carla Harris, vice chair and managing director at Morgan Stanley.
- Franklin & Marshall College: Rahel Nardos, director of global health for Oregon Health and Science University’s department of obstetrics and gynecology.
- Northeastern Illinois University: Maria Woltjen, the activist, lawyer and immigration law scholar.
- Pacific Lutheran University: Michelle Long, a vice chair of the university's Board of Regents
- School of the Art Institute of Chicago: Mierle Laderman Ukeles, the artist.
- Shaw University: Everette Taylor, the marketing executive and public speaker.
- Thiel College: Bill Strickland, Manchester Bidwell founder and executive chairman.
- Tuskegee University: Loretta Lynch, the former U.S. attorney general.
- University of Maine at Fort Kent: Carrie Hessler-Radelet, president and CEO of Project Concern International.
- University of Rhode Island: Patrick Kennedy, former member of Congress.
- University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College: Don Thomas, an astronaut.
- University of San Francisco: Nadine Burke Harris, surgeon general of California; and others.